Crime Fiction Friday: ‘The Little Angel’ by Billy Kring

We are happy to have Billy Kring’s latest Hunter Kincaid novel, A Cinnabar Sky, on our shelves. Even better, he wrote a short story featuring a border patrol agent in the time of COVID for our Crime Fiction Friday. Settle in and enjoy.


The Little Angel

Hunter and Raymond squatted on their heels Indian style behind a clump of greasewood to observe the crowd below them on the bank of the Rio Grande. Both Border Patrol agents wore their face masks to protect each other during the pandemic, both of the masks were a desert camo fabric. 

At the edge of the crowd, a man stood on a ledge of rock and orated to them like a preacher, using wide arm gestures and other theatrical hand movements to lure the people closer. He wore no mask, but everyone in the crowd did. Hunter could hear him, but Raymond could not. “Too many gunshots with no ear protection,” he’d said.

Hunter said, “You’re not missing much. Guy calls himself Colonel Hardin, of the Light Brigade.”

 “As in, ‘The Charge of’?”

She pointed, “Look over there, his two assistants are unfurling a banner on the side of the mini-van.” Two women in sequined one-piece bathing suits hung a bright red and yellow banner on the vehicle. It read, Colonel Hardin’s Patented Corona-Virus Cure. Raymond read it out loud, “Made from rare jungle plants and special minerals only found at the peak of the Andes where the Amazon River originates. Blended by medicine men and chemists, and guaranteed as a cure to COVID-19, leprosy, and cancer.”

“No wonder he’s down here pedaling that stuff.” The crowd was good-sized for this area of the Big Bend country, and the two agents studied the men and women comprising it. Hunter spotted one woman off to the side, standing quietly and leaning on a wooden cane as she watched Colonel Hardin. There’s something about her, Hunter thought, then her attention returned to Hardin as he continued his sales pitch. 

Hardin spoke in perfect Spanish, saying, “We have with us today, a distressed individual riddled with the Corona-virus, and on death’s door. He was brought on a burro from a village at the foothills of the Sierra Madres, and he has barely made it with his life.” The man was grey-faced and sallow, and panted as he struggled to breathe.

Several people carried him on a stretcher to the ledge of rock and placed him at Hardin’s feet. Hardin knelt beside the cot, and the crowd pushed forward, all except the woman on the cane. 

Hunter stood up, “Let’s go down there and see this miracle worker up close.” 

Raymond stood, “As you wish.”

“You watched The Princess Bride again last night, didn’t you?”

“With my two nieces. It was great.”

“How many times have you seen it?”

“How many times has it been on television?” Hunter grinned, shaking her head.

They were off the hill in no time, coming to the crowd and having the people part when they spotted the badges. Hunter went first and was at the rock ledge when Hardin gave the wheezing man a small bottle of elixir. Hunter looked at his face as he glanced at the crowd. Light brown eyes in greyish skin showed his illness. He turned it up and drank a swallow, then staggered backward, almost going off the ledge. Hardin moved closer, and was a foot away from Hunter when he turned his eyes to her.

She felt the shock, for they were the blackest she had ever seen. The crowd rustled behind her, and Raymond was suddenly beside her so close their arms touched. Hardin frowned at him, and made a gesture at Raymond’s face, like opening all his fingers, and Raymond’s mask fell to the ground, and the man blew into Raymond’s face.

The sick man rolled to his feet and stood, and his eyes had changed and were as black as sin. A woman gasped and backed away from the ledge as she crossed herself.  

That was when the little woman with the cane nudged through the crowd and stood at the rock ledge by Hunter. Hardin backed from her, making a sound almost like a hiss. The woman said to him, “It is time for you to leave.” She didn’t shout it, but the man left without another word, driving away in the van, and leaving the river bank as if no one else had been there.

The crowd’s mood seemed to lift, and they also dispersed, leaving only Hunter, Raymond, and the small woman. Hunter asked her, “What is your name?”

“Angelina.” She was tiny, maybe five feet tall at the most, but her eyes were lively and she had beautiful smile. “I’ll be going now.”

“Do you live around here? We can give you a ride.”

“No need. I’m from just around the corner.” She touched both Hunter and Raymond in farewell, then left them, walking downriver from their position.

It was two weeks later when Raymond came down with Coronavirus, and came down bad with it. He struggled to breathe, and ran a fever that had him delirious, talking about the devil, and angels, mumbling and coughing in his fever dreams.

When Hunter, and Connie, Raymond’s wife sat together and worried about if he would die or not, A knock came on Connie’s door, and when she opened it, Angelina, the small woman from the river was there. She smiled and talked to both, then asked if she could see Raymond. Connie said, “He’s contagious, and not talking right now.” She cried, “We aren’t sure if he will make it through the night.”

Angelina reassured her that she was immune to Corona, and would only be a moment, so Connie let her enter. When she came out of the bedroom, she smiled at both of them and said, “He seems to be breathing better. Good night.”

Raymond recovered rapidly, and before long, he complained because his bosses wouldn’t allow him to go back to work for a few more days.

Hunter felt as if a big weight had been lifted, now that she knew her best friend was going to be okay. On a whim the next day at work, Hunter drove down to the river, where Hardin had been situated. She turned downstream, wanting to see if she could locate Angelina. Around the river’s curve were the long-abandoned ruins of a small village church, and a cemetery. One Grave marker remained from all the years that floods had washed over the location. She walked to it and read the inscription: Angelina Milagro, born 1801 died 1888 – The angel who watches over our town.

Hunter sat down on the grass, took off her hat and remained there for ten minutes, touching the stone. Then she rose, dusted off her pants and said, “Thank you, Angelina.”


You can find more from Billy Kring when shop at BookPeople in-store and online.

Crime Fiction Friday: “McKenna” by Billy Kring

billy-kBilly Kring is a MysteryPeople favorite. Whether he and his fictional border patrol agents, deal with issues and evil on the Texas-Mexico line or his private detectives Ronnie Bacca and Hondo banter and and take down L.A. bad guys, he demonstrates and understanding of crime fiction and a craftsman’s approach to writing. We were excited when he asked if we’d like to print this original short story about gangsters and a good employee.


McKenna

by Billy Kring

 

He answered Carmen’s help wanted sign one morning and went to work that afternoon as the butcher in her store. His first name was Rick, but he went by McKenna.

Carmen liked him because he didn’t say much, did his work and stayed busy doing things without being asked.

The day Teddy Corso came in, McKenna and Carmen sat at a table eating a lunch of pastrami sandwiches, chips and soft drinks.

Teddy stopped behind Carmen’s chair and played with her hair, a New England Patriots Super Bowl ring prominent on his ring finger. McKenna noticed the tape wrapped around the bottom so it fit Teddy’s finger. Teddy said, “I’m here for the pickup, Babe.”

Carmen moved her head away from Teddy’s hand, “You came by two weeks ago.”

“It’ll be three a month from now on.” He suddenly realized he didn’t know the man sitting with her. “Who’s this?”

Carmen said, “McKenna, he works for me.”

Teddy asked, “You’re not a local.”

“Not for a while.”

“How long?”

“Ten years.”

“About the time our family took over the neighborhood, right, Carmen?”

McKenna put his sandwich on a napkin, the bite showing like a small knot in his cheek, “How’d that happen?”

Teddy smiled, “What it was, Vincent Gennaro had this area but wasn’t sharing wit others, so…” Teddy spread his hands, “Somebody decided that wasn’t a good thing.”

“I read about it. That you?”

Teddy grinned, tapping two fingers to the back of his head, showing where the bullets went, “I don’t brag, but it happened. People know. So now I make rounds for the family.” He looked at Carmen, “Give me the money, Carmen, and throw in a couple ribeyes. I got other stops to make besides yours.”

“I don’t have the money.”

Teddy gave her a cold stare.

“I can have it in the morning.”

“You better, sweets. You don’t want Teddy Corso mad wit you.”

McKenna went to the meat counter, catching Teddy’s eyes by holding his thumb and forefinger an inch apart.

“Make it two.”

McKenna cut, trimmed and wrapped the thick steaks in white butcher paper, handing the bundle to Teddy, who said, “You’re pretty handy with that knife.”

“I try to keep my boss happy.”

Teddy said to Carmen as he left, “Tomorrow morning.”

McKenna returned to the table as Carmen said, “He starts coming three times a month, I’ll have to let you go.”

“How often has he been collecting?”

“Only once the first year, but every month since. It crept up fast. Now it’s twenty times a year, plus he’s pushing hard to get in my pants, says he’ll make it worth my while.”

McKenna raised an eyebrow, and Carmen said, “I’ll close this place down before that happens.” She pushed her half-eaten sandwich away and said, “Can you close up? I’m not feeling too good.”

“Sure.”

It was a little after ten PM when Teddy tapped on the front door’s glass above the Closed sign. McKenna looked up from the meat counter, and Corso motioned to open the door.

McKenna opened it and Teddy followed him to the meat counter saying, “I’m throwing a party, gonna need another ten steaks. Tell Carmen it’s interest on what she owes.”

McKenna went to the cooler and brought out the meat and used the long thin blade of the knife to cut steaks.

“Hey, you remember this?” Teddy held up a laminated page of a newspaper showing Gennaro’s body face down in an alley. “See, right there? The two holes in the back of his bald head.”

McKenna finished with the last steak and said, “What about the one in his eye?”

Teddy half-blinked.

McKenna’s eyes changed, “I shot him in the right eye and put two in the back of his head as a message. Papers never mentioned the eye. Then I had to leave town because of the heat. I’m not leaving again.”

Teddy grabbed his pistol as McKenna rammed the knife into his temple and wiggled the blade.

When Carmen came in the next morning, Teddy’s Super Bowl ring was on the register, with a note from McKenna, I like to keep my boss happy.


About the Author: Billy is an author and sometimes actor, and in another life, he was a Border Patrol Agent and consultant on terrorism and international border issues. He has worked in South America, including Columbia and Ecuador, and in Eastern Europe along the borders of Chechnya, Ingushetia, Daghestan, and Turkey, as well as Mexico’s southern border. He has also worked in the Caribbean and Pan Pacific, instructing officials on how to handle the aftermath of a terrorist attack.

You can shop his titles in-store and online now.

Crime Fiction Friday: “Two Guys Come Through the Door with Guns” by Karen Heuler

11246Pressed to find a good short piece of crime fiction, we went to a reliable source: Akashic’s Mondays Are Murder site, where authors have to write a crime story in less than 750 words. Author Karen Heuler used the format for this often funny, existential yarn about the goons you hire to go through a door.

About the Author: Karen Heuler‘s stories have appeared in over one hundred literary and speculative magazines and anthologies, such as Conjunctions,Tin HouseWeird Talesand a number of Best Of anthologies. She has received an O. Henry Award, and has been a finalist for the Iowa Short Fiction Award, the Bellwether Award, the Shirley Jackson short story award, and others. She has published four novels and a novella, and her fourth story collection, The Clockworm and Other Strange Storieswas recently published by Tartarus Press.

DAVID C TAYLOR  WRITES ABOUT NEW YORK’S MAD BOMBER AND EARLY CRIMINAL PROFILING

David C Taylor’s Michael Cassidy series is a favorite of ours, dealing with a vivid New York of the fifties. Recently, for crime reads he wrote of this true account of a pipe bomber who terrorized the city both pre and post World War Two and how one of the first attempts at criminal profiling brought him down.

https://crimereads.com/how-a-disgruntled-workers-pipe-bombs-led-to-the-birth-of-criminal-profiling/

PODCAST WITH DAVID C TAYLOR AND JOAN MORAN

A few weeks ago David C. Taylor author of the Michael Cassidy series and Joan Moran, who made a crime fiction debut with The Accidental Cuban, came to BookPeople and talked with crime fiction coordinator Scott Montgomery about their books and use of settings. Taylor’s latest, Night Watch, takes place in fifties New York like his other two, and Joan’s starts in Obama ere Cuba. For those who missed it, here is the discussion—

CRIME FICTION FRIDAY- THE CAREFUL HUNTER BY TERRENCE P. MCCAULEY

Dark Territory (A Sheriff Aaron Mackey Western #2) Cover ImageTerrence P. McCauley is a jack of all trades genre writer. He applies great craft to his short stories whether they be prohibition era gangster, modern spy, or private eye. His latest book, Dark Territory, is a action packed western featuring his sheriff Aaron Mackey. In this short story, publisher din Shotgun Honey, he gives us an entertaining crime tale.