Blow Out the Candles


Detective Peter Eckert looked down at the girl and shook his head. “I know her,” he said to his partner. “Hannah Kean. Used to be in youth group with Jess.”

Eckert had met Hannah three years ago. She was 14, eyes bright and eager, ready for life’s adventures. A couple days after Christmas the next year, he saw her loitering outside a convenience store, eyes glassy and addled and holding only a flicker of the spark he remembered. Eleven months later, she paced next to a bench in Monument Park on Lehman Street. Her vacant eyes served as foggy sentinels on the lookout for something, anything, that promised to satisfy her unquenchable craving.

Now 17, eyes forever milky and dull, Hannah lay on the pavement next to a Dumpster in an alley six blocks from her church. Eckert examined the fingers of her right hand, which formed a weak fist resting on her chest. He’d never know that her final instinct had been to clutch for the gold crucifix on her necklace, a necklace no longer there because she had traded it for the speedball that took her life.

~ fin ~


Erik Arneson lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and editor, Elizabeth. His short stories have appeared in Thuglit, Needle, Akashic Books’ Mondays Are Murder, and many other places. His comic book Fortune is available from Comixology, Indy Planet, and NoiseTrade. He hosts the Title 18: Word Crimes podcast. Find him at and on Twitter @ErikArneson.