Semper Fidelis


A rude medley of street sounds enters the diner with each customer.


Black running shoes and faded jeans, topped by a windbreaker and baseball cap, the barest hint of what I know is a Glock pressing against the material of her sweatshirt.

She sits, pretends to read the menu.

“Hi,” I say, snapshots of us at Parris Island and the Mideast flipping through my mind.

A server takes our orders.

She slides her phone to me; an infant’s face fills the screen.

“Meet Vince.”


“My best mistake.”

Attempting to forget me in a booze-induced haze, she hooked up with the hot guy from high school. Two months later, morning sickness replaced hangovers.

“It gets better; Hot Guy is a Wise Guy; took over as Boss when his father passed,” she says.

 “Your life is a romance novel written by Stephen King.”

“He wants Vince. No lawyers, no courts. That can’t happen.”

“Where’s the kid?”

“My dad.”

We hoof it to a parking garage. A balding, middle-aged guy slithers off a stool.

“Morning, ladies,” he says, eyes undressing us.

“Hi yourself! I can’t find that darn ticket,” she says, repeatedly checking her pockets.

“No problem, sweetheart,” he responds. “What kind of vehicle?”

“Bless you! It’s that BMW,” she whines, pointing to a convertible.

As he removes the keys from a cabinet, she applies a sleeper hold. In ten minutes, we’re hurtling east on the interstate, Zeppelin blasting from the speakers.

“Unless you have a permit for that piece, you might want to ease up,” I yell.

Flashing a smile, she slows to seventy-five.

“You’re sure about this?” she asks.

“No sleep till Brooklyn.”

“The Bronx, actually.”

An hour later, we’re stopped by a trooper.

“Do you know how fast you were going…Ms. Chang?”

“I’m so sorry, officer.”

“Trooper, ma’am.”

“Sorry. Please call me Michelle.”

Letting her off with a warning, he takes another look at me; the kind of look some cops reserve for people my shade.

In Jersey, we switch to an older sedan; unlocked, easy to hotwire.

Crossing into Manhattan, the skyline sparkles like grounded starlight.

We’re soon in what she tells me is the Bronx, but doesn’t fit my preconceptions; mini mansions with sprawling front lawns on quiet, tree-lined streets.

The app announces we’ve arrived.


The house resembles a Tuscan villa.

“No goons?”

“He’s convinced no one would dare.”

Parking around the corner, she removes the magazine from her Glock, then retracts the slide, catching a nine-millimeter round as it jumps from the chamber. She then reverses the process, reloading.

“This is your last chance.”

“Semper Fi,” I respond.

She kisses my cheek.

“Let me do this; it’s too personal. He’s still the father of your son.”

“He hit me. While I was holding Vincent.”

I wait.

“He’s a sociopath. He will never stop. I need to end this now.”

Stepping out, she moves toward the house.

Catching up, I wrap my right arm around her throat, taking her to the ground. She struggles, then goes limp.

Popping the trunk, I lay her inside.

Drawing my weapon, I approach the house. A dim light glows on the ground floor.

The door is unlocked. Classical music plays. I follow the sound of running water.

Vincent Sr., tall and broad-shouldered, stands at the sink.

Leveling my firearm at him, I whisper his name.

He turns, hands raised.

“You must be Vanessa,” he says, smiling. “You’re even hotter than described.”

My stomach roils.

An older man appears, holding a shotgun. I fire two rounds, center mass; threat eliminated.

The kitchen explodes with the sound of a large caliber weapon. My shoulder screams in agony.

Vincent stands over me pointing a .44.

“Sorry, sweetheart; Micky shouldn’t have sent the B team.”

I spit in his face.

Two sharp hissing sounds. He crumples.

I lose consciousness trying to identify the opera playing over the speakers.


A different vehicle, racing away from the breaking dawn.

Pushing myself upright, I suck in air at the fire in my field-dressed shoulder.

“I bet that stings,” she says.

“How?” I ask, watching trees speed by.

“Interior trunk release; mandatory since 2002.”

“Interior trunk release. Damn.”

A sign reads “Welcome to Vermont.”

~ fin ~


Joe Badalamente was born and raised in New York City. His short story Partner won the AKC Gazette’s 24th Annual Fiction competition. His novel, The King & Me: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy, was named a finalist in the 2023 International Book Awards, and won Outstanding Novella in the Independent Author Network 2022 competition.