Archive for October, 2011
I’m getting closer to getting NIGHTFALL ready to publish. Today, I thought I’d post the first scene for anyone who wants to try it out on this lazy Sunday.
Aiden Afflack hummed to himself as he lifted the brass doorknocker to summon St. Cloud Police Chief Weldon Michaels to the front door of his Carrington Place residence. Rapping twice, he stepped back.
What was that tune running through his head? It had been with him since he’d risen this evening.
Queens of the Stone Age? Un-uh.
Collective Soul? Yeah. Yeah, that was it. Definitely. He cricked his neck one way, then the other and felt the satisfying crack. Ooh, I’m feeling better now.
The curtain in the bay window twitched, but Aiden feigned obliviousness. From inside, he clearly heard Michaels jam a clip into a pistol. Aiden rolled his eyes. Nobody trusted anyone anymore.
“Who are you and what do you want?”
The voice came through the door. A very cautious man indeed.
“I’m a friend of your wife’s,” Aiden called. “Well, more a friend of a friend, actually, but I have a personal message for you, from her.”
“Nice try. Now move on, before I call the cops.”
Aiden thought about knocking the door in. It was solid oak with a good deadbolt on it, but it could have been made from cardboard and paperclips for all the challenge it would present. On the other hand, there was no reason to get messy.
He cleared his throat, did his best to summon a puzzled tone. “Well, hell, I thought you were the cops. Do I have the wrong address? I’m looking for Chief Weldon Michaels. Got a message for him from his wife Lucy. Pretty woman, ’bout an inch over five feet, brown hair and eyes? Oh, and a real cute little daughter. What’s her name? Devon? Any of this sounding familiar?”
Silence for a few heartbeats. “What kind of message?”
“She wants to come home, but before she can see her way clear to doing that, we need to have ourselves a talk.”
Another pause, then the sound of the deadbolt retracting. The door cracked open, and Weldon Michaels peered out past a security chain.
God save me from fools. Aiden pushed the door open. The hardware anchoring the security chain tore free from the wall. Before Michaels could cry out, Aiden stepped inside and closed the door behind him. In the next heartbeat, he seized Michaels’ right wrist and squeezed until the other man screamed and dropped the pistol he held. It hit the hardwood floor with a clatter but didn’t discharge.
“A gun?” Aiden released the other man’s hand. “Now I ask you, what kind of a greeting is that?”
Michaels — clearly a slow learner — reached for a second weapon jammed into the waistband at the small of his back. Before he could get to it, Aiden had Michaels face down on the floor with his right hand way closer to his right shoulder blade than God ever intended it to go.
“Jesus, my arm. You’re breaking it!”
“Not even close. You develop a feel for these things,” he said conversationally. “It’s sort of like braking when you’re driving on ice. You gotta find the threshold.”
“No, my shoulder! It’s gonna pop! I swear to God!”
Aiden reefed Michaels arm a half inch higher, eliciting a scream, followed by a stream of curses.
“See? Still plenty of play. It’s a feel thing. Now are you gonna behave yourself if I let you up?”
“Yes! I’ll do whatever you say.”
“Atta boy.” Aiden helped the other man to his feet. “Now, let’s go plug the code into the alarm, shall we? And don’t fuck with me. If the alarm company or the cops call in a minute to ask if everything’s okay, things will be very much not okay for you. Understood?”
Aiden “helped” Michaels to the alarm panel, where he keyed in a five-digit number. The winking red light went out.
“Good man. Now we’re going to need your handcuffs. I know they can’t be far away, since you laid hands on that pistol fast enough. So be a darling and let’s go fetch them.”
Michaels swore again.
“I know, I know. It’s gotta sting, getting cuffed with your own bracelets, but look at it this way: they’ll be a helluva lot more comfortable than the alternative if you force me to improvise.”
Michaels sagged. “In that drawer.”
A minute later, Chief Weldon Michaels sat cuffed in one of his own kitchen chairs, a sturdy-looking oak proposition. Michaels somehow managed to look both scared and pissed at the same time.
Aiden took a seat at the table, placing both guns — one retrieved from beneath the telephone table in the entryway and the other from the small of Michaels’ back — on the gleaming wood surface. “Okay, Weldon — may I call you Weldon? — we need to talk.”
Michaels glared back. “You’re wasting your time. I don’t keep anything of value of here, at least nothing portable enough to carry off. And damn you, you’ve already scored both my guns. I suggest you just let yourself out and get while the getting’s good.”
“You think I was bullshitting earlier, don’t you? You think I was feeding you a line about your wife to get inside?” Aiden leaned back in his chair and kicked his feet up to rest on the table. “That’s rich.”
Fear flashed in the other man’s eyes, which he quickly attempted to hide with bravado. “Look, mister, if you have a message for me, let’s get on with it.”
“If you’re gonna call me mister, you might as well make it Mr. Afflack. Or Aiden, if you prefer.”
Another flash of fear. Aiden could almost hear the wheels turning in Michaels’ head. He’s shown me his face, given me his name. There can only be one reason for that….
“Not to worry, Weldy. I think I’ll call you Weldy.”
Michaels tensed. Testing the cuffs and the strength of the chair’s spindles, no doubt.
Aiden sighed. “For Chrissakes, I’m not planning to kill you. I’m just going to spend the night here chatting, much like we are right now.”
Michaels blinked. “Spend the night?”
“Forgive me. It’s probably horribly uncomfortable with those cuffs on. Let me just deal with these nasty guns. Then I’ll take the bracelets off so we can talk all civilized-like.”
Aiden picked up the SIG 9mm with his left hand, grasped the barrel with his right. Closing his eyes, he slid his hand up and down the barrel a few times to attune his mind to the metal. Then he bent it effortlessly.
Aiden placed the ruined pistol back on the table, picked up the .22 and repeated the process on the gun’s short barrel.
“What the … how’d you do that?”
Aiden shrugged. “A parlor trick. You should see what I can do with a dinner fork.” He stood and extracted the handcuff key from the pocket of his worn jeans. “Now, about those cuffs….”
Michaels shrank back.
Aiden lifted his eyebrows. “What? You’d prefer to keep them on after all?”
The other man collected himself, embarrassment staining his cheeks. “Of course not. Please remove them.”
As soon as his hands were free, Michaels immediately started massaging his sore right shoulder.
“Ah, yes, the shoulder. Sorry about that.” Aiden gave him his best aw shucks smile. “But I couldn’t have you putting bullet holes in me, could I?”
Michaels said nothing, but the stiffness in his face spoke volumes. Good. Get brave, you miserable little wife-beating worm. Get angry. Give me a reason to hurt you again.
Michaels cleared his throat. “So, this message from my wife?”
“She wants to come back to St. Cloud. In fact, she’d like to move back into this very house, seeing as she put so much sweat equity into it.” Aiden glanced around at the tastefully appointed kitchen. “I must say she did a great job.”
“Of course she can come home. That’s all I’ve wanted since she left.”
“Ah, but there’s a catch, Weldy. You can’t stay.”
Michaels made a choking sound, but quickly found his voice. “She thinks I’m just going to clear out of town?”
“That would be ideal, but no, I don’t think she expects that. It will be sufficient if you leave this house and never darken the door again.”
Michaels started to bluster that he owned the goddamned place and no one could put him out of it, yadda, yadda, yadda.
“Save it,” Aiden commanded. “You see, I know what you did to her, Weldy.”
A pause. “I don’t know what she told you, but—”
“You systematically isolated her from her friends and pressured her into quitting work. Then, when you got her where you wanted her, you escalated the abuse. You terrorized her, Weldy. You threatened the life of her child if she tried to leave you. Is any of this sounding familiar? No? Well how about this: you used your position and power to convince her that escape was impossible.”
Michaels leapt up, his face wreathed in fury. “You don’t know the first fucking thing about my family.”
Aiden swung his feet to the floor, but remained in his chair. “Oh, I know quite a bit, Chief Michaels. For instance, I know you’ve been abusing the police resources at your fingertips to search for her, ensuring she had to stay on the run, unable to stay anywhere for any length of time. I know she’s terrified for her life and that of her daughter.”
“If she’d just—”
“Shut up, Weldy, and listen. I’m the messenger, and the message is that it’s over. She’s coming back, and you, my friend, are going to become the most obliging, most accommodating, most respectful ex-husband on the face of the planet. Oh, and you’ll relinquish any rights to the child.”
“Fuck you.” Powered by rage, Michaels gripped the table’s edge and overturned it, then bolted for the door.
Grinning, Aiden swept the table away as if it were constructed of matchsticks and gave chase, overtaking his quarry in a blur of speed. By the time Michaels reached the door, Aiden lounged against it, the picture of indolence.
“Jesus!” Michaels’ face suddenly looked like it was stretched too tightly across the underlying bones. Shock did that to some people. With others, their faces went slack, as though—
“Who are you?” Michaels rasped. “Dear God, what are you?”
Aiden allowed his smile to spread, noting the precise moment when Michaels caught the first glimpse of his grossly elongated cuspids. This time, Michaels’ face slackened.
“I’m glad you asked.”
# # #
So, whaddya think? Would you read on?