Golden by Thomas McGauley

Chapman steps to the corner of 10th Street and Ocean Drive. South Beach, wind in the palmettos, and the tide surging for dunes. It is the smoking metro twilight. Chapman smells shrimp and pasta from a sidewalk café.

Lindell walks up.

Chapman says, “We get inside. When I say, ‘God bless the internet,’ you pull your piece, we take what we find, and split the scene sideways.”

Lindell folds a stick of gum into his mouth. “That easy?”

“That easy bro. It’s a chick. Sounded young on the phone. Lives by herself. God bless the internet.”

Bob Chapman leads the way, in golden Nikes, across the flagstone courtyard, amid leaning plants. The apartment is on the second floor. In the stairwell, Lindell takes a pistol from his jacket pocket, racks the slide, and slips it back in.

204.

They hear the TV inside.

Chapman knocks on the door.

Footsteps sound across the apartment.

Lindell snaps his gum.

A girl‘s voice: “Who is it?”

“Jason. We’re here to look at the guitar.”

“Who’s we?”

Chapman looks at Lindell.

“Me and my friend. Mark.”

“Okay. Just a minute.”

The door opens to a petite girl with big brown eyes. She looks eighteen, sundress, flip-flops, glowing brown skin. “Come in.”

A large-bladed ceiling fan. Huge colorful pillows on black-leather couches. Big-screen TV on the wall. Chapman glances at Lindell. Lindell works his gum and rubs his jaw.

The brown girl twirls on the white carpet. “So, like the ad said, it’s a Fender. Acoustic-electric.” Her brown eyes are big as Broward County. “The price is three hundred.”

Bob Chapman stands by the French doors, opening onto the balcony. “Sounds good.” He nods. “God bless the…” He stops, notices one of the small windows on a French door is busted out.

A closet door kicks open; a long flash of black flies out and sticks a gun to Lindell’s head. The girl brings a pistol into play. Chapman’s throat goes dry. They all four move a step to the right. A sliding of eyeballs. They move a step to the left. Chapman looks at the guy, tall and thin, wispy and arty, dressed in black.

Chapman says,

“What‘s going on here?”

The wispy guy says, “Give up the cash.”

“We’re just here to look at a guitar.”

“Isn‘t the internet a wonderful thing?”

The wispy guy asks who has the money. Lindell says he does. The wispy guy throws down. His limbs point in all directions, as do his teeth. He says give it up. Lindell slides his right hand in his jacket pocket.

He’s out with the gun and sticks it under the wispy guy’s chin. The girl shrieks. Chapman slaps her gun and retrieves it. He points it at the wispy guy. The girl pulls a derringer from her sundress and presses it to Chapman’s temple.

A sliding of eyeballs. They all four turn on the carpet.

Beyond the balcony, the South Beach tide creeps in the night.

The girl yells, “Give up the money!”

Chapman yells, “We got no money !”

“What do you mean you got no money!”

“We came to jack you. Little girl…” Chapman turns the gun on the girl. “Time for you to go home to mommy.”

A key turns in the front door.

The door opens and a Cuban in a brown-leather bomber jacket steps in.

“What you doing in my place?”

The large-bladed ceiling fan turns its tide in the night.

The Cuban guy pulls a pistol.

The girl screams.

The Cuban fires.

An art-deco lamp explodes.

The wispy guy fires ducking under a table. The bullet chings around the steel kitchen. Lindell diving behind the couch rakes the pillows with bullets. Goose-down feathers fly up; they are sucked in and spat out of the ceiling fan .

The girl fires the derringer, a snap in the chaos.

The Cuban pops several rounds.

The huge TV explodes on the wall.

Bob Chapman swats through goose down and electronic dust, firing backwards, and busts through the French doors. Bullets rip the doorjamb.

Chapman jumps over the railing, lands on golden Nikes, and books down an alley.

Patches by Thomas McGauley

Cassie Boone steps in the diner. She blinks her eyes. Pancake special on the chalkboard. Taj is in a booth. Cassie walks over. She smells home fries. Taj looks up. He wipes his hands on a blue cloth napkin.

“You got it?”

Cassie nods; she leads the way down the back hall.

Taj says, “What’s your sister doing?”

“Studying computers.”

“In this day and age?” Taj sips from a glass of tomato juice. “McCormick says you owe him money.”

Cassie stops, looks at a black-and-white photo on the wall, the fog rolling in on the Golden Gate Bridge. She says, “McCormick is an idiot.”

They go out the backdoor. Cassie squints.

Little Five Points, Atlanta in August.

Cassie pats around for her shades but can’t find them. She walks to her red truck and pulls back the gray tarp.A sawed-off shotgun is in the bed.

Taj rubs his chin. “Hillbilly dueling pistol.” He wipes his forehead–sweats like a televangelist–sets the glass of tomato juice on the bumper, and picks up the sawed-off. He runs a finger down the barrel. “Where’d you get it?”

“My cat has diabetes.”

“Your cat has…what?”

“I need the money.”

Cassie opens her truck door, leans in, looks for her shades. She can’t find them. She pulls on a baseball hat and stands in the alley with a hand on her hip.

Taj sets the shotgun back in the bed.

A green-metallic Buick Riviera pulls into the alley.

Cassie Boone tugs at the brim of her cap.

The door opens and McCormick gets out. He stretches to his full thin height. He’s wearing a Miami Heat jersey, tatted to the gills, dark shades. He regards Cassie, runs a hand through his long hair, says, “Miss Boone.”

She says, “McCormick.”

“You are a snake in the grass Cassie.”

“You’re an idiot John.”

“You ripped me off.”

“My cat has diabetes.”

“Your cat has…what?”

“Her pancreas isn’t making enough ovaltine…or something.”

McCormick slides his shades on top of his head.

“And how is this my problem?”

“I’m going to pay you.”

“Damn straight.”

McCormick raises his right arm and extends a pistol. It is the Sig Sauer nine.

Taj dives behind the dumpster.

Cassie freezes in her boots.

McCormick fires and blows out her back window. He fires again.

Cassie goes down gushing blood. “I’m shot!”

Taj scoots out of the alley.

McCormick drops the gun.

Cassie puts a hand to her stomach. She moans and rolls. Her T-shirt is covered in red burning liquid. Cassie squints at the Atlanta sky pale beyond the cornices. She puts a finger in her mouth. Tomato juice. She jumps to her feet and grabs the cut-down shotgun. She steps to McCormick, boot heels hot in the gravel.

McCormick pedals back.

Cassie pumps the action on the shotgun. “You sumbuck!” She fires and blows out his windshield. She pumps and fires into his golden grill.

The green-metallic Buick Riviera shoots a geyser of steam.

“I was going to pay you!” Cassie Boone jumps in her truck and sticks her head out the window. “My cat has diabetes!”

She kicks it and burns out of the alley.