I was walking on the big rocks by the river, late at night. Bronx side of the Harlem River, brackish water, oily, deep and fast. Yankee Stadium shone on the hill, far behind me. Major Deegan Expressway gave the only light. Walking the Bronx at night never worried me. It’s my home ground, and I had the magic knife clipped to the back of my belt. A Tanto fighting knife, balance heavy, seven-inch blade, fully blooded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Humming against my back, warm, sensing action, wanting to be used.
He was seated on the largest rock. I recognized him.
“What’s going on?” I said.
“Hey” he answered.
“I know you,” I said, moving closer.
“Oh yeah, where from?” His tone was cocky, confident.
I said “You’re one of those big-mouth fucks from Canarsie. We cleaned you out twice, first at Antich’s kegger, then at Wo-Hop’s after chow. You punks always outnumber us, but we always win. Brooklyn against the Bronx. Canarsie versus Kings Bridge. Not too good a match up for you.”
Stared me down, not looking away, said “Yeah well…I’m fighting a little less these days.”
I said “why you here? This is the Bronx and it’s close to midnight.”
He looked at me for five seconds, answered, “You know what hero? None of your fucking business. Now hit the bricks.”
Tanto heating my spine, thrumming like a piece of machinery. I knew what it wanted me to do. Brooklyn piece of trash was no different than Saddam’s flunkies or the Taliban. Asking for it, begging for it. I moved a step closer.
He faced me fully now, stood in the boxing ready position and said “Do it Champion.
Go for it.”
I smiled at him, said, “You want the Duncan Hines? You got it.”
The knife and I executed with perfect symmetry. One less.
Robert Staub has loved creative writing since he was a teenager. He began writing speculative fiction about six years ago, favoring the genres of horror, pulp adventure, and dark noir. Currently, Staub is working on sequels to The Tanto, and a novel based on Dutch Schultz, a Bronx mobster of the ‘20s and ‘30s who made his fortune in crime, including bootlegging and the numbers racket.
–Art by Dom Crossley — Artist Profile