Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 094 - Kevin Michaels


Poole once said that fear was something that could be seen in another person’s eyes, but Kirby wasn’t sure he believed that. Poole said a lot of things – usually whatever was necessary to get you to believe him. The only thing in the guard’s eyes was surprise. Everything had happened so fast; there hadn’t been time to sort through the looks passing between them before Kirby squeezed the trigger on his Nine.

Just an empty expression.

A face unable to fully comprehend what was happening.

He didn’t see anything that looked like fear.

Kirby thought about that as he stood against the counter, taking a final drag on his Marlboro while staring at the floor in the Jersey National Bank. It was a cold, snowy day in downtown Princeton; bleak and gray outside. Inside the bank, eight people, four customers and four employees were huddled together in a tight circle near the vault door. Their wrists and ankles were bound together with long cloth strips Kirby had ripped from the New Jersey State flag displayed just inside the lobby doors. Bits and pieces were left from the flag but none big enough to stuff in anyone’s mouth, and Kirby drew the line at cutting up the American flag just to make gags.

Besides, nobody had made a sound since he shot the guard.

The guy had been pushing sixty-five – probably a part-timer earning a couple of bucks to fill in the gaps Social Security checks didn’t cover. Nobody expected him to pull his gun, and neither one of them figured he would get off a couple of shots – at least not Poole. He had been busy shoving twenties into an old knapsack when the first bullets caught him in the back, spinning him around as Kirby fumbled for his Nine. Poole was already dead by the time he had returned fire and cut down the guard.

The guard’s body was still slumped a few feet away, blood coagulating in thick red streams around him. His forty-five was on the floor by Kirby, a few bullets still left in the clip, next to a phone pulled from a desk and the knapsack stuffed with the bills taken from the tellers’ drawers. Not far away, Poole’s body was face down, tangled in the felt ropes used to create customer service lanes; too far away to see what had been in his eyes when he was shot.

Kirby flicked his cigarette to the floor and wondered what he was supposed to do next.

The sharp ring of the phone caught him by surprise.

“Thinking maybe this didn’t turn out the way you expected, huh?”

It was the kind of thing Poole would have said, but then Kirby heard the sharpness in the voice and the edge in the words, and knew it was the cop again. “This ain’t looking good for you right now. You know that, right?”

“Don’t know anything for sure,” Kirby said.

“You can make this easier for yourself, is all I’m saying,” the cop said.

Kirby shrugged. “Just find me a car. Nothing else to discuss except that.”

“How far you think you’re gonna get?”

Kirby rubbed his finger along the edge of the Nine, tracing the line of the gun. Through the front window facing Nassau Street, he could see the snow intensify, falling heavily in large, thick flakes. It had been hours since everything turned bad and he wondered about the roads. It wouldn’t be easy to drive, but snow might make it harder to be followed, and he thought about asking the cops for an SUV instead.

He let the silence build for a minute then the cop broke the quiet.

“You still there?”

“Nowhere else to go,” Kirby said.

“You still got options,” the cop said. “Things you can do before this gets any worse for you. Might want to think about that.”

Kirby squeezed his eyes shut. He felt something throbbing in the back of his head, ready to explode.

“I don’t get what I want, the only option left for me is to starting shooting,” Kirby snarled.

“That’s not an option.”

“One at a time, every ten minutes until somebody realizes I’m serious.”

There was tension in the cop’s voice. Like the conversation wasn’t going in the direction he had intended, and he was just now realizing the extent of that miscalculation. “Listen, you got to know that if we hear shots, it changes everything. Makes this little problem you got a whole lot worse.”

“So maybe you need to show some urgency,” Kirby said.

“Things take time.”

“Time ain’t my problem.”

“It’s just the way it is,” the cop said. “Can’t be helped.”

Kirby shook his head. “Get me the car. Now.”

“No way anybody agrees to give you a car,” the cop tried. “Not like this. You got to show us some good faith.”

“You got to show me something! Kirby yelled. “I don’t got to show you shit!”

Kirby slammed the phone down, then yanked it from the wall and flung it across the floor. He caught the stares from the hostages, brief and fleeting, and wondered how Poole would have handled the cop. Poole was cool in everything he said and did. There was a certainty in his actions.

Kirby wished he had that.

He pressed his fingers against his temples, trying to ignore the pain. Kirby looked at the hostages again – each tired and afraid of where the day would go. A few kept their stares glued to the floor while others looked at him for a moment before turning away; only the redhead from behind the counter returned his stare. Tall, mid-thirties, with sharp, pretty features, she looked calm and poised. Not at all like the others.

He motioned her away from them with his gun.

The others waited, unsure of what to expect.

Kirby wondered what he would see in her eyes, and slowly released the safety on the Nine.

BIO: Kevin Michaels' stories have appeared in publications such as Word Riot, The Literary Review, Powder Burn Flash, 6 Sentences, and Dogzplot, as well as Darkest Before The Dawn. He is a writer and a surfer who lives at the Jersey Shore.


Paul D Brazill said...

A great, dark story.Well worth revisiting.

Tom Montgomery said...

Excellent story - like Elmore Leonard. Kevin Michaels is the new Sam Shepard of urban noir.

Kevin Michaels said...

Thanks Guys! Appreciate it!