“A Simple Mistake” by Chris Gough
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, Chris Gough takes us to the deadly aftermath of a night out in New York.
A Simple Mistake
by Chris Gough
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York
He wasn’t sure of the name—Michelle, Danielle, one of those. They’d only meet eight hours earlier. There was an oxy in the coin pocket of her jeans. The shape of aluminum wrap around it suggested there had been others. She hadn’t shared. As he held it between his fingers, he realized that he was leaving his fingerprints and DNA. It would’ve been nice of her to mention it the night before, but between the drinks and whatever else she’d been on, she must have forgotten.
She was ten years his junior at least, and younger looking since waxed there. He stepped up from his chair and pulled the duvet over her. A mother and a father had tucked her in at night, read her The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Where the Wild Things Are.
A school bus stomped its air brakes, punched its door, and three floors down and across the street the PS 84 kids howled out the doors. He rolled his hands around each wrist. The cops would be rough, each of them seeing their own daughter or niece. Seeing the worst in him.
Her clothes were scattered on the ground, her coat strewn across the chair he was sitting on. With his index finger he opened it slightly. Burberry—he hoped it had been an aspirational purchase tucked away in a credit card balance and not the coat of a rich girl with a rich daddy with an expensive lawyer wanting vengeance on the last man in the company of his daughter.
He had no business being her last or being her ever. Years younger than him. He took her purse from her bag. She’d come into the bar late with two of her friends. They’d been to see a band and gone to a club. Before they’d come in, it had been a quiet evening in the East Village. He had his eye on the clock toward an early shutdown. But their energy had woken him up. They were all a little high, but not excessively so. The slow night and its boredom had enticed him to an early cocktail, and that had led to another, and he had been a little drunk himself.
They’d loaded up the jukebox and danced in front of it, asked him his favorite tunes and oohed when he listed them by number. He’d made their drinks on the weaker side and lined up waters they hadn’t asked for. He’d been them once and wanted to be the type of veteran bartender he’d often encountered on those nights. But she’d grabbed his arm when he went for the toilet and spun herself around and toward him, pulled him by his belt buckle into her arms as she leaned back on the pool table and blew off her friends later when they’d cajoled her into leaving with them.
He’d cleaned up and counted out the cash as she sat, boots up on the bar, and told him how great the band had been and how amazing the DJ in the club was.
She’d pulled out a bag and constructed some lines from what was left of it. She’d made no mention of the soft comedown in her pocket. The coke had kept the opiate pin from her eyes that he could have spotted, but even if he had, he probably would have just asked her to share. They’d kissed across the bar, and he’d said okay when she said they should go back to his.
He’d woken up during the night to a car alarm. He groggily pieced together the night and knew she was there inside of the bed, then heard the click of the alarm being turned off. Had she been dead or alive at that moment? he wondered, lips turning blue under what was left of her kissed-off lipstick. Or between the two, heart slowing, breath shallowing? Had Daddy felt any disturbance in his sleep as his daughter drifted away?
He thought of the paramedic’s face, the first thing he’d seen when pumped with a shot of naloxone a lifetime ago in a squat a thousand miles away. Strange that he’d been safer in the company of fellow teenage junkies than she’d been in his. As the sirens pulled up outside, he reached back in her coin pocket and used a stale beer to swallow the oxy.
Her driver’s license said Princeton, New Jersey. It was Michelle Dudeck. Her mom and dad had chosen Michelle.
CHRIS GOUGH is a Los Angeles–based writer. Before Los Angeles, he was a New York bartender and the guy at HBO who chose where the skip points went on DVDs. He is currently working on a collection of short stories about these two cities.
Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Accepted submissions are typically published 6–8 months after their notification date and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to [email protected]. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Apr 11, 2016
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