Art by Daniel Zalkus
by William Burton McCormick
He came after the worst Alpine thunderstorm we suffered in many a season. I’d lived fifteen years in the mountain valley since retirement but had seldom seen Jupiter so angry in the heavens or the Venti as determined in blowing their cold warnings down from the highest jagged peaks. My home was a dilapidated old villa from the days of the Gallic kings and I knew the creak of every board and the pitch of every whistle when gusts blew inside my halls and breezes slipped through wall cracks or beneath long-locked, ancient doors. I also understood intimately which passages stayed silent in a gale. An extra creaking in the temple-room told me I wasn’t alone in the house. I didn’t panic, for even though an old man, few are more terrible than I when my blood is flowing hot. Instead, I pulled my murderous blade from its spot on the silk pillow and went to investigate.
I avoided entering the one-room temple by direct route from my chambers. Instead, I took a clandestine approach. I silently went around through the open-air atrium, the impluvium overwhelmed by the storm, the floor now flooded with rainwater and covered by floating leaves and twigs carried in by the winds over the roof from the gardens. At the door to the temple, I lingered, listening. I heard the grunts of effort and a slap of bare skin flailing against stone. I could little imagine what transpired inside.
I silently slipped the key into the lock, turned the bolt, and threw open the door. Inside the little chamber stood the statue of the goddess Rosmerta, ten feet high and holding her cornucopia cup above her head as an offering to deities greater than she. Clinging to the stone surface of the goddess was a small, thin young man in a muddy and tattered tunic, an attire wholly unsuited for mountain travel. His bare foot on Rosmerta’s hip, a hand on her shoulder, he was reaching high to steal some of the very real fruit I stored in the stone cornucopia basket. My entry startled him, and he tumbled with a scream and a splash from the statue into a rain puddle left by the leaky roof. The grapes in his hand sprung from their stem and floated free in the waters about him, like orcas circling a great whale in the sea. READ MORE
Art by Kelly Denato
by R. T. Lawton
Beaumont grabbed a clean beer glass from the stack of newly washed ones sitting on the bar counter and kept walking. At the back of the long, narrow room, he stopped long enough to slide into a booth where Yarnell was drinking green beer from a frosty mug. Tilting the plastic beer pitcher sitting on the tabletop, Beaumont poured some of the green liquid into his purloined glass. Seeing as how the background noise in the crowded Irish bar was almost deafening, Beaumont figured, under the pending circumstances, all this clamor was probably a good thing.
“There’s a lot of people out on the streets celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day,” Beaumont shouted to be heard. “I was lucky to find you.”
“Why,” Yarnell screamed back. “So you can drink my beer for free?”
Beaumont consumed half the contents of his glass and then grinned.
“Well, there is that too, but the thing is I got us a job.”
Somewhere behind him, a guy with a green plastic derby perched precariously on his head detached himself from a group of celebrants and started plugging quarters into a jukebox against the side wall. Sad Irish ballads soon blared from the speakers. Some of the bar patrons joined in to sing along with the music.
“What kind of a job?” screamed Yarnell, at a higher volume now that music had been added to the mix.
Beaumont emptied his beer glass, refilled it from the pitcher, and leaned forward to keep from yelling so loud.
“It’s one we have to do today, starting about five minutes ago.”
“You’re kidding me, right?” Yarnell replied, taking some of the volume out of his own voice since their heads were now so close to each other. “What about alarms, security guards, vault combinations?”
“Don’t forget attack dogs,” said Beaumont, pushing just a little.
“Yeah, attack dogs. You know we always take days to plan for these sorts of problems.”
“Not this time,” said Beaumont. “This is a fast, easy job. So easy, we can plan on the go.”
“That sounds dangerous,” Yarnell replied. “You know I like every detail well planned out, so as there’s no slipups.”
“Look at it this way, there’s a couple of thousand in it for each of us. A simple snatch and run piece of work. Come to think of it, I don’t believe the job’s even illegal. And after we’re done, we merely deliver the goods to someone we know.”
Yarnell raised an eyebrow.
“We have a client?”
“Remember Padraig Maloney’s wife Rose?”
“Well, she’s the one hiring us.” READ MORE