I gave myself four hours to give it a shot since I am working today. Ended up taking closer to six.
Figured a 1,000 words is a wide-open field to cavort around in.
After three re-writes I think I'm done. I'm not sure I hit the mark but I enjoyed writing it. IMHO, the final few paragraphs are weak, but I like the rest of it.
Sloan twisted the knife slowly once more and the old man twitched like he was stepping on a live wire. Mr. Black’s screams were muffled by duct tape and sounded far away. Tears dribbled down his rosy, wrinkled cheeks and fell like raindrops to join the widening pool of blood on the hardwood floor.
Sloan didn’t blame the guy for screaming. Nine inches of stainless steel jammed between the ulna and radius of the left arm didn’t tickle. The point of the blade was anchored firmly in the armrest of the geezer’s Adirondack chair; heavy oak wood, a deep cocoa finish and obviously handmade in the US of A.
The hitman felt a twinge of guilt at marring such lovely furniture. But it was the only piece in Black’s office sturdy enough to survive the older man’s agonized thrashing.
Sloan sat on the edge of a battered desk and stared directly at Black.
“So we’re clear, that’s $25,000 to Viktor by the end of the week. He prefers cash but PayPal is cool, too. Just nod.”
The businessman’s watery eyes never left the knife protruding from his arm, but he managed to nod.
“Great.” Sloan slipped off the perch and snatched his knife out of flesh. Mr. Black whimpered again. The killer grabbed Black’s pinstripe tie and cleaned off the blade with meticulous care. He then drew back his arm and the gleaming metal flashed. Black’s eyes grew wide with fear.
The razor sharp edge parted the nylon ropes holding down Black’s right arm like a train through fog.
“In case you’re thinking of calling the cops or anything dipshit like that, just don’t. A man of my temperament would have no problem killing you, your wife, your children and your retarded sister in Boca Raton. And before I forget, good luck with the new candy store. I know the kids around here are gonna love it.”
Sloan walked briskly through the crowded streets of Boston and ignored the press of the paper dolls sharing the sidewalk with him. He felt much better. The Beast was back in its cage and the burning sensation on his scalp was gone.
Life was good.
He paused and sent a simple text to Viktor.
Then he tossed the pre-paid cellphone to the street and smashed it to pieces under his heel. He slid the shards of black plastic into the sewer grate where the evidence vanished forever.
A paper person in the shape of a woman stared at him a few feet away. Sloan guessed the look on the two-dimensional face was surprise. Or maybe it was envy? He always had a difficult time figuring out what these things were feeling. Except fear.
That one was easy.
He checked his watch. There was just enough time to finish his last, and most important, errand of the day.
The Toys R Us store was busy.
Sloan loitered by the video game aisle and observed the paper people flitting about with ill-concealed contempt. Every day it seemed there were more and more of them. He used to wonder what had happened to all the real people. Where did they all go? But such thinking made his head hurt, his insides itch and provoked the Beast so he simply accepted it.
He did not have to wait long. An overweight, circle-shaped person waddled over, picked up a copy of “Batman: Arkham City” and tossed it into his basket before making the slow journey back to the checkout counter.
Sloan slipped through the aisles like a shark, acutely aware of the position of every security camera in the pace before vanishing, unrecorded, out the sliding exit doors into the cold January night.
He shadowed the huffing and puffing circle-man to a red 2009 Camry. The paper-person unlocked the vehicle and slid into the driver’s seat with considerable difficulty. Sloan’s entrance on the passenger side was much quicker. The overweight man stared at him with what might’ve been shock.
“Look straight ahead, don’t do anything stupid and I won’t shoot you.”
The circle-shaped figure obeyed the instructions and didn’t move a muscle – even when the tip of the meat thermometer pierced his right eardrum and exited through the left one. Circle-man’s head fell forward without a sound, resting against the steering wheel. Sloan preferred thermometers to icepicks as the radial temperature knob at the end fit more easily in the hand.
The killer stood statue still in front of a modest two-story brick colonial in Boston’s Bay Village neighborhood.
The front door burst open and a small figure dashed towards him. A real person, full of energy and life, threw himself up into Sloan’s open arms. The boy’s face was alive with love and joy.
“Daddy, you’re home!” Sloan hugged him back warmly, taking solace in the firmness of his son, his real-ness; not the crinkly sound of a straightened newspaper and sharp, cutting edges.
“Happy birthday, Rob. I have a surprise for you. Let’s go inside and see Mom.”
Anna was in the kitchen adding the final touches to Robert’s birthday cake. Sloan wrapped her in a hug and kissed the back of her head, inhaling the very real scent of cherries and honey.
“How was work?” she asked over her shoulder.
“Collections. Just as boring as the day before.”
He reached into his coat pocket and tossed the XBOX game to his son. Sloan watched the boy’s face light up with excitement.
“Yes! Batman. Thanks, Dad.”
“Michael Fitzpatrick Sloan, you’re going to spoil that boy rotten.” Anna’s voice was stern, but he noticed the subtle laughter and approval in her eyes.
After more than a decade of marriage the complexity and nuance of her expressions never failed to fascinate him. They were the only things real to him and he’d do anything to keep them safe and happy.