Friday, July 22, 2011

A Twist Of Noir 678 - Hilary Davidson


Don didn’t have friends, but on the scale of people who bugged the hell out of him, Leo ranked low. So low Don saw him every couple months for drinks or pool or a game. Leo had a buddy who always scored good tickets.

So what’s with Leo tonight? Don wondered. He drank, watching Leo lurch out of the men’s room for the tenth time, rubbing his nose. Leo ran smack into a big greaseball who looked ready to take a swing at him. But the greaseball stopped dead, hypnotized by something he instinctively recognized. Don watched him ooze away, muttering. Leo sank into the chair across from him.

“Hell of a night,” Don said.

“Yeah.” There was a grayish cast to Leo’s dark brown skin, and the whites of his eyes weren’t white but yellow, like a jaundice victim. Or a junkie. Don’s brain flinched from that thought.

“Not getting a new car, are you?” Don tried to keep his tone neutral.

“Hell no.” Leo’s smile stretched his fleshy face, but it didn’t make it to his eyes. “Ride I got runs too fast for me.” He downed the double scotch a waitress had set down while he’d been coking up. “Good to see you, man.” He stood suddenly and put out his hand.

Don shook it. “See you around.”

After Leo left, Don tried to finish his drink, but he couldn’t shake the image of a raw, moist cut of meat. That was what Leo’s hand had felt like. It was none of his business, he told himself, but he found himself standing, tossing bills on the table, and heading for the door.

Leo’s red Ferrari was gone, but Don heard its wheels screeching in the distance. Don saw that car as a symptom of all of Leo’s problems. The man used to drive a Jaguar — sleek as anything, but black, which said he didn’t need to show off. Then Leo had tossed it aside — along with his wife and kids — for a ride that came straight out of “Magnum, P.I.” The woman who came with it had fake hair and fake tits. Her nails were so long Don wondered how she wiped her own ass.

The few people who knew Don well thought him cold and calculating, but he counted on instinct. Meticulous planning was important, but instinct had kept him from cops and harm for most of his life. His only regrets were the times he’d ignored his gut. So he steered his navy sedan out of the lot, following the Ferrari.

He found it below a dark curve of the highway, first sighting the break in the guardrail. The Ferrari should have tumbled down the hill, but a tree had caught it. As Don got closer, he saw Leo with his head bowed and hands clasped together, as if praying. “Nice stuntwork,” Don said, opening the door.

Leo stared. Were those tears streaming down his face? Don looked away, giving him space to get himself together. “Come on. I’ll drive you.”

“I can’t go home,” Leo whispered.

“Why not?”

“Tammi’s dead.”

“What? Since when?” Don thought of the cheap piece of ass with the talons.

“Two days ago. She was stepping out on me.” Leo’s words came out in breathy gasps. “I gave up everything for her, and she… she…”

“I get it.” How many messes like that had Don cleaned up for other people?

“I keep thinking on it, feeling my hands around her neck. God help me.” Leo started to cry loudly.

Don ground his jaw. “Look, I’ll take care of the body for you.”

Leo sobbed harder. “Wish I was dead.”

“But… you got your kids.”

“You’re not listening, man. Please.”

Something ached in Don’s chest.

“Please,” Leo repeated. “You the only friend I can ask, Don.”

In Don’s vision, Leo was melting away, replaced by a skeleton still covered in flesh. Usually the question was how to maximize suffering. It had been a while since he’d snapped a neck. Don didn’t want to do it, but he said, “Okay.”

BIO: BIO: Hilary Davidson’s debut novel, THE DAMAGE DONE (Forge, 2010), has been nominated for an Anthony Award, a Macavity Award, and an Arthur Ellis Award. Her second novel, THE NEXT ONE TO FALL, a mystery set in Peru, will be published by Forge in February 2012. Hilary won the 2010 Spinetingler Award for Best Short Story for “Insatiable,” and her stories appear in upcoming collections including CRIME FACTORY: THE FIRST SHIFT, D*CKED, and BEAT TO A PULP: ROUND TWO. Visit


Anonymous said...

Sometimes the things you gotta do for a friend break your heart -- or in Don's case a guys neck. Another piece of tough love that could only have come from the mind of the Empress of Cool,Mz. Hilary (make 'em cry) Davidson.

Anonymous said...

That was a beauty, Hilary. Don and Leo, friends till the end. Wonder if Leo would have done the same?

Eric Beetner said...

That's a pal. Nice one Hilary.

Jack Getze said...

Nothing like a scene from Hilary's imagination before breakfast. Wait ... maybe I'll just have coffee.

Dana C. Kabel said...

That was a nice twist at the end...pun intended. I enjoyed it much.

Michael Solender said...

that's what friends are for. great piece of writing here showing the desperation and bottomed out nature of this poor schmo - nicely done.

Glenn Gray said...

Great piece of flash, Hilary. Much enjoyed!

Steve Weddle said...

Nicely done.

Nigel Bird said...

in only 678 words, too. great stuff.
did you choose consecutive numbered story? - i have a thing about numbers, see.

Kevin Michaels said...

Excellent story - love the little kick at the end.

Chris Rhatigan said...

Late to the party, but man, that is some sharp writing. Beautifully done.