Flash in the Pantry: Courier: Assassin: Golan Heights: Sheer Drop: Martyr by David Patten


Griffith Park in the early morning. Mateo cycles past joggers and dog walkers. A group of elderly Koreans in wide brimmed hats doing Tai chi. Off to the west peacocks in full voice at the zoo. He enjoys this start to the day, cutting through the park down into Franklin Hills and then across to Sunset, which he rides all the way to downtown. At Angelino Heights he stops at a coffee shop and checks the app for the day’s first pick up.

Mateo can make his own hours, but the best times to ride are from around eight to three. With UCLA out for the summer he can make good money on his bike for a couple months, and then go meet up with his mom and all her spirited siblings down in Guadalajara. The first package is at a realtor on Wilshire. Mateo drains his second cup, adjusts his helmet, and pushes off into traffic.

Noon. It’s hot, July letting LA simmer. Mateo has been staying hydrated, avoiding hills. He’s in line at a Jamba Juice, taking a breather. Ordinarily, he’d go another hour or two but he’s baked and wants to head down to the ocean. He takes out his phone to shut off the app but another job lights up the screen. A lawyer’s office just a couple blocks away, a package going to the Federal Courthouse over by the Civic Center. Just one more job. Mateo hits the accept button.

The package is bulky and digs into him through his backpack as he navigates standstill traffic. He lifts the bike up steps and walks it across the wide plaza to the courthouse. Two uniformed officers check his progress at the entrance. They are surly, uncomfortable in the heat. Mateo hands one of them the package, has him sign for it on the app.

He is a block away when the blast sends him sprawling, hauling all the breath out of him. His ears are muffled as if underwater. Blood trickles from his nose. The bike is on its side, wheels spinning. Car alarms, dozens of them. Then sirens. So many sirens. Another sound, harsher, urgent. Officers are barking at him to remain on the ground. He feels a sharp pain in his arms as his wrists are cuffed. A realization comes to Mateo, his brain joining the dots. The package.


Its journey complete, the Norwegian tanker anchored out in the gulf near the entrance to the Mexican port town of Tampico. The January day was blustery, the water choppy. Huddled on the dock, the welcoming party: police officers, government officials, Frida Kahlo. A sturdy boat brings Trotsky and his wife ashore, their final stop after a decade of restless exile. Kahlo greets them as if they were old friends, ushers them onto the president’s personal train for the half day trip to the capital where her expectant husband, Diego, waits.

Like a Jackson Pollock, Kahlo and Rivera’s relationship was messy, colourful, complicated. A pairing of leftist artists, the boundaries of expression and convention purposely blurred. Marxists both, a celebrity of the revolution now in their midst whom they could offer safe harbor at their iconic casa azul, the blue house.

Cobalt inside and out, the house occupied a corner hidden among palms and tropical plants. The tranquility enhanced with birdsong and the rhythm of water fountains. Leon and Natasha explored the cool interior filled with the artists’ work and indigenous collections. They hugged, feeling a world away from Europe’s new turmoil and Stalin’s malevolence.

A summer downpour leaves its humidity to linger. Birds emerge from shelter, making announcements. A young man arrives at the house carrying documents. He is known, trusted, having spent a full year selling the deception. He enters Trotsky’s study with deference. Leon takes the documents to the window for better light. The young man reaches into his jacket and grips the cold iron of the ice pick.

Golan Heights

It takes a moment for the brain to properly process that it’s hearing gunfire. But the repeated sharp cracks and urgent shouts in Hebrew confirmed there was a situation. Connor and Craig were waiting by the main entrance for a ride to the local store. An Israeli, middle-aged with greying hair ran into view. He knelt and fired off his Uzi in the direction he’d come. The settlement came alive with the sounds of combat, Israelis responding to unseen assailants. Craig took off running through the main gate. Momentarily rooted, Connor followed.

Some fifty yards up ahead Craig hurdled a low fence topped with barbed wire. No time for prudence. Connor followed suit, the wire slashing at his ankles. The gunfire behind them was intensifying. Then an angry flash and a loud, abrupt explosion. Clumps of earth falling around Connor. Craig’s heaped body, unmoving. A landmine. A voice. Connor turned toward it. The Israeli with the grey hair was standing the other side of the fence, weapon held across his body. Come back, he said, but slow. Go slow. Shaking, Connor locked him with his eyes and took the first step.

Sheer Drop

Daybreak, water the colour of slate. A lone figure stands in contemplation, close enough to the river that its current splashes over her boots. This stretch of the Niagara resides in the commonplace, revealing nothing of the chaos up ahead. Annie steps back up onto the grass, the October dew staining the hem of her dress and petticoats. She adjusts her matching bonnet which, like her dress, was once the tone of ripe plums, the garments now faded and frayed.

Farther down river the water quickens, a menace in its energy. Annie observes it coursing over rocks, dragging reluctant branches. Then rapids, the river shapeshifting, relentless. The air resounds, vibrates. Ahead, the torrent launches itself into the void. Annie is still, awed by the force of nature, her clothes absorbing the clouds of spray thrown high by the Horseshoe Falls. Tomorrow, her birthday, she will plunge over the brink in a barrel.

A small crowd has gathered at the launch point, the interest mostly morbid, as few expect Annie to survive. But this stoic woman in her sixties, widowed since the Civil War, remains confident that prosperity will follow. She engages with a reporter, offers a brief smile to the photographer. The large, oak barrel has been lined with thick blankets. Annie climbs through the opening and settles, cushioned. Resigned to being accomplices to such imprudence, two men in buttoned vests and rolled shirtsleeves toss their cigarettes to the ground and step into a rowboat.

Untethered, the barrel rolls in the calm stretch of the river. It appears inert, laden, until the current imposes its will. Annie’s breaths are shallow, fast, as she braces for the rapids. They receive her with disdain, muscles of water pounding the sodden oak. A thunder fills the barrel, invincible. The energy fractures. Freefall. Annie is relaxed, expectant.


The foul weather provided Joan with a temporary stay of execution. Although on the cusp of summer, Northwestern France was awash from relentless rain. The pyre, assiduously constructed, now lay sodden and deserted in the center of the walled city of Rouen. There were those who believed the intemperate conditions to be a divine rebuke.

The late spring regained control; renewal and growth continued, belying the solemn event at hand. The pyre stood centerpiece, timbers slowly shedding their moisture. Commerce, music, livestock all returned to the market square. Below ground a teenaged Joan remained chained to the stone wall of her cell. Once a conduit for the unlikely French victory at Orleans and the inspiration for a resurgent army, she was now a pawn in political maneuvering and betrayal. Baseless whisperings of heresy and witchcraft grew into formal accusations, sealing Joan’s fate.

Mercifully, the thick smoke took Joan before the serpent of flames claimed the wooden cross in her clasp. Her prayers had fallen upon the onlookers, the crowd having to retreat from the blaze. On an adjacent rooftop a black cat narrowed its eyes from wayward embers. It groomed lazily and settled on a ledge as the flames absorbed the martyr.

David Patten is an educator living in Colorado.  He was raised in London, England, but has spent half of his life in the U.S. He loves reading and creating short fiction.  He is hoping to increase the audience for his work.

You can find more of David’s work here on Ink Pantry.

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