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News & Features » March 2020 » “The East Side of Pershing” by Richard Risemberg

“The East Side of Pershing” by Richard Risemberg

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, an employee discovers what happens when the boss isn’t happy . . . 

The East Side of Pershing
by Richard Risemberg
Pershing Square, Downtown Los Angeles, California  

I told William to meet me in the alley between Fifth and Sixth, on the east side of Pershing Square. Pershing in those days was where LA began its slump towards the homeless camps of the dried-up river. Once you passed it, you were in a part of town where it was smart to wear galoshes even though it never rained. The alley was eternally wet with whatever it was leaked from the dumpsters that lined one side of it. Wet stuff also leaked from underneath the metal security doors jammed into grimy brick walls, as well as from folks who’d lost their way to Skid Row and ended up sitting on plastic bags full of trash all day long. Toilets were a long-forgotten dream there. I figured William wouldn’t be happy to have to wait for me by the third dumpster from Sixth, so I made sure to be twenty minutes late. I knew he wouldn’t be bored. It was not the kind of place where you could afford to be bored.

He was slouched in a long coat even though it was hot. William was a special kind of stupid: you don’t dress like a hit man to go on a hit. Trench coats stand out in LA; nobody wears shit like that here any more. There are better ways to hide your hardware. Better yet, don’t use hardware. William had a lot to learn, and he hadn’t learned anything yet. That’s why Boss was unhappy with him. William lifted his head when he saw me. I could tell he was trying to smile, but he couldn’t quite pull it off. Maybe the seven-foot-tall drag queen tramping by made him nervous. But she had business elsewhere and didn’t even look at him. No one looked at William, even when he was gotten up in a trench coat. At least not on the east side of Pershing. No one even looked at the guy in the clown suit riding his unicycle there every evening. The baggy clown suit was a great place to stash inventory. Boss had a sense of humor and didn’t mind using it in business.

I stared William down to make sure he wouldn’t run up to me, and it worked. When I got to him, he whispered, “Jesus fuck, Mosey, why did we have to meet here? This place stinks worse than that slaughterhouse yard we used over in Slauson.” William was a sensitive lad. Too bad he was an idiot.

“We’re meeting here because it stinks. We can be alone here.”

“What the fuck we need to be alone for? We just hook up and go do the job. I coulda met you anywhere.”

“Boss wanted it done here.” I looked up and down the alley. Hipsters pretending to be bums and bums pretending to be sober moved past the driveways at each end of the alley. It was dark in spite of the light bulb hanging crooked over a doorway announcing that somewhere behind the brick walls someone sold baby clothes. The door gapped open as far as a rusty chain would let it. We were standing near enough to it that I could feel cold air pouring out.

“Wanted what done?”

“We meet the target here.”

“What the fuck? Who in their right mind would come here? What did you offer them?”

“A chance, William. A last chance.”

“Jesus, we’re too close to the street, someone’ll hear us….”

“No one will hear us, William. You know how I work.”

“Yeah, your damn hands. I know I’m just the backup. This is really where Boss wanted it done?”

“Boss was very specific. Now get back into that spot between the dumpsters. Where you won’t be seen.”

“Aw, fuck, Mosey, it stinks in there….”

“I don’t want to tip off the target, William. Just do it.”

He looked down at the ground and its litter of chicken bones and old condoms. “Okay, okay, man.” He edged himself into the spot. I followed him in.

“Mosey, why are you coming in. I can’t get a clear shot if….”

“William. Oh, William. You haven’t figured it out? Boss isn’t happy with you.”

My hands round his throat kept him good and quiet till he stopped struggling. I held him for another minute before stepping out. I pretended to be zipping up my fly, in case anyone was looking. Let them think what they want about me. I get the job done.


RICHARD RISEMBERG was dragged to Los Angeles as a child, and has been working there in a number of vernacular occupations since his teens while writing poetry, articles, essays, and fiction, editing online ‘zines, sneaking around with a camera trying to steal people’s souls, and making a general nuisance of himself, which is his forte. He’s survived long enough to become either a respected elder or a tedious old fart, depending on your point of view, and is still at it. It hasn’t been easy for any of us.


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: Mar 16, 2020

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