His Witness

By: Vanessa Waltz

I walk inside the brightly lit, dingy deli. It’s a bit cold inside, and right away I notice Michelle sitting at a table, looking kind of guilty. Her wan face turns toward me, her hair a bit more yellow in the weak lighting.

“Want a sandwich?”

She has a half-eaten Italian sub on a paper plate, but I shake my head. “Nah. I just wanted to get out of the apartment.” I look around, and it’s pretty deserted. My voice drops to a whisper. “Why did you bring me here? You know I hate these guys.”

Her face falls. “Why do you hate them so much? I know that they kind of have you and your dad in a bind, but they’re not so bad, are they?”

“You have no idea.” I think of the body Tommy disposed of yesterday. If she only knew.

Curious blue eyes widen and a nervous grin hitches on her face. “Oooh, tell me!”

God, I almost want to. Part of me wants to talk about it with someone; the larger, cowardly part wants to keep it to myself. Tommy warned me. He wasn’t coy about it, either. No, I have to keep my trap shut about all of it.

There’s just way too much at stake.

“It’s not the sorta thing you gossip about.”

She grins. “It sounds like just the sort of thing you gossip about.”

I shake my head violently. “No way. I’m not going there.”

Her face crumples in disappointment and then she looks down at her sandwich, apparently embarrassed. “Listen, I wanted to ask for your help. I was wondering if I could go in the back after tonight’s shift and have drinks with the guys.”

I shrug. “Why do you need me?”

“There’s this guy I really like. His name’s Ben—”

“Oh God.” I know where this is going already.

“No, listen. He’s really sweet—”

“Oh yeah,” I snort. “Sweet.”

They’re sweet right up until they confront a thief and stab him to death. Yup.

“He’s hot, and I want him. They never like it when I’m back there by myself, but if you stayed there after work—”

Frustration builds in my chest and I wonder how I ever found this girl smart. I want to scream. “Michelle, why the hell do you want to date these guys? They’re not nice guys. Do you realize what they do for a living? Have you read the news lately?”

Her eyes crinkle with amusement. “Geez, will you relax? I just want to go on a few dates, what’s the big deal?”

I stare at her.


Let her go on a few dates, and she’ll see what they’re really like.

“All right, fine.”

Michelle’s face lights up and she leans over the table, squealing. “Thank you!”

“Can we get out of here now?”

She laughs. “’Course. Where do you want to go?”

Anywhere, as long as it’s not here.

I stand up stiffly as I notice movement in the back. Suddenly the door flies open, bringing a gust of cold air into the café.

Oh no.

My head swims with dizziness as I recognize the man behind the counter. He grinned at me over the body of the man he just killed. Tommy stands behind the counter, his white sleeves rolled up and his arms shining as if he recently washed them. His normally handsome face looks ugly. His eyebrows are knitted; his face wears a grimace, his eyes shrouded. It makes me back against the table I just got up from. He looks as if he’ll kill the first person he sees. Then he notices me standing there, and the look evaporates from his face. It’s so fast that I think I imagined it.

“Melanie?” His eyes widen as he takes in Michelle’s appearance, too. “Melanie and Michelle, what a nice surprise.”

It’s not really that nice.

Michelle beams at him, but my guts feel as though they’re made of steel. Unyielding. Rigid.

I give him a reluctant smile. “Hi.”

“Did you come here to see me?”

What should I say?

My heart jumps when I hear the door to the deli open and close. Michelle disappears behind it, smirking at me behind the glass.


When I turn around, Tommy stands right in front of me, his eyes burning. “What’s the matter, sweetheart? Cat got your tongue?”

Last night seemed like a hazy, absurd dream, but now that I’m confronted with him again, I am sick with fear. The nausea creeps up my throat, combined with the thrill of being so close to him. I’m scared. I’m sick. It’s so confusing to my system.

His eyes harden, his voice dropping low enough so that it’s hard to hear him. “You haven’t been talking to anyone, have you?”

“No,” I say, finally finding my voice. “I’m only here because Michelle wanted a favor. I didn’t know all of you would be here.”

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