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“The Wake of Pappy O’Bannon” – Trope-Tastic Thursday #001 – #WOEGTTT

Greetings, fine readers! Today I felt inspired to write to my own challenge, Trope-Tastic Thursday! This week’s theme trope was Vocal Dissonance…but I decided that, since I never did write a story for the final Turn-a-trope Tuesday challenge, I’d combine that one’s Verbal Tic Name with this to create a story that challenges both. Mostly played straight this week, though the use of the former nicely turns the latter on it’s head.

Here is “The Wake of Pappy O’Bannon” at 1,000 words on the dot…and an introduction to another character in the Pinky Black universe (though Pinky himself is absent from this tale).  I do hope you enjoy!

Ugh was not Ugh O’Malley’s actual first name. No one really knew what his given name was, save, perhaps, his poor departed mother, but even she may have forgotten it by this point were she still living. God rest her. No, Ugh got his name by the sound he made in response to near any verbal communication directed his way; with a strange, guttural growling grunt that was as brief as it was gruff.

Not that anyone questioned his monocabulary. Ugh was the kind of man that one did not try to speak to, if one could avoid it. He was a towering brute of a man, hard bodied and a face that looked like rough poured asphalt, all craggy and scarred. It was a wide, flat face, his nose barely poking beyond the vast plain of pockmarked meanness, and where it did, kinked in odd directions from innumerable breaks he’d gotten from his chosen profession.

You see, Ugh was the right hand of Pappy O’Bannon – though, it was more like the right fist. And the left. There wasn’t a place Pappy went that Ugh wasn’t his shadow, and a menacing one at that. Rumor had it that Ugh didn’t have a tongue at all, that Pappy O’Bannon had removed it because Ugh was the only one who knew all the family secrets, besides Pappy himself. Where that the truth, though, one would think Ugh would be more resentful towards his employer, but that clearly wasn’t the case. Ugh served the old man with a devotion of a favored son. Far more likely, then, that Pappy merely encouraged the rumor, taking advantage of his monosyllabic henchman’s fierce reputation to enhance the ferocity of his own.

Not that he needed much help with that. Pappy O’Bannon was one of the most feared crime lords on the East coast. His family, the O’Bannon mob, was known for the swiftness of their anger and the honest brutality at which they pursued their idea of “justice.” Pappy was particularly known for the zeal in which he went after his Italian adversaries – the man hated them with a keenness and fury that was, in a word, remarkable.

No one quite knew why; some said it was on account of his first wife running off with an Italian. Others, that the Italian mobs had not shown Pappy proper respect when stepping into his domain. Still others, that her was part Italian himself but that he hated his dad, or granddad, or whomever it was the speaker alleged bore that Mediterranean seed. It was even said that Pappy took his hatred as far as the dinner table; Jesus, Mary, and Joseph be with the man who laid a plate of pasta in front of Pappy. But, there was one thing Italian that Pappy loved, and that was the opera. It was, in fact, one of Pappy’s favorite sayings – that opera was the only thing the Italians did right. Old man O’Bannon went to every possible one he could attend, and by his side, faithful, went his good man Ugh.

It was quite a shock, then, when Pappy passed away in the night, that Ugh was not present to attend his body from the start of his wake. It was a fine wake too, sure, and well attended. The women all a-keening and the men whispering their condolences, to then find solace and comfort in a stout whiskey and a quiet laugh of days gone by. Someone had even thought to place a big plate of spaghetti out with the rest of the reception’s food, and while some might have found it distasteful, there were plenty who knew Pappy would have appreciated the humor there. So it went, with tales of bygone glories and mad adventures, of Pappy in his youth and his rise to power over the East side districts. Songs were sung, laughs shared, drinks downed and filled and downed again.

And then, the door flew open with a start. Standing there, almost perfectly framed within the door, his broad shoulders nearly filling the passage and his wild, red hair brushing the door jam, was Ugh. His rugged face was red and nose a-blossom with drink, no doubt, and his eyes puffed and sore from tears gazed slowly about the room, taking in an account of every face he saw. There was an emptiness to his stare that chilled the very air.

The room fell silent. Not even a glass clinked as Ugh made his way to Pappy’s side. Large men, strong men, quivered slightly and shrugged aside, unwilling to face that stare. The behemoth stopped just shy of his late master’s body, and for a moment, the silence lingered. All eyes were on that hulking, red-headed form. A tear rolled down through the canyons of his face. His mouth opened slightly, and from it…sound.

The most beautiful sound any one there had ever heard, soft at first, like he had forgotten how to produce any noise, then louder. His voice was clearer than a crystalline lagoon, his tone, perfect, unwavering. He grew louder still, and then it became clear that what he sang…was opera. His voice roared now, with fury, passion, sadness, loss. It was torrent of sound, the lamentation of an angel, so beautiful and pure it nearly hurt to give listen. Then, he peaked, the crescendo came and crashed into the hearts of all that gathered like a great tsunami on a hapless shore. Tears fell freely, from Ugh and all who gathered there. Then it was over. Ugh turned, sharply, and paced from the room as if a man on a mission from God.

And perhaps he was. Ugh never returned to the O’Bannon mob. Rumor was he’d caught a boat back to Ireland, and there, found his way into the priesthood. No one dared to follow him. No one dared to check. For they had long feared the demon that never spoke…but feared more the angel that did.

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“Easy as a Spring Dress” – a Pinky Black prequel!

So I’ve been sitting on this one for several months. Submitted it to a flash fiction zine, but it didn’t get picked up. Since I have since taken the character I invented here and fleshed him into the noble savage that is Pinky Black, I thought some of you might like to see the very first aspect of our hard hitting friend of Jimmy the Gent.

Here’s “Easy as a Spring Dress.”

It was a quarter past one, and the heat of the sun beat down from a brilliant, clear sky with only slightly less fury then what my fists had just finished delivering to the poor sap on the ground in front of me. I nudged him with my foot. He groaned. Good.

Wasn’t dead.

Yet.

I bent down and looked at the bloody, broken mess that fifteen minutes before had been an asshole named Danny. He thought he was a tough one, I guess. Dressed like it. Walked like it. Talked like it. But when it came time to throw down, he’d merely gone down, like a sack full of cinder blocks and questionable evidence in a deep bay. I kicked him a bit harder, for good measure. He coughed up a bit of blood, and sobbed. I probably should have felt bad for that. I didn’t.

“Last chance, Danny,” I said, slightly louder than a whisper, but no more. He deserved having to strain to hear me. “I told you once before, if you ever touched her, I’d hurt you.”

I took a breath, looked over my shoulder at the girl cowering against the alley wall. Her face wore hurt and terror like a spring dress, loose and comfortable. That did make me feel bad. I hated that she’d run out here to see this, but you know? Maybe that was good, too.

“Believe it or not, Danny, I don’t like violence. I’m just good at it, see? I tried, I tried real hard, to let you off easy last time, but you didn’t listen. So you bought this, Danny.”

He groaned again. I sighed.

I didn’t make it a habit of being a hero. Wasn’t my gig. I was much better at being a low man, a hard man. And men like me, well, we don’t make good heroes. But there are some things I can’t abide, and one of them is beating on someone who couldn’t defend themselves. I guess I had a little streak of soft in me. Marbling in the meat, if you will.

“This is my last talk with you, Danny. I’ll be watching. I see another bruise on that girl, and you will never lay a hand on another living soul again. She so much as trips and skins her knee, and I’m going to assume it was you. No more warnings, no more beatings.”

I paused, leaned real close.

“No more Danny. You have my word,” I whispered.

He shook, and the sharp smell of piss confirmed that he’d gotten the message. I stood up, picked his jacket up from where he’d dropped it before the fight, and used it to wipe his blood off my fists. The girl stared at me the whole time, as I brushed off the dirt from my knees and cleaned his gore from my boot.

That’s when I saw it.

In her eyes, I saw a glimmer. The blossoming of something wicked, dark. I saw her picking a fight, saw him walking away. Saw her remembering my words, and acting on them. He didn’t have to hit her. She could bruise herself just as easy. But I’m a man of my word, if nothing more. Danny better hope he sees that glimmer too. Better hope he recognizes it, and doesn’t piss her off. Or else he’ll find out just how easily that sack full of cinder blocks goes down, with him as the questionable evidence.

I left him there. Her too. As I walked out of the alley, I saw her smile.

And that hurt, that terror? It fell off her, easy as a spring dress.

“Paying off the Debt” – A new Pinky Black story, inspired by a post by Kate Loveton!

This one isn’t part of any challenge. This week, Kate Loveton posted and awesome story about an eviction – make sure you read it here!  I found the story so good that I wanted to punch the antagonist right in the kidneys…and realized that, being a fictional character, that’d be kind of hard. So it inspired me to wreck a little fictional justice at the hands of my favorite thug, Pinky Black.

“Johnny, I need your help. Ma needs your help.”

I looked across at the man that was talking to my boss, Johnny the Gent, and saw the look of worry on his face. His eyes flitted nervously from the Gent, who sat in a nice, big, comfy leather chair, to me. Big, burly. Angry looking. I’m sure it made me look more intimidating. It was meant to. Johnny steepled his fingers, and breathed in deeply through his nose.

“What I don’t understand, Henry, is how things got this far in the first place,” Johnny said after a moment’s consideration. “You dad, Mr. Pauley, he passed, what, three, four months ago?”

Henry nodded, his hands worrying themselves together.

“So how is it that your mother, dear old Mrs. Pauley, hasn’t paid her rent in three months?”

Henry swallowed, hard.

“I…I guess it’s just not something she ever thought about, Johnny. Pa always took care of those things…”

Johnny’s hand slammed down on the rich, mahogany wood desk in front of him. Henry jumped. I didn’t flinch, didn’t even blink.

“You knew your father took care of these things, and not you, nor one of your five brothers bothered to step in and check on it?”

Johnny was pissed. Family…family was about the most important thing in the world to the Gent. Disrespecting one’s family was one of the quickest ways to get on his bad side. And his bad side was enforced by thugs, like me. I guess it was because Johnny never had a family, really. He was an orphan, and came up through the system a hard, bitter man. But family…family was his soft spot. And his sore spot.

“I…I…I…” Henry stammered, but Johnny waved him to silence. The Gent reached up, rubbed the bridge of his nose, then sighed.

“Who’d you say the slumlord is that runs her tenement?”

“J-Jamison. Jacob Jamison.”

Johnny nodded. Jamison was a sleazebag, sure. He was also competition. He’d edged Johnny out of some prime turf, and Johnny didn’t forget things like that. He’d never had a legitimate reason to lay down the rough on the guy. Till now.

“Something like this, Henry…it’s a big thing. I mean, it’s your ma’s home, right? She don’t know anything but, right?”

Henry nodded.

“Ok. I’m going to make this right. Not for you, Henry, you miserable shit. But for your Ma. And then, you’re going to owe me. You and your brothers. You understand that? This is an open ended favor, Henry. You ask of me a great thing. I may ask great things of you in return.”

Henry’s eyes shot down to the floor. This was no small thing Johnny was asking. If Henry agreed, he’d be owned. Obligated. He wouldn’t have a choice, unless he wanted hell to come up and visit him personally.

“I understand,” he said softly. Johnny nodded, dismissed him. The room was quiet.

“You know I’m not happy with you, Pinky,” he said softly. I almost winced. It’s when Johnny talks soft that bad things get done. “I asked you to do one thing, one fucking thing, Pinky. One little trial. You fucked it up, bad. Cost me a lot of money.”

I said nothing. I’m not saying I wasn’t scared. Only a fucking idiot isn’t scared when the Gent gets quiet. But I’d be damned if I was going to go down like a blubbering Henry.

“This Jamison guy, you know him?”

I shrugged.

“Heard of him.”

Johnny turned, looking at me. Cold. An auditor looking at an asset.

“I want you to take care of this for me, Pinky. I want you to make sure Jamison understands that Mrs. Pauley is to be relieved of her outstanding debt, and restored to her residence. Punctuate the point, with your fists. You aren’t getting paid for this. You owe me. I don’t like being second guessed, no matter what the cause. If we didn’t have history, I’d have had you shot. You need to make amends. This is a start.”

I gulped. Couldn’t help it.

“Sure thing, Johnny.”

I headed for the door.

“And Pinky?”

I paused.

“Make sure he feels the message for a long time.”

I nodded, went out the door.

Poor Jamison. He was about to learn just how protective an old neighborhood could be.

#FFC52 – 2014 Flash Fiction Challenge Week 25 – “The Verdict”

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Howdy all. This week’s entry for the ever awesome Thain in Vain’s Flash Fiction Challenge is below. The theme?

Your protagonist is a member of jury about to hear the sentencing of the criminal you just convicted.

I decided to do two things with this story. One, I wasn’t going to reveal the sentencing, which, contrary to what they show in the movies, doesn’t necessarily happen immediately following the verdict. And two, I decided to continue exploring a character I introduced in Chuck Wendig’s latest challenge.

So here is “The Verdict”

It was weird being on this side of the box. How many times had I sat with the defense, waiting for people just like this to decide my fate? Watching their faces, some angry, some bored, some with empty, far-looking gazes.

I’d lucked out. No convictions. Not saying I wasn’t guilty, but never beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s what mattered. My lawyer was slick, sure. Jimmie the Gent saw to that. Likewise, I’m sure he saw to it that at least one member of each jury I’d faced was bent, to assure the conviction went the way he wanted.

That’s why I was here, wasn’t it?

“All rise for the honorable Judge Malcolm McFarley.”

I stood up, rolled my shoulders. In the pit of my stomach, I felt butterflies. Huh, funny. It felt just like when I was out there, on the other side. I looked at the guy standing with the defense. Vincent Taglieri. Didn’t know him personally, didn’t have to. The Gent told me what I needed to know. Taglieri’s lawyer was slick too. Real slick. The prosecution made a tough case, but his guy made every weaseling turn he could make, and hell, even though I knew he was guilty, I found it easy to doubt.

And I fuckin’ hated kid touchers.

That’s one thing about my line of work. Sometimes, you run with people you just can’t stand. By nature, the profession draws undesirables. Jimmie the Gent had that going for him, though. If he could avoid it, he wouldn’t work with the worst of them. But some guys…some guys just had to be stomached.

“You may be seated.”

We sat. The judge wasn’t in Jimmie’s pocket. He was straight and hard as shit. His sentence would be the maximum he could get away with and not risk an appeal. He hated crime. Loved justice. Too bad the American system was too fucked to see it gotten.

“Vincent Taglieri, you have been accused of the abduction and rape of a child of thirteen. The time has come to ask the jury for their verdict. Will the foreman please rise?”

I stood. Yeah, me, the foreman. Fucked up, right?

“Mr. Foreman, has the jury reached a verdict?”

“We have, your Honor.”

“Will you please read the verdict?”

I looked over at Vincent. He looked back, an almost imperceptible smirk on his lips. He recognized me. Knew that if Jimmie had gone through the hassle of hiring a real slick lawyer and getting a man on the jury, he was as good as free.

“Guilty, on all charges,” I said, staring Vincent in the eyes. His face drained of color. There was an eruption of sound in the courtroom, followed by the banging gavel.

“Mr. Taglieri is to be taken into custody while I determine his sentence.”

I watched them drag him out of the courtroom. The whole time, he stared back at me. Jimmie was gonna be pissed.

But like I said, I fucking hate kid touchers.

“Rum Punch” – Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: The Cocktail Is Your Title

This week from the terrible mind of Chuck Wendig comes a challenge to use the name of a randomly generated cocktail as the title of a story.

Using the dice roller at Invisible Castle, I came up with #12: Rum Punch.  Chuck gave us a limit of 1500 words, but the kind of story that came to mind needed a lot less, kind of like the protagonist. So here, weighing in at 690 words, is “Rum Punch.”

I saw him as soon as I walked in, standing behind the bar, polishing the table with an old rag. His knuckles looked slightly bruised, and I knew why. It’s why I’d come. I looked around, briefly. The place was dead. Good. I walked up to the bar.

“What’ll it be?” he asked.

“Rum punch,” I growled.

He looked up, took me in, a look of confusion on his face. Six-two, two-hundred forty pounds of heavy muscle. Long dark hair, goatee. Dark glasses. Motorcycle boots. Leather. That was me, and probably not the kind of guy who’d normally order that kind of drink. Not something a shithole dive like this would be prepared to make any way. He smirked. Thought it was a joke.

“Rum I’ve got,” he said, placing a half-empty bottle of swill on the counter, “The punch, you’ll have to provide yourself.”

Thought he’d never ask.

My fist connected with his nose in a blur of meat and fury. I felt the bones beneath my blow bend, give, break, till his face felt a bit like jelly beneath the pressure of my fist. He reeled back, tumbling against the back counter, arms flailing. I cleared the front one in a leap, grabbing the bottle of swill as I cleared it. I brought that down on his head, hard.

A bottle of rum, even the cheap shit, is tougher than it looks. It’s not like it is in the movies. It doesn’t break when you look at it funny. I clocked him with it. Clocked him again. A third time. When it was clear he wasn’t going to move, I flung it to the side, towards the concrete floor. That’s when it shattered.

I breathed in, deep and heavy, and looked down at my work. He was a mess, that was for sure. I nudged him with my boot. He groaned. Good. Wasn’t dead. I snatched the rag from where he left it on the counter, and wiped his blood from my knuckles. I grabbed another bottle of swill twisted the top, and poured it over his bloody form until he started screaming from the burn, and then I reached down, grabbed him by the shirt, and hauled him up to the counter.

He whimpered, covered his face with his hands.

“Don’t feel too good, does it Tony?” I barked. He winced. I slapped him.

“This is a message, Tony. Jimmy don’t like guys who beat up girls. Especially not girls under his protection.”

His face paled more from the mention of my boss’s name than it did from my beating. Jimmy “The Gent” Alvarez was a hard, low man, but he’d earned his nickname for his civility towards the opposite sex. Since he’d taken over this side of town, decided to make it clear that certain actions would no longer be tolerated.

That’s where I came in.

You see, I’d been out of the game a long time. I’d taken my bruises, given back more. But Jimmy was an old friend, and I knew that, unlike some of the shit stains who took up turf in this town, Jimmy wanted order. Profitable order, sure, but order. And it was clear the cops weren’t ever gonna provide it. So he came to me.

“Pinky Black,” he’d said, strolling into my garage, “Been too long. I’ve got some work for you.”

He made me an offer. I countered. No women, no kids, no one who wasn’t a dirt bag. I wouldn’t be shaking down storeowners or the like. The Gent liked that.

“It’s more profitable to protect than to threaten,” the Gent said.

So here I was. I made a brief search behind the bar, tucked the hand cannon I found there into my waistband. No sense catching a bullet on my way out. I turned back to Tony, who still sat trembling on the bar back.

“This was your warning, Tony. You only get one.”

I turned, walked out. I flipped the sign on the door to “Closed” as I passed. A handful of roughnecks paused as I did.

“He’s closed,” I said. “Ran out of rum.”