Junkyard Dog

Nikki Palomino is back to show us that nothing cuts as deep as the scars of the past.

And that if you dig deep enough, sometimes ... you can carve your path to a brighter place.

Junkyard Dog by Nikki Palomino

“I’m Presley Painter.”

“You have your mother’s good looks.”

He sized me up. I knew scum.


“Short on words like your mom. Mr. Casey lost his wife six months ago. Not the type to be alone.” He slammed down the want ads on the trashy office desk. 

“Companion wanted.”

“You want me to apply?”

He didn’t take his eyes off my breasts. Should have worn sweats but I needed the job. 

Wondered why I’d left the last town. Lasted two years there.

“A guy who hung around here worked for him. Said he kept a file cabinet with close to a hundred grand in the top drawer. Takes his time depositing.”

I grabbed the crumpled newspaper. Nothing I couldn’t do. Scum wanted a fifty-fifty split.

“Sorry about your mother, Presley, but it wasn’t me who slit her throat.” My eyes dry as bone, I wanted to jump over the desk and crush his windpipe.

I figured Mr. Casey needed a wife to keep as a pet canary. Too early to tell. I wiped away the dust along the books Scum kept lined on his desk.

“Why me?”

“You’re his type.”

“Like Mom was yours.” We shook on the agreement before I wiped my hand on my skirt.


Mr. Casey hired me right away. He didn’t need to taste my cooking or see a bed made to know I had what it took. He’d been good to my mother when I was little and she worked a brief time for him keeping books. He’d even paid the radiator bill when it needed fixing. Scum wasn’t around then. Mr. Casey handed me a list of duties.

“Your room’s at the end of the hall.” Great Victorian house with high ceilings. Classy furniture. Even my bed was real wood.

Mr. Casey played cards on Fridays. All I had to do was bake a casserole large enough to feed eight old men. Typical tuna dish.

I met Scum at a crossing in the woods. I drove a beat-up Chevy as part of the deal. He jumped in.

“You find the file cabinet?”

“And the key.”

“You check?”

I waited for the freight train to roar by and the Chevy’s windows to stop rattling while I shot him an indignant glare. “Bank statement says he hasn’t made a deposit since his wife passed.”

He laughed, his mouth a funnel to hell. “Don’t get too comfortable, Presley.”

“That’s not what I inherited from Mom.”

I could still see my mother’s face white as the Milky Way, the sheet across her neck stained with red. Every one of her dreams had passed like water lost in a down river stream. I remembered Little Jimmy at the morgue all grown and a coroner. “It’s always someone they know.”


I actually enjoyed Mr. Casey’s company. He’d traveled the world collecting antiques for dealers. His eye for detail a gift from God.

With a solid gold dagger in his hand, he gave his story. “I grew up dirt poor. I wanted to be part of beauty.” I glanced around, my eyes resting on the file cabinet. “This dagger is from Medieval Times. Still trying to get verification.” He paused. “Your mother was hard-working, honest and kind; a good woman.”


That night, twelve-oh-five to be exact, I opened the file cabinet and smiled. Next day, I headed to the junkyard.

“Just like you said.”

Scum picked at his nail. “Friday night while he’s playing cards.”

Who was I to argue with the man who slit Mom’s throat?

The second Mr. Casey pulled out of the drive, Scum showed, anxious as a buzzard spotting roadkill.

I led him to the room, pulled the key from my apron pocket.

 “You ain’t shittin’ me about the amount, Presley, are you?” Sweating, Scum grabbed the key, fumbled until the file cabinet drawer opened.

“What the fuck?” He turned around as quickly as the strike of a snake but stopped.

I stabbed the gold dagger into his gut. Blood poured like whiskey. I must have hit something worthy cause a bubble popped from the side of his opened mouth. I was right. Scum had noticed nothing, especially the plastic sheet covering the polished hardwood. Pulseless, he pitched forward pushing the dagger deeper.

“Got the letter just yesterday. Dagger’s a fake.” Mr. Casey walked through the doorway to the file cabinet and shut the empty drawer.

“You were right, sir. I do feel better,” I said almost apologetically since card night had to be cancelled.

Mr. Casey smiled with the gleam of the sun, an invitation for me to live again.

Nikki Palomino is the author of Dazed: The Story of a Grunge Rocker, STILL DAZED: Through a Grunge Rocker’s Eyes New Haven Publishing Ltd UK. DAZED Series part of permanent collection The British Library, Oxford, Cambridge Universities, U of Dublin, Wales, and Scotland. She has also collaborated with Steven M. Kalish for True Crime Novel "The Last Gentleman Smuggler" about the biggest marijuana organization in US history forcing the Reagan/Bush era to its knees. Her writing has been featured in L.A. Examiner, Houston Chronicle, and more. Named Best Genre Short Story Writer of 2003 by Writer's Digest, Author of Year 2012. Palomino is also a rock journalist for Punk Globe Magazine, Louder Than War UK, Steel Note Magazines and host of DAZED Radio Show whatever68Radio.com.