A Rotten Plan by Morgan Boyd

Dave had been trying to get in with the local cartel for years: The Wyler family. The only time he had ever caught their attention was when he ratted on a guy in the organization that his sister was dating.  The guy had been ripping them off in coke sales.  Dave dropped the dime, and sure enough, nobody ever heard from his sister’s boyfriend again, but it didn’t get him any closer to joining their ranks.  See, nobody likes a rat.  Not even those who benefit from his squealing .

The Wyler’s had a family tattoo they wore behind their right ear.  It was of a Barbary lion, and if you had the tattoo it meant you were in.  Dave wanted that tattoo more than anything.  He’d even tried to draw it in pen behind his ear a few times, using a mirror, so that he could feel what it was like to be one of the boys, but his renderings always ended up looking like smeared shit.

Dave had a new plan, though.  This time he was sure to get himself noticed by the Wyler’s, and he’d finally get some steady employment instead of being some asshole, schmuck assistant manager at a grocery store.  He pictured himself pulling out guy’s teeth that wouldn’t talk, or roughing up the kid who came up short on the money.  That was what he wanted to be more than anything, a tough guy.

This new plan to get noticed wafted in right under his nose. Some hippy kids rented the house across the street. It wasn’t long before the smell of their grow operation started stinking up the block.  One day, when the hippies were out, Dave snuck around back, and had a peek over the fence into the yard.  Holy shit, he thought.  It’s the goddamn emerald triangle back here. Hundreds of cannabis plants flowered in row after row of tired and cracked black pots.

Dave didn’t know dick about weed. He was going to take off a few boards on the hippies’ fence late at night, steal all of the plants in the back of a U-Haul truck, and stash it at a storage unit until he figured out how to turn a profit on it to impress the Wyler’s.  Fortunately, just before he was about to go through with his scheme, he let Howl in on his plan. Howl was an ex-con, gulf war vet, and a bandana wearing heavy stoner.

“What the fuck will you do with a bunch of unharvested bud?” Howl asked.

“Sell it.”

“To who?  Who the fuck is going to buy unharvested bud?” Howl said lighting a joint. “Only thing you’ll do is fuck up the crop.”

“What do you propose then?”

“Let the hippies do all of the work.  Let them harvest the bud.  Let them dry that shit.  Let them trim it.  When it’s all done, and ready to toke, that’s when we make our move.”

“How long will that take?”

“Judging by the smell, a few weeks.”

Dave wasn’t thrilled about putting his plan on hold, so he took out his dissatisfaction on the customers at the grocery store, but Howl knew about pot.  He knew how to move it, and if Dave could turn a tighty profit on the bud, he’d be on the fast track to getting that Wyler tat.

Howl worked recon for a few weeks.  He’d climb onto the roof of Dave’s house, and stare down into the hippies’ yard with a pair of binoculars. Finally, after he’d gathered enough intel to make an educated decision, Howl green-lit the operation.

“For some lazy ass hippies, they sure have been working hard to get that weed ready to roll,” Howl said.  They trimmed it outside, and now it’s hanging in the garage, drying.”

Dave rented a U-Haul truck, and he and Howl waited. After a few hours, they saw the hippies pile into their hippy bus, and drive off to do whatever hippy shit hippies do.  Dave packed his pistol, and Howl grabbed his lock picking kit.  They scurried across the street, and had the front door opened in no time.

Turning a corner into the living room, they came face to ass with a couple of the free loving, free loader type loadies caught in the act of coitus. Dave wouldn’t have minded watching if the lovers were into that kind of thing, but the guy reached over for his piece.  Dave got the draw on him, and put a bullet in the hippy’s forehead.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Howl said as the woman began screaming at the sight of her recently deceased lover. “What the fuck?”

“He went for his gun,” Dave said.  “It was us or him.”

“Well, now you have to dust her too,” Howl said. “She’s a witness.”

“Seems a shame,” Dave said, raising the gun, and shooting her in the head. “Sorry about that, lady.”

“The only shame is the size of your brain, asshole.  I’m not trying to catch a murder wrap.”

“Shit, this place is nice inside,” Dave said.  “Look at that big ass flat screen TV, and that spacious leather couch.  I thought hippies lived on dirt floors and made beads out of potatoes or some shit.”

“Come on, let’s get that dank loaded into the truck before those other Summer of sixty-niners return. 

Dave and Howl opened the door leading into the garage, and a wave of stinky bud odor crashed over them.

“Jackpot,” Dave said.  “Serves these beatniks right, stinking up my goddamn neighborhood.”

“Hold on,” Howl said, examining the drying buds, hanging on rows of strings throughout the entire garage. “You have to be fucking kidding me.”

“What?”

“It’s fucking botrytis.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s everywhere.”

“What is?”

“These motherfuckers are some serious amateurs. This stuff aint worth shit.”

“What the hell do you mean?”

“This is what I mean,” Howl said, taking a bud off the string.  It had brown patches of death on the outside, but when he ripped the flower apart, the inside was filled with a fine brown dust that floated into the air. “Gray mold. Also known as bud rot. If you don’t catch it early, it spreads like fire through your crop.”

“Can we still sell this shit?” Dave asked.

“These idiots must have been watering the leaves at night or something.  Fucking morons.”

“Can we still sell this shit?” Dave asked again.

“It’s all fucked and worthless. You know something?”

“What?”

“You were right.”

“I was?”

“This house is way too nice for a bunch of dirty ass amateur hippies, who can’t even grow weed.”

“That’s what I was saying.  Did you see the size of that TV in the living room? You could park a bus on it.”

“How can these peace lovers, who can’t even grow nugs correctly,” Howl asked as they returned to the dead couple in the living room, “afford all of this really nice shit?”

Howl reached over the dead couple, grabbed a leather-bound suitcase, and opened it. Hundreds of little white bindles dropped to the floor.

“We better haul ass,” Howl said, and quickly gathered up the white packets on the floor, and returned them to the suitcase.

“Hey, Howl?” Dave asked, pointing at a small black security camera on the ceiling. “What the hell is that?”

“Fuck it.  We got to go.”

“Hold on,” Dave said, and reached up, and unplugged the device, and put it in his pocket.  “We have to cover our tracks.”

“The video footage isn’t stored on the camera, numbnuts.”

“Then where is it stored?” Dave asked, and kicked the dead guy. “I bet he knows.  Where’s it at?  Or I put another hole in you.”

“Christ, Dave. The poor bastard’s already dead.  Let’s bounce the fuck out.”

“Oh, shit,” Dave said, pushing the dead guy’s head to the side with the barrel of his gun. “This aint no moonbeam.”

A Barbary lion was tattooed behind the dead guy’s ear.

“Come on asshole.”

Howl slipped out the front door with the briefcase under his arm. Dave stumbled out of the house behind him. As they stepped off the porch, a long black car pulled into the driveway. The barrel of a long gun stuck out the back window, and the cracking sound of two gunshots pierced the marijuana scented air. 

Bio: Morgan Boyd used to live in Santa Cruz, California.  Now he lives somewhere else with his wife, daughter, cat, and carnivorous plant collection. He has been published online at Flash Fiction Offensive, Shotgun Honey, Near To The Knuckle, Coffee and Fried Chicken, Tough, Pulp Metal Magazine, Spelk and in print at Switchblade Magazine.  He also has stories forthcoming at Yellow Mama and Story and Grit.

Flower Man By Morgan Boyd

With a six-pack under his tattooed arm, Cash steps into the crosswalk. Brakes squeal, and a pickup skids over the white line. Crashing over the hood, Cash bounces off the front window. He lands on his head in the middle of the street. Beer cans roll on the asphalt, hissing foamy little lager geysers.

“Flower Man, this the guy?” A mountain of a man asks the driver as he hops out the passenger-side of the truck.

“You know it is, Fat Ass,” the silver ponytailed driver says, wearing a sunflower patterned shirt.

“How do I know?” Fat Ass asks with a distant look in his eye.

“It’s fuckin’ Cash. Used to be our boy, ripped off Capo. You know him,” Flower Man says.

“Just asking,” Fat Ass says, taking out his pistol.

Cash reaches for his .38, but the gun is not in his coat pocket. In the gutter, just out of arm’s reach, he spies his weapon. As a bullet ricochets on the concrete near his head, Cash rolls. In a single motion, he grabs his pistol and pulls the trigger three times. The big man collapses in a massive heap, his head a gory mess.

Climbing to his feet, Cash recovers his wallet, phone, and an intact can of beer with one hand. He points the gun in his other hand at the truck. Flower Man stomps the gas. Cash fires three rounds into the cab. The vehicle swerves hard left into oncoming traffic, and then hard right, colliding head on with a lamppost.

Cash touches the swelling around the back of his head as he enters the apartment’s courtyard. Derelict cars, used diapers and a rusty shopping cart litter the weedy lawn. On the landing, Cash reaches into his pocket, but finds no key. He searches his other pocket, but locates only lint. With a sigh, he sets his beer on the welcome mat.

His head throbs as he skinnies onto the ledge, reaching for the half open second floor window. Cash pops out the screen, and pulls himself through the frame onto the kitchen table. Movement from the front room has his finger on the gun’s trigger.

“What the hell, Cash,” Eva says, hunching in fear.

“Thought you were somebody else. I lost my key, so I came through the window.”

“Try knocking next time. What do you mean somebody else?” She asks, smoothing down her short black bangs.

“I just ran into Flower Man, or rather, he ran into me with his truck in the crosswalk.”

“You okay? Your hair’s a mess and your jeans and jacket are torn.”

“He had that big son of a bitch, Fat Ass, with him,” Cash says, running his fingers through his greasy pompadour.

“What happened?” Eva asks, sitting at the table, and putting on her wing-tipped glasses.

“I don’t care how fat your ass is. Three up top, and you plop. His head cracked like an egg on the curb, and his brains slid into the gutter.”

“They couldn’t have been very big brains. Fat Ass was the dumbest shit in the pit. Did you do Flower Man too?” Eva asks, putting on red lipstick.

“I think so.”

“Is he dead or not?”

“I don’t know. I squeezed off every last shot into his truck, and he crashed into a lamppost.”

Somebody pounds on the front door. Looking through the murky peephole, Cash draws his gun.

“Who is it?” Eva asks as Cash opens the door.

“What a dump,” Big Ray says, drinking the beer Cash left on the porch. “What’s wrong with your hair? You need some Pomade?”

“You’re not staying with us,” Eva says as Big Ray belches, rattling the toothpick in the gap between his front teeth.

“Anymore beer?”

“You got the first and last one,” Cash says, and describes to Big Ray his encounter with Flower Man and Fat Ass, and the loss of five of his six beers.

“You got some real heat coming down on you,” Big Ray says, removing a flask from his pocket, and taking a long pull. “Robbing Capo has that effect. He wants his drug money back, and he wants to staple your balls to your tongue.”

“Charming,” Eva says.

“No matter what two-fuck, fogged out beach haunt you hide in, they’ll find you. Flower Man did, so did I,” Big Ray says, slicking back his hair with his hand. “Capo’s on your ass, and he’s about the nuttiest hitter ever was. How much you pilfer anyway?”

“I didn’t steal shit,” Cash says. “I’m not stupid enough to rob Capo.”

“That’s not what Capo thinks,” Big Ray says, lighting a cigarette, and taking a long drag. “Come on. Don’t hold out on me.”

“I got nothing to let you borrow if that’s what you think. Besides, you still owe me five hundred.”

“Not borrow. Earn,” Big Ray says, plopping down on the couch, and popping a few pills. “You have the weight of a criminal organization stepping on your dick. Flower Man and Fat Ass are just the tip of the toe. You need protection.”

“We aren’t hiring you as our bodyguard, Big Ray,” Eva says, lighting a cigarette. “Get your ass up. You ain’t staying here.”

The fire alarm wakes Cash and Eva in the middle of the night. Cash stumbles into the living room, and finds the rug on fire. Cash flips the rug, and stamps out the flames. Upon investigation into the source of the fire, Cash quickly deduces that Big Ray zonked out on the couch with a lit cigarette in his hand. The embers fell onto the rug, and ignited the fire. Even now through the horridness of the wailing alarm, Big Ray sleeps. Cash thinks about slugging the fathead in his snoring face, but instead he decides to deal with the situation in daylight. He returns to the bedroom when the alarm stops screaming.

In the morning, Eva steps into the kitchen to brew coffee, wearing a red-checkered dress. Cash slumps into the kitchen behind her, rubbing his swollen head.

“Goddamn, Big Ray,” Cash says with a yawn. “Wake your ass up, and get out. You almost burned down this shithole. Dumb bastard thinks I robbed Capo. Ray, wake your ass up. Big Ray. Ray?”

“Cash?” Eva asks, “Where did these flowers come from?”

Cash sees a bouquet of daises on the kitchen counter, and then notices Ray’s slit throat.

“Flower Man. When he hit me with the truck, my belongings scattered every which way. I gathered my gun, wallet, phone and a beer, but when I returned home, I didn’t have my key. I left it on the street. I thought I killed Flower Man, but instead, he found my key, and followed me home. He let himself in in the early morning hours, killed Big Ray, and left flowers as his calling card. We would have been pushing up daisies too, had the fire alarm not scared off our would be assassin.”

“Grab the keys,” Eva says. “We should have left yesterday.”

Cash and Eva exit the apartment, and climb into her 61’ Impala. Flower Man appears behind them with a pistol in his hand. He unloads his weapon into the back of the car as Cash stomps the gas in reverse. Flower Man tumbles onto the hood. A smear of blood sticks to the windshield. Cash punches the car forward, and stomps the brake, causing Flower Man to roll off the hood. The old man with the ponytail and floral shirt kneels on the asphalt. Blood pours out his mouth.

“This is how you pull off a hit-and-run, asshole,” Cash says, lighting a cigarette.

Two jarring thumps later, and Flower Man is just a piece of twisted refuse, fading in the rearview mirror. Out on the highway, Cash uses the windshield wipers to clear the blood from the glass.

“Got me in the leg. Hurts like hell. Won’t stop bleeding.”

“I know a vet named Hal. He’ll fix you right up on the hush.”

“Cash?”

“Yeah?”

“I hid the money I stole from Capo in my sister’s attic. She doesn’t know it’s there. I want you to take half, and give her the other half.”

“Hal is going to fix you right up.” Cash says, obliterating the speed limit.

After a few minutes of silence, Cash lights a cigarette and looks at Eva. He pulls over, opens the passenger-side door, and lets her lifeless body slump into the dirt. In the rearview mirror, Eva’s red-checkered dress flutters in the wind, dissipating in the distance. A few miles later, he finds a southbound onramp.

If Cash remembers correctly, Eva’s sister lives in LA.

Bio: Morgan Boyd used to live in Santa Cruz, California.  Now he lives somewhere else with his wife, daughter, cat, and carnivorous plant collection. He has been published online at Flash Fiction Offensive, Shotgun Honey, Near To The Knuckle, Coffee and Fried Chicken, Tough, Pulp Metal Magazine, Spelk and in print at Switchblade Magazine.  He also has stories forthcoming at Yellow Mama and Story and Grit.

morgan

The Rex By Morgan Boyd


morgan

Kate had something to tell me, but she wouldn’t say it over the phone.  I knew it wouldn’t be good news, so I started scheming ways to leave work.  Cutting out early would have been doable except for the weather. Aging movie patrons descended upon the cinema like rats at the first sign of a plague as sheets of rain came down, crushing any hopes of an early departure. To make matters worse, Michael, the general manager, conveniently complained of a horrible stomach pain, and disappeared into the bathroom, leaving me to cover the box and the floor by my lonesome. 

A guy, in a cap twisted backwards and a backpack slung over his shoulder, stepped to the window.

“What’s playing?” He asked, several front teeth missing.

 “The synopsis is taped to the window.”

“Any good?”

“Buy a ticket, and find out.”

“Let me ask you a question,” he said.  “Deer, cow and horse all eat grass, but deer shits pellets, cow shits a patty, and horse shits a clump of grass.  Why do you suppose that is?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Exactly.  You don’t know shit,” he said, putting a free admittance token through the window before entering the theater.

“That roach coach did a number on me.  I’ll be back later to help close,” Michael said, exiting the bathroom and colliding with shoeless Dave The Bum.  “Where’s your ticket?”

“Come on, man,” Dave The Bum said.  “It’s raining.”

“Buy a ticket or get out,” Michael demanded, leading him outside.  “Next time you sneak in, I call the cops.”

When the last ticket was torn, I started the film.  I’m a projectionist, but with the advent of the digital projector, a one–armed, one-fingered, one-balled chimpanzee could run a show.  There was no more cutting, splicing, and looping film.  Starting a movie was now about as complicated as turning on a flat screen television.

After pushing play, I returned to the lobby for closing duties, alone. Wasn’t the first time; wouldn’t be the last.  Just meant I had to hustle if I wanted to get home to Kate at a reasonable hour.

Dave The Bum knocked on the box window.  Soaking wet, he held his hands in supplication.  “Please,” formed on his lips. I should have ignored him, but instead, I unlocked the front door.

“Thanks,” he said in a gravelly, fried voice as I went back to my closing duties.  “Your mama raised you right.”

“That way,” I said, pointing to the theater.

“Spare some popcorn?” he asked.

Ignoring his question, I dumped the night’s un-purchased popcorn into the trash, and wiped down the kettle. 

I was opening a plastic bag of large soda cups with my box-cutter when several patrons came out of the auditorium complaining about the lack of picture on the screen.  The best way to fix a malfunctioning digital projector was to shut it all the way down to the breaker.  After killing the power, I let the machine reboot.  When everything was a go, I started the film again.  Ninety-nine percent of the time a reboot fixed the problem, but this issue fell into the one percentile, and again no picture appeared on the screen.  I flipped on the house lights and strolled into the auditorium.  At the foot of the little stage at the base of the screen, I turned around and faced the ageing patrons.

A chorus of boos greeted my announcement that the late show was cancelled due to technical difficulties.   As I refunded costumers in the lobby, an alarm screeched from the auditorium. Somebody had exited out the side door. Ever since that asshole shot up that Colorado movie theater, emergency exits in cinemas required alarms.  After resetting the alarm, I locked the front door when the last grumpy old man received the last refund.

 As I continued my closing duties, somebody knocked on the box window. I was about to tell Dave The Bum to fuck off, but when I looked up, it was Missing Teeth pressing his face against the glass.

“Left my backpack in the theater.  Let me back in.”

Protocol dictated that after locking the theater’s doors, re-admittance was not allowed. Normally I would have forgone protocol, and opened the door, but this guy was an asshole.  Plus, I didn’t have time to dick around, looking for some bullshit. I needed to get home to Kate.

“Can’t help you,” I said.

Missing Teeth banged and kicked on the glass.  Taking out my phone, I dialed 911, but didn’t hit send, and put the screen up to the glass, so he could see my intentions. Missing Teeth kicked the door one last time, and disappeared into the rain. 

Alone in the theater at night was always creepy.  As I walked the aisles to make sure nobody was still in the auditoriums, I got the feeling somebody else was present.  People liked to say The Rex was haunted, but I’d never seen a ghost.  Didn’t see Missing Teeth’s backpack either.

After finishing my closing duties, I rolled my bicycle out the storage closet, and wheeled it into the lobby just as the night Janitor unlocked the front door.

“Hola,” Ricardo said.  “A man outside wants in.  I say no.  He gets mad.  You want him in?”

“No.”

“You ride your bike home?”

“Yeah.”           

“Careful.  It’s Wet.  Don’t Slip,” Ricardo said, strapping on a backpack vacuum, and sucking popcorn up off the lobby floor.

The theater’s marque reflected hazy neon colors off rain puddles. I pedaled toward the river path, noticing a car behind me.  I moved right, but the automobile didn’t pass.  I looked back: no headlights.  Hopping the curb, I cut through an apartment complex.  Tires screamed around the corner as I reached the next street.

If I made the river, the car couldn’t follow me onto the levy.  Cranking pedals through a red light, I narrowly avoided an oncoming pickup truck, bolted through a parking lot, and climbed a short, steep embankment.

An old brown Cadillac without headlights idled in the parking lot below.  Reaching into my pocket, I dialed 911 on my phone, but the battery was dead.  Above the roaring river, the Cadillac’s engine revved.  Tires squealed and the car climbed the embankment.  I chucked my bike, and fumbled into the bushes.

A car door slammed, and something whizzed by my head, followed by the cracking boom of a gunshot.  The shadow of a figure neared.  Normally, I would have chosen flight in this situation, but with a rain-swollen river at my back, and a man with a gun approaching, I opted for fight.  During the struggle, the man dropped the gun, and we tumbled into the river’s shallows.  Hands tightened around my neck, and held my face underwater.  Tiny purple stars twinkled in my vision, and my lungs burned.  I reached into my pocket, and blindly thrust my box-cutter at my attacker.   

The hands released from my throat, and I raised my head out of the water with a horrible cough.  Something gurgled nearby as I scrambled onto the river path.  A man in a shiny gray suit smoked a cigarette against the Cadillac. As I approached, he jumped into the car, and drove down the embankment.

“Get your ass on the ground,” Somebody demanded behind me.  “Police.”

I lay prone on the ground as hands patted me down.

“Where’s the gun?  I heard a shot,” a plain clothed police officer said with a pistol trained at my face.

I told him about the Cadillac, the dark figure with the gun, and the fight that ended with me possibly slashing my assailant.  The cop said his name was detective Banks, and that he was nearby, writing a report in an unmarked police car when he heard the gunshot.  He holstered his revolver, and told me to stay were I was while he went down to the river to investigate.  In a few minutes, he returned.

“Nobody’s down there, but I found a gun.”  Detective Banks said, wiping blood from his hand onto his pants.  “Let’s head to the station for your statement.”

On the drive, police lights filled The Rex’s courtyard.

“Pull over,” I said.  

“Somebody bludgeoned Ricardo to death,” Michael said as Banks and I entered the lobby.

Paramedics wheeled Ricardo out on a stretcher under a white blanket.  Banks told me to get back into the car, and we drove passed the police department.  After several blocks, Banks parked in a dark alley behind a Cadillac.

“Where’s the backpack?”  He asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Make this easy on yourself. Tell me.”

“I would if I could.”

“Fair enough,” Banks said.  “Out you go.”

A dome light switched on in the Cadillac as a man in a gray sharkskin suit got out of the car and approached.

“Here’s your partner’s gun,” Banks said.  “Kid says he doesn’t have the money.  No more fucking messes like that bastard in the theater.  Nobody ever finds this body, we clear?”

I sat in the backseat next to Sharkskin as the Cadillac rolled downtown.  The driver wore a ball cap twisted backwards.  Looking over his shoulder at me, Missing Teeth smiled, revealing a blood-encrusted bandage wrapped around his throat before returning his attention back to the road.

“Where’s it at?” Sharkskin asked.

“Don’t know,” I said, and he jabbed me in the ribs with a screwdriver.

I couldn’t tell if it was Philips or flat head, but it hurt like hell.

“My associate left a backpack filled with cash in your theater,” Sharkskin said, putting the screwdriver blade up my nostril.  “I just unscrewed your janitor looking for it, but he didn’t have my money.  So that leaves you, night manager.  Now I want your complete attention.  You have until dawn to return what’s mine. Do we understand each other?  Call me when you have it.”

He removed the screwdriver from my nose, and put a burner phone in my hand. 

“Don’t try cutting out neither.  Remember, the pigs are in our pocket.  We know where you live too.  We know you’re shacking up with a redhead named Kate. Hate for something to happen to her. You have until sunrise.”

The Cadillac pulled to the curb in front of an Irish Pub.  Sharkskin opened the door, and pushed me onto the sidewalk. An old lady asked if I was okay as the Cadillac pulled away.  Unable to answer, I walked toward The Rex, holding my damaged ribs, and wiping blood from my nose onto my shirt.  It hurt to breath, hurt to step, and it hurt to move, but I kept on.  What else could I do?  Lie down and die.  That was already happening tomorrow.

I unlocked the glass door, walked around the caution tape into the theatre, and turned on the lights.  Searching down every row, I checked between and under each seat, hoping to find the backpack. My search yielded nothing.  I sat down in the front row.

The small stage under the screen was covered in a thin layer of dust, except for a line of footprints.  Not shoe prints, but actual left and right, heal, ball and toe prints.  I followed the tracks to the edge of the screen, and pulled back the curtain, revealing old busted seats, and a ratty rug.  Backstage functioned as a storage area for stuff we didn’t know what to do with, but there was also something else present: trash.  Fast food wrappers and empty liquor bottles scattered across the floor.  A tattered blanket and piles of filthy clothes littered the back corner.

Before leaving the theater, I heard a noise.  At the top of the stairs next to the projection booth, a sliver of light shown under the manager’s office.

“Hi Ed,” Michael said when I opened the door.

“Still here?” I asked, noticing the gun on the desk.

“Did you know The Rex is for sale? I was trying to borrow the cash to cover the down.  The transaction was supposed to take place tonight after the late show.  I left early with an upset stomach, figuring I’d return in time to meet with the lenders.  I didn’t count on the projector shitting the bed, and you closing early.”

“Is one of these lenders missing teeth, and does the other wear a sharkskin suit?”

“I never got the money,” Michael said, picking up the gun, and pointing it at me.  “But they don’t care.  They say if I don’t pay them back, I’ll join Ricardo.”

“I’m on that list too,” I said.

“If Ricardo didn’t find the money, that leaves only you.  If you’d of just let the guy back in to grab his backpack, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

“It wouldn’t have mattered if I let him back in,” I said.  “The backpack was already gone.”

“Who took it?”

“Dave The Bum.”

“If that’s true, I’m already dead,” Michael said, putting the gun back on the table.

On my way out, a gunshot reverberated throughout the theater.  Cautiously, I made my way back into the manager’s office.  Michael sat in his chair with the gun on his lap.  His brains splattered against the ‘Metropolitan’ movie poster on the wall behind him.

Outside, I puked in a planter box before walking to the river path.  Homeless encampments peppered the shore.

“What you want?” A haggard and stubbly face asked under the dim glow of a lighter.

“Looking for Dave The Bum?”

“Why?”

“Twenty bucks if you don’t ask questions.”

“Happy Know Dave.”

The homeless man beckoned me to follow before the lighter went out.  We crept through tall grass and bushes until we came to another encampment.

“Happy, you here?”  The bum asked, and a flashlight illuminated a young man with a red ponytail.

“Mom?” Happy asked.

“Nah, it’s Hustle.  Got a dude here want to know where Bummy Dave at.”

“Mom?”

“He thinks everybody his dead mom,” Hustle said.  “Yeah, Happy.  You’re momma need to know where Dave at.”

“He got a room at the Dreamtime Inn.”

The Dreamtime Inn was a tourist hotel in the Flats.  Hotels abounded in the ghetto due to their proximity to the boardwalk.  I departed from Hustle and twenty dollars, and walked to the 7-Eleven across the street from the Dreamtime Inn.

Through the convenient store’s doors, a flux of prostitutes and junkies came and went. Leaning against a wall in the shadows, I was about to call it quits, head home, and spend what little time I had left with Kate when Dave The Bum crossed the street, holding hands with a corpulent woman.  He was still barefoot, and she wore daisy dukes and a midriff.  As they entered the 7-Eleven, I made the call.

An hour later, Missing Teeth sat in the front seat of the Cadillac with a clean bandage taped to his neck.  I sat in the back with Sharkskin as he impatiently loosened and tightened the screws to the door’s side paneling with his screwdriver.

“What do you say?”  Sharkskin asked Missing Teeth.  “Should I take this kid apart, and see how full of shit he is?”

Missing Teeth cracked a grin as Dave The Bum staggered from the Dreamtime Inn towards the 7-Eleven.

“There,” I said, and Sharkskin hopped out the car.

“Pardon me, pal. How do I get to the boardwalk?” Sharkskin asked, waving at Dave The Bum.

“Valley’s back that way,” Dave said.

Sharkskin grabbed the bum by the scruff, and flung him into the backseat.

“This really the guy has our scrill?” Sharkskin asked.

“Ain’t got shit,” Dave The Bum said, but his denial was met with a screwdriver to the ribs.

Dave The Bum doubled over, throwing up on the floorboard.

“For the past few nights, Dave The Bum’s been squatting behind the movie screen at The Rex after the late show gets out,” I said.  “Last night, he planned to do the same to get out of the rain, but when the picture went out on the projector, he found your backpack full of cash in the seats, and headed out the emergency exit for the comfort of the Dreamtime Inn.”

Sharkskin took Dave’s hotel key from the bum’s pant pocket as Missing Teeth drove us across the street.

“Better have my money, or I unscrew your balls,” Sharkskin said, forcing Dave from the car.

Dave’s room smelled like burnt wire as we entered. Dave’s lady sat naked on the bed, lighting a glass crack pipe.  The backpack lay on the floor with hundred dollar bills spilling out the side.  She coughed great clouds of foul smelling smoke, and grabbed a handgun from the nightstand. Before Missing Teeth could draw his weapon, he took a bullet to the gut, and dropped like a sack of wet shit.  Sharkskin shielded himself with Dave as the woman unloaded the handgun into the bum’s body.

“Got a little smudge here,” Sharkskin said, tossing Dave’s riddled body aside and looking at his lapel.

A dime-sized spot of blood grew into a silver dollar.  Sharkskin tried wiping away the stain before collapsing to the ground.

“You want a hit?”  The woman asked, grabbing the crack pipe.

“I’m good,” I said, backing away from the carnage.

She took another hit from the crack pipe, and disappeared into the bathroom.

Out on the street, the prostitutes and junkies scuttled to and fro in front of the 7-Eleven.  The dawn’s first light reflected off the night’s rain puddles.  Doubling my step, I made my way home along the river path.

In the apartment’s courtyard, the Cadillac idled.  The driver side door was open, but nobody was behind the wheel.  A trail of watery blood led to my apartment.  Inside, I found Missing Teeth sitting on my couch in a pool of gore next to Kate.

“Came here to kill her before I bled out,” Missing Teeth said with a weak gurgle.

 “Who doesn’t know shit now,” I said to him, and knelt beside Kate, and kissed her cold purple lips.  “So dear, what is you want to tell me?”

Bio: Morgan Boyd used to live in Santa Cruz, California.  Now he lives somewhere else with his wife, daughter, cat, and carnivorous plant collection. He has been published online at Flash Fiction Offensive, Shotgun Honey, Near To The Knuckle, Coffee and Fried Chicken, Tough, Pulp Metal Magazine, Spelk and in print at Switchblade Magazine.  He also has stories forthcoming at Yellow Mama and Story and Grit.