A Beat Through the Maze – Flash Fiction by Andrew Conlon
I would have cruised right past Jelly if he hadn’t said, “Heya Bounder.” Hearing his voice, I pulled my guns and wheeled around to face the notorious thief and killer of beat cops like me. I expecting he would be right there, standing in the middle of the alleyway, flanked by a brigade of ratty street punks. But he was alone, sprawled on a pile of trash next to a Dumpster in the gutter.
“Sky-high with the hands, Jellyfish!” I was relieved to see Jelly on the ground. This was good fortune, finding him helpless and unarmed; I immediately thought about the money. Twenty-five thousand to collar this creep, enough for Christmas presents and braces for Danny.
“It’s so cold,” Jelly whined. He shivered and shrugged his shoulders up around the hem of his red and white striped knit cap. He stuffed his hands deeper into the pockets of the threadbare hooded black sweatshirt he wore. A stiff wind ripped through the alley, blasting the concrete corridor with frozen air. I didn’t dare flinch. Running up on a cold-blooded cop killer like Jelly could wreck your life. Thank God I got the drop on him, Jesus, Mary and Joseph. What the hell is he doing laid out across this alley? A trickle of blood spilled from his nose and ran down onto his trembling lips.
“Come on, Jelly, don’t make me shoot you dead!” I shouted. “Hands up! Where’s your crew? You setting me up, Jelly?”
“Bounder…” He sputtered a maniac laugh. “I wouldn’t set you up, blue boy, not you. You’re one of the g-good ones, Bounder.” He stared up with his dark eyes, like holes drilled into his bleached-white face and he coughed weakly and sniffed at the blood on his lip.
“Jelly, you don’t look so good. Come on, let’s walk down to the station.” I took two steps toward him, still wary of any nasty surprises from Jellyfish McGee. “I can get you fixed up Jelly. Let’s go somewhere warm so you can get better.”
“Ah,” he said, “there it is. That good old-fashioned goodness, Bounder. It’s warmer here than a stay in the poke so I’m gonna stay, Bounder, stay and talk to you.” He reached down into his pocket. My fingers flexed on the triggers, bending them to almost nothing between now and turning his brains into alley frosting. With his shivering, bloody hand, Jelly held out a bundle of paper and money. I kept my guns on him.
“What gives, Jelly? Get up. I don’t want your filthy money.”
“Danny,” he said, intoning my son’s name. Lightning shot through my guts and my fingers pulsed again on the triggers.
“Not messin’ ‘round no more, Jelly!” I screamed. “GET UP!”
“You’d do anything for Danny, wouldn’t you?”
“Keep my son’s name out of your filthy mouth, Jelly! Shut your hole and get up!” I kicked one of his snow-soaked boots.
“I have a daughter,” Jelly said, holding the papers higher. “I need you to help her. Please Bounder.” His hand dropped some and he struggled to lift it, seeming to spend all of his strength to keep his cold, cagey fingers pinched around the battered stack of paper. “You know…we’re a lot alike, Bounder,” he said and then coughed in a tattered jag and wheezed, “We live for family. We die for family.”
His turned his eyes to the ground and he said, “Sheila,” and smiled. His hand dropped into his lap. Blood and steam dripped from his lips, and he didn’t speak any more.
I put away my guns.