We're tickled crimson to announce the shortlisters from our “Long Gone” submitted stories! Read these four sneak peeks, then vote at the bottom for the one you'd most like to read to The End. (Of course, for your protection, all of these mugs have been added to The M.O.'s Rogues' Gallery for 2015.)
- “Fix Me” by S.W. Lauden
- “The Genuine Article” by K.M. Rockwood
- “Iced” by Nancy Brewka-Clark
- “Thrilled No More” by Chuck Brownman
“Fix Me” by S.W. Lauden
I can't stop pedaling. That's the thing about fixed gear bikes. If the fixie is moving, my legs are moving. Which is a good thing right now because this muscle car has been chasing me for miles. He's belching smoke and kicking up dirt just like a charging bull.
Somebody has murder on their mind.
I can feel the heat rising up from his engine every time he gains on me. It's a chilling reminder that I'm totally exposed except for a helmet, hoodie, bike bag and shorts. One wrong move away from becoming another stain on the sun-bleached streets of L.A.
And for what? I pass by that bar almost every night. It's full of day drinkers until sunset when the hipsters arrive, drawn like moths to the cheap poetry of its shabby interior. Tonight this guy sped from the parking lot without even looking. I had to swerve wide and slalom through oncoming traffic to avoid getting killed.
He was squinting to make sense of the road when I caught up to him at the red light. My legs were pumping as I blew by, kicking his passenger door without slowing down. The loud bang snapped him from his stupor and he swiveled his head in shock. His engine sputtered and growled when the light turned green. We were off to the races.
My best friend Sam died this way, run down by an angry drunk….
“The Genuine Article” by K.M. Rockwood
The old man leaned back in his chair. “No. I told you, I’m retired.”
But I could see Uncle Morry was interested. He fingered the photos I’d given him, squinting at the images of the pendant, a gold crucifix encrusted with rubies and diamonds. I’d made sure to take pictures from all angles. He got up and carried them over to the window to get a better look in the sunlight that filtered through the grimy window.
“But you can do it,” I said. “Make a credible replica.”
“Just because I can doesn’t mean I’m going to.”
“It’d be easy for you. You’ve still got all your tools and everything, don’t you? So you could make the copy. And you still know people who’d give you a good price for the original.”
He looked up at me, and his rheumy eyes had a bit of the old sparkle in them. “I’m not gonna get involved in anything that might get me locked up again. I don’t want to spend the time I have left on this earth back in a six by ten foot cell with some gangsta wannabe. And for sure I don’t want to die in a prison hospital ward.”
“Look how you’re living now.” I swept my hand around his dingy apartment. Two rooms in the back of a third floor walkup tenement whose stairwells smelled of mildew and urine. “You could afford something a lot better if we could pull this off.” …
“Iced” by Nancy Brewka-Clark
“Baby, I heard something.” The hooker squirmed even closer, shivering against the damp flesh of his back. “Evan?” She hesitated, then pulled away, leaving a cold spot at the base of his spine. “Never mind. I’ll go.”
As soon as she left the room, wrapping his maroon silk robe around her skinny body, he humped himself onto his back. He’d told her a special delivery was coming, a little holiday snow, knowing she wouldn’t be able to wait until morning to open her gift, bad girl. Whenever he treated himself to a night like this, Evan King made certain to choose the lowliest of the low, battered underage runaways or trembling addicts aged by a hundred years from their habit. That way he could savor their brilliant conversion all the more.
Lacing his fingers across his huge belly, hard as a pregnant woman’s, he waited.
There never was.
Ernesto was good.
Feeling the first hard twitch of anticipation, he knew he’d have to think of other things to cool himself down. For a guy with ice water in his veins, he was just like a little kid when it came to presents. Absently stroking the white hairs corkscrewing up from his chest, he stared at the ceiling. Faint waves of color danced across the plaster from the neon sign in the bar across the street wishing everyone HAPPY HOLIDAYS!—blink—flash—HAPPY HOLIDAYS!…
“Thrilled No More” by Chuck Brownman
The chime of the doorbell sliced through the silence like a stiletto.
Albert Coates, re-reading Ken Follett’s “Eye of the Needle” instead of grading algebra quizzes, set the book aside, puzzled. Lately, he’d had few visitors.
Wearing a thick overcoat and homburg, the stocky man looked like a character from a 1940s’ spy movie. His broad forehead and dark eyes reminded Albert of Charles Boyer, an old-time French actor. Behind him stood a taller man, solid as a side of beef.
“You are Franklin Coates’ son?” the man asked, his soft voice obscuring his accent. “I am Valentín, an indirect business associate of your late father. I may have a moment of your time?”
Albert glanced back. The house was a wreck. Since moving into Pop’s house six months ago, instead of unpacking and organizing, Albert had spent his spare time reading and watching old movies.
As Albert hesitated, Valentín moved surprisingly nimbly into the open doorway, standing inches away, his pungent cologne assaulting Albert’s nose. Albert retreated. Valentín and the larger man followed.
With the side of beef standing at the door, Valentín settled into a club chair. “I will be frank. When your father passed away, he possessed an item that belonged to me. I desire its return.”
“I … don’t know. If you’ll describe it, I’ll tell you if I’ve seen it.”
Valentín’s lips pursed as he stared into Albert’s eyes. “A small maroon notebook containing columns of numbers.”…
You can vote (just once, we know how your mind works) until midnight, April Fool's Day, and the following Friday, April 3rd, we'll announce which story's been selected!