Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction - Don & John...again

I hope no one is getting sick of these two, because I'm certainly not.

This is pretty much a direct continuation of last week's story (found here).  This week I kept it pretty short, the challenge over at Terribleminds went up a bit late so I had to rush this slightly.  I almost added another scene but I wouldn't have had the time to edit it properly.  Anyway, enough rambling.

B & B – Interrogation
            The man rocked back in and forth in his chair, the metal legs clinking softly on the floor with each pass.  He pulled the handcuffs tight, wrists worn red and raw from the pressure.
            “A poetic pattern retains inertia.  A poetic pattern retains inertia.”
            Don stood in the observation room, watching the lunatic through the mirrored glass.
“How long has he been doing that?”
Derek Franklin, the department’s head profiler, shrugged.  “Ever since you and John brought him in.”
Don hid clenched fists in his crossed arms, “Do we even know who he is?”
Derek shook his head, “No I.D. when he came in, and his prints didn’t turn up in any databases.”
“And he hasn’t said anything else?”
“He asked if the tooth fairy would visit.”
Don arched an eyebrow, “Seriously?”
“No.  But you did knock out a tooth when you pistol whipped him.”
“Forgive me for not caring.” Don huffed.
Derek chuckled, “You won’t hear me complain.”
They were cut off when the door to the holding room opened and John stepped inside.  For his part the prisoner didn’t react, continuing to rock and mutter that same phrase.
Don watched as John let the door click shut and crossed the room, he passed within reach of the man and Don tensed, but the prisoner didn’t react.
John sat down across the table and opened the thin folder he’d carried in.
“You’ve been linked to over a dozen murders over the last year.  All young women, all taken from their homes, but no other connection we can see.”
The rocking stilled for a moment.
John laced his fingers together, “We’d like to know why.”
The man resumed rocking his chair, “A poetic pattern retains inertia.”
“Is that why you killed these women?” John asked.  “Fulfilling a pattern?”
“A poetic pattern retains inertia.”
John leaned forward, “What does that mean?”
“A poetic pattern-“
“Why did you choose these women?”
The man slammed his hands on the table, “A poetic pattern retains inertia!”
Don leapt for the observation room’s door but Derek held him back.
John hadn’t even twitched, he looked up at the man.
“Sit back down.  You’re not fooling anyone.”
The man didn’t move, “A poetic-“
“Pattern retains inertia.” John cut him off.  “You’re not insane, stop trying so hard.”
The prisoner sat back down, tugging at the handcuff chains.
“Now,” John said, “Why did you kill these women.”
The man smiled, the same damn grin he had in the storage locker, “There’s a pattern.”  He reached out and took the victim photos, laying them out on the table.
“I played my role,” he said, “my job is done.  But my work is not.”
Don can barely see the layout of the photos, and he doesn’t see the connection.  But he can see the look on John’s face.  It’s the same expression his partner gets when he finds the last clues to a case.
As the last photo is laid on the table the door to the observation room bursts open, a panicking rookie cop almost falls into the room.
“Franklin, sir,” he pants, “there’s been another murder.”
From the other side of the soundproof glass the man looks up at John, spreading his hands over the table he grins and points to an empty spot.
“A poetic pattern retains inertia.”

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Don & John Strike Again

Seriously these two are becoming more than a recurring theme in my works.  First here, then here, and now I'm using them again!  Seriously, if you haven't read their earlier appearances please do.  It will make things clearer her...and I like the attention.

Anyway, the challenge of the week was pretty simple.  Use the theme "We're all human, even when we're not' in the story in some way.  I had a few ideas, some pretty generic things like a werewolf or other monster fighting the curse, etc etc.  But then the image of Don holding a gun to someone's head and having to stop himself from pulling the trigger came to mind and this story grew from there.

Came pretty close to the word limit this week too, I might have done more with this, but it's been a busy week.  I think this piece stands strongly as is.  There are some pretty obvious things I'm trying to convey here and I'll let you figure them out.  But mostly I wanted to have a story where...Well, you'll see.

B & B - Humanity
Don looked up from his desk when a shadow fell across the office door.
It had been a quiet morning.  He and John had been enjoying the downtime between cases to finish some neglected projects.  Well, Don was taking the opportunity to work.  John had spent the morning lounging on the sofa with a cup of tea, ruffling through the morning paper.
The figure hovered outside the door, raising their hand to knock on the frosted glass window only to hesitate and back away.
Don called out, "The door's open."
John tossed him a glare which he returned with a quick mimicking squint as the door cracked open just enough for a young woman to slip in.
"I'm sorry," she said in a quiet voice, face downcast.  "I was hoping- I mean, I'd like to hire you?"
John rose from the couch and led the woman into the office.  He swept the desk clear, ignoring Don's indignant squawk of, "I was working on that!"
"You can work on your jigsaw puzzles later," to the client he added, "I think we can pencil you in."
John took her coat as he settled her in front of the desk, bustling off to make a fresh pot of tea.  Don leaned back in his seat and took a closer look at the client.
'Lank hair, only enough makeup to push color into pale cheeks and lighten shadowed eyes.  Outfit picked in a rush, buttons half-done, coffee stain on skirt.'
Her hands shook as she took the teacup from John with a muted, "Thank you."
They waited as she settled herself.  Don twitched together a few pieces that had escaped John's callous attack, John leaned against the wall as innocent as if he hadn't ruined a morning's progress.
She finished her tea and set the cup down.  Her voice still quiet but no longer as timid she said.
"My name is Rebecca Walker, and someone is trying to kill me."

John's name showed on the ID, Don had his phone open before the first ring finished.
“What’s wrong?”
“I lost her,” John hissed in pain.  “Someone, white, 5'8", black hair, dark hood.  He jumped us.  She ran off as I was fighting him.”
“You alright?”
“I took a hit when he slammed me against a wall. I was disoriented long enough for him to run after her.”
“Don't move, I’m on my way.”
“You don’t even know where I am.”
“Then shut up and tell me.”
“I’ll be fine Don.  You need to find Rebecca.”

Don’s hand shook as he fought the urge to put a bullet in the bastard’s face.
His jaw ached as he ground out, “Where are they?”
The son-of-a-bitch just grinned, teeth stained red from where Don’s pistol had split his lip.
The room stank of decay, fetid and bloated corpses of young women ‘Victims!’ piled in corners.
And the man kept grinning that red-toothed grin.
The storage locker felt more like an animal’s den.  Don kept his aim steady and tried not to breathe too deeply.
“Where.  Are they?”
The grin widened as the eyes flicked to the far end of the room.  The dim light from a single bare bulb only served to highlight the shadows surrounding a covered work bench.
Don edged around the bastard and pinched the sheet, tugging it off the bench.
As the white fabric fell to the floor he held back a fresh swell of rage and bile.
Rebecca lay screaming in fear.  Her torn throat still dripping red.

“I wanted to,” Don’s hands still shook slightly, dropping ash from a lit cigarette he had yet to touch.  "I wanted to."
John set down a pair of teacups, Don couldn’t bring himself to make the usual snark of ‘Tea, again?’  Looking at the cups he saw the chipped rim of the cup Rebecca had used.
He gripped the smooth wood of the kitchen table, looking at anything but the tea.
Don closed his eyes with a sigh, “I wanted to kill him.  I still do.”
John’s warm hand on his wrist made him twitch away but John held firm.
 “But you didn’t.”
John took the cigarette and took a long drag, coughing slightly as he exhaled.
"Give me that," Don said, taking the cigarette from John.  "You smoke like a novice."  He said, finishing the last of it.
John smiled as he sat down and took one of the tea cups and nudging the other towards Don.
Don ignored the tea and lit a fresh smoke, the match steady in his hands.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Weekly writings

That's right!  I got the story done early again.  As I've said, I'm really just loving having the challenges from Terribleminds.  They're a great way to prompt myself to write more consistently, and it's getting easier the more I do it.

The week the challenge was to take five characters from a list of FIFTY!  I used a random number generator to pick some lists, then mixed & matched those until I ended up with something I liked.  I don't know how much it matters, but the five I ended up using are; The friendly musician, the silent wanderer, the unpredictable hunter who is considered the worst at their job, the aggravated thief in need of a friend, and the mysterious and heroic outlaw.

While I was writing this the first draft was much blander than the final result, I wrote the main structure but then went back in and played with the narrative voice.  I also started thinking about how different tenses can affect the genre.  Anyway, enough rambling.  Here's the story.

Band of Five
A calm stillness filled the forest, broken by the quiet strumming of lute strings.  Tristan let his horse set a steady pace as he tuned the instrument.
“So tell me friend,” he asked his companion, “where are we headed?”
His fellow traveler shrugged, a gloved hand tugging their hood tighter, the dark material of the cloak shrouding their figure and blending with the black stallion.
“Ah, where so ever the road takes us, an excellent way to travel.”
Plucking a few more strings Tristan decided his lute was as tuned as he’d be able to make it for now.  Noting that one of the strings would need replacing soon, he began to strum a casual melody.
“I’m Tristan, by the way, might I at least learn your name, if not the name of our destination?”
His companion kept their silence.
“Perhaps a song then, to pass the time?”
He switched to a jauntier tune.
‘Oh, I once met a girl, she was so sweet.
I met a girl, she swept me off my feet.’
It was a common song, used at many village festivals.
‘I met a girl, she was so fair.
I met a girl, with golden hair.’
Tristan paused, silently prompting his companion for the next verse.
‘We kissed without a care.” A voice floated through the trees.
Tristan stopped playing as they rounded a turn in the path, seeing the source of the voice.  The man in a simple green tunic and tan breeches wasn’t out of the ordinary.
What was unexpected was that he was hanging upside-down, swinging gently in the breeze.
“Hello there.  I don’t suppose you could help me down?” He turned in a slow circle, facing away from them.  “Or at least keep playing?  It’s rather boring up here.”
“Well met friend,” Tristan pulled his horse alongside the hanging man.
He took hold and turned the fellow around putting them, somewhat, eye-to-eye.  The leather strip with the sigil of the Hunter’s Guild not currently necessary to keep the man’s long brown hair out of his eyes.
“Tell me,” Tristan asked, “how does a Hunter fall prey to his own snare?”
“Funny you should ask.  I wasn’t catching much in the woods, so when my friend suggested I try the road I figured it couldn’t hurt.”
“Your friend… told you to put a trap in the road?” Tristan arched a brow.
“Yes,” the man pointed, setting himself turning again, “she’s right behind those bushes.”
“Dammit Gibson!”
Tristan turned to see a small figure stumble from the bushes, her short cloak getting caught in the brambles.  As she pulled free her hood fell back revealing dark hair framing a young face.
 "Hello there friend,” Tristan waved.  “My name is Tristan, travelling musician and performer."  With a short bow he gestured to the other rider, "My friend in the cloak prefers to keep their own counsel.  May I ask who you are?"
"I'm the one robbing you."  She said, drawing a hand crossbow.
She took aim at Tristan as Gibson spoke, "She's Sera."
"God dammit Gibson!"
Sera raised the crossbow a bit higher and fired a bolt into the trees, severing the snare and dropping Gibson, who let out a sharp yelp of surprise.  Tristan tried to support the hunter but the man's flailing dragged them both to the ground.
Standing up Tristan dusted himself off and tried to help Gibson to his feet, but the man had somehow become tangled in his own rope.
"Now then," Sera said as she nocked another bolt. "I believe I was robbing you all."
"My dear lady," Tristan said with a flourish of his cloak that hid the palming of a throwing knife, "I am all I said, a humble musician.  I have nothing worth taking."
"And what about your friend there?" Sera asked, taking aim at the silent rider.  "Don't think I can't see your jewels under that hood."
Tristan glanced back at his companion, still sitting unmoving on their horse, and gave a start when the figure spoke.
"Sera the Wayfarer?"  They asked in a cultured voice.
Sera smirked, "So you've heard of me."
If derision could cut, Tristan wouldn’t need his knife.  "Your reputation is by association only.  I seek your master."
Sera's smirk turned to a snarl and her grip tightened on the crossbow, "I don't-" she was interrupted as Gibson finally stumbled to his feet.
"Oh you mean Flynt."  He said, still shaking himself free of the ropes.
Sera pinched her eyes closed with a grimace, "God.  Dammit.  Gibson!" She ground through clenched teeth.
Taking the opportunity, Tristan let fly the knife.  The blade drove into the body of the crossbow and knocked it from the hand of the distracted thief.
Pleased with himself, Tristan turned to his no longer silent companion.  But his grin slid off his face when Sera pulled out a second crossbow, nocked and ready to fire.
"I don't have a 'master'."  She snarled.
"Indeed!" a deep voice boomed out from the forest canopy.
From the trees a man swung down, letting go of his rope well before the ground he flipped through the air and landed in a kneeling crouch in front of the cloaked rider, his arms spread wide kept his cape flaring dramatically.
"Master is such an ordinary title, I like to think of myself as the brave and heroic leader."  He rose only long enough to perform a swooping bow.  "Flynt of the Forest Steel, at your service."
            The quiet rider reached up and pulled back the hood of the cloak, revealing a woman young of years and yet aged with wisdom and responsibility.  The crest of her circlet identified her as clearly as her long golden hair.
"Sir Francis of Stonewall," she said, "your Queen requires your services as a knight once more."
Flynt, or Francis, chuckled softly.  "So, the rumors are true.  The royal family has been usurped."
"Indeed," said Queen Valentina.  "Although reports of my death are somewhat premature."
Flynt stood straighter, his flamboyancy dropping away as his shoulders settled with responsibility.  It suited him, like a favorite cloak being worn again after a long time.
"Sera, Gibson," Francis called over his shoulder, "go alert the others.  We have ourselves a new patron."
Sera lowered her crossbow in stunned awe while Gibson tripped over the ropes and fell again.
Tristan's fingers twitched for his lute, 'This is going to make an epic ballad.'