Shady Palms


“Twelve years of marriage,” Dave said, “and this is what I get.”

Shawn clasped a sympathetic hand on his friend’s shoulder, passing along the bottle of Jack.

The two men sat in the front seat of Shawn’s work truck, in the parking lot of the Waffle House, next door to the Shady Palms, where April’s car currently sat parked in front of Room #9.

“Thanks for checking this out for me,” Dave said, relieving Shawn of the whiskey.

“Made me sick to see the way they were falling over each other.  I hated to be the one to tell you.”

“I’m glad it was you,” Dave said.  “I can’t help but feel this is karma.”

“Stop that.”

“No, it was a dick move, even at eighteen.”

“We dated a couple months senior year.  You two got married.  You obviously belonged together.”

“Obviously not.”  Dave swilled another swig.  “I knew she was seeing someone.  It’s been killing me.  The DUI.  The crash.  If it wasn’t for your dad, I’d be in jail right now.”

“It’s what he does.  You and April are like family to us.”

“Tell him I said thanks again, OK?”

“No problem.  We’re having dinner tomorrow night.”  Shawn gestured toward the motel.  “Why don’t you let me go in there?  I’ll make sure this clown stays away.”  Shawn had a couple inches and about thirty pounds on Dave.

“No, brother, some things you have to do on your own.”  Dave went to pass the bottle.

“You kill it.”

Dave tipped the fifth and chugged some courage.  He raised a brow.  “Got a bump?”

“Sure, buddy.”  Shawn brought out a folded square of paper from his breast pocket as Dave rolled a dollar bill straw.

Shawn sprinkled a rail onto the dash.  Dave leaned over and snorted it up.              Then he pushed open the door, slamming it shut with purpose.

Shawn watched as he stepped over the Waffle House’s metal bumper, striding with his chest puffed, picking up speed across the motel’s gravel lot.  At the door, Dave looked back over his shoulder and Shawn gave him a thumbs up.

Dave knocked.  When no one answered, he balled his fist and pounded harder.

The shotgun blast splintered the wood into a hundred little pieces, blowing a gaping hole through the middle of what used to be Dave.


Shawn stood behind the cordoned-off yellow tape talking to the detective while EMTs loaded the blood-soaked sheet and body into the back of the van.

“How’d he sound when he called?” Detective Capp asked.

“Drunk.  He’d been drinking a lot lately.  Said he was on his way here to score—wasn’t even supposed to be driving after he smacked up his car last month, must’ve swiped his wife’s while she was at work.  I knew about the drinking.  But drugs?  Wish I’d gotten here sooner.”

“Don’t say that,” Detective Capp said.  “Might be you under that sheet.”

Shawn nodded solemnly.

“Running with the wrong crowd, your friend.  Los Diablos don’t fuck around.”  Detective Capp turned toward the blasted doorway.  “Picked the wrong time to try to get high.  Word is the gang was in the middle of a monster meth deal.  Shit makes you paranoid, jumpy with the trigger.”

“He’d been convinced his wife was having an affair.  I know April.  She’s a good girl.  She’d never do that.”

“Fucking meth.”  Capp shook his head.  “You have a card, in case we have any more questions?”

Shawn extracted a business card from his wallet and passed it along.

Capp studied the card.  “Kindelan Lock & Key.  You’re not related to Jack Kindelan, by any chance?  The hotshot lawyer?”

“My dad.”

“You should ask him about Los Diablos.  If I recall he was involved in a Diablos case a few years back.  I’m sure he knows all about ’em.”

“Don’t see each other much these days.  Work, y’know?”

“I hear that.”  Capp extended a handshake.  “I guess I better call the wife, give her the bad news.”

“Actually,” Shawn said, “Would you mind if I did that?  We go way back.  She should hear it from me.  I’ll drive over there.  I’m sure she could use some…comforting.”

~ fin ~


Joe Clifford is acquisitions editor for Gutter Books and managing editor of The Flash Fiction Offensive. He is also the producer of Lip Service West, a “gritty, real, raw” reading series in Oakland, CA. Joe is the author of three books: Choice Cuts and Wake the Undertaker (Snubnose Press), and Junkie Love (Battered Suitcase Press). Joe’s writing can be found at