“John’s Spot” by Stephen Buehler
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.
by Stephen Buehler
Hollywood & Highland, Hollywood, CA
John smashed the Styrofoam cup. No metal spike under there. Did it again. No spike. Two more cups remained. He smashed one of them. No spike. He raised the remaining cup, revealing a five-inch nail embedded in a wooden base.
The crowd applauded. John gave six more performances that day. The hard work didn’t bother him, not since he quit shooting smack.
John’s spot, Hollywood & Highland: filthy sidewalks, trash-filled gutters, and tourists by the busload. Street performers and costumed characters vied for the attention of passers-by: Batman, Snow White, and that tourist-aggressive prick, Jack Sparrow. “Take my picture! Now you owe me a dollar, bitch.”
Thirsty, John didn’t dare leave his coveted spot, knowing that asshole Jake the Juggler or that crazy Russian contortionist would take it.
Performing for the night crowd, John pulled an endless stream of cards out of his mouth. A scuffle broke out in the back of the group. The crowd parted for John. Ten feet away a homeless man pinned a young woman against the brick wall. John said, “Hey, you two get a room.” The crowd laughed.
The homeless man, frightened by the attention, sped away. “Who needs Batman when you have a magician?” The crowd laughed again.
“Help me,” the young woman pleaded. Her eyes widened at the red splotch rapidly spreading from her belly. She slid down the wall crumbling to her side.
“Call 911.” The crowd chuckled. “No, this shit is for real,” John yelled. Camera phones appeared, but only to shoot video. “Dial your fucking phones!” One girl understood and complied.
Too late. The young woman died before help could arrive.
“Medium height, dark hair, scruffy beard, a long overcoat. Oh, he wore white sneakers—Keds, I think. His clothes were dirty as shit, but the new white shoes I’ll never forget,” John told Officer Sully.
“Staying out of trouble?” Sully asked.
“Straight as an arrow. Look,” John rolled up his sleeve. “Been clean one year, six days. Not doing nothing that’ll send me back to Central. Never again.”
The coroner wheeled the girl away. “Breaks my heart when the innocent gets killed,” John said.
Another cop conferred with Sully. “Sounds like Tom Lanky.”
Heading home, John searched every face. He checked out their shoes too. Nothing familiar.
The next night was a good night, a two hundred bucks night. John turned his back to a large shirtless tourist. The fat volunteer mixed up the order of the cups, Russian roulette. John’s job: don’t acquire a Jesus Christ hand.
The first two cups were successfully smashed. John raised his hand for the third when a pair of white sneakers walked into view. The killer from last night. The murderer’s hands shoved deep in his pockets as he stared at the magician. John smashed the third cup.
The spike pierced his fucking hand. He screamed. The crowd gasped, then wildly applauded. Luckily the nail only went halfway. The homeless man vanished. That particular group gave John his most ‘donations’ ever.
While packing up with a bandaged palm, John sensed a shadow behind him—the man with white shoes. John grabbed the spike with his good hand.
“I want to ask you something,” the man said. “About last night.”
“Stay back, motherfucker,” John said.
From his pocket the filthy man pulled out a knife with a shiny silver blade.
“Look at this,” he said. “I can do it.” The man stepped toward the magician.
The knife jabbed at John. He dodged the shiv like he learned in the joint. Then John shoved the spike deep into the murderer’s belly, sinking the weapon to its base. The man dropped to the sidewalk like a straitjacket after an escape. An eye for an eye.
While the coroner removed the body, John laid it out to Sully. “He wanted to shut me up permanently so I couldn’t point him out to you guys.”
Sully studied John’s face. “We caught the killer earlier today, John. Tom Lanky.”
“But his shoes. The Keds.”
“The Methodist Church around the corner gives them away.”
“He had a fucking knife, I had to protect myself.”
“Look,” Sully pushed the retractable blade in and out. “The kind magicians use. You should have known. Probably wanted to show you his version of the spike-through-hand trick. You killed an innocent man, John.”
Sully led the magician away, and for the next two years, Jake the Juggler took John’s spot.
STEPHEN BUEHLER grew up in Flourtown, a suburb of Philadelphia, but eventually moved to the big city of Los Angeles. After arriving, he worked various levels in television followed my many years in advertising. Today, Stephen is a Script/Story Consultant for his own company ReWriteDr. His short fiction has been published in numerous online publications and is also traditionally published in the anthology Last Exit to Murder, which includes his story, “Not My Day.” He is currently cranking out new short stories while completing a mystery/comedy P.I. novel, Detective Rules.
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: Feb 3, 2014
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