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Dead Men’s Money Copyright © 2017 by Martin Grise All rights reserved. No part of this story (e-book) may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or book reviews. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidences are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. Edited by Terry Wright Cover Art by Terry Wright Band image by Roman Voloshyn, Shutterstock.com ISBN: 978-1-944045-38-8


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By Martin Grise Hunter stood at the right edge of the stage, where he could barely hear Pulse’s drums over Vik’s screaming amp, and danced in place as he watched his band go crazy. Vik and Ron were trading fours, Ron slapping down thumping variations of the theme on his bass, and Vik, shirtless, tearing them up like a chainsaw with his black Gibson Firebird. Pulse was leaning back behind the drums, eyes half-closed, hitting hard but remaining relaxed with an air of authority. In the band’s bus in the parking lot behind the club, Chad watched a video feed on his laptop from the night vision camera on a quiet, hovering drone that looked down on three young men in an empty lot a mile away. In front of the stage, the kids stomped and jumped and grooved in time with Pulse’s hands and feet, the flashing lights and wailing music blowing the thoughts from their minds until, blessedly, they forgot themselves entirely. Pulse looked over at Hunter, though Hunter didn’t need this cue since he always kept count, and Hunter unslung the red Epiphone Wildkat from his back, walked to the microphone, and sang a Springsteenesque verse of sex and love and hope and fast cars and


~2~

redemption. Then Hunter, Vik, and Ron gathered at the front of the stage, Vik with one bare foot on a floor monitor, and everything disappeared for Hunter as he played, even his band mates and the audience, and there was nothing but music, and he forgot where he was until the song came to a long, crashing end, when he could barely hear the cheering over the ringing in his ears. The stage lights went down and the house lights came up. The house lights broke the spell. The band was back in the real world, though it was still the world of Saturday night mayhem. Without a word, he placed his guitar in its stand and jumped off the stage, right into the crowd, high-fiving and clapping the kids on the back. The rest of the band wandered into the crowd; Vik, naked except for black spandex running shorts, searched for the brunette he’d noticed from the stage. The kids were exuberantly exhausted: clothes sweat-soaked, hair matted, shirts peeled off in the heat and stuffed into back pockets, some of the girls topless but for their bras, as they clapped and howled and whistled, all signs of the catharsis of their Saturday night romp in the stench of beer and sweat, their talk all exultations, flirtations, and dares, all to forget the crushing tedium and humiliating subservience to which they would return Monday morning to recreate the boredom, anxiety, and hopelessness until the next weekend, when they would again kill their sadness with beer, music, and dancing in the endless seesaw cycle


~3~

that was the life of the average person. Hunter sat at the bar and ordered a beer, the only thing he could afford to put into his stomach right now, and only because the band drank for free. The small fee they’d receive from the club owner wouldn’t get them far. He watched the crowd in the mirror behind the bar. “That was some rockin’ shit, man.” A young man had lurched up behind Hunter and slapped him hard on the back. “Thanks, bro.” Hunter spotted Ron in the crowd and waved him over. “Time for business,” Hunter said close to Ron’s ear. “How many guys we need?” “Three.” “You, me, and...who? Pulse or Vik?” “They’re both pretty high.” “So?” “Yeah, well, good point.” Hunter gulped beer. “I’ll try an’ find Vik.” “Okay.” Ron found Vik in a circle of people, talking to his chosen brunette with her thick chestnut hair and green catlike eyes, her face still flush and glistening from dancing in the heat. She wore black yoga Capri tights and a close-fitting black crop-top, and she held her body proudly,


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hands on hips, her breasts high and firm. She smiled at Vik hungrily, confidently, and Ron could see that she was used to being in control. She wasn’t scared of Vik or any other man. Vik grinned at her, amused, just waiting to jump her bones. Damn, that bitch is built, Ron thought. “Hey,” he called to Vik but Vik ignored him, chatting up the girl. Finally, Vik put his arm around her and led her to the back door. “Hey, Vik.” “Fuck off.” Ron looked around for Pulse but couldn’t find him. “Looks like it’s you, me, and Chad,” Ron told Hunter back at the bar. “Good enough.” “Chad won’t like it. Want me to call Pulse?” “Fuck the muthafucka.” Hunter and Ron went out the back door to the parking lot behind the club where the cool, relatively clean air was a relief, though punctuated with wafts of cannabis. In pools of dim lamplight, groups of kids chatted and laughed. The two walked to the blue school bus parked in the corner. Hunter knocked, and Chad looked out before opening the door. “They still there?” Hunter asked. “Sure.”


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They walked through the bus in the dark to the card table where Chad again sat in front of the laptop. Hunter and Ron gathered around the screen and watched. “Three of them.” Chad pointed them out. “Whose guys are they?” Ron asked. “Maliki’s.” Actually, Maliki was the dealers’ runner, finding customers in the usual unsavory places. “Where is it?” Hunter asked. “Shit’s in the bag over the big guy’s shoulder. Money’s in his jacket pocket.” “Okay. It’s the three of us,” Hunter said. Chad groaned. “Where’s Vik and Pulse?” “Who knows?” “Fuck. You know I don’t like doin’ this.” “Just be cool and get it over with.” The three of them donned leather jackets, locked up the bus, and walked down the town’s main strip. There were pubs up and down the avenue, with people on the sidewalks and police cruisers on the street. Hunter led Ron and Chad to a small city park at the end of the strip, dark beyond the streetlamps, and looked around. When he saw no onlookers, he led them through the park in near-darkness. Hunter took out his phone, eyed the map, and periodically shown the light in front of them.


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They ambled down a narrow asphalt path between the trees until they came to a T-shirt draped over a tree branch. Then they turned left and walked through the woods. Hunter’s mind was now in an entirely different place, gritty and cold, businesslike and aggressive, with no sense of wonder or joy. They stopped at the misshapen tree that Hunter remembered. The hum of passing cars was barely audible, and the misty sky above the black branches was lit by the city’s yellow glow. From under a pile of leaves and twigs, Hunter withdrew an aluminum box, closed with a small padlock. He unlocked it and lifted the lid while the others stood watch. In the box, set in contours in a foam liner, lay four black Smith and Wesson Shield semiautomatic pistols, four loaded magazines, and four short Gemtech suppressors. He doled out the pistols and suppressors, kept a set for himself, closed the box, and hid it again. They each screwed the 3-inch suppressors onto the barrels, chambered a round with a click, and hid the small pistols in deep jacket pockets. They returned to the trail and Hunter led them to a back street behind the park and into a neighborhood that was clearly in a different tax zone than the strip. Plastic bottles and milk crates, shopping carts and trash bags were scattered through the weeds along the edge of the broken sidewalk in front of dilapidated apartments. Working streetlights were rare.


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At the end of the street stood an abandoned factory with graffitimarred walls. Hunter pointed to a narrow alleyway and looked questioningly at Chad. “Down there?” “Right,” Chad whispered. “How do you wanna play it?” Ron asked. “We’re buyers,” Hunter said. “Okay.” They walked down the alley, Ron with his hands nonchalantly behind his back, Chad with his in his pockets. Chad did not look at all comfortable to Hunter. They rounded the corner where the three figures from the drone’s video feed were standing in a corner of the empty lot. The dealers turned and looked hard at the approaching newcomers. Hunter stopped. “Anything goin’ on?” “Who you?” demanded the largest of the dealers. “Maliki sent us.” The three dealers relaxed at this, and the trio approached them, line abreast. “How much you need?” the tall dealer asked. Hunter put his hand in his pocket, which was the signal for the others to do the same, and three fingers landed on cold triggers, and all three drew and leveled the pistols. Small clicks of safeties and hammers disturbed the quiet. Hunter looked at the tall dealer, glared into his shocked, gawking eyes, and aimed at his gaping mouth.


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One dealer was quick enough to reach for the gun in his belt and stutter a curse. The suppressors muffled the reports, somewhat, as they still sounded loud in the night air. The three dealers’ heads jerked in quick nods from the bullet impacts, and all three crumpled straight down into the gravel as if their plugs had been pulled. Ron and Chad automatically looked around for witnesses while Hunter stepped forward to take the heavy roll of cash from the pocket of the man he had just murdered. Then he opened the shoulder bag and found, aside from a sweatshirt and a pair of sneakers, a plastic bag that contained a dozen white pills. Must be near the end of their night, he thought. He looked closely at the pills in the dim light. The others shifted nervously at the delay. “Let’s go.” Hunter pocketed the money, pills, and his pistol. The trio returned to their cache in the park, replaced the weapons, and hid the box again. On the main strip, which was now nearly abandoned, Hunter looked around to assure no one would overhear them then asked Chad, “Remember those other guys Maliki was runnin’ for?” “Yeah?” “What were they selling?” “Bennies.” “Fifteen milligrams, right?” “Yeah, I think so.”


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“So were these guys.” “Hmm. All working for the same boss, you think?” “Maybe.” Chad looked much more relaxed now, though not very happy. Hunter wondered if Chad’s reticence about these jobs was from moral revulsion or just fear. Both were understandable to Hunter, though he wondered why he, too, still felt the disgust, which he pushed aside. The men they’d just killed were sadists, doling out misery, much worse than him; or maybe that’s just my bullshit excuse, he thought. But such questions didn’t mean as much to him as one inescapable fact: he was broke and hungry. And no sensible man left dealers alive after a robbery. They did not speak again as they returned to their bus behind the club. There, Chad and Ron slipped into their bunks and slept. Hunter crawled under the bus and, using the light on his phone, found the metal box with the sliding door that was welded to the transmission. The box looked very much like a part of the apparatus. He opened the box and drew out another metal box full of coffee beans. He slipped the bag of bennies into the beans and closed the box, placed that inside the larger box, and slid it shut. Then he put in his earplugs and slept in his bunk. At 4:30, Pulse knocked on the door until Chad got up and let him in. #


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To find out what happens next, go to www.twbpress.com/deadmensmoney to find the links to purchase this e-book from TWB Press, Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook Press, and Smashwords


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About the Author

Martin Grise is an American academic who, surfeited with heavy monographs, wants to return to the swashbuckling stories of his youth. Perhaps this guy’s having a literary midlife crisis? David Drake, Charles Bukowski, and Fritz Leiber Jr. were his favorites back in the day. You might view more of his short stories on crimsonstreets.com and on bewilderingstories.com. Grise haunts Brooklyn cafes with his head in a manuscript, or hikes and bikes through the Northeastern United States while more stories incubate in the back of his brain.


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Enjoy more short stories and novels from TWB Press

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The 13th Power Quest, Book 1 (TWB Press, 2011) A sci-fi thriller novel by Terry Wright http://www.twbpress.com/the13thpowerquest.html

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~17~

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Dead Men's Money  
Dead Men's Money  

Hunter, a would-be rock star, has been unable to make the Big Time despite years of effort and the poverty that dogs professional musicians....

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