My first novella, actually written over October and November 2008 didn't see the light of day until 2016. At the time of writing I was doing a course being taught by talented Donaghmore author Emma Heatherington and I had set myself the goal of writing a short novella over the duration of the course. Our task for the first week was to write a short story based on a set of shared parameters, mine became the first chapter of that novella, so I'm throwing it up here as I've been lazy about updating the blog lately.
Although listed on Amazon as the first book in the same series as Murder Incorporated and Murder Syndicated it is more appropriate to say that those novels are a spin-off from this novella rather than sequels. The full novella reached the top 5% in the Screencraft.org Short Story for Screen Competition in 2015 and the evaluation suggested an adaptation for television.
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01- The Art of Theft
"You stupid, stupid man!"
This is me, a transvestite and a criminal walking down the street in this Godforsaken town in the middle American Bible-belt, I'm cursing into my cell phone and drawing perhaps a little more attention than I should.
On the other end of the line is my partner and as you can probably tell I am not particularly happy with him. We had one simple job to do: snatch a case from an empty office building and pass it on, it was that easy. Then my genius partner calls into the bookies on his way to the Fence and manages to get himself robbed.
I can feel the cold darkness of the night closing in around me, the sickly yellow pall of the streetlights and the washed out blue of the full moon do nothing to hold back the trepidation of what lay ahead. Anxiety, fear, call it what you will for I knew full well how deep a hole we were now in.
* * *
Six long months ago we had shot west from New York, an immoral and malefic place that I now look back upon with fondness, but at that time the greater imperative had been to keep my life.
Gene, my partner, got word of a certain city councilman who had just received a rather generous contribution toward his mayoral campaign, a nice off-the-books donation from a waste company looking to keep the health inspectors away from it's Hudson annex. Understandably we thought it only fair that the citizens of New York, namely ourselves, should benefit from the redistribution of this wealth and so a little bit of careful planning saw Councilman Raphael a little lighter in the pocket.
It's truly amazing what you learn after it is too late for you to correct your mistakes. For example I came back to find that Gene had discovered that Thundercat Wastes (Hudson) Inc. is in fact a mob shell company. And more interestingly still he discovered that Councilman Raphael is second cousin to Nicky 'Irish Nick' Ravel, Underboss in the Manhattan Scargetti family.
I should have stuck to art theft.
That was then, this is the nearer now.
The mayor here is a crooked browbeater who likes to spend his evenings beating his favourite hooker before heading home to his family, the clergy have the usual collection of pederasts and the cops think that they are the Cosa Nostra.
It is as if this town is a sewer draining away all that was once good about the American Dream so all that are left are the deadbeats and drifters like brown scum staining the rim of the basin. The desolate, broken, and depressed of a hundred struggling farms seem to have found themselves washed up on this berg, hoping to drown their sorrows in cheap booze, or in the truly tragic cases the local river.
There could not be a more perfect place for us to lie low until things cooled off back east.
Believing that was my mistake, for you see Gene has two great weaknesses, one is girls, the other is gambling.
For years I have been telling him that there is no quicker way to lose money than fast women and slow horses, but he tends to interpret this as advice to go for larger women and horses with short names so they're lighter.
It all came to a head a week ago when Gene broke down in tears and confessed that he had not only blown his cut of the Raphael job but had run up debts of several hundred thousand dollars.
This was tragic, it was a disaster, and it was ultimately his own mess to which I fully intended to let him sort out on his own. That is until he appeared the next day looking like road kill with fashion. Someone had worked him over good, a professional beating that he would remember but still left him full use of his limbs.
That was when I got the whole story, the money he owed belonged to The Circus.
Don't let the cutesy name fool you, The Circus is the biggest collection of freaks, weirdoes, and sociopaths in this accursed town, and when they were beating seven shades of crap out of Gene he gave them the only thing he could. He gave them the cat burglar he was in town with.
I could have killed him right there. His debt was now my debt, and if I wanted out then I was going to have to do a little job for them.
I packed my bags, slipped out of my dress and into the most nondescript grey suit that I owned, I told Gene that I was getting hell out of this town before I wound up in a shallow grave behind some school playground.
I threw my bags in the trunk of my old Mustang, told Gene to get in his car and head for Calexico and then I drove off.
This was our long time emergency exit plan should we ever piss off the wrong people. Get to the small town of Calexico in southern California, cross the border into the Mexican side, Mexicali, and rendezvous in a small bar suitably named Los Banditos. I kept a security deposit box in a small bank in the town with a couple of forged Mexican passports and ten thousand Euro, by the time anyone found that I had crossed the border I would already be on my way to a quiet Greek island.
Two hundred yards down the road I noticed that I was nearly out of gas, though I felt quite certain I should have had at least half a tank.
I pulled into the nearest Chevron and filled her up, all the time thinking carefully about the possible consequences of my flight.
The Circus would be pissed, but they're small fry in the grand scheme of things. My real concern was that my occupation was now a known fact and it was only a matter of time before a few guys with suits and slicked back hair turned up from New York.
I was about to leave when I felt a bit of a thirst come upon me. The time was as good as any to pick up a few drinks for the road so I headed back toward the whitewashed block of the building.
The attendant was on the phone as I entered and stared intently in my direction, had I been rumbled?
"Hey buddy," he called, "there's a guy on the line wants to talk to the man in the grey suit."
Well, that clinched it, I was being followed.
I took the offered handset and placed it to my ear but did not say a word.
"We only put a hole in your gas tank this evening, next time we'll cut your brakes," a voice rasped, clearly the owner smoked far too much, "then we'll cut your throat.
"You owe us a lot of money, Mr Trillion," he continued, "I suggest you go to the alley behind The Sports Bar and pick up your friend. He has the details you'll need."
The line went dead with a click.
* * *
So here I am strolling down the street tonight, cursing into my cell phone and genuinely stuck for a way out of our current predicament.
It was two days before Gene could walk again and after all the trouble we had went through he then managed to botch the job at the last minute.
My stilettos clicked angrily on the pavement in a mirror of my current mood, a small group of people eyed me warily as I passed by.
Being a transvestite is actually the perfect disguise for this line of work if you have the nerve to carry it off, you draw so much attention to yourself that people never notice what you really are.
"Meet me at the park in twenty minutes, we'll figure something out."
"Okay," Gene replied on the other end of the line, "Trillion, I'm sorry, man."
"Don't worry about it," I said, my anger giving away to something clearer.
A sudden screech of brakes caused me to turn abruptly, "Oh shit!"
A rusted red Dodge had swung broadside to block off the street behind me. The man behind the wheel wore a sickly paint of dirty white with exaggerated features painted in black and orange and had a shock of orange hair. He pointed two fingers at me and dropped his thumb in a movement mimicking the hammer of a pistol.
The Clown, the biggest psychopath in The Circus and the only weapon I had on me was a derringer tucked into my garter belt, not the ideal weapon to bring to a gunfight.
I hung up the phone.
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