Yvonne Navarro

The November Special Guest Writer is Yvonne Navarro

Please feel free to visit Yvonne at: http://yvonnenavarro.blogspot.com/

yvonne navarro

by Yvonne Navarro

"Five bucks."

Kirby looked up. "Say what?"

"Anything in the case, five bucks."

"Is that so." The old man behind the counter was greasy and smelled bad; his shirt looked as though it hadn't been washed in weeks. Kirby dropped his gaze back to the display case.

A beat up gold ring cradling a large red stone, electroplate and cheap glass; more jewelry, not much better than the ring. Kirby leaned closer, squinting through the scratched glass. There was something--maybe. A lighter?

"Let me see that silver thing," he said. Despite at least six other "silver things" on the same shelf, the shopkeeper's fingers went immediately to the piece Kirby wanted and he tossed it on the counter. Kirby picked it up and peered at it; he could just make out the worn "Las Vegas 1986" on the side of the slim cigarette lighter. Although the Hong Kong legend was unreadable, it didn't take a college degree to guess what it said. He flicked it a few times experimentally, watching a tiny flame sputter and die.

"Needs fluid," the old man offered in a voice thick with phlegm. When Kirby didn't respond, he coughed. "Tell you what," he said and pointed to the tarnished Irish wedding band on Kirby's little finger. "I'll trade you even for that little ring."

Kirby grimaced and ignored him, bringing the lighter closer to his face. His nose caught the smell of dried-up fluid and a fierce, inexplicable longing flared within him. He dropped the lighter and fished out his wallet. Five bucks--on his salary that was a chunk, but it would leave him with two tens and a one to make it until Friday and payday; if he brought his lunch for the rest of the week, he could swing it with eleven bucks to spare. He threw the five down and shoved the lighter in his pocket; there was probably fluid someplace at the store where he worked.

Kirby left the pawnshop, moving quickly through the freezing slush on the sidewalk along State Street Mall and turning west on Lake. Though he was grateful for the windblock offered by the narrow street, the roar from the elevated train pounded into his uncovered ears and made his head throb. He would've been better off spending the money on a hat or earmuffs at Woolworth's, he thought irritably. What the hell had made him buy this stupid little trinket? He'd gone to State Street looking for a cheap lunch, something other than the hot dog stand next to the store, finally ending up at Ronny's Steak Palace (Sirloin Steak Dinner--$3.99!). With the soda and tax, his tab had still been over five dollars, and the steak had been damned lousy.  Plus the place had been filled with losers--some like himself, others much, much worse. Kirby had felt their eyes on him immediately, assessing, dismissing. He had nothing to offer, though a few of them would've been happy to carve him up for the thirty-plus dollars in his pocket, and he'd been careful to pull out only the amount necessary to pay the check.

Hands shoved hard in the shallow pockets of his jacket and shoulders hunched against the cold, Kirby fingered the lighter as he walked, feeling the metal warm to his touch despite the twenty degree afternoon and the sticky, thickening snow slapping his face. By the time he turned into his building's doorway, only the wind that occasionally yanked the sign on its rusty chains kept the shop name--Schnepp's--from being obliterated. Kirby stepped inside and shut the door behind him gratefully, hanging his jacket in the back and pulling on his old cardigan. As cold as Mr. Schnepp kept it in here, there was still about forty degrees' difference, though maybe someday the old geezer would realize that few people were willing to shop for office furniture in a store where the breath plumed in front of their mouths. Chilly or not, he straightened his tie in the bathroom and combed his hair, making sure the sweater was unstained and there were no peppercorns from that godawful steak lodged in his teeth. He made a ten percent commission from sales over fifty dollars and he needed the money bad; maybe somebody would come in and buy a desk.

And, maybe because of that tacky little lighter, Kirby did get lucky that afternoon: a woman stopped in to buy furniture for the tiny mail-order business she was setting up in her home. He spent an hour showing her the inventory and it was worth it; the furniture she bought netted him a nice forty-five dollar commission and when Kirby closed up at six, he was a happy man.

He hadn't thought of the lighter again until he stepped outside and put his hands in his jacket pockets. He had no fluid at home--in fact, he didn't even smoke--and he didn't want to waste money buying some when he'd never use it up. He unlocked the store and went back in, rummaging in the storeroom until he found a small can of Ronson. Taking the lighter out and studying it, he couldn't have said why it was so important to fill it or even what had possessed him to buy it in the first place--and thinking about it now, he realized that the lighter had probably only cost a couple of bucks new and he'd been ripped off. What the hell; he'd keep it in his pocket in case a customer needed a light.

He filled it carefully then peered at it, fingering the cheap engraving along the side and wondering about Las Vegas and the kind of people who went there and bought little trinkets like this. The lid was scorched from use and he flipped it, held the lighter out and thumbed the strikewheel.

Flame flared up, bright blue and yellow, glinting off the thick gold pinkie ring he wore and jetting tiny sparks from the diamond at its center. The woman leaned forward with her cigarette and tilted her head coquettishly, showing a generous amount of plump cleavage and enveloping him in overly sweet perfume. He smiled and she blinked happily as her fingers fumbled the lighter from his grip and into her purse; senses dulled by alcohol, she missed his sudden, dangerous look of irritation as she stumbled against him and briefly ground her heel into his shoe.

They walked along the strip and back to the motel, one of the cheaper ones that offered smaller rooms with private entrances; he'd chosen theirs at the far end of the building. "C'mon honey-baby, lesh make it," she slurred as she rolled untidily onto the bed. He marveled that a woman could ingest so much liquor and still be coherent, though given her extra padding she probably had the metabolism to support it.

"Just lie back for awhile, Lola," he said soothingly. "I'm going out for another bottle. I'll be right back."


"Promise," he said. He nudged her down on the bedspread and held her there, waiting for her to sleep; in only a minute or two she was snoring unattractively. He studied her flushed face and the body that had amused him so often during the past two weeks. When had it become annoyance rather than entertainment? He didn't know or care--the problem now was that she knew his name and face and had probably filed away a lot more information in her subconscious. He was ready to move on, and he didn't like loose ends.

He packed his small suitcase quickly and threw it in the trunk of the rental car, then returned and went through her bag until he found the nightgown she'd worn for him a couple of times, a cheap diaphanous thing that suited his needs perfectly. He tore it into two strips and bound her wrists and ankles tight enough to hold her but not wake her up. There was a full bottle of Jack Daniels under the bed and he opened it and took a swig, then poured the rest over her bonds, clothing and the bedcoverings around her; even the cool liquid dribbling on her skin didn't rouse her.

He retrieved the stupid little lighter from her purse and a flick of his thumb coaxed it to life.  He gazed at Lola one last time, wondering how her bleached hair would look a half hour from now, then touched the flame to a spot on the bed just above her head, where the fire would grab her hair first. Her hands, he knew, would come to her head automatically and the makeshift rope of sleazy nightgown would catch and spread it the rest of the way. A small tongue of fire blossomed on the pillow and he snapped the lighter closed. He'd locked the door behind him and was sitting comfortably in his Caddy before her screams began.

He'd lied about both things--he wasn't buying her another bottle, and he wasn't coming back. There would be no need for either.

People quickly crowded on the sidewalk in front of the room as her screams carried through the bolted door; no one noticed him as he grinned and pulled away, firelight glinting off the white of his teeth through the windshield.


Kirby didn't know if it was the scalding heat against his thumb or the screams that were still echoing in his mind that made him fling the lighter to the floor; as it hit, the lid and strikewheel broke away.  He stared at the pieces and sucked his thumb. What the hell had happened? The images had been so clear and instantaneous…could he have fallen asleep in this icebox of a building? Hardly.

Hallucination? Would he even know if he was hallucinating? But nothing like that had ever happened before and he didn't do drugs; he felt sure to his soul there was nothing wrong with his head.

Then what?

Kirby gingerly picked up the lighter and its broken pieces, laying them on the desk blotter like a schoolboy about to dissect a particularly ugly insect. As his gaze touched on the scorch marks--perfectly normal scorch marks, he reminded himself-- he remembered again a red petal of fire spreading across cheap linens in a Las Vegas motel room in which he had never set foot, the small flame leaping up the side of the lighter to leave its brown and blue signature on the metal. It was a nasty recollection but the dread Kirby had felt was gone; if he had picked up a feeling or a memory from the lighter, any more of the same had since disappeared; cradled in his palm was nothing more than lifeless, cold metal.

Kirby shuddered and threw it in the wastebasket.


He went back to the pawn shop on Friday with the intention of asking the old man about the previous owner of the lighter and when it had been pawned, as well as a host of other questions that rattled around in his mind and made no sense at all. It wasn't until Kirby actually walked through the door of the shop and made his way to the back counter that he realized the thing that made the least sense was even bothering to ask. What had made him think the old man would remember who had pawned a cheap lighter, for God's sake? As if to confirm this, the man's watery eyes showed no indication that he remembered him from earlier in the week--and why should he? The guy had probably waited on a hundred customers since Kirby's visit.

At his awkward stare, the shopkeeper snorted impatiently. "You need something, buddy?" he demanded as he brought a cigarette to his mouth, then coughed. Suddenly all Kirby really wanted was to get the hell out of there, but the shopkeeper's expectant look made him feel vaguely obligated.

"Uh, yeah," Kirby said hurriedly. "Let me see that…there. That statue, the brass thing." The biggest item in the grime-covered case, it was the first thing that caught Kirby's eye.

The old man brought it up. "This?"

"Yeah, how much?"

"Four bucks."

Kirby peered at it. It looked okay, but four dollars? Well, he'd gotten the commission in his paycheck this morning and at least the four bucks would hide his discomfort and give him a reason to leave.

He paid.


In his apartment that evening, Kirby finally unwrapped the beaten brass statue. About sixteen inches tall, it was a elongated, modern depiction of a man with his arms wrapped lovingly around a woman about a half a head shorter. Not bad, he decided, feeling absurdly pleased at his find. It would look okay on his end table too, maybe bring a little class to the place. His take-home didn't allow for a lot of luxuries and the only nice feature about his two-room apartment was the exposed bricks on the north wall, though they could be a cold pain in the ass during winters like this one.

The statue was badly tarnished and Kirby rummaged around under the sink until he found an old bottle of Tarn-X® and a rag, then settled on the couch and started polishing, following the abstract curves of the embracing couple and being careful not to spill the solution on the round wooden base, which was already a little loose. As he cleaned, Kirby's cloth-wrapped finger found a deep dent along the back of the male figure's head and he rubbed at it absently.

"Bitch!" he snarled, clipping her a good one across the left cheek. She cried out and spun away from him, her hand jumping to her reddening face in shock. "I'll leave when I'm damned good and ready."

"Get out!" the woman sobbed. "Before I call the police." She took an uncertain step towards the telephone. "It's over between us and hitting me won't change that."

"No, it won't," he sneered. The smell of the booze on his breath filled his own nostrils and he licked his lips thoughtfully. "But it'll sure make me feel good!"

The woman's face drained of color and she grabbed the receiver and tried to punch 911. His fist caught her in the jaw before she made the second digit and little flashing stars filled her vision as she fell onto the couch; the man found the cord and wrenched it from the wall, sweeping the telephone to the floor along with everything else on the end table.

"Bitch," he repeated, one meaty hand encircling her upper arm while the other yanked her head back by the hair. She fought to stay conscious and her free hand pounded on his back, knowing she was no match for his hefty frame even as his body hurtled onto hers and they crashed to the floor.  Ignoring her feeble pummeling, he tore at her skirt and pantyhose with both hands, then backhanded her once in each direction to stun her while he pushed his jeans down. "Teach you to fuck with me," he grunted as he forced her legs apart and pushed savagely into her.

The pain made her wail and he clamped a hard palm against her lips and pushed his other hand beneath her rump, digging his fingers into her skin to grind her hips against his. Excitement growing, he began to thrust in earnest, ignoring her muffled cries. His eyes rolled up in pleasure as he neared orgasm and his thick fingers moved to cover her nostrils as well as her mouth.

She closed her eyes against the agony spreading not only through her pelvis but through her oxygen-deprived lungs, shutting out the pain and any thoughts of the future. There WAS no future-- only now, and the pain, and this man rutting on top her like some killer beast.  The blows she rained upon his back and head were growing weaker when her scrabbling fingers found and clutched at the brass statue where he'd knocked it to the floor. She found the strength to lift her arm one last time, and when she did the statue was clenched in her white-knuckled fist.

There was the heavy thud of metal striking flesh.

CLANG! The sound rang in Kirby's ears and reverberated through the small apartment like a too-loud stereo. Something rolled and hit the side of his foot and he looked down dumbly at the wooden base of the statue, its connecting joint splintered beyond repair; a few feet away, the statue wobbled to a stop at the base of his brick wall, most of the male figure's head a caved-in ruin.

He stayed where he was, fighting the horror that swept his dowdy, forty-five-year-old body, sweating as it receded, then boiled through him again. Each time his traitorous mind replayed the vision he cringed, not because of the torment the unknown woman had suffered or the loss of a human life, but because of the feeling of kinship he'd felt with the man--the hot and shameful spark of sexual enjoyment Kirby felt each time he re-lived the feeling of the woman's battered flesh through the man's memories.

It was a long time before he stopped trembling.


"Sure I remember you," the old guy said. "You been in a couple of times. Whaddya want?"  Despite the harsh words Kirby could've sworn the man's eyes were smiling.

"I bought a statue the last time I was here," Kirby said, speaking very clearly. "I'd like to know where it came from."

The shopkeeper gaped at him comically, then his matted eyebrows crinkled together in laughter. "You gotta be kidding, mister! You want to know where? Some little statue?" He laughed again and gestured at the crowded shelves, then leaned his elbows on the case in front of Kirby. "No way. If it was a rifle or a piece of good jewelry, that'd be one thing, written down in a book somewheres. But not some brass piece of junk."

Kirby started. "So you remember it!"

The humor left the old man's face and his eyes narrowed. "Tell ya what," he said, plucking something off a shelf behind him. "You're a little fella, look like you could use some protection. Since you've been in before, I'll let you have this hunting knife here for two bucks. Scrape the rust off, it'll be a dandy little piece. Besides," he looked hard at Kirby," nothing personal, but you act like you ain't feeling right. The scum on the street picks up real quick on that."

Kirby frowned in confusion. A knife--why would he need such a thing? He shook his head and stepped back.

"I'll give you two hundred dollars for that ring," the old man said suddenly.

Kirby felt his mouth drop open. "What?"

"You heard me. Two…twenty-five. That's my final offer. You won't do better."

Without hesitating, Kirby slipped the ring off his little finger and held it out--he'd found it in the school gymnasium decades ago and certainly felt no attachment to it in the face of that much money.

The old man brought up a strongbox and counted out the cash. "Here," he said with an unpleasant grin. "I'll even throw in the knife for free."

Kirby pocketed the money and the knife and almost staggered out of the shop. Two hundred and twenty-five dollars! That was a week's salary! He still had time to eat lunch too, and he eyed Marshall Field's eagerly when his stomach rumbled.

Reason prevailed: there was no sense wasting his new-found wealth. He'd be better off going back to Ronny's Steak Palace (Sirloin Steak Dinner--$3.99!) and paying an extra two dollars for the best cut they had--it might not be prime rib, but it ought to be palatable. He smiled outright and hurried around the corner.


Lunch wasn't bad, considering there were few places downtown where a man could get a full steak meal with trimmings in five minutes for seven bucks. Kirby gave his mouth a final, contented swipe with the napkin and pushed out of his chair. Having this much money in his pocket made him feel like a new man, and if a little money made that much difference, it was time he got off his ass and looked for a better paying job.

Even the weather was better, Kirby decided, still chilly but not the bitter cold that had seeped into everything last week. The temperature had climbed and most of the slush on the sidewalks had melted; the moisture on the pattern of granite stones beneath his shoes glistened in the sunlight and he slowed to a stroll, feeling more than seeing the people dodging around him.

He turned west on Lake, leaving State Street Mall and its sparkling sidewalks behind, shoving his hands in his jacket and quickening his step as the feel of winter returned within the broken pattern of sun and shadow cast by the elevated tracks. By the time he crossed Dearborn, the construction on the opposite side of the tracks and the massive State of Illinois Building had doused the street in shade and he was cold; he hunched his shoulders and walked faster, moving closer to the buildings.

"Hey man," someone said. "Got a quarter?"

The hint of brogue in the voice made Kirby hesitate and squint curiously to his left. A teenager with dirty red hair moved in the deep recess of a side doorway to the old theater that fronted on Dearborn; green eyes glinted from a thin, pockmarked face.         

"No," Kirby said. "Sorry." He'd taken only two more steps when the kid yanked him back into the doorway and slammed him against the wall, using the collar of Kirby's jacket for leverage.

"Gimme your money, asshole," the kid hissed. The teen was small, like himself, but lithe and hard with street experience.

Pulse hammering, the sound of his own heart made his attacker's words difficult to hear. "I--haven't got any," Kirby finally managed around the ache spreading across his back where his spine had connected with the wall. He regretted the words as soon as they came out of his mouth.

"Fuckin' liar!" Spittle flew from the boy's lips and Kirby blinked at the sour smell of alcohol.  "Seen you in Ronny's--I know you got some dough." 

The kid forced his hand into the pocket of Kirby's slacks and the older man flinched and flailed at him, earning himself a vicious punch across his right eye; his head bounced hard against the bricks and he sagged. Ropey muscles twisted in the teenager's arm as he held Kirby against the wall and searched him, his filthy fingers quickly finding the wad of bills and the knife.

"What's this? Big tough office guy got him a blade, huh?"

The boy let go of Kirby's jacket with a shove and Kirby fell backwards deeper into the doorway, rolling to his knees and scrambling sideways to put distance between them. "Okay! You got the money--just go and leave me alone!"

The kid's face split in a crazy grin and he pried up one of the blades. "You tellin' me what to do, asshole? Maybe I ain't finished with you yet--maybe I oughtta put a little tattoo on your face!" He gave a high-pitched giggle and took a slow, almost playful swipe in the general direction of Kirby's head.

Kirby ducked desperately, heart hammering. He had the fleeting, hysterical hope that the boy was just toying with him, but then the dirty fist gripping the knife jabbed at him again and connected, just enough to put a laser stripe of pain across the forearm he threw up reflexively. Kirby jerked back and gave a hoarse cry as the blade bit into his flesh, crabbing around the tiny space liked a trapped cockroach. When the teen withdrew and paused, staring at the knife, Kirby folded his wounded arm to his chest and felt his throat lock in the bitter cold air.

"Please," he managed to whimper. "Don't--"

The boy turned his gaze from the blade to Kirby slowly, as though the sound of Kirby's voice had called him back from somewhere else. His empty hand shot down with frightening speed and closed around the collar of Kirby's jacket and he lifted the struggling man up with one arm, then held him there and tilted his head. 

When he spoke, all hint of Irish brogue had fled, and his words were clipped and sharp. "What's that, Mr. Margotti?" He gave a swift shake of his head, his eyes glazed. "Of course. He has to die."

The teenager swung the knife arm with his other hand, using the flat of his forearm to pry Kirby's chin up and expose his throat.

Kirby screamed and clutched at the hand wielding the knife as the boy pulled the blade sideways and under the line of Kirby's jaw. His fingers exploded with agony as they wrapped around the blade of the knife and he fought the red-haired young man.

The boss, his curly hair dark and gleaming in the light cast by the crystal chandelier of the private dining room, folded his hands peacefully in front of him like a mourner in front of a casket. His smooth, calm voice mocked the man who fought for his life a few feet away. "An unfortunate error on your part, Javier. The man was a DEA agent. My people barely escaped."

"No, Don Pedro, I swear!" His fingers had turned to white fire, insubstantial against the weapon diving for his throat like a hungry wolf. He was no match for Giuseppe, the Don's oldest boy; all he could do now was beg. "On the hand of God, I swear I didn't know!"

Giuseppe hesitated and looked to his father, and Javier's hopes rose.

But Don Margotti shook his head and Giuseppe grinned, his perfect teeth so close to Javier's face he could smell veal and pasta.

"You can tell God in--"


Kirby's protest ended in a wet gargle as the knife found its target and his attacker pulled his arm free, then cupped the top of Kirby's head like a basket ball and slammed him to the ground to avoid the spurting blood. The spray from Kirby's throat caught the boy across the legs, soaking into black denim jeans that would never show his crime. The teenager stared at the twitching body until it stilled, the blank look on his face finally melting away as he looked at his bloody hand in disgust.

"Shit," he said. "That was too easy." He wiped the blade on the dead's man pant leg and pocketed the knife. After glancing cautiously out of the doorway, he stepped casually onto the street and strode away.


"What's this?" The old man pointed at the knife on the counter.

"Rust," the teenager answered without looking up.

"Looks like dried blood to me."

The kid's head shot up and his eyes gleamed dangerously. "Something wrong with your hearing, old man? I said it's fuckin' rust." He looked back into the display case.

The shopkeeper shrugged. "Anything in the case, five bucks. Or I'll tell you what--I'll trade you whatever you want in there even for the knife."

"Even, huh? How about that ring?" The old man brought up a tarnished golden circle and the boy slipped it on his little finger and peered at the design.

"It's an Irish wedding ring," the shopkeeper said, trying to look helpful. "A Claddagh."

"No shit?" The teen held his hand up for another look, then slid the knife toward the shopkeeper. "My ma had one once lost it when she was a kid, in gym class or something."

The boy walked out without saying anything else and the shopkeeper picked up the hunting knife. He brought out a rag and wiped half-heartedly at it, then threw the rag under the counter and tossed the knife back onto the shelf. He settled on his stool, coughed and lit a cigarette, then smiled.

He wondered how long it would be before the kid came back.

Yvonne Navarro lives in southern Arizona, where until recently she worked in one of those super secret squirrel buildings on historic Fort Huachuca. She is the author of twenty-two published novels and well over a hundred short stories, plus numerous non-fiction articles and two editions of a reference dictionary. Her writing has won the HWA's Bram Stoker Award plus a number of other writing awards. 

She also draws and paints, and once sold a canvas print of a zombie painting.

She is married to author Weston Ochse and dotes on their blind Great Dane, Ghoulie, and a talking, people-loving parakeet named BirdZilla. She is currently working on 4,273 projects. Okay, maybe it just feels that way. All the time.

See all of Yvonne's books HERE




































































































































































Dead Times Final Impact