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About the Author: Born and raised in the mountains of West Virginia, Jim has lived in ten states and three foreign countries. Currently retired somewhere in the Ozarks, he has a passion for his wife, blended (not sour mash) bourbon, Hawaiian shirts, anything fried in bacon grease in a cast-iron skillet, stray dogs, and whatever vegetables are in season with the exception of Brussel sprouts and eggplant.

karma [kahr-muh] noun. 1. Action, seen as bringing upon oneself inevitable results, good or bad. 2. The totality of a person’s actions and conduct, regarded as causally influencing his or her destiny.

Things went exactly as planned until the bank guard decided to be a hero. The heist went off without a hitch—a tribute to the adage that planning is the price of excellence. Davis corralled the customers while I cleaned out the teller cages and Doc made the manager open the vault. Eleven minutes flat, from the time we entered until we were backing out the door loaded with loot—a textbook job if I do say so myself.

That’s when the guard decided to be a hero and pulled his gun. Doc shot him, but not before the guy got off a round that caught me in the side. Fuck. It hurt, burned and hurt, hurt and bled as the three of us piled into the stolen Jeep Cherokee and sped away thru the falling snow.

We were out of town and headed up the mountain before we heard sirens in the distance. They’d be covering the Interstate and the divided highway to Capitol City. Nobody would be stupid enough to make their escape on a one-lane back road leading nowhere, which is why we took that route. Planning, it all comes down to planning. The storm was worsening, snowflakes the size of post-it notes, visibility barely outdistancing the headlights. Doc and Davis were up front, Davis driving and Doc rifling thru the bank bags. “Nice haul,” he said with satisfaction then looked back over the seat, “You hit bad?”

I had my coat open, hands slick with blood, using the tail of my shirt to try to staunch the flow. “Thru-and-thru,” I managed between gritted teeth. “Hurts like a bitch. I’ll be okay if I don’t bleed out. We need to find a place to get me patched up.”

“Soon,” Doc said. “Hang in there. I’ll think of something.” Which made me feel better because he always did.

I laid my head back and closed my eyes. Up front, Doc found a small first-aid kit in the glove box. He fashioned some gauze pads into compresses and leaned over the seat to get at me. “Lemme see,” he said. I pulled up my shirt and he whistled softly before unbuckling my belt. Pressing the gauze pads front and back, he bound them with the belt, cinching it as tight as he could. “That should hold it for now,” he said.

“Thanks, man,” I said gratefully, feeling lightheaded from the loss of blood.

“Don’t mention it,” he said, “and I’m sorry about this.” With that he worked the latch, pushed the door open, and shoved me out into the storm.

So much for honor among thieves.

I woke up in a warm bed in a rustic hunting cabin, one of dozens scattered throughout the mountains. The bed was in one corner of the single room that served for cooking, living, sleeping, and whatever else you do when roughing it in the great outdoors. There was a fireplace opposite me, as well as a wood-burning stove next to a cold-water sink. The far corner was curtained off and below the curtain’s hem I could see the base of a toilet.

I was covered with a quilt and underneath it wore a pair of flannel pajama bottoms. Naked from the waist up, my side was professionally dressed and bandaged. I was weak and disoriented, and someone had bathed me and combed my hair.

Someone turned out to be a girl ten years my junior with copper-colored hair, green eyes, and no makeup. She settled on the chair next to the bed and crossed her blue-jeaned legs. Her slender fingers held a soup bowl and spoon. “Here, take some,” she held the spoon to my mouth. Whatever it was smelled good and tasted better—beef broth with bits of meat in it. I was famished and neither of us spoke until the bowl was empty. “You can have more later,” she said in a decidedly unmotherly tone. “How on earth did you end up in a snowbank alongside the road?”

“It’s a long story,” I said. “How did I get here?”

“Jody and I brought you. Biscuit found you. He’s our hound. You can thank him with a bone when they get back. You must be the third guy.”

“Third guy?”

“That’s what they’re calling you on the news.” She made air quotes with her fingers, “ ‘a third bandit was wounded in the getaway.The other two abandoned you because you were shot, right?”

“We planned to slip over the mountain into Dexter then hole up for a couple of days before going to Capitol City the back way. It was a good plan, except for the part where the bank guard pulled his pistol.”

This story appears in our JUN 2017 Issue
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Reader Discussion

This is my first story in Mystery Weekly magazine. I hope you enjoy it! Feedback is welcomed...
By Jim Farren

I enjoyed your story and I hope it wasn't the tiger. Well done.
By Earl Staggs

I very much enjoyed your story Jim, thanks!
By Kevin McNamara

Need more! Good storytelling!
By George Norcross

For a follow-up, how about writing two different endings?

Great storytelling, indeed! How fun! Left my imagination running wild!
By Nina Ritter

I truly enjoyed reading your story. The ending, for me, was a little funky, and didn't give me the closure I wanted. I didn't want to guess the ending, but a very enjoyable read.
By Frances Dunn

Well written. Held my interest. Not crazy about the Tiger ending though. Unresolved is okay,unclear is not. All in all, though, great story.
By Robert Petyo

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