We hid in Dad’s tool shed and I kept watch at the door while Augie sat on the floor counting up all the loot from the bank bag we found on the tracks.
“I don’t like it. No bloodstained bag can bring anything but bad luck,” I said.
“Are you kidding me? This is a fortune.” Augie stared with glazed eyes at the pile of bills.
“What about the blood, Augie?”
He waved me off. “Whoever it belonged to is probably dead.”
I heard a pistol cock behind me. A deep raspy voice said, “I ain’t dead yet.”
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14 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Blood Money”
Never knew what blood money was ‘til that Saturday in the tool shed. Augie was better at figgerin’ than me. He was countin’ it all out in piles. I never even seen one hundred-dollar bill before, let alone stacks of ‘em. While numbers spilled from his lips, I kept starin’ at the blood on the bag it all come from.
“Whose blood, you s’pose?”
“Don’t much matter. If he come off the train like the money, he’s done died.”
I knew he was wrong when I heard the click of a gun behind me.
“How ‘bout you boys put that back in the bag and we’ll just forget about this.”
I turned around real slow and saw a man with a kerchief covering his mouth. “Sure, Mister. We just found it. Didn’t mean no harm.”
That gun was a mile long and aimed right at my noggin.
I tried not to look behind the man. Papa was bein’ real quiet about comin’ in, but the man turned quick and shot Papa.
The man grabbed me by the neck and looked me in the eye. “Didn’t mean for that to happen, boy. He surprised me. Sorry.” And then he walked away, lettin’ the door slam.
Papa died. Augie and me hid the money, and they never caught the man.
I learned in school blood money’s paid after killin’ a man, not before.
If I ever see that man, I’ll tell him, but I’m not givin’ the money back.
The northbound train left the station at 8:45 a.m. precisely. As it was approaching full speed, Joe leaned against the railing at the tail end, flung the burlap bag over, watched it land in the dirt beside the tracks right before they ran across a lake stretching bright and blue to either side.
The Head had said, “Keep the bag safe. Don’t ever open it.”
It was a test, obviously. A test, after twenty-seven years of nothing but loyalty. To the enterprise, to the organization, to the Head–sticking with him all the way.
And now he was to deliver this cash bag to some far-out hick town he’d never even heard the Head mention as a venue of his, with a lackey pinned to his side who was as smart and subtle as a rabies infection, eyeing Joe constantly.
Halfway to their destination, Joe had decided he would make this journey a different one from what was expected of him. And he’d be making it alone.
He could not use the money, the organization had probably marked the bills or knew their serial numbers. It didn’t matter. What he’d been skimming over the past couple of years, being the one who did–that is, created–the books, was sufficient.
Two days later, the supraregional papers had it: “Headless Corpse Found in Fields Near Wilmington.”
No other item with a connection to this, however. So nobody had discovered the bag yet.
From what Matthias Mord could see, on the dimly lit railway tracks, this time, it was a couple of teenage boys. They found the bag, looked inside, and excitedly ran off with it.
Matthias got his pistol ready.
He trekked down to the spot where the bag was. A train passed by, illuminating their freshly imprinted footprints. The moon gave just the right amount of light and cover as he followed their tracks.
The footprints led to a dilapidated shed. A small sliver of light from it broke through the concealing night. Matthias climbed over the fence, quickly, quietly, and stalked over. The two boys were jittery, one with excitement and the other with fear.
“There was blood on it, Augie. Doesn’t that bother you? l mean, whose blood do you think it is?”
Matthias cocked the pistol as the two boys spun around.
“The blood of the last suckers who took the bag.” The sound of the two gunshots that followed cut through the somber night like a knife.
He grabbed the bag from underneath them, causing “Augie’s” body to fall down with a soft thump. Their blood stained the bag, adding red to more red. He went back to the railway tracks, placing the bag where it had been before, under the mischievous light of the moon and headed up to the shack where he lived. Opening a beer and adding two names to his list, he sat back at the window facing the tracks and waited. Again.
I stood stock-still, my breath frozen in my throat just like my courage. “Hand it over, boy.” Augie stuffed bills into the sack without taking his eyes off the gun, his scared face quickly replaced by his angry one as visions of wild purchases faded out with every handful. The guy stayed put, framed in the doorway with sharp mid-morning sunlight behind.
His pistol nudged me in the left ear. “You didn’t see nothin’. You didn’t find nothin’. Augie reached forward with the bloody bag and the guy grabbed it and backed further away. “Nothin’.” In a second he was gone, but we didn’t look to see. I sighed, philosophical about the loss. We’d never had anything, but at least we were the same. Augie got up and closed the door, locked it and slowly returning to the spot on the floor where he had been. A ratty old cushion we’d stuffed with newspapers marked the spot, and he slumped down as if a puppet with it’s string cut. “Then I guess we’ll just have to make due with…” and he pulled out a fat wad of American currency from under the cushion. With a gleam in his eye he said “While he was busy with you, I put newspaper in the bag! We’re rich!”
‘We’re dead’ I thought, the pit of my stomach imploding to the size of fear.
We entered the shed. Augie carried the bag. He made me carry the hand. It was a big hand, cut off above the wrist with two bones sticking out the end. On the back was a tattoo, a skull and under it fancy letters: HOPE. Augie counted the money.
“Do ya think the train did it?” I asked. Augie, who’d been mouthing silent as he counted shot me a look.
“You messed me up, dummy. How do I know? Probably.” I didn’t want to be touching it but Augie, when he told you to do something, well, you’d better just do it, alright.
“This here’s an adventure,” said Augie, “and that there’s a souvenir.” Augie’s old man did taxidermy. Augie helped him sometimes. I knew what was gonna happen to that hand. On a high shelf running all around Augie’s Pa’s shed were stuffed critters of all kinds—squirrels, possums, quail, pheasant, even an iguana. A big man’s hand would make a real nice addition to the collection. When I thought about it, it was kinds cool. A noise outside jolted us. Augie put his finger to his lips, shooshing me as he stuffed the money back in the bag. The latch lifted on the shed door and a big man in dirty coveralls fell to the floor. His bloody stump oozed, his good hand held a gun on us.
“Give back the money, Augie,” I said.
“You can keep the money,” croaked the man, “just gimme back my hand.”
I hate trains. And the tracks suggest one of those very loud, obnoxious, and toxin spewing beasts is on its way to pulverize my Sunday into a million shards of pain.
The wine from last night didn’t help. My head is splitting from the two bottles of something red and very tannic. She said the notes were soft and easy on the palate. She lied, of course. But I indulged anyway hoping I could find out what was behind her ready smile and eager laugh.
The conversation was easy. The wine was cheap. And her insistence on bringing me to the lake felt like an invitation to something more.
I did mention I hate them, right?
I remember her saying something about Orion being her favorite constellation. I don’t know much about constellations, so I didn’t offer much to the conversation. The white dots in the sky were all blurry anyway, and some of them were spinning.
She stood up and walked over to the car. I tried to stand but my legs said no. When she returned, she brought rope.
So here I am waiting for the train. I hate trains. And I’m not feeling too keen about rope either.
I turned around and beheld a giant who looked rather like the James Bond bad guy Jaws. The gun in his hand looked like a portable howitzer. He waved it at Augie and said, “Put that money back and give it to me. “
He was holding his side with his left hand and seemed to be fighting to keep himself erect. He drew his upper lip back in pain and belied my expectations of steel teeth. His flannel shirt and jeans showed large patches of blood.
Augie took his time replacing the money. I prayed he would not do anything stupid. He strapped the bag and got to his feet holding it. He walked slowly over to Jaws, who snatched the bag, backed to the door and disappeared.
It took us some time to work up enough courage to follow. Astonishingly, the bag lay a few feet away from the door; a scan by two pairs of eyes that knew the surroundings intimately showed no sign of Jaws.
We hid the bag in our secret groove in the tree behind the shed. In Augie’s house, his dad was engrossed in the TV news item about a seriously injured man—apparently hit by a train that did not stop—who had been tracked by police dogs from a bank heist site to the side of the tracks a couple of miles away. He died just as the emergency medical team reached him. About half an hour ago.
by Michael Seese
A mile of curving, cold steel was all that stood between me and liberation. We had made it past the guards and over the razor-wire-topped fence. From here, it should have been easy.
“What are you waiting for?” she whispered.
“I’m thinking,” I answered.
“What’s to think about? Let’s go.”
I wanted to yell, “Wait!” But yelling would have been suicide. So I followed. Carefully.
The tracks were laid specifically for the trains which brought us to the camp. Some of us wondered why they had been left. I assumed there would be more like us coming someday.
She was my best friend. My only friend. When she learned of my plans, she insisted I take her.
“I can help you,” she pleaded. I knew that she would. That’s why I wanted to leave her behind.
She bounded along the railroad ties as if playing hopscotch. Two feet apart, then one in the middle, skip the next… Almost as if she knew. But she didn’t. She was just carefree by nature.
I followed her footsteps precisely.
The end now in sight, she could not contain herself. She sprinted ahead, squealing, her arms spread wide.
“We did it! We’re free! We’re—”
The explosion provided the punctuation for her final sentence. I guess the rumors about landmines were more than just rumors.
The border less than 20 feet away, I walked around the still-smoldering crater and breathed freedom for the first time in years.
Coal miners have canaries. I had her.
I used the photo for my inspiration.
A sleek form hovers in the river beneath the trestle. Massive for a rainbow trout. It has to be the King. Tales have been told of this giant trout. Uncatchable some say. I smile. He’ll make a fine trophy.
I wade in. The cold bite of the water is unrelenting. I’ll soon be numb and stumbling over rocks I can’t feel. Must get closer before that happens.
In position, I check my rod and fly. Can’t lose my prize to faulty equipment. Both in good condition. I’m ready.
His large tail sweeps, keeping him steady in the strong current. A smaller fish tries to join him in the shade. The King moves to intercept. Colors flash and he’s alone once more.
My first cast settles too far to the left and floats by unnoticed. Next cast is better. The King slides closer, considering, before settling back down. Undaunted, I cast again. Perfect. The King rises. Splash. He’s on.
The rod bends into a deep U-shape. Steady. Keep his head up. The battle rages; my arms burn; and finally the King tires. Exhausted but elated, I stroke his brilliant colors.
I see a rusty hook already hanging from his lower jaw. Another has left an open wound. A closer inspection reveals more scars. One on his side matches mine.
Now I understand. He’s a veteran of war, like me. We share a bond. I unhook the King and slide him into deeper water. A quick salute. “Thank you, your Majesty.”
It had to be past midnight by the time we made it home. How could Augie be so calm after what we had seen? This was wrong and I knew it, but it’s awfully hard to say no to a bag of cold hard cash during these depressing times.
“Frank just get inside and shut the door!” Augie whispered fiercely behind me.
I pulled the heavy shed door closed, neglecting to slide the deadbolt across. “We should just go to the police Augie. That man could still be alive and he might have seen us take the bag.”
“Still alive? Are you kidding me, Frank? I’ve never seen a body fly so far. The train done him in good and we’d have been fools to leave this fortune behind for some other lucky devil to find.”
Augie was still clutching the bloody, money-filled bag and I wasn’t in a hurry to hold it myself. I couldn’t shake the cold tingling feeling running up and down my spine that was telling me we weren’t alone in this shed.
“I think we should go somewhere else, Augie. It doesn’t feel right here.”
I glanced over towards Augie but he was excitedly pulling the stacks of cash out of the bag and didn’t seem to have heard me.
A cool breeze hit my neck and caught my attention. I turned just in time to see the horrible bloody hands reaching for me, no, past me…Augie!
“Oh Augie, look out he’s…AHHHHH”
I backed deeper into dad’s half-collapsed toolshed and prayed Augie would stop counting long enough to turn around. My body screamed for oxygen, but my asthmatic lungs refused to comply. The man stepped with me, keeping the pistol inches from my head. Blood oozed from a gash across his neck. Bright and red, just like the blood on the bag of money Augie and I found on the tracks. I knew we should have left it, but money was tight and that bag had a lot of it.
“Ain’t nobody coming after this money, Wyatt,” said Augie. “There’s way too much blood.”
A crooked grin split the man’s face. “I guess my name is Ain’t Nobody, kid.” His raspy voice sounded like the chain smoking guy at the station.
Augie’s voice shook. “Please don’t hurt my brother, mister. Take the money. We won’t tell. I swear.”
A flicker of sadness crossed the man’s face. “Just pack it up.” He pulled out a bottle. “Slow breaths, Wyatt. Drink this.”
I swallowed the liquid he poured into my mouth without thinking. It burned my throat, but by the time Augie packed up all the cash, my molasses filled lungs had cleared. The man took the bloodstained bag from Augie and tossed a thick wad of twenties on the ground.
“For your troubles.” He tousled my hair and smiled. “Slow easy breaths and a shot of whiskey, Wyatt. Worked for my brother every time. Remember, if anyone asks, Ain’t Nobody been here.”
Augie froze. His face twisted into an odd expression I had never seen before. I turned toward the voice.
Behind me stood not one but three pirates, wearing a motley collection of slops, bandanas, and wide belts weighed down with gleaming weapons.
The armed scalawag, apparently the leader, sneered as he moved toward Augie. Augie’s hand closed over the blood stained bag.
“Now don’t ye be gettin’ any ideas, laddie,” he warned. “Hand over the bag, nice and slow.”
Augie appeared to rethink his newfound wealth, and wisely slid the bag across the floor. I exhaled with relief.
Another pirate, wearing a mismatched rainbow of clashing colors, grabbed the bag and retreated behind the gunsel. He placed it in the outstretched hand of the head scalawag. I hadn’t moved a muscle except for my eyes, which followed the dangerous transaction. Booty in hand, the pirate lowered his pistol.
“Ye be a smart young man,” he said. “Captain William Fitzgerald at your service. We be in a rush, it was a pleasure to do business with you.”
The pirates exited as silently as they had entered. Augie lay back on the floor and let out a dramatic sigh.
“Darn, I wanted a new bike,” he complained. “Oh, well. Let’s go get ice cream.”
“I don’t have any money,” I admitted.
“Don’t worry,” Augie laughed. “My treat.”
He held up a one hundred dollar bill.
“I hope Brewster’s has change.”
I raised my hands straight into the air. “We didn’t know it was yours,” I said. “Give the man back his bag, Augie.” Seemed a fair trade to me anyway, but that Augie, he had other ideas.
“How we know this belongs to you?” he asked. Augie didn’t move to collect the money or even raise his hands to the air.
The man looked him up and down. He locked his eyes on Augie’s and didn’t blink. I couldn’t watch, I don’t know how Augie managed. “I got the gun, kid,” he said. “Give me my bag.”
“Yer, name ain’t on it,” Augie said.
My heart dropped into my belly. I knew this was it. Me and Augie were dead and he kept pushing it. Then I heard the hammer pull back on the gun. That was the moment, I don’t know what came over me. I jumped.
The man must have had his attention on Augie and ignored me entirely. I knocked the gun aside just as he pulled the trigger, and Augie tackled his legs. We all hit the ground in a heap. The gun flew out of the man’s hand and landed behind us.
I guess it was lucky I had some presence of mind. I snatched up the gun and aimed it right at the man’s head. In the scuffle Augie pulled himself away as I pulled the trigger.
A couple hundred thousand might not be much but it got us out of town anyway.
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