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by Melissa Llanes Brownlee

Content Warnings: Dead body, drinking, drug use

There was a loud thud against the office door, waking Hump from a nightmare filled with high walls, frying pans and fire. He rolled unevenly out of the cot in the corner of his office. His tie had become his belt again, and he pushed it up closer to his swollen eyes. Another night of drunken oblivion, he thought, too many vodka, tabasco and mayo shots. He liked to devil himself whenever possible. Maybe tomorrow, he’d try some scorpion sauce, really spice things up. 

He could already hear his secretary, Alice, as she mumbled through her edibles, ‘one day, you are going to be too delicious for anyone to take seriously.’ He doubted that a few sprinkles of hot sauce would do much to change him now, especially not after the Cheshire case. Damn that cat. And damn Alice for letting him in the office in the first place. That girl would do anything for good shrooms. 

He wobbled to the door, checking under it for any creature-sized shadows. You could never be too careful. He should have a peephole installed, but he could barely afford the rent and didn’t want to owe the Caterpillar any more than he already did, so no more loans from that smoking shark. He slowly cracked the door, pushing it open with the steel tip of his boot. A red hatbox rolled over, revealing a big, black tag covered in swirling silver writing addressed to Alice. Its lid had been loosened by the impact against his door, spilling a tall, purple hat filled with flaming orange hair, large, staring eyes, and tea-stained teeth. Oh, Alice wasn’t going to be happy that someone had decided her ex would make a good present.

Melissa Llanes Brownlee: 

Melissa Llanes Brownlee (she/her), a native Hawaiian writer, living in Japan, has fiction in Booth, Pleiades, The Citron Review, Waxwing, Milk Candy Review, Claw & Blossom, Bending Genres, (mac)ro(mic), Necessary Fiction, HAD, The Birdseed, Bandit Fiction and Best Small Fictions 2021. Hard Skin, her short story collection, will be coming soon from Juventud Press. She tweets @lumchanmfa and talks story at

2HardBoiledMLlanesBrownlee: Text
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