Ta-da! Today is the second Monday of April, which means today is the deadline for the Flash Fiction Draw challenge that Jeffrey Ricker drew a week ago. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can catch up here, but the short version is he uses a deck of cards to randomly select three variables (in this case, action/adventure as the genre, a restaurant kitchen as the setting, and… a stray sock?) and anyone who wants to take part has a week to come up with a thousand-word flash fiction piece. I’m a smidge over the word-count this time (only 80 words or so), but I wanted to post this sooner rather than later. Action/Adventure is so not my bag, but the husband and I have been watching lots of bad action movies lately (what can I say, lockdown?) and though it took a while to figure out a reason for a sock, I got there.
“Son of a bitch,” Travis said. “If he’s in there I’ll kill the bastard.”
“Just to be clear,” Randhawa said. “You plotting murder because he took your brother, or because he got in your pants?”
Travis didn’t reply. The answer should be ‘both,’ but mostly was he was furious with himself. His brother Wendall’s anxiety would be through the roof, and although that asshole Gray had taken time to grab Wendall’s meds, if half the things Agent Randhawa had said Gray was involved in were true, that son of a bitch was using his brother to hack his way to billions.
Also, the word “murder” made him flinch, which he hoped Randhawa didn’t notice.
Except, of course she did. “You’re not a murderer, Travis.”
Travis took a breath. “That why you came with me?”
“Oh, no, I just like the places you take me,” Randhawa said. Given they were crouched amongst garbage bags and broken-down cardboard behind a closed fast food restaurant, Travis snorted.
“How did you know?” Randhawa said.
“Wendall likes the burgers. And that Mazda out front? Gray picked me up on our first date in it.” Travis glanced at her. “He brought Wendall wool and a puzzle book. I thought it was thoughtful.”
“Grayson’s a professional. Manipulating people is what he does.” She paused. “You’re sure about the car?”
“License plate game. Wendall can’t knit in the car or do puzzles or codes. Gets sick when he looks down.” He swallowed. “I make words out of the letters, and he makes sevens. When Gray pulled up, I remember Wendall saying ‘four times two minus one’ and I said ‘Handsome.’ ADSM 421.” Travis turned to her. “Same grey Mazda. My brother might be in there right now, Randhawa.”
“We need back-up,” Randhawa said. “I’m good, but if he has more professionals with him, I’d rather not have to be.” She pulled out her phone, dialing and speaking quietly.
“They’re moving.” He tapped her shoulder. She muttered one more thing, then hung up. The shadows on the ceiling—barely visible through two high narrow windows on the back wall of the restaurant—slipped from view.
“If they’re leaving…” He shifted forward.
“We follow the car.”
Travis blew out a breath. “Okay. I just… hate this.” Was Gray even looking after his brother? This was Wendall’s favourite chain, which was something, but even if Gray knew his brother would be the most useful calm, would the people Gray was working with care?
God, why had he ever agreed to a first date?
“Listen.” Randhawa frowned. “Hear that?”
Across the distance between them and the rear of the restaurant, Travis heard voices. He couldn’t make out words, but the tone was clear. Anger.
What was happening in there?
A single gunshot and flash of light through the two small windows, and the cry that followed, had Travis up and dashing from the garbage before he could think. That scream was Wendall’s.
“Travis.” Randhawa was after him. “Stop it.” She grabbed his arm, just as he reached for the back door to the restaurant. She was strong. And quick.
“He’s in there!” Travis forced himself to match her whisper.
She tilted her head, glaring, her demand crystal clear.
He slid behind her. That he could fit was even more frustrating, and it wasn’t because Agent Randhawa was a large woman.
His traitorous memory repeated one of Gray’s many charming lines: You’re not short, you’re little-spoon perfect.
Randhawa tried the door, and when it gave the tiniest fraction, she gave him a second meaningful look. She was going in first, and he was to stay the hell out of the way. Or at least, that’s what he assumed she meant, pointing at him and then the spot to the left of the door.
He nodded, moving there, but having no intention of staying put.
She frowned at him.
He really needed a poker face.
Randhawa pulled the door open, ducking, gun out, and doing what looked to him to be a super-cool sweep thing just like the movies.
“Back door!” The voice wasn’t Gray or Wendall. Two bullets struck the door above Randhawa’s crouched head; she returned fire.
Someone different—again not Gray or Wendall—swore, loudly. “Goddamn it! Grab the kid!”
“No!” Wendall’s voice shook with fear.
“Wendall!” Travis yelled. He lunched forward, but Agent Randhawa dove at him. Travis tried to get past her, but she grabbed him bodily and threw him down as more shots fired out the back door. They both crouched, and she kept her gun trained on the door, which had swung most of the way closed despite the broken handle and unscrewed hinge at the top.
“Wendall!” he yelled again.
“Stay. The fuck. Here.” Agent Randhawa glared at him.
He nodded. No poker face required.
She went inside, crouching low.
He heard a car starting. “No!” He scrambled through the door, then skidded to a stop.
Gray’s crumpled body lay by the restaurant’s industrial sinks. The pool of blood around him wasn’t very big, but around hole in his chest, blood soaked his tight grey t-shirt.
“Fuck.” They’d killed Gray. What did that mean? What were these people going to do with his brother?
Randhawa came through the door to the kitchen, only pausing slightly when she saw him. “They didn’t take the Mazda. They must have had another car. Maybe they were meeting Gray here.”
Travis stared at the handsome face of the dead man who’d lied to him, manipulated his way into his home—and his bed—and kidnapped his brother. He couldn’t figure out how to feel.
“What’s that?” Agent Randhawa crossed the room and crouched.
She was pointing at a sock. Why was there a sock? Travis joined her.
“I know that wool.” Travis reached out, but she stopped him. “Don’t touch it.”
He stared. Definitely not Wendall’s best work, and Wendall could knit socks in his sleep. Slipped stitches left little gaps and… “Oh my God.”
“The stitches.” He turned to Agent Randhawa, tears in his eyes.
She shook her head. “What am I seeing?”
“Morse code,” Travis said. “He knitted us a message.”
Agent Randhawa pulled out her phone again, and nodded at him.
He picked up the sock, rotating it. It didn’t take long. He turned to Agent, who waited, eyebrows raised.
“It says 398 Warehouse East,” Travis said.
“Agent Randhawa,” Randhawa said, checking in. “We’ve got a location.”