Tag Archives: Light Reading

Is It Better to Love and Lose?

Lou jerked the pull chain and the neon sign for La Chaudron de Sorcière flickered to life. They were already starting to draw an evening crowd, myself included. Being a back-alley bar in New Orleans wasn’t the most accessible location in the world but convenient for other reasons. The trip was unavoidable. We all found our way here no matter how far off it seemed. In little time I recall grabbing the next ticket leaving Chicago and set upon a wild goose to find her. My family hasn’t heard from me since.

Justine sat in her favorite chair. She was as beautiful as I last saw her, always dressed to the nines. Tonight she sported a silk top hat with pheasant plumage and peek-a-boo veil. The slit running up her black pencil skirt meant business. Sidesaddle on the stool, her coattails tapped against the brass foot rest as she giggled and flirted with the crowd around her. Everyone wanted her; no one had a choice.

She was quite the thief, a dealer in hearts of the human variety. They gave her life. Travelling abroad, the world was her garden. She’d harvest the most intense blossoms for her bouquet. In its place, she’d plant a stone. Such an exchange would drive the person mad, and they’d eventually find themselves a slave to her.

This slave couldn’t stand it anymore. The whole experience was walking a fine line between the living and the dead. There needed to be some way out. I had to break free of this curse. So, I decided to meet her head on. As I walked up to her, she smiled with the promises of sweet nothings.

“I can’t go on like this. I feel nothing. I am nothing. I can’t even cry myself to sleep. Please, give me back my heart. It belongs elsewhere.” My pent up thoughts slid out on the floor with as much grace as the average wino.

Taken aback by the unusual statement, Justine leaned upon the railing. She spent a moment studying my face and frowned.

“Oh, I’m sorry, mon cher, but I had that a long time ago.” By now she was touching my cheeks with the tips of her fingers. If I weren’t so anhedonic to it all, it’d be a welcomed gesture.

“That means there’s no way back. I’ll be stuck here forever.”

Pausing a moment, Justine pulled her lapel flower close to her nose for a whiff. It reminded me of the arrogant grace that lured me into this. As she set it upon her ruffled blouse, she smiled.


“Louis,” she purred with predatory satisfaction, “another bloody mary, s’il te plaît.” His bulkiness turned with mechanical compliance as he prepared the drink for madame. In his former state, he was an ill-tempered brute of man. No police docket would be complete without a bar brawl involving him. It wasn’t until Justine pulled his heart strings that he became as docile as a lamb.

There wasn’t much left for me to say. I certainly couldn’t take back what was stolen. It was gone. There was no hope for any of us. I turned to meditate on the conversation and looked up at Lou. We stared at each other for some time, and a common link formed between us. We both knew what we wanted. The marionettes wanted to detach themselves no matter what the cost.

With his back to the madam, Lou pulled out a hidden flask from the bar. Justine was too busy being entertained by her entourage to notice. With a flick of the wrist, a bottle of arsenic was added to the bloody mary. There was no living without her. We’d all be dead by morning.

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Bless Me, If You Can

Violent rain laid sheets of water on the already weather-beaten facade of St. Francis de Sales. Slick, daggered fingers caressed the building with a day long temptation of eternal ruin. Peering out his office window, Father Molony stared at the smoky tufts creeping off to the east. “Heaven is crying today, Sister Catherine, and it doesn’t look like its showing signs of stopping.”

“It’ll be done when it’s good and ready,” replied the nun as she went about her way to the chancel.

“It certainly will,” Molony muttered with a brief sweep of the grounds. The trees were not yet coming out of Winter hibernation and a figure made itself known in between the barren branches of the oaks. It came closer at a hurried pace, splashing along the sidewalks and roads with little regard to the rest of the world. The long, drawn out complaint of a car horn came through the glass as the person was nearly hit by a Cadillac.

The curtain was dropped, and the priest made his way out into the vestibule. Molony’s face pulled taught as he reached the front door of the church. Cold weather blew in strong gusts, as he and his frantic companion forced the door shut. Letting the man rest a moment, he studied the figure now sopping wet from his journey. He seemed older, but only through stress. His panting gave way to a garbled greeting and gratitude.

“I need to confess, father. I’m torn apart!” Smoothing out his chestnut-colored hair made a few extra puddles on the marble floor. Turning his head to the priest, the pain in his grey eyes could only have come from deep guilt.

“Of course, my son. Right this way.” With an outstretched arm, he lead the stranger to the booths for what he thought was the lesson in adultery or some sort of sexual perversion.

Dark as it was, the booths were warm from the antiquated radiator a few steps away. Stuffy almost, as it seemed Malony needed to open the door a crack to let cooler air in. A step outside in this weather may be beneficial to a man cooped up inside for too long. It might even throw off this sluggishness he had been feeling as of late.

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. My greed has lead to the deaths of many. People have died for my comfort, and they will all be waiting in Hell when I die. They’ll be ready to exact their revenge upon my wretched spirit. Oh God, what have I done!”

“Yes, my son, what exactly have you done to believe this?” The priest was waiting for something melodramatic and a molehill rather than a mountain.

“I signed a contract with the Devil. In basic terms, he would teach me the secret of distilling the best whiskey on Earth and I would be rewarded with prosperity, fame, and the finest of women. Being that I was a divorced nobody without a dollar to my name, I didn’t care about my soul. I was in a state of desperation and apathy. By my logic, I was Hell-bound regardless of what I did. The chance to be wealthy for a hot minute was too much to handle.”

Molony tried very hard to weigh the truth in the man’s words. The whole thing sounded absurd, but he was in the business of believing all sorts of spiritual activity. His guest was not guileful; his words were as grave and sober as a judge. The energy from his visitor reeled him in like a fish.

“It was later revealed to me the whiskey was enchanted to drain the life out of all who drank it. This was a highly addictive concoction. It was slow enough to go unnoticed, but the person would eventually lose all will and become the property of Satan. His minions would be in charge of shipping the victims back to Hell for consumption as the Dark Lord sees fit.” The voice was now down to a whisper, as if he were trying to avoid sharing the secret with someone else occupying his seat. He shuffled closer to the window.

“The lackeys transport the souls back to Hell through water. Baths, sinks, pools… this rain! As we speak people are riding the downpour to the entrance of Hell! Their bodies are so weak in spirit, they dissolve and spend days seeping into the dirt. I’ve watched good customers melt like wax in front of me. It’s terrifying, and it’s all my fault, father! It’s all… all my fault.” Leaning up against the wall, he began to cry quietly. He’d committed a terrible evil among humanity and could only hope his repentance would do something to ease the pain.

The clergyman removed the hand from his mouth. “You have sinned quite deeply, my son. While Heaven forgives those for the sins of the past, no one can guarantee forgiveness in perpetuity. God may be merciful, but He isn’t blind. Your inability to prevent further mayhem will fall upon your shoulders, and you will have to face His decision on Judgment Day.” Without a sound, Father Molony found his pocket flask and rubbed it between his forefinger and thumb. He, too, had been drinking whiskey that day.

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Sunday March 2nd, 2014

As Winter decides to entrench itself once again, I’ve tried desperately to seek shelter from a hostile planet. My choice of reading material may not be the best, but The Jungle is a fresh book for which I gnoshed upon this afternoon. It did concern me that the happenings of a turn of the 20th century meat packing plant did not upset my stomach, as I’m sure was intended, but at least I can identify the problems discussed throughout. This book would be a poor read for those with a faint heart.

At least I have good news from others. A good friend, a good man, of whom I’ve known for almost 20 years finally has his place among on the organ recipient list. He was born with Cystic Fibrosis, and ever since age 6 has experienced decreasing lung capacity. He will now await a double lung transplant that will extend his life considerably. He and his wife are pleased and hopeful. I donated my snow blower money to help cover the living expenses that won’t be assured by the insurance company. It’s for the better.

Speaking with my mother, she wasn’t surprised. What she said wasn’t meant to be damning, but my Devil’s workshop of a mind couldn’t resist. She went on to say, “Nate, you have a big heart. You take care of your friends. Had you not been hurt so much, you’d be happy with life.” The taste went sour in my mouth as the brain gleefully relived moments I wish not to remember. Only a runaway mind could truly relish injuring its owner.

Hemingway, whether flippant or serious, once answered the question “what is the best early training for a writer” with “an unhappy childhood.” That’s probably how a lot of writers come to be. I can remember furiously trying to scribble words on sheets of paper as a child. There wasn’t much in the way of encouragement in the house, but then again, I did keep a lot to myself. The efforts often fizzled in a whirlwind of other people’s concerns. Everyone has their problems, or so it is explained. I’ve tried long and hard to abide by it, and stay out of the world’s way.

Why I write? I cannot say. People seem to enjoy it, even if my head aches in confusion and tumult in the process of making more. What have I got to lose? I’m single. It looks like that’s my path. Work is important, but what should I be at the end of the day? Maybe someday I can unclench my jaw and go with the wind. Maybe not. At least there’s something around to note I once existed.

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My City by the Bay (Chapter 2, Part 2 of 6)

Up-down-up-down-up-down. An urge to vomit grabbed Sig’s stomach as he stared at the water. Sea sickness was calling to him. “Oh, bucket… buck-ET… BUCK-ET!” Wildly twisting to Captain Fryer, he mimed for some sort of medical assistance.

“Off the stern, boy.” Fryer said without removing the nautical pipe from his mouth. Dots lined up on the bridge like birds on a telephone line. He heard a screech, and the Barracuda darted back to Old Town. That must have been the cause of all this commotion. He’ll make a note of it on his report.

*Herf* “Oh!” *hurbrle* “Oh, God!” *hooooool* “Jumpin’ Jesus on a pogo stick!” Sig rested on the railing with his chest. This was worse than being hung over. “I need to get off this boat, Cap’n.” Closing his rheumy eyes, he tightened his face in vain to shake off the nausea and immediately recalled the time he made a mess on the Tilt-A-Whirl at the county fair. Fumbling for his badge, Sig offered it to Fryer with a sour composure. He felt like a soaked shopping bag in the middle of a grocery store parking lot.

“City police, eh? Well, we’ll get you to your station. Before that happens, we’ll need to get your story on all this excitement. You mind?” Fryer’s face didn’t move from its original position since they first met.

“Eh, mind if I send it to you later? I can get back on my own all right. I need to do a few other things first.” No! No paperwork right now. He’d rather make a harmonica out of a cheese grater.

“I suppose,” Fryer said, “but don’t make me wait. Last time I played ball with you boys, it took two weeks to get a profile. I’m not a man to be kept waiting.”

“Yes! Yes. Oh, absolutely! You’ve got it, Cap’n.” Sig’s sickness eased with the glee of a temporary reprieve. The boat moored on the safer side of the Nagawatachumi, and Sig clambered out on to the docks. He was never very graceful, and often felt like the slow clown in a pie fight.

Bus Stop

Sig stood in a lonely puddle, with the rest of the riders clumped conspicuously to the left of him. He might as well be wet; there were storm clouds over him. Pantsed again, and it wasn’t even gym class! Damn gawkers. He plugged another cigarette in his mouth but instantly realized they were soaked, too. “Bah!” He launched the pack at the trash can and made a few of the other riders jump.

The silver box on wheels rolled up and opened its doors with an exasperated sigh. Banners of slick law firms and exotic vacations clung loosely to the sides like the hopes of their financiers. A squeaky slosh was heard ascending the stairs and Ralph Kramden was given his fare, and maybe some algae, for his service. Although this time Ralph was Bunny Washington and he was just as suspicious as anyone else on the bus. “Damn,” Bunny shook his head and muttered, “just when I thought I’ve seen it all. Some honkey has to come and test me.”

With a sluggish gait, Sig sat right beside a little old lady who recoiled from the moisture. As the bus resumed its course, he looked over to her and gave a Jack Nicholson smile. “There’s nothing like a good swim to make someone few brand new. Wouldn’t you say?” It wasn’t his best impression, but it was good enough for jazz.

It wasn’t luxurious, but it was home. The wet clothes quickly made a pile near the door, and he lumbered to the fridge. “Great! My car’s gone, and now my beer, too.” He slammed the door shut to antagonize his forgetfulness. Exhausted. Moments later, he was sprawled over his single bed. Before he passed out, he figured he’d go out and buy Star Trek bed sheets. If he were to be single like this, he might as well enjoy some of the small things in life.

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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My City by the Bay (Chapter 2, Part 1 of 6)

Impact wasn’t the most pleasant. In fact, it was like hitting a concrete wall. As a sign of Sig’s patience with Chrissy, he was “rewarded” with a 5 point racing harness in his Camino. At that time in her life she obsessed with his safety. This was years before the fallout and a bitter one at that. “Get hit by a bus” was the last thing she said when she left him. She always knew how to translate her emotions into words so eloquently.  She probably would have a fit, if she knew it probably saved his life.

“Get out! Get out! Get out!” Sig screamed to himself, but he needed to calm down. A capsized car isn’t the best scenario to be in but it wasn’t like he had a choice. “I’m not dying like this!” The water was filling in the car in no time at all. He took a deep breath and unlocked the doors, hoping beyond hope he could still get the door open.  Fortune was smiling on him as the pressure wasn’t yet enough to seal it. Sig took another breath before he popped his belt. The action made him bathe in Nagawatachumi waters, a questionable source of water for all endeavors. Using the steering wheel as an anchor he pushed the door as hard as he could and slowly pulled himself out.

Disorientation is always a fun time. What is up is down, left is right, and he was desperate for some clarity. Noticing the direction the bubbles were taking, he felt a little better and went with the flow. A burning sensation in his chest told him he wanted more air. He clamped down and wriggled as quickly as he could to the surface. The murky river water brightened then broke, and Sig let out a gasp that would frighten a sea lion.

“Over there!” A voice called out from the patrol boat. “About time someone was on top of things. I’m certainly not.” Sig was huffing like fat kid in gym class. He should know; he was that kid. The boat pulled up alongside and offered him help out. “You’re lucky to be alive, son.” Captain Fryer called to him as the river police yanked him up over the starboard side. The grizzled, pepper-haired vet couldn’t muster a whole lot to say. After his years in the Navy, there wasn’t a whole lot that got him too excited about anything.

“It’s a shame.” Fryer muttered while lighting his pipe.

“What’s that?” Sig peered up from his towel, still a little out of sorts from the whole affair.

“It looked a damn fine car, too.”

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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My City by the Bay (Chapter 1, Part 3 of 3)

Sliding through all four lanes of Douglass Avenue, the El Camino drifted behind a moving truck. “Mah!” Sig spun the wheel to the left and fishtailed his lane change. The ‘Cuda came alive and began to mime the Camino down the road. Sounds of a bee hive gone mad echoed down the road.

“They’ve got the better ride, but do they know how to jam?” Sig spoke, as his 8-track looped to the beginning. A slight ping notified the permission of a dirty habit. The tip of his menthol was singed and a curl of smoke arrived on the scene. “If today’s the day, at least it won’t be these that are the death of me. That’ll show her.” By “her” he meant his estranged wife, Christine. Chrissy had a way of throwing insults like pizza dough. She had her own spin, and they’d stick when she wanted them to.

The Camino ducked and dodged down Douglass for another thirty seconds, before a sharp right gave him a way north. He jammed on the clutch and power shifted the 8-ball capped stick into fourth. The ‘Cuda’s hockey stop nearly checked a bum into a bench, but it recovered and made another dash to the fleeing car.

“He’s not that great with the goods. That’s a shame. I’d hate to see him get it dirty.” With that, Sig made a beeline to a fruit stand off to the right. The proprietor, torn between dodging and protecting his assets, decided to save his own skin by hopping on a pile of black trash bags behind him. With a quick flick of the wrist, The Camino juked left and only smacked the right-side mirror on the kiosk. As intended, the sprinting ‘Cuda couldn’t dodge the stand quick enough and plowed through a variety of melons and fruit.

“Dammit!” No-neck said. “I just made my last payment on this thing two months ago!”

The gap between the Camino and the ‘Cuda widened and Sig could not push the pedal hard enough. Jumping a few hills, Sig smacked his head. “Moof!” could be heard as the blur passed several pedestrians.

He finally hit the bridge and stood a chance of making it back into friendly territory. The ‘Cuda, once again, recovered and hit the straightaway. The Camino could not match the speed of the muscle car, and soon No-neck was bumping The Camino’s rear end.

“She’s not that kind of car!” Sig screamed as he did all he could to keep the car steady.

Just a few more seconds, and he would clear the crown of the bridge. His grip could crush steel and he wanted to puke that cheap beer he just had at Jack’s. Clenching his jaw, he held on and steadied the car for what seemed like hours.

“Steady. Steeeady. OK, half-way th— OH SHI!” Sig failed to see the traffic jam at the other end of the bridge. It was rush hour, and those lucky enough to live in North Wharf wanted to get out of Dodge. With this distraction, the ‘Cuda made a solid bump and the Camino was out of control. A slam to the right and slam to the left knocked the cigarette from his mouth, and the ‘Cuda went in for the kill. By some fluke, the last slap sent the Camino up and over the rails.

All Sig saw was blacktop, then blue and lots of it. It wasn’t a huge drop, maybe 15 feet, but it certainly was enough to drain the blood from his face. White foam soon enveloped the Camino, and the chase was over.

No-neck slammed on the breaks only to clear a bumper by three inches. Getting out, he went to check on his handiwork. A ring of suds marked where the car had made its surprise splash landing and a police tug was already preparing to survey the site. The river cops were strangely different than the regular heat, as they were more prone to do their job. Provided Sig could get out of the Camino, he would be able to find a route back to safety. No-neck slammed his fist on the steel tubing of the rail.

“He dead?” Tiny stuck his head out the car’s window like a dog.

“No, he ain’t dead.” Said No-neck flatly.

“Miss Redglove ain’t gonna be happy with us.” lamented Tiny.

“Really?! What makes you say that?” No-neck was building in irritation.

“Well, we didn’t get him or kill him. That’s bad. Ain’t it?”


© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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My City by the Bay (Chapter 1, Part 2 of 3)

Almost tripping over the barstool, Sig leapt up and bolted for the back. To his advantage, there was enough excitement to cause confusion in the room. Mr. No-neck grabbed him, and Sig shifted his weight onto the guy’s shoe. There’s nothing like a searing pain in the foot to get someone off your case.

With a loud slap, the door to the alley opened up. Blinding sunlight and stench. It wouldn’t be Old Town without its aroma. So familiar… so repulsive. Too bad he didn’t have time to vomit.

The dumpster was a decent enough refuge to hide behind for the moment. Better yet, it was the place he decided to hide some supplies before he went it. Someone had one too many drinks; the packaging was covered in puke. There’s a small amount of bravery required in handling puke-soaked items, but it’s better than ending up dead. A plastic bag produced a Ruger SP101 and a paper bag with a change of clothes. There was no time to lose. He had to work fast.

He couldn’t deny it now. There was something up at this place, and it was pretty serious. If Sig could get back to the station, maybe he could start cross referencing disappearances within a certain radius of the place and find something in common. He had to find out why they were being taken. That’s part of the hunt, but first: the getaway.

Immediately after he slipped on the change of clothes, the backdoor of the bar swung open. No-neck and a friend came out to play. “Fine,” Sig thought, “I suppose it was going to happen sooner or later.” Crouched behind the dumpster, he waited. The figures peered around the alley for a starting point. Sig strained to hear any jabber from two goons who didn’t know any better.

“Why are we after this guy, again?” bumbled a tall, brutish man with a several day-old beard.

“He was harassin’ Harley, and snooping around ’bout the bodies.” Mr. No-neck had that quintessential Jersey accent. Sig winced about the cliché before continuing to listen. “We need to find out what he knows, and probably show our unwanted visitor the way to Chestnut Grove.” Chestnut Grove was the name of the dilapidated cemetery in the heart of the ghetto. Cops rarely poked around there, because of the high probability of finding the recently deceased. Less paperwork that way.

“Miss Redglove never liked unwanted company.” The lug childishly pondered aloud as he pulled back a stack of pallets, only to discover a two-inch gap made a poor hiding spot. He was a regular Baby Huey. They probably have some apt nickname for him, like “Tiny.”

No-neck was a few steps ahead of him on the intelligence scale. He had already peered into the dumpster Sig was behind and wiping his hands clean on a kerchief. The congealing food grease and liquor remnants apparently took up temporary residence on his palms. The dumpster smelled beyond foul and he was glad it was suspect free. With a little relief, he decided to scope out a nook in the building beside the bar. It was the backstage exit area for the Hips and Jiggles ‘Gentleman’s’ Club. Those walls had some stories to tell.

Knowing when to spot opportunity, Sig pistol whipped No-neck without much more thought. He didn’t want to shoot these two, as that was only used as a last resort. Less paperwork that way. The slight grunt and subsequent thud was enough to wrench Tiny out of his meditation upon an olive loaf sandwich. Spinning around, Tiny found himself with a coldcocked partner and a rather high-strung man in a pink hoodie and a snub nose.

“Whaddyado to him? Don’t make me angry, mister.” For all Tiny wasn’t, he was at least polite.

“I wouldn’t try anything smart, pal.” Sig was sure that he didn’t have to worry about that, but felt the need to say it anyway.

“You don’t wanna mess with us. We’ve gots a good thing going. I get paid and my Daisy likes the flowers I get for her.” Sig could only imagine they were from funeral arrangements.

“Listen, I’m not looking for an economics debate,” as he would probably end up using the pistol on himself, “but what I am looking for is you to step aside. Nice and easy.”

The big man’s eyes darkened. He knew failure would be bad, or at least bad in the sense he had to listen to Miss Redglove scream at him again. He didn’t like it when she screamed at him. Throwing things at him were fine, but screaming, no. She was pretty (stunning, as it turns out), and it made him very sad when pretty girls were mad at him.

“I can’t let you do that, buddy. Miss Redglove likes me to do my job.” Tiny shook his head as if he were agreeing with her in a previous conversation.

“Oh, is that who that is?” Sig said, spying over Tiny’s ham-fisted shoulder.

As surefire as basic instinct, the meat head turned to look down the street. He saw no one there. Then he saw black with a white starburst.

“MMMMMMMOTHERFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFT,” yelled Sig, as he would have been better off clocking masonry. Clutching his right fist underneath the .38, he dove in a gap between Tiny and the wall.

When the brute finally sorted out all the pieces, he roared, “hey, that was cheap!” Sig didn’t stop to apologize. He was out on the street and ducking into his El Camino. With a plaintive sputter and hack, the car screeched onto the road and headed to the St. Mary’s Street bridge. That was the best way to get on the “right” side of the river. Fortunately, driving south-side of the Natawagachumi required very little adherence to traffic and safety laws.

Tiny and No-neck were making their way to a 1974 Vitamin-C Barracuda as best they could, shaking off their latest surprises. Their engine started. It wasn’t over yet.

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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My City by the Bay (Chapter 1, Part 1 of 3)

Old Town

The hustle of traffic and the bustle of pedestrians made a clamor on Fillmore Street. Sidewalk vendors bartered with customers, dogs were barking, couples arguing, and rain water made its hasty exit down storm drains. It was typical bedlam in the slum neighborhood known as Old Town. Built in the late 19th century, it was now a neglected wreck of a site. Buildings often lost bricks off the top of their facades, and was received with near apathy by the typical pedestrian.

Neglected and worn out, the residents were in a drifting state. The crime rate was naturally high, but there weren’t exactly any welcome wagons elsewhere. Like many American cities, Old Town was the hand-me-down from the well-to-do long ago, a cast off by the boon of successful businessmen. These stately structures spoke of craft and care few artisans today would ever desire. In recent times, they told tales of neglect and abuse. The frustrations of a population trapped under the thumb of chance, personal mistake, and indifferent leadership were acted out in broken windows, graffiti, and arson. It was like a pet shredding a comfy shirt.

Sig (Sigmund only to his mother) played with his lighter, waiting for something to happen. One-Eyed Jack’s was known to be a problem child among the police, but apparently there was more to it. Spinning the lighter, he took a drink of a flat domestic pilsner. There was wind of suspicious activity, people disappearing to be more precise, going on in the area. He needed to check it out for himself. Being early afternoon, it wasn’t very packed and fairly dull. Fortunately, he brought a book with him. That often caught him flack, but his apartment was a mess and he couldn’t drink a pint at the library. Naturally, he was more at home in a bar.

He started to ply his mind to the pages. It takes a few moments to orient one’s mind to a story, and get in a groove. The characters of the book came back to the forefront and the movie he created started to roll. This wasn’t to last, as he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. It was the bartender nodding to someone. A corpulent man with a comb over, the color of his right eye would suggest that he owned the place. He continued to clean beer mugs with a questionably dirty rag, and not pay any attention to Sig.

“What’cha readin’?” a voice nothing less than nails on a chalkboard inquired behind him. It was a bar fly. Squatty, with a bit of a muffin top, she smiled like used car salesmen. She looked quite young and impressionable, but looks can always be deceiving. The hair dangerously close to being burnt by bleach and her clothes obviously the cream of the thrift shop spoke too much. They were loud, too, but Sig knew this was his foot in the door. She was the “bait” for whatever was going on around there.

Catcher in the Rye,” Sig replied, “I’m going through the curriculum I never got to read in high school.” He thumbed the pages of the used paperback. Some English student at a uni obviously needed some beer money, and decided to trade it in at his favorite coffee house. A dollar a piece for something so beneficial. If adjusted for inflation, he could only imagine the amount of chatter it would have caused 150 years ago. Coming back to Earth, he knew it was important to look drawn in to the lady.

“Oh, yeah!” She was obviously a bad actor, because there was something else on her mind. “I read that in high school.” Apparently acknowledging the reading level of the book isn’t enough to prevent from people restating it. Sig felt like sighing. He was fighting his ego, and unlucky for him, it was a heavyweight. The temptation was too much.

“So, how much do they pay you?” He said not looking up from his drink.

“I ought to throw this in your face!” She spat after an uneasy pause.

“Not like that,” he looked at the grimy bottles of hooch lining the mirrored shelves. “How much do they pay you for the guys?”

“What guys?!” She was genuinely stupefied. The woman wasn’t the keenest mind in the think tank.

“Really?” Sig thought it high time to throw down some serious cards, if he were to get anywhere with this conversation.

“That hairpin,” he said as his pupils rolled to the upper-right corners of his eyes, “costs $500 uptown and that sapphire ring is easily a grand.”

“Yeah, so?”

“When would a woman on this side of the river ever sport such merch?”

She screwed up her face as he flatly continued, “she sports them, when she knows she has protection.” His face slowly pivoted to meet hers, squarely.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Her indignation forced her to fold her arms quickly and neatly under her breasts.

“Really?” He took his largest gamble yet. “You mean to tell me some bar fly doesn’t know about people disappearing in her own haunt? You make a poor liar, ma’am.”

“The name’s Harley. I may be a terrible liar, but that doesn’t mean I have nothin’ to do with nothin’.”

“Oh, yeah?” He chuckled, because the biggest gamble was in the bag. “Who’s the goon in the corner that has been eyeballin’ us ever since you spoke to me? He’s the flagman. Isn’t he? You get your clients drunk. Lead them out to the alleyway, and Mr. No-neck over there calls in his crew. You get money and protection in return.”

Her face sat concreted in disgust. Who did this chippy, fat jerk think he was coming in on her turf and pulling the sheets right off the bed. Shewasfurious.

“Is that all they give in return?” He wanted to throw that dart in there, before it was time to boogie. The sting was satisfying.

“YOU ASSHOLE!” She screamed, and the green light came on in his head. Time to fly.

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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