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Only The Desperate Come Here
About the Author: Michael Mallory is the author of some 140 short stories, and the "Amelia Watson" and "Dave Beauchamp" mystery series. His most recent novel is "Death Walks Skid Row."

His phone rang six times before Scott Turley located it. He still used a flip-top “geezer” phone even though he was not yet fifty. Aside from the cost factor of having a so-called “smart” phone, he had no interest in games, or selfies, or any of the other nonsense people these days did. All he needed was something to get and make calls.

He just wished he could locate the damned thing before the caller gave up.

Whoever it was had to be a stranger. Anyone who knew Turley knew better than to call after six in the evening, when he already had a load on.

What’s more, whoever it was had to be desperate. Only the desperate came to him.

“Finally,” he slurred upon spotting the phone in the covers of his bed. “A’turley Scott ’torney,” he answered.

“Is this Scott Turley?” a voice asked.

“I just said it was.” He drained the last of the Old Crow from the fifth.

“I need a lawyer,” the voice said. “I killed a man.”

Turley stayed silent for a second, and then said, “Repeat that.”

“I said I killed a man. I need a lawyer.”

“Are you calling from a p’lice station?”

“No. I haven’t been arrested, but I’m afraid I will be.”

“Okay, look, why don’t you come to my office tomorrow. You know where it is?”

“Yes. Thank you.”

“’Leven o’clock.”

“I’ll be early.”

“You’ll be alone, then, ’cause I get in at ’leven o’clock. What the hell’s your name, anyway?”

“Carl Bone the third.”

“The son of the city councilman?”

“That’s right.”

He hadn’t had a lot of dealings with Councilman Carl Bone, Jr., but he knew all the scuttlebutt. Springfield wasn’t so big and deep that it could support an ocean of secrets. Junior Bone had inherited a thriving car dealership from his father but the word on the street was that his business dealings were shady. It was said he owned a chop shop in one of the nearby smaller towns which serviced his used car division.

Then again, you couldn’t believe every bit of gossip you heard.

“You still there, Mr. Turley?” Bone the third asked.

“Where else would I be? ’Leven o’clock tomorrow morning. See ya.”

He cut off the call.

If this kid was a Bone, there would be money in the case. He tore open a brand new fifth of Crow and took a long pull directly from the bottle to celebrate his good fortune.

Scott Turley’s office was on the street level of an old Wilson-era hotel that housed a handful of seniors and indigents. It was on a one-time commercial hot spot that was now on its knees begging for redevelopment. Some hotshot urban developer had been threatening to buy the place and evict all the tenants, but various advocacy groups in the city had managed to forestall that. Turley was fighting it in court too, so as not to lose the best rent-controlled office space in the city.

That was important because he figured clients would not want to consult with him at his residence—a room at the YMCA.

The next morning when Turley arrived, he saw a car was parked in front of his building. Figuring it was his client—early, as promised—he walked past.

Less than a minute after he’d unlocked his door and switched on the lights, Carl Bone III knocked on the door jamb. He was tall, blond, well-dressed, and still had the stink of college about him. Bone stepped up and introduced himself, after which Turley directed him to a plastic chair on the other side of his aging desk.

“I’d offer you coffee but I haven’t made it yet,” the attorney said.

“That’s okay, I don’t drink coffee.”

“All right, Mr. Bone, tell me about your problem,” he said.

It wasn’t so much a sad tale as a stupid one. Bone worked for the city in the procurement office, thanks to his father’s influence, but moonlighted in a bar at the edge of town at night, for extra cash. Three nights ago, a drunken former college classmate came in itching to start a fight. The bouncer threw the guy out, which seemed like the end of the problem. But after closing, Bone found the guy waiting for him in an alley beside the bar. The fight was over a girl they’d both dated, and it ended only when Bone picked up an empty bottle in the alley and broke it over his rival’s head.

This story appears in our AUG 2020 Issue
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Reader Discussion

Clever, compelling story, love the atmosphere.
By M. Welch

You have written a great sympathetic character here. I wish him well in the future. Poor guy!
By Susan R

Poor old Scott. Too bad he wasn't a better lawyer. Enjoyable story...
By Bill Engleson

"Just ask a couple questions, do a quick hit … and run?" Now THAT was wicked. Loved it!
By Mike Tuggle

Great story from beginning to end. Really enjoyed it.
By Robert Petyo

Nice plot turns and plot twist at the end. And the story flowed so well. Really enjoyed it.
By Elizabeth Varadan

Captivating story! I enjoyed the the characters and the word twist and turns. Wonderfully written!!!
By Tina Jude

A great story. loved the ending.
By Frances Dunn

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