Hey there readers. This was my attempt to write a crime-genre short story. As it turns out, I suck at writing crime, and so, as seems to be my style, it turned into something… else. Yeah. Hope you enjoy!
“I have seen unspeakable things in my life…”
“What sort of things?”
“Unspeakable things, stupid. Means he can’t speak about ‘em.”
With that, the trio lapsed into an uncomfortable silence. Robbie and Jack raised their glasses in unison and swallowed the warm dregs of their beer, purely for the purpose of having something to do. With his usual timing, Lach slid two freshly frothing schooners across the bar, then returned to his newspaper at the pub’s furthest corner, draping himself across the table like a deflated balloon. The clock had already ticked over to a new day, but the old barman was in no hurry. The pub had no official closing time, and usually shut its door when Robbie and Jack, the only regulars, finally walked through it.
Nights often passed with nobody but the dust-beaten duo sitting at Lach’s bar, which somehow made the stranger’s presence all the more unnerving. He’d not yet touched his whiskey. He had arrived at midnight, masking his footsteps to the twelve-chime rhythm of Lach’s ancient clock, so that he seemed to have formed from the shadows, suddenly there, standing by the bar with a face devoid of all emotion.
Robbie and Jack awkwardly tried to continue their conversation, but it seemed strained beneath the gaze of the stranger’s eyes, eerily shallow and cold, like tarnished silver. When the pair fell quiet, the man had uttered those words: “I have seen unspeakable things…”
There was no segue to the chilling sentence, and nothing that followed. In the background, the rustling of Lach’s paper ceased. Robbie rushed to respond, wishing to dissolve the unpleasant atmosphere they’d found themselves in, while Jack shushed him with a quip.
The stranger reacted to neither of them, but finally lifted his glass and gulped his lukewarm whiskey.
“Another for the road?” Lach called. Robbie and Jack both jumped, not expecting to hear the old man’s rarely-used voice. But the stranger turned calmly, fixing the barman with a steely gaze and a smile that didn’t go beyond his lips.
“No, thank you,” he said flatly. Lach nodded stiffly as he folded his newspaper. He rose from the table with a groan, pausing as his scoured bones clicked into place, and retreated behind the bar.
“Then, last drinks, I reckon,” drawled the old man. Robbie and Jack stared, having never before been confronted with the phrase ‘Last Drinks’, but as Lach’s eyes darted uncomfortably to the stranger, who, despite his refusal for a drink, had not moved, the regular duo could understand his haste.
“Right-o,” Jack said amicably. He raised his half-full glass in a lazy toast. “Cheers, mate.” He took a full gulp; beside him, Robbie did the same, shoulders tight and face down-turned. In the corner of their vision, the stranger remained, silent and watching.
“You headin’ off too, mate?” Robbie asked quietly, flicking his eyes over to, and then quickly away from, the stoic, unnamed figure. The man interlocked his fingers and rested them on the bar, moving at the leisurely pace of someone in his own home.
“I will leave with you,” the man said with a sombre nod. Robbie and Jack shared a fleeting look. Like wounded pups at a bloodhound’s paws, the duo looked pleadingly to Lach, and the old man complied.
“I think you’d better be off,” the barman said firmly, propping his hands on the bar in a stiff-armed pose that masked the weariness of his sixty-year-old frame.
The stranger turned his head in a smooth, almost oiled movement. His silver eyes, though still emotionlessly dead, blinked slowly, twice. It was impossible to tell whether it was an act of confusion or sympathy or some other feeling, hidden away behind that blank canvas.
“I’m afraid you don’t understand,” he said softly. “You people are the reason I am here. I cannot leave without you. And not yet.” The men exchanged anxious glances; Robbie’s fingers itched towards his cruelly empty glass while Jack rose unsteadily from his stool. Quiet as a ghost, Lach sidled around the bar and took four tentative steps towards the storeroom, where his regulars knew he kept a shotgun, ‘just in case’.
But the stranger paid them no heed. His attention was focussed solely on the ancient clock, calm and patient.
“Three,” he said loudly. Lach startled and took the final strides to the storeroom’s door, flinging it open.
Jack tightly gripped his friend’s arm to push him towards the exit. Robbie, in turn, forced his shaking legs to comply, and together the men fumbled for the door.
The stranger was ever unmoving. Though it was unseen by the three men, his silver eyes shone, for just a moment, with an otherworldly sadness. And then they were dead once more. “One…”
It was a moment of incoherent madness and disorder. The sounds of people entering the bar went unheard by Lach, as he wrenched the storeroom door open. But there was no masking the explosion of noise that followed. Bang. Jack fell to the feet of the masked men in the doorway. Robbie screamed, lunged, knocked the shooter down. Bang, and the door exploded, raining splints of wood upon the crowd. Lach cussed, narrowing his weak eyes against the shotgun’s sight to take better aim. Bang. Robbie slumped into a pool of red. Lach roared, heaving the gun closer, but then… Bang. And he was down.
The masked men swore viciously. Their hands shook around their guns; one of them slammed the cash register open, spilling coins to the floor with a merry jingle.
All the while, the stranger sat with his fingers interlocked, waiting.
Beyond the chaos of the men’s fatal robbery, Lach, Robbie and Jack rose, looking as fragile as wisps of smoke. “We’re dead,” Jack croaked. “We’re bloody dead, aren’t we?”
“Yes,” the stranger intoned calmly. His depthless eyes twinkled upon them with an unexpected kindness as he lifted his hand out in invitation.
“And now we can leave.”
- Love The Bad Guy