The gaming room glowed with a golden hue that sang of wealth and dishonest virtue. It was a modern Eden of earthly sin, and it called to Joe like a snake in the grass. He shook his head to clear the dazzle; he was mixing metaphors and planning bets his grandkids would be paying off. Men were made and broken as he watched, built up and torn down by a magnificent, remorseless beast. Heavenly angels made of temptation circled the floor with free booze that cost the world, and winks and smiles that redeemed it. Cards were dealt and wheels were spun. Men prayed in their Sunday best and thanked the Lord for the bounty he had bestowed, while beneath their tables, shattered things wept and scrambled for chips.
By Chris Wright
Following on from Andy Wright’s The Walk of Shadows – Footsteps, today I am bringing you an excerpt from my own novel. More specifically, here is the first chapter of my wartime epic Wartorn. I’d love any feedback comments and reviews.
He was lost again, drifting in the ether. It was becoming ever easier, he noted dully, to escape into the unfeeling bliss of nothingness and ever harder to return to the harsh realities of life and war. In a way it was good, he thought, a coping mechanism to release him from the torment and pain, from the endless exhaustion. But it disturbed him too, the thought that he was losing his grip on reality. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he was irrevocably broken.
Frank gazed at the streets out the auto window, rolled an inch for an engine-smoky breeze. They were his streets. And nice streets they were around Springrock. The kind of streets you retired too. Everyone was pals, saying good morning, good evening, good night. Frank made sure his men around here behaved well, got his money the right way. No one wanted these tree-sewn, flower-framed streets turning into Eastpoint in a hurry. The elite round here paid a lot of cash for Frankie’s guys to sweep the shit towards the darker corners of Carrada. The lazy, the retired, the filthy rich – good fucking clients. He was the one that made them happy here, made this place the paradise it was. He felt good about it.
The city lights danced past the windows, like fireflies flitting through the rain-soaked air. They caught and distorted in the droplets on the glass, their yellow glows bulging and dying. The city itself moved at a more sedate pace, wandering idly past the auto windows as if on an evening stroll, or in Carrada’s case, an evening prowl.
Joe leaned back in a seat pretending it was leather and passed the brim of his hat nervously through his hands as it balanced on his knee. Soft fingers clasped around his other hand and squeezed. He looked over and the breath fled his chest like a bank robber whose water gun just squirted. He remembered why he’d been looking out the window. When he looked at her, he couldn’t think; his mind turned to mush. He looked her over, trying to think what his mother could possibly find to criticise. He came up blank, but his ma was a pro.
By Chris Wright and Andy Wright
It’s time for the very first Fifteen Minute Fiction Challenge! Two of our authors have taken on the task – to write a piece of (hopefully decent) fiction in just fifteen minutes; that’s planning, writing and all. Chris Wright and Andy Wright went to a random generator for a genre and a title and then had fifteen minutes to write whatever came to mind. So read on, let us know what you think and vote for your favourite.
Random Genre: Mystery
Random Title: The Cold Mists
The gentle hum of conversation welcomed Ray as the oak panel doors swung inwards to admit him. He strolled in with the bounce of a man who’d woken up to find Miss World blowing him. In fact, he had to make an effort not to hold his arms aloft like he’d knocked out the heavyweight champion. His smile faded a little as no one even spared him a second glance, but the rush of the heist would stay with him for a while yet.
“Move out of the fucking way,” a gravelly voice grunted and Ray was barrelled into from behind.
He flailed in vain to keep his feet but could not stop himself from stumbling into the nearest table, sending the drinks flying. The two men at the table looked ready for a fight before they saw the size of the intruder. A glance behind him was more than enough to dissuade them from taking any action, especially after Paul had ordered them a couple of drinks on him.
“Take it easy will you,” he said, once the drinks had been sorted. “We pulled off a good job; we didn’t win the fucking super bowl.”
A beam of light, busy with floating motes of dust and tobacco smoke, cut through the vintage orange and blue dartboard. The cork was old, faded and cracked, two darts planted in the left and centre of the triple twenty. A third dart with a hint of spin cut through the grey haze and found the right of the small orange section.
“One eighty, Boss.”
Frank’s wry grin pulled up the right side of his face, bending the dry whiskers of his thick and dusty moustache into his whisky veined nose. His eyes may have looked red and droopy, perhaps even unknowing, to anyone who saw him, but they were sharper than ever. So were his ears, his nose, his tongue and that brain of his too. That’s why he was The Boss. He replaced his now dartless right hand with the bloated torpedo cigar from his left. The movement made an ashy sprinkle fall through the sunlight.
Louis – his right hand guy, his adviser, his accountant – was a good guy, but a fucking little weasel of a guy. His nose was upturned like he was always sniffing for shit and his screwed up face made you think he’d found some. His thick specs glistened in the beam of light so there was no seeing beyond the white lenses as he fetched Frank’s darts.
Ray yanked up his coat collar as the howling wind bit into his neck. He squinted into the spitting rain while struggling to keep pace with his companion. It was a couple of hours before people would be getting out of work and the roads were quiet as few people braved the cold weather.
“Get your fucking hand away from your hip,” Paul said, startling Ray.
He quickly moved his hand away from the revolver, trying to remember what he usually did with his hands. His eyes twitched from side to side before landing on an auto hurtling by. They were still a rare thing in his neighbourhood, hell he could remember the first he’d ever seen. A sleek black thing that could barely go faster than he could walk and cost more than his Pa earned in a year. To his six year old eyes though, it was a thing of beauty. Whose it was he didn’t know, a wife of some stockbroker or banker that took a wrong turn he supposed, but later that day he’d seen Mike Stone’s older brother Ronnie racing down Stockdale Road.
“Keep your head straight,” Paul interrupted his train of thought. “You’re going to be meeting some important guys. Well, one important guy and one goon who knows important guys.”
Frankie Bray has something; something that gives him an edge. It’s where he gets his power, his fight, that look in his eye like he knows what you’re thinking, and he will do anything to keep it. Detective Joe Forney wants nothing more than to take it from him and end his reign over Carrada’s streets, but he will have to battle every made guy, goon, crooked cop and useless politician to do it. Ray Moreno is just starting out. A heist gives him his in and now he must climb the greasy pole to the top while trying to stay alive.
The cold hit him like a rabid dog, sinking its teeth in and biting to the bone. The breath misted in front of his face as he stepped from the foyer and his patent leather sunk into a slushy pile of almost-snow. The ice water seeped through the seam and into his sock. He cursed. The shoes were brand new, the first leathers he’d ever owned. He shook his foot and cursed again and set off into the night, turning up his collar against the wind.
He watched the last stubborn rays of light disappear behind the brick and iron behemoths of the city as he walked. It was a favourite pass-time of his, the saving grace of the night shift, and he watched with bated breath for what would happen next. For a long while it was nothing and he trudged through deepening darkness, through thinning crowds and shutting shops, hands in pockets and chin turned down. But then it came. A flutter and a blink and then it was on; the first light of the night.
One by one, the rest followed, illuminating his path, warming his cockles, cheering his mood. Electric lights, they still amazed him. Almost a year and they still hitched the air in his chest. He’d lived his whole life in spitting distance of downtown Carrada, but Eastpoint had no electric lights. It had none of this; none of the autos cruising down the road or the heating in the buildings, none of the lights, none of the warmth, none of the theatres or shows, nickelodeons or clubs. If you wanted to see after dark in Eastpoint, you had to hope some schmuck had lit a trashcan on fire. They usually had.