Aphelion Issue 224, Volume 21
December 2017 / January 2018
 
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Tough Town

by Jon Stubbington




It was a horrible way to go.

I mean, the guy never ought to have been out there. What was he thinking, getting caught in the open during a rainclap? It was a stupid move.

Still, like I said, it’s a horrible way to go.

I stood in the shadows, staying under the cover of the long concrete overhang in front of the station building. Me and fifty others, just standing there watching this guy writhing on the floor, the rain eating straight through him. The weather sirens were still sounding, belting out their warnings to get inside, to stay undercover. He should’ve heard them. He shouldn’t have been out in the rain.

One young guy--clearly he hadn't been on-planet for long--he tried to go and help. But there weren't no helping. People held him back, told him not to be so stupid. He just screamed at us all, cursing us, calling us cowards. It's okay, he didn't know.

It didn't last long. Or, I guess I should say, he didn't last long. I had already disassociated the mess out there in the square from the person he was five minutes before. That weren't a person no more. That was a puddle of dissolving body parts that the cleaning bots would wash away into the gutters as soon as the rainclouds passed over.

I looked up at my fellow commuters, all of us waiting for the show to be over so we could get out from under cover and get on with our day. Aside from that young guy, crying and wailing, no one looked shocked. No one even looked that surprised. It wasn't nothing we hadn't seen before.

You get a tough life and an easy death in my town.


* * *

She strode into my office with purpose, swinging her hips and sending a cloud of perfume across the room. I wasn't expecting her. I wasn't expecting anyone, for that matter. Business had been slow. That delay at the station had made me late for nothing except the first Sephelonian cigar of the morning.

"Arton Yuar?" she asked, flinging herself down in the chair opposite me.

"That depends who's asking," I replied.

"It does?" She looked puzzled.

"Look lady, I ask the questions round here."

"You do?"

"You bet I do." That shut her up for a minute. "What are you doing in this part of town? This ain't no place for a lady who looks the way you do."

She looked at me nervously. "I need an investigator."

Of course she did. They always do. No one drops in here to pay me a social call. I nodded towards the open door behind her.

"What's it say on the sign?"

"Reynard and Reynard Solicitors"

"Underneath. On the piece of paper."

She read my name off the temporary sign I'd pinned there three years ago.

"You are Yuar," she breathed. "I knew it. Look, you gotta help me."

"I do, do I?" I opened the drawer next to me and pulled out the Sephelonian. "Now listen, lady. I'm going to light this up and you're going to tell me your troubles and then, and only then, I'm going to decide whether you get the help of Arton Yuar. How's that sound?"

She looked at the cigar in my hand. "You're not going to smoke that in front of me, are you?" she asked.

I sighed and dropped the Sephelonian back into the open drawer. Close. "What's eating you, Mrs...?"

"Aaxkr," she said.

"You're going to have to spell that for me."

"It's spelled like it sounds." She shifted in the chair, crossing one long leg over the other. I saw the silvery sheen of her skin catch the light from the dim bulb above our heads. That much reflection from a crummy light like I use? She was a Mermien for sure.

I tried again. "What trouble brought you across town today? I'm guessing this ain't your normal neighbourhood."

"Oh! Mr Yuar--"

"Call me Yuar.

"It's my husband, Mr Yuar."

"It's Yuar."

"No, it's Aaxkr. Like I told you before." She uncrossed and re-crossed those shimmering silvery pins of hers. "He's in some kinda trouble, I just know it. But he won't talk to me. He keeps telling me that everything's okay. But it's not, Mr Yuar, it's really not. I can tell, you see. A wife knows."

Nine times out of ten, if a husband's keeping secrets from his wife then everything really is okay. For him at least. It's who he's keeping the secrets with that normally upsets the wives. Still, a job's a job and it's not like I hand out client satisfaction sheets at the end. It's also why I make them pay a deposit up--front.

"What do you want me to do about it, Mrs Aaxkr?"

"I want you to find out what's eating my husband, Mr Yuar."

"Mr Aaxkr."

"Yes, Aaxkr, like I said. And then I want you to sort it out for him."

"Sort it out?"

She leaned forward and fixed me with her big, green eyes. There were depths in those eyes, I can tell you. People could drown in those peepers.

"I want my husband back. Whatever's troubling him, I want you to make it go away. You can do that for me, can't you, Mr Yuar?"

I felt the force of those eyes boring through me.

"I'll do my best, Mrs Aaxkr."

She smiled a wide smile with teeth of iridescent beauty. "Oh, thank you. I knew you would help me. I just knew it." She stood and made to leave.

"Just a minute, lady," I said, before she could get too far out of my door. "I'm going to need some more details out of you. And a retainer. We're talking fifty percent up-front. This ain't a charity I'm running here."

She sat back down in the chair and rested her silvery fingers on my arm.

"I'm sorry, Mr Yuar. I wasn't thinking straight. Can you forgive me?"

"For fifty-percent up-front, I think I can try. Now, let's get down some details." I pulled out a pad of paper. "And it's Yuar, okay?"

What she could tell me didn't add up to much. I barely filled the first sheet of paper.

The husband-Mr Aaxkr-was a mid-level business man over in the nice part of town. The nicer part of town. He had an office over at the spaceport, close to the action. His job involved making sure that all the ships out of here had some of his goods on board. What goods, I didn't know. Mrs Aaxkr didn't take much interest in her husband's business it seemed.

As for the trouble he was in, she was even less illuminating on that front. It was a feeling, she said. Something different about him. Something he wouldn't talk about.

If I had to guess, I would have placed my money on him getting his goods loaded in a different kind of vessel. One that likes nice furs and pretty necklaces. The old import-export, in some dingy hotel somewhere out at the spaceport. Still, I wasn't being paid to guess. It said Investigator on the piece of paper on the glass.

I grabbed my hat from the stand and headed out the door.


* * *

The offices of Aaxkr and Associates were barely bigger than mine. And on this side of town, even something that small must be costing him a pretty penny.

His secretary was on the phone when I walked in. I took a long look at him as I waited, trying to size up what part he played in this particular performance. If any. He certainly wasn't a looker, and his skin didn't swim with a silvery shimmer, but looks aren't all a man goes for.

A roar went up as a ship took off from the spaceport and everything in the room rattled. I guess you have to pay extra for an office away from the terminals. The secretary--receptionist, errand boy, whatever--put his hand over the receiver and asked if I had an appointment.

"Have you got anything written in that appointment book in front of you?"

He looked down at the blank page in front of him. "No," he said. He sounded confused.

"Well then, I guess I don't have an appointment, do I?"

The secretary scowled at me. "Who shall I say it is?"

"Arton Yuar. I have some business I need to discuss with Mr Aaxkr."

"He's a very busy man--"

"A busy man with no appointments. What's he doing in there, talking to himself all day?" I got another scowl for that remark. "I'm sure he can squeeze me in for a quick conversation."

He made me wait till he'd finished on the phone. You give a guy a little bit of power--and a little bit of lip--and he'll make sure you know who's in charge. It didn't bother me. It wasn't as though I had anywhere better to be.

The phone dropped back into the cradle and the secretary finally fixed his full attention on me. "What do you want?" he asked.

Seemed I was going to have to spell this one out for him.

"I want Mr Aaxkr," I said. "If you could let him know I'm here." I inclined my head towards the heavy wooden door to my left, the one with a plaque on it with Alffr Aaxkr engraved in an expensive-looking typeface.

The secretary smiled and spread his arms wide. "At your disposal, Mr...Yuar, was it?"

This caught me on the back foot, I'm not afraid to admit. "You're Aaxkr?" I asked.

"And you are Mr Yuar."

"It's just Yuar, if you don't mind." I nodded towards the door. "What's with all the smoke and mirrors, Aaxkr? Who pays the overheads for an extra office on this side of town when they don't got to?"

Aaxkr smiled and stood up. "It's all about appearances. Surely you know that, Yuar." He swung the door open. Inside was a two-by-two cupboard with a shelf, a kettle, and a half--finished bottle of Proartian moon juice. "Drink?"

He filled two glasses and handed one to me. The moon juice was good: I felt the burn as it slid down the back of my throat. Ideas began spinning round my synapses.

"So, why you letting me in on your little secret?" I asked. "Shouldn't you be keeping up the pretence?"

Aaxkr looked at me across the top of his glass. "Come now, Yuar. You're not telling me you're really here for business." He looked me up and down; not a taxing endeavour when you're dealing with a Dffarmian like me. We're not the tallest of species.

"It's business of a sort," I responded.

"But not spaceport business. Not shipping business. What business are you here for, Mr Yuar?"

"It's just Yuar. Personal business, I guess you could say. Think of me like a therapist." I drained the last drops from my glass and pulled out a Sephelonian from my coat pocket. "Do you mind?"

He took out a cigar of his own and lit it. I took this to mean he didn't.

"My wife sent you." It wasn't a question.

"I can't say," I said. "Client confidentiality."

"She sent you." He puffed smoke out into the office. "She's a piece of work, ain't she? Did she come see you, Yuar? Did you see those legs? I gotta say, those legs are something else. They go all the way up."

"They go all the way to the ground too," I said.

"Ain't that the truth."

"How'd you land a catch like her, Aaxkr? Mermiens ain't easily pleased."

"What makes you think she's pleased?" Another puff of smoke joined the cloud above our heads. "My wife ain't been pleased with nothing, not since the day I met her."

"How did you meet?"

He smiled. He had some faraway look in his eye. "She came stumbling out the spaceport, fresh from out west, all wide-eyed and vulnerable. She was something special, I'm telling you."

"I'm not sure you are."

"It was obvious she was running from something, some kind of trouble, and she needed a way out. What she wanted was somewhere to lay low, so she could keep her head down. I was just the first fool to cross paths with her when she swanned into town."

"So she's hiding?"

"And waiting."

"For what?"

"Or for whom?"

"Who?"

"No, for whom."

"Don't get smart with me."

Aaxkr leaned forward. "Did she tell you about her father?"

I didn't want to let on how much I knew. Or how little. "Why don't you tell me about her father?" I said. "Then we'll compare notes, see where you went wrong."

He smiled at this. He had horrid little yellow teeth. Like I said, he weren't a looker.

"Her daddy just died. Not two moons ago. Seems he was something big in Mermien manufacturing out west." He waggled his eyebrows at me. "And when I say big, I mean Big."

I heard the capital letter. "Who gets the dough?"

"The dough?"

"The money, the inheritance. Is Mrs A in line to be the next big thing in Mermien manufacturing?" I saw the glint in his eye. "Are Aaxkr and Associates expanding west any time soon?"

"Like I said, he was Big. This guy had it made."

"That's manufacturing for you."

"And this could be great for me. For us, you know. Me and Mrs Aaxkr." He forced the smile from his face and put down his cigar. "I just want her to be happy. You believe that, right?"

"I don't believe nothing I ain't made up myself."

He sat back in his chair again. "Who am I kidding, Yuar. I don't care if my wife's happy or not. She certainly don't care about me. But I do care about that great big pile of cash that's coming her way."

The moon juice was joining dots in my brain.

"But how's she going to claim her prize?" I asked. "If she's hiding out here, in this deadbeat town with a low-rent life…"

"I see your point, Yuar." Mr Aaxkr looked worried all of a sudden. "We need to clear up whatever she was running from."

"Or whom."

"You said it. We need to fix it so she can go home. If she can't go home, she can't collect on Daddy's jackpot."

"That's a pickle, ain't it."

"It sure is." He looked at me. I got another dose of the old up--and--down stare, as he checked out my diminutive proportions.

"You keep looking like that I'm going to start charging."

"You're an investigator. You could find out what she's hiding, what the big secret is."

I shifted in my chair, tried to make myself look uncomfortable. "I don't know," I said. "That sounds like a conflict of interest."

"How much to make you feel less conflicted?"

I named my price. He didn't argue. Not for very long, at least.

"And I want sixty percent up-front."


* * *

The Aaxkr house was nothing to write home about. Not that Mrs A would be writing home much, if what her husband told me was true.

I only had to ring the bell three times before she answered.

"Yuar? How'd you know where I live?"

"Your husband told me. Mind if I come in?"

I pushed past her into the house. Two chairs and a side table, that appeared to be all they had. The lack of furniture at least made the small room seem bigger.

"What are you doing?" She towered over me. I had to look up at her, past those long legs. "I'm investigating. It's what you're paying me for, isn't it?"

I hopped up into one of the chairs. There were two glasses, empty ones, on the table. It looked like I was expected.

"Drink?" she asked, sloshing a measure of moon juice into each glass.

"This place is nice," I said. "Real nice. I like what you've done with it."

She fixed me a long, cool stare to go with my drink. "Don't be mean, Mr Yuar. My husband, he ain't got a lot."

"But you do, Mrs A. At least that's what he told me. Daddy went and left you a stash of cash." I knocked back the drink. "My condolences, and all that."

"Alffr told you."

I nodded. "He told me a lot more than you did. And a lot more that I believed, too."

"He always did have a big mouth." She looked at her glass, but I could tell that she was seeing something else. "And really nasty yellow teeth to go with it."

"So, what was that story you spun me this morning? Nothing about that tale stood up, Mrs A. It was a pack of lies from beginning to end."

"Are you ever so mad at me, Arton? Can I call you Arton?"

"You can call me a mug and we'll leave it at that." I poured myself another finger. "What's the real story?"

Those green eyes were turned in my direction. With eyes as big as those, and legs as long as hers, it was no wonder Aaxkr fell for her.

"Oh, it's nothing so out-of-the-ordinary. I'm sure it's a story someone in your line of work will have heard a hundred times or more." She sipped her moon juice. "Daddy was a big man, a Big man, you know?"

"I've heard it said."

"And we had a big house and a lot of money and he gave me everything I wanted."

"So you ran away?"

"So I ran away. It was just so stifling, Arton. So hard to be me. Do you see what I mean?"

I swilled the spirit round in my glass. "You had it all, but you didn't want it. You wanted the exciting life, the difficult life. You wanted adventure and the chance to be your own person, not some spoilt child who had it all handed to her on a plate."

She nodded. A silvery tear slid down her cheek. "Yes."

"So you left it all behind. You headed east, you came here. To my town. With its hubbub and bustle. New sights and sounds and smells."

She reached out and touched my arm. "I knew you would understand."

"But it didn't take long to find out that you didn't like the smells. That the sounds were too loud. And the sights looked like him." I pointed at the picture of Alffr Aaxkr on the wall. I patted her outstretched hand. "That must have been quite the comedown."

She snatched her hand back. "I see you understand just perfectly."

"One thing I don't get," I continued. "Why the sob story? What was in it for you, paying me to trek over to Aaxkr and Associates to chat to Mr A?"

"Now, now, Arton. You're the investigator. Surely I don't have to give you all the answers."

"Suit yourself." I levered my way out of the chair. "I'm not sure what else I can do for you, Mrs A. Or your husband. I don't think I like either of you all that much, but you at least are a lot easier on the eye. I don't think you'll have many problems in life, so why don't you suck it up and go home? Whether you take hubby along with you is neither here nor there to me."

"But, Arton, where are you going?"

"I'm going to give your husband his money back." I thought about it for a moment. "Some of his money back. There were the expenses for getting all the way out here for a start. At any rate, I'm going to tell him I can't help. You two need to sort this out between yourselves."

She put a hand on my shoulder. It was surprisingly firm. I may be small, but I'm big for a Dffarmian and I can handle myself in a scrap. Still, she stopped me short and that caught my attention.

"Don't," she said.

"Don't what?"

"Don't go to see Alffr. Please."

I shrugged off her hand. "Why not?"

"Just give me a few hours. He'll be home soon and…well, it's all out in the open now, isn't it?" She sank back into the chair. She looked so lonely in that small and empty room. "You're right, of course. We need to sort this out ourselves. Let me talk to him."

"It's your life."

"Come back here. Please, Arton. Come back to the house at sundown. Alffr will be here and we can sort it all out then."

It wasn't the big, green eyes. It wasn't the shimmer on her skin. No, it was the sight of her in that pathetic room with no friends and no furniture. Something in me stirred. On another day, it could have been me in her place.

"Fine," I said. "Sundown. I'll see you both then." I let the door slam on my way out.


* * *

I wish I could say I had something better to do while I waited, but there were no other cases in my in-tray. The long trek back across town, stuffed into the subrail with a hundred other miserable people, had nothing to recommend it. So I stayed in the neighbourhood.

There was a bar on the corner by the station. I had never seen it before and, yet, I had seen it a million times over. The flickering bulbs that spelled out the name, the rough and ready bar, full of chips and nicks and thick with spilled liquor. The bar stools that wouldn't stand straight, and the late afternoon crowd who couldn't either.

The barman poured me a measure and I took it to a booth by the window. I heard the sirens sound as another raincloud built in the east. I watched people hustle in out of the weather, waiting for the rain to scour the town and move on. The bar was full. Acid rain: good for business.

I waited out the storm--like I had any choice--nursing my drink and watching the worried and the weary knock back drinks at the bar. Some days I sure felt like joining them. The sirens stopped and those sober enough to leave, left. Most stayed, ordered another drink, and settled themselves in for the night.

Me, I had an appointment to keep.


* * *

It was quiet at the Aaxkr place but there was a light burning inside and, after only a couple of knocks, Mrs A swung the door open and hustled me inside.

"How's Alffr?" I asked, scoping out the small room and not seeing him. "I hope you two squared everything off."

"Oh, he's just fine, Arton. Ain't nothing worrying him anymore."

There was something about her that set the old alarm bells ringing. You don't have to be in this business as long as I had to recognise the signals she was sending out.

"Right as rain, is he?" I asked, stepping past her and heading for the door to their kitchen. "Through here?"

Yeah, that's where he was all right. Alffr Aaxkr: middling business man, bad husband, and an unattractive corpse.

I took off my hat. It was the respectful thing to do.

"I'm guessing he slipped and fell. Landing heavily on that knife down there." I crouched down beside him. "Several times, by the looks of things."

Mrs A's long legs loomed into view next to me. "Don't be a fool, Arton. Let's call it what it is. It's murder, pure and simple."

"There ain't nothing pure about murder, Mrs A."

"But it certainly was simple, Arton. Poor Alffr didn't see it coming."

"You stabbed him in the back. That's a dirty move."

"Whatever you got to do to get the job done. That's what Daddy always used to say."

"I bet he did." I stuck my hat back on. After all, I barely knew the guy. Dragging one of the stools out from under the counter, I climbed up and took a seat. "I got to tell you, there's a fair few questions rattling round my head right now. It don't seem as though you're going for the secrecy angle, so why don't we get it all out in the open, talk it through, me and you, just two old friends chewing over a problem, and then I might just get to sleep tonight without my head throbbing."

Mrs A slid another stool out and sat herself down. "As you like, Arton." She gave me a glimpse of those terrific teeth of hers as she smiled. "Fire away."

"Why'd you do it? Sticking it to Mr A in your own kitchen. It seems like a fool move."

"Does it?" She smiled again. "I'm not so sure. No, I'm not so sure at all. He had to go and, well, we ain't exactly the social types. There ain't no one coming round here to pay us a visit. It's nice and quiet here, Arton. There's no one to interrupt."

This wasn't making much sense. "But you knew I would be coming back. You invited me!"

"And I'm so glad you came, Arton. You're so important to all of this. Don't you see that?"

I wished I'd had another glass of moon juice back at the bar. The connections weren't coming together quickly enough in that weary old head of mine.

"Listen lady. You've had me running from one side of town to the other all day and I still ain't got a clue what's going on. Seeing as you're all happy about your clever little plan, why don't you lay it all out on the table for me. Cut it up into little chunks so poor old Arton can chew ‘em up. How's that sound?"

"That sounds swell." Mrs A got up and went to a cupboard in the corner. She knocked back a glass of moon juice and poured herself another. The second glass was handed to me. "Alffr was telling you the truth. My daddy died. And I'm all set to inherit. It's a lot of money, Arton, an awful lot of money."

"How much are we talking?"

"We're talking mansions and space yachts and never having to sit in the dark on your own ever again."

"Sounds nice."

"But Daddy weren't stupid, Arton. And I was an awful lot like him. Too much, sometimes. We didn't always see eye-to-eye."

"I know what that's like."

"What I told you, about running away, that was true. All of it. I'd had enough. I wanted to escape and be free."

"But freedom stinks."

She knocked back another glass. "It weren't freedom I got. I got this. I got an ugly husband and an ugly house and an ugly life. It's so lonely here. I was miserable, Arton. So miserable."

"And then Daddy died and gave you the gift of a second chance. I'm not seeing the problem here."

Mrs A kicked the corpse in the side. "There's the problem: Alffr. Daddy didn't know I got married. He was real traditional about those things. If he knew I'd been hitched..." She steadied herself against the table. "And he weren't even a Mermien!"

The juice was helping. The picture was swimming into view. "You couldn't go home with hubby in tow; otherwise you wouldn't get to collect on the dough."

"That's about the size of it."

"And you couldn't stay here, not with all that money waiting for you. So it was a choice: Alffr or the cash."

Those big greens sparkled. "It was hardly a difficult decision."

"I'm getting it now. Alffr meets an unfortunate, cutlery--based accident and you're free to saunter home to live the life of luxury." I scratched my head through my hat. "But why bring me into it? What do I bring to this party?"

She took the glass from me and placed it back in the cupboard. "Arton, dear. You're my insurance."

"I'm pretty sure it says Investigator on my door, Mrs A, not insurance."

"Aaxkr and Associates has been going under for months. Business is bad and Alffr was barely scratching out a living over there at the spaceport. There ain't been no one in to visit him in weeks. He just sits alone in that office and watches the ships sail off into the sky, wishing he could go with them."

"Sat, Mrs A. He sat."

"Until today, that is. Today he had a visitor. Did he pour you a glass, Arton? Did you sit in his chair? Did you touch anything?"

I nodded, suddenly seeing where this was going.

"And what about here? Oops, was that a glass you were just drinking from? Did I give you a drink earlier? Oh dear, I rather think I did."

"So I'm the sacrificial lamb? Your life is so empty of other people that you had to drag me out, just to come round here and incriminate myself."

"If anyone gets suspicious and comes looking for answers, well, they're only going to find three sets of fingerprints in this house, Arton. And it'll only be yours and poor Alffr's at the office." She looked at me with mock sadness. "I'm afraid it's not looking good for you all of a sudden."

I nodded towards the body on the floor. "And what are you going to do about that?" I asked.

"What are we going to do about it," she corrected me. "That's why I need you tonight, Arton. You're going to help me get rid of it."

"I am?"

"You are."

"Yes?"

"Don't get clever with me, Arton. I've played you like an Olshi Shimishen."

"I don't know what that is."

"It's a stringed instrument with a tapering--" She huffed. "It doesn't matter."

"So what are we going to do about the recently--ex Mr A?" I stressed the we for good measure.

"Grab his legs," she said, reaching down to pick up an arm.

I heaved his legs off the floor as Mrs A manhandled the other end of her dearly departed husband. Being the shorter end of this particular puzzle, I ended up taking most of the weight as we carried him out the back door into their yard.

I looked around at the high hedges. It was pretty secluded back there but still... "Outside?" I asked. "Aren't you afraid someone will see him?"

A boom of thunder sounded out to the east. The neighbourhood sirens answered with their weary wail.

"I don't think we need to worry about that," she said with a smile. "It's storm season after all."

And so we watched as the late-and-not-so-great Mr Alffr Aaxkr slowly dissolved into a steaming puddle outside. I held my hat in my hand as the last pieces of him washed around the yard, trickling away beneath the smoking hedges.

Two total dissolves in one day. That was a first for me. It's like I said before: it's a tough life and an easy death in this town.


* * *

There weren't much talking to be done after that. We'd played our parts in this sorry tale. Mrs A had places to be--and somebody to be in those places--and I had things I needed to think on.

I dragged myself back to the office, placed my hat on the rack and poured myself a drink. She sure had played me like one of them tapered string instruments. You had to admire her for that, even if she had tried to frame yours truly for the murder of poor old Mr A.

Would she be surprised to see me smile as I sat down behind my desk? Would Mrs A wonder why I wasn't nearly as worried as perhaps I ought to be?

Of course, there was one thing that long-legged, shimmery-skinned she-wolf had failed to account for: when she hired me, she hired a Dffarmian. What's the one thing everyone knows about Dffarmians? That we're short. Barely halfway up a human, at best, and crotch--height to a Mermien as I had learned. But it seems that's the only thing anyone knows about Dffarmians. No one ever bothers to look at the little things. I examined the glass I was holding. Such a smooth and shiny surface. Not a mark on it. Sorry Mrs A, but didn't anyone tell you? Dffarmians don't have fingerprints. Oh dear! Such a shame, but I don't think there'll be anyone coming knocking on my door any time soon.

Downing the rest of my drink, I slid open the top drawer of my desk. Inside, on top of a pile of paperwork, sat the two credit slips, one each from Mr and Mrs Aaxkr. It seems I never did get round to returning that slip to Mr A, and I doubt he's going to be too worried about it now. Anyway, if what she told me is true, there's a good chance it'll bounce right back out of the bank again. But, for now, I have a healthy set of credit slips with my name on them, and that counts as a good day in my book.

I pulled out a picture from underneath the credit slips: me and Mr Yuar on our celebration day. I ran a finger over our faces. Don't worry Dear, you're not boring enough for me to stick knives in you. And you're too damn handsome.

We went back in the drawer. It was time to go home. It had been a long day. Then my eye caught sight of the Sephelonian. I never did get around to smoking it.

I put my feet up on my desk and stretched out in my seat. I struck a match and touched it to the end of the cigar.

It was a tough life, after all. You have to enjoy the little moments.


THE END


2017 Jon Stubbington

Bio: Mr. Jon Stubbington is an illustrator and writer from England. His short stories have been published online and in print, as well as performed at spoken word events on both sides of the Atlantic. You can read more of his writing, as well as browse his artwork and illustrations here.

E-mail: Jon Stubbington

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