Friday, 10 July 2009

TWO MASKED MEN - by Stephen D. Rogers

Stephen's impressive BIO expands on his TKnC debut...


The clerk's head exploded in a spray of blood and brain. So much for hoping he did actually know how to open the safe.

"He was reaching for a gun!" Joey danced on his toes, pumped, still not realizing the import of what he'd done. "I saw his fucking hand move."

"What didn't you understand? You're supposed to stay back and watch. That's the sum total of your involvement."

"I was just trying to help." Even though I couldn't see his features through the mask, I knew I'd hurt his feelings. Joey had killed a man, screwed up a simple convenience store job, but I'd hurt his feelings.

"Let's go." I started for the exit.

"What? We can't go yet. We didn't get the fucking money!"

I held the door open for him, moths swarming in towards the overhead lights. "When a job goes bad, you cut your losses and run."

Joey pawed through a rack of chips until he found what he wanted. "I'm not leaving empty handed."

"Great." At least he still wore the gloves so he wouldn't leave fingerprints. "Your mother will be so proud."

Joey stopped in front of me. "Listen, old man. Just because you lost your fucking nerve, don't take it out on me."

"I'm not the one who opened fire on an unarmed man."

He blinked. And then left.

I let the door swing closed behind me, close with a "hush" as if in deference to the dead man inside.

Joey was too busy stomping to the car to notice, slamming his door, tossing his gun up onto the dashboard with so much anger that I half expected the weapon to go off.

His lack of self-control was an issue. He wouldn't be able to learn anything until he learned that.

Once in the car, I stared off into the darkness as Joey tried to start the car, cursing as he twisted the key again and again. Nothing.

"Damn piece of shit. Now what?"

"We hoof it." I opened my door. "Head west through those trees until we reach the highway."

"Fuck that." Despite his ambivalence regarding my plan, Joey joined me outside. "I didn't come with you to wander around the woods in the middle of the fucking night. You're supposed to be teaching me the business."

"You just learned something about stealing a getaway vehicle. Make sure it's capable of living up to its name."

Joey laughed. "You blaming me because the woman I jacked didn't give me a copy of her maintenance records? Fuck you. Enjoy your nature walk."

"What's your plan of action, Joey? Wait here for a tow?" I waved at the convenience store. "I picked a target set down in the middle of nowhere but someone is going to come along. They couldn't stay in business otherwise."

The car doors clicked locked.

Joey pounded the roof hard enough to leave a dent. "Fucking keys are inside."

"We don't need them." I took a few steps towards the woods to prove my point.

"But my chips are in there. And the gun."

I turned to face him. "Did you wipe it down before I picked you up like I said?"


"You ever touch it when you weren't wearing gloves?"

"No. I'm not stupid."

"Then the gun is fine where it is." I continued walking. "We were going to dump the piece anyway, now that it's a murder weapon."

"We can't--"


"Hold that thought until we're no longer in the open."

Swearing under his breath for once, Joey followed me into the woods, stepping out of the light as the approaching vehicle slowed and pulled into the parking lot.

I split my attention, wondering which was the most dangerous threat. "So, what were you saying?"

The driver stood next to the car and smoked while the female passenger went into the store.

Joey grinned. "That gun isn't exactly untraceable. Mom gave me your old piece. Said it would be perfect, you taking me on my first job, showing me the ropes. She likes to exaggerate your role in my life."

No fingerprints but a ballistic match, a burglar I'd killed in self-defense, walking with a suspended sentence, the weight of what I'd done hanging over me all these years. I never should have let her keep the gun when I split but the neighbourhood had started to slide and she didn't like being alone, just her and baby Joey.

The woman screamed. Came running out of the convenience store before the driver had a chance to rush in and save her. The two of them pouncing on their cell phones.

"Joey, go now." I pushed him. "You were never here."

"What the fuck are you talking about?"

"Just go. Take off into the woods and disappear." I knew better than to suggest he try not to leave a trail, but then it didn't really matter since the cops would know I had a partner once they viewed the surveillance tapes.

"Are you crazy?" Joey tugged on my arm, yanking me deeper into the woods. "We have to get out of here."

I stood my ground. "You have to get out of here. That gun, it places me at the scene.

"So what?"

"Give me your gloves. There was only a single camera inside. Low end. I'll say I pulled the trigger. Stonewall on the driver."


"Your gloves, now. Lose your mask in the woods. Accept a lift from the first vehicle not topped by flashing lights."

"I don't--"

"Once you reach someplace crowded, ditch your clothes before you grab another ride. How much money are you carrying?"

"Maybe twenty bucks but I got plastic."

"Here's another hundred. Pay cash."

Sirens, closing. "I'm sorry."

I patted Joey on the back. "Don't worry. I won't give you up."

Not again, anyway. I stepped out of the darkness, my hands in the air.

Over five hundred of Stephen's stories and poems have appeared in more than two hundred publications. His website,, includes a list of new and upcoming titles as well as other timely information.


  1. It flowed brilliantly, great piece.

  2. Welcome to TKnC, Stephen.
    Nice story: like the characters, dialogue & setting.

  3. Great to have you here at TKnC, Stephen. Liked this story a lot and will be sure to look up your website for more.

    (my previous comment was deleted after an horrendous typo slipped through - I 'like' stories but rarely 'lick' them!)