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Check-Out

You give your heart to the one you love. 

In return, The Gutter delivers a gut-punch.

Check-out by Sean Tuohy


Hobbs barely heard the pounding footsteps over the ringing in his ear. He shook it off as he retreated to safety down the hall. The scene before him featured chunks of dry wall blasted away, buckshot-riddled bodies littering the ground, and carpet soaking up pools of blood. A scowling goon, pistol readied, appeared at the top of the stairwell backlit by afternoon sun.

Hobbs wobbled from blood loss. He tossed the spent shotgun. His blood-slicked fingers ripped the .38 from his shoulder holster.

The goon growled and brought his pistol up too slowly.

Hobbs unloaded six rounds into the goons chest.

His adversary danced before tumbling down the stairs.

Stillness followed as Hobbs winced. A bullet had gone clear through his shoulder, and his white button-up was now stained red. Hobbs reloaded with one hand while keeping an eye on the stairwell. No new targets appeared.

He stumbled back to the girls hotel room and rammed his fist through the thin wood door. “Its me!” he yelled, keeping the barrel of the gun pointed down the hallway.

Whimpering, the girl undid the chain lock with trembling fingers.

Hobbs shouldered the door open and fell into the room. He kicked the door shut and fell on the cheap carpet.

Thelma dropped to his side. Her blonde locks fell over her sea-blue eyes. “What did they do to you?” she asked, concerned.

“I got ‘em,” he said, with pride heavy in his voice.

Hobbshead hit the carpet. His breath came out labored, but the pulsing pain from his wound had dulled.

Thelma scrambled to the nightstand and had the phone against her ear in a blink.

For a moment, Hobbs ached to touch her skin and feel her warm breath on his neck.

Hobbs’ head lolled to the left, giving him a look at the unmade bed. Under it was his future: two hundred grand. All of it dirty money made from gambling dens, back-alley brothels, and drugs peddled on the streets. The building blocks to his new life. 

He had unloaded a Thompson submachine gun into a Packard three nights before. Four enforcers slumped in their seats. Hobbs snatched the money from the dead grip of the obese one in the back and strolled out of that alley whistling “Dixie.”

Thelma hung up the phone and moved to the hotel window. 

Hobbs examined her long, toned dancer’s legs from the carpet. Her flesh-colored nightgown hung off her soft shoulders.

He wanted her from the moment she danced into his view. Hobbs had dreamt about women like Thelma while killing Germans across Europe. He knew that one day a dame like her would wind up in his arms, and he would end up between her legs.

The fact she belonged to someone else didnt stop Hobbes. Most nights her arms wrapped around the boss’ ever-expanding waistline while they sat in his private booth at the club. Regardless, Hobbs knew Thelma was his woman.

Thelma pushed open the window with her delicate fingers. Fresh air flooded in. “A car is coming,” she said. Thelma darted to the closet, tugged on her coat, and grabbed a packed bag.

Hobbs tried to sit up but flopped back down. His arms and legs were growing cold. Each breath burned. Worry filled his chest.

Thelmas hand plunged into the darkness under the bed and came up with the suitcase, dragging it across the room. She strained as she pulled it through the open window and onto the dark iron fire escape.

Hobbs kept his troubled eyes on her. “Everything hurts,” he wheezed.

Thelma looked back at him with something close to pity. “You were cute,” Thelma said, “But I got no time for you, lover.”  

The corner of her mouth curled into a tight smirk as she watched Hobbsface fall. 

He recognized that pride. In that moment, he hated her more than anything. It pulsed through his veins. He flexed his muscles and tightly gripped his pistol once more. His vision blurred as he pulled the trigger and cringed when the pistol jerked his arm. 

A blossoming red hole in her chest wiped the smile off Thelmas lips. Her disbelieving eyes were the last things Hobbs saw before she tipped over the railing.  


Sean Patrick Tuohy lives in Boston, Mass. He is the co-founder and co-host of Writer’s Bone, a literary website and podcast.You can follow his daily disappointments on @seantuohy2.