Wayward

Darren was so tired when he found the bench he could hardly lift his leg anymore. He slumped into the wooden slats and curled up, crushing his backpack to his chest. He found the presence of mind to dig in his bag and stick a thick tablet on his tongue. He didn’t have any water to wash it down, so he waited and stared at the sky until the pill eroded in his throat.

The remaining shards tasted bitter and made him want to gag. He rolled over on his side, tightened his grip over the bag.

He hoped the medicine would kick in soon. His ankle was as heavy as lead, and burned like the towering pine trees he had left behind.

 

When he woke up, he was holding his leg instead of his backpack. He opened his eyes slowly, heat swelled against his fingers. He waited a moment for bright splotches to fade from his vision and let him see the world.

The first thing Darren saw was a sleek gold Chevy pull up on the corner. The car’s hood was buffed and glared in the sunlight. The gleaming passenger door opened and a tall woman climbed out. She turned to wave at the driver before he took off. Darren squinted but the sun was in his eyes so he couldn’t see her very well. She approached a man standing in the parking lot and handed him something.

Darren sat up and rubbed his eyes, broadening the area between his shoulder blades.

The woman was big, her breasts bounced under a sheer white top. She wore black stilettos and fishnets which left tiny red imprints on her legs. Her dark hair was stiff, eyes round and bright, lips painted purple like the heart of a bruise.

Darren started to stand but a hot flash from his ankle reminded him of the Vicodin in his bag. He reached to his right, seeking the coarse black canvas and red label.

The backpack wasn’t there.

Darren’s heart leapt.

Stay calm, stay calm. It’s right here. It’s here. Darren turned to check the other side of the bench, nothing but an empty cigarette pack. Relief flushed his cheeks when he saw an orange pill bottle on the ground and he grabbed it. He turned it over, shook out the tablets.

These weren’t his painkillers. These were small red capsules, most of them split open so they rubbed powder into his palms.

Disgusted, Darren flung the pills aside, watching them scatter across the sidewalk like drops of blood. He shot to his feet, something he regretted as pain climbed through his leg. He looked around, checked under the bench, glanced up and down the strip mall. Most of the stores were boarded up.

Darren’s hands curled around nothing, heart racing at the thought of losing his shoes, his clothes, his money, his medicine- God, his medicine! His fingers crawled into his hair, pulled on lank strands grown too long. His ankle throbbed.

Calm down, think, take it easy. Ask someone.

He was reluctant to try and move without taking his pill but he limped slowly down the sidewalk. The only places open were a liquor store which stocked mostly cigars and a café that had just enough room for a counter and a coffee pot. One man sat outside on a wooden chair, sipping from a clay mug and watching the street.

Darren pushed the door open and limped inside. There was a garish blue sign next to the register that claimed Best Coffee in Baltimore. The barista was smoking a cigarette, he raised one eyebrow at Darren when he walked in.

“Hi,” Darren put his hands on the counter. He stared at a congealed lump of coffee grounds next to his finger. They were beginning to turn white. “Have you seen anyone walking around with a black backpack? It has a green paint stain on it …”

The barista pulled on his cigarette and blew smoke behind the counter, toward the coffee pot. He rested his elbow on the counter and examined Darren. When he spoke his voice was lax. “Need a coffee? Three bucks.”

Darren shifted his weight. He wanted to sit down, his ankle was beginning to contract and tighten up. “No, I don’t have any money my bag was stolen-”

“Tough luck.” The barista turned away, waving his hand at a fly that buzzed incessantly near the molding grounds.

“So you didn’t see-”

“Didn’t see shit kid, buy something or get out.” The barista glared at him. Darren’s jaw clenched hard, making his head hurt.

“Fine, sorry to bother you,” he snapped, dragging himself out the door. He winced under the bright heat of the sun. Fear gaped in his stomach like jaws which would swallow him from the waist up. He thought about the phone in his backpack, the money he had remaining.

The bottle of pills, to ease the fire fueled in his leg.

“You looking for something, kid?”

Darren turned to the man sitting outside the café. He wasn’t watching the street anymore. He craned his neck to look at Darren, the white of his shirt glowed in the morning light, too clean, Darren thought. He smiled with half his mouth, wolfish, lips curved up.

“I’m not a kid!” Darren snapped before he could think, anger stretching in his chest. He glared at the sidewalk which shimmered in the heat. “I’m twenty-five,”

The man scoffed, his laugh rolled in his throat and immediately made Darren’s ears burn. “Yeah, sure. Twenty-five.” He chuckled, he fixed his eyes on Darren who didn’t look at him. “You’re sixteen, maybe seventeen. Few weeks out from home and starting to get a taste of what the world has to offer.”

Darren didn’t speak. He shifted his weight to his left leg, but the man didn’t crow his victory. He gestured across the table.

“Why don’t you take a seat?”

Darren sank into the lattice, every muscle on edge. The man took a sip of coffee and looked at the street with the cursory interest of a predator. Darren followed his gaze, the woman was still standing on the corner. Three other girls had joined her, they matched her exaggerated makeup and tight clothes.

“So,” The man prompted after a moment. “You looking for something?”

“I-” Darren rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah, I slept around here last night and must have dropped my bag while I was asleep – I think someone took it.”

“Mmm, you need to keep track of your stuff in a place like this.” The man said, he didn’t sound particularly sympathetic. “What’s your name?”

“Darren,” he mumbled.

The man nodded thoughtfully. He was young, just adjusting to his thirties. His jaw was narrow and strong, black hair cropped and swept up at the front. His eyes were intent. “My name’s Arthur,” he said, his smile was genuine and soft, a gentleness Darren didn’t realize he had been craving. “Where are you from?”

“Hartford.”

Arthur’s smirk revealed sharp teeth the color of ivory, strong and somehow threatening. “You’re a ways from home.”

“That’s not home anymore.”

Darren wondered if the hot air could feel cold, goosebumps lined his spine and when they lashed his foot it pricked.

Arthur rubbed his jaw and sighed, “Damn, kid. That’s tough.”

“Yeah,” Darren coughed. He let his ankle loosen under the table, singing relief from the weight it was supporting. Arthur leaned his elbows on the table. There were soft silver hairs budding on his scalp. Arthur’s fingers curled into a fist and his knuckles cracked one by one. A wry, sort of eerie smile decorated his lips.

“See those girls?” Arthur pointed across the empty parking lot to the girls whose skin sizzled in the heat. He smiled at Darren, his eyes crinkled gently, glittering with humor. “Would you believe I can’t get a date with one of them?”

Darren snorted, “Let me guess, they asked you for money?”

“Yeah!” Arthur stared at him in mock anguish. “I mean really, it’s not like it’s their job!”

Darren’s laugh burst from his throat, a hoarse chuckle. He didn’t really mean to laugh. It was just, he had begun to doubt if he would ever be able to laugh again. After the sound faded his stomach felt warm and reassured, hollow still. He looked down at the table, missing his backpack with its reassuring weight.

“You hungry?” Arthur asked, expression contorting with mirth. “Why don’t we get something to eat. On me, okay?” Arthur pushed his chair back and entered the café.

When he came back he had two sandwiches in his hands. They dripped grease, Darren took his with a mumbled, “Thanks”. The bread tasted mushy, the sausage thick with white fat, and the eggs watery, but he tried his best to look pleased with the meal. Arthur picked apart the bread on his sandwich but didn’t really eat it.

When Arthur eventually spoke, his voice sounded distracted, like he was thinking on matters more important. “So your missing stuff, anything I might’ve seen?”

“Well-” Darren swallowed and tugged on the edge of his shirt, the red faded and dull. It was a child’s red, he reflected somberly. “It’s a black Jansport backpack-”

Jansport …” Arthur interrupted, eyebrows drawing tight. “You know … I thought I saw someone … Sort of a rough canvas?”

“Yes!” Darren gasped, sitting forward. He sat on the balls of his feet causing his ankle to wince in protest. “It has a green paint stain on it. Did you see it?”

“Yeah, I saw someone earlier in a real big hurry, I kinda shouted at him but he ignored me.”

“Where was he, which way did he go?” Darren’s leg shook under the table. His limbs tensed, ready to shoot to his feet and run to find his pills.

“You know,” Arthur grimaced in an apology which made Darren’s heart plummet. “I really don’t think I remember.” He sat back in his chair and looked across the parking lot again, he didn’t seem particularly troubled that he couldn’t help.

Darren felt adrenaline leak out of his veins in the wake of disappointment. “Oh,” He sighed. “That’s alright then. I just thought-” He stopped and looked at Arthur, who had his fingers laced around his neck and was gazing at the girls. Arthur’s lips curved into the ghost of a smile, his expression begged a challenge. Darren followed Arthur’s gaze to the corner. He thought about the woman climbing out of the Chevy, passing her earnings to someone else.

“You know …” Darren trailed off, sweat prickling the goosebumps on his arms, his body sealed somewhere between the sultry heat of the day and the cold fear in his stomach. “I have some money in the backpack, if you could help me find it … I could give you some. A hundred dollars, maybe.”

Arthur wrinkled his nose, “I don’t know.” He sighed, he wiped his hand on a napkin and stuffed it into his empty mug. “I don’t love the idea of antagonizing folks here just for a few meals.”

“Two hundred then!” Darren spurred himself forward. Arthur’s expression softened but he still looked doubtful. “Three hundred dollars!” Darren hissed, leaning forward so they wouldn’t be overhead. “If you help me find my bag I will give you three hundred dollars!” Even without his weight his ankle was starting to pulse in pain.

“Three hundred?” Arthur repeated, scratching the shadow on his chin. “I could use three hundred dollars,” he mused, but then shrugged, his eyes glinted in apology. “I’d love to help you but I really can’t go around helping someone here based on his word, I’m sure you understand.”

“I … Yeah,” Darren sighed and sat back again, stuck at square one. Arthur pushed his cup to the side and stood, chair scraping on the concrete.

“Good luck Darren.” His smile was wan.

Darren drummed his fingers on the table and licked grease from his lips, the oily food roiled in his stomach. His mind spun.

“Arthur, wait!” Darren stood up so fast that pain ricocheted through his ankle and made his knee buckle. He collapsed against the table and coughed, blinking back bright tears and choking on the urge to vomit.

Arthur turned back to look at him, standing slack with his hands in his pockets. Darren hobbled around the table, “What if I can get you some money up front?” He offered, wincing with every ounce of weight his leg took. “What if I get you one-fifty by tomorrow, and then give you the rest when we find my bag?”

Arthur’s eyebrows perked up, finally eliciting interest in Darren’s offer. “You know, that sounds pretty good.” Arthur laughed. “But I can’t wait around ‘till tomorrow. Could you get the money sooner, in two hours?”

“Two-” -” Darren stopped his protest, hesitant to argue now that he’d come so far. , “I don’t have any money!” He pleaded. “How do you expect me to get one fifty in two hours?”

Arthur rolled his eyes and turned to face the corner again. “If you’re in need of ideas,” He jerked his head at the girls. “It’s easy money. All you have to do is lie there.”

Darren’s lip curled in disgust. “No way!”

Arthur barked in laughter and the sound was so harsh and cold it hurt Darren’s ears. “Fine.” He turned away.

“Wait!” Darren gasped and before he knew it his hand was on Arthur’s arm, gripping hard on scarred, tan skin. Arthur’s eyes blazed when he turned back. “Please!” Darren whispered, “I will give you all the money as soon as I have the bag!”

Arthur blinked at him, his eyes were stone. “One fifty.” He said “Now.”

Darren shook his head helplessly, “I can’t.”

“Well,” Arthur snatched his arm away, making Darren’s nails burn. “Tough shit.”

Arthur had taken about four more steps, and was almost at the bench where Darren spent his dreamless night, when Darren whispered: “Okay.” The word sounded tight and constricted in his throat. Arthur turned back to him, any friendliness evaporated in this new figure of cold business and hard cash. Darren swallowed, “Two hours. I’ll get you the money in two hours.”

“Good” Arthur smiled, body taut with jovial innocence again. Arthur’s smirk was unnerving, a decrepit pride seeping out. But, as long as Darren got him the money, he meant well. He seemed like he meant well, didn’t he? “I’ll be around here.” He promised, “I’ll try to find a lead on your stuff.”

Darren nodded and turned to limp down the sidewalk, eager to shake Arthur’s gaze from his back. His mind raced with the weight of his mission. The further he walked the more uncertain he became, wondering how he could come up with a hundred and fifty dollars in the next couple hours.

The lights at this strip mall fizzled out a long time ago. Sunlight refracted on peeling paint. The light and yellow heat made Darren’s head spin and he felt sick dragging his leg down the sidewalk.

He turned the corner and stopped, panting. His stomach grumbled with the hot grease he’d eaten, his legs felt stifled by his jeans. He found himself in a quiet alley, there were two restrooms on this side of the strip mall and high brick walls. One of the bathroom doors squeaked open, Darren gulped when he saw the woman who climbed out of the Chevy. She flashed him a smile walking past.

“Hey, sweetie. Cool hair.” She winked at him. Her own hair was shot with blue highlights. Darren touched his, the burgundy dye faded. He watched her chest bloom in front of him as she walked, more confident in her heels than Darren was with his scarred foot.

“Hey, miss?”

The woman stopped and looked at him, pursing her lips. “What do you need?” She smiled.

Darren looked at the purple circle of her lips, the wideness and intensity of her green eyes. No one’s eyes were that green naturally, were they? She must have done something with her makeup to look this round, this lovely, this beautiful.

“I need a favor,” Darren stuttered. “I need a hundred and fifty dollars. I can pay you back.”

The woman laughed. “You want me to pay you? That’s not how we work, babe.”

“No, I know. I can give you the money really soon.”

The woman laughed harder.  “Go home, ask Mommy for the money.” She turned away. Darren gritted his teeth and his nails stung his palms. Her laughter cut his ears and made his face flush with heat. He dove forward and grabbed her purse, yanking it off her arm.

“Hey!” she shrieked.

She lashed out and Darren danced backward, barely avoiding sharp nails. “Give me my purse back!” She screeched. Darren dragged himself out of her reach and ripped the purse open.

“I’ll give you the money back soon!” He promised, pulling out a wad of cash. “I just need-”

Something hit Darren from behind and he lurched. A hand clamped over his scalp and cracked his head against the brick wall. Darren screamed and hit the ground hard. He looked up through bleary eyes at the woman, her arms folded over her chest. Another woman stood over Darren, eyes dark and angry.

“Little rat!” The first scoffed, “He’s got a limp, get his leg!”

Darren sat up fast as if to strike out at them but the second woman threw his arms back and they descended. Between the brick wall and the writhing limbs around him Darren felt something grasp his ankle and twist harshly.

Somewhere past the scar he felt his muscle, that fragile tendon still so weak and thin, shudder. Darren gasped and doubled over, he thought for a moment he would be sick but he choked back the bile in his stomach. Instead pain filled his mind, made his stomach churn and heart race and set his nerves on fire.

 

            “Olympic track. He could make it, Mr. Mercier.”

Coach Hyde said that, three years ago. Darren could still see the excitement on his dad’s face, the tears in his mom’s eyes. The way they crushed him into a hug. Told him, a fourteen-year-old struggling to control acne and erections, that he could be one of the best athletes in the world.

 

By the time stars stopped dancing in his vision, the women – the whores, Darren thought furiously – were gone. Darren wiped tears off his cheeks and pulled his leg closer, cradling his ankle.

I should go home. He thought. I should have just stayed awake last night and kept walking.

He pulled his sneaker off and untied the bandana around his ankle. He pressed the swollen skin around his foot, traced the violent white scar stretching from his heel to his calf.

Home … I can’t go home. His grief diminished as anger reared, starting in his stomach and roaring to engulf his head. Look what they made me do! Darren’s fingers curled up, he thought of the cold touch of the knife, leather hilt slippery in his hand. The raw anguish driving his hand as he dug the blade as deep into his ankle as it would go, and then deeper still. His blood pooled in the locker room and his mind wavered with the roar of the crowd waiting outside.

Darren sniffed and wiped his nose. I can’t fucking cry right now, I need to get money. And I sure as hell can’t go home.

 

            “He ruptured his Achilles in two places… He’ll be lucky if he ever walks again, Mr. Mercier.”

Doctor Spaar said that.

Darren went home two nights after the determiner. His dad screamed at him that he’d ruined his own life.

And then hit him.

 

Darren lifted his hand to touch his cheek, the bruise under his jaw and the blood from his nose were long gone. But the memory made goosebumps flare on his neck. He shivered despite the heat soaking the city

I can’t go home. Darren thought, flexing his ankle and pulling his shoe back on. He couldn’t go home to the doctor’s visits and casts and whispers in the hallway and sympathetic fretting from his mom.

I can’t go home.

He sat there for a long time. Trying not to cry, slowly bending his ankle and bringing his foot back to life. He didn’t think anything was broken, the tendon wasn’t ruptured again. He leaned on the wall, climbing inch by inch to his feet.

Darren’s steps were slow, his breath heavy, sweat stained his chest and back. He eased down the street, turning at the end of the alley and continuing further from the strip mall.

He wasn’t thinking very hard about where he was going, but he tried to feel encouraged by the store signs and lit windows. He stopped at a small square in front of a short bank.

It wasn’t much, but the bank had a tidy garden and a fountain gurgling outside. Darren limped to sit on the edge of the fountain, sighing with relief as the tension flowed out of his leg. He scooped water and wiped sweat out of his hair and eyes.

“Yeah, I was accepted to UConn!” Darren turned toward the doors of the bank. A young man with a duffel bag and a basketball under his arm was stepping out, grinning into his phone. “Mom and Dad were so happy! My Uncle just gave me two hundred bucks!”

The boy locked eyes with Darren and smiled at him. Darren managed to wave.

“Okay, I’ll see you soon!” The boy lowered the phone and swiped to end the call. He walked down the street directly across from the bank. The walls were high and the blocks ahead empty.

Darren stood up, gritting his teeth and forcing his leg to cooperate.

The boy tucked his phone into his pocket. He wrestled his basketball into his bag. He started to hum.

Darren’s legs propelled him forward, “Hey!”

The boy turned around, he smiled a little and Darren forced himself to walk as normally as possible. “Hey, what’s up?” The boy raised his brow, every inch made of innocent curiosity.

“Hey man, I’m David.” Darren took his hand, strong and firm, fingers long.

“Nice to meet you David, I’m Landon. Everything okay with your leg?”

Darren shrugged. “Yeah, listen, I just moved to the city and I’m not totally sure where I am, can you help me out?”

“Yeah, no problem,” Landon nodded and jerked his head down the road, “I’m headed to meet some friends in Kensington. You can probably get a cab from there.”

Something about Landon’s grin, his kindness, set Darren’s nerve on edge. He felt as if he shouldn’t trust anyone so eager to step forward and lend a hand, he had become so familiar with the tireless back and forth from people like Arthur.

Their footsteps echoed on the street and the hairs on Darren’s neck stood on end. He sought his mind for something to say, he hadn’t talked to another high school student in weeks.

“So, I overheard you on the phone …” He started, plunging ahead, “You’ve been accepted to UConn?”

“Oh, yeah! I’ve been accepted to play basketball there.”

“That’s really impressive, congratulations!” Darren made himself smile, and despite every anxiety in his chest he felt somehow proud of this kid. This high school athlete who made it. “Mansfield is a fun city.”

“Have you been there?”

“Yeah, a long time ago.”

“Where did you move here from?”

Darren tried not to think too long about his answer, he didn’t want to make Landon wonder at his silence. He didn’t want to admit to his home in Hartford just as much as he didn’t want to admit his name to a clean, successful rich kid. “Illinois.” He said finally, blurting out the first state that came to mind. He had a cousin who lived there, working on his Masters at the University of Chicago.

Maybe, after I get my stuff back, rest up my leg. Maybe I can go to Levi, maybe he’ll help.

“You know it’s probably good you found me, I was just running into the bank but this neighborhood, it’s not the best place to be wandering alone.” A spurt of laughter broke through Landon’s throat, “‘Stay away from Edenway’ as my mom would say.” Darren’s chest was too tight for him to laugh.

Darren gritted his teeth as they passed another empty street. He wondered how far away Kensington was, how much time he had. What was he even going to do? What could he possibly say to convince this kid to lend him a hundred and fifty dollars?

“You know, I was around here last night …” Darren trailed off.

Landon snorted, “Damn, you need adrenaline that bad?”

Darren chuckled and shook his head. Forcing his foot to walk normally was starting to take its toll, the muscle was tightening up. “No, I didn’t mean to be. I was just around, and someone made off with my backpack.”

“That sucks, man.”

“Yeah, I came back here today to try and track it down. But of course no leads, someone’s offered to help me if I give him some money though.”

“I don’t know, David,” Landon seemed to step away from him. Darren’s breath hitched. “I wouldn’t give this guy the money, it’s hard to trust people in this neighborhood. You might end up stabbed in the back.”

“Yeah, I kinda figured,” Darren sighed. “But it couldn’t hurt to at least try, you know? Problem is I don’t have one-fifty.”

Landon stopped walking in the middle of the street, Darren’s heart throbbed in his ears. Landon shifted his weight but didn’t look at Darren, he looked down the street. No one was around, Landon’s eyes trailed the other way, empty.

Landon spoke deliberately, aware of each word on his tongue: “Listen man, that sucks. But I can’t help you.”

Darren turned to face Landon, who still wouldn’t look at him. Tension electrified the air between them, Darren felt an unnerving knot spiral in his stomach. “Landon,” he whispered. “I know you have the money.”

Landon’s expression contorted. He stepped back. “I said no!” His eyes glittered and it made Darren’s stomach twist. He squared his feet and Darren felt his ears ringing with anticipation. “Look whatever you need this for, I’m not feeding your habit!” Landon spat and turned down the street again, he walked with a new urgency.

“Hey,” Darren reached out and grabbed him. “I need that money!” He pleaded, pain flared in his leg, tears touched his eyes. “Please, man I just-”

“Let me go!” Landon pushed him off. He was strong. He was a high school basketball player so of course he was strong. Darren caught himself hard on his ankle, searing his sore leg.

He stepped back and sighed, turning away. “All right,” he coughed, holding his hands up. “Sorry to bother you.”

Landon unwound his fist and nodded curtly, turning away. Darren jumped forward. His foot ached but he shoved Landon hard from behind. Landon lurched and scraped his hands on the street.

“Hey!” Landon clambered to his feet and turned to face Darren, throwing a punch. Darren stumbled back and his ankle twisted, making him fall. He hit the ground hard and pain flashed up and down his leg, his vision blurred with salt and red. Landon turned to pick up his bag and Darren leapt.

Darren grabbed Landon by the shoulder and Landon twisted around, pulling his arm up again. Before he could act Darren punched him. He hit Landon hard in the jaw, harder than he meant to. Hard enough that Landon dropped his bag and fell. His head hit the wall with a crack and Darren stepped forward, pulling him up by his collar. Landon moaned, Darren punched him again, this time in the eye. A third time in the nose, blood surged between Darren’s knuckles and he dropped Landon to the ground. The boy clutched his head where he hit the wall. He swore and made a move as if to stand so Darren pulled his good leg back and kicked him in the ribs. Landon coughed, Darren kicked him again. Every time he shifted his weight to his right leg it burned but he kept going until he felt a satisfying weakness in Landon’s ribcage, the bone crumpling under his foot. Landon sank against the wall. Clutching his side, he sobbed:

“Please don’t kill me!”

“I’m not going to kill you.” Darren said, turning to tear open his duffel bag. He dug out a leather wallet and pulled it open, counting out one-fifty. He stood up and managed to mumble past a dry throat, “Sorry.” He turned back to the road and froze. Someone was walking down the street. In black slacks and a gray jacket, his stride moved in utter tranquility.

“You got the money, Darren?” Arthur approached with a gleaming smile, his eyes glazed over Landon like he was part of the street. “I found out where your stuff is.”

Darren let the tension flow out of his body and stepped forward, holding the money out. “I’ve got it,” he sighed. “The rest is in my bag.”

“Good.” Arthur came to a stop beside him, he cocked his head at Landon and finally seemed to comprehend the crying figure. “You finish up here and we’ll get your bag, get the money, done by lunch.” Arthur smiled at Darren, he looked far too composed. Darren felt his chest tighten up looking at Arthur, whose eyes glittered dangerously as he stood calm and relaxed amongst the blood and adrenaline in the air.

Darren fought to get his voice to work, “Finish up?” he asked, his voice trembled. His eyes flew to Landon braced against the wall, eyes glazed and dark with fear.

Arthur reached into his jacket and withdrew a slim silver pistol. Darren felt his heart climb into his throat again. Arthur didn’t point it at Darren, he held it out to him. “Take the gun,” he ordered. Darren didn’t move. “Take it!” He pressed it into Darren’s palm. Arthur jerked his head at the boy weeping against the wall.

“What?” Darren turned back to Arthur shaking his head.

“He’s seen both of us,”

“I can’t just-”

“You want your stuff back?” Arthur barked, voice hard. “You want your money? Your clothes? Your medicine? Looks to me like you need it. That legs looking awfully played out.” Darren’s knee started to buckle, the longer he stood the sharper the stabbing throbs in his ankle became. His foot shrieked for the respite the medicine promised.

“Come on Darren, you can walk away from this.”

Darren looked at Landon’s still form, heaving for breath. Sweat made the gun slick in his hand.

Arthur shifted restlessly and sighed. Landon lay crumpled and bleeding on the side of the road.

Darren’s leg burned.

The End

-Grace T, July 2016