by Christopher E. Long
Mick steps gingerly over the body of an unconscious man in the hallway, as if any unnecessary movement would awaken the drunk with matted hair and beard, lying in his own urine. He approaches the apartment with a crooked “8” hanging from the door. He knocks. Nothing. He knocks again, but harder. “Harvey, it’s—”
With the words still hanging in the air, an explosion blows a chunk of cheap particle board past his head. Mick crumples to the floor, shielding his head. “Jesus Christ!” he yells.
There is the unmistakable sound of a shotgun’s handgrip being pumped back, ejecting the spent shell and chambering a new one. “Goddamn sons of bitches!” a voice booms behind the door.
“Harvey, it’s your brother, for Christ’s sake!” Mick yells. He cowers on the grimy floor. Glancing up at the jagged hole in the door, he sees a pair of bloodshot eyes, suspiciously peering down at him.
“Mick?” a shaky voice calls.
He gets up and dusts off his shirt and pants. “Yeah.”
Harvey fumbles with the security chain and opens the door. He wears an untucked dress shirt that is heavily wrinkled and stained. The laces on his leather shoes are untied and he’s not wearing socks. His cheeks are sunken in, and his skin is ashen. “What the hell are you doing here? I could’ve killed you.” The double-barrel shotgun hangs at his side. “Hurry. Get in here. It’s not safe out in the open.” He steps aside and allows his brother to enter, then quickly pokes his head out the door, surveying the hallway before slamming the door shut and locking it.
Garbage and scraps of papers are strewn about the floor. All the furniture is overturned and stacked up in the living room like a berm. The stench of old food and decay is like a punch to the face. Mick grimaces and covers his nose with his hand. “What happened to you?” he asks. He staggers back when his brother points the twin barrels of the shotgun at his chest.
“Who sent you?” Harvey snaps.
“Did Dirty Mike send you?” he says through clenched teeth.
“Who the hell is that?” Mick asks.
Harvey slowly lowers the gun. He stares at his younger brother for a moment, then moves past him into the living room. He wobbles as he bends over and picks up a half empty bottle of single-malt scotch, leaving the shotgun on the floor. He takes a plug, grimaces as he swallows, then takes another one.
“What did you get yourself into now?” Mick asks.
The alcohol sloshes in the bottle as Harvey staggers to the window. He pulls the curtain aside and peers outside. “I finally did it this time,” he says.
“Got myself into a bind I can’t get out of,” Harvey says with a dry chuckle. He steps away from the window and takes another slug off the bottle. “I agreed to a job I had no right agreeing to. My employer—”
Harvey nods his head, “Yeah. Well, he got mad, and, when he gets mad ….” Harvey struggles to finish the sentence, but he can’t.
“Who is Dirty Mike?”
Harvey’s eye water and he wipes them with the back of his hand. “Haven’t got a clue. Never met anybody who’s seen him face to face. Runs his business from the shadows. Might as well be a ghost.”
Mick looks helplessly at the shotgun lying at his feet. He picks it up. “It’s heavy,” he mutters.
His brother laughs, and says, “You have no idea.” He tips the bottle back and drains it dry. He throws the bottle against the wall, and it shatters into a cascade of glass shards. Harvey flashes a forced smile at his brother, but it fades as the little brother levels both barrels at him. “Mick?”
The boom of the shotgun makes Mick cringe. His ears ring as he stands over the corpse. He wiggles a finger in his ear, but it doesn’t do any good. “I always hated the name Dirty Mike,” he says to no one in particular, and his words echo in the barren room.
BIO: Christopher's writing for comic books has been published by a variety of publishers, including Marvel Comics, DC Comics, IDW Publishing and Image Comics. At this writing, he has eight people following him on twitter. If you'd like to be number nine, find him at @Celong1122.