Jailbreaker in the Briar Patch


I ran. I ran fast as I could, tripped over my laces and eased my body into forward leaps that turned into junk street somersaults. I ran past Ritchie’s Market, past Harry Dzembo as he held the broom in his hands, slack-jawed. I heard him ask me what the fuck, but I was gone, man. I turned corners by radar; the blood in my eye sockets made my horizon a magenta mudslide. I went by the sounds of cans and bottles crashing against each other, surest bet I was heading into the bums’ squat. They wouldn’t dare lurk in there, and the cops would call for back-up first. I had some time to camo up.

I leaned against a brick wall slick with rain. I breathed deeply and wiped my eyes out. The movement ripped my cuts open fresh, but it gave me a minute to see where I was. Rusted dumpsters, shopping cart bums with dollar rain slickers house-hunting for spots under fire escapes and on heating grates. Shouting ricocheted off the street. Big, brawny guys. One of them had my blood on his fists. The other one was missing a brand-new phone and charger. If I could just lay low, I’d be loaded.

I picked up my feet and I could feel my inner parkour kicking in. I mean, I couldn’t see for shit and I was probably just stumbling around, but nothing beats a winning attitude, right? I weaved in and out of the alleyways and narrow streets of the squat. Those guys were preppy, jock fucks; muscle-bound, could beat me flat in a toe-to-toe, but I played ‘em like I was Br’er Rabbit and the squat was my briar patch.

“Oh, don’t leave me here! These bums will murder me!” Dumb fucks. There wasn’t one square inch of concrete in the whole neighborhood I hadn’t pissed on at least once. I settled in at the old bakery. It was prime real estate, cause for some odd reason, they never turned the electric off. It was old and grimy and dusty and a three-alarm fire hazard, but I needed a place to charge the phone. Hopefully, he hadn’t deactivated it yet. I could get three hundred more if it was already jailbroken.

I should’ve stayed in the bakery after the score. Getting the phone was in-and-out. He had a hooker, and he was naked. Couldn’t do a thing when I robbed the room. But I had to go out for smokes. They say the habit kills ya’. But I made it, and it was time to measure the size of the treasure.

‘Ding!’ and I was in. Dumbass didn’t even bother to use a password. I was flying through it. He didn’t have it deactivated, but he did have the GPS locater on. I plied my trade, and in a minute, the GPS was disabled. I jailbroke the phone using the laptop I was storing there, as I paid Big Moe to watch over it. Jailbreaking is a pain, but when you’re doing something every day, you get used to pain.

I lit up a smoke after jailbreaking it. Always a time for quick revelry. All that was left was deleting the numbers and pictures; my guy paid less if he had to do it himself. I quick swiped through the numbers – poor idiot probably wouldn’t remember half of them off the top of his head – and made my way to the pictures folder. There, I nearly swallowed my cigarette.

Bodies torn, cleaved; a crimson-streaked frat sweater, a middle-aged couple; there weren’t enough eyes… Too many pictures of butchered flesh, dark pools glistening in the light of the flash. And the last one I landed on, the most recently taken – I recognized the bedspread, the pillows… I was just there. But she was alive then, right? She had to be alive.

“Check every building,” a loud voiced called to his buddies. They had entered deep into the briar patch. I hid my laptop under plywood and packed the phone and charger into my pocket. I ran to the back door and scoped it out before taking another step.


I might be running forever.

~ fin ~

Liam (SH Pic)

Liam Sweeny is an author and short-story writer from upstate New York. His work has appeared online and in print in such periodicals as Thuglit, Pulp Modern, Spinetingler Magazine, All Due Respect and The Flash Fiction Offensive. His collection of shorts, Street Whispers, is available from most online retailers, and the latest in his Jack LeClere detective series, Presiding Over the Damned, will be available in August 2018 from Down & Out Books.