“Incident on the 405” by Travis Richardson: Special Excerpt

The Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble, a digital short fiction anthology“Incident on the 405” by Travis Richardson appears here in its entirety. It's been nominated for both the Macavity Award and Anthony Award for Best Short Story, and is joined by 13 other short crime stories in Criminal Element's e-collection, The Malfeasance Occasional's Girl Trouble issue.





Jessica Tan eased the Rolls Royce onto the 405 onramp from Santa Monica Boulevard and instantly regretted it. Her smart phone had showed yellow, medium traffic, but what she encountered was a barely crawling red. How smart was that?

She looked at the time: 4:42 p.m. She needed to have this polished British export up to Clive Winterborne’s mansion on Mulholland by five, or he’d blow up… again. That horndog was either making creepy advances at her or was pissed off and screaming. It wasn’t like it was her fault that Julio, the only person Clive designated to touch his prize possession at Tidal Wave Car Wash, was on lunch break when she arrived in the Silver Ghost. And now, this gridlock.

Jessica hoped to be the first assistant in years to last more than six months. If she could do that, she could easily find a better job with a reputation as the assistant who managed the devil himself, and perhaps cut a path to being a producer. But with only two months to go, she was beginning to doubt if she would last that long.

•   •   •

Sadie Bitterman bit her lip hard to keep tears out of her eyes. She could taste the blood. Was this the lowest low? The depths kept sinking deeper. Even now, after straightening out her life, it all flew back in her face. Splat. She wasn’t a criminal. Not anymore. She was doing her best to keep a job, but this fucking traffic, she’d be late again. And what would she tell Walter, the teenage shift manager? Sorry Walt, I had to go to court today in Torrance…. Child custody…. No, I didn’t win. Thanks for asking. She’d have a lot to talk about at her Narcotics Anonymous meeting on Monday.

She fingered a plastic bag on the passenger seat. Gifts ungiven. A Hulk shirt for Tyler and a pocketknife for Edgar. Security hadn’t let her bring the bag inside the court because of the knife. It was small, a two-inch blade at best. How much damage could anybody do with that? She knew the answer was a lot. She’d seen fellow prisoners sliced with shards of glass or shivs made from broken plastic bottles. But a ten-year-old boy wouldn’t know, and didn’t they all carry knives? Her brother had. What was the big deal?

Sweat ran down her face; the Oldsmobile’s A/C was busted. She was feeling it, the buzz. An urge to pull off this eight-lane parking lot and find Parker. He’d lived in Venice the last time she’d bought from him. The man had the magic powder that made things better; things that methadone could not cure. She inhaled and exhaled. Just make it up to the Valley. NA’s motto was “one day at a time,” but right now she was taking it one minute at a time.

•   •   •

“Yes, sir… I know. I’m driving as fast the traffic will let me…. It’s not my fault.” Jessica heard her voice crack and hated herself. Clive hung up on her. How could anybody endure this asshole? She hadn’t gone to Berkeley for this. Fuck him and his antique show car. It was so ridiculous to drive in America with the steering wheel on the right side. She saw a gap opening to her left and steered the Rolls into it.

•   •   •

Sadie was chanting a sobriety mantra when she saw traffic had moved a little. She had just hit the accelerator when a fancy ancient car pulled in front of her. She slammed on the brakes and laid into the horn. Fuck this rich guy. Who did he think he was? Men with their penis extensions, compensating for their inadequacies. Men who prey on the weak, taking advantage of the innocent. She was surprised when a lady’s arm reached out of the passenger side window with a middle finger pointed straight into the air.

Uh-uh. This was not the day for anybody to fuck with her. She’d already been screwed once today. Some know-it-all judge who probably collected useless cars, too. He didn’t even listen to her when she pleaded for her kids back. She was off the H. She had a job and was looking for an apartment. She eased the Olds as close to the Rolls as she could. Just flip me off again, bitch, she thought.

•   •   •

Jessica looked in her rearview mirror. Some crazy white trash bitch in a clunker was riding her ass. Just what she needed.

It was 4:50. No way she’d make it in time. He’d sent her on a fool’s errand. Clive needed a reason to rant and rave. A screamer, they’d warned her. But the production company he ran had had a string of hits until this year: a couple of hundred-million-dollar flops and this latest film, premiering tonight, based on the board game Yahtzee, was a genuine stinker. He’d definitely take this failure out on her.

Her phone rang. It was Clive again. As she tapped the talk button on her Bluetooth, the car ahead of her stopped suddenly. Jessica stomped on the brakes and then heard a crash behind her as the Rolls lurched forward.

“Shit!” Jessica screamed.

“What happened?” Clive shouted over the phone.

“I don’t know. Somebody rear-ended me.”

“What the… that is a priceless antique. You… you’re fired.”

“I didn’t hit anybody.”

“If you had been here earlier… I’ll make you pay for—”

Jessica hung up. Great, now she didn’t have a job, all because of some idiot.

•   •   •

Sadie shoved the knife in her back pocket and was out of her car, fists clenched. She ignored the honking cars behind her and focused on the expensive car. She saw the passenger, a small Asian chick, aka the bird flipper, get out and check the rear of it. Where was the driver? Then she saw the steering wheel on the right side. What the hell?

•   •   •

The steel bumper was dented, but the paint on the body was untouched. Jessica sighed. If she hadn’t left her own car at Clive’s house, she’d just leave the Rolls in the middle of the 405 and walk home. Or maybe catch a bus if she could figure out how that worked. Her phone rang, but she ignored it. Fuck Clive.

The loser woman strode to the front of her piece of crap car, hands balled like the bell had rung in a tough man contest. The Oldsmobile’s plastic grill was smashed in and cracked.

 “You’re going to pay for this,” she said to Jessica, hands on her hips, trying to stare her down. She was tall, almost a foot taller than Jessica’s five-two.

Jessica noticed small blue tattoos on her hands, and then, the coldness of her green eyes. Hard and desperate. Was she a crackhead?

“I hope you have insurance, because you just hit Clive Winterborne’s extremely rare and priceless 1924 Silver Ghost, lady,” Jessica said.

•   •   •

Sadie shook. She was so screwed. Of course she didn’t have insurance. How could she afford it with her minimum wage job? She was still saving up to get first and last month’s rent for an apartment. If anything, she should have home insurance, since she slept in the car. She felt her hand slide to her back pocket, towards the knife, but stopped herself from pulling it out. Don’t give in to impulses. Sally, her sponsor, would be proud.

 “You won’t believe this,” the Asian chick said. “I got rear ended by an uninsured crazy bitch.”

It took Sadie a second to realize that she wasn’t talking to her, but into that annoying earpiece that a-holes wore in the grocery store, looking as if they were having conversations with their multiple personalities. That Asian chick thought she was crazy. Ha, she’d show that bitch what crazy was.

•   •   •

“It’s not my fault,” Jessica pleaded into the earpiece as she endured a tirade of profanities in her right ear. “What the hell?” she said as she watched the undoubtedly high woman smash the brake light of the Rolls with the heel of her sandal. “Hey, cun—”

•   •   •

“What happened?!” Clive screamed into the phone, but all he heard was a loud grunt. “Jessica, Jessica! What happened? Answer me, you idiot!” Not his Silver Ghost. Why did he trust her or anybody else to drive it? That frigid bitch was so fired.

•   •   •

It took Jessica almost a full minute to answer Clive after she crumpled to her knees, watching the Rolls head up the 405 through the gap their stopped cars had created. She was out of breath, because the wind had been knocked out of her when that piece of white trash sucker-punched her and jumped in Clive’s car. But looking down, it was worse. She was bleeding. “Clive…” she said, with tears welling. She heard static. The phone was in the car, and the Bluetooth signal was getting fainter. “I’ve been stabbed.”

•   •   •

Clive stood fuming in his tuxedo. He looked at his Ulysse Nardin watch. He had hoped to fire that little Chinese twat in person when she finally got her skinny ass up here, but God knew when she’d finally make it now. Even if she had sex with him on his desk, it was too late. You can make some mistakes and get by, but you don’t mess with the Silver Ghost.

He didn’t need this. Not tonight. But he had prepared for such a disaster and already had a limo waiting. He’d ordered it days earlier without telling Jessica. If she were worth her salary, she would have found a way to get the Ghost to him without a scratch.

He tapped a number on his phone. “This is Clive Winterborne. Have my car here in ten minutes. I’ll leave the gate open.”

•   •   •

Sadie drove the Rolls, steering the oversized boat and mashing gears with its weird clutch through traffic towards to the nearest exit. At least her uncle, may he rot in hell, had taught her to drive stick. She couldn’t believe what she’d done. But when that little woman, thinking she was all-superior, called her a crazy bitch, something snapped. She went reptilian, pure instinct. The blade was between her knuckles, the hilt in her palm. Just like a shivved spoon in prison. It happened so quickly that she couldn’t stop herself. She was destined for the slammer again.

Maybe that was where she belonged. Her kids might graduate from high school before she got out now. She felt the buzz inside, the urge to get high, but she swallowed the thought. Stay away from Parker. Stay sober.

With a bloody hand on the wheel, she reached for the glove box with her left. One thing was certain, she couldn’t run for long in this weird old car. Insane rich people putting steering wheels wherever they want. She knew she needed to ditch it, but then what? Hitchhike? Nobody picked up hitchhikers anymore. She found a garage remote and registration in the glove box. Perhaps she could drive to that bitch’s house and take another car. A more modern one. Maybe swipe some jewelry too.

A jolt of panic hit Sadie when she realized that the Highway Patrol would find out who she was in a matter of minutes. Even though her own car wasn’t registered to her—she had bought it for $300 cash, no questions asked—there was that legal paperwork forbidding her to visit her sons. It sat wadded in the Oldsmobile’s front seat next to the Hulk shirt. Tyler’s gift.

“Shit!” she yelled hitting the steering wheel.

She couldn’t do anything right for her boys. But if she were ever going to see them again, she had to get away. Her mind flew, calculating. She needed a different car, some cash, and enough time to make it to Venice, her former stomping grounds. That was old Sadie, the one who had served three years for robbery, because her addiction compelled her to get money by any means. She had vowed to stay away from there, from Parker, from her old friends and old nasty habits.

But that was before today, before five minutes ago. Smack users from her past might take her in and hide her for a while. Maybe she could eventually escape to Mexico and take her kids with her—after she found out where the foster program hid them. She squeezed her eyes shut knowing this was an addict’s hope. Unbelievable, unrealistic. But she had to believe she’d make it out of this mess. She must.

•   •   •

Jessica didn’t know how or why, but she was behind the wheel of this filthy, smelly Oldsmobile. Of course she was making it even more gunky with her sticky blood on the steering wheel and seat. She knew she should have stayed on the freeway and waved for help or turned the car towards the UCLA Medical Center. But she was pissed.

The sharp, uninterrupted pain from the stab wound pushed her forward. If an intestine were perforated, toxic fluid might poison her body, but it seemed the blade was not long, probably a pocketknife, and her Pilates-tough ab muscles had taken brunt of the metal. If the knife was as clean as this car…. She tried to remember when she had her last tetanus shot. She compressed a child-sized Incredible Hulk shirt against the wound. Why do only idiots breed?

She could have made a decent doctor, but one year of med school and too many asshole classmates had made her decide to move to Hollywood instead. Of course she had jumped from the pot into the fire. And it hadn’t been popular with the family, but she had wanted to do things her way. Now, defying logic again, Jessica followed that silver speck of a half-million-dollar automobile in the distance, puttering in traffic at five miles an hour. She would find the woman and bring her to justice.

She watched in surprise as the Rolls took the Skirball exit. Where was this crazy bitch going?

•   •   •

Sadie took the exit up Skirball Center Drive towards Mulholland Drive. The registration address was on Mulholland, but she had to make a decision: left or right? As a girl growing up in the San Fernando Valley, she had dreamed of owning a mansion on the famous drive that, to her, gave a total view of the world. Now she had the garage door opener to one of these palaces. She would finally be in one, if only for a moment. Just long enough to grab keys and snatch some valuables. She made a right, heading east. That’s where she would want her house to be.

•   •   •

Clive was shocked to see the Silver Ghost pull into his circular driveway and head to the garage. Didn’t Jessica fill out a report with the Highway Patrol? There had to be an official report so he could file insurance for the damage. He stormed out the front door, eying the back of his beloved car. A yelp escaped his lips in spite of himself. It wasn’t bad, not as bad as he had envisioned, but still the tail lamp was broken and the metal bumper dented. He was going to give Jessica all holy hell. He ran over to the driver’s door and flung it open. He stepped back in shock as a tall, thin woman he had never seen before shot out of the seat and shoved a bloody pocketknife to his throat.

“Make one stupid move, and I’ll slice your neck open.”

•   •   •

It almost made Sadie laugh. A grown man in a tuxedo pissing himself, literally. He mumbled words like take anything you want, please, I don’t want to die, and all that pathetic sentimental shit. He wasn’t going to… oh, yes, he was crying. Tears streamed down as fast as his urine. She had only had a few seconds to take in this amazing Mediterranean-style mansion with landscaped gardens before the crybaby millionaire had opened the car door. It looked like heaven as best a man could build it.

She guessed this whimpering fool was the little Asian woman’s man. He was considerably older, short, and pasty. He probably worked at home, making bank in fraudulent investment schemes on the internet. He probably made more in an hour than she would make in a year.

“Let’s go inside,” she said through gritted teeth. Hopefully there would be some rope to tie up this blubbering fool. Then she could find another less pretentious car and split.

They started to shuffle up the walkway when she heard another car. She turned to see a stretch limo easing down the drive. She pressed the knife to his stomach.

“Who is that?”

“It’s… it’s my ride.”

 “Send them…” Sadie started to say and then hesitated. “Where is it taking you?”

“Graumann’s Chinese Theatre for… my premiere.”

Sadie calculated as fast as she could. A movie guy, of course. The car came to a stop, and the driver jumped out, running to the passenger door. Another witness. But she had never been inside a limo… and she had never been to a movie premiere. Just life living in crappy apartments, crack houses, and prison. She knew she needed to escape Los Angeles, wait for this fucked up situation to blow over, and then come back and get her boys back. But a voice, that internal demon that seemed to guide her life more than sane logic, asked when had anything nice ever happen to her. Her entire life had been shitty. If anything, she could ride in luxury with pissypants to Hollywood and then jack another car there.

“Can you get me into the premiere?”

“Sssure,” the movie man said. The lie was transparent, but Sadie was willing to swallow it for the moment.

“Tell the driver to get back in the car. We can close our own door.”

•   •   •

As Jessica drove to Clive’s house, the pain in her belly grew. She saw a limo leaving from his gated drive. Maybe the psycho bitch didn’t go to his place. Anyhow, it looked like her boss was going to make it to the premiere on time. She felt a moment of relief, but then confusion. How did he get a limo so quickly? It wasn’t like there were fleets with drivers ready to go on a moments notice on a Thursday.

She put in the code to the gate and was surprised to see the Rolls Royce in the drive. That didn’t make any sense at all. Hopefully her phone was still in it.

As she parked, she noticed a crumpled piece of paper on the passenger seat with her blood on it. She opened it. So the psycho wasn’t allowed to see her kids. That was a good thing. Jessica was going to take Sadie Bitterman down.

She pushed herself out of the wretched, reeking Olds. Standing felt like fifty knives stabbed her stomach. She walked over to the British import, the door was open. Looking on the seat, she saw her purse turned over, wallet open and stripped of cash. Her phone was on the floor. Jessica reached for it, feeling burning pain. She dialed nine-one, but her finger hovered over the last digit.

She needed medical attention. The yellow Hulk T-shirt had turned red. But things weren’t making sense. The limo leaving, the Rolls in the driveway. Was Clive in the house? She wanted to go inside and find out what was happening. She could treat the wound in there. Besides, Clive would hate to have an ambulance drive up to his house with all his neighbors watching. It would be a display of weakness. Although Jessica was short, she was not weak. She would rather die than give her a-hole boss the satisfaction of believing that lie. She pocketed her phone and staggered into the house.

“Hello,” she shouted. Deathly silence.

She shuffled over to Clive’s office adjacent to the marble-floored living room that was larger that her apartment. He had a restroom in the office and hopefully some hydrogen peroxide. She did not want to go into the creep’s bedroom if she could help it.

As she passed his desk towards the bathroom, she noticed an envelope with her name on it and hesitated. She needed to clean up. She needed to call the police and an ambulance. But what had he left for her?

She opened it and her eyes began to water. It all made sense now. She had been set up to fail. She wouldn’t have sex with him so he needed an excuse. That lowdown, ungrateful, son of a…

•   •   •

“I can have the best lawyers in the world work with you to get you out of this mess. Plus, I can give you all the money you’d ever want if you just let me go.”

He was shaking and sweating, lying his ass off faster than a speed freak. Sadie wished she had a larger knife so that she could cut out his tongue. She felt the buzz again and swallowed the urge to shoot up. She needed to stay focused. They were stuck in traffic inching down Laurel Canyon.

She held the knife under his jacket and pushed it into his flab as they sat in the rear seat of the limo, Sadie next to the door. The damned thing wouldn’t penetrate anything but blubber, it was so small, but that idiot didn’t know better. He stank of pee, and she wanted to pour some of the liquor from the wet bar on his lap just to take the edge off. She still hadn’t figured a way out yet, and this motormouth was wrecking her concentration.

“Hold it. So you’re saying you’d give me a million dollars right now if I let you go,” she said.


“You’re full of shit.” 

Before Clive could protest, his phone rang. The ring tone was familiar. Bum-bum-bum. Bum-bum-bum. What was it? Three blind mice, three blind mice. That was it. He started to reach for it, but then looked at his captor for guidance.

“Who is it?” she asked.

“Jessica. My assistant. She was my assistant. It’s her ring tone.”

“Is she Asian?”

He nodded.

“Give me that phone.”

He handed it to her, and she thought about throwing it out the window, but answered it instead. “Are you the bitch that got me into this mess?” she shouted.

There was a gasp over the line and a moment of silence. “Are you the bitch who stabbed me on the effin’ four-oh-five?” Jessica responded.

“Hey, you got off easy. I could have twisted and slashed or stabbed you a dozen times like they do in the pen.”

“Uh-huh,” Jessica said over the line. “So do you have my low-life asshole boss with you, or did you steal his phone like you stole my money?”

“He’s here with me. What would you like me to do with him?” Sadie said, sensing that the Asian bitch had no love for this man.

“Stab him the way you stabbed me, but do it a hundred times.”

Sadie laughed. Did she have an ally? He must be a major fuckhead if the woman she stabbed wanted her to do worse to her boss. Clive looked over angrily, and Sadie pushed the knife into him a fraction of an inch, causing him to yelp.

“There’s one of the hundred.”

“Great. Let me talk to him. If he yells at me, give him another stab.”


She handed the phone to Clive. Shaking, he put the phone to his ear.

“So you fired me, jackass,” Jessica’s voice came over the line loud enough for Sadie to hear.

“You were late,” Clive said.

“I might’ve been there on time if I wasn’t stabbed on the dammed freeway. But you never intended for me to make it to your house on time in the first place. You sent me on a fool’s errand, knowing I would fail, so you could fire me because I wouldn’t have sex with you. Isn’t that true?”

“For God’s sake, call the cops, Jessica. I’m being kidnapped! Ouch!”

Sadie drew blood on the second stab. One hundred times. Sadie thought about it. Powerful men and their abusive ways. Did they ever get the punishment they deserved, ever? No. And because of that they kept abusing, debasing, and destroying. Looking at Clive’s clammy, ashen face, she saw her uncle with his large, rough hands, those boyfriends who had beaten and humiliated her, the dealers who whored her out in trade for their smack, the cops tasing her after she was handcuffed, and today, that asshole judge taking her children away from her.

She wanted revenge. She wanted to slice that dickhead’s throat and watch him bleed out. But then he’d only die and she’d be guilty of murder. No, that wouldn’t do. He needed to live, but bear the scars of shame like she bore. What could she do to humiliate this bastard? A warm feeling rose inside of her. She should do it not only for herself, but for that angry Asian chick and all the other women in future who he would undoubtedly try to screw over. A good turn, pay it forward, and all that hippie crap the helps the soul. But what? Then inspiration struck as she remembered a scene from a novel she read in prison.

•   •   •

In the house, Jessica shook, feeling faint. She really needed a doctor. Like ten minutes ago.

“Let me talk to her,” she said. She heard the phone rustle for a second.

“Hello,” Sadie said.

“I have to call the paramedics before I bleed out. Do you have a plan?”

“None at all.”

“Are you guys still heading to the Graumann’s Chinese?”

There was a pause before Sadie said: “For the moment.”

Jessica flattened out the crumpled paper she had found in the Oldsmobile.

“Listen to me. I have your paperwork, Sadie Bitterman. The judgment about your children.” There was a moment of silence. Jessica decided to continue. “I can identify you, but…”

“But what? They’ll find out who I am eventually.”

“But I’ll give you time to run. Maybe find your children. There’s a Metro station at Hollywood and Highland. When the limo lines up for the red carpet, it will take half an hour at least. Jump out and run for it. You’re on your own from there. But promise me one thing.”

“What’s that?”

“Promise me that somehow Clive Winterborne won’t be able walk the red carpet tonight.”

•   •   •

Sadie looked at Clive, pale and shaking. What kind of monster was he?

“I’m not one who usually questions a favor, but what did that son of a bitch do?” she asked over the phone.

“He’s sleaze. He’s been hitting on me and throwing tantrums. Since I haven’t had sex with him, he’s firing me. Of course, if I had, he would have fired me anyway. He uses people and throws them away. He’s awful.”

Sadie felt a lump in her throat. That was her life. Getting screwed and used by slime like him. It started with Uncle Carl when she was five and then the unending line of predators who followed. She knew what to do to him. “Consider it done.”

She hung up the phone and reached towards the wet bar. Anger spread inside her like fire on gasoline. That reptilian part of her brain was activated again.

“Now listen here—” Clive started to say, but was cut off when the champagne bottle Sadie had grabbed connected to his temple. He was out cold.

•   •   •

Jessica called 911 and then crawled into the bathroom where she hid her dismissal letter and Sadie’s court papers, wedging them behind the toilet. There was no peroxide or first aid kit in the bathroom either. She crawled back to the office when a wave of blackness overtook her and she shut her eyes, floating into the dark.

•   •   •

When Clive’s limo pulled up to the red carpet, only half of the photographers fixed their lenses on the door. It was only a producer, not a star. Those lucky ones got the shots of Clive Winterborne, unconscious and naked, hogtied with his own belt and propped up on his knees with the words “I ABUSE WOMEN” written in red lipstick across his chest. The driver, recovering from his shock, shut the door a couple of seconds later. Within minutes, pictures of Clive circulated throughout the internet.

Jessica opened her eyes slowly. Everything hurt. Florescent light stung her eyes. She turned to see the needles connected to tubes in her arm and a police officer standing over her. He was tall, kind of cute. Then she noticed she was wearing a paper smock under blankets in a hospital bed. Oh God, she thought, I must look horrible.

“Ms. Tan?” the man asked.

“Yes,” she croaked. Her throat was desert dry.

“Do you know the woman who stabbed you?”

Jessica blinked, and then shook her head. She needed to only remember the things that happened on the 405. “Never saw her before. Did you catch her?”

The officer shook his head. “But don’t worry. We will.” He pulled a small notebook from his pocket. “Can you tell me what happened yesterday?”

She gave him all the details until she stumbled into Sadie’s car and started driving. He looked at her with an open expression like he wanted more. “I don’t remember anything after that. At least so far.”

The officer nodded thoughtfully and handed her his card. “If you remember anything else, give me a call.”

She held his card. Officer Dan Trumble with his phone number and LAPD badge number. He nodded and left. Would he find out Clive fired her? That she consorted with the woman who stabbed her?

The door opened, and Debbie from the production office walked in, her heels clacking on the tile.

“Oh my gawd, darling. How are you doing?”

“I hurt, all over.”

“Oh honey, I’m so happy you’re alive. Did the officer tell you about Clive?”

Jessica sat up. Her stomach screamed. “No, what happened?”

Debbie told her how Clive’s notorious entrance marred the premiere. “The driver said he ignored all the noises he heard because Clive has a reputation for doing weird things in the back of limos. He’s always been a pervy creep, but now a bunch of women are talking to the media about how he screwed them over. Corporate canned his ass this morning, thank God.”

“He’s gone?”

“Nobody wants to touch him. You stay away from him. He’s toxic.”

Jessica nodded, her thoughts swimming slowly. She was probably pumped full of Demerol. He had it coming. He deserved this humiliation, right?

“Hey,” Debbie said touching Jessica’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. We’re keeping you, and you’ve been promoted to associate producer. There is always a silver lining, right?”

Jessica heard the word “Really?” escape her lips.

•   •   •

“Mommy, when are we getting ice cream?”

“After we pick up your brother, Tyler.”


“No, your real brother, baby doll. Edgar. Not that fake family. Now just hush for a moment.”

Sadie looked at her watch and then stared at the school doors waiting for them to open any minute. They sat in a Toyota Corolla, which she had jacked from a Ralph’s in Studio City that morning before exchanging the license plates with another Corolla beside a beauty parlor in Van Nuys. She hoped it would buy her a day or two. The tricks you learn in prison.

She had picked up Tyler from kindergarten at noon, grabbing him at recess before the teachers could react. Now she watched while several parents, mostly rich bitches, stood by their expensive cars, chatting at each other like idiots.

A bell from inside rang, and the front doors flew open a few seconds later with children rushing out like water from a faucet. Sadie strained to find her son among the sea of kids wearing the same blue knit shirts. Then she spotted Edgar walking with another boy. He had a backpack slung over his back on one shoulder. Sadie felt her heart tug, her baby was becoming a man.

“Edgar!” she shouted.

He did a double take, looking at her and squinting. He then looked over to a woman standing by a Mercedes with a couple of other women. That lady had her eyes fixed on Sadie with her jaw hanging open.

“Come on, son,” Sadie yelled. “Hurry.”

Edgar took a hesitant step towards the foster mom and then turned, sprinting toward the Corolla. He hopped in the front seat and Sadie gave him a bear hug, before tearing down the road towards the 110. She hoped that by tomorrow her family would cross over into Mexico.

That was the dream Sadie chased. So vivid, so real, so perfect. She achieved it the only way she could, on Parker’s couch. Her arm was still tied off and the needle lay beside her, the plunger already pushed through, its contents coursing through her veins and her mind.

Copyright © 2013 by Travis Richardson


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Travis Richardson was born in Germany, raised in Oklahoma, and lives in Los Angeles. His novella “Lost in Clover” was listed in Spinetingler Magazine’s Best Crime Fiction of 2012. He's had stories published at All Due Respect, Shotgun Honey, and Powder Flash Burns and the anthology Scoundrels: Tales of Greed, Murder and Financial Crimes. He also shoots short movies, reviews on Chekhov Shorts, and posts at Writing Wranglers and Warriors. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

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