Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the seventy-ninth piece in this series. This week’s is a 518-worder by poet, critic, short story author, novelist and interviewee John Brantingham and a follow-on from his piece last week, The Little Guy Smiled. This story will be podcasted in episode 27 (with ‘The Little Guy Smiled’ and my 1966 And All That) on Sunday 16th June.
This Is The Way It Was Done
This was the way it was done. This is how it happened every single time. Charles came through the front door into the dark house. Just to be safe he kept the .45 pointed straight ahead of him. Just to be safe, he wore only socks and padded silently.
This is the way it happened. Someone would steal from the Hanson family, move in on the territory, break the rules. That idiot would think he’d gotten away with it, and Felicia Hanson would send in someone in the middle of the night, set the poor idiot up.
Charles took his time, making sure that the guy wasn’t asleep in the living room on the couch or something, checking behind walls and doors before moving. Not that there was any chance of the guy getting the drop on him. Felicia Hanson set up everything perfectly, each time. Most of the time, it was the little guy that she’d send in. That’s the way everyone knew him. No one talked to him except Ms. Hanson, but everyone knew his reputation. But the little guy had been sent off to do something else, and so they called Charles in.
Charles came into the first bedroom. There were four in this place. That’s all he knew about the layout — this one on the first floor, but it was empty.
This is how it always happened, some guy took too much from Felicia, overstepped. It didn’t make sense to Charles. The Hanson people paid enough. He’d been working with them five years now, and they’d done right by him. As a bonus, pretty much everyone skimmed. As long as a guy didn’t take too much, it was all right.
That’s what didn’t make sense to Charles. Why go beyond when you got paid well enough, and you could take a little off the top?
Charles came into the next bedroom. This one was empty too, but he checked the closets just to be sure no one was hiding. Charles had done well off the pay, and he’d gotten rich off the skim. Just how much did someone need?
On top of everything, if you did a good job, you moved up. Getting rid of someone on the inside was the little guy’s job. But look at Charles. He’d done a good job, and he’d gotten the call.
Upstairs, he leaned into one bedroom. That one was empty too.
He’d done such a good job, Felicia Hanson had given him this gun as a bonus, the .45 her father had owned. Who’d screw over a woman like that?
The last bedroom was empty too except there was something on the floor. Charles took a step forward.
Plastic. The floor was covered in plastic.
At a sound behind him, Charles spun around, pulling his trigger instinctively, aiming right, center mass of the guy behind him in the hall.
Felicia’s gun hadn’t fired.
But Charles knew it was pointless.
The guy in the hall, it was the little guy. He had his own .45.
The little guy had a smile on his face.
I asked John what prompted this piece and he said…
The inspiration of the story comes from my relationship with a fairly short Navy Seal, the most dangerous person I know, and classic plot twists. I love books and movies that trip me up right at the end.
Me too. Thank you, John.
John Brantingham is the author of East of Los Angeles, and his work has appeared on Garrison Keillor’s daily show Writer’s Almanac. He has had hundreds of stories and poems published in the United States and England in magazines such as The Journal, Confrontation, Mobius, and Tears in the Fence. He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for a poem in his chapbook Putting in a Window, which was published by Finishing Line Press, and his second chapbook, Heroes for Today, was published by Pudding House Press.
John is a full-time professor at Mt. San Antonio College in Southern California and one of two fiction editors of The Chiron Review, a nationally distributed literary magazine.
His latest suspense novel is Mann of War, available at Oak Tree Press. You can check out the trailer for his book and many more of his humorous vlogs at johnbrantingham.blogspot.com.
John lives happily in the city of Walnut with his beautiful wife, Annie and their canine companion, Archie.
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