ALMOST THE DEVIL - MATTHEW C. FUNK
They stole the boy at 10:00.
Parnell stared at his Rolex while Ownage picked the lock.
The rag and Glock kept Darel quiet. Darel’s kin slept. Darel went into the Pontiac trunk.
Parnell made his third call. Ownage drove Desire’s ruined streets.
“Everything cool?” Ownage said.
“Eskimo shit.” Parnell watched his town: Shells of houses. Open sewers. Lightless yards. A wilderness of graffiti and sword grass.
“Things is going to get real uncool,” Ownage said.
“Hell ain’t known for snow.”
“Is that what Darel gets? Hell?”
Parnell watched the Mississippi Industrial Canal rise as the car drove beyond the levees.
“You know how I roll.”
Ownage knocked back Drank - codeine syrup and Dr. Pepper.
“How’s that?” Ownage guzzled again because he knew the answer.
“I ain’t just strapped like some hood rat fool.” Parnell checked his Rolex. “You want to survive the Ninth, you got to roll with Hell by your side.”
“A’ight.” Ownage parked the car by the warehouse kennel. “A’ight.”
The Grub crew was waiting.
The dogs were starved and barking.
The Rolex read 10:10.
Ownage took Darel out. The dogs yanked their chains, a slim yard from him. Parnell took up the notched machete.
“Please, Parn,” Darel sobbed. “Please.”
“You know where you are?” Parnell pushed back his Buddy Holly glasses.
“You in Hell.” Parnell stared the boy down. “You know why?”
“Yes.” Darel leaked tears and whines. “And I’m sorry.”
“I tried to run your business off your corners even after you told me no.”
“Nah, man.” Parnell checked his Rolex. 10:15. He frowned. “Nah.”
“Just let me call my Momma.”
“This is about the other thing.” Parnell tapped the blade.
Realization dawned on Darel’s face like an acid bath.
“The schoolyard shit?”
“Get them dogs ready,” Parnell said to Ownage.
“Please, Parnell, I ain’t never going to do it again.” Darel convulsed.
“It ain’t about just you.”
“It’s about making sure every fool in the Desire knows what happens when they pull that kind of shit. Every swinging dick, every shirm head, every crack fiend - everybody.”
“Please, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”
“There’s just actions and consequences.”
Darel pissed his boxers.
“Please, let me call them.” Darel fell. “Let me call my Momma and tell her I love her.”
Parnell glanced at his Rolex.
“I got somewhere to be.”
“My Lord is my shepherd," Darel raked the heavy Mississippi air with his voice. “I shall not - ”
Parnell hit Darel in the jaw with the machete. He opened Darel’s belly and his thigh. Darel was alive and leaking.
“Let the dogs.” Parnell walked away.
Ownage released the chain and the dogs followed the smell of meat and ate.
The Rolex read 10:22 when the screams stopped.
“Goddamn, Parn.” Ownage drank and offered Drank to Parnell. Parnell glowered.
“You know where I have to go now and you offer me that shit?”
Ownage cringed. Parnell got in the Pontiac.
“When them dogs shit,” Parnell said, “you send a pack of it to Darel’s folk.”
Parnell checked his Rolex as he snuck around the back of the rowhouse. 10:28. He eased the backdoor open. He walked heel-to-toe. He crept into the bathroom.
Parnell opened the faucet, then turned it lower to quiet it. The blood sheeting his hands clung under the water.
Parnell was scrubbing too hard to notice the woman with the bat sneak up behind him.
He caught sight of her raised bat in the mirror.
“You going to cave me in, Jaycee?”
“Ought to.” The woman was tired as she lowered the bat. “You a minute late.”
“Maybe.” Parnell toweled off and walked by her frown.
“Do the Desire a favor.”
Parnell crept into the living room.
A little girl curled sleeping there. Parnell sat on the armrest to not disturb her.
“You do that boy who grabbed ’tween Sky's legs?”
Parnell nodded and brought out a brush.
“You the Devil.”
“Almost.” Parnell brushed his daughter’s hair, taking care to not tug a single one.
BIO: Matthew C. Funk is a professional marketing copywriter and social media consultant, a writing mentor and the author of several manuscripts that illuminate the beauty of human extremes. A graduate of the Professional Writing MFA at USC, his online work is featured at sites such as A Twist of Noir; Thrillers, Killers and Chillers; Flash Fiction Offensive; ThugLit; Powder Burn Flash; Pulp Metal Magazine and his Web domain.