Henry sat in the lobby awaiting his appointment with Bell, Booker, and Kandel. A young-looking attorney suddenly scurried out the door, his pale face etched in absolute terror.

“What happened to him?” Henry asked the receptionist.

She shrugged. “They fired him.”


“Because we, I mean the firm, will ALWAYS win in the end. They won’t tolerate anyone losing a case.”

The prestigious criminal law firm had a reputation for seldom losing a case. Henry ignored the admonitions of other firms that they had done so only because they’d made a pact with the devil. But, Bell, Booker, and Kandel were winners, and Henry was determined to work for winners.

She led Henry to an ornate conference room, where several partners sat around a massive conference table, awaiting him. They grilled him for hours, covering subjects from his childhood fears to his sex life. No need to discuss his legal expertise, they said. They knew all about him.

Three days later, Henry was hired and a welcoming reception was held in his honor. As he headed toward the bar that evening, Henry felt a slap on the shoulder.

“You must be Henry.”

“Yes, sir.” Henry replied, turning toward the voice with his hand extended. “And, you are?”

The man ignored Henry’s hand. “Gordon Alchemy, senior partner. Welcome aboard.”

“Thank you , sir.”

“I wasn’t at your interview, though I know all about you. Listen, I’d like a word with you, in private.”

“Absolutely sir.”

Henry followed Gordon to the firm’s legal library.

“Do I frighten you?” He asked, curling his lips in a sinister smile. “I’ve found most new hires are terrified of me.”

“Should I be?” Henry said, not wanting to sound as intimidated as he felt.

“It depends on how committed you are to winning.”

Henry’s intestines twisted tightly, and his smile disappeared.

“I’m very committed, sir.”

The library floor seemed to suddenly descend, but Gordon ignored it. “That’s an interview 101 answer. Let me ask again, how committed are you to winning?

“I’m prepared to do whatever it takes to win, sir.”

“Yes, whatever it takes. I trust you did your homework about the firm?”

“Most certainly; the firm’s success rate is nearly flawless.”

“Correct. We almost always win! Like a good shepherd, we keep a close eye on our flock. If an attorney loses his edge, we take immediate steps to rectify the situation.”

“I understand that, sir.”

“Don’t interrupt me,” he continued, “We’re highly specialized, and judges like us for our expediency in helping rid the city of crime.”

“But, how is consistently getting accused criminals off the hook stopping crime?”

“Because we ensure they never commit another one.”

The library floor jerked to a stop, and they stepped out the door into a dark, icy room that smelled of decay. Meat hooks wound their way along the ceiling on a conveyer chain leading to a steel freezer against the wall.

“What’s all this?” Henry asked.

Gordon slid open the freezer door. Frozen, gutted corpses hung on hooks. Henry, fought the urge to vomit, and wondered what the hell he’d gotten himself into.

“This is where we put the scum of the city on ice until they can be disposed of properly.”

After returning to the library, Gordon put his hand on Henry’s shoulder, and looked him in the eye. Henry winced as his fingernails dug through his suitcoat into the skin.

“Should you ever betray the firm or lose a case, let’s just say you’ll be put on ice as well.”

“I’ll do my best sir,” he said, trembling.

In the following months however, Henry developed a reputation as a hardnosed defender. Then, one day, a client accused of several grisly murders was found guilty of lesser charges, and sentenced to three years. With good behavior, the scum would be out on the streets within eighteen months.

Gordon sat in the rear of the courtroom, glaring at Henry contemptuously. As soon as court adjourned, he ran like hell to his car, and sped home. During the drive however, Henry heard the constant shriek of a banshee, and constant scratching on the car’s roof.

Once home, He locked the doors and windows, and crouched in a darkened corner with a loaded shotgun. The Banshee circled the house looking for an entrance. Then, Henry inhaled the stench of death, and realized he’d left the fireplace flue open.

He turned and the firm’s receptionist, who’d transformed into a banshee, pressed her rotting, snarling face up close to Henry’s. Her diaphanous, silk gown flowed behind her as she hovered before him. As she ripped into his flesh with her jagged teeth, and disemboweled him, Henry’s final thought was that she’d been right; the firm always won.

"The Winner"
Copyright: © 2009 Hal Kempka
Harold ‘Hal’ Kempka is a former Marine, and Vietnam Veteran. His poetry has appeared in Leatherneck Magazine, and short stories published in Many Midnights, Black Petals, Dark and Dreary, Microhorror, Long Story Short, The Shine Journal, and the Fiction Flyer, among others. He is a member of the FlashXer flash fiction workshop, and lives in Southern California with his wife, Celeste, and son Derek.

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