Here I am, getting this in just under the wire. I know Mondays are the day I normally share the Chuck Wendig Terribleminds flash fiction challenge piece. But it has been an odd week.
The challenge for the week was a fun one. Randomly pick five character types and include them in the story. I think I managed to get at least close to the five. But I guess I will leave this for you to figure out.
The athletic, cruel architect looking for a challenge.
The clumsy, materialistic, moralizing teacher searching for employment.
The unhealthy jailer
The tactless ambassador with big dreams.
The friendly musician.
The bodycount keeps rising…
Ice in the Fryer
Late, how could he be late again? The last time he came in late, Jack told him he would dock his pay the next time. Tim knew it wasn’t his fault. The bus was off its schedule, didn’t show up at 12:15 like it was supposed to. The driver told him she had a flat and had to wait for the wrecker to fix it. This wasn’t the first time.
He couldn’t afford to lose the money. Manager at the club cheated him out of his pay at his last gig. He had no desire to survive on Ramen for the next week.
Quirky music guy set up outside the restaurant. The guy didn’t so much as sing as he played his guitar and spoke about what he saw happening on the street. Ya, it was stupid, but occasionally it worked for him. Even when it was bad it brought a smile to Tim’s face.
He dropped a couple singles in the man’s case before he stepped into the restaurant. A small deposit in the karma bank might work in his favor. Quirky music guy sang about a girl with purple hair chasing a paper across the road. This was important only in right at that moment a sheet of paper smacked Tim in the face and stuck there with the force of the wind.
“Thanks for catching that.” Her voice, soft and friendly, changed when he pulled the paper away from his face. “I guess you make a great wind block anyway.” She looked him up and down with a slight sneer. “Do you work here?”
“Yes, I was just heading in right now,” Tim said. He examined the paper, her resume. “You here looking for a job?”
“I am, at least until something better comes along.” She snatched the paper from his hands and pushed past him into the building.
With a nod to quirky music guy, Tim slipped into the building. He stepped into the dining area of the Shake-N-Bacon and his stomach flipped. Happened every time. Something about the place killed a portion of his soul. Tim was sure at some point he would wake up empty, his soul stripped away by the hell of this place. That was the nightmare anyway.
The girl with the purple hair sat with Jake at a table away from the kitchen doors. Tim made a bee line for the doors in hopes of being ignored. Somehow the girl managed to knock silverware from the table. When Jake leaned over to pick it up he looked directly at Tim.
Tim knew the look in his eyes. It wasn’t the one he reserved for when he yelled at Tim. Jake gave him the look he had for five minutes to close and a new table comes in, a look of panic and frustration. He passed through the doors into the kitchen.
Benny the sous chef stood in front of the fryer with a cup of ice in his hand. “Try it from there man,” he called. A chunk of ice shot over the reach in cooler, over Benny’s shoulder and landed in the fryer. The hot grease hissed and spit, bubbling up around the chunk of ice. “That was great, we should do it with a bigger one.”
George, the dishwasher, came around the reach ins. “I made the shot? Sweet!” he said. “No one’s ever going to beat that now. Did you see that, Tim? I got mad skills.”
“He can barely carry a tray of booze,” Benny said. “No way little Timmy could make that shot.”
“Probably not, but I don’t have the time right now to try either.” Tim walked past them and down the hall to the employee changing room. Alone in the room he put his stuff in his locker and pulled out his apron, note pad, and pens. A quick glance at the clock, service wasn’t far away but he had time to get his section ready still.
Benny stopped him on his way through the kitchen. “Did you see the chick out there with Jake? What you think man?”
“I haven’t had a chance to talk to her yet,” Tim said.
“Purple hair, you saw that right. Makes you wonder don’t it?”
“What? If she’s a mutant?”
“No way man,” Benny said. “C’mon, you know what I mean. Do they match?”
“I’m sure someone will figure it out sooner or later,” Tim said.
“I’ll let you know tomorrow.”
Tim had a similar conversation with Benny every time someone new came into the restaurant. He knew it was coming, and still walked into it every time. “I need to check out my section,” he said.
“I’ll let you know about her section later,” Benny said with a wink.
Tim pushed through the service doors into the dining room. Jake stood with his back to the hostess stand as he spoke with Quirky Music Guy. Purple hair girl lay on the ground. Her legs at an odd angle. As Tim watched the scene closer he noticed Jake’s body language. His arms out to the sides at angles that might make it difficult to react.
It was the gun in Quirky Music Guy’s hand that screamed attention to Tim. He never came inside the building, not even to use the bathroom. They spoke in hushed tones that Tim could not hear but the intent was clear. Jake backed away from him but did not turn around. Tim slipped back into the kitchen with hopes that he had not been seen.
“Benny, hey, Benny,” he whispered. He motioned for Benny to come to the door.
“What the hell man, I have prep to do still,” Benny said.
Tim held his finger over his lips and squinched his eyelids for emphasis. “Gun.”
Benny stepped back from the door. “Quit fuckin around man,” he said. “You have no idea how much crap I still have to do.”
“What you two doing?” George asked. He stepped out of the dish tank to join them at the door.
“Music guy is in the dining room with a gun on Jake,” Tim said. “I don’t know what he did to the girl but she is on the floor.”
“Good joke man,” Benny said. Thunder cracked in the dining room. “Shit!”
“What we gonna do?” Tim asked. He peeked through the window but couldn’t see any movement in the dining room.
“I don’t know but if he wanted to hit the safe he has to come back here,” George said. “You think Jake is dead?”
“Hell if I know, but you heard the gunshot,” Tim said.
“I’m calling 911,” Benny said before he ran toward the office.
George grabbed a couple chef’s knives from the magnetic rack on the wall. He then stepped behind the wall of the dish room. “I’m ready if he comes back this way.”
“What the hell do you think a couple knives are going to do against a gun?” Tim asked. He scanned the room for cover in case the gunman stepped through the door. “Can you see anything through the window, George?” He ducked down below the low boys, the steel of the fridges would give some protection against the gun.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” George said. “I’m not poking my head out there.”
Benny came back from down the hall as the door to the dining room burst inward. The gun exploded as a red hole appeared in Benny’s chest. Tim watched in helpless slow motion as the gun exploded again another bullet slammed into Benny before he hit the floor.
“Come out, come out where ever you are,” Quirky said. Tim didn’t hear the door swish back, and assumed he must still be standing in the door frame. If he judged it right he wouldn’t be seen down hidden below counter level.
The door swished shut. Was that a footstep? He couldn’t tell what he heard, the rap rap rap of his heart in his chest and ears blocked out the movements just beyond the counter. George screamed a battle cry as he jumped out of the dish room. A dull thud was answered by a blast of the pistol.
The clang of a knife as it hit the ground came before the wet thud of a body. One of them fell, but which one? Tim held his breath, he took a moment to steel himself for the inevitable.
The sauté pan on the edge of the stove caught his eye, Benny’s prep. How many bullets were left in the gun? He counted the shots as he prepared to grab the pan and heave it at Quirky Music Guy. By his estimation, there would be one bullet it left. All he had to do was disrupt that last shot. A long shot but still a chance.
Tim adjusted into a crouch, and watched for the shadow to precede the gunman around the corner. George’s attack must have slowed him down. Heavier footsteps announced his movements.
He couldn’t wait anymore. Tim lunged for the pan then spun away from the stove. At the same time he released the pan where he thought the gunman might be. Hot, smoking oil splashed out in an arc ahead of the pan. It seared the gunman’s flesh along his arms and face just before the pan itself smashed into his forehead.
The hot oil made the difference. He dropped the gun in shock the instant the oil touched his skin, then fell to the floor when the pan smacked into his head. Tim rushed a head and grabbed the gun before Quirky could recover.
At that moment a loud crash came from the back door as well as the front door to the restaurant. The cops rushed into the kitchen, guns pointed at Tim. He dropped the pistol and lifted his hands straight into the air. “It wasn’t me,” he said. “It was this guy here on the ground.”
Tim watched from the sidewalk as the med crew brought his coworkers out on gurneys. George made it, though he took a bullet to the shoulder. He had passed out with blood loss. But Benny and Jake, they were gone. The Purple Haired girl, she was nowhere to be found.