Serial Monday: The Rise and Fall of Quick-Fingers

 Custom Browning Hi-Power FNH made in Belgium + 4 hi cap mags

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Sunday 1:00 a.m.

A door slammed. Tony snorted and jerked his head up. He wiped a sliver of drool from his chin and looked around the bland room. It took him a moment to remember the arrest and escort to interrogation. They’d left him there six hours to stew and soften him up, so he’d decided to take a nap. He smirked at the female agent across the table from him, and ignored her partner in the corner. “Thanks for the sleep, hon’, but could we get this movin’ now?”

She set down a thin file and started pulling out pictures without saying a word. Tony glanced at them. They showed him and Bernardo hanging around the biker bar and talking with Rick. “Hey, tell whoever your photographer is that I said thanks. They got my good side.”

The agent caught his gaze with hers. “Tony Abbatiello, small-time hood for the de Rossi family. Tsk, tsk, tsk.” She shook her head in mock dismay. “Moving up to gun-running. Not a smart career move.”

“Funny. I don’t see any guns in these pictures.” He chuckled. “Can I have one of these after I go? They got some nice, what’s that word…” He snapped his fingers. “Composition.”

She frowned at his act. “I don’t think you realize the seriousness of the situation you’re in, Tony. Your buddy’s been singing like a bird and pointed the finger at you.”

Tony burst out laughing so hard he had to hold his sides. “You…ha! B.? Ha!” He waved his hand in the air as if warding off an attack. He sucked in a deep breath. “Please…no more. That’s…that’s just too funny!”

“I’m serious, Tony. Bernardo over there gave you up.”

Tony’s laughter died, though the occasional guffaw still escaped. “I’m going to make this easy for you, sweetheart.” He wiped his eyes. “Lawyer.”

The man in the corner stirred for the first time. “You really don’t want to do that. You lawyer up, we can’t help you.”

Tony rolled his eyes and pointed at the camera. “See that? It’s on record I asked for a lawyer. So save it for the sheep. Law-y-er.”

The female agent stood up in disgust. “Take him to a cell.”

Tony leaned back in his chair, hand behind his head. “Hate to see you leave, love to watch you go, babe.” He wolf-whistled and chuckled at the male agent’s glare. Now he just had to sit and wait for the law firm on retainer with the de Rossi Family to come spring him.

Maybe he could make up his date with Cindy later that day.

***

 

Click the knight for the rest of the story so far.

 

Fantasy-Drake-Rider: Call-Up

Heart of Telmerath "Ever Loyal and Vigilant"

Drill-Master Varis bent over the map laid out on the table, blunt finger jabbing at lines denoting a hill overlooking a river. “If we can push them back and take this hill it will give us an advantage.”

Horse-Captain Gale frowned and shook his head. “The problem is they hold it, giving them the high ground. If the Drake-Knights were available to soften the Tremalaine defenses, I might consider it. As it stands now…”

Varis grimaced. The war had taken its toll on everyone, but the enemy’s new ballista system, designed to shoot multiple missiles and built in massive numbers, devastated Telmerath’s aerial guardians. Now some of the kingdom’s best warriors were relegated to courier missions and ineffectual high-altitude boulder drops. “Maybe a small group, under cover of darkness-”

Gale looked at him sharply. “Telmerathian soldiers do not skulk about like some back-alley mug-hunter, Drill-Master. Is that clear?”

Varis’ lips tightened at the rebuke, but he refrained from speaking. His Majesty’s Cavaliers, comprised of nobles, wouldn’t know how to sneak in anyway. Unless the sneaking consisted of backroom deals and visiting ladies of questionable virtue. He shook his head to drive out the unproductive musing and turned back to the map, eyes searching for some thrust that could set Tremalaine on the defensive.

The tent-flap furled and one of the guards, Leftenant Wexler, poked his head inside. “Sirs, Drake-Lord Miathes is here to see you.”

Gale straightened up and smoothed out his red tunic bearing the insignia of the Cavaliers, a purple shield bearing a rearing horse. “Show him in, Leftenant.”

A tall man with broad shoulders, clad in the sky-blue tunic and trousers that marked him as a Drake-Knight, but without the purple trim that would proclaim him Drake-Lord, strode past the sentry without fanfare, a grim look on his face. “Gale,” Miathes said without preamble. “I need to call up some of your Cavaliers for my unit.”

The horse-captain opened his mouth, but the larger man slapped down a rolled parchment made of vellum, bearing the Royal seal. “Here’s the King’s writ, in case you were thinking of protesting.”

Gale frowned and turned away from Miathes. The Drake-Lord let it go; he knew no officer worth their salt liked losing men, no matter the circumstance, but especially with a war on.

Varis snatched the parchment, broke the seal, and scanned the contents. “Ten?” He winced at the tone of his question, but plowed on. “Normally, it’s one or two. Ten will put a huge hole in our lines.”

Miathes nodded at the scroll. “That authorizes you to fill your losses by shuffling soldiers in from other Cavalier units.”

Gale turned back around, eyes blazing. “Why us? This will gut our effectiveness for at least two months! Transfers, training, integration…” He tossed his hands in the air. “Why?”

Miathes scowled. “His Majesty heard about the breakthrough led by two of your men. That, plus other successes, swayed the King to the idea his Drake Knights would be wise to draft from this unit.” The drake-lord held up his hands in a placating gesture. “I know this a hardship for you, but it is a great honor for those chosen. Would you deny them that?”

Gale deflated, rubbing the back of his neck in weary defeat. He flicked his head at Varis, who took up the conversation. “Milord, we have several long-time veterans-”

Miathes shook his head. “I’m breaking protocol on this recruitment. His Majesty’s Drake Knights have been stagnant, and we need to adapt. I want…need younger soldiers. Soldiers with fire and ideas. I’ll start with the two that broke through the Tremalaine lines.”

Gale tensed again at the thought of losing his cadre of youthful warriors, but Varis murmured, “Captain, it is well-known that Leftenents Damon Forester and Yallo WindFern dream to one day join the Drake Knights. They are good men, but we shouldn’t fight to deny their goals.”

Gale’s fists clenched. “Fine. Make a list and give it to him.” He gave Miathes a short, curt nod, and said, “If you’ll excuse me,” before storming out of the tent.

Varis watched his commander leave, a pained look on his face. “My apologies Lord-”

Miathes waved away the apology. “Don’t. I imagine I would react much the same way.”

“Still, etiquette and all that.” He managed a weak grin. “You really are getting two of our best. I had my doubts about Forester, but he’s proven to be a voracious learner and one hell of a Cavalier. And Yallo is the standard to which I hold a Cavalier in this unit.”

Miathes smile came more naturally. “Good. That just leaves eight more, eh?”

The two men huddled closer to the table, intent on their task. Neither noticed Wexler, third son of Pelias, Earl of WindFern, narrow his eyes in hatred at the praise heaped upon his elder brother.

***

For the rest of the story so far, click here or go to the sidebar and click Fantasy: Drake-Rider. For Yeah Write’s Moonshine Grid. Head over and check out some great writers!

Serial Monday – The Rise and Fall of Quick-Fingers: Home

Friday 3:00 a.m.

Tony eased open the door to the small apartment he shared with his mother. “Damn it, Ma!” he said under his breath when the chain caught, halting his progress. He stuck his arm through the crack in the door, straining to reach the latch. The chain rattled as he found the catch and worked it off the slide.

He glanced down the hallway, making sure nobody stood ready to rush the door, and he scurried inside. He gently pushed the old wood closed until he heard it latch. He re-locked the entrance and leaned against it with a sigh. He winced as his foot kicked a pile of discarded beer cans. A tinny clatter filled the dingy room. “Tony? Iz’zat you?”

“Yeah, Ma.”

She coughed, wet and thick. Tony watched something fly out of her mouth as she reached for her pack of Kools on the burn-scarred coffee table. “Get me a beer outta the fridge.”

Tony blanched, but strode into the tiny kitchen, back stiff. He pulled out a six-pack with three empty rings and set it in front of her fleshy hands. She blew smoke in his face, popped the tab on the can, and guzzled half before slamming it back down. “At least your good for something.” An ugly smile, highlighting discolored teeth and the gaps between them, slashed through the fat on her face. “Still won’t amount to nothin’. Just like your scumbag sperm-donor.”

Tony trembled in rage. “Shut up! You’re always puttin’ me down.” He slapped the beer off the table. “You know, I don’t blame Pops for leavin’. Look at you.” He pointed a finger in her face. “You say I’m not gonna be nothin’, you’re the one that’s nothin’. I’m goin’ to be somebody!”

Her hand flew threw the air, and his head snapped to the side. Used to it, he recovered and pulled the Browning from the back of his pants, pointing it between her beady eyes. “You ain’t never gonna touch me again, bitch!”

Her chins quivered in anger, eyes all but disappeared into the folds of her face. “You ain’t got the balls.”

Tony’s hand shook, the barrel of the gun bobbing up and down. “Shut up! Just shut up!”

His mother cackled. “Big man with a gun. Well, go on. Shoot me, you little sissy! Show me you got a pair!”

Tears rolled down Tony’s face, and his voice took on a begging tone. “Please, just shut up, Ma. Please.”

Mrs. Abbatiello puffed on her cigarette, then flicked the butt at her son. He jerked back in surprise, finger spasming. A thunderous boom echoed in the enclosed area. Maureen Abbatiello’s eyes widened as red blossomed on her stained nightgown. She looked down to her chest and back at Tony before falling over and crushing the coffee table.

“Ma? Ma!” Tony dropped the pistol and leaped over to his fallen victim. “Ma! Oh, God, forgive me. I’m sorry. Ma!”

Tony pulled out a special cell Bernardo gave him and smashed the speed-dial. It rang once before someone answered with a grunt. “Bernardo!” Tony cried. “Oh, Jesus, man. I screwed up bad. I need help! I…I…look, just get back here, okay? I don’t care what I have to do, just…just…help me.”

The phone clicked and a dial tone replaced the silence. Tony dropped the phone and cradled his dead mother’s head in his lap.

***

Science Fiction – Horizon Chaser: Tension

Erin slammed into floor, her groan changing to wheeze from a quick blow to her solar plexus. Black and gray spots swam through her vision, but left enough space for her to recognize a set of knuckles rapidly heading for her jaw. She heard a voice, tinny and echoing, yell, “STOP!”

Waves of pain washed over her as the fist ignored the distant command. The gray spots fled as black took over.

***

“What the hell was THAT?” Gillian’s face, twisted and red, snapped forward, leaving less than an inch between her nose and Samantha “Sammy” Gutierrez’s. “When I say STOP, I mean STOP! If you ever pull some shit like that again, will put you in the med-bay. Do you understand me?”

Sammy stared above her superior’s head, eyes never leaving the far bulkhead. “Yes, ma’am!”

“Get the hell out of my sight before I do something you’ll regret!”

The ship’s third shift navigator performed a crisp about-face, strode off the practice mat, and out of the gym, head unbowed and back straight.

***

Captain Megan Hurley poured a finger a bourbon into a metal tumbler, glanced at her Master-at-Arms, then poured a couple more. She handed the whiskey to her shipmate and friend of fifteen years. “What do you think caused it?”

Gillian slammed back the offering in one gulp. “Kendra,” she exhaled.

The captain frowned and swirled her drink around before taking a sip. She leaned against her desk, arms folded. “Explain.”

Gillian shrugged, studying the empty bottom of her cup. “Sammy blames Erin for Kendra’s death. Not much more to tell.”

“Should I put them on separate shifts?”

Lips disappeared as Gillian pondered the question. “No. If you do that then Sammy’ll never get over it, and it’ll look like we’re babying Erin.”

Megan set her glass on the desk. “And if their problems affect the running of the ship?”

Gillian grinned at the petite blonde. “That’s why they pay you the big bucks,” she said as she stole the neglected drink and downed it.

Captain Hurley rubbed her temples, trying to ward off the building ache. “You’re such a help.”

“I aim to please, Captain.”

***

Silence reigned on the bridge, its grip harsh and tyrannical. Erin’s eyes kept stealing glances at Sammy over at the navigator’s station, despite the throbbing her jaw suffered every time they looked. Her assailant sat stiff-backed, view never wavering from her plot readouts.

A course correction popped up on Erin’s pilot-eye view screen, and she sighed.

“Shut up.”

Erin’s fingers punched in the course correction, her face screwed up in frustration. “Careful, Princess. You might break a nail.”

Erin swiveled her seat to the side. “What is your problem?”

Sammy gave her a look normally reserved for something unpleasant found on the bottom of a shoe. “You. The captain never should have hired you.”

Erin arched a chilly brow. “Oh. So I guess you wanted to be a pirate’s toy then? Guess you never know about some people, do you?”

Sammy’s head snapped up for the first time, eyes blazing. “What I want is my wife back, you spoiled bitch!”

Erin recoiled from the venom. “Your…Kendra?”

Sammy laughed, bitter and hard. “You didn’t even know, did you? You just wanted to play hero, consequences be damned, and got her killed!”

Erin turned back to her station. “You know what? Screw you. Kendra was brave and gave her life so the rest of the crew wouldn’t be raped or sold as sex-slaves. If you can’t understand that…then you didn’t deserve her in the first place.”

“How dare you!” Sammy leaped out of her chair, body trembling in rage.

“How dare you?” Erin retorted. “You want to hate me? Fine, but don’t try to stir up pity pretending it’s because of Kendra.”

The door swished open and Captain Hurley strode in. “Return to your station!” she snapped at Sammy.

“But, Captain-”

Hurley raised her hand to cut off whatever the younger woman would have said. “Stow it! I won’t have this on my ship.” She placed her hands on her hips and stared at Erin. “Stahl, can you work with Gutierrez?”

Erin cocked her head as she studied the other woman. “I can if she can.”

“Well, I can’t,” Sammy screeched. “Captain, she got Kendra ki-”

“That is enough!” Hurley barked, fists balled so hard her knuckles turned white. “I gave the order to execute the plan, Master-at-Arms Gillian commanded it.” Her voice lowered to a dangerous whisper. “If you want to blame someone, blame us.”

Sammy deflated at her captain’s anger. “I’m sorry, Captain. I don’t blame either of you, but I can’t work with…with…” She flicked her hand in Erin’s direction. “It’s her or me, Captain.”

Captain Hurley didn’t hesitate as she drew herself up to her full height. “Then it’s her.” Sammy’s eyes widened at the decision, and she opened her mouth. Hurley shook her head and Sammy’s jaw clacked close. “You are relieved of duty and confined to quarters until such time we make planet-fall, where you will be discharged with whatever wages are owed. Get out of here.”

Sammy’s eyes glistened as she looked back and forth between her captain and her enemy. She stomped out of the room, slamming Hurley’s shoulder with her own as she passed by.

Captain Hurley walked over to the nav-station and sat down. “Captain…” Erin began.

“Don’t talk to me right now, Erin. I’m not mad and I don’t blame you. Just…not now.”

“Aye, ma’am.”

The two finished out the shift in silence.

Horizon Chaser

Fantasy – Drake-Rider: Yallo

Damon groaned as he eased down next to the crackling campfire, waves of steam wafting from the bowl of thick stew he cradled in his callused hands. A stiff breeze stirred the flames and rattled a loose tent flap. He concentrated on the snapping sound, allowing it to drown out the screams of wounded horses and men being butchered or put down.

“Horse-meat stew again, eh?” Yallo pulled up a free log and perched next to Damon. “Wonder which poor bastard’s it was?”

Damon scooped a heap up with his fingers and plopped it in his mouth. “I try not to think about it,” he mumbled around a hunk of meat.

Yallo grinned and tapped his friend on the arm with his fist. “Manners, Forester. Your mother would be appalled right now. We’re not peasants.”

Damon glared at his friend and fellow Cavalier. “No, we’re not. They are on the front-lines without armor except for a few scraps of half-rotted leather scrounged from the dead, wielding swords not fit for the Barbarians of Klanda, and dying in droves as their spears are more worthy of a child’s toy than a warrior.”

The slightly older man’s lips furrowed beneath his bushy mustache and he studied the contents of his bowl, shoulders slumped. Damon flinched and opened his mouth to say something, but the words died like so many men during this war. The two battle-brothers sat in silence for several minutes, the shouts and bustle of the base camp fading before their insistent thoughts.

Yallo broke the silence first. “You have the right of it, my friend,” he clapped his hand on Damon’s shoulder, “and I apologize for my thoughtless words. Tremalaine blades care not if Talmarathian blood spilled is noble or base-born, and neither shall I.”

Damon glanced sharply at Yallo, who caught his gaze and held it. “Know this; any who may speak ill of brave Talmarath soldiers, whether they be high-born or low, shall deal with Yallo, son of Pelias, heir to the Earldom of WindFern Valley.” He nodded, eyes still holding Damon’s. “This I swear before Anais, Mother Protector of Talmarath.”

Damon’s throat tightened and he turned his head. “How long have you known?” he murmured.

Yallo’s grin resumed its normal place. “For certain? Not until now, but there have been hints.” He laughed as Damon’s head whipped around, eyes wide. “Peace, brother,” he said, holding up his hand. “Your secret is safe, I believe. It has only been since our friendship has grown to include the realm of social interaction that I have noticed.”

A ragged roar rose from the assembled men of the rear-area, echoed from the passing figures gliding overhead. The Drake-Knight squadron dipped their wings, a salute to their horse-riding brethern, as they flew to the front.

Damon craned his neck as they zipped by, watching their flight path far after the horizon took them, lips curved upwards hard enough his cheeks ached. Yallo chuckled when Damon returned to earth. “What?”

“You and I share the same dream,” Yallo said, eyes twinkling. “And I have every faith we shall make it.”

Damon downed more stew as the camp returned to its normal dull wave, his shoulders a bit more relaxed.

Click here for the preceding stories of Damon and his character sketch. Hope you enjoy!

Happy Reading and Writing!

J. Milburn