On Monday July 8 at 7:45 am, Cardley Baxter headed south on I-75 with a Remington shotgun tucked behind the seat of his Chevy pickup just to see how much hell he could bring to the world. He didn’t bother turning on the radio. The world was fill with enough noise.

Cardley was 52, single, bald, and his shoulder hurt. The arm brace that quack doctor told him to wear wasn’t worth a shit, and every time he turned the wheel, a hot pain ignited in his shoulder blade. He promised himself he’d pay a visit to the doctor later that day if he was able.

Normally, it would take a good 20 minutes to reach the factory, but that morning he’d be there in less than ten. He took exit 210, made a right, passed Bob Evans, Wendy’s, Platinum Showgirls Strip Club, and came to a red light on the corner of Alexis and Lewis. A Toyota pulled up next to him. Noise that a complete dumbass might refer to as “music” rolled out of it like idiot thunder. It was nothing but droning bass. The car shook. The hubcaps vibrated. Cardley started to roll down his window to yell at the driver to turn that crap off, but the light turned green and the Toyota sped through the intersection with the explosive sound of glasspacks coming from its tailpipe as if it were farting exclamation marks in its wake.

He continued west. Less than a minute later, the GM plant sat like a monolith off to his left. He pulled into the parking lot and went to the spaces closest to the building. That’s where Schaefer’s Cadillac would be. The son of a bitch always drove a new Cadillac every two years. And there it was sitting in front of the sign that read PLANT MANAGER ONLY. Beside it was the space reserved for the EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH. He pulled in there.

He checked his Timex. Five minutes to eight. He wouldn’t have to wait long. Schaefer left around eight o’ clock every day to go to the coffee shop at the corner to shove a donut into his fat ass for his “mid-morning break” as he called it, because sitting around and doing nothing took a toll on the old man apparently.

Cardley thought back to the day the cocksucker came around to his office, eyes down, thin lips in a frown. Cardley knew what his boss was going to say before it came out into the open. “I’m sorry, Card. GM’s cutting most of the folks in mid-management and there’s really nothing I can do.”

Nothing? After Cardley gave 29 years of his life to the place, there was nothing Schaefer could do? Schaefer worked in logistics long before he became plant manager and could figure out how to ship transmission parts all the way from Germany to Toledo, Ohio, but there was not one goddamn thing he could do to help save Cardley’s job? Not trim his own salary? Not fire that useless twit Todd Besser from the assistant plant manager position?

Lying sack of shit. The old man probably suggested to corporate that they give Cardley the axe. It was Cardley’s job as the plant’s accountant to keep the old man in check and remind him that money couldn’t just be conjured out of nowhere whenever he wanted to spring for a new desk or hire a new secretary or take a business trip for whatever damn reason and charge it to the company. Of course, Schaefer didn’t like to be told no. He hated hearing about how budgets needed to be streamlined and kept within strict parameters. But when it came time to fire Cardley…? Hell, it was a wonder that halfwit didn’t tap dance his way in the office and tell Cardley, in song, he was canned.

29 years. 29 years he worked there.

It was almost like the old man knew that Cardley being a numbers guy would be driven insane if they gave him 29 odd instead of 30 even.

Was it crazy to assume that?

No, he decided, it wasn’t.

He looked at his watch. It was three to eigh—


“Jesus!” He damn near shit his soul into the seat of his pants.

Jerry Martin was outside his driver’ side window. “Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you.”

Cardely inspected Jerry’s plain, forgettable face. Everything about him was gray and uninteresting. Average height, average weight. If his existence were a report card, it would be straight C’s.

“I’m fine,” Cardley said.

“Sorry I missed your retirement party last week,” he droned on. “I was sick Friday.”

Jerry, an employee of the tool and die department, was “sick” most Fridays. Never had a doctor’s note from what Fran in human resources told Cardley from time to time. Never showed any signs of illness on Thursday. Seemed fine and healthy on Monday. Strange how he always ended up sick right on a Friday, wasn’t it?

“I heard the cake was good,” he said.

“Yeah,” Cardley said, looking past Jerry’s stupid face to the Cadillac.

“What kind was it?”


“Ah… What are you doing here? Did you hear about Mr. Schaefer?”


“I said did you hear about Mr. Sch—”

“Yeah, yeah, what about him?”

“Had a heart attack when he got in this morning.”


“He came in, sat down, and fell right out of his chair.”

A fog of nausea rolled into his stomach.

“Secretary found him, I guess. Ambulance came and got him. He’s over at St. Vincent’s. A couple of us are going over if you want to meet us there. Todd’s there already. Hey, did Frank tell you about Mr. Schafer?”

He had no idea who the hell Frank was, but said, “Yeah,” anyway just to bring an end to the conversation.

“Thought so,” Jerry said. “That’s who told me. Well, I’m heading over. You might want to head down Alexis over to Stickney and take that down. It’ll be the fastest way.”


Jerry walked over to his Chevette, got in, and drove away.

Cardley sat there for a small eternity and decided that he’d have to alter his plan.

He left and went south on Stickney like the idiot told him to. 15 minutes and a few elevated blood pressure points later, he arrived at St. Vincent’s. He went into the emergency room entrance and asked if Marcus Schaefer had been admitted there. The dark-haired woman who could barely speak a word of English said something to him that couldn’t make out. It sounded like she tried to say the Pledge of Allegiance through a compaction of mashed potatoes in her mouth.

A tall blond man in a burgundy polo shirt and a hospital ID badge that hung off one of his well-defined pecs came sauntering toward him. Cardley asked, “Sir, could you tell me if Marcus Schaefer was admitted here?”

“Sorry, bro, I’m with valet parking.” The blond hair continued past him.

Words tried to come through the mashed potatoes once more.

“What are you saying to me?” Cardley demanded.

“Ms’ta Schayffa in sur’gry! Have t’wait!” She thrust a finger over his shoulder toward the waiting room down the hall. Cardley headed there. Inside was Jerry and four of the last people Cardley ever wanted to see again.

Janet, Edward, Kelsey, and Doug. His former coworkers. They sat there and talked.

“I heard as soon as he—”

“—fell right on the—”

“I don’t know if anyone called his wife or—”

“—or maybe Todd did, I don’t—”

Mother of Christ. Why them? Why here? He slowly pulled his head back from the entrance of the waiting room.




“How are you, Cardley?” she asked. The woman had the features of a librarian, if a shaved weasel could be a librarian. An invisible string seemed to pull his leg into the room and his body followed.

“Did you take Stickney down here like I said?” Jerry asked.

He nodded.

“How’d you hear about Marcus?” Edward asked through those always-dry-and-cracked lips of his.

Before he could answer, Jerry said, “Frank called him.”

His ex-coworkers nodded and said, “Ah.”

“Has anyone talked to a doctor?” he asked. “Do you know how long he’s supposed to be in surgery?”

“Todd did, I think,” Janet said.

“Where’s he?”

“He left just before you got here,” Jerry said. “He told us they took Marcus into surgery and said he was heading back to the plant. I guess he figured there wasn’t much anyone could do, you know, since we can’t even see Marcus for a couple of hours.”

“Did anyone call his wife?” Kelsey, the youngest of the group asked.

“I think she’s in Boca this week,” Janet said.

“I think you’re right,” Edward said.

“Not that she could see him anyway,” Jerry said. “She’d be stuck out here with the rest of us. Since we can’t see him for a few hours, like I said.”

And the words came out of Cardley before he knew he was going to say them. “Then what are you guys doing here? Why aren’t you back at work?”

Everyone looked at him. After a moment, Janet said, “We were getting ready to leave and then Jerry showed up. We’ll get back to work soon enough.”

“Yeah,” Doug said, returning to the copy of Maxim in his hands, “it’s not like we’re on a vacation. Or retired.”

Goddamned Doug. Always had a smartassed comment, always had something to say. He was too smarmy for his own good and too fat for his own pants.

“I was simply asking,” Cardley said. “I wasn’t…” As he stood there, with them, these people, these goddamn people, the invisible string snapped. “Pardon me. I’ll be back in a second.”

No one acknowledge him, per usual.

Back down the hall, the dark-skinned woman spoke through the mashed potatoes at him. He didn’t know what was blurted at him. Probably nothing good. Or intelligent.

He walked out to his truck and opened the driver’s side door. He reached behind his seat and grabbed the shotgun.

New plan. He would demand the little mashed potato woman take him to where Schaefer was, kill Schafer, kill the woman, go back to the waiting room, kill his former coworkers, then Jerry (especially Jerry), drive back to the plant, hunt down Todd, kill him, and then, if the cops weren’t called by that time, stop by Chik-fil-A, grab a couple of sandwiches, have lunch by the river, and if he wasn’t dead or in jail by that afternoon, stop by that stupid-ass doctor’s office and send that human shit-stain to hell with the rest of them. Not a perfect plan, but it would do.

He racked the…


Empty shotgun.


He forgot to bring shells.

He forgot to bring shells!

He stood there. The sun beat down on him like his ex. A bird tweeted from a branch somewhere.

He put the shotgun back inside the truck and closed the door.

Cardley started to walk. To where, he didn’t know. One foot went in front of the other in succession and he didn’t give one ripe shit where they were headed. Maybe back into the hospital, maybe somewhere else. He had no clue. He was just a stowaway passenger within himself.

Until the sideview mirror of a green Jaguar speeding past struck him on the arm and sent him off-balance. He toppled over, hit his elbow on the pavement and felt it (and heard it) snap out of joint. A lava flow of pain flooded into his arm. A woman’s yelp tore through the air. “Oh my God!” She ran over to him. “Are you okay? Oh, my God, I saw that maniac hit you!” Cardley looked up through the tears that gathered in his at her red hair, green mascara, and bee-stung lips. “I’ll go and get someone! You wait here! Don’t you move!” She sprinted toward the hospital.

Three hours, one cast, and a shitload of pain meds later, he walked back to his truck. It was the first time in years that his shoulder didn’t hurt. The first time in years he actually felt… Well, good.

He drove back to the GM parking lot. Schafer’s Cadillac was gone. He didn’t have a chance to wonder who came and got the Caddy, because his eyes were already fixed upon the green Jaguar sitting in the space beside it, in front of the sign that read ASSISTANT PLANT MANAGER ONLY.

He zeroed in on the customized license plate. LUCK-E-ME.


Jerry. Outside his window. Again. He was too hopped up on medication to be scared, too irritated to give a shit.

“Hello,” Cardley said.

“See Todd’s new car?”


“He bought it over the weekend. That’s what Frank told me anyway.”


“Suppose you heard about Marcus.”

He didn’t, of course, but… “Yep.”

“I guess there wasn’t much the doctors could do.”


“To go like that. At work of all places. Can you imagine?”

He told him the truth. “Yeah.”

“Now, fishing on the river, that’s how I’d want to go.”

Cardley said nothing.

“Frank said the funeral’s Thursday.”

He nodded.

“I’ll talk to you later,” Jerry said. “Maybe I’ll see you at the funeral.”


The Chevette was out of the parking lot and in less than a minute.

Cardley looked at his watch. It was closing in on noon. He considered waiting for Todd, but it looked like rain. He didn’t notice the clouds until that very moment.

He left the lot and headed home.

Maybe he would see Jerry at the funeral. Todd too, if he were lucky.

But deep down, he knew he wasn’t.