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Wet Work
About the Author: Davin Ireland was born and bred in the South of England, but currently resides in the Netherlands. His fiction credits include stories published in over seventy print magazines and anthologies on both sides of the Atlantic, including Aeon, Underworlds, The Horror Express, Zahir, Pseudopod, Rogue Worlds, Storyteller Magazine and Something Wicked. You can visit his site at

Tug was getting restless. He’d been fidgeting since the sun went down, lips moving without articulating words, raw-knuckled fingers scrabbling across the thighs of his jeans as if searching for lint or a stray thread. When he was in that state, the world about him became a backdrop without significance. Now, as the last of the daylight drained into a nearby stand of pines, he could contain himself no longer. “Need to stretch me legs,” he muttered. “Take a piss, go for a walk. Somethin’.”

Shane Decker was having none of it. He’d planned the job down to the last detail, and things were about to happen. “Wait till the wife heads out.”

“Fuck the wife, I’m burstin’. I can’t hold it.”

“Two more minutes.”

But two more minutes came and went and the target property remained a brooding silhouette. No action, no sign of the woman. Four minutes turned to six. Tug fidgeted and squirmed. This was embarrassing. Decker was about to relent when the bolts on the front door clattered and a woman in a pink tracksuit with white trim braved the gathering dusk. She was in good shape—slender, tanned, a decade younger than her husband, with hair scraped back in a blonde ponytail that swung invitingly every time she moved. She pulled the door shut behind her, spent a minute or two stretching in the lee of the car port before setting off down the garden path at a gentle jog. Decker and Tug slid below the line of the dashboard until she made the street, at which point Tug’s hand strayed toward the door handle.

That was when Decker snapped. He grabbed the other man by the throat, dragged him down into the foot well. “Stay the fuck where you are till I tell you,” he grated, “or I’ll cuff you to the wheel and sink this thing in the nearest part of the quarry.”

He eased off once the pink of the tracksuit had merged with the dark, then waved a dismissive hand at the door. Wordlessly, Tug exited the van on the passenger side and melted into the shadows. He was almost certainly headed for the woods. Let him go, Decker thought. He’s due out there soon anyway. And it had to look convincing.

Speaking of which.

Decker adjusted the angle of the rear-view until it framed a wiry youth sat with his head down in the back of the junk-strewn van. Perched on a wheel arch, laptop balanced on his knees, the floor around the young hacker was littered with discarded snack wrappers and used paper cups. His name was Lloyd Kallin, and Lloyd had a reputation that preceded him. That wasn’t hard to believe. The software he used deployed clunky green symbols on a black background. No graphic interface required. Decker hadn’t seen a set-up like that in twenty years. And it was dark back there. Blacked-out windows, with a single low-res screen the only light source. No wonder the kid wore a perpetual squint. “How many times is that?”

Lloyd clawed off the unwieldy dish-phones he was wearing but didn’t look up. “Huh?”

“I said, ‘How many times is that?’ ”

“You’re talking about Tug?” Fingers fluttered on keypads. “I’m paid to monitor phones and tablets. Don’s bladder is his own affair.”

“But you saw what I saw, right?”

Lloyd met Decker’s gaze in the rear-view. “I didn’t need to,” he said. “Everyone knows he blazes up when he takes a leak. That’s why he’s always gone so long. Doesn’t want you smelling it on him.”

Decker decided he may as well play along. “He could change his clothes and I’d still smell it. The guy reeks of the stuff.” The comment was punctuated by a quick peek at the house. According to his watch, the woman had been gone three minutes, give or take. He tried not to think about it. “What I want to know is, how can anyone smoke that much weed and stay on point?”

“Tug’s a functional user.”

“You making excuses for him?”

This story appears in our FEB 2022 Issue
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