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News & Features » August 2015 » “Charon” by Paul Renault

“Charon” by Paul Renault

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, Paul Renault has a close encounter in a parking garage in Charlottesville, Virginia.

PRCharon
by Paul Renault
Charlottesville, Virginia

This happened at the Market Street garage. Fridays after five I was always slammed. This Friday I had time between cars to catch the news on channel 29, which wasn’t meant to be a comedy of errors, but that’s what you get when you hire a bunch of twelve-year-olds to go out and cover a story. The reception, at least, was good; the NBC building was across the street behind me. The little TV didn’t block the window, so I saw the Mustang coming down the ramp. Something about it made me hop off the stool.

The man driving swerved to miss the reinforced concrete post at the corner of my booth and slammed on the brakes. The car nosed down and rebounded, then pulled up on my left-hand side. I pushed the sliding window open and looked down at him. He had a bottle of Budweiser in a cupholder and a girl’s bare legs on the seat beside him. He wore a silk shirt open at the collar to show off a gold cross and a hairless chest. The heat and humidity poured into the booth, and I was sweating again. The AC couldn’t keep up.

The guy said, “You going to let us out of here, or what?”

“Where’s your ticket?”

“What ticket?”

“To come in here, you had to take a ticket. It tells me how long you’ve been here. If you lost your ticket, I’ll have to charge you for the whole day.”

“Hang on.”

I smelled exhaust, cologne, and beer. I looked at the legs on the seat beside him. I wasn’t going to duck to have a better look at the girl. More cars lined up behind the Mustang while the man searched for his ticket. I wondered how drunk he was. I looked around for cops. They came through all the time—the station was next door. But right now there weren’t any cops. I rested my hand on the phone, but more and more cars lined up. They wanted out, and it was my job to help them.

“I can’t find the ticket,” the man said. “But I got here a half hour ago. I’m not paying for all day.”

“It’s cheaper than a parking ticket.”

“You can do that?”

“If I have to.”

Someone behind him honked. It was a white Toyota pickup truck. The driver looked like a mujahid, and he was glaring at me. I knew this could get ugly.

The man in the Mustang rummaged through the papers and CDs in the console. He checked the ashtray again. I looked at the beer and licked my lips. I tried not to think of the mujahid. I reminded myself that drunk drivers killed more Americans in three or four months than died at the hands of skyjackers on 9/11, and that this had been going on for decades. No one was going to stop them. Certainly not me. I’d just be another fatal hit-and-run.

But I picked up the phone anyway. I was going to call the cops—I had to get him out of here fast. The mujahid had opened his door. He got out with something in his hand. He was heading this way.

Then the man in the Mustang flipped his visor down, and the ticket dropped into his lap. He handed it to me.

“So what’s the damage?”

I told him, and he laughed.

“Is that all?” he said. “You know what they’re charging in DC?” He handed me a five. The mujahid had got back in his truck. I hit total, the gate went up, and the Mustang jumped the gun. The man wasn’t waiting for his change. But my hands were shaking so badly I almost didn’t make it. Of course I didn’t get his license plate.

The mujahid pulled up in his white Toyota, at eye level, the back of his ticket stamped by that restaurant in the old hardware store that serves beer in glasses so tall and thin you have to keep them on the floor beside the table—people made a show of drinking there. The man had no accent, and up close he didn’t look or smell like any mujahid I’d ever seen.

“What was the holdup?” he asked.

“Nothing.”

I let him go, and I looked at the change on the counter. It wasn’t much—just enough for a forty of Colt 45 for the walk home. I wasn’t getting out of there until after one a.m. By then, the streets would be empty. It’s the only time I ever feel safe.

***

PAUL RENAULT’s credits include “Bush Meat” in the British science magazine Nature and “The Last Stud,” “Idle Hands and the Devil You Know,” “Take Two,” and “The Christening” in Akashic’s Mondays Are Murder.

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Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:

—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.
—E-mail your submission [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Aug 24, 2015

Category: Mondays Are Murder | Tags: , , , , , , , ,



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