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These Little Things That Lead Us Down Dark Alleys
About the Author: Michael McGlade is an Irish writer with over 70 short stories in journals such as Spinetingler, the Big Click, the Saturday Evening Post, and Both Barrels anthology by One Eye Press. Represented by the Blake Friedmann Literary Agency, he’s currently writing his debut crime novel. Find out the latest news and views from him on

Her burgundy tailored skirt suit, understated and businesslike, crinkled as I shoved her against the alley wall. I stuck my pistol in her belly and her eyes darted toward her Prada purse, saying, Take it and go, but it was too late for that. It had taken a month to get here since Polly-Ann’s murder.

A child screeched inside one of the tenements that stretched above this alley like a ravine. The slit of Manhattan sky purple as a bruise. A block over police sirens mourned.

This woman’s lampblack hair spilled halfway down her blouse. She even wore the same rouge lipstick as my Polly-Ann. The resemblance between this woman and my murdered fiancée was extraordinary. Now close enough to notice the vein pulsing her neck.

I’d been searching for the man who murdered my fiancée, and somehow found Polly-Ann instead.

What was going on?

Could it be her?

Terrified I had forgotten what Polly-Ann really looked like, I reached inside my jacket for her photograph but this woman in front of me, she had to be my Polly-Ann, either that or some perfect lookalike … and my Polly-Ann she had tears in her eyes. The police investigation and the funeral had been some grievous mistake because she was alive, here, reaching toward me.

She took me in her arms and our bodies fell into a familiar shape. Hot breath throbbing my cheek, her hands travelling the length of my torso.

God, Polly-Ann, I missed you so much.

She twisted the pistol out my hand, and it discharged. The air reeked of burned toast. Rushing pain threw me skywards and my legs rubber-ed. The world bleeding into white hot hurt, I hung weightless until the pissy dirt kissed my face.

Three months ago I was a successful greeting card writer. You’ve seen the ones with the smug cat on the front saying, ‘You’re purr-fect,’ or, ‘Birthday cake doesn’t count as carbs,’ well, they’re not exactly the sentiment I strive for. My hallmark moments are honest to a fault.

My favorite thing to do … is you

Let’s face it, you survived another year, which is better than the alternative

Every time we argue, you make me wish I had more middle fingers

I didn’t train to be a greeting card writer, no one does. I graduated with a law degree, but I wasn’t starched-collar enough. I had always known law wasn’t me, but my father insisted. After graduating, I moved to New York because I always wanted to live in a skyscraper. First day at my new job I met Polly-Ann Peck.

When you lose someone you love, time ceases to exist.

At a Latino dance club in SoHo where the bushy fug of rhythmic bodies salsa-ed and limbs scissor-ed, this blissful cacophony tugging and shoving, pummeling, nothing to do now but surrender to the moment. We’d had Salsa lessons I bought for our one-month anniversary and this was the first time we tapped steps outside the studio. A steaming heaving mess of tangled rhumba. At midnight Polly-Ann drank two pints of water in a long unending gulp, her clothes soaked through almost naked, and slumping against the bar she clutched her head in agony and collapsed, dying en route to the emergency room.

The police detained me on suspicion of murder. I was fingerprinted, photographed, and a doctor drew a syringe of blood. My belt and shoelaces were removed and I was tossed into a cell, the gray walls littered with obscene drawings carved into the cement. A toilet, a washbowl with a cold faucet, and two steel beds with thin mattresses. No window. The overall accumulation of events hit me altogether. My knees, legs, entire body shook. I couldn’t control any part of it and slumping to the wet floor I wept, soundlessly to begin, then blubbering. Sweat and tears poured off of me and I wept and prayed, not knowing what I said.

“Oh God listen to me, let me get through to Polly-Ann. Polly-Ann, I love you. I love you.”

From one of the cells: “I love you, too. We all love you. Now take a break for Christ’s sake.”

I stretched out on the concrete floor and pressed my cheek against the surface, crying to myself silently. 

This story appears in our MAR2017 Issue
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