I think I’m nuts.
I mean, I know I am. Or maybe just a tad ADHD? Either way, I’ve got all of these stories bouncing around in my head and some of them just SCREAM to be released. Others just repeat on a loop until I either use it somewhere or find a way to burn it out of my grey matter. Like a lot of writers, I have more ideas than I have time to actually write them. I could probably fill a library if I could write them as fast as I think them up.
Some ideas, I start…then lose interest. They’ll sit on my hard drive and wait…sometimes patiently, sometimes not so patiently. Hence the Hunter trilogy. That was an idea that refused to go away until I started it. Then it took on a life of it’s own and went a completely different direction than I intended. The three people who read it really seem to have enjoyed it.
Some of those ideas are just scenes and they sit around and eventually get used in one of my series stories or sometimes I can figure out a neat little ending and make it a short. One of my favorites is Gangsters. That idea bounced around in my noodle for a VERY long time until I penned it.
Others…just sit. Unfinished.
And they sit.
So I had this thunk. How about if I share some of them on my blog. It would give me something to write about other than, ‘hey, this new book is coming out’ or ‘hey, this book is now available as an audible’ or worse….’hey, I really need reviews’ (I really hate asking for those).
So, what are your thoughts? Would you be interested in reading the unfinished thoughts and ideas that I’ve had? What if I start you off with a short that I really enjoyed finally getting out of my noodle? It’s one of my favorites and I’ve even placed it in an anthology or two.
Let me introduce you to the world of Gangsters…
The torrential downpour had petered out and was now nothing more than a fine drizzle. Anyplace else and the rain would have brought a cleansing, a freshness – that clean smell that only a good hard rain can bring. But here, deep in the city, the rain left the sewers near capacity, the trash steeping in a cold stew of filth and rot and alleyways overflowing with the detritus from a thousand unnamed origins that can only be found deep in the heart of a true metropolis.
The door above the small diner dinged as the two men entered and shook off their rain overcoats. They hung their matching fedoras on the hat rack and carefully hung the lamb’s wool coats under them. Looking about the near empty diner, the two men turned to their right and took the nearest booth to the door.
“It’s been so long since we’ve been down here.” The slightly taller, blonde man said as he reached for the greasy menu. “Do you think they have pie?”
“They always have pie. Even at this hour.” The darker haired man waved to the waitress and she slipped out from behind the counter, coffee pot in hand.
“It was pouring cats and dogs just a minute ago. I bet you boys are chilled to the bone.” She flipped over their coffee cups and placed them back on the saucers, pouring the hot coffee as she spoke. “You boys hungry or just come in to warm yourselves?”
The blonde man looked up, his face childlike. “I could eat three of everything. I’m so hungry.”
The darker haired man gave her a wan smile and shook his head. “I’ll just have coffee. He probably could eat three of everything. He’s a bottomless pit.”
The waitress popped her gum as she pulled the pad from her apron. “So what’ll it be, sweetie?”
The blonde haired man looked to his partner. “May I?”
The other man glanced at his watch then peered out the window. “Nothing too heavy. Lou will be here any minute and you know how he gets.”
The blonde man beamed as he pointed to the different pictures on the menu. “This one, and this one…and this one. Oh, and pie. Lots of pie.”
The waitress looked at him as though he might have a screw loose. She glanced at the darker haired man. “Is your friend all there?”
He chuckled lightly and nodded. “Yes, ma’am. Don’t worry. He’ll eat it all. And probably want more.”
She shrugged and wrote the orders down on her pad. “Your funeral honey. You want your toast buttered?”
“Please!” The blonde man nodded enthusiastically.
“Of course you do.” She made note then turned and slipped the order to the cook.
“Gabe, I know you’re excited to be here, but seriously, you act like it’s your first time. You know the food’s better at the Penthouse. The boss has it catered in all the time and…”
“Mike, this is real food. Not that fancy stuff. This is…home.” Gabe picked up his cup of coffee and inhaled deeply. “Ahh. See what I mean? This is just coffee. Nothing fancy, nothing else added. Just coffee.” He took a sip and let the liquid roll around on his tongue. “And good heavens, it’s nasty. I love this stuff!”
Mike laughed at his friend as he sucked down another drink and grimaced. “Just stay on your toes, okay? The boss doesn’t know we’re here and…well, I want to keep it that way.”
“I know. I’m not stupid.” Gabe carefully set the cup down and gazed at his partner. “This is dangerous, Mike. If Lou rats us out to the boss…”
“Or to Junior. He may not be completely in charge yet, but the boss is grooming him to take his place. It won’t be too much longer now.” Mike sat back in the booth and shook his head. “The kid is good, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes a little too good. But he’s not the boss. He’s got a long way to go before he can run an operation like ours.”
Gabe hooked his chin toward the window. “We’re about to have company.”
Mike twisted in his seat and saw three men head toward the door of the diner. “Damn it. I told him to come alone. If they were followed…”
The door chimed and the three stepped inside, shaking off their umbrellas. The two henchmen immediately turned and took a seat at the counter leaving their boss at the door.
Lou considered hanging his coat but truly didn’t think that this meeting would take long. He peered at the two men who were once like brothers to him, but now were nearly mortal enemies. He sighed heavily and heaved the heavy coat from his shoulders. “In for a penny…” he mumbled.
Gabe brightened considerably when Lou slipped in next to Mike. “It’s so good to see you again. I was afraid you wouldn’t show.”
“Believe me, I thought about it.” He cast a knowing glance toward Mike.
“I told you to come alone.” Mike’s voice was low but even.
“Why? So you two could shank me and drag me to the boss as a prize? Hardly.” Lou snorted and shifted in his seat. “What the hell do you two want, anyway?”
“We want to…” Gabe began.
“Were you followed?” Mike interrupted.
Lou gave him a dumbfounded stare. “Do you think I’m new to this game, Michael? Do you think I just fell off the frickin’ turnip truck? Nothing happens in this city without my knowing it. And I don’t get followed without my knowing it. That’s what those two knuckleheads are for.”
Mike inhaled deeply and calmed himself. “Very well.” He glanced out the window of the diner once more then turned slightly in the booth so that he could see Lou better. Slowly a smile crossed his face. “Gabe’s right. It is good to see you again.”
Lou softened somewhat and allowed himself a brief warm, fuzzy. “Yeah, yeah. So, let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we? What did you two risk everything for? You know the old man is going to have a coronary when he finds out that you broke ranks and came knocking.”
Mike nodded knowingly. “That’s what we wanted to talk to you about.” He glanced at Gabe who nodded him on. “We want you to come back, Lou. Come back with us.”
“You know I can’t go back. The old man banned me from the Penthouse. If I go anywhere near that place, Security would be on me like ugly on an ape.”
“Not if you took your old job back.” Mike looked at him expectantly. “If you’d just apologize to the boss. Tell him you were sorry. That you were wrong…”
“Oh, hell no!” Lou’s voice rose and his body guards turned to see what was wrong. Gabe raised his hands to them and got them to settle down. “I’m not apologizing for something I didn’t do.”
“But Lou, you did do it. You went against the old man. Nobody goes against the boss. You know that.” Mike met his eyes and pleaded. “Please, Lou. Junior doesn’t have what it takes to run this place and…”
“And that’s another damned thing. As soon as I’m booted, he promotes Junior to come in and take my job? That’s bullshit and you know it. That kid couldn’t run a popsicle stand in the desert and now he’s going to be in charge of the whole operation? The import/export? The security? The defense contracts? The protection rackets?” Lou huffed and crossed his arms. “That’s a fuckin’ insult. I’m better off running my own businesses.”
“But the war, Lou. It has to stop. Too many of our friends…they were your friends too. Once.” Gabe looked to the man and was about to say something else when the waitress returned carrying a stack of large plates.
“Okay sweetie. Here’s enough food to choke a platoon of soldiers.” She started stacking the plates around Gabe.
“Holy smokes, Marge. Is all this for us?” Lou gave her a wolfish grin.
“Lou, you sly devil.” She gave him a wink and bumped him with her hip. “No, this is all for that skinny little fella. Apparently he has a hollow leg.”
Gabe smiled as he poured hot syrup over the stack of flapjacks. “I’ve waited so long for this.”
“Lou, you hardly come around anymore. What? Our cooking ain’t good enough for ya anymore?”
“Sorry, babe. I’ve been busy with some stuff on the docks. I’ll be back by soon. I promise.” He gave her a wink and a squeeze before she slipped away from the booth.
Mike tried to ignore Gabe as he all but inhaled the different foods. “Look, Lou, now that the war is over overseas, we need to end the war between you and the boss. The only way to do that is if you two make up. And you know what that’s going to take.”
Lou shook his head. “Sorry buddy. That just ain’t gonna happen. I happen to like our current setup.” Lou leaned back in the booth and stared at the dark haired man. “Besides, the old man? He’d never believe a word I said. Even if I came back and told him what he wanted to hear, he’d never…”
“You’re right. You’d have to mean it. He’d know it if you meant it.” Mike picked up the coffee and took a swig. “Look, Lou, it’s 1946. This isn’t the stone age. Things are changing. The war is over, the boys are still streaming home. Things are really about to start changing.”
“You’re telling me!” Lou grabbed his coffee and took a large drink. “Do you really think I’d rather be a little fish in the organization, or the big fish in my own? Pfft. Easy decision, Mike. What’s the old expression? I’d rather rule in hell then be a streetsweeper in heaven?”
“But that’s just it, Lou, you wouldn’t be the bottom of the barrel. You’d have your old job back. You’d be his right hand man. If he’s grooming Junior, then surely he’d groom you to take over. I mean, come on, everybody knows you’re more capable. You’re a leader for cryin’ out loud.”
“But I ain’t his kid.” Lou’s steady gaze pierced him.
“No, but you’re his favorite. Always was and always will be. Damn it, Lou. You broke his heart when you turned against him. Against…all of us. We all looked up to you.”
“That’s your problem Mike, not mine.” Lou sipped his coffee again and watched absently as Gabe continued to eat. “Where the hell are you putting all of that? Don’t you ever feed him?”
“Ignore him.” Mike grabbed Lou’s sleeve. “Listen to me, please. Lou, bad things are coming your way. I’ve seen it.” He paused and turned away. “I mean, I’ve seen the plans.”
“I know what you meant.” Lou continued to watch Gabe. “I’m sure the old man has some big bounty on my head and is about to hire…”
“No.” Mike’s voice was barely a whisper, but it was enough to interrupt him. “He’s planning to take out you and all of your guys. Lou…it’s going to be a blood bath.”
Lou smiled at Mike and shook his head. “A regular apocalypse, eh, Mikey?”
Mike’s eyes grew wide. “You know?”
“Know? For crying out loud, Mike. Any asshole with a Bible knows what the old man has in store for me. I can read as well as these hairless apes.”
“Then…why won’t you just come back to the Penthouse and…”
“Because my future is already laid out, Michael. I can’t, remember? It is written.”
“That’s not…no. No. I refuse to believe that. It may be written, but it isn’t etched in stone. The future has yet to happen. You can change it.” He turned to Gabe. “Tell him.”
Gabe looked up and cracked a grin, a sausage link hanging from his mouth. “He’s right.” He said with muffled words. “I looked it up.”
“See, Gabe looked it up. Until the die is cast, you can change your lot.”
Lou shook his head. “Mike, I could no more apologize to Him for choosing the hairless apes over us than I could unfall from Grace.”
“But you can. He can forgive all things. That, too, is written.”
Lou sighed and sucked down the rest of his coffee. “I’m afraid you boys are barking up the wrong tree. I just can’t do it.”
Lou slid from the booth and started to stand but Mike reached out and grabbed his arm. “Wait. I need to show you something.”
Lou sat back down, but his face registered the resignation he felt. “You’re not going to change my mind.”
“But what if one of the casualties in this war ends up being you, brother?” Michael’s eyes pleaded with him.
“Then so be it. It’s the price I’ll pay for not bowing to the hairless apes.” Satan calmed himself by blowing out a long breath then leaned in closer. “Besides, I couldn’t get back in the Penthouse to apologize to him even if I wanted to.”
“We can escort you there!” Gabe interjected excitedly. “That’s why we both came. With an archangel at each side, we can slip you right through the gates.”
Satan stared at him and then Michael, who nodded, verifying Gabe’s story. He pushed back and leaned hard in his seat. “Sorry fellas. I just don’t have it in me to go back and scrabble at the old man’s feet. Can you imagine me begging?” He snorted a laugh and shook his head. “It just ain’t gonna happen.”
Michael reached inside his coat and pulled out a folder. “I took this. I thought you might want to see it.”
Lou took it and broke the seal across the sides. Top Secret-Angelic Eyes Only was stamped across the front. He browsed through the pages and a smile slowly formed on his face. Mike shook his head. “What? Why are you smiling? Lou…they’re going to give them their own land. In just a few short months, they’ll have their homeland back.”
Lou leaned his head back and laughed. A deep, dark, throaty laugh. Mike looked to Gabe who only shrugged. Lou wiped at his eyes and closed the folder, sliding it back across the table to his brother. “You don’t get it do you?”
Mike shook his head. “No. I thought that this would upset you. You went to such pains to have them killed during the war. Trying to annihilate them all.”
“This is a sign, brother. One of the seals. The ‘chosen people’ will get their homeland back.” Lucifer laughed again and tapped his coffee cup for a refill. Marge slipped in and refilled all of their cups, then slipped back out.
“Please explain to me what you mean.” Mike gripped the folder tightly in his hands.
“This is one of the seals. A sign of the end times. In less than a hundred years, the old man and I will have it out for good. The Apocalypse.” He smiled at the two angels sitting across from him.
Mike shook his head again. “But that’s a bad thing, Lou. You lose, remember?”
“Bullshit. That’s all a propaganda campaign.” He waved off his concern as he sipped his coffee. “The old man knows he can’t win so he ‘wrote the ending’ himself and called it prophecy.”
“Wait…how can you believe in all of the other prophecy but not that one?” Gabe asked, pushing his plate away.
“Because, I have my own prophets. And they see a different outcome. Instead of Junior running the show for a thousand years, I get both the rock, the Penthouse and dominion over the hairless apes for a millennia.” Lou gave them a wicked smile. “Now do you see why I’d never go back?”
“But, Lou…that’s not how it works.” Gabe pleaded, his eyes on the verge of tears.
“That’s what the boss told you. But I know better.”
“You really think you can win this war?” Mike asked, his hand slipping into his jacket and brushing the hilt of his sword.
Lucifer’s eyes narrowed as he stared at his brother. “Remember who you’re speaking to. I trained you, Michael. Archangel. Warrior messenger of the Most High. Remember who taught you how to wield that weapon.”
Mike stared at him a moment longer before Gabe’s foot shot out and connected with his shin. “This isn’t why we’re here, remember?”
Mike blew out the breath he had been holding and released the handle. “We only wanted to bring you home.”
“Of course you did.” Lou scooted to the edge again and stood. He pulled a wallet from his jacket and dropped a pile of bills on the table. He paused for a moment then leaned across the table. “Just for the record boys, this is how things are going to go. You two are going to return home and keep your mouths shut. I’m going to go about my business and the boss is going to let the hairless apes give the Jews back their homeland. Then I’m going to turn everybody in the world against them. Not just the Nazis, but every stinking body.
Their neighbors will constantly attack them and attempt to drive them into the sea. The rest of the world will blame them for being attacked. Even this road-bump-in-the-history-books country will eventually turn her back on them. The ‘chosen’ ones…will vanish. And the boss will have no more reason to choose the hairless apes over his most divine creations.” Lou turned and reached for his coat. “Thanks for the coffee.” He slipped his coat on and snapped his fingers, alerting the two body guards it was time to go back to work. “And guys? It was good seeing you again, too.”
Gabe continued to sit at the booth, picking at the remains of the food. Although he had eaten most of the food delivered, he had lost his appetite when Lou revealed to them the future. When Marge delivered the pies, he sent all of them back. Well, except the pecan. He forced himself to enjoy some of that one.
Mike sat across from him and sipped at the bitter liquid that the hairless apes seemed to love so much. Watching Gabe devour the human food made his own stomach curdle. “I’m feeling angry.”
“That’s totally understandable.” Gabe shoved another piece of pie into his mouth. “Considering the circumstances, I think it would be expected.”
“Why wouldn’t he listen?”
“I think he did listen, he just didn’t care.” Gabe hung his fork over the pie and let it drop, sinking the tines halfway into the ooey-gooey center. “Face it, brother. He’s too far gone.”
Mike’s eyes shot up and stared at him. “Do not say that.”
“Why not? It’s obviously true. Satan no longer cares. He’s no longer the Lucifer. He’s not the light bearer any longer and he doesn’t want to be.”
“But he could be.” Michael sighed and slowly turned his coffee cup absently, his mind racing. “He just needs to remember what it was like.”
Gabriel leaned back in his seat and shook his head. “He’s been away from the grace too long. I fear the glory would kill him.”
“He’s just bitter.” Michael pushed his coffee away and stared out the window. “Father chose Man over us and Satan can’t forgive that.”
“He had a point though.” Gabriel kept his voice low, his eyes averted. “Father should have chosen us first. We were His first creation. We were His long before He ever experimented with these humans.”
“He gave them free will for a reason.” Michael’s voice took on an edge that caused Gabriel to shrink. “That’s something we were never given.”
Gabriel finally sat up and glared at Michael. “Truly? Then why are we here now? Defying Father’s order and speaking to him, trying to get him to come home?”
“That’s for his own good and for the good of all of mankind. Nobody wants what is coming.”
“But you chose to come here Michael. And I chose to come with you. If that isn’t free will, I don’t know what is.”
Michael waved him off. “It’s not the same. They can choose to live their lives however they wish. We do not have that luxury.”
Gabriel crossed his arms and stared at his brother. “Satan chose. Nearly a third of our brothers chose with him. They all chose to go against Father’s order.”
“And look at what that got them!”
“Yes, exactly! But they had the ability to choose! Do you not see? With choice comes consequence. You have to be willing to pay the price for your decisions.”
“And the humans?”
“They pay the price all the time. Wrong choices ruins lives daily. Sometimes they cause death. Sometimes they cause tragedy. Sometimes…sometimes even Father turns them over to a reprobate mind. They’ll never know His grace.” Gabriel sighed as he reached out and grasped Michael’s arm. “We all have choices, brother.”
Michael wiped at his cheek and looked at his tear stained hand. “My heart breaks for him.”
“For who? Father?”
“No. For Satan. He’ll never know true love again.” He wiped his hand on his coat then pushed out of the booth. “It is time. We should return. Father will be angry if He discovers we were gone.”
Gabriel laughed as he pulled his overcoat from the hook. “Do you really think that He doesn’t already know?”
Michael paused and stared up into the clouds. “Then I hope He understands why we did it.”
“He’s a Father, Michael. Of course He does.” Gabriel pulled the door open and the two stepped out into the chill breeze. The drizzling rain had stopped and the clouds broke as the two stepped away from the diner. As a ray of light shown down through the breaking weather Michael pulled his collar up. “I think He knows where we are.”
Gabriel looked up and smiled. “Yes. And He knows why.”
Michael smiled as he patted Gabe’s shoulder. “At least He isn’t angry.” He pulled his brother up close and snapped his fingers. Both men effectively disappeared, having traveled at the speed of thought back home.
As Marge returned to the table to clear the dishes, she shoved the wad of bills that Lou had left on the table into her apron and began stacking the plates into the metal tub to take back to the kitchen. The bell above the door rang and Lou stepped back into the diner. He glanced rapidly around the narrow eatery and his eyes fell on Marge. “Where did the other guys go? Are they still here?”
“You just missed them Sweetie. They left just a few minutes ago.” She pointed her finger down the street to the corner in the direction she had seen them walking. “They went that away.”
Lou turned and practically ran down the sidewalk looking for his brothers. He slowed as he approached the corner and the smell of ozone hit him. He knew it was too late. They had returned home.
He stopped and stared up into the sky. Clouds had shifted and were closing the small hole that had opened just moments before, the last rays of sunlight evaporating as the rain began to fall once more. Lou stared up into the sky, turning slow circles as he watched the opening seal back up. “I changed my mind!” he screamed. He waited a moment, his hope building that perchance his brothers could hear his cry. He continued to stare upwards, his hope slowly fading. “Do you hear me? I said I changed my mind!”
Lou felt the despair of being trapped in the role he was doomed to play as his reality came crashing back in on him. He dropped to his knees on the wet sidewalk and crumpled to his elbows. “Please, Michael…Gabriel…I-I’m sorry.” He turned reddened eyes back to the sky and roared with anguish. “I want to go HOME!”
A passing truck sent a spray of water from the roadside up onto the sidewalk and soaked the figure on all fours. He didn’t even lift his head as he fell to his side and curled into the fetal position. “Damn my vanity, I just want to go home…”
If you were able to force yourself to read all the way through that, then you’re tougher than most. That particular scene bounced around in my head for years…Satan and the two archangels sitting down at a diner…and was supposed to be the opening to a second angelic war story. I ended up deleting the next chapter and closing the story as a short with Lou changing his mind.
And like this story, there have been dozens over the years, most of which were deleted when I cleaned out my hard drive. But a few still remain. If you think you’d like to see them offered here from time to time, drop me a line and let me know. Let me just say that most don’t have endings. They were ideas that never really took root.
Anywho…thanks for dropping by again and I hope you enjoyed Gangsters.
Oh, and if you are an audible fan…Hunter should be approved by ACX any day now.