16Sunsets – Days of Joaquin

500x750-16Sunsets

“Gimmie all the money in the register!” The thug pointed his revolver at a convenience store clerk. The clerk punched a few keys on the cash register and the drawer popped open with an audible ding. The clerk piled the bills on the counter.

“Gimmie everything under the till.” The clerk pulled out two fifties and added them to the pile.

“Open the safe!” screamed the robber as he scooped up the bills from the counter.

“It’s on a ten minute delay timer.” The robber looked at the clerk and started walking towards the door. Still pointing the gun at the clerk, the robber went to open the door.

“Well, what have we here?”

The robber and the clerk both turned to see a man walk into the store and close the door behind him.

“A robbery?” The man turned to the robber, who alternated pointing his gun at the clerk and the new arrival. “Boy did you pick the wrong place to rob, man.”

The clerk recognized the man, and spoke out. “There’s no trouble here, Joaquin. He got what he wanted and is leaving.”

“Yeah, man. I leave and no one gets hurt,” declared the robber, pointing his gun at Joaquin.

Joaquin leaned closer to the robber and whispered. “I can’t be hurt.”

“Joaquin, let the man go. It’s only money.” The clerk came out from behind the counter to persuade Joaquin.

“I can’t do that. This store is protected by me.” He stabbed his chest with his thumb to emphasize the word me.

The robber shrugged. “Suit yourself.” He pulled the trigger and Joaquin fell against a display of snacks. The robber turned to the clerk. “Sorry, man. No witnesses.” He fired a shot at the clerk who fell backwards and hit the floor. The robber threw open the door and ran across the parking lot.

Joaquin freed himself from the salty embrace of the display and scrambled to the fallen clerk. He stepped into the rapidly expanding pool of blood, kneeling to see if his old friend was still alive. He placed his ear over his lips and heard nothing. “Shit!” he said out loud. He looked out the front door to see a gathering crowd. “Shit!” he said again. He grabbed a set of keys off the clerk’s belt and ran to the back door. Throwing the door open, he ran across an abandoned lot and into the night.

* * *

“What do you think happened here, Detective?”

“Robbery gone wrong? There must’ve been a struggle and the perp popped the clerk. Any surveillance video?”

The uniform looked at Detective Frank Massey like he had two heads and tentacles.

“Didn’t think so.” Massey looked out to the crowd. “Anyone give a description?”

“Believe it or not, Detective, this shop is well-liked. We got nine or ten descriptions and they all seem to match.”

It was Massey’s turn to gape at what he had just heard. “I’ll be damned. There just might be hope for humanity.”

The uniform rolled his eyes. “Wait until you hear the description.” He pulled out a notebook and Massey saw indecipherable scribble on it.

“What is this, cuneiform?”

“Hardly, Detective.” He began to translate the scribbles. “Black man, late teens, wearing a green sleeveless jacket and a gold ring in his right eyebrow. Sound familiar?”

“My car jacker?”

“Yeah the one that took that woman hostage and disappeared from the precinct.”

“Small fuckin’ world, huh?”

Massey patted the uniform on the shoulder. “Keep me informed.”

The uniform nodded and watched Massey get into his sedan and exit the parking lot.

***

The sun rose slowly and its light was just strong enough to scatter the smog. Kristof watched the sun rise. Thirteen days, he thought as he kicked a deflated soccer ball off his porch. He jumped back after the realization sunk in that he had kicked it over the house across the street.

“So, what is that all about?”

Kristof turned to see his wife leaning against the open door frame. She had a cups of coffee in both hands.

“Should you be using that arm?”

“The doctors only put me in the sling as a precaution.” She handed him a cup and poked him in the ribs. “Besides, you weren’t too concerned about my arm yesterday evening.”

Kristof grinned, but didn’t reply.

“Let’s spend the day in today.”

“Movies and delivery?” Kristof raised his eyebrows.

“It’s a date!”

Kristof smiled and kissed her on the top of the head. They watched movies and ate delivery until they fell asleep on the couch.

***

The sun rose slowly and its light was just strong enough to scatter the smog. Joaquin “laid low” for most of the previous day. He tried going home after the incident at the convenience store, but he saw the same sedan he tried to carjack a few days ago. He walked down the street trying to figure out what to do next. Off in the distance, he saw a pillar of black smoke rising into the air. He jogged along the sidewalk until he saw a duplex engulfed in flames.

Firefighters were scrambling to connect fire hoses to a fire hydrant. An abandoned car was blocking the hose and the fire department smashed the car windows to allow access to the hydrant.

“Hey! Stop! Where’re you going?” Several firefighters yelled to Joaquin as he ran into the burning duplex.

Joaquin looked up and saw through to the second floor. If anyone’s up there, they’re dead, he thought. “Is anyone in here?” He called out. When the frayed ends of his sleeves started to smoke, he kicked through a flaming rear wall. He hopped a fence and continued his day.

***

“We gotta get in there chief!”

The chief turned to his firefighter. “Jimenez? Everyone got out safely.”

“Some dude ran into the duplex and hasn’t come out yet. It’s only been a minute or two, but… ya’know.”

“You, Martinez and Jones drag the moron out.”

Jimenez, Martinez and Jones ran into the building to save the unknown person who ran into the duplex. The three of them had crossed the door threshold and less than a minute later, everyone watched helplessly as the duplex collapsed, trapping the firefighters inside.

***

Detective Frank Massey knelt to inspect a charred outline on the floor. He poked a congealed lump with a pen.

“It’s Kevlar.”

Massey looked over his shoulder to see the fire chief standing behind him.

“Kevlar melts at nine hundred forty degrees.”

Massey stood and shook hands with the chief. “Detective Frank Massey, Metro P.D. I’ve been trying to track down a person of interest. I think he was involved.”

“That jackass that ran into the duplex?”

Massey shrugged. “Matches the description your guys gave me. Have you found his body.”

The chief took a step back. “The only bodies recovered were of my three men. Each one of them seasoned fire fighters.” The chief looked up at a flock of birds flying overhead. “They never should’ve gone in there.”

“I’m gonna get this asshole, Chief.”

Before the Chief could respond, a voice rang out from the back yard. “Chief!” Massey followed the chief as he jogged through the remains to the back yard.

“Thompson?” he asked a woman wearing a vest with a stenciled “INSPECTOR” patch on the back.

“Take a look at this Chief.” She motioned to a large area of scorched grass. It was wilted and colored a shade of brown-green. As the swath got closer to the burned out duplex, it lost the green and went to black. Closest to the duplex, there was no grass only packed earth.

“Standard heat pattern from a fire like this.”

“Yeah, I get that, but look here.” Thompson motioned to a set of footprints discoloring the grass leading to the fence.

Massey scowled. “Was he on fire?”

Thompson ignored The question and pointed to one of the footprints. A blob of melted plastic stuck to a rock. The melted plastic clearly formed a swoosh.

“This guy’s Nikes were on fire.” She pronounced it Nye-Keys. Massey’s internal cop-computer told him she was a native. The trio followed the footprints to the fence.

Massey noticed a scorched fiber stuck to the chain link fence. He produced a set of tweezers and dropped the green fiber into an evidence bag. He held the bag up and looked at the fiber.

The Chief spoke first. “Green fiber from a green jacket…” He turned to Massey. “Still think it’s your guy?”

Massey slapped the evidence bag into his free palm. “I’m sure of it.”

16Sunsets – Sixteenth Sunset


I started this yesterday and finished it today. When B.J. and I were outlining the story, this scene was totally his idea. It rocked and after he and I talked further about it, this is what I imagined it to be. This was one of the earliest scenes we rapped about and now you can enjoy these 1,430 words.

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About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degree in Computer Systems and Applications and is currently attending Northern Arizona University. View all posts by Mark Gardner

2 responses to “16Sunsets – Days of Joaquin

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