“The Ask” by Joseph S. Pete

“I’m telling you, this guy’s an animal, and not just because he strangled my grandma.”

“And your aunt.”

“And my aunt.”

Lt. Davis was four beers in, trying to slosh around in liquid courage to say what he needed to say. He’d asked Connelly, a former high school classmate he was Facebook friends with but hadn’t seen in years, out to this tawdry Irish dive bar on a forgotten corner of a squalid neighborhood on the pretext of catching up for old times’ sake. Connelly just happened to be a guard at the prison where the man who murdered his grandma and his elderly aunt—choked them to death in scalding hot water in the bathtub of their shared apartment—so he get away with $300 during a poorly cased burglary that went south almost right away. $300! They were killed over 300 measly dollars, not enough to even pay a month’s rent. They were barely subsisting on Social Security and the bastard raided their sock drawer for whatever he could scrounge after offing two old, defenseless women.

“Sorry to interrupt, but what’s good here?” Connelly asked.

Lt. Davis emerged from his hangdog miasma.

“What’s good?”

“Yeah, what’s good to eat? I just got off a 12-hour shift and my stomach’s rumbling, man. A pint ain’t enough.”

“The burger,” Lt. Davis said. “I know this place pretends to be Irish but just get the burger.”

Connelly ordered some food and another round and they sat in silence.

“You’re here for an ask?” Connelly said.

“We’re just having a beer. I haven’t seen you in forever. I saw you posted those wedding photos from Cancun and… ”

“Look, when you cage people, when you take away their freedom, when you rip them away from society and everything society has to offer, you get asks. That’s the way the world works.”

They sat quietly, sipping their beers.

“Listen, this guy raped a 6-year-old, a goddamned 6-year-old, when he was 16. I pulled up his rap sheet. Landed at the St. Ignatius School for Boys, was a delinquent, an academic failure with a long laundry list of antisocial behavior. Stabbed a classmate, no apparent provocation. Twenty years later, he killed his girlfriend, a kindergarten teacher 20 years his senior. He dragged her down to the basement and stabbed her 20 times, Know why?”

“Why?”

“She asked him to stop playing around with a shotgun, said it was dangerous. He confessed to all this. He confessed all of it.”

“Did he confess to killing your grandma?”

“He broke in through a window with a ladder, thought no one was home. Out of all the units in that tower. He snuffed them out. They were frail. They had nothing. No one there had anything. It was all retirees. They wouldn’t still be living in a rundown senior tower with CCTV in every stairwell in the murder capital of the United States if they had two dimes to rub together.”

“I’m so sorry. It’s a zoo out there.”

“Oh yeah, and he was convicted of infecting a girlfriend with HIV without telling her. I can go on.”

“He’s a bad dude.”

“He’s a very bad dude.”

“And you’re a cop.”

“I’m a cop. I’m a detective. I worked my way up to a desk job.”

“You’re a cop. I’m law enforcement myself, well basically.”

“I’m a cop with family.”

Both men nursed their beers.

“I take it you know why I’m here.”

“I know why you’re here. What’s his name?”

“Miller.”

“Miller, huh? What a messed-up world we live in.”

***

Two weeks later, Miller was out in the yard doing facility work.

Another convict suddenly materialized behind him and drove a shiv into his ribs three times before he could react. The blade slid out, slick with crimson.

Miller wheezed. Blood dribbled from his lips. He collapsed in a heap.

Two hours passed before a guard found his body.

Perched on a barstool at the dive, Lt. Davis glanced at his buzzing phone. It was a text.

“It’s done.”

*

Joseph S. Pete is an award-winning journalist, an Iraq War veteran, an Indiana University graduate, a book reviewer, a photographer, and a frequent guest on Lakeshore Public Radio. He is a 2017 Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee who has read his work for the Fictitious series on the iO Theater stage in Chicago, who has had a play staged at the Detroit Heritage Theatre Festival, who exhibited photography the Oddtropolis Art Show in San Fransisco and who was named the poet laureate of Chicago BaconFest, a feat that Geoffrey Chaucer chump never accomplished. His literary or photographic work has appeared in more than 100 journals, including The Evening Theatre, The Tipton Poetry Journal, Chicago Literati, Dogzplot, Proximity Magazine, Stoneboat, The High Window, Synesthesia Literary Journal, Steep Street Journal, Beautiful Losers, New Pop Lit, The Grief Diaries, Gravel, The Offbeat, Oddball Magazine, The Perch Magazine, Bull Men’s Fiction, Rising Phoenix Review, Thoughtful Dog, shufPoetry, The Roaring Muse, Prairie Winds, Blue Collar Review, The Rat’s Ass Review, Euphemism, Jenny Magazine, Vending Machine Press and elsewhere. He once learned the ancient secret to writing a great author bio but forgot it and attached this rubbish instead, seriously what the hell?

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Artwork provided by Amanda Bergloff (@AmandaBergloff)

One thought on ““The Ask” by Joseph S. Pete

  1. Pingback: Encore for Our August Performance | The Evening Theatre

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