Fiction Friday: The Mongers, Part 4

The Mongers, Part 4

The rest of the day went well. Butch was actually surprised at some of the things people would bring him to trade. Things that had been extremely valuable in the old world, but were frivolous luxuries now. Nobody even argued when he was sadly forced to offer a low price for a grandfather’s watch, or a great grandmother’s cameo.  

Finally, as the last customer was walking away, seemingly pleased with his transaction, Butch gave the signal to start packing up. At this point, they were like a well oiled machine. Each man knew exactly what to do. The whole operation was completed within a matter of minutes.

By the time they were done, the two waitresses who had served them their pie and beer were standing nearby, watching them. The moment they were done, they approached Gut and Bear. Soon, the four of them were talking and laughing together. Soon after that, they broke up into two couples and wandered away. Butch smiled to himself as he watched them go, then remembered he had a date himself.

“You guys good here?” He asked Rat and Nutcase.  

“We’ve got this.” Nutcase said. Rat gave him a thumbs up, unable to talk due to the screwdriver he was holding in his teeth as he tinkered with whatever new contraption he was working on.

“Good. I’ll check back in later. I’ve got… uh.”

“Have fun, Boss.” Nut told him with a knowing smile, saving him from actually having to say where he was going. He turned and walked away quickly before his men could see his reddening cheeks.

Butch didn’t actually know where he was supposed to meet Melanie. He began wandering around the school, hoping he’d bump into her. As he explored, he discovered where the peaches for the cobbler had come from. The school’s old football field had been turned into an orchard. In it were hundreds of trees heavy with various fruits. He marveled at the lush forest here in the middle of the barren desert, wondering how they kept everything watered. The areas between the trees were filled with what Butch at first took to be undergrowth, until he realized that these plants too were bursting with produce.  

He continued his self-guided tour, finally coming to the old auto shop. There were no vehicles in it, of course, but it still seemed to have all the tools. Butch was wondering if they’d be allowed to pull their vehicles in so Rat could perform some much needed maintenance when there was a tap on his shoulder. It was so unexpected, he actually jumped. When he wheeled around, he was surprised to see Melanie’s smiling face.

“Hey, Sugar. Happy to see me?”

Butch realized that his hands were clenched into fists and quickly released them.

“Sorry. You surprised me.” He said, a bit sheepishly.

“It’s okay. Are ya’ ready for dinner?”

He felt his stomach rumble at the thought of food.

“Lead the way.” He said.

Her room was small, but she’d done what she could to make it look as little like a classroom as she could. Brightly colored fabrics adorned the walls. A few ripped posters, relics of the old world, hung here and there. Butch noticed that there were two beds in the room.

“My roommate’s.” She said, catching him looking at it. “Don’t worry. I convinced her to stay with a friend tonight.”

Butch smiled, unsure of what to say. He’d gotten used to women being forward with him. In this new world filled with widely dispersed small villages, strangers were always popular with the ladies. Still, Melanie seemed braver than most.

His stomach rumbled again.

“Oh my. You are hungry. Have a seat, I’ll go get dinner.” She said, and flitted out of the room.

Butch sat in the folding chair facing the door. The battered folding table was a bit wobbly, but sturdy enough, he supposed.

With nothing better to do, he let his eyes roam the room. It took some effort to resist the urge to snoop. It wasn’t anything malicious, he was just curious. Still, he knew the best way to wreck what was about to happen was to have her come back and find him looking through her things.  

Before long, she was back, carrying two covered plates which she placed on the table. When she removed the covers, he was greeted by a sort of stir fry with lots of vegetables and some sort of meat. He didn’t ask what kind. Sometimes, it was something normal, but others, it was better not to know.

He was about to dig in, when she stopped him. She turned and bent down into a wooden chest, deliberately giving him a view he didn’t mind at all. When she stood back up, she was holding a bottle of wine and a corkscrew.

“I don’t have any glasses. I hope you don’t mind.” She said, uncorking the wine.

“It won’t be the first time I’ve had to drink right out of the bottle.”

“Let’s just hope it’s not vinegar.” She said, handing him the bottle.

He looked at the bottle, as if he had any clue. The label was singed and he couldn’t read the winery’s name, but he could make out the year. 1977. Of course, he had no way of knowing if it was a good year or not. He took a tentative sniff before upending the bottle and taking a swig. It tasted good. Decadent almost. He wondered if he’d have been able to afford it in the old world.

He passed the bottle back to her.

“Well, dig in.” She said, taking a sip of the wine herself.

He didn’t have to be asked twice. He took his first bite.

“This is really good. You cooked this yourself?”

It was her turn to look sheepish.

“Oh, heavens no. You wouldn’t want to eat anything I cooked. I just stole it from the dining hall.”

“That’s okay. It’s still good.” He said, diving in.

Before long, his plate was empty. She was still picking at her food. Butch assumed she was trying to keep up appearances, but he knew better than to encourage her to eat. He reached for the wine bottle, but set it back down when he realized it was empty. Without a word, she retrieved another. This one had no label, but was still just as tasty. He leaned back in his chair, wishing for a cigarette. She smiled at him.

“So tell me. Have you always been a bad-ass biker?”

Butch couldn’t help but laugh heartily at that one.

“Not even close.”

“Okay then, what did you do before?”

“Well, let me ask you this. Do you know what the word monger means?”

“Well, sort of. I mean I’ve heard of warmongers. I assumed it was something related to that.”

“It means peddler. A salesman. We were all in sales of some sort. Gut and Bear worked at a motorcycle dealership. Bear actually sold me my first bike. Nutcase, he was one of those crazy guys you see on T.V. who smashes stuff while he yells about his insane deals. Rat was his assistant. The one who fixed things when people brought them back broken, which they often did.”

”What about you?”

“I owned a bookstore. I loved that place until the day it burned down.” Butch grimaced as he tried to push away the memory. “It started as a joke. When we all started riding together in our suburban motorcycle club, mongers sounded tough if you didn’t know what it meant. After everything happened, we decided to go with it and stick to what we knew best. Selling things.”

Melanie laughed at this. Getting up to retrieve another bottle of wine. It was only then that he realized he’d finished the second one. He vaguely wondered how many bottles she had stashed in her chest.

The conversation flowed as freely as the wine until Melanie stood up. He half expected her to tell him she was turning in and that he should go, but instead, she wordlessly took him by the hand and led him to her bed.

The next morning, Butch woke as the sun was just peeking above the horizon. His head ached from the wine, but not too bad. Melanie was still asleep. He considered waking her, but decided to let her sleep. Instead, he slipped out of bed, got dressed, and made his way to the courtyard.

Gut, bear, and Rat stood together in a knot, mumbling to each other.

“Mornin’, boys. Isn’t it a fine day?”

The three of them turned to look at him, their faces pale, even Rat’s. It was only then that butch looked up at the empty courtyard. Something was missing, but it took Butch a moment to realize what it was.  

The truck was gone.

So that’s it for this week, but remember, if you just can’t wait to find out what happens next, part 5 is already up on my Patreon page. It’s only a dollar for early access to this story for the whole month. More perks, like exclusive short stories, are available if you’re willing to pay a little more.

Don’t forget to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

You can now help support my writing on Patreon

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon

You can find my Amazon influencer page here.  https://www.amazon.com/shop/justinmkellywriter

And my blog on Steemit. If you really want to help me out, go there and drop a like or a comment. I get paid if you do and it doesn’t cost you anything.

Fiction Friday: The Mongers, Part 4. Now On Patreon

Part 4 is now on my Patreon page. It’s only a dollar for the whole month. Check it out here.

https://www.patreon.com/posts/21424192

Or wait a week, and I’ll post it here. I could really use the support.

Fiction Friday: The Mongers, Part 3

Part 1 Part 2

By the time the rest of them had showered and showed up at the courtyard, Nutcase had already begun setting up shop. He’d already set up the tables and had begun laying out merchandise. The old RV awning they’d attached to the side of the truck had been unfurled. Guns and other assorted weapons lay neatly arranged on a table between the main shop area and the truck where customers would have to ask to see them. On the table in front stood several ammo cans of loose ammunition in various calibers. Also on the table were various trinkets and baubles they’d rescued from the wastes. Various clothing items hung from the awning’s supports.

Each item had a meaningless dollar amount attached to it. Dollars hadn’t been a thing since the apocalypse, but Butch had found that the easiest system was to appraise whatever their customers brought to trade with a dollar amount and then give them the worthless scraps of paper which had once been money which they could then exchange for goods and services. Not only did it streamline the process, it gave their customers a sense of normalcy in this abnormal world which put them at ease and made them more pliable. They loved the farce of buying things with actual money even if the money had no real value except at their shop.

Without having to be told, Gut and Bear grabbed their rifles from the back of the truck and took up their posts at either side of the table. Not that they figured they’d have a problem with this lot, but it paid to keep up appearances.

Butch was the main dealmaker with Nutcase filling in when Butch was busy or replenishing stock as it was needed. Rat’s table stood off to the side with his toolkit and a banner offering “Repairs and Modifications”.

By the time they were open for business, the residents of the school were standing in the early morning shadows eyeing them curiously, but afraid to be the first ones to approach.

Butch nodded to Nut, who dashed into the truck. Moments later, the hatch clanged open and Nutcase clambered out of it and stood atop the truck. He took a deep breath and launched into his pitch.

“Step right up, folks. Don’t be shy. You won’t find better deals anywhere in the wastes. If we can’t make a deal, I’ll throw myself off the top of this truck.”

As if to prove he was serious, Nutcase then ran the length of the truck’s roof and jumped high in the air, executing a perfect front flip before landing on the edge of the roof and tottering precariously for a moment before reversing it with a backflip and landing on the center of the roof.

Butch smiled to himself as the enraptured crowd first gasped, then clapped and cheered. He didn’t need to watch Nut’s antics. He’d seen them all before. In a moment, Nut would do another flip down through the hatch and onto his bed which was positioned below the hatch. Even as he thought it, he heard another gasp from the crowd accompanied by a thump from inside the truck followed by more cheers and applause as Nut emerged from the back of the truck unscathed.

“Good job, Nut. You really roped ‘em in today.” Butch said.

“Thanks, Boss. I still think it would be more effective if I had a monkey or a tiger or something.”

Butch sighed. They’d been through this countless times before.

“A tiger would be out of the question, but if we ever run into a monkey, I’ll get him for you.” Butch said.

“Deal.” Nut said excitedly.

The crowd approached the makeshift shop. First they wanted to talk to Nutcase and shake his hand, but even as they did, Butch could see that most of them were carrying bundles which undoubtedly contained whatever they felt they could part with in exchange for more useful items.

As soon as they had finished talking to Nut, they began to line up in front of Butch to reveal their treasures. Most of it was useless junk, but Butch did his best to give them a fair price. As Butch did his appraising, Nut climbed back onto the top of the truck and began shouting for their most wanted items. Of course ammunition and ammunition components were at the top of the list as always.

“Live ammo, brass casings, primers, and unirradiated lead, weapons parts. Even broken parts may be useful. If you have any of these things, just bring ‘em to my buddy Rat at the repairs table and he’ll treat you right.”

Once more than a few people had cash in hand, Nut once again jumped from the top of the truck and began making deals. Butch joined him as soon as he was done with appraisals. As usual, the weapons and ammo were the biggest draw. Butch couldn’t blame them considering he’d already seen how much trouble they seemed to have from raiders. Almost as popular as the weapons was the food. Still, there was a good amount of interest in things like clothing and even jewelry.

Butch saw a feminine hand reach out to stroke a silver necklace studded with emeralds. He looked up from his wares into Melanie’s bright green eyes.

“Good morning, Star Dancer.” Butch said with a grin.

She returned it with one of her own. Hers with a touch of mischief in it.

“Figured it out, did you. What took you so long?”

“Well, I hardly expected to run into an actual celebrity out here in the wastes.”

“I was hardly a celebrity.”

“Besides, you look a bit… different.”

“Well. It’s not easy finding good makeup in a post-apocalyptic world. Speaking of which, I’m surprised a man such as yourself watched beauty videos. Something you’re not telling the rest of your gang?”

Butch felt his cheeks reddening.

“My niece used to watch you. I had no choice but to watch with her.”

What he would never tell her, what he would, in fact, take to his grave, was that while it was true he had watch one of her videos with his niece the first time, he had looked her up and watched the rest of her videos on his own afterward.

“So, do you like the necklace?” Butch asked, changing the subject.

“I do, but I need something a bit more practical.”

“Such as?”

“Protection. I need a gun.”

“I have just the thing.” Butch said, wheeling around to the weapons table.

Moments later, Butch slapped a small piece of metal into her palm. He could immediately see the disappointment in her eyes as the looked at the pearl handled derringer. Butch had to admit, it looked tiny even in her small hand.

“Really? I was hoping for something a bit bigger. I guess it’ll have to do though. Especially since this is all I have to trade.” She said, unveiling the small jewelry box. “It was my grandmother’s.”

Butch eyed the jewelry box. There was nothing special about it. In fact, he had left identical boxes behind out in the wastes, most of which had been in better condition. Still, he had always been a sucker for a pretty face. He took back the derringer and swapped it for a snub nosed .38 special.

“I’m afraid this is the best I can do.” He said, handing her the revolver. “Straight up trade.”

She hefted it in her hand and her smile brightened.

“Are you sure? This has got to be more valuable than my old jewelry box.”

Butch looked over his shoulder to make sure none of his companions were paying attention.

“It’s good to be the boss.” He said with a wink as he reached into the can which held the .38 ammo and gave her a handful of cartridges.

Her eyes widened.

“So when are you guys leaving?”

“I’m not sure. It usually takes Rat a few days to finish his orders.”

“Good.” She said. “How about letting me cook you dinner tonight as a way of saying thanks.”

“I’d like that.”

“Then it’s a date.” She said with a smile a she turned on her heel and walked away with that wiggly walk of hers.

Butch wondered once again if it was for his benefit, or if that was just the way she walked. He shook his head, remembering what he was supposed to be doing.

“Next!” he shouted.

.     .    .

Okay. That’s it for this week. I’m still not sure exactly where this story’s going, but I’m starting to get an idea. I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll see you next week with another what’s up Wednesday.

Until then…

Don’t forget to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

You can now help support my writing on Patreon

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon

You can find my Amazon influencer page here.  https://www.amazon.com/shop/justinmkellywriter

And my blog on Steemit. If you really want to help me out, go there and drop a like or a comment. I get paid if you do and it doesn’t cost you anything.

Fiction Friday: The Mongers, Part 2

Part 1

The Mongers, Part 2

“You do, huh?” Butch said

“I think so.” She said. A mischievous look in her eyes.

“Want to let me in on it?”

“I could, but I think letting you figure it out on your own will be so much more fun. For me at least. I’ll let you think on it. I’ve got some things to do. I’ll see y’all next time.” She said, getting up.

“Wait. Can you at least tell me your name?”

“It’s Melanie. But that’s not going to help you a bit.” She said, winking before sashaying away.

Butch wondered if she always walked that way, or if that extra bit of wiggle in her hips was for his benefit. Butch frowned. “I’ll see y’all next time,” he thought. It seemed like an odd way to say goodbye. After all, there was only one of him. Unless she’d been talking to Rat as well, but he’d never even looked up from his notebook. Still, there was something familiar about not only the phrase, but the way she said it. A memory tried to bubble to the surface, but when Butch tried to grasp for it, it fled.

“Don’t forget to eat, Rat.” Butch said, still lost in thought. “You’re too skinny as it is.”

“Right.” Rat said, grabbing his fork and taking a scoop of food. Not even looking up from his notebook to see what it was he was eating.

Butch dug into his own food, almost as preoccupied as Rat. Who was that mystery woman? How could he possibly know her? He’d lived thousands of miles away when the apocalypse had come. Had she been from the same area and somehow drifted here? Butch figured it was possible, but highly unlikely. Still, he supposed that as many settlements as they visited, he was bound to run into someone he knew eventually.

As Butch sat here, lost in his thoughts, he felt his side of the table lift up a couple of inches. He wasn’t surprised to see bear and Gut sitting across from him, each with a mug of beer in each hand.

“Sooo? Who was that?” Gut asked mockingly.

“Where’s Nut?” Butch asked without answering Gut.

“He’s out in the truck, makin’ love to his ol’ lady.” Bear said, laughing.

It had begun as a joke, but it was getting less and less funny. From the moment he’d seen it, Nutcase had been in love with that gun. He’d been the one to name it Bertha. With guidance from Rat, he’d also been the one who mounted it on the roof and then made the access hatch. Butch had tried at first to persuade him that it wasn’t necessary, but even he had to admit that she’d come in handy a time or two. Butch was sure that, after today’s workout, he was meticulously stripping her down so he could clean and oil everything.

“I wonder what he’d do if one of us ever had to wrap our finger around her trigger.” Butch wondered out loud.

“I don’t think I want to find out.” Gut said, emptying both mugs of beer. He started to get up for more when Butch stopped him.

“I think that’s enough. Save a little for the rest of these people.” Butch said.

“Aw, come on. There’s plenty.” Gut protested.

“That may be, but tomorrow’s a sale day. We don’t want to go in with these people feeling like we owe them something.”

“What are you talking about? We saved their asses.”

“Yes, but that kind of gratitude can be short-lived. Now no more about it.” Butch said, ending the conversation.

Gut sat there like a sulky five-year-old until he glanced over and saw that Bear was still working on his first beer, while the other one sat on the table getting warm. He slowly reached out toward it.

“Don’t even think about it.” Bear growled.

Gut crossed his arms over his chest and pouted.

“Good evening, Gentlemen?” A voice said over Butch’s shoulder.

On cue, Bear and Gut began looking around comically for the “Gentlemen” the voice was referring to.

The voice belonged to Jacob Drake. The mayor.

“I trust you’ve all had enough to eat.” Drake said.

“Oh yes.” Gut said, patting his prodigious belly. “Couldn’t eat another bite.”

“Oh, that’s too bad. I was hoping I could tempt you with a piece of my wife’s peach cobbler. It was the best in the world even before the world changed. It’s still hot and fresh out of the oven.” Drake said, smiling.

“On the other hand. I could probably make a little room.” Gut said, and belched loudly. Butch gave him a dirty look, but a few people within earshot chuckled.

“Wonderful.” Drake said. “Can I get you another beer while I’m at it?”

Gut looked hopefully at Butch, who rolled his eyes and nodded.

“I’ll have another round brought for each of you.” Drake said.

“None for Rat.” Butch said. “He prefers his brain cells intact. I can’t say I blame him, runnin’ around with this lot.”

“Okay then, five cobblers and four beers.” Drake looked around. “I assume your friend will be back soon.”

“He’s taking care of something in the truck. If he’s not back soon, we’ll take it to him. If that’s okay.”

Drake nodded and bustled off. Soon, two ladies appeared. One with a tray of cobbler, and another with a tray of beer. Clearly they had been waitresses once upon a time, as the trays didn’t so much as wobble as they passed out food and drink.

“You look extra thirsty, handsome.” The waitress serving the beer said to gut as she set an extra mug in front of him. Gut looked back at her with a sparkle in his eyes, clearly in love.

Butch just sighed and shook his head in exasperation.

After they’d finished their dessert, just as Gut was beginning to eye the mug earmarked for Nutcase, the mayor returned.

“Well then. If you’re ready, I’ll show you fellows to your room.”

Without a word, they got up and followed Drake. Gut was reaching for Nutcase’s beer and pie when Bear slapped his hand.

“What? I was just going to take them to Nut.”

“Sure ya’ were.” Bear said. “Don’t worry. I’ve got it.”

Butch followed Drake into the yard where their truck stood sentinel.

“We’ve put fresh linens on five of our best guest beds.” Drake told him.

“Thanks, but we only need four.”

“But…”

“Nut sleeps in the truck.”

“Oh. Are you sure that’s wise?” Drake asked, eyeing Bertha, who was once again mounted on the roof. “Forgive me for saying this, but he seems a bit… unstable.”

“He passed unstable miles ago. He’s batshit, but he’s great security. Don’t worry Jake. As the song says, he ain’t never shot a man that didn’t deserve it.”

Drake frowned.

Their room turned out to be an only partially converted classroom. The blackboard still hung on one of the walls. Bunk beds filled the room in neat rows. Butch was reminded of the barracks he’d called home when he was in basic training a lifetime ago.

“I call top bunk.” Gut said. The rest of them laughed.

“Now then. If you fellows should need anything, my room is the old principal’s office. Oh, and the locker rooms are just down the hall if you’d like to shower.” Drake said, making a hurried exit.

Butch hurriedly picked his bunk and dived in. Over the years, he’d learned that the best way to get a good night’s sleep was to beat Gut and Bear to the punch. Once they started sawing logs, there was no getting to sleep. Luckily, he’d taught himself to fall asleep fast. As he lay there, eyes closed, Melanie’s words echoed in his head. “I’ll see y’all next time.” Over and over it repeated. Finally, just as he was on the verge of nodding off, his eyes snapped open. He knew who she was.

On To Part 3

So there you have part 2. Sorry for the long wait. I really had meant to post this last week, but I was spending time with my own group of bikers the last couple of weeks. The good news is, I’ve already got a good start on part 3, so I should be able to post that next week. I’ll see you next Wednesday.

Until then…

Don’t forget to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

You can now help support my writing on Patreon

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon

You can find my Amazon influencer page here.  https://www.amazon.com/shop/justinmkellywriter

And my blog on Steemit. If you really want to help me out, go there and drop a like or a comment. I get paid if you do and it doesn’t cost you anything.

Fiction Friday: The Mongers, Part 1

Well crap. I may have just accidentally started yet another book.

I had intended the following story to be a Flash Fiction Friday, but as I wrote it last night, it turned into something else. I removed the Flash part, because it’s already longer than 1,000 words. Besides, it’s not exactly a complete story. I think it want’s to be a novel, or at least a short story. Since I really want to get something out today, I’m going to make it an episodic. So I present to you,

The Mongers, Part 1

The dust cloud rose from the dry desert floor like smoke from a bonfire as four vehicles raced over the barren soil. Two motorcycles flanked a battered armored car while a third took point. Crudely spray painted on the sides of the armored car was the word “Mongers”. Each of the riders wore a leather vest with a patch to match on the back.

The bikes had once been Harleys, but after years of wandering the wastes and scavenging whatever parts they could, they weren’t of any recognizable make anymore, but they ran, and that’s all that mattered. The armored car they had found in front of a bank, completely cleaned out, but with the keys still in the ignition.

Atop the point bike sat Butch, the leader of the Mongers. His face, baked by the blazing desert sun, resembled the barren remains of the once lush prairie they now rode across.

Butch craned forward, the leather of his bike’s seat squeaking beneath him. There was a town up ahead. Or, at least, what had once been a town. Most of the houses were charred wrecks of their former selves. Normally, Butch wouldn’t have given it a second glance, but there, on the outskirts of the town still stood what looked to be an old school. What’s more, even though it was hard to tell at this distance, he could swear he could see movement near the fence. He aimed his handlebars at the school. The rest of the group didn’t need to be told to follow.
As they got closer, Butch was able to assess the situation. A band of raiders was attacking the school. Inside the fence, a group of the school’s inhabitants were trying to fight them off, but they were losing.

Butch raised his left arm, and pointed one finger into the sky. He heard the hatch they’d cut into the top of the armored car clang open followed by a quick burst from the .50 cal machine gun they’d mounted to the top. The gun was aimed harmlessly into the sky, but the sound had the desired effect. For a moment, all activity at the fence stopped as they all turned to look at the approaching dust cloud. Those inside the fence turned and ran, but the raiders, sensing their chance, began scaling the chain-link fence.

Butch opened his hand, now pointing all his fingers into the sky. Then, with a chopping motion, he pointed his arm at the raiders. The machine gun opened fire. Even over the roar of the engines and gun fire, Butch could hear Nutcase cackling maniacally. Bodies began falling from the fence as the rest of the raiders ran off into the desert. Nutcase turned the gun to follow, but Butch once again raised his hand and closed his fist. The gunfire stopped immediately. A moment later, he heard the hatch clang closed.

Butch hated raiders. He would have loved to let Nutcase mow the rest of them down, but there was no sense wasting precious ammo.

They approached the school slowly, lest the already spooked inhabitants mistook them for another band of raiders. Butch signaled for the others to wait as he dismounted his bike and approached the gate. A small, mousy looking man ran out, trying to look as tough as he could which only brought an amused smirk to Butch’s face.

“Friend or foe?” The mousy man demanded.

“Well, considering we just saved your bacon, what do you think?”

“What business do you have here?” The mouse asked, ignoring Butch’s question.

“We’re here to trade.” Butch said with a nod toward the armored car.

After a moment’s thought and a curious glance toward the closest building, the mouse pulled out a set of keys and unlocked the rusty gate. It slowly groaned open as Butch helped him open it.

Once the vehicles were safely inside, the mouse rushed to re-close the gate.

“Don’t worry.” Butch said, dismounting his bike and brushing the dirt off his leathers. “They won’t be back anytime soon. At least, not while ‘ol Betsy’s on guard.”

Nevertheless, the mouse finished closing the gate before returning to Butch and introducing himself.

“I’m Jacob Drake. Mayor of this place.”

“Really?”

“Yes really. And you are?”

“Name’s Butch. This is Bear and Gut.” Butch said, indicating the other two riders. Bear was a mountain of muscle while Gut was merely fat.

The back door of the armored car creaked open and out stepped a tall black man with a bright white afro followed by another man who looked fairly normal until you looked at his eyes.

“Those two are Rat and Nutcase.” Butch finished.

“We typically ask our guests to turn over their weapons.” The Mayor said hesitantly. Butch just stared at him. “But considering what you just did for us, I suppose we can make an exception.”

“Tell ya’ what,” Butch said, unslinging the rifle strapped to his back and tossing it to Rat, who caught it deftly, ”We’ll keep our rifles locked in the truck. We keep our sidearms though. Don’t worry, they’ll stay holstered unless there’s a need to take ‘em out.”

Butch nodded at the others and they did the same.

“Now, you said you were here to trade?” The Mayor said.

“We are. But we’re a lot more agreeable when we’ve had a meal and a good night’s rest.”

“Yes. Of course. I suppose it’s the least we can do after your saving us. Follow me.”

Jacob led them to what had once been the school cafeteria. Inside, they could hear dozens, if not hundreds, of voices.

“You’re in for a real treat tonight.” Jacob said proudly. “My wife, Margaret, just made a big batch of homemade peach cobbler and Isaac tapped a keg of his home brewed…”

“Beeer.” Nutcase said, sniffing the air.

“Um, yes. Just sit anywhere you like and I’ll send someone over to take care of you.”

As they walked through the doors, conversation stopped for a moment. Then, a single pair of hands clapped, then another. Soon everyone was cheering and applauding. They found an open table and before they knew it, plates heaping with home cooked food were placed before them. Nutcase drained his beer in a single gulp and almost immediately another was set before him.

“Man.” Gut said around a mouthful of food. “A guy could really get used to this.”

“Yeah, well don’t.” Butch said. “We aren’t staying.”

Conversation in the cafeteria had resumed, but all the while, people were stealing glances at the newcomers while others stared outright.

One of the starers caught Butch’s eye. He couldn’t help but feel like he recognized her, but he couldn’t figure out where. He stared back, expecting her to look away, but she didn’t. Instead she got up, and walked confidently toward him and sat down across from him. Right between bear and Gut.

“Hi.” She said cheerily.

“Uh, hi.”

“You were staring at me.”

“You were staring at me first.”

“Everyone’s staring at you. Even the ones who’re pretending they aren’t. But why were you staring at me?”

“Uh…” Butch wasn’t sure what to say.

“Hey, Gut. Wanna go see if we can get seconds?” Bear asked.

Gut quickly got the idea and followed Bear while Nutcase said something about more beer. Rat sat at the table busily sketching something, his food barely touched, oblivious to what was going on around him.

“Come on. There has to be a reason. Is it because you think I’m beautiful?” She asked, flipping her hair comically.

“No. I mean, yes, you’re beautiful, but it’s not that. I feel… I feel like I know you, but I don’t know why.”

“I think I know why.” She said, dropping him a wink.

On To Part 2

So that’s it for now. I’m sorry if it left you a little unsatisfied. I’m also sorry that it isn’t my best work. truth be told, it’s the first thing I’ve written in quite a while. Hopefully next week’s installment will be better and have more action.

Don’t forget to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

You can now help support my writing on Patreon

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon

Also, Amazon apparently now considers me an influencer, which means that they basically gave me my own Amazon store where I can recommend products. I do get a cut of anything you buy when you click my link. Unless you’d rather all your money go to a faceless corporation.  🙂 You can find my influencer page here. https://www.amazon.com/shop/justinmkellywriter

Flash Fiction Friday Number 19: The Golden Apple

Okay. I know it’s been over a month since my last Flash Fiction Friday, but we’ve been dealing with the aftermath of a death in the family. Also, this one took a bit longer to write. Partly because this one isn’t exactly flash fiction. it falls more into short story territory.

Anyway, as you may remember, I was going to write a less literal, more adult story inspired by the same roll of the dice used to write Rory’s Apple Adventure. FFF #18 . To see the actual roll, click here. Anyway, I’ll stop boring you. I give you…

The Golden Apple

“Robby. I need that report on my desk by three.” Mister Simmons said, turning and walking away without waiting for an answer.

“Sir?” Rory said.

“Yes?” Mr. Simmons paused without turning back around, clearly annoyed at having his time wasted.

“Never mind.” Rory said, deciding it would be better to answer to someone else’s name rather than upset the boss.

“Okay then. Remember, two O-clock.”

Rory got to work, cursing himself for losing himself an hour.

At ten, his alarm went off. He briefly considered skipping his break, but thought better of it. Even though he didn’t really need to go, it would be another two hours until his lunch break. By then, he knew, he would probably be dying. Besides, he relished his little breaks. Even when he didn’t really need to go, he loved to lock himself in the stall, pull his feet up and shut his eyes for a few minutes. On the rare occasions it didn’t smell too bad, he would even practice some of the deep breathing exercises his therapist had suggested.

He was doing just that when the door opened and two men walked in, talking to each other. He didn’t recognize the voices, but their shoes were nicer than anyone on his floor usually wore. Rory curled himself into an even tighter ball, feeling somehow guilty for no reason whatsoever.

“God, I hate using the can down here with the commoners. When are they going to get the executive wash room fixed?”

“Not for at least another week.”

“Ugh. They don’t even have decent soap in here.”

“Can’t let these peons get a taste of the good life, can we? Besides, once we turn the golden apple on…”

“Shh.”

Rory saw one of the men walk past his stall, bent low, checking for feet. He almost breathed a sigh of relief when the executive moved past, apparently satisfied that the bathroom was empty.

“Anyway, like I was saying, once we turn that golden apple on, our worries will be over.”

“Don’t you feel at least a little bad for all those people? I mean, this is their savings we’re talking about.”

“That’s the thing. It’s savings. They’re not using it. It’s just sitting in a bank account. These people don’t know how to spend their money. It’s just going to rot in their account until they die.”

“I guess.”

“Look at it this way. Taking all that money and spending it will be just the kickstart the economy needs.”

“But how? We’ll be spending it in another country.”

“Details, details.”

“Well, if it’s going to happen, I hope it happens soon. The thought of all those account numbers sitting there on that hard drive in Julian’s office makes me nervous. If we get caught…”

“We won’t. Besides, even if they raid us, like you said, it’s in Julian’s office. Connected to his computer. He’s the one who goes down for trying to rip off all those poor people. We had no idea he was capable of such a thing. Poor bastard doesn’t even know he’s committing the crime of the century.”

The other man laughed.

“So when do we turn it on?”

“We just need a few thousand more accounts. Maybe a week? Put it this way. I’d start packing now. Once we flip the switch, we’re gonna want to scoot. Best to be in some nice non-extradition country before anyone figures out what we’ve done.”

“Good thinking.” He laughed as the bathroom door opened and the men walked out.

Rory couldn’t believe what he’d just heard. Were these men really planning on cleaning out people’s savings accounts? He quickly washed his hands and exited the bathroom.

He made a beeline for Mister Simmons’ office and burst in without knocking.

“What’s the meaning of this?” Simmons shouted.

“I’m sorry, Sir, but this is really important.” Rory said.

“Do you have my report ready?” Simmons asked.

“Well, uh, no sir. But I just heard these two guys in the bathroom. They were talking about something called the golden apple. They’re going to…”

Simmons’ eyes widened at the mention of the golden apple.

“That’s enough. I’ll not have you making up wild stories as an excuse for not finishing your work on time. I’m afraid you’re done here at Oak Tree Investments. Clean out your desk, Ricky.”

Rory turned to go.

“Sir. One more thing.”

“What now?”

“It’s Rory. I want you to remember that.”

“Get out!”

As Rory packed his things, he wondered what to do next. Clearly Simmons was in on the scam. Who knew who else? Possibly everyone above his pay level. Except for Julian of course, whoever he was. Rory couldn’t go to the cops without some sort of proof. He’d just look like another disgruntled employee.

Then it hit him. He did know someone who might be able to help.

He looked at his pitiful box of posessions and realized it was all meaningless. He left it on his former desk as he walked out. As he passed through the glass doors of his building, he expected his anxiety to kick in at being suddenly unemployed for the first time since high-school, but instead he felt free in a way he’d never thought possible.

. . .

Rory wished he’d changed before going to see Mark. He stuck out like a sore thumb walking around in his suit in the commune Mark had joined after he’d gotten out of prison. Even worse, everyone he passed eyed him warily. Nobody answered when he asked for Mark. Still, nobody bothered him, either. Just as he was giving up hope, he heard a familiar voice call out to him.

“Well, well. If it ain’t the lion’s roar himself.” Mark said, hanging out of the door of a small trailer. He looked so much different than he had the last time Rory had seen him that he was glad Mark had spotted him. He wasn’t sure he would have recognized this man with long hair and a scraggly beard.

“Hey Mark. How have you been?”

“Mark’s gone. It’s Sunflower now.” His friend said. Rory waited for the punchline, but none came. “I changed it when I decided to cut that noose from my neck.”

“You mean when you were busted for hacking.”

“So what brings you out to the land of the hippies?” Sunflower asked, ignoring Rory’s comment.

“I have a little computer problem I need some help with.”

“No can do, partner. I’m not about that life any more.”

“Uh huh.” Rory said, eyeing the impressive array of antennae emerging from the roof of the small camper.

Mark/Sunflower followed his line of sight and sighed.

“You always were smarter than you let on. I guess you might as well come inside.”

The inside of the trailer was so full of old computers, Rory wondered where Sunflower slept.

Sunflower handed Rory a beer that seemed to appear out of nowhere and sat on the small patch of floor in the center of the trailer. Rory did the same.

“So what is it you need? And it’d better be good.” Sunflower said.

Rory quickly told him everything he’d heard in the bathroom, all the while, Sunflower leaned closer. Rory was worried that if his jaw dropped any more, it might actually scrape the floor.

“Those sons of…” He finally said.

“Right?” Rory agreed.

“We’ve got to stop them.” Sunflower said, jumping up and opening a terminal.

“What are you doing?”

“Seeing what I can find on this golden apple.”

“I doubt you’ll find anything on the internet.”

“Internet? I’ve been deep in their system since long before they had me arrested. A digital fly on the wall if you will.”

Rory sat back and drank his beer as Sunflower typed furiously. Before he’d finished it, Sunflower found what he was looking for.

“Bingo.”

“You got it? Wipe it clean.”

“I found it, yes. But cracking it is another story. Security to this thing is iron clad. I’m going to need to be in the same room with it to get into it. Besides, I wouldn’t wipe it anyway.”

“Why not?”

“Because. If I wipe it, there’s no evidence. If there’s no evidence, these guys don’t go to prison and do it again in a couple of months. Do you still have your security badge?”

Rory looked down and saw it was still clipped to his belt.

“Yeah, why?”

Sunflower snatched it from him.

“Because, one of us is going to need to get in there. Now who do you want to be? Be careful. Whoever’s identity you use is going to be in a buttload of trouble.”

“Simmons.” Rory said without hesitation.

“Good choice.” Sunflower laughed.

. . .

Rory tried not to look nervous as he used his reprogrammed badge to open the doors and walked up to the desk where a very muscular black man in a uniform sat watching some action movie on his tablet. Rory almost breathed a sigh of relief when he realized that this was a guard he’d never seen before. The name on his tag said Alphonso.

Alphonso quickly stopped his movie and stowed his tablet when he saw Rory.

“Hello sir, may I help you?” the guard asked with a sheepish grin.

“Just need to finish a little paperwork that didn’t get done.” Rory answered. He could feel his palms getting clammy as the lie left his lips.

“Certainly, sir. I just need to see your badge.”

Rory handed it over, willing his hand not to shake. Alphonso studied the security badge for a long moment. Rory felt a sheen of sweat break out on his forehead.

Finally, Alphonso handed the badge back and smiled.

“You have a good evening, Mister Simmons.”

“You too, Alphonso. And don’t worry. It’ll be our little secret.” Rory said, nodding toward the spot where Alphonso had hidden his tablet.

“Thank you, sir. I appreciate that.”

Rory flashed him another smile that turned to a look of panic as he turned toward the elevators.

As soon as the doors slid shut, Rory almost pressed the button for his old floor out of habit before remembering that this time, he was going all the way to the top.

“Okay. I’m in.” Rory said.

The earpiece Sunflower had given him crackled to life.

“Okay. You’re looking for the office of Julian Walker.”

Rory found it quickly, but when he turned the handle, it didn’t move.

“It’s locked.” Rory said. “What now?”

“Give me a second.” Sunflower said.

A moment later, Rory heard the electronic lock click. Rory tried the handle again and the door opened.

“Got it.” Rory whispered.

“Good, now put the device in the computer and I’ll take care of the rest.”
Rory did as he was asked and waited. He felt himself starting to tremble with the tension.

“Comeoncomeoncomeon.” Rory said under his breath.

“I’m working as fast as I can.” Sunflower said. Then a moment later, “Jesus!”

“What?” Rory asked, panicking.

“They’ve got the banking info of everyone who’s ever done business with ol’ Oak tree Financial. Not to mention the employees.”

“Jesus.” Rory repeated back.

“Aaaaannnnnd, got it.” Sunflower said, finally.

Rory snatched the device out of the computer. As he did, the printer whirred to life.

“Did you do that?” Rory whispered as loudly as he could, startled.

“Yes. We need a hard copy just in case.”

As soon as the printer stopped, Rory grabbed the sheaf of papers and shoved them down the front of his pants.

“What about the apple?” Rory asked, looking at the round device plugged into the back of the computer. “Shouldn’t I take it?”

“Not if you want to take these guys down. They need to be caught with it. Now get out of there.”

As Rory rode the elevator down. He was overcome with an odd sense of peace. It was almost over. He just had to walk past Alphonso, who was probably still engrossed in his movie, and it would be over.

The elevator doors opened and Rory found himself looking down the barrel of Alphonso’s revolver. Rory didn’t know much about guns, but it looked like a big one to him.

“What’s going on, Al?” Rory asked, trying to sound casual.

“I looked up Simmons in the database. You ain’t him. Now come out of there slowly and get down on the ground.”

“Look. I can explain.” Rory said.

“Sure you can.”

“Can I just show you something?”

Alphonso thought for a moment.

“Okay, but you’d better make it quick. Cops are on their way.”

Rory pulled up his shirt very slowly, trying not to get shot, to show Alphonso the papers.

“I’m just going to pull these papers out.”

“Okay, but no funny stuff.”

“Never.” Rory said, dripping with sweat.

As soon as Rory had the papers in his hand, Alphonso relaxed just a bit. Rory began rifling through the papers until he found the page he was looking for.

“Let’s see. Alphonso Simpson is it?”

“How’d you know that?”

Rory then rattled off the series of numbers after his name. Rory hadn’t realized someone with such dark skin could turn so pale.

“That’s my bank account.” Alfonso said, surprised. “How’d you get that?”

“Lower that thing and I’ll tell you.”

Alphonso thought for a brief moment and then pointed his gun at the floor, still ready to bring it back to the ready if he needed to. Rory, as quickly as he could, explained everything about Simmons, overhearing the execs talking, and the golden apple.

“Sonofabitch.” Alphonso said. “You’d better go, before the cops get here.”

Rory took a couple of steps before turning around.

“Here. Give them this when they get here. Tell them everything I told you.” Rory said, handing him the papers.

“And where do I say I got ‘em?”

“Tell them Rory gave them to you.” Rory said, before turning and walking out through the glass door.

As he walked down the street, listening to the approaching sirens, Rory felt as close as he would ever get to walking away coolly from an exploding building. Still something was eating at him.

“Congratulations, buddy. You did it.” Sunflower said through the earpiece.

“Yeah.” Rory said.

“What’s wrong?”

“I was just thinking. These guys are already so rich, they’ll probably just hire a bunch of high-priced lawyers and get off anyway.”

“Leave that to me.” Sunflower said, almost laughing.

“What are you going to do?”

“Well, I made a copy of the apple.”

“So?”

“I’m going to turn it on.”

“You’re what?!”

“Don’t worry. You see, there were actually two lists of accounts. Those to be drained, and another set of accounts listed as untouchables. Guess who those belong to.”

“I still don’t see…”

“Just give me a second.”

Rory could hear him typing through the earpiece.

“Just a bit of magic from my own little fingers as I switch the lists, and boom. The rat bastards are as broke as we are… were.”

Rory did his best not to celebrate right there on the sidewalk as the first cop car rushed past him.

“So what did you do with the money?” Rory asked, finally.

“Most of it’s safe in an untraceable offshore account that only the two of us will be able to access.”

“And the rest?”

I took the liberty of opening a secret trust fund for the children of one Alphonso Simpson to be delivered when they reach college. Now I’ve got to go pack. You should probably do the same.”

 

And there it is. Proof that you can interpret the dice any way you want. In this case, Rory has transformed from a literal sheep, to a sheepish man. The magical sunflower has turned into a hippie named Sunflower with magic-like hacking abilities. I think you can figure out the rest of the symbolism on your own.

As always, don’t forget to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

You can now help support my writing on Patreon

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon

I’ve also reopened my Amazon merch store, Scribe’s Station where I sell writing and book related T-Shirts.

Flash Fiction Friday The Thirteenth Number 15: The Family Estate

Hey guys. I’m finally back with another Flash Fiction Friday. What with it being October and a Friday the Thirteenth, I just had to post something a little scary. Admittedly, I would have liked to have spent more time on this one, but I don’t think it’s too bad.

The Family Estate

Elizabeth’s head reeled as the car bounced along the dirt road that led to the enormous castle.

It had all happened so fast. She’d been working as a waitress in a greasy little diner and on the verge of being evicted from her tiny apartment when he walked through the door and swept her off her feet just like in one of those fairy tales.

She’d just been Lizzy then, but he’d insisted on calling her Elizabeth and it had grown on her, especially considering her new, nearly royal, lifestyle.

It had been a whirlwind courtship followed by a small ceremony. Neither of them had any family to speak of and the only friends she had were her former coworkers from the diner. When he’d approached her with his desire to move back to Romania and into his family estate, she hadn’t even needed to think about it before she’d said yes. He hadn’t told her it was an actual castle until they’d turned onto the unpaved road that led to it.

As they pulled up to the massive wooden doors, she made to grab the small suitcase that contained everything she cared about.

“Leave that.” Gregory said. “Cromwell will get it.”

“Who?”

“Him.” Gregory said, pointing out the car window at a skeleton of a man who had appeared as if out of nowhere.

“Oh, there’s no way…” She began, before Gregory shushed her.

“That’s what he’s here for. It’s okay, he’s much stronger than he looks.”

Elizabeth felt doubtful, but didn’t argue.

Gregory stepped out of the car and took her hand.

“Now, allow me to show you to your room.”

“You mean we won’t be living together?”

“Oh, you’ll be seeing more of me than you could ever want.”

She followed him into the castle and up a flight of stairs which led to a long hallway lined with dozens of portraits of women. Their clothing progressed through the ages as she made her way down the hall.

“Who are these women?” She asked.

“Those who are no longer with us.” Gregory said with a hint of sadness in his voice.

Finally, they reached a thick oak door, and Gregory opened it with an antique key. Beyond the door was a huge room decked out in the finest silks and velvets. The bed alone was as big as her old apartment.

“Of course, you’re welcome to redecorate as you see fit. Just let Cromwell know and he will get you anything you wish.”

“How?” She asked, looking around for a telephone or something.

“Just ring this bell.” He said, pulling a thick velvet rope. She heard a bell ring in the next room. “His room adjoins yours. He’s here to attend to your every need.”

As if on cue, Cromwell appeared from his room with her suitcase in hand.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some things to attend to, my love. I will see you again for dinner.” Gregory said, taking her hand and kissing it. As he did, Elizabeth could have sworn she saw a flash of teeth. But they couldn’t be teeth. Nobody had teeth that long.

Gregory slipped out through the oak door, closing it behind him. She heard the distinct sound of an iron key turning into an iron lock. She felt something drip onto her foot and looked down. Her hand was bleeding where he had kissed it. Small red drops stained the white carpet.

Elizabeth turned to Cromwell, still not understanding.

Cromwell stood before an easel with a blank canvas propped on it.

“Now then. Shall we get started on your portrait?” Cromwell asked, smiling. His fangs clearly visible.

.     .     .

So that’s it for this week. Hopefully I’ll have another one for you before the thirty-first. Until then, be sure to check out all the places I can be found online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon

 

 

Flash Fiction Friday Number 14: Spare

Okay guys. I’m finally back. My back still isn’t 100%, but I’m afraid it’s about as good as it’s going to get, at least without lost of strenuous work and possibly surgery. Anyway, I feel better than I have in quite awhile.

I’m declaring today the first day of Halloween season since today is the first day it’s really felt like Autumn. I know we still have another week until it’s officially Fall, but it seems everyone I know around here can feel the change of the season in their bones.

Today’s story isn’t a true flash piece since the upper limit of flash is 1000 words, and this one comes in at 1482, but I just couldn’t cut it down much more. Anyway, enjoy.

I call this one…

Spare

When my twin brother Dave died, it was like half of me had been cut out and discarded. We’d always had a special bond. I don’t mean we shared some sort of telepathy, although I could usually sense his emotions and he mine, even when we were nowhere near each other. I just mean that we were very close to each other.

Even after we moved out of our parents house and into our own separate lives, I usually ended my day with a call from him where we would catch each other up on our lives. At the end of every call, he would always sign off with “Talk to you tomorrow, Spare.”

That was his nickname for me. Spare. Since he was born first by a few minutes, he would always joke that he was the original, and I was just there to provide him with spare parts if he needed a transplant. If only I could have given him those spare parts after his accident, but there was no hope of saving him. He died from the car crash before they could even get him out of the wreck.

For months after, I wandered listlessly. I stopped going to work and started going to the bar. At first, my wife was as understanding as she could be. She knew how close Dave and I had been. She did her level best to be understanding, but after a few months, I could tell her patience was wearing thin. I just couldn’t find it in me to care. I think she was on the verge of kicking me out of the house when it happened.

I was sitting at Tiny’s, about to raise another shot of whiskey to my lips, when I heard a voice ask me if I hadn’t had enough. I looked around, the full shot glass grasped in my trembling hand. It wasn’t just any random voice. It was Dave.

I searched the bar with my eyes, hoping to see him even though I knew it wasn’t possible. We had buried Dave. I’d been the one to throw the first handful of dirt on his casket. There was no way Dave could be talking to me. Then I heard him again.

“Come on, Spare. What are you doing? You have a beautiful wife at home who loves you. Yet you’re sitting at a bar, spending her hard-earned money. For what? Are you trying to kill yourself so we can be together again? That’s just dumb. I’m here. You can put the drink down.”

I slowly realized that I wasn’t actually hearing him. He was in my head.

“Dave?” I asked.

“Shh. You don’t have to speak. Just think it and I’ll hear it. You don’t want people thinking you’re crazier than they already do.”

“But how are you here?”

“I don’t know. I just sensed you needed me and here I am. But the bad news is, I’m gonna need a little more practice at this. Just this little conversation is exhausting. I’m going to have to get some rest. You should too. Put the drink down, settle your tab, go home, and beg your wife for forgiveness. Oh, and don’t mention the fact that I’m in your head. Not even to her.”

“Okay Dave, goodnight.”

“Talk to you tomorrow, Spare.”

Hearing those words again, even in my head, gave me a chill. I never thought I’d hear them again. I quickly took his advice. Cindy was clearly dubious about my claims that I’d reform. Understandably, considering I was still very drunk. The next day, despite my hangover, I woke up early, put on my best suit, and set out to get my job back.

Unfortunately, the school had heard about my bender, and decided I shouldn’t be working with children.

As the weeks went by, I began to understand that word of my drinking had gotten around to the other schools in town as well. Nobody would hire me.

At least Dave was getting stronger. There were some days that I had to ask him to stop talking to me just so I could think.

One day, as I was resigning myself to flipping burgers while one of my former students lorded over me as my manager, Dave came up with a plan.

“Why don’t you look for something in the tech industry?”

“Because I was an English major. I don’t know anything about that stuff.”

“Yeah, but I do. Just let me take over during the interview. We’ll get the job. I promise.”

“Let you take over? How am I supposed to even do that?”

“Just let go. I’ll take care of the rest.”

“Okay, that’s great. But let’s say you get us the job. What am I supposed to do when I’m expected to actually do the work?”

“Right. You should probably let me take over then too. We’ll just call it a time-share. Hey, you’re getting the longer end of the stick. I do all the work, you get to enjoy the off time with our, I mean your, wife.”

His little slip should have raised a red flag. But he was my brother. I quickly agreed to his plan. Letting him take control took a little practice, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly. To tell the truth, it was kind of nice.  I could let my mind wander while Dave did all the heavy lifting. I even started working on that book I’d always planned to write. Only in my head, of course. I couldn’t actually write it while Dave was using my body.

True to his word, Dave got us the job. I was a little envious when we got our first check. It was enormous compared to my piddly teacher’s salary. Needless to say, even though Cindy was concerned about my sudden career change, that first check made her a believer.

It seemed we had the perfect arrangement. True to his word, Dave did all the work, then I took over in the evening to spend time with my wife. Then one morning everything changed. I was in the bathroom shaving when I felt Cindy’s arms wrap around me.

“Thank you.” She said.

“For what?”

“For last night. I was beginning to think you weren’t attracted to me anymore. Thank you for showing me I still turn you on.”

A pit settled into my stomach as I began to understand what had happened. The truth was, I had been avoiding sex with her because that was one thing I didn’t want to share with Dave. Apparently, Dave had other ideas.

“DAVE!” I screamed inside my head.

I could feel his reluctance to answer. Understandable, since I was trying to figure out a way to punch him without hurting myself.

“Look. I’m sorry bro.” He said, somewhat sheepishly. “It’s just that you were completely neglecting this beautiful woman.”

“You know damned well why I was avoiding sex.”

“What, because you didn’t want to share her? I’ve got news for you, we are sharing her. Besides, did you notice the look in her eyes every time you refused to touch her? You might have straightened up, but we were still losing her. I just did what needed to be done.”

“No. You did what you’ve always wanted to do.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You know exactly what I’m talking about. All our lives, you’ve gotten the best of everything. Better job, more money, nicer car. Cindy is the one thing that I had that you couldn’t. She chose me and it ate you up inside. Admit it.”

“Okay, fine. I admit it. You never deserved her. I deserved to have her, not you. You’re just the spare!”

I was stunned speechless. He’d never called me that like he really meant it. Now he was dead serious.

“What did you say?” I finally stammered.

“You heard me. You’re nothing. You’ve always been nothing. Just my spare.”

“That’s it. I’m telling her everything.” I said through angry tears.

“Go ahead.” He said, mockingly.

I opened my mouth to do just that. At least I tried to. I couldn’t make my mouth move. Dave started to chuckle. I tried to turn to her, to reach out to her. To do anything at all. All the while, Dave’s laughter rose.

“It’s okay, Spare. She never would have believed you anyway. Probably would have thrown you in the nuthouse where you belong. Unfortunately, I would’ve had to join you. I can’t have that. I’ve got big plans in store for the wife and I.”

Unable to do anything else, I began to scream inside our head, loud enough to make Dave wince.

“What’s wrong?” Cindy asked.

“Hmm? Oh, nothing. Just thinking about my brother.” I felt my mouth say.

“You still miss him. Don’t you?”

“I’m getting over it.” Dave said, as he smiled into the mirror and resumed shaving.

.     .     .

And there you have it. Like I said, I’ve declared this the official start of Halloween season, so I thought I’d kick it off with something at least moderately scary. I feel like this one needs to be made into a longer story. I’d like to do a much slower burn with Dave taking things over, but as long as it’s been since I’ve posted a story, I felt like I owed it to you to get something out.

Author’s edit: Even though this story was still written on Friday, it just wasn’t ready to be published until Saturday. Hey, give me a break. I’m still trying to get back on the horse.

Anyway, that’s it for today. I’ll see you on What’s Up Wednesday.

Remember to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon

Flash Fiction Friday Number 13: Lucky Day

Hey guys. Sorry for being a day late this week. This being the thirteenth installment of Flash Fitction Friday, I wanted to do something on the theme of luck. Of course the first thing I thought of when I thought of luck was gambling. Unfortunately, I haven’t spent much time in casinos, so this one took a little more research than usual. Anyway, I call this one…

Lucky Day

“Let it Ride!” He shouted once again, earning him cheers from the crowd gathered around to watch and an eye roll from the boxman.

Jake couldn’t believe his luck. Not that he didn’t believe in it. He’d had more than his fair share. It was just that in his case, it was usually bad.

Jake shook the dice and let them roll from his fingers. He didn’t even bother to look as they bounced along the green felt.

“Seven.” Called the stickman, almost sounding bored.

He hadn’t thought much of it when he’d put a dollar in the old lady’s cup that morning. Just trying to do what he could to help. He’d even tried to wave away the crumpled little card she’d handed him in return, but something in her eyes had made him take the well-used fortune card. ‘It’s your lucky day.’ The faded ink promised.

“Yeah, thanks.” He’d said hollowly. Jake hadn’t had a truly lucky day in his entire life.

Jake made no move to retrieve his growing pile of chips. The stickman sighed and pushed the dice back to him. He was just about to throw them when the pit boss grabbed his arm. Jake smiled as they weighed and measured the dice yet again. He laughed as one of the Casino goons patted him down looking for any sort of cheating device. Of course, he found none.

Even after verifying the dice were legit, the pit boss produced a fresh set and slapped them into Jake’s hand with a wicked smile as the crowd jeered. Jake returned it with his own heartfelt one as he turned his back to the table and tossed the fresh dice over his shoulder.

“Eleven.” The stickman yelled.

The pit boss turned visibly red. Jake knew he was pressing his luck. Not so much with the dice, he knew his luck was solid there. The casino’s patience, however, was probably running out. Looking at his towering stack of chips, Jake knew he must be close to breaking the bank.

“Come on, Jake. Don’t you think you’ve won enough?” His friend Eddie asked, looking nervously at the pit boss who was now accompanied by three goons.

“Just a couple more rolls, then I’ll stop. I promise. It’s just nice to know what it’s like to be lucky for once.”

“I really think…” Eddie started.

“Okay, fine. Just one more, then I’m done.” He raised his voice so the crowd could hear. “Okay folks, last roll. All or nothing.”

The crowd cheered. Jake did a final little dance with the dice, spun around and threw them. He smiled as they came to a rest, sure of his victory.

“Snakeeyes. Craps!” Shouted the stickman.

Jake stood in stunned silence, trying to process what was happening as the stickman began raking in Jake’s towering pile of chips and the crowd melted away, including the gorgeous blonde who had been at his shoulder all night. He took the card out of his pocket and looked at it. ‘Not all that glitters is gold.’ It now read. He grabbed Eddie by the shoulder.

“What time is it?” Jake demanded.

Eddie fumbled with his phone for a moment.

“Just past midnight.”

Jake couldn’t help but laugh. Lady luck was sure as hell punctual.

“I guess that’s why they don’t have clocks in casinos.” Jake chuckled.

“Man Jake. All that money, just gone like that. You could have been rich. I mean, I guess technically you were rich for a little while. Now it’s all gone.”

“Eddie, I’m unlucky, not an idiot.” Jake said, reaching into his pocket and producing a handful of orange chips, each worth a thousand dollars. He flipped one to Eddie. “Come on. Let’s go cash out.”

.     .     .

So that’s it for this week. I wish it weren’t the case, but I can definitely relate to our protagonist.

I’ll see you again next Wednesday with another edition of What’s Up Wednesday. I still want to start answering your questions, so please send them to me at any of these places.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon .

Flash Fiction Friday Number 12: The Unwanted

Hey guys. Welcome to another edition of Flash Fiction Friday.

This week’s offering is something a little different. I’ve never written much in the way of westerns. With the exception of the Lonesome Dove series, I haven’t even read much. Still, I thought I’d challenge myself by writing a story in an unfamiliar genre. So, without further ado, I call this one…

pexels-photo-93858.jpeg

The Unwanted

The flaming twig briefly illuminated the bounty hunter’s craggy face as he used it to light his cigarette. Once again the bound figure sitting across the fire from him begged for his freedom.

“Please, you don’t have to do this. My family has money. I can pay you whatever you want.”

“You know what it says on your wanted poster?”

“How the hell should I know? I didn’t even know I was wanted ’til you showed up and arrested me. You could have at least waited and let me get my money’s worth from that girl.”

“It says dead or alive.” The bounty hunter said, ignoring his captive’s complaint.

“So?” The prisoner said, sulking.

“So if you don’t shut up, I may just decide to take the quieter option.”

The prisoner stayed quiet for about a minute before he resumed his begging.

“I ain’t even done nothin’ wrong.”

“Ain’t for me to decide. That’s the jury’s job.”

“I don’t stand no kind of chance with a jury. Soon as they find out I rode with them boys, even for a little bit, they’re gonna’ be callin’ for my head.”

“Then I reckon you made your bed when you started ridin’ with ’em.”

“Hell, I didn’t know who they was at the time. Once I figured it out, I got away soon as I could.”

“Well, maybe if you tell the jury that, they’ll let you go if you testify against ’em.”

“Ain’t no way I’m doin’ that. The jury might hang me, but that ain’t nothin’ compared to what they’ll do to me.”

The sound of approaching hoofbeats drifted across the prairie and the prisoner jumped up and tried to run. The bounty hunter yanked on the rope attached to his legs and he fell on his face in the dirt.

“Now where do you think you’re goin’?”

“Please. You gotta’ let me go. That’s them comin’ for me. I’d know the sound of that gimpy horse of Dave’s anywhere.”

“You sure about that kid?” The bounty hunter asked as he stood up and brushed the dust from his trousers. Without waiting for an answer, he checked the loads in his pistol.

“Yes! Let me go or they’ll kill me.”

“Just lay there in the dirt and let me take care of this.” The bounty hunter said, holstering his pistol.

As he did, three figures on horseback emerged from the darkness. Their faces half-covered with black handkerchiefs turned brown with dust..

“Evening boys.” The bounty hunter said. “Coffee’s fresh if you want a cup.”

“We ain’t here for coffee, Old Man.”

“Well then, I don’t know what else I might be able to help you with.”

“We’re here for him.” The leader said, pointing to the whimpering lump on the ground.”

“‘Fraid he ain’t for sale.”

“I didn’t say nothin’ about buying him. We’re just gonna take him.”

“Well, son. I got a bit of a problem with that.”

“I don’t give a da…” The outlaw started to yell before he was cut off by three loud gunshots followed by three thuds as the outlaws fell from thier mounts.

The prisoner slowly looked up from the dirt only to see the bounty hunter standing there with his pistol still smoking in his hand. As he watched, the old man, suddenly not looking so old any more, holstered his pistol and drew his huge Bowie knife. He turned toward his prisoner.

“Well, I guess I don’t need you anymore.” The bounty hunter said menacingly.

“No. Please. I promise I won’t talk no more. Take me in. I’ll go happily.”

The bounty hunter leaned in low with the knife. The prisoner tensed, waiting for the killing blow. Instead, he suddenly felt his hands and feet free. He lay there in the dirt, trying to process what had happened. By the time he realized he was being set free and had gotten to his feet, the bounty hunter had tied the dead outlaws to the backs of two of their mounts. He held the reins of the third, Dave’s gimpy nag, out to the prisoner. The prisoner gave him a questioning look.

“You’d best get on out of here.” The bounty hunter said.

“You mean you’re not gonna’ take me in?”

“For what? You never was wanted for anything but to give testimony on these three. I don’t guess they’ll need you for that no more.” The old man chuckled.

“But then why… You were using me for bait.”

“Sorry ’bout that.” The old man said, flipping him a silver dollar. “The next girl’s on me.”

“You son of a…”

“Don’t finish that sentence, boy. I could still bring you in and say I caught you ridin’ with ’em. Now git.”

The man gave the bounty hunter one last dirty look before mounting Dave’s old horse and riding for town.

So that’s it. Like I said, I’ve never done a western before. How did I do? Let me know in the comments, or hit me up on my social pages.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr