Monday, 26 April 2010

The Wrong Old Man by Christopher Grant

We're thrilled to welcome back respected American crime writer 'n' owner of top webzine, A Twist Of Noir, Christopher, with this crackin' slice of noir...

The Wrong Old Man

Leonard Wright and his friends had been causing me migraine headaches due to their antics. I’d told them to move on the down the road no less than a dozen times, to take their business away from my bar.

They’d park in the lot around the side of the building and open their trunk, selling their wares in plain view of anyone passing by, including the authorities. Their business was drugs and guns, both of which had raised the profile of Cheshire’s, my bar, with the cops.

Every Monday for the past month, search warrant in hand, detectives and their minions came into the bar and swept the premises, causing me to shut down, losing cash and customers in the process, and comply until they were satisfied that I had none of Leonard’s paraphernalia in my bar. As if I was an accomplice of those assholes.

“We know all about you, Deuce,” one of the dicks said to me during the second visit.

“What you know?” I asked him.

He just smiled, like he was the only one in on the joke, grabbed a handful of beer nuts and walked off.

A couple of days ago, Leonard, sure as shit, rolled into the lot and popped the trunk. He had his fucking hat turned sideways, his pants hanging down almost to his ankles, as per usual. And, as per usual, he was backed up by a couple of his deadbeat friends, who were already flagging down cars, asking if they were ‘up’ or if they needed some firepower.

I grabbed my baseball bat and pushed through the front door.

“I thought I told you motherfuckers to step the fuck off my property,” I said, my right hand white-knuckling the bat’s handle.

“Shit, old man,” Leonard said, smirking, “you gonna have a heart attack, yo. Calm the fuck down.” He reached into his pants pocket, pulled out a gangsta roll and peeled off five crisp one hundred dollar bills. He leaned forward and tried to stuff them into my shirt pocket.

I slapped his hand away, causing the bills to flutter out of his grip and catch the wind. They floated down the street and Leonard had to be quick to keep them from leaving his possession.

“Motherfucker!” he screamed as he gave chase. His boys snickered. I doubt they would have laughed if Leonard had been looking at them.

After he’d gathered the money and stuffed it back in his pocket, he pulled his nine from his waistband and swung at me, cold-cocking me, splitting my lip and loosening a couple teeth. I hit the pavement like a brick, cracked my head on the sidewalk. I saw stars.

“You gonna fuckin’ tell me what to do now, motherfucker?” He pointed the nine at my head and cocked the hammer. If he had wanted to, he could have blown holes in me and probably walked away without anyone making a fuss.

I felt like pissing my pants, felt like getting back to my feet and busting his head open, felt rage and shame reddening my face and the bat still tight in my right hand all in the span of ten seconds.

I shook my head from side to side and Leonard released the hammer, put his gun back on safety and stuffed it back into his waistband.

“Donnell, Marcus, help this gentleman back to his feet,” he said and then walked into Cheshire’s.


I indulged them for a couple of hours, allowed them to order whatever the fuck they wanted on the house. They took advantage of my disadvantage, ordered burgers and fries and beer and more beer and still more beer.

After the sun had sunk below the horizon, they got off their stools and swayed toward the door. Leonard let loose a mighty belch and cackled with his court jesters.

I gave them the evil eye until they left my sight.


When the cops found him, his face looked like ground hamburger.

It better have.

Six shots through the driver’s side window, one to shatter the glass, the other five to smash the shit out of his face. If it hadn’t been for the driver’s license in his pocket, he never would have been ID’d.

If he’d just bothered to find out a little bit more about me and my history, Leonard Wright might have found himself a different corner. He might have set up shop a couple blocks south, down where I used to sell the same shit that he used to.

Sometimes you fuck with the wrong old man.

Christopher Grant is a crime writer, with stories in NEEDLE Magazine and at Thrillers, Killers ’N Chillers, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Powder Burn Flash, Not From Here Are You? and at A Twist Of Noir. He’s the editor and publisher at A Twist Of Noir.


  1. Like I said, Chris: great to have you back n absolutely loved this piece. Automatic reader sympathy won, smoothly established bad guys n a satisfying ending - top stuff, mate.

  2. whoaa, remind me not to mess with you old man. tough, hard boiled and just a bit southern for a yankee...

  3. Thank you both, Col and Michael.

    Considering how this story was originally conceived, I'm extremely happy with the way it turned out.

    I didn't struggle too much with it, though; the original draft written only a couple hours prior to the final. And the reason is because the ending was in place before the rest of it and, as you both know, when that happens, it's just a matter of following the road signs to the destination.

  4. Excellent as ever, Chris. I love these little redemptive tales.

  5. Thank you, Matt.

    Not sure if I'd say it was redemptive, though Deuce is cleaning up the neighborhood in his own way.

  6. You're right, Chris. Redemptive isn't the best word, and revenge probably fits better. However, I was thinking that Leonard certainly paid back all the free burgers and beers with his blood LOL

  7. That's definitely redemptive then. :)

  8. Now that was good. About 750 words, not a single of them wasted. Built up all characters well enough for audience reaction with minimal fuss. Difficult type of work, expertly done. Well done sir!