Shady Place Preview

Shady Place

The Tracking Board’s 2016 Launch Pad Manuscript Competition


Jim paced their bedroom reeling from what had ended up being his last day of work. They always talked about major life changing decisions. This time they hadn’t talked about it, he just did it. He quit his job. He rubbed his hand over the stubble that had grown on his usually bald head and stopped to stare out of the window. He hadn’t always been bald, but when it started to thin, he just shaved the whole thing off.

“It’ll be fine,” his wife Karen buzzed around him packing a suitcase. “You could have retired two years ago if you wanted.”

She was his everything and her words of support were always there, but he didn’t want to talk about it. He just wanted to move on, so he changed the subject. “I really need to take that old tree house down.”

“I don’t think so mister,” she pulled his face away from the window and pierced his soul with her pale green eyes. “You and the girls built that together, it’s not going anywhere.” She let him go and continued to buzz around the room.

The girls were gone, grown up, off starting families of their own. Jim and Karen were in their mid-fifties now; everything had changed seemingly overnight, but he looked at her and still saw the girl he almost didn’t have the nerve to ask out over thirty years before. Sure there were

lines around her mouth and eyes that hadn’t always been there, but she looked just as fresh and exciting as the day they met.

“Do you remember the time they had that sleep-over and you spent the night with your radio and twelve pack up there?” She asked.

“Yeah, that was a fun night,” he said. Of course he remembered, even just the thought of it brought a smile to his face, “Until I fell out.”

“You were so drunk you didn’t feel a thing,” she laughed, until she realized what he’d done. “Hey, don’t change the subject. We are going on this trip.”

“Should we though?” he pushed her. “Can we still afford it?”

She stopped packing, “We are fine. We’ve already paid for it, we’re going.”

“But...” he started, but she shut him down.

“No buts. We are going and we are going to enjoy ourselves. We’re getting on a plane to Florida tomorrow and that’s that,” she said as she poked him in the chest.

He acquiesced, rubbing the spot she poked, she was little, but she was strong, “Fine, but I’m not going to have fun.”

“Oh Jim,” she sighed, then touched her head, wincing in pain.

“The headaches still?”

“I’ll be fine,” she said.

“You still have the appointment in the morning?” he asked, fumbling around at her dresser.

“Yes,” she said. “But I’m going to postpone it until we get back next week.”

He turned back to her, “Our flight is not until the afternoon, you’re keeping that appointment. I’ll drive you myself.”

“Ok, ok, I’ll go,” she said. She pointed to her dresser, “Hand me that sweater, please.”

“Sweater?” He questioned, “We’re going to Florida.”

“You know I’m always cold,” she said.


He turned back to the dresser and reached for the sweater. While his back was turned she touched her head again, the pain was worse than she wanted him to know. He returned to her holding a bikini top up to his chest.

“This one?” He asked sheepishly, knowing it would definitely look better on her.

She laughed as she threw a pair of socks at him.

Florida agreed with Jim and Karen. They spent a lot of time just wandering the coast. Cruising down A1A in the convertible she insisted on renting. Jim wasn’t a cop here. Karen wasn’t a nurse. They were just Jim and Karen. Two kids without a care.

They wined and dined at beachfront crab-shacks. Suds and sun. Maybe there was a reason so many people retired here. The more they saw, the more they liked.

“You know the girls love it here,” Karen said as she let her hand dangle in the wind whooshing by the car. “And they don’t even live by the beach.”

“Yeah,” he said.

“I can’t remember having this much fun in a long time,” she said, touching his hand as he shifted gears. “What do you say?”

“To what? Did I miss a question?”

She smiled, “What if we moved here? You basically just retired. I could get a nursing job. We could just move here.”

He stopped at a red light. An old man with a walker slowly made his way through the intersection in front of them. Jim pointed to the man, “What is it they say about Florida? God’s waiting room?”

“James Mortimer Phillips!”

He laughed, “Ut oh, all three names.”

Karen was clever. Maybe in another life she could have played the espionage game, but she chose a life with Jim. She had guided him there without him ever sniffing a hint. Quite the fete considering Jim spent the majority of his career as a detective. She made it seem like they were just driving around and stumbled upon it. There was something about it, it just seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Never mind the months of research she had done to find it.


“This looks interesting,” she said pointing to the sign for a neighborhood just ahead.

“Let’s stop in here.”

The sign was pristine: Shady Place: Active Adult Community. 55+.

Jim read aloud, then looked at his wife. At that moment he knew they hadn’t just happened upon this place.


Shady Place, Active Adult Community, 55+.

Luscious landscapes await! Live the lifestyle you were always meant to have! Make your friends jealous! Never shovel snow again!

It went on like this for awhile. Incessant ramblings about how wonderful the neighborhood was.

Heaven on earth. The brochure had become tattered and worn from years of being studied, flipped through, and overly consumed. Fingerprints smudged the edges. It was a reminder of a time that still had hope; a time when the future was still vast and full of promise.

Originally the pamphlet held vibrant colors. The supporting images of people having what appeared to be the times of their lives. Lush landscapes, golf, tennis, pools, dinner, dancing; the list was endless. All this in one happy shiny neighborhood for adults fifty-five and up. The residents were all so happy, playing games, frolicking, enjoying all that life had to offer in the AARP years. All set to the glow of sunny Florida.

They were all actors of course. None of them actually lived in Shady Place, well, maybe a few did. Jim had told himself for years that these happy people were paid to be that way. No

one enjoys these things. He didn’t, so why would they? This is how he justified putting it off all these years. Where was the brochure with the people staying home, not interacting with others, and basically cloistered in their own personal caves?

That’s right, he already had that.

The last time he would see the pamphlet for Shady Place he had clung to for all those years was the day he moved there.

“Dad?” An unanswered plea.

The treehouse sat in the backyard for thirty years. It was rickety and worn, but it had character. Jim had built it for his two daughters, at least one of which he’d hoped to be a boy. On that day they stood at the base of the tree staring up at their childhood getaway teeming with frustration.

“He’s up there, he has to be,” Jenny offered, shaking her head in consternation. She was the younger of Jim’s two daughters. She was in her earlier thirties and bounced a baby on her hip. A blonde like he once was, but with her mother’s pale green eyes. “I swear I saw something move.”

“C’mon daddy, you’re acting like a baby,” Heather shouted. Jim’s other daughter was more serious than Jenny, she was a little older and looked much more like Karen than Jim, but unlike her sister and mother, she had Jim’s dark-blue eyes.

Jenny sighed, “seriously, we know you’re up there!”

“You need to come down and sign the papers,” Heather’s frustration grew.

The first sign of life, “Go away!” Jim was indeed in the treehouse.

Above them in the treehouse, Jim rubbed his fingers gently over a heart carved into the wooden wall. Inside the crude heart were the letters JP + KP with a smaller JP and HP below them. The remnants of happier time for Jim. Clutched in his other hand was the brochure for Shady Place; it was more crumpled and frayed than ever. It didn’t really matter if he had the brochure anymore, he was supposed to leaving for his new home today, but sentimentality had him reconsidering.

Jim’s face had grown tired and the years had seen him add a few more pounds to his frame than he would have liked, more from neglect than anything else. He was in his sixties now, but his eyes seemed so much older. Not his vision though, if you asked Jim, his vision was perfect. He was bald by choice, of course, but it had been so long since he let his hair grow, there’s no telling what it would look like if he ever actually did.

Jenny called out to him from below, “Daddy please! The movers are almost finished, just come down! We have a long drive.”

“You can’t make me,” Jim proclaimed, acting the petulant child.

Below Heather and Jenny were at a loss. Heather decided, “one of us is going to have to go up there.”

“I just had a baby,” Jenny said, holding her young child close. “Mommy can’t be climbing can she?”

Heather rejected her argument. “Give me a break, it’s been six months!” Jenny simply shrugged, causing Heather to furrow her brow and turn her attention back to their father.

“What’s the problem, daddy?”

“You’re making me leave my home, what do you think the problem is?” Jim said.

Jenny said, “It’s time to move on...”

“You don’t even care! This is where you grew up, and your mother and I...” He stopped.

Heather jumped in, it was time to tag team him, “It will always be where we grew up, but you made a promise...”

At Heather’s urging Jenny kept pushing, “This is what you and mom wanted!”

“We were supposed to go together,” he returned softly, almost in tears.

The silence was deafening, until Jenny knew exactly how to end the standoff, “James Mortimer Phillips, you come down from that treehouse this moment. This is not a game. We have to get on the road.”

Heather raised an eyebrow at Jenny, mouthed the word mom? to her. Jenny nodded with a smirk plastered on her face; her baby giggled enjoying the show. Heather was impressed, but would it work?

Jim leaned over the edge slightly, “But...”

Not today, Jenny wasn’t having anymore lip, “No buts! Now!”

He let out a heavy sigh, including just one word in the deep exhalation, “fine.”

He started climbing down, but after just a few steps he climbed back up a step and tried to pry his treasured wooden plank from the wall. He grabbed ahold and pulled, but his footing was precarious at best, sending him tumbling to the ground.

The girls rushed to his side to make sure he was alright, his breath was gone, but he pushed the words out anyway, “Would have hurt a lot less if I was drunk.”

Heather brushed some grass from his head, “I assumed you were.”

Jenny remembered out loud, “Hey isn’t this like the time you were drunk during our sleepover and fell out of the treehouse? Remember that?”

He frowned at her, furrowing his brow. Of course he remembered.

“That was funny,” Heather smirked. “You had more hair then.”

Jim was not amused.

With the strike of a pen, Jim had signed the last of the paperwork to sell the house his kids grew up in. The first place he and his wife Karen ever lived together. The only place they ever lived together. He sat with his Realtor, but he wasn’t ready to relinquish control just yet. His Realtor tried to slide the papers out from under his hand, but Jim resisted, clamping his fist down hard on the last page.

“And that’s the last one,” the Realtor struggled to pull the page away. “If you’ll just...”

He pulled the page away from Jim, garnering a silent, angry glare from the crotchety old man. “Thank you, sir.”

“Screw off,” Jim got up and walked away without an ounce of courtesy, ignoring the extended hand his Realtor offered.

He trudged his way to the threshold before turning back and looking at his empty home. The movers had already grabbed the table and chairs they were sitting at. It wasn’t home anymore, at least not his, now it was just a house.

He closed his eyes, envisioning all the good times his family had over the years. The holidays...the family get-togethers...the girls growing up in to beautiful women. He spent too much time at work, but he never missed the important moments. Most importantly, she was always there, Karen, his rock, the most loving hard working person he ever knew. A smile wrinkled the corners of his mouth.

He opened his eyes and it was over. There was nothing left, only an empty room, a broom and dustpan, and a little pile of dirt that still needed that last little sweep into the pan.

“Come on pop, it’s time to go,” Heather put her hand on his shoulder, startling him.

He lowered his head and walked out.


The neighborhood had changed since they moved in all those years ago. It had changed, but more closely resembled the Philadelphia suburb he’d moved into originally. He was the last remnant of a generation who raised their kids at the same time, but they were all gone. All his contemporaries had moved on and now it was Jim’s turn. Now it was a new generation’s turn.

On the street, his sons-in-law lingered around his car – a 1966 Shelby GT 350-H; it had the rarer white and blue paint job. He’d had it since 1980. It was Jim’s baby, the only thing he’d ever splurged on his life. His father rented one from Hertz when he was a boy and he vowed to own one. He still thought about his father every time he looked at it.

Jim stared at them arguing over who would drive his car first, “Tell me again why the idiots are driving my baby and not me?” The idiots being the term of affection he used for the dynamic duo that were his sons-in-law Kevin and Terry.

“Because we can’t trust you to make it to Florida on your own,” Heather pointed to her SUV where Jenny was placing her baby in a car seat in the back. “It’ll be a chance for you to bond with your loving daughters and new grandson. It’ll be fun.”

Jim gave dirty looks to the boys as Heather led him to the SUV, “you said it right the first time, you just want to keep an eye on me.”

He pointed to both of them sternly, “Not a scratch!”

The boys fake saluted him, then hopped in and fired her up. Jim cringed in disapproval. Heather opened his door, put her hand on his head, and guided him into the back seat like a perp being placed in a police cruiser, “Watch your head.”

“Funny,” Jim said, but the door was closed before he could get the word out. He stewed in the back seat next to his young grandson sucking on a pacifier.

He watched as Jenny and Heather talked to the Realtor, they all shook hands, and parted.

It all seemed simple enough, but what he was sure he saw was the Realtor asking the girls:

What was wrong with their old man?

Is he senile?

Why is he such a dick?

We really fleeced him, didn’t we?

It was all capped off by the Realtor flipping him the bird as the girls walked away. That one was the last straw. Jim tried to open the door quickly, he grabbed the handle and pulled, thrusting his whole body outward so he’d be on full sprint when it opened! But it didn’t open. Pulling the handle did nothing and Jim smacked his face right into the closed window with a thud.

Jim rubbed his forehead, snarling like a caged dog, as the Realtor stared at him with a peculiar look on his face. The girls took their place in the front seats of the SUV, laughing at their father.

“Child locks,” Jenny snickered. “But nice try.”

“You’re holding me captive, this isn’t fair,” he rubbed his head as he spoke. “I know that little shit flipped me off, I saw it!”

Heather spun around from the driver’s seat to reassure him, “First of all, watch your language. Second, that little shit just set the record for highest sale on this street, for you. Show a little gratitude!”

Jim had a tough exterior, but always seemed to back off when a woman raised her voice. So he slouched down into his seat and mumbled to himself.

As they pulled away, he decided to check back for one last look at his house, his sanctuary. What he saw was the Realtor still giving him that peculiar look, he promptly flipped Jim off.

“C’mon you had to see that!”

Jim slid back into his seat and pouted. He looked to his young grandson who returned a laugh and reached for his head, “Et tu baby?”


There are a lot quotes about the value of the journey that leads to the destination. Nonsense. Whoever said those things has never traveled a thousand miles in a car with Jim’s daughters and a baby.

The journey was long, it held no lessons, and was full of uncontrolled bodily functions from a baby that should have slept the whole way. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to go? Babies sleep in the car, right? Wrong. Jim’s grandson barely closed his eyes for a second, and when he did, it was to truly savor relieving himself. It was as if he was enjoying the foul odors emanating from his tiny body. Or at least the affect it had on those around him.

The trip should have taken a day and a half. Three able-bodied adults, taking turns, sixty miles an hour on average, just under seventeen hours drive time, plus stops for food, gas, and an over night. They’d be there by the next afternoon. That’s how it played in Jim’s head.

The reality was drastically different prompting Jim to make three observations:

1. His daughters had nothing interesting to say.

2. His grandson should not be alive based on the amount of vomit and crap that came out of him.

3. Everyone on the eastern seaboard was travelling at the same time as them.

The trip took three days. Three very long days. Three days that felt like three months to Jim as his home grew further and further away in the rear-view. At first he tried to make light of his situation.

Once they had reached the highway he let a rip:

“I can drive if you want,” he said.

“Daddy stop,” Heather said.

He let it go for a second before, “You can pass on the left...never mind too late. After this one. Nope not now either.”

“Let her drive daddy,” Jenny chimed in.

“Are you going to pass these Sunday drivers or what?”

“Daddy!” Heather was getting fed up.

“Fine, fine, just trying to help!” He eased up, temporarily. He tapped his fingers on the back of Jenny’s seat, causing her to fidget uncomfortably. “How much further?”

Heather was close to her tipping-point, “I will leave you on the side of the road.”

“I’m hungry,” Jim grinned almost unperceivably, completely satisfied with himself.

“Wait, are you...” it dawned on Heather. “Is this for all the road trips we took when we were kids?”

He smirked.

“Damn it daddy, you’re a grown man!” Jenny huffed at him.

Jim fiddled with the child-locked door handle, “Could have fooled me.”

“Enough! I don’t want to hear another word,” Heather peered at him in the rear-view mirror. “Silence. Got it?”

He nodded, then sat in silence for a moment. The moment was brief though, “Heather, darling?”

“What? What is it now?” She was ready to leave him at the closest rest stop.

“I have to pee.”

If you held the brochure up to the actual Shady Place, it would have paled in comparison. Shady Place was alive and vibrant. The first thing one saw was the sign at the front gate; an impressive four foot by six-foot stone framed wooden placard of a golfer’s silhouette inside a glorious oak tree. The lush landscapes were even greener than the images in Jim’s brochure.

The natives were out in force. They always were. Golf carts, pocket pooches, bicycles, power walkers, and glowing smiles crowded the streets and sidewalks.

Heather’s SUV rolled smoothly through the guarded checkpoint and into the belly of the beast. Jim watched from the backseat as the locals observed their arrival. Many smiled and waved. Jim soaked it all in.

“They’re all so,” he stopped, shook his head. “Old.”

Jenny said, “Daddy you’re...”

“You’re...” Heather tried to cut Jenny off.

Jim finished the thought for them, “I’m what? Old?”

Jenny backtracked, “No, of course you’re not, old, you’re uhhh...”

“...not giving this a chance, look at all the pretty ladies!” Heather brought it home.

Jim made a sour face at a few women whose tiny dogs sniffed each other at their feet. The duo returned Jim’s sour face without missing a beat, dismissing him as quickly as they’d taken notice. It was a beautiful day and no cranky old man was going to disrupt that for them.

“A chance,” Jim shook his head. “You know I’m going to die here?”

Heather wasn’t interested in hearing anymore complaints, “Quit it.”

“Look girls, it’s my ride. Just let me out here!” Jim pointed to a funeral procession moving through the neighborhood. The natives all paused their activities to pay respects as the line of cars moved through the streets.

Both of his daughters shouted at him in unison, “Daddy!”

Collectively the residents of Shady Place were a diverse cross-section. Among them Mike Johnson, Sanjay Patel, and Tommy Griffin watched the procession receding away from them.

Mike wore a hairpiece, it wasn’t a good one, it didn’t look right, but no one ever said anything and eventually they just accepted it for what it was. He always had cigar on him, but his doctor told him if he kept smoking them it’d kill him. He was so used to the oral stimulation that he needed something to take its place. So he chewed on a Twizzler, the rest of pack nestled behind the cigar he couldn’t smoke in his shirt pocket.

“Another one bites the dust,” Mike said.

Sanjay, or Jay as everyone called him, added, “He was young.”

Tommy was a little older, a former champion boxer from Alabama; his face showed the wear of years in the ring, while his voice carried a slow southern drawl, “Paper said sixty-three.”

Mike tested the waters on a theory, “Do you think there have been a few too many of those lately?”

“Too many what?” Tommy questioned.

Mike probed further, “Deaths, too young, you know, seems a little – fishy.”

“Everyone here is older...” Jay stated the facts as he saw them, he was always as straight forward as he could be and since English wasn’t his first language, he always strove for perfect diction.

Tommy pointed to Heather’s SUV as it pulled up to the house next door, “Talk about fishy. Y’all get a load of this.”

Heather’s SUV came to a rest in the driveway, just next to a prominent For Sale sign, emboldened with a rider reading SOLD in bright red letters.

Samuel Thane leaned on the front door. He was young enough that he could have gone to high school with Jenny or Heather. He was slick, but just slick enough not to be off-putting to the normal Shady Place clientele. Khaki pants, collared shirt, and a nice pair of shoes were his uniform, it was too hot in Florida to wear a suit and tie. Besides, when all your customers are wearing flip-flops and shorts, why should you be the sucker in a three-piece.

He knew the tricks of dealing with folks older than him; don’t be threatening, ask them questions, be excited, and always, always make them wish you were their son or grandkid instead of the shitheads they had back wherever they came from. Of course for Jim, there was no level of slickness or non-threatening behavior that would make him like Thane. He was, after all, the man who convinced his wife to move to Shady Place.

“Into the abyss,” Jim grumbled as he got out of the SUV.

Thane showed his skill with an excited greeting, “Mr. Phillips! Welcome home!”

“You better have my keys, Thane,” Jim brushed past him.

Thane threw his arm around Jim’s shoulder, “As cranky as ever I see! I love this guy!”

Jim threw Thane’s hand off his shoulder, then shot him a dirty look. Thane returned a confident wink and led him inside.

Next door, the boys tried to get a look at the new neighbor, but Thane was obscuring him.

“Looks like another guy, just what we need,” Mike observed.

“Reckon he knows about Jerry dyin’ there?” Tommy pondered.

Mike shook his head, “Doubt it, Thane’s all about the sale. That’s another one went too early too.”

“Perhaps you are correct, there have been many who have passed somewhat prematurely lately,” Jay was buying in.

Mike knew how to take an opening, “Maybe you guys should tell the cops, see what they think?”

“Your phone broke?” Tommy asked, not sure why Mike’s theory would fall to them.

Mike danced around the question, “Uhh, well, it’s probably nothing – What do youse think the new guy’s story is?”

“I am to find out tomorrow. I am to give him a neighborhood tour. His name is James,”

Jay couldn’t remember the last name. “James, something, I cannot remember, I have the paper at home.”

Shortly after Jim, Jenny, and Thane disappeared inside, Heather greeted the moving truck. Mike watched intently, chewing on his licorice twist as Tommy and Jay bickered back and forth about nothing in particular. He took a big bite of his Twizzler and tossed it aside, then popped his unlit cigar in his mouth, “See you mooks later, I got a date.”

This was his first time seeing the house in person. Jenny had video-conferenced a walking tour, but he had never actually step foot in the house. It was not unique; it wasn’t what Jim was used to. There was no character compared to the home he left back in Philadelphia. Maybe it was

because it was so empty or because it wasn’t home yet, but it was cold and sterile. The porcelain tile in the living areas, granite counter-tops, 42 inch cabinets, and stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, none of it felt right. Jim hated it.

An enthusiastic Thane led him through, showing him all the features. Thane tried his hardest to pass some of his enthusiasm on, but Jim could barely muster more than a grumble or a dissenting observation about already having a house that he left behind with all the same features. Jenny tried to no avail to help Thane massage Jim’s psyche. None of Jim’s apprehensions and observations were true of course, his old house was not this nice, not even close; a fact Jim would never admit out loud.

“What do you think, it’s nice,” Jenny tried. “Right, daddy?”

“It’s not,” Jim hesitated. “...home.”

After the tour, Thane brought Jim to the kitchen, “So we had one more paper for you to sign, you missed it in your closing package you mailed back.”

Jim acted surprised, but something in his eyes said he knew he left out a signature, “Oh I was sure I signed everything.”

“Daddy, that’s so unlike you,” Jenny was suspicious.

Thane pulled out a pen and stuck it in Jim’s face, “Just one last signature and it’s all yours.”

Jim slowly reached for the pen, he took a deep breath, then he made a dash for the front door. Jenny called out as he opened the door, “He’s running!”

Terry and Kevin had already arrived and were speaking to Heather by Jim’s car. Jim blew through the front door and shouted to the boys, “Keys!”

Kevin was mid-sentence complimenting the house, “Hey Mr. P, nice digs!”

“Keys, now!” Jim insisted.

Kevin held out the keys for Jim to grab as Jenny and Thane came rushing through the front door. Jenny called out, “Don’t give him those keys!”

Too late. Jim snagged the keys and pushed past Kevin, “Move!”

Jim moved fast, he was in the car with the engine roaring to life and the doors locked before anyone knew what happened. Heather jumped in front of the car. Kevin threw his hands up in confusion. Jenny punched her idiot on the arm for relinquishing the keys. She hit him hard. Kevin was sure it would leave a bruise as he tried to rub the throbbing away, “Damn, babe, that hurt!”

Next door Jay and Tommy were mounted on a golf cart ready to leave, but things had just gotten interesting. They were joined by at least a half a dozen other Shady Place residents being treated to an afternoon show.

“Daddy, come on!” Heather shouted at Jim with her hands on the hood. He shook his head from inside the car, revving the engine as though he’d actually do anything with her standing there.

Thane stepped through the madness and made his way to the car, “I got this.”

Thane knocked on Jim’s window. At first he wouldn’t even look in Thane’s direction, but eventually he relented. The girls and their husbands looked on in awe as Thane and Jim spoke.

Terry observed in reverence, “That dude has some balls.”

“You’re wasting your time Sam,” Heather tried to move things along, but Thane simply held one finger in the air at her, hang on. Before too long the engine was off and Jim was exiting the car. A furor ran through the group, Heather asked what they were all thinking, “The hell?”

Jim brushed past the group without a word. It would take a minute to collect their jaws from the ground. A satisfied Thane winked and tried to follow Jim inside, but Jenny recovered and stopped him, “Hold on. What did you say to him?”

“He’s not my first runner,” Thane laughed.

“Let’s go Thane, I don’t have all day,” Jim called to Thane from the house. “And I want that damn sign out my yard before you leave here.”

“Yes sir, Mr. Phillips, right away sir,” Thane continued moving toward the house, but turned back when Heather grabbed his arm. The group pleaded for an answer. Thane obliged, “Would you characterize your dad as cheap?”

The group hemmed and hawed, of course Jim was cheap, so much so that it begged the classic question How cheap is he?

“He got his knickers all in a twist when I told him he’d lose his deposit if he didn’t close,” Thane smirked and walked away. That was it. The thought of losing a few grand was enough to keep Jim in line.

“Yeah, that’ll do it,” Kevin said.

Jim popped back out of the front door and wagged a finger at Kevin and Terry, “And don’t think I’ve forgotten about you two. Inspection in five.”

Kevin and Terry looked to the Shelby then back to where Jim stood. They both ran to the car at the same time.

Jim returned to his sons-in-law, he lined them up for inspection. He always reminded them of a drill sergeant, but he had never served. His father served in the great war and beyond, he instilled

respect and pride in ownership in Jim. It had left Jim with a great reverence for the structure of the military; the order of it all.

Terry and Kevin had checked and double checked to make sure Jim’s pride and joy was spotless. They lined up beside the car as Jim paced back and forth in front of them. The movers worked quickly, unloading the truck and avoiding the scene Jim insisted on creating. Jenny shook her head and went inside, “I’m going to make sure things go where they belong.”

Jim took several passes around the car, inspecting every inch. Occasionally he rubbed a spot on the paint, he’d shoot a quick glance at the boys just to keep them uneasy. It was all for show, but Jim enjoyed it. They fidgeted as the exercise dragged on. Jim got in and checked the odometer, then peered around the interior, checking the floorboards and the glove box. He got out and stepped in front of the boys, the idiots. They were both taller and bigger than him, but neither was as imposing.

“Did you follow all posted speed limits?” His question was directed at Kevin.

“Yes, sir,” Kevin said.

Jim stayed trained on Kevin, “High test gas?”

“Yes, sir,” Kevin repeated.

Jim glanced at Terry, then back to Kevin, “No deviations?”

“Umm,” Kevin hesitated. “No.”

A crack in the resolve had caught Jim’s attention, he turned to Terry, “No deviations?”

“We, uhh,” Terry squirmed.

Heather couldn’t take anymore, “They went to South of the Border and bought fireworks, because they are man-children! Ok, daddy? Can we go inside now?”

Jim stared at the boys for a moment, they grew increasingly uneasy the longer he didn’t speak. It was a tactic Jim had used during interrogations. Finally, he spoke, “Illegal fireworks?”

“Are they illegal?” Terry questioned.

Kevin shrugged, “I don’t think so?”

“You boys know better,” Jim shook his head, turned his back on them, “They stay with me.”

Heather rolled her eyes at her father, led him by the arm, “C’mon let’s go start unpacking.”

The boys were genuinely upset about disappointing their father-in-law, but more so about losing their fireworks.

“Ummm?” Terry mocked Kevin’s answer.

“We uhhh,” Kevin mimicking Terry’s response to Jim. “You could have backed me up!”

The two argued to the point of wrestling on the lawn before Heather threatened to turn the hose on them.

Idiots.” She said as she led them inside.


Mike lived a simple life. His house looked a lot like Jim’s; the same floor plan, tile, and appointments. But Mike’s was lived in, not hard, but a single man had definitely been there alone for awhile. The furniture was sparse, just enough to host a few friends, but the liquor cabinet was stocked. His small dining room table was littered with newspaper clippings. There was a clean plate and silverware set in the sink. Even though he had a dishwasher, he didn’t really need to use it for just a single serving at a time. There were no personal photos or effects, save a box on the top shelf of the master bedroom closet.

He laid his clothes out for his date, but dissatisfied replaced the shirt...twice. It wasn’t the first time, nor would it be the last he would do this little dance. Every date with Beverly was important to him, but it had to appear as though everything was cool. That he was cool. So it was the blue Hawaiian shirt, the one that made his eyes pop, and said I’m here for a good time, but not too good of a time, it did have a collar after all. Yes, that was the one.

It was dark already, but Jim and his kids had unpacked the whole house. The family shared a pizza and laughed about the silliness that had transpired throughout the day. The boys asked Jim

for their fireworks back, a proposal instantly rejected. At the end of the day the girls were happy their father moved to the state they lived in, mostly because they loved him, but also so they could keep an eye on him. Well, mostly so they could keep an eye on him.

“Are you sure you guys don’t want to spend the night?” Jim uncharacteristically offered. “Plenty of room.”

Heather smiled sympathetically at her father, “Terry and I both have to work tomorrow, I think Kevin does, too.”

They both nodded, then proceeded to the door; Jenny handed the baby to Kevin, then lingered to say goodbye to her father. “It’s only an hour drive daddy, you can come by anytime.”

“No, no, it’s fine, just come back next week so we can pick out a burial plot,” he kidded, maybe.

Jenny huffed at him, “Daddy!”

“What? You’re dropping me off to my last stop,” he pushed on. “Give it a few months. Coroner’s going to be carting me out that door right behind you.”

Jenny used her eyes to plead with Heather mouthing the word help!

Heather touched her father’s arm and tilted her head a little, “You know you’re going to be ok, right? This is what you and mom wanted.”

“Yeah, whatever,” Jim brushed her off.

“Try to give it a chance daddy,” Jenny was truly concerned now. “All you did back home was sit around feeling sorry for yourself. You can make friends here. It will be great!”

“I’ve already passed my expiration date. There’s nothing left for me to do,” he shrugged and looked around his new home.

Heather grew frustrated, “Sixty is the new forty!”

“Heather, dear, you’re so pretty, but math is not your strong suit,” he was sincere this time. “I’ll give it a chance, for your mother’s sake.”

“Not for her,” Jenny said. “For you.”

He agreed to give it a chance and they said their goodbyes. The girls kissed him and left him standing alone in the doorway. As she got half way to the SUV, Heather turned back to take one last parting shot at her father, “We’re just going to cremate you anyway!”

Not to be outdone, Jim quipped back, “That’s even better, you can take turns keeping me at your houses. I’ll always be there with you!”

He grinned and took a step back inside. The girls looked at each other, then back to Jim, but he had already closed the door.

Jim was alone again. He took a deep breath and looked around his new house. It was full of his stuff, but it was empty. He wandered into his den and picked up a picture of Karen, “What have I gotten myself into?”

He smiled at the picture, “Who am I kidding? You’d love it here.”

He put the picture down and made himself a drink. A scotch, neat. As he sipped his drink, he peeked through the blinds at the street outside. He watched as a beautiful woman walked across the sidewalk in front of his house. She glanced in his direction briefly giving Jim a clear depiction. She wasn’t just beautiful, she was stunning, and from the looks of the way she carried herself she knew it. This was Beverly Stanton.

Jim felt guilty, but he didn’t look away. She was headed to meet Jim’s new neighbor Mike. Jim watched her right up until they greeted each other in Mike’s driveway; that’s when Jim put his drink down and his jaw dropped.


The night was blustery and wet. Most of the city was inside watching game five of the 2008 World Series. The Phillies were on the brink of clinching their first championship since 1980. Jim was surrounded by a cadre of officers with one ear on the game playing through the car radio and the other on the wire recording everything transpiring inside the warehouse.

“It looks like this game is done for tonight folks,” the radio announced. “Suspended due to inclement weather.”

An officer leaned over to another behind Jim, “Wish we could suspend this raid due inclement weather...”

“We’ll be here all night if we have to,” Jim’s nostrils flared. “This scumbag has been in business twenty years too long. It ends tonight.”

Within the walls of the crumbling building a group of hired thugs surrounded a tractor trailer. The driver, Bennie, was a diminutive little fella, he was jittery to the point that he looked like he could piss himself any second. He found himself searching for an explanation to a question that he really didn’t want to answer. Mike was pacing in front of him, but he was different back then, he had more fire, more passion. He was a force to be reckoned with, a leader, the boss. Back then he went by Mike O’Flaherty, head of the O’Flaherty crime family.

He was completely bald.

“Why am I here?” Mike stuck a gun in Bennie’s face, “I was told thousands of Blu-Ray players. What is that? Four boxes?” Actually it was an entire pallet, but that was beside the point. “When you came to us a few weeks ago, you said a truckload.”

“Mr. O’Flaherty, I-I-I’m sorry,” Bennie stumbled on his words. “There was supposed to be...”

Mike cut him off waving the gun around with every word he spoke, a terrified Bennie tracking it with his eyes. He leaned over with an exaggerated craning of his neck, “That doesn’t look like a truckload to me. What do youse think?”

His thugs agreed, it wasn’t a truckload. He leaned in closer to the driver. “Know what’s going on right now? Our beloved Phils are about to win the god damn World Series. Where am I? In some shitty warehouse. This guy’s probably not even a Phillies fan. What are ya a Braves fan? Don’t tell me youse a Mets fan.” Mike had to calm himself down to think how absurd it would have been for this little weasel to be a Mets fan. “Look, I’m a reasonable guy, so I’m gonna take what you got here, but we gotta rough you up a little. You understand right?”

Bennie fidgeted and mumbled into his shirt. He gave the cue for the throng of cops waiting outside to make their move. It only took Mike half a second to figure out what he was doing, he ripped the Bennie’s shirt open revealing what he had suspected to be true, a wire. His time was short, so he began pummeling the defenseless truck driver, “You set me up you little shit!”

Bennie cried out for help and it arrived. The doors to the warehouse burst open unleashing a flood of police officers; Jim leading the charge. Without hesitation, he tackled Mike off the terrified truck driver, “It’s over O’Flaherty!”

“Screw you Phillips,” Mike wiggled loose and grabbed his gun off the ground. He trained it on the truck driver, “if I’m going down, I’m taking him with me!”

“Just give it up, we got you,” Jim and several other police officers had their guns trained on Mike, but he was unwavering. “You know what, go ahead, shoot him, we’ll put you away even longer.”

“It’s been fifteen years,” Mike laughed, turned his gun toward Jim. “You still think I killed your dirty partner...”

Jim was on top of him before he could get the thought out. Jim landed a few quick jabs to Mike’s face, then reared back for a haymaker, but he was restrained by several officers.

Mike wiped a smattering of blood from his mouth, “Don’t worry Jimmy boy, I’ll never see the inside of a cell.”

“Get off me!” Jim tried to break away, but couldn’t. They calmed him down. “Asshole.”

Mike smirked at Jim as he was led away in cuffs, “Anybody got the score of the Phils game? Wait don’t tell me, I got it recorded. I’ll watch it later tonight.” He smirked at Jim, “When I’m back home.”

When Jim snapped back to, Mike and Beverly were gone. He looked down at his scotch and shook his head, “You’re losing it Phillips.”


On any given night you might find five to ten cops at Curly’s Pub, but that night was different. Mike O’Flaherty had finally been taken down and the majority of the force packed the tiny bar to the gills.

Jim was the happiest anyone had ever seen him. Karen even pointed out more than once that he wasn’t this happy on several other monumentous occasions in their lives; their wedding night and the births of their children just to name a few. Nothing was going to rain on Jim’s parade that night though.

Jim clanked a glass and got everyone’s attention. He stood up on a barstool and looked around the room with satisfaction. Holding his glass high, he began to speak, “Most of you know me as a mild-mannered quiet guy...”

The room erupted in laughter at Jim’s unintentional joke. “Ok, maybe that’s not the best description. What I want to say is: it’s been fifteen years since we lost Frank Peterson. He was my best friend and a casualty of the war on organized crime in this city. When he died, it was a personal low in my life, but last night...last night when we took down Michael Mother-Fucking O’Flaherty, we did it for Peterson!”

He forgot he was in mixed company. He didn’t use language like that in his home life, but around the guys at the precinct there really was no filter or decorum. That night was a mixture of work and personal and Jim couldn’t help himself even on Karen’s behalf. She grabbed Jim’s arm and gave him a look for using such profane language, but he shrugged her off.

“This bust is the apex of a career devoted to taking down a notorious criminal and it couldn’t have happened without everyone of you in this room...” He stopped and shook his head, he was choking up a little. “I just want to say thanks to all of you. For me and Frank. Erica, I still miss him everyday.”

Peterson’s widow Erica mouthed me too back to Jim.

He lost himself thinking about his old friend, how they came up on the beat together, shared a car, a poker table, and the majority of his good memories through the seventies and eighties. Their kids grew up together, even their wives were friends. It wasn’t until Jim became a detective and left Frank in a uniform that they started to drift apart. Jim had always felt if he’d been there he would have been able to save him.

To change things.

It weighed on Jim and it was showing on his face as he still stood on that barstool holding his drink in the air, contemplating. He had managed to swiftly bring the jubilation to somber reflection, but luckily for Jim a television announcer behind him exclaimed that the Phillies had just won the World Series. The room erupted in cheers and high-fives.

He was relieved the attention had been pulled away, “Perfect! I’ll drink to that!”

He climbed down to a sea of cheers, handshakes, and back-pats. He tried to disappear into the crowd, maybe him and Karen could sneak out of there, he wasn’t in the mood to party anymore. His Captain, Kenneth Brown had other ideas. He grabbed Jim with a satisfied headshake, “Hell of a job Phillips, turning that truck driver. We finally got him. Maybe you’ll take that vacation now?”

“I don’t need...” Jim tried to dodge the offer, but Karen cut him off.

“Yes, we’re going to Florida.” She said raising an eyebrow at Jim. “Accommodations have already been arranged.”

Captain Brown clapped, “Fantastic, with O’Flaherty out of the picture, I’m afraid this old fool will turn his attention to taking my job!”

Jim said, “I’m not finished yet, but I sure as hell don’t want your damn job. Too much paperwork.”

“No desk could ever hold James Phillips,” his captain proclaimed. “You two have a great trip, but make sure to bring him back. We’re definitely not finished with him yet.”

“Oh we will,” Jim winked at Captain Brown. “Really? That’s quite generous of you...” the captain was confused. Jim raised his voice as he spoke, “Did you hear that everyone? Next round is on the cap!”

The bar let out a huge cheer, as Captain Brown feigned a smile, “On second thought, maybe you should stay in Florida.”

Jim spent most nights thinking into the wee hours and never really could turn his brain off. The only way to find sleep was to wear himself out, mentally or physically. The excitement of moving day had afforded him the ability to fall asleep easier than most nights, but it was far from a restful sleep.

The walls were lined with commendations, plaques, and photos of a smiling Captain Brown shaking hands with a who’s who of Philly elite. The same schmoozing and political nonsense that had always prevented Jim from wanting to be anything more than a detective despite endless offers for promotion.

Jim slammed his fist hard on Captain Brown’s desk, rattling the nameplate he was probably just a little bit too proud of. “No way! No god damn way he walks!”

“It’s not walking, it’s witness protection,” the captain tried to calm his irate detective, repositioning the nameplate. “He has a lot of information. A lot of really bad guys are going...”

Jim gave exactly zero shits what his captain had to say, “Racketeering, extortion, murder! He is the bad guy! He should fry for everything he’s done!”

“Jim, calm down. It’s the best...”

No dice, Jim wasn’t listening anymore, “Forget it, I’m finished.”

“Jim, we got O’Flaherty off the street...” his captain was pleading now.

Jim shook his head, dropped his gun and badge on the captain’s desk, dinging the expensive mahogany, “Save it, I never want hear that name again.”

He was out the door before Captain Brown could process what had just happened,

“Phillips! Jim, come on! Get back here!”

It was useless, Jim had already crammed himself into an overcrowded elevator and on his way out of the building he’d spent his entire adult life working at.

Captain Brown had considered chasing after him, until he noticed the deep surface gash his desk had suffered. He tried rubbing it out with his fingers, but the damage was done, “Damn it, Phillips!”

His dreams tortured him. He’d left those times behind, rarely thinking about those past events since they’d taken place. So much had happened in his life since then that they felt like fragments of someone else’s history. Like the television show you watched and can remember the vague outlines of the story, but you know you were never really there.

But he was there.


Mornings in Shady Place were alive. The secret was that it was still cool, especially in the summer months when the blistering hot sun made it oppressive to be outside in the afternoon. It felt like someone standing on your chest, while wringing out a wet towel all over you for good measure.

Most days started the same for the residents of Shady Place. Wake up, take your pills, grab the newspaper from the street, and drink your coffee. Lather, rinse, repeat. From there they all headed off to their various daily activities. Whether it was golf, tennis, or even pickle ball, everyone seemed to have somewhere to be or something to do. The streets bustled with walkers, golf carts, and landscapers. It seemed like there was always a landscaper working somewhere in the neighborhood. Today it was in front of Jim’s house.

Jim had always been a light sleeper, ever vigilant, ready to jump at any moment, but he was not an early riser.

Nine was his sweet spot.

His eyes shot open when the mower fired up on the street in front of his house. It was seven A.M. and he had just found some semblance of peaceful sleep for the first time all night.

His first full day in Shady Place had begun with a start. His night had been so disjointed and stressful, that all he wanted was a few more hours. He tried to go back to sleep, but the mowing persisted. Just when he was almost there, landscapers cruised by his bedroom window, treating him to the buzzing sound of an edger along the outside wall.

It was done, he was up. It was for the best anyway, if he had fallen back asleep, images of O’Flaherty were sure to dance through his miserable mind. He groggily stumbled to the kitchen in just a pair of boxers and a white t-shirt. He hoped this wasn’t how everyday was going to start.

His ritual was much like everyone else’s. He had an organized pill caddy right by the coffee maker; a multivitamin, one for his cholesterol, an omega-three, and some flaxseed oil. He kept a few vials of B12 on hand because he’d read somewhere that in your fifties B12 deficiencies can begin to lead to dementia. A shot every few weeks would keep him in check. It was also a welcome energy boost if nothing else.

A simple stroll to pickup his newspaper from the street and it would be a day like any other back home in Philly. He thought things might not be so bad after all. Back home, he would always think of it that way now, back home the neighborhood had gotten younger around him and they all just left him to his own devices. Keep his head down, stay inside, life was fine, no one ever bothered him. It was time to employ the same strategy in Shady Place.

He took a quick peek through the blinds in his den to confirm the landscapers had moved on from his house to some unknown destination. The coast looked mostly clear and he could see his newspaper waiting at the edge of the driveway. He knew he could just as easily read the articles online, but there was something about the feel of newsprint on his fingers he just couldn’t let go of.

He opened the front door slowly. Upon first look, no one was paying him any attention. There were a handful of neighbors making their way down the street, but he was of no concern to them.


He quickly scooted toward the newspaper at the end of his driveway, along the way he took notice of how nice his newly cut lawn looked. How nice it would be to not have to mow his own grass in this heat. It was a big step for Jim relinquishing control over something that important in a man’s life.

As he reached for his paper someone offered him a greeting from over his shoulder. He tensed, but ignored it, maybe they’d think his hearing was bad. He elected instead to lower his head and move back toward his house quickly.

He was almost there, in the clear, no one was going to stop him, but then it happened. One last glance at his yard yielded a new perspective, something was out of place. He stopped dead in his tracks when he realized what foreign object was sitting right in the middle of his freshly manicured lawn. He dropped his paper and rushed to the spot.

“It’s shit!” He had everyone’s attention now. “Whose dog took a shit on my lawn?”

He took a good look around, but all he got in return was hushed whispers and blank stares. This was unusual behavior for Shady Place to be sure. “No one?”

Jim was turning red, frantically looking around at the confused faces. Thus far he had failed in his quest to keep his head down, but now his presence was certainly known. He was committed now, there was no backing down.

He turned his attention to an elderly woman in her eighties. At her feet was an absent-minded pug named Douglas, or Doug the Pug to his friends. He grunted like a little pig as he sniffed the ground around his owner. Her name was Ruthie, and she had no idea why Jim had her in his cross-hairs. Doug stopped grunting and made eye contact with Jim, his tongue was poking out of his mouth slightly. “It was you, wasn’t it?”

Ruthie picked up her treasured pug as Jim closed in on them shouting at her, “You know it is common decency...”

He was interrupted by a woman’s voice, it was strong, confident, and not going to allow this behavior in her neighborhood, “Mr. Phillips!”

When Jim turned around he found Linda Stern standing before him with one hand on her hip and the other holding a stack of papers. She was standing in front of her golf cart, which Jim had failed to notice her park in his driveway only moments before.

Jim gave her a good look up and down. Her hair was pulled back tight in a bun and she was very conservatively dressed. Her face was attractive, but wore a scowl and played host to a pair of eyes that could melt a hole through iron. She had the look of someone who was not in any mood to take shit from Jim Phillips.

He was going to give her some anyway, “Yeah?”

Stern was calm, “A word please.”

“After this lady get her dog’s crap off my lawn.”

She removed her hand from her hip and wagged it in Jim’s face, “Mr. Phillips, I am Linda Stern, with the HOA.”

Ruthie took the opportunity to scurry away. Jim had yet to notice, “Good, you can make her clean this shit up!”

“As you know, Shady Place is a CID. I’ve come to drop of the CC&Rs for the neighborhood. I’m sure Mr. Thane failed to do so, he always does. And to...” she hesitated.

“Welcome you to the community.”

Thane hadn’t given Jim anything, well maybe he did. There was a pile of papers sitting on his kitchen counter that Thane left with him and said something that just came out as blah blah blah to Jim. They were in fact the rules and regulations for Shady Place.

“What? Lady, I have no idea what you just said to me. Was that even English?” He tried to return his attention to Ruthie, but she was gone. “C’mon! You let her get away!”

Stern was unwavering in her resolve, “Mr. Phillips, this is not how we behave in Shady Place.”

He thought about making a comment about there not being a we, but instead he went another tried and true route. He unleashed a hard stare at her, slowly narrowing his eyes as time passed.

She didn’t flinch, narrowing her gaze in return until the two of them appeared to be squinting at each other. After an awkward moment of silence, Jim wrestled the paperwork from her hand, “Do your job and keep the dog shit off my lawn.”

He turned without another word, showing her his backside on the way to his door. She was unamused, “This is not an auspicious start to your time in Shady Place. I’ll be keeping an eye on you Mr. Phillips.”

“You do that,” He said, turning his door knob.

“And Mr. Phillips,” She called to him, but he refused to look back. “Perhaps pants or a robe when you are outside your domicile.”

Her words reminded him he had never meant to be outside that long. He looked down at his boxer shorts and mumbled to himself, then disappeared inside.

Stern decided to take the opportunity to do a visual inspection of the properties close by. She didn’t make it to this part of the neighborhood that often and one of her favorite residents lived next door to Jim.

She found Beverly gardening on the side of her property, “Ms. Stanton I trust you’ve stayed within the the prescribed parameters of the permit you applied for?”

Beverly looked up from a small vegetable garden tucked off to the side of her house, “You want to come measure, Linda?”

She did have a tape measurer in her golf cart and there were in fact regulations on the amount of square-footage a resident could use as a garden. She hadn’t written a fine in days and Jim had put her on a particularly sharp edge, but she decided to let it go, “No that will not be”

Stern was gone, but Beverly had prepared a prominent hand gesture for her should she decide to return.

Jim leaned his back against his front door. The ordeal was far more than he had anticipated for his first morning in Shady Place. It seemed silly to him that it all stemmed from a simple foray to the front yard to pick up his newspaper. Which he now realized he somehow managed to not bring in with him.

He made his way to his den and considered a scotch, but decided it was too early to start drinking. Or was it? A knock at the door made him think it wasn’t too early. He was convinced he already knew who it was, so he tried to ignore it.

Knock, knock, knock.

It was persistent and it wasn’t stopping. It had to be her.

Jim threw the front door open brusquely, “What now, Stern?”

It wasn’t Stern, before him stood Jay Patel, wearing a confused half smile, he was holding Jim’s paper, “No, sorry, not Stern.”

Jim tried to look past Jay, narrowing his eyes as bystanders pointed and whispered to each other. “Why are you knocking on my door like that? Didn’t you get the hint when I wasn’t answering?”

“I am sorry,” his intentions were pure. “Some of the residents cannot hear very well. Are you mister James Phillips?”

“It’s Jim, what’s this? Is that my paper?”

“I am Sanjay Patel, but everyone calls me Jay,” he said extending a hand for Jim to shake.

Jim sized him up for a moment, then reluctantly shook the diminutive man’s hand. Jim’s hand enveloped Jay’s with a grip that was so strong it caused him to wince in pain. His voice was a little higher pitched when he said, “Your realtor, Sam Thane, set up a community tour for this morning. Are you ready?”

“What? Community tour? No, I just want to be left the hell alone!” Jim said.

Jay tended to wear his emotions on his face, he was clearly distraught, and not sure what to do. No one had ever turned down the tour before. He mustered up a soft, “My apologies.” He reached in his pocket and pulled out a business card that simply read: Sanjay “Jay” Patel with his phone number and handed it to Jim. “If you change your mind you can call me.”

Jay began to walk away, but Jim called him back, “Hey wait, Patel! Do you know who lives in that house right there?”

Jim was pointing at Mike’s house. Jay nodded, excited to oblige, “That house belongs to Mike...”

For that brief moment time slowed down for Jim, he knew what the next few syllables out of Jay’s mouth had to be O’Flaherty.

It was him.

He was there in Shady Place, living right next door.

“...Johnson. He is a very nice man. I think you will like him.”

Jim didn’t listen past the word Johnson. That couldn’t be right, he mumbled the name to himself in disbelief.

“Would you like me to introduce you?” Jay asked.


He closed the door without a word, leaving Jay standing alone on his walkway, confused, unsure; he was still holding Jim’s paper. The door swung back open and Jim quickly moved toward Jay. Jay’s eyes widened in fear, until Jim snatched the newspaper from his hand and went back inside.


Michael Patrick O’Flaherty spent the majority of his life in and around organized crime. His father was a second generation Irish American who worked everyday of his adult life in a factory. He was hardworking and respectable by all accounts, but Mike saw an angry man who drank and smoked himself to death. Leaving Mike with no interest in what he considered to be a sucker’s life.

He was the middle child of seven. Only a consideration when he had done something wrong or made a mistake. His mother was cold and beaten down mentally. She didn’t so much nurture her children as simply feed and clothe them. She handled the minor discipline, but left the heavy lifting to his father. He was never concerned with making his father proud. His approval meant nothing.

Mike was proud to take the first few beatings for his association with what his father called the hoodlums, because he knew that connection he’d made with them meant so much more than anything his own family could ever give him.

When Mike was sixteen, he left home and never looked back. He spent the seventies and eighties working his way up the ranks of the Donnaghy crime family in Philadelphia before taking the reins for himself with the boss Anthony mysteriously disappeared in 1987. He was 37 years old. No one questioned his ascension to the top; he was always meant to be there. There was nothing, not one thing, Mike missed about either one of his parents when they passed. He hadn’t even seen or spoken to either in decades.

He married a good-looking Germantown jawn, (jawn: (n): Philly slang for almost any person, place, or thing, assuming that person is female), they had a couple of boys.

Those boys were Mike’s pride and joy. He had five grandchildren between the two of them and he loved them with every bit of his heart.

He was at the top of his game, had everything anyone could want, and never saw it coming.

Now, that whole life: the money, the power, the family, it was reduced to a few photos in a shoe box on the top shelf of his closet.

He tried not to ever look in the box. For Mike, Shady Place was his life. It was a good place to live. He loved it there; he had golf, he had parties, he even had a few good friends. Ok, he had a lot of friends. Mike was supposed to blend in, but he couldn’t turn off who he was. He told himself no one was looking for him anyway, it had been almost a decade, times had changed, no one cared anymore. Besides, Mike had a date with Beverly that night.

They would go to some restaurant and chit chat about this and that. Mostly benign trite conversations that were just filler between Beverly walking over to his house and them returning, usually for a nightcap at Beverly’s. This had been going on for months at this point. It didn’t mean much to Beverly, but to Mike it was a return to a time when he had someone and something to look forward to. She didn’t ask about his past or who he was; she only cared about who he was now and what they were doing in that moment.

Mike liked the finer things in life and Beverly was that; she was the most attractive woman in Shady Place. The guys had a done a list ranking the most desirable women in the neighborhood and she sat squarely at the top. Bonnie Parsons came a close second, but Beverly’s British accent put her over the top. Naturally Mike wanted the best and right now he had her. Sort of.

Beverly arrived at Mike’s to go on their date and greeted him as she always did, a squeeze and peck on the cheek. She always presented immaculately; hair, makeup, outfit, and accessories to match any occasion. Dinner and a movie were the order of the day, so a simple pair of hundred dollar jeans and a designer t-shirt would suffice. Mike wore khaki pants and a button up Tommy Bahama shirt, a common pairing for a night out in Shady Place.

“Hello darling,” she said. “Shall we take your car or mine this evening?”

“Why don’t we take mine,” he said, leading her to his Cadillac. He held the door for her, chewing on an unlit cigar. He never brought his Twizzlers on a date, it just wouldn’t

Jim watched his neighbors from his den, peeking out through the blinds surreptitiously. He narrowed his eyes at Mike as he lead Beverly to his car. He was convinced. The hairpiece was new, but that man was Michael O’Flaherty, right down to his stupid cigar.

It was clear now why he was going by Johnson. A quick Google search yielded the number for the closest US Marshals office. No one was in the office who could help him, so he left a number and a brief message: “I think there’s someone in Shady Place who’s in the program.”

Beverly found herself sharing time with several suitors. The dates were all the same. They wined and dined her, but of course no one wanted to go too crazy on their date, they were on fixed incomes after all. Beverly fancied herself worthy of extravagance and spoiling, but her champagne tastes were generally met with beer-budgets.

There was no shortage of offers. So she took the meals and the company, and every once in awhile she’d even put out. The ever so popular nightcap.

In general, this did not sit well with the other women in Shady Place. Even the married women found her the harlot. They feared the wandering eye of their husbands, but they didn’t have anything to worry about. Beverly wasn’t after any one man. She simply liked the companionship and enjoyed nice things; especially when someone else was buying.

Mike and Beverly had their date. A congenial dinner at a moderately priced restaurant. The latest action comedy starring that older, but not too old to be relevant Hollywood star. Then back to Shady Place.

The nightcap.

Beverly did invite Mike in and the next twenty minutes were glorious for him. For her too he supposed, but when the party was over, so was his invitation. She thanked him for a nice evening and sent him home. Like she did every time. She was always polite about it and smiling when she kicked him out, but somehow it felt more like a kick in the nuts.

She sat in bed rubbing lotion on her hands watching him dress.

“Do you want to do something tomorrow night?” Mike put his pants on and straightened his hairpiece.

She gave him a condescending smile, verbally patting the puppy on the head, “Sorry Michael, I’ve already got something on my schedule for tomorrow.”

“Right, of course,” he put his shoes on. “We’re not exclusive or anything...”

“We’ve talked about this Michael, it’s like I said before it’s nothing serious...”

He threw his hands up in surrender, “just serious fun. Got it. I’ll see you...whenever.”

He headed for the door, but she called him back, “Michael?”

“Yes?” He returned to her.

Good little puppy.

“Be a dear and turn the overhead light on, I’d like to read a little before I go sleep and the switch is all the way by the door.” She waited expectantly as he flipped the switch and walked out.

When Mike got home he thought about his little shoebox on the top shelf of his closet, but left it where it belonged. He poured himself a scotch and lit his cigar.

It was still a good night.