“B and B and B”

This is an entry for the weekly Trifecta Writing Challenge. This week, the challenge is to include the word ‘grasp’ used in the sense to comprehend.

It’s not a stand alone story, it’s a further revelation in my ongoing story about Leopold Haman. So, it isn’t very exciting on it’s own. But for those who have read the other instalments it’s a little clarification as to what on earth is going on.

Enjoy either way.

——–

The sign above the door read, “BBQ, BEER & BOSOMS.” It was exactly the sort of place Leopold despised. He hated himself a little for being there, but he needed information and there was no-one better than Giggs for getting that.  Unfortunately, this was exactly the sort of place Giggs loved.

Leopold strode through the front door with the confidence of a man who knew he was being hunted; that is to say very little. Hunched in a feeble effort to hide his face, he walked quickly and avoided eye contact. Leopold’s trademark overcoat gave him away. Once they saw that, every man in the bar knew exactly who’d condescended to their level.

“Giggs, my good man.” Leopold  whispered, still trying to conceal his presence. His whisper simply disappeared into the melting pot of sounds that bubbled through the room. “Giggs, sir, I wish to benefit from your unique talents.”

“Well, well, well, Mr. Haman. Lord of the manor, knight of the round table, professor of all the world. I wonder what on earth you could be doing in the B&B&B?” Giggs was fond of Leopold really; but it was in his nature to have a bit of fun when the opportunity arose.

“You know very well why I’m here, a man of your abilities. Don’t let’s drag this out…” Leopold, still whispered, but spoke such that he was certain he’d be understood.

Giggs’ eyes narrowed, “You’ve not begun to grasp the situation you’re in have you Leo? You’re up to your neck. You’re past you’re neck. You’re neck disappeared long ago!”

Leopold was getting impatient. “Whose following me and why!? … If you don’t mind.”

“It’s the boss, Leo. Turns out you do your job a little too well. You killed his son protecting that politician and now he’s offering a pretty penny for your scalp.” 

Leopold, for the first time in nearly 20 years, was flustered. He grabbed Giggs by the collar, “I suggest we discuss this further outside.” 

“Drive”

The tinny sound of ricocheting bullets rang loud in Leopold’s ears. It was hard for him to tell just how close the shots were from the sound alone but the small puffs of lime plaster exploding off the walls one foot away from his and his assets heads showed he didn’t have a lot of wiggle room. Leopold wrapped his arm tightly around the neck of the man he was protecting and drew him tightly into his own chest.

“Stay down. This will all be over momentarily.” Leopold’s speech was calm and even. 

In one fluid motion he sent his asset sprawling to the floor, pushing himself up off his shoulder. He carried his upward momentum into a half spin and presented himself, face to face, with the would be assassins. In the blink of an eye he fired off two rounds from the hand gun he’d produced from the holster concealed beneath his coat.

He was only visible for a split second. His turn had taken him from the protection of the thick oak bar to the safety of a large supporting pillar. He waited. Perhaps 3 or 4 seconds. He slowly slid his gun away before coolly grabbing his asset by the scruff of the neck and hoisting him off the ground.

“Quickly. I’ve yet to determine whether those gentlemen are the first wave or the full extent of the attempt on your life.”

As Leopold led the quaking man towards the back of the building, his asset craned his neck to snatch a glance at the effects of his handlers shots. The two men who moments earlier had burst into the abandoned bar now lay motionless, like a pair of marble statues. Their faces were obscured by the dark red blood that flowed liberally from the gaping wounds in the middle of their foreheads.

“My man will have heard the commotion. We’ll find a carriage ready and waiting just through here. This way please.”

It was a little odd that Leopold would say ‘please’ to someone he was treating so severely. But Leopold knew his place and he knew his job. He’d been hired to protect this man and in a situation such as they found themselves in that meant taking the bull by the horns. Yet he was still in this man’s employment. The employment of a rich, no doubt important man, so he was sure to remember his manners, as he tended to no matter how important an individual was.

Leopold kicked out at the door in front of them, he was in too much of a hurry to even try the handle. His heavy boot sent wood splintering in all directions and the afternoon light came flooding in. The contrast, gloomy darkness into a spring afternoon, made it difficult to see what was in the alley before them.  Sure enough there stood a plain carriage, drawn by a solitary horse, driven by a smart though obviously poor man.

Leopold tossed his asset across the bench at the rear of the carriage.

“Feel free to lie down and rest sir.” Once again his politeness was in stark opposition to the roughness with which he was handling the man.

Gripping the side of the carriage Leopold readied himself for a quick get away. “Drive.”

Who Are You?

Leopold opened his eyes. It was the sort of coming to that happened in stages. At first the light stung his eyes as if he’d been asleep for some time. He raised a hand to shield them and felt a pain in his shoulder. Next, the light brought with it information about where he was waking up.

The walls were decorated unlike the room he’d been occupying. Yet Madam Prie sat watching by his bed. He surmised he’d been moved to her private quarters.

“How long?” He grunted.  It was his fashion to show women more courtesy but the concoction of shoulder pain, splitting headache and confusion as to unfolding events was taking its toll.

“Couple hours.” Came the gentle reply. “Let me tell you a lot’s gone on.”

“Where am I?” Leopold thought it prudent to double-check and assess his safety.

“Honey, you’re safe, don’t worry. I got you held up in my private suite and before you ask don’t nobody know you’re here. I told them boys that came looking for your body that you ran off with your tail ‘tween your legs.

Clearly Madam Prie was as streetwise as Leopold and he trusted her assessment.

“It was that bellboy, Shankly, he must have talked. No-one knew I was here!” His voice betrayed that he was clutching at straws.

“That’s mighty weak Mr.Haman. I knew you were here didn’t I? So too did all the guests down in the bar when you checked in. Throw in a couple of snoopers on the street when you arrived and you got a heap of people who knew exactly where you were.”

She was right of course and Leopold knew it, “Smart lady.” He thought.

“What I’m more interested in is exactly who it is who brought a hole in the wall to my hotel?”

It was a reasonable question to ask and Leopold didn’t know where to start. He just lay his head back and braced himself for an awkward conversation.

***

It’s been a while. I’ve swapped writing for DIY in the summer Sun. But as you might expect in Wales the sun was short lived. So with the rain comes more writing and with that writing comes a few more instalments of a guy I’d missed, Leopold Haman.

Perfume

Dust was settling on his head. The scratching sound had changed into a booming sound and now a ringing sound in his ears. Leopold twisted his head around to assess the damage done. As his neck turned it sent spasms through his upper body. He could see right through the hole left in the wall. A huge space the size of 5 men standing side by side. Through it just another empty room.

“Who tipped them off?” He breathlessly asked himself. “That bell boy has some questions to answer. I don’t tip that well in order to be found!”

Gently he placed his palms on the ground and tried to lift himself. His shoulders quaked and he fell heap like on the floor. Through the ringing he could hear quick footsteps in the hallway. Judging by their percussiveness it was the hotels owner, Madam Prie, coming to see what had happened.

She burst suddenly into the room, half expecting to find her guest blown into a thousand pieces, half expecting to expose Leopold as teh culprit  She wasn’t expecting to find the strong, deliberate, calm man who had checked in yesterday morning lying bedraggled on the floor; blood seeping from a gash in his forehead.

Leopold hated others seeing him so vulnerable, least of all a woman as beautiful as Madam Prie, he was embarrassed. Yet he’d trained himself never to blush, he wasn’t going to show her any colour.

“Mr. Haman!? Are you all right?” Her soft, southern accent soothed the ringing in his ears.

“I’m afraid my dear that I’m quite how you see me to be. Struck down by the force of that blast and unable to right myself.” He tried once again to lift his medium-sized frame from the floor. He couldn’t.

Madam Prie stepped over to his side and lay her hand on his chest, “Take it easy sir, help is on its way.” He believed her. He allowed her perfume to send him silently into unconsciousness.

*Sigh*

Carriage in the dark woodsLeopold sat alone in the dark, stark carriage. His body shivered from the biting cold as the potholes and rocks strewn across the road sent judders through the entire vehicle. He glanced out of the open window.

“Why do they build roads through such foreboding woods?” He thought idly to himself. “The trees call, ‘danger’ to any and all who venture in. It’s almost as if those who build these roads are in cahoots with the highway men.”

The steady pace of the carriage abruptly changed. From comfortable canter to a jarring stop in the blink of an eye.

A crash.

Leopold craned his head through the window to ascertain what was happening. All he saw was the body of his driver slumped on the leaf strewn ground beside the bedraggled carriage. Slowly Leopold took his position back in the centre of the bench seat and sighed.

“I should have listened to the trees; now I’m being robbed.”

Leopold didn’t like being robbed because he didn’t like where it was destined to lead. He straightened out his over-jacket and waited for the inevitable intrusion into his carriage.

“Ya money or yer life!” Came the snarled threat accompanied by a slender blade protruding through the window.

“What an odd request. I hardly imagine that if I offer you my life that you’d leave my money with my corpse. Excuse me for saying but you don’t seem a very reputable chap.”

There was a short, confused silence before an identical threat was made, “I said ya money or yer life!”

“My dear sir, what makes you think I have sufficient funds to guarantee my own life or indeed the life of anyone else? I have no great riches in my life, least of all about my present person. The only thing of value I posses is my man servant who I am now quite sure is dead.” None of this was a bluff. Leopold’s nature was to be as direct and truthful as possible in such situations.

“Stop ya messin’ with me ya pompous windbag and fetch yer wallet out before I run you through like yer mate over there.”

Leopold sighed once more. His hand reaching gently for the door of his carriage, coming to rest a mere inch from the threatening blade. He gave a small push and the door swung open. The thief took a step backward. As Leopold alighted his carriage he grasped inside his under-jacket and produced a tired old brown wallet. Confused, the thief simply stood motionless, his jaws ajar.

Leopold decided to rain the contents of his wallet in the thief’s face; it was mainly coins.

What followed was a series of expertly delivered blows and strikes that left the thief collapsed, gasping for air and motioning for clemency on the heavily trodden floor. Leopold gathered himself and once again straightened out his over-jacket.

“As I informed you, my personal wealth at present amounts to little more than a few coppers. Not nearly the value of a life like mine.”
Taking the thief’s blade he ran it through his own wallet before skewering it through the thief’s hand and into the ground. “People with sufficient wealth normally pay people such as me, with sufficient skills, to protect them from people such as you.”

Leopold leapt up to the drivers seat of the carriage and continued his journey, leaving the thief with his poultry ransom and a scare he wouldn’t soon forget.

Boom

From little acorns do mighty oaks grow. That was an adage that Leopold knew all too well. On numerous occasions he’d been in taverns and bars and witnessed seemingly innocuous disagreements alchemy into all out mass brawls. But he was a cool head. Often surrounded by such chaos part of his skill was to not be enveloped by it. Leopold had long ago lost the ability to flinch.

Flaking paint textureThen he heard it. A small, insignificant scratching sound. Repeating in beats of three.

*Tink* *Tink* *Tink*

He turned his head to face the wall he thought the sound was coming from and he felt the corse fibres of his uncomfortable scarf pull at his three-day old stubble.

“What on earth is that?” He thought. “It’s too percussive to be a mouse gnawing at the skirting board; couldn’t be tap dripping either.”

When Leopold had rented the room he’d expressly asked that the two rooms either side remain unoccupied for the duration of his stay. Slowly he rose from the chair which furnished the otherwise bare space and silently made his way towards the wall.

*Tink* *Tink* *Tink*

“What ever is it!?”

Leopold pressed his ear against the flaking paintwork and listened. The noise stopped. All that remained was his breathing and the slamming of a door out on the landing.

“Flint!” Suddenly he realised what the sound had been; two flint stones crashing together in the hope of igniting a spark. Leopold instantly understood that they’d found him yet again. He also understood that as he stood there with cheek resting against the partition wall that a short powder fuse was burning its way towards a makeshift bomb. He surmised that he hadn’t the time to supposed so instead he readied himself. Sat down and braced for the blunt force that was about to strike him.

How things often escalate! A disagreement in a bar; or even a small scratching sound, ‘tink, tink, tink.’

*Boom*

- Image courtesy oDietmar Down Under -

Bump

Preamble: The following short story was written as part of the Trifecta Writing Challenge. Dan, the main character  is the protagonist in a super hero novel I’m writing called, “The Specials.” In it he develops his ability of seeing the future and together with friends takes on a criminal mastermind, €A$Y. Enjoy :)

***

Bumper Car

Dan was rushing. If he had any chance of seeing her today he had to make the bus. “Why is the future so dark, so cold?” He wondered.

Bump

Dan was no longer moving in the right direction to catch his bus. Instead he was spinning round, drowning in a cascade of papers as he recoiled from clashing shoulders with a stranger heading in the opposite direction.

It was in many senses a lucky bump. Instantly Dan saw a whole set of different futures unfurl in his mind. Where before all he could see was darkness, this lucky bump was beginning to shine a brighter light on things. Before the bump he’d been destined to catch the 9:43 bus at the end of the road; but the bump and subsequent tidying of strewn papers from the floor meant that he was sure to miss it and so miss the impending explosion.

Of course Dan would have foreseen the explosion from his favourite seat near the back of the lower deck and would no doubt done something to stop it or at least raised the alarm and rallied innocent victims off the bus. Now, while he stood leaning against the cold metal frame of the shelter he heard the distant boom of the bus exploding into flames.

€A$Y had struck again. This time closer to Dan’s home, his family and loved ones than ever before.

The bump was lucky for him, but luck is really just a relative term.

***

Image from Digiray CC by 2.0

Borrowed Time

Time was running out. Hell, I didn’t even know how much I had to begin with. I was sure by now my hourglass was empty.

It’s funny how we’re content to let time tick by, hour by hour, day by day. We’re careful with money, which comes and goes, but our precious time we treat far too loosely.

Now my time was gone, my hourglass empty. I was on borrowed time and just waiting for someone to come collect.

Another car drove by and I twitched at the curtains again. Not this time.

If I knew what it would cost I never would have gotten in so deep. But that’s how some people make a living and how some people end up dead, we forget to count the cost.

I heard the car door slam, and immediately looked at the clock. My time had come.

I heard the ponderous footsteps on the asphalt. I heard the condescendingly polite knock at the door.

Time’s up.

The Life You Haven’t Lived

Claire tentatively walked through her professor’s office door.

“Take a seat.” The old man spoke coldly.

His office was as cold as his words. Devoid of life. It was the office of a man who’d lost touch with the outside world, the struggles that constantly bite and snarl. Inside he was safe in his academia, outside ‘real life’ was constantly on the attack.

“Sir, if I…” She was cut off.

“Young lady I must say that in recent months I’ve been very disappointed by your contributions. Mediocre essays, rushing in an out of class; I’ve yet to receive a single submission for extra credit! Do you not care about bettering your own mind?” His question was little more than a statement.

“I couldn’t care less,” thought Claire, “If I cared about me at all I wouldn’t be here, trying to juggle university and the relentless demands of raising two children all alone. All I care about is bettering a future for them.”

She said nothing. Why waste breath on a man who’d clearly never experienced the hardships life throws at you? She simply sat and stared at her hands, folded gently in her lap.

“I thought as much,” the professor continued, “In which case I shan’t require anymore of your efforts. We are obviously here for two very different reasons. You’ll receive a B- but you needn’t bother with any further assessment.”

Claire sat speechless.

“Learn what you’re here to learn but don’t sacrifice family in the pursuit of knowledge. Ideas and thoughts disappear the moment you’re gone. I wish I were as courageous as you.”

The professor’s gaze lay squarely on a photograph on his desk. Claire saw a much younger professor, a woman and a boy. The professor’s eyes were different, full of the joy that accompanies surviving life with loved ones. Those young eyes flickered now in the old. In a breath they were gone.

The professor gestured toward the open door.

“That’s one less thing to juggle.” Claire smiled.

A Professor's Office, 1876