“Heavy Debt” by Craig Faustus Buck
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, Craig Faustus Buck takes handling money quite literally in the Federated States of Micronesia.
Jack MacHugo took a swig of Hammerhead Amber and said, “You’ll pay me and you’ll fucking like it, even if you have to sell off your precious . . .” He choked as his beer went down the wrong pipe, but Stan Mulalap knew J-Mack was about to say piss hole, the term he always used for the island’s ancient doughnut-shaped stone money. The worthless sot always repeats himself, thought Mulalap. Like a parrot with Alzheimer’s.
Mulalap spat a red slug of betel nut over the Manta Bar’s railing into the lagoon and watched a mandarinfish rise to investigate. Then he sprinkled some powdered lime on a fresh chaw and folded it inside a pepper leaf as J-Mack struggled for breath, his face turning the color of his greasy red hair. The expat was almost a foot taller than the barrel-chested Mulalap, and probably twenty pounds heavier. But Mulalap knew, if push came to shove, he could snap J-Mack in half. Before joining the Yap Police, Mulalap had earned his keep toting scuba gear for the tourists who came for the manta rays. He’d carried three or four heavy dive bags at a time. He doubted J-Mack could handle two.
The American finally stopped coughing.
“We are proud of our history,” said Mulalap, sticking the betel packet in his mouth. “Yap has an ancient culture.”
“A culture of ignorance. You Yaps have a fucking caste system, for Christ’s sake. Your women go topless and don’t even know they’re flogging their tits. And those piss holes you call money were designed by morons.”
Mulalap felt his hand tense as he imagined grabbing J-Mack’s windpipe and squeezing it down to the diameter of a cigarette. Yap’s stone money, called rai, was a great source of pride to Mulalap. Just two hundred years ago, his ancestors were still sculpting it in Palau, where the limestone was from, as the Yapese had done for some fifteen hundred years. Their small sailing canoes towed the giant hoops—some weighing close to seven tons—on bamboo rafts almost three hundred miles across the treacherous South Pacific to Yap. Once hauled into the jungle, the heavy rai were rarely moved—they just changed hands like bits of real estate. Mulalap had inherited one from his grandfather. It only weighed about ninety pounds, but to Mulalap, it was priceless.
“So when you going to pay me?” asked J-Mack. “Just nick it from the cops’ petty cash. You’re in charge of it, right? You’re the only Yap I know who knows how to handle money. No one else is going to notice. You don’t pay, I’ll have to tell your village chief your daughter’s been running about shagging tourists.”
Mulalap felt his feelings well up like a tidal wave but, as was customary on Yap, he didn’t reveal them.
“My daughter knows sex is unclean,” he said. “You are speaking lies.”
“Then how did I get a selfie of her doing me?”
Mulalap wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, then smeared the red spit on his dark-blue uniform pants. It looked like blood. His hand brushed his gun and he had an urge to use it, but Yapese didn’t settle their scores with guns.
Nora Roosevelt, attorney general to the thirteen thousand or so residents of Yap, stood in the jungle, surrounded by stone money, staring at J-Mack’s skull. It was completely flattened, his features reduced to 2-D, reminding Nora of the famous tortilla that, when heated, revealed a spitting image of Jesus. It had taken two good-sized policemen to lift the rai off J-Mack’s head. Granted, a good-sized Yapese was no giant, but even a Tongan or Samoan would be hard-pressed to lift a ninety-pound hunk of limestone high enough to drop on someone, even if that someone was lying on the ground.
Mulalap walked over, his uniform cap in one hand, his other wiping the sweat from his brow. Nora noticed his teeth were betel-nut red, matching J-Mack’s bloodstained dentures.
“What you think, AG?” he said.
“I think that’s a pretty big rai,” said Nora. “Do you think one man could’ve done this alone?”
Mulalap stared at the corpse, his thick bicep flexing as he raised his cap to his head, and then reached in his pocket for some betel nut. He shrugged.
“It’s possible,” he said. “If he was good at handling money.”
CRAIG FAUSTUS BUCK is an author and screenwriter. His debut noir mystery novel, Go Down Hard, was published by Brash Books in 2015 and was first runner-up for Killer Nashville’s Claymore Award. His short story “Honeymoon Sweet” is currently nominated for both the Anthony Award and the Macavity Award. Among his six nonfiction books, two were number one New York Times best sellers. He wrote the Oscar-nominated short film Overnight Sensation. He was one of the writers on the seminal miniseries V: The Final Battle. His indie feature, Smuggling for Gandhi, is slated for production in 2016. He is on the board of the Mystery Writers of America and president of its SoCal chapter. He lives in LA, where noir was born.
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 10, 2015
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