Frank by Josiah Crocker

H is name was Frank.




He sat alone at a table for two in a dark room lit by nothing more than the glow of his fourth cigarette. His eyes burned a hole into a phone that sat ringing on the table in front of him. A purring ball of fur weaved between his ankles on its way to the living room where an old murder mystery was humming on the television. Frank dashed his cigarette in a yellow stained-glass tray and lit up a new one. He let the smoke billow up in his cheeks and exhaled slowly, the smoke wafting up and stinging his eyes. The phone was on its fourth ring before Frank decided to pick it up. He didn’t say ‘hello’. No, ‘how are ya’. He just waited.

“Northeast corner of 6th and Marlow. Twenty minutes.” a raspy voice told him from the other end of the line.


“And Frank?”


The voice on the end of the line went quiet for a moment. Then-

“No mistakes this time.”


Frank stared off into the darkness. He was getting old. Old enough to know better. Thoughts of the last time filled the dark void in the room around him.

It was an old tune on the radio that had dizzied him. Eda James, At Last. She came crooning over the car stereo like a right hook to the temple and it was lights out Frank. For a moment he’d forgotten the job he was on, leaning back in the car seat and letting her take him back to a better time.


Aaaaat last…my love has come along. My lonely days are over…

Marie smiled at Frank, warm water lapping against their bodies as they sat hunched over facing each other in a tub built for one.

“And life is like a song.” She sang like silk. Her eyes danced in flickering candlelight. To Frank, she was the most perfect thing he’d ever seen or heard. He smiled at her and she smiled back.

“What?” she giggled.

“Keep going.”

She rolled her eyes playfully. “At last the skies above are – Oh, Frank honey, your nose is bleeding.”

Frank ran a finger above his upper lip. A stream of red ran down his palm. His insides churned. That uncomfortable intuition that something worse was coming. An invisible force struck Frank, slamming him into the tile wall. Ceramic chips cascaded into the water as the room spun around him, fading away from him like forgotten bathwater water circling a drain.

“Let’s fucking go, Frank!”

The butt end of an AR-15 connected with his ribs this time. Three men in masks were in the car with him now. The two in the back were saddled with large canvas bags full of anything but patience. Frank clenched his teeth and turned up the volume of the radio.

My heart was wrapped up in clover the night I looked at you.

Blood ran over his lip and greeted his tongue with that familiar taste of salt and iron. Frank righted himself up in the car seat and threw it into drive.

I found a dream that I could speak to. A dream that I can call my own.

Sirens crested a hill behind them. Frank hit the gas and the wheels screeched to life, hopping off the pavement and down the street. It didn’t take him long to lose them. Frank had been driving these streets longer than most of the cops chasing him had been alive.



Frank dashed his new cigarette in the ash tray and walked over to the front door where his jacket and keys were hanging.

Where you goin’ Frank?

Frank stared back at an empty room and a dusty chair that hadn’t been sat in since she’d been gone. She always used to ask him that on his way out. She knew though. She always knew.

“I’ll see you soon my love.”

The keys jangled at his side as he walked to the car. He spun them around his fingers, catching them between his knuckles like makeshift daggers each spin. An old habit he hadn’t kicked just yet. It’d been a few years since his last fight but the scars he hid were a gentle reminder to always be ready.

The car he drove was a modified sedan. Grey and a little rusty, just like him. It blended in nicely with the thousands of other daily commuters in Detroit. Underneath the hood was where he’d done most of the work; enough that it could outrun any police issue vehicle on the market. The trunk looked empty other than two cannisters of gasoline. One for emergencies, and the other if the car had become a liability. Underneath them in a hidden cavity was a shotgun, two boxes of ammunition and a pistol that gleamed with the shine of a man who was militant with his cleaning. A small groan emits from the springs as Frank nestles into the drive seat. He turns the key and disappears down the street, the low rumble of the engine fading until it’s nothing more than flies buzzing over hot summer air.


Frank lived in an area called The Brigg. The kind of place that travel magazines told tourists to avoid at all costs. A brigg was an old name for a place of confinement or detention and Frank thought that made about the most sense of anything in his life. Most days you’d find a couple kids chewing gum and spitting it out on the sidewalk. They’d compete to see who could smear it the farthest with their shoe before it baked from the sun and became one with the concrete. After a few particularly hot days in a row and from the right angle it looked like the streets had come down with a bad case of chicken pox.

Today had been too hot even for that game though. Normally moisture blowing in from Lake Michigan would melt the heat into cool beads that perched on the hairs of your arms, but tonight was not a normal night. Frank flipped back and forth between having the window up with the vents on, and with the window down, his arm hanging over the edge trying to find the cool piece of the door’s metal. Smoke trailed like a jet stream from a cigarette pinched between his forefinger and his thumb. Frank didn’t need to live in The Briggs. His work paid well enough to move to a shinier zip code. But he grew up in this end, and although most of his jobs were a decent drive away, he enjoyed the time to himself. He’d learned early on that a cigarette with the windows rolled down perked him up nicely before a job. If he lived closer, he’d end up sitting in his car smoking and waiting and Frank did not like smoking in a stationary car. It made him lethargic. Like an old man sitting in his rocking chair, rocking back and forth waiting for life to pass him by.


When Frank pulled up to a red light at the corner of 6th and Marlow there wasn’t a soul in sight. The heat had kept most people inside and the city was quiet tonight. Everyone was more than happy to sit in front of their fans and watch late night talk show hosts fake laugh, lonely souls peering through their glinting eyes. Frank scanned the block around him making note of the different businesses at the intersection; a music shop on one corner, gas station kitty corner from it. The other two corners were faceless industrial units with wall sconces casting light harshly on the walls. The light above one of the doors was out. Frank wondered if that had been done on purpose at some point beforehand. The light turned green and Frank cranked the wheel left aligning his rear bumper with the blacked-out door.


It’d been eighteen minutes since the call. His hand instinctively reached for the radio before he thought better of it and opted to roll the window down instead. The quiet hum of Detroit drifted by him. If you wanted to you could start parsing out the individual sounds that made up the urban symphony. The buzz of fluorescent lights; the distant roar of a red eye passing overhead; night bugs riding a breeze through loose-leafed branches; cars pushing air out of the way as they coasted down a nearby highway. That last one sounded closer than the highway though. Frank’s eyes dart to the rear-view. A police cruiser heading east rolled to a stop at the lights. From where he was, he couldn’t tell what way the cop’s head was facing. Frank’s car was in the shadows, but he wasn’t invisible. Slowly he reached for the black box strapped down to his dashboard and flicks a switch. The crackle of a police radio came to life. 87 this dispatch. Reports of a domestic over on Washburn avenue. Can you respond? Copy, on route. Frank couldn’t see much, but he could see the number emblazoned on the side of the patrol car read 219. The light changed from red to green and the cop eased into the intersection and veered off into gas station parking lot. Frank waited until the patrol car disappeared behind the corner of the building before lighting up another cigarette. Twenty minutes since the call.

219 this is dispatch. What’s your 10-20?

387 this is 219. Just stopped for gas. Southeast corner of 6th and Marlow.  

Frank nudged the volume of the police scanner, the hisses and pops and crackles filling the car like a campfire.

We got a tip. Potential burglary going down in your area. 10-23 for further instructions.

Roger. Standing by.

A low thump snapped Frank’s attention back to the building beside him. His ears strained against the cacophony of the night searching for the sound again. Again, low, steady beating. Rising from the noise it grew louder until —

219 this is dispatch. Silent alarm triggered on the Northeast corner of your location. Please respond. All available units respond for backup.

Frank’s back stiffened as the side door of the building flew open. Two men in black garb sprinted to his car and dove inside. Here you go again, Frank. The site of Marie suddenly beside him simultaneously comforted him and shook him to the core. He reached out for her, but she pulled away; opened the car door up and walked back towards the intersection without so much as a look back.

“Let’s fucking go Frankie boy!”

Frank watched Marie distance herself, her body cast in silhouette from a pair of rapidly approaching headlights. Blue and red wrapped around her. Her body frozen, her neck craned back towards Frank. Misty eyes gave way to watery cheeks before and suddenly her body is catapulted end over end of the oncoming cop car.



Bullets whip past Frank’s cheek and shatter the windshield in front of him. The aroma of fresh gunpowder pierces the cabin air. Frank instinctively throws the high beams on and hits the deck, flattening himself across both front seats. The cop car screeches into a sliding halt and in one motion he’s out the door returning blind fire. The two men in the back throw their doors open and make a break along the building wall, strobing between wall sconces. Shadow. Light. Shadow. Light. Dispatch this is 219. Shots fired. Frank can hear the pounding of boots as the cop races past the car. Send a unit to my location. His words push out between ragged breath. Suspect vehicle is parked along the west side of the building. At least two suspects heading north along Marlow. In pursuit!

10-4 219. ETA is three minutes.

Frank springs into action. Around to the trunk. Pop it. Grab the gasoline. Pour it.

What were you thinking?

Frank swivels around where a bloody Marie is standing. Bits of broken glass are stuck to her cheek and one of her arms hangs too loosely at her side. Frank lights a match and throws it onto the car. Flames lick at the roof before it rapidly spreads along the length of the vehicle. Another thirty seconds and it’s completely engulfed. Black smoke billows out from it pushing Frank to the far side of the road. The wailing of sirens closes in from multiple directions and Frank knows it’s now or never if he’s going to run. He turns to flee, when Marie’s voice cuts through the roaring air.

Where you goin’ Frank?

His eyes turned back to the blazing sedan. Marie stood directly between them wearing a dress that had always been a favorite of his. Steam wafted from frayed edges and slowly flames started spreading from the bottom up.

I think it’s time, Frank.

Her dress burned until all that was left was her naked form; skin stained with soot and the faint glow of embers in her eyes. She walked over to Frank and held his head against her belly as cops turned onto Marlow from both ends.

“I’m so sorry, my love.”

Frank sobbed against her. She brushed his thinning hair and smiled down at him. Her lips parted and she sang one final croon. I found a dream that I could speak to. A dream that I can call my own. Frank closed his eyes and let her voice wash over him. I found a thrill to press my cheek to. A thrill that I’ve never known. He couldn’t see them, but screeching rubber brought the cop cars to a halt on either end of where Frank sat. He looked up at Marie, memorizing her face one last time. You smiled, you smiled

Oh, and then the spell was cast.

“Freeze! Put your hands where I can see them.”

Just one last cigarette for the road, Frank thought. He reached into his pocket and began pulling out his pack of Marlboros-

“–Don’t do it!”


“He’s got a–!”


Frank slumped to the ground, a wry smile on his face. Marie gave him a kiss on the cheek and sang the final words softly in his ear.

And here we are in Heaven

For you are mine at last.


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Josiah Crocker