Open TableMature

This was my A-level c'work and I hoped it was ok.
Basically a short crime fiction based around an American ex-cop, a story of redemption and catharsis for him.

The rain lashed down, tearing at his face, streaming down his cheeks to pool in the hollow of his neck. He quickened his pace. Tightened his jacket collar. Still the rain beat its endless drumming onto his down-turned head. He knew the trip was most likely to be in vain; chances are he’d die anyway but he’d always been a believer, something that ultimately was going to be the death of him he thought with grim resignation. Fifty years patrolling the sidewalks of Los Angeles drives a man to gambling all too easily.

 Now as he stamped stubbornly for the last time up 43rd street he looked back on the years of booze, women and cards. He’d had fun sure, but what was it all worth really? Ah well no point worrying ‘bout it now eh? He knew Cross would be there. Cross never missed his meetings. Least of all this one. Cross the enforcer, Cross the collector, Cross the Reaper. He had resigned himself to this weeks before, he knew to have played with the big boys was always going to attract the sharks and now the biggest of all was circling and had tasted his blood.

 He knew, as certainly that he had money to pay back, that he couldn’t afford to do so. This was why it had come to this. One final stand off, either way he lost but he could still save Janet. He knew above all things, this was the one last ‘good’ thing he could do in this life. He kept this firmly in his head as he neared the abandoned boatyard on 45th. Hah! First sharks, now boats, ironic really with what he had in mind.

 He was there. The sliding doors creaked open with many years of neglect and decay. Strangely he had no fear anymore; what would happen would happen. Period. Simple as. Or so he told himself. His damaged eyes scanned the dim hall, searching for Cross or his cronies. ‘Cross!’ he bellowed with fake courage.

‘Cross I’m here! You wanted me? Well here I am yeah! I’ve got the money, right here. Just you come on down with Janet and we’ll all go back to bed yeah?’ he sensed the desperation in his voice at the last sentence. For almost a full minute there was nothing. Then, in the far corner of the hall distinctive footsteps made a clear, resonating beat down the iron catwalk. Cross’s bald head gleamed in the shallow light. In one hand was Janet. In the other, a 9mm automatic Glock, pressed tight against her young blonde locks. Pride swelled in his chest when he saw she wasn’t crying. She had always been a stubborn little devil, just like her old man he thought with wry cynicism.

 ‘Glad you made it Porter!’ enthused Cross. His mock cheerfulness always ground on Porter’s nerves. Ever since high school he’d wanted to cave that smug face in but now it was Cross that held all the cards. ‘A rather apt metaphor really ain’t it?’ he thought.

‘Hand over the girl and I’ll give you the money Cross, let’s not play games yeah?’

‘No time for games Porter? Unlike you I must say! But never mind, if you insist’ Cross reluctantly descended the rest of the steps to Porter’s level. ‘Come on then, money out, the full whack?’

‘I’ve got all I owe you, don’t you worry. The girl goes first Cross.’

‘Hmm tell you what, I’ll let her go but if she moves from my side before I get the money... I blow her brains out. Agreed?’ he said after a pause.

‘OK whatever, lets do it’ he accepted, clutching the case with sweaty hands.

 Here it comes he thought. Make or break. Double or quits. Either way he died but there was still chance for his daughter. He still had no idea how Cross had got her, had he no limits? He had to risk it now, no other choice. Ironic that chance had ruined his life and now it was lying in the balance once again. He fingered the latch to the case in one hand. The other crept to his waistband, drawing out his last ‘ace in the hole’, his wildcard as it were.

 Porter took deep breaths. In, out, just like his physio had told him. ‘Ever since that bastard Cross had torched my house my lungs felt like they were filled with cotton, each breath a personal battle’ he often remarked. His eyes had been badly damaged as well. ‘Dysfunctional retina clearance’ they’d said. Cross said ‘A friendly reminder’. That was right before he took Janet. How had he done it? John had been in the living room, flicking the channels and when he slouched upstairs to bed, she’d gone. Simple as.

 Two months later, here I am. Tip toeing through an old boatyard, waiting for a mobster to show himself. How the hell had it come to this? This happens in stories! Not real life! Try as I might I couldn’t quite believe this. This was real. It was happening and it was my fault. So now I had to put it right. I fingered the bomb in my waistband.

 Cross was still talking. God how he liked to talk! If I were him I’d have six bullets in me by now, the money in one arm and the girl under the other. But then that’s easy for me to say. What was he saying? I couldn’t hear above the pounding rain on the wooden roof. My vision was swaying. It does that. From time to time; moments of stress usually. I focus on Cross. A scar to the left of his eye. Focus on that. Something fixed. Still he droned on! His words seemed to follow the beat of the rain. Almost melodically. I half smiled.

  Just then a wave of nauseating pain racked through my abdomen. Another side effect of the fire. God how it hurt! I tried not to let Janet see just how much but Cross saw. He notices everything. It’s his job I suppose. The flicker of pain was obviously discernable, perhaps he saw the tremor of my insides as the pain swept through. It wouldn’t surprise me, this man.

 ‘You all right there John?’ he said, a mocking smirk spreading across his sharp face.

‘Fine’ I said. ‘God no, I’m dying here you sonofabitch!’ I thought. ‘Let’s get it over with huh?’ I wheeze.

‘As you wish,’ that damn smirk. ‘On three?’

‘3’ Sweaty fingers gripped the case tight.   

‘2’ Eyes blink back the pain.

‘1’ the rain isn’t letting up I realise. Not doing my garden any good I thought, then scolded myself for such irrelevant thoughts. Odd how the mind jumps when facing death.

‘Go.’ Four things happened simultaneously. Cross released Janet with a savage twist. I threw the case up, high above our heads. Another rack of pain wrenched through me, tensing my muscles it hurt so much. And I released the bomb.

In my distressed state, it flew way wide of Cross, nestling by the dried out fish nets and rotting wood of cargo boxes.

‘RUN! JANET GET OUT!’ I yell through the pain. Bewildered, she turned, began sprinting for the door. Through all this Cross has watched the case filled with his money. Now, his eyes swung down and the gun swung up to level at Janet’s fleeing back. Calling on all my years of S.W.A.T training I flew at Cross, knocking him to the fish-blood stained floor. The bomb went off.

 Blinding light and a shockwave like nothing else filled the hall. My eyes flashed then shut down. The bomb had finished the job Cross’s fire had started months before. Now all was black. ‘I’m blind’ I thought with mild interest. I could feel the heat of the fire scorching my face. ‘That’d be the nets and boxes on fire’ I thought. ‘In fact, the whole damn place is made of wood ain’t it?’ I could feel Cross’ fists beating down on my head, quite like the rain had just half an hour before.

 Strangely I felt no pain now but I could feel my grasp on Cross slipping. ‘Oh how easy it would be to just let go! Drift off and die right now!’ Then what about Janet? She hadn’t made it out yet and Cross was no doubt intent on killing her before she released her story to the press. Blindly, I reached out, grabbed a hold off his shirt and pulled, with all the damn strength I had left.

I heard a shot fire out. No idea where it went. Bear hugging Cross to my chest, I could only hope Janet wasn’t hit. An elbow smashed my skull. Sight. Something had clicked back into place. I could see! And oh what a beautiful sight! Janet’s coat tails disappeared through the doors. She was out. My last gamble had paid off. Ironic really.

 So it was, with the knowledge of his daughter free, John Porter smiled; still holding the struggling Cross down, even as the rotting timber of the boatyard roof fell in. Years of decay and the recent bomb blast brought the roof caving in on the smoke streaked pair, entwined in each other’s arms like lovers. But John smiled. Happy knowing he’d gone a hero.

 The rain still lashed down, soothing smouldering embers.         

The End

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