Flash Fiction Challenge: Can’t Go Home

flash fiction writing prompt jersey city graffiti 12 2006
Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.

Taranto stepped out of the limousine and eyed the area with dismay. The old warehouse district had decayed something awful.

Thirty years ago, he was a kid loading trucks in that very warehouse.

Time changes everything. The ten years Taranto did in the slammer changed him too. He shared the feeling of decay. He shook his head slowly and walked toward the door. No matter. If the building is still standing, the money will still be where I hid it.

But Taranto did not know he was being watched…

Welcome to the Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge. In 250 words or less, write a story incorporating the elements in the picture and the written prompt above. Do not include the prompt in your entry. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

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8 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Can’t Go Home”

  1. Once inside, he approached the steel lockers. They were intact; the money was still inside.

    The door swung open to reveal four silhouettes. Taranto recognized each one. He stared at his former friends with fear and uncertainty. They were all from his boyhood gang, the guys he ratted out when he took the fall. They did time because of his testimony.

    The first bat came down upon him.

    The next afternoon, Spider sat in his porch swing and listened to the wails of sirens. The lights strobed past and then disappeared. He knew where they were going. 

    He listened to the chatter over the short-wave scanner. Law enforcement was baffled by the scene at the warehouse. A man had been bludgeoned to death. A wino found the bodies and called 911. The victim was missing fingers, facial features, teeth and a patch of skin from each bicep. No identity remained. The cross-talk continued, and Spider smiled.

    He moved back inside and flopped back in his recliner. “The Steelers are playing,” he thought. “Time for some football.”

    The cops would figure it out eventually. But until then, it was time for another beer. Nobody liked an informant. He exhaled a tendril of cigarette smoke and sucked down another Milwaukee’s Best.

    Spider thought back to the exact moment the Italian’s skull caved in. His blood rushed.

    “God Bless America.”

  2. The limousine chauffeur whispered into his smart phone “He’s on his way. Get everybody ready.”
    It’s been ten years, he thought, since that Italian hood stashed the loot. They had searched everywhere day after week after month for the 50 million he stole from them. Not only that, the money has increased enormously in worth. After all, the Treasury hadn’t printed any more $100.000.00 bills since then. Collectors would spend fortunes to have just one of those bills.

    As Taranto entered the dank corpse of a building he remembered where he hid the aluminum attache case.

    When he loaded trucks, what seems like a thousand years ago, he used to hide his lunch in the empty space behind the air conditioning vent in the lunch room. What better place to keep it from those hungry older guys who would snatch the sandwich right out of his hand as he unwrapped it.

    No more grubby sandwiches for me, he thought. Only topnotch, first class eating from now on. Waited ten years of my life for the best rest of my life.

    As he reached up and pulled the vent cover from the wall and saw the still shining treasure, a shattering clatter of gunshots echoed throughout the vast tomb.

  3. When Taranto realized he wasn’t alone his stomach lurched like the first time he was led past block after identical block of heckling inmates into his six by eight prison cell. As he reached toward his waistband, a familiar voice echoed throughout the dilapidated building the way jailhouse nightmares had so often reverberated in his head.

    “Don’t do nothing stupid, Taranto. Slide your piece straight back.”

    “How you doing, Vitale?”

    “I’ll be doing better when I got the money.”

    “What makes you think it’s here?”

    “I got people, remember? Just get the money bags and toss them to your left.”

    Taranto dug through rubble concealing an air vent. After removing the cover and a piece of particle board from inside he began tossing bank bags. He considered turning and throwing a brick at Vitale in hopes of knocking him down so he could wrestle away his gun, but he knew Vitale would be ready for something like that. He was nearing the last bag without any answers.

    “Quit stalling.”

    Taranto tossed the last bag. He heard Vitale move closer. “So long, Taranto.”

    Taranto was imagining what death would be like when he heard a growl and Vitale yell. “What the hell?”

    Taranto spun and scooped up Vitale’s gun as it skittered across the worn concrete. Taranto had been a liar, a thief, and a cheat before he went to prison but he’d tried to help hungry people and dogs. At least one of them had remembered.

  4. The limo was probably a bit much but Taranto had ambition for higher lifestyle. Always had.
    He should have know there would be eyes on him in the district. Before the warehouse gig he had been the lookout for the area boss. Ex-boss.
    Never took long for someone else to take over. Taranto knew what the end of the racket looked like for a guy like him – prison or death.
    The first had come true but there was no way he’d allow himself to be the next expendable on some wannabe’s crew. Hence his retirement fund sitting in the boiler room. His better life was just waiting to be picked up.

    He was headed back toward fresh air, his future in hand, and his head full of last nights festivities. The release party at After AA was like it was when he was younger when the timers got out. Now he was the timer. And the bar had decayed like he had but for the night they both shined.
    And the girl. She sparkled. He smiled thinking about the auburn vixen.
    She could be big trouble, love kind of trouble. Especially with those legs.

    Taranto stepped into the sun, smile on his face. He could see his driver standing outside the limo.
    The sound of the shots volleyed between the vacant buildings. Langley walked over to Taranto’s body and picked up the once red duffle.
    “Silly man. Someone should have warned you about the dangers of pillow-talk.

  5. Taranto thought about how his warehouse used to be full of loyal family members until one betrayed him. He stewed in prison for ten years and wanted revenge, but first his reward. Taranto set this trap to draw him out. Taranto very slowly and calmly reached into the trunk of the rental car making sure whoever was watching would recognize him. Then he removed the bolt cutter and sledgehammer and he loudly slammed the trunk closed.

    He easily cut through the last padlock blocking the way to his hidden treasure vault. Once inside the warehouse, he quickly located the fake wall hiding his vault. After a few swings of the sledgehammer he had a hole large enough to crawl through, which he did. Suddenly, in the warehouse he heard a brotherly yell, “Come out, come out, where ever you are! I got my baseball bat and you got your head.” Then his brother laughed maniacally.

    It hurt even more realizing his brother was the family traitor and wanted to beat him to death.

    Taranto quickly found the Luger he had hidden in the vault and slipped it into his pocket . He crawled out to face his brother.

    “Well, well, so that …” his brother never finished his sentence, for Taranto pulled the Luger out and fired. Hiding the body in the wall wasn’t the problem, the police stake out watching Taranto trying to fit all the money into the trunk of the rental car was his real problem.

  6. Dented sheet metal obscures the doorway. Taranto notices that the street lights are out and his limo has crept up to the corner light. In the dusk, he discerns gaping windows. Cigarette butts cover the dock. He scents tobacco; stops.

    Behind the flare of the match stands a thin, bearded face. “You lost?” asks a voice.

    “No,” says Taranto. “I’ve been here before. I used to work here.”

    “Right,” answers the doorman. “Who told you to come here?”

    “I just got out of Graterford.”

    “Where’s your stuff?”

    “My sister’s holding my clothes and stuff.”

    “If you got a phone, you gotta go out to charge it up. We ain’t got electric.” The doorman edges through the hatch.

    Taranto follows. Men–younger than he—stand, sit, or sprawl about. Bedrolls lie against the walls; next to each man, a shopping cart holds his wardrobe.

    The youngest, toughest man leans by the door. He nods to Taranto. “Yo.”

    “Hey, man.” Fists bump. “This place wasn’t like this,” Taranto begins. “Why are you here? What happened?”

    An older gent accepts Taranto’s cigarette and light. “School made parents provide the computer. My daughter used my phone for homework, traded pictures with her friends. The judge called it child abuse. I was fired and lost my house because I’m the criminal.”

    Doorman nods agreement. “They arrested my boy for bullying. Made me the criminal.”

    “Warden told me this is a great country,” Taranto says. “He said this is the land of the free.”

  7. Taranto surveyed the old warehouse and shook his head. Random letters, squiggles, and a cartoon mummy decorated its surface. Hard to believe he loaded trucks here as a kid thirty years ago. The entire neighborhood was abandoned and crumbling. At least the warehouse hadn’t been bulldozed.

    If only he’d stayed strait. He and his friends missed one little camera on their last heist, an important detail that got them ten years in prison. Taranto learned to keep his mouth shut in there. The other guys mouthed off too many times. Now the entire treasure was his.

    Roaches and rats scurried around as he stepped inside the old building. A sudden ripping sound made Taranto’s skin prickle. He paused and looked around. Seeing no one, he resumed counting paces. Strange shuffling noises increased with each step.

    Eager to find the money and the odd gold medallion hidden there, Taranto pushed his growing panic away and ran the map through his mind. Forty two steps from the door. Turn left. Walk another twelves steps. Sweat dripped down his back as he pried up the concrete slab and dug the box out of the gravel. His fingers caressed the old Egyptian medallion.

    “It’s about time you came back.”

    Taranto spun around. His chest felt like it was going to explode. The painted mummy from outside stood right behind him, arms crossed.

    “Don’t wet yourself,” said the mummy. “I’m not going to eat you like a genie. Darn fairytales. You get three wishes.”

  8. Taranto didn’t see the pair of eyes behind a stack of pallets in the old warehouse. A metal box was held close by dirty hands. Sammy imagined it was filled with treasure that someday would free him from his homelessness and hunger. If only he had the key.

    The years have been unkind to Taranto’s. Returning to the hiding place meant climbing several flights of stairs. The wooden cane that aided his weak knees caught in the grid of the mezzanine walkway. Taranto yanked on his cane breaking the walkway’s decayed metal. It gave way under his wobbling feet and Taranto toppled over the edge, falling to his death.

    Sammy watched in horror, wishing he had hidden his eyes from the scene. He was a curious boy, however, and eventually looked over the body that lay broken and bloody. In the hand of the dead man he spied what resembled a key.

    As a young boy with hopeful dreams, it was imagined that this was the key he’d been looking for.

    The key was pried from the cold, boney hand that gripped it. Sammy’s eyes, as large as saucers, gazed upon a pile of cash. He could barely believe the key opened the box.

    Taranto’s limousine driver watched with interest. He wouldn’t miss his employer and considered stealing the cash. It would be as easy as taking candy from a baby. The boy’s appearance tugged at his heart and he quickly drove away, leaving Sammy to live his new life.

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