Still working. I've got stuff to do, and what's more, more to write. I spent part of the day working out an interview scene between Finch, MacElroy, and Paige. Normally, I don't plan out dialogue, preferring to keep it light and spontaneous, but in this particular instance, I've got to impart really specific information and dole it out, just so.
I've got some more time tomorrow before we pack up and head back to Vernon, three hours away. When I get there, I'll be diving right into movietime, so I won't get to update until late in the evening.
As this contest rumbles to a close, I feel a little irked that Real Life intruded so much, but then again, this whole deal came together at the last minute, so I guess it's how spur-of-the-moment things go sometimes. I do have in mind to write a 30-day novel, Old-School style, this year. The idea was to pick a month when I didn't have very much going on, like April, and then break out some Vintage CWSB moves. I may still do that, depending on how our annual retreat is scheduled. Anyway. There's more coming.
On the plus side, I'm thrilled that I got a jump-start on this project, even if I didn't get nearly as far as I wanted. One of my writing goals was to write and shop a novel this year, but considering how everything is playing out so far, I may well have two or even three novels to shop this year.
Here's a bit of unedited mayhem:
Something slid into the alley and landed a few inches from where Honker knelt over Caroline. He turned to spy what it was and couldn’t have been more surprised to find a coiled rattlesnake inches from his thigh, its head raised to strike. The rattling sound clinched it, and Honker jumped up and away as fast as he could.
Caroline watched, transfixed, as Honker leapt into the air and made a noise like a frightened kid, a high, keening wail. He moved left, farther down into the alley, and that’s when the man appeared out of thin air and stiff-armed Honker, who fell flat on his back with the air knocked out of him.
He had to be at least seven feet tall, dressed in a business suit and a trenchcoat, which seemed to whirl and eddy around his feet like a living thing. He wore one of those old timey hats, like Humphrey Bogart, and also...was that a mask?
He waved his hand at Honker and Caroline screamed as a real live rattlesnake appeared out of his empty hand and struck Honker in the chest. Honker screamed, convulsed and then lay still. The serpent went limp, and then retracted into the strangely-dressed man’s hands. He stepped forward and crouched down over the pimp. His hands were like snakes, seeking, probing the body, looking for God only knows what. He finally stood and pulled the lifeless form of Honker up and heaved him into the dumpster. Caroline saw her chance and took it. She got up and started to run, and damned if she didn’t run right into another man who seemed to come straight out of the darkness.
He wore a gray pajama top, like what she’d seen the Muslims wear. Around his waist was a dark red sash that belted the top, and black, baggy pantaloons around his legs. He wore a red fez on his head, and while his eyes were kindly behind the black mask on his face, his grip on her was firm and absolute. “A thousand pardons, Ma’am,” he said, “but we must speak with you.”
Without another word, Jinn turned her around and there, inches from her face, was the masked man. “My name is rattlesnake, whore,” he said. “Do you know me?”
In the six months that she’d been in New York City, Caroline had talked to a number of street people, from bums to vice cops. In that time, she’d heard a handful of tales that she instantly dismissed as stuff they tell the rubes. Stuff about a man who could talk to snakes...a guy that killed people, like a voodoo man, using rattlesnakes...part Dracula, part Billy the Kid, he helped people by killing criminals. And now, she was looking at this man, and she did know who he was. The bravado she felt with Honker vaporized the face of this, the unknown, and the tears rolled freely down her cheeks. She could only nod.
“I’ll use the language you can understand, whore. Your pimp is dead. Everything that was his now is mine. Including you.” Rattlesnake held up the knife that Honker had so recently used to threaten her. “See? His fangs.” Rattlesnake leaned in close. All she could see was his eyes, cold and dark, like a snake’s. “My fangs are worse.”
“Please,” she spluttered, “I don’t want to die. Don’t do this to me. I’m not like him.”
Rattlesnake pulled his head back and hissed, “Don’t you see, whore? Your life is mine, to do with as I see fit.”
Caroline sobbed, uncontrollable at this point. She tried again to beg for her life, but all that came out was a short, braying sound.
“I know who you are, Caroline Jones,” he said. “I will come for you with further instructions. Until that time, you will take care of your body. It’s mine, now, and I will make use of it later. No drugs, no alcohol, and no sex. Do you understand me?”
The idea that he wasn’t going to kill her was a lifeline, and Caroline grabbed it eagerly. “Yes, yes, I’ll do whatever you say,” she babbled.
Rattlesnake turned and walked away from her, right into the darkened alley, and vanished from sight. She slumped, not realizing that the other man was holding her up. He turned her back around. “Listen,” he said, his eyes wide and sincere. “You have one chance to escape him.”
“What?” she sniffed.
“You’re from Illinois, yes?”
“How did you...?”
The man pressed her purse into her hands. “Never mind that. Take this and get out of town. In your billfold is a card. It’s a woman’s shelter. You can stay the night there. In the morning, get breakfast and ask them for a ride to Penn Station. They will take you there, you get on the train, and you go back home.”
She shook her head. “I can’t go back there,” she said.
“Yes, you can,” said the man. “It’s the only way to escape him. He can’t find you if you leave the city. Go home. Whatever you have done, whatever you think you did, they will forgive you in your home.” He let her go. “It’s the only way.” He glanced into the shadows of the alley. “I have to go. We never met. I never told you this, understand?”
She nodded. “I’ll go.”
“See that you do,” he said. “He’s watching you right now.”
That was more than enough for Caroline. She took off in as much of run as she could muster with her heels on. The bus was up ahead and she dove straight into the closing doors, skinning both knees in the process. The driver started to help her up, but saw the earmarks of prostitute on her and let her struggle with the bland indifference that only city people can muster. In Fort Wayne, she mused, I could get a hand or two to help me get on the bus.
Once she was more or less erect, she found enough change in her handbag to pay the fare, got a transfer, and sat down heavily in one of the handicapped seats. She cried quietly for several minutes, until her tears dried up and she felt a little safer. She cautiously fished her wallet out of her purse and opened it. Her Illinois driver’s license stared at her, a different person altogether, taken two years ago on her eighteenth birthday. Tucked into the crease was a business card and a hundred dollar bill. She hid the money, lest anyone on the bus see it, and looked at the card. On one side was a written address and the name of the woman’s shelter. On the back, a coiled rattlesnake with four words underneath it: Don’t Tread on Me.
She shuddered and slumped down in her seat, sure that reptilian eyes were following her as the bus lumbered down the street.
4,141 words total
Got it done. Not sure I like it, but it felt right coming out. I don't want to second-guess it; that way leads to madness and death. However, I will need some editorial input, just to keep my cops honest.