All You Got by AJ Hayes

Damn alley stinks. Dumpster stinks worse. How can people eat this shit? I think. My inner voice says, ask yourself, fuckhead. I’m about to backhand my inner voice across the chops when the service door slides  up and Dickhead slides out. I’m out of the Dumpster and on him before he sees me. I get the Colt up under his chin and my face an inch from his. His breath reeks worse than the alley so I make it quick.

“Where’s your brother?”

He screws his face into that old I ain’t gonna tell you shit expression so, before it gets completely set on his puss, I knock out three of his front teeth with the gun butt. He swallows two of them and gags out the third.

“Where’s your brother?”

I rake the front sight across his forehead and a curtain of blood floods down into his eyes.

I start to repeat the question but he’s there ahead of me.

“Jesus,” he says. “Jesus. I don’t know.”

I click back the hammer.

“Anything comes out of your ugly fucking mouth but where your brother is and . . .” I let the words trail off and shrug.

Give the guy credit. He tries.

“He’s on the run. Left town I don’t–”

I plant a slug in his left knee. Fucking forty-five sounds like a bomb in the alley. I got GSR burning my face and  my ears are ringing. I also got a big, green blob right in the center of my vision from the muzzle flash. He’s jabbering now and crying. Eyes rolled back. Not ready yet. I pop his right knee.

He’s almost out and he ain’t going nowhere on two blown knees. There’s plenty of time. People in this neighborhood don’t call the cops, so I settle back a while to let the green blob get out of my vision. Let him calm down a little. This time he’s ready.

“Last time I saw him he was at mom’s,” he chokes out.

“Yeah?” I say and plant the barrel on his right shoulder. He’s doing his best to roll his shoulder away from the gun.

“Your mom’s place?”

“Yeah, yeah. Oh Christ. Yeah. Please.”

I cock the hammer back.

“Where’s mama live?”

“Oh Godgodgod . . . she . . . Jesus Christ . . . fuck.”

I nudge him again. Come on, man,” I say. “You can do it.” I twist the barrel slightly. It comes out in a babbling rush.

“1722 East Clark. It’s an apartment house she’s in 235 second floor oh God!”

The last part’s a scream when he realizes he’s given me all I need to find his mother and what I’m going to do to her when I get there. I can see it all in his eyes.

He doesn’t need to worry about living with that knowledge though. I shoot him in the head and he droops like an empty trash bag. Which he pretty much is. I look down at him for a little bit. I flip my phone. Dial the number.

“Yeah?”

“Done.”

There’s a pause.

“You sure he –”

“1722 East Clark. Second floor. Number 235,” I say.

“He ratted me,” she says. “The little fucker ratted me. What kind of son would give up his own mother?”

“The kind you gotta put to the test to be sure of,” I say. “The dead kind.”

There’s another pause. A long one. I know she’s calculating the odds on what happens if she doesn’t pay me. I guess she doesn’t like those odds and besides, she’s got another son. One who won’t rat. Now.

“I transferred the funds,” she says finally.

I hang up and find a bar on the other side of town. Order a drink and dial my phone.

“Hi, mom,” I say. “How are things?”

I mean you gotta take care of family. They’re all you got in this world.

Small Separations by AJ Hayes

I didn’t give the guy much for it. Couple of bucks trade-in on a cheap Bowie copy.

It looked like the kind of box they keep machinist’s straight edges in.

Grain worn walnut with leather hinges. Inside, red padded silk surrounded a six-inch wedge of heavy, polished steel, narrow and razored along the bottom. It looked like a fat straight razor without the handle. There was an odor also. Like the smell of ice or the aroma of snow — or the acrid nerve jangle scent of chloroform.

There was a number engraved along the top of the wedged blade: Stucky Model 1006A .

One day, when business was slow and we got bored enough, Gabe and I looked Stucky up online. Wasn’t much there except an 800 number. A gal with a sandy voice answered the phone.

When we asked about Model 1006A she warmed right up.

“One of our best sellers,” she said. “Best small separation steel on the market.”

“Small separation? What’s that?”

“Oh you know, she said “It’s not heavy enough for the big jobs like wrists or feet, but surgeons and EMTs prefer it for the small stuff. Like fingers and toes, little bones, you know?”

We told her thank you and hung up.

“Well,” Gabe said, “imagine that.”

“Yeah, that’s really . . . yeah.” I said.

A shaft of sunlight splintered red along the steel as I closed the box.

We started that night. Cats at first. Then big dogs. Then . . ..

When we finally found her, her screams weren’t sandy at all. There were a lot of them, the screams. A lot of blood. It took a while.

All those small separations take time.