Friday, January 04, 2008

Flash Fiction Interlude: The Telephone

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This one is for Susan, who just returned from a vacation at Yellowstone. This is a new story featuring one of her favorite characters from my book, My New-Found Land. Welcome home, Susan! Enjoy a little light reading!


“What do you think?”

The young woman stood up, a shock of white-blonde hair falling over one eye. “It seems to be a good cable. The problem is probably in the wall. Or maybe in the line running to the building.”

Vince slumped into a chair and rubbed the blue stripe on his face. “It would be so fucking pre to have a working telephone.”

“It's not like it doesn’t work at all.”

“Just not when I want it to.” He was about to say more, but a jangling from the refurbished analog phone made him jump. He lunged for the receiver. “Hello? No, you’ve got the wrong number, but can you—” He held the phone away from his ear and examined it in bewilderment. “Why do they keep hanging up on me?”

“Wrong number.”

“Come on, Three. They could at least tell me what they dialed so I’d know what my number is.”

“It would be nice.”

Vince grabbed Three's wrist and tried to pull her into his lap. “Well, since we’ve got a little time to kill before our gig with the Catorces. . .”

She pulled away. “It hasn’t even been a month.”

“I’m sure he wouldn’t have wanted you to never have fun again.”

“Maybe some other time.”

“Okay. I’ve got some calls to make, anyway.”

After Three scooted out of his office, Vince picked up the receiver but found the line dead. It didn’t really matter, since he didn’t know any of his contacts’ numbers, or even if they had phones, but it might’ve been fun to dial numbers at random and see what kind of people answered. He’d had such high hopes when he moved his gang into this abandoned warehouse and found the old non-electric phone plugged into the wall. In a world gone mad after decades of wars and resource scarcity, he was finally on top, one of the privileged. He had a telephone! Wasn’t it just his rotten luck it hardly ever worked?

He heard a tap on the door and looked up. Speedball stood there clenching his big hands, his eyes darting nervously. “Quix is here from the Catorces.”

“Well, don’t just stand there. Send him in.”

Speedball stomped away, grinding his teeth, and a few minutes later Quix appeared, dressed in black, with an oily fringe of red hair peeking from beneath his leather hat. Vince jumped up and shook his hand. “Quix, buddy! We’re gonna do some business tonight, right? Looks like you brought us some already, by the way Speedball’s acting.”

“Your man can’t keep out of the white stuff, that’s for sure.”

“Takes all kinds, mano. Have a seat.” Vince pulled a stained chair on rusted casters from a corner, then went behind his desk and fumbled with a mis-aligned drawer. “Whiskey?”

“Don’t mind if I do.”

Over good Kentucky bourbon, the young men settled into a discussion of logistics for the evening’s “gig,” a heist of pharmaceuticals from Chicago. “My boys north of town delayed the train as much as they could,” Quix said. “Unless an unaffiliated derails it, we should see it pull in around eleven, and they'll be shipping the goods to the east side warehouse no later than one.”

The phone rang, bursting in on their plotting. Vince tried to stay cool. “Excuse me. I’ve got a call to take.” He picked up the receiver. “Vince, here. No, not Brian. Look, can you tell me. . . dammit.” He threw down the receiver.

Quix stared in wide-eyed admiration. “What happened? Nice phone.”

“Yeah. Uh. . . line went dead. El Duque hasn’t done shit for city services, you know.”

“If he had, we’d be out of business.”

“Right. Now, as you were saying. . .”

They quickly wrapped up their plans and shook hands. “I appreciate you taking this gig,” Quix said. “If you ever think about selling that phone. . .”

“Not happening. Plastic pickers love these things. Top dollar on the black market when they work.”

After Quix had gone, Vince spent a few minutes making notes about the evening’s plans so he could have his thoughts in order when he held the strategy meeting. Then he turned his attention back to the telephone. He played with the buttons, especially the one the receiver rested on. He unplugged the cord from both wall and phone, reversed it, and plugged it in again. Same result. The line was dead, with only a faint hiss of static.

After about an hour, Three poked her head around the door. “We’re waiting on you, boss.”

Vince grunted in answer, still absorbed in the workings of the phone.

“No luck?”

He slammed it on the desk in disgust and the bell clanged faintly. “Only time the fucker works is when someone’s got a wrong number.”

“Well, it is free, you know. It’s not like you’re signed up with the city for any kind of service. We just found it here.”

“With the kind of crap services El Duque provides, he ain’t getting a nickel out of me.” Vince grabbed his notes. “Let’s go.”

“Pay’ll be good for this one, right?”

Vince wished Three would walk ahead of him. She looked deliciously fuckable in those leather pants. He would have to think of an assignment that would put her in them more often, but in the meantime. . . “Sounds like Quix laid the groundwork pretty good and all we have to do is collect.”

“Works for me.” They were entering the main room of the warehouse and now she moved in front of him, giving him a nice rear view before she found a place to sit on the rat-eaten sofa.

While she checked that her Glock was loaded and the safety set, Vince suppressed a sigh. Nothing like a pretty girl with a gun. He pulled his notes out of his pocket, called the group to order and began giving out assignments.

Unheard and unanswered, the phone on Vince’s desk rang and rang.


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I love the phone! What a great thing!

The outtake as a whole is great; I loved Vince, as you know. It's fun to see more of him in action -- more Vince! More!

But... don't let him conquer that phone!

Anonymous said...

Cool beans -- I like that! I like Vince, too. He's gritty! :)

MaoMao said...

That's a furry good story!

Anonymous said...

Vince is a very cool "bad boy!" *smile*

Purrs and snuggles from Marilyn!

Alice Audrey said...

It's a ghost phone! Eerie how it only works one way. Cool that it still garners admiration even when Vince doesn't hide it's malfunction.

Kwee Cats and Art said...

Ha-ha, this is fun! I like Vince. The whole story seems to carry a heavy setting, and "serious" or dangerous characters, but it comes across to me as light, easy, and just fun to read and really likable characters. Just great!
I DO love the phone! Very nicely done the way you used it to set so much of the scene and even time aspect. But made it so entertaining too.

Old Egg said...

If Vince ever gets the phone working let me have his number, he may be able to fix mine. This is an rib tickling mixture of banter and hard crime, with characters easy to visualize.