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The gun presses against Dan's temple. One question rushes through his head: does he have time enough to put down the television? It is an older model. He wonders absently if it actually does contain lead-his mother used to warn him about blindness from sitting too close to the set, maybe it was because of the radiation the lead blocked.

"What the hell are you doing in my apartment?" A low, thick voice asks.

"Stealing your television," he offers, not daring to turn his head. Is it better to get a bullet in the temple than one in the face? Somehow that seems more survivable. It doesn't make sense to him to lie. This is all pretty obvious. He doubts she will believe he is the Grinch in Santa's clothes, just borrowing the TV to fix so she can watch Frosty and Rudolph.

She releases the safety. He had never actually heard a gun do that before, at least not in real life and certainly not when held just above his left ear, but there is no mistaking the sound. If he is going to die tonight, he wishes he could do it in a nicer apartment. Aside from a sofa and dresser, the place does not look lived in. Burglary around Christmas is usually far more fruitful because people have decked the halls with expensive electronics wrapped up nicely. This apartment looks like the set of a living room, rather than the room itself. Soon a props person-do those people have an actual title?-would come in with a coffee table, a few bestsellers to sit idly on it to suggest the residents are casual readers, and maybe a reproduction of a Klimt painting for the bare walls.

"Listen, miss. Just put the gun down and no one will get hurt," Dan soothes. "You don't want anyone to get hurt, do you?"

The woman starts to lower her gun and Dan rests the television against his chest to free his hand so he can reach into his jeans and retrieves his switchblade. Before he can adjust enough, he feels the gun back at his temple.

"I'll leave quietly, okay? I don't want any trouble. Here, I'll even give you twenty bucks to fix that window I broke. No trouble, right?" Dan reaches into his pocket again, watching her eyes dart to the pile of glass now on the floor.

Her attention and the gun immediately trains back on him. "No one is going anywhere," she insists, "We're just going to sort a few things out first... so, what did you steal?"

Dan lowers the television slowly to the floor. "Nothing yet. I was going to take your TV."

She steps back, lowering her gun, but keeping her grip firm. "Fine. Take it. It barely worked anyway. Go. Please."

Dan lifts the television up again, his eyes never leaving the woman. She stands watching him, but does not move, so he turns to leave through the window.

She takes a folded piece of notebook paper out of the pocket of her black slacks. "Here, take this, too."

Dan shifts the television and begins to open the paper. He certainly did not want to vex the woman with the gun, particularly when about going to get out of her apartment without a radical bullet lobotomy.

"Read it outside!" she shouts. "Not now."

Dan stands for a long moment, looking around the apartment with trepidation.

"Why are you still here?"

"There's glass on the floor. I don't want to step on it."

Read the rest in Find What You Love and Let It Kill You

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings.

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