The upstairs of the carriage house was a big open space where there had once been dances. Now it was empty except for dust and black widows. The balcony looked out on an overgrown lawn, complete with a rusty antique carriage in the clutches of jasmine vines. Sam was convinced that the cause of a powerful stench was a body someone had concealed under the upstairs floorboards. Nailed out of sight, out of mind. She half-remembered doing it herself. What had it felt like to pry the planks apart and slide the body down into the narrow opening between the joists?

When she was sixteen she met a roofer who would beat her at cards. But she knew you can kill someone with a card if you throw it fast enough. It just takes a lot of practice. Upstairs in the carriage house, Sam with a deck of cards, practicing papercuts.

She found the cards now, but the deck was incomplete. Did she know where the missing card was? Under the floorboards? Embedded deep where it shouldn’t have been in the soft flesh of a roofer’s neck? Continue reading


There had been a mass exodus from the subway train and they were all in the hot dark of the tunnel now, most faces under-lit by cellphones that had no bars. The air smelled like fireworks and garbage. Melt wore his school backpack. He was the only one not lit up by a cell-phone. He was almost invisible in the middle of the crowd.

There was no leader, just a mass of people spreading down the tunnel in the dark, moving slowly away from the flashing emergency lights of the inanimate train. The volume of their conversations started low but a toddler broke out crying and soon the adults had raised their voices and before long everyone was shouting. Continue reading


Tornin was pleased to be in a market with tables piled with green oranges and red pommerac. It was humid and overcast but not raining. So far, the only unusual thing about this morning was that, after being deposited right outside the market by a fellow squash player, he’d dropped his cell phone and it had gotten crushed underfoot. So no calls today. What a relief. Instead, he was free to listen to the vendors shouting with their island accents and hear colorful tropical birds congregating in nearby banana trees.

In truth, it was his own heel that had crushed the phone. Smeared it into the filthy water, splintered the glass screen and defiled its delicate circuits in an oily tropical puddle. Mostly that little appliance had only caused trouble. Continue reading