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News & Features » June 2017 » “Ibis” by Ted Flanagan

“Ibis” by Ted Flanagan

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, Ted Flanagan takes us to the dark streets of Worcester. 

by Ted Flanagan
Worcester, MA

Keenan offered me the drop gun but I said no. I didn’t think I was that kind of cop.

Blood eddied around my ankles. Later, the report had paramedics there in four minutes. I have no doubt, but I was on fire and the clock was ticking. It felt like an hour. I’d just shot a guy. Who’s to judge time at a moment like that?

Worcester going crazy in the heat, everything seemed like a weapon. I’d grown up in Main South, but walking the beat there, I’d never felt so unsure of the terrain in my life. They’d warned us in the academy. Watch the hands. A year on the job, squinting at wedding rings, scabby knuckles, palms dusted with plaster. A city of hands.

My shoulder ached, hockey injury nagging. I’d snuck a few pills that morning. The oxys. Low dose, just enough to think straight, lift my right arm above my head without wanting to puke. Pops never noticed. He slept through the chemo. The same Golf Digest open on his chest rolled on the swells of his breathing.

Keenan says he has my back. I can make my case. The victim—I know his name well, with practice I can forget it for weeks at a time—almost begged to be shot. Pacing in front of that pawn shop, talking to the air, waving his arms, hands so fast, like a flock of pigeons dive bombing from City Hall.

“Something’s wrong with this guy,” the pawn shop owner told 911.

We put it together later.

The shop owner couldn’t see the Bluetooth. The dead guy, not yet dead, had been on the phone. Arguing with his wife. She told our detectives they’d escaped Ramadi, that the victim had been an interpreter. In America, he drove a cab, thought getting jacked in Main South was his biggest worry.

Morgan, the lead detective, said they sat around a huge kitchen table shaped like an Ibis. Said the wife and daughter wanted to go home, take their chances.

“I wanted to go home,” the new widow said. “He wanted to stay here. Now, neither of us is where we want to be.”

We watched hands. I think the eyes are more trouble. Not what we see, but what we can’t. Or won’t.

When I arrived, he put his hands behind his back.

“Let me see your hands!” I shouted. My pistol was out and up. I remember: how he looked. My textbook Weaver Stance. The front site nestled between the posts of the rear site. My target’s chest a blurry white mass, close enough to touch.

He raised a hand. I remember thinking of an alms bowl. I squeezed the trigger.

Now, I’m on the rubber gun squad.

I wait. For a sentence to be imposed. Or exoneration. Neither matters much to me.

Weaponless, I report daily to the C-3 Division office, a cement tomb two stories below HQ, every morning like dropping into the Mariana Trench in a diving bell. We handle permit applications and minor building code infractions. I collate and copy, prepare warrants that our officers—Bence and Lapolita—serve whenever they actually make it to the office sober enough to drive.

I haven’t been home in three months.

The first week, television crews deployed along the stoop of my apartment building. The night of, Mrs. Lavonne, my landlady, called me with bad news. They have generators, she said.

“You’re a good boy Lonnie. Maybe you should go somewhere else for a while. These things pass. They’ll forget you in a month.”

No one’s forgotten yet.

I’ve been living in my father’s house in Shrewsbury. Connie suggested it.

“Someone has to clean out Pop’s place,” she said. “Might as well be you. Get it ready to sell.”

Neither brother objected.

We buried him eighteen days after the shooting. So weak, he never asked. I like to think he understood, but he was sick. His casket had silver handles, and when we lifted for the recessional, I looked down at my hands and smelled the incense, and under my straining knuckles I noticed the etching, a small Ibis carved into the edge of the coffin lid. Then air-blasted music from the pipe organ arose and we marched with our burden, watching our hands all along.


TED FLANAGAN is a former Recon Marine and newspaper reporter, and for the past two decades has worked as an urban 911 and flight paramedic. He holds an MFA in Fiction from Southern New Hampshire University, and lives and writes in Massachusetts.


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: Jun 19, 2017

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