James downed his drink and avoided the gaze of the other men seated around the table.
‘Not a good night for you is it Jimmy,’ Siebowicz said trying to get a rise out of him.
James got up and left with their jeers and catcalls following him. The fresh air of the alley hit like a slap in the face and he doubled over and retched. He’d just lost a lot of money that wasn’t his to lose.
‘Shit,’ he said quietly to himself.
He was two blocks from Al’s when he felt the eyes crawling up the back of his spine. James stopped and turned on the spot. A solitary pair of red tails lights turned off the Avenue in the distance but that was it. The rain had made everything slick and black like treacle.
James’s heart leapt as a figure emerged from the alley beside him. But it was just some old bum.
‘Real bad night friend, say, got any change,’ the derelict mumbled through half a mouthful of teeth.
Less than you he thought probably. He pulled the collar of his jacket closer and hurried away with the tramp yelling obscenities behind him.
The eyes stayed on him all the way back until suddenly he couldn’t take it anymore. He was running, splashing, his breathing ragged. And waiting. Waiting for a hand to fall on his shoulder. James practically fell up the steps and careened through the doorway.
James put his head back against them. The heavy doors of the church were his shield. He took a deep breath. The familiar scents of incense and polish calmed him. A few heads were bowed at prayer but none had turned at his entry. James composed himself. He pushed back his hair and removed his sodden jacket. His priest’s collar slipped back in place and with it a semblance of calm. He was safe.
James was awoken by a gentle cough. He hadn’t realised he’d drifted off.
‘I’ve come to confess Father,’ an Irish voice said from behind the partition.
James cleared his throat. ‘Yes. I will hear you,’ he said. He worked a dry tongue around his mouth as he forced away the last vestures of sleep.
‘A terrible sin Father,’ the voice said calmly.
‘God asks only that you repent,’ James replied.
The man chuckled. ‘That simple Father? Just as bloody well.’
A terrible, slow suspicion dragged itself over James leaving in its wake an even worse realisation. In spite of himself he pressed his eye to the wooden partition.
The shotgun looked back.
‘Your debts caught up with you Father.’
James had just enough time to whimper before it went off.
A fun one to do – the topics here were priest and noir.
For these 500 word short stories I am working on a theme and topic suggested to me at random, normally through asking friends on Facebook. Feel free to message me with a suggestion of your own. I will consider anything that’s not too gratuitous or explicit.AM.