by Aidan Thorn

Apparently real men aren’t afraid to let you see them cry. If that’s true then Gary Caines is all man, because the tears are falling like Niagara. But then, real men don’t hit women. And, if that were true of Gary I wouldn’t have him pinned to a wall by his neck.

Another thing I know about real men, they don’t piss their pants. The creeping dark stain on Gary’s 618’s made it two-to-one in favour of him being anything but man. But then, I coulda told you that about Gary the day I met him.

Lucy’d bought him around for dinner. Billed as the man she would marry. Another once in a lifetime love, the third that year. My sister always fell hard, she was a passionate kid, it was her greatest strength and biggest weakness. Unfortunately, Gary was the one that stuck.

He’d never looked me in the eye that night and rarely has in the years since. Don’t get me wrong, meeting the big brother, and discovering he’s a cop, is a bucket-load of shit to handle. But, he wasn’t nervous — he was rude. Gary didn’t want to be there. He spoke only in grunts and when he thought my back was turned he groped my sister aggressively. When I’d mentioned it to Lucy a couple days later she said it was playful, but I saw something else.

This morning was Lucy’s birthday. I took flowers to her house before my shift, same routine every birthday. When she answered the door one eye was puffy with tears, but it was the other that drew my attention. Raised and purple like a plum gone bad.

“I’ll kill him.”

“Johnny, don’t hurt him. It was my fault …”

Lucy’s pleas were to the back of my head.

I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I had to do something. I could arrest him, but Lucy wouldn’t press charges. I could put him in hospital, but that would only keep him away temporarily. I could kill him, but a copper in prison is like a hare at a racetrack — be quick or be dead.

By the time I had my brother-in-law pinned to the wall of his mechanics shop, pleading and pissing, I knew exactly what to do.

“Look what we have here.”

Frankie Edwards, a friend from the drug squad, emerged from the back of the garage. She bounced a brick of white powder on her palm.

Gary protested, “You planted that!”

I leaned in close to Gary’s sniveling face. I could taste the salt from his tears.

“Yep, and there’s a shitload more back there. You’re going away for a long time. And when you get out Lucy wont be waiting.”

I stuck a fist in his gut and as he folded laid a nut on him before letting him drop.

“John, I’m going to radio this in. You’d better not be anywhere near this when the wagon arrives to take him away.”

“You going to be alright, Frankie? This one likes to hit women.”

“Let him fucking try,” she said, patting the baton on her belt.

Real men don’t hit women — they do whatever it takes to protect those they care about.

Aidan Thorn is from Southampton, England, home of the Spitfire and Matthew Le Tissier but sadly more famous for Craig David and being the place the Titanic left from before sinking. Aidan would like to put Southampton on the map for something more than bad R ‘n’ B and sinking ships. His short fiction has appeared in the Byker Books Radgepacket series, Near to the Knuckle Anthologies: Gloves Off and Rogue, Exiles: An Outsider AnthologyThe Big Adios Western Digest, and Shadows & Light, as well as online at Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers; Thrills, Kills and ChaosNear to the KnucklePulp Metal Magazine; Spelk Fiction; and Shotgun Honey. His first short story collection, Criminal Thoughts, is available on Amazon and his second collection, Urban Decay, will be released this spring by Grit Fiction Ltd.