“The Stuff” by Ross Middleton
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, Ross Middleton tells the tale of a man overwhelmed by guilt on Long Island.
“So, you got the stuff?”
“Yeah, man. Got it in my car.”
The two walked out of the house, the pretense being that they were to smoke a cigarette, and walked toward the car. It was night, the orange light from the overhead lamps casting a strange glow on both of their faces.
Sal Lasser didn’t like selling to the kids from Babylon. He lived in Manhattan, and it was a pain in the ass to drive from there to Long Island. Still, he had to make a living somehow, and the books just weren’t cutting it.
He opened the trunk and pulled out the duffel bag. “$350 for the stuff” he said.
The kid nodded and pulled out his wallet. He was a tall kid, with stubble and long brown hair tied back in a ponytail. He handed Sal the crisp bills, and Sal pocketed the money quickly.
“You sure you know what you’re doing with this stuff, kid?”
The kid chuckled. “Yeah. I’ve been doing it for a while now.”
“This stuff is brand-new. Don’t take too much of it at once.”
“Yeah, all right.” The kid shrugged and looked down at his Sperrys.
They stood in silence for a while. “All right,” said Sal. “I’ve got to go.”
“All right, dude. Thanks.”
At work the next day Sal was bleary-eyed. He hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before. He just kept thinking of the kid. He put his cigarettes in the pocket of his lab coat, swiped his ID card, and entered the grey building.
As he walked through the long corridor, windows on either side of him, Sal ran into Billy. Billy was new at Serendo Pharmaceuticals, a wiry youth with glasses and straw-yellow hair. “Did you hear, Sal?”
“We’re having a meeting in twenty minutes.”
Sal frowned. “We never have meetings.”
“Yeah, I know. Something must have happened. Something bad.” Billy leaned in. “I heard it has something to do with the new product. Z-17.” He stepped back and cocked his head. “Isn’t that what you’ve been working on?”
Sal nodded. “Yeah. That’s my department. But nothing’s gone missing. I can assure you—”
“Well, you don’t have to tell me. Tell Prescott.”
“Oh yeah. He’s in the meeting room. Just saw him.” Billy turned and slipped his ID card into a port, unlocked one of the glass doors, and slipped inside. “See you in twenty, Sal?”
“Yeah. See you in twenty,” replied Sal with the air of a coma patient. His eyes were glassy and set dead ahead at his station, Room AA-12. He knew what had to be done.
He walked slowly toward his station. He slid his ID card into the port, heard the beep and the click of the unlocking door, and walked in. Janice was there, her blonde hair tied back in a ponytail. Sal briefly saw the kid again in his mind’s eye. Did he suffer? he thought to himself. Was it quick?
Janice looked up. “Hey, Sal.” She frowned. “Is everything okay?”
“Yeah. Everything’s fine.” He swallowed down a wet slab of fear in his throat and said, “Janice, can you get me some protozene? It’s in Locker B.”
She nodded. “Right away, boss.” She scurried out of the room, leaving Sal alone in the lab.
Sal walked to the shelf, pulled out the small vial. CYANIDE, the plastic sticker read. There was information for poison control, but Sal could hardly read it, his eyes were shaking so much.
He took the cap off the vial, closed his eyes, and in one swift motion downed the contents. He knew he had about three minutes. Good, he thought to himself.
He laughed a bit. “I always hated Mondays,” he said to no one in particular.
Janice walked down the hallway and checked her watch. Ten minutes to the big meeting. Apparently Z-17 had been found in the autopsy report of some dead kid on Long Island. The company was doing its best to keep it under wraps for the moment, but it was only a matter of time.
She unlocked the door, entered the lab, and froze. She saw Sal’s body still twitching, lips frozen in a frothy smile. His dead eyes looked up at her, frozen in the moment of agony.
Then Janice’s mouth opened, and the screaming began.
ROSS MIDDLETON is currently a student at Emerson College in Boston. Despite his insane course load (reading two books a week, writing twelve page papers on various poems), he still finds time to write short stories and essays. He currently has two novellas published online at Scribd.com and is currently working on a novel. He lives in Babylon, NY.
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: Jul 20, 2015
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