( FREE )

Charlie McCoy has three rules. The first rule is don’t associate with idiots. But here he is, sitting with Moe Baker in a corner booth in a pancake house, talking about committing breaking and entering. Moe has a wispy goatee and wears sunglasses with small rectangular lenses. The goatee and the glasses make him look like an idiot. Today Moe’s added a black porkpie hat to his ensemble, which makes him look more like an idiot than usual. “Linda’s got this job, working for this rich guy,” Moe says, looking around. “He keeps a bunch of cash in a safe in his house.” Charlie stirs his coffee, watching the sugar slowly dissolve. “How would she know that?” he asks. “She was walking by his study. Saw the dude stuffing big bundles of cash in the safe.” Charlie picks up his coffee cup and raises it to his lips. He uses his left hand because his right hand is in a cast. His hand shakes, spilling some coffee on the green linoleum table top. “Cash is good,” Charlie says, putting the cup down and wiping the spill away with a napkin. “But right now, the job is a non-starter. I’d need information on this safe before we can even think about it.”
“It’s not a combination lock. It’s a key lock. The guy doesn’t trust his memory.” Charlie leans over the table, lowers his voice, and looks Moe in the eye.
“What’s your point? Key lock, combination lock, doesn’t make any difference. If you want me to crack the box, I need to know the manufacturer and model number of the lock and the safe, just for starters. And keep your voice down.”


( Free )

“Let’s go in there,” Sheree said, pointing at the tent. “We haven’t tried that yet.” Joey looked at the giant cardboard figure of a fortune teller, painted gold and green, which was next to the entrance. Above the entrance, in large letters, a sign that read MADAM OROBAS. “A fortune teller?” he said, his voice a little weary. “You gotta be kidding me. That’s way too corny. Anyway, we’ve already spent more money than I planned.” Sheree grabbed his hand. “Come on. Don’t be such a cheapskate. She might be able to tell our future. Yours and mine. It’ll just cost a few dollars. What’s to lose? ” She pulled him into the tent, which was empty except for a woman sitting behind a table. A crystal ball was on one side of the table, and an incense candle on the other — the place stunk of incense. A large cage was on a stand next to the table. It appeared to be empty, but as Joey got closer, he could see a small snake curled up in a corner. The woman was dressed in a black kaftan, and she had a black turban on her head. She was heavily made-up and there was no telling her age. She could’ve been anywhere from forty-five to eighty. “Please, sit,” she said. Sheree started to slip into the chair, but the woman held up her hand. She pointed at Joey. “No, you, Mister Franks. You sit in the chair.” Joey frowned. “How do you know my name?” She gave him an enigmatic little smile. “Just sit in the chair, please.”


( $2.99 )

When the intercom buzzed, Frank Connor was rooting around in the center drawer of his desk, pushing aside a lien notice from the IRS, the current issue of the state bar journal, and an old birthday card from his ex-wife and son. A stress headache was pounding its way from his left temple to the base of his skull, and he was looking for the five-hundred-count bottle of Tylenol.
The intercom buzzed again. He cogitated for a second before finally punching the red button.
“Mr. Sikes is here to see you,” said Jolene, his secretary.
Tyrell Sikes, he’d showed after all. An old client dropping in for a visit. How bad could it be?
Bad as he wants to make it.
“Send him up,” he said.
Frank pulled on his suit jacket. He gathered the mess of files on his desk into a single giant pile and then hid the pile on the floor behind his desk.
The door swung open, and Jolene showed in a hulking black man dressed in a black T-shirt, black cotton pants, and clunky biker boots with brass rings on the sides. Frank extended his hand but Sikes ignored him. He dropped into one of the 18th Century wingback chairs Frank had picked up long ago on a trip to London, when things were better, financially speaking. The chair creaked under Sikes’s weight. Frank nodded in the direction of the hallway and Jolene withdrew, closing the door behind her.
Frank gave Sikes his most practiced smile.
“Tyrell, I’ve been looking forward to seeing you again.”