Monthly Archives: January 2014

Billy Goats Gruff

Time for the latest terribleminds challenge. This one is called Fairy Tales Remixed. You take a fairy tale and a random sub-genre and 1000 words later, voila! In my case I chose The Billy Goats Gruff with a detective sub-genre.

I was fumbling in my bottom desk drawer for my bottle of corn when I felt a presence. I looked up and there she stood. She was tall with a knockout body but with a face that had been knocked around with an ugly stick. She gazed coolly at me and waited for my move.

“May I help you?” I asked. Damn Phyllis must have stepped out to buy a deck of Luckies or else I wouldn’t have been caught with my hand in the cookie jar.

“I’m looking for Frank Sweetwater,” she said.

“Yeah, lady, I’m Frank. And who might you be?”

“My name is Lillian LaTrolle. My friends call me Lillie,” she looked at me, seeing the stubble on my cheeks and the network of broken capillaries marching across my nose. Her nostrils flared as the stale air of my office reached them. Traces of old bourbon and desperation make a potent mix. “You may call me Mrs. LaTrolle.”

“What can I do for you, Mrs. LaTrolle?” I didn’t like her or her ugly mug but I hadn’t had a client walk through the door in weeks.

“I would like you to find my three brothers. They’re missing, and everyone tells me don’t worry,” she said. “But it’s not like them, Mr. Sweetwater. They know I worry but I haven’t heard a thing in weeks and I’m so frightened that something has happened.” Her eyes welled up, magnified by unshed tears and I noticed how beautiful they were. Large and dark and fringed with thick black lashes…

I shook my head. I had been in danger of drowning in those eyes. Get your head back in business, Frank.

“What can you tell me about them?” I motioned to a chair and she sat down slowly, giving me an eyeful of some amazing getaway sticks.

“Their name is Gruff.” She gave me details about their descriptions, last known whereabouts, usual haunts. We agreed on terms (a 10% surcharge added to my fee for that ‘Mrs. LaTrolle’ business) and shook hands. Phyllis could type the contract later.

Lillie rose, giving me another look at those legs. She walked to the doorway and paused.

“Mr. Sweetwater… could you please keep my name out of this? If you find the boys and they’ve just been out for a lark they’d be furious that I’d hired you.”

“Mum’s the word,” I said.

It had been too long and I was ready to hit the streets. This job should be duck soup and I’d be paying my rent in no time.

I grabbed my hat, took a swig from my bottle, and walked into the outer office. Phyllis was back and was behind her desk with a gasper hanging from her mouth.

“Phyllis, I got a job,” I said. “Spare me a Lucky for the road.”

“Mr. Sweetwater, you’re always telling me not to smoke so much and now you’re wanting butts off me.”

“And you tell me not to drink so much but you know where my corn is kept don’t you.”

She blushed and handed over the cigarette.

As I made my rounds around the hangouts of the brothers Gruff, the picture cleared. Innocent lambs they were not. Their haunts were dives, the cheap ones where pro skirts hung out with hoods and redhots.

I got my break when a little birdie told me those boys had pulled a major flimflam involving a fancy nightclub called Bridge to Heaven. The brothers weren’t lost, they were laying low.

The job was tough- I wasn’t looking for lost sheep, I was looking for the didn’t want to be found. But I wasn’t born yesterday and I had been working these streets for longer than those Gruff boys had been alive. Damn right I found them.

I met Lillie at my office to tell her the good news. Her frosty air thawed when I gave her the address of the boys’ hideout, a flophouse where they were registered under the name Caprine.

“Oh, thank you, Mr. Sweetwater!” she said. “I was out of my mind.”

“It’s my job, Mrs. LaTrolle. I’m good at what I do,” I said.

“Quite,” she said, looking around the dingy office. “I’m sorry I doubted you. How much do I owe?”

I told her the final bill and she wrote out a check, saying she was giving me a bonus for my quick work.

“Thank you again, Mr. Sweetwater,” she said.

“Thank you, Mrs. LaTrolle, let me know if you need anything else.”

“I’ll do that, Mr. Sweetwater,“ she said as she walked to the door. “You really don’t know how grateful I am.”

The next morning I was in my apartment, drinking my joe, and shaking out the morning paper.

“TRIPLE HOMICIDE IN SEEDY HOTEL!”

            “Police have reported the shooting deaths of three men in the Bowery Hotel on the lower south side. Buck Gruff, 28, Billy Gruff, 24, and Charles “Kid” Gruff, 19, were found in their hotel room shot execution style in the back of the head. There are no known suspects at this time.”

I made it to my office in record time. I needed to find that check. When Lillie had handed it to me yesterday I only had eyes for all the zeroes. The bank had been closed so I left the check in my desk until morning.

When I found it I looked at the upper left corner. “Lillian LaTrolle,” it read. Underneath was “Proprietor, Bridge to Heaven Nightclub.” Distracted by those legs and eyes and my empty wallet, I had not paid enough attention to her, only her green.

She had set me up. If I went to the cops, she would tell them I was in on it, that’s what the bonus was for. If I accused her of murder, she would say I was the paid hitman. She knew my reputation, knew that I had been a loser down on his luck for a while. A drunk versus a high class lady, no contest. And, after all, what business was it of mine? Those boys were no-goods, they had ripped her off with that nightclub job. I could cash that check and be set for a while. And let a murderer go free.

My stomach churned.

I opened my bottom desk drawer, pulled out my bottle, drank, and waited for the bank to open.


The Lovestruck Rider

Time for another of Chuck Wendig’s terribleminds flash fiction challenges. For this challenge we had to take two randomly chosen words from two columns and make that our 1000 word story’s title. I got “Lovestruck Rider.” Cheers. 

Big Jake was in trouble. Big Jake was in love. The first followed the second as naturally as bees followed the scent of flowers or Tuesday followed Monday.

The trouble began shortly after Big Jake started making his rounds, collecting payouts here, threatening beatings there, a normal day. On his list (typed up the night before by the gang secretary, Marge) was a new place, Suzanne’s Siren Salon. Next to the name was an address and a note “refuses to pay (p).” The (p) stood for protection, a lucrative sideline for the gang and it was not offered- it was levied on businesses whose owners wanted to stay in business. Big Jake stepped in when a foolhardy owner refused to pay. Big Jake was the muscle, the enforcer, the man who struck fear into the hearts of other men and made them empty their wallets and their bank accounts if required.

Strolling into the salon, he took a look around. Lots of mirrors with adjustable stools in front and various contraptions on counters nearby. Dryers and curling wands he could figure out but some devices looked like they might have been used by Torquemada.

Big Jake leaned on the reception desk and gave the teenager seated behind it a hard look.

“I need to talk to Suzanne,” he said, scowling and rolling his muscular shoulders inside his leather jacket, making it creak ominously.

“Ummm…ummmm, we’re not actually open yet. We don’t open until ten,” the teenager squeaked.

“NOW!” He pounded on the desk.

The girl began to cry and fled across the salon and through a discreet door in back.

Big Jake looked around again and caught the eye of a stylist setting up her station, getting ready for her first client. He stared and she grabbed her purse and went out the front door, muttering about needing a goddamn cigarette anyway.

Now alone in the salon, he preened in the mirrors, turning this way and that, admiring the newly embroidered “Fists of Thunder” patch on his back. He was busy flexing his muscles and practicing his scowl when the rear door opened and a woman came out.

She was as tiny as he was big, maybe topping five feet on her tippy toes. Dark red hair curled and bounced around a pixieish face as she strode through the salon, stopping a few feet in front of Big Jake. She couldn’t be more than thirty.

“I’m Suzanne, how may I help you?” she asked, her voice low and sweet.

“Look lady, I don’t need no games. You know what I’m here for. You owe us a payment and it’s overdue,” he said, his meanest glare on display.

“No, I’m afraid not,” Suzanne said.

“Afraid not? Whaddaya mean, afraid not?”

“Look, Mr….,” she paused.

“Big Jake,” he offered.

“Look, Mr. Big Jake, this is my business and I run it my way. I do not require your services and therefore I will not be paying for them, no matter how generous your offer is,” she said, her voice still sweet as honey.

“Lady. You don’t understand. We ain’t offering, we’re telling.” Big Jake cracked his knuckles. “You pay or things could happen… unpleasant things.” He loomed over her at his intimidating best.

“How dare you! What would your mother think, you threatening a woman like that! I bet she’d die of shame if she knew her baby boy was going around acting like a lout and trying to scare women like you’re doing!” her honey voiced darkened into molasses.

“Lady, leave my mother out of this, she ain’t got nothing to do with it. Pay up or else,” he said. Why was she talking about his mama? That wasn’t nice.

“Or else what? You’ll knock me around? Break my legs? What an occupation for a big grown man, frightening women. Do you go kick puppies in your spare time?” she asked with such venom Big Jake took a step back.

“Lady, I ain’t like that. C’mon, be nice and just pay up and I’ll be on my way.” Big Jake shifted his feet, why was he trying to explain himself to her?

Suzanne wasn’t buying it. She scolded him up and down and sideways, his face turning scarlet, her tongue giving him whiplash.

Big Jake had had it. “Lady!” he bellowed. “Enough!”

Suzanne took a step back, then defiantly stepped forward.

Big Jake stopped. He wasn’t sure what to say. He started toward Suzanne, he was going to throttle her goddamned neck and keep her viperous mouth from saying another word. He was going to grab her shoulders and…and…draw her into his arms for a kiss. Big Jake shook his head and arranged the scowl back on his face. He was going to show her what happened to people who talked to Big Jake like she had. He was going to show her all right. Show her the time of her life when he took her to the fanciest places in town. Damnit! Big Jake wondered if some of the salon chemicals had gotten to his brain, eating it away and turning it into Swiss cheese.

Suzanne stood waiting, her arms crossed and her chin tilted up.

“You! You… damn woman!” Suzanne watched as Big Jake’s glare crumbled into confusion as he turned and fled the store.

Outside the salon, Big Jake leapt onto his Harley and raced away, the heavy motorcycle’s engine roaring. He rode and rode and rode, hoping the deafening throb of the chopper would drown out the crazy thoughts in his head. No woman he had ever met could compare to the tiny, fearless, ferocious Suzanne. And now he was going to go back to the Fists of Thunder’s headquarters without all the money he was supposed to collect, with every name on his list neatly checked off except Suzanne’s Siren Salon. What could he tell them? Excuses would only work for so long.

Big Jake was in trouble. Big Jake was in love.


GoRuck Training Update

So you all might have noticed it’s been a while since I posted my last bit about the GoRuck Light Challenge. I haven’t quit but I have been forced to postpone my goal of completing the challenge for a time. In Week Two, I mentioned my worry about my wrist and its future. I won’t bore you with the details but after years of varying chronic and acute pain and fruitless attempts with therapy and at least one doctor who blew me off with “Oh, it’s probably just arthritis, not much you can do about it,” I finally got a diagnosis from an awesome orthopedist who specializes in hand, arm, and shoulder. After a last ditch round with a cortisone shot failed, I’ve decided to get surgery and just get the damn thing chopped off and be done with it. Not really, but the surgery part is true and means I will be out of commission for quite a while. I won’t be idle during the recovery time. Besides the physical therapy I’ll have to go through, I see this as a good time to get some leg workouts in and do some long hikes and rucks and other things that don’t require specific use of my right arm. Wish me luck!

P.S. Don’t ever youtube any surgery you’re about to undergo. Seriously, bad idea.


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