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by Preston Lang

I should have just got out of the car and walked into Joan’s Tavern, but first I had to wait for Phil Collins to play that drum fill. Maybe you know it. I’m not even sure I like it, but whenever that song came on the radio, I wouldn’t turn it off until he got to the fill. But before you get there there’s a lot of moody, thoughtful singing about whether or not you’d help someone who was drowning. I’d help out friends, let my enemies go under. A stranger? Who knows. It would depend on how I felt at the time. And that night in the rain I was feeling charitable. From my point of view, I’d come to Joan’s to save a woman’s life. She was dealing out of the back of her bar, selling bad smack that she got from who-knows-where. I’d talked Cap out of having her iced.

“Fine, you want her to live, you give her the message and make it stick.”

So I was only going to break her leg and smash up the top-shelf liquor. She’d see reason, and no one would have to worry about homicide detectives. Doing God’s work? Maybe not. A quick in-and-out. Snap of bone and then I’d be on my way. But here’s the thing about that song — it’s like an hour long. And the drum break comes in way later than you think it will. But it was foggy and dark, and I wasn’t driving my own car, so I didn’t figure there was much danger in waiting another few bars.

Then suddenly there it was — Bvoom, bvoom. Bvoom, bvoom. Bvoom, bvoom. Bvoom, bvoom. Bap-Bap.

I hit the air drums hard, and everything blew apart. A blinding flash of glass and pain, the hard face of Joan, the barrel of a gun, and that little bald head made up of smoke.


Cap came to some kind of agreement with Joan — she kept selling and gave him a percentage. I ended up in a wheelchair. I can’t eat solid food anymore. So I put in a request with Make-A-Wish to meet my favorite rock star. I know I’m pretty far down the list. A forty-year-old parolee who got himself shot in a parking lot has a tough time competing with the cancer kids and the fireman fathers. But that’s why they call it Make-A-Wish. Miracles can happen.

I can move my arms, but I can’t hold a cup or write my name. Still, if I get in a room with that jowly little bastard I know exactly how I’m taking him out. And he can beg for help, but I’ll just watch him go under and laugh.

Preston Lang is a writer from New York. He’s published three crime novels, and his short work has appeared in Thuglit, Shotgun Honey, Near to the Knuckle, and Betty Fedora. He also writes a regular column for WebMd.com