Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Friday Fiction...EARLY!!!

So this week the challenge over at Terribleminds was to write a short story in 10 chapters.  The catch?  Keep the normal 1,000 word limit.  I actually didn't have much of a plan, but Don and John came back to mind.  Maybe because I had just written them, maybe because they write themselves so easily and naturally.

So I pretty much just picked up where their last story left off.  I might keep these guys around, make them a regular thing.

Baugmann & Baugmann - The Skinner

            Don took a long drag of his cigarette, “So,” he said, blowing smoke across the table.  “What do we know?”
            “We know that we don’t know much.”  John said, ignoring the smoke.  The bar had an almost permanent haze, giving it a quality that bordered on the mystical.
            “…Helpful, thank you.”  Don snapped off.
            John shrugged, completely nonplussed by his partner’s moods.

            “Look Sarah,” Don’s fingers twitched longingly for his lighter, “We need something here.  Don’t make me make John beg.”
            From across the room John paused in his examination of the body to hold up one of the victims hands, one finger aimed in Don’s direction.
            Sarah handed Don a thin folder, the Chief Coroner sighed, “This is all we have at the moment.  There were some strange trace elements all over the victim, and your office, but we’ll have to wait for the lab.”
            Don grinned, “I knew I liked you more than Michaels.  I could kiss you.”
            “No one likes Michaels, why don’t you go kiss him.” she smirked.
            “John, go kiss Michaels!”
            John held up the victim’s hand again, this time holding Don’s confiscated cigarettes.
            “Now you’re just being childish.” Don said.

            “Hey Boss,” Jessie’s eyes were more bloodshot than normal.  “I’m-uh…I’m thinking I maybe should lay low for a bit?”
            “Why,” John asked.  “What have you heard?”
            “Nothing.”  Jessie hissed.
            “So why are you worried?”  Don asked.
            “Because it’s not ‘Nothing is happening.’ nothing.  It’s ‘No one is still around to talk.’ nothing.”
            “Let’s get you some food.”  Don suggested.
            “I know a nice diner,” John said.  “It’s right outside of town.”

            DeSarno, flanked by two of his goons, waltzed into the office not as if he owned it, but more like he was deciding whether or not to bother.
            “Well boys, I like what you've done.  Very homey.”
            Don snorted, “You should’ve seen it before, John’s the one with the domestic touch.”
            John tsked at him.  “Just because you don’t appreciate the difference between beige and burgundy doesn't mean other people don’t.”
            “It’s tan, John.”  Don said, “It’s all just tan.”
            “And now it’s ‘tan’ with a stain.”  John gestured at the carpet.
            “So we’ll bill the Skinner for the cleaning.”
            “I was referring to our guests.”
            DeSarno cut in, “If you boys don’t want help with your case perhaps I should leave?”

            “Hey Boss?”  Jessie kept looking out the window.
            “I already gave you all my smokes Jessie.”  Don said.
            “No it’s not that.” Jessie shook his head.  “I mean, thanks for that but…”
            “What is it?”
            “…Be careful.”
            “We’ll be fine Jessie, just get yourself healthy.  For real this time, I’m sick of hearing John bitch about you.”

            The last thing Don saw was the headlights of the truck.

Beep-beep.  Beep-beep.  Beep-beep.
Half-asleep, Don reached for his alarm clock.
The jolt of pain that came with the motion stopped him, jerking him fully awake.
He saw John sitting next to his bed, calmly leafing through the case files.
"...How bad is it?" Don croaked out.
John handed him a glass of water, "Mostly just bruised ribs and a slight concussion, you've had worse."
"The truck was reported stolen, no prints.  I'm going to see what I can get from Michaels."
"Better you than me."
"Shut up," John smiled.  "Get some rest."
"Oh yeah, it'll be a vacation."
"You hate vacations."

'I really hate vacations.'
When Don had fallen asleep he was expecting to wake up still in the hospital.  Maybe with John there letting him know the case was nicely wrapped up.
What he didn't expect was to wake up in an abandoned warehouse, 'Respecting the classics at least.'  Strapped to an operating table, 'Creepy.'  And about to have his face removed, 'Really creepy.'
The Skinner was looming over him, ignoring Don's cutting wit, 'And John says puns are stupid, ha!'
Poised with a scalpel at the ready the Skinner stopped when a rattling clang came from the other end of the building.
Skinner left to investigate, leaving Don alone.

Don leaned against a stack of molding pallets, and followed the voices.
"Who hired you?"  John asked.
"You won't be around long enough to care."
'Oh sure, now he talks.'
Don peeked through some old shelving, he could see John facing someone, gun held in his off hand, right arm hanging limply.  Blood flowing freely from the scalpel stuck in his shoulder.
"I heard talk of a newcomer to the underground, I suppose he hired you to clear us out of his way?"
Don made his way along the shelving, picking up a rusted bar from the floor. 
"I told you it doesn't matter."
"No.  I suppose it wouldn't matter to you.  You just like having an excuse to find more victims."
Ignoring the protests from his aching ribs he got ready to swing.
Rounding the corner he saw Skinner, facing John with another scalpel ready to throw.
Don brought the bar down with as much force as he could.  The dull crack it made against Skinner's skull was more than satisfying as the man collapsed.
John kept his gun trained on Skinner, "Enjoy that?"
Don fought the urge to pass out. "...I'd like to go back to the hospital now."

Coming to Don recognized the hospital ceiling.  John was sitting next to him, reading the paper as if they were simply in the office waiting for a case.
"How's your arm?"
"Fine, just some stitches."  He turned the page.
"I'm fine too, thanks for asking."
"I didn't ask."  John smirked.
"Skinner is in custody, they're confirming the evidence matches.  Shouldn't be too difficult, he's wanted in several states."
"So we're done?"
"Not quite, Michaels is on his way to 'get your testimony.'"
Don struggled upright, "I'm ready to be discharged."
"No you aren't,” John pushed him gently back down.  “Your field trip aggravated your ribs.  You're here for at least a week."
"God dammit I hate Mondays."
John chuckled.
"It actually is Monday."

Friday, March 21, 2014

Make your own Steampunk

The week the writing challenge was to build your own steam punk world, but with a personal spin on it.  If you're not familiar with Steampunk as a genre, Chuck sums it up nicely.

So I was going to use an idea I'd had last time this challenge rolled around, but I was getting stuck on the logistics.  Then I was at work and a song came over the radio and this idea sprang to mind.  (The title still sucks but whatever)  I deliberately left out dialogue this time, I wanted to work on getting more detail instead.

The Sound of Silence
MotherSong was all he could hear, all he wanted to hear.
It filled him, it supported him.  Wave after wave of the glorious verse crashed into him, pulled him down into its warmth, buoyed him up into its love.
All their work was for the song, the machine must be tended.  All the workers moved in perfect harmony with the song, with each other.
The pitch of the song changed, telling him where he was needed next.  He followed the beat and left his work, following the massive flow of hundreds other workers following the same unspoken instructions.
Words were not needed.  The song told them all they needed to know.
            The soothing hum of the MotherSong filled the central hall, a room as vast and beautiful as the love Mother felt for them all.  Gleaming silver walls caught the light and warmed their bodies as the song warmed their souls.
He stood in line for his daily ration, one of the countless lines they all stood in.  He waited for his turn for food, he listened to the song.  Everyone heard the song differently, but all were blessed with the same feeling of peace.
            Movement at the front of the line drew his attention.  The Lord Overseer, glorious in his silver helmet, was announcing that all the days rations had been given out, all workers were to report to their next shift.  The song was all the nourishment he needed, it did not matter that he had not eaten in days.
The line turned as one, in tune with the pulse of MotherSong.  They moved toward the exit when something happened.  A hissing noise filled the air.  A rasping screech that cut into the beauty of the song.
The hissing grew louder, louder and louder until it screamed in his ears.
Then the song stopped.
MotherSong stopped.  He could not hear it!
Why- Why was it not silent?  If MotherSong was not playing, then nothing should be playing.
But something was.  He could hear a humming pulse, a smooth flow of air.  A steady double beat that soothed him.  What song was this?
Something else, something beyond this new song.  The noise…What was causing that noise in his head?!
            It- It was his thoughts.
            His- My thoughts.
            I can hear my thoughts?
            I look around me and see the shining silver of the hall as it really is, a dull steel hull.  I see the other workers, lying on the floor in fear.
            I see the overseer, the faceplate of his helmet open as he calls for reinforcements, waving frantically to protect the piles of unopened rations behind his station.
            I feel my hunger give me strength.

They find me hours later, surrounded by scraps of food.  Covering my ears and screaming, trying to stop the song from taking me again.
I fight them, afraid they’re here to take me back.  It isn’t until they put the headset over my ears that I relax.
I can’t hear the song anymore.
They explain that not everyone can handle being freed.  Many aren’t able to live without the song.  But some fight, some run, as I did.
They ask if I’m willing to join them.  To fight, to free others.  One of them reaches out.
I take his hand.  The headset fills my ears with noise.
I ask what it is.
"We call it music."

Friday, March 14, 2014

The (Again) Return of Flash Fiction

And I'm back!

Yeah, long time without posting...or writing.  No excuses.  Regardless of my lack of ability to stick with continually writing, I did finally manage to sit myself down and dive into one of Chuck Wendig's Flash Fictions Challenges.  Found here.

It was one of my favorites prompts, taking items from a list (or two in this case) and using them as story elements.  I've had the idea in my head for awhile of a detective who finds a dead body in his office, so it was easy to adapt that into two characters.  Actually made it easier since they could play off each other.

It's still a bit rough in terms of some grammar issues, but I'm really happy with the general flow and pacing.  And the characters of course.  And with a word limit of 1500 instead of the normal 1000 I got to play with it a bit more.  There are some particular things I was focusing on for each of the characters, but especially for Don and John so I'd love feedback on how they came across.  Enjoy.

B & B - The Skinner

“Ok,” he sighed. “Tell me that’s not what I think it is?”
            Don Baugmann looked around the office confirming that everything was just as he’d left it last night.
            “If you think it’s a dead body then you’re right.  And I think it’s staining the carpet.”
            Everything, that is, except the bloody corpse in the middle of the room.
            “Thank you John, what I meant is why is it here?
            “Most likely to send us a message.  Who have we pissed off recently?” John asked, stepping around the body into the office kitchenette.
            Don closed the office door, the stenciling ‘Baugmann & Baugmann: Private Detectives’ mirrored on the glass, and crossed the room to his desk.
            “Who haven’t we pissed off is the better question.” Dropping into his seat he put his head in his hands and muttered, “God dammit I hate Mondays.”
            He looked up when John handed him a cup of coffee.
            “It’s Thursday.”  John said.
            Don took a long drink before answering, appreciating the burn of the hot caffinee.
“Thursdays are for wrapping up any big projects of the week so that they don’t monopolize your Fridays and, god forbid, spill into the weekend.”  He pointed at the corpse, “We came to work, early no less, and found that little gift waiting for us.  That makes this a Monday!”
“I’ll phone the station and get Michaels and his crew over here to remove it.”  John smiled, “Why don’t you look at our recent leads and see if this doesn’t tie back to anyone.”
Don finished his coffee and began a more thorough examination of the office.  Michaels would be irritated, and irritating, enough just coming this far out from the station, might as well appease the man by doing some of his work for him,
Not that there was much work to do.  Their office was small, partly by choice but mostly by necessity.  Their clients typically paid more in good will than in good credit.  Searching showed no signs of a break-in, the locks on the windows and door hadn’t been tampered with.  The only disturbance to the normal quiet atmosphere of the room was the body itself.
“So we’re dealing with a dead body in a locked room.”  Don muttered as he crouched to examine it.
Face down with a congealed pool of red staining their tan, ‘Beige, it’s beige Don.’ ‘Yes John, thank you!’ carpeting.
Don took photos of the body; male, five foot ten, looks about one-sixty to one-seventy, nondescript clothes, to pass on to Michaels then rolled it face up to take pictures for ID.
‘Huh, that’s a new one.’  “John?”  Don called out.
“Yes?” John looked up from the phone.
“Does it count as face up if the body doesn’t have a face?”

Leaving John behind to handle Michaels, Don went looking for one of their more reliable contacts.  Jessie, frequent snitch and chronic abuser, was exactly where Don expected to find him.  Face down in an alleyway buried under trash.
Don nudged Jessie to wake him up, absolutely not kicking him.
Jessie's answering groan of pain was probably just caused by whatever he was crashing from.
"H-Hey boss."  Jessie sat up, bloodshot eyes blinking away the light.  "What's up?"
"Didn't John set you up with a room in a clinic?"
"Yeah, yeah he set it up."  Jessie trailed off.
"But you weren't interested."
"Did you actually have a question?  Because if you could just step to the left and block the light that'd be great."
Don sighed, pulling Jessie to onto unsteady feet.  "John and I need you to ask around about something."  He explained the situation at the office.  "Let us know if there's been any disappearance, any bodies found killed the same way, or if-"
"Boss, I know how to do my job.  But," Jessie glanced around quickly, "But if you could front me some cash..."
Don pulled a pack of cigs out of his coat.  "How about I get you a cup of coffee, and we go from there."  He said, lighting one and handing the rest of the pack to Jessie.
Confident that Jessie would find at least enough rumors for a solid lead Don headed back to the office.  He could hear the argument from the stairwell.
‘Surprised I couldn’t hear Michaels from the street.’ he thought.
            “This room is a crime scene!  I demand you unlock those files.”  Michaels blustered, red-faced and utterly failing to make an impression on John, who was in front of the filing cabinet in the office corner.  Leaning casually against it as if that was the most comfortable spot in the room.
            Not that there was space to stand anywhere else.  Michaels had brought an entire forensics team with him, who were currently very busy doing anything except watch their Lieutenant lose his composure in front of a couple of P.I.s
“Those are private files regarding our clients, detective.”  John said.  “If anything is missing we’ll inform you.”
“You’ll understand if I don’t take any comfort from the Bagmen Brothers,” deliberately mispronouncing the name. “But you two are persons of interest in my investigation.  How can I trust anything you say?”
            “We’re not brothers.”  Don grumbled as he flicked the butt of his smoke into the potted plant by the door.  Ignoring John’s glare, ‘It’s just a plant John, relax.’ Then the rest of Michaels’ comment sank in.
            “Investigation?”  John eyed the stain where the body had lain, “So there’s been more murders like this one?”
            Michaels drew himself up to all his quivering glory.  “That is Police.  Business.” He hissed the words.
            “And our files for our clients are our business.”  Don crossed the room in a step and filled Michaels’ personal space the way the fat man filled the office.  Staring down at him Don said, “Your team is ready to leave now, aren’t they.”
            It wasn’t a question.
Ten minutes later found the office much calmer and with significantly more elbow room.
“Well?”  Don asked as John got out the cleaning supplies and started on the carpet.
“His main concern was our case files,” John said.  “He barely acknowledged the body.”
“Why do we have to call him?”
“Because he’s the lead detective of the homicide office…Somehow.” 
“Asshole probably placed the body himself.”  Don muttered.
“You know he’s not a crooked cop, we’ve exposed plenty of those.”
“Yeah, he’s just a bad one.”
“Regardless, what’s our plan?”
“Jessie is sniffing rumors for us but I figure we can hit up some of our other sources, see what they cough up.”
“Figuratively I’m sure.”
“To start with.”
John left the cleaning solution to sink into the stain as they locked up. ‘Not that it seems to matter.’
As they were heading down the stairs Don felt his phone vibrate.
The text from Jessie was direct for once.  “Bad news.  6 other kills.  No faces.  Hired nutcase.  Can I get paid now?”
“We need to talk to DeSarno.”  Don said.

“Well hello boys, thank you for coming.”  DeSarno gestured with his cigar, “Please, have a seat.”
Don let himself get shoved into a seat at DeSarno’s booth.  “Well after your goon squad was so gentle patting us down how could we say no.”
“I like that we didn’t need a reservation.”  John smirked.
“It’s almost like we’re VIPs.”
“If I didn’t know better I’d say DeSarno likes us.”
“And if I didn’t know better,” DeSarno cut in with a glare, “I’d say that B & B was a comedy duo.  But I can’t say I’m amused by the P.I.s who’ve damaged my business as much as you have.”
“Hard to avoid that,” John said.  “Seeing as how you bought half the police department.”
“The stupid half.” Don added.
“Be that as it may,” DeSarno ground his teeth. “What brings you here today.”
“We’re curious about a string of rather disturbing murders.”  Don said.
“And the fact that the victims are all being connected to us.”  Said John.
“A bunch of corpses with their faces removed?”
“One being left in our office to boot.”
“So we were just wondering if you might know anything.”
“Since this seems like the work of a professional.”
DeSarno went pale, “Their faces have been removed?”
Don nodded.

“You boys might want to hide,” DeSarno took a long, shaky drag from his cigart.  “It sounds like the Skinner is in town.”