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About the Author: Peter W. J. Hayes is a recovered marketing executive and mystery writer. The first novel of his Pittsburgh Trilogy, The Things That Aren’t There, will be published in July, 2018. His short stories have appeared in various anthologies and publications, including the 2017 and 2018 Malice Domestic anthologies, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, Mystery Weekly Magazine, Mysterical-E, The Literary Hatchet, Shotgun Honey and Yellow Mama. You can find him at www.peterwjhayes.com.


As the floor-to-ceiling window shattered and the sound of gunshots raced away, Tank realized he was looking at the most beautiful day he had ever seen. He saw all of it, the glow of Hollywood Beach’s white sand and how the ocean glittered and shifted like countless gems of aquamarine; the swoop of gulls, their cries echoing across the cathedral sky, the surf line curling as gently and sure as the way a mother bends to kiss her newborn.

Tank felt his jaw moving and heard the number one spoken, followed a precise second later by the number two. He tasted dust and blinked, his cheek cool against the concrete floor. It was his training, his own voice. As the number three escaped his lips a bald man stopped on the boardwalk, raised a toast-brown arm and pointed across the construction site in his direction. At four a young woman at water’s edge pivoted in his direction, her hand shielding her eyes, her sleek buttock dimpling inward against her thong. And just like that, the sounds of the shots and shattering glass were gone, absorbed by the sea and sky. 

Five. 

Tank stumbled upright, muscle memory driving him, his SIG pointed ahead, and edged around the sawhorse-legged workbench searching for the shooter. The man was two meters away on his back, his legs like cooked spaghetti underneath him, his machine pistol near his right hand, his chest motionless. Tank looked from the man’s acne-scarred cheeks to his weapon. 

Ten.

He turned to the other two men, saw the bullet holes across their chests as neat as a pants seam, their mouths slack from death, as if whatever was inside them had chosen that way to depart. He glanced at the shattered window, relieved it was open to the sky. He holstered his SIG and with quick, economical movements snapped shut the hard-sided suitcase containing the bricks of heroin, then did the same with the case holding the cash bundles. Hoisting both, he jogged down the steps to the ground floor and across to his car. 

Twenty.

He dumped the suitcases into the trunk, bounced the car over the dirt ruts leading into the work site and accelerated onto the street, glancing back and forth from the speedometer to the speed limit sign, keeping the numbers matched. Through his open window the sound of a distant siren lapped against his ear.

Thirty. 

Several traffic lights later Tank turned left, merged onto Miami’s Route 95 and settled into one of the middle lanes of traffic. He took measured breaths, trying to fill the place inside him torn away with the gunshots. He forced himself to remember the whiteness of the beach, the glittering surf line and how it rose and fell under that impossible sky. He absorbed the feeling of it, reliving it, until the feeling of loss ebbed, leaving only a tremor in his hands. Only then did he work the burner phone out of his pocket and speed dial the emergency number.

“What happened?” Asked Kathy before the second ring finished, her voice tight and alert. 

“Went to shit.” He was surprised at how normal his voice sounded. “When we opened suitcases Cruz’s hard guy took a couple of steps back. Bullshit right there. He pulled some type of machine pistol and opened up. Killed Cruz and Orto’s guys.”

“Are you OK?”

“Yeah.” Tank wiped his forehead, surprised to find sweat. “I went to ground and he missed me on his first sweep. I had line of sight on his legs. I took it, he dropped, and I just kept firing. I was out of there on a thirty count. I’ve got both cases.”

“Product and money? All of it?”  

“Yeah.”

“Tank.” Kathy’s voice caught on his name. “We might be able to fix this. I’ll talk to Cruz and Orto, maybe we can make it work.”

Tank drove, watching the tail of the car ahead of him. “I don’t get this. People don’t shoot up deals. Cruz especially. Everyone needs them to work. Everyone has too much on the line. This isn’t TV.”

“I know.” 

He relaxed his grip on the wheel, the tremor almost gone. “Oh yeah. And I’m in the rental. I’ll burn it but I need a ride. He glanced down and saw that his clothes were covered in white dust from the work site floor. “And I need new clothes.”

“Right.” Kathy’s voice strengthened and he knew she was prioritizing, solving the problem. He liked that about her, it was why he was willing to work with her. 

“I’ll tell Annuska.” Her voice was firm. “She’ll meet you. You remember where?”

“No problem,” said Tank. 



This story appears in our JUN 2018 Issue
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