Hard Road
a fictional short

Speaking metaphorically, Jack felt as if his had been a losing hand ever since the second card dropped in five card stud. The next three cards didn’t matter because he had it coming irrespective. He told me that he’d met his girlfriend/fiancĂ©/love of his life for the moment, in a whorehouse. Bambi corrected the record. They’d met in a bar downstairs. She worked upstairs – in the whorehouse but wasn’t actually on duty when they met. That cleaned it up in her mind. She could wear white at the wedding, the date set off about four years for her peace of mind.

Jack and Bambi lived in a sinkhole apartment building between the rail yards and a line of pale, graffiti’d brick warehouses of the sort where high weeds and crabgrass connect the buildings. The neighborhood had an air of burned oil, hot garbage and human waste that circles most old cities and every single rail yard. The ghosts are thick in places like that and they seemed particularly drawn to Jack and Bambi. 
They spent their days together. At night, Jack hustled a three card monte game in a circuit of twelve dive bars. Bambi danced and when tips were light, she tricked. Jack’s vice of choice was Ten High and Bambi’s preferred crank. When the sun was up, they wasted the day loaded in their apartment.
I had to speak with Jack but the curtain of night and summer heat joined together to make the discussion urgent. I knew that he wouldn’t be home. It wasn’t the sort of conversation you’d want to have in a public house where people might remember that you had been speaking. The apartment block seemed deserted, not even a dog barked when I banged on the door. No nosey neighbors. I jimmied the lock. Ok, I tried and ended up splintering the wood in the door frame and just pushed my way in. Same result. As I stepped into their small home, my eyes adjusted from the ghostliness of mercury-vapor security lights that protected the box cars sitting on the rails. There wasn’t much inside: a couple of pieces of threadbare furniture, fast food wrappers, pizza boxes, old newspapers and football cards. It smelled bad in there, like stale breath and spoiled food. There were clothes on the floor mildewed stiff, spread around a mattress with a yellow sheet in a pile. The light filtered through the blinds onto me like prison stripes, which felt to me a fitting fashion statement.
I found an opened bottle of Ten High and tipped it, sat down on one of the chairs and waited. Trains came and went. Laughter and curses from the warehouses, fornication through the wall in the next apartment that seemed desperate in its intensity – with crescendo after annoying crescendo. I nipped at the Ten High. The label disclosed that the contents were 51 percent bourbon, the rest of the contents were neutral spirits designed to harden your liver even faster, as if that was possible. I finished the bottle and tossed it in a corner of the apartment that seemed to be designated as the last resting place for empties.

With a long day behind me, a long night of waiting ahead and half a bottle of Ten High under my belt, I started to drift. Before I went out completely, I screwed a six inch silencer onto the Lone Wolf barrel on my Kimber .45. Some people prefer lighter rounds, but I always preferred the widest wound channel that a hollow point could make. Killing is all about wound cavitation. Ask any ER doctor. Or just ask me. Somewhere after midnight somebody re-jimmied the front door and eased in. All they’d needed to do was push, but they didn’t try pushing first. They went for the razzle-dazzle and I went from REM sleep to wide awake in something shy of a second. When the human being cleared the door jam, I punched three into the knees. Two hit with satisfying, wet cracks and the third embedded in something beyond. The guy screamed, but I don’t think anyone noticed, what with the screaming and “Oh-My-God” from the neighbors. He grabbed for his knees and I grabbed for Jack and Bambi’s baseball bat. A satisfying thud and he stopped screaming.

Folklore holds that you never hit a colored boy in the head with a club because it doesn’t do all that much damage. Malik Boudreaux proved that you need to listen to old wives tales. His head was ringing. No doubt about that, but it would have stove in the skull of a man of a different persuasion.

I shined his legs with a pen flashlight. Both rounds hit the same leg, which meant that he’d never walk normally again. One severed his rectus femorus, and in my expert opinion, he needed a surgical team to work on it immediately to repair it. No apparent arterial damage from that one, just chewed up striated muscle tissue. The other bullet hit the fibula, and based on the bone fragments sticking out, it shattered the bone. Either the bullet or the shards of bone cut his femoral artery and he bled to death as I watched. I looked at my watch to time the event.

The medical degree didn’t mean much in terms of knowing how things really worked inside a body. The internship, residency and emergency room practice had clarified them and helped me understand far more clearly. Jack, real name Yakov something-in-ski, brought out the worst in me. He had a flat slavic face, feral eyes and couldn’t have taught Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsk a single thing about ramming a hot coat coat hanger wire up a guy’s penis/urethra and into his bladder to encourage him to talk. I admired the art and the sizzle from the inside because it had a surgical precision and brought real results.

When you’re into the bookies fifty large and you are saddled with med-school debt, the mob can mold you like putty, hippocratic oath or not. If priests and cops can go bad, why not doctors? At least that’s how I saw it.



  1. This is just something by way of fictional shorts, to start off the New Year (not unlike the old year). I'm going for more intensity, trying to put you into the action as if you are an eye-witness who can slip inside the skin of the first-person narration. Hope you like it.

    Happy 2016 to my readers.

  2. Ooh that was proper nasty and yet deliciously compelling. I like the first person narrative because that gives it even more intensity. Great detail.

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