Length: Let’s do it between 500 and 1500 words
Style: Noir, psychological thriller, or horror
Deadline: Wednesday January 18th 9:00PM
"But..." I stammered.
"Not a word," she breathed.
I watched her. The sweat on her brow shimmered in the amber light at the back of the store room. I could still smell the burnt gunpowder drifting up from the Mauser at my feet as I pressed my too-small pocket square against her gut wound.
"Miranda," I begged, "I have to tell them what happened here."
"You can't," she said. "Joey...He didn't know what he was doing..."
"What should I say?" I pleaded, "They're going to come after me, you know it!"
"I don't know, Mick," she closed her eyes and swallowed, "You'll find the way out, you always do."
Dammit all! My eyes started to fill with tears. She was too young. Too good. Goddammit all to hell! I've loved her all my life and now she was slipping away because some stupid fool didn't get that sometimes goodness could really be pure and not a ploy. He couldn't believe her heart was still golden.
"I know I can count on you, Micky...I can count on you right? Keep this quiet so Joey isn't ruined; he didn't mean it" She opened her eyes and looked into mine, "Promise to hush?"
"I Promise, Miranda," I said, choking as the doom slid down my back, "Cross my heart..."
"Hope to die..." she said, as her eyes closed and her last breath fell from her lips.
Sirens began their distant cries as the boys in blue made their way to the docks. It was an election year so the cops were on high alert and quick to respond, even in this neck of the woods. They had a point to prove to the voters, I guess. They had to show that they were worth all that tax money. On an off year, I'd have had time to get her out of this dump, ditch the gun, have her funeral, and sing at her wake before they would have known she was dead. Lucky me.
I couldn't run. I couldn't leave her here like this. Let 'em find me. I could go for a good round or too with a fresh-faced rookie with a new billy club to try out. Served me right for missing clues. For trusting.
I could hear their cars screech to a halt right outside the loading bay. Jesus Christ, Joey must have told them exactly where to go. No one else was around, I know; I staked the place out for 18 hours before Joey and Miranda showed up, his goons in tow. Not a soul around, unless you count the dearly departed souls of the dead fish that crowded up around the docks.
What the hell to say. I had to figure something out. Joey and Miranda and I all grew up together on Buckeye Street. Stick ball, kick the can, hide and seek, you name it, we played it. Thick as thieves, we were. Joey, though, he always had that something extra about him, something special. People just wanted to be around him. But Miranda and I were the only ones he wanted around him. I always knew why Miranda was in his inner circle, but not me. I suspect it was because of Miranda. She could tell we were good for each other. He would draw me out of myself and I would help him stay in check. It all worked out pretty good, until the war, of course.
I went to Germany and Joey went to the Pacific, an officer. We changed, devolved, maybe. We came back different, that's for sure. He was a war hero on the fast track to political stardom and I was trying to turn my MP experience into something worth a damn. The police force wouldn't have me. They said I'd have to go through the academy first. Turns out, my military police experience and a quarter would get me a cup of coffee in this town and that was about it. You'd think Joey would have pulled some strings, not that I asked, but still.
I ended up checking out insurance fraud cases and spying on spouses, while Joey hit the big time, first on the City Council and now as a State Senator. He was also making a play for Miranda and she was falling for him. She could see his good intentions better than anyone and she believed in him, in me. She couldn't see how war tore up a man, left him less than ideal. To her, we were both just bigger versions of our childhood selves. It was intoxicating, really, to be thought of that way, to be with someone who believed the best of you, always. She was worried about Joey, though, and hired me to watch out for him, be his "guardian angel," she said. Well, what I saw, I didn't like. But there was no convincing her...
"Freeze!" a voice heavy with authority yelled in my direction.
I looked up and saw a hulking figure outlined in moonlight pointing a gun in my baby blues.
"Hey, officer," I said, cool as a jello.
"Hands up!" he barked.
I looked down at Miranda one last time and whispered, "Thanks, sweetheart. See you in the funny papers." I kissed her forehead and slid my arms out from around her, setting her down gently. Even with the pall, her face was more beautiful then I ever remembered it being.
"I said hands up!"
"You got it, sir," I said as I put my hands above my head as instructed.
"Did you shoot that woman?" he asked. His voice shook a tiny bit and I knew I was in the presence of a gallant rookie.
"What do you think?"
"Well, I see you and a gun and a dead woman alone on the docks, I've got to believe there's a good chance you shot her."
"That figures," I smirked, "Couldn't possibly be anything else, that's what they teach you in the academy, right?"
"Evidence don't lie, punk,"
"That's your opinion, and opinions are like assholes; everyone has one."
It only took him three strides with his meaty legs to make his way from the door to me and bring the butt of his gun down on the back of my neck, knocking me to the floor and the wind out of my lungs. It was going to be a long night. A night where I had to tell the truth but not the whole story. The best I could hope for was the better angel of Joey's nature would kick him in the ass and he'd figure out a way to protect mine. I'm not holding my breath on that one though.
Maybe Joey will get scared, start thinking about the good old days and remember the blood oath the three of us took. Remember that it wasn't kids' stuff; it was real. He could remember how it was, how Miranda thought it still was. He's not going to hear about it from me though. A promise is a promise, and a deathbed one more so. It's not like I haven't had the shit beat out of me before. It's just been a long time since I've had it done professionally.
"You have the right to remain silent," he began, as the rest of his buddies crowded through the door.
I have every intention to, I thought, as the room went dark.