Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Why La Cosa Nostra didn't set up shop in San Francisco

Uh, just what exactly is Marlon doing to the poor cat in this picture? Anyway, we have had our share of gangsters in San Francisco history. We even had an Aussie Mob during the Barbary Coast days, The Sydney Ducks, and they used to burn most of The City down on a regular basis.

Yet, even with our extensive history of crime (Dashiell Hammett didn't just pull all those stories out of his hat, you know), the Mafia never really did get a solid hold on the City of Saint Francis.

Retired policeman Kevin J. Mullen said, "Al Capone sent emissaries out to San Francisco in 1931 to case the joint, but decided it was "too tough" a town to crack." That may just be a proud cop talking, but Mullen says it's an easier town to police, given its size and geography, and the transcontinental railroad terminated in Oakland, after all.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

"Yasmine's Garden"

September 3rd, 1987

Was it Robert Frost that said, “Good fences make for good neighbors?” Yasmine’s nearest neighbor is some four-hundred yards down this private, restricted road. And for good measure, the walls and fences around the house are eleven feet high, except for the front and back gates.

I should be at home, falling asleep to Johnny’s monologue. Instead, I’m stuck with a double Gordian Knot that cannot be solved or cut, and there is no kingdom to be had or any right answer to be found.

In this moonlight, the blood looks quite black.

There’s so much of it.

This is a small town in Northern California, and I can’t even tell you where, though as to why will all make sense in a few moments. It’s a nasty little place, full of pollution and polluted minds. There has been a little relative prosperity in the last decade or so, but don’t be misled, none of us that grew up here have had it easy. Especially Yasmine.

We’ve known each other since kindergarten, and she used to have the biggest heart of anyone that I have ever known. Her warm demeanor faded somewhat when both of her parents were killed in a car accident when she was seven. After that, bad things just went to worse, as her drunk aunt became her guardian and drank up the estate of Yasmine’s parents.

Her aunt drank them out of house and home in four years. Yasmine became a ward of the court and days later her aunt’s liver gave out. We didn’t see Yasmine for three years after that, as she bounced from foster home to foster home until she wound up back here. She was different by then, and in some ways, she was hardened like someone who had spent decades in prison.

It took until our senior year in high school to mend a friendship that shouldn’t have been broken. There were many things she wouldn’t talk about that affected her during those years, and she still won’t discuss them to this very day. After we graduated, we hung out every once in awhile, but we pretty much drifted apart again. Such is life; you might grow in a different direction than your friends, and then before you know it, you are an entire world apart from each other.

My mother asked me to drop something off at the little cottage Yasmine and her jerk boyfriend Clyde were renting from his grandparents. I can’t remember what it was my mother gave me, but I remember all too clearly what happened after I knocked on the door. When she opened the door, her right eye was a plum, purple and swollen. Yasmine jumping on my back was the only thing that saved Clyde’s life that day, and one of my knuckles never healed properly after that (it was still worth it).

She broke up with Clyde soon after that, and she stopped speaking to me for years, so I guess we were both punished for it in a way. Some months later I saw her in town, and she did a poor job of hiding another shiner behind some considerably large sunglasses. Yasmine ran away from me, yet I wasn’t even paying attention to her at that point, and I drove as fast as I could to Clyde’s.

He was both scared and surprised to see me, as Yasmine and he had not been an item for some time. She moved out of town not too long after that and I never did find her other abusive boyfriend, though I gladly would have risked my left hand improperly healing for a chance at revenge. I became a patrol officer just after she left, and eventually I became the town deputy. It really wasn’t an issue of me wanting justice, though I tried to do good whenever was possible, but I chose the job because it paid more than anything else around here.

I joined the force in 1977 and Yasmine came back to town in 1985, with more money than she ever had before. She had made her money with Apple Computer, and she was all set to buy the Miller property on the edge of town. She was friendly enough at first, but she became reserved when I asked what she would do all by herself with such a big place. After swearing me to secrecy, Yasmine confided in me that she wanted to run a shelter for abused women.

I told her that big house would be perfect for it, and nobody from in town or from the outside goes near the private road leading up to it. I helped her fix the place up, along with Eduardo, whose usual job is to fix everything both inside and outside for The County. It took a couple of weeks to bring it up to par, and the garden was the hardest part. It was also Yasmine’s pride and joy, where she spent countless hours toiling in it, despite her lack of a green thumb.

Gardening can be quite therapeutic, and whenever I brought groceries there from the next town over to avoid attention, Yasmine would have the newest woman at the house helping her out. Besides pitching in on house maintenance and food, I would make sure to drive by and to patrol the grounds. You never know just how far a man will go, if he won’t even hesitate to hit a woman. Often, Yasmine would be walking the grounds as well, though many times I didn’t see her until the last second.

Every once in awhile, I’d catch a non-local driving off the main town roads. I would call in their plates as I rode right on their bumper, just to let them know that whatever their intentions were, that they weren’t wanted in these parts. None of them ever came back, save a dark green ’71 Camaro from two towns over. I stopped him twice, and though he seemed nice enough, there was something about that large bastard that didn’t seem right.

If I told you I was surprised to see that same Camaro tonight, hidden some seventy feet off the road from Yasmine’s house, I’d be lying. It would also be a lie if I tried to convince you that this situation would never turn into something ugly. I was completely shocked, though, when I saw all that blood covering the jasmine flowers that Yasmine was named after. And I wanted to simply turn away in denial when I saw what was left of that big fake-polite asshole lying in the middle of the garden. Even in the dark, I could tell he had been cut and stabbed too many times to count.

The spatter and the trail of blood said that he was killed after climbing over and that his body was dragged. This week Yasmine has only three women staying at the shelter, and they are all outside with her. They are all covered in blood, just like her, and all four of them have knives. They put the knives right next to body, and they walk back to the patio.

I don’t know what to do, and as I walk towards them, I hear a twig snap. It’s Eduardo, and he’s trampling all over my crime scene with his size thirteens. I know that Yasmine has called him before me, and he stands next to the women in solidarity. I can’t let a murder go unpunished, yet if anyone is arrested, the shelter will be as good as closed. The Gordian Knots that are my brain and my heart tighten as if pulled by elephants startled by guns.

The End

This story is for the Fourth Installment of Icarus' Flight To Perfection. It combines the starter sentence of Katherine Tomlinson, "In the moonlight the blood looked quite black." And the four words of Nicole Hirschi; Fence, Mend, Court, and Misled.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A change to The Flash Fiction Offensive

There is a new addition to The Flash Fiction Offensive, David Barber is now their Editor! This will certainly be a trial by fire, but I certainly know that Dave will be up for it.

After all, this is what he has to go through just to get a pint at his local pub (here's an unsolicited bit of advice, Mr. Barber: never beat the neighborhood arsonist at darts).

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Replay: "The Original Rainmaker"

Daniel O'Shea had a flash fiction challenge, and I had an idea mulling that had been simmering on the back burner for some time. I wanted to give closure to the traumatized strip club owner from "A Sheep In Wolf's Clothing," and the rest was cranked out pretty much inside of a day. The "crime fiction" tag is misnomer in a sense, as virtually no crime occurs in this story, and I made a conscientious effort to tone down the usual violence and occasional gore.

Without further adieu, here is "The Original Rainmaker."