Peak Experience by Jack Cameron

     “Sean, we’ve all seen the videos. That incredible photo. We know the story of what happened. What we don’t know is what it was like for you. What was it like ending that rampage?”
     “Let me tell you, Megan, it was a peak experience. Do you know what that means?”
     Sean’s about to launch into his whole monologue about “peak experiences” like he has three times in the last week and probably hundreds of times before to freshman bar girls. Sean Harris is America’s hero. He saved my life. Three weeks ago he shot and killed the man who held a gun to my head. The gunman was Brian, a coworker I had known for four years. He was a nice guy until they fired him. Sean’s the security guard.
     When Brian fell after being shot, I fell with him. I rolled off Brian’s dying body and felt strong hands pull me up. It was Sean. He pulled me into his arms. I was crying. He looked me in the eyes. We kissed. Someone took a photo. It was a Hollywood ending to a shooting rampage that left eight dead at the Chambers Community College admissions office.
     My name is Katie Emerson. I’m a 26-year-old guidance counselor. And for the last three weeks I have been doing interviews next to Sean with everyone from CNN to NBC to even Fox News. We’re supposed to be on Ellen next week. I have yet to tell any of them the whole truth. Continue reading →

Boys’ Club by Christian Carvajal

     After everything she’d been through, it was a pleasure to just be alone. It was especially good to drive herself through this maze of DC traffic, her escort trailing discreetly four cars back. She sang along with the radio, an ABBA song to which she barely knew the words, and fantasized about ditching her protectors at a red light. There’d be no point; they’d already encircled the restaurant and swept its most private dining room. It was a mild fall day in Washington, the first Tuesday morning in November, and she relished being out and about as nothing more than a retired grandmother. Awkward reading glasses and a gray, knitted cap were enough to mask her identity at long stoplights, for who’d expect to see her driving a 2012 Toyota Corolla? That’d be like finding her wandering in the woods or something.Continue reading →

Harboring Ghosts by Christina Butcher

     You’ve been gone for one year, one month and eleven days. You don’t send me any letters. No long-winded explanation folded and pressed into an envelope, waiting for me in the mailbox. No email, either, despite the perk of complete emotional detachment our digital world offers. No phone calls. No friends dropping by at odd hours to pick up your clothes or books, all eyes and hands stumbling over each other, avoiding confrontation at all costs. Nothing. You simply vanished.
     So tonight, after one year, one month and eleven days, I burned the barn down.Continue reading →

On Earlham Drive by Katherine Van Eddy

The dogwood tree
still stands in the front yard
where my grandfather
planted it decades ago
after he dug it
from the woods
behind their house
at the top of Vatican Hill.
As a child one summer
when I ran past that tree
a bee stung
the back of my hand.
My mother eased
the sharp pain
with baking soda
pressed into the pinprick
while I sat at the
kitchen table,
staring at the wallpaper
with green grape bunches
and fruit-filled bowls.Continue reading →

Baptism by Fire by James Gilletti

Saturday, August 16th, 1952 — 12:45 a.m.

     The room sweltered like a sauna. My temples ached and my throat was bone dry, but I wasn’t about to walk out of there, not until I got what I needed. After four hours of listening to this punk shuck and jive I’d had enough. I leaned across the table and spoke low.
     “It’s over, Sol. We collared your crew tonight and every one of those bums just rolled over on you. Why don’t just you just come clean?”
     “Come clean with what?” he shot back. “I already told you what happened, heavy. I called the orders in and I showed up at Schoenfeld’s with the truck, right? And I told my guys to load up the sofas.”
     Solomon Offerman was a real piece of work. He was a drifter who’d run just about every scam you could think of since he was a teenager. How this goof wound up in Tacoma I’ll never know. Maybe he thought he’d have better luck flying under the radar if he set up shop outside a big city. He was only twenty-five when I busted him, but he looked like he was pushing fifty. I don’t know if he was originally from Brooklyn or if he just used that damn accent to try and sound like a gangster. Either way, it didn’t matter. Everything about the guy was a ruse, right down to the permanent smirk on his chipmunk face.
     “Then what?” I pressed.Continue reading →