Payment in full

Gambling - 170806

Payment in full

Joe Caradonna was done, cleaned out. He scooped his jacket off the back of the chair and slouched away from the table towards the bar. Tomorrow he would have to face the reality of his $250,000 debt; for now, he would drink.

“Cash only, Mr Caradonna,” the barman told him.

He slumped into a chair near the bar. He’d have to sell his house and move back to a rented apartment. The kids weren’t going to like that. All things considered, it would be easier just to put a bullet through his brain, and let his wife collect on the insurance.

A smartly dressed man beckoned the barman, slipped a $100 bill to him.

“Bourbon, isn’t it, Mr Caradonna?”

Joe grunted. The barman poured two doubles, handed one to the stranger, the other to Joe.

“I’m Harry, by the way. Can we talk?”

They moved to a secluded booth. Nobody else was near.

“Quite a mountain to climb, $250,000. I guess you could use a little help.”

Joe looked up sharply. Harry laughed gently.

“Don’t worry, Joe. I’m not here to break your legs.”

Joe winced.

“No, I have a proposition for you. You work for Winston Davies, the architects, don’t you?”

Joe stared at Harry silently.

“I need to get into their building, in, shall we say, a clandestine fashion.”

He raised a hand to silence Joe’s immediate objection. “Hear me out, won’t you?

Winston Davies have swindled me; stolen my intellectual property. Help me, and you’ll be helping to right an injustice.

All I need from you is to know where certain building plans are filed, and the detailed security arrangements that protect the office. When I have recovered my property, I will give you a quarter million, cash, untraceable.”

Joe dropped his eyes before Harry’s compelling gaze.

By the time Joe and Harry left the building, Harry had exactly what he needed and Joe had a manilla envelope containing $10,000; a gesture of good faith, Harry called it. Joe called it a lifeline. What a fool he’d been with the gambling! He stood more upright and walked more confidently than he had done for months.

The following night, a nondescript figure walked up to the office of Winston Davies. He unlocked the door with a key and punched in Joe Caradonna’s six digit pass code. The door opened smoothly and he went in, locking it carefully behind him. Once at the back of the atrium, in the shadows, he slipped on a face mask, and then took the elevator to the fifth floor.

The files were where Joe had said they would be. The intruder carefully photographed them, checked to make sure he’d found them all, tidied up, and locked the cabinet again. He went back to the ground floor, took off the face mask, and left. Nobody would know that the office had been burgled. Harry would be pleased with that.

Harry was indeed pleased. He gave the burglar $10,000 and a bonus of $5,000. At $15,000 dollars, the detailed plans of the Monod Institute were a snip. His patient research was paying off. He now had a map that would show him a way into one of the most secret and secure places in the world, the biological weapons facility in Yeruham, Israel.

A night later, Joe waited until his wife was asleep before slipping out of the house. The address he had been given was in a dirty, ill-lit street. He realized suddenly that it was behind a club where he had played some high stakes poker. That had been in the days when he won more than he lost. He felt a flicker of excitement. Maybe at last his luck had changed, and those days of triumph would come again!

He was early. He glanced up and down the street. No-one. He checked the entrance against the description he’d been given. It matched. The door was unlocked and he walked in. The room behind was empty. Joe looked for a light, but there was no bulb in the fitting.

The door to the street opened again. Confident, smiling, Harry came in. He reached into his breast pocket.

“Here’s your payment, Joe.”

His hand swept out, concealing the gun until the last second. He jammed the muzzle under Joe’s throat. Joe had just enough time to feel the cold metal and half raise his arms as Harry squeezed the trigger, and then he slumped to he ground.

Harry pressed the gun into each of Joe’s hands in turn, and then placed it into his right hand as though he’d killed himself. The only other prints on the gun were those of the salesman who’d sold Harry the gun that afternoon. Harry put the receipt into Joe’s wallet. That should be enough to convince the police, hard-pressed as they were for resources. Open and shut case.

Harry said a quick prayer for the dead man; and left.

 

The Music Festival

Short Story – The Music Festival

This arose from a 100 word piece of flash fiction, ‘A Writer’s Perspective’. One of my fellow bloggers, Noonespecial, commented “Oh, Penny! Couldn´t you change the last sentence? Than I would say I understand!” This short story is specially for her.

WP_20170722_22_23_38_Pro

It was the second concert of the Festival. There was a modest audience – perhaps a hundred or so – and the venue, while visually attractive, had an atrocious acoustic for classical music. Those who were to perform sat in the front few rows of the audience. I noticed two very young men, sixteen or seventeen perhaps, sitting side by side in the second row.

The compere introduced a piece for solo piano, to be played by Jeremy. Both young men stood up. Jeremy went to the piano, while the other stood at the side of the auditorium recording a video of the performance on his cellphone.

Were they a gay couple, I wondered? I felt sure that Jeremy, the pianist, with his wavy hair, passionate face and confident manner would have appealed to both men and women, and when he started to play I could feel the strong pull of his magnetic personality. Even the poor acoustic couldn’t conceal that he was a virtuoso in the making. The youth making the video was engrossed in the performance. His face glowed with pride and delight.

At the end of the concert, I spoke to the Festival Director, to let her know how much I’d enjoyed it. I think she saw me as a potential donor, because she invited me backstage and offered me raki. The performers were tidying up, and Jeremy and his friend were talking in a corner.

“Doesn’t this last week mean anything to you?” I heard as we passed them.

“Of course it does. It’s been great fun, but I just don’t swing that way, Calvin.”

A girl came over, and pecked Jeremy on the cheek.

And then the Director and I were in her office and she closed the door.

Quite by chance, I saw the young men again the following evening, in a party of eight students in a taverna. Jeremy sat at one end of the table, and every so often I saw him look at the girl opposite. She was blushing. Her eyes were sparkling. She tossed her head, and spoke quickly and excitedly. The boy who had made the video sat on the opposite side of the table, at the far end. He was quiet. Occasionally he glanced in Jeremy’s direction, his expression a mixture of hero-worship and longing.

As the party left the taverna, Jeremy put an arm around the girl and she rested her head against his shoulder. I saw the quiet boy notice, and wince.

The final concert was the following evening. By now people had realised that the standard of performance was high, and the venue was packed. I found a seat on the outside end of a row, about halfway back. Jeremy was sitting on the other side of the auditorium, next to the girl with whom he’d left the taverna. The quiet boy was sitting at the end of the second row on the same side as me. He looked sad.

The third item of the programme was the ‘Habanera’ from Carmen, to be performed by Victoria, accompanied by Calvin. The girl next to Jeremy, the girl from the taverna, prowled sinuously onto the platform. The quiet boy, who I’d seen first with Jeremy, unobtrusively took his seat at the piano ready to play for her.

Her voice was superb; her manner both seductive and dramatic. Calvin’s accompaniment was musical and self-effacing, supporting her and never overpowering her. It was perfect accompanying; Calvin was an excellent pianist, I realised.

“And if I love you, Ah! then take care!” sang Victoria to Jeremy. I could see him beam.

The applause at the end of the piece was enthusiastic, but it was almost over before Victoria realised that Calvin hadn’t joined her for his share. Instead, he had slipped back to his seat in the auditorium. She gestured in his direction, as though she hoped he would stand and bow, but he just shook his head in negation. Victoria gave one last curtsey and smile and sat down beside Jeremy, whispering in his ear. Jeremy stared across at Calvin.

We came at length to the final item of the concert, Chopin’s ‘Heroic Polonaise’. Victoria kissed Jeremy on the cheek as he rose, and held his hand just a little longer than you might expect, before he strode to the piano and sat down.

The performance was bravura, brilliant. The notes poured out. The rhythm was as crisp as a military heel click. There was a fiery energy, and a stern strength to the playing. It was indeed a heroic interpretation. I was watching Victoria. She sat very straight in her seat, aflame with emotion.

Then I noticed Calvin. He had moved stealthily to the side aisle where he held up his cellphone, once again recording the performance. Tears trickled one after the other down his cheeks, as he wept in perfect silence.

And now, at a signal from the Director, the musicians gathered at the front. Calvin dried his cheeks and joined them. Jeremy and Victoria were centre stage, holding hands, triumphant, elated, already a couple.

We rose, in a standing ovation. The performers bowed, once, twice, thrice, and that was it.

The Festival was over for another year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old habits

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story with a beginning, middle and end in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz (the blue frog) on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

FF - A fresh start 170802

Photoprompt (c) Dale Rogerson

The removal firm were neat. They stacked the boxes six high, almost filling the ground floor. Wendy looked at the cartons; her whole life packaged; a new start, in a new apartment, in a new city. She looked at the beautiful flowers, the tall ones from her mother, the smaller bouquet from her brother. She was a thousand miles away from them, and they were still thinking of her.

She needed bookshelves. She’d better unpack the microwave; no, she could eat out tonight. She switched on her laptop and began typing. That ‘Friday Fictioneers’ post wasn’t going to write itself!