This story is by Natasha Lemieux and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
“We’re going out in that?”
“Yes,” I said slipping my thick sock clad foot into my leather boot.
“I need coffee, not that drain water you’ve been peddling.”
“Drain water?” Harley grimaced, his eyebrows scrunching together to form a thick black line across his brow. Instead of starting a losing war with me, he chose to remain silent as he donned his coat and stepped into his boots. I could see his lips moving to form silent words, probably cursing me, but I didn’t care. Whether he agreed with me or not, didn’t matter at this point, what did was that I needed a serious dose of caffeine.
Harley made a big show of pushing the door opened. As soon as the seal on the door broke cold wind and a flurry of snowflakes whipped into the small lobby.
“It’s really bad, Sarah!” Harley said through gritted teeth.
“It’s just three blocks to the coffee shop, let’s go.” Bracing myself as best I could I stepped out into the biting wind. Within seconds I was frozen, my tired body unable to handle the sub-zero chill.
It took us twice the time to get to the corner Timmy’s. I shuffled inside glad for the relief, Harley bumped into my back, shoving me into the man standing in front of me at the back of the line, which caused a chain reaction of bumping and apologizing. It would have been funny if it hadn’t hurt.
“What are you doing?” I griped.
“I couldn’t close the door. Sorry,” he explained, not sounding the least bit apologetic.
“You could have just asked me to move you know.”
He let out a bitter laugh. “Right.”
A nasty reply burned in the back of my throat, but like my therapist had been telling me, I swallowed it and said instead. “How’s Emma and the baby?”
Surprise clear in his voice Harley answered. “They’re doing good. Emma’s due any day now. It’s why I need to get this article finished.”
“Right…speaking of,” I chimed, happy that the subject had moved back to something I was actually good at. Personal feelings and relationships were hard for me, dealing with even a few friends made me feel like I was a six-year-old trying to figure out Pi. I just wasn’t good with ‘feelings’ in general. But work, work I could do.
“Last week you were working on the Tarantino crime family report, did you ever find a source willing to go on record about the shootings?”
“No, did you?” he asked watching three people at the head of the line pick up their orders.
The line shuffled forwards as I replied, careful that I didn’t step on anyone’s feet. “I had better luck on the Alien abduction case, people were coming out of the walls on that one.”
“Shame. Too bad we don’t have a friend in the police station anymore.”
I had to bite the inside of my mouth to stop from cursing. How dare he bring up that cheating cad. He knew full well why I had broken up with Blake and better than anyone how messed up it had made me these past few months. No story was worth bringing all that out of the closet.
Harley’s cell phone rang, his obnoxious ringtone turning a few heads. “Sorry,” he said turning to answer the call. “Emma? What? Right now? Okay, I’m on my way…to the hospital? Okay. okay, I’ll be right there.”
“Go,” I said when he turned to me his eyes bulging with panic. “You should probably get a cab.”
“Yeah, I will. I’ll see you later! I’ll send you pictures!”
“Yeah, yeah go.” I chuckled softly to myself as I watched him fumble with the door and trip twice as he ran to the street to catch a cab. It was hard to stay mad at a giant dog person like him. He even had the dark brown eyes that could stare into your soul.
A shoulder slammed into mine, none too gently as a young man
passed me to leave. “Excuse you!” I snapped, my irritation rising when he didn’t even have the decency to apologize.
My hands squeezed into fists until I felt a small piece of paper. I looked down to inspect it, just an unassuming yellow post-it. Inside was written, ‘Sarah, they know. Get out now.’
My heart stuttered and my breathing hitched.
How did whoever gave me this know my name? What kind of stupid prank was this?
The sound of a cell phone chiming sent me nearly a foot in the air, heart thundering and face burning, I decided to skip the coffee and get out of there before anything else happened.
At the second chime, I realized that it had been my phone. Standing with my back to the wind I pulled it out and unlocked the screen.
Two new messages from an unknown caller.
First was a text. ‘Blake sends his regards.’
Second was a photo of my ex-boyfriend strapped to a chair, blood smeared down the side of his face and two small holes in his chest. I gasped and dropped the phone.
“I have-i have to do something.” the words burst out of my mouth as I bent to grab the phone. A wave of dizziness washed over me as I lifted my pounding head, blood rushed in my ears, which made me have to steady myself against the wall. This could not be happening.
“Are you alright miss?” a gentle male voice asked from behind me.
“Yeah. Just dizzy.”
“What?” I turned only to have a blurred solid object collide with my nose and cheek. I would have fallen if the man hadn’t grabbed me around the waist and started to drag me towards a van, I had not seen pull up next to me. I was passed from one set of arms into another, tossed on the floor and kicked in the stomach all before they had closed the door.
“Screaming won’t help so don’t try.”
I glared up at the hooded person sitting next to me. Like I could scream when he had kicked the wind out of my lungs. Tears burned at my eyes, ears ringing and face throbbing, I couldn’t think of a worse place for me to be right now.
What did these people even want?
Clearly, there had been some kind of mistake, I’d broken up with Blake three months ago. Why hadn’t they done their freaking research?
The van stopped and I was pulled, none too gently out of the car, thrown over a large man’s shoulders and carried into what look like a posh upper-class restaurant.
“You got her?”
“Piece of cake she was just standing all alone, right where you said she’d be.” the man holding me said as he dropped me onto the floor.
I let out a very high-pitched yelp as my butt connected with the marble tiles.
“Is that really a question?” I snapped, the fear and panic had left me, anger burned in my gut. Anger that surged like the ocean and turned my vision red. “Who are you people? Do you have any idea who I am?”
“Sarah Landon, crime reporter for the Montreal Herald. I know who you are.”
Recognition clicked. The balding head, walrus-like-mustache and beefy figure.
“You’re Don Tarantino.”
“Smart too,” he said taking the chair in front of me. “Now. you’re going to tell me where it is, or I’m going to do to you what I did to your boyfriend.”
My look must have been as blank as my mind because his calm face dissolved. “I kinda need to know what you’re looking for to know if I have it.” I fumed. My eyes landed on the young man who had slipped me the note, he stood against the far wall grinning.
“The files!” Tarantino roared spraying me with spittle.
“You’re disgusting!” I yelled back wiping a big glob of spit from my face.
His hand connected with my already bruised cheek, sending me sliding into a chair that toppled over me. I could taste blood and it only fueled my anger. “Listen to me you overgrown walrus! I’m not even a crime reporter anymore and I stopped seeing Blake three months ago! You’ve got the wrong girl!”
He looked down at me with his purple face and heaving gut and smiled. “Well then I guess I don’t need you anymore,” he said bringing his hand around and firing his gun.
Something cold as ice hit me, bit into my chest and with it came fire, blinding fire. I wanted to scream, but my lung felt as if I had been running in a snow storm, every breath ached deep in my chest. The pain lasted only a moment before the second shot hit my head.
Grammatical errors and poor syntax in spots made it hard for me to read this story start-to-finish.
Details sometimes didn’t seem to fit for the story. For instance,
“It was hard to stay mad at a giant dog person like him. He even had the dark brown eyes that could stare into your soul.”
First of all, her friend had to rush away for the birthing of his child. Why would she be mad at him? Second, why is this description here? Why is this character significant? And finally, could the language be improved upon? That first sentence stands out like a sore thumb to me.
I stopped reading at, “A shoulder slammed into mine, none too gently as a young man
passed me to leave. ‘Excuse you!’”
There is a line break mid-sentence, I’m not sure why. That had something of a ‘final-straw’ effect on me, as a potential reader.
The plot idea interests me and the imagination is good. Better craft is needed to win a contest, in my opinion.