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  Table of contents Issue Twenty-six THE NEVER HOUR




“We went to the plaintiff’s attorney, and he wasn’t exactly friendly.”


“Well that’s to be expected. Who has he got? Donovan?”


“Yeah, and he brought that insufferable little first-year associate with him…what’s her name? Jack? Do you remember?”

Peter Rollins, the senior and most pompous partner of Rollins, French & Simone stared expectantly at Jack Simone, who was a million miles away from Peter’s pinched, condescending smile.

“What? Oh I’m sorry…it’s the dripping. I thought we got that fixed?” Jack shook himself back to reality and pointed to the leaking coffee pot in the back of the board room.

“Uhm, yeah, well we can get one of the interns on that, I suppose. Anyway, what else you got for us, Dan?”

Giving up on Jack, Peter turned his chair to face Dan, who excitedly started to flip through his legal pad. Jack hated Dan, who in his opinion was just a thicker haired, much younger clone of Peter. Jack rolled his eyes behind closed lids before going back to counting how many drips per hour the coffee pot could produce.

“It’s been a year, you know.” Jack startled Dan and Peter out of their conversation.

“What? Jack, what the hell is with you today?”

“Since Alex died. It’s exactly a year…” Jack held his finger up to Peter and Dan as he looked at his watch. “Tomorrow.”

A false, solemn veil swept across Dan and Peter’s faces. Dan cleared his throat and shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “He, uh…he was a good man. Sad stuff, Jack. In fact, I say we all have a drink tonight to honor the son of a bitch’s memory. Whadya say? Pete? Jack? Hannigan’s tonight, after work?”

Dan smiled widely, and Jack could count at least five more teeth than a normal human being should have gleaming in Dan’s mouth. “But-uh, for now, what say we focus on this discovery?” Dan placed his hand on his legal pad and tilted his head, still smiling, at Jack.

“Well sure, Dan that sounds just fine.” Jack smiled back-he wasn’t about to let Dan “Harvard isn’t as hard as they say” Johnson show him up in front of his own partner. “Tell ya what-I’ll just hit the bathroom and then we can really dig into this little discovery of yours.”

In the bathroom, Jack was practically spitting at his own reflection in an enraged, rabid fit. Dan always had that effect on him, and lately, Peter seemed to be humoring his power plays more and more. Jack knew Peter wanted to make Dan a partner, but he wasn’t going to lie down and take it. Jack looked down at the sink and noticed that the faucet was dripping. He tightened the ornate fixture but the water was persistent.




Jack took a few breaths and mentally talked himself down from ripping the sink out of the wall. He straightened up and looked back at his collected reflection. He was about to turn away when he noticed someone hurry behind him in the mirror. He spun around only to see the sparkling pearlescent tiles behind him. Jack bent down to peek under the stalls in hopes of seeing one of the associate’s second hand Gucci loafers, but there was nobody. He was totally alone.

Jack steeled himself and gripped the sink. “Stop it.” He said to his reflection. “Now.” He washed his hands and rushed out of the bathroom, back to the boardroom where Peter and Dan were hurriedly whispering.

“I don’t know. He’s been acting this way for months.”

“He just left in the middle of the day last week. Came out of his office white faced and just left.”


Jack cleared his throat, shocking Dan and almost giving Peter a heart attack.

“Jack!” Peter organized his papers in front of him and smiled sheepishly up at him. “We-ehm, we…”

Jack held up his hand, silencing Peter. “No need, Pete.” He rounded the table and snatched his briefcase from where it was leaning against the plush leather seat and strode towards the door.

“Jack? Son, I…” Peter started.

Jack whipped around. “I said no need, Pete. Don’t talk to me like one of your idiot kids…or this one.” Jack flicked his hand in Dan’s direction.

Dan straightened up in his seat. “Now, Jack come on…”

Jack rolled his eyes at Dan as he stormed out the door. On his way to his office, Jack almost ran down Henrietta, his motherly paralegal.

“Oop! Sorry, Mr. S.” Henrietta made a grab for her file folder as it tumbled to the ground.

“Nope, that was all me.” Jack bent down to help her organize her papers. Henrietta looked at him with those kind, watery eyes that always seemed to be looking out for him.

“You all right, Mr. S? You’ve been kind of all over the place these past few months.”

Jack nodded. “Yeah-it’s nothing, Etta, just some stress. Nothing I haven’t handled before.”

Henrietta shook her head as she straightened back up with some effort.

“I know it’s coming up on a year since Mr. F passed. If you need anyone to talk to…”

Jack smiled. “Thanks, Etta-I’ll be okay.” He patted her shoulder before jogging off to his office, which was the second biggest in the building next to Peter’s. Jack made a beeline for his hidden bar, which was located inside what appeared to be an antique globe.

He chuckled to himself as he poured a glass of scotch. The bottle had been a Christmas gift from Alex from at least five years ago. Jack never drank from this bottle, but something, perhaps seeing things in the bathroom, prompted him.

“Here’s to you, Al, my friend.” Jack knocked it back with so much force he practically did a backflip. Smacking his lips, he reached over for the bottle once more. “Pretty good-nothing like Ganigan’s but it’ll do.”

This glass he sipped. He sat down on his blood red leather couch and stared at the empty fireplace. The time that Peter had been speaking of in the boardroom when Jack came out white as a ghost and went straight home, Jack was doing almost the same thing as he was now. Only, that time, he was drinking vodka. Jack had been sitting on his couch and staring at the flames licking the fireplace grate when, quick as a flash, Alex’s face appeared in the mirror above the fireplace. It was only his face-square in the middle, and then it was gone. Jack had convinced himself that it was a combination of him being drunk and the fire playing tricks on him. Since then he hadn’t lit a fire, but he knew that wouldn’t stop what was coming to him. He even tried to quit drinking for a few days, but that didn’t help him either. At least when he drank, he slept soundly.

Jack looked at the cold, black fireplace and whistled.

“Alex French-a good man. A damn fool sometimes, but a helluva golfer.”

Jack took the bottle of scotch and tried to make out the label. It was written in what looked like Russian…one of those languages where a non-native speaker couldn’t begin to make heads or tails of it. It could have been Arabic for all Jack knew.

Cold. Cold Fire.

“What?” Jack whipped his head around, straining his neck. “OW! Christ!”

Help. Freezing. Help.

It wasn’t a voice. It was distorted and uneven and sounded almost like someone had taken the back of a hammer and was dragging it across concrete. But the words were clear as day.

In Hell. Help.

It was directly in Jack’s ear, strangling his eardrum and taking all of the breath out of his lungs.

Cold. Blood on the ground. Help.

Jack fell to the floor. He pounded his chest in an effort to open his lungs back up. Before he faded away completely, he looked up to see Alex’s strangled, bloated body hanging from his ceiling. As Jack fought with his closing eyelids, Alex’s own eyes popped open to stare intently at Jack.

“Buddy! Buddy are you with us?!”

Jack woke up to Dan slapping his face. He was sure that Dan was slapping him extra hard on purpose, and as soon as he opened his eyes, he knew for sure that Dan got in a couple extra for good measure. Jack grabbed Dan’s hand as he was about to strike again and tossed it away from him.

“Jesus, Jack. You gave us quite a fright there. What in the hell were you drinking?” Peter’s face appeared above Jack, who inhaled sharply before jolting up.

“He was here. His body-he was right there.” Jack jumped up and pointed to the where Alex had been hanging.

Dan and Peter exchanged worried glances.

“Uh-sorry, but who was here?” Dan asked, barley containing his smirk.

“Alex!” Jack wheezed out. “He was hanging. His body was anyway. Right there. He looked just like he did when they found him.”

Peter put his hands on Jack’s shoulders to steady him. “Jack-what the hell are you talking about? When who found him?”

“Alex was hanging there, like he did when he died. Just like it.”

Peter sighed and patted Jack’s shoulder’s, prompting him to sit down on the couch.

“Jack-you know as well as I do that Alex died of a heart attack.”

“No! He didn’t die of a heart attack. He killed himself. He did it right in his garage, and it’s my goddam fault!”

Peter glanced over at Dan, who had picked up the scotch bottle and was looking at it intently. “Jesus Jack, where the hell is this stuff from?” He passed the bottle over to Peter, who gave it a scrutinizing once over.

“Jack, I think it’s time you go home. Why don’t you take a good week off and-uh, you know, just relax? You deserve it, son.”

Jack buried his head in his hands and rubbed his eyes.

“Let me get Henrietta to help you to the elevator.” Peter placed the scotch back in its resting place inside the globe. As he and Dan made their way over to the door, he turned around.

“Say, Jack-about what you said.”

Jack picked his head up and looked at Peter. “What about it?”

“What did you mean it was your fault? You know that Alex died of a heart attack. We spoke with Elaine at the funeral. Remember, Jacky boy? He was fishing and had a massive coronary at Lake George.” Peter attempted a comforting smile.

“Yeah, Pete. I know what she said.” Jack got up off the couch and started to pace around his office as Peter and Dan went to find Henrietta. He kept circling back around to the spot where he saw Alex’s body hanging. It was so clear-his lost expression; his matted black hair-it was Alex, pure and simple. He remembered the funeral. He remembered Elaine, her makeup immaculate, telling them the cock and bull story about the heart attack. At the time, Jack knew something was up.

She wasn’t sad so much as irritated, and it wasn’t because she was a shocked widow. She had probably seen this coming more than anybody. Jack was so deep in thought that he didn’t hear Henrietta come in, and her tap on his shoulder made him jump a mile.

“Jesus! Oh, it’s you, Etta. Sorry.”

Henrietta smiled. “Mr. S…I heard you had a little too much. Well, it’s five o’clock somewhere, isn’t it?”

Jack sat back down on the couch and beckoned Henrietta to join him.

“Etta, can I ask you a question?”

Henrietta took a seat next to Jack and nodded. “Of course, Mr. S. What’s on your mind?”

Jack sighed and took off his tie. He tossed it near the fireplace, and turned to face Henrietta.

“Are you religious? I mean, do you believe in hell?”

Henrietta inhaled sharply. “Well, now, I didn’t take your office to be a philosophical roundtable, Mr. S.” She smiled at him, but Jack stayed stone-faced. “And, yes. I do.”

“Do you believe that someone from hell can talk to you? Haunt you, as it were?”

Henrietta clasped her hands together and lowered her voice to a whisper.

“What is it that’s bothering you, Mr. S.? Are you thinking about Alex? What exactly happened in here?”

Jack put both his hands up. “Please. Please just answer the question, Etta. For the love of God.”

Henrietta nodded again. “Well, I believe that if you’re in hell, there ain’t no way you’re getting out, haunting or otherwise. But I do believe the devil can play tricks on a person. That I am sure of.”

Henrietta thought for a moment. “When I was a little girl in Barbados, we used to go over to my grandmother’s house every Sunday. My aunts and uncles and all of my cousins would be there, and there was this one cousin I had…well he was a real jackass…but he used to try to scare us younger kids. He told us that there was a certain time each day called ‘The Never Hour.’ It always changed, of course, the time of day he said it was, so you knew he was full of it, but he told us that it was during this time, for only one hour, that the gates of hell would creak open.” Henrietta smiled. “He would always get a whooping for telling us that.”

“The Never Hour?” Jack dug his nails in the seat.

“Childish nonsense. Mr. S., can you clue me in here, please? I’m worried about you. I don’t mind you knowing.” Henrietta’s eyes, unlike Dan and Peter’s conveyed actual concern.

Jack looked up at the ceiling and sighed.

“Okay, all right, but you can’t tell anyone okay? I don’t need the rest of the office trying to push me out. I get enough of that with Pete and Dan the Douchebag.”

Henrietta giggled. “Agreed.”

Jack took a deep breath and leaned back on the couch. “A year ago, almost exactly a year ago the firm was considering going through a major shakeup. Alex had been taking a lot of time off to take care of his pregnant mistress, and well, Peter wanted to, for lack of a better word, squeeze him out. Now, squeezing out a founding partner is pretty tricky, and it usually leads to a lawsuit or two but Alex had been dropping the ball a lot that year with the pregnancy and trying to keep the affair hush-hush, so all Peter really needed from me was my vote. I wasn’t going to do it. I mean, pregnant mistress or not, this was partly Alex’s firm, and it wasn’t my right to take it away from him.”

Henrietta’s eyes widened and Jack looked away. It reminded him too much of what he had just seen.

“Anyway, it took Peter a lot of doing, but he convinced me that it was for the best for everyone involved. He said it ‘would give Alex a chance to reassess his life’ and nonsense like that. He convinced me to betray our friend. To take a knife and stab him right in the back. So, naturally, Alex caught wind of what was going on. I remember the last time I saw him; he wasn’t even mad. He just looked like a general who was getting shot at by his own troops. He looked hurt, betrayed…it was my lying that got him the most I knew it was. I mean, I know he wasn’t a good guy all the time, but he was my best friend, Etta. We went to law school together…we started out here with nothing together.”

Jack wiped his face and looked up at Henrietta, who sadly patted Jack’s knee.

“It’s not your fault, Mr. S. You couldn’t have known…”

“It is my fault. And you know what he did when he was ‘fishing in Lake George’? He tied up an extension cord and hung himself right next to that black Lexus of his. He didn’t die of a heart attack, Etta. You gotta believe me on that one. Alex killed himself-and it was my lying to his face that pushed him to it. I don’t think I was the only reason, but losing his job didn’t help. And now, he’s in hell…he’s…” Jack looked at Henrietta’s concerned face.

“He’s talking to me.”

Jack leaned back on the couch. “I know it sounds crazy.”

Henrietta shook her head gently. “No. No, Mr. S., it doesn’t sound crazy to have guilt. But why do you think he killed himself? I mean, it almost sounds like you’ve seen the act, you’re so convinced.”

“BECAUSE I HAVE! I saw his body swinging like a lantern right there!” Jack pointed to the ceiling. “And it’s not the first time I’ve seen him…I’ve seen his face and his reflection since he died! And don’t try to tell me this is my guilt, Etta! I’ve…”

Jack doubled over, sobbing, “I’ve seen him and he needs my help.”

Henrietta jumped in shock as Jack leaned his head on her shoulder, spilling hot tears on her blouse. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe him, but his globe bar was open, and she couldn’t help but notice that most of the bottles were nearing empty.

“I believe you, Mr. S. I believe you.” She whispered. It was nearing her lunch break, and she was hoping to get him to the elevator soon.

“Why don’t I help you out of the building, to your car…or better yet, I’ll have reception phone a car service. I don’t think you should be driving.”

Jack knew Henrietta didn’t believe him. He didn’t blame her, but he was thankful to have someone to talk to.

“All right.” Jack wiped his face with his suit jacket and got up off the couch. He snatched the bottle from Alex out of his globe and retrieved his tie from the floor.

Cold. Can’t breathe. Can’t feel. Can’t see.

Jack steadied himself. He looked over at Henrietta who was casually checking her fingernails.

Can’t move. Cold. Help.

“All right.” Jack forced the most painful smile of his life. “Let’s get to it, Etta.”

Henrietta, with her hand on Jack’s back, walked him to the reception desk. She patted him on the shoulder as she bent down to whisper to the receptionist.

“A car will be here in a few minutes, Mr. S…does that sound okay?”

Jack nodded as Henrietta left for her desk. He stood at reception for a few seconds before walking past the desk to the third huge office in the building. It was the only other one with a fireplace and a hidden bar.

He creaked open Alex’s door and walked in. The room was cold and museum-like. Jack sneered at the fireplace. He could imagine Dan entertaining clients in front of it, smugly leaning against the mantle while he spun his brand new partner wheels. It made Jack sick.

Alex’s desk was just how he left it. Briefs from settled cases littered the shining mahogany, and there was still black coffee in Alex’s Georgetown mug. Jack tapped on the small, gold scales of justice that acted as a paperweight and grinned to himself. He rounded the intimidating desk and sat in Alex’s plush leather chair. He briefly entertained the idea that everything he had been going through over the past year was somehow guilt-related like Henrietta said. Nobody ever said anything about suicide. That was all Jack. The cord, the hanging. It was all in Jack’s head. It was possible…no, probable, that Alex indeed died of a heart attack at Lake George. He had been going there to fish every weekend since the dawn of time, for Christ’s sake. And he did like to eat bacon with just about every meal. The thought crossed his mind that maybe it was time he went to therapy. He wanted to talk everything out, and maybe, just maybe, it would save his job if he willingly got help. Jack placed the bottle down on Alex’s desk and pulled the rolodex forward. He knew Alex saw a shrink…maybe if he could just find the number he could make an appointment today.

As Jack flipped through the tiny cards, a slip of paper fell out. It had the unmistakable red ink and scribble that belonged to Alex’s secretary, Nance. Nance had been with Alex since the beginning and was more like a grandmother to the two of them. Nobody took Alex’s death harder than Nance, including Alex’s mistress. Jack plucked the note up and held it inches from his face.

“Doc Carter called and gave you the all clear boss! Ticker is perfect!”

Jack dropped the note on the desk. Suddenly, his vision blurred and all he could make out was a shadow…a shadow of someone hanging.

Freezing. Freezing. You. Cold. You. Cold flames.


Can’t breathe. Can’t move.

Jack clutched his throat as everything fell around him.


“Mr. S.! Open up! Mr. S…the door is locked!! Are you all right?!”

“Here let me.” Dan pushed Henrietta out of the way and took a run at the door. The force sent him flying backwards while the door remained closed.

“Oh for Christ’s sake.” Peter took a ring of keys from his pocket and located the one that fit Alex’s door. He slipped it in the lock and the door creaked open.

“Now, Jack I don’t know what you’re playing at but…Oh my God!”

Henrietta gasped as Peter doubled back. On the floor, next to the fireplace, surrounded by a puddle of deep red blood, lay Jack. The mysterious bottle of scotch inches from his hand.

“Oh my God, Jack! Jacky boy…oh, Christ-he must have blacked out and hit his head! Henrietta call 911!”

Dan peered in the room over Peter’s shoulder.

“What’s wrong-did he drink himself into a coma?” Dan smirked, but his smile faded as he saw the blood on the mantle, dripping down onto Jack’s body.







Kathleen Wolak is a writer and blogger from Hamden, CT. Her short fiction has appeared in over twenty literary journals, including KZine, Sanitarium Magazine, Danse Macabre, and Hello Horror. She is also the author of three young adult novels, The Tasteless (2014), Down Magic's Path (2016), and Stars of Man (2017).

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