Silver Dollar Returns

This week's theme for Flash Fiction Friday was very enticing: the wild west. Land of gold rushers, robbers, gunslingers and cattle drives. I have wanted to do a western story for a long time, but for some reason, I kept putting it off.

Now, there was no way I could pass on this opportunity.

So I hit play on the score to Quentin Tarantino's Hateful Eight, masterfully done by the great Ennio Morricone. That set the mood perfectly.

Now, I'm not going to sit here and pretend that this story matches the works of such western masters as Grey,  Leonard, McMurtry or L'Amour. I need to work on making the dialogue more colorful, more in touch with the era's way of speaking.

Here's what I've come up with. Saddle up!


Arizona Territory, shortly after the Civil War

Blanche left the comfort of the post office and crossed the dusty street to the saloon.

She pushed the doors open and entered the watering hole. It was quiet, on account of it being 10 a.m. Stan Brown made himself look busy behind the bar. A lone customer had parked his wide derriere on a stool.

Two of Brown’s ladies threw themselves at the burly man. Despite the filth covering him from head to toe. They drank house bourbon and laughed, their roars echoing in the near-empty bar.

Blanche made a point of not looking at the gals. She’d escaped that life years ago, and thanked God for it every day.

She went around the bar and grabbed Brown by the arm to lead him away from the small crowd.

«You need to see this, Stan,» Blanche said, handing him a telegram addressed to Lee Watson.

«Why that look, Blanche?»

Brown fixed his eyes on hers while he unfolded the paper.

«Read it,» Blanche told him when he hesitated.

Brown squinted down at the paper for a minute, then shook his head. «My spectacles are upstairs.»

Blanched sighed and ripped the paper from his hands. «It’s Silver Dollar Tom. Stan, it says he’s gonna be here in two days.»

Brown stomped his foot on the floor and cursed under his breath.

Silver Dollar Tom’s name brought back horrible memories.

Blanche questioned him with a look.

«Who else have you told about this?» Brown asked.

«Nobody.»

Brown tossed the paper into the wood stove. He bent under the bar to retrieve his gun belt, tightened it around his waist. He checked his Colt and dropped it into the belt.

«Watch this place, Blanche.»

Blanche looked at the girls and frowned. «Be quick please, Stan.»

 

Brown walked down the middle of the wide street, making sure he didn’t step in the fuming piles of horse dung and ruin the shine on his boots.

Dark thoughts entered his head and he pushed them away. Tom Haskins had done him and this village wrong more than once. Now he was coming ‘round for more.

«Howdy, Stan!» Owen Johnson, the banker, saluted Brown from the porch.

Brown waved lazily and kept walking.

Father Frank’s horse, groomed and saddled, sat outside the chapel. The old pastor was headed out.

Inside, Brown found Father Frank kneeling at the altar.

The bartender stopped a few feet behind the pastor and cleared his throat.

Startled, Father Frank dropped his beads to the floor and turned to the sound.

«Need a word, Father,» Brown said.

«You scared me, Stanley.»

Brown pointed to a pew and both men sat down.

«We received a telegram,» Brown explained. «From Tom Haskins.»

The pastor’s eyes filled with a hatred uncommon for men of the cloth.

«Thought that devil was in hell.»

Brown shook his head.

«Guess he heard that Watson expired at Mesilla. That’s why he’s coming back.»

Father Frank mumbled a short prayer. Stanley Brown stood, his massive bulk towering over the short pastor, and toyed with his Colt.

«We gonna fight him, Stanley?»

«Nobody’ll do it for us, Father. There’s a posse for hire in the next town over. War veterans. You don’t mind, I’ll send a telegram. Hire them.»

Father Frank nodded. «May God be on your side, Son.»

 

Brown made his way back to the saloon.

The dirty customer had made his choice and disappeared with Lucy. The other girl, older and thicker around the waist, sat across from Blanche. The women were gossiping about the village’s few amorous affairs.

Blanche looked up when Brown walked in.

«Need you to send a telegram, Blanche.»

They walked to the post office, where Blanche sat at the desk and waited for instructions.

«There’s a posse for hire in the next town,» Brown said. «Gonna need their help for when Haskins shows.»

Blanche’s face lost all colour. The mere thought of more mischief in this town was enough to throw her stomach into a funk.

«Stan, haven’t we buried enough men? What with this darn War? And now you want to fight Tom Haskins?»

«I buried my only son because of him. Can’t let him come back and ruin our lives again.»

Blanche sighed and read the words out loud as she typed.

«Colorado City. Stop. Need gunmen. Stop. See Saloon. Stop. Quick.»

«That’ll do it,» Brown said. «Let me know when they answer.»

He left the post office and crossed back to the saloon.

Blanche, her lower lip quivering, pulled her drawer open and found her husband’s last letter.

She read the final line over and over again, this line she knew by heart, but no longer believed.

Love always, your Lee.

Weeping, she tossed the paper back into the drawer and slammed it shut.

 

Two days later

Stan Brown woke to the thundering sound of hooves in the distance. He bolted from his bed and went to the window.

He looked west and saw a dozen or so dark specs crossing the valley. Lightning fast.

Brown dressed and hopped downstairs.

Behind the bar, he poured the day’s first bourbon and took it out to the porch.

The sounds of hooves got closer and closer. Brown smiled as his hired men arrived.

Fourteen in all. Their horses filled the street. Father Frank joined them at the saloon, followed by Johnson and a few other villagers.

Brown held court in the full saloon and told everyone about his plan.

«All we know is he will arrive today,» Brown explained. «I don’t know when. Nor do I know how many men Haskins’ll have.»

He wanted the gunslingers to have a clear shot at Haskins whenever he rode in. Brown knew Haskins would head straight for his saloon, so he placed most of the men around it. A few others would be placed to the east of the saloon, where they would see Haskins approach and sound the alarm.

«Up and at ‘em, gentlemen,» Brown said.

With everybody in place, Blanche walked into the saloon and joined Brown and Father Frank at a table.

«Everything will be fine,» the pastor reassured her.

«I hope so,» Blanche replied with a faint smile. «We must rid ourselves of that devil for good.»

«He’ll find his way to hell one way or another,» Father Frank said.

They were silent. From time to time, Brown would go to the front window and check on the situation. Satisfied that the men were good and ready, he returned to his drink.

 

As the sun faded in the distance, one of the look-outs perched at the top of the chapel noticed a small shape in the distance. The galloping horse raised a cloud of dust so thick it was impossible to tell how many men were in the group.

The man ran to the bell and rang it twice.

In the saloon, Brown jumped to his feet and ran outside. Blanche sobbed nervously.

Out in the street Brown looked up to see the leader of the posse staring down at him, hands on his guns, ready for action.

Brown held a hand up. Wait. Both men turned their eyes eastward and noticed the dark shape growing larger by the minute.

The chapel’s bell rang again, three times now. The group was close.

«Wait for my signal,» Brown called out.

He squinted. Brown made out two horses, only one of which had a rider in his saddle and lead the other.

Odd, thought Brown. Figured Haskins would come with a full crew.

When the horses slowed to a trot in front of the chapel, the bell rang once again, then fell quiet.

As the group approached the saloon, the gunslingers trained their weapons on the rider. They awaited Brown’s signal.

Now Brown could make out the familiar traits of the rider’s face. For a minute, he thought he was dreaming. He stepped forward.

Cripes. It was really him.

«Lower your weapons,» Brown called out.

«You sure?» the leader of the posse replied.

«Don’t shoot!»

Brown looked back to the saloon. Father Frank had just stepped onto the porch, Blanche right behind him.

The rider stopped his horses when Brown reached them.

«Howdy, partner!» Lee Watson called out, touching the brim of his hat as he smiled at his long-time friend. «I believe you know this dirt bag?»

Watson pointed his chin to the bloody corpse of Silver Dollar Tom Haskins laid across the horse’s back.

«What’s with the gun show, Stan?» Watson asked.

Brown sighed. «We was ready for a fight.»

«No need for that, now, is there?» Watson laughed and dismounted. «Now, where’s my wife?»

He searched the crowd for Blanche’s golden hair.

Father Frank stepped aside, revealing a weeping Blanche. Watson strode toward her.

«Miss me, love?»

Watson wrapped his arms around his wife, swearing to himself never to leave her side again.

THE END


If you're looking for more Western entertainment, you could do a lot worse than picking up any of these movies or books :

(links will open on product's Amazon page - purchase and support me through the Affiliates program)

Riders of the Purple Sage, by Zane Grey

Valdez is Coming, by Elmore Leonard

Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry

The Man With No Name Trilogy, directed by Sergio Leone

The Legendary Italian Westerns - Ennio Morricone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spill It

AUTHOR'S NOTE: for this week's installment of Flash Fiction Friday, we had to write a story comprised solely of dialogue. So much fun! I love these types of stories. A very interesting challenge in which my innermost Tarantino steps into the spotlight.

Enjoy!


So, Mike Walls. That’s quite the rap sheet. We should give you a key.

What’s this about?

Where were you the night Maggie Ellis died?

Maggie’s dead? Nah, man, you playin’ me.

Don’t be a wise-ass. Tell me. Wednesday night. Where were you?

Shit. Working.

Where?

Donnelly’s.

When’s the last time you saw Maggie?

Lemme think. Must be three weeks back. At her job.

Wrong answer. I’ve got a witness puts you with her this past week. Saw you at the movies, all lovey-dovey. Even heard you call her cupcake. Says you were tongue-wrestling a lot. During the best part of the movie, too.

That be one lying witness.

I don’t appreciate this Mike.

Do I give a flying fuck what you appreciate, Detective?

Wednesday night. Between ten and midnight. Where was your ugly ass?

Wednesday. Thursday. Friday. They all the same, you ask me.

Donnelly’s. That’s that Irish pub down by the waterfront, right?

Best fish and chips in town.

I’ve been there. Never seen you though.

I work in the shadows.

That where you always work? The shadows? Were you in the shadows on Wednesday, Mike? Waiting for Maggie to come home so you could jump her?

Your imagination be wilder than wild, Detective.

Isn’t that your M.O., Mike? 1998. Lisa Ming. You jumped out of the bushes, pulled her to the ground and had your way with her.

I thought she was your sister.

And 2002. Wanda Polk. You caught her in a dark alley. A pizza delivery man who got lost because of his GPS saved her from your loving ways.

Past be the past.

Are you a changed man, Mike? Did you find God?

I’m changed, all right. But God ain’t the why of it. I did my time and paid my debt to society. That’s all on me.

Then you won’t mind telling me where you were on Wednesday. That way I won’t have to beat it out of you.

Ah! You’re killing me. Who’s gonna hurt me? You?

I won’t pass up the chance.

You don’t have the cojones to.

Don’t test me, Mike.

Look at you. You never laid a finger on anybody but your old lady. What a tough guy you are!

Watch your mouth, young man.

You can’t fool me. Look at them hands. Probably got a manicure when you finished cop college, haven’t had to get another one since. What’s wrong, Detective? Mommy didn’t love you?

Good-looking woman like Maggie, lives not even a block away from Casa de Mike. Every day, Maggie walks right by your window in a short skirt and a halter top. Flaunts her goods. And damn, those goods look mighty good. Don’t they, Mike? My guess is you got tired of beating your own rocks off. Decided you wanted a piece of that.

Wasn’t like that.

No?

Maggie wanted it bad. Bitch begged me for it.

Maybe, you being a changed man since you got out of the joint, you went about it the right way. Maybe you sent her flowers. Sang a love song under her balcony. Juliet, my Juliet.

Man, I don’t need to do all that. All I do is show up. Works like a charm.

Except with Maggie. What happened? Did she say no to you? Big man can’t handle rejection?

Ain’t never had to.

Really? Is that why you force yourself on women? Is it the only way for you to get off?

Nah, nah, man. All them bitches are liars.

Was Maggie lying when she filed a complaint two months ago?

Probably.

Says someone broke into her house. Turned it inside out.

That so?

Yup. Guy took a few lace panties. Maybe a bra.

Text me when you get to the part where I should care.

Mike, why don’t you tell me what I’ll find if I search your apartment.

Lots of cool shit, man. I got like a big man-crush on Batman, so I got plenty of stuff with him on it. T-shirts, posters, coffee mugs. I even got boxer shorts with the bat signal across the crotch. Glows in the dark.

You’re living the dream. Anything else?

Oh, and I eat Honey Nut Cheerios with whole milk. Buckets of it. Keeps my cholesterol low.

I won’t find those lace panties and a bra or two?

Only if your momma done forgot them when I kicked her out.

I’ve had enough of you. You can deal with Rick now.

Is it time for the good cop, bad cop thing? Man, you guys ain’t original. Crap’s getting old.

Wipe that smile off your face.

Make me, Mister Good Cop.

How do you know I’m not the bad one?

Please. The only bad thing about you is yo breath. So, bring me Ricky the bad boy. I’ll take my chances with him.

Can’t believe the mouth on you, Walls. Let’s see if you’re so tough when you step into the shower with a horny thug who’ll call you Baby while he tears you a new one.

That happen to you?

You killed her, Mike.

Fuck off.

Why did you kill her?

I’ll kill you if you don’t shut yo mouth.

Come on, spill it. Get it off your chest. Why did you kill her?

She deserved it, alright? I gave her what she fucking deserved.

Nobody deserves to be killed, Mike.

Fucking bitch always come around my way, asking do I got any dope. We got high, listened to some music. She danced a little, you know. Like one of them strippers. Teased me, lifting her shirt and rubbing her tits and all that shit. Only when I touched her, she got all shy and stuff. No, no, I don’t want to, Mike.

What happened then?

I slapped her. She fell and then got up and ran for the door. I grabbed her from behind and pinned her against the wall. I wanted to give it to her, you know. Only I couldn’t… well… you know. On account of how high I was. Ain’t never a problem for my soldier to step up, you know.

Of course. What happened next?

Next? Well, I choked her till her eyes popped out of her skull. Fucking blood everywhere. Freaky shit.

See? That wasn’t so hard, now, was it, Mike? Don’t you feel better?

END

 


Hope you enjoyed this one.

Like I mentioned above, I feel like this type of story brings out the Tarantino in me. To me, this guy is the master of all things dialogue. As is Elmore Leonard.

What about you? Who comes to mind when you think about dialogue?

Birth of a Cool Love

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Here's another foray into the wonderful world of flash fiction. Up at Flash Fiction Friday, this week's theme was: You arrange for a weekend getaway at a friend’s cabin in the country, but Mother Nature decides to extend your stay with a blizzard. You’re trapped. Tell us what happens. 

So, without further ado... enjoy!

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Birth of a Cool Love

‘Wow, it is coming down hard.’

Tina stood in the dining room looking out at the large backyard. The entire field, which was emerald green the last time I’d been here, was now covered with snow. Same for the frozen lake. The mountain beyond it hid behind a white veil of large snow flakes. Tall, majestic fir trees adorning its flank swayed in the wind.

 

Wayne and I sat in the den, facing the fire. I ran through the keys to a song which Wayne had written earlier. I couldn’t get it to where I wanted it to be, and we’d been trying to fix it for the past hour.

‘Well, it better stop soon.’ Wayne stood and went to join his woman. ‘We can’t have them shutting down the airport. London awaits.’trumpet-858029_640

He wrapped Tina in his arms, kissed her neck. I closed my eyes and blew into my trumpet.

We’d arrived at Wayne’s Palace on Friday morning. His palace – that’s what he called the mansion by the lake he’d bought with the money from our first record. Wayne insisted that we come out here to work on our next album, even if we were set to fly to London on Sunday.

He had insisted, he said, because he was feeling it. He was in a good place.

I wish I shared that feeling.

‘Ben, you want another beer?’ Wayne called from the kitchen.

‘Sure,’ I said and opened my eyes. Tina looked at me, embarrassed. She broke the eye contact and scurried away.

We kept hammering at the song for hours. Wayne played with the lyrics and the music, and I tried them out, in vain. Our frustration grew with every note change.

‘Why don’t you guys call it a night,’ Tina suggested. ‘It’s late.’

I looked at the clock. Half past two.

‘Good idea,’ I said, rising from the couch. ‘I’m beat. See you in the morning.’

I looked back to the den as I climbed the stairs. Wayne was trying to pull Tina down onto his lap. She resisted, insisting it was time to go to bed.

‘I like that idea,’ he said with a wide grin.

I couldn’t get to bed fast enough.

 

Daylight found its way through a slit in the window drapes and onto my face a little before noon.

The house was quiet. The only sound came from the howling wind outside. I could see enough of what was going on outside to tell that the snow was still coming down hard.

Please, don’t let the airport shut down. I need to get out of here.

After slipping out of bed, I put on a pair of pants and an old t-shirt.

Outside the room, the air was frigid. My feet froze at the touch of the bare hardwood.

Down the hall, the door to Wayne’s room was closed.

I took my time going down the wooden steps, careful not to wake the lovebirds.

In the fireplace, the fire was dead. The cold had settled in. In the kitchen, I found a quart of orange juice in the fridge and poured myself a glass.

As I walked over to the den, intent on reviving the fire, I heard light footsteps over my head.

Tina stepped out of her room, closed the door behind her, and went into the bathroom.

I poked the hot coals to get the going, then set a new log on top. The fire caught just as Tina stumped down the stairs.

‘Good morning,’ she whispered from behind the couch.

I turned to her and offered a weak smile. As beautiful as she was when she dressed up for an awards show or a stroll down the red carpet, she looked even better au naturel. Her eyelids still glued together. Her hair all messed up.

All she had on was one of Wayne’s t-shirts. Maybe a pair of panties.

Just stunning.

‘What’s so good about it?’

She smiled and joined me in front of the fire. We let its warmth heat us.

I let her scent invade my nostrils. It was mesmerizing. Titillating. When we were this close, I did not need a fire to warm me.

Tina touched my arm and turned me to face her. She smiled. Our mouths were inches apart. I felt her hot breath on my face.

‘I’m so sorry, Ben,’ she said. ‘I hate this just as much as you do.’

‘Don’t, Tina,’ I whispered without so much as an ounce of conviction.

Ignoring me, she tilted her head and brought her lips to mine.

‘Tina,’ I pleaded, and stepped back.

Her hand reached out and brushed my crotch. ‘I miss you, Ben.’

Our eyes met again as a loud thud coming from upstairs broke the silence.

‘Fuck!’ Wayne yelled out.

Tina sighed. She let her hand linger on my hand before shuffling off to the kitchen. I could feel her eyes on me as I returned my attention to the fire. It was fading fast, so I fed it a couple of newspaper balls.

Wayne stumbled loudly down the stairs. ‘Did you see all that snow? There must be, like, three feet of it, man! Let’s have a snow fight!’

I looked over my shoulder at him. He was smiling like a kid given a bottomless bowl of candy.

‘Where’s Tina?’ he asked.

I nodded. ‘Kitchen.’

My eyes followed Wayne as he stepped gingerly to the kitchen. His girlfriend was at the coffee maker, watching the water drip into a bright mug with a hand-painted heart on its side.

‘There you are, my love.’

Wayne walked up to Tina and playfully smacked her behind. He spun her around and pulled her into a prolonged hug.

An enraged Tina glared at me.

I cleared my throat. ‘I’ll get us some more firewood.’

 

There’s something about snow falling that puts me at ease. Unlike a heavy rain storm, or a thunderstorm, a snow storm is usually calm. Growing up in Quebec, I had my share of chances to sit by the window all day long watching the flakes dance in the sky. It does wonders for your soul.

This storm, however, was anything but calm.

The wind was howling, twisting the fluffy flakes in tornado-like cyclones. My thin jacket didn’t have a chance against this cold.

I looked off in the distance to the shed where the firewood was stored. It was all the way at the end of the yard, right next to the path which led down to the lake shore. Maybe 200 feet away.

Any other day, this wouldn’t have been a problem. But today, there was the small matter of the three feet of snow on the ground.

I tried running through it, lifting my knees way up so I wouldn’t sink. But it didn’t work.

So I walked to the shack. What should have taken a minute or two took at least ten. But I finally made it.

I piled some logs on a plastic sled which we kept for that purpose and began the trek back to the house.

 

I heard the yelling before I opened the door.

Wayne stood in the entrance to the kitchen with his back to me. I couldn’t see Tina, but I heard her crying. Shards of her shattered coffee cup littered the floor.

I shut the door, and Wayne turned toward me. His blood shot eyes were wet. A coffee stain the size of Rhode Island decorated the front of his shirt.

‘Is it true?’ he asked me, shaking his head.

Holy fuck! Had she? Had she told him?

‘What?’ I asked. ‘Is what true, Wayne?’

Tina appeared from the dining room. Tears ran down her red cheeks. She glanced at me, then quickly looked away.

‘You fucking prick,’ Wayne said. ‘You ungrateful, traitorous, backstabbing son-of-a-bitch. After everything I did for you.’

I held up both hands. ‘Let me explain, Wayne.’

His smile dripped with fierce hatred. ‘Oh, spare me the soap opera lines, Ben.’ He looked from me to her, then back to me. ‘Fucking rat.’

Wayne darted toward me. I balled my fists and planted my feet, ready for him. This wouldn’t be our first fight.

Turns out he only wanted to reach the stairs.

I relaxed as Wayne ran upstairs to his room.

Tina hadn’t moved. She sobbed quietly. I went to her and whispered her name, but she wouldn’t budge. She reacted when I nudged her softly.

‘Did he hurt you?’

Tina shook her head. ‘I had to tell him, Ben. His hands on me,’ she sobbed, ‘I can’t take it anymore.’

When I pulled her into my arms, she rested her head on my shoulder. ‘It’s okay, Tina.’

A million thoughts raced through my head.

This whole thing was so sudden, so unexpected, that I couldn’t quite believe it was happened.

I’d finally gotten the girl. After all these years of watching her walk into his hotel suite instead of mine. All those nights I’d tossed and turned wondering if she was making love to him. If she enjoyed it. If she would enjoy it better with me.

There would be no more of that.

The sound of Wayne’s crazy laugh snapped me out of my reverie.

He was standing at the bottom of the stairs, watching us with a huge grin on his face. He’d gotten dressed and his duffel bag was slung over his shoulder.

‘How cute,’ he said. ‘The proverbial fucking knight in shining armor rescues the princess.’ Wayne scoffed as he shrugged on his coat. ‘I hope you’re happy.’

Wayne turned to leave, then stopped and looked over his shoulder at me.

‘Do you know a good trumpeter? A spot just opened up.’

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This story's title was inspired by the title of a classic record by one of the greatest trumpet players ever, Mr. Miles Davis.

Birth of the cool was released in 1957 on Capitol Records.

It features such legendary musicians as Lee Konitz (alto sax), Gerry Mulligan (barytone sax), and Max Roach on drums.

To read more about this record, go here.

Buy it now on Amazon     

Faded Glory

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is my first entry for the Flash Fiction Friday operation. I'd been meaning to take part in this for a while now, and this week's theme - Thanksgiving - struck a cord. Inspiration came pretty easy for this one. Hope you enjoy it. All comments welcome. Many thanks to all involved with FFF.


Hockey skatesDetective Tom Sweeney smiled. He still couldn't believe he was having dinner with the great Dan Loftus.
His mind went back to his younger days, days when he'd played street hockey with his friends in Dorchester. And pretended he was Dan Loftus, his black and gold number 51 jersey stretched over his ski coat.
Now, here he was treating the second-best defenseman to ever put on a Bruins uniform to a Thanksgiving dinner at a greasy spoon, a block away from his precinct.
That's after Sweeney had found Loftus in a holding cell.
Oh, what I would pay to see my father's face when I told him this story, Sweeney thought.

It had been an average day until then for Sweeney.
Along with his partner, he'd finally arrested the perv who'd been showing off his (little) manhood to unsuspecting women in downtown parks. Sweeney had setup an undercover operation with a female patrol officer. She dressed up as a jogger and ran around the Common, trying to draw the man out into the open. When he did, at dusk, Sweeney took him down.
After his partner had gone home for dinner with his in-laws, Sweeney was left alone to book the perpetrator.
As he was taking the man to his cell, Sweeney peeked into another cell and saw a familiar face. It took him a while to put a name to the face, as the man had aged considerably and put on some weight since his glory days, but Sweeney was elated to meet one of his boyhood idols.
The desk sergeant told Sweeney that Dan Loftus was going to be charged with breaking and entering.
"Who brought him in?" Sweeney asked.
"Lemore and Jackson."
Sweeney laughed. Those two were the Abbott and Costello of the precinct. Clowns.
The charge against Loftus was probably a load of crap.
"Let me have your keys, Sarge," Sweeney told the sergeant.
It took a little convincing - and the promise of apple pie - but Peters finally let Sweeney take Loftus out for dinner.

"This is great," Loftus told Sweeney as he chewed on a piece of turkey. "Thanks."
Sweeney smiled. "Glad you like it," he answered through a mouthful of mashed potatoes. He put down his fork. "Can I ask you a question?"
Loftus froze for a second, but whatever bothered him passed, and he nodded.
"Why did the Bruins trade you? It still doesn't make sense to me."
The man sighed, and took another bite. While chewing, he shrugged. "Long story short, I boinked the coach's wife during a Christmas party, and Tim Thompson - fucking jerk - ratted us out."
Sweeney burst out laughing. "Really?" His eyes were sparkling, like a kid unwrapping his favorite toy on Christmas morning. "Well, I hope you enjoyed it, because you broke a lot of young kids' hearts when you put on that Chicago sweater."
Loftus shrugged. "It was okay, I guess."
Sweeney couldn't believe this.
Thirty minutes ago, Loftus was sitting in a holding cell, waiting to be arraigned on breaking and entering charges. He was going to spend the night in jail, but he acted like it was just another day. The man's calm demeanor was astonishing.
"Did you do it?" Sweeney asked as they kept eating.
"I told you I did."
"I'm not talking about screwing the coach's missus," Sweeney replied. "Breaking and entering."
Loftus swallowed and took a sip of a diet Coke before answering.
"Should I be talking to you about that? That's how the cops on TV do it, ain't it? Soften the guy up with dinner, then make him confess."
Sweeney shrugged. "I'm not here to entrap you, Dan. I was just wondering why Dan Loftus is sitting in jail on Thanksgiving night."
"Things happen," Loftus explained.
"Really? I know people, and I don't think--"
"You don't know me."
Loftus looked defiantly at the detective, daring him to go on.
Sweeney figured it was best to change subjects. The last thing he wanted was to argue with him.
"I was at the Garden the night you knocked out that guy from the Flyers. One punch."
"Pete White," Loftus replied. "Never played again."
"Did you ever speak to him?"
Loftus nodded. "I went to see him in the hospital that night. His coach got up in my face the second he saw me. He was yelling, cursing. Fucking Loftus this, god damn Loftus that. All I wanted was to talk to Pete and apologize."
Tears pooled in the big man's eyes, and he looked away.

Sweeney shoved his empty plate aside. "I don't think I'll eat another thing until Sunday," he said. "That was enough food for three."
Loftus was still soaping up the extra gravy on his plate with a slice of bread. "Better enjoy this, I guess, seeing how I ain't gonna get no real meal for a while."
"Do you have a record? If this is your first offense, you'll probably get off with probation."
"With my luck, judge's gonna be a friggin' Habs fan." Loftus laughed, and wiped his mouth with a paper napkin. "Time is it?"
He tried to look at Sweeney's watch, but the cop waved him off. "Let me worry about that. You want dessert?"
Loftus shook his head. "Only a cup of coffee. Black. Can I go to the can?"
"You're a free man."
The big man stood and walked to the back of the restaurant. Watching him go, Sweeney noticed his limp for the first time. Now he remembered why Loftus had retired so early : his second year with the Blackhawks, in a game against Buffalo, he chased a loose puck into the corner, and his skate got caught in a crack. His body twisted, but his leg did not. Tore his MCL and ACL for the second time. Good luck coming back from that at 33.
Loftus did try, but he'd lost a step, and opposing forwards were skating around him like he was a traffic cone. So he handed in his papers. And fell off the face of the Earth.

The waitress had just set two cups of coffee and a bowl filled with tiny cups of milk and cream on the table when Loftus returned.
The men drank their coffee in silence, deliberately, watching through the diner's dirty windows as the night people took over the downtown streets.
A woman dressed in bright running gear sprinted by, and Sweeney smiled, proud of himself for having made her run a little bit safer.
"Ready to go?" Loftus asked as he set down his empty cup.
"Sure."

In the car, Sweeney tuned the radio to the local jazz station. They were playing Miles Davis' classic record, Kind of Blue. The DJ came on between tracks to give some information on Davis.
"I saw him play one night," Loftus said suddenly.
"Miles?"
Loftus nodded, smiling widely. "My rookie year, in 79. We were playing in Detroit, and some of the veterans on the team went out to this jazz club. I tagged along. I'd never heard of him, didn't know jazz from a chorus of roosters. I didn't listen to anything else from that night on."
Sweeney laughed. "That's great. My father knew Miles from his days working as a janitor in a nightclub. I met him once, apparently, but I was a baby then, and I cried when he played."
They were three blocks from the precinct now. Sweeney slowed the car practically to a crawl, not wanting this moment to end.
"I tried playing the trumpet in junior high," Sweeney continued, "Deaf people ran for the hills. So that was that. I'd be a listener only from there on in."
Loftus laughed heartily, his broad shoulders shaking.
Sweeney watched him out of the corner of his eye. His decision was made.
When they came up on the precinct, Sweeney stepped on the gas and sped right by the building.
"Where are we going?" Loftus asked with a hint of worry in his voice.
"I can't bring you back," Sweeney explained. "You deserve better."
"You don't need to do this."
Sweeney looked into Loftus' gray eyes. "Yes, I do."

After changing the sheets on his bed, Sweeney returned to the den. Loftus was browsing through his record collection. In his hands, a first-pressing edition of a Sonny Rollins record - Saxophone Colossus, with Max Roach on the drums.
"This any good?" he asked.
Sweeney smiled. "Only one way for you to find out."
He dropped the needle onto the record and waited for the first notes of St. Thomas to pour through his Warfedale towers.
The men sat on the couch, drinking Diet Cokes and listening to jazz records.
Sweeney's smile never left his face that night.
Not even when the phone rang at 3 a.m., sergeant Peters screaming his lungs out, wondering where his prisoner was.
Nothing could ruin Tom Sweeney's mood right then.


© Seb Duper 2015 - All rights reserved