Murphy was walking out the door when he glanced casually back over his shoulder to announce, “Calhoun’s dead.” Several jaws fell to the floor around the table he just left. Playing cards hit the scratched and beer-soaked wood where the current hand of Texas Hold ‘Em came to an abrupt halt. The news came as quite a shock.
The men grew up in the same neighborhood and spent most summers causing trouble after being let loose from the confines of the public school. Its futile attempt to educate the bunch had fallen short, and they invoked their own instruction by learning rules of the street. Doing so brought them closer through a unique code of ethics, one with honor among thieves.
Regardless of their rough demeanor, everyone sat in shock at Calhoun’s early demise. Murphy led his posse with great aplomb and mostly kept them out of harm’s way. His nonchalance at revealing their friend’s murder was suspicious to say the least.
Milligan slammed down his fist and demanded to know what happened, while the most tendered-hearted of the bunch, Squalls, struggled to stifle tears of grief that sprang to his eyes. He done his first job with Calhoun, albeit a simple snatch-and-grab of an old lady’s purse on 31st Street. The two had “cut their teeth” as hoodlums and developed an affinity for each other much like brothers.
Squalls thought back to more innocent times when they played stick ball down the block and caught crawfish in a stream at his Grandfather’s farm outside the city during the summer. They learned to use a gun by killing off rattlesnakes out there, his grandparents never suspecting how well that burgeoning skill would serve the budding hooligans in the future.
An aroma of wood smoke came to the man’s senses, and Squalls blinked tears back enough to glance around the room for the source of such a smell. Nothing in the barroom ignited the sensory memory flooding his brain – only a distant recollection of school break spent with Calhoun in that bucolic setting when they were only boys. Not the acquitted felons they now were, their mothers’ greatest failings.
Squalls swiped a stubby finger under both eyes, his gaze cast downward to hide any possible weakness perceived in his grief, and sniffed back a choking sensation welling in his throat. He would let Murphy tell the tale of his friend’s death and then surmise how much of the story he assessed as true.
Looking skeptically around the circle of chairs to grasp any feeling expressed on the subject and coming to no specific conclusion, he stared up at Murphy. The broad-shouldered criminal stood in the doorway, with light from outside casting a halo silhouette around his menacing frame, and exhaled deeply. Murphy’s face remained expressionless, and he calmly stated, “It had to be done, gents. Calhoun was a liability, not an asset.”
*Studio 30+ prompt – SUMMER