.38

The gun felt heavy in his hand. It was an old gun, a .38 snub nose. Scuffs and scratches coated its steel barrel. Hairline cracks ran the length of the mother-of-pearl handle.  He doubted he could hit the broad side of a barn with it at any distance. But close quarters were a different story.

He raised the gun and squeezed the cold trigger. The gun roared, splitting the cold night air in two. The force of the blast kicked his shoulder back a little, and the gun’s barrel sprang upward of its own volition. In the aftermath, tendrils of smoke wafted from the .38’s blunt tip like warm breath from a man’s lungs on a winter morning.

His target crumpled to the ground, the hat toppling from its head and coming to rest its brim in the growing waters of an alleyway puddle. The blood pooling beneath his fallen quarry was not blood at all, but something like it—a thick red fluid like something from a car’s transmission.

“You shot me,” the dying thing said. Its voice gave an electronic warble. It looked up into its killer’s eyes. They wore the same face, down to the stubble along the jawline and the thick, handlebar mustache coating the upper lip. “I—I was you.”

The man with the gun raised it once more, leveling it at the thing’s hollow chest. “A poor copy,” he said. And he emptied the .38. Sparks flew. The night grew even colder.