The Dark Light of Day
Author:Frazier, T. M.

It wasn't even the money that fueled my work anymore. If I wasn’t the one doing the job, it would’ve been someone else. Maybe I thought that, in my own way, I was sparing some poor schmuck from a life I was better suited for.


I had no delusions of grandeur. Where other guys seemed to get hard for fast, expensive cars, I preferred the freedom of my bike. Buying a house meant putting down roots, which was the last thing I wanted, so I never lived anywhere longer than it took to complete the job. And I hated being bored, so when I needed to lay low after a high profile kill, I’d sell a little weed or some blow—just enough to keep me from being idle.


Idle hands make the devil’s work, Jake, Mom used to say.


Little did she know.


My hands were never idle. If the past few years taught me anything, it’s that the devil’s work is exactly what they were made for.


I had no plans to ever return to the place I’d once called home, not even when Reggie, the head mechanic at Dad’s shop and the only person from my hometown I kept in occasional contact with, called to say Dad’s next crawl into the bottle could be his last. Dad made his bed in hell, and I’m pretty sure it was laced with ashes, vomit and empty bottles of Jameson. But when Reggie told me the house I grew up in—the house my mother had loved up until the day she died in it—was in danger of being lost to the tax collector, something in me told me to go save it. Not for him.


For her.


I needed to help the only woman who’d ever loved me. The only thing I’d ever done for her until then was help her into an early grave.


In my hometown of Coral Pines—a tiny island off the Southwest coast of Florida—trucks with lift kits and big tires were worshiped, and their chrome gun racks shone brighter than Sunday morning sunlight through stained glass. If cities like New York and Chicago are called concrete jungles, then Coral Pines could easily be called a beach prison, or a tropical asylum. Or my favorite: a rancid fishtopia hell.


Nothing but tourists, rednecks and ghosts.


I wasn’t sure which I hated more.


The drifter lifestyle I’d adapted after I left that shit hole island suited me just fine. I rode from town to town, never stayed longer than a tank of gas would allow, and did the jobs that came to me through temporary post office boxes and untraceable cell phones. I never settled in one place long enough to make relationships that would matter.


That was exactly the way I wanted it.


I rarely told anyone my real name, which was nothing like home. Everyone in Coral Pines knew who I was, because everyone there knew everyone else—their life story, their mama’s maiden name, all the gory family details most people try hard to keep buried deep in their closets. Secrets just didn’t stay kept in Coral Pines.


Though I now had some worth keeping.


They may have known the Jake Dunn who was a screw-up as a kid, but they had no fucking clue who I was anymore. Not to mention, what I was capable of.


The Matlacha Pass was the two-lane bridge that delivered you either to or from Coral Pines. It was the only way on or off the island, and for the entire twenty-two years I had occupied the Earth, it’d been under construction. This was still the case on the day that I—under protest—crossed over it for the first time in years. The thick heat washed over me as I rode like I was pushing my bike through a wall of water. Every bit of the unease I’d felt blowing off of me the day I left this godforsaken place, rushed back with the familiar salty wind.


Memories of my brother’s funeral four years before were waiting there, too. I hadn’t expected to find my mother afterward, still wearing the short-sleeved black dress she wore to the church, face-down in the bathtub with a sawed-off at her side and what had been the better part of her head splattered across the pink shower tile. She hadn’t wanted to leave a mess. She’d said so in the note she left, but Mom didn’t know enough about guns to realize she had chosen the messiest of them all from Dad’s rack.


Dad had been a disaster at the funeral for my brother. He was in the psychiatric hospital two towns over for my mother’s. He always blamed me—not just for Mason’s death, but for Mom’s too. He told me more than once I should have been with Mason on the boat that morning, and it was my fault he ended up floating in the Coral Pines River. The real reason Dad hated me is because he thought it never should’ve been his perfect, straight A-earning, scholarship-winning, baseball captain and expert fisherman son who died that day. It should have been his weed-dealing, girl-chasing, fight-picking, school-skipping degenerate of a son.


It should have been me.


In some ways, I agreed with him. If it’d been me instead of Mason, Mom would still be alive. Dad wouldn’t be trying to drown himself in cheap whiskey, and there would be a few more people walking around in the land of the living. I contributed nothing and took everything. But to be fair about it, I also expected nothing from the godless world that ripped me apart at every turn.


I expected nothing, until the night I met a certain redhead with an attitude.


The night I met Abby Ford, my life changed forever.