“One Wolf, Three Sheep,” by Eddie Joyce
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, Staten Island Noir contributor Eddie Joyce brings racial tensions to a dark end. Next week we travel to Pittsburgh with “Promises” by Eric Boyd.
Matty stared out the front window of the Emerald Club, muttering curses into his coffee. On the corner opposite the bar, the Africans huddled, laughter spilling out in front of them in long, frigid plumes.
Only three this morning. The little guy was missing. Sleeping in maybe.
A low rumbling startled him. Declan had left his cell phone on the bar when he went upstairs and the goddam thing was vibrating every few minutes, skittering across the bar like a deranged metallic cricket. He glared at the phone, which soon fell silent.
Matty turned back to watch the Africans.
They’d appeared on the corner a month ago, right after New Year’s. The usual crews from the projects never dealt near the Emerald but these Africans—Liberians? Nigerians? some fucking thing—didn’t know the drill. The morning after they showed up, as soon as Declan came down from his daily powwow with Punchy, he nodded for Matty to follow him.
Declan strolled across the street, hands raised, all smiles.
“How we doing, fellas? Cold out this morning?”
The huddle parted and the little one stepped forward. Eyes like charcoal, a nasty sneer—a hard case, Matty could tell right away. The real article.
“You cop?” he asked in an accent Matty couldn’t recognize.
“Not cops,” answered Declan. “You guys ain’t from around here, huh?”
“What you want?”
Declan’s smile folded into a smirk.
“You can’t sling here.”
The little guy laughed.
“You heard me. You can’t sling here.”
Declan hoisted a thumb over his shoulder. Matty’s gaze followed and he noted, not for the first time, the incongruity of an Irish tavern standing catty-corner from the projects. As Matty turned back, the little guy pulled his piece with feline quickness. He pointed it at Declan’s forehead.
“Fuck you. Free country.”
Matty’s hands started to shake involuntarily, but Declan was brutally calm. His smirk never wavered. A tense half-minute passed, the other three Africans and Matty looking at each other uncertainly.
“Ask around,” Declan finally said, and then turned and walked back to the Emerald. Matty followed, looking back over his shoulder. The little guy lowered his gun and blew a mock kiss. When Matty got inside, Declan’s smile was gone.
“What do we do?”
Matty’s hands were still trembling. He slid them in his pockets, but not before Declan noticed.
“We . . . do nothing.”
Declan peered out the window, biting his lip.
“One wolf, three sheep,” he said, but not to Matty.
* * *
They hadn’t spoken about it since. And the Africans had become a fixture.
Matty thought for sure Declan would do something—come back with some of Punchy’s guys, get them locked up for a night—but every morning, when Matty got to the Emerald, they were there. Every morning, he had to endure catcalls and laughter. He was sick of it.
He wasn’t a hard case, he knew that. He just looked the part.
But Declan was. At least, Matty had thought he was. But this bullshit had been allowed to fester for over a month now.
One of the Africans peeled away from his compatriots to make a call. He noticed Matty and waved, laughing. Matty muttered another curse under his breath. Declan’s cell phone started vibrating again as its owner emerged from the back of the bar.
“Watching our new friends?”
“Yeah. Your fucking cell phone has been going off nonstop.”
Declan looked down at the offending device, perplexed.
“Not mine,” he said. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a different phone. He looked at Matty, a glint of something sinister in his eyes, and then his gaze drifted pointedly out the window toward the Africans.
The one guy was still making a call. The phone on the bar vibrated in eerie synchronicity. Matty’s stomach went queasy: the phone on the bar belonged to the little guy. He’d been watching the Africans try to call him all morning, oblivious to the connection between their calls and the phone rattling on the bar.
But where was the little guy?
He looked at Declan, who winked in response. Matty felt a cold finger trace his spine.
“Should we answer it?”
Declan picked up the phone and walked to the window. He brought it to his ear.
“How we doing, fellas?”
Matty watched the caller’s face contort with confusion. Declan knocked on the window, drawing the guy’s attention. Confusion shifted to recognition before settling into barely-suppressed terror. Declan slowly waved at him, smiling.
“Cold out this morning?”
* * *
EDDIE JOYCE was born and raised on Staten Island. He is working on his first novel. Before he started writing, he was a criminal defense attorney in Manhattan for ten years. His first published story, “Before It Hardens” appeared in Staten Island Noir. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and three daughters.
* * *
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 to [email protected] Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Mar 4, 2013
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