Streets all night: he gave thanks for imperfect haloes. Crime turns a shining light on the human heart, a tale tells itself.

He sighed: Very well.

He stayed in. Drew blank faces. Precincts he didn’t know corresponded. Fat chance. He ran out of secretaries and legal pads years ago.

 

Door knocked its knock. Was a yes this time. He wondered how—unless!

 

Jig stayed down. A private fatal reservoir.

“Not dying of thirst, is he.”

“We’re all what toes are for—tag it and bag it.”

 

Pundit: “Acts of violence answer a foolish pride—an emotional telegraph, if you will—that stays quiet within men who look uncooperative, and cost plenty for law-abiding society.”

Rebuttal: “Where’d I leave my pen?”

 

Her premonition glint outsmarted other hard-luck women of German descent. Secret pictures kept it going.

“You’re a light touch—how about slipping me over?”

“Can the mush, angel. Where were you on the night of—?”

“I remember all too well. That is why I cannot say.”

“Spill it—why not?”

“His duende: the valor of a Spanish matador. . . with a mallard’s conspicuousness.”

“Miss, thoughtful pauses won’t prevail here.”

 

Tailing bum stutterers, chain-smoking fedoras. Not much of a knockout.

“A violent person’s all right with me if he don’t get excited.”

Ways of managing how he would like it with her.

 

Mystic consultation: “A chess player’s interior life.”

He groaned: “Next?”

“No no, the killer will come to you—he wants to be caught under a famous waterfall.”

 

“Shipping yard’s where it’ll go down—the fog!”

“Sh!”

“Hear that?”

Both kneecaps shot.

“Damn he’s good!”

“That must be the signal!”

 

A label waited for. But the ice was worth more than the drinks.

She wilted: “Is this glass what I’m made of?”

“Yeah—unless I’m you.”

 

“I’ll get right to it: backroom is such a dishonest way of saying this.”

Her harsh sob.

He thought: She’s almost funny.

She closed in on the truth of blackmail.

He levelled with her: “The person you don’t tend to be makes a world of difference.”

 

Floodlights for Christmas and other holidays honoring the Chinese zodiac: one for the Cat, one for the Mouse.

 

The running for of lives.

“The key’s on the floor!”

“Aren’t you killing him?”

“No—but so close!”

“Liar!”

“Wait a minute—we had a deal not to hurry!”

 

“Good kid, I liked him—especially with the gat in my hand.”

“Not very nice, are you?”

“Can’t be helped, angel. Black is the life of a man’s dreams, and they ain’t worth the stinking nostalgia of murder.”

“Oh I agree completely—”

Regret: dying with his trap shut.

“Now the whole pavement belongs to your kind of kindness, darling.”

 

Or this used to be the story of how heaven and hell did a stretch for some lousy rotten fink.

 

His obit: short on accomplishments, though there were other leads.

Place seemed respectable now. There were assurances of looking into it.

####

Forrest Roth teaches English at Marshall University in West Virginia. His novella “Line and Pause” is available from BlazeVOX Books, and a prose poem chapbook, “The Sullen Pages,” was published by Little Red Leaves. His work has also appeared in NOON, Denver Quarterly, Juked, Caketrain, Sleepingfish, NANO Fiction, The Collagist, and other journals.