15 Minute Story #29: Baby Steps

Baby Steps

“What we have here, sir, is a case of over-intimidation.” Niles shifted in his seat. The man speaking to him had been his father’s right hand man. Word was the guy saved his father’s life in the war. More to the point, Niles’ father had told him that Tommy’s advice was always worthwhile. So Niles listened.

“You’re the new man in charge. And it’s natural to want to instill fear in those who work for you if only to make sure they don’t double cross you and know who they’re dealing with. But in the three weeks you’ve been in charge, you’ve killed eighteen people who worked for us. They have a combined sixty-seven years in our service. Quite frankly, you’re thinning our crew at a rate no rival has ever matched. I recognize your need for discipline, but you must take baby steps away from all the shooting.”

Niles was shaking. His left hand had a powerful desire to pull the chrome pearl handled pistol from its shoulder holster. He told himself not to. He told himself that while his father had retired, he would not abide the loss of Tommy.

A week went by. Niles received bad news. A shipment went missing. A henchman dinged up a car. He let it slide. And then Barry came in. Barry wore a tattered shirt and pinstriped dress pants that looked like they may have been on fire at one point.

“I’m sorry, sir.” Barry said, “Things didn’t go so well.”

Niles took a deep breath. “Tell me what happened.”

“This guy he cuts me off. So I step out of the car. He pulls out a piece and shoots. I shoot back and miss. The guy runs off. I turn around and find someone’s taken the briefcase out of the car.”

“So you lost the money.”


Niles reminded himself that in the big scheme of things, it wasn’t much money. Barry cringed.

“Is that all?” Niles asked.

“No. No, sir.”

“Tell me.”

“This next part was just dumb luck, sir. I don’t think I should be blamed.”

“Tell me what happened.”

“The shot I took at the guy. It hit something.”

“What did it hit?”

“A dog. A Pomeranian. It turns out it was…It was your mother’s Pomeranian. She was taking it for a walk.”

Niles reached the shoulder holster, unsnapped it, and pulled the gun. He pointed it at Barry. He tried to remember the words of Tommy and reholstered the pistol.

“Barry, let me see your gun.” Barry reached in his waistband and handed it over. Niles took a look at it and fired one shot into Barry’s leg.

“Barry, Tommy’s going to drive you to the hospital. Tell them you shot yourself in the leg. If Tommy asks, tell him it’s a baby step.”

Words by Jack Cameron
Illustration by Ossaín Ávila Cárdenas

About 15 Minute Stories
It’s good for writers to write every day, but it’s easy for life to get in the way of that. One solution I read about recently was to write a 15 minute piece of short fiction every single day for a month. You may not have time to do NaNoWriMo every month, but if you like writing, you can always find 15 minutes.

So for the month of January, I’ll be writing and posting pieces of very short fiction that I took 15 minutes to write. I’ve asked that my friend, Ossaín Ávila Cárdenas join me by taking 15 minutes to draw an accompanying image for each story.  Ossaín is one of the owners of a local zine shop in Tacoma called The Nearsighted Narwhal

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