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News & Features » August 2020 » “Ten-Wide” by Mark Cotton

“Ten-Wide” by Mark Cotton

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, a deadly encounter in Lake of the Ozarks.

Ten-Wide
by Mark Cotton
Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

I watched that little trailer for three days and nights until I knew the old man’s routine. And, the whole time I couldn’t stop wondering how somebody like him ended up in a place like this. Sort of a how the mighty have fallen situation. The trailer was sad, the old man was sad, the reason I was there in the first place was sad. There was a whole lot of sad going around.

The metal trailer door was opened around nine in the morning and closed at around nine at night, with the old man visible through the little screen door moving about inside all day long.

Around eleven in the morning the screen door opened and the old man shuffled out to a cluster of mailboxes at the entrance of Dogwood Acres Mobile Home Park to collect his mail. Meals on Wheels stopped by around noon, never staying more than a few minutes.

It was lights out at ten and all was quiet until the next morning. On the third night I waited until midnight before approaching and feeling along the edge of the metal door for the perfect place to put the chisel end of the crowbar. It didn’t take a lot of force. Security from intruders was never really a key feature of “ten-wides,” as they used to call these trailers back when they were new. Back before somebody backed this one into a space at Dogwood Acres, jacked it up on blocks, and let it start rusting its way into the landscape.

I eased the rickety screen door open and stepped inside, pulling my Glock and turning toward the bedroom end of the trailer.

“Put that on the counter and have a seat,” said a voice from the darkness of the tiny living area.

I froze for a second to consider my response. Then I did as he said. He was only a dark silhouette next to the window until he turned on a lamp. Sitting there in that easy chair he looked like a kindly old retired accountant or banker. But I knew better. The chrome revolver he pointed at me made it easier to remember his reputation.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “I just want to talk.”

“It was a mistake,” I said. “I just wanted to boost something and be on my way. Got a habit to support.”

He chuckled.

“Right. And, I’m just an old pensioner living out my days on Lake of the Ozarks on a fixed income. Meth heads around here don’t carry guns.”

I shrugged. It had been worth a try.

“I knew you were coming,” he said. “Surprised it took them this long to find me.” 

I didn’t know what to say. The old man said he just wanted to talk, but he hadn’t put the gun away yet.

“You should have gone further south,” I said. “Florida, maybe.”

He shook his head.

“Too obvious.”

We sat and watched each other while I thought about rushing him. An old windup clock on a shelf ticked loudly. It was a nice-looking clock, but how could you sleep with that constant tick-tick-ticking reminding you of how fast your life was slipping away?

“You been doing this long?” he asked.

I shrugged again. “A while.”

I looked around the room and wondered again how the old man had been reduced to this. Living in a tin can on the edge of a lake and, from the looks of things, he didn’t even fish.

“You been here long?” I asked.

He shrugged. “A while.”

Then he chuckled. “Don’t pity me. You’ll end up here too.”

I smiled.

“Just wait,” he said, “the job will eat at you. Find yourself wishing for a normal life. Without worrying about your past catching up with you.”

I laughed out loud.

“How’d that work out for you?”

“Trust me,” he said. “You’ll end up dying in a place just like this.”

“Not a chanc—”

Something slammed me back against the couch and knocked the wind out of me. I tried to take a breath but just heard a bizarre gurgling sound as the light quickly faded.

The old man stood and checked the visitor’s pockets until he found the cell phone. He scrolled through the contacts and started a text message, hitting the camera symbol and pointing the phone at the slumped figure on the couch. He snapped a picture and hit SEND.

“Amateurs,” he muttered to the empty trailer.

***

MARK COTTON is the author of novels Two Bits Four Bits and Twice the Heist. His short fiction has been published online at ShotgunHoney.com, MysteryTribune, and Yellow Mama Webzine. He lives on Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri with his wife and two cats, where he is at work on his next novel.

***

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 info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Aug 10, 2020

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



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