Tag Archives: flash fiction

Flash Fiction: JACKSAW

So it’s time for another flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig! Instead of fitting a story to a random title, there were random elements given to write a story around this time. PLUS I got 2000 words to play with instead of 1000. I must warn you: this one is a little gory, a little gritty. Don’t yell at me for that! I can’t write happy stories all the time, it’s just…I don’t know…((BORING as FUCK)).

I had to include: a dirty cop, a celebrity, a nuclear wasteland, and stranded/left to die conflict.

JACKSAW

As it happens, the nightmare is real. I wake up in some shithole skeleton of a building and a dozen kinds of pain. I’d been dragged from my bed, burlap sacked, drugged, transported to God knows where, and tortured. But wasn’t there a girl, too? Oh yes, there she is. She’s so dirty now she’s damn near the same color as the concrete she’s propped against. She’s my only clue, this girl who almost assuredly doesn’t deserve what she got. Yeah, this is alllll about me.

It’s hotter than Satan’s balls in this shed, or whatever we’re in. If it was ever livable, it’s been years since, maybe decades. The windows and doors have been blown out and there’s rotten wood and other unidentifiable crap all over the dirt floor. I can’t hear anything, not even a breeze or a drip.

If I can just figure out what we have in common, I can get us out of here. Not that it has to be an us. I’m happy to just leave the bitch for dead, but she might be my ticket out of here. That’s how Sage operates: there’s always a trick. There’s always a way out if you’re smart enough.

Her left eye is purple and puffy, swollen shut. Her thousand-dollar blond weave has been torn halfway out and matted back onto her head with blood. She’s waking up, and when I see her unbashed-in side I recognize her—America’s Sweetheart—but that won’t help me. She’s looking at me with such contempt and derision, you’d think I was the one who tried to murder her. She’s scrappy, though, for a starlet—held her own against the Sage’s guy. Unbelievable as it is, I actually respect her a little. I smile at her scowl, not meaning the offense I know she takes.

“What’s so funny?” she sneers from across the room. Her hands, like mine, are tied behind her back. I’m working on the flimsy twine with a fingernail and a rock I found while she was still passed out. If Sage wanted us to die here, he sure as shit wouldn’t have used twine.

“Nothing’s funny, sweetheart,” I say, “but you can wipe the murder-look off your face. They hurt me as bad as they hurt you, and now we’re in this together.” It’s true. I’m pretty sure I’ve got at least three fractured ribs and, well, there’s the torture burns. Those are his favorites; Sage did them himself.

“You’re one of his guys! He told me so himself,” she spits, but her voice trails off. I can tell she’s the talk-first, think-second type.

“No, I was one of his guys. Not anymore. Why do you think he beat the shit outta me, too? Guess you don’t have to be smart to be a movie star,” I say, knowing I’m pissing her off. I can’t really help it; that kinda shit just comes out my mouth sometimes. Anyway, the twine is almost completely scratched to shreds behind my back.

“So you do know who I am,” she shrieks. God, her voice is just the worst. It’s the kind that crawls in your head and sends chills down your spine like pieces of Styrofoam rubbing together.

“Never said I didn’t,” I snap, and the twine snaps, too. I show the lady my wrists and flash her another grin.

She’s pissed. Rightfully so, I suppose. She tries to wriggle out her own wrists, but ends up screaming in pain instead.

“I suppose I’ll have to help you,” I tell her, and stand up slowly, pushing against the wall with my back for support. Dried blood flakes off my hands and gets crushed into the pocked cement, but helps my grip. “I suppose I’ll have to drag your happy ass all the way out of here.”

“Believe me, my ass is not happy,” she grumbles, but I barely hear it over my own screaming fucking pain as I try to get across the shed.

It seems at least three of my left toes are crushed. Funny how your brain will prioritize pain at a time like this. After the burns, the crowbar, and the steel-toed boots did their thing, crushed toes came out at the bottom of the pain list. Who knew? “Here,” I say when I finally get to her, “roll over and I’ll untie you.”

“I’m not tied up in string, buddy-boy,” she says, and rolls over to show me. She’s right. Her hands are in a zip-tie.

“Well, fuck,” I say, “I guess you’ll just have to walk all tied up. Can you walk?”

“I think so,” she grunts, “Help me up?”

“Help me up please,” I say. It’s hard to stop playing the bad cop, no matter how long I’ve been out of the game. Even when I was straight, I was always the bad cop. I’m intimidating even at parties and barbecues. Something about my face, I guess.

Anyway, she looks at me like I can’t be serious, but I am. She needs to know I’m in charge, even if she is a temporary ally. She sighs and says, “please?”

“Okay, kid,” I say and pull her up, even though she can’t be more than ten years younger than me. She’s not a tween star or anything like that, just a flash-in-the-pan starlet soon to be forgotten. Unless she has some sort of bizarre death, I guess.

Her left leg is weak and it takes a minute for her to find her feet, but besides the smashed part of her face she doesn’t look all that bad. “Alright,” I say, “now that we know we’re both in walking shape, let’s get the fuck out of here.” I lean fully on the wall and push myself to the doorway to scan for clues.

“Where are we, anyway?” she asks. “Somewhere in the desert?”

Obviously.

“In my professional opinion, we’re at the site of the Jalisco Bombing,” I answer.

“In Mexico?” she shrieks, and her voice is so irritating I want to rip out her vocal cords.

I wince and say, “yeah. In Mexico. Site of the failed fusion reactor. Nine hundred deaths. Hotbed for radioactivity. So we gotta go before you start growing tentacles or something, buttercup.”

“How?” she whines and I really am starting to wish I could knock her back to unconsciousness. It’s mostly because she is absolutely the last person I’d want to be stuck with when Sage finally came for me, but that shrill voice isn’t doing her any favors. I knew he would come one of these days, but I was hoping he’d do me the solid of letting me go it alone. After how I left? Stupid, wishful thinking. It’s always harder when you have baggage, let alone high-profile, deadweight baggage with a voice like a dying cat. I swear, they fix her voice for the movies.

“Well since there isn’t a limo outside, we’re going to have to walk, but keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary.  This is all a very elaborate, very bloody game, but he leaves clues. If we make it out of here, we win. If not, he wins, and he almost always wins.”

“A game?!? This is a fucking game?” she asks, but I only nod. I don’t have time to explain it to her. Like I said: elaborate.

I’m looking around the cement shed for some type of sign, but then I remember I’m talking to the first one.

“Say, did you ever get in trouble with the law, possibly financially? Tax evasion, embezzlement, you know, that sort of thing?”

Her good eye narrows at me and she says, “noooo. Why?”

“Because. When there’s someone innocent there’s always a connection to the person he’s trying to punish. I’m assuming you are innocent, and I was a corporate financial investigator for a while before I worked for Sage,” I say.

“Of course I’m innocent! Whoever did this is gonna—“

“What? Pay? Be sorry? No, he won’t. If we do make it out alive, you’ll never say a word, princess. He’ll guarantee that,” I chuckle, and stumble out of the shed into a filthy fucking wasteland.

“I’m not a princess,” she grumbles, and I can’t really refute it, given the way she fought back before they knocked her out. She follows me outside and helps me look on the walls. In the light I can see how green she is, which is no surprise. She gags and says, “did you ever—“

“Wait,” I say. I hear something. It’s a buzzing sound, low and constant. Something that would need electricity. “Come on,” I say and gesture with my head toward the noise. Within hearing distance there’s nothing but a bunch of decrepit, unusable furniture and three more blown-out sheds, which I guess are actually houses people died in; one is in the wrong direction so I only have two places to check. The rest of it’s a craphole desert where everything left is dead and angled away from the blast site. Yep, Jalisco.

We limp toward the next house, and it takes forever to even move ten feet. I tell you I’ve never hurt so bad in my life, the devil’s breath against strips of raw burns on my left side, evenly spaced rectangles of open, festering woundflesh caked with dirt. She’s not doing better. The wound on her head looks to be swelling, and either that or dehydration is making her sway back and forth stupidly as she walks.

I roll my eyes and go back to help her stand upright even though it kills my ribs. “What were you going to ask me?”

“Did…did you ever do any homicide investigations?” she says, just louder than a whisper, and then starts to nod off.

As a matter of fact, I did, and I shake her back awake to look in her eyes. “Yes. Why? Can you hear me? Were you involved in a case?” She nods, wincing in pain, but doesn’t say anything because she’s gagging again. I flip her over just in time for her to retch away from my face.

“My…my dad,” she manages to get out after the first round of dry heaves.

I pull her back close and start dragging her toward the buzzing sound. “Keep going,” I say.

“My brother,” she says, trying to make her feet useful—and failing.

“Well which was it? Your dad or your brother?” She starts heaving again, but I know nothing’s coming so I keep dragging her along.

“Both,” she says. “My brother killed my dad before I was born.” I think back over my career, straight and criminal phases, and I can’t remember working a case like that. Meanwhile, the first house is empty. I’m dragging her to the next one when she mumbles something like, “jacksaw.”

Now I remember. I was only in high school when it happened, but I remember the case because my partner wanted to reopen it when I was a rookie. Some nutjob kid had tied up his dad in a garage and tortured the guy until he died, then fled into obscurity. He was never found, but he carved jacksaw into a chunk of the guy’s beer gut and left it like a front doormat for the police. The buzzing’s getting louder, and I think I know what it is.

By the time we get to the last little house, the girl is unconscious again, and I drop her into the dirt outside the doorway. In the center of the one-roomer is a table with an array of knives and saws, including a hacksaw. Carved into one corner of the table are the words “you know what to do.”

I do. I walk over to the girl and pull up her shirt. In that purple surgeon’s ink there’s a dotted line in the shape of an oval, and inside it are dotted letters that spell out JACKSAW.

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Inagural Post: Flash Fiction Challenge

I’ve resisted short fiction for a long time. I told myself I don’t need it; I only have long, complicated novel ideas anyway and why force something I’ve no inspiration for? The fact is that when inspiration runs short for my long, complicated ideas, I need to get myself on another track to refresh my brain. Genius novelist/other things Chuck Wendig has a great site chock-full of jumpoffs. Let’s see if I can’t squeeze something out of one of his flash fiction challenges. The prompt I used is here and the random title I got is Lovestruck Palace, which sucks, but that’s sort of the point. The challenge is to basically get a random title and write a story that works for it. With no further ado, ladies and gents…

Lovestruck Palace

Jimmy “Fingers” Sartori smiled coyly at his companion as he rolled a silver dollar over the knuckles in his right hand. The fat old man across from him shifted his weight but kept a calm, expressionless face. “So what you’re telling me, Jack, is that you think my house is haunted? I got this right?”

“Something like that,” Jack Reed mumbled, looking around Jimmy’s garish office. He’d refused to meet at the home. “Not exactly haunted. Echanted.”

Jimmy Fingers took a sip of his martini and furrowed his brow. “What’s the difference?”

Haunted implies that spirits are inhabiting your home, willfully or otherwise. I think there’s been a spell placed on your property,” Jack answered, but he was distracted by the familiar décor. It was a replica of something, a movie set, maybe.

Jimmy Fingers smiled, revealing a golden molar. He thought he’d indulge the fat, sweaty mess across from him, but if he were being honest, he was disgusted. “What kind of a spell, Jack?” Why couldn’t people just take care of themselves? Especially men; it’s easier for men.

“A…uh, a love spell,” said the red-faced man, very aware of how ridiculous it sounded. But it was true.

“So what’s wrong with that?” Jimmy Fingers asked lightly. He particularly enjoyed this little song and dance; he didn’t get to do it often.

“I can’t tell you,” Jack said, looking around the office again. Everything was black trimmed in gold, from the walls to the furniture to the linens.

Jimmy Fingers stood and pivoted to look out the doorway behind his desk, fingering the rim of his glass. The greenbelt had just been watered, and the droplets on the grass sparkled in the moonlight. Obviously, Jimmy Fingers knew about his house. It was his job to protect it, keep it in the family.

Jack didn’t wasn’t playing anymore; he just stared silently at the man gazing wistfully out the door’s glass until he turned around again.

Jimmy Fingers smiled again and said, “okay, so you want to—what? Exorcise it or somethin? Unspell it?”

“Ah, no,” Jack said, refocusing. “That’s not exactly protocol. I want to find out who enchanted it, and when. A warlock’s magic can only be undone by his own bloodline.”

“Oh, so warlocks have a protocol, do they? Interesting,” Jimmy said, then casually threw back the rest of his martini.

Jack was fed up with Jimmy’s attitude. “Look, Mr. Sartori, I’m not here to waste your time. I just need to find out who lived here before you. I have reason to believe the county records have been tampered with and—“

Jimmy sighed and rolled his eyes, then popped the vodka-soaked olive into his mouth.  “Do you know who else follows a protocol, Mr. Reed?”

Jack looked at him impatiently. He could tell Jimmy Fingers needed to run the show. Needed to think he was running the show, anyway.

“The mafia follows a protocol; gangs follow a protocol,” Jimmy Fingers continued. “You owe loyalty to the family and if you betray the family, protocol is you die. Someone threatens the family, they die. Someone hurts the family, their family dies and then they die. Catch my drift?”

“No one is threatening any family, Mr. Sartori. I’m not going to hurt anybody, except maybe a witch or two. You’re not one, are you?”

“Of course not,” Jimmy Fingers said with a warm chuckle. He wasn’t going to start teasing the man about his claims. He was tired, and wanted to go home. “Are you a warlock?”

“No, I’m a witch hunter,” Jack said, which wasn’t exactly a lie. “We have protocols, too, and your house is well-known among us. We call it Lovestruck Palace.”

“Such a whimsical name. I like it, but I’m tired and it’s nearly dinnertime. I’m sorry, Mr. Reed, I’ve no information to give you. I’m not allowed to disclose the seller of my home. I suppose he must have known someone would come asking. It’s all in writing; I can email you a copy of the agreement if you’d like to show the uh, witch hunters’ guild, or whatever,” Jimmy Fingers sighed and began packing up his briefcase.

“That would be much appreciated,” Jack said with a big, fake smile. “At least then I can get my boss off my case, you know?”

“Sure, sure. Been there,” Jimmy Fingers said and pushed a button on his desk. “Marta, escort Mr. Reed to the door and call me a car, will you?”

“Yes, Mr. Sartori,” said a woman’s voice, and a few seconds later the office door opened to the young, attractive woman.

“Just one more question, on a personal note,” Jack said, gathering his jacket.

“Yes?”

“This office. I’ve seen it before somewhere.”

Jimmy Fingers smiled and nodded. “Scarface,” he said.

“That’s right. Very well done,” he said, keeping the bumbling, submissive smile on his face.

“Thank you. I’ve got your contact information. Have a good evening, Mr. Reed,” Jimmy Fingers said. He was in a hurry to get back to his palace; the women would be waiting, probably agonizing over his whereabouts. Owning the house was not just a privilege—it was a huge responsibility. Truth be told, he’d get rid of it if he could, trade it all for the love of one good woman, but like he told Jack: there’s a protocol to follow.

Jack hurried to his ten-year-old Camry and peeled away from the office as fast as he could. When he was far enough away, he called his boss.

“Yes?” the Grandmaster Warlock answered.

“Good news and bad news,” Jack said as his flabby, red skin evaporated, revealing a handsome, younger man with black hair and crystal blue eyes. He cracked his neck side to side and checked to make sure he was left with just the one, chiseled chin.

“Bad news first,” said the Grandmaster.

“Bad news is he knows. Good news is I got the bug in,” Jack answered, speeding back to headquarters.

“Well then, everything else will fall into place. Lovestruck Palace will be ours again, Jack. Never fear.”