Friday, September 21, 2012
A WRITING EXPERIMENT, OF SORTS: A LITTLE R AND R, CHAPTER TWO
On the Flash Fiction Friday site, our community writing project, Cycle 95 was my turn to come up with a prompt. It was titled Sorry, Wrong Number (to pay homage to that noir classic), and the setting was an isolated cabin where the character accidentally overhears a telephone call. The character must then decide what to do about the call, if anything, and the story was to let us know how it all turned out. The turnout was fantastic, with tales of calls misdirected and the consequences of not keeping our ears to ourselves.
One of the submitted stories, A Little R and R by Lewis Peters, filled my head with question after question all the way through and way beyond. That was not because there was anything incomplete about it though. The reason the sparks went off in my head was because his story was a treasure trove of psychological twists and turns, and hints and nuances, and all things sinister.
In my comments on his blog, which you can find here, I posted a few of my questions, and Lewis responded by offering me the opportunity to have a go at taking this story forward by writing Chapter Two, which appears below. I cannot begin to thank Lewis enough for permitting me to share his characters and move his story on further.
I'm going to put in the link for what is now Chapter One. I realize I'm showing my age here, but let's look at this like the chapter books of old; only this time, you get to read two chapters during the same sitting. No waiting a week or so until the next issue came out and then standing in line at the drug store... Sorry. That really took me back. Anyhow, just click on over to Lewis' blog to read Chapter One, and then click back over here for Chapter Two. I'd love to know what you think of my contribution, and I know Lewis would love your comments too. After all, he started it! Alright, let's get reading.
A LITTLE R AND R
CHAPTER ONE: Here
I learned the identity of the guy whose body was being wheeled out of the cabin--a mope by the name of Tommy Sanderski, aka Slick. I also found out that not only had he been shot in the back of the head, but he was most likely kneeling when he was shot. Apparently, Tommy’s hands were tied behind his back with some kind of wire and he was laying on his side when he was found. To me, that reeks of execution. Problem is, there’s a hell of a lot more to it.
The cabin was owned by a couple from somewhere in the States; Wisconsin, I think. It’s not really important since they weren’t currently staying in it. This ex-con who was murdered in their cozy little getaway was a wannabe heavy-duty gangster, wannabe big-time assassin, wannabe pretty much anything, except dead. The lovely dairy farm couple never heard of him, but the police certainly had.
Slick’s record was a mile and a half long, but mostly petty stuff. Whatever rank in the criminal hierarchy he had designs on, he never made it beyond a few bait-and-switch scams and a long list of B&E’s. Some of what he made off with ended up in various pawn shops, but oddly, he kept a lot of it. Having a flat filled with stolen goods didn’t make him the brightest bulb in the marquis, but what could he have gotten himself involved with that earned him a bullet in the brain? Why was he there in the first place and did he trash the cabin? Or did Tommy’s killer do that to make it look like a burglary? I need another drink.
I got all these details from George. He got all the bits and pieces from his buddies on the force, and made certain to share with me a minute by minute itinerary of this brutal event. I’m hoping that in my confusion and last night’s intense panic that I’m misreading his manner. His description of the alleged circumstances of the murder and the condition of the victim seemed to fill him with a kind of dark delight. But, that’s just crazy. Isn’t it?
Once the body had been removed, the scene and area surrounding the cabin had been photographed, and any odds and ends had been bagged and tagged, George drove me back to his cabin. I was wet and tired and anxious to clean up and get into some dry clothes, but I didn’t feel much like talking, unlike my brother. George went on and on about how they had found my rental car half buried in mud and leaves; although, he told me not to worry about it. He’d already arranged for it to be pulled out, towed, cleaned and returned. George’s OCD strikes again. Nothing left untended.
George headed for the kitchen to fix us some breakfast. Roughing it has never been for me, but thank God for the wood stove. I headed for the shower. Sure hope there’s at least some warm water left. Ten million questions were running through my mind. Over bacon, eggs and coffee, George could probably answer most of them. That possibility is what scared me the most.
I’ve always been able to break things down and see each part clearly. I can generally see through people who are trying to snow me too. I became a PI because I love to solve puzzles. I handle mostly missing persons cases and I do pretty well finding them. Most of the time though, they’ve gone missing and do not want to be found, but that’s a whole other story. Once I find them for my clients, my job is done. What’s going on now though? This is going to take some serious figuring.
Let’s start with the phone call. Who was the woman? She knew about everything: me, the cabin, and the package. She also knows that I overheard some part, or all, of her conversation with Danny. She wasn’t pleased. Which leads us to Danny, and here is where it stops being interesting and crosses that line into bizarre. Danny also knew about the package, about me being there alone, and he didn’t sound all too concerned about removing me from the equation if I got in his way. Here’s where it gets hinky.
George works with Danny in the Coast Guard. Well, they don’t exactly work together, but they met while enlisting, and shared the first part of their training. Danny ended up as a Gunner’s Mate and George as an Operations Specialist. George’s compulsive attention to detail and organization made this a perfect fit for him. Danny liked weapons--big, small, and in between, and found his niche there. They’ve been friends all these years, and hook up to catch up when they can. So, where do I fit in with George and Danny? Nowhere, and that’s what’s got me freaked..
I met Danny years ago when he came by to pick George up to go to some party. I was dropping off some of my stuff to store at George’s since my apartment had been vandalized. In my business, I’ve been known to piss off some people here and there. Anyway, that was one. The only other time that I ran across Danny was in a diner close to his place. I was working a case out that way and stopped in for a burger and a beer and Danny was on his way out. He made one of those phony salute gestures, flashed me a big smile and left. Since then, George has told me stories about he and Danny and has shown me photos of he and Danny. As far as I’m concerned, that hardly makes us lifelong buds. So, why was he suddenly so interested in my welfare?
Another piece to this twisted puzzle is Janine. I know about her, sort of, but we‘ve never met. George has mentioned her from time to time, about how he will be going to so and so with Danny and Janine or what a great show he saw with Danny and Janine. Trying to get a rise out him, which I enjoy doing, I asked him if he ever felt like a third wheel with those two. Got a rise alright--George went ballistic. In between the growling and the spitting, I picked up that Danny and Janine were not a couple, in the ‘couple’ sense. She was sometimes with Danny, and he was sometimes with her, and they were sometimes with George. It’s a wonder I don’t already talk to myself.
Judging by George’s reaction, I never brought the matter up again. He ended his tirade, and then behaved as if nothing had happened. At the time, I convinced myself it may have been some classified operation nonsense. It’s amazing how our mind’s defenses come into play. Still, what if the woman on the phone was Janine? What would her connection to the drugs be? I just remembered that she knows I was on the line. Does that concern me? You betcha.
I can smell the bacon, and I can hear George talking to someone. Last night, the phone was dead, and cell service is a joke here in these woods. Maybe Danny’s turned up. It‘s quiet now. Time to make my grand entrance and visually sweep the place. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you. Famous last words…
“So, what’s for breakfast? I’m starving. By the way, who’s here? And, has Danny made it back yet?”
George shot me a look like I’d just grown two-inch fangs and I was headed straight for his jugular. In my life, I’ve never seen fear on my brother.
“What are you talking about? What do you mean, who’s here? We’re here. You’re losing it, Frank. All that roaming around in the woods has made you twitchy.“
He seemed to need to catch his breath as he turned toward the stove.
“Sit down and eat. We’ve got bacon, sausage, eggs, toast and…, and…, uh…, jelly. We’ve got strawberry jelly. Coffee. And, we’ve got coffee.”
I could see that his hands were shaking as he served the meal. We ate in silence. It seemed only right.
George insisted on cleaning up the kitchen. He hadn’t said a word since announcing the menu. Whatever was happening here was weighing very heavy on him. I wanted so badly to pull down the panel, spread out the bags of coke and demand an explanation. In my gut, I know he’s involved somehow. But, is he involved in murder as well? Does he know that I know? Can he tell the dope’s been messed with? Am I to be next on my knees with my hands tied behind my back? Will my own brother be pulling the trigger? I grabbed a tumbler and headed for the Jack.
“Well, it looks like you’ve got the rest of the week planned out, huh, Frank? Going to spend it at the bottom of a bottle?” George was laughing now. I fail to see the humor.
“What are you talking about--the rest of the week? You think I’m going to stay here after all that’s happened?” I didn’t like the fact that I was beginning to sound like a whiny little girl.
“After what has happened? Nothing has happened here, Frank. What’s his name was killed miles from here. Obviously tried to cross up the wrong person and they took him out. Nothing else is going to happen. That is, unless you decide to go all Daniel Boone again. What the hell were you doing out there in the dark, in that storm, wandering around in circles anyway?”
How did George know I’d gone around in circles? I wasn’t sure how I should answer that.
“I thought I heard something, and I wanted to check it out. It was stupid, I know. You can be sure I won’t do that again. But I was thinking I would just go back with you and spend the rest of the week at home.”
That obviously wasn’t the answer George was looking for.
“No, no. I have stuff to do, and you’re the one who said you needed to get away. If you go home, you know you’ll pick up a case and then you’ll complain you never get any time off. Just finish out the week, there’s plenty of supplies here, and wood for the stove and fireplace. Power may come back on, and if not, there’s plenty of lanterns and flashlights. But if I were you, I’d sleep when it gets dark and not take a tour of these woods. Never know what could be out there waiting for you, Frank. You just never know. I‘ll drive up at the end of the week and bring you back to the city.”
He got up and started for the door. I guess the decision was final.
“Before you go, George, where’s the key to the gun cabinet--just in case there is something out there waiting for me? I mean, like if I decide to take a walk into town. It’s not that far from here. Would I just follow that trail out back?”
There was George seeming to need to catch his breath again.
“Sure, Frank, you can have the key. It’s in the nightstand next to the bed. You’re not going to need a gun while you’re here though, Frank. Nothing else is going to happen. Nothing. Just lots of peace and quiet.”
With that, he headed out. I locked the door behind him and checked that the back door and all the windows were locked as well. Got the key from the bedroom, unlocked the cabinet, took out one of the shotguns and loaded it. If anybody decided to pay me a late night visit, they’d be in for one big surprise...