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News & Features » April 2016 » “A Drover’s Birthday” by Benjamin L. Clark

“A Drover’s Birthday” by Benjamin L. Clark

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, Benjamin L. Clark finds trouble in a Nebraska alleyway.

Benjamin L Clark photoA Drover’s Birthday
by Benjamin L. Clark
Omaha, Nebraska

Cattle used to walk to market. After roundup, we’d trail them to a railhead, get them sold, loaded on trains, and shipped back east. Coming out on the train with the cattle was for young hands, the ones Boss could trust. So much has changed. We loaded onto diesel trucks this year and chauffeured cattle to market. Boss said this year I should go too, so I went too.

No longer gleaming or gliding on rails over newly paved streets, the streetcars that fascinated me as a young man creaked and chunked.  I’d lost interest in the city beyond the stockyards many years ago, though since Repeal the idea of a brief stop in Omaha made the road go by a little easier. Also, with the passing of the postmistress at Jensen Station, polite company was impossible to come by, since it’s unavailable from Sears, Roebuck.

I wasn’t sure where I was headed, but the stockyards were a poor place to look. I walked toward downtown after hopping off the streetcar.

Someone once said, A pistol in the hand is worth two on the hip. Someone squeezing off two shots down the alley as I crossed Leavenworth thought the same. Drawing my piece from its holster and ducking down the alley, I found a lone figure looking at the ground. I took a step toward the man. He spun around. A thick-lipped young cop with a thin mustache. A cop. Some kind of Mexican cop.

“Try to sneak up on me?”

“Officer, it’s not like that. Not at all,” I said. I knelt slowly and put the gun on the pavement. Gently, nice-like. He slowly approached, keeping his piece trained at my heart.

“Keep those hands up and do not move,” he said, stepping closer.

“Hey!” I shouted as he swung back and kicked my gun into the brick wall opposite me in the alley, skidding across the rough pavement. It hit the wall hard. “The classiest madam to hang her shingle in Kansas City gave me that token of esteem back in the summer of ’95.” The officer wasn’t impressed. He unlatched his handcuffs from his belt and showed me. He was young but not stupid, doing everything slow, deliberate.

“Old timer, I’d hate to have a hard time from you. I’m going to handcuff you because I’m placing you under arrest. I’ll take you down to the station. Don’t worry, it’s close.” He glanced down at the dead man at my feet. “Like you said, if it’s not what it seems, we can sort it out there.”

Looking down his Colt automatic, I considered the fact that I’d always held my own against cops one-on-one, especially in a nice quiet back alleyway, but . . . it’d been a while. Also, he was no longer the only one. Several more cops appeared as we stepped out of the alleyway onto the sidewalk.

He got me marched along to the station, hitch in my hip or no. New building since last time, but by the look of him, it was the same desk sergeant.

“You’re in luck, Mr. Marcus,” he said as he booked me in. “We have our very nicest interrogation room available tonight.”

I cooled my heels in the terrazzo-and-tile room. It was a while when the cop from the alleyway came in with a couple other men in suits.

“Good work, Mr. . . .” He looked at my driver’s license. “Marcus. I’m Omaha District Attorney Black, and am I ever glad you were there and quick on the draw. Smith was ruthless. In fact, just last week we had to let him walk on account of a hung jury. It was a crime he walked, I’ll tell you what! He was a slippery one. I bet he never imagined he’d meet his match trying to mug an old cowhand, thinking you’d be easy pickings. You straightened him right out! The mayor should give you a medal. In fact, I’ll mention it to him tomorrow when we have lunch.”

“But the policeman—”

“Oh, yes, Officer Gomez saw the whole thing. Don’t they do a great job? Right there and ready to serve and protect. And look at that,” he said, handing my license back. “Happy seventieth birthday! Helluva way to celebrate. Now, the boys from the papers here want a photo, but no need to talk to them. Officer Gomez here took care of telling them what happened. He took care of everything.”


BENJAMIN L. CLARK writes and works in museums. He lives in Omaha with his family and can be found online at www.benjaminlclark.com.


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: Apr 25, 2016

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