Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine Special - Graham Powell

The Last Time

I walked off the construction site when I got the call. I couldn't go back there now, but that's okay. I've been fired before.

Four years without a word, then this. It was nice to know that she still thought of me when she had a mess that needed cleaning.

As I climbed the four flights of stairs I promised myself this was the last time I would help her. Then I told myself it was the last time I'd make that promise.

I didn't knock, just opened the door. She sat on the couch opposite, staring at nothing. As I stepped into the room I noticed the smell, the scent of fire and smoke hanging in the air, like the Fourth of July when I was a kid. But this wasn't firecrackers.

Then I saw the man's body to the left, by the TV.

I hadn't been a cop in years but I knew what happened inside of ten seconds. Three shell casings just inside a doorway on the right. Three red holes in the man's chest. One casing next to the body. One bullet wound in the head.

The gun, an automatic, probably a .32 or .380, lay on the coffee table. Alice didn't look at it. There were no tears. She was beyond that now.

It was easy to see the girl I'd loved, but she wasn't that girl any longer. The makeup was thick upon her face but couldn't hide the lines at the corners of her mouth and eyes. Her hair was no longer blonde, but yellow, a color Mother Nature had never intended. The roses on her cheap print dress had faded.

She stood up slowly and walked past me without a word, close enough to smell her perfume. I saw the plan. She goes, I stay.

No. She'd always asked a lot, more than she'd earned, but not this. She wasn't worth my life. Maybe she never had been.

I picked up the gun from the table and took careful aim. "Alice," I said.

She didn't turn around, just stopped in the doorway. I took a breath, held it, the sight picture steady on the back of her head. A moment passed and I exhaled.

Alice turned and started down the stairs. I listened to her footsteps as they grew fainter, finally punctuated by the slam of the front door.

I laid the gun on the table and sat down to wait for the police.

BIO: Graham Powell is the creator of CrimeSpot.net. His stories have appeared in Plots With Guns, The Thrilling Detective, and Hardluck Stories, among other disreputable establishments.

3 comments:

Sophie said...

This is what I want to learn to do in flash: nail the *characters* in a few words, not just the plot. WTG.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Graham, I really liked this one. It has a quiet intensity that really drives it.

Patricia J. Hale said...

Beautiful flash. Loved it.