Illustration by Jim Brown KNOCK, KNOCK… It was a chilly…

Illustration by Jim Brown


It was a chilly February night, and being too wired to sleep from my swing shift at the warehouse, I decided to do my taxes. As I flipped through the schedules, I could hear grainy snow rattling onto the swimming pool cover at my apartment complex. I could also hear the crunch of snow underfoot and muffled voices.

The knocks at my door were tentative at first, then insistent. As I reached into my unlocked file cabinet drawer, the knocks became arrogant. I popped a full magazine of .45 hardball into my Series 70 Colt 1911, racked the slide and set the safety. At this point the knocks were now more like pounding. I tucked my Colt behind my heavy leather belt at 8 o’clock and stuck another full magazine in my left hip pocket. Before I opened the door, I anchored the sole of my left workboot into the carpet.

The three of them were bunched up, snow dusting their designer leather jackets and their pointy-toed cowboy boots. The middle one held a bloody white hanky to his nose. They were all lean, and about 5.5 feet tall.
“Sir, my friend, he’s hurt,” the lead one began. “Can we use your telephone?”

I shrugged my right shoulder toward a patch of light on the north side of the pool. “There’s a phone in the laundry room,” I told them. “It’s at the north end of the pool. The light’s on, and it’s open all night.”
“But we have no money,” the lead guy whined.

“I’ll give you some quarters.”

The lead guy then tried to ram the door open, but his cowboy boots couldn’t get any traction on the snowy sidewalk. Because I stood six feet and weighed 220 pounds, mostly muscle, he was no match for me. As the other two joined his ramming effort, I swung my .45 up to the lead guy’s chest level. His eyes widened and he gasped.

Then they all instantly realized that one hardball slug would end all their careers and they turned in unison, bolting for the courtyard gate, running like track stars and kicking up snow, and I heard an engine rev up, the slam of car doors, shouts, the whirr of tires on snow, then a chirp of rubber on asphalt.

That night I slept with my .45 in my Tanker holster.

A few days later, one of the local cops in a diner recognized me, and I joined him at the counter. “Y’know, that apartment complex where you live has a reputation for being a residence for high-rolling drug brokers,” he said.
“‘Brokers?’” I asked. “You mean ‘dealers’?”

“Naw…Brokers. They never touch anything. They just make the deals. But they have a lot of cash on hand. So when did you move in there?”

“December. Maybe I’d better look for another place…” —KN, NM

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