Blair calls to let me know Smilin’ Jackie’s back in town. Her voice is all silk stockings and razorblades, but right now it’s trembling so bad I can hardly tell what she’s saying. Even a razorblade’ll snap if you shake it up enough. She asks if she can stay at my apartment. Of course she can. Door’s open.

I’m already downstairs when she’s coming up the street. Coupla’ pricks in Mariners hoodies coming off a bender think it’s funny to waggle their tongues and make faces at the blind girl, until they see the scarecrow-looking fucker in an Alley t-shirt leaning by the doorway. If the crow tattoos don’t tip ‘em off to who it is, the mismatched eyes and the cigarette hanging off my lip do. I give ‘em the eye and they take off running. Any other night, she’d have hit me with her cane for “bullying”. But not tonight.

She’s barely got her Chucks off before she hits the bed, already out cold. I take care of the rest, peeling off her jacket and jeans, leaving a Smashing Pumpkins shirt and a scrapbook of scars – gashes of white on café au lait skin, each one a bad grindhouse flick in a nightmare cinema. I stroke a lock of black hair out of her face and catch the first show, already almost faded. It’s from when Jacko got drunk and clubbed her with a bottle of Maker’s. She was lucky the thing shattered so easy, left her with a spiderweb and blindness instead of something worse. I run my hand over her back and keep going down the list. The only reason he’s not adding to it is because he doesn’t know about me.

Five little crescent moons in her arm, left by a handful of crack nails when she tried to run from one of his drunken rages. There’d be a scar in her mouth from where his left hook split the roof to go with it. Six-inch gash two inches below the ribs – Jackie tickled her with a Bowie knife when he caught her with a barista. They never found the  body. There’s the ropes of raised skin on her back, marks from being whipped with a bike chain. Burns across her stomach from manning his explosive cocktails of Drano and turpentine. Guinea pig track marks along both her forearms. Puckered skin in her left thigh from a .38 after she’d been left as the distraction when the cops knocked down Jackie’s door. The bastard was too strung out to remember they carried radios. They caught him four blocks away while the ambulance was shrieking up the freeway. Last I heard, he was begging for a plea deal: Half the meth cooks in Belltown for a couple years off his sentence. Guess it stuck.

She moans a little in her sleep, pulls at her shirt before rolling over on her other side. Four years of hell all scrambling for screen time. It takes a little digging, but I find my old jacket, sliced all to ribbons from my last job, and sling it over her small body. I kiss her on the forehead, lock the window, and close the bedroom door without a sound.

The clock on the kitchenette counter says 6:23. Sun won’t be up for another hour or so yet. I’ve got time. I find my bottle of Maker’s Mark and take a swig before pouring the rest down the drain. My brass knuckles are by the toaster and I hunt the pile of clothes on the couch for a clean shirt. I pick a red tie to go with it. At 6:30, I lace up my boots, take my new jacket off the rack and have a look in the closet. Switchblade. Lantern oil and my lighter – close enough. I pull out a pack of unused hypos and find a jar of unfinished hoodoo I’d put together for an old gig. Of course I’ve got a .38. I search high and low for a bike chain. No dice. Doesn’t matter. I throw what I’ve got into a duffel bag and go.

I can pick that up on the way.

~ fin ~

Joe Myers is a writer of hardboiled, pulp adventure, and urban fantasy and does freelance illustration when the mood hits. When he’s not hunting for jackets and old punk rock t-shirts, he can be found on Twitter @joemu362.