Blue Christmas

 

Blue Christmas

Julie Gilbert

“Pizza or sushi?” Annie asks as they stand in the middle of the food court, tinseled trees soaring overhead.

“Any place where we can get away from this music,” Derrick laughs, his hand tightening around hers. She wears the leather gloves he gave her for her birthday.

“Imagine having to listen to it all day,” she says, gesturing toward the silent workers behind antiseptic counters. “I saw something on the internet that said holiday music makes people go nuts.”

“I’d believe it.”

A man in a beige parka shoulders past him, dropping a black duffle bag at his feet.

“Sir? Your bag,” Annie calls, her words swallowed by the tinny music coming over the loudspeakers. Elvis, sexy and sad, croons over a loping guitar. Derrick hears the first few bars and then his mind goes blank.

When the song ends, he’s crouched over a pimply teenager, wrenching his knife from the boy’s ribs. Screams echo through the glass doors as men in beige parkas hurry him to the van.

“Eleven down in two minutes. Not bad,” one says.

“Good song choice. Target Zero won’t know what hit it,” another agrees.

“Neither will the rest of the country.”

The driver glances in the rearview mirror and tosses Derrick a towel.

“How ya doing, buddy? Memories coming back?”

“Yes,” he says, the fog of the past year lifting, his training complete. He starts forgetting Annie’s face but when he looks down, he’s clutching a single leather glove, the palm soaked with blood.