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Cinders of Life

By KE Toppin All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Action

Chapter 1

The fire is dying. Poe drifts off. The drawers of her nightstand stack high next to the patio chair. He takes another swig of beer. Edged further into the chair he leans back fetching her panties, tossing them into the flames, rekindling the fires. She ain’t coming back here. Why would she? I ain’t the same man she married.


The last fight they had was a bad one. He almost killed her. The punch was meant to silence her bickering. She had good reflexes, though. He barely grazed her but knocked out her front tooth instead. He tosses her bras next emptying the drawers.

He should have remained. Afghanistan was home to him more importantly the stain of the kills -- in his blood. He had discovered he’s good at it -- designed for it. The army gave him purpose – to serve and protect. Marriage did not.  He could never trust women.  His mother's fault -- a crack head dead by the time he was fifteen from an overdose.

All his boys could talk about was getting home to their wives, fiancées and girlfriends. The homecoming fuck, unmemorable and he hadn’t seen his wife in three years.
He took another swig drifting off again before the towering flames. Its warmth lulls him. The proximity to the heat took him back to the desert. Hot and sweaty, he smells its earthiness and the arid air. We will all be homeward bound at some point in our lives. He thinks. His eyelids grows heavy.

Private Poe McKenny desperately needed to get there. Suicide not part of his religious rearing, he had to find another way home. He opens his eyes. Kicks over the stone log burning pit freeing its cinders -- frolicking through the air. Freedom from the intermittent headaches; from the panic attacks. Poe yearns to dance like the cinders before him – free from recurring memories. He pulls his knife examines its blade. On his feet, he returns with the flat screen TV placing it on the patio table. He watches the news. It’s the only shows he can stomach. He's frantic searching the channels. He must find the report for the day. His left leg fidgets; his fingers drums the glass; the remote pushes surf channels – his sanity depends on finding it now.

“Ah!” He sighs. He watches intently without a blink – drinking in the telecast. He doesn't hear the reporter's commentary only the victim’s screams on the live stream.

“Get the fuck off me!” Help …help! He’s trying to kill me!” The woman yells.  A whore is being dragged along the sidewalk. She escapes her assailant leaving behind a track of hair between his bloody fingers and one hot-pink stiletto. Running pass the streetlight, which houses the video capturing all. She's halfway down the slick roadway. The drizzle constant accompanied by her screams silenced by screeching wheels. A car slams her then careens over her lateral frame -- gone.


Whores and coke, he thought. He chimes it, repeatedly. He’s coming down a chime at a time. He’s hears the reporter now.
 
“Chauncey and Millborough streets. A streetwalker ran over by an alleged trick. It is the norm for this area. The police have not been able to solve any of the crimes in this vicinity.” The rest of the reporting fell on deaf ears because he’s on his feet. Poe grabs his coat.

It’s where he needs to be. It is where he belongs. There he will be able to satisfy his demons. He stands at the intersection of Chauncey and Millborough but he wasn’t exhilarated. He’s stuck. A wave of danger surges through him. The gun shots, screams, crying, explosions fills his consciousness.

I’m in the States now!
I’m in the Bronx!


However the panic still mounts. He looks around. it’s too early – a few more hours before midnight he thought. He feels his right side. The satchel is secure and loaded.

“Hey you! I saw you on the news earlier. You know who ran her?” He addresses a streetwalker. “What if I told you, I could keep you safe, hum! What'd you say?"

I am desperate for a renewed purpose -- another war
. Poe realizes. She keeps on her way. Poe follows.

“Got a pimp?”

“No, we are all freelancers and we don’t want one.”

“Did I say I wanted to be your Pimp. Nah! Just be your protector. Watch over you. Where you headed?”

“To the store too early to start business. It’s pretty busy here on this strip. You got help ‘cause you can’t protect us all.”

“Nah! Don’t need to. How many?”

“There’s ten of us… make that nine. We lost a girl last night but you know this already, right!”

He waits outside the mini-mart. The headache building -- his patience fleeting.  He pulls hard off the cigarette; exhaling the smoke-filled tensions.

“So you want to come over right … to my place?”

“Yeah! We can figure on a signal or something  … let me know when in trouble. You know … you can pass it along to the others.”

“Sure! I don’t understand why you want to do this … I mean … for nothing. It ain’t the American way.”

“It’s what I need to do. Nobody never do anything for you without wanting something in return?”

“Okay then … it’s your ass on the wire. We’re here … this is it … 2nd floor.” She turns the key in the door pauses and says.

“Thank you for your service.”

“Um!”

Later, Poe hides in the alleyway. It smells of piss and garbage. He leans against one of two large dumpster. The headache worsening now. His mind jumps. He no longer stands in an alleyway but is running towards the explosion. His unit are picking up pieces by pieces. Six Americans body bagged and tagged.

His sergeant commands. "We stay on patrol, come on."  Poe obeys and follows headed towards the rear of the building -- on their mission to seek out the bombers.

"Hang on a minute. Let me think about what I just did here. I just put six American guys in damn body bags. Nobody's prepared for that." Poe says turning just in time to see a black Mercedes Benz speeding away -- no headlights on. He could do nothing. He was afoot.



“Hey Poe … got a customer.” The hooker says as she walks pass him to the second dumpster.

“Head?” The trick asks.

“Fifty.”

“Make it hard then.” His pants drop.

The banging against the dumpster transports Poe to reality. He is disoriented. It takes him a few secs. Sluggishly, he turns. The screams snaps him out. It pauses as he draws his knife.  He's too slow. The trick steps forward. All goes silent when Poe meets the ground. The aftermath of a punch to the face. He feels his flesh ripping apart and the warm wetness against his skin. Breathing difficult, he reaches up and grabs the trick's hand in a struggle. His other goes for his blade; empty. Repetitious jabs to his body sends him homeward bound.

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