Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Band on the Run (FFF #28)

This week's Friday Flash Fiction starter sentence comes from good old Paul D. Brazill.  You may remember him from such stories as the SPINETINGLER nominated "The Tut", "Smudge", and "Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off!" (ok....that last one's not real).  Had a couple different ideas about this one that I merged together.  I also tried to get back to a shorter story after a few long ones in a row.  Hope you guys enjoy it.

Band on the Run

The trouble with me is that I never realize how deep in the shit I am until I'm choking on the stuff. And this was probably the steamiest, foulest pile of shit I've ever found myself in.

“What's it gonna be, Weaver,” said Bernstein.  He looked like a ghoul under the garish glow of the emergency lights.  His skin was a pale orange and his eye sockets were pitch black under the shadow cast by his forehead.  He rubbed a bony hand across his closely shaven scalp.

“All right.”  I stuck out my hand and he gave me the bag of tools.  I unzipped the outside pocket and picked the back door of The Den in under three seconds.

The Music Den had been a second home to me for the past couple years.  After my parole, I wanted to do something with my time to keep me on the straight and narrow.  I chose music.  It worked for a while, too.  Until Bernstein found out about my former line of work.

“Come on.  Come on.  Let's go.  Let's go.”  Bernstein almost ran to the manager's office.  He'd been jittery all night.  I couldn't see his eyes, but I knew he was high.

He tried the handle of the door, but found it locked too.  Instead of waiting for me, he kicked it in, sending the doorknob through the flimsy drywall that separated the office from the rest of the store.  I looked beyond the racks of sheet music to all the drum sets and pianos on the showroom floor.  I had a feeling this would be the last time I would be in the store.

“Shake a leg, Weaver.  We haven't got all night.”

The manager's office was a dinky little ten by ten square with a desk shoved against one wall and two ratty chairs for guests.  The most interesting thing about it was the Amsec B2200 floor safe in the corner.  Which was the reason he brought me along.

“I was planning to pry the fucker open, but I figured since we've got a safecracker hanging around, might as well earn your keep.”

I said, “You couldn't have pried this thing open.  It was designed with very few pry points.  And there's a dead bar behind the hinges.  Even if you got the hinges out, you still couldn't get the door off.”

“Can you open it?”

I nodded my head and knelt in front of the safe.  Unzipping my bag, I exposed the tools.  It wasn't as nice as the set I had before I got sent away, but I didn't expect numbnuts to know anything about quality.

“Good,” said Bernstein.  “Cause I'd hate to have to give Trevor a call.”

I'd kicked around a bit before hooking up with Bernstein and Trevor Nixx, our bass player.  We formed a band and called ourselves Earth in Grayscale.  Covers, mostly.  We played dive bars all around the state and got a decent following.  But Bernstein played the rockstar role to the hilt - hookers and blow.  He must have run up a pretty big debt with his dealer to want to knock off The Den.  I don't know what pissed me off more:  him getting me involved or him wanting to rob the only place in the area that gave us practice time for free.

“Hey, Weaver.  How do you know when there's a shitty drummer at your front door?”

I didn't answer him.

“The knock speeds up.”  He laughed his head off.

“Hey, Bernstein.  How do you confuse a guitarist?”

“I don't know.  How?”

“You put sheet music in front of him.”

His face got mean and he stalked over to where I was.  He pointed the gun at my head and said, “That's not fucking funny, man.  Now open the damn safe.”

“Look, this is an Amsec B2200.  It has a group II key changeable lock with relock and 1 million possible combinations. The primary locking mechanism has five 3/4” diameter locking bolts that are drive resistant, chromed steel with a long throw.  It's a pretty decent safe for a second rate music store in a third rate North Jersey strip mall.  If you understood even half of what I just said, you'd know that it's going to take me some time and some quiet to open this thing.  The way I see it is you can either go stand by the door and keep your mouth shut or you can shoot me now.”

Bernstein stared at me for a second, then slumped his shoulders and walked away.

I took a deep breath and snuggled close to the safe.  I put my right hand on the knob and gave it a gentle turn.  I couldn't hear the tumblers as clearly as I remember.  It was probably a combination of the 3/4” solid steel plate door and the few years of drumming that muffled them.  Sure, I wore ear protection, but every drummer suffers from hearing loss of one degree or another.

The first number clicked into place and all the old sensations came rushing back.  I closed my eyes and started to breathe through my mouth.  I teased the knob at first.  Then I turned it more forcefully.

The second number clicked.  She was reluctant to my charms, but I persisted.

The third number.  We were locked in a sort of tango.  I pulled her body close to mine.  My heart beat faster.

The fourth.  She was nearly mine.

Fifth.  Seduction complete.

Spent, I gasped for breath as the door slowly opened.  I opened my eyes to see Bernstein standing above me.  He said, “Do you two need a room?”

He flung open the door and started stuffing his backpack with the cash inside.

“That's it?”  I said.  “You'll tell Trevor to let Brenda go?”

Bernstein stood up and zipped his bag closed.  “Yeah, about that...”

He leveled the gun at me and fired.  I felt the bullet rip through my left shoulder and I fell flat on my back.  I gritted my teeth against the pain as blood oozed from the wound.

Bernstein took out his cell phone.  “Yeah, Trevor.  It's me.  It's done.  Have your fun with the girl and get rid of her.”

Bernstein tucked the gun into his waistband and walked out the office door.

The only mistake the bastard made was leaving me alive.


Sue H said...

Nice twist! Begs a sequel....?

(BTW - that band name, "Earth in Grayscale" - real? If not, is the name up for grabs? My son's band have changed their line-up and they're casting around for a re-name.....might push it their way....?)

Paul D. Brazill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul D. Brazill said...

Brilliant. Can't wait for part two. ... How did you know about my Planet of the Apes spin of? It's my musical version of MY LEFT FOOT that's really going to make it, though.

Flannery Alden said...

As usual, you've delivered a great story!

StephenD said...

Nice story. I liked the sensual way you described cracking the safe.

WellesFan said...

Sue - as far as I know...not real. A phrase that's been suck in my head for at least a year. He can use it on one condition: If they make it big, he owes me a beer.

Paul - when do you open on Broadway?

Flannery - thanks.

Steve - that was the whole point. :)

PipeTobacco said...

I enjoyed this very much! The visual imagery (especially of the opening of the safe) made the piece stand out for me the most.


David Barber said...

Now that was "Flash Fiction" at its finest. Superb, Welles. Looking forward to part two...if not more, mate.

Crybbe666 said...

Agree with all about the sequel...would love to see that (moreso than I would like to see Paul's Planet Of The Apes musical!!)
What I really liked was the detail of the safe (real or not). Added some authenticity to an absolute gem of writing!

Sue H said...

Welles Fan - Thanks for the use of the band name and if they make it big, I'll persaude him not just to buy you a beer - he can buy you the brewery (I have contacts...!)

Just re-read the story again - excellent!

WellesFan said...

David - yup. I tried to keep it "flashy" this week. Got close with a word count of 1080.

Aussie Paul - I read up a little on safes. Glad my research didn't go unnoticed.

Sue - I'll take a brewery. Our slogan will paraphrase my namesake: "We'll sell no ale before its time".

As for a sequel....I was working on something for Thursday or Friday. Maybe since FFF is on vacation next week, I'll do next Tuesday. Gives me more time to goof off!

chad rohrbacher said...

Glad you're working on the follow up. Research added a lot to the piece. I really want to know why he just got shot in the shoulder -- something funky in the wind.

Fine stuff.

Doc said...

The time, effort, and research really shine through. I hope this was a labor of love because I loved it.