Thursday, January 17, 2013

Terribleminds Flash Fiction Challenge: The Wheel, Part Two

     Welcome to my blog! The following is my third story--and first submission--for Chuck Wendig's weekly flash fiction challenge. Click the URL for full details:

     Although you are supposed to do this with an RNG, I only rolled for two of the aspects because the subgenre (Teenage Noir) was irresistible to me. I'm a big fan of Brick and Veronica Mars.

     Anyway, the story by the numbers:

          SUBGENRE: 8, Teenage Noir

          CONFLICT: 6, Heist Gone Wrong

          MUST FEATURE: 4, A bottle of rare whiskey

          WORD COUNT (Sans title): 998

     Without further ado, I give you:

Tessa Collier In the Drink

Normally when someone my age steals booze, it involves pouring water in the vodka bottles in Dad’s liquor cabinet or a five-finger discount on a thirty-rack of Natty at Wal-Mart. It normally doesn’t involve a $50,000 bottle of whiskey or the school’s resident thug trying to fence it to collectors. But since my life consists of one long Veronica Mars impression, minus the murdered friend, nothing is normal for me.
Like Jackson, the guy I was stealing from, most of my family wound up in jail for various crimes, and like Jackson I continue to exhibit the troublesome impulses that led them there. The difference is that Jackson doesn’t try to change anything, whereas I try to channel my urges into white-hat criminal activities. At least that’s what I told myself as I picked a lock in four seconds.
I slipped through the window into Jackson’s basement bedroom and started looking for the bottle Adrian sent me after.
Adrian Martin. A sniveling, whiny rich kid that makes Joffery Lannister look like an Eagle Scout. Adrian threw a party for damn near everyone in school while his parents were gone, like most teenagers. But in his arrogance and entitlement, he decided to sample some of his Dad’s best stuff with a small group of friends. The next morning he replaced what they had taken in the classic refill manner, only to discover the one he hadn’t dared open, the collection’s crown jewel, was gone; stolen while they were sleeping it off. He called me immediately, knowing my reputation and offered me the second-largest amount of money I had ever been offered for a job.
I couldn’t pass that up. I contacted my usual sources and everything they said pointed here.
Bass pounded from upstairs. Jackson’s party kept him occupied while I searched his room. Twenty minutes later, I sat in Jackson’s chair, feet on his desk and lit a cigarette. Where the hell did you hide it? I mused to myself, taking a drag. I sifted through the magazines and books on his desk. An issue of Whiskey Advocate, an issue of Wine Spectator, a guide to craft beers, a history of wine, three books about whiskey. You’re full of surprises aren’t you? I thought, smiling. I shuffled through a stack of High Times and junk mail until I found it.
I initially tossed it aside, but something nagged at me. I took a second look: it was a print out from an online sewing tutorial.
“You might be full of surprises, but surely not that many,” I murmured. My eyes scanned the room. He wouldn’t use a coat; the weight, if not the bulge, would give it away. A big enough person would feel it sitting on the couch.
My eyes landed on Jackson’s bed. It had a new mattress, the foot-thick memory foam kind.
I walked over, removed the topsheet and examined the edge all the way around. On the side facing the wall there was a small stitch job, recent, but not eye-catching unless you were looking for it.
I reached in my pocket. Marilyn was full of it: a carbon-steel Gerber and a good whetstone are a girl’s best friends.
I opened the knife, cut the stitching and felt inside. From a hollowed-out section of the mattress I pulled out an old green bottle with a crumbling wax seal logo on the side. Just like Adrian had described: an old bottle of Glenfiddich, worth 50 grand; more depending on the batch.
A door slammed closed. My cigarette dropped from my mouth when I looked up. Jackson, all six-nine, 280 pounds of him, was there.
“We can probably skip the part where I say ‘This isn’t where I parked my car’, right?” I said.
“Why do you have my whiskey Tessa?” Jackson asked.
“Same reason as you. Cash.”
“Not everything’s about money, midget.”
I remembered the desk. I understood. “You were never going to sell this.”
“I don’t have the contacts to get what it’s really worth. I figure I’ll enjoy it instead of letting it collect dust in a rich dude’s house.”
“It’ll take you awhile to ditch the evidence if you’re going to savor it.”
“Yeah about that.” Jackson started approaching. “You’re gonna have to shack up in the closet for a few days. Don’t worry though. I’ve got a bucket for you.”
“Let’s hope you have a mop too.”
I tossed the bottle in a high arc. Jackson shouted and dove backwards, grasping for it. He landed on the ground, making a catch that would have made Jerry Rice proud. As he sat up, I ran forward and kicked him square in the nose.
I snatched the bottle, grabbed the windowsill and crawled through it just fast enough to feel Jackson’s fingers scrape the soles of my sneakers. Unable to fit through after me, he just yelled “GET HER!”
There were a few people outside now, but they were spread out enough for me to slalom around them before they knew what was happening. I ran like hell, vaulting over fences and zigzagging through backyards towards the town creek, flowing fast with summer rain.
I reached a two-lane bridge, shouts echoing behind me as they chased me. My lungs and calves screaming in agony, I made one last sprint, vaulted the guard wall and penciled into cold water. I floated to a bridge a few miles downstream then crawled ashore and curled up, exhausted, in a culvert under the bridge to rest a few minutes, hugging the bottle close.
I passed out immediately. The next morning, I dug a waterproof flip phone out of my pocket.
“Tessa! Are you okay? You disappeared last night!”
“Fine. Can you or Wade pick me up at the Montgomery Avenue Bridge?”
“Sure, I’ll be by in fifteen minutes. Tessa, what happened?”
“The worst night of my life involving alcohol.”
“You don’t sound hungover.”
I looked at the bottle, tempted.
“Not yet. And Chandler, bring a towel.”

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