Saturday, 13 May 2017
Ch 8. Caution, Speed Bumps Ahead.
A bit late this week, but there were a few issues with this chunk that I wanted to fix before I posted.
As usual, there is adult language ahead, and this is a first draft, so expect some errors.. Hope you enjoy the first part of chapter 8!
When Madame Rag returned a few minutes later, Stirling had nearly finished his drink and his limbs were beginning to feel pleasantly loose. Rag raised an eyebrow at the pink paper umbrella he’d tucked behind one ear and his near-empty glass as she sat.
“Funny story,” Stirling said, once Rag had settled in, “While you were gone, I got a call. Some police in Podunk, Arkansas want to chat with me about an ex-customer of mine who got himself murdered. His name was William, good guy too. Some black-hearted villain came along, killed him, and the only thing they took was one of my hunting decoys.” He slurped his straw noisily around on the bottom of his glass. Rag’s eyelid twitched.
“I believe it is time for you to come to a decision, Mr Haig,” said Madame Rag, her smile brittle for the first time. “Will you learn to use your talents, or will they be wasted while you make wooden toys for men who like to kill ducks?”
“Do you know what the term, “Fruit of the poisonous tree,” means?” he asked her easily. Drink always made him chatty. She didn’t answer, but that didn’t matter. “It’s a moral argument that boils down to the idea that any benefits gained through immoral acts are themselves tainted,” he went on. “It’s why any testimony gained through torture is inadmissible in court. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not against a little constructive immorality from time to time, but wasting a guy just so you can get your hands on a wooden duck seems a bit much. Plus, I liked William, he was a good sort. If I agreed to learn magic from people who think that it’s just dandy to kill my friends, well I’d have to be some kind of world-class douche socket. So, to answer your question, no, I’m not joining up your fucked-up little club of psychos. Thanks for the drink, I’ll have my notebooks back, and be on my way with a festive, ‘go fuck yourself’.”
Stirling put words to action and stood, wrapping his scarf around his neck and shrugging into his jacket.
“If that is your decision, your notebooks are in my car. If you’ll accompany me to the parking lot we can go our separate ways.”
“Fan-tastic, you have no idea how much I’m looking forward to it.”
Stirling left a few bills on the table and followed Madame Rag outside into the rainy night.
Stirling glanced around and decided the chances that the woman was actually playing him straight would require exponents to calculate. The odds were, she didn’t have his notebooks at all and she was simply luring him to her car. Any chance at all was a chance he’d take.
He scanned the parking lot but saw nothing out of the ordinary. Rows of cars left a lot of places for someone to hide though. He shouldn’t have had that drink, his head was fuzzy, and right now he needed to be sharp. He could just feel that this just wasn’t going to end well. He pulled out his phone, shielding it from the rain as he pulled up a music app. Gloomy Sunday was already queued up and ready to go. He didn’t press play yet but hummed the first bars as they made their way deeper into the lot.
Concentrating through the alcohol made things more difficult than usual, but he was eventually able to clear his mind and drop a few of the usual barriers he habitually kept up. A cold more dense than the surrounding winter air began to slowly stream off his body.
A large blue Cadillac chirped and flashed at them as Rag pulled a fob from her pocket. It was a streamlined throwback to the land yachts of the seventies and eighties and looked like it would require a bank loan to fill the tank.
Rag went to the car and pulled a sturdy office box from the back seat and held it out to him. Stirling eyed her suspiciously.
“If Gwyneth Paltrow’s head is in there I’m going to be pissed,” he told her, trying to keep nervousness from his voice.
She didn’t answer, but stared at him, still smiling, her eyes flat and reptilian. Stirling took the box from her hands. He fumbled at the lid and peered inside. The sight of a neat stack of hardback black notebooks greeted him. He ran a finger over the worn cover of the topmost book, it was one of his, he knew it, he could feel it. He sighed and his knees almost buckled in relief.
If it wasn’t for the fact that the lot had been recently salted and sanded he probably would have been caught. As it was, the soft crunch of gravel on pavement only gave him a few seconds to react. He turned to find a man the size of some mining machinery quickly approaching through the rain from directly behind. Stirling didn’t need to think, he bolted.
The relief from seeing his notebooks had destroyed the calm mindset he’d cultivated on his way there. He tried to bring it back, but it kept slipping away. Staying calm in the quiet of the workshop was much different than doing it while half-buzzed and being chased by an enraged gorilla with the height of an NBA player.
He could hear the man gaining on him, every one of his strides was almost two of Stirling’s. There was no way he would be able to outrun him, running would only make him die tired, but it was his only option. Ahead of him the parking lot ahead ended with a grassy strip descending into a ditch before turning into a busy highway.
Somewhere off to the side an engine revved, tires squealed, and Stirling heard a tremendous crunch accompanied by a meaty thud of impact. The sound of pounding footsteps behind him faltered and he looked back over his shoulder. The man who had been chasing him was laid out on the wet asphalt with his upper body hidden under a white subcompact car.
The front wheel of the car was at spinning ineffectively in the air a good foot off the surface of the parking lot. The car had ridden up on the giant’s back and was held off the ground from the sheer thickness of the body under it.
The car shifted gears with a grinding noise and began rocking itself in an attempt to free itself from the muscular hump on which it was high-centered. Back and forth it went, back and forth, the man underneath bellowing like an enraged rhino. The front tire finally gained purchase on the man’s shoulder and the car dropped off, ripping away its plastic front bumper as it bounced back onto terra firma.
To Stirling’s amazement, the huge man, who mere seconds ago had a car on his back, only gave his head a shake before starting to sit up. The only injury Stirling could see was a black skid mark on his sloped, simian shoulder.
Instead of getting out to check on the man he’d hit, the driver of the car opened his door, revved the engine, and popped the clutch. The car’s tires spun again on the wet parking lot. “Think fast, Bone!” the driver shouted, giving the door a good shove on the way past.
The door slammed against the back of the man’s head with a healthy crunch, leaving an extra-large skull-sized dent in the panel. The giant’s head rocked forward and he howled in anger, taking an awkward swipe at the car as it zoomed past. Stirling heard the sound of tearing metal and saw the car rock on its wheels with the impact.
Behind him, he heard Madame Rag screech in rage and a second engine roared to life. Headlights lit the lot behind him as Madame Rag’s car reversed from her spot.
People began pouring out of the front door of Grey’s, no doubt attracted by the noise. The mangled white subcompact slowed as it approached Stirling, and the driver motioned frantically for him to get in. Stirling didn’t need to be convinced. He tucked his box of notebooks under one arm and ran to the passenger side. Of course, the door was locked. Stirling pounded on the window and the driver had to lean across to unlock it. It probably saved his life.
One of the women Stirling had seen from the party inside Grey’s had sprinted over to them unnoticed in the darkness. She reared up out of the night, cocked her arm back, and shattered the driver-side window with a punch that would have made The Terminator proud.
Stirling gaped at her. A ghost, nearly identical to herself, hovered at her side. Its ethereal face was pinched in pain, and looking at her, it wasn’t a mystery why. Chunks of her ghostly flesh had been savagely gouged out all over her body. Angry red light limned the wounds like neon gore. She glared at him through the rain, and with a movement that looked stiff and painful, flipped him off.
Stirling hopped into the passenger’s seat, ignoring the cubes of safety glass under his butt. The driver put his foot down and accelerated away through the parking lot.
Somehow, the woman maintained her grip on the door frame, one bloodied arm reached through the broken window to rake down the driver’s face. The driver yelped in pain and fumbled to unlatch his door. He kicked the door open sending the woman screeched as she swung out away from the car, the rough surface of the parking lot dragging at her shoes. She held onto the door tight with both arms, but as Stirling watched, the door hinge began to droop under her weight, leverage working against her.
“We’ll find you, Dimitri!” the woman hissed through the window. The car hit a speed bump at nearly fifty kilometres an hour and the woman lost her grip, cartwheeling away onto the wet parking lot like a gymnast going for suicide gold in the kamikaze Olympics.
Unfortunately, she wasn’t the only casualty. Stirling hadn’t yet been able to fasten his seatbelt and his butt came off the seat and his head slammed against the roof with a flash of pain. When he landed, the corner of the box of notebooks came down like the hammer of a vengeful god on his testicles. Every atom of breath left his lungs in a rush and he crumpled forward over his box.
They exited the parking lot, sliding sideways into traffic and accelerated away through the rainy night, the blare of horns behind them.
“I’m Dimitri,” the man provided, flashing him a grin. He had to raise his voice over the wind coming through the broken window and crooked door.
“Stirling,” he croaked back.