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Lucky Dragon

Tattoos can be regretful decisions.

Luckily, in The Gutter, there's always someone willing to remove them.

Lucky Dragon by Ray Zacek

Bastards could not touch him. Bobby Haskell had a lucky tattoo. A fiery dragon rippled over his upper arm, vivid in pink, crimson, orange, and turquoise. It had been painfully, but the tattooist assured luck would always follow him. And it did.

Bobby suppressed a grin leaving federal bankruptcy court in Tampa. That was over, finally, and Bobby had won. The elevator descended to the lobby. He strolled past security guards and metal detectors, pausing on the steps outside to bask in the Florida sun.

Twenty months earlier, he’d filed Chapter 7, representing himself, lacking funds to retain counsel. Divested of assets and unemployed, Bobby owned absolutely nothing for the court-appointed trustee to liquidate. Creditors objected: “Mr. Haskell has concealed assets.” Blah, blah, blah. They deposed him, hammered him, investigated, and found zilch. 

Bobby secretly gloated: Go pound sand, bitches

The trustee called it quits. The judge concurred, overruling creditors, granting discharge and erasing a dog pile of debt including old income taxes. Stiffing the IRS was the icing on the cake.

His Ford Fiesta sat parked on Cass Street by the Hub Bar. Celebratory drinks beckoned. Bobby demurred: you just got off scot-free, don’t risk DUI. Bobby slid into the driver’s seat as a white panel van pulled alongside. 

The van’s panel door slid open. The blonde amazon who tasered him dragged Bobby inside and the van accelerated.


He awakened to the blonde slapping him. “Wake the fuck up!”

Groggy, head throbbing, grimy, and sweaty, Haskell found himself stripped to his jockey briefs and tied to a chair on a bare concrete floor. A rack of high intensity lights blinded him. He smelled motor oil. 

His assailant walked away. She wore a black leather corset and yoga pants. 

A skinny, scraggly-bearded rodent in gray coveralls pulled up a folding chair. “Howdy.”

“The fuck?!” Bobby said. He didn’t recognize this man. “Who hired you and how can we can work this out?”

“Nobody hired me. I’m self-employed. You owe me.”

“For what?”

“I sold you cocaine.”

“Lot of people did.”

“My squeeze, Mara. She was delivery,” the man said, motioning toward the woman glaring at both of them. “Don’t tell me you don’t remember her.”

Yes. Bobby did remember her then. The buzz-cut white blonde hair, hooked nose, dark eyes, and olive skin. 

Months ago, she hadn’t been as sullen and, after snorting coke, Bobby fucked her. From behind. He didn’t want to gaze on that face. She had said the sex was part of the service. But now, apparently, she held a grudge over it.

“You must be … Don?” Bobby said.

“Fucking A I’m Don. The one, the only. I’m owed, I calculate, with penalty, two grand and a half.”

“That’s not that much.”

“Like they say: principle of the thing.”

“I’ll level with you, Don. I’m broke. Tapped out to the max. I just got out of bankruptcy. When you and Mara grabbed me. Your timing is not good.”

Mara snorted and pulled out a small tan semi-automatic, brandished it, and pulled back the action to chamber a round. “He’s fuck’n lying!”

“No! I swear! Believe me, Don! You saw the piece of shit I’m driving. I lost the Tesla I used to have, lost the house in south Tampa. Lost everything!”

Mara strode forward and leveled the business end of the pistol at Bobby’s face. “Open your mouth.”

“No, don’t do this, Don! I get back on my feet, give you my word, I’ll pay you.”

Don held up a hand. “Wait,” he said. Mara scowled but lowered the weapon and replaced it under the waistband of the yoga pants at the small of her back.

Now I can manage the situation, Bobby thought, sweating copiously. My luck is going to hold. Yeah, always does. Always. He would talk to Don and, both of them being reasonable businessmen, they’d work this out.

“Give me two weeks. Just two weeks,” Bobby said.  “I’ll pay you. Starting a new job. Sales. And that, you know, is my forte. I can wrangle an advance.”

“Nope,” said Don. “And I’ll tell you why not. Because I’m a Scythian.”

Bobby looked at him, stupefied. “What the hell’s a Scythian?”

“Ancient warriors of Asia. Like Klingons. In a past life, I was a Scythian shaman. This was given to me to know.”

“In your dreams,” Mara sneered.

“Silence, bitch,” Don roared. “Think about which tit you want in the wringer.” He turned back to Bobby with a serene look. “I was granted a revelation. So I live this life Scythian-style. According to an unsparing code.”

“That’s cool, Don. That is absolutely cool beyond cool, Don,” Bobby said. “But listen to me. I. Can. Pay. You.  Given time. A smidge of time is all.”

Don’s attention was suddenly diverted, like a child’s. He pointed at the dragon tattoo. “I like the tat. Where’d you get it?”

“Uh, Thailand. Pattaya Beach. I was in the Navy.” 

“I’ll take it,” Don said.  


“I’ll take the tat instead of the money and call it even. Not a pound, just a few ounces of flesh.” Don nodded sagely. “I think that’s fair. Mara, bring me the blade.”

“You’re not serious?” Bobby blurted out.

Don nodded. “Fuck yeah, I’m serious.”

“No! I’ll pay you!”

“I covet skin, Bob. Mara! Like, today with the blade!”

“I mean pay you immediately. Wire transfer. Money’s offshore. In the Caymans.”

Don stuffed a rag inside Bobby’s mouth. Mara sauntered over and handed Don a gleaming surgical-steel scalpel. She wrapped electrical tape around Bobby’s mouth and pressed him in a headlock.

“Take the money instead,” Mara said to Don.

“Scythians take trophies.” Don balanced the scalpel in his hand.

 “We need money, numb nuts,” Mara said.  

“Money’s nothing. Justice meted out. That’s important,” Don said.   

Bobby Haskell howled as Don, in ecstasy, pressed the cold edge of the blade to his taut, quivering skin.

Ray Zacek is a retired fed living in Tampa, Florida. Born in Chicago, he's sojourned in beaucoup places including Seattle, Santa Fe and Austin. His fiction has appeared in All Due Respect, Shotgun Honey, and Creative Loafing Tampa, among others. The acting bug compelled him into several theater productions, fave role being Dave Moss in Glengarry Glen Ross. He's working on a novel about a witches' coven that takes over an HOA. His work is available on Amazon