Crime Fiction Friday: MERCY KILLING by C.J. Howell


We were excited to have CJ Howell at our Noir At The Bar last Wednesday. CJ is a master at portraying men whose sanity is an ethereal thing. It’s demonstrated in his acclaimed The Last Of The Smoking Bartenders and this short piece about wounded animals, old friends, and saw-off shotguns both real and imaginary. Signed copies of The Last of The Smoking Bartenders are available on our shelves.

“Mercy Killing” by CJ Howell

“I am sitting at a table on the patio of a Mexican restaurant in downtown Boulder. I am waiting for Brady. We have a mission.

The last time I saw Brady was at the Hilton eighteen floors above the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. That mission ended badly — faulty research, inconsistent background info, and dubious objectives. Funding issues came into play. We couldn’t trust our contact and couldn’t find our target. We smelled a set-up and I skinned out while Brady destroyed our three hundred dollar a night room with help from Jim Beam. I was doing ninety down I-80 West by the time he knew I was gone. That was five years ago.

Brady follows a waitress onto the patio. The waitress is cute, probably breathtaking if you get her out of that cheesy golf shirt with the La Estrellita logo tattooed on her tit. College girl, full of what she was going to be. Brady obviously sees me but he pauses for a moment, as if stunned by the blinding mountain sun. He lifts his sunglasses onto his forehead and looks around, gently holding onto the girl’s elbow, and then he slides his shades back over his eyes and pulls up a chair.



His face is pale with a greenish tint like verdigris. The temperature is in the mid-nineties but he wears baggy jeans with the cuffs rolled up and a T-shirt covered by a wrinkled plaid button down. Brady never dresses for the weather. The few times I’ve seen him in shorts his legs were pasty and spotted with purple blotches like bruises or bad eczema. It’s impossible, but he looks taller than when I’ve seen him last, although his boyish features make his height hard to judge accurately. He has always seemed small. A man-sized toddler.”

Read the rest of the story.