Killer Fiction by Sniplits Publishing - Read Online
Killer Fiction
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This collection of short stories is about killers, "fixers," and P.I.s, and most lean toward the hard-boiled side of crime. Authors include: Miles Archer, Libby Fisher Hellmann, Simon Wood, R.A. Allen, Adrian Magson, Laird Long, J.R. Chabot, Mike Wiecek, Mark Troy, and Tim Wohlforth.

Published: Sniplits Publishing on
ISBN: 9780983030232
List price: $2.99
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Killer Fiction - Sniplits Publishing

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R. A. Allen

My second iron shot on Galloway’s fourteen hooks beyond the rough and into a tangle of wild privet that borders the left side of the fairway. Gone is the remaining Titleist of the two sleeves I started with. The zippered pouch of my bag holds a clutch of pilfered driving range balls. My cell phone, silent for two days, lies among them.

But I’m not expecting any calls. The lot is closed for the holiday. My ex-kids are in Phoenix, absorbed in their toys beneath the glow of a plastic tree while their adoptive father and my second ex-wife gaze on, bloody mary’s in hand, euphoric in the nubby warmth of it all.

I select a smile free ball and drop it into the brittle winter-burned grass. Forcing myself to take a slower backswing, I flail away.

I despise golf; detest winter. Christmas I can also do without. I’ve been in an itch to leave Memphis since I got here. I’m thinking Fort Lauderdale. Southern California, maybe.

My six iron divots the fairway and the ball sails skyward like a wedge shot. I lose it in the crisp glare. It falls ... somewhere.

I cannot wait to get back to the dealership tomorrow. Being the day after Christmas, it will be dead slow, but there’s always that chance I’ll be able to sell some little secretary a sporty sedan at full list on a sixty month note. The odometer says low mileage. A vehicle late of Minnesota. No detectable rust. Maybe get her phone number.

I find my ball without too much difficulty. There’s not another soul on the course today, and I revel in all of this breathing room.

I’m on in five, not including the dropped ball. My putt from the fringe puts me within four feet. I lip the cup and accuse my hangover. I give myself a seven just the same.

The wind bites the stubbled flesh of my face, and my eyes water as I tug my pull cart up the mud slaked asphalt path leading to the fifteenth tee box.

If you’re into scenery, number fifteen is, I suppose, the most pleasing of all the fairways at Galloway Municipal. The tee box is on an elevated rectangular mound. The fairway dips and rolls gently downward for about half of its 458 yards and then rises the rest of the way up to a green that’s framed by trees on either side. Beyond the green is a break of sky. You can just see the pin.

I pull Bertha from my bag. Will I hook my tee-shot across Galloway Drive into the front yard of one of the high dollar homes facing the course, or will I merely top the ball to a spot twenty feet away, where it will mock me?

And then I notice him.

I jump—literally. My bestartlement, this flinching, irritates me to no end. Not ten feet away, an old man is sitting doggo on the bench that flanks the red tee markers. He is staring out over the fairway. A rheumy-eyed old wino loitering on a park bench.

Goddamn, fella, I say, you could’ve said something. Cleared your throat or something.

He makes no response.

Sneaking up on people, I mutter, loudly.

Now, most folks take a softer view of the geriatric set. They remember grandpa. They pick it up from your schmaltzy made for TV movies. But not me. The elderly are bastards same as the rest of us—maybe even more so, having had the extra years to accumulate sin.

He’s got a full head of thick white hair. Tufts of it flip away from his collar in the gusty breeze. He’s got a plaid blanket over his lap and down his legs. His hands are out of sight beneath the blanket. I immediately suspect he’s been playing with himself—the nasty old fuck.

But now a bolt of wit sublimates my annoyance. Hey, pops, mind if I play through? I say, chuckling.

No response.

Hey, I shout. Old man! You deaf, or just stupid?

Finally, he turns his head slightly in my direction for a moment. This is to let me know that, no, he is not deaf; he is ignoring me.

Snubbed by a derelict, I flash red again. I wonder if, after fetching him a crack across the shins with Bertha, would he feel so high and mighty. I check for onlookers. I don’t see a soul, but, beyond the lawn of the mansion across the street, an uncurtained Palladian window gapes. You never know.

Instead, I drop my big ass down on the bench next to him. Poking him in the biceps with a stiff finger, I say, Daddy O, you are one rude old son-of-a-bitch. Poke. You know that? Poke. Poke.

The blanket flies back. The gun comes up. A chrome glint in the late afternoon sun. The muzzle is like sleet in my ear hole.

His hand force on the revolver contorts my neck. It takes me a moment to get my mind around what is happening here. Hey! What are you doing? I say, in a panicky rush.

I hear the click-click of the hammer being drawn back: Oblivion’s boarding call.

Breathless, I say, Please. Don’t shoot.

He grinds the muzzle deeper into my ear. Any moment now the lights will go out.

Please, I croak, trying to think of better words while my brain whirls with irrelevancies: my wasted life, my love of God, where I left my spare house key. It’s all happening too fast. Listen, you can have my wallet. It’s right here in my back pocket. No sudden moves, okay? You can have my golf clubs, my bag. There’s a cellular phone in the bag. I’ll just walk away. I won’t tell anyone. I won’t look at you. Please just take that gun away and let me go. Glancing down, I notice his shoes—shiny black tassel loafers. Expensive. Cole Haans, or some such.

You think I’m a damned thief? He says in a grinding voice, the voice of the powerful old rancher in a black and white Western.

Uh, no, sir, not at all. I didn’t mean that at all. I just—I mean you are holding a gun to my head and—and I don’t know what you want from me. I am about to cry.

You come up to me like the bully of the yard. Got a mouth full of insults. I’ll tell you what I want from you, and what I’m going to have: I’m going to have your life, young man. By the way, you’ve already lived five minutes longer than you would have when I was your age.

I’m very sorry, sir, I whimper. I didn’t mean anything by it. You’re very right. I was way out of line. Please, sir, accept my apology.

Apologize all you want. I’m still going to kill you.

But he takes the gun out of my ear. I exhale and, carefully, I turn in his direction.

The first thing I see is the revolver resting in his lap, hammer cocked, muzzle ten inches away and pointed at my side.

He’s wearing tan wool slacks that are unstylishly wide at the cuff and a maroon cardigan. His overcoat is a Burberry. Bobby Dale Easley, owner of the dealership, has one just like it.

He has a solid, square-set fame, not much of a paunch. His profile reveals a jaw line that still cuts through jowl. The hooked nose doesn’t fit the rest of his face, and it has a ridge in it from an old break. Dog brown eyes. His skin is pale as smog.

There is pure contempt in his expression—the hard eyes, the little smile. I am an insect, a germ. The realization of what I have done descends on me with the weight of a Satanophany: I have picked a fight with a crazy man.

But he has taken the gun away from my head. And this, at least, is something. I remind myself that I am manager of pre-owned sales at Easley Mazda. Good at what I do. I smile. My eyes, brown like his, become as soft as a new father’s. I say, Thank you for removing that pistol, sir. You really had me going for a moment there. And, sir, I honestly did not mean to insult you or appear threatening in any way.

You’re a liar and a punk, he says. Fifty-odd years ago I pulled three years in Angola for losing patience with an ol’ boy who got tough with me. He was a man, though, whereas the better part of you ran down your daddy’s leg.

I lower my eyes. Yes, it’s true: I’m not worth killing. I strain to project this sentiment into his mind.

He says, Feeling sorry about things, aren’t you, son?

Yes, sir, I answer, miserably

Well, don’t let your lack of manners trouble you none. And then he lets out with an easy laugh—a kindly uncle chuckling at the antics of a toddler.

Is this a note of encouragement? Has a brainwave of my telepathic contrition found his heart? I work on more things to say, but he doesn’t give me the chance.

You see that car over there? he says, indicating an eight year old Cadillac parked to our left. I see it. Glossy, black-on-black. Mint condition. An old person’s final car.

Go over there and look in the back seat, he tells me.

I give him a questioning look. He motions with the barrel of the revolver; I get to my feet.

And throw that golf club away, he says.

I do.

I cross in front of him on the way toward the Cadillac. The muzzle of his pistol tracks my steps. Twigs crack and oak leaves shush underfoot. If I were to make a break for it, what kind of traction could I count on from my golf shoes in this terrain? How good a shot is he? How good a shot does he have to be from thirty feet?

I reach the car and stop, thinking hard.

Open the back door, he says.

I look back at him. He has shifted his position on the bench in order to keep the gun trained on me. It’s in one hand supported by the other and resting on his crossed knee. I open the back door. Covered by what appears to be a bedspread, something large takes up the entire back seat.

Look ‘neath it, he commands.

I pull the covering away.

The guy is big and blond and in his mid-thirties. He looks a lot like that touring pro, John Daley, the one with the long distance drives. He’s lying scrunched up on his side in a semi-fetal position; his head lolls in a messy lake of coagulated blood. I see the purple hole above his temple. His eyes are at half mast, one more so than the other. This is nothing like a movie corpse; it’s not a funeral parlor corpse, either. His face is the color of spoilt cabbage and he has a discarded look about him that is 180 degrees from anything that ever drew a human breath.

My fear now metastasizes from a ropy wad in my chest into a tingling, head-to-toe panic. I should have made a dash for it thirty seconds ago. My eyes focus on the bullet wound and then flit to his wax-mask face and then back to the wound. Back and forth. I can’t stop. My body is in a kind of paralysis, halfway in the car and bent over this dead guy. I hear the old man say:

His name is—was—Cecil. He’s about as much of a conversationalist now as he was this morning during breakfast, so why don’t we get back to our visit here on the bench. We can watch the sunset together.

My golf cleats are planted in the marshy depression beside the road. He’s old. Maybe his eyesight isn’t so good. Maybe his reactions aren’t that quick. It’s hard to hit a moving target with a pistol, I tell myself. Maybe I can get fifteen or twenty feet on him before he can aim and get off a shot. I am ready. I back out of the car. But, turning around, I discover that he’s no longer on the bench. He’s standing about six feet behind me with his gun held close to his overcoat as to not be too obvious about it. The muzzle beckons like a diseased whore. C’mon, he says.

The dry sun is low over the treetops—bright, but not warm on our faces. I am shivering so hard my cheeks flutter.

Cecil was my nephew, my last surviving blood relation. Now he’s gone. He says this almost wistfully, as if a loved one named Cecil had recently expired from a lingering illness.

Numb with shock, I state the obvious: You killed him.

Had to.

I swear I won’t tell—my words ravel into small speak—anyone.

Ah haw haw, he goes. I know you won’t. Ah haw haw. That gentle chuckle again. "Besides having no manners, boy, you have no luck.

Luck. He lifts his chin into the northwestern breeze. I know all about luck. There’s two kinds, you know.

"I was born in 1924 in Sunflower County, Mississippi. The community—not much more’n a wide spot in the road—was called Boyer, which is near Indianola. My daddy ginned cotton when he wasn’t drinking. My mama took in seamstress work.

"When I was sixteen I left home. Wound up over in Greenville where I found work with Federal Barge Lines as a deckhand on a tow named Choctaw. By the time the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor I was a licensed steersman. Because river transportation was deemed vital to the war effort, I didn’t have to go into the service.

I was a pretty fair gambler. On payday, I’d clean out everybody from the deckhands to the pilot by giving short odds at craps. In port, I’d play pot-limit poker in the roadhouse backrooms and the sawdust joints and in the cattle sale barns. It took stamina—seventy-two hour sessions were normal as Sunday school. I made more gambling than I did in wages, even after I was drawing captain’s pay. Turns out I had a gift for readin’ people. A gift I did not waste. This is the first kind of luck—luck as a by-product of design.

I’m only half listening. My imminent death is what interests me now. With the bravado of despair, I crack wise, Are you going to let me ride on the floor next to your nephew, or is the trunk full of cousins and aunts?

"Naw, I think I’ll just leave you where you fall. With this damn arthritis, it took me near all morning to get Cecil to where he is now.

This morning I was going to dump him in the Loosahatchie. Then I got to thinking: Hell, he’ll float up in a day or two and then the police’ll come knocking on my door. I only have a few months left anyway—so I figured: Why bother?

What do you mean by ‘a few months left’?

Got this tumor in my head. The doc says inoperable. We all gotta die of something

So you’re going to take me with you.

I reckon you could put it that way.

I see the headline: Apparent Murder/ Suicide at Public Golf Course.

"The second kind of luck is good fortune—dumb luck. I was dumb lucky when I killed that fella down in Baton Rouge in ‘52. He had a knife. I had a beer bottle. He was drunker. To this day, I believe the judge went light on me because that ol’ boy, a local, was a problem in town, a troublemaker. I reckon I kinda solved a problem for them. The stretch in Angola weren’t no picnic, but, considering that it was for manslaughter in Louisiana, I could have drawn a lot more’n three years.

Sometimes luck can mean your life. Like it did for me in 1950.

He pauses to squint into the distance.

"I came aboard the Jane Smith at Simmesport, Louisiana ‘round noon on May nineteenth of that year. She was on her way from Pittsburgh to Freeport, Texas, pushing two empty chemical barges. Because the Mississippi was high that spring, Captain Welden, master of the Smith, had decided to use the Atchafalaya River as a short cut to the Intracoastal Canal at Morgan City. I was signed on as the Atchafalaya trip pilot. I knew those waters like the back of my hand.

"Just after sundown we drew within sight of the drawbridge at Melville, Louisiana. We waited, holding against a current of over five miles per hour, till, at nine thirty, they raised the lift span. I was in the galley when I heard Welden rev the engine. By the time I got up to the pilothouse, we were already going too fast. Welden didn’t take that current into account. He also didn’t realize how narrow the channel was beneath the bridge. The head barge rammed a