My Turn by Cal Marcius

The coffee’s hot. Too bitter. Could just be that I’ve had too much and my taste buds can’t take it anymore. I’m on my seventh cup, reading snippets of a paper I’ve already read twice.

Henderson hasn’t moved in two hours. He’s tapping frantically on his phone, a pair of Beats headphones around his neck. He’s looking great. Healthy. A tight t-shirt strained over his muscles, the tattooed arms. Henderson’s been working out since I last saw him, but so have I. He’s oblivious to my presence. I doubt he’d recognise me if I walked right up to him. Two years is a long time. I was skinnier then and had a mop of curly, dark hair.

The coffee’s hot. Too bitter. Could just be that I’ve had too much and my taste buds can’t take it anymore. I’m on my seventh cup, reading snippets of a paper I’ve already read twice.

Henderson hasn’t moved in two hours. He’s tapping frantically on his phone, a pair of Beats headphones around his neck. He’s looking great. Healthy. A tight t-shirt strained over his muscles, the tattooed arms. Henderson’s been working out since I last saw him, but so have I. He’s oblivious to my presence. I doubt he’d recognise me if I walked right up to him. Two years is a long time. I was skinnier then and had a mop of curly, dark hair.

The street lights have come on, throwing orange light across the almost deserted car park. Henderson is staring out of the window. Waiting. The phone, still in his hands, is staying mute. There won’t be any messages. Not anymore. I wonder how long he’ll wait before he gives up. Realises he’s on his own. Thinking nobody gives a fuck.

Cawley’s put the fear into him. Told him he knows. In a way I was hoping Henderson would try and run. He still could, of course, but I don’t think Cawley would let him. Not now. It’s too late for that.

I get up and pay, and leave him to it. Henderson doesn’t even turn, just keeps on staring out the window, watching, waiting. I make my way to Cawley. He’s down the road in his cruiser, half a sandwich in his hand, a bottle of water on the dash. I open the door and get in. He looks at me and gives me his cop stare. Same one my dad used to have. Intense, threatening.

“There’s dried blood under your nails,” he says, crumbs falling from his mouth. “You’ve gotta be more careful, Rob. More thorough.”

“Sorry,” I say.

“Think you can handle this one on your own?”

I hadn’t thought about it. Cawley took charge on the first one. Second time, he let me have a go. Stood back on the third. There’d always been the comfort of him next to me, knowing he was there. Watching over me, keeping me focused.

“I think so,” I say.

“Don’t think. Be sure. We can’t fuck up now.”

I look down at my hands, the dried blood under my nails. I won’t make the same mistake twice.

“I’m sure,” I say.

He takes me to Henderson’s house. We park a few streets away, walk the rest.

“Just stick to the plan,” Cawley says. “Keep your cool. Get it done and get out. Fuck up and you’re on your own.”

Cawley takes Henderson’s key and lets me in through the back door. I look around. It’s not what I’d expected. Expensive furniture. Gadgets. Shelves packed with books and video games. Everything’s spotless. There are no dirty dishes or empty bottles. No signs of drugs. Maybe he’d changed. Maybe we’d both changed.

I make myself comfortable on the couch. Cawley’s hiding somewhere out back. I’m calm. I shouldn’t be, not after all the coffee. I put two fingers on the inside of my wrist. Count. Fifty-four beats per minute.

I look at the scars on my arms. The burn marks. Most of the scars are hidden beneath my shirt. My pulse is getting faster.

Slice him open, Henderson had told the others. Slice the fucker open. They’d broken into the house, and found me. I can still feel the knife cutting into my skin. Can still smell my burning flesh. He’d laughed as I lay crying on the floor, begging for my life.

My heart’s racing. Hundred and twenty-three beats. I hear the front door and get up. Henderson walks in and stops dead in his tracks.

My turn now.

The Kid by Cal Marcius

I didn’t think the kid had it in him, but he’s good, keeping his cool. I had my doubts at first. All the shit he’s been through. Most break, few come out of it stronger. I was convinced he’d change his mind. But I was wrong.

As soon as I put the guy in front of him I know. I can see it in his eyes. He wants to do it. Kill the motherfucker and get on with his life. Whatever is left of it.

The kid’s small for his age. At nineteen he’s just five foot six. Reminds me of my Adam. Maybe that’s why I want to protect him. I don’t want him to end up like me. I don’t want him to get a taste for it. I turn away, think about how I ended up here. I wasn’t much different, just some kid getting even.

The guy screams and the kid says, “That’s for mom.”

I didn’t think the kid had it in him, but he’s good, keeping his cool. I had my doubts at first. All the shit he’s been through. Most break, few come out of it stronger. I was convinced he’d change his mind. But I was wrong.

As soon as I put the guy in front of him I know. I can see it in his eyes. He wants to do it. Kill the motherfucker and get on with his life. Whatever is left of it.

The kid’s small for his age. At nineteen he’s just five foot six. Reminds me of my Adam. Maybe that’s why I want to protect him. I don’t want him to end up like me. I don’t want him to get a taste for it. I turn away, think about how I ended up here. I wasn’t much different, just some kid getting even.

The guy screams and the kid says, “That’s for mom.”

Another scream.

“And that’s for dad.”

I look around. The guy is a mess. He’s tied to a chair, blood all over the floor. I hit him with some adrenalin and he comes around fast. The kid isn’t done yet.

I step back, stare at the ground. Watch the blood seep through the floor boards. I think about my father, wrapping me in a bed sheet. Burying me under floor boards just like these, beaten but still alive.

“For Emily,” the kid says.

His hands start to shake and I can see he’s losing it. He starts to cry. Big, heaving sobs. And despite everything, the guy starts to smile. I want to punch his face in. But this isn’t my kill. It’s the kid’s, so I stay back.

“She made everyone happy,” the guy spits out. “So did you.”

That’s all the kid needs. He lifts the knife and stabs the guy over and over again in the chest. I let him. I know how he feels. When he’s done, the kid’s exhausted. I look at his uncle’s body, slumped in the chair.

The kid smiles, pulls a gun from the back of his jeans. “For me,” he says, then puts the gun under his chin and shoots.

I walk back to the car, leave everything as it is. There’s no point in cleaning it up. Murder-suicide. They’ll all side with the kid. My steps are heavy, same as my mood. I should’ve stopped him. Reacted faster. Fuck, I should’ve checked if he was carrying.

I open the car door. There’s an envelope on my seat. I open it and pull out the letter. All it says is Thank You.