Here’s my entry for the first Flash Fiction Draw Challenge (the post for the original February draw is here). In case you didn’t know about this challenge, there’s a video here explaining (and showing the second draw), but the quick version: I used a deck of cards (three suits) to randomly put together a genre (in this case: Crime Caper), a location (in this case: a soup kitchen) and an object (in this case: a compass) and challenged anyone who wanted to play to write something over the next week, with a maximum of 1,000 words.
This didn’t come naturally, but in the end, I had fun writing it. Also I put many of my New Orleans and New York friends in the roles because why not?
Gone to Hell
“I need a lock man.”
“No men around.”
“I’m standing right here.”
“And I’m not?”
“Fine, Jean. Lock woman. Want to take down Whitman?”
“This your idea?”
“We’ll only need you if it goes to hell.”
“Flattering. When doesn’t it go to hell?”
“Is this yours, or Rob’s plan?”
“All me. Don’t you want to see Whitman go down?”
“You got yourself a driver.”
“Don’t even think about it.”
“Not thinking. I’m asking. You’re the best pickpocket.”
“I want nothing to do with Rob.”
“It’s my plan.”
“You know Whitman?”
“He’s the mark, Carol.”
“Brady? Here’s your wallet.”
“She married the richest man in the city.”
“Whitman isn’t who he pretends to be.”
“How do you…? Tell me you didn’t.”
“Pillow talk is information gathering, Gillian.”
“Rob have anything to do with this?”
“Good. Rob makes you dumb. So. ‘Fatale’ or something more…approachable?”
“You ever consider social work?”
Hélène Whitman’s deigning to spend time in a soup kitchen was a bland story, but given her husband’s politics it became blood-in-the-water for journo sharks. Whitman was opposed to handouts, reducing support for those less fortunate. Pretty trophy wife does something political husband opposes?
Off brand, to put it mildly.
All of this didn’t matter to the regulars in Faith’s Kitchen, lining up for the well-lit, ridiculously made-up Hélène to hand them food.
She took time to speak to each person, and laughed with the volunteer beside her, who was no slouch in the looks department herself. Hélène Whitman was taller—stilettos—and her black locks tumbled artfully over her shoulders. She wore a dress better suited to cocktail parties, and between her ample—and artificial, if one believed rumors—breasts hung a gorgeous platinum locket.
Sixth in line, Brady eyed the prize.
It took longer than expected to get to the front. Watching Hélène play to the photographers—and some not-so-insignificant looks at the woman working beside her, unless he was mistaken—he adjusted for the pace she was serving.
Once he was sure he had her timing, he popped the capsule.
And then, finally, his turn arrived.
“Hello,” Hélène said, smiling at him like she actually gave a fuck and wasn’t married to a man determined to make Brady’s life—and anyone like him—as miserable as possible at every turn.
“Hello,” Brady said, and threw up all over her.
“I’m sorry!” The vomiting man reached out. Hélène recoiled in horror, but—credit to the woman—recovered her poise almost instantly. Beside her, Gillian held up one hand to the reporters and conjured an obey-me voice.
“If I see even one camera flash all the cameras are going in the gravy.” Then she turned to Hélène. “Oh, sweetie. Okay. Let’s get you cleaned up.” She pointed imperiously, switching back to her obey-me voice.
“You. With us. Bring towels and water and for heaven’s sake, someone take that man outside.”
Brady was led outside by two reporters.
The rest lowered their cameras.
Hélène held it together, demurring that she was okay, she’d be right back, right up until the door to the small bathroom closed.
“Get it off me!”
While Gillian dealt with the zipper on Hélène’s woefully unsuitable dress, Carol stepped in and started wiping with the wet towels.
Out of her dress, standing in her bra and panties, Hélène was breathtaking, if pungent.
“We can use the sink for your hair,” Carol said.
By the time Hélène leaned backwards in her ridiculous heels, Carol had the clasp undone. Between two splashes, the deed was done.
“I’ll go get some clothes,” Gillian said, compassionate voice in play. “I’ll be right back.” She touched Hélène’s shoulder, then squeezed Carol’s hand. “Stay here. Don’t let those reporters anywhere near until we have her made up again.”
The manager’s office had an alarmed emergency exit. The siren stayed silent when Gillian opened it. Outside, smoking a cigarette, Jean held out her hand. Gillian dropped the locket into her open palm, and closed the door behind her.
Jean knelt down and started restoring the lock.
Behind her, a car started.
Just in case.
Out front of the shelter, Brady was alone. The two men who’d walked him out—trying hard not to touch him—had dumped him there, then turned tail, so he was alone when he saw Senator Whitman approaching the shelter.
He ducked his face away, staring at the sidewalk.
But it wasn’t Whitman.
It was worse than that.
Rob regarded him with a warm, engaging smile. He was dressed like a priest.
“I’d ask what you were doing here, but…” Rob eyed Faith’s Kitchen.
Behind them, noise erupted in the building. Greg’s car pulled out from the alley, driving off. Officially gone to hell, then.
He eyed Rob. The false priest’s collar made him smile.
It took time for the police to gather Whitman and his wife and take Brady’s “confession” and process evidence. By the time Hélène got to hold her missing locket, it was too late.
“That’s not my necklace!”
Brady walked out of the station, buoyed by police officers’ glares.
Rob was outside, car idling. No vestments, though.
“I can’t believe you didn’t cut me in.”
“After last time?”
That smile again. “Need a lift?”
“Probably want to fence that,” Brady said. Gillian wore Hélène’s locket.
“I might give it back.” She opened the cover and held it up. Inside, a little needle pointed north. The tiny space where the safety deposit key had been stashed was empty.
“Good time in the bathroom?”
“We…bonded while she dressed.”
Brady looked at the documents—and photos—on the table.
Greg smiled. “It’s a good haul.”
“Enough to ruin Whitman?”
“Hélène’s a smart cookie. Better than any pre-nup. We bury him, and his friends.”
“So,” Greg said. “Blackmail now?”
“What’s he doing here?” Jean nodded at Rob.
Rob aimed his best smile at the group. “I have an idea.”