A new order came across my phone’s notifications, excited I clicked through to the Fiverr app. Ready to kill a new victim, fictionally of course. To my surprise, the victim was going to be longtime friend (since high school), Benjamin Little.
If you’re new to reading one of these short stories, here’s a quick rundown. People pay me $5 on Fiverr to kill them in a short story or flash fiction piece. From the moment they place the order, I have 7 days to submit to them the finished product–their demise in fictional form. You can learn more and sign up here: https://www.fiverr.com/s2/025ba2fff1
You can download the files (PDF, epub, mobi) to this story at this link. Read it, for free, anywhere and on any device you want. Or keep scrolling and read it below.
The real Benjamin Little, a photo I took of him during a music video project we did together a few years ago.
As I would expect from Mr. Little, he chose crime and science fiction for genres. And because he is a forensic worker for the St. Louis Metro PD, I was able to work with that in the story. But for those who have been reading since the first story (Kat Folland’s Early Retirement
), you’re in for a treat because his story crosses over with that one. I can’t tell you how much fun it was crossing some of these stories over. And getting back to work in a science fiction world I’ve been building for some years now.
As a little tribute, mostly for our sake as we have been grieving the loss of a mutual high school friend. He took his life almost exactly a year ago. We had recently been speaking about that, and I was able to reference a fictional character we had written in a series of skits for him during high school. Back then, the character was known as Uncle Vinny, and was a mob boss. In this story, he’s still a mob boss character, but is known as Vinny Bogart. I worked hard to be tasteful, and the reference is small. But for our sake, I felt like it was a way to nod a hat to Benedict.
But enough upfront stuff, let’s read the story. Lemme know what you think.
Benjamin Little and Bogart’s Opera
District 37 was a good place to be forgotten or lost. It was also a good place to kill someone, or be killed.
The United Nations had divided the entire globe into Districts by 2037, China being the last to come over unwillingly to the global government model. With the years that followed, the world became one giant slab of buildings and efficiency. No matter where you went, it was all about everything being the same. At least, that was the theory. But of course it didn’t turn out that way.
Blocks, huge compartmentalized living structures, covered the entirety of Earth’s surface. Elevators gave the ability to travel up and down between Levels, and monorails took you from District to District. It was crude, and with time, the sweetest commodity was sunlight. The higher up you lived, closer to the sun’s rays, the more expensive the cost of living got. This lead to a clear cut segregation between the lower and middle classes, with the lower classes living in the lowest Levels of the Blocks. Closest to Earth, but furthest from light.
The United Nations adopted a crude universal police system named The Order, which was originally a United States federal police force that slowly overtook local law enforcement. Order and Serve was their motto. Protection was optional. Out of the need for more law and order, bounty hunters became a necessary evil. The Order often called upon them for assistance on a contract-by-contract basis. Justice was scarce, revenge was typical.
Benjamin Little was eating noodles in his tiny, one-bedroom apartment when the call came in on the radio. It was a double murder in District 37. The bodies were found inside the elevator system. It was a bloody mess from the sound of it. He shoved one more bite of noodles into his mouth, and then got up and threw his overcoat and fedora on. He grabbed his standard issue Order tablet and burst out the door.
District 37 had been a hell hole of crime for years, and most everyone had given up on trying to police it. This left the criminals to run rampant and make their own rules. And it left it open for people to just disappear into, if there was a warrant out for their arrest.
Benjamin hopped onto the monorail and sat down. He pulled out his tablet and checked the location of the reported crime. He knew he didn’t have much time to get on location and wrap up some forensic evidence before local Order officers arrived and dismantled the crime scene. No one was interested in investigating crimes in District 37. It just wasn’t worth the effort, nor was it as lucrative as being paid off by the perpetrators.
The monorail sped from his home, District 39, and headed southwest into the belly of the beast.
Benjamin found several officers on scene when he arrived at the elevator. He could tell they were eager to wrap it up, but were waiting for a detective to give them the go-ahead. He pushed through a crowd of onlookers. A rookie officer stepped in front of him and grabbed him by the shoulder.
“Whoa, this is a crime scene, bud.” The young officer said to him.
“I know,” Benjamin feigned authority, though he had none in District 37. “I’m Forensics. I need to process this scene.”
“Forensics?” The rookie questioned, confused. He looked about for help, but he wasn’t going to get any. “I don’t know anything about that.”
“It’ll take five minutes.” Benjamin told him.
“OK,” the rookie said, “But you get three.”
“Right.” Benjamin was satisfied. He knew he could have what he needed in two minutes or less.
He stood between the pried open elevator doors. There were two bodies. One male, one female. There was an apparent struggle. It was a bloody mess indeed. But he could tell there was a piece of the puzzle missing. Someone else had been there. He noted also bloody footprints that led out of the elevator and a few feet away. They appeared to stop, and then vanish. Likely the killer took her boots off at this point, to stop trailing blood behind her. He figured a woman, not many men could get around in stiletto heels.
He reached into his overcoat and pulled out what was commonly known in his circles as a Blue Pill. He sat the small, pill-shaped device in what appeared to be the center of the crime scene. He stepped back out of the elevator and connected to the Blue Pill using his tablet. It lit up blue and fired a blue haze upward into the air. It slowly drizzled down and covered the crime scene from wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor. Anything of interest illuminated in blue. Fingerprints, strands of hair, and liquids—such as blood and saliva. His main area of expertise was fingerprints, and it would be the quickest and simplest data to look up without being noticed.
The elevator was covered in finger and palm prints, most of which wouldn’t be relevant. He decided to focus his attention on finding out who the victims were and if anyone had touched them, possibly the killer.
After the allotted thirty seconds had passed, he stepped back into the elevator and used the scanner on the back of his tablet to scan the illuminated hands of the victims. He saved their palm, hand, and finger prints. He found a palm print from the male victim on the forearm of the female victim. But based on its positioning, it appeared he was grabbing her arm, while she was behind him, and with plenty of force. This was likely part of the struggle. He noticed that the male victim had a scarf tight about his neck. It was tied from behind. He loosened it and saw the red markings of a strangling. He shook his head. He looked inside the palms of the female victim and confirmed burns from the scarf while she strangled him. But it wasn’t the scarf that killed him. Someone had a knife. And it was neither of these two victims. The lady who got away.
The female victim appeared to have died from a single gunshot wound to the chest. In one corner of the elevator was a pistol, but it was too large of a caliber for the small wound she had sustained. There was a partial palm print on the left shoulder of the female victim. He scanned it. It was different from the male and female victims’ prints. It was possible this was the killer.
Benjamin glanced at the clock on his tablet. His time was almost up. He peeked out of the elevator before stepping out. The detective had arrived, he was talking with the rookie. Benjamin heard the word “forensics” and knew he was about to get in trouble. But then he noticed someone in the crowd low-key waving to him. It was an old schoolmate, someone from the Academy. He swooped out of the elevator and headed straight for his old classmate. He nodded and spoke up to him. He casually slid into the crowd and joined him.
“Hey, Vince,” Benjamin said. “I’m glad to see you. How have you been?”
“Not so hot.” Vince said quietly.
Benjamin watched as the detective and rookie headed for the elevator. He knew once they found he was gone, they’d turn to look for him. “Come with me, Vince.” He said, and turned around to leave. He took his overcoat off and tucked it over his arm. He took his fedora off as well. They walked away, and he glanced back just before they went around the corner. He saw the detective and rookie harassing a man in a fedora on the other side of the crowd.
“I gotta problem, Ben,” Vince told him. His eyes were darting about in paranoia.
“Have you tried going to the police?” Benjamin asked as they walked further from the crime scene.
“You are the police.” Vince replied.
“Not the right kind of police,” Benjamin said.
“I need someone I can trust.” Vince said. “I need someone that isn’t going to throw me under the monorail at first chance, or sell me to the highest bidder.”
“Can you give me an hour?” Benjamin asked. “I know that sounds harsh, but this evidence locks up if I don’t perform searches on it within the hour. It’s law.”
“That’s good,” Vince said, “I don’t wanna talk here anyway. Too open. Meet me at the Munger Moss Motel, you know it?”
“Yeah, I know it.” Benjamin cringed at the thought of it.
“I’m in room 12.” Vince said and walked away without another word.
Benjamin rode an elevator to a sleazy diner. He found a corner booth and sipped on water while he ran the crime scene prints. The female victim was a bounty hunter, Kat Folland, and listed as online. That meant she was on a job and had not reported in. Her employer didn’t know she was dead on the job yet. The male victim was her bounty, Rancor Wilkes, and complete trash. Nobody was missing Rancor Wilkes. The real mystery was the smeared palm print on Ms. Folland’s shoulder, as it likely belonged to the killer. He either didn’t have enough to work with to find a match, or, in some rare cases, there are Off-Worlders who aren’t in the databases. Rancor was an Off-Worlder, but he had committed crimes on Earth in the past and was all over the databases. The lady who got away was out of his reach. He had nothing to go on. There was no way he could gain access back to the crime scene to hopefully gather more evidence, and even if he could, they’d likely contaminated and cleaned it up.
He sat back in the booth and rested the tablet on the table. Another dead end. District 37 was full of dead ends. He couldn’t stand it. He was about to get a refill on his water, but then remembered Vince. He checked the clock and he was late. He grabbed the tablet and got on the nearest monorail. It took him further into District 37, where a thunderstorm had picked up and was trickling down through the Blocks.
He took an elevator down to Level 1. He stepped off and saw the Munger Moss Motel. It was glowing in neon pink light with a vacancy light in blue. He slipped and caught himself when his feet touched the wet ground. He hadn’t felt earth under his feet in a few months, maybe a year, he couldn’t even remember how long it had been. He slowly walked through the mud, across the monorail tracks, and into the Munger Moss Motel.
He wiped his feet on the rug and shook the rain from his fedora and put it back on. The manager behind the counter spoke out to him, and he just shook his head at him and headed down the single hallway. There were doors to rooms on either side of the hallway. The ceiling was lined with neon pink lights and the doors were white so that they reflected pink. He found room 12 and reached to knock, but then noticed the doorknob was broken off and laying on the floor. Next to the knob was a Do Not Disturb sign. He pulled his pistol from its holster and gripped it within both of his hands. He pushed the door open with his shoulder and found a room in shambles.
He moved around the room, gun drawn, and cleared the little room and bathroom. Not even a bathtub or shower. Just a toilet. He looked over the mess. The bed was well slept in. There was an open suitcase on the table, a makeshift dresser. Clothes were strung about it and inside. But there were signs of a struggle too. A lamp broken on the floor. Broken glass from the TV which had been struck with something blunt, likely a bat or crowbar. And then he noticed a face print in blood on the sheets. They had thrown Vince face down on the bed, his face cut up or bludgeoned from the violence. They likely overpowered him and tied and gagged him before moving him. On the floor below the bloody face he saw a shoe, likely one Vince was wearing. Near the foot of the table was a cigarette butt smashed into the carpet. He touched it, it was still fresh. He’d just missed them.
That’s when he saw the little matchbook with a half moon and the words Bogart’s Opera. He picked it up and looked inside, no matches, but the number 12 was scribbled on the inside flap. Whoever came for Vince took their orders from Bogart’s Opera. Likely from Mr. Bogart himself. Benjamin began to question the wisdom in barging into Bogart’s Opera. It was a hotbed of murderers, rapists, and mobsters. The owner, Vinny Bogart, was a notorious and ruthless mob lord that ruled most of Level 1 in District 37—not an easy task. Whatever mess Vince had gotten himself into, it was not going to be easy getting him out of it.
He wanted to call it off and just toss Vince up for dead. But then he remembered what Vince had done for him back at the academy. He owed him. It was time to pay back the gesture.
Benjamin entered Bogart’s Opera and was met with strobing pink, blue, purple and yellow lights. Loud thumping music created vibrations in the dance floor beneath him. He could feel the beat of the song under his feet as he walked to the bar. On a stage was a group of musicians, rappers, and backup singers. The rappers were alien Off-Worlders and their language was unfamiliar to him. But no one seemed to mind on the dance floor, the music did the talking. He stepped up to the bar and waved the bartender over to him. He had to yell over the music to speak to him.
“I need to speak with Vinny Bogart.” He said to the bartender.
The bartender looked him over as he wiped a glass with a towel. “The boss doesn’t talk to strangers.”
Benjamin pulled out his tablet, used the fingerprint scanner to unlock it and tapped a little badge icon. It pulled up his identification badge and credentials. He showed it to the bartender. “I just need to talk.”
The bartender chuckled. “The boss doesn’t talk to cops who aren’t on his payroll. Scram.”
“You tell your boss that I know he has Vince Cartwright in his custody,” Benjamin said, “And I would like to arrange his release.”
The bartender looked him over again. “You’re really dumb, ain’t ya?”
“Yeah.” Benjamin said. “Just do it.”
The bartender waved a security guard over and whispered into his ear. The security guard looked Benjamin over. He nodded to the bartender and waved Benjamin behind the bar. They went through a door into the kitchen. Once the door closed, the security guard grabbed Benjamin and tossed him against a freezer door.
“You not so bright,” the security guard said in broken English. “Into freezer.” Benjamin stepped into the freezer and took a quick look around. On top of an open box there was a razor someone had used to open it. The security guard closed the door behind them. “We dance now.”
Benjamin spun around and took one quick slice across the guard’s neck and it was enough. He felt the resistance of the flesh against the razor. The guard fell to the floor, grabbing at his neck. In a matter of seconds the guard had passed out.
He walked back into the kitchen, he headed further into the back where he saw a long hallway. He grabbed a young cook by her arm, she nearly dropped a bowl of salad on the floor.
“They brought a man in here, against his will,” Benjamin started, “Where did they take him?”
“They bring a lot of people in here,” the cook said, “I don’t pay attention.”
“This one had a bloody face,” Benjamin said.
“I saw him.” She said.
“Take me to him.”
He followed the cook down the hallway passed a lot of doors of varying shapes and sizes, he couldn’t help but wonder what was going on behind all of them. But he had to stay focused, there was one task at hand. They’d be lucky to get out alive. She took him to a large, metal door. She pointed to it.
“He’s here?” He asked.
“OK, thanks,” he said, “You may go.”
She ran off back down the hallway.
He was still holding the razor, but he didn’t know what he’d be up against behind the door. His gun only held eight rounds, so he’d need to conserve just in case. He grabbed the cold handle and threw open the door. There was a group of men standing around a bloodied Vince, who was chained down to a chair. He was missing a shoe.
“What is this?” One of the men asked.
Benjamin lunged and sliced his neck without an answer, the other men charged. The man fell over onto the ground, choking on his own blood. The other two men tackled him and he lost his grip on the razor. He lost sight of it as it flew across the room. He tried to keep his balance, and not fall to the floor. He pushed one off of him and wrestled with the other one. The guy was thicker than he was in the middle, but it was mostly fat that he had little control over. The man kept throwing punches into Benjamin’s side, as he continued to push against him while bent over. Benjamin thrust a hard elbow into his back, the man lost his embrace and stood up. Benjamin quickly gave the man a few quick hits to his torso, to slow him down. The man was breathing hard and heavy. The other man came running from across the room, Benjamin drew his pistol and got two shots off at him. The first one caught his left shoulder, the second hit his chest. The man fell over dead. He took aim on the man breathing heavy and gave him one to the head. He collapsed, limp.
Benjamin knew there was a slight chance that the music would drown out his gunshots, or that the club was used to the sounds of gunshots. If not, they’d be going up against the Bogart brigade.
He approached Vince and checked his wounds. “You look a little out of sorts.”
“Thanks,” Vince said. “I didn’t expect—”
“I owe you, remember.” Benjamin interrupted.
Vince simply nodded in understanding. They both knew it was true.
Benjamin took the chains from him and laid them on the ground, he took a towel from a nearby table and wiped some of the blood from his face. “Can you stand and move around?”
“Yeah.” Vince said.
“Can you run, if need be?”
“I can gimp along with the best of them, probably.” Vince said.
“When we get out of here, you owe me a backstory.” Benjamin said as he picked Vince up from the chair. “Let’s go.”
Back on the dance floor, the bass was thumping hard and Vince lost his balance. Benjamin caught him with his shoulder and propped him back up. There were a lot more guards than when he had first come through. And they were all looking for something, or someone. He took quick stock of the situation—his gun had eight rounds, but he’d used three already, so he was down to five bullets. The guards were all carrying pistols or semi-automatics. Whatever was going to happen had to happen fast.
“There they are!” The bartender yelled, as he pointed them out.
Benjamin shoved Vince to the floor behind the bar, and took two shots into a nearby guard. His semi-automatic hit the floor, and landed near him. It was pure chance. He tossed his gun to Vince, who caught it. He slid across the floor to the semi-automatic and picked it up. He cocked it and took out two more guards. One behind a table, another directly above him in a balcony. He got up to his feet and went back to the bar for cover.
Bullets were now flying everywhere. Patrons of the bar were stampeding themselves on the way out of the bar. Screaming, chaos, and a lot of moving people gave them a moment. But the guards kept shooting. Customers were expendable.
Bottles of various concoctions were exploding above them and raining down on their feet. Benjamin looked over to Vince and saw the bartender was crouched behind the bar with them for protection.
“Give me that.” Benjamin took his gun back and promptly shot the bartender. “Sorry,” he said as he dropped the gun in Vince’s lap. “You only have three rounds left.”
“Well, thanks,” Vince said, “You just couldn’t let that go, huh?”
“He mad me mad.” Benjamin said. “More than once.”
“That makes it alright, then.”
Benjamin peeked around the corner of the bar and saw the guards were closing in on them. In a balcony above, there were at least three shooters. They were pinned down. He turned back to Vince. “I’m gonna go to the other end and try to draw their fire. You make for the door.”
“And leave you?” Vince said.
“I remember your combat skills from the academy.” Benjamin scoffed. “I’ll take my chances. Besides, it might split them up, some might chase you out. Be sure to watch your back.”
“Where shall I go?”
“As far from 37 as you can get, Vince.” Benjamin said. “But find me after its blown over, you owe me an explanation for this.”
Benjamin moved to the other end of the bar and positioned himself at the edge. He made eye contact with a guard, but picked him off first. He looked around the bar and saw some had started to turn his way. He popped out just far enough to take a few shots at one of them and fell back into cover as wood from the bar was spraying his face from the bullets hitting it. He looked over at Vince who was grasping the gun between his hands with a rosary and praying.
“I’m gonna give you cover on this next one,” Benjamin said. “Get ready to run.”
“Right.” Vince said. He was panicking.
“Hey, just take a few deep breaths and get ready to run.” Benjamin said.
Vince started taking slow and steady breaths. “Alright.” He turned and got ready to run from his spot behind the bar.
“On three,” Benjamin said. He turned around and checked to see who he would be targeting next. He would take a few shots across them all, to provide cover. Most of the guards on the floor had changed direction to him and were coming his way. That was going to help Vince. “One, two—”
The thunderous sound of a shotgun rang in his ears and its buckshot knocked him out of his cover. He fell on his back, guards rushed him. A rifle shot from the balcony caught him in the right shoulder before he could crawl back into cover. He saw Vince was wrestling to get a sawed-off shotgun away from the bartender. He finally snatched it away and turned it on the bartender. Vince scrambled over to Benjamin.
“You OK, Ben?”
“Do I look OK?” Benjamin said.
“Same plan,” Benjamin said. “On two this time, though, I’m not sure I trust three anymore.”
Vince tried to argue with Benjamin, but he wasn’t having any of it. The bartender had managed to spray his left side and chest with the shotgun blast. Benjamin knew he wasn’t going to make it without medical aide immediately, which wasn’t going to happen in District 37—especially not in Bogart’s Opera. He made Vince prop him against the bar so he could just roll out from it to provide cover. Vince turned to head back to the other end of the bar, but Benjamin grabbed ahold of him.
“Hey,” Benjamin said and Vince turned back to him. “We’re even.”
Vince nodded in agreement.