Canary by Tijan



Ishould’ve been fazed that I was about to witness a murder. I wasn’t.

Sad to say, but this was my new normal.

I was in a motel room. A large plastic sheet covered the floor, and a guy sat on his knees in the middle of it. My boss stood over him. He took his gun out, pressing it into Knee Guy’s mouth.

He leaned forward.

“You’re going to tell me who sent you, you motherfucker,” he growled.

That was my boss. Raize. He was on a kick today. The “motherfucker” bit was new.

He’d used it to the point that I wondered if he called his mother motherfucker, and if so, did she reply with who actually fucked her? Probably not.

I couldn’t see Raize having a mother.

Knee Guy was sobbing, making pleading sounds around the gun’s muzzle, and a distinct smell filled the room.

“Ah, man.” One of Raize’s henchmen groaned, shifting on his feet. “He just pissed himself.”

Henchman Two gave him a look. “Shut up.”

Henchman One was new. I called him Henchman One because he acted like there was a hierarchy, and he was on top. I didn’t know his name. I’d learned it was easier not knowing their names. Raize had hired him a week ago, and I was surprised he was griping so much. Raize didn’t put up with attitude from his goons. Maybe this one hadn’t been around long enough to realize that.

Raize took the gun out of the guy’s mouth and turned, pinning Henchman One with a look. “You got a problem?”

Henchman Two glanced my way. Then we both made sure not to make eye contact with Henchman One while he was looking around for allies.

Oh, wow. Look at that floor.

It was a beautiful myriad of…plastic. All different colors in that plastic down there.



“Can’t hear you, motherfucker.” Raize took the safety off his gun.

Yep. I recognized the slight sound of that by now. This was something else that should’ve fazed me. But all I did was move to the side, farther away from Henchman One.

Knowing my boss, I knew Raize didn’t miss. But the blood would be a bitch to wash out. I’d have to shower here, and there was an ick factor involved with showering a door away from two dead bodies.

Henchman Two moved with me.

He’d been with Raize for the last month and was proving to be smart. He’d last longer than Henchman One, that was for sure.

There were two main rules you had to follow if you worked with Raize. One, do whatever he tells you to do. And two, don’t bitch about it. This guy was bitching. Our boss did not have patience, hence why this guy had been hired in the first place. He was filling another guy’s spot who hadn’t followed one of those two rules. I didn’t know which. But he was there one day and gone the next. This new guy showed up for lunch, and then we were off to do whatever Raize needed us to do.

“I—I’m sorry, Raize.”

Raize glowered at him, and it was ugly.

Not that Raize was ugly. One night when I was drunk, I realized that Raize was good looking—hot even, but he was dead inside. That was obvious, and the fact that he had no problem killing snuffed out any attraction I might’ve had. I tended not to look at Raize, or did it the least amount I could.

Another unofficial rule of mine? Don’t make eye contact with Raize. He might think you’re issuing him a challenge.

I’d been working for him for six months, almost seven. In this world, that was just about tenure. I was pretty sure I’d been won in a bet. I’d gone to a poker game with my previous boss. He went inside a room. Eight hours later, Raize came out, grabbed my arm, and we left.

I’d looked back, but my boss’ guys were just standing and staring. If they’d been going to put up a fight, they would’ve done so the second Raize touched my arm.

And, well, anticlimactic, but that’s how I came to work for Raize.

He’d turned to me in the car after I left with him. “You got a place here?”

I’d eyed him, warily, as I shook my head. “I was staying at Slim’s.” That was my previous boss from an hour earlier.

He’d grunted. “I got a room. You can use that.” But he must’ve had a new thought come to mind because he’d squinted at me after that. “You want your own place?”

I’d wanted to ask why. I’d come into this world knowing the score. If I worked for someone, I worked wholeheartedly for them. There was no half-in or half-out. We didn’t do taxes. Forms of ID were issued from what was ‘heard’ about you. Everything was cash. There was a normal world, that wasn’t this. We were all the way in the ‘other’ side of society.

You were all in or all out. And all out meant death.

I wasn’t ready to die, not yet.

I still had shit to do.

So I’d shrugged. “What’s the point?”

He’d grunted, his mouth curving up in a slight grin.

That’d been the only time I saw Raize come close to smiling, and it wasn’t even a half-smile. It’d been a hint of a smile, like a glimmer and then poof—it was gone. He’d returned to being scary the next second when he’d pulled a gun out and aimed it at the guy in front of him in the car.

I sat behind the driver. Raize was behind the front passenger.

There was no warning.

He’d put the end of his gun against the headrest and pulled the trigger—I’d missed the silencer on top.

White fuzz and blood went everywhere. The guy’s body slumped forward.

Raize had settled back, cleaning his gun. He’d wiped blood from his face and hands.

The car made a turn and pulled over in an alley.

“You want?”

My heart had been in my damn throat, my body on the razor’s edge of flight or fight. Everything around me had intensified. Colors were brighter. Voices were louder. Stronger. I was on a stimulus overload, so it had taken a second to realize that as the driver opened his door, Raize offered me a piece of cloth—the same one he’d just used to clean his gun and face. He had folded it back so a clean section faced out.

He held it up. “We’re going to stop for food. If your face isn’t clean, you can’t come.”

Of course.


With blood on me.

That wasn’t good.

I’d shaken myself out of the weird state I was in and reached for the cloth.

The driver had walked around, opened the front passenger seat door, and taken the dead body out of the car.

I’d started to wipe my face.

Raize had been watching, seeming almost bemused by me. Then he’d offered up some alcohol.

I’d been confused, but hell, I’d figured it might help at this point.

I took the bottle and dipped my head back, taking a long drink. The burn was good, warming.

Raize had frowned. “You need it to wash your face. The blood is caking. I don’t have anything else to offer you.”



I’d snorted and poured some of the whiskey onto the washcloth. I’d never needed alcohol to wash my face before. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen someone executed in front of me, but it was the first time Raize had killed a man in front of me, and the first time I’d used alcohol as a cleanser.

New things.


By the time I’d finished, the driver had returned.

He’d leaned over, grabbed some wipes from inside one of the car’s compartments, and started cleaning off the dashboard, the seat, everything around him. He’d used one to clean his face as well, and then he’d looked back at us.

“Chicken nuggets?”

Raize had grunted again, settling back, and we’d gone to get chicken nuggets.

I never asked why that guy was killed. No questions. It was a rule, but in working for Raize, I had learned that he didn’t kill unless there was a reason. A further ‘problem’ that might happen. There’d been no warning that first night when he’d killed the guy in the car. So as Raize stared at Henchman One now, I was ready.

His eyes narrowed, and for a moment, the guy kneeling seemed forgotten.

Raize lifted his gun toward Henchman One. “You got a big mouth on you?”

This guy was fucked. He’d be a ‘problem’ and Raize knew it in the way he worded that question.

I also knew what else was coming.

My stomach clenched in preparation.

The guy swallowed. I could see the sweat pouring off of him. His hands twitched, and he shifted his feet around, the plastic crackling underneath him. “No. No, sir. No, boss.”

“You’ve been having a lot to say.” Raize’s gaze was cold, but there was a twitch beside his mouth, and he turned his eyes to me. “You.”


But I’d known.

He nodded toward Henchman One. “He gonna be a problem for me?” he asked me.





This. This was what I did for these men. It was something they’d learned right away. Or almost right away. When they asked me a question, I always knew the answer in my gut, and I hated it.

Hatedit. Hated. It.

I hated being the reason there’d be another body to clean up today.


I jerked at Raize’s bark and answered, because if I wanted to remain alive, I had to be truthful. “Yes.”

I’d barely gotten the word out before bang!

Henchman One’s body fell against the door behind him, then slid to the side and down, a dark, red hole smack in the middle of his forehead. His eyes remained wide, as if watching us, but he was gone.

Raize was an ace shot.

I bit back my remorse. Dammit. But I’d told the truth because this guy would’ve been a problem. When I’d gone against my gut in the past, I was always proven wrong, and my bosses tended to get pissed at me.

I wasn’t psychic, but my gut knew the true answer to any question. If it was a yes/no question, I’d know.

Raize sighed, his gaze lingering on the blood that left a trail down the wall behind Henchman One. It’d be a long night of cleaning. With all that done, he turned and stuck his gun back into Knee Guy’s mouth again. He cocked it and raised an eyebrow. “You gonna tell me now, motherfucker?”

The guy’s mouth moved around the muzzle, his words unclear.

Raize took the gun out, his face locked down, waiting.

The guy coughed and said, “Bronski sent me.”


The guy glanced up at me, and I felt a chill pass through me. Nausea rose up, my stomach churning and twisting. I knew Bronski. He’d been my first boss, and the worst boss. He hadn’t known about my gut. That shit was discovered by my second boss. It was the reason he’d taken me to work for him.

My time with Bronski had been short, thankfully.

“He wants her back.”

Raize swung his head my way. “You worked for him?”

I had to tell the truth, and it tasted bitter coming out. “Yeah.”


“As nothing. I wasn’t with him long, a few days.”

“What’d you do for him?” He cocked his head.

“Not what I do for you.”

He didn’t comment on that, but his gaze traveled down and up my body.

Another blast of cold seared my insides.

Then he turned back to the guy and bang! A second body collapsed.

Henchman Two went to work. He started rolling up the kneeling guy first since he was smack in the middle of the plastic. That was an easier cleanup job. Henchman One would be last.

Raize stuck his gun back in his pocket as he crossed the room to me. “Bronski ever fuck you?” he asked, his voice gruff.

My stomach twisted again. “Yes.”

“You wanted it?”

I looked up at him, wanting to be a smartass because no one wanted to think back on memories like that. “No,” I said instead, hating that my voice came out sounding the way it did.

Henchman Two stilled and turned to look at Raize.

A vein throbbed in Raize’s neck as he turned away, motioning to the body. “Clean it up. Get this shit done.”

Henchman Two went back to work.

Raize focused on me again. “Hey.”

I looked up to him. I’d never seen Raize soften, ever, and I knew this was probably the closest I’d ever get. He wasn’t soft, but he was less hard than he usually looked.

“I don’t want to go to war with Bronski, but we’ll make this right. Yeah?”

I had no idea what he was talking about, but I nodded.

Raize wasn’t about using girls or forcing them. He didn’t need to. He had a slew of women who came and went from his place whenever he wanted them. That wasn’t his business.

He motioned to Henchman One’s body. “Help clean that fucker up.”

As I did, he went outside for a smoke.

Forty minutes later, both bodies were gone, the room was clean, and we left, leaving no trace of the two murders just committed there.

Then we went for chicken nuggets.

I didn’t have any.