Monday, August 8, 2016

Candy Man

Gavin tilted his head and puffed a stream of smoke out of the cracked window of his old F150. The window was rolled up enough to block out the rain that piddled and thumped on the roof but wide enough to keep the truck from filling with smoke. With drips soaking his jeans and the smoke slowly choking the air it seemed neither objective was being met.

The seat springs creaked in protest as he leaned up and swiped a hand across the front glass to clear away the fog that blocked his view. He was parked caddy-corner from the Sand-Dollar tavern and could see the alleyway behind it clearly.

This time of night there was little traffic. Except for the occasional customer sauntering into the bar, the place was fairly secluded. Which was why Gavin liked to meet his customers here.

With the windshield cleared, he spotted movement in the shadows. He squinted into the murky night and noted someone at the corner. He ran his fingers over his front pocket and gave the eight-ball of heroin within a confirming squeeze. Then he rattled open the door and stepped out. Before jogging across the street, he tugged up the collar of his jacket and yanked down his cap.

Thin pools of rain splish splashed beneath his heels as he stepped into the shadow of the alley and considered the figure standing beside the dumpster. He hadn’t dealt with this customer before, but she said she got his number from Billy James. Billy was pretty strung out but he was no snitch. So there was little chance of getting burned. And chicks were never a threat.

“You Candice?” He grabbed his collar and squeezed it tight against the rain.

The shadowy figure stepped closer. The woman was wearing a trench coat that shimmered in the wet and her face was hidden beneath the bill of a red ballcap that was pulled tight over her graying hair.

She looked up and studied him with flashing blue eyes. They were sunk in deep, wrinkled folds and surrounded with dark circles the color of bruises. Her skin was pale in the wane illumination from the street and she looked as if she hadn’t slept in days.

“You’re not what I expected.” She sounded almost disappointed.

The hair on Gavin’s neck sprang up at the statement. He suddenly wanted to be somewhere else.

“Well, you’re not what I was expectin’ either. You’re not like my usual customer. But what the hell…right?”

“Did you know Billy?” Her eyes were glued to his.

“Uh, yea. I knew him. Mainly business, ya know. But he seemed OK. ”

The old woman dropped her head. In the darkness, fat drops of rain gather on the brim of her cap and sparkled in the light before tumbling to the ground like tears.

“Sooo, we gunna do this or what?” Gavin asked. There were better things to do than stand in the rain for an eight-ball.

“Yes…I think we should.” She raised her head, and Gavin saw that she had pulled a snub-nosed revolver. The barrel gleamed in her small, pale hands.

Gavin took a surprised step back and raised his hands. “Whoa, no need for that. I don’t have but twenty bucks in my wallet. You can have it.”

He glanced up from the barrel of the gun and was trapped by the woman’s doleful eyes. Then, the alley flashed in murderous thunder. He felt a kick to the chest that slammed him back and dropped him to the cold, wet ground. In counterpoint, the tenebrous clouds grumbled overhead and thunder faded into the distance.

Gavin gasped in tight, painful hitches as waves of cold washed up his fingers and toes. The woman closed and pointed the gun at his head. Gavin held up shaking hands as if to ward the coming blow.

“Why…why are you doing this?”

“Billy was my son,” she said. “He died of an overdose. Today, I found your number on his phone. He called you the ‘Candy Man.'”

“But… that’s not my fault,” Gavin begged.

The thunder rumbled through the clouds like baleful laughter and rain pattered noisily in the alley.

“Isn’t it?”