Sunday, September 09, 2012

Flash Fiction Interlude: Revolutions Begin at Home

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story was written for Sunday Scribblings and features Vince Mott, a character from Diana's Diary, which is part of my Will and Diana series. You can read more stories about Vince and his gang by following the tag at the bottom of the post.

"That's a stupid plan. We should just kill him."

Vince kept his voice calm. "We can't go killing everyone who annoys us, Speedball. You know that."

"We'd have a lot less enemies." Speedball reflexively reached a hand toward the blade at his hip. "Everyone would be afraid of us."

Did Vince want to rehash that tired old argument? They were just a small gang in a city overrun with them since the Resource Wars. Stealth, not force, was the way to stay alive. He was marshaling his arguments when a crisp knock caught his attention. The door opened, and without meaning to, Vince smiled. Three was a new addition to their group and as easy on the eyes as she was good with a gun.

"Gotta talk to you boss." She strode into the room and pulled up a rickety chair. "I ran into a couple Catorces out there. They said to tell you Quix is on his way to talk to you about some kind of plot."

Without waiting for Vince to respond, Speedball grinned. "We're in. Who are we going to kill?"

Three gave him a withering look. "What are you high on today, Speedy? You haven't even heard the details."

"If we're destroying something, I'm for it. And don't call me Speedy, bitch."

"Don't call me bitch, asshole."

"That's enough." Vince glared at Speedball, then turned his attention to Three. "What else did the Catorces say?"

She gave a little shrug that shifted her cleavage in a way Vince would've liked to have seen more of. "They didn't want to talk in public. You never know who's an informer, but they hinted it was some kind of gang alliance to bring El Duque down."

Speedball nodded in satisfaction. "We'll blow the bastard up next time he goes to that bakery he likes. Then we'll take over the city. It'll be a revolution!"

"If we kill El Duque, who will be in charge?" Three demanded.

"We don't need leaders. Every man for himself."

"Of course we need leaders, otherwise it'll be chaos."

"What's wrong with chaos? Are you too weak to handle it?"

"What's wrong with decent leadership? Are you too weak in the head to understand it?"

"Stop that, both of you," Vince said. "If you two have something to work out, do it elsewhere."

Three stood up. With a little sneer at Speedball, she announced that she wouldn't dream of fighting someone who was mentally impaired.

Vince watched her flounce out of the room and suppressed a sigh of disappointment.

"Quit staring at her ass, boss."

"What? Get out of here." Vince shooed Speedball away. "Next time I see you, be ready to talk sense, or you're out."

Alone, Vince reached in the drawer of his rusty office desk and took out a bottle of scotch that he had pilfered from a recent warehouse heist. Speedball needed to do something about his drug habit and in the meantime, Three was going to have to quit goading him. Those weren't the least of his worries either, and now one of his best allies was on his way over to entice him to join a revolution?

Vince took a sip of stolen single malt and sighed. Clearly a revolution was needed, but the place to begin was here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Flash Fiction Interlude: Commitment

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This Three Word Wednesday story is a prequel to my other Vince Mott stories. Here we meet him as a teenager, about to make a decision that will shape his life in interesting ways, although not in the way his parents would've hoped. You can read more about Vince by following the tag at the bottom of the post or by reading the January posts of Diana's Diary.

Vince ambled down the hospital corridor, trying to act like this was a perfectly normal place for a guy hang out. A pretty nurse caught his eye, but he didn't stop to chat her up. He was seventeen and she was at least thirty-five, but his real reason for not pursuing her lay in the room at the end of the hall.

Outside the door he brushed street dust off his jeans and straightened his jacket. He shook his hair out of his eyes and went inside. The sound of wheezing filled the room and a man plucked with bony fingers at a threadbare cotton blanket. Vince approached the bed. "Hey, Dad."

The man's eyelids fluttered and he reached out a trembling hand.

Vince wondered how this man who had fought the Chinese in the Resource Wars and survived the grueling winter of the Alberta Campaign could've gone downhill so quickly. "Sorry I'm late. I stayed after school to get a little extra help from my teacher."

The older man's lips twitched in a faint smile. "Don't lie."

Vince pulled up a chair and sat down. Even near death, his old man couldn't be fooled. Vince hadn't been to school in years, although he had an affair with a pretty teacher last spring.

"You'll stay out of trouble when I'm gone."

It wasn't a question.

"You don't want your mother to judge you from Heaven."

To avoid having to speak, Vince pulled a ring out of a pocket and toyed with it, wondering how much Cabezón at the pawn shop would give him for it.

"And Sara..."

Vince snapped his head up.

"You'll take care of her. You're all she has now."

"Of course I'll take care of her. I do already." Vince wondered if he should mention what he had done to the freak who had grabbed Sara's ass on a crowded street two days ago. No one disrespected Vince's little sister and got away with it.

The man coughed. "I mean money," he said, as if reading Vince's thoughts. "She's not like you; she has ambition. She should go to college."

Vince sat back, startled. Where was he supposed to get money to send Sara to college? Although he was a decent gambler, it would be years if not decades before he had the skill of a real pro. His thieving was only slightly better. He glanced at the cheap ring he had stolen. He'd be lucky if Cabezón didn't insist on giving him federal dollars for this thing. Vince would have to up his game considerably before he could consider sending his sister to college.

"Promise me." The old man fumbled for his hand.

Vince shoved the stolen ring in his pocket. He had always been lucky, so maybe this was the incentive he needed to aim for higher stakes. "I'll send her to college," he promised. "Sara will have everything she needs."

His father nodded, reassured.

Later that night as he left the hospital, Vince pondered the enormity of what he had promised. He would love and cherish Sara, of course. That he would protect her from the thugs and assholes of the world was a given. But college? He stopped under a defunct streetlight and gazed up at the sliver of night moon hanging over the city.

After a few minutes he dug in his pocket and took out the ring. It was too late to see what Cabezón would give him for it, but perhaps he could trade it for a drink at Las Cariñosas and watch the pretty girls instead. He could forget for a little while that his mother was dead, his father dying, and he had taken on the biggest commitment of his life. For the next couple of hours, at least, he could pretend nothing had changed.

With an air of satisfaction, he headed down the street.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Flash Fiction Interlude: Normal Annoyances

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story was written for Sunday Scribblings and features Vince Mott, a character from Diana's Diary, which is part of my Will and Diana series. You can read more about Vince by following the tag at the bottom of the post.

Vince paid the bar tab and motioned to the pretty girl on the stool beside him. "Come on, I know where we can go."

As he led her outside, he tried to remember what she said her name was - Lori, Lauren, Lorelei? It hardly mattered. She was one of the prettiest girls he had ever seen at Chico's Bar, although that wasn't saying much. Too bad she had such expensive taste in liquor and lived with her mother. Having paid her bill, Vince now couldn't afford to take her to a hotel. Her home, of course, was out of the question.

"Where are we going?" Laura asked.

"A place I know. Don't worry - it's safe and we won't be bothered."

Vince and his gang were currently squatting in an old warehouse, but as their leader, Vince had a private office which he also used as sleeping quarters. He nodded at the guard as they entered the run-down building. "Things been quiet tonight?"

The correct answer, of course, was "yes" but Xerox was a newcomer to Vince's shady operations and didn't pick up on the obvious clues. "Speedball is missing, boss."

"So what's new?" Vince tried to steer Lori toward his office.

"Ozone says there's something wrong with the radio, and Peru has been throwing up for the last half hour."

Vince shrugged. "Keep up the good work."

As they made their way to the office, Lorelei whispered, "Shouldn't you do something?"

"About what?" He opened the door to his office, ushered her inside and closed it behind them. "It's always something with them. They'll figure it out."

She appeared skeptical, but accepted Vince's kisses. He backed her against his desk and was fumbling with the buttons on her shirt when there was a knock at the door.

"Go away!"

"I need to talk to you."

"Tell me in the morning, Gitana."

Silence, then more knocking. "It's important!"

With a sigh of frustration, Vince went to the door. "What?"

Gitana brushed her dark curls out of her eyes and gave him a doe-eyed look. "Um..."


"I thought you should know Peru is sick." She tried to glance around him at the girl sitting on the desk.

"I already know, thanks." He made to shut the door.


"Enough. Go away." Vince slammed the door and turned around. "Sorry about that."

"Hey, if you have other commitments..."

Vince cupped Lauren's chin in his hand. "Nothing is more important than you."

Nothing, it seemed, except the urgent knock on the door two minutes later.

"What now?"

Ozone answered through the door. "Speedball's back. He's cut up pretty bad."

"Send for my sister. She'll bandage him up."

"There's no one to send. Gitana was pissed about something and left."

"You go, then. Do I have to think of everything?"

In the silence that followed, Vince turned back to Laurie. "If it wasn't for me, these guys wouldn't be able to figure out how to drink water."

She nodded and finished unbuttoning her blouse herself. "Seems like a big job."

"Not as big as what I've got for you, baby." He gestured toward the mattress on the floor. "Let's get a little more comfortable."

He had almost gotten Laurel undressed and was enjoying the fluttering of her fingers as she fumbled to undo his belt when there came another knock at the door.

"Goddamn it." He raised himself on one elbow. "Unless the building is on fire, go away!"

"Quix is here, boss." It was Fausto. "He says he knows it's kind of last minute, but one of his partners is a no-show and he needs a couple guys, fast, to help close a deal tonight."

Vince met Lorena's eyes.

"You have to take this one, don't you?" she asked.

He nodded in resignation, stood up and began straightening his clothes. "Send him back here."

A few minutes later Lorinda was neatly dressed and sitting in one of Vince's chairs. Vince was in his patched leather executive's chair, tapping impatiently on the desk. He got up and extended a hand when Quix walked in, but didn't offer his usual boisterous greetings.

Quix darted a glance at the girl, then sat down. "I hope I'm not ruining your evening, but I need a couple guys I can count on and I know how you're always ready to make a buck."

"Yeah." Vince covered for his annoyance by taking a bottle of whiskey out of a desk drawer and pouring them each a glass.

Quix accepted the whiskey and took a sip. "Anything the matter, man? You seem a little off."

Vince shot back his whiskey and poured another glass. He could refuse this deal, of course, but it wasn't wise to turn down an opportunity to do a favor for a fellow gang leader. Besides, the way this night was going it didn't look like he going to get very far with Loretta, if that was even her name. "Nothing's wrong other than the usual, friend. Just another normal night around this place."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Flash Fiction Interlude: New Year's Resolution

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This Three Word Wednesday story features Vince Mott, a character from Diana's Diary, which is part of my Will and Diana series. You can read more about Vince by following the tag at the bottom of the post.

Fausto fiddled with the radio antenna, but all anyone could hear was a faint voice overlaid with the crackle of static.

"Give it up, man." Peru leaned back against the duffel bag he was using as a cushion and reached for his beer.

"It's supposed to be an important broadcast," Fausto reminded him.

Ozone reached for his own beer - a new brand out of Chicago they had stolen in a recent train robbery. He took a sip and winced at the taste. "Me and Gitana will go to the plaza later and get the transcripts."

"Like hell I will," Gitana shouted from the other side of the room where she was playing with a dirty black kitten and pretending to ignore them.

The men looked at each other and rolled their eyes. Gitana didn't do anything she didn't want to unless their gang leader Vince specifically asked her to.

Ozone picked at the label on his beer bottle. "So since we can't listen to the radio, let's share New Year's Resolutions."

Peru frowned in confusion.

"It's a custom from before the resource wars," Ozone reminded him. "You're supposed to think of what you'll do different in the new year."

With a snicker, Peru glanced at Gitana. "I resolve to get rid of that damn cat next time Beauty Queen isn't looking."

"I heard that!"

"I've got allergies," he reminded her.

She shrugged in unconcern. "Vince said I could keep it, so bitch at him if you've got a problem with it."

Ozone, ever the peacekeeper, tried to defuse the situation. "What's your resolution, Gitana?"

"Her resolution is to finally get Vince in bed," Fausto muttered. He took another sip of his beer.

If Gitana heard his remark, she gave no sign.

"Okay, then. What's yours?" Ozone set his bottle aside, too disgusted with the Chicago beer to drink any more.

Fausto turned back to the radio. "To get this thing to work."

Ozone threw up his hands. "New Year's is supposed to be a time of new beginnings, self-improvement and things like that, not fixing radios." At the sight of Speedball returning from guard duty, he called out to him. "Got a New Year's resolution yet?"

Speedball sneered. "Same as every year: demolish our enemies and stay drunk or high as much as I can."

Ozone shook his head. "We're supposed to be seeking personal transformation, not staying in the same old rut."

"What's your resolution, then?"

Caught off guard, Ozone stammered for an answer, but before he could think of something, Vince came out of his office, saw Ozone sitting near the radio and frowned. "What do you think you're doing?"

"He's thinking up a New Year's resolution," Peru said.

Vince raised an eyebrow. "How about you resolve to do a better job remembering when you're on guard duty?"

With a start, Ozone jumped to his feet and fumbled for his weapons. The others chuckled, but from across the room, Gitana gave Vince a soulful look and asked what his New Year's resolution was.

Seeing all eyes upon him, Vince grinned. "If I had a resolution, you bunch of sorry bastards are the last ones I'd ever tell."

His gang members watched him disappear into his office, then gave each other knowing nods. "He's got one," Fausto said.

"Something big, I bet," Peru added.

"I hope it involves drugs and money," Speedball muttered.

Gitana looked away. Everyone knew what she hoped Vince would do different in the new year.

"I wonder if he's resolved to—" Ozone began, but the others cut him off.

"You heard the man," Fausto reminded him. "You're on guard duty."

With a small sigh of frustration, Ozone headed toward the vestibule at the back of the warehouse. If their leader had any big plans for the new year, they would learn them as they happened. Come to think of it, wasn't that always the way? People could talk all they wanted, but it was what they did day-to-day that really mattered.

Ozone took his spot by the rusted steel door and settled in to wait. "Happy New Year to us all," he muttered.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Flash Fiction Interlude: Bad Trip

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This Three Word Wednesday story features Vince Mott, a character from Diana's Diary, which is part of my Will and Diana series. You can read more about Vince by following the tag at the bottom of the post.

It started with shouting, but Vince was used to the members of his gang getting into arguments. He ignored it and returned to his inventory. Gitana would want the jewelry; that much was a given, but its value so exceeded that of the other goods they had stolen that he couldn't gratify her wish without annoying everyone else. Besides, Peru might like those gold earrings for his girlfriend...

He looked up at the sound of booming and crashing against the warehouse wall. "What the hell?" He went to the door of his office, nearly running into Ozone who was bursting with news.

"It's Speedball. He got into the stash, and that white powder wasn't what we thought it was."

"Damn him." Vince was as annoyed with Speedball for stealing as he was with himself for leaving the cache from their recent heist in range of an addict. "Where is he now?"

The sharp report of a gun offered a clue. They ran into the warehouse and found Speedball in a corner, screaming and shooting the walls.

"He's not hurting anything," Ozone pointed out. "Might want to just let him have at it."

Vince assessed. It was true that whatever Speedball was on would wear off in time, if his energy for destruction didn't flag from sheer exhaustion first. Nevertheless, it wasn't good to appear passive in front of his team. He had to get Speedball under control. He hurried back to his office and got something from a rusty desk drawer. Then he returned to the scene of destruction and waved away his curious gang members. "Go away, for your own safety. I'll let you know when things are under control."

The men looked at each other doubtfully, but obeyed.

"What do you think he's going to do?" Fausto asked.

"Who cares?" Peru said. "They're both crazy."

Ozone cast a worried glance into the depths of the warehouse, where Speedball was still screaming about something. "I'm sure he has a plan."

Twenty minutes later, Vince walked toward them out of the depths of the warehouse. "All clear. Leave him where he is and go about your business."

Fausto shook his head. "But what did you...?"

Vince gave a wicked grin. "I waited until he was out of ammo."


He held up an empty syringe. "Helps to have a sister who's a nurse."

While the men chuckled and headed back into the warehouse, Vince went toward his office. There was more than one reason he was the leader of this gang.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Flash Fiction Interlude: Thieves and Politicians

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story was written for Sunday Scribblings and features Vince Mott, a character from Diana's Diary, which is part of my Will and Diana series. You can read more about Vince by following the tag at the bottom of the post.

Vince sat at the battered metal desk in the office of the abandoned warehouse he and his gang called home. He frowned at the numbers on the piece of paper in front of him and tried to re-do his calculations. He was pretty sure Big Jim from the Sabados had shorted him on their recent handoff of stolen pharmaceuticals, but he couldn't prove it.

Something wasn't adding up, and he was beginning to get a headache. It wasn't the smoke from the guttering kerosene lamp that was making his head pound, and it wasn't his hangover or the numbers themselves. What was grating on his nerves and making him clench his teeth in frustration was the low hum of a squabble somewhere in the warehouse. It was common for arguments to break out among his group of misfits, but this had been going on for nearly an hour.

With a scrape of rusted castors on the concrete floor, Vince pushed back his chair and stood up. What did it take for a guy to get a little peace and quiet around this place? He went into the area his team used as living quarters, where he found his idealistic lieutenant Ozone under verbal attack.

"You're delusional," Peru was telling him.

"We're not buying into your twisted fantasy," Fausto added.

"What the hell is going on?" Vince said.

Ozone turned to him but it was soulful spitfire Gitana who spoke. "This idiot thinks we should vote in today's election."

Vince looked at Ozone in curiosity. "Is that what all the yelling has been about?"

"They won't listen," Ozone explained. "They think voting does no good."

"They're right," Vince said with a shrug. "El Duque has this town all locked up. The elections are just a cover."

"It's rigged," Fausto agreed, coming to stand by Gitana. "A waste of our time."

"It's not a waste of time." Ozone appealed to Vince. "Even if El Duque's men throw away all our ballots, we're at least sending a message."

Vince raised his eyebrows. "What kind of message? He already knows he's a thieving bastard. Voting for someone else won't do any good."

Ozone sputtered. "But— if we don't vote for someone else, El Duque will think we want him and his goons in power. Or that we don't care, you know? We have to let him know how we feel. That's what democracy is all about."

Gitana gave a derisive snort. "Democracy? You think this is the old days or something? You think we're still part of the United States?"

"The United States isn't a democracy either any more," Peru reminded her.

"Right." Gitana turned back to Ozone. "There's no such thing as a democracy, except in the history books, so quit pestering us about it."

Before Ozone could say anything, Vince held up a hand for silence. "She's right," he said. "We're only a democracy on paper and you've got no business harassing anyone about it." At Ozone's crestfallen look he added, "But you're right about one thing - if you vote, you're at least taking a stand." He looked each member of the group in turn. "Vote or don't vote, makes no difference to me. But if you don't vote, don't complain about who gets elected, got it?"

After getting everyone's nodded agreement that this was reasonable, Vince told them to keep things quiet and went back to his office. A few minutes later, Ozone poked his head in.

"Thanks for sticking up for me, boss."

Vince looked up from where he was still trying to figure out how he had been shorted. "I don't know if I'd call it that."

"You got them to quit arguing with me."

"I did that because you guys were bugging the shit out of me."

"Well, thanks anyway." Ozone paused, then asked, "So are you going to go vote?"

"Hell, no. They're all dishonest bastards. Even if we got another guy in the mayor's seat, he'd be no better." He bent back over his columns of numbers and now he saw the problem. With a pleased little grin, he calculated how much Big Jim owed him. He shook his head as he listened to the clop of Ozone's boots walking away. Poor guy was a good fighter, but too optimistic. Vince knew there were enough thieves in this world, himself included, without voting for any more of them.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Flash Fiction Interlude: Limited Operations

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story was written for Sunday Scribblings. It's also part of the Will and Diana series, which you can find out more about in the sidebar or by following the tags. This particular story takes place around the time Will and Diana first started with Unitas, when they were in their early teens.

The journey had taken longer than they expected. Although the map was good and they were familiar with the terrain from last spring's campaigns, Will and Diana found the roads washed out and a bridge collapsed from recent storms. Their horses were hardy and patient, but that patience didn't extend to the teenage messengers. When they came within sight of town, Diana urged her mare to a trot with Will close behind.

Since it was evening, they bypassed the clinic and went straight to the doctor's house where Will banged an urgent staccato on the door.

A white-haired gentleman opened the door and frowned. "Can I help you?"

"Are you Dr. Eldridge?" At his nod, Will handed him an envelope. "Message from Commander Harley Mayes with Unitas."

"You have to come with us right away," Diana blurted.

The doctor looked at her over the tops of his glasses before turning his attention to the letter. "I'm afraid what you're asking is impossible."

Will and Diana glanced at each other. They were new to running messages for a military unit and had no idea if this sort of response was unusual or should even be allowed.

The old man appeared to read their minds. "For one thing, I'm not part of your military operation, although I support you. Second, I'm the only doctor this town's got." He waved a hand for emphasis. "I have a typhoid case on the other side of Main, and a young woman up the street is due to have her first child any day now."

"But this is appendicitis," Diana said. "Francisco has to have a doctor."

"He has to have a surgeon," Dr. Eldridge corrected her. He folded the letter and put it back in its envelope. "I haven't done an appendectomy in years and even if I did that kind of operation every day, I wouldn't want to do it under field conditions."

Will reached a stealthy hand toward his gun, but the doctor had sharp eyes.

"That won't do you any good, son." He sighed and handed back the letter. "Even if I went with you, it's not likely your man would make it. The danger of complication and infection is too great."

"Isn't there anything we can do?" Diana asked in exasperation. "Is there another doctor we can ask?"

"No one close, I'm afraid." Dr. Eldridge gazed at her and his features softened. "How about you bring your patient here and I'll see what I can do."

"He's in pain, he has a fever, and he's throwing up," Will said. "He can't get here. That's why we came to get you."

"And I can't go with you. I'm sorry."

Before they could question the man further, he shut the door, leaving Will and Diana staring at each other on the front porch.

"We can't go back without any help at all," Diana said.

"I have a good mind to kidnap him."

"Think that would help?"

"No telling." Will shoved the letter in a pocket. "Let's think about this."

Diana followed him to where their horses were tethered to a wind-blown apple tree. "We'll have to think fast," she said. "Francisco was pretty bad off when we left. No telling how he's doing now."

"Might even be dead," Will pointed out.

"That's no reason not to try."

While they pondered, the wind picked up and their horses shook their heads with impatience.

"We'll go to the next town," Will finally said.

"Think it'll do any good?"

He shrugged and swung himself into the saddle. "I don't want anyone saying we didn't do everything we could."

Diana agreed and mounted her horse. As they rode into the growing darkness, the wind blew dust across the road and low clouds scudded across the deepening blue of the sky. It wasn't likely they would reach the next town and convince a doctor to come with them in time to save their comrade, but at least they were making every effort. One could do no more than that.