Excerpt: BROKEN PRAYER, by Steve Weddle — from All Due Respect #5

ADR #5 is out now!

five

 

Below is a preview from the issue. It’s an excerpt from an upcoming novel by featured author Steve Weddle.

 

 

BROKEN PRAYER

BY STEVE WEDDLE

Fed drew a seven and a nine. Hearts. Started to slide them into the line, the seven after the six of hearts, the nine between an eight and the ten. Saw the others watching. Left the cards on the end of the row. Shook his head and kept looking at the cards, like he was trying to make them something else.

Straight flush. A run of luck when he didn’t want it.

“Ever been up there?” the bald man asked, sliding his lighter back off the table, into his jacket pocket.

“Where’s that?” Fed asked. He looked up from his cards, tried to breathe a shrug, looked at the forty-two dollars in the pot. Money he could use. Hell, money he needed. The coins. The paper. The cufflinks from the dead man. Another week like this one, men coming in off bank jobs, escapes, another week and maybe he could pull this off, this camp, this haven.

“Memphis,” the bald man said. “Outside Memphis.”

“No,” the Bulgarian said. “North of Memphis. Jonesboro. Take the rails to St. Louis. Goes right through Paragould.”

“Paragould,” Fed said, trying to get the Bulgarian’s pronunciation right. Ghoul, not gold.

Someone leaned in from the kitchen, said it was a weird goddamn name for a town.

“It’s foreign,” the bald man said. “Means ‘City of Fortune’ in German.”

The man from the kitchen walked all the way into the room, floor planks a creak of nail and wood moving against nothing, sound swallowed like disgrace. The man’s neck ridged with burns, threads of pink flesh like raised rivers on a map of some terrible place, his eye covered with a blood-caked bandage, clumps peeling off, said “Goddamn Germans. Lost a brother in Hamel.” He stood over the table, looking at the bald man’s cards. “That sheriff we took, one up in Missouri, he was a goddamn German.”

The bald man said he seemed to remember the sheriff had a French name. Lafitte, maybe. The burned man put a hand, clamp-heavy, on the other man’s shoulder, said he was pretty sure the sheriff had been a goddamn German. Everyone at the table said, yeah, that’s right. Come to think of it, German. Everyone waited.

The burned man pulled back his hand, reached, stretched the fingers to loosening, walked back into the kitchen, bacon grease a thin mist floating through the Arkansas air.

After they were sure he was gone, the bald man asked, “Who’s it to?”

“I’m out,” Fed said, dropping his cards on the table, looking at someone else’s money, the dead man’s cufflinks catching the light from the ceiling.

 

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