Of All the Gin Joints in the World

The rain had begun shortly before five, and hadn’t let up since then. I splashed through the puddles as I crossed the street, and I was almost clipped by a Chevy Bel Air. I’d been too wrapped up in my own thoughts that I hadn’t seen the car barreling down the street. It honked its horn and I threw the bird after it as it turned the corner. The rain beat steadily against my umbrella, and the neon lights of the gin joints and gambling halls reflected in the puddles of rainwater that had gathered in the potholes and gutters of the street.

I walked into a cocktail bar called The Wicked Social. Its neon sign was flickering in and out of existence, and soon it would just be called The Social. It wasn’t close to last call, but by the inside of the joint, you’d have thought it was already closed. My yellow dress stood out in a joint like this. The black obsidian bar and the bottles of black liquor absorbed the lights. Old, blue-grey smoke hung from the ceiling like a factory’s smokestacks. Two walls were red brick that may have well been black.

I found her in the back, alone and curled up in an egg chair. Her black leggings and white crop sweatshirt stood out sharply against the red fabric of the chair. “Lorelai,” I said.

Lorelai opened her pale eyes and looked up at me through a few lose strands of straw-colored hair. “Tell me, Tabitha, do you like Suzuki?” she asked, pushing the headphones off her ears.


“Sleepy Suzuki,” Lorelai answered. “I used to be a lounge singer, you know.”

“I know. That’s how we met.”

“That’s right. Sammy Casati’s old place on Vine Street. What was it called again?”

“The Vine Street Lounge,” I said. “Come on, it’s time.”

“Sleepy Suzuki makes such soulful music. You can hear his heart in his piano work.”


“What does it matter anyway?” Lorelai put the headphones around her neck and stood up. “At least I got to listen to him one last time.”

“Don’t be like this, Lorelai.”

“Don’t be like what, Tabitha? I’m not the one who–”

I grabbed Lorelai by the arm and pulled her close. “Listen here, Lorelai. I don’t have the time or the energy to put up with your games.”

“Why don’t you just do it right now then?” Lorelai asked.

“Come on.” I pulled Lorelai away from the table and out of the bar. “Do you have an umbrella?”

“No, why would I?”

“Here.” I opened the umbrella above us, slipping an arm around Lorelai’s waist to keep her close and to stop her from running away.

“Why are you doing this?” Lorelai asked.

“It costs nothing to be polite,” I said. “But I don’t like doing this. I don’t relish this job.”

“Then why do you do this?”

I shrugged. “You of all people, Lorelai, should know what happens when someone tries to leave the Outfit.”

“I wasn’t trying to leave,” Lorelai said.

The rain had slackened off to a drizzle by now, but the occasional clap of thunder warned that more would be on its way. Steam was rising from underneath the city, coming up from the subway system through grates and manhole covers. Lorelai stepped in a puddle and groaned as the water soaked in through the thin canvas sneakers she was wearing. Long shadows were cast across her face, and I found it hard to get a read on her emotions.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ll make it quick and easy, and leave you pretty enough for an open casket funeral when they dredge you out of the harbor.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” Lorelai asked.

A car drove by, and it slowed down as it passed us. Someone shouted something at us, but they were too drunk to be heard clearly.

“No, it’s supposed to make me feel better.”

We were walking along the waterfront now. The Lockheed Marine Works yards were across the harbor, light up like a birthday cake even in this weather. There was no boat traffic, and even the tourists had retired to bed. The air smelled of salt and fish, but I could still smell a cloying hint of peppermint from Lorelai.

“Why do you do this?” Lorelai asked.

“It puts bread on the table.”

“There’s a million other jobs you could do.”

“I’ve only ever been good at one thing, and ever since the Mutiny, there’s been less and less legal killing that needs doing.”

Lorelai stopped. “Here?”

“This is fine.”

I unhooked my arm from her waist and took a step back.

“This is where I had my first,” Lorelai said, crossing her arms in front of her chest.

“This exact spot?” I reached into my purse for my gun, a silenced .22.

“Maybe, I don’t know. Somewhere along the waterfront.”

“I’m sorry, Lorelai.”

“You know my cat, Mr. Whiskers?”

I nodded my head. “Yeah, I know him.”

“Make sure someone looks after him.”

“I will.”

“I’m glad it was you, Tabitha.”

Three quick shots into her back, clustered near her heart. She stumbled forward and fell into the water. A bolt of lightning arced across the sky and the rain began to pick up. I still needed to get Mr. Whiskers from Lorelai’s apartment.

Don’t Know What You Got ‘Til It’s Gone

Fletcher began to suspect his husband was cheating on him when Brady started to come home late at night, smelling of smoke and tasting of another man.  Fletcher would embrace Brady at night, and he could smell the scent on him.  Brady worked as a banker downtown, while Fletcher worked in a small bookstore in a brand new shopping center, where he worked more normal eight hour days with only the occasional evening.

The shopping center itself was made from glass and steel, a cathedral to the Big Box stores and brands.  The bookstore was different–it was small and tucked away behind the escalators, with piles of books stacked on top of each other on the floor and on the shelves.  There were no windows and the owner kept the lights dim, contrasting it sharply with the brightly-lit mall outside.

The shopping center had its own temple with shrines dedicated to each of the thirteen gods.  Fletcher went one day after work in order to ask Toskagee for guidance, but the line to pray before the shrine was long because it was the week before Valentine’s Day.  The temple was a glass atrium; the cold winter sun shone through the roof and walls, and small birds fluttered between the trees.  The shrines were surrounded by bright plants and offerings.

All of theme except for Tekamthi.  Her shrine was sparse and empty, set off to the side.  A small fire burned in a copper pot, flanked on both sides by small piles of bones.  Few people ever sought Tekamthi’s blessings because no one wanted war or death.  Fletcher frowned, and despite himself, he stepped out of line and walked over to her shrine.  He looked up at the statue carved from glassy black obsidian; her wings were spread behind her and she held her Kentucky rifle above her head.  He felt something strange in his gut, as if someone was tying it into a knot.

Fletcher turned away from the statue and left the temple.


Fletcher was organizing boxes of old books in the back when he found a strange title, The Love of Blood by someone named Orlando Hull.  The cover was some black, pink and white abstract design, and he didn’t recognize the title or the author.  It wasn’t a large book (perhaps a hundred pages at most), and Fletcher felt the urge to read it.  He took it home that night.  Brady hadn’t called, but Fletcher wasn’t surprised anymore when Brady didn’t come home on time.

The Love of Blood was a spell book, covering spells for both Tekamthi and Toskagee, the goddess of war and the goddess of love–it was an interesting combination, but it made sense to Fletcher.  Scorned lovers often became violent, looking for retribution.  Fletcher wasn’t sure that’s what he wanted.  He just wanted his husband back.  He had trouble remembering the last time the two of them had had a proper conversation.

Brady came back late at night, but had fallen asleep on the couch, which surprised Fletcher.  “I didn’t hear you come in,” he said.

“I didn’t want to wake you,” Brady said.

“I would have been fine with that,” Fletcher said.  “We haven’t had a lot time to talk lately.”

“I’m sorry.  Work’s been crazy.”

“I love you.”

“I’ll see you tonight,” Brady said before leaving for the day.

Fletcher put away Brady’s clothes before going to work.  He didn’t like the way the clothes smelled, but there was nothing he could do about it now.  At lunch, he visited the temple again; instead of getting in line to see Toskagee, he sat in front of Tekamthi’s shrine with a copy of The Love of Blood in his lap.  He felt the same twisting feeling in his gut; it was a cold, icy grip that was holding onto him, but this time, he didn’t run.

He was actually beginning to like looking at the shrine.


Fletcher tried to schedule a date night for the two of them on Friday, but Brady had to cancel.  Work, he said.  On a Friday night?  That was the final straw.  Fletcher ordered Chinese delivery, and stared at The Love of Blood all night.  Fletcher licked his lips and wiped his palms on his pants.  He just wanted his husband back.

Fletcher wasn’t scheduled to work on Saturday, but he went to the shopping center.  It was warm for a February, and the air conditioner inside the mall was working overtime.  The lines to see Toskagee had grown during the weekend, but Fletcher ignored them.  He sat in front of the statue, pressed his hands together and prayed.  He just wanted his husband back, so he dropped the fetish into the fire.  He’d made it from blood, hair and scraps of clothes.  It caught fire and disappeared into the flame.


There was a woman waiting for Fletcher when he returned home.  She was lying on a living room sofa, reading Orlando Hull’s The Love of Blood.  She had pale skin and long, pale red hair, and when she looked at him, he froze.  Her eyes were red irises on black sclera with diamond-shaped pupils.  She was a goddess in red robes and black armor.  It took Fletcher a moment to identify her as Onthaneequay, the daughter of Tekamthi and Toskagee and the goddess of scorned lovers.

“Don’t look so surprised,” Onthaneequay said, standing up.  “You were the one who called me here.”

“What did you do?” Fletcher asked.  He was surprised at how abrupt he was with a goddess.

“The question, is,” Onthaneequay folded her hands in front of her, “what did you do?”

Fletcher was shaking and he felt his knees go week.  Onthaneequay remained where she was standing, a small smile on her face.  There was a tapping on the window and Onthaneequay walked over to open it.  A small creature came in, a grotesque mane of feathers the size of a cat.

The phone began to ring.  “I just wanted my husband back.”

“You should answer that,” Onthaneequay said.  The creature climbed onto her shoulder and pecked at her ear.

“I never wanted this.”

The phone continued to ring.

“Answer the phone,” Onthaneequay said.

Fletcher picked up the phone.  “Hello…yes, this is me…oh, where…are you sure…I, I don’t know…I can…thank you.”

“Well?” Onthaneequay asked as Fletcher hung up the phone.

“Brady…Brady died.  Car accident.”  He looked up at Onthaneequay, his fists clenched in rage.  “I never asked for this.  I didn’t want this.”

“My mothers may have created humans, but I don’t think we’ll ever truly understand our creations.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Onthaneequay shrugged and turned to leave.  She stopped and looked over his shoulder at him.  “He wasn’t being unfaithful.”

Fletcher stared at her.  “Wh-wh-what?”

“He was working late for overtime pay.”

“But…why?  What for?”

“I only know what I know.”

Onthaneequay left through the back door.  Fletcher collapsed and began to sob.