May 4, 2011

The Boxer by Sean Monaghan

Due to a production error, the short story in the latest issue got cut off. We are posting it here so you can read the WHOLE story.

The Boxer By Sean Monaghan

Tony bounced on his toes, grazed knuckles still in front of his bruised eyes.  Rodriguez lay on the mat.  The referee grabbed Tony's hand, holding it aloft.  Tony hadn't even heard the count.
There were some muttered cheers, but Tony just went to the corner and let Perry damp him down.
"Mr Armitage is here," Perry said.
Tony glanced around, saw Armitage and Drexler.
"You did good tonight," Armitage said.
"Fifteen hundred," Tony said.  A few more fights and he'd be clear.
"You do win quite often,” Armitage said as they walked to the locker room.
"I guess,” Tony said.
"I’d pay you well to take a fall."
"You’ve told me that before."
Armitage laughed.  "Yes I have.  Well then, how would you like to resolve your situation, tonight?"
"I don't understand."
"Repay the debt.  In full."
"He shouldn't fight any more," Perry said.  "Not tonight."
Armitage waved his cigar.  "No, not fighting.  Another little job for me."
Tony nodded.
He got cleaned up and Drexler drove them out of the city, down towards the Cape.  A small town Tony had never visited.  Since fleeing Oregon, he'd hardly been out of central Boston.  Drexler parked the Limo in front of one of the clapboard villas on a street filled with similar colonials.
Armitage put out his cigar.  "Two houses along," he said, handing Tony a key and a small flashlight.  "Number thirteen sixty eight."
Tony took the things.
"This requires discretion," Armitage said.  "Can I count on you for that?"
"I gave her some expensive jewelry and I want it back."
"You can't ask her?"
"Ah, Tony, there's my problem.  She ended our relationship, fearing for her child and marriage, I suspect."
"Couldn't you-"
"Tony, this is a delicate situation.  The jewels are in her top drawer.  The dresser is obvious, her room - their room - is the second door past the top of the stairs.  You'll be in and out in a couple of moments."
"I don't know, Mr Armitage."  Breaking and entering sounded risky.
"A few minutes.  They aren't home.  You understand why I can't go in."
"I ..."
"And your debt will be erased."
Tony nodded.  Wiping eighty thousand was taking a long time.  For a while the fights had barely made interest.  Now he was getting close, but the sense of ending it buoyed him.  He looked at the key.  "Front door?"
Armitage nodded.  "Dresser drawer.  Second door.  Top of the stairs.  No one home."
"None.  It’s a quiet, sleepy town.  See you in a few minutes."
Tony stepped out onto the sidewalk and went along to the house.  There was a twin seat swing on the front porch, beside an aluminum table with an empty coffee cup.  The key turned in the lock.
Tony went across the threshold, clicked the flashlight on.  Stairs with a rodded mat.  On the wall there were photos of scuba divers and fish and whales.  A toddler in a bathing suit running across sand.
He jogged up the stairs, went to the second door.  There were more photos, but Tony didn't look.  He darted the flashlight around the room.  Closet, bedside tables with lamps, rumpled bed, dresser.  He hauled the drawer out, wondering how Armitage knew exactly where the jewels were.
Rifling through smalls Tony didn't find anything.  Growling he emptied the drawer onto the floor, shining the flashlight through the woman's underwear.  Nothing.
Something wasn't right.
Tony opened the next drawer.  Socks.
A toilet flushed in the en suite.
Tony yanked out the drawer and tipped it over.  Something clunked to the floor amongst the spilling socks.  The jewels.  Reaching to pick them up, he felt a pistol.
The light flicked on and someone screamed.
Tony put the gun up on the dresser and backed away from her.  The jewels weren't here anyway.  Armitage had been wrong.
The woman hurled a book at him, then the bedside lamp.
"Hey," Tony said.  "I'm just collecting the jewels."
"Get out," she was holding up a pillow as if ready to smack him.
Her eyes flicked to the gun and Tony almost picked it up again.  "Sorry," he said.  "I didn't mean any trouble."  He would have to keep on with the fighting to clear the debt.  He had a feeling that Armitage wasn't going to make it easy for him.
Wide-eyed, the woman clutched the pillow.
"Mom," someone called out from the hallway, and a light glowed on behind Tony.
"Go back to bed honey," the woman said.
Tony saw that she was shaking.  He could tell why Armitage had taken up with her, full blond hair, light eyes, trim figure.  She looked at the gun again and he knew he couldn't leave it behind.
As he reached out, another hand slipped over the pistol.  Tony looked up to see Armitage.  "Hello Tony," he said.  "No jewels?  Oh well.  Hello Claire."
Armitage had gloves on.  Tony knew his own prints were on the gun.
The woman's face narrowed to a scowl.
"Where is it, Claire?"
Tony realized that Armitage hadn't known where the jewels were, but must have known about the gun.
"Spent," the woman said.  "You knew it would be spent."
Someone raced along the hallway and crashed into Armitage.  He staggered.  Twisting, he fired.  The sound made Tony jerk.  The woman screamed again.  A girl, perhaps fifteen, collapsed to the floor.  Blood blackened the carpet under her in a growing stain.
"Daphne."  The woman dove, shoving Tony aside.  She scooped the dying girl up, clutching her close.  "Bastard, you bastard."
"Claire," Armitage said softly.  "You know how this works.  I own you."
"I made a mistake.  My husband will be-"
Armitage shot her in the shoulder.  She fell back, the girl's body sprawling.  "Your husband is lucky he's not home.  But I will, eventually, be collecting from him."
The woman's face shifted from agony to sadness and then Armitage gave her a kill shot. 
"What the hell?" Tony said.      
Armitage removed the clip and clicked the bullets out into his palm, replaced the empty clip, then tossed the gun at Tony.  He caught it reflexively.
Armitage pocketed the bullets and turned to the stairs.  "Your debt is cleared," he said.  "You're free to go."  He glanced over his shoulder.  "But I have a feeling that your problems are just beginning."
Tony looked at the two bodies.  A set-up.
He jumped at Armitage, already halfway down the stairs.  Armitage buckled under him and they tumbled to the front door, the gun clattering away.
"Idiot," Armitage said, clutching a bleeding cheek.
Tony punched him.
Drexler appeared at the doorway.  "What the ...?"  He bent for the gun.
Tony jumped up, but Drexler was fast, had the gun in his hand, leveled at Tony.
"I'm being set up," Tony said.  He realized that Drexler had gloves, but hanging from his pocket, not on his hands.  Drexler was part of the set-up, but now his prints would be on the gun too.
Drexler tipped his hand and glanced at the empty gun.  He knew, Tony realized, from the weight.
Tony sprang and knocked Drexler down across the steps.  Armitage's man was tough, but no match for Tony's fists.
Tony stood up.  Sirens in the distance.
Armitage had lawyers.  No matter what Tony said, Armitage would walk, find himself another drudge boy, find someone else to take those falls.
And Tony would be in jail.  He wasn't going back there.  Ever.
Taking the keys from Drexler, Tony dragged Armitage over to the car.  He tossed the boss in the front seat, then sat behind the wheel.
It wasn’t going to work.
Tony leapt back out of the car, ran to Drexler and wiped the gun down.  He took the gloves and stuffed the gun into Drexler’s belt.
Back in the car, Tony edged into the access alley and crept across a few streets, letting the cops pass.  Once he felt clear, he fled to the freeway, then on across the bridge to the Cape.  Near Provincetown he found a seaward beach access.  He crossed the packed sand and stopped close to the water.
Armitage was still groggy, not quite conscious.  Tony climbed out and hauled him into the driver seat.  Then he went around behind the car and began pushing.  With the slope and the backwash he got it down.  Waves broke over the hood as the car drifted off, settling, then sinking.
Tony walked back across the beach, feeling light.  Whatever happened the debt was clear.  No more fighting, no more trying to avoid Drexler.  He watched the waves for a few moments, then turned to the dunes.  He had a long walk back home.  Wherever that was.

1 comment:

M. C. Funk said...

This dude swings from the hip. Nice, crisp prose - jabs and crosses leading up to a sweet, smooth sprawl on the canvas. Well dealt.