#IWSG – Try, Try Again

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The Insecure Writers Support Group  is where writers can share their insecurities and encourage one another. IWSG was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh and we share our posts the first Wednesday of the month. The awesome co-hosts for the June 1 posting of the IWSG will be Murees Dupe, Alexia Chamberlynn, Chemist Ken, and Heather Gardner! If you’d like to join in, just click the link above for the IWSG sign-up!


Last month was a bloody nightmare. Have you ever felt like the Universe is conspiring against you? Well, May felt like that for me. I was plagued by illness for half of the month – one whole week was just wretched. Then I had ‘net issues off and on all month (more to come this month as the IP is doing upgrades). And lastly, I didn’t complete the StoryADay challenge (I missed a whole week while horribly sick and just never caught up).

I could do what I’ve done so often – tell myself that I am a failure and go sulk in a corner for a few weeks, but I’ve decided that I am worth more than that. I am proud that I wrote 24 stories in May, plus did a lot of other writings too. I am also proud that although I was sick for about 15 days, I muddled through for 8 of those days even though I was getting sick and/or just recovering from being sick. So I will try, try again and not beat myself up.

And that’s the best advice I can give to other writers right now – try again. Failure means falling down and staying down. Success means to learn from the failure, pick yourself up and hit the road again.

Raised Stakes – Part One

Raised Stakes – Part One

Jack gulped down the bourbon and sat the glass back on the bar. It’d been hell the past few days. Captain Morgan had called him with two pieces of bad news – Ella had committed suicide in prison and Victor wanted to see him. Bad news comes in threes, they say. The third bit came with a call from Bobby. He hadn’t come up with anything for the latest case. Jack tossed a few bills on the bar and nodded at the bartender.

“See you around, Frank.”

“Sure thing, Mr. Diamond.”

When The Wild Card closed after Victor’s imprisonment, an Irishman from New York named O’Malley purchased the place and turned it into a proper Irish pub. He kept Frank on as bartender to keep the regulars coming back. The drinkers returned, but the businessmen who were accustomed to the singers and dancers of the nightclub slowly drifted away. Jack preferred the nightclub scene too, but he appreciated any place he could sit and have a bourbon or two.

He grabbed his coat and fedora and headed out of the bar. The drive to the prison did little to improve his mood. Rain fell upon the city in long sheets. The grey clouds blocked the sun for the third day in a row. Even the office was gloomy. Dani had gone to New York to visit her sister. By the time he pulled up at the docks, Jack was a wretched mess.

“Hey, Gessum,” Jack said to the prison guard who would ferry him across to Alcatraz.

“Evening, Mr. Diamond. Miserable day, isn’t it?”

Jack nodded. “Miserable day and a miserable reason to be here.”

Jack followed the young guard onto the ferry. He couldn’t imagine why Victor wanted to talk to him. He hadn’t seen him since the trial a year earlier. As far as Jack was concerned, they had nothing to say to one another. Victor was scum and exactly where he deserved to be. He pulled the collar of his coat up around his neck and pushed the fedora down over his eyes. The rain still soaked through to his already chilled bones.

When he arrived at Alcatraz, Jack was ushered in to see the Warden. He was a man of about fifty, grey-haired and with dark creases under his eyes. He motioned for Jack to sit down while he finished up a telephone call.

“Sorry about that, Mr. Diamond,” the Warden said as he hung up the phone. “I appreciate you taking the time to come here. Mr. Angelo has asked to see you for the past six months.”

“Any clue why?”

The Warden shook his head. “None. He got more insistent though when his half-sister committed suicide day before yesterday. Shall we?” he said as he stood up and moved around the desk to the door. Jack followed the Warden into the belly of the prison and toward the mail room.

“I’ve put you in here. I didn’t want to drag you through the general population,” the Warden stated as he opened the door.

Victor Angelo sat shackled at a table. Two guards stood on either side of him. He grinned up at Jack.

“You look like hell, Jack, but then you always look like hell,” Victor gloated.

Jack sat down across from Victor. He didn’t want to waste time with pleasantries. “What do you want, Victor?”

“Straight forward as always, I see. You know,” Victor paused as he leaned across the table and stared at Jack for a moment. “We aren’t so different, you and I,” he finally replied.

Jack sighed. Victor was up to his old tricks. “I’ll ask one more time… What do you want?”

“Not even curious why I said that?”

Jack crossed his arms and glared back at Victor. “If it will get you to the point of this visit, then sure. Tell me.”

Victor grinned. “We both have one serious flaw. Beautiful women.”

“I still don’t see your point.”

“Such a tragedy about Ella? Don’t you think?”

Jack’s patience was wearing thin. He let out a deep sigh. “Is that why you asked to see me? To talk about Ella?”

“No, I just wanted to see your reaction, but you are as cold as I am about the news. After all, she did betray both of us.”

It was true, but Ella had betrayed Jack long before she testified against Victor. She’d told lie after lie to save her own skin, leading Jack to believe that Victor or Tito had killed Jessica Daley when she’d been the one who pulled the trigger all along. But the worst betrayal was that Ella honestly believed that Jack would overlook all of her crimes and still want to be with her. She was so adamant about it that she tried to kill Angelina in a jealous rage. Sure, Jack was just a two-bit private eye and a drunk most of the time, but he’d been a police officer once and a damn good one. In the end, justice won out.

“Just get to the point, Victor.”

“That beauty you are with these days… Dani, isn’t it? You have to admit, beautiful women always get you into trouble. Or perhaps trouble has a way of finding your beautiful women.”

Jack narrowed his eyes and glared at Victor. “Is that a threat?”

Victor laughed. “How can I threaten anyone? I am stuck on this rock. Isolated for 23 hours a day. No, Jack. It isn’t me you have to worry about. But you may want to keep an eye on your girlfriend. New York is such a dangerous place.”

“What have you heard, Victor?” Jack growled at his nemesis.

Victor lifted his hands up and shrugged his shoulders. “Just bits and pieces. The grapevine in a prison can be so unreliable.”

Jack reached across the table, grabbed Victor by his jumpsuit and shook him. “Tell me!”

One of the guards loosened Jack’s grip and pushed him back into his seat. Victor laughed again, amusement dancing in his eyes.

“When you locked me up, you merely cut off one head of the hydra. And I was such a small head too. There’s an even bigger monster out there and it has its sights on your lovely girlfriend.”

“Why are you telling me this? You aren’t one to divulge information unless it gets you something in return.”

Victor leaned across the table and stared Jack in the eyes. “That’s true. I want off of this rock. You and Captain Morgan will see that it happens. That,” he said with a grin, “or I keep the information I know to myself.” Victor leaned back in his seat. “Your choice, Jack. I’d really hate to see you a broken man again.”

 

The ferry ride back to the mainland was a somber one, not to mention it felt like it took an eternity. As soon as he came ashore, Jack raced to the 5th Precinct. He ignored all of the officers at his old precinct and climbed the stairs two at a time up to the Captain’s office. Without even knocking on the door, Jack hurried inside. Just like with the Warden earlier, Captain Morgan was on the phone. He motioned for Jack to sit down and kept talking. Jack sighed and took a seat. He bounced his legs as he waited. Finally, he removed his fedora and lit a cigarette, taking several quick drawls. He flicked the ashes in his hand and leaned back in the chair.

After several more minutes, Morgan hung up the phone and handed an ashtray to Jack. “What did Victor have to say?”

Jack took the ashtray, rested it on his knee and dusted the ashes off his hand. “Nothing good. Have you heard from Dani?”

“Not since yesterday. Seriously? Victor didn’t have anything worthwhile to say?”

Jack took a long drag off of his cigarette and stumped it out in the ashtray. He looked up at the Captain and wrinkled his brow. “I think Dani’s in trouble. If not now, then she will be. Victor says he has information, but he won’t give it up unless we get him transferred out of Alcatraz.”

Morgan pushed his chair back and stood up, his face reddening with anger. “I swear if that bastard harms Dani in any way, I will kill him!”


Raised Stakes is the second novella in the Jack Diamond Noir-style Mystery series. If you missed the first novella, The Stacked Deck, you can read it here. New additions to this story will appear on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Raised Stakes ©2016 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved. Permission must be granted to distribute or copy this serial (unless reblogging). Thank you.

 

Killer Tales 1 – Slips

(Note: This story is not for the faint of heart. There is extreme violence and murder – this is after all about a serial killer and told from the serial killer’s pov)

There she is. You wouldn’t notice anything unusual about her, but I’ve been watching her now for three weeks. She has that perfect sway to her hips. Time to get down to business.

“Excuse me. I am trying to get my grandfather loaded into my van, but the lift is broken. Can you help me?”

I’ve been using my grandfather for years now. He has no clue what’s going on. He just sits and drools. I know, it’s a lame excuse and has been done before, but just wait. It gets more original.

She leaves the safety of her car and follows me to the van. She goes in first to gently hold my grandfather’s head. Such a nice woman’s touch. As soon as he is loaded in, I slam the door shut. She tries to get out of the side door, but it’s bolted shut. The bulletproof glass that separates the back of the van from the front keeps her from beating the crap out of me as I drive away. I do enjoy the sound of her fists pounding on the glass though. The oxygen mask over my grandfather’s face isn’t just for looks, nor for his health. I flip a switch and the back fills with nitro gas. Grandfather is okay, but my mark has passed out.

Back home, grandfather is tucked safely into bed. I descend into the basement where my mark is naked and strung out on a table – hands bound together above her head, her mouth gagged so I don’t have to hear her screams too soon and her legs separated by a metal bar bolted between her ankles. She’ll stay fairly still this way. I go to my work table and lay out my tools – a boner knife, a mallet, several ice picks, a whip and a bottle of vinegar.

She stirs. I hear her moans and I know it’s time to begin. I turn with the mallet and an ice pick in my hands. Her eyes are wide with fear. You should see how she writhes and shakes. Sweat beads up on her forehead. I stand at her waist and press my thumb into her hip until I feel the hip bone. Then I place the ice pick over the spot and with a swift pound of the mallet, I drive it deep between the hip bone and the thigh bone. There’s the sound I’ve been waiting for – the slight crunch of cartilage. Her scream is muffled, but tears stream down her cheeks. You would have pity for her, wouldn’t you? Not me. I proceed to the other side of the table and drive a second ice pick into the other hip. She is secured.

I grasp a boner knife in my hand and return to my mark. I run the tip of the knife along each cheek, across her chin and down the center of her throat.

“Shhhhhh… don’t move or I may just slip too soon,” I whisper into her ear.

With expert precision, I begin slicing away tiny strips of her flesh – first from each forearm, then from each thigh. Each strip is hung on one of the lines that runs from one end of the basement to the other. My trophies. Hundreds and hundreds of strips of flesh.

Back to my mark once again, I run my knife along each breast, close to the bone, just enough to separate, but not remove them completely. I return to my work station and grab the vinegar and whip. Finally, I remove her gag. As I pour the vinegar over her bloody flesh, I bask in the sound of her screams. With the whip in hand, I strike her flesh over and over again. Watch as whelps rise upon her flesh. And the pièce de résistance – I pour on more vinegar until she passes out from the pain.

Ahhhhh… you should have heard her. If I could only get you to understand how beautiful her screams are, how they gladden my heart, then perhaps you would know how empowering this feels. This has been hours of pleasure.

I stand at the top of the table and pat her face until she awakens. As I hold the knife out in front of her face, I whisper, “Nothing personal, dear,” and then quickly slit her throat.

I stroll back to my work bench and turn on my computer. I pull up the file of mother dancing with me as a child, my feet on top of her feet, my hands holding on to her hips as she sways. You’d think this would be a happy, cherished memory, wouldn’t you? That dance led to helping in the kitchen. To filleting a fish. To the slip of the knife that cuts mother deeply on the thigh. And then a beating moments later. She strings me up in the closet, throws vinegar on my whelps and laughs as I scream. She doesn’t stop until I pass out. This isn’t my first punishment of this nature, nor the last, but mother was my first kill.

©2016 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved.

(853 words)