Happy new year

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Hi and happy new year. I hope some of you managed to take advantage of the fill your e-reader promotion and stocked up on lots of cheap and free books for 2017.

I took a wee break from writing (not completely) and sewed myself a new summer wardrobe over the break.

I was very pleased with the final marks from the first year of my Applied Writing Diploma with 90% plus for all my courses except one which was a very tricky editing paper so I’ll try not to beat myself up over it.

I’m hoping that my next novel will be ready to publish in February and I’m planning to do some promotion this time to try and push sales. It’s a big, scary market out there full of books and it’s very difficult to get noticed.

Anyway, here is a short story I wrote as part of my myths and legends course last year. It’s a re-working of a classic fairytale. Can you guess which one? (I’m sure the picture will give it away).

Incarnadine

Jack leant against the dumpster, his eyes following the woman as she stumbled into the service lane behind Rider’s.  Smoke billowed from between his lips. He flicked his cigarette butt and it flew in an arc, before landing with a hiss in an oily puddle.

She’d been in the bar all night in that tight red dress—eyelashes fluttering, crimson lips parted, her hand resting lightly on his arm.  She was a looker; jet black hair that tumbled down her back, her skin pale and so smooth. The tip of his tongue swept across his bottom lip.

The woman stumbled, her movements graceless and clumsy. She came to a sudden stop, the heel of her bright red stiletto caught on the rough ground. There was a loud crack, she seemed to hang, suspended in the air for a moment, and then she fell, hitting the ground hard. Jack chuckled to himself as a line of juicy swearwords escaped her lips.

He watched her squirm, her hands and knees sliding against the slimy pavers.  Eventually, he pushed himself off the dumpster and reached for his backpack.  His approach to her was a casual saunter.

“Looks like you could use some help.” His large hand grasped her smooth, pale arm.

Within a moment she was back up on her feet. She peered at him.

“I know you. You’re that guy,” she slurred as her red-lacquered finger-tip jabbed his chest. “You bought me a drink—before.”

Her eyes closed and her head lolled back. He gave her a shake. She lifted her heavily painted lids.

“Where are you going, sweetheart?” he asked.

“Home,” she mumbled.

“Where d’you live?”

“I’m not gonna tell you where I live. I’ll get a cab.”

“Come on then.”

She leaned against him as they walked towards the orange glow of the street lights, which cast a sickly pallor over the squalor that surrounded the bar. A taxi waited at the curbside, engine idling, lights on.  He yanked the door open. As she tumbled into the back seat, the driver looked over his shoulder and frowned.

“She’d better not yack in the back of my car.  It’s a fifty dollar cleaning fee for anyone who yacks.”  The driver thrust his hand out. “You pay me now, up-front.”

Jack sighed as he extracted a crumpled note from his wallet and shoved into the driver’s palm.

“Where am I taking her?” The driver examined the note and then stuffed it into his shirt pocket.

“Twenty-one Forest Street,” she muttered before face-planting against the seat.

When the red lights of the cab had disappeared around the corner, Jack strode back into the alley.  The chrome of his precious Ducati gleamed as he wheeled it out from behind the dumpster.

“Let’s go for a ride,” he muttered under his breath as he mounted the bike.

The engine rumbled. He pulled out into the street.

Thanks to the numerous short cuts, as familiar to him as the back of his own hand, he reached his destination in a couple of minutes.  He cut the engine and swung his leg free.  His heavy boot hit the asphalt with a thud that echoed against the houses. But no lights came on, no curtains twitched. Jack pushed the heavy bike down a small path that ran between the houses. He heaved it up onto its stand, before easily vaulting over a high wooden fence.  The catch on the kitchen window yielded effortlessly to the long narrow blade he extracted from his backpack.

The house was dim, lit only from the street.  His footfalls were light as he followed his nose up the narrow staircase to her room. Several dresses, all red, lay in disarray on the bed. Her perfume hung, heady and pungent in the air.  Jack smiled to himself, grabbed a couple of pillows and settled down onto the floor behind her bed.

Only minutes passed before the whine of the taxi’s loose fan belt and the slam of the front door reached his ears. His skin prickled when he heard her stumble on the stairs, cursing to herself.

The door flew open with a crash. Her staggering gait led her to the bed, where she fell.  Within moments, her back rose and fell with soft snores.  He pushed himself up, looming over her prostrate form. It had taken him years of practice to perfect his line. He liked to deliver it in a gruff, deep voice—it always put the shits up them when he did it that way.

“Hi, darlin’, d’you want it gentle? Or d’you want it rough? Cause if— ”

Before he could finish, she sprung cat-like off the bed.  Something hard came down on his temple and he saw stars as he fell back against the wardrobe with a crash.

“What the hell?” were the only words that passed his lips before he was flipped over onto his front, his face forced against the carpet. A knee pressed, heavy and sharp, between his shoulder blades. His arms flailed as he hollered. Lightning-fast, his wrists were pulled behind his back and he heard the metallic click of handcuffs.

“Now, Daarlin’. Do you want it gentle? Or do you want it rough?” Her voice was different now, clearer, the slur was gone.

He struggled. “You bitch! This was a set-up!”

She drove her knee deeper into his back, he winced, crying out. Then a second voice reached his ears—another woman.

“Okay, Officer Scarlett. That’s enough.  We don’t want him to make a claim of police brutality.”

The pressure on his back ceased.  He spit out carpet fluff as he peered up over his shoulder. Officer Scarlett stood astride him, her head tilted to one side, a revolver clutched in her hand.  Her makeup was smudged—black rings surrounded her eyes and a smear of crimson lipstick spread across her cheek.  She reminded him of the demented clown from that Stephen King movie.

The other woman stepped into view.  She was dressed in black. Her grey hair pulled back into a tight ponytail.  As she lowered herself onto the bed, she stared down at him.  Another person entered the room—the taxi driver.  Jack cursed, he should have been suspicious when the cab was right there waiting outside the bar. It was impossible to get a ride in that part of town after midnight.

The older woman addressed him. “We finally meet in person, Jack. It’s been a long time coming. I’d like to say that it’s a pleasure, but—” She paused as her hand moved her chest.  “I’m Inspector Savta.” She gestured towards the taxi driver. “And this is Officer Hunt. You’ve already met Officer Scarlett, of course.”

“You can’t do this!” Jack shouted. “It’s entrapment!”

He flinched, as the toe of Officer Scarlett’s stiletto contacted with his ribs. “Shut that big mouth of yours, Woolf.”

Inspector Savta cast a look at her colleague and then continued. “Jack Woolf, You are under arrest for breaking and entering and attempted rape. I am also required to advise you that you are a suspect in several other—”

Jack lowered his face onto the carpet; the old lady’s voice became white noise. He always knew that they would catch up with him eventually.  It was his own fault. He should have known better than to follow a girl in a red dress—the ones who wore red were always trouble.

 

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