To celebrate the release of my latest urban science fiction novel, Redeemer, I will share an episodic short story based on the book for the next three posts. Don’t worry, there aren’t any spoilers – the story is an alternate timeline, told from the point of view of our hero’s younger, wilder, vengeful self.
So, grab a cup of chai tea, or your favorite brew, sit back and enjoy part one of Redeemer: Glitch!
REDEEMER: Glitch Part 1
Glitch: A minor malfunction, mishap, or technical problem; a snag
The din of raucous laughter echoed throughout the private dining room of Sayles’ Lobster Bar. “Sweet” Danny Sweet had just told one of his anecdotes, which were always entertaining and, usually, quite funny.
Sweet’s charisma and “favorite uncle” demeanor was in stark contrast to his brutality; his ruthlessness. Those same qualities made him one of the most powerful record industry moguls in the world and the most powerful criminal in the Southeastern United States.
Z loved Sweet. When his father was brutally murdered, it was Sweet who stepped in to give him and his mother support; it was Sweet who found the man responsible for his father’s death; and it was Sweet who gave him the opportunity – and the will – to kill that man.
Next to Sweet sat the giant, “Nigerian Norm” – the man responsible for Sweet’s safety and for Z’s training. Norm, too, was a man of contrasts – massively muscled; brutish; a master of murder, mayhem and pain. But he was also a graduate of the prestigious Oxford Law school, well-traveled, fluent in five languages and one of the most formidable attorneys on the planet.
Norm was Z’s instructor in the ways of death and, in that role, as all the others he played, he had done exceptionally well. At fifteen years of age, Z was already an experienced and respected assassin-for-hire and was determined to one day be the absolute best.
Z thrust his fork into a mound of spaghetti gamberetto and then twirled it, wrapping the platinum utensil in a cocoon of pasta and shrimp. He shoved the pasta into his mouth, savoring the spicy-sweet flavor.
The smell of stale cigarettes and coffee assaulted Z’s nostrils. “McGraw,” he whispered.
Homicide Detective Terry McGraw sauntered into the dining room. His thick, brown fingers fumbled with the buttons of his tweed blazer as he approached the dining table. Behind him shuffled a stout, fireplug of a man, his plump belly jiggling with each step.
“McGraw, what’s the good word?” Sweet inquired.
“I’ve got good news, Sweet,” McGraw replied, reaching across the table to shake Sweet’s hand.
“Good,” Sweet said. His eyes shifted to the clammy-skinned, beer-bellied man beside McGraw and then back to the detective. “Who’s the J? And why is he at my table?”
“He witnessed the robbery-homicide at Frankie’s spot,” McGraw answered. “His name’s…”
“Chuck Alexander Etheridge,” the fireplug of a man said, extending his plump fingers toward Sweet. “But, everyone calls me ‘Shakespeare’.”
“Okay. Have a seat McGraw,” Sweet said, ignoring Shakespeare’s hand. “…Spear-Chucker.”
The corners of Shakespeare’s mouth curled into a weak smile. “That’s Shake…”
“Hey, Norm,” McGraw said, nodding toward the giant.
Hey, John Hop,” Norm said, leaning forward in his chair. “You had best brought some good Brad Pitt for this Buster Keaton.”
McGraw shook his head. “Damn, I’ve known you for, what? Eleven…twelve years? And I still can’t understand a friggin’ word when you talk that Cockney shit.”
“Well, if you cleaned the wax outta your sighs and had any eighteen in your loaf, understandin’ me would be lemon squeezy,” Norm said.
“It’s British Ebonics,” Sweet snickered. “You catch on after a while.”
Sweet turned his gaze toward Shakespeare. “So, what you got for me, Shake-n-Bake?”
“It’s…ahem…well, I was at Frankie’s spot when it happened,” Shakespeare replied. “It must have been around eleven, because I arrived at my regularly appointed time of ten-fifteen and had already taken my nightly dosage of opiate.”
“Opiate?” Sweet cut his eyes toward Detective McGraw.
“H,” McGraw answered.
“Oh,” Sweet said. “Go on, Salt-Shaker.”
Shakespeare leapt from the table and paced the floor. He hung his head and closed his eyes. “Frankie and his henchmen did not stand a chance. Their guns meant nothing in the face of that creature of wind and shadow.
“And why are you alive to tell the tale?” Z asked.
“He left all of the patrons alive,” Shakespeare answered.
“And just what did this bloke look like?” Norm inquired.
“He was tall, but not nearly as tall as you, or Detective McGraw,” Shakespeare replied. “He was, perhaps, five-eleven, or six feet. He was athletically built, with short, well-groomed hair and his skin was a smooth caramel…”
“Damn,” McGraw shouted, interrupting him. “Did you get the motherfucker’s phone number?”
“Absolutely not,” Shakespeare said, turning up his nose. “I am…
“You thinkin’ a sit-down?” Norm asked.
“Definitely,” Sweet replied.
Sweet raised his glass of cognac and extended it toward Shakespeare. “Good work, Shakespeare!”
A broad smile spread across Shakespeare’s face.
Sweet withdrew a money clip from the inner pocket of his sharkskin suit coat and thrust two crisp hundred dollar bills toward Shakespeare. “Here; there’s a lot more in it for you if your information leads to us catching this bastard. Now, order yourself some food; it’s on me.”
Sweet held up a golden brown french fry. “Hey, Norm, tell Shakespeare what you call these in England.”
“Chips,” Norm said.
“Freakin’ chips! Can you believe that?” Sweet asked. “A chip is a thinly sliced, flat piece of potato. Comes in different flavors, like plain – that’s my favorite – barbecue
; salt and vinegar – we call ‘em ‘salt and sour’ back home ; hot ; dill pickle – I don’t like them shits, though – anyway, that’s a friggin’ chip!”
Sweet snickered as he shook his head. “You English are some weird motherfuckers!”
“First of all, I’m Nigerian,” Norm began.
Sweet rolled his eyes. “Here we go…”
“Second of all, no brother would ever call himself ‘English’, he’d say he’s ‘British’, and third…”
“Hold that thought,” Sweet said, interrupting Norm. “I gotta take a piss.”
“You’re already takin’ the piss, aren’t ya’?” Norm replied.
“See…weird!” Sweet said.
Shakespeare smiled wider.
Sweet rose from his chair. Norm followed suit.
Sweet wiped the corners of his mouth with his napkin. “What?”
“I want in on the sit-down, in case the Carvers get froggy,” Z replied.
“What the hell do you think me and Norm are gonna be doing there, little nigga?” Norm spat. “Playing with our dicks? It don’t get no better than me and Norm having Sweet’s back.”
“The Carvers have some tight security and I hear that the twins are pretty dangerous themselves,” Z said. “You can use my help.”
“You’re fifteen, Z,” McGraw sighed. “Leave this shit to the big boys.”
McGraw turned his gaze toward Sweet. “Little nigga kills two or three motherfuckers and thinks he’s Dirty Harry, or some shit!”
Z pointed toward the silver police detective badge, encased in leather, hanging from McGraw’s neck. “Without that badge and gun, you’re just a really tall asshole who fights like a sissy with bad feet.”
Norm slapped the table with his fingertips. Plates rattled as silverware tap-danced against them. “Ezekiel…enough!”
“Yes, Sensei,” Z said, lowering his gaze.
“Bloody hell,” Norm shouted. “McGraw is your elder, Z. Apologize!”
“Yes, Sensei.” Z turned toward McGraw and pressed his palms together with his hands before his chest as if he was about to pray. “Detective McGraw, I apologize. I was wrong.”
McGraw smiled warmly. “It’s okay, Z. I accept your…”
“You are a really tall asshole who fights like a sissy,” Z said, cutting McGraw off. “But you don’t have bad feet.”
The room erupted in laughter.
McGraw thrust his middle finger toward Z.
“That’s better,” Norm said. “Gotta show the geezers their respect.”
“Y’all motherfuckers are crazy!” Sweet chuckled. “Look Z, this game’s political. If someone your age attends a sit-down, it’ll be taken as disrespect. I know your father – God rest his soul – gave you a soldier’s heart and Norm is teaching you to kill like a pro, but you gotta be patient.”
“The Carver Twins hired Greg Blake to merc my dad,” Zeke sighed.
“And they’ll pay for that,” Sweet said. “Just like Greg Blake did. You’ll have your revenge, little man; we just gotta be smart about it.”
“Yes, sir,” Z said.
Sweet pulled the brim of his homburg over his right eyebrow. “That’s my boy! Be right back, fellas; nature calls.”
Join us in a few days as we continue our thrilling tale with Redeemer: Glitch, Part 2!
And, as always, your feedback is welcome and encouraged.