Second Chance Cleaners


“Meet the new boss.”

Lorca had just finished loading detergent onto the van.  He climbed down and saw a middle-aged guy, vaguely familiar, with his arms folded across his chest.  He had a flat-top of sandy blonde hair.

“Where’s Ross?” Lorca asked.

“Pastor Phelps caught him watching porn on the company laptop.  Third strike, I guess.”

Lorca had sort of liked Ross.

“Name’s Wade,” the man said, and shook Lorca’s good hand.


Wade had a cocaine problem.  No surprise; everyone who worked for Second Chance Cleaners came from some kind of addiction background, including Lorca.  Only thing, it was supposed to be in the past.

“You breathe one fucking word about this to Pastor Phelps and I’ll deny it.”  Wade brushed white powder from under his nose.  “Then I’ll kill you.”

They were parked across the street from a client’s house.  Lorca kept his face still.

“Another thing.  From time to time, certain opportunities might arise.”  Wade dug under the seat and pulled out what looked like a staple gun, except for the steel lock pick protruding from the barrel.  “You don’t have to do shit, just stay in the van and honk if you see anyone coming.”

“I can’t get into any–”

“That’s not a request.”

Twenty years ago Lorca might’ve hit him, right there.  Boss or no boss.  But he was older, slower, and his left arm had curled up after the stroke, useless as a chicken wing.  He shrugged.

“Whatever you say.”


Wade’s on-the-job thefts grew more frequent.  Erratic.  He snorted every day.  Sometimes he’d lock himself in the back of the van, while Lorca cleaned carpets.  The work took twice as long.  They fell behind.  Wade told Pastor Phelps it was because Lorca was slacking off.

“He’ll believe me over you,” Wade said, hollow-eyed.  “I play bass for the youth ministry.  Plus I’m white.”

“One piss-test and you’re gone,” Lorca said.

“Comes to that, you’re pissing for me.”

“You won’t be able to steal enough.  The habit just gets bigger.”

“Shut the fuck up.”

But Wade was getting careless.  Lorca figured out where he kept his stash.


The van’s interior stunk of chemicals.  Long job finished, and Lorca was going through the tedium of a one-handed man washing his one hand.  It always took awhile.

Wade watched, amused.  He unfolded a bindle of aluminum foil and dumped a fat line across the back of his clipboard.  Thrust his head down and snuffed.

Almost immediately, his head shot backwards.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAH!  AAAAAAAAAAH!”  Wade clawed at his nose.  He fell across the back seat, kicking, his sneakered feet pounding a frantic tattoo.  Lorca craned his neck out the window to see if anyone at the client’s house had noticed.  Not yet.

Wade thrashed and screamed.  His face was making a sizzling noise.  As well it should.  He’d just inhaled several grams of cocaine re-cut with dried cleaning reagent.

“I can drive you to the emergency room,” Lorca said.  “I’d be glad to.  But if you end up accusing me of anything I’ll take that fancy lock pick gun and any shit you haven’t fenced yet to the cops.  Understand?”

Wade nodded like his head was coming off.  Grey smoke curled from his nostrils.


Pastor Phelps had an open door policy.

“That’s three bosses in the past six months,” Lorca said.  “I think I should have a say in the hiring process.”

“Alright.”  Phelps removed his bifocals and rubbed his forehead’s un-lined flesh.  “Alright, Ricardo.  Anyone you know who’d make a good supervisor?”

Feeling something akin to triumph,     Lorca tapped his hand against his chest.

~ fin ~

Garnett Elliott lives and works in Tucson, Arizona. He's had stories appear in Alfred Hitchcock Magazine, Thuglit, and All Due Respect, among others. Look for his shorts collection Scorched Noir on Amazon, as well as the soon to be released Borderland Noir anthology edited by Craig McDonald, featuring stories by James Sallis and Ken Bruen