The Powder Trail by Craig Wallwork

The tyre chewed up the curb.  Sedan.  Alabaster silver.  Driver control central locking.  Do enough jobs and you’re looking for an exit strategy.  If he’s some pervert who likes cutting up a lady’s face, then you need to know the door will open.  I’d have to take that risk.  I wanted out of this town.  It was a vice, crushing me every day.  My chest ached under the weight of their flesh; heart with regret.  Twelve years walking streets brings misery in shades of black and orange.  Doorways were beds, shadows the blankets.  Sodium vapour light, the bedside lamp.  Normal folk work hard and get promotions, mileage allowance, bonuses.  I gained chronic pelvic pain, bruises, concussions, abortions.  Fuck this place. 

   The window rolled down.  Coffee skin and hair gel.  Eyes embers in a dying heat.  He wanted to take me to someplace quiet.  Offered me the money straight up.  We drove and spoke in consonants.  The vowels would come later.  Doors remained unlocked.  Off the main highway.  Skeletal trees sliced the moon into a mosaic.  Came to a clearing, engine died.  Two headlamps flashed beyond the window screen, piercing the pastel shades of an indigo night.  The client handed me a briefcase.  I told him I wasn’t into anything kinky.  I looked over to the other car.  “Gangbangs are extra, honey.”  He told me to take the briefcase to the car.  It was an exchange.  Nothing more.  There was an extra fifty in it for me.

   A smudge on the landscape, the other man left his car and walked toward me.  Briefcase rattling in hand, teeth playing out like castanets.  In his hand was another briefcase.  Sure, an exchange.  That’s all it was.      

   The sound cracked a hole in the night.  Through the fracture I heard a man cry out behind me.  Turned back and saw the client lay on his back.  Ran over and knelt before him.  He was looking to the sky, eyes sprinkled with the reflection of stars.  Jaw opened like a faulty glove compartment, a rack of perfect teeth stained red.  “Take this,” he said.  His nicotine fingers gripped a snubnose.  The other man was walking toward me.  Gun in hand, a miasma of smoke ascended from the barrel.  The client’s words were breath.  “Light the powder trail.”  

   Blood looks like molasses in the dark. 

   Heard the trigger being cocked.  Anticipated the bullet cleaving my skull.  It was a way out, that’s for sure.  The wind brought the smell of cigars and porno theatres.  The sonic boom of a bullet closed my eyes.  Opened them to see my hand shaking, the sliver snubnose pointing to the man, cheek bore out.  A candle wax trail of blood leaking from the hole. 

   Found the car keys.  Turned the ignition.  Adjusted the mirror.  Two bodies in the clearing.  Two briefcases on the back seat.  One chance to make a fresh start.  Fuck this place.  

*

Craig Wallwork lives in West Yorkshire, England. His short stories have appeared in many journals, magazines and anthologies both in the UK and US. The short story collection, Quintessence of Dust, will be released in 2012 along with his novel, To Die Upon a Kiss. You can follow his progress at www.craigwallwork.blogspot.com

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