Heartache Cafe

Heartache Cafe

J. S. Cook

Price: $3.50


J.S. Cook debuts haunted American expatriate Jack Stoyles, whose numb exile in an unexpected Atlantic outpost is suddenly brightened by a stranger who kisses him -- and then dies. Betrayal, graft, a lost girl, and too many deaths. With good reason Jack called his place Heartache Cafe.

This short story in ebook format part of the Partners in Crime #5 Committed to Memory print series.

PUBLISHED BY: ManLove Romance Press
CATEGORIES: Romantic Fiction, ManLove, Mystery/Suspense

EBOOKS BY ManLove Romance Press



It was freezing cold that day, with an icy wind out of the northwest and tiny little snowflakes swirling in the gusts - the kind of day that makes you want to find someplace warm and stay there.

I still don't know how I got there; I don't remember all that much about it, only the minor details, a few things here and there. It was like I'd been afflicted with some strange sort of amnesia. I'd been up all night - hell, I'd been up the past few nights, going over and over things in my mind, trying to make it come out different, but it never would. No matter what I did, it wasn't going to change, and for the rest of my life I'd see it every time I closed my eyes.

My discharge papers lay where I'd tossed them, next to the empty whiskey bottle and the ashtray overflowing with cigarette butts, on the coffee table in the squalid little living room that sat to one side of the kitchen. I didn't have to read the papers to know what was written there; I'd always known it, just like I knew that I had brown eyes and brown hair, that I tended to put on weight around my gut and had to watch it, that I couldn't play football worth a damn but I could drink my weight in whiskey, no questions asked. It hardly even mattered anymore. I finally had my fill, and when it got light enough to see, I got in my car and drove - anywhere, it didn't matter, and it wasn't like I had any of it planned. Maybe I'd just drive into the Delaware or find a nice dead-end street and ram my car into a cement wall - anything to make the pain stop, to get the goddamn voices and the pictures out of my head. There was a smell in my nostrils, the ashy scent of something burning. Or maybe it was blood. I'd been somewhere - I'd been somewhere else, and there was a woman there, and we'd had words.

I'll tell everyone you forced me. I'll tell everyone you raped me. You'd better help me or I will.

He wasn't even a doctor, not really. Maybe he'd been one, once, but he'd long since lost his license and no longer had the right to even hang a sign. I drove her there and I wanted to go in with her but she wouldn't have it. Let's not make this any harder than it has to be, okay, Jack? So I waited in the car, but it seemed to take an awful long time, and while I was waiting, I had a little drink, just to pass the time. I had a drink, and then another one and, what the hell, I might as well finish the bottle, so I did, and then I fell asleep.

It was dark when I woke up, and the face looking back at me from the rearview mirror had a five o'clock shadow and then some. A little warning voice in the back of my brain was telling me that this was bad, this was really bad, this was worse than anything, and maybe I shouldn't get out of the car, maybe I should just call the cops.

I didn't listen. I never do. I went up that filthy, stinking little alley, and I opened his office door, but I was much too late, and he was gone. There was blood everywhere.

I stopped my car just before the bridge and walked on. The sun was rising, the first rays creeping over the city a little at a time. I looked up at the great steel span of the bridge, and I began to climb. The cables cut into my bare hands, and I was almost weeping with the cold, but I kept climbing. I'd climb so far that it would never touch me. I'd climb until I could forget that awful little room and the stink of blood and all the rest of this sordid mess. I'd climb till I was free. I stood there looking down into the icy water and wondering if the drop would be enough to kill me, or if I'd drown first…or die of cold. I saw the weirdest thing - a small sailboat coming down the river, tacking into the wind - a ridiculous little thing, no bigger than a minute, sailing down the Delaware like it had every right to be there. I thought about pictures I'd seen of graceful feluccas on the Nile River in Egypt, and as I watched the little boat tacking into the wind, something occurred to me.

I climbed down from the bridge, walked to where my car was parked, got in and drove away.


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