UNDER THE ELM TREE - MATTHEW MCBRIDE
They followed a snow-covered path that lead into the woods. Every few feet one of them fell. “Goddamn, this is slick,” Birdy said.
Dean started to agree, but then he went down himself. Fell on his right side, drove his shoulder into a knot of frozen earth.
Birdy stopped to catch his breath. “You gonna make it?”
Dean picked himself up. He was breathing heavy. He could feel his shoulder already starting to throb and his ears were ringing.
He looked up and said, “I’m comin’, but you better fucking find it, Bird.”
Birdy’s head moved up and down, but his words got lost in the wind.
The two of them walked for a half hour in the freezing rain. About the time they found the sacred tree, the ice began to fall. Suddenly, it came, hard and without warning. Attacking them like cold metal slivers, driving needles into their skin.
They crossed the open field and came to a mess of thick cedars. Birdy stepped inside the trees for shelter. He looked back, but Dean wasn’t there.
They did the job back in January, the day before the first big storm. Birdy, Dean, and the Captain. He was just an old Navy man they used for a driver.
The Captain waited in the car. The Captain didn’t know much.
But then the job went sideways. Everybody split. Every man for himself.
Birdy jacked a dentist in a minivan. Dean ended up with the Captain.
They made off with the sixteen-grand they came for, but the Captain ended up dead.
Birdy asked Dean what happened.
“One of them guards got ’em, Bird.” But Bird didn’t buy it.
Bird was no genius, but he watched the same cop show every week.
Bad acting aside, he picked up a thing or two from that Horatio. He knew enough to know when a guy got shot from the back or from the side. The Captain got shot from the side.
“Where you at, Dean?”
Pop, pop, pop, and Birdy fell to the ground. Hot rounds from a .38 burning holes in his back.
Dean stuffed the pistol in his pocket and tried to keep his footing. He stepped across the body of his former partner and dropped to his knees before the sycamore tree. The tree where Birdman stashed all the money. The day before it snowed.
He shoveled with his gloveless hands until he found the suitcase.
Sixteen-grand wasn’t much, but times were hard and small potatoes were still potatoes.
Especially when they’re split one way instead of three.
Dean popped open the suitcase and read what the letter said:
KNEW I COULDN’T TRUST YOU COCKSUCKER
He didn’t see any money.
A branch snapped behind him and Dean had just enough time to realize he’d been fucked.
Birdy slipped a clear bag over Dean’s head and pulled the bottom tight. Dean began to panic. Birdy slammed him to the ground, forced his knee into Dean’s back to drive the wind out. He succeeded.
Dean was turning white and struggling. His limbs making snow angles while he sucked plastic.
Birdy watched him die and he controlled the situation with his body movements.
“You killed the old man, you fuck.”
Dean begged with his eyes and he died like a coward.
Birdy pulled the bag out of his mouth and Dean’s eyes rolled back in his head. His tongue looked purple and dead.
Birdy was no genius, but he was smart enough to wear a bulletproof vest. And smart enough to hide the money under the elm tree instead.
BIO: Matthew McBride lives on a farm along the river and one day he will own his own machine gun. He’s been published at A Twist Of Noir, Powder Burn Flash, The Flash Fiction Offensive and the most recent issue of Plots With Guns. He is currently reworking a novel that this editor has seen and thinks is pretty genius. His blog is Got Pulp?
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