Fearless – a serial web novel
By Jenny K Brennan
Check the Fictionpage for more about this story.
Chapter 1 The Low down
I’m not much for friends. The number of real friends I’ve had over the years can be ticked off using one hand. Oh, ok, I only need a couple of fingers to count them. I’m not easy to deal with I suppose. One of the few who has managed to disregard my oddities was with me that night though; drunk and down so deep in her bottomless pit of self recrimination and alcohol induced immobility that all I could do was wait for her to get it all out. Every stupid choice, every disappointment, every ‘if I had only…’ scenario she could think of, poured out of her. This time his name was Tony. Tony the whack job. Tony the cheating bastard. Tony the lying, stealing, stupid, lazy son of a bitch. Well, that was her story and I didn’t believe it. Last week it had been Tony the love of my life; Tony the sweetheart; Tony the gentle, sexy, generous, better looking than Robbie greatest guy ever.
I didn’t mind really; I was a good listener.
“I don’t get it.” Amy whined for the seventh time and tried to untangle the sodden tissue she kept twisting and squeezing after each mopping of tears and snot from her puffy face. “Marcy, what am I doing wrong, Marshee?”
Amy Norris looked at me with her huge blue eyes from the other side of the table, lips trembling, thin pale fingers dabbing at her eyes with the disgusting looking napkin. I reached out and plucked it from her hand and gave her a fresh snot towel from the dispenser on the table. “Well, if you would stop being so fucking needy, maybe the guys wouldn’t run.” I stated matter a factly as I drained the dregs from my coffee. I looked around the nearly empty restaurant in search for someone that might be up for getting me a fresh java. When no one could be seen, I raised my cup high and yelled. “Raid! Mother-fuckers, cops outside!”
There was a rustling and a clank, a shout in a language I don’t think I’ve ever heard, and steps rushing about somewhere in the back. Finally some action. I smiled.
“Marschee? Are you lishening to me?” Amy complained and sank down even farther over her glass of Gin and tonic. It was actually just tonic this time, but Amy didn’t know that, and I doubted she could tell the difference at this point. She had started slurring and wavering unsteadily on the chair some time ago.
And no, I hadn’t been listening. I knew by heart what she would say, what she had done, what he had done, what she would do again and again. She would never learn. I knew that after hearing the same thing over and over. “You are a tiresome bitch Amy. And that’s that.”
I kept half an eye on Amy, in case she decided to throw her glass at me, as I waved and smiled at the little man who suddenly appeared between a beer fridge and a rack of dirty dishes. “Hey, you don’t look like Charlene.” Charlene had just been there, hadn’t she? She was always there, with her smoldering cigarette, plucked upper lip, and grimy pad that she supported against one huge tit while she took your order. The Low down wasn’t The Low down without Charlene.
The person that wasn’t remotely like Charlene didn’t answer. He threw his head around, stared at the door and the dark street outside for a long moment, then toward the backdoor, and then he finally fixed me with a glare that wasn’t too pretty. I tilted my head and smiled. Then I held the empty cup out for him to see, and for emphasis I pointed at it with my other hand. I raised my brows and tried for polite and sweet this time. “Am I getting a damn re-fill or what?”
The little man stared at me and stood very still. He was cute, I noticed. A bit short but Dark and obviously fit under that wife beater shirt, with chocolate brown eyes and slightly wing nutty ears. He didn’t look like a waiter at all, come to think of it. Charlene would swing a boob and that little fellow would drop like a sack of potatoes, I thought. Yeah, big girl Charlene was. This was someone new. I wondered about that for almost half a second and then I dismissed it. He looked like a guy that could get me a coffee; he had arms and fingers after all. And I wanted a coffee. I stabbed at the cup with the first finger on my left hand again and thought I’d make it easy on the poor thing. “Cup. Empty. Not good. Get it?”
“Got to… got don’t feel scho good…” Amy gurgled and I turned to her. The baby blues directed their wild stare at the table top, her nose lay pressed into the Formica, and both her hands tried to grasp the table edge to pull herself up. I sighed and put the cup down. Just as well; the ‘waiter’ had vanished. “Ok, come on you moron.” I said and hauled Amy to her feet. “Out we go. Next time I’m bringing barf bags. It’s fucking raining out there.”
I supported my wreck of a friend best I could as I dragged her to the back door. It was closer than the front door and I knew there was a tiny area protected from rain just outside it. I gave the washroom door a quick glance on the way by; that was as close to the ladies I would ever go. I would dare the rain any day. Even though it was, well, wet and cold, I was sure it didn’t transmit anything nasty just by walking through it.
When Amy tried to veer in the direction of decease central, I straightened her rout with a jerk. “Oh, no you don’t. Actually, next time I’ll…” I never knew what I had meant to say because at that moment Amy’s hand flew to her mouth and I hustled her through the back door and directed her away from my shoes. She staggered a step, nearly bumped her head against the brick wall, and finally she got it out. All of it.
I stopped listening and looked around, curious. I did long for that coffee but I had a feeling I wouldn’t get any; not until I had driven Amy home. I’d stop at the first Timmy’s I’d get to on the way home. I sighed again. “If you choke I won’t save you. I don’t know how to do the Heimlich.” I muttered absentmindedly without looking at my friend who was in the midst of evacuating the contents of her stomach. “Fucking dark out here.” I shivered slightly in the raw chilly air.
Where I stood, between two short privacy walls roofed by a noisy piece of steel, it was fairly dry. The makeshift roof plinked and plopped for every drop of water falling from the sky. There didn’t seem to be any functioning light anywhere and the only reason I still saw anything at all was a dim light leaking through a filthy piece of glass set in the door. There was a naked bulb sitting in a cracked ceramic socket high on one of the walls, but either it was broken, or it had to be turned on from somewhere inside. I glanced up at the wall across from the restaurants back wall. “You know, this is by far the worst dump ever.” I said to Amy. I started to turn to her but stopped when I simultaneously heard sounds indicating that she was not ready quite yet, and another sound from the other side of the wall on my left. It came from somewhere farther down the alley. A door opening, low murmurings, a definite curse, and a low rumble that I first thought was part of the restaurants ventilation. It wasn’t.
As I identified the stink of exhaust drifting low through the drizzle, I also recognized an idling car engine.
Curiosity has always been my curse so I stepped forward and rubbernecked around the privacy wall. There was another door there; a second back door to the same building. It was some kind of loading dock with steel railings on the two ends of a concrete slab; a double door and a small glowing sign saying ’employees only” above. “Employees, my ass.” I said under my breath.
Several dark shapes moved between the open doors and a van stood idling a few steps away from the edge. In the light coming from inside the door I made out three different men, one of whom was the short brown-eyed cutie. The waiter that wasn’t a waiter at all. I recalled the look in his eyes when looking at the front door. So, my joke hadn’t been appreciated; fancy that. The little man stood just inside the door, gesturing, and talking animatedly to another man that had just returned from a trip to the open back of the van. I strained my ears but he kept his voice low and the grumbling van motor drowned out most of the words
I recalled the look in those brown eyes. Definitely alarmed, if not shitting razor blades. “Up to no good are we?” I mumbled.
Clank, bang, scrape, thud, thud, and more scraping. What the hell was that? Barrels? That’s what it seemed to be. Metal containers, not quite barrel sized, but I had seen something like it somewhere. I just couldn’t think where, or what they had been used for. I gave it a mental shrug. It didn’t matter did it now. They sure seemed to be in a hurry. Now, that was interesting. I thought for a moment. If they were legit, then what I had in mind wouldn’t bother the gentlemen loading an unmarked van late at night with unidentifiable stuff. Now would it? I ducked back and out of sight. I glanced at Amy, but she had dropped down on her ass and sat slumped against the wall. I tried not to think about where, and in what, she was sitting. I cringed but then I shrugged. I had blankets in the car anyways, for just such situations. I had better things to think about. Amy was hardly visible in the darkness against the wall. I stepped over her legs and followed the wall to the corner and turned around it. I smiled happily and dug up my cell-phone. I had just the thing.