You’ve been waiting for it, and here it is: the tenth and final chapter of 10, 12th Street Online’s first serial novel. Tony Tallon has wrapped up a far-ranging story began last November by Mario Zambrano and continued each week (with a break between semesters) by J.L. Balderama, Sarah Finch and Geoffrey Jason Kagan Trenchad. You can read the first nine installments here.

Enjoy, and keep checking 12th Street Online for new posts daily.

She had not heard from the guy that puked on his shirt and then fucked her in her hotel bed. He had left two mornings ago mumbling about his ex (they all had exes). She didn’t like to share her men. She especially didn’t like to share with someone who should be gone. It frustrated her. Infuriated her. It built in her a rage that could not be squelched. So when the second phone call came, she scribbled the number down in a rage-filled chicken scratch that perturbed her. (She hated unnecessarily sloppy penmanship.) She did this before he woke up, before knowing it was his ex, something about the dead silence from the other woman’s end gave away that she was competition for his affections. And when he confirmed that this woman, this Katherine, was in fact an ex, she waited for him to leave and used technology to find her.

Using the reverse phone book, she found one Katherine Banning, who needed to be dealt with. She couldn’t help herself. Katherine had woken her up at 9 a.m. Katherine had driven her newfound flame out of her hotel room before she got another stab at fucking him. Katherine had ruined her trip to New York City. Katherine was a bitch—a fucking bitch.

But that was over now. As she packed her bags to head back to home, she realized the trip to New York wasn’t a total loss. If anything she did get a nifty granite butterfly hair clip as a consolation prize.

* * * * *

Katherine was buried.

Mike was still her husband, technically. Her parents turned to him to make the decisions. To be the deciding vote, the tiebreaker in what to do with her. Her father wanted her buried, her mother wanted her cremated and Mike suddenly wanted her back in his bed with her chestnut curls falling down her back and shoulders. We all want something. Katherine had wanted to be let go.

Mike chose to have her buried. They chose a spot in Greenwood, so that Mike could visit her throughout the year.

Her parents left him with the task of cleaning out her apartment. Jay, Mike’s partner, helped with the heavy lifting, but Jay left when Mike started to look through photo albums and old diaries. The Black Maria T-shirt. The Forever War sitting on her nightstand. He was looking for the butterfly hair clip that had been his first gift to her, but could not find it in the wreckage. Death was hardest on the living.

Mike thought that he would find some clue. Something the police had missed. The only thing he knew was that the doorman had seen a girl come calling for Katherine in the afternoon. He could not remember the name, it was either Amber or Emily, and his description of her was so vague that it proved no help.

Mike now understood why Ballard’s father wanted to believe someone had pushed him off the terrace of some tony catering hall. But Katherine was the one that had been murdered. Ballard had not been pushed. Katherine was buried. Mike was not. Tomorrow was Saturday. Maybe he would have his coffee like hers.

The following post, by Tony Tallon, is the fifth installment of 10, 12th Street Online’s first serial novel. You can read the first four chapters here. We’ll be publishing a new chapter each week.

The bar on Bleecker was all exposed brick and votive candles lighting drunk faces that hovered over glasses of red wine and whiskey—alcoholic earth tones of crimson and brown. He spotted her lonely frame hunched on a barstool, a swizzle stick pressed between her lips, and could make out her jaw jutting to-and-fro, chewing the plastic furiously. He noticed her chestnut curls pulled back, and the elfish points of her ears.

He approached with caution. Something about her demeanor warned of a woman who did not appreciate approach. Her face was blank, and if it weren’t for the swizzle stick, it would seem she was still as stone.  Jeremi took the seat next to her, all too aware of the distance between them and ordered a Jack on the rocks.

Systematically turning his head from one muted TV to another, watching the news to his left, reading the ticker, then the game on his right, Jeremi constantly checked the score. When he turned to the game his eyes landed first on her, noting quickly how her stern and distant gaze had not moved from her reflection in the mirror behind the bar. It placed her petite head on the shelf amidst half filled liquor bottles.

“Did you know,” he finally said, “that Southern Comfort is not a whiskey, but rather a cordial? Most people don’t know that.”

“Very nice,” she said, uninterested.

“My name is Jeremi, with an i,” he said, making a gesture to shake her hand.

“How delightful.”

“Do you have a name?”

Her head finally turned from its reflection and her eyes made first contact. He was stunned by their immediate fury. “Look,” she said,  “you seem like a nice kid, but that’s just it, you’re a kid and I am an old woman, so if you don’t mind I am gonna sit here, slurp down this cheap red wine and pretend that I am someone else.”  She turned back to her reflection and took a swig from her glass.

Jeremi waited a minute, not quite sure what to do. “My parents were part of that group of people who liked to misspell things. They almost named me Philip with an f.”

“I am really not interested.”

“Then why are you still sitting here?”

She shifted on her stool. Her fingers ran across the edge, and her lips puckered. She flipped a curl and Jeremi noted its chestnut brown hue. “I don’t know. That’s a very good question, and I have a better answer.” She took her wine glass and shoved it through the vacant air between them. A wave of red cupped through the air and splashed against his face. “Good night…and by the way, I am much too old for you.”

She collected her things and headed for the door. Jeremi started to wipe his face with cocktail napkins. He was now more aroused for a chase. He followed her out the door and grabbed her hand as she tried to hail a cab.

“Wait,” he said, “How old are you?”

“Thirty-eight. Now, will you leave me alone?”

“Well I am 23, you’re not too old for me, you’re perfect.”His grin showed he was a little too sure of himself. “Let me buy you a drink, or coffee, or tea? Let me sit next to you on a barstool and pretend you think me dashing.”

She let out a sigh. “Fine.”

“Wonderful. And what’s your name?”

“Katherine, and I’m pretty sure it’s spelled correctly.”