PREMIUM

Jack Lake was a motherfucking SOB. He knew it. He didn't give a fuck. And unlike the hitmen with the hearts of gold he laughed at in the movies—hitmen who took pity on their marks and even saved their asses—he didn't give a fuck about the marks, or little kids whose parents were marks. Hell, he wouldn't have given a fuck if the little kids were his marks. And fuck collateral damage, if there was any—but he was good enough that there wasn't. It's an ugly, sick world. A job's a job. And he was good at what he did.


He took pride in his work. Why do a job if you're not going to do it right? Why take it in the first place? If he were a burger flipper or a dishwasher he would have done the best job he could with that. But he wasn't. He was a killer. He liked to think the best killer in the world.


He knew there were no do-overs in this biz. Once the bullet left the gun or the knife hit its mark or the poison flowed, that was it. All the king's men and all the king's horses couldn't grab that bullet and stop it from reaching its target.


His philosophy: take whatever you can get, get as much as you can. Don't take your work home with you.


It paid good. He led a good life.


* * *


Jack logged onto the web, the Deep Web, the Dark Web, where not much good happened. It was like the saying "Nothing good ever happens after midnight." Well, nothing good ever happened on the Dark Web. What did happen: people sold stolen credit cards and social security numbers. They bought and sold drugs, weapons. Even people. And worse.


He launched into Tor, the browser add-on that allowed him to surf the Deep Web anonymously. Once in, he cruised to AcidRain369, a dark side mashup of Facebook, Gmail, Intellius and Spokeo. The dark yin of the white yang of the web everyone knows. Checked his messages. One. From Tiny Tim, not his real name of course. Someone Jack worked for frequently. TT had a job for him. Looked like an easy one. Half the payment had already been deposited to Jack's Bitcoin account. The other half would be there when the job was complete.


Jack smiled. Someday he'd be rich enough to quit this shit. He was well on his way. Someone else might have poured himself a drink now, smoked a joint, maybe even shot up. Jack was straight. He wanted his wits about him at all times, even when he wasn't working.


He memorized certain details of the job: Who, where, when, the deadline. And then everything on the screen disappeared, sort of a Snapchat for hitmen.


Each "case" produced its own set of challenges, logistics issues. The current job was a lead pipe cinch, an old expression he'd heard in the movies and that he liked because of its imagery.


* * *


Jack's condo was comfortable. Filled with art he liked, repros and originals. Close to the beach in Santa Monica. Clean in every possible way. No guns here. If he was ever compromised by the law he didn't want them to find any firearms, not even clean ones. If someone else found him it would go down hand-to-hand, mano-a-mano. Maybe a knife fight. He wasn't particularly tall, 5'10" on a good day. Mildly stocky. But he knew how to fight. And he had the fire in the belly that made all the difference anyway. Average good looks. Looked a little like a young Sam Shepherd people told him. Otherwise, he was just a regular guy, a consultant in the private security industry and he had all the cover he needed to prove it.


A cleaning woman came in once a week. Jack had nothing to hide. Nothing in the place suggested what he really did for a living. He knew where everything was. A place for everything and everything in its place. He was meticulous in every way. Uncluttered apartment, uncluttered mind. And he needed an uncluttered mind for his work. He worked methodically. Everything had to be done right, risks mitigated. When people acted too quickly they made mistakes. When they let emotion get in the way they made bigger mistakes. Got sloppy. Jack was all about doing everything right.


In a Lonely Place with Humphrey Bogart, one of Jack's favorite movies, played in the background as he logged into the Clearnet—the unencrypted, non-Dark Web. The mark—Lane Glasgow—was no one special, no one famous, at least not a name Jack recognized. Just someone another someone wanted offed. Maybe for something real, maybe for something trivial. Jack didn't concern himself. TT was the middleman, Jack the operator. One way or another people found TT. He was in a more risky position than Jack. But you never knew when security might be breached. Jack always carried his passport. Well, not his real passport, but one that matched his counterfeit driver's license so he could get away at a moment's notice. And his documents weren't those cheap jobs you got down on Alameda. His were done by a master forger for a small fortune. He wasn't taking any chances.


Using an anonymizer, he searched the mark on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and every other site he could think of—nice pix, dude. He wanted to know everything about Lane Glasgow. The guy was an open book. Worked at Warner Records. Divorced. Had a girlfriend. He probably even loved his mother. And Jack never knew what the marks had done to warrant a hit, never asked. Probably the usual, owed a bookie, screwed the wrong guy's girl—or boy. He didn't care. Didn't want to know. He wasn't the judge or jury, just the executioner.


Jack went back to the dark side of the web. Paid thirty bucks to AcidRain369. He could have paid Intellius, and the other Clearnet services like it, a buck, but AcidRain369 was untraceable and in his line of work that was a must. It easily found the mark's home address, in fact every home address he'd had for the last twenty years. And everything else Jack could possibly want to know about him.


* * *


Jack stalked Glasgow online for two days before he ever set out to stalk him in real life. To do a hit right you didn't just walk up to a guy and whack him. Yeah, you could. But that took the fun out of it. It was an art, a sport. Jack loved the hunt.


Then you had to decide on the proper method of disposal and if disposal of the body would even be part of it. Some employers wanted the mark disposed of in certain ways. Some, like the one who wanted Glasgow 187'd, wanted to make an example out of him, a warning to others. Do it in public.


Seven a.m. the next morning Jack was outside Glasgow's home on Detroit Avenue in LA's Miracle Mile neighborhood. Young punk music biz dude in his metrosexual skinny jeans and pork pie hat. Probably thought he owned the world. Wouldn't be owning much soon. Another fucking rock 'n' roll wannabe. Well, he might be more than a wannabe. This wasn't a cheap neighborhood. He lived in the downstairs unit of a Spanish duplex, not far from El Coyote. El Coyote had been around since 1931. Moved once a few blocks from its original location to its current location on Beverly Boulevard. From what he gathered, Glasgow ate at El Coyote at least twice a week. You either loved or hated this place. Jack liked it. He'd been going there forever. Always crowded. Good place for a hit since Jack liked doing it in public. But he wouldn't hurt their business like that.


Since both he and Glasgow frequented El Coyote, Jack wondered if they'd ever sat at adjoining tables. The things you think of when you're tailing a mark.


Jack watched Glasgow for three non-consecutive days. His standard surveillance time. Sometimes it went longer, but three days seemed to work. Most people were creatures of habit, you watch 'em a couple of days, you got 'em. Jacked watched Glasgow go to work at Warner Music, though he didn't seem to have regular hours. He'd get lunch at Pink's, hotdog stand to the stars, on La Brea two out of the three days. Hit the ATM on the way back from lunch all three days. Check out new bands at clubs each night.


Half the fun for Jack was in the stalking. The other half was doing the job in some crowded place and getting away with it. He could have done it in a dark, deserted parking lot at night or some other place. But there were cameras almost everywhere these days and he found that doing it in a crowd often camouflaged his actions. Also, if there were a lot of people around, confusion reigned. The easier it was to get away. He always wore a baseball cap with a wide brim and kept his head down.


Besides, doing it in a crowd, in the middle of tons of people, made his adrenalin pump. Jack liked that.


The third night he followed Glasgow to Cramp, a club on the Strip. Hipsters rode the sidewalks like cattle heading to the slaughter—and one of them was. Jack tailed Glasgow. Glasgow slipped in and out of jamming hipsters. Music thumped and pulsed from the club. He lost Glasgow for a couple of minutes. Found him again, sidled up. Jack walked in step with him. Hand reaching into the back of his belt, covered by a jacket. He felt the cold grip of the .380 Sig P-238 as he slipped it down to his side. He counted the beats. On the next downbeat:


Bam.


Glasgow fell. The bass kept pumping out the door of the club. At first no one realized someone had been shot. People stepped over the dead man, until finally a girl in come-fuck-me heels started screaming. Screaming is contagious. The crowd went wild. Jack slipped easily away, tucking the pistol in his belt.


* * *


Paz, the maître d' seated Jack at his usual table—back to the wall—at Morton's, his favorite LA steakhouse. A waiter came up.


"The usual, Mr. Lake?" the waiter asked. The waiter knew him by name. One of his fantasies as a kid was to be able to go to a place where they knew his name and where he could order "the usual". Probably came from watching too many old movies. They knew what he liked here. And they knew he didn't drink. So they brought him bread and butter, a Caesar salad and a cherry Pepsi for starters. They didn't normally serve cherry Pepsi, but they kept a case in the back just for him.


Check off another successful job for Tiny Tim. He'd text TT later tonight and the final payment would be on its way. Right now, time to celebrate. Glasgow thought he was a hot shit music dude. Now he was just another number for LA's latest murder stats.


Jack looked at the well to do people around him. You didn't come to Morton's if you didn't have money. He wondered how they got their cheddar. Movie producers, screenwriters, there was a local weather gal in the corner. Lots of Hollywood folk here. Also bankers, movers and shakers in various industries. He scanned the room, wondering what they thought he did for a living.


That made him think about how he'd gotten into this biz. It certainly wasn't show biz, like so many of the folks here. But it had elements of that. You had to be a good actor. You had to dress for the occasion, up or down. He'd been a normal kid, a good kid. Got into the usual trouble, things like stealing from the local 7-Eleven and ditching school, but nothing like kids get into today. There were no guns in his house, that would have horrified his mother. He'd never served in the military, hadn't been a cop. But he liked guns, was good with them and seemed to have nerves of steel. Everyone said so. And then he met a guy who knew a guy … and here he was.


He wondered what wires got crossed that allowed him to do this kind of work. Questions you don't want to ask yourself and are better left unthought. But every once in a while they'd pop into his head.


It's not even that he didn't have empathy for his marks. If he'd taken the time to think about it he would have, but then he wouldn't have been able to do the job. He compartmentalized. The job was a job. You did it. You didn't think about it after. So why was he thinking about it tonight? Maybe because it had been his twenty-ninth hit and just like turning thirty his thirtieth hit would be a milestone.


Sure, the first one was hard. After that it was just a job. That's how he looked at it from day one. And how he had looked at it ever since. He wasn't ashamed, still it wasn't the kind of thing you tell someone on your first date. Maybe never.


Oh well, why think about it? It is what it is. He paid his bill, said his goodbyes to the wait staff.


"But I don't like shrimp, daddy. Why can't I eat what I like?" Jack heard the kid on his way out.


"I don't care what you like. I paid good money for that." The father grabbed the boy's hand, squeezed hard. His mother just looked away, saying nothing. "You're embarrassing me you stupid little shit. You're as dumb as—"


Jack watched the boy, maybe around seven years old, struggle to hold back his tears. He grabbed the man's wrist, twisting until he let go of the boy. "Leave him alone."


"Who the fuck are you?" The man stood—at least four inches taller than Jack. Probably had useless gym rat muscles under his shirt. Size didn't intimidate Jack. Half the battle was the fire in your gut. He could see in this guy's eyes there wasn't any.


Jack stared him in the eyes. "He's just a kid. You're gonna screw him up for life."


The man didn't apologize to the kid, but he sat back down and shut up.


"I come here a lot. If I hear you hurt this kid I'll find you." Jack walked out. He had to say that 'cause he knew if he didn't the guy would screw with the kid later. He still might, but he also might be scared of this crazy guy. Jack wished he'd get a hit on the father. Hell, he might even do a freebie on him some day.


High-rises dazzled as he walked to his car, a Mustang GT Premium Convertible that he'd picked up when he'd gone home to change and shower after the Glasgow hit. His fun car, as opposed to the non-descript, metallic gray Camry—his work ride, which didn't stand out anywhere.


"Hey, buddy, I haven't eaten in a week." The man looked like he hadn't changed his clothes or bathed in a year.


Jack didn't believe him for a second. Tossed him a fiver anyway. LA always meant progress to him, new buildings, new spirit, new people. The place where people came to start over. Some fell through the cracks, ending up like this guy. Others turned tail and went home. Still others got involved with shit they shouldn't have and some of them got to meet Jack professionally. Oh well, that's life.


* * *


Jack liked eating alone. He didn't like being alone all the time. He stopped by Amber's house after dinner. They're all named Amber these days, or Tiffany or Ashley, he thought. Even some who didn't look like they could ever be an Amber or Tiffany. And they all claimed to be independent. But they still all wanted more time—his time—when he only wanted a casual relationship. In his line of work it didn't pay to get serious with anyone.


Amber's hand slid between his legs.


His phone chimed with a personalized ringtone snip of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. The only person set up for that ringtone was Tiny Tim. A text. Innocuous on the surface, but with the code word meaning that another job had come. This was a good month. He'd make his nut for the year before Memorial Day. Could coast after this next job if he wanted to. He enjoyed what Amber was doing, but still shifted away.


"You're all sorts of cold tonight," she said.


"Sorry. Been working hard lately."


She got up, walked to the bar to fix a drink. She knew him well enough to know he wouldn't want one, not alcohol anyway. While she fiddled with the glass and ice, he logged into Tor. Checked his messages.


"What's wrong, baby?"


"I have to go."


"But you just got here. Don't you want any sugar?"


"I'm sorry. I have to deal with something." Jack lurched out of there. This wasn't his normal. Jobs usually didn't faze him. This one was different.


He fired up the Mustang.


* * *


Jack slammed the door of his condo. Sat down at the computer.


The new mark: Jason Trammel. Jack didn't know him well. Didn't know him at all anymore. Had known him in high school. They weren't even good friends back then, but Trammel was a decent enough guy. What the hell had he gotten himself into that someone wanted him dead—one of those questions Jack usually didn't concern himself with. Trammel must've done something or he wouldn't be on the list.


Jack knew this day would come sooner or later. He'd get a job on someone he knew. He just didn't think it would happen this soon. Should he do it or should he pass it up? He was a professional. He was cool. Had a rep to protect. He'd do it. But for the first time he had second thoughts. He debated giving the hit to another operator. But once you started doing that your rep went to hell. He didn't feel like he had a choice. The rock and the incredibly hard place.


He told himself it wouldn't matter, a gig was a gig. But it did matter, not enough to put him off the job. Still, something gnawed at his gut. That thing that he'd pushed down and repressed and stomped in place for so many years was rearing its ugly head. His conscience.


"Fuck it," Jack said. "A job's a job. This one's no fucking different."


* * *


He never left a paper trail or even a computer trail. Everything he did was anonymized and disappeared right after he looked at it. And everything he'd learned about Jason Trammel was in his head now. If the authorities could learn to read minds they'd find a shitload of incriminating evidence. Luckily by the time they could do that he'd be retired or dead.


Trammel worked for 20th Century-Fox. Lived on Ilona Avenue in Rancho Park, a few blocks west of the studio in West LA. Weekdays Trammel kept a pretty regular schedule. Went to the studio at eight a.m. Left around six p.m. It was next to impossible to get onto a studio lot. They were guarded better than Fort Knox and some nuclear sites. That didn't bother Jack. He hated those Hollywood fucks anyway. They had an arrogant attitude that made him want to do some freebies on them. Hell, he wished he'd get a contract for every single one of them. Besides, they made crappy movies these days.


But today was Saturday, his third day tailing Trammel.


Jack sat in his car, half a block down the street, watching Trammel's house. Nice, tree-lined street. Typical Spanish style houses, but early ones, before they got all crapped out with fake stucco and fake old LA ambience. He had a family, wife, two kids. Private school. Must've been making good money to live here and afford private school.


Trammel and his family came out, got into his deep blue metallic BMW 228i convertible, headed out with the top up. Jack followed him a few blocks to the Apple Pan, a small diner on Pico that had been around forever. Some claimed it had the best burger in LA. Maybe it did. Jack waited for the Trammels to come out. Thirty-six minutes later they did. Jack got to pick the time and place and cold-hearted as he was, he didn't want to off Trammel in front of his kids.


Next stop, the Westside Pavilion, a shopping mall across Pico. Jack shadowed the Trammels to Brookstone. They went in, came out twelve minutes later with a small package. Jack didn't care what was in it.


On the way home, they stopped for frozen yogurt. Then back to the house. Trammel came out alone twenty-two minutes later in an expensive jogging outfit. Jogged to his car and took off, heading up the hill to Mulholland Drive, still with the top up. He drove west to where Mulholland turned into a dirt road. Rumor had it there were decommissioned Nike missile sites here. Trammel exited the Beamer, stretched for seven minutes, then took off. Jack parked behind a stand of trees. Waited.


That's what his job was about more than anything. Waiting. Waiting for the right time, the right place, the right circumstances. And maybe waiting for the police to bust your door down in the middle of the night some time.


Nobody else was around. And no cameras like down in the city.


This was the time.


This was the place.


The sun began to sink behind the mountains. A crimson tide dividing the land from the sky. Trammel would have to return soon. Jack waited patiently—you learned patience on this job. To the north sat the San Fernando Valley. To the south the city of LA. He got out of his car to be ready for Trammel.


Trammel rounded a bend. Saw Jack. Squinted.


"Bryan, is that you?" Trammel stopped his forward movement. Kept jogging in place.


Jack hadn't meant to be noticed. He'd misjudged Trammel's pace. He came around the corner before Jack expected him to. He also hadn't expected Trammel to remember him and it was odd hearing his real first name. Nobody had called him that in years. His parents were dead and everyone else knew him as Jack. He didn't keep in touch with the old gang. Wasn't sentimental. Didn't go to high school reunions or anything. But he did live in LA and figured he'd run into someone who knew him sooner or later. It never happened. Until now.


"What're you doing up here? Certainly not dressed for running," Trammel said.


"Just taking a walk, looking at the sights," Jack ad-libbed. They talked about their high school. Do you remember so-and-so? And what's so-and-so doing today?


"And what about you?" Jack said.


"I'm working for the studios now. Nothing glamorous, accounting, but it pays the bills." Trammel stopped jogging in place. "What do you do?"


"I'm a hitman."


"What?"


Jack pulled the Sig.


Trammel's eyes opened wide. "Me?"


Jack nodded.


"Who would want me dead?"


"I don't know. But I'm thinking you do."


"We're friends. You don't have to do this."


Jack never talked to his marks. Maybe the odd "Hey," when they saw him coming—if he wanted them to see him. Never a conversation. This felt different. He didn't like it. But he'd screwed up. Maybe he'd wanted to talk to Trammel. Maybe he wasn't so hard and removed from his previous life as he'd thought. Maybe he was having second thoughts. After all, he'd known Trammel. He wasn't a bad guy. Fuck it. It's the job. If he didn't do it someone else would. And the contractor might even put a hit out on him. Compartmentalize.


"Yeah, I do."


Trammel started to run. Bam! Jack shot him in the head. He fell, blood everywhere. Head wounds bleed heavily even when they aren't necessarily serious. Jack fired one more to make sure.


"Sorry, Jason." He jammed it to his car and took off.


* * *


"I don't wanna fucking go home," he said, put the Camry in gear, drove off the dirt onto asphalt. Burned rubber down the street, as much as a Camry can burn rubber. He headed for Morton's, his usual after-job celebration place. On the way there, he passed a local watering hole. Nothing special. Neighborhood bar. Thought about stopping. Decided to keep going. Didn't want to spend time with the local losers who'd rather drink themselves into a stupor than let TV put them in the same state.


He parked in a metered spot near Morton's. Didn't want the valet to see the Camry. Normally he stopped home first, showered, changed clothes and cars. Not this time.


The maître d', Paz, sat Jack with his back to the wall. "You look wiped, Mr. Lake," he said.


"Been a rough day. I'm thirsty."


Paz himself brought him an ice cold glass of cherry Pepsi. "Are you sure you're okay?"


Jack hesitated, then, "I got a job I shouldn't have taken."


"Was the money good?"


Jack nodded.


"What more do you want?"


"It meant fucking someone I know."


"Then don't take it. Back out," Paz said.


"Too late."


Paz signaled a waiter over. Grabbed a glass and a bottle of Glenlivet Nadurra, that was meant for someone else, from the waiter's tray. "Then don't cry over spilled milk. Cry over this," he said, pouring a shot of the Glenlivet. Jacked downed it in one gulp. His first drink in years. "On the house."


The next three weren't freebies.


Jack slammed the restaurant door on the way out. He stared up at the moonless sky.


"Goddamn it!" he said. People stared. The street opened into a black hole. Jack fell in. Now he had to ask those questions no one wants to ask themselves—questions he still didn't want to ask.


He stopped at a liquor store. Bought more Glenlivet. There were better and more expensive single malts, but this would do the trick. Drank enough to forget what the questions were.


* * *


"Who is that, mommy?"


"Don't look." She steered her kids to the lee side of the ocean.


"Why are his clothes all torn up and why does he smell like that? Ew."


Ms. Perfect grabbed her kid's hand, scurried him off down the Venice boardwalk. Jack wanted to laugh at her. Couldn't.


Still drunk from the night before, he walked up the boardwalk toward the Santa Monica Pier. Hit the sand. Made some new friends, shared what was left of the Glenlivet with them. They were just like him, fucked up for one reason or another. He'd tried to drown his conscience in Scotch, but only drowned himself. Last night was a blur. Somehow he'd ended up down here at the beach with his new friends, but he couldn't remember coming here. He watched the Sunday morning tourists and gawkers stroll along the boardwalk.


"Damn sand gets into everything," he said, clutching the passed joint, sucking on it. Taking his time. He remembered watching an old black and white movie one night with Tyrone Power. Power plays a conman, who goes from the top to the bottom. He becomes a geek in a circus sideshow, biting the heads off chickens. Would he fall that far?


"Don't Bogart that joint," Trip said. He'd worked in Hollywood as an assistant cameraman for a while. Was on his way to becoming a high-paid DP until the monkey jumped his back.


Jack sucked down another long drag, passed it over. He looked around, sand. Clear blue sea, clearer, bluer sky. Two boys at water's edge building the tallest, most complex sandcastle he'd ever seen.


Pacific Park on the Santa Monica pier. The chunk-chunk-chunk of the roller coaster climbing its way up the first hill. Kids raising hands over their heads, screaming with joy.


The rhythmic rush in-rush out of the waves mesmerized him. He could stare at them forever, get lost under those waves. Learn to breathe like a fish and stay there forever, hidden by a protective layer of briny water.


They passed a bottle to Jack. He slugged down a huge swig of some kind of rotgut whiskey. It wasn't Glenlivet that was for damn sure.


Fog rolled in like it did in one of those old Universal horror movies—Dracula, Frankenstein—they played on TV every Saturday afternoon when he was a kid. It blacked out the sun except for a wedge of hard-edged light that sliced across the beach. He got up, dragging his feet across the sand to the burning asphalt of the parking lot.


"Damn." He slipped on his boots.


He nearly crawled into Olivia's, a dive joint on Ocean Park and Main in Venice on the edge of Los Angeles, named after the original Olivia's where Jim Morrison hung out back in the day. It was cheap, and Olivia, the large, black woman who ran the place, treated everyone like her kids, as long as you behaved. She brooked no trouble from anyone. But you could get a bowl of chili, side of cornbread and a cup of coffee for a few bucks. Jack needed something in his stomach besides booze.


Some long-haired dude sat at a corner table, half-mumbling, half-singing to himself. He was torturing a spider. It kept trying to escape a puddle of soda on the table. He kept pushing it back in, watching it struggle to get out. Laughing. Jack picked up the spider, set it on a window sill. The long-haired guy crazy-glared at him, but he could see the look in Jack's eyes that said don't fuck with me. And even though Jack's head swam in a sea of Scotch and guilt, and his legs wobbled under him, he could still back up that "don't fuck with me" look.


Olivia's was dark and warm, and with his head in a fog of dope and booze, as well as the fog blanketing everything outside, Jack felt like he was on the moon.


A group of hipsters bounced in. Slumming, no doubt. Ordered PBR and IPA. Jack wished they'd GTFO.


He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. His hair was a mess, his clothes shredded somehow. He couldn't remember what happened.


"Beer," he said.


"No way, darlin'," Olivia said. "No beer, no booze. You need to dry out."


"I already have a mother." He didn't bother telling her his mother was dead.


"Now you got two, honey." She walked off.


His head fell to the table. He was so drunk and stoned he could barely lift it. He wished he had the courage to walk into the Pacific Ocean and never come out, like Fredric March in that movie A Star is Born. He realized he'd watched a lot of movies all those late, lonely nights in his condo.


The whine of a jet overhead woke him from his reverie. He pulled his head up to rest on his hand.


"How the fuck did I get here?" he grumbled, his mind somersaulting, spinning circles like a clothes dryer. "How the fuck—"


He asked the question, but he knew the answer.


Killing Trammel was like a splinter under his skin that kept rubbing and grating on him. One that he could never fully get rid of. It kept digging in deeper and deeper, swelling and festering until it became infected. Finally it was too much. He wondered how long of a bender he'd go on. Or if he'd spiral out of control all together.


He left Olivia's, staggered to the beach. Danced along the water's edge, dodging waves. He sat down, then rolled onto his back. The water washed over him.


He thought he was dead.


He wished he was.


* * *


Monday morning, Jack woke on the kitchen floor of his condo. He had no idea how he'd gotten home from the beach—his last memory. Wondered if his car was here or still down there.


"Fuck it," he said, getting up, splashing water on his face. His head pounded from the nasty hangover. He hadn't had a hangover in years. He pulled a carton of OJ from the fridge. Drank it down. Walked to the bathroom, showered, shaved. Shoved some aspirin down his throat. Put on a robe.


He went into the living room, picked up his cell phone and checked for messages from Tiny Tim.



Copyright © 2016 Paul D. Marks.

PULP of the MONTH

Nature of the Beast

VORTEX 

Timeless Skies Publishing

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WHITE HEAT 

Timeless Skies Publishing

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LA LATE @ NIGHT 

Timeless Skies Publishing

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Paul D. Marks

About the Author

Paul D. Marks pulled a gun on the LAPD and lived to tell about it, which makes him uniquely qualified to write noir and mystery fiction. He is the author of the Shamus Award-Winning noir mystery-thriller White Heat. Publishers Weekly calls White Heat a "taut crime yarn." His story "Howling at the Moon" (EQMM 11/14) was short-listed for both the 2015 Anthony and Macavity Awards for Best Short Story, and came in #7 in Ellery Queen's Reader's Poll Award. Midwest Review calls Vortex, Paul's new noir novella, "... a nonstop staccato action noir." He also co-edited the anthology Coast to Coast: Murder from Sea to Shining Sea. His short story "Deserted Cities of the Heart" will appear in Akashic Books' St. Louis Noir anthology, due out in summer 2016, and "Ghosts of Bunker Hill" will be in an upcoming issue of Ellery Queen. www.PaulDMarks.com.

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