“The Hostage” by Timothy Ready
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, Timothy Ready takes us to Capitol Hill, Seattle for a catnapping. Next week, Gary Phillips (editor of Orange County Noir; coeditor of The Cocaine Chronicles; contributor to Dublin Noir, Phoenix Noir, The Heroin Chronicles, Los Angeles Noir) brings us to Long Beach, California for a hitman’s last rites.
Matty saw the asshole as soon as he climbed over the fence from Volunteer Park into Lakeview Cemetery. Butchie was waving, like an idiot, right where he had told Matty to meet him: Bruce Lee’s grave at two a.m. Like he had to wave, like there’d be anybody else but Butchie the Rat by Bruce Lee’s grave at two a.m.
He walked over to the asshole. “Where’s my cat, Butchie?”
“Right over there,” Butchie said, gesturing to a park bench. “You got my money?”
“I got my money, asshole. It becomes your money when I get my cat,” Matty said, and Butchie walked to the bench and brought the cat over. It was in a shoebox, with air holes punched in the top.
Butchie hesitated. “No coppers, right Matty? I said no coppers.”
“Don’t say ‘coppers’, asshole. Stop trying to be hardboiled. Nobody says that shit anymore. Call ‘em ‘pigs’, ‘fuzz’, whatever, but not ‘coppers’. It’s dumb.”
“Whatever, lemme see the scratch,” Butchie said, and Matty flashed him a wad of twenties — $500 all told. Satisfied, he handed the shoebox over.
Matty took off the lid, looked inside. There she was — Muffins, a tortoiseshell calico, all snug and asleep, curled up in the box. Matty passed his hand over her little nose — it was soft and wet, and he could feel the faint respiration a six-pound animal could produce. She was still alive. One little paw lay over her eyes, chill as a Klondike bar. But she was resting really sound for all the commotion of the day. Way too sound.
“You son of a bitch, did you drug my cat?!”
“Look, just a little sumpin’-sumpin’ to keep her calm, that’s all . . .”
“I should kill you.”
“Relax — I gave her half of a half of a Klonopin. Just so no freakouts,” Butchie said. Matty remembered why Butchie was called ‘the Rat’.
He thought he should just kill the asshole — he had his cat, but . . . Just hand over the money and be done with this slug. Now and forever.
He gave him the wad of bills. Butchie counted them and smiled. “Thanks.”
“Right, and thanks to you too, you asshole,” Matty said. “I take you in when you’re homeless and strung out on drugs, let you sleep on my couch, feed your sorry ass, get you into a group home and what do you do? Come back with the fuckin’ key you made and kidnap my cat. Butchie, seriously — fuck you, man. Take this money, and I don’t ever want to see you again, you hear?”
“Look, I’m sorry Matty, it’s nothin’ personal—”
“So what — this is business to you, Butchie?”
“In a way, I guess so. I mean — look, I woulda taken the stereo, but the pawnshops ain’t like in the old days. They want state ID now — valid, no less — and they take your picture, all this shit. Too dangerous. I’m busted, Matty — I had to do something. So I borrowed your cat . . .”
“You kidnapped my cat, Butchie, and then had me run around like an idiot all over Capitol Hill all night,” he said. It was true: Butchie, following some stupid routine like he’d seen in the movies, kept calling Matty for the last two hours, having him go from place to place, until finally he directed him to Bruce Lee’s grave. Except it wasn’t like in the old 70s movies, making people get to payphones — he’d called from his cell, like he didn’t understand that it could be tracked, that it wasn’t like calling from a payphone. He was just trying to be tough, hardboiled — living in a fantasy, acting like an asshole. Matty hated him, for everything.
“I’m gonna get going, Matty,” Butchie said.
“Good, take the fuckin’ money, get out of my life — maybe you’ll OD this time,” he said as he tucked the box under his arm and started to walk away.
“I’m clean, Matty — honest to god I am. I just needed some money for a bus ticket outta this place,” Butchie said.
“I don’t care what you are,” Matty said, and headed back down Cap Hill with his slightly drugged cat. He felt the box move, a little purr inside, and thought yet again how this cat was worth more than all the people he’d ever known in his life. She never needed money, and always had plenty of love. That was a friend you could trust.
* * *
TIMOTHY READY is a writer and bartender who lives in Red Hook, Brooklyn. He enjoys Scotch whisky and reading, as well as esoteric 70’s Progressive Rock. He is currently finishing a novel.
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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 to [email protected] Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Apr 22, 2013
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