Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Disoriented Man

It had taken him weeks and he had endured innumerable hardships before coming at last to the destination he sought. While he was a stranger with no friends in this great city, the Chinese were a growing community in and of themselves and he had soon learned where best to look for Mei Lin.

He stood in the shadows and watched the steady flow of foot traffic in and out of the Silver Dollar Saloon. He slipped into the main room as unobtrusively as possible, thankful to see the crowd was such that his Oriental features drew little attention. He cast his eyes about seeking the man who had been described to him and, at length, located him standing in a secluded corner of the bar. William Leone was the owner of this and many similar businesses and would be the one with the knowledge Li sought.

He approached the bar and inquired of the barrel-chested man serving the drinks if he knew of any Chinese women recently employed at the establishment. The barmen told him there had been a “yellow whore” working here up until a few days prior. While Li was angered to think of Mei Lin being referred to in such a manner, he was more concerned with her current whereabouts. His mouth dropped open in stunned disbelief as the man continued to speak.

“Slanty-eyed bitch up and hung herself night before last. Seems she didn’t like workin’ here as much as she figgered to and wanted to go back wherever she come from. Well, Mr. Leone done reminded her she had a contract with him and next thing ya know we found the crazy bitch swingin’ from the rafters in her room. Damned shame, too. Never got me a chance to try that out.”

His bellows of laughter caused his large frame to shake and it was, at that moment, Li’s eyes were drawn to the twinkle of something shiny near the man’s waist. Hanging from his watch chain was a small, stylized silver dolphin. Mei Lin had always been fascinated by dolphins and that was why he had given her the thing. He’d found it in a market stall on the waterfront the day they left China. His expression hardened as he realized the only way the man could have the item in his possession.

The bartender was still laughing when Li’s hand came up and the pistol in his hand bucked twice. A river of blood ran down the man’s apron and shirtfront and he died never knowing what had hit him. The sound of breaking glass as his body crashed into the liquor bottles behind him seemed to go on forever.

Li stepped back and turned in the direction of where he’d last seen Leone. Reaching into his coat he withdrew his second pistol and began to move through the thinning crowd. He could sense the approach of Leone’s bodyguards around him and could not possibly have cared any less. If he would not be leaving here with Mei Lin at his side then he did not, truly, care if he ever left here at all.

Though he tried to flee the retribution walking slowly toward him, Michael Leone’s body twitched and jerked as, one after another, the bullets slammed home in his body. Li continued to pull the triggers long after his rounds were expended and collapsed to the floor, his own body riddled by the return fire of a half dozen hired men. As the darkness took him, a smile came to his bloody lips, knowing he and Mei Lin would, at long last, be reunited again.

This story was written for the weekly Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge and is loosely based on the song Stack-O Lee from the Black Snake Moan soundtrack. 

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