The Sucker by Patrick Cooper

“What I’m sayin’ is, y’already gave the teller the note. You’re standin’ here with a pipe bomb danglin’ ‘round your neck. The things tickin’ for fuck’s sake. Why the fuck’re you gonna take a lollipop, all cool like? What man in his right mind is doin’ this?”

Hoffman adjusted the nylon over his eyes so he could see Quinn better. “Some kinda heat a the moment thing. Stress. I don’t know. One of the tellers said that. The teller came back and the guy was sucking down a lollipop.”

Quinn’ eyes were wide behind his tan nylon. The black and pepper scruff of his mustache poked out in sharp quills. He stared at the counter and shook his head – more in dismay than disbelief.

“Sometimes, Hoff, I think I got it all figured. Then ya hear some shit about some perpetratin’ slob with a bomb around his tie rack, who goes and enjoys himself a sucker while robbin’ a bank. Like he ain’t a participant. Like he’s watchin’ a movie.”

“Ever feel that way? Like you’ve left your body and, like you’re standing off to the side, watching?”

Quinn looked down at his pistol, wearily. “Why’s this thing feel like it weighs a fuckin’ ton alla sudden?”

He put the gun down on the counter. Pulled the nylon off his head and let it drop. The pantyhose turned deep red as it absorbed his blood on the bank floor.

“It’s so hot under those things.” Quinn rubbed the glaze of sweat off his face. “No nylon. Never again.”

Hoffman removed his own nylon and let it join Quinn’s on the floor. The hole in his cheek bubbled with spit and blood and another fluid Hoffman figured for stomach acid. His agita had been bugging him that morning.

He said, “What flavor do you suppose he took?”

“Your askin’ like y’know he took time to make a deliberate type selection. Maybe he just dipped a paw in and took whatever.”

“I’m not going anywhere until I know this.” Hoffman held a palm up to the hole to calm the flow of fluids. “Say he was in on the plot from the start. And his partners told him the bomb was fake. But he didn’t know that. He thinks it’s fake, yeah? So of course he takes his time picking a flavor.”

“Now you’re just confusin’ me. It’s so fuckin’ hot. How can ya think straight? It’s so hot.”

“If I was to guess, I’d say he went with grape.”

A stream of blood flowed from beneath the cuff of Quinn’s jacket and dripped down his hand. He held it in front of his face. Blinked hard to see if it would go away.

“I’m bleedin’, Hoff. Lookit this. Hoff, I’m bleedin’. Christ.”

“Maybe grape’s too obvious. Maybe it was, like a sour grape.”

Quinn let his hand fall to his side and bleed. “No, see I’d think he’d go with a sweet flavor, in this typa situation. Sweet, not sour.”

“Not grape then…” Hoffman turned to the bank teller. “What other lollipop flavors do you guys usually keep in the bowls?”

“There’s, uhm, there’s apple,” she said. “And ch-cherry.”

“What’s the most popular flavor?” Hoffman said.

“Cr-cream soda. I think.”

Hoffman and Quinn clapped in unison. Blood splashed off of Quinn’s hands, sending flecks onto Hoffman’s face.

“There it is,” Hoffman said.

“Cream fuckin’ soda,” Quinn agreed. “Right on.”

The men’s smiles faded. Hoffman nodded at Quinn, slow and knowing. Accepting.

The cop, his pistol still trained on them, said, “You clowns remember then?”

“Guess so,” Quinn said.

“I remember,” Hoffman said. “We died right here. Never even touched the money. Never made it far.” More fluid ran out of the hole in his cheek. He gave up trying to stop it.

“I died on my stomach,” Quinn said, a hand to his belly.

“Get on with it then,” the cop said.

Quinn and Hoffman got on the floor quietly, in the pools of their own blood. Quinn lied on his stomach. Hoffman, his back.

“Last great mystery solved, pal,” Hoffman sighed and died.

“Cream fuckin’ soda,” Quinn said with his last breath.

Kid Cub Has No Chill by Patrick Cooper

Barley blew on his coffee and said, “It’s eight in the morning. We got somewhere to be. So skip dessert.”

“Plenty of time,” Kid Cub said, sliding his plate of half-eaten pancakes towards the edge of the table.

“You wanted to graduate to big boy jobs? I’m supposed to be looking out for you, is what ma said. So skip dessert.”

Kid Cub signaled the waitress over and told her he’s ready for dessert. She asked if there’s something wrong with the blueberry pancakes.

“Not at all,” Kid Cub said. “I’m just ready for dessert.”

The waitress said she’d have to check with the chef, see if they have any dessert ready. She took his plate and walked away.

“You believe this?” Kid Cub said.

“Told you it’s too early,” Barley said. “Now let’s go over the route again.”

Eyes on the waitress’ ass, Kid Cub said, “No reason to. I got it down.” He drummed his fingers on the laminate tabletop. “This bitch is acting funny.”

“Hell you talking about?”

“All I want is dessert and she acts funny. Like I’m some piece of trash.”

“She’s just doing her job, hot shot. Now let’s go over the route. For my sake.”

The waitress came back with the doggie bag and said, “Gonna be a little while on the dessert. Chef just took the pies out of the oven.”

Kid Cub leaned back in his seat and said, “Bet you can’t guess how much money I have in my boot.”

“Cub, don’t,” Barley said. The waitress laughed nervously.

“You know how much money I have in my boot? Enough to buy half this piss ant town. And by the end of the day, I’ll have enough to buy the other half.”

“Excuse my cousin, ma’am.” Barley reached for his wallet.

“So why don’t you cut me a goddamn piece of pie.”

“He’s gonna skip the pie,” Barley held two tens towards the waitress. An uneasy expression on her face, she reached for the bills.

Kid Cub’s hand shot out and grabbed her wrist. “Nuh-uh,” he said. “She’s gonna cut me a slice of pie. Apple. And if there’s no apple…” His eyes drifted down to her chest, then lower. “A slice of that will do.”

She tugged her wrist away and headed towards the kitchen.

“Son of a bitch,” Barley said. “Today of all days you gotta be an asshole.”

“Something with this waitress, I’m telling you.”

“Ain’t even done the job yet and you’re acting like a paranoid dickhead. Let’s just dust before she calls the goddamn cops.”

“Who’s calling the cops?” Kid Cub stood up, eyes still on the waitress, who was at the counter pouring coffee into a couple mugs. “That bitch calling the cops?” He reached under his jacket and pulled a snubnosed revolver out of his waistband. “Nobody’s calling the cops.”

The waitress turned and Kid Cub thumbed the hammer back. She screamed and threw her hands up, sending the mugs shattering on the floor. Coffee splattered on Kid Cub’s boots.

Kid Cub laughed and looked back at Barley. “Guess it’s time we dropped the Kid from my name, huh?”

The waitress turned and took the stainless steel coffee carafe off the counter. She took one step forward and cracked it over the side of Kid Cub’s skull. It sounded like an aluminum bat hitting cement.

Kid Club crumbled to the floor. Blood trickled out of an abrasion above his ear. The waitress said, “Did I kill him?”

Barley leaned over it his cousin’s body. He said, “Naw, but he’ll be out for while.”

“He your little brother?”

“Cousin, but I’m embarrassed to admit he’s blood to any degree. He could never be chill about nothing.” Barley held the two tens out to her again. She took them and fished in his wallet for a couple more bills. He handed them to her and said, “Do me a favor, will you? Wait a few minutes before you call the cops. And get that gun away from him. He’s liable to hurt himself.”

The bell above the diner’s door dinged as Barley left. He had time to find a replacement driver before the job.

Killing the Quails by Patrick Cooper

I’ve killed Curtis Quail fives times now. Six if you count the one at the flooded quarry. That was more of an accident. I meant to shoot him but he escaped down the edge of the quarry and wound up drowning. I got paid for that one, yeah, but in my heart I can’t really take credit for it. So five times. I’ve killed Curtis Quail five times.

The first Curtis Quail I did in the woods behind the strawberry farm on Route 206. That was the toughest one. He was the youngest and the sucker was high on speed. Had to plug him in the back from 300 yards or so. That was the first Curtis Quail.

I’ve killed Curtis Quail fives times now. Six if you count the one at the flooded quarry. That was more of an accident. I meant to shoot him but he escaped down the edge of the quarry and wound up drowning. I got paid for that one, yeah, but in my heart I can’t really take credit for it. So five times. I’ve killed Curtis Quail five times.

The first Curtis Quail I did in the woods behind the strawberry farm on Route 206. That was the toughest one. He was the youngest and the sucker was high on speed. Had to plug him in the back from 300 yards or so. That was the first Curtis Quail. Continue reading “Killing the Quails by Patrick Cooper”

Black Out by Patrick Cooper

First time I saw the little shit, he was posted up on the side of the liquor store. I pulled in, threw the Olds in park, and stared at the runt while the radio DJ went on about a murder that happened last night outside a local bar I used to frequent. Someone was stabbed a few dozen times with an electric turkey carver. Happy Thanksgiving, huh?

I was only half listening to the details. The other half of me was soaking in this kid. Dressed in his Sunday best, rusty blonde hair blowing in the November breeze. Must’ve been 15 or so. There was a murkiness about him.

I’ve seen some characters outside of the liquor store. The lowlife clowns of this city stuck to the side of its walls like flypaper. But a kid? That’s a new one.

As I walked past he said, “Pint of whiskey?”

First time I saw the little shit, he was posted up on the side of the liquor store. I pulled in, threw the Olds in park, and stared at the runt while the radio DJ went on about a murder that happened last night outside a local bar I used to frequent. Someone was stabbed a few dozen times with an electric turkey carver. Happy Thanksgiving, huh?

I was only half listening to the details. The other half of me was soaking in this kid. Dressed in his Sunday best, rusty blonde hair blowing in the November breeze. Must’ve been 15 or so. There was a murkiness about him.

I’ve seen some characters outside of the liquor store. The lowlife clowns of this city stuck to the side of its walls like flypaper. But a kid? That’s a new one.

As I walked past he said, “Pint of whiskey?”

I stopped and looked down at the runt. I had about three feet on him, but something about his confident posture gave me the creeps.

“Sure,” I said. “How ‘bout I get ya some rolling papers while I’m at it. And here,” I flicked him a quarter. “Payphone’s right over there. Call the cops now so they’re waiting for me when I come out.”

“Don’t have to be a dick about it.”

The mouth on this one, huh? “What’s you’re name, pilgrim?”

“Harry. You a cop?”

“Naw, but that’s funny. My name’s Harry too.”

“I know.”

“Whaddya mean…”

“Listen you buying or not? I got $20.”

It was the holidays, so I figured what the hell. I bought the kid a pint of Canadian Club. I was picking up some cheap wine for Kim anyway. I don’t drink anymore. I got the alcoholic bug. Used to black out so bad, when I came to I couldn’t even remember drinking.

Pulling out, I looked back and the kid was gone.

***

The second time I saw the little shit, he was on my front porch.

It was the next day, Thanksgiving. My wife was out picking up last minute items before her parents came over.

“Harry!” the kid said when I opened the door, pushing past my legs. He was wearing the same clothes as yesterday.

“What the hell, kid?”

“Harry, it’s Thanksgiving!” There was a sarcastic undercurrent to the pleasantry of his voice. “We’ve got work to do before Kim’s folks show up. I hope Margret waxed her upper lip since last year, huh?”

Harry moved into the kitchen. I heard dishes and silverware rattling around.

“Where does Kim keep the turkey carver?” he said. “I swear she’s always moving everything around.”

“Get the hell outta my house!”

The kid peeked his head out of the kitchen. “You’re not drinking already, are you? The itch always was bad around holidays.”

“What? I haven’t had a drink in…”

“After what happened the other night, Harry, I think you need to get your ass into AA again. Get another shiny white chip. What’ll that be? Your eighth?”

I heard Kim pull up. I launched myself on to the porch.

“Hon?” Kim said.

“This is gonna sound nuts, but there’s a kid in the house with the same name as me. He won’t leave!”

“Kid in our house? Oh Harry.” She walked past me dismissively, an armful of groceries.

“Kim! Wait!”

I ran behind her and shot into the kitchen. No one was there. No kid.

She put the groceries down on the counter. “You still scare me sometimes, hon. You’ve been staying out late. And your eyes look bloodshot. You know I love you, but promise me you haven’t been drinking.”

“I’m not…”

“Well, try and rest before my parents arrive.”

“He was just here…”

“Take a nap, hon. I’m going to move your car so my parents don’t have to park in the street.”

I lied down on the couch, my head doing the catch-up cartwheels like it used to coming out of a black out. Was the kid a hallucination? But I haven’t…

“Fuck you, Harry!” Kim said storming back into the house. “You promised!”

She was holding an empty Canadian Club and a bloody turkey carver.