The Hope Tattoo

For the first time in their brief acquaintance, Charlie noticed the tattoo on the inside of Sal’s ropy forearm. The bigger man’s pushed back sleeves revealed a Betty Page style pin-up girl perched on an anchor, one slim, raised arm holding a star. She seemed to look right out from Sal’s weathered skin, right into his soul.

How could a tattoo have old eyes like that?

His eyes flicked from the tattoo to Sal’s face, and he realized his mistake. He had taken his eyes off the pair of them. He had just enough time to realize that Gus wasn’t by the door anymore, to see Sal’s silent nod, before the butt of Gus’ handgun crashed into his temple and everything went dark.

Later, Sal drove the Lexus up the mountain, Gus in the passenger seat, Charlie bound and unconscious, buckled into the back.

“Back in the room,” Gus began, “Charlie was lookin’ at your tattoo, before I knocked him out..”

Sal said nothing.

“All these years we been doin’ jobs for Mr. Petrucci together,” he went on, “you never told me about it. It’s good work. Really… real lookin’.”

Sal still said nothing. His pressed his lips into a thin line, tightened his grip on the wheel.

“Hey, Sal, you don’t gotta tell me.”

The silence stretched out in the car as Sal negotiated the switchbacks along the ravine.

“Her name was Hope,” he answered quietly.

“Her mother was from the old country, read cards for the other women. Hope was named for the card her mother drew when she learned she was pregnant. Her father used to joke that it was a good thing she didn’t pick Malady ‘cause they never could have afforded a sick kid.”

Sal was quiet for another mile or so. As he turned left off the state route, he spoke again.

“She got killed, shot in a robbery at her father’s store. Gianni helped me track the guy down. Watched me kill him. Helped me get rid of the body. Me and Gianni, we grew up together, and we were doing pretty well by then with small time, but that was the first time we killed anyone. From there, it got easier to get our hands really dirty. Gianni was the brains, I was the muscle. And that’s still how it is.”

They turned again, driving deeper into the woods.

“I took the only picture I had of her, in her bathing suit out on Revere Beach. I stole the Hope card from her mother’s deck, and I took them to the best guy in the neighborhood, asked him to give her to me forever.”

He cut the lights, rolling the sedan forwards towards the cabin in the moonlight.

More from the NaNoWriMo files. This excerpt uses the Promises photo prompt from this week’s Red Writing Hood challenge.


26 responses to “The Hope Tattoo

  1. I love your take on it – great story full of sorrow and nostalgia. I also chose that prompt. Here from RDC!

  2. Ooh, I love what you have written! I can really picture the scene.

  3. I love the direction you went with it. I love how you told Sal’s story, at the same time explaining why Sal is the way he is. Very well done.

  4. I really like this! I think that it’s the first one using this prompt too.

    I feel like I shouldn’t like Sal because he’s a ‘bad guy’, but I like him.

  5. An interesting scene and I always like to see the “human” side of a bad guy. Did you find it hard to pluck something out from your Nano stuff to make it a stand-alone?

  6. Great writing, wonderful imagery!

  7. Good story, well written.
    I could see Sal.

  8. Interesting story… reading about the human side of a murderer is pretty interesting always

  9. Oh, now that was FUN!

    This line slayed me: “How could a tattoo have old eyes like that?”


    More, please.

  10. Great characters, again. Full of suspense – made me very curious about how the minds work who do these sorts of deeds.

  11. Ahhh more hometown flava…
    love you
    this is wicked awesome.
    but really? SO good. I like this NaNo whatever thing if only because we are getting all these words out of you, novel or not…

  12. a great piece of the story. I love those snippets that give you an insight to a character’s soul.

  13. I loved this. It was all Sopranos/God Father with the real side of the bad guy…the human side. It’s like God Father II when you learn of why Vito got into his “business”. And I LOVE this kind of story…can’t wait to read more!

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