Authors: Nicholas Kaufman
Tags: #thriller, #suspense, #fiction, #short fiction
Red. She always looked so beautiful in red. It was what she wore the last time we were together. The last time we'd ever be together. The day that my love died. The day that my heart died.
It was a chilly day for Florida. Winter I guess, but it was February. We thought the beach would be nice, but it was so god damn windy. We had to go back to the car and grab our jackets and a blanket. The wind couldn't kill our spirits though.
We sat in the white sand watching the ocean waves as they rolled in. The smell of the saltwater warmed my Southern soul. We drank straight from a bottle of Pinot Noir. It was a little sweet for my taste but I liked it. I liked everything more when I was with her.
"I used to come here with my ex," I said.
"Oh is that right?" she said with an eyebrow raised. "Tell me all about it."
"There's nothing to tell! She was so annoying," I said. "She couldn't just enjoy anything."
She leaned back, tucked her blonde locks behind her ear, and spoke softly. "I don't like when you compare me to her."
"I don't mean to compare you to her. It's not even about her," I said. "I guess I'm just realizing how much better you are than everybody else."
"You're just now realizing this?" She asked. She took a huge swig from the bottle.
We both laughed and stared at each other. I could have lost myself in her eyes. I wanted to.
Soon, the sun had set without us realizing. We were too wrapped up in each other. We grabbed our things and headed back to the parking lot. It was a Wednesday night, and not many people were on the beach. We crossed the boardwalk toward the lot, taking our time. Ellie hummed one of my favorite songs. She had the sweetest voice. It was smooth and comforting.
It was unusual that I walked ahead, but I did on that evening.
An ear piercing scream shattered the beautiful tune, and I whipped around to see three men dragging Ellie by her ankles. "Dennis!" she screamed. They pulled her in the opposite direction of me.
She was kicking and clawing for her life. I dropped my shit and sprinted toward them, acting on instinct. One of them saw me and pointed a gun at my chest. He pulled the trigger.
I hit the ground. I didn't feel anything for the first few seconds, and then the agony sunk in. I was hit in the side of my stomach. I tried to get up. I tried to do anything to save Ellie, but I couldn't do anything. My body wouldn't let me move. The man walked up to me. He was a shirtless Latino man with tattoos all over his chest and neck, and the only one of the three that I really got a good look at. He leaned over me, and I saw a number five roman numeral dripping blood tattooed on his neck.
"You lose bitch," he said as he grinned.
"Come on Seb!" said one of the other men.
He stepped backward toward Ellie, who was staring at me. She was terrified. The man aimed his gun at her chest. That's when everything slowed down.
I watched his finger squeeze the trigger. With one bright and defined blast, she was gone.
The physical and emotional pain was too much for me. I passed out. They must have thought I was dead, as they didn't shoot me again. But I was alive. I was alive and I was angry.
I spent six days squirming in my hospital bed. I couldn't get the image of Ellie being shot out of my head. I spoke to the police. They never found Ellie's body, but there was enough of her blood on the pavement for them to declare it a homicide. Apparently it isn't unusual for gangsters to take the body of a pretty girl to play with for a while once she's dead. The thought of them violating her lifeless corpse sent my head spinning. I knew she couldn't feel any more pain, but I did. And I knew I had to do something about it.
Three weeks had passed, and I was drowning myself in booze. I knew it wouldn't help. I knew it would only amplify my pain. But I didn't care. All I had anymore was pain.
I sat at the bar of a hole in the wall enjoying my third whiskey sour. Pool balls cracked, and cigarette smoke filled the air. I always hated smoking, but everything was different. I turned to the chimney next to me and bummed a smoke. I noticed the man had the same roman numeral five tattoo on his neck as the man who shot Ellie. It wasn't the same man. I figured it was a gang symbol. I wasn't sure, so I decided to ask.
"What does that mean?" I asked, pointing at the tattoo.
The man squinted as he leaned back and looked me up and down. I couldn't tell if he was trying to be tough or if he was just farsighted.
"The fuck is it to you?" he said.
"Just wondering man, it looks pretty dope," I said with an assuring nod.
He leaned in close to me and spoke softly. His breath smelled like shit.
"That's the sign of the Fifth Street Dogs. So be careful asking questions, unless you wanna get fucked up," he said with a grin.
Confirmation that the man was part of the gang that ruined my life made my blood boil. I put out the cigarette and wrapped my fingers around the glass ash tray.
"I'd rather do the fucking myself," I said. I stood up and smashed the ash tray into his face as hard as I could. It shattered into shards.
The man spit up blood and pieces of teeth into his hands. His eyes grew wide and he backed off of the bar and away from me slowly. I jumped up, grabbed a stool, and bashed him over the head with it. He hit the ground like a sack of potatoes.
I dropped the stool and looked around. The bar was quiet and the few people inside stared at me. A few guys looked like they wanted to make a move, so I headed for the door before it got uglier.
I felt better. I missed Ellie worse every day, but my spontaneous act of aggression vented some of the heat from my now ice-cold heart. It wasn't enough though. I wanted more. I needed more.
I took a cab back to the hotel. I'd been avoiding going home since the incident. I couldn't be there without her. Not yet. So I spent fifty-five bucks a night at a fleabag shithole.
I walked up to my room, and the girl staying next door, Kendall, was hanging out on the patio smoking a joint.
"What's with the long face, handsome?" she asked.
"Long day," I said. "And it's about to get longer."
"Sit down and relax for a minute," Kendall said, holding the joint toward me. "Take the edge off."
I was tempted, but I had to keep my head clear.
"No time. Work to do. I will bum one of those cigarettes from you though, if you don't mind," I said as I pointed to the pack resting in her lap.
She tossed me the pack. "Only two left, you can have them," she said.
I nodded. "Appreciate it."
She looked at me like she wanted to jump my bones, but it was far too soon for me, no matter how attractive she was. I went into my room.
Inside I immediately went on my phone, searching the internet for any information I could get on the Fifth Street Dogs. There were several articles about crimes linked to the gang, all that took place within a twelve mile radius of Fifth Street, naturally. I yanked open the drawer of the nightstand and right next to the obligatory Bible was a map of the city. I pulled it out and began circling the locations of the crimes.
I figured those would be the best places to start looking. I needed some things before the hunt began though, including a tight eight hours of rest to sober up. I had to stay clear-headed and focused if I was going to get justice for Ellie.
The booze were the only reason I was able to get any rest. I was grateful for that, even if I ended up with a hangover. I was always good at curing a hangover. Black coffee. Eggs with hot sauce. Stiff screwdriver. Good as new. It was always a simple fix. But now I had problems that I couldn't fix. The haunting images of my lover's last moments. The perpetual loneliness which would never subside. The rage. The rage that changed me. I was once full of love and dreams. Now all I had left is hatred and nightmares.
I woke in the middle of the night to a knocking on my door.
"You awake in there?" said a woman's voice. "It's Kendall."
I didn't say anything, hoping she'd go away.
"Come on! Drink with me! I'm lonely," she said.
As much as I needed rest, I knew I wouldn't get enough either way. And Kendall's loneliness resonated with me. I knew the feeling better than most. So I climbed out of bed and let her inside my room.
"I'm awake now," I said.
She wore only a long white t-shirt that acted as a dress. It was tight, and defined her curvy body. I tried not to stare. She held a bottle of whiskey.
"Good morning sunshine!" she said as she gave me a big hug. "Let's have a drink!"
She came in and hopped on the bed. I checked the clock and it was four in morning. I'd been sleeping on and off for five hours or so. That was enough for me, so I started making coffee.
"What the hell are you doing?" asked Kendall.
"Making a drink," I said.
"Coffee? No way. You've got to be kidding," she said, slurring her words a bit.
"I have a long day ahead of me," I said.
Kendall stood up and approached me slowly. "Well you better make it an irish coffee then!" she said.
To please her I splashed a bit into my cup.
"Happy?" I asked.
Kendall nodded and looked down at my cup, which was right next to the map I'd scribbled on earlier. She squinted a bit as she tried to focus on it.
"What the hell is all this?" she asked. She snatched the map. "I know this area."
"Do you? Maybe you can help me out," I said. I figured if she gave me anything useful, she'd probably forget by morning. "Do you know anything about the Fifth Street Dogs?"
"What, you got beef with them?" she asked.
"Something like that," I said. "What do you know?"
"All I know is all that matters. Don't fuck with them," she said.
"Yeah, I heard that already," I said. "Anything else?"
"Nope," she said. "I went to one of their parties about a year ago. The whole tough guy schtick wasn't for me, so I bounced."
She sat down on the end of the bed and put the bottle on the ground. The coffee pot beeped. I poured some into my cup and took a big gulp.
"Do you remember where it was?" I asked.
Her eyes said yes. She confirmed it with a nod.
"We can't go there at night though. It's too dangerous. What's your beef with them anyways?" she said.
She looked a little less drunk and a little more conscious than before. For some reason I felt like I could trust her. Not enough to tell her the truth, but enough to give her a taste of it.
"They took something from me," I said. "Something I know I can't get back, but they have to be confronted."
I could see it in her eyes; she knew I wasn't playing any games now.
"Do you know a guy called Seb?" I asked.
"I've heard the name. Don't know him though," she said.
I sat next to her on the bed and squeezed her thigh. "Go get some sleep," I said. "You can show me where the party was in the morning. I have a few things to do before then anyways."
Kendall looked down at my hand and back up at me, and nodded. She stood up slowly and walked back to her room. I didn't want to get her involved, but I needed anything I could get. I didn't care about playing it safe, and I had nothing left to lose.
First Little Piggy
I went to the flea market at the crack of dawn when it opened. I needed a weapon. Something untraceable. It was nearly impossible to find what you needed in a place like that. The useful items were all peppered in with the garbage. They needed isles like a supermarket. Deadly weapons in isle six.
Eventually I saw a table of pocket knives, among other weapons which no man would ever really need. There were hatchets, axes, and even swords. Because people need swords, apparently.
A knife wasn't really what I was looking for, but I figured having one couldn't hurt.
"Can I look at that switchblade?" I asked.
"Which one?" the salesman replied.
"The red one," I said.
The man picked up the knife and handed it to me.
"How's that feel?" he asked.
I gripped the handle and ran my finger up the blade.
"It feels right," I said.
"Red suits you!" said the man.
I looked at him and smiled. "It's my favorite color."
"It's only twenty bucks right now, a third of the original price," said the man.
"I'll take it," I replied.
As the man boxed up my new toy, I leaned in.
"Know where I can find a good handgun around here?" I asked. "Preferably something you don't need a license for, if you know what I mean."
He paused and looked at me. "That depends… Are you a cop?"
"Nope," I said.
The man looked around. There weren't many people at the market that early, and nobody else was at his table. He grabbed a cardboard shoe box from under his table and pulled the top off for a second, flashing a small revolver at me.
"Thirty-eight snub nose," said the man. "Sixty rounds in the box. Cleaned her myself just a few days ago."
I didn't know much about guns, but I knew it would do the trick. I always was a bit of an implusive shopper.
"How much?" I asked.
"Eleven hundred. It's a little more expensive than the market price, seeing as it's unregistered and all," he said.