Crime Short Fiction Earning By J.B. Stevens

Dark Crime Short Fiction: Earning By J.B. Stevens

J.B. Stevens lives in the southeastern United States with his wife and daughter. In addition to Mystery Tribune, he’s been published by Out of the Gutter’s Flash Fiction Offensive, Close To The Bone, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Thriller Magazine, The Means At Hand, Story and Grit, The Deadly Writers Patrol, and many others.

*****

The Knife Angel brought tourists. A hundred thousand blades surrendered and turned into a sculpture. A black hole, sucking up everything nearby. Back home in Savannah everyone had guns. Here in Britain it was knives. Same problem, different tool.

Each visitor was an opportunity. Billy made the most of it. When he left Georgia to go to Hull York Medical School his family was ecstatic. Every American mom want’s to tell the book club ladies her son’s a doctor.

He met Sarah at orientation, first day. She liked his American accent. She said he reminded her of Johnny Depp.

Billy didn’t know what Sarah found appealing. He was awkward. Girls never liked him.

They started studying together. After two months he asked her out. Her blue eyes lit up and she smiled. He was shocked when she said yes. She was out of his league. They went for fish and chips because Billy didn’t know any better.

The first three months were the best of his life. He was happy.

In the spring Sarah got her wisdom teeth out. The doctor cut a prescription for Codeine and Sarah liked it. She lost weight. Her skin went translucent.

The opiates took hold. By fall Sarah was injecting heroin.

At first he fought. Then he joined. They were in love and should be together.

Tests were failed. The University kicked them out in the spring. The day was warm and smelled like flowers.

They lived in a squat in an empty redbrick building on Midland Street. Back home someone would have turned it into lofts and made money. Here it disintegrated into nothing.

Billy’s parents thought he was still in school. They sent money. It wasn’t enough. England is an island, import costs are through the roof.

Billy’s mom kept trying to visit and he pushed her off. Billy knew he was lucky. Sarah’s parents died in a car wreck when she was sixteen. She had no one, except Billy.

Billy was only jamming people up to earn money. He didn’t like it. He needed to pay for Sarah’s rehab. If he didn’t get her in-patient treatment soon she was going to kill herself.

He’d already caught her on the corner twice, earning money her way. Billy loved Sarah. He couldn’t let her do that. Sarah promised she would stop. It broke Billy’s soul.

Billy knew it was wrong, but he didn’t have time to go back and finish Med school, get a good job, earn a salary. He needed serious money, fast, for her.

Billy usually waited outside Admiral Casino. It was half way between aquarium and the Knife Angel over at Queens Gardens.

He went to see the Angel when it first came to town. The statue was weird. He felt something, but he wasn’t sure what. The heroin coursing through his veins muted it. Sarah was dope sick that day and couldn’t come.

The sun was rising and Billy was outside the Admiral. He noticed the jacket first. It was tan cashmere and fit perfectly, custom made. Billy checked the watch, Omega, and the shoes, oxblood calf-skin. Money for sure.

The statue was weird. He felt something, but he wasn’t sure what.

Billy fell in behind.

The guy took a right on Princes Dock towards the Angel.

He could rob the guy by the roundabout and disappear into the alley-ways. The Omega made it worth the risk. The wallet was a bonus.

Billy ducked into the alleyway. It smelled liked puke and he saw a used needle. Fucking junkies. He changed to a hoody and sunglasses so the cameras couldn’t catch his face.

He caught up one street over. The guy’s dark hair was slick and he smelled like expensive cologne. He had one earphone in. Billy made out the sound of 80’s pop music… Sting.

“Hey,” Billy said. “Got a cigarette?”

The guy turned. Disgust flashed. Billy looked like an addict… but a year ago he was a medical student. The guy should show some respect.

“American?”

“Yea,” Billy said. “British?”

“Yes. I don’t smoke.”

“Maybe I could get some cash?”

Billy didn’t see any cameras and no one was around.

“Sorry. Only got plastic.”

Billy pulled the knife.

“How about you give me the wallet and watch.”

Two hands went up.

“You can have it all. No problems.”

Billy felt tired. He hoped Sarah was ok. There was no dope at home. He needed to get them some.

“What size shoe you wear?”

“Eleven.”

“Give me the shoes.”

The guy kneeled. He started untying. He took off the right, then left, and stood.

Billy shifted the knife to his off hand. As the blade passed he felt pain in his nose.

Billy saw a flash. A shoe fell. Blood flowed. The knife dropped.

The guy dove for the blade. Billy stomped. He crushed the guy’s hand. There was a scream.

“Fuck.”

The guy jerked. Billy reached down. A black silk sock smashed Billy’s face. Billy’s tooth fell into his nose-blood.

Billy shifted the knife to his off hand. As the blade passed he felt pain in his nose.

Billy leaned through and got hold of the knife’s handle. He jabbed. There was resistance, then it was smooth.

There was blood on Billy’s hand and shock on the guy’s face. He sat and looked at Billy. The smell of urine came.

Billy pulled the knife and ran. He went to the Angel. She smiled at him.

He called Sarah.

“What?”

“I just made a mistake.”

“I don’t give a shit about your fuck-ups Billy. I’m busy.”

“Doing what?”

“Earning.”

“I told you to stop. It’s my job to take care of you.”

“You don’t fucking do it.”

Billy heard a man’s. Sarah hung up.

Billy sat at the base of the Angel and tied off. The needle was warm. It was six times his normal hit, and Fentanyl was strong. Darkness crept.

He threw the knife on top of the Angel. He took a step back, he couldn’t see his blade. It blended well.

It was peaceful and rest came.

*****

Our free digital archive of flash fiction including work by J.B. Stevens is available here. Additionally, premium short fiction published by Mystery Tribune on a quarterly basis is available digitally here.

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