How do you do poetry
How do you do poetry?
Do you make
Off the page
Like the last drop
Of rain from
Do you shape words
Into images that open the mind
And calibrates the man into a new
And is this poetry -- however you do it --
Released only to the gifted
The learned -- or is this free to
Like a healing stream through which flows
People on a Sunday
An image, a
Man and a
With high forms
Of movement ---
A faint morning
In the moment --
In darkness --
Fitted by death --
Attended to by
Men at Work
Some are hunched over
Some are limping
Some have dull and disciplined hands
All day they move in uniform
Grinding under the intimidating sun
Lifting and pulling and pushing and toiling
Looking for the next rest period
Where they sit
Where they eat
Where they fill the air with small talk
Where they smoke a cigarette (or two)
Where they take a shit--
Don’t be general;
They are generals
These microcosms of an undying universe
Making themselves hiding themselves
Being themselves amongst friends
These men lay the foundation
These men are the foundation
Their skins crisp under a most forgiving
#poetry #freeverse #poem
This love can't
grow by being
Let it go outside
and endure the rain
My love is a poetry
Of secrets; that is, each
Measure of her requires you
To walk on the edge.
Flesh. Is that
Or do I,
Like mirrors, exist
At Vow’s End
Our love once bloomed in
a fresh spring: that's where
you were perfect and pure as
though baptized in a triumphant morning --
But now you suffer through a bitter
winter: a disobedient sickness that
refuses to release you from its
long shadow -- And
All through the night, I hold your
hand: a delicate posture that requires
us to isolate ourselves within one
another's trust --
As you lie there, I look
into your eyes and see a
foreign distance --
oh, how far we have travelled
Down this road to the
stripping darkness, the moment
our love was made for
Edward never paced and yet he found himself walking back and forth around the house all that morning. The lawyer, Timothy Brock, was going to drop by his house at 10 a.m. sharp. Edward watched the wall clock in the living room slowly creep to the top of the ten o’clock hour. Ten minutes until Brock showed up. Edward thought of himself as a collected man, never one to be easily rattled. But this situation was something unfamiliar to him. He was having sleepless nights and on some mornings he noticed clumps of brown hair on his pillow.
He had been on leave from the police force for over a week. He felt under siege in his own home. Edward hadn’t left the house much since the incident happened, but each time he did, whether it was to take a walk in the park to cool his head or to go grab a couple of burgers through the nearest drive thru, he felt someone was watching him. He wanted to dismiss it as paranoia, but he kept thinking someone was waiting for his back to turn so they could take a potshot at him.
That day had been replayed over and over again, on the news and in Edward’s own mind. He didn’t need to see it on television. Each day that had gone by, he analyzed the scene like a film. He slowed down certain actions frame by frame and wondered if he had done something wrong. He asked himself if there was something he could have done better.
It started with a simple call. An owner of a convenience store had called to report a couple of guys loitering right outside on his property. They hadn’t made any purchases and had refused to leave after numerous requests to do so. Edward took the dispatched call and made his way over to the store. He was familiar with the area, and knew a few of the business owners personally. It wasn’t the ritziest neighborhood, but for the most part, the people there tried to do right. Edward arrived on the scene and asked the men to leave. The first guy was chubby, with an overgrown beard, and a t-shirt that allowed the underside of his belly to stick out. The second guy was more athletically structured, braids under a wave cap, a tattoo on his neck, and long arms that seemed to dangle just above the ground.
While the chubby young man started to acquiese to Edward’s demands, the second guy still refused to leave. Edward was used to people being annoyed that he had pulled them over. He had encountered drug dealers who were so belligerent that he had the nerve to arrest them while doing a sale that they needed to be forced to the ground. But in five years, he had never had someone flip out for asking them to hang out somewhere else. But that’s what happened. The guy began to unlease a tirade at him, laced with profanity. And before he could process it all, the guy reached in his pocket, and began to withdraw.
Edward removed his gun and fired off two shots before the young man fully removed his hand from his waist. The guy collapsed to the ground instantly. Edward went to him and saw the young man’s eyes. They bore a look of a sudden realization. Edward looked at the rest of the guy. One shot in the shoulder, the other in his tattoo. He called the station for back up and an ambulance. Edward had no hope for the guy, and once the ambulance arrived, they pronounced him dead at the scene.
It wasn’t long before a mob had gathered. A myriad of faces screaming, crying, cursing. Other officers were on the scene trying to maintain peace and order.
Over the coming days, many took to the streets, demanding his head on a platter. Politicians took to any and every social media platform, any and every news outlet, to score points by denigrating Edward. One internet meme had him in a portrait alongside Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and other villians of the twentieth century.
He finally stopped pacing when he saw the family picture. He thought to himself, ‘If it were only me, it wouldn’t be so bad.’ But that’s the part that hurt him the most. It wasn’t just him. It affected his wife, Leanne. Some of her friends refused to be seen with her in public, or at all. Leanne had taken to grocery shopping at obscure hours of the night to avoid the glares and the derision she suffered one evening after work.
His oldest boy, Matthew, was jeered and taunted at school. He had been in a couple of fights since the shooting happened, and still had the bruises to show for it. His younger son Eric, while only in third grade, hadn’t suffered as visibly as Matthew or Leanne, still felt the tension and uncertainty in the atmosphere.
A knock came at Edward’s door. He looked at the wall clock. Right on time. He went and opened the front door. Brock was a clean cut man who kept an efficient dress, and a precise manner. His hair was always slicked back and his eyes were thin shaped, like razors, that still managed to perceive everything going on in the room.
“Come in,” Edward said. Brock entered and Edward looked outside for a moment. The street was empty and though he couldn’t figure why, it unnerved Edward. He shook it off, shut the door, and followed Brock to the living room.
“Can I get you anything?” He offered this as Brock sat on the couch.
“No, thanks,” Brock said. He examined Edward as he stood there.
“How are you?” Brock asked. How have you been sleeping? Have you been sleeping? How’s Leanne and the boys?”
“Which question do you want me to answer first?”
“Whichever one you can.”
“Coping? What’s that? Describe it.”
“She’s getting along as best she can.”
“Hmm. The boys?”
“Matthew has had some trouble at school, but we’re getting that straightened out. Eric is day by day, but not too...”
Suddenly Edward became annoyed.
“Is this a mental examination?”
“No. I was being polite and I thought I’d ask.”
“Look. I’m sorry. I know you’re having a tough time, but I’m here to help. I’m on your side. Others are too.”
“It sure doesn’t feel like it.”
“Trust me, you have supporters. But you, you are strong. You’re going to get through this.”
“I hope so.” Edward started to pace again and Brock’s eyes followed him until he came to a halt.
“So what’s happening?” Edward asked. “Tell me something.”
“An investigation is happening,” Brock said. “You know there’s an internal investigation obviously, but the county prosecutor is looking into it as well.”
Edward sighed in frustration.
“Now, that’s not necessarily an automatic negative. They’re assembling all of the facts and testimony to see if there’s anything there. They, he, the prosecutor, wants this to be as transparent as possible. I’m not sure how long this will go on, but you’ll just have to sit tight. One shining light is that fat boy has changed his story a couple of times so that’s one for our side.”
“Speaking of sides,” Edward began, “when do I get to tell my side?”
“Soon. You actually go in to the prosecutor’s office tomorrow morning. Didn’t you know that already?”
“Yes. But what about the media?”
“Now, Ed you know that’s out.”
“Have you seen what they’ve been saying? You want to talk about transparency. At what point are we going to be transparent and tell everyone he had a gun. Ilegally, I might add. And he was aiming to use it.”
“What about the store’s video cameras? Surely they tell the same story I’ve already told you and my superiors down at hq.”
“There are some, and I’m not one of them so let’s be clear there, but there are some who say that the video isn’t as conclusive as they’d like it to be. He was at an obscure angle and it’s hard to tell what he was really doing. I’m not the one saying that. It’s just what’s been circulating around.”
“So what am I supposed to do?”
“You’re going to get some sleep. You’re going to try, I know it will be difficult, but try and live somewhat normally. This is going to be a long haul and your family needs you. I know it’s frustrating -”
“That’s not quite the word I’d choose.”
”- But that’s the way it’ll be until this thing ends.”
Edward knew that even once the investigation ended, this thing wouldn’t be over. The entire ordeal had changed his life in a way he still couldn’t define. It wasn’t easy on anyone in his household. A permanent mark resided in their lives now.
“And one last thing,” Brock said. “Don’t watch the news. It won’t do you any good.”
Brock stood to leave. “Is there anything that you need? Anything I can do for you?”
“No, that’s all right. I’ll manage.”
Brock headed towards the door with Edward right behind him.
“If there is anything that you need, you have my number. Any time. Day or night. I’m around.”
“Thanks, Brock. I appreciate it.”
Brock opened the door, stepped out onto the porch, and jerked back.
“Oh, what the f--”
Edward stepped around Brock to see what had caused him to jump. He looked on his front porch and saw a soiled brown paper bag. He didn’t need to look inside. Just the odor that immediately hit his nose was enough for him to realize what it was.
#fiction #flashfiction #shortstory #story #crime #police
Ain’t No Snitch
I had been sitting in that awful cold room for hours and my skin became wrapped in goosebumps. My stomach was empty, too. I thought to myself that it was just some kind of tactic they were using to get me to talk, to say something I shouldn’t say. The mind can make the mouth say a lot of untoward things when you’re tired. But I wasn’t going to say shit. I thought I could just play it cool and eventually, I’d make it out of there. I’d been in trouble with the law a couple of time before so I knew just to keep my mouth shut. Nothing new. I wasn’t afraid. When the police dragged me into that interrogation room, I didn’t answer any of their questions. They pressed hard, real hard. But I wasn’t giving them anything. Just some smoke and standard “I want my lawyer” line. I had no intention of playing ball with those guys. When they realized they couldn’t get anything, they left me alone, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I was back out on the streets.
Truth of the matter says I should have never been picked up in the first place. Had things gone as plan, had the operation ran smoothly, then I wouldn’t have been sitting there with icicles forming on my ass. But there is one small, inconvenient detail about plans. No matter how try, you can’t plan for stupidity. The best designed plans will go to the toilet if an ounce of stupidity interferes. That’s what I told Big Lou, or at least that’s what I tried to tell him, anyway. You can’t really tell him something flat out, you have to suggest it. So, I tried to hint to Big Lou that I could do that job myself and I didn’t need a partner. But he refused to hear me out. And he sent June Boy along with me.
Now, nothing against June Boy, but again, you can’t plan for stupidity. I’ve never been the smartest man in any room, but damn if June Boy wasn’t the dumbest man in every room. It was so bad I actually worried for the guy. I felt real concern. It amazed me how he ever managed to survive the streets. I knew Big Lou had a temper and wasn’t going to be too happy about June Boy’s fuck up, so that really bothered me. Then, I remembered that his fuck up was the reason I was sitting in cold storage and then I thought to hell with him anyway.
The door opened and some of the cold air rushed out of the room. In walked two suits, one almost a foot taller than the other. They weren’t the same guys who had interrogated me hours before. The shorter of the two had dark hair and a pencil thin mustache; the other one had red hair and carried himself with the sturdiness of a Tennessee Walker. The redhead sauntered over to the corner of the room and stood there while the shorter one sat in the chair across the table from me. He carried a briefcase and he opened it and pulled out a manila folder. He rifled through it and then looked at me. The gaze he turned on me seemed to be made of metal and I was a little uneasy. I eased back in my chair, but he kept that steel gleam in his eyes on me before turning his attention back to the folder. He finally closed it and placed it back in the briefcase next to him on the table.
“Ronald Anthony Clark, Jr.,” he said. “Better known as R.J.”
“And who might you be?” I said.
“Agent Lane,“he said. He gestured to red over in the corner. “That’s Agent Andrews.”
“Agent? Like F.B.I. agents?”
“Now there’s a bright lad. Yes, as in F.B.I.”
I had heard rumors that the feds were trying to catch Big Lou, but they weren’t smart enough to do it. He always gave off the appearance of a simple man, but Big Lou knew how to get information that he needed to stay free. Whether it was from a crooked cop who was unsatisfied with his pay, or a sleazy politician who needed a little extra campaign cash (as well as votes), Big Lou knew how to wheel and deal and make sure his operations, for the most part, went off without a hitch.
“F.B.I. down here for me, huh? I must be special.”
“Not quite,” Lane said. “You’re just the lucky one who got caught.”
“Lucky, you say?” I scoffed at him. “If that’s what you want to call luck...so what are you here for?”
“What happened this evening, huh?”
“You have the report. Why don’t you read it?”
“I want to hear it from you. Maybe they left something out. Maybe you have some additional information that occurred to you while you were in here cooling off.”
“Man, I’ll tell you the same thing I told those other pigs: I want my lawyer.”
Lane smirked at me and folded his hands on the table. I noticed his knuckles were rough, brittle, and his pinky finger on his left hand was slightly crooked.
“Son, we want to offer you something that’s better than a lawyer.”
“What’s that? Two lawyers? A get out of jail free pass?”
Lane ran his fingers through his hair, but he wasn’t rattled. He was cool, confident, and he wore a small smirk that suggested he knew every word I was going to say. But still, I felt no reason to make this easy for him.
“Not quite,” he said. “You’ll probably do some time, just not so much.”
“Now how is that any better than the lawyer?”
“Perhaps, it isn’t. But I’m guessing the lawyer isn’t going to offer you this.”
“You haven’t heard it yet.”
“Don’t need to. You’re wasting time. I’ll be out of here and back on the streets within a few hours.”
“Positive about that, are you?”
Lane chuckled as though he knew yet another secret. “You shouldn’t be,” he said.
“And why not?”
” Because that’s not what’s going to happen. Not this time. If the prosecutor plays his cards right, you may never be seen or heard from again.”
I thought it was my turn to laugh so I did.
“Man, what are you talking about? Do you even know what you’re talking about?”
“I believe I do.”
“Well, let me tell you, “I said, “you don’t. You have no idea what you’re talking about. Listen to this: they ain’t got nothing on me.”
“Hmm.” Lane’s eyes scanned the table in front of him as if he were counting pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
“So let’s start at the beginning,” Lane said. “There’s a drug bust -”
“I wasn’t even there - ”
“A shooting - ”
“I didn’t see it - ”
“A boy lying out at Christian Northeast - ”
“You’re making that up.”
“A slug in his chest, and a couple of gunshot wounds to his arm and neck. Now, we can’t positively identify you as the man who pulled the trigger - ”
“Because I didn’t!”
” - But we do have positive identification that you were one of the guys at the scene. Contrary to what you’ve claimed.”
“Now you may think that’s bull shit, and yet, here you sit. If you think it’s bull shit, keep your trap shut and wait. If you think it’s bull shit, sit there long enough until you’re before a judge facing attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, illegal possession, and hell son, we haven’t gotten to the drug charges. Now, to you, all of that might be bull shit now, but just wait until you’re the only one behind bars for this. Then. You tell me what’s bull shit.”
As he trained his eyes on me, I looked away and saw Andrews with an empty expression on his face. He had said nothing up until that time and it bothered me. Quiet people always made me nervous. You never knew what they were capable of doing.
"Man, what is this about? What do you guys want?" I had grown exasperated.
"This isn't about so much what we want although we have needs to. For now, just focus on what you want."
"Simple. I want out of here."
"Good, because that's just what we've come to do for you. Get you out of here."
Lane's smirk expanded across his face and he eased back into his chair.
"Now isn't that the question you should've asked five minutes ago?" he said. "We're going to offer you a deal. A smart man would take it. You think you're smart?"
"I aim to." He paused for what I assumed was a melodramatic affect. "As I'm sure you're aware, we're not here after you. We want Big Lou. We're asking you to give him to us."
I opened my mouth to say something, but Lane held up his hand so I let him continue.
"We set it up where you go back out on the streets today. Don't worry about the logistics of it or of that botched drug deal from earlier. We can take care of that. You help us gather information to take Big Lou down, and once it's all over, you're a free man."
I didn't wait to give my answer.
"I'm going to have to pass. But thanks, though."
"You turned that down so quickly. Why?"
"Because I ain't no snitch."
Lane threw his head back and faked a heavy, hearty laugh.
"Ahh, yes. I almost forgot. You crooks do pretend to have some sort of moral code or other. Andrews, I always find it humorous when these guys pretend to have values."
Andrews just stood there and said nothing. His stone focus was still on us at the table, but he hadn't moved an inch since he got to that corner. He barely blinked. I looked away from him and turned back to Lane.
"You don't fool me, bruh."
"Fool you? Do you think we're down here to fool you? I'm offering you the best chance to get out. Not just out of here, but out of this mess of a lifestyle you've created for yourself."
"I don't know where you got that from, but my lifestyle isn't a mess. So who told you I wanted out? See you think you know a lot, and maybe you do. But you don't know everything. I have a pretty good thing going."
I started to feel drained and I wanted to flee that room, go hide in some dark alley for a few days. I had refused his offer to snitch on the crew, and yet I still felt as though I had betrayed the gang.
"I don't know what you think it is you owe these guys you run with. I don't know what you think you owe Big Lou. But believe me, if Big Lou were faced with this decision, guess what he'd choose?"
"Man, you're just making that up."
"Ha! That's what you think. See, you don't understand, son. There's no loyalty out there. You think there's some code, but there isn't one. One rule: self-preservation. Keeping yourself alive, keeping yourself free. And if that means squealing, just about anybody would do it. Except maybe a fool who believes in something that doesn't exist."
My head began to hurt and I refused to look him in the eyes.
"Self-preservation," Lane continued. "Andrews. That's a strong phase, don't you think?"
He looked back at Andrews, but still the red head said nothing.
"What's up with him?" I asked. "Doesn't he talk? Or is this some type of good cop, bad cop performance y'all pull?"
"Don't you worry about him," Lane said. " You just think about what you want."
"I want out of here."
"We're trying to give you that."
"No, what you're trying to do is have me wind up missing. How would you even protect me? Huh? I do this and rat on Big Lou, you can't even guarantee I'll be alive long enough to see him brought down."
"We'd protect you. Is that what you're worried about? We'd do everything we could to keep you safe. Now, granted, we can't go out there and hold your hand on the streets, but we'd keep you alive."
"You sound so sure as though it would be easy."
"I didn't say it would be easy, but...you have to think of the opportunity we're going to offer you. We're going to offer you the chance to live. And not end up like Raj."
Suddenly, it all became timeless, and the air was loud, filled with a hard sound that pounded my ears. The room began to swirl with images, shifting all around us, running along the walls. My shoulders became pressed, weighed down, and my stomach was hollow.
"Tell us about Raj," Lane said. His eyes were intense, demanding, clamoring to draw something out of me. I felt like sinking into a shadow.
"What about him?" I asked. I wanted my composure, but it was gone. I suddenly felt abandoned.
"You were friends, weren't you?"
"How do you know that?"
"Grew up together. Lived in the same neighborhood. Ran together all the time. I know more than you think I do. Were you there that night when he was killed?"
"Yeah, I was there. I saw him."
"I read he was shot in the back. They shot him eight times. What was that like? To see your friend lying there?"
I didn't answer. I couldn't answer. I just needed him to leave.
"Who called you and told you he was dead? How long did it take you to arrive to the scene?"
I still refused to answer. Lane sighed.
"This is a waste, Andrews,"he said. "You offer people a way out, a better way than what they're currently doing. Lost."
"Lost?" I said. "You don't even know the half of it, man."
"Well, fill me in. You have the floor. Say something meaningful within these next five minutes so that I can know you're a man, and not just some boy who manages to halfway pull on his pants."
Some small part of me didn't want what was coming next. I knew once those words were out there, I'd never get them back.
"I was there. I was there before he was killed." I stopped to gather my breath and to prevent any tears from coming.
"Earlier that evening Raj had me drop him off over at some girl's house. She lived over there on Frost. I took him and we said I'd be back in about a few hours. So I leave and start cruising around for a bit. I start to get hungry so I look for a place to eat. This is about 45 minutes after I drop him off. I get a text. It's from Raj."
I came to a halt and had to take a deep breath. Those images were still on the wall, but they changed from colors to more vivid pictures.
"What did they text message say?" Lane asked.
"He wanted me to come pick him up. So I head on back over there. But I stop at a gas station. It's about a ten minute walk from the girl's house so I tell him to meet me over there. I go in, grab a quick bite, and come back out. I wait for Raj in the car in the parking lot. Next thing I see is Raj..."
Those images on the wall became so clear and it was Raj. It was him, and it was that night he was killed all over again. I tried to hold it back, but one tear began to fall down my face. Followed by another. And another.
"Raj is running. I had never seen him run so fast. He was running into the lot. And behind him was a car. The car stopped and the doors opened. Two guys jumped out and pulled out their guns. And started shooting."
"What did you do?"
I closed my eyes to shield myself from what happened next. But I couldn't hide from it. I saw it in my head just as clearly as I ever did.
"I panicked." I stumbled across the words. "The car was already running and...I pulled out of the lot as fast as I could. I left him there. I didn't want to look back. But I glanced in the mirror and I saw him laying on the ground. The guys stood over him. They shot him. It seemed like they kept on shooting forever. Shot after shot. I sped off and hid a few blocks away. I must've sat ther 20, 30 minutes before going back to the gas station. And when I got there, there he was. Dead."
After that, I didn't feel the need to pretend to be a hard ass anymore. The tears were streaking down my face at that point, and I lowered my head into my chest. I closed my eyes again, and sobbed. The images of that night surrounded me. They had surrounded me everyday since Raj was killed. My best friend. I could see it over and over again. Those mental pictures raged and raged in my head like a frenzied storm. I had never confessed that to anyone. I kept it to myself.
At that moment, I remembered Raj's mother. We all went over to visit her a few days after she had passed. Everyone gathered in their front yard and along the porch. Raj's mother sat on the steps of the porch sobbing. Big Lou tried to offer her some condolences, but she shrugged him away. Raj lived with his mother and siblings in what could best be described as a two-room shack with a moldy basement. Big Lou reached into his pocket and pulled out a roll of cash. He extended it to her and told her it was for his Raj's funeral and burial expenses. She looked at Big Lou and what he held in his hand. I had known her for a lot of years. She was a small woman. Raj's mother stood up and looked Big Lou square before spitting right in the palm of his hand on that wad of cash. She then went back inside.
I thought of my own mother who was sick. She struggled to take care of us. I thought working for Big Lou would bring in more money and help ease that struggle. But she hated it. She hated Big Lou. She hated when the police had knocked on our door late at night because I had been arrested for shoplifting. I made her disappointed.
Papers rustled and I opened my eyes to see Lane close his briefcase. He stood up and motioned for Andrews to follow him. They headed towards the door. Just as Lane began to open it...
"Wait," I said.
They both stopped and looked back at me. I wiped my face and took a deep breath. I looked Lane square in his eye, man to man.
"What is it that you want me to do?"
#fiction #crime #shortstory #guilt #memory #loss
As Grayson drove down the rain soaked streets, he silently prayed that this night, the last night of the year, wouldn’t be the last night of his life. He wasn’t too worried that it would be, but sometimes, as his grandmother used to say, a little prayer never hurt. He thought through what he had to do to finish the night and start the new year off on the right foot. Not so much the right foot but a new beginning. Although he didn’t believe in New Year’s resolutions (people seldom kept them), he decided he needed to make one. He realized he couldn’t keep living life the way he had been. Grayson, ever since he was 17 and first busted on a small time robbery charge, had grown accustomed to a life of crime. But just because you’re accustomed to it, doesn’t make it right. Grayson knew he wasn’t right so he thought this would be the last time for this line of work. The last job, just like in the movies. And then he would be free.
Anxious though he was to get it over with, he drove slowly down the streets of the south side. He didn’t want any unnecessary attention. Besides, he needed the time to think through the details of the job. There was a little small cleaners on The Hill. Its owner was Alfonso Romano, a mob boss who controlled The Hill and even some of the area just immediately outside of it. That’s until Eddie, Grayson’s boss, decided he wanted a bigger slice of the south side. What followed was a back and forth bloody turf war between the two sides that was so grisly it captured the news headlines at least three times a week. Sensing that the violence in and of itself wasn’t enough to get the public’s attention, the media salivated and jumped at the racial component of the story. Black vs. white. The Italians (Eddie pronounced it, rather pejoratively, as I--talians) saw it as defending their territory from hostile outsiders. Everyone on The Hill worked for Romano or came under his protection, which when it came down to it, was the same thing.
This cleaners that Romano owned was pretty legitimate considering who its owner was. Romano never did any business there other than have his suits pressed or have a new button sowed on. No drugs were sold there, no prostitutes solicited their line there. Everyone knew it just as a cleaners that served the community. An innocous business. Except what only a few people knew was there was a safe inside the cleaners, in the back, stocked full of cash, bonds, and other assorted valuables. How Eddie knew about it, Grayson wasn’t too sure, and he didn’t care. Eddie wanted the contents of the safe. The fact that he did seemed farcical to Grayson. He didn’t think there could be that much in that safe and to steal it was almost to commit petty larceny. But he didn’t dwell on it too much. He just wanted to do the job and walk away.
That was his quote unquote new year’s resolution. Walk away. Try and start over as much as he could. He wasn’t sure how he would do it. Grayson just finally found the courage one evening to tell Eddie he was finished. The work had taken its toll on him. And on Monica.
Grayons had been with a few women in his lifetime, especially once he started hustling. But Monica was the only one who managed to get him to sit still long enough to fall in love. So much so that they even had a daughter, Karen. Grayson loved both Monica and their daughter, but at that time, he didn’t understand the idea of settling down. Work a regular job? Do yard work and DIY projects around the house on the weekends? He wasnt’ ready for it at that time so he kept living his life the way he had grown accustomed to. He still had his doubts creep in from time to time as he thought through his decision to quit this life, but he kept replaying Monica’s tears in his head over and over again and that image immediately removed those doubts.
It was a typical evening for Grayson. Out doing his thing with the boys, whatever that was. He couldn’t remember what it was in particular they were up to that night, only that it lasted well into the morning. He arrived at the apartment he and Monica shared to find her sitting in the living room on the couch. Karen lay fast asleep in her crib over in the corner of the room.
At first Grayson went over to Monica, full of liquor, horny, but she kept pushed him away, demanding to know his whereabouts and why he was so late. Grayson came up with some lame excuses, but Monica didn’t buy them. She told Grayson that she was tired. Stupidly, he suggested that she go to sleep. She then slapped him across the face surprising both of them. Monica began to weep. The two went back and forth trying not to wake the baby, but their voices rose higher and higher to outdo the other one. Frustrated, Grayson gave up on his argument with Monica and went to wake his baby girl up. He figured he needed someone in the house to love him and be on his side. Even that didn’t work for Karen cried the moment he grabbed her out of the crib.
Monica came over and snatched their daughter from Grayon’s hands and cuddled her close. She went and opened the door and demanded that he leave. He couldn’t think. He could barely speak. He tried to plead one last time, but Monica refused to listen. She pushed him and pushed him, and before he realized it, she had pushed him outside the door. Grayson wanted to get in one last word, but the door was shut in his face and he stood there, stunned, in the hallway. He kicked, yelled, cursed, and screamed, howled like a banshee before he realized a neighbor might be listening and would soon call the police. That’s definitely not what he needed or wanted so he left.
It took a few days, several unaswered texts, and unreturned phone calls, but Grayson, very much sober, finally managed to reach Monica on the phone. He tried to apologize, but it still fell on deaf ears. He never knew what Monica saw in him, but whatever it was she once saw, she could see it no longer. She told him until he straightened out his life and got his shit together, he wasn’t allowed to be around her or their daughter. And just like that, she hung up the phone.
Grayson had his ultimatum and he made his decision although it took a few more weeks before he let Eddie know about it. He had to work up the nerve. Towering several inches above six feet, Eddie was a fierce, unsmiling man who ran everything with an ironhand. His head was round yet oddly even on all sides, and he kept it completely shaved. Around his neck was a gold chain that covered a slight scar, courtesy of a bullet he received once he started running the streets.
Surprisingly, Eddie offered Grayson an opportunity to walk away. He didn’t ask why Grayson wanted to leave although Grayson offered some, but not all, the reasons he was quitting. Eddie just told him to do this job and afterwards, he’d been free to do whatever he pleased. Grayson couldn’t believe it, and wasn’t sure what to make of it, but he took it. Eddie told him he’d send someone with him to make sure that the job went down without any hiccups.
That someone Eddie sent along with Grayson was a man named Spade. Grayson knew of Spade, but he knew very little of him. Not many people knew anything about Spade. There was a circulation of rumors about where he came from: some said military, some said Chicago, and even more imaginately, some said he was launched from Tehran. Either way, Grayson didn't like him. He couldn't figure Spade out. The man never said anything, and to Grayson, that was a scary thing. He was always taught it's the quiet ones you have to watch. That's what Grayson did as he drove along the streets. He kept his eyes on swivel between the road and Spade in his passenger seat.
Spade kept a pistol in his lap. Grayson tried to read him, but the man's almond shaped eyes betrayed nothing. Grayson, who stood at only 5'10", figured Spade was maybe a notch above six feet. He had an athletic build, and his hair was cut with such precision that it was possible to make a military connection. Grayson tried to make some form of small talk as they rode through the city.
"I don't know if it's ever rained like this on New Year's Eve," Grayson said.
"We'll be there in about another five minutes or so. One thing I don't think we'll have to worry about is running into anyone. Inside or out on the streets. This should be easy."
Grayson didn't feel that it would be easy, but he said it only to make himself feel better. He looked to Spade for affirmation, but to no avail. Spade simply reached into his pocket and pulled out a small plastic bag. He fiddled around before finally rolling up a blunt.
"It's nice when people ask if they can smoke in your car," Grayson said.
"Yeah," Spade said. He lit it and took a hit, inhaling it deep in his chest.
"Why do you want to get out of the business?" Spade asked.
Grayson wasn't too surprised that Spade knew about his desire to quit, but he was still annoyed by the question just the same. The man's rudeness and intrusiveness was enough for Grayson to dislike him that much more.
"I want a change in my life, that's all."
That settled all questions and conversation. As promised, Grayson had them at the cleaners in short time. It was on the corner of Sublette, but Grayson parked on the other side of Daggett just down the block. He killed the engine and the men sat there for a minute. Grayson looked in his mirrors scanning the scene. The rain soaked streets were empty, as was to be expected in that type of weather. Grayson reached under his seat and retrieved his gun and a flashlight. When he looked up, Spade had his hand in his face. Spade offered him a hit off the blunt. Grayson looked at it and thought. He grabbed it and took a quick hit. As he did, an image of Monica rushed across his mind. He shook his head.
'This is the last time,' he thought to himself. He gave the marijuana back to Spade and the two men got out of the car.
Grayson popped the trunk so Spade could retrieve a duffel bag and the two men hid their firearms in their waistbands. They then sauntered down the block towards the cleaners, unhurried by the increasing intensity of the downpour. They arrived at the store and ducked around back. When they got to the back door, Spade pulled out a small pocket knife and in short order picked the lock. The men entered and gently shut the door behind them.
Turning on his flashlight, Grayson scanned the room. Racks of suits, dresses, coats, and other assorted clothing filled the back room. The dry cleaning machines lined up next to one another along the side wall. A low, continuous hum echoed from some distant corner in the room. And the room had a strong kerosene odor to it. Grayson and Spade made their way around the rack and around the room and came to a clothing rack, rusted out, with some old dusty coats sitting on top of it. They pushed it aside and right on the floor sat the safe.
Spade dropped his duffel bag on the floor by the safe and kneeled down in front of it. He examined the safe and grunted.
"Fire resistant. Not burgulary resistant. If I'd known, I would have brought just a hammer and crowbar and pried the damn thing open."
He opened the duffel bag, pulled out a thermal drill, and drilled directly into the face of the lock.
"Here. Shine your light here so I can see."
Grayson kneeled down and shined the light at the hole where Spade was drilling. Spade pulled out a punch rod, and after a couple of minutes of prodding and prying, he had the safe open. They looked inside to find only a few stacks and some assorted jewelry.
"Is this it?" Grayson asked. "I was sure there would be more."
Spade didn't say a word; he just grabbed the contents of the safe and started putting it in the bag. Grayson fought off an odd feeling he had in his stomach and just ran his fingers over his waistband where his gun was so that he could feel secure. He was sure there would've been more loot in the safe than what was present. It wouldn't be the legendary heist he pretended that it would be, that they'd a movie out of, but at the end of it, he didn't care. He just wanted to get out of there. Spade emptied the safe into his bag and zipped it up, leaving the thermal drill on the floor.
They headed towards the door they came in and the first that rang out surprised Grayson so that he wasn't sure what the noise was. He suspected fireworks. Then more shots were fired and he realized someone was in the cleaners shooting at them. Grayson fell to the floor and pulled out his gun. The flashlight fell and rolled away. He looked up to see Spade jerk violently before collapsing face first to the linoleum. Grayson fired his gun into the darkness.
He had been in gunfights before. It came with the job description. They had never bothered him before. Grayson always felt a rush. But there was no longer a rush. He didn't feel any adrenaline. His chest was pounding and he began to feel a bead of sweat down his back. He looked around in the dark. A feeling he had never felt before came over him. Grayson began to creep across the floor with his gun up just in case. He suspected there were at least two gun men. He figured that at least one was guarding the door and the other was coming to track him down. The door, his way out, was on the other side of the room.
As he ducked behind racks of clothes, he heard the weight of a footstep cause the floor to moan. He ducked out of his position and fired a couple of shots from his pistol in the direction of the noise. He heard what sounded like metal fall and scatter across the floor, and a body crumple to the floor behind it.
Grayson ducked back into a hiding space between men's suits before he continued to the direction of the door. He peered out from the rack and saw the door not too far ahead. He started towards it when a dark figure jumped in front of the door and fired at him. Grayson tried to duck back behind a rack of clothes, but his shoulder was hit and he went crashing to the floor. He dropped his gun, but ignored the pain, grabbed his weapon and ducked away from the spot where he fell. He crawled over to a small desk that held a sewing machine on top of it. He partially hid underneath it.
This was the first time he'd ever been shot and it burned something fierce. Tears filled the corners of his eyes. Not just from the pain, but from something he had been trying to avoid all night. No, something he had been trying to avoid for a long time now.
He was afraid. He was afraid that the new beginning that he sought would only be found at the end of his life. He was afraid his life would end this way. Afraid of the horrific things he had seen, and had done. Afraid of the resulting dreams that haunted him every night. Afraid of the police. Afraid of the mob. Most of all, afraid of losing Monica and his baby girl.
Grayson clutched the gun to his chest.
'I have to get out. Not dying tonight.'
He sat there and eased his breathing. He thought the other gunman would be there soon enough to finish the job so he got up and scampered back towards the safe where Spade's body lay.
'Some help he was,' Grayson thought.
He started to go for the duffel bag, but instead he retrieved his flashlight. It had turned off when it hit the floor, so he had the idea to check and see if the light worked. He flashed it on quickly, casting a beam on the ceiling just above his head. Then, just as quickly he turned it off. He moved around to hide behind some more clothes and repeated the action. Turned the flashlight on, then turned it off. Even quicker than before, he changed his hiding place. He turned the flashlight on, waved it around casting the light around, and then set it down on the floor. He ducked out of side behind some ladies' dresses.
Grayson waited as the gunman came to the flashlight.
"Hey!" Grayson yelled at him.
Before the gunman could fully turn around and face him, Grayson had fired a couple of shots right above the man's ear. He crashed to the floor instantly. Grayson raced over and grabbed his flashlight. He was sure there were only two, but he threw the light around the room just to be sure. He went to where Spade's body was and grabbed the duffel bag. He didn't check to see if the man was alive. He didn't care. He hurried out the door.
The rain had finally slowed to a drizzle. Grayson raced down the street to his car. He popped the trunk, threw the duffel bag in, shut the trunk, and got into his car. But then he sat there for a moment. He wanted to figure things out. What to do. He thought about taking the money to Eddie and putting six in him for having him risk his life for such a paltry sum.
Then, he thought no. Grayson turned on his ignition and headed to the highway.
'I'm done with Eddie, and the rest of them.'
He figured he'd head south, maybe towards Memphis. He had a few connections down that way that could help him out. Take a few weeks and get on his feet. He'd build something solid down there. The stacks he had in his trunk would hold him for a little while. He could set up something and call Monica and have her and the baby move down there with him. They might even start a real family. A new beginning.
'One thing is for sure,' he thought as he hopped onto 44, 'I have to get out of this damn city.'
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