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The List

 The front door – that’s where they would come through. The house did have a back door, in the kitchen, but there were piles of bricks, scraps of wood, and collapsed cardboard boxes filling that entranceway, as if one of the former tenants had raided demolition sites and tornado leftovers and piled his takings there, God knew why. If anyone came that way, it’d cause a lot of racket, and the junk would slow them down, give Kurt time to blow them to hell.

Kurt sucked the life out of his last cigarette and threw it to the ground. It had been a long night, and there was really only one way it could end. At the time – when he’d pried the list out of Hunter Martinez’ bloody grip – he’d thought he’d finally struck paydirt, silver and gold, the end of all his troubles. Instead, robbing the dead Mexican had bought him a ticket to nowhere good.

Someone had boarded up the windows, so Kurt couldn’t see the outside sky. But he knew the sun wouldn’t be up yet. The house was cold; the fire he’d had going in the little fireplace had burned itself out. Kurt dragged his dainty wooden chair closer, to allow his back to benefit from the remnants of heat escaping from the ashes. Winter. If he survived the night, he’d go somewhere where winter never happened.

His eyes grew heavy again. Too long with no sleep, but if he dropped off now he would miss whatever small chance he would have, when they finally came for him.

He looked down at the list. Just a bunch of names, and not just kids either, with notes after each one. But he knew it was unlikely he’d ever have the chance to use it. Everyone else – everyone, from Big Red to the corner pot dealer – wanted that list, and eventually they would figure out where he’d gone to ground, and come for it.

Who originally had obtained the list, Kurt didn’t know. Big Red ran a tight outfit, and things like this didn’t normally slip through his fat fingers. Sure, it must have been an inside job – maybe The Dentist, maybe another of the Little Crew — but once let loose in the world the list had changed hands more times than he could count.

Hunter, he knew, had got it off of Nucifora, and chances were good Nucifora had got it off of Rusty Ippolito and the Fake Belgian. And then after Kurt got it, he’d had to dodge Yuri, hanging for once with Lemon Lee. Talk about odd couples.

He wouldn’t have to worry about them anymore, but he figured Emiliano would be coming along, with Lowlife. Emiliano. Why would he hang with a guy whose name no one knew? Then again, Emiliano had no standards. He’d turned on Kurt after the chop shop bust fast enough.

Or maybe Big Red himself would be coming for it. God knows he wasn’t a stranger to getting his own gloves dirty, and he had some pretty serious home-cooked custom-made shit.

The list. He’d given it a quick once-over. Some kid had pulled the arms off his sister’s Barbie. Some girl had lied to her boyfriend. But good stuff, too. An embezzling CEO, cheating husbands, even murders. Things people would pay him to keep to himself. The money would roll in. He would roll in it. He would—

Shit. His eyes jerked open. He must have fallen asleep; the fire’s embers had died out completely, nothing but cooling ash in the fireplace.

But he thought he saw a sliver of light under the door. Daylight? Was this long night finally ending? And if he had survived it – well, another day. Another chance to get out. If he kept his head, he could choose one, maybe two off the list, get them to fork over the cash and unload the list on them, let them take the coming truckload of crap. He wouldn’t get greedy. That’s what caught all those guys. They didn’t know when to quit.

Another hour. He’d wait another hour, and if was all still quiet, he’d slip a board off a window in the back, get to the parking lot at the train station and steal a car. He’d drive until the gas ran out, then find a payphone in whatever town he ended up in, choose a name from the list and make the call.

Yeah. He could do this. If Emiliano had known where he’d gone, he’d have come already. And Big Red had connections all over, but even he couldn’t see everything. An hour, when the parking lot was filled, then he could run. The train station was maybe ten minutes away, if he moved slow and careful. Once in the car, he’d stop for nothing.

Kurt swallowed. Yeah.

From behind him, a soft sound – just some bit of soot or something falling into the ashes in the fireplace.

Kurt looked again at the door. No one there, and it was almost time to go. He opened the gun, checked to make sure it was ready. He checked it twice.

A presence behind him. Kurt started to swing the gun around, but a meaty, gloved hand closed on it, inexorable. But how –

Damn. The fireplace. He’d forgotten about Big Red’s thing with chimneys.

“Ho, ho, ho, asshole,” was the last thing Kurt heard.

“The List” originally appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction.

Art by janmarcustrapp at Pixabay.com.

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in All Stories, Fantasy, Flash Fiction, Humor

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