Indie Author Answers #49: Answering Reader Questions

Yo dog. On the show today, I talk about a piece of writing advice Dean Koontz once gave, and break it down. Break it down old school.

And now, TPV:

 

25: Alex

 

Alex hid behind a dumpster, his gun at the ready. He placed a hand on the cold, rusted metal to spy around the edge. He tried to spy fresh footprints in the snow, but the abundance of tracks confused the old from the new. He reconsidered his strategy. After checking his watch, he became aware of his limited window of time. The sun hung low, so if he intended to find his target, he must act fast. He took a calculated risk by emerging blind from the dumpster, but he had to take that chance.

Tick tock. Too much hangs in the balance; too much is at stake.

Anyone who saw him wielding the large, rifle-looking device with a bulbous tank at the top might think it strange, or might misunderstand, but he had to risk that as well.

Life is full of chances. No guts, no glory. Seize the day. Early bird gets the worm.

He crossed a parking lot to a section of footpaths that meandered through the trees, thinking that maybe Brian would be walking amongst them. In the area next to the lot, a young mother and her child were giving a snowman a carrot nose. He thrust the paintball marker behind his back, away from their prying eyes. The mother observed him. He smiled at her and moved past, trying not to draw attention to himself. A close call. A rookie mistake.

When he reached the trees, he hunkered down, careful with every step. One twig breaking or one loud step into a patch of crunchy snow, and it would be all over. Alex squinted, and then detected a hint of color through the brown trees, beyond the fence. Bingo. Brian was at the construction site: alone, undefended, vulnerable.

I should have guessed.

Brian sat on a large wooden electrical cable coil, staring at the ever-progressing half-building, the outside of which now wore a shiny Tyvek membrane.

Alex raised his weapon, and lined up Brian in his sights. “Got you dead-to-rights, chump,” he said before he exhaled and pumped the trigger.

The shots missed left, only by a little. They connected with the membraned building across from Brian, littering the surface with red circles. Brian scurried off the coil, looking thoroughly confused. He spun, trying to identify the source of the shot. Alex steadied himself again and pulled the trigger. Splat, dead on. The exploded paintball covered Brian’s chest in red paint.

“Boom! Right on target.” Alex hustled through the slush and over the fence towards Brian, still a bewildered tourist. He came up to Brian’s flank, and as Brian whipped around, he tripped, collapsing into the wet snow. Alex stopped a few feet short, closed one eye and raised his marker.

Brian tried to scoot backwards, turning his face away from the weapon. “Alex, no! What are you doing? You’re too close.”

Alex squeezed the trigger, shooting Brian in the stomach from five feet away.

Brian rolled onto his side and gripped his belly. “What the hell are you doing? That hurts. You can’t shoot an unarmed man with no mask at point-blank range. What if you had hit me in the face? You’d knock out my damn eye.”

“I did what I did for King and Country. I have no regrets,” Alex said, laughing. He snorted, forcing the last of the meth down the back of his nasal passages. He grimaced at the delectably bitter chemical taste. “Maybe we need to get you some Kevlar. Or some tampons, if that’s more your thing.”

Brian sat up, wincing. “Ahh, crap, that hurts. That was completely unnecessary. I hope you didn’t break any of my ribs.”

“Oh, dude, cry me a river. You’ll be fine. You’re just getting too slow, old man. You lost.”

“Lost? You ambushed me. I don’t even have my gun which means this wasn’t a fair fight.” He stood up, wiping his red paint-covered hands on his jeans. “Whatever, that’s enough. I just want to go home.”

“What are you always doing out here?”

Brian scowled, but answered the question anyway. “Just looking at the building.”

Alex surveyed the wooden frames, unfinished drywall, and construction wreckage strewn about. “What in the hell for?”

“Does it matter? I don’t want to talk about it. Will you please get out of my way so I can go back to the apartment?”

“Wait,” Alex said. He had to ask. “That chick…the one you said was coming over the other day, from your Ethics class?”

“What about her?”

“Did she come over?”

“Yeah,” Brian said, in a drawn-out, suspicious manner.

It wasn’t a hallucination. That really happened.

“Did you stick it in her?”

Brian studied Alex, still scowling. “So what if I did?”

Alex shut his eyes, feeling a headache begin to pulse at the back of his neck. The situation was as bad as he thought. “Is her name Megan?”

“How did you know that?” Brian said, his eyes as big as dinner plates.

Alex closed his eyes, momentarily unable to comprehend the sheer stupidity of his roommate’s actions. “You dumb son of a bitch. I can’t believe you. You fucked up big-time. Do you have any idea who you just had sex with?”

“What are you talking about? You know her?”

“Yeah, I do. That chick is married to Wiles’ brother.”

Brian took an involuntary step backwards. His hands trembled. “What, you mean Chris Wiles? That can’t be right. It’s not possible. She never said anything to me about being married. It can’t be.”

“Then this bitch played you, son. She lives with Wiles; they’re roommates. You would have known this if you ever came by Wiles’ house with me.”

Brian shook his head. “I had no idea. Married? How can that be possible? She’s younger than me!”

“Well, Chris is off in the Navy or something, so you don’t have to worry about him too much. But if Wiles finds out about this, well, that’s another story.”

“You… you aren’t going to tell him, are you?”

“Are you joking? You think I want to see you get shot?”

Brian thunked down in the snow, his breath coming in erratic gasps. “This can’t be happening,” he whispered.

“Of all women in Colorado, how in the hell did you pick her?”

“I met her at a laundromat.”

“Well, isn’t that cute? I hope it was worth it. You fucked up, son,” Alex said.

“She never even told me her last name,” Brian said, staring into the snow.

“Her last name is Wiles, you dumb shit. How in the fuck did you not know about her? How could you be so careless? Don’t you know Chris Wiles?”

“No, not really,” Brian said, struggling to catch his breath. “He was never around when I was with Derek. I mean, I met him once or twice, and I’m positive that he wasn’t married then. I never saw him wear a ring, and Derek never said anything about it. He hardly ever talked about his brother. Wiles and I just talk business, never personal stuff anymore. How was I supposed to know?”

Alex bared his teeth. “Because you know all those people in that whole fucking crew. Are you blind and deaf? Or do you just have a death wish?”

“I don’t really talk to any of those people. Wiles always met me places to deliver weed, and he told me he lived with Chris.”

“Chris moved out a long time ago, dude. Where the fuck have you been?” Alex said.

“How was I supposed to know who his roommate was? If I’d known she was married… if I’d known she was married to Chris. I’m not friends with those guys. I didn’t know.”

“What do you mean you’re not friends with them? I know you’ve been around Wiles. He told me that you’re selling meth for him,” Alex said, the jealous tone bubbling up to the surface. “Why the fuck are you selling meth for him? That’s my gig. How long were you going to do this and not tell me about it?”

“I made a deal with Wiles. We don’t hang out or anything.”

“What kind of deal?” Alex said.

“Is that really important right now? If Wiles had told me his brother was married to Megan, I wouldn’t have slept with her.” Brian leaned forward on his knees, like a beggar. A pitiful sight. “Please Alex, you gotta help me.”

“What do you expect me to do? I’m not going to say anything to Wiles, if that’s what you’re worried about. But you need to watch yourself. You’ve dug yourself in a pile of shit deep enough already here. He’ll probably find out no matter what. You done fucked up big-time, son.”

“Stop saying that!” Brian was a wreck, but he had created all of this chaos through his own actions. Alex turned back toward the apartments and left Brian on his knees, shuddering in the snow.

 

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