Hey, guess what, today isn’t Wednesday. Well, it goes like this…
I ran into a slight problem this week. As I was writing the story for the usual Wednesday Indies Unlimited flash fiction challenge post, I ran into a snag. The story ran larger than the length requirement for the challenge. Now I could have cut it short and left it at that. But I wanted to see where this story was taking me.
As it is, this one is a bit strange… that can’t be right. No, this one falls into a strange area maybe. Or maybe not. Ideally this story actually fits more in the murder and mayhem realm of stories you might find here.
As far as some of my crime killings go, this one fits in pretty well. People dying for arbitrary and many times of their own stupidity (should I say it like that? Or should I say it more like their own lack of better judgement?). Ether way, bad things happen just because bad things happen. And we get to watch it all unfold.
Enjoy your Wednesday a little early this week…
Take the Money and Fall
When the chute opened, the harness tightened and yanked against the wound in Paul’s shoulder. The pain caused him to lose his grip on the satchel, and the money went plummeting to the earth ahead of him.
He tried to watch for where it landed, but he couldn’t pull on the cords with his left arm at all to guide his descent in that direction. Worse yet, the plane he’d just been kicked out of was circling back…
It was a long lazy circle but there was no doubt, they were coming back for him. His former partners, Dick and Trevor, had cancelled their partnership when he grabbed the chute and the satchel. He hadn’t told them that he dumped the gas lines before he made his way to the door.
Trevor had been the first to act. He never had trusted Paul. He seized the opportunity when Paul was standing at the doorway and pushed him. Well, after he sliced him with a knife anyway. Paul had seen the knife too late to avoid it but soon enough to turn from the serious wound. His shoulder would heal, if he lived through the descent.
Most of the way through the turn the propellers stopped. The plane coasted on a current of air but she was slipping. It wouldn’t be long they dropped into the trees below. At least Paul’s descent wouldn’t hurt as much.
The plane had come close enough to see inside. Trevor and Dick searched frantically for the other chutes. Paul smiled as they drifted past him. Trevor stood in the open doorway, his hands white as he gripped the metal frame.
His other hand gripped a smoking Berretta, and he pointed it at Paul as he jumped out of the plane. His dive didn’t last long as he swooped over to Paul and grabbed onto the chute’s harness. There wasn’t much room for struggle as they both gripped the chute for life.
Trevor jammed his elbow into Paul’s shoulder wound. In that moment he gripped tighter to the harness with his free hand and brought the pistol up to Paul’s throat. “I never did like you.”
Paul swung his shoulder into Trevor’s hand and knocked the pistol away. At the same time it loosened Trevor’s tenuous grip on the straps. Paul brought up his knee, knocked the wind out of him, and sent him out to free-fall. Trevor lost all control of his fall and drifted further away from Paul.
Without the chute he reached terminal velocity in no time. Everything played out like a slow motion action scene. Trevor dropped like a stone into the trees below as the plane cut through treetops with the screams of rending metal. Both of Paul’s problems were now gone, just like that.
He counted himself lucky that he didn’t even sprain an ankle. He knew from where he saw the satchel fall, it would be east from where he landed. Though he wasn’t a woodsman, Paul knew how to find east from the position of the sun.
Paul grew up on the streets, a world with street justice. This world of trees and underbrush slowed him down as he stumbled across the forest floor. The afternoon sun helped him keep his bearings, though he was never really sure if he was on the right path.
After an hour of fighting against nature he stopped to take a break in a clearing crossed by a small stream. Burrs and sweat permeated his clothes. He had lost his jacket a while back when he couldn’t bear to wear it anymore.
Paul had fallen into the stream with exhaustion. The brisk water refreshed him but gave him no strength, so tired he fought the urge to drown right then and there. He lay by the stream with a hand resting in the water from the narrow shore.
The idyllic spot with the sun beating down on his exhausted body and the gentle gurgle of the stream, he passed out. Paul lost himself to a quick dream of the money and freedom of the forest. His exhaustion had taken its toll and he wasn’t ready to move again any time soon.
It could have been his exhaustion, or his inexperience with the forest or any number of other things right at that moment but all of them together caused him to miss one key variable, he had been followed. Dick stepped into the clearing and strolled over to Paul’s inert body. He nudged him with the tip of his boot a couple times to no effect, and then sat down with his back to a tree at the edge of the clearing.
Paul awoke, lost to his surroundings, but with a full bladder. The burbling creek worked subliminal magic, he couldn’t hold it. After he fought aching bones and muscles he stumbled to the edge of the woods and relieved himself. The hairs at the back of his neck pricked up. Something wasn’t right. The images that ran through his head led down ugly paths with hungry bears or lions, but he dismissed those thoughts as paranoid.
Dick survived the crash. His left arm had swollen, Paul assumed a break, and ugly cuts and abrasions littered his body. The man’s clothes were as ripped and torn as his body. He held his hand under Dick’s nose to feel him breathe. He also searched for a pulse. The man didn’t budge but he clung to life, even through the plane crash.
Paul wasn’t a killer, not like this. To kill him right here while he lay defenseless and unaware, it just wasn’t done. It wasn’t like this was an airplane he set to crash in the forest with no escape. This would be a personal death; he didn’t have it in him to be this close. He could slip away though, disappear into the forest, and maybe find the money satchel.
His mind made up he turned back to the direction he expected to find the money. One of Dick’s hands grabbed at his ankle as he stepped away. Paul lost his balance and tumbled forward. His faceplant into the creek sent water flying up and it splashed down on his back.
He sputtered and mewled as he found his feet again. By this time it was too late. Dick had found his way up as well. Dick stood with his back against the tree. His right arm swayed as he pointed at Paul.
“Was all this worth it?” he said. “You lost the money didn’t you? All this was for what? Nothing…”
“Look at you,” Paul said. “You can barely stand as it is. Come with me. I’ll give you half the money.” He kept out of Dick’s reach.
Dick pushed away from the tree, stumbled forward, but remained up. His bloodshot eyes didn’t blink as he glared at Paul. “Never should have brought you along,” he said. “Trevor vouched for you. Said you would be an asset.” He began to sway as sweat beaded along his brow-line.
“You need some more rest, man,” Paul said. “Sit down and take it easy for a bit. I know where the money landed. Let me go, I swear I’ll come back for you.”
The corners of Dick’s mouth turned up as he stumbled forward. He fell into Paul’s arms still with that smile, it had grown wider. “Should never have let you in,” he said. Fire cut deep into Paul’s belly as his shirt and flesh were sliced open by a jagged piece of metal held tight in Dick’s hand. “Never should have brought you in…” The last words from Dick’s mouth as he fell to the ground. Paul followed behind him as he lost the battle to keep his insides where they belong.