Scraping By: Part 9 (Serial Flash Fiction)

Will was still buckled. He fumbled with the latch and knelt on the center console of the Ferrari submarine to peer upwards into the hole that connected the car’s roof to the prince’s houseboat above. James’ face appeared in the opening.

“Come on up, Will.”

COAST-GUARD-1Will hauled himself awkwardly through the short shaft and into the boat. He was on the tiny kitchen floor. One wall contained a small sink, fridge, and cooking range and the opposite wall had a small bench and a fold-out table latched vertically. To his left stood James, looking cool as a cucumber, and to his right were the prince and his two friends, seated on the steps leading to the deck and looking fairly freaked out. Will waved weakly.

“Hullo, mates.”

James sprang into action. His voice was calm and soothing, but his body language was commanding. Obedience by all in the room was assumed.

“Your Highness, you’re coming with me. Climb down and strap in. Will, gentlemen, I suggest you put on life jackets. Your boat is about to sink.”

Will scrambled to his feet. “Why am I staying here?”

“Witnesses know that three young men were traveling in this boat. When it sinks, they need to see three men come out of it. I’ll take the prince directly home.”

Will nodded. What else was he supposed to do? His highness stopped to briefly shake Will’s hand before lowering himself inside the Ferrari. James dropped gracefully out of sight and Will looked down in time to see some sort of metal door slide shut over the hole in the car’s roof. There was a loud sucking sound, like a plunger pulling away from porcelain and the Ferrari submarine moved out of sight.

Water immediately rushed into the open hole and covered Will’s shoes. He sloshed over to the kitchen’s exit and followed the prince’s friends out to the deck on the bow. One of them handed him a life jacket and by the time he’d slipped it over his head and fastened the strap, the boat’s deck was level with the waterline.

The three young men jumped into the water and started swimming for the canal’s edge about twenty yards away. Will looked behind him a few minutes later, but the boat had sunk out of sight.

*

eva-trio-martini-glass-xlWill twirled a chip in the puddle of ketchup on his plate, then let it fall. It reminded him of the bloody hole in Angie’s chest. Had that only been this morning? He picked up a fresh chip and ate it plain. If his father thought Will had lost his appetite, he might ask questions and Will wasn’t ready to talk.

Frank, Will’s father, had brought his girlfriend Faythe to dinner. She was beautiful, ten years too young for him, and had an alluring Greek accent.

“So your family lives near the beach, Faythe?” Will asked.

Faythe’s perfectly painted lipstick parted in a smile. “So close that you can put water on a hot stove, take a dip in the ocean, and be home before it boils.”

Frank reached over and squeezed her hand. “Sounds beautiful.”

“I’m sure you’ll like it.”

Faythe took a petite bite of her fish and sat back in her chair. Will made a seven out of his chips, then a twelve for Angie. Agent Twelve. He wondered who they would hire to replace her. A waiter led a trio of men past their table to a booth and Frank placed his hand over Faythe’s. She smiled at him. When his eye caught Will’s, he cleared his throat and looked away.

Will lay his napkin over his half finished food and sat back.

“Did you see the news this afternoon?” Will asked. Frank raised an eyebrow. He was chewing, so Will plunged ahead. “About the shooting at the Waterways Museum?”

Faythe’s opened her eyes wide and sipped her martini. Not a news watcher, then. Frank nodded his head and swallowed his food. “Isn’t that where you work?”

When Will mentioned his job at Mom’s the funeral, Frank had paid attention. It was oddly touching.

“Yeah, it is.”

“Did you know the girl who got shot?”

Will nodded. His throat grew tight and he cleared it. He hadn’t been close with Angie, but he also hadn’t processed his near death experiences of the morning – or Angie’s – and his emotions were on edge. “I did – do, yeah. The news said she’s going to be okay.”

“They said it was her ex-boyfriend. Did you see him?”

Will hesitated. Double Oh Seven had let him go without a vow of silence. And the news had featured very clear footage of the prince safe at home, so Will’s life was no longer in danger. But he didn’t feel like sharing. “No. But I called 999.”

Frank grunted. “That’s something.”

Will nodded. “It is.”

ferrari-GTE-hdr3-1024x580Their waiter approached the table and waited for Will to return eye contact before speaking. “Excuse me, Sir, this was left for you at the front desk.”

He handed Will a small red box with a silver bow. Will glanced at his father; the curiosity was clear on his face. Faythe ordered a second martini. Will slid the bow off of the box and cracked it open. Inside was a small piece of paper with “Thank you for your help today” written with silver ink in impeccable masculine penmanship. Under the slip of paper was a set of keys to a LaFerrari.

Will laughed. His dream come true – success in his father’s eyes – had literally just been handed to him.

“What is it?”

Will closed the box and stuffed it into his pocket. “Nothing. A joke from a guy I worked with.”

Half an hour later they stepped out into the chilly night air. Both men stuffed their hands into their pockets for warmth and Faythe wrapped herself in a fur coat. A shiny black LaFerrari was parked across the street from the restaurant.

“Nice car,” said Frank.

“It sure is,” said Will.

Faythe moved to the curb and hailed a taxi. Frank glanced from Faythe to Will and cleared his throat. “Listen, I know I’ll be in Greece for a week or two, but if you need anything, give me a ring.”

Will met his father’s gaze and straightened his shoulders. “Thanks, Frank. But what I really need, I learned from Mom. I’ll be okay.”

Frank nodded. He looked like he might say more, but Faythe called him from the open door of a taxi. Frank held out his hand and Will shook it. He climbed into the taxi beside Faythe and Will waved until the taxi was out of sight.

Will pulled the red box out of his pocket and pushed the unlock button on the key. The LaFerrari across the street beeped in welcome. Will grinned. “I’ll be just fine.”

THE END

 

Thank you for reading!

Images courtesy of: subseaworldnews.com (water rescue), uncrate.com (martini), www.gopixpic.com (Ferrari)

Scraping By: Part 8 (Serial Flash Fiction)

Will could feel panic rising. He tried to grab hold of the car’s door frame and brace himself, but whoever was pushing him into the passenger seat was stronger and faster. He half sat, half fell into the car. He opened his mouth to yell, but the calm voice of his attacker stopped him.

ferrari-599-interior-2“Be quiet and stay here. Don’t touch any buttons.”

The car door slammed and Will blinked. His hands were shaking and he stuffed them between his knees to steady himself. He looked out the window and caught a glimpse of his attacker right before he disappeared into the museum’s side door. He was wearing a gray suit.

A gray suit. Loafer man ducking. Will looked at the manufacturer’s emblem on the steering wheel. He was in a Ferrari.

Will unclenched his toes and breathed the new leather smell deep into his lungs. Double Oh Seven was one of the good guys. Probably.

He tried the door handle. Locked. Double Oh Seven was either a good guy or good at his job and Will was a dead man. Either way, he had to admire the guy. He was okay with losing Tish to the most famous spy in British history.

The dashboard looked like an ordinary car dashboard. Not that Will knew, specifically, what a Ferrari’s interior was supposed to look like, but he saw nothing to call his attention. The keys were in the ignition. What radio stations did a spy listen to? He pushed the button marked “radio” and the top half of the dashboard flipped, rotating on a hidden axis to reveal dozens of buttons as well as a few meter gages and blinking lights.

His cell phone buzzed in his pocket. It was another text from his dad. Enough already. Will hit reply and typed “Six o’clock fine”, then stuffed the phone back into his pocket just as the driver’s side door opened and gray wool trousers slid across the leather seat. Will clutched the door handle and hope that his blush didn’t reach his ears.

“I’m sorry. I just wanted to turn on the radio.”

The car pealed out and was cruising down a side street before Will summoned the courage to look up at the driver. The man behind the wheel was calm, focused, with a hint of a smile playing at the corner of his thin mouth. His dark hair was gelled back in perfect waves. The hint of sweat emanating from him smelled like alpha male.

coche-submarino“Is Angie okay?” Will asked.

James nodded. “She will be.”

“And the al-Qaeda guy?”

“I trussed him up like a chicken.”

He turned left twice, doubling back toward the canal a few hundred feet down from the museum. They crossed a car park.

“We’re going back to the canal?” Will felt like the little kid on a car trip who can’t stop asking questions.

“Couldn’t let the crowd out front see our cannonball.”

James gunned the motor and the Ferrari jumped the curb at the end of the car park and splashed nose first into the canal. Instead of sinking slowly, the car plunged and the interior lights came on. James hit a few buttons on the exposed dashboard and a soft whirring sound ensued. Will just stared.

James smiled. “Propellers. We’re a submarine now.” His smile disappeared. “I heard what you said before he tried to shoot you. You know where the prince is.”

“You heard…”

“I bugged the museum this morning, just in case.” The Ferrari submarine cruised smoothly through the canal about three yards below the surface. A radar screen blipped quietly and displayed oblong dark spots that Will assumed were boats.

“Okay.”

“I reviewed the recordings from the rooms you were in today. We’re headed to the blue boat now.”

“It’s been less than five minutes!”

“I work fast.”

fish canalThe car came to a stop of sorts; the slight rocking of a boat at anchor remained. Double Oh Seven pushed yet another button and something in the roof of the car began to emit a mechanical whir. Will glanced up at the roof and then out the window at a small school of fish that had come to check out the new black beast in the neighborhood.

“If I was listening, so was al-Qaeda.” James looked relaxed, but Will could feel anticipation coiled in the man like a spring.

“What I said to him was true then?” Will asked. “I really am the only one who knows where the prince is?”

Were the only one, yes.” The whirring above their heads stopped and James shifted onto his knees and grinned. “Here we go!”

He reached up with one hand and sliced a circular hole in the car’s roof with a knife. To Will’s surprise, no water entered. Will leaned his seat back so he could see through the hole. A metal shaft ten centimeters in length extended from the car’s roof to what looked like a wooden floor. Will glanced at the radar screen; one of the oblong blips was directly above them. It was the floor of a boat and if he could see color in the shadows of the tube, he would bet that boat was blue.

James pulled out a small tube, set a dial on it, and held it to the boat’s bottom all the way around the circumference of the shaft. It left a dull red line in its wake and when James had completed the circle, the wooden floor fell into the Ferrari like the stopper from a piggy bank’s belly.

James didn’t wait for faces to appear in the new opening, but stood on the center console and vaulted himself inside the house boat above.

“Hello, gentlemen. I’m Double Oh Seven.”

 

Images courtesy of: www.flickr.com (fish), www.goldcar.es (car sub), www.moibibiki.com (interior Ferrari)

Scraping By: Part 7 (Serial Flash Fiction)

Will knelt next to Angie’s body, wondering why she had collapsed. She lay on her side with her eyes open wide and her breathing sounded raspy and wet. Will began to roll her onto her back, but stopped when he saw the red circle on her chest.

dialled-999Blood. The popping sound. Why was his brain working so slowly? She’d been shot and here he was frozen on his knees like an idiot.

Angie moaned and closed her eyes. Will took a deep breath to calm himself. She was alive. The hole in her chest was on her right, so the bullet had missed her heart. Probably punctured her lung. A bullet. The shooter was still out there. Out there with Stephen and Tish. Or coming to finish the job the blond cop had started.

His phone! He pulled it out, flipped it open, and hesitated. The shooter must have seen them on the stairs and knew they walked to the boat together. If he heard Will talking with emergency services, he would know Will was still on the boat. Better to remain silent and keep him guessing. Will sent a text to Stephen and Tish. Man with gun inside. Call 999. Angie shot in lung in house boat.

He had to move. If the crazy bloke was still out there, he would come finish Angie off. Angie had mentioned her people. Maybe Will could lead the shooter away; distract him until help arrived. If she worked with Double Oh Seven, her people should be fast, right?

The houseboat replica was only a front half; there was no back to sneak out of which left Will a sitting duck. He thought about hiding Angie, but dragging her past the fold down kitchen table and stuffing her into the house boat’s sleeping area seemed like it would do more harm than good. He pulled a tablecloth off the table and covered her torso to keep her warm.

Will crawled to the boat’s entrance and tried to listen for movement, but all he could hear was the pounding of his own heart. He pulled the knife Angie had given him out of his belt and held it at the ready, but it didn’t make him feel better. He crawled back to Angie and slipped the pistol out of her belt. She was in no shape to pull a trigger.

Back at the entrance, Will stuck his head out of the boat slowly and scanned the immediate area. Clear. The museum appeared to be empty, though he could hear the voices of children just beyond the front door. The school group would be coming in soon if Stephen didn’t check his phone.

images (1)Will closed his eyes and pictured the layout of the museum exhibits. To his right was cartography; if the shooter was hiding there, he’d have shot them as they came down the stairs. To the left were old fashioned boat engines. Not large enough to conceal a man completely; Will should have seen him hiding there as they came down the stairs. Of course, Will hadn’t been looking for him, so maybe he hadn’t noticed the obvious. The exit lay twenty yards behind him. Will turned right toward cartography.

He stayed close to the side of the boat, turning his head to see ahead and behind him. He moved slowly, even leaning over to check for feet showing under banners and tables along the wall’s exhibits. With the pistol in one hand and the knife in the other, he edged his way along the dividing wall that held a huge plaque explaining the challenges and joys of living on a house boat. When he got to the end of it, he stopped.

On the other side of the wall were barrels of clothing for the children to dress up like boat men and women. Three yards straight ahead was a two yard tall triangular stack of wooden barrels representing trade goods bartered along the canals.

Will got down on his knees and reached into the first barrel of clothes. He pulled out a handful of cloth. A floppy brown hat caught his eye and he put it on. He stuffed the rest of the clothes partway into his jeans pocket; they stuck out like a gingham corsage.

Will waited and watched. Nothing moved, nothing made a sound.

Maybe he was wrong. Maybe the Pakistani tourist had only been a tourist and had left the building and Will was being paranoid for no reason. Then again, maybe the tourist had been a terrorist and was watching Will right now, waiting for a clear shot.

Will fished a pound coin out of his pocket and tossed it high into the air in the direction of cartography. When he heard the coin land with a loud clink, he ran for the barrels of trade goods in front of him. He crouched beside the display and looked around.

Silence. He was running from his own shadow.

Will stood. He should get back to Angie and call the authorities himself.

The wooden barrel near his head splintered with a loud crack. Will crouched instinctively and a moment later he took off running toward the exit. Something pulled his feet together and he fell hard onto his arms and chest. Angie’s pistol popped out of his hand when it hit the ground and clattered across the floor out of reach. He felt rubber heel scrape the back of his hand and the knife was pulled from his grip.

Will rolled to his back and sat up. A short rope with balls on the end was wrapped around his ankles. He heard a click.

1920x1440 - gun barrelWill froze. The Pakistani tourist stood over him with a gun aimed at his head. Gone were the camera and pocket map of the morning. His dark eyes were hard and his hand was steady. Will stared down the barrel of the gun and all of the puzzle pieces suddenly clicked into place. The reason al-Qaeda and MI6 were in Gloucester. Why they needed a double agent from MI5. Why they had been unsuccessful so far. What had the young man said? “I didn’t ask permission.”

Will smiled. “I know where he is and you don’t.”

The man with the gun hesitated. He lowered the barrel and aimed it at Will’s knee. “Tell me.”

Will chuckled, more from nervousness than anything, really, although it was kind of funny how it had turned out. He grabbed one of the balls and began to unwind the rope from his ankles. “You had a great plan except that he went rogue on you before you could nab him. Princes are pesky that way. Good thing for him, though, or he would be in a hole in Pakistan right now, wouldn’t he?” He set the rope aside.

The Pakistani redirected the gun back to Will’s face. Will glanced at the cartography corner and widened his eyes in surprise momentarily. He mouthed the words “Double Oh Seven”. The terrorist fell for it beautifully. Keeping his gun trained on Will, he turned his head for the briefest of moments to look at cartography and that’s when Will tossed the handful of clothes from his pocket into the air between them and ran.

The front door was closest, but also the most expected target. Will ran for the side room with the computers and model canals and its emergency exit. He heard two pops, and the thud of a bullet hitting a wall near him. He put out one hand to catch the doorpost as he entered the room and swung himself around to the right toward the exit. As he burst through the emergency door, he heard the alarm sound. Its pitch matched the sirens approaching from the main road.

Before he could turn toward the approaching cops, strong hands grabbed his arms and pushed him into the open door of a car.

 

Images courtesy of: www.aleksgeo.com (gun), www.topnews.in (phone), flickrhivemind.net (gears)

Scraping By: Part 6 (Serial Flash Fiction)

Will stared at the blinking canister strapped to the assassin’s forearm. Four seconds left before the bomb was set to go off – not even enough time to wet his pants in fear.

silver lunch bagAngie pulled what looked like a sliver lunch bag out of her utility belt, cut the straps of the bomb canister with her knife, and dropped the bomb into the bag. She rolled the top down and stretched an oversized rubber band around it. She tossed it under the display table and a moment later Will heard a pop, like a giant kernel of corn becoming popcorn. The silver bag remained intact.

“You okay?”

Will nodded. He dragged his attention from the slightly smoking lunch bag to the assassin’s face.

“You recognize him?”

Will nodded again. “He’s the copper I talked with this morning.”

Angie looked thoughtful as she tied the assassin’s hands and feet with plastic chords. “Why would he come after you? I mean, no offense, but we already knew they were in Gloucester. What does it matter that you know?”

“Who’s they?”

“A Pakistani chapter of al-Qaeda. Not large, but we’re holding some of their top men and they want them back.” She tore a piece of duct tape off of a roll from her belt and covered the man’s mouth.

Will stood on shaky legs. “Why Gloucester?”

“That’s what we don’t know. Double Oh Seven overheard them talk about “leverage” that they have here, or will have here. I’ve been working the town for a week and have no leads.”

Will climbed out of the boat where he’d been hiding and Angie stood up. “We’ll leave him here for the moment. I put a tracker on him, so my people will be by shortly to collect him.” They walked down the hall to the staircase and started down the steps.

stairsWill ran his hand along the railing. It was a lot to take in.

“I told that copper about a car chase that happened this morning on Bentin Street. Two SUVs were shooting at a black LaFerrari. One of the SUVs hit my car and I gave the copper the SUV’s license plate number.” Angie was adjusting what looked to be ninja throwing stars on her utility belt and didn’t respond, so Will kept talking. “I don’t remember all of the license plate.” He rattled off the first few letters and numbers; the only part he could remember.

Angie’s eyes grew wide. “That explains why they didn’t want you sharing that information.”

“What does it mean?”

“It means it was an inside job.”

The staircase turned at a landing, giving them a partial view of the museum’s first floor’s open exhibit areas. “What do you mean ‘an inside job’?”

“Those letters indicate that the vehicle belongs to MI5. They shouldn’t be shooting at an MI6 agent.”

The Ferrari’s license plate had read “007”. Not a novelty plate then. Will’s pulse beat a little faster. “Didn’t he notice who was following him?”

Angie shook her head. “The first SUV didn’t have MI5 plates and they were the only plates he could see.” They reached the bottom of the stairs and crossed the open floor.

“How do you know…” Will stopped himself mid sentence. “You showed him the pulley display. James. That’s when you two talked.”

Will stopped next to a replica front half of a house boat in the center of the room. It was about six feet long and four feet wide with a bench seat and an interior complete with tiny kitchen, table, and bed. “Is he really going to date Tish?” He knew it was stupid, but he couldn’t help it. A man didn’t drool over a co-worker for months only to give up on the dream at the first sign of trouble.

Angie arched an eyebrow. “Yes, I suppose he will.”

mi5Will rubbed his sweaty palms on his pants to dry them. “When you say leverage, you’re talking about blackmail, right?” He ran his hand along the smooth painted letters on the side of the boat. House boats were always colorful. Families had lived on them, raising children and trading goods up and down the canals. “If we don’t give them back the prisoners, they’ll blow something up or steal something?”

“Or someone, yes.”

Will climbed the two steps up to the house boat’s bow and sat on a bench there. Angie stepped onto the boat’s decking and stood looking down into the kitchen. “It’s small, but it’s still bigger than my first flat in London after graduation.”

Steal someone; small boats. Bits of the morning were gathering in his brain, arranging themselves like puzzle pieces. An image of the Indian tourist popped to the forefront of his mind. Hadn’t Angie said that this particular al-Qaeda group hailed from Pakistan? And he’d ducked to tie his loafer when Double Oh Seven came out of the museum. Will’s palms began to sweat again.

“Angie, there was a guy here earlier and he disappeared-”

Will heard a muffled pop and Angie crumpled to the deck.

 

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Images courtesy of: www.lyst.com (lunch bag), www.mi5.gov.uk (stairs), www.mi5.com (map)

Scraping By: Part 5 (Serial Flash Fiction)

From the corner of his eye, Will saw Angie run at him with her body low. The world was fading to black. Angie slipped in between Will and his attacker and rammed her forehead into his attackers’ face. Her head rebounded against Will’s nose and pain shot through his skull. The man released his grip on Will’s throat and Will staggered backward and fell. Blessed air rushed into his lungs and he scrambled on all fours to the table and grabbed a pair of scissors. He turned, ready to fight.

amazonAngie was on her back on the floor, but she was rising quickly. The man was gone.

Will breathed deeply. “Thank you, Angie.” He’d had no idea that Angie was capable of such agility and aggression. She fiddled with something under her sweater and seemed unruffled by the encounter.

“You okay, Will?”

“Yeah.” He hoped his voice didn’t sound as shaky as he felt. “Who was that?”

“An assassin. Why would someone want to kill you?”

Will worked his mouth open and closed a few times before any words would come out. “Kill me?”

“I managed to get a blade into his leg, but it’ll only slow him down.” Angie removed the scissors from his hand and replaced them with a six inch dagger. With one swift motion she pulled her baggy sweater off over her head. Underneath she wore a tight fitting black leather shirt that matched her tight black pants. Various blades, buttons, and bobbles hung from a utility belt around her waist.

“Who are you?”

Angie took Will’s free hand and pulled him to his feet.  “I’m Agent Twelve, but I prefer Angie.”

“Agent Twelve?”

“Technically Agent Oh Twelve, but if your number doesn’t start with ‘Double Oh’, there’s no glamour in it, right?”

She pulled Will along behind her before he could respond. She stopped at the open door frame leading from the craft room to the exhibit hall and put her back against the wall, pistol raised and ready. Will raised his knife. When she began to whisper, he could hardly hear her over the beating of his own heart.

“I figure we have fifteen minutes, twenty tops, before Stephen and the school kids enter the gallery downstairs. We have until then to find the assassin and neutralize him.”

Will nodded. Neutralize him. Kill him; that’s what she meant. He looked at the knife in his hand and briefly imagined plunging it into someone. He didn’t think he could do it. Then he remembered the feel of the man’s hands around his neck and the panic he felt when his body was desperate for air. Maybe he could.

*

Angie slipped around the door frame and stepped quickly along the wall, keeping her legs bent and her pistol ready. Will followed, trying hard to keep up with her while checking behind him for signs of the blond assassin. They entered a long narrow room with a painting of a canal along one wall and a narrow boat taking up one half of the floor space. One end of the boat had a sort of rough wooden seat on it and it was to this seat that Angie pointed when she hissed, “Hide there and wait for me.”

bonesdontlie.wordpressWill stepped into the boat and crouched on the floor in front of the seat. Angie slipped out of the room and he heard no sound for several minutes. The light in the room was dim, but he wished he could turn the lights out completely.

Will’s head was sticking out above the bench, so he sat down on the bottom of the boat and stretched out his legs. Better. He tried leaning back; he could see anyone coming through the door, but their immediate impression of the boat would be the shape of the bench, not his head. The boat was equipped with a long thick wooden shovel hanging balanced from a metal crane bolted into the boat’s middle. The kids loved to jump into the boat and work the shovel up and down and it was part of Will’s job to tell them to get out of the exhibit.

Will leaned his head back. When the bodies of Viking warriors were set sail in boats, they had the stars to look at, not a plaster ceiling. Will wondered if the blow he’d taken to the nose was affecting his mind: dead warriors didn’t see anything and just because Will was lying in a boat and potentially facing death, didn’t make him a warrior.

The boat was only three and a half feet across; more like a large coffin than a Viking ship. In his mind, Will could clearly see his mother laid out in her coffin; so thin after the cancer she’d fought so hard. She’d chosen the cheapest coffin available. “No need to make a song and dance about my box,” she’d said. “Once I’m in it, I won’t care.” Will squeezed his eyes to keep the tears in.

His father came to the funeral. After ten years without a single visit from Frank, out of the blue there he was. One parent absent and one present, but it was all wrong and backwards. After expressing his condolences, Frank had commented on the cheapness of her coffin. “A pub’s no place to work for a lifetime. She had nothing to show for it in the end.”

Nothing but me. Will opened his eyes. And what do I have to show?

A large dark form filled the doorway to the room and Will tensed but didn’t move. The form took a few steps into the room. He looked under a small display table and moved to the bow of the boat. When the assassin’s eyes found Will in the dark, Will was ready.

bombEven as the man rushed towards him, Will sat up and grabbed the handles of the giant shovel. He pushed the handle hard and the shovel’s other end connected with the assassin’s groin. The man groaned and fell on his side. He glared at Will and ran one hand along the sleeve of his jacket. His fingers found something under the fabric; he squeezed his fingers together and smiled.

Angie ran in through the doorway and knocked the assassin unconscious with the butt of her pistol. She pulled up the assassin’s sleeve and Will saw a silver canister strapped to his forearm. A counter with red numbers was counting backwards from four. It was a bomb.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Images courtesy of: www.fanpop.com (bomb), bonesdontlie.wordpress.com (viking ship), amazon.com (knife)

Scraping By: Part 4 (Serial Flash Fiction)

vanityfairWill checked his phone; Frank had sent him a text telling him to listen to his voicemail message. Will turned back toward the gift shop, more determined than ever to take a date to dinner, but Tish was nowhere to be seen. A customer stood before the register, holding a cluster of postcards and looking around the room. Will slid behind the counter and the young man handed him the postcards. As he scanned them, Will tried not to stare; something about the man was familiar, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Strong round jaw, rosy cheeks, blue eyes. If the man’s hair and beard were auburn instead of dark brown, Will would have thought he looked just like….

“The postcards are on the house, Your Highness.” Will said quietly.

The young man looked up sharply, saw that they were alone, and grinned. “You’re bold.”

“If I was wrong, I’d only be out two quid.”

“Am I that obvious?”

Will shook his head. “Lucky guess. I can’t believe they let you come in alone.”

The young man chuckled. “I didn’t ask permission.” He pointed through the window at the row of houseboats bobbing along the edge of the water. “See the blue one with the green stripe? My pals and I sailed down from Birmingham. Fun times, but I’ve been on that boat for four days. You’ve seen how small they are. I thought the hair dye would help.”

“It does.”

Gloucester HeaderThe prince tucked the postcards into the pocket of his jacket. “Thanks, mate.”

“My pleasure.”

With a wave, His Highness was out the door. A moment later, Tish came out of the hallway leading to the bathrooms. “Did we have a customer?”

“We did.”

“Why are you smiling like that?”

Will hesitated. He would love to brag, but he was pretty sure Tish would swim out to the prince’s boat and ignore Will completely if she knew she had the option. Besides, the poor guy was just trying to have a breath of fresh air. Horses for courses, as his mother used to say. Tish was as discreet as a neon sign. If he breathed a word to her, the royal vacation would be cut short by paparazzi.

“Was she pretty or something?” Tish was staring at him.

“Yes, she was.” Will smiled. “Not as pretty as you, though. Do you think I could take you to-”

“I’m dating James now, sorry. I think the buses are here.”

She hadn’t even let him finish the question. His emotional roller coaster plunged from Prince Peak down to Reject Valley. He turned to look where Tish pointed and Stephen waved to him from the office doorway. It was time to prepare the crafts for the children.

Will took his time climbing the steps. He was dateless and carless with nothing to show for his efforts. He should have asked the prince for an autograph or a photo. His father would never believe him without proof.  Will didn’t notice a large blond man slip out from behind a banner in the lobby and follow him up the stairs.

*              *               *

craftysticksWill stopped in the doorway of the craft room. His phone was trilling again. Normally he silenced it before work started, but this morning had been filled with one distraction after another. It was another text from Frank. Angie already had the crayon cups on the tables and was pouring glue into shallow dishes. Will decided to be a slacker employee for once. He punched in the code to retrieve his messages and pressed the phone to his ear.

“Hello, Will. I was wondering if we could have dinner tonight instead of next week. Say six o’clock? Faythe has a thing back home this weekend and asked me to go with her, so I’ll be leaving town for a bit. Give us a ring.”

Time’s up. He’d failed. Depression and anger fought for control of his facial muscles.

“You look glum, Will.”

Will thought about forcing a smile, but it was too much effort. His equity was scraped up, he was alone in life, and he was out of time. Last time his father had left town “for a bit”, he’d stayed away for ten years. “Itchy feet” his mother had called it. Will called it selfishness. He stuffed his phone into his back pocket. “I am glum.”

“Was it the phone message?”

Will nodded. “My father is going to Greece this weekend with his girlfriend.”

“It’s a nice time of year to go to Greece.”

adventuresbydisneyWill opened a bag of craft sticks. “It’s always nice in Greece. Why would he come back to England if the only thing here for him is the disappointment he calls his son.”

Angie pushed her glasses up onto her nose. “You’re only twenty, you’ve finished school and you’re employed. How much does he expect from you?”

Will shrugged. “To aspire to more, be more, have more. I take after my mother. She was content to wait tables in a pub all her life. Frank thought he was better than that.”

“Frank’s your father?”

Will nodded and pulled open another bag of craft sticks. Half of the sticks spilled out onto the floor. Will bent to pick them up and Angie crossed over to a table to get a cup to put them in.

“Sounds like you really –“

Angie dropped the cup and leaped over Will’s head. He heard her grunt and then she was flying back over his head and landed roughly on the floor. She rolled and crouched. Powerful hands grabbed Will’s shoulders and pulled him to his feet. The hands spun him around and gripped his throat. Will’s eyes grew large with surprise. It wasn’t just the unexpectedness of being choked, but also that he recognized his assailant. Will was looking at the meaty white cheeks, blond hair, and crooked nose of the copper he’d talked to that morning.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

 

Images courtesy of: http://www.adventuresbydisney.com (Greece), www.craftysticks.com (craft sticks), vanityfair.com (Prince), www.millstoncards.co.uk (postcard)

Scraping By: Part 3 (Serial Flash Fiction)

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Will’s eyes darted to the gift shop where Tish was straightening a few hanging t-shirts. “What won’t I like?”

Stephen blew on his tea and took a few steps backwards. “I’ve got to go. A school group’s coming through in ten minutes.”

Stephen was in charge of charming teachers and introducing the school kids to the museum. They would take a short walk along the waterfront, explore the exhibits of the grand room on the first floor, visit more exhibits in a series of rooms on the second floor, and make a craft with Will and Angie. The tours always ended in a side room downstairs where the children could build a boat on computers or play with a working model of a canal with locks. Tish ran the gift shop.

Will’s phone rang as he hung his jacket on a hook in the staff room. He checked the number. Frank. He’d call him back when he had a hot date. Tish giggled in the gift shop and Will smiled. The morning was about to take a turn for the better.

Tish stood behind the register in all of her blonde perky glory. Young, voluptuous, and a smart dresser, Will’s mother would have described Tish as having champagne taste. Will had a beer budget, but if he had a week or two to save up, he could afford to give Tish a champagne evening. Will pretended to straighten the pens for sale on the counter and cleared his throat.

DSC02305“Good morning, Tish.”

“Morning.”

“Did I tell you I got a new car this week? It’s a Jaguar. Maybe I could-.”

“Nice.” Tish squinted through the shop window at the waterfront. “Did you see the LaFerrari?”

Will didn’t bother nodding; Tish’s attention was already off him. She waved a perfectly manicured hand at someone behind him and grinned. “Angie! Come here! Did you see him?”

Angie had been hired a week ago and Tish was clearly thrilled to have another woman working at the museum. Angie was thirty something and almost pretty. She had slumped shoulders and wore thick glasses and baggy sweaters, yet her black stretch pants showed well muscled legs and her dark hair was never out of place. It was like she was trying to hide her disciplined nature behind a polite, slightly sloppy facade. Angie greeted Will and leaned against the counter.

“Of course I saw him; I showed him the pulley display.”

“Saw who?” Will asked. “The guy in the suit?” He couldn’t imagine Tish getting so dreamy eyed over the middle aged tourist. It was odd, though. Owners of Ferraris didn’t make a habit of stopping by Waterway Museums to look at pulleys for ten minutes. Of course, Ferrari owners didn’t make a habit of visiting Gloucester, period.

“His name is James,” Tish giggled. “He’s stopping by after work to take me to dinner.”

“That’s great, Tish,” Angie smiled. “Will, is that you beeping?”

Will’s hand went to the trilling phone in his pocket and he excused himself. He was about to check the message when he remembered the tourist waiting for his tour. Will rushed past the pulley display and stopped when he had a clear view of the cartography exhibit across the room. It was empty. He quickly searched the first floor, but to no avail. For the second time that day, the tourist had disappeared.

 

Part 1, Part 2

Images courtesy of www.freefoto.comwww.grannybuttons.com