Thanks to Annie Arcane for hosting this flash fiction thread. If you’d like to write your own, share your blog post here under Week 35.
The warehouse was along the harbor, so even at midnight the rot of gutted fish and chum lingered. That it was still abandoned after a year was no surprise to me—most fishermen had moved to the other side of the bay, where crime was low and broken street lamps actually got repaired. But if you could get past the smell, and the damp chill, and the lack of light, and the fear of getting mugged, and the good probability of getting a methamphetamine contact high, it was a fine place to do business.
So obviously Michael and I were alone. Again. And obviously that was how we needed it to be.
A couple days ago, he’d found a lantern at a Goodwill that made a sizzle pop every now and again. It kind of killed me that he held onto that hunk of metal, considering Foss would be happy to spring for a reliable light source. But Michael always went for drama over convention. It’s a fine quirk for our line of business, but man did it make the sex weird.
Not that we were still having sex. We were done, for reals, and we’d promised Foss there’d be no more ‘for old times’ sakes. But trust me. It got weird.
Anyway, he was arranging documents on an old card table by light of his lantern when I came in. I handed him a 40 I’d picked up along the way. Yes, I could afford it. But no, I did not pay for it. There were so many pockets lining the inside of my leather jacket that it would be a shame to leave them empty.
“You should get microbrews,” Michael said. He was distracted, the orange light casting shadows under his eyes and making his already striking features look almost demonic. Michael’s got those smoldering good looks. You know, the deep set eyes and the strong nose, a constant five o’clock shadow.
But aside from what he does for work, he’s a really nice guy.
“Microbrews are expensive,” I muttered, opening my own 40 and taking a swig. “So what kind of info do you have for me?”
He continued to organize the documents, but I didn’t try to look at them yet. He had a system that I knew better than to interrupt. “A man. He digs red heads, which is where you come in.”
“He has ten fingers.”
Michael looked up, pausing with a photograph in his hand. “I mean ten total. He’s got eight fingers on his right hand and only two fingers on his left hand.”
“I mean, that’s—”
“No, yeah, it’s totally weird.” He was nodding as he went back to arranging the documents.
I frowned. “This is some real Inigo Montoya shit.”
“Mmhmm,” he said, still nodding. He stood back to review his display. “Start here,” he said, tapping at a photo at the top of the table. “It’s the only one we’ve got that shows his face.”
I moved past him and ignored the little skip of my pulse that happened every goddamn time I got too close to him. There were a million reasons we had broken up, at least. A million reasons, I repeated to myself as I squinted at the photograph.
The picture was of an extraordinarily well-built man glaring into the camera, his arms crossed in front of his chest. “Russian?” I asked. That lantern hissed.
I nodded, then inspected the photo closer with a shiver. I’d seen that expression many times over in my days. It was definitely one only come by through an intimacy with murder.
“Wait, Michael,” I said with a laugh. “He has all his fingers on his left hand. He’s just making some sort of sign.” I handed Michael the photo, then grabbed the lantern and held it between us so we could both look. “See, they’re just curled under.”
“But what about—oh—” Michael’s voice took on a note of disgust.
The Ukrainian did not have eight fingers on his right hand. Not eight of his own, anyway. He was holding another hand, most of it obscured by his own. Another hand that was not attached to an arm. Or to anything.
“Well this changes things,” Michael mused. “I wonder whose hand that is?”
I took another pull from my bottle. “Probably some redhead’s.”