The SWAT cop kicked in the front door of the crack shack, and Ricky followed him inside, scattergun pumped and ready to fill the air with an unhealthy amount of lead. The cop behind them shouted something about arrest warrants, but Ricky had no intention of arresting anyone today, especially if the ‘anyone’ happened to be Ivan, his ex-partner in a recent entrepreneurial venture.

The column of SWAT ants headed left, into the seedy living room with the brownish curtains, while Ricky veered right, through the kitchen piled high with soggy paper plates and crusted pots. Past the kitchen, a short hallway, and the bedroom beyond—Ricky’s finger whispering on the trigger. When the shadow darted into the bedroom doorway, he almost blasted it to shreds, stopped before the last quarter-pound of pressure by a familiar face—two familiar faces, in fact, one barely visible behind the other.

Ricky’s former business partner had a silver pistol to the lady’s head. The lady’s lip quivered; tears ran down her cheeks. Ricky cursed his choice of armament, not exactly fit for precision work.

Ivan grinned, and Ricky lowered the shotgun a few inches.

“We talk now, for real, okay?” Ivan said.

“For real,” Ricky replied. “Okay.” Hearing SWAT in the kitchen behind him, he raised a fist in the air, stopping them in their tracks. They had assault rifles but it was a narrow hallway and not much of a shot without hitting a cop or a hostage; Ivan, who had spent a couple of years doing casually horrific things in Chechnya, knew his way around a tactical standoff.

“The goods,” Ivan said.

“The goods,” Ricky parroted, lowering his fist so he could take firmer hold of the shotgun, which had drooped even further toward the floor. A good metaphor for his impotence in this situation, whispered the snotty twelfth-grader who still lived in his head.

“Are not here,” Ivan continued. “I go to get them, with your wife here. Then I leave town. Anybody tries to stop me, your wife dies.”

“You went to Daisy Street and grabbed her,” Ricky said, hoping to keep Ivan talking—but only about this kidnapping thing. If Ivan blurted out how Ricky had swiped a duffel full of weed from the evidence room, the two of them would probably end up in a cell together, and what a treat that would be.

“Yes,” Ivan nodded, sweaty, impatient. “I look up address on your driver’s license.”

Note to self, Ricky thought: The next time you need to make your mortgage payment, try to do it in a life-affirming and legal way, like getting a second job flipping burgers, instead of handing over fifty pounds of pot for a lunatic Russian to sell. “Gee, I need to renew that license,” Ricky said, hearing footsteps behind him, praying SWAT would refrain from anything stupid. “It’s been what, five years? Must almost be expired.”

“Shut up.” Ivan ground the pistol hard into the woman’s temple. “Your wife and I, we leave now. Clear a path.”

Ricky sighed. “There’s just one little problem.”

“What’s that?”

Locking eyes with the woman, Ricky said: “That’s not my wife.”

Ivan’s jaw dropped like a broken elevator. “Huh?”

“That’s my ex-wife, you moron.” Ricky raised the shotgun. “The one I pay too much alimony and child support. Whoops.”

Jane, his ex-wife, took the opportunity to dive hard for the floor, and Ricky earned himself a little karma by aiming a tad high as he pulled the trigger, clearing Ivan’s mind once and for all.

“Ruined my dress,” Jane said, peeling the red-soaked skirt from her legs.

“You’re welcome,” Ricky said, directing the SWAT cops into the room to clear it—while standing atop the square of floorboards where he knew Ivan kept most of his money hidden. Mortgage still had to be paid, right?

“I’ll send the cleaning bill to your child bride.” Jane smirked. “Now be a dear and drive me home.”

~ fin ~


Nick Kolakowski is the Derringer- and Anthony-nominated author of Maxine Unleashes Doomsday and Boise Longpig Hunting Club, as well as the Love & Bullets trilogy of novellas. He lives and writes in New York City. Visit him virtually at nickkolakowski.com.