c. 3900 words
I broke the rules of pulp writing by preparing an outline before writing this story. I wrote it in one draft, so it should still qualify as pulp. And, of course, the story is entirely action driven.
“We don’t allow guns in this restaurant.”
The customer was staring straight ahead and nodding his head. He was a thin man in his twenties with his head shaved. Every time he bowed the waitress could see the handle of the automatic sticking out of his inside jacket pocket.
He had walked in, ignored the ‘Please Wait to be Seated’ sign, and sat at the first empty table.
The waitress had appeared and told him about the seating rule.
“Submarine and milk,” he had said.
“We don’t serve subs.”
“Submarine and milk.” He hadn’t look at her yet.
“No subs. Would you like a menu?”
“Main menu. Subtitles off. Play movie. Submarine and milk.” He began bowing and that’s when the waitress saw the gun.
“We don’t allow guns in this restaurant.”
“They have guns on submarines sometimes.”
“If you don’t leave now, I’ll call the police. No submarines.”
He looked at her. “No submarines?”
“No submarines.” She was putting space between herself and the man.
He got up and left the restaurant. He stopped as the sun hit him. “Today is a good day.” As he continued down the street he talked to himself. “No guns on the submarine.” He pulled the black plastic water gun out of his jacket pocket. “Gun or submarine?” He threw the toy on the sidewalk. “Submarine. Jeff can get me a submarine.” He began marching down the street faster, arms swinging.
A man in a gray hoodie with his pants hanging halfway down his underwear called out to him. “You want to buy some weed?”
The bald man kept walking past. “Drug dealers are a problem. They want to hurt me. Pete and Paul want to hurt me. You should do something about that.”
“Hey. Are you talking to me?” the man in the hoodie called out. He couldn’t hear what the bald man was saying any more. “Screw you too.”
“Drug dealers are a problem for later. I’m hungry. Submarine and milk. Milk balls.” He had arrived at the pawn shop where his friend worked. There was a set of three large white glass balls over the door. He went in.
“Hi Oliver,” said the clerk. The shop was empty except for the middle aged clerk, a short man with a goatee. “I have some new shooting movies for you. Do you have something to trade?”
“Trading shooting movies. Yes. Good.” Oliver bowed. “Hungry now. Submarine and milk.”
“Sure thing, Oliver.” The clerk had met Oliver’s mother. He understood how to help. He called the convenience store across the street. “Hi Bill. It’s Jeff. Oliver’s here and he’s hungry.” He listened. “Yep. See you in a few.”
“The submarine and milk will be here in a minute, Oliver. Do you have five bucks?”
“Submarine and milk.”
“You’re not listening. Do you have five bucks, Oliver?”
“Money?” He gave Jeff his wallet.
“After you eat, I can show you some new shooting movies I don’t think you have.” Jeff knew that Oliver’s obsessions were trading things and what he called ‘shooting movies’. Oliver would pick through alleys and garbage bins looking for anything he might trade at the pawn shop for more movies.
The submarine sandwich and a small carton of milk were dropped off and Jeff paid for it with five dollars from Oliver’s wallet.
Oliver began eating.
Jeff knew Oliver wouldn’t hear a word he said until he was done. He went back to reading his computer magazine until he heard a buzz at the back door. “That’s the guys picking up furniture. I’ll be back in a minute Oliver.” He went through the door to the back.
Oliver finished his sub and drank the milk in one long chug. He burped loudly. “Drug dealers are a problem. Drug dealers trade, but they’re a problem. Pete and Paul are a problem. They want to hurt me. I’m not Mister Roboto. Drug dealers want to hurt me. Revenge is a dish best served cold. Then your gun gets hot. I need a gun.”
He marched over to the display case of handguns. “Rob Pete to pay Paul. Rob Jeff to pay Pete and Paul. I’ll give it back. No harm done. Drug dealers want to hurt me.”
He walked behind the counter. The case was locked. “New stuff goes in cat boxes. Cat boxes for new stuff. Cat boxes are in the back.”
Oliver went through the door to the back. He could see Jeff talking to another man by a truck outside the loading door in the sun. There were boxes stacked beside him. He began reading in a whisper. “Cat. Elect. I pod. Cat. DVDs. Movies. Cat. Decor. Candlesticks. Cat. Firearms. 9mm auto.”
The man had been stabbed in the chest thirty-seven times. His wife had called it in. She told the detective that a man had kicked in the front door, shoved her aside, and killed her husband.
Detective Francis Scales had just been promoted to detective after ten years in uniform. “We’ll find the guy who did this. There are clear fingerprints on the knife. A violent guy like this is certain to have his prints in our database.”
“Thank you detective.” The wife lit a cigarette from the butt of her last and looked away.
“Can I talk to you for a minute, detective,” one of the uniformed officers asked.
“Go ahead,” said Scales.
“Away from the forensics team,” he said. They stepped out the front door of the house. “I know you just made detective. I don’t want to be too hard on you, but you’re missing the obvious.”
“Like she said the attacker kicked in the front door but the door is fine. Like she said the attacker pushed her aside but she has blood all over the front of her blouse. Like you can clearly see old bruises on her face and arms. Do you see the picture?”
“You’re thinking she cooperated with the attacker.”
“I’m thinking she is the attacker. It’s battered woman syndrome come to its natural conclusion. How could you not see that?”
“Well.” Scales scratched his head. “I’ve mostly just been writing traffic tickets the last ten years. My lieutenant didn’t like me. As soon as he left, my new lieutenant gave me this promotion.”
“Maybe it’s time to review the police procedurals. Bone up on crime fighting. Just saying.”
“Thank you for your candor, officer. I will.”
Oliver was pointing his gun at the drug dealer’s chest. “Don’t shoot them in the face. If they can’t tell who it is, you don’t get paid.” Oliver was looking at the wall behind the dealer.
“Who told you to shoot me?” The dealer had his hands up and was looking up and down the street.
“Some day, I’m going to have all the submarines.”
“What do you want, man?”
“Drug dealers want to hurt me. I have to hurt drug dealers.”
“I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t even know you.”
“Trading is good. I like trading for shooting movies.”
“How about if I just leave? Would that be okay? You seem a little touched in the head.”
“Pete and Paul make fun of me too. Pete and Paul are drug dealers. They want to hurt me. I have to hurt drug dealers. It’s in the shooting movies.”
“No. Really. You’re a nice guy. I don’t want to hurt you. I’m just going to go now.” The dealer began backing away down the street.
Oliver continued staring at the wall. “This isn’t working right. Something is wrong. I have to watch more shooting movies. Is that okay?” He looked around. Nobody was there. He returned the 9mm to the back of his pants under the jacket.
He began marching down the street chanting, “Do unto others before they do unto you” over and over. People ignored him as he passed.
Six blocks later, he stopped when a young man squatting on the sidewalk held up a tin can. “Spare change?” The young man looked like he hadn’t seen a barber or razor in at least a year. His hair and beard were wild.
“I like trading,” said Oliver.
“I’ve got nothing to trade,” said the beggar.
“Do you know how to get revenge?”
“You want to trade money for information? I can do that. Sure. I’m Tony, by the way”
“Money? Okay.” He gave the beggar his wallet.
Tony took the cash out and gave back the wallet. “Thirty bucks. Fair deal. What do you want to know?”
“People want to hurt me. I want to hurt them. Trading hurts.”
“If you’re going to get in a fight, your best plan is to throw the first punch. Hurt them first and then it’s hard for them to hurt you back.”
“Hurt them first. Revenge is a dish best served cold.”
“No,” said Tony. “Don’t wait. Hurt your enemy right away. As soon as you see them, bang. Hit them in the gut. No mercy.”
“As soon as I see them. Bang. Hit them in the gut.”
“Fair enough? Is that all you wanted to know?”
“You said something about drug dealers before. I forget. I have trouble with my memory sometimes. Like when I’m high. You dig? Huh? Huh?” Oliver was ignoring him. “You want drugs? I can hook you up. It’s not far.”
“I like submarines.”
“Sure. I guess submarines are cool. So do you want some drugs or what? I can take you to a dealer. You could score a little coke. But you gave me all your money. Do you have any more?”
“Money for drug dealers? I like trading.” Oliver pulled some folded money out of a front pants pocket. The outer bill was a twenty. “Money for drug dealers.” He put the money back in his pocket.
Tony led Oliver across the street to an old hotel turned rooming house. They passed two old men sitting on the stairs sharing a bottle in a paper bag. Housekeeping had not been in to service the common areas since before Tony’s last trip to a barber.
They arrived at their destination and found the door open. Another wild haired young man was sitting on the bed inside watching a small TV and smoking cigarettes. This guy had opted to pull his hair into a pony tail.
“Hey, Rick,” said Tony. “I’ve got a customer for you.”
“A customer. What the hell are you talking about?”
“He’s looking for some drugs. Maybe you have some coke in the kitchenette.”
Rick jumped up. “Ooooh! Right. Yeah. I think I might have some drugs in the kitchenette.” He went through a door in the back of the room.
Tony moved in front of Oliver to block his view into the bathroom.
“Are you drug dealers?” asked Oliver.
“For sure, man,” said Tony. “Rick’s going to fix you up. Better not snort it around here though. I’ve seen some shady characters around. Might be cops. You should head out the back door at the end of the hall after.”
“The back door at the end of the hall. I like trading for shooting movies. Revenge is a dish best served cold.”
“No, man. Remember? Hit them right away.”
“As soon as I see them. Bang. Hit them in the gut.”
“You got it.” Tony sat on the bed and took one of Rick smokes.
Rick came back holding a baggy of bluish white powder. “Here’s your coke, buddy.”
Oliver pulled out the 9mm and shot Rick in the stomach. Tony jumped up and Oliver shot him in the stomach. “As soon as I see them. Bang. Hit them in the gut.”
Detective Scales investigated the killing of the two young men in the run-down hotel. None of the neighbors saw anything. Some of them reported hearing the shots. A handgun, they thought. A search had turned up a bag of weed in a coffee can. One of the men had eighty-six dollars. The other had nothing.
Scales made his notes without commenting. He didn’t want one of the uniformed officers showing him up again. His report would say that two young men had been killed. Suspect unknown. The murder weapon was not found on the scene. He wrote nothing about his belief that the two were drug dealers.
“As soon as I see them. Bang. Hit them in the gut.” Oliver was standing on the sidewalk eating a jumbo bag of lobster flavored chips. He was out of his own neighborhood and had wandered into a Chinese convenience store looking for a submarine sandwich. They didn’t have any. He didn’t want to be asked to leave so he bought the chips.
He was standing across from a house with lots of traffic. The paint was peeling off the siding and there was a car up on blocks at the back of the driveway. One car after another had been pulling up. Someone would run inside and be back a few minutes later. “A house with lots of people is drug dealers. Drug dealers want to hurt me. I want to hurt drug dealers. As soon as I see them. Bang. Hit them in the gut.”
Some of the visitors had bags or boxes with them. “Trading for drugs,” said Oliver. “I like trading for shooting movies.”
Whenever the street traffic died off, he could hear the visitors at the door saying, “Godot sent me.”
“Godot sent me,” said Oliver to himself. “As soon as I see them. Bang. Hit them in the gut. The back door is the best way to leave.” There was a rottweiler tied in the side yard. It barked at everyone who went to the door. When there was nobody outside the house, it barked at Oliver. “Drug dealers have bad dogs. Big time dealers here. Big time. Big revenge.”
He dropped the empty chip bag and marched across the street chanting “Godot sent me. Godot sent me.”
He knocked on the front door.
“Yeah,” someone yelled.
“Godot sent me.”
A fat middle-aged man with a porn mustache opened the door. “Come on in. I don’t think I’ve seen you before? Who sent you?”
“Godot sent me.”
“Yeah,” he said. “That’s the code. Who told you what to say?”
“I like trading,” said Oliver.
“Not too smart, are you? I guess you’re not a cop then. What are you looking to buy?” The inside of the house had stacks of electronics still in their boxes and other assorted goods with price stickers on them.
“Drug dealers want to hurt me.”
“I kind of want to hurt you too. Get on with business or fuck off.”
Oliver pulled out the 9mm. “As soon as I see them. Bang. Hit them in the gut.”
The fat man snatched up a baseball bat and Oliver shot him.
A man with huge muscles came out of the hallway and fired a revolver at Oliver. The shot missed.
Oliver shot at the man’s midsection and he fell down. He looked at the fat man. The fat man was dead. Oliver walked over to the second man. He was holding his crotch and gasping for breath. Oliver shot him in the belly until he stopped moving.
Detective Scales was certain someone was murdering drug dealers for their money and drugs. He didn’t share that theory. He had been re-reading his textbooks from police academy. Theories were good but needed to be based on facts. It’s facts then theory, not theory then facts.
The facts were minimal. At the old hotel, two men had been killed with a 9mm. A small quantity of marijuana was found at the scene. No other drugs were present. A small baggie of cleaning powder appeared to be made up to look like cocaine. A small amount of money was found on one victim; no money on the other. The absence of large amounts of money and drugs did not prove that money and drugs were taken.
At the house, again two men had been killed with a 9mm. A small quantity of cocaine was found next to the bed. No other drugs were present. A small amount of money was found on both victims. The house was full of stolen goods. Again, the absence of large amounts of money and drugs did not prove that money and drugs were taken. But there should have been money somewhere. The two men would have needed to keep money on hand to buy stolen goods and they couldn’t put their profits in the bank. The robbery of cash was almost a certainty.
Scales reasoned that since both crimes involved the killing of two men with a 9mm, they could be related. Ballistics on the slugs was not yet completed. Both crime scenes happened in areas of extreme poverty. All of the victims had criminal records.
On the other hand, the men at the hotel had almost nothing while the men at the house were swimming in goods. The crime scene at the hotel had straight porno. The crime scene in the house had gay porno. The hotel victims were young potheads. The house victims were middle-aged coke-heads. He decided to stick with the reports of the two crimes as separate incidents while he investigated.
He visited vice and got the list of known drug dealers in the areas covered by the two crimes and began visiting.
“We’re going to jail,” said Paul. “That cop knows we’re dealing.” Scales had just left.
“He wasn’t vice,” said Pete. “He said he was homicide. You haven’t killed anyone lately have you, Paul?”
“Let’s do some coke,” said one of the girls. “I want to get horny and screw.” The girls started making out with each other.
“Come on, Paul,” said Pete. “Forget about that detective. The cops probably knew who we were as soon as we started dealing. Number of people we have as customers.” He slapped his hands together. “It’s party time.”
Oliver sat in a junked car on top of a stack of junked cars. He had gone through a hole in the back fence of the auto wreckers and climbed to the top of the pile so he could watch the trailer.
His enemies, Pete and Paul, lived in the old mobile home near the front of the auto wreckers’ lot. The place was closed for the day, but the gate stayed open. Nobody was going to run off with a junked car and the two men got a cut in rent to make sure nobody came in to salvage for parts.
“Pete and Paul want to hurt me. Girls don’t want to hurt me. I don’t want to hurt the girls. The girls go and then I go. As soon as I see them. Bang. Hit them in the gut.”
Oliver watched people coming and going from the trailer. Nobody knocked. “Walk right in. Open house. Sleepy now.” He lay down on the seat and closed his eyes.
Paul’s girlfriend held up the badge. “Hey. Look at this. That cop dropped his badge on the chair. Imagine the fun you could have with this.” She had found the badge when she picked up her jacket.
“Imagine the jail time,” said Paul. “There’s a reason people don’t go around impersonating cops. Throw it on the coffee table.”
“Okay.” She tossed it in the general direction of the coffee table. “See ya.”
“See ya,” said her friend as they walked out.
Pete walked over to the camera monitors on the kitchen counter and watched the women leave. “That Sonya has some ass. I hope she keeps coming around.” He looked at the other monitors. “Well would you look at this? I think I see that retard climbing out of the junk pile.”
“What retard?” asked Paul.
“You know the guy. Baldy. Mister Roboto. I like trading shooting movies.”
“He’s climbing on the junked cars?”
“He’s heading toward the trailer. I think he wants to visit us. This should be fun.”
“Pete and Paul want to hurt me. I want to hurt Pete and Paul. As soon as I see them. Bang. Hit them in the gut.” He was pointing his finger and pretending to shoot. “I like trading.”
He came to the stairs into the trailer and pulled out the gun. He walked up, put his hand on the knob and started to turn it.
Pete pulled the door open with a big smile.
Oliver shot him in the chest.
Paul kicked Oliver in the nuts.
Oliver dropped the gun and fell into the trailer.
“We’re going to have some fun now, right Pete?” He stood over Oliver watching him curl into a ball clutching his groin. “Pete?” He looked over at his friend.
Pete was laid out on his back. His dead eyes stared at the ceiling.
“Holy shit. Pete! You retarded motherfucker.” He slammed the trailer door shut and grabbed the 9mm from the floor. “I’m going to pistol whip you to death.”
Detective Scales was in a panic. He couldn’t find his badge anywhere in the car. He was guessing he’d dropped it at the last drug dealers he’d visited. But, would they give it back?
As he was driving up the street to the auto wreckers, he heard a shot. Or maybe it was a car backfiring. Impossible to tell.
He stopped in front of the trailer and got out. Somebody was screaming inside. He pulled his service revolver, ran up the steps and kicked in the door. One of the dealers was hunched over a man on the floor. The man’s face was cut and bloody.
The dealer stood. There was a gun in his hand and he turned it toward Scales.
Scales fired three bullets into the man. Center mass. An unmissable target.
The dealer fell down dead.
The auto wreckers’ had turned into a circus. There were black and white police cruisers, two ambulances, and media vans in the yard. Neighbors had come from all around and were clustered on the sidewalk.
“Good work, Detective Scales,” said his lieutenant. “We’ve got a 9mm handgun recently stolen from a pawn shop and there’s a large quantity of drugs and money. Looks like your theory about someone robbing dealers was correct.”
“I never shared that theory,” said Scales.
“The file was on the department’s intranet. Didn’t you mean to share it? It’s good police work. Your promotion was well deserved. Keep it up.” He walked away toward the trailer.
Scales walked over to one of the ambulances. “Are you going to be all right, Mister Oliver?”
“I ate a submarine earlier.”
“The bad men can’t hurt you any more.”
“You can’t have guns on a submarine.”
“I’m sure you can’t. You stay away from bad people. Okay, Nick? Stay out of trouble.”
“Stay out of trouble,” said Oliver. “Good idea.”
Story by Ivan Izo.