Hudson County, November ’80


Hundies, fifties, twenties.  Plenty.  All tidied in a mother-of-pearl inlay cash clip.  A chunk chiseled off the sun.  Not plated; gold on through, eighteen carat, maybe twenty-four, more?, plucked off Saturday morning’s flaking decayed curbstone, battered-to-dust slate-gray snow powdering the personalized “J.F.D.”, and the etched-in artwork; like half-a-claddagh, or entwined fingers, or a secret society high-level handshake.

A creased sheet of bone-white typewriter paper with neatly printed phone numbers, attendant identifying initials, checkmark assessment alongside each entry—ratings, one to five—cocaine customers? … ropa vieja joints? … protection? … foxy whores? …

No job, no prospects, just his sidewalk act.  He’d normally be draining beers in the morning anyway, waiting for his ship to float in on the barspill, so untoward over-interest from nosy Gerald behind the taps isn’t piqued; Gerald barely looks up at all as Zeke, up front, works the picture window vista, reconnoitering, shielded by the neon hunter’s blind; anticipates–scans, across the avenue, a brutal broken world.

Pumps the jukebox, and amuses himself with an appropriate favorite; Garland Jeffreys singing “cool down, boy”.

“Y’all right?”  Gerald’s decided there’s way too much mid-autumn morning sweat on Zeke’s face to let pass.


(Just grubbed some llello-ista’s sunshiny snap-crackle.  Counted, folded, pocketed; the gold shekeled by the pawny once the five-block walk feels … safe?  All before noon.  Cool, indeed.)

“Big weekend?  Early start?”  Complexion of a bar rag.  Ringin’ out poison from an all-hours Friday, Gerald’s thinking.

Good start.”

Says Zeke.


Jesus Felipe Duhon–Rican, Euro-Cuban, Scotch-Irish slave name, a moderne blend for the new All-American vaquero urbano–jay-walked the side street, two grunts sitting the front while he approached from the back.  Duhon knew Gerald.  They’d come to terms, advantage Gerald.  Because Duhon couldn’t care if a standing building, a remnant smoking crater, or an unconsecrated graveyard was on the corner of the avenue, and Gerald understood.  Saw nothing, said nothing.  Not ever.

Duhon’d heard the other’s name around.  He didn’t care about that either.


“’Nother?”  Gerald did say that, after seeing nothing, then turned around and away, making sure to miss the rest.

Palms to the bar; up, off the round red stool.

“Nah.  Settin’ sail.”  To beat the coming squall, cash-in, and go home.  Or go farther.

Shadows, by Zeke unseen.  The sudden air-cool turned him; a side door breeze.  A billowed, splayed three-quarter duster.  The wind blew.

Loud, bright, away.  Gust after gust launched from the pistol that put Zeke down, the light in his head and eyes out and gone, hitting the deck by the window and juke.  Blood pumped and spurt from the open right side of his jaw, leaked onto his lap and then the floor until it was done.

Duhon waved at Gerald.  “His name again?”

Gerald saw and heard that.

“Zeke, calls himself.”

“Zeke?  He chose ZekeThe hell?”  Duhon laughed, shook his head at his super-fine buckled leather boots, and asked Gerald, “Borrow your phone?”

Duhon unfolded the bone-white typewriter paper.  “New number.  Gotta get it into my day book.  You know.”  Gerald knew.

It rang.  Florida.  Duhon cupped the mouthpiece and said, “Figure out something about this mess?”

“Armed robbery gone wrong, no problem.  Dime a dozen now, with …” and left out the all you guys around.  Duhon nodded.  Fair enough.  He’d hurry.

“Mom?  How is it?  Beautiful?  Yes, we knew, just what you wanted.  I’m a little rushed right now, but … oh, that’s great, but please, if it’s not for you, you feel like coming … well, so you know, whatever you want.”  Gerald knew Duhon’s mom, knew exactly what she wanted; to get out, soon as possible, and stay out, of what was rapidly becoming the real Dodge.


First-on-the-scene undercover gets greased, before the blue-and-badges in the cherry-tops roll up, and utilizing his greed-synced prescient senses Detective Piccolo materialized in silent magic to get his palm oiled.  Three off the top of the golden clip, and Gerald’s story would carry the weight.

Duhon joined his sentries cross-corner by the phone booth.  “Lunch, watch a game, some beers?  Earned it.”

Flat gazes at boss Duhon, then each other.  Hard-ons.  That would fly until Duhon saw it coming.

“Nah, we’re good,” one said in their voice.  “Let’s go to work.”

~ fin ~

Gary Cahill is an Active Member of Mystery Writers of America New York and International Thriller Writers. His first published short story, That Kind of Guy, was a celebratory Black Mask and Department of First Stories selection in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and was later reprinted in a Pulp Empire anthology. A sequel of sorts, Corner of River and Rain, appeared in a Short Story Me Genre Fiction anthology, and The Damnedest Things in The First Line Literary Journal Fall 2012. Fathers, Sons, Ghosts, Guns will be in the Big Pulp Magazine themed collection The Kennedy Curse in Fall 2013. He worked for nearly twenty five years in (and still plays in what’s left of) New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, and is now a staffer across the river at the Weehawken NJ Public Library.