State of Emergency – Chapter 1

October 20, 2010

“‘Gone?’ What the fuck do you mean, ‘Gone?’” The supervisor’s body slammed back and up, pinned against the wall and Chris’ eyes widened to find it was his arm holding the man there.

He wasn’t normally a violent man; he’d never roughed up a suspect or a source in all his time on the force, not in all those years. Today was different, though. Today was the result of long days of waiting, thinking, pacing; the culmination of a raging internal debate that had knotted his stomach and shouted through his skull, roaring and contorting through his brain until… this. The one move nobody could have expected… least of all Chris himself.

Cursing under his breath, the enforcer abruptly released the portly Russian’s collar and took two quick strides towards the door. Then he spun on his heel, suddenly right back in the man’s face.

“Open the apartment, Kropotnik. I need to see!”

With a shrill, fearful whimper (and Chris had heard better; sweeter, laced with heavy breath and whispered pleas, murmured in the ear of some completely unworthy prick), the building supervisor started to bound up the stairs. Chris’ boots crushed viciously into each step behind him, giving the man a shove now and again when his poor physique threatened to win over his fear.

After 15 flights of stairs, somehow, the rage hadn’t ebbed from inside him. It was painful, seated deep in the pit of his stomach, spiking up through his spine with enough force to make his vision surge in and out of focus. He glared at the Russian as he fumbled the keys into the lock, then shouldered him aside, slamming the door open and bursting into the room.

The kitchen, the open plan living room beyond… The apartment was deserted, just bare furnishings without the trappings and clutter of life. A scrap of card rested on the kitchen counter, the tag clipped out of some item of clothing. A solitary shoe, lacerated beyond wearing, lay abandoned in a corner, its laces grubby and stained. He picked it up briefly; a man’s trainer, expensive once, size 13.

He dropped it as if it was coated with acid and whirled on the man in the doorway.

“You were supposed to tell me if they did anything out of the ordinary. Anything!”

“I didn’t know! Everything was quiet! I didn’t find out until the rent lapsed!”

‘Everything was quiet’ and you didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary? Did you see the set of lungs on that girl? You got complaints about them how many times a week? And it never even occurred to you to check?”

The Russian sputtered protests and claims of  ignorance to Chris’ back as he strode from room to room, tearing drawers from their fittings, flinging open cabinets, kicking over wastepaper bins and picking through the last detritus of inhabitance in hope of finding something, anything, to tell him where they had gone. A tinny sound beckoned him to the closed door of the bedroom; he paused outside it, pulling the pistol from the back of his jeans before kicking the door wide and striding in, scanning the room with weapon raised.

The room was completely black

I hugged her and she hugged back

Like the sailor said, quote “ain’t that a hole in the boat”

My head keeps spinning

I go to sleep and keep grinning

If this is just the beginning, my life is gonna be beautiful…

An open, empty wardrobe. Bed, stripped of covers. Dresser, drawers hanging open and empty. A radio alarm clock, still plugged in, singing out abandoned on the floor. He sat down on the edge of the bed, gun resting across his knee. The small bouquet of deep pink peonies slipped from his free hand and tumbled sadly to the floor, forgotten.

Her scent still clung there.

But so did his. He balled his fist and punched furiously into the pillow, yelling incoherently, trying to pound his frustrations away.

She’s telling me we’ll be wed

She’s picked out a king size bed

I couldn’t feel any better or I’d be sick

Tell me quick…

“You fucking smug dick.” The gun’s retort was deafening in the enclosed space, shattering the radio and leaving the enforcer’s ears ringing. The song kept playing in his head, however, giving him no respite.

“Officer Walsaw? You… OK in there, yes?”

The building supervisor… He hadn’t noticed anything until the rent lapsed. Only there had probably been a post-dated check or two to make sure of the man’s silence. Money. Information. Influence. The kind of power a legitimate man could never know. They’d had everything, these two.

Especially him.


Especially him.

Warm spray washed over him, yanking Chris from his reverie. Warm red spray, painting his face, soaking into clean, pressed cotton of his shirt. He hadn’t even heard the gun go off and now he was staring, staring open-mouthed at the corpulent, mostly headless body of the Russian as it slumped so slowly to the floor while his gun quivered in his fingers with the force of its discharge. A high, tinitic whine rang in his ears as the echoes of the shot faded away, but it wasn’t enough to drown out the song, not even as he fled down the stairs, leaving bloody footprints in his wake.

Tell me quick, oh ain’t love a kick

Tell me quick, ain’t love a kick in the head


One Response to “State of Emergency – Chapter 1”

  1. […] vignettes cast a little light on the night before Dolly and Ian's wedding, setting the scene for "State of Emergency," the story that […]

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