Friday, 31 August 2012

A scattering of words

New story for Mr. Wendig's challenge.

At work, typing fast! Will explain later.

The Story:


Hendricks was tied securely to the old, worn out motel chair as we sat looking at each other in the dingy room, the smell of air freshener and dust thick on the nose. He was dribbling around the thick wad of oily rag I had found to use as a gag and I was impressed that he hadn't vomited; I was further away and the scent of the rag was making my nose itch.

I was sat on the edge of the bed, just watching him as he looked back at me, grey-faced and wild-eyed. His fear was palpable, but then again, it had reason to be. On the bedside table were his wallet, my gloves and my gun. There was a choice to be made.

Still, I took my time and reached into my takeaway bag, pulling out a slowly cooling burger and a small cup of drink that had leaked a thin, sticky film down the side of the cup. Fishing some rogue fries from the bottom of the bag, I popped them in my mouth and began working at the wrapper of the hamburger as I sat and chewed.

Hendricks had gone still, the same way a lot of my marks had done over the months and years, and I saw his gaze flick to my gun, his body stiffening as he got ready to do something stupid. With a foot, I rocked his chair backwards until he was resting precariously on the back legs of it, even as I took a bite out of the burger. The awful thing tasted limp and unpleasant; it must have shown in my expression, because he broke out into a cold sweat.

It might have been that I just had that kind of face: slightly more comfortable sneering than smiling. I guess I had grown into it over the years.


Idly I took another unsatisfying bite of the burger and picked up his wallet, opening it up and laying it across my thigh as I rooted through it one-handed. Cards, a few crisp notes and a couple of photos showing what looked like brothers, close in age, growing up through the years. The most recent one was of the pair as teenagers... they both looked a lot like their father.

I stood up and went to the window, holding the picture and tweaking the heavy curtain aside with a pinky to look across the windswept cape, glad for a moment that my car was the only one left in the lot, it's solid, black lines sturdy and unremarkable as the drizzle misted the air.

I swallowed my mouthful and cleared my throat as I slowly let the curtain close, my back to Hendricks. “These your boys?” I asked, somewhat rhetorically.

There were some positive, if muffled grunts behind me as I looked at the photo in the gloom.

I felt old then; Hendricks must have been three years younger than me, but I didn't have any of this. There was no family to leave behind, no roots even, no particular place to go back to. I probably stayed at this motel just as often as I stayed at my apartment, bringing my marks here for their last rites, or just banging one of those desperate country girls who dreamed of the city and worked in that burger joint just down the interstate.

I was a hole in society, a sink into which men's lives flowed and nothing was given back. I wasn't looking after my guys any more, not watching their backs as we busted our way through city life; I was just an executioner now, working for punks who just killed everything they couldn't buy.

This had never been a nice job, and I had never been a nice guy, but this was just killing by numbers. I grinned darkly and took another bite of the burger.

Maybe I was just as desperate as those haunted looking country girls, spreading their legs or flipping burgers or even just hitch-hiking to get to somewhere where they could feel alive.

Hendricks must have seen me smile, because he was looking worried when I turned to face him. I could sympathise as a small, sensible part of me was worried too.

“It's your lucky day Hendricks... you get to choose your poison.”

The guy didn't look as if he felt particularly lucky.


I turned and scrunched up the burger wrapper, throwing it somewhere near the motel room trash can. In the mood I was in, it just tasted like ashes; I could almost taste the clean soap and stale oil smell of the bored dead-end girl who had prepared the snack.

Leaning forward, I pulled the gloves on, the old calf-leather sliding on comfortably as I let my hands rest on his wallet and my gun. I met his eye and made sure that he was listening closely.

"You have two young sons and the mob after you Hendricks; they'll go after your boys if they don't get you." He started moaning and struggling against his bonds, but it seemed like a formality. He knew the deal.

"Shut up. SHUT UP!" I roared, slapping him across the face as the tears came. I was pretty shook up myself, but I'd made my decision.

"I'm not going to go after them; I don't do that kind of dark shit any more," I breathed in raggedly and he quietened down, sobbing, "I'm retiring Hendricks, just in time to give you a fucking chance."

I opened the wallet and took out a few notes, leaving about fifty bucks; I took a folded piece of paper out of my wallet and tucked it behind a faded credit card, idly wiping clean and replacing the photo as I did so. I placed the wallet by my gun and took a breath.

"So, here are your choices: you either take my gun and blow your brains out, which is easy and quick and keeps your kids safe, or you go to the address I just put in your wallet and kill everyone in that office, everyone who wants you dead."

I sighed and ran my hand across my mouth, wiping away the sour taste.

"Your choice, Hendricks. You're the gambler here. You feel like you want to gamble with the lives of your kids?"


I stood up in the quiet and took a folding knife from my pocket, cutting a couple of the twists that held his wrist down. He'd be able to work himself free in a few minutes, but he was still for now, just looking at me, blotchy faced and haggard, breathing hard.

It wasn't enough. I had only given him another route into Hell, but it would have to do. It would have to.

I pocketed the money I had taken from him, just enough to fill the tank on my car and opened the door. I didn't look back as it shut behind me and I made my way down the stairs to my car. I was glad for the gloves then, as I hunched into the wind and rain, ducking behind the car as I opened the door and got in.

I started the engine and let it rumble for a few seconds as I sat looking out of the windshield. I realised I was waiting for some kind of sign, some kind of decision from the man I had spared. My guts clenched and I swore as I admitted to myself that I just didn't want to know.

Shifting the car into gear, I slowly rolled out of the lot, torn between whether I wanted to hear the gunshot or not. My good deed for the day.

I needed a burger; maybe I'd be able to pick up one of those girls and take her to a city far away.

I didn't know whether or not my soul could take two good deeds in one day.


Monday, 27 August 2012

A long absence

 Well, it's been a while since I was posting here, not through laziness really, so much as lack of any product to discuss. I have (as discussed in my previous post) been working on the Antag/Protag story competition entry... I'm not unhappy with it, but I'm on the third re-write even now and I'm still fiddling with the format and trying to meet the competition criteria of a 50/50 split between antagonist and protagonist.

Further, I have actually drafted out a complete version of the My First Line story (the challenge subsequent to the Antag/Protag contest), so that will be following the attached story which was the challenge set out for last week, which was to pick one of five story themes to write about: I decided to work around a scene in the middle of a prison riot.

It's not very good. I have more, better ideas for it. If i carry on polishing this turd, I may go insane and shove my feces-smeared fingers into my eye sockets.

So, erm... yeah.


Happy Birthday

The alarm klaxon was wailing, the noise echoing down the iron-fronted solitary cells. From where I was lying on the bare floor of my own cell it was like the piercing cry of a distant animal; savage and fierce.

      “They're coming for you,” the voice came from a hole low down on the wall, just next to my ear.
      “What do you mean?”
      There was a low chuckle, just audible over the dull roar of a riot far above in the open prison.
      “I did this to you, Lieutenant... I made this happen.”

      Against my will, I stiffened, the words still enough to shock me; I should have been prepared for it... for the creaking tension to break. My mouth was moving slowly, but I couldn't make my lips frame the words.

      “It's my 46th birthday today, Lieutenant,” the voice crooned happily.
      Even in the strange pressure of the far away violence, I was nonplussed, shifting slightly, hands clenching and unclenching. I just listened and waited.
      “After you screwed up my distribution network and shut down my operation last year, I decided that you would be the present I gave to myself for my next birthday. And here we are... a year, to the day.”


      The name of a mysterious trafficker and drug distributor, slippery and elusive and apparently untraceable. My neighbour could only be that man, a hidden cancer festering the bowels of the penal system. Laughed softly to myself as the pieces slowly began to slot into place.
      “Don't you dare laugh at me you stupid fat fuck,” he hissed, “I fucking broke you detective.” 
      “ Tell me-” his voice broke under the pressure of gloating anger, but he continued, “can you remember how many bullets they found in your partner's body when they hauled him out of the river?”

      I knew the number, remembered the autopsy report with 46 small evidence bags and trajectory analyses, but I didn't say anything.

      Jeronimo's laughter was sudden, loud and shrill in the tiny cell. “He was your buddy, wasn't he? Your pal, Phil... did they tell you that he pissed himself when he was begging for his life, Lieutenant?”

      My breathing was loud in my ears as my mind's eye brought the scene to a grim and grisly life. I could feel the anger bubbling up like acid in my soul as each imaginary bullet pounded home. I couldn't make my fantasy show the Phil I knew, imagining instead the gellid corpse of the man I once called a friend begging for it's life through bloated purple lips.
      “Hey,” the man continued, “why don't you tell me how many ounces of coke they found missing from the evidence locker? Was it 46, by any chance you slow, stupid fuck?”
      I nodded dumbly, uselessly, pinching the bridge of my nose as I remembered Myers, that crooked fucker, pulling four big bags of white powder from my desk drawer, like I was some kind of silly, stupid drug dealer who left product lying in his car.
      My moan was like a soft growl or a sigh or something awful in between as it buzzed out through clenched teeth.
      “Yeah, that's right,” Jeronimo purred, “that's fucking right...”

      The sounds of violence were getting louder, closer, and I was able to make out muffled gunfire. I could hear his breathing over the top of the noise though; he was getting excited as he taunted me, as he got off on my helplessness, on his victory.
      His voice was more vibrant now, a sugared drawl of unclean delight as he continued, “How's the wife and your boy, Lieutenant?” My guts seemed to grow heavy and churn in pure rage as my thoughts went to the dark place of fear and anger that had grown inside me since they'd been rammed off the road a couple of months ago. The lawyer had said that Lorna wasn't responding too well to the surgeries, but there was nothing I could do.
      I was stuck in here and it looked like I might not ever leave.

      “46th and Maine,” I growled, remembering the halting report given to me through the prison plexiglass. I shook to Jeronimo's mocking laughter.

      My knuckles popped and cracked as my fists clenched, squeezing like they were wrapped around the throat and choking the life out of this bastard. My thumping heart was a bass beat against the rough music of shouts and cries from the oncoming rioters, punctuated by the heavy clang of security doors being forced open.
      “I get to listen to you die,” Jeronimo said conversationally, “when a bunch of the nastiest, most evil bastards I could bribe in this hole storm down here and beat you to death, cop. I thought it might take a lot to organise, but you're gonna die for less than a hundred bucks and a couple of shivs 'for recreational use'.”

      “No one's even seen my face, you know that? I can't get fingered for this, because I'm fucking invisible. The governor got a lot of cash to put you in cell 46, but it was worth it, Lieutenant. It was worth it for all this. Happy birthday to me!”
      I could hear Jeronimo sucking in a breath, ragged with a joy that almost seemed sexual.
      “Now that,” he breathed, “is power...”
      I just lay there breathing, moments cascading through my mind: the sinister catcalls from the high windows as we did our hour of physical exercise in the yard, the knowing looks of the armed guards as they traded quiet words, eyes glued on me.
      Everything had fallen into place, every fractured shard of my life, put into context by this sneering mastermind.
      For long, silent seconds I lay there and listened to the gloating laughter and the sounds of a reckoning approaching with malice aforethought. I was shaking.
      “Did you see the guard today, Jeronimo?” I asked, voice cracking from fear and disuse.
      “No!” he replied gaily, laughing, before growing slowly more quiet, “No... I didn't.”
      “Well, he got a tip yesterday, Jeronimo, a favour from an old buddy on the force.” There was only silence from the other cell now, “I warned him that he should call in sick today, told him about the was things were falling into place. He was grateful... he even did me a favour.”

      The door at the other end of the corridor to the solitary cells slammed open with a clanging crash, to the taunting, bloodthirsty howls of a rioting prison execution squad. My lips drew back in a grin, but it felt like a snarl.
      “He swapped the number on our cell doors, you fuck... happy fucking birthday; I hope you rot in hell.”
      I lay back and kept quiet, drinking in the noise of a shotgun slug  punching out Jeronimo's lock, drowning out the crooning threats of violence from the shrieking mob.
      His screams lasted for minutes, but it seemed like hours to me. The man I was a year ago would have been revolted at the noises from next door, but I was long past that now. He had killed, and smeared and wounded my friends, my reputation and my family... he was going to reap what he had sown.
      And I was glad.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Antag/Protag aka Failure 3

Well, I did write something for Chuck Wendig's Antag/Protag Flash Fiction Challenge; I just didn't make the deadline. Currently, due to the nature of this week's challenge (Flash Fiction Challenge: “The Opening Line, Part One Of Two”), I will be polishing up and rewriting the Antag/Protag story before posting on here.

Apologies, my imaginary audience. I shall endeavour to do better in future.

In other news; I will be preparing through September and October for NaNoWriMo... I might take a week of annual leave in order to get my word count up.