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News & Features » February 2013 » “Pink Houses” by Tim McLoughlin

“Pink Houses” by Tim McLoughlin

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.

Mondays Are Murder kicks off where the print series began, with series cocreator and Brooklyn Noir edtior Tim McLoughlin. Next week, New Orleans Noir editor Julie Smith takes us on an unforgettable ride down the Redneck Riviera.

Pink HousesTim McLoughlin
by Tim McLoughlin
East New York

You will probably bleed out in the next ten minutes. You can tell that nothing inside you will work properly anymore. You’re just an engine now, pumping fluid through a ruptured hose. Still, what strikes you most in the moment is how young the boy looks, how frail. He is freakishly tall, and will be until he grows into his height. He might be thirteen, fourteen. The gun is still wobbling crazily in his hand. He doesn’t know that he should refocus on his target instantly after the recoil subsides. That’s because he is not a professional, like you are.

It’s very hot outside today, but the heat is no excuse. You hear the voice of your academy instructor running down all the reasons that you will conjure not to wear your vest. The uncomfortable weight of Kevlar on a muggy day is the most common. You know that the academy instructor is a pompous blowhard and a coward. He’s a suburb-raised chief’s son who couldn’t cut it on the street, but he will live and you will die, and he will cite you as an example in future classes. He’ll tell recruits that he knew you, trained you, that you were a good cop who made one stupid mistake.

The boy still hasn’t moved. The sound of the shot fades as it echoes down a cement-block stairwell. The boy’s eyes are large and feral, like a cat’s when a stranger enters the house. He’s still in fight or flight mode and doesn’t realize he’s already made the decision.

You feel the vibration of a door slamming shut, and the diminishing reverberations as it bounces off its frame several times before settling. The frantic sounds of the boy’s fleeing companions recede. You’ll never know what activity you interrupted.

Finally, you feel the pain, and you think of all the terrible moments in your life that you cannot take back. Your left side is numb now, although the hole in your chest is on the right. You can’t make sense of that. The stairwell floor smells foul, and you wish you could stand. You can still move the right side of your mouth, and the fingers of your right hand. The boy looks at your fingers as you flex them, mesmerized. Liquid runs from your nose into your mouth and it troubles you that you can’t move your tongue to taste for salt, so you’ll know if it’s blood.

You realize that the boy’s future has been fated, whatever happens after this, but he’s truly doomed if he gets away. He is too small and weak to live up to the reputation he’ll acquire today, but he will have to try, and he’ll be dead within a year. The only chance he has is if he’s caught.

You can see the boy’s future with amazing clarity, if he’s caught.

He’ll grow to adulthood in prison, and become strong and disciplined. Already fiercely intelligent, he will pursue an education. He’ll earn a degree, maybe several. He may take an interest in law. He’ll have suitors among his visitors, due to his notoriety, but he will choose well, marry, and have children. One day, in middle age, wearing rimless glasses, he will appear before a board and achieve parole.

He’ll go on to teach and to lecture, and become an erudite spokesman for prison reform, and a booster for programs targeting at-risk youth. He will reach out publicly to your family for reconciliation, and their silent rebuff will be construed as bitterness, and perhaps, racism. He’ll die peacefully in old age, in a bed, surrounded by his grandchildren, not on the landing of a housing project stairwell slick with urine.

This should not be an accident or moment of panic, nothing that a smart defense attorney can turn for sympathy, yet the boy hesitates. What will he do? Your right hand still works. You reach for your gun slowly and deliberately so that he has the time, if he chooses, to save his life.

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TIM McLOUGHLIN is the editor of the multiple award-winning anthology Brooklyn Noir and Brooklyn Noir 2: The Classics, and is coeditor of Brooklyn Noir 3: Nothing but the Truth. His books have been published in five languages and he is the 2003 recipient of Italy’s Premio Penne award. His short fiction and essays have appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies, and his work has been included in Best American Mystery Stories. He lives in Brooklyn. Heart of the Old Country is his latest novel.

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Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the submission 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 info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Feb 1, 2013

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