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Nick PT Barnum's Dog Eats Dog


Margie Hernandez's husband was shot in the kitchen by an intruder according to her testimony. He was on his back near the dining table, several wooden chairs were broken around him. There was an obvious struggle and the room was sealed off by the police. Angel Hernandez's face was smooth and unworn. He looked so much younger than his thirty-five years. His face was locked and his empty eyes stared at the base board just beneath the sheet rock and above the kitchen tiles.

The medical examiner later determined that the bullet that killed Angel Hernandez fully penetrated his heart at a rising angle. The shooter was obviously shorter than he was, and that was all the police had to go with. Margie Hernandez couldn't accept that, so she hired Bridgeport's finest Private Eye, Nick PT Barnum.

Several more weeks went by and Nick wanted to meet with his client. She suggested a crowded place and he agreed. It didn't bother him, he would have met her in a dark alley in the roughest neighborhood in town.

There was a lounge on the first floor of The Bridgeport Holiday Inn, and on the walls outside the doors were posters and notices of bands that were scheduled to perform live. Nick Barnum's client was sitting there at the far end of the bar waiting for him.

Nick sat down and said nothing. He ordered a draft and took two slow sips before acknowledging her.

“You know?” she asked.

He nodded up and down.

Margie Hernandez wanted to say nothing after that. Her mind was twisting and struggling as reality kept slapping her around like an unwanted step child. Nick Barnum could see anger and fear in her eyes at the same time. He knew what he uncovered could bury her behind bars for a very long time.

“You hired me to find your husband's killer,” he said after two more slow sips of his beer. “I did find out who killed him. Do you want to talk about it?”

“Does the police know?” she asked.


“Then maybe,” she muttered. “Right now, and all last night I was thinking about Angel. I was thinking about what I did, but I'm not sorry for it.”

Nick grimaced.

Rubbing her face, she rattled, “I swear Nick, even now I wanted to put my fist through his dead face. For years he manipulated me, beat me, and threatened to rape and kill my ten year old daughter if I told anyone what was happening beneath our roof. Every night I huddled in a corner with my child and a kitchen knife waiting for that son of a bitch to go to sleep.”

Nick listened.

Margie Hernandez stood up and started to pace. “I never thought I had it in me to take a life, but when pushed came to shove I had to do it. There is a boiling point in every soul and I sure as hell reached mine.”

“The gun?” Nick asked.

“I bought it from a drug dealer.”

“You know him?”

“No,” she replied. “I wore a wig, dark shades.. and dressed like a hooker. I told him that my pimp was beating me up and I wanted to stop him. He couldn't tell me from Adam.”

“The good thing about this,” said Nick. “You did not press any assault charges. That's going to keep the detectives from looking in your backyard.”

“Are you going to say anything?”

Nick Barnum was not at all uneasy. He studied her face and worked in the facts and the issues and then weighed in the predicament. “I'll tell you this. I keep all my client's cases confidential. I was hired to find out who killed your husband, and I did. The case is closed.”

Her eyes were wide.

“But if Kimber, Chambers or O'Brien ask me to open files for them,” he hesitated. “ I will, but I doubt that they suspect you. Margie, you left nothing open.”

“But you,” she whispered. “You're a loose end.”

“Yes, I am a loose end.”

“I can shoot you in the back...”

Yeah,” Nick smiled. “You can.”

The conversation and the case was closed as far as Nick Barnum was concerned. He finished his draft and wiped his lips. He stood up and winked at Margie Hernandez and then walked out of the lounge.



© 2016 Frank Atanacio


Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on May 20, 2016:

thank you Shyron.... bless you

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on May 19, 2016:

This sounds familiar, but no daughter. Like I said on one of your other hubs, it is really weird the thoughts reading your hubs invokes.

Blessings dear friend.

Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on April 17, 2016:

thank you maukajam for stopping by :)

maukajam on April 17, 2016:

Frank, I was hooked from beginning to end. What a rollercoaster ride! Thanks.

Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on April 17, 2016:

You gotta know Nick..LOL thanks for visiting..:)

Kirk Cadran on April 17, 2016:

I think the girl did what she had to do, Nick Barnum can see it, but will he really say something if the police asks?

Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on April 13, 2016:

thanks Peggy for stopping by :)

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 13, 2016:

Wow...what a twist at the end. Will she? Won't she? Nick had better be careful!

Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on April 13, 2016:

Aviannovice thanks for checking out my Nick Barnum piece, Bless you... Frank :)

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on April 13, 2016:

That is exactly what I would done. Sometimes the truth is best left in the shadows.

Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on April 11, 2016:

Nell and Winged thanks for visiting Dog eats Dog.. bless you both :)

Nell Rose from England on April 11, 2016:

Good for him! turn away when the man deserved it! another great short story!

William Thomas from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! on April 11, 2016:

So this is Nick PT Barnum, huh? I like it. You stay true to the technique you use in the rest of your flash fiction. The really vital part seems to be what the detective is going to do with what he has found out, not the details of the method by which he found out X; all of that is done "off camera," as it were.

Good job. I love the methodological consistency.


Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on April 11, 2016:

thank you mckbirdbks...:)

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on April 10, 2016:

I like, Nick PT Barnum

Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on April 10, 2016:

lol thank you Flourish :)

FlourishAnyway from USA on April 10, 2016:

He'd better watch out for this gal. She sounds dangerously too cool, a pathological liar.

Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on April 09, 2016:

Thanks Jodah for checking out Nick... and Faith always the on spotter.. LOL glad you like my Nick flick...:)

Faith Reaper from southern USA on April 09, 2016:

Hey, Frank, I just noticed your book cover there. Very cool, just like Nick.

Your Nick P. T. Barnum stories are one of my favorites, as I do love a good detective story.


John Hansen from Queensland Australia on April 09, 2016:

Good one Frank. This is the first Nick P.T. Barnum story I have read. Glad I did, it was expertly told.

Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on April 08, 2016:

i herrrr yeah.. :)

Faith Reaper from southern USA on April 07, 2016:

LOL, I like your dad's version even better ...yeah, those cats scratch and hiss, plus have nine lives!

Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on April 07, 2016:

Certainly faith a dog eats dog world is Topsy turfy... I am so glad you stopped by.. and I'm glad you enjoyed my Dog eats dog piece featuring Nick PT Barnum... Have a good morning and please stay away from these dog eats dog days... My dad you to say.. man it's a dog eats dog world.. Only the cat survives...:) LOL

Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on April 07, 2016:

thank you so much Billybuc and Eric for checking out my Dog eats dog..:)

Faith Reaper from southern USA on April 06, 2016:

Certainly is a dog eat dog one here! I agree with Bill, you are a craftsman, Frank, and especially with these flash fictions, for you always pack a punch with less words brilliantly.

I love your Nick Barnum character.

Makes one wonder how it ever gets to the dog eat dog stage (where someone will do anything to get out of a situation). I wonder why she would marry Angel and if he has always been so violent, to inevitably die at hands of his own wife. However, being a mom, I know mothers will do anything to protect their child from harm.

My mother used to always use that expression "It's a dog eat dog world out there," whenever something of this nature happened.


Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on April 06, 2016:

Great one. I don't know what I would do in Barnum's shoes. She is just to calculated for me. Watch my back for sure.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 06, 2016:

Amazing how much entertainment and damned good writing you squeeze into so few words. You are a craftsman, my friend.

Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on April 06, 2016:

You laugh because it's true.. who let the dogs out? LOL

Clive Williams from Jamaica on April 06, 2016:


Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on April 06, 2016:

DAWG.. Jive Clive

Clive Williams from Jamaica on April 06, 2016:

i would have brought her home...wink wink

Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on April 06, 2016:

thank you so much Always, tsmog and Missy for checking out my dog eats dog..:)

Missy Smith from Florida on April 06, 2016:

I felt from the beginning she was the killer. Chairs broken gave me a feel of a domestic dispute, then the intruder was shorter than the victim. She probably hired Barnum to confuse the investigation process, and keep her in focus as the grieving widow. I think the case will be closed, but I do wonder if the tables were turned and the wife was the dead one would the husband get off that easily? Good one! :)

Tim Mitchell from Escondido, CA on April 06, 2016:

Intriguing. Put's one at odd's in it's own way. Great story Frank . . .

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on April 06, 2016:

She did what she had to do to save her child. I hope the case is closed? Another great story!

Frank Atanacio (author) from Shelton on April 06, 2016:

thanks, If Nick had to, he'd turn her in :)

manatita44 from london on April 06, 2016:

Nice one, very nice, what trust! I've seen a few like this one. I think one was Columbo's. The man is generally so bad; so disgusting, they do their best to help the client ... in a subtle way of course. Excellent write!