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Back Down To Black

by Andrew Welsh-Huggins

About the Author: Andrew Welsh-Huggins, an Associated Press reporter, is the author of seven books in the Andy Hayes private eye series, about a former Ohio State and Cleveland Browns quarterback turned investigator. His short fiction has appeared in "Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine," "Mystery Tribune," and "Tough." His story, "The Mailman," was published in "Mickey Finn 21st Century Noir: Vol. 1," and was a 2021 International Thriller Writers finalist for best short story.


They met in a coffee shop off Grand Avenue, the smell of roasting beans filling the air. Espresso machine hissing in the background. Bottles of flavored syrups, red and purple and green, lining the back wall like something you’d put on the mantel at Christmas. All the same to Carter, who was pretty much a Folger’s guy when and if he drank the stuff, but it’s not like they were there for the beverages. And truth be told, it was nice to be out in public again. Four of them at the table. Langford, who was running the show. A big guy, Fritz, who didn’t say a lot. And Dr. Zhang, waiting expectantly but not over anxiously for the meeting to proceed.

“Any problems?” Langford said.

“None,” Carter said, patting the upper right pocket of his tan utility vest.

“And nobody …”

“Nobody,” Carter said. “Why you’re paying me.”

“Great. In that case, I think we’re all set?” Langford nodded at Fritz. An envelope just over half the size of a burnt clay brick appeared atop the table. They were seated at the back of the coffee shop, just in case, but this time of day, early morning rush past, the crowd inside was thin and nobody was around to notice.

“Fujian Province?” Carter said to Dr. Zhang, ignoring the envelope.

“That’s right,” she said, a look of mild surprise on her face. “You’ve done your research. Most people think I’m from Hubei, because of my work in Wuhan the last time.”

Story Comments

Nov 21 - KJ

Good story I really enjoyed it.

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