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Posts Tagged ‘Historical Fiction’

Fong’s Part XII

In Fantasy, Fiction, Fong's, Sci-Fi, Writing on June 22, 2015 at 11:45 am

Sudden searing pain in her right cheek, and Penny fell to her knees, clutching her face.

“I’ve already made the pigfucker joke,” the boy said to his men. “Was bacon too much?”

Penny looked up to see the still-smoking Peacemaker in the boy’s hand. Rivard stood stock still, the mangled remnants of his blade and its mechanism dangling from his torn sleeve. His hand bled, the glove torn – but all of his fingers intact.

“That was unwise,” said Rivard.

“On the contrary, I prevented you from – wait, are you bleeding, Miss?” The young man kept his gun trained on Rivard, his eyes locked on Penny’s.

She took her hand away from her face. The blood that covered her fingers was beginning to clot.

“I am … bleeding,” Penny said. She felt distant from her voice, a numbness settling over her.

“This is unpardonable. Enough games,” the young man said.

He fired his gun five times. Even as his eyes flicked toward his targets, Penny felt as though they never left hers. And though she knew she flinched with each shot, she never allowed herself to blink or break from his gaze. Each bullet found its mark, and each of Rivard’s men fell dead or certain to die, their blood pooling on the fine polished wood of the yacht.

As he fired the last round in his gun, the young man pulled another from its holster and tossed the first behind him where it was caught by a figure still obscured in the fog. This fresh gun was again trained on Rivard. “Let her go,” the young man said, “And I’ll let you live.”

The figure behind the young man had emptied and reloaded the revolver, slipping it into the holster on the young man’s left hip.

“Who’s that behind you, then?” Rivard said. “You bring your mommy along to wipe your ass?”

The young man’s answer was cut off by the boom of a cannon and a great crash of water just beyond the yacht. A voice called out of the fog, “In the name of the Republic! Throw down your arms and surrender your vessels!”

The young man leapt aboard, drawing a sword and slashing it toward Rivard with unexpected skill. Rivard raised a walking stick, blocking the hit, then drew a sword from within. Shots were being fired and male voices were bellowing, but Penny felt like she was fading from the world. Her face was numb and she was having trouble breathing. Everything looked blurry.

“Jack!” a familiar voice called out, “She’s poisoned!”

Jack turned to look at her and was clubbed to his knees by Rivard.

The last thing Penny saw was Rivard’s blade pressing into Jack’s throat.

All went black.

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Fong’s Part IX

In Fantasy, Fiction, Fong's, Sci-Fi, Writing on June 18, 2015 at 11:45 am

“What’s your sister’s name,” someone said. Fong, Heifitz and Knucklebrow were all looking at her. Penny didn’t realize she had spoken. The steam of the coffee shifted to purple as Fong sprinkled a pinch of brown powder over it, and Knucklebrow Twosie gave a half-hiccup, involuntary gasp.

“Penelopye,” he said. It came out Peenellopyeh, but its similarity to Penny’s own name was enough to earn a rare lift of the eyebrow from Fong.

“That’s an uncommon pronunciation,” Fong said. “Where is your family from, Knucklebrow?”

“Ruritania,” Knucklebrow said, “Originally. Then Pennsylvania.”

“Penelopye and Peter of Pennsylvania …” Fong said. His voice was quiet, but each word caused a cascade of twitches across Knucklebrow’s face. It was like watching a mountainside rearrange itself.

From the steam of the coffee came a brief, faint trumpet fanfare, a snippet of a sturdy national anthem as a single word formed above the cup: Strelsau.

“He speaks the truth. Catch him!” Fong said, as Knucklebrow’s eyes rolled up into his head and he tipped backward. Penny reached for him as Heifitz sprang diagonally over the bar, landing to Knucklebrow’s left – but it was too late: Knucklebrow hit the floor with a crash that rattled the cups on every table, the other patrons knocking over chairs in their haste to avoid injury.

Fong scooped a tiny amount of the coffee from the still-steaming cup with a spoon smaller than his thumb, leaning down to pour it over Knucklebrow’s lips.

“That a good idea, boss?” Heifitz said.

“I have no way of knowing. But it seems as good as anything else at the moment,” Fong said.

The coffee cup began to bubble, rattling on the bar and sloshing. More coffee than could fill the cup was pouring out, a tiny splash landing on Penny’s hand, scalding hot. Penny, Fong and Heifitz all turned to stare at it.

The cup exploded.

Knucklebrow shot to his feet, dashing out the door, bellowing, “She’s near the docks!”

“Quickly, Penny – after him! In his state he’s uncontrollable. We’ve no time to lose – Heifitz! Call Jack!” Fong grabbed Penny’s hand and whisked her toward the entrance.

“Jack who?” Heifitz was reaching for the stereoptiphone.

“Who do you think?” Fong threw this last over his shoulder as he and Penny were out the door, the figure of Knucklebrow fading into the night ahead of them. Penny knew which Jack it was, and felt a thrill in her heart of hearts.

Her hero, her savior, her secret love: Pirate Jack, the terror of the Bay.

Fong’s Part VIII

In Fantasy, Fiction, Fong's, Sci-Fi, Writing on June 17, 2015 at 11:45 am

Vomit burning her throat, Penny watched as two underlings materialized – variations on the dirty brute who pinned her arms to her sides, grinding himself against her. She knew what he was doing but ignored him, remembering the words of her grandmother: wolves only chase the girl who runs. Penny wished she’d remembered that sooner, wondering if she could have used it to chart a safer course to Saint Raymond.

One of the brutes was removing the pimp’s jacket as the other one whisked the contents of Penny’s stomach out of Rivard’s hair; Rivard was watching Penny. He said, “You think this is bad? You’re wishing you were somewhere else? This is a Sunday picnic compared to what awaits you across the bay, my sweet. You’re going to meet the cream of society, and they’re going to do to you what they can’t get away with doing to their own daughters and neices.”

Vasquez was still alive, gasping, bleeding, begging. While Rivard was speaking, the brute holding his jacket had removed everything of value from its pockets. Now he tossed the jacket on Vasquez, doused him with kerosene and flicked a lit match at him with the bored nonchalance of long practice.

“Even that useless shit serves a purpose now, sweet little firecrotch,” Rivard said. “My reputation in Oak Landing is strengthened by the burning of a man who, ten years ago, was Mayor of this shitpile. His own son works these very docks, but hasn’t the balls to confront me. I owe you a good turn, firecrotch. So I won’t cut your face. Yet.”

Penny was dragged, stunned, to a small private yacht loaded with a variety of goods. She was certain of her impending death. She could still hear Vasquez screaming, she could smell his burning hair and shit. Over the next horrible weeks, she never slept more than a few minutes before those memories yanked her awake, trembling, too terrified to cry.

Fong’s Part VII

In Fantasy, Fiction, Fong's, Sci-Fi, Writing on June 16, 2015 at 11:45 am

A hunchbacked Mexican stood to Rivard’s left; he had one glaring, empty eye socket and a poorly healed broken jaw. He held the pimp’s spotless hat with the fixed obedience of a beaten dog. Penny nodded as best she could, struggling to breathe.

“Good. Let me explain something to you. I love my hats. I don’t like them to get dirty or messy. That’s Vasquez. He was supposed to be guarding the room where you woke up. That door was supposed to be locked.” So saying, Rivard stepped to Vasquez, dragging Penny, still choking her. Her field of vision was narrowing.

“Señor – ” Vasquez said, but was cut off by his intestines spilling to the dry dust at his feet, the speed of Rivard’s knife impossible to follow. Penny didn’t see where it came from or where it went, only Rivard’s arm in a gesture of curt censure. She would have vomited if her throat hadn’t been nearly crushed shut. Vasquez stumbled back, falling to his knees in his own entrails, dropping Rivard’s hat in that mess.

Rivard let her go and she was grabbed and held by the scraggly-bearded man, who reeked of sweat and shit and rotten teeth. His smell and Vasquez’s intestines brought up what Rivard had been preventing, and Penny disgorged an astounding jet of vomit.

Stooping to retrieve his hat, Rivard took the full brunt of Penny’s puke on the right side of his head and face, down his right arm. He stood. Calm. Where activity had bustled in studious ignorance of Rivard’s endeavors there in the dusty yard of the Oak Landing coach office, now all was silence. Penny heard distant sounds with complete clarity: ships’ bells. Gulls. Buoys. A child crying in the distance. A dog barking.

She knew that her life was over.

Fong’s Part VI

In Fantasy, Fiction, Fong's, Sci-Fi, Writing on May 31, 2015 at 11:45 am

Penny Onehole was struck by those words, remembering for the first time in years how, once her feet had healed and her fever cleared, Fong had bought her new clothes and given her money to take a ferry across the bay. “Go and find your father,” he had said. “This is no place for you.”

With money for travel to Saint Raymond, she’d crossed the fog-wracked water on a day that she discovered, upon arrival at the other side, was warm and breezy. Breathing deep her freedom, she made her way from the docks at Oak Landing to the stagecoach office, sitting prim in the shade, watching the fresh horses being harnessed to the very coach that would take her to safety. At least the Mormons had been clean. When she had first arrived in Saint Raymond, with everyone so polite and smiling in that weird Mormon way, she had never expected to long to return to that place.

A voice spoke from behind her, saying, “Sweet thing like you, hard to forget,” and Penny turned to see a scraggly-bearded man leering at her through an open window. His face was familiar, and just as the memory surfaced – this was the man she’d knocked down on her flight from the flophouse where she’d awakened weeks before – she was yanked to her feet and came face-to-face with a well-dressed, short, pale man who smelled very good. His hair was slicked back, his thin moustache stuck out to the side in points like two long, thick rat whiskers. Penny had seen him before, watching him through peep holes at Fong’s as he’d threatened her protector on repeated visits, the threats diminishing in strength as the opium took hold.

“Rivard,” she breathed.

“I paid good money for your fiery little cunt,” he purred, caressing her face. She could feel that nobody was watching them. Rivard’s reputation was as pervasive as the fog that choked the city across the bay. His hand closed over her throat. “So lucky for me, the one day I step across the bay, to find you. I haven’t been here for years. Do you see that man holding my hat?”

With Rivard’s hand crushing her throat, Penny could only glance in that direction.

Fong’s Part V

In Fantasy, Fiction, Fong's, Writing on May 30, 2015 at 11:45 am

Knucklebrow looked ready to shit himself.

“Have no fear, Mr. Twosie,” said Fong. “You are among friends. Enjoy your whiskey, and cast your mind back to a time and place when you felt safe, loved and valued.”

Knucklebrow stared at Fong, frowning as he said, “You think I don’t feel safe? You think I’m not man enough to take care of myself?”

“I think you’re letting good whiskey go to waste, Mr. Twosie. I’m certain you can take care of yourself, and several others. I imagine you could take care of an entire brood. But what I think doesn’t matter. What matters is what I know. And I know you will enjoy that whiskey,” said Fong.

Knucklebrow sat still for a moment, like a volcano measuring the value of an impending eruption, then reached for his glass.

Fong murmured, “Double,” gesturing to Heifitz for a refill as Knucklebrow downed his whispey. Heifitz obliged.

Knucklebrow downed the double and wiped his mouth with the back of the hand holding the glass, his eyes focused on the frame of the mirror behind the bar, his soul focused on protecting the memory of someplace safe. A single drop threatened to fall onto Knucklebrow’s shirt front, but was caught by Fong on a tiny folded paper flower. Placing a cup of steaming coffee on the bar, Fong set the flower to float in the dark liquid and said, “Black mirror, white flower, show us now your ancient power: does this Twosie tell the truth? Or does he lie from heart uncouth? Dig beneath his lifelong sediment, thus uproot his speech impediment!”

Knucklebrow reeled back like he’d been beaned with a brickbat, then shook his head to clear it. He was winding up to lunge across the bar when Fong blew a pinch of white powder over the steam of the coffee.

The room slowed, the lights dimmed, and from the steam of the coffee a young girl’s voice said, “Petey, help me! I’m lost and I can’t find my way!”

Knucklebrow’s arm fell to his side, his face crumpled, he stared at the coffee. It spoke again:

“Petey, Papa’s gonna sell me! Please find me!”

Fong’s Part IV

In Fantasy, Fiction, Fong's, Writing on May 29, 2015 at 11:45 am

“Welcome, stranger. What’s your name?”

“Twosie,” he said.

“Twoseat what?” she said.

“No, Knupplebrow,” he said. Heifitz put a shot of whispey in front of him. Un-dosed, one notch above rotgut.

“Good to meet you, Twoseat No-Nipplebrow,” she said. “I’m Penny Onehole.”

“No, not Twoseat No-Nipplebrow. it’s Knupplebrow. Knupplebrow Twosie,” he said.

“Ooo, I like your name, honey, but say it again, real slow. I’ve mixed it up in my head. Too much opium in my popium, if you know what I mean,” she smiled, leaning forward to expose cleavage not yet spotted and leathery like old Laughin’ Sal.

“Name’s Knupplebrow. Twosie.” Frustration edged his voice like a rusty blade. “Knupples, you know, lipe – ” and he cracked his knuckles loud enough to stop Bimps at the piano, everyone in Fong’s front room turning to look.

“Ooh, right. Knuckles. Knucklebrow. Yes. Well, tell me, Knucklebrow Twosie, what brings you to Fong’s?” Penny smiled again, hoping to smooth away his rising anger with the hint of sexual intrigue.

“I’m looping for a girl,” he said.

“Ain’t we all?” Penny laughed, Heifitz and Bimps following suit, the laugh making its round through Fong’s front room with the same contagious, hazy release as a yawn.

A gong sounded, deep in one of the back rooms – or below the floor, it was hard to tell – and Fong arose in a cloud of smoke behind the bar. No matter how many times he’d done it, no matter that he’d shown her the mechanics of the trap and the smoke, it gave Penny the chills. Fong called it his Mystical Chinese Devil trick, saying it was just what Westerners expect of the proprietor of a back alley opium den.

Wreathed in smoke and staring right though Knucklebrow Twosie, Fong said, “You seek a girl, she is your sister, but you cannot find her because no matter how close you get – your anger leads you astray.”

Fong’s Part III

In Fantasy, Fiction, Fong's, Writing on May 28, 2015 at 11:45 am

Fong had spotted her right away.

Thinking back now, she saw the parallel: here she lounged on a stool at the bar, watching the door and seeing this squat brute with the thick wrists walk in. Just as Fong had spotted her all those years ago, from behind the bar where he had been explaining the finer points of Chinese Alchemy to the bartender, Krauty Frankle. Krauty hadn’t been in favor of alchemical additions to the drinks; not because he objected to doping the customers, but because he objected in principle to all Chinese philosophies. “Inefficient,” he would grumble.

Fong had been concerned for Penny, seeing at once her bleeding feet and torn nightgown. He whisked her into a back room where he spent hours personally removing glass from her feet and cleaning the wounds. He gave her bitter, disgusting, teas to drink. When Rivard’s men had come looking for her, nobody at Fong’s had seen a red-haired, green-eyed thirteen year old girl. Fong ran a tight ship. His teas and herbal medicines brought Penny to full health, even as the complimentary (at first) opium he gifted Rivard sank its hooks into the pimp.

Knucklebrow Twosie arrived at the bar and Penny Onehole’s reverie burst like an overripe pomegranate, which is to say it crunched and appeared to bleed.

“Whispey,” Knucklebrow said.

“Beg pardon?” said the new bartender, Heifitz McNabb. (Krauty Frankle had died two years before, the victim of a sudden and mystifying alchemical explosion in the sub-sub basement, an accident Fong described as, “Entirely un-Chinese.”)

“Whispey, neat,” said Knucklebrow.

A split second passed before Heifitz nodded, smiling, the perfect curls of his moustache betraying nothing of his inner amusement. Penny knew they’d chuckle about it later, but for now she fixed her eyes on the newcomer and said, “Welcome, stranger. What’s your name?”

Fong’s Part II

In Fantasy, Fiction, Writing on May 27, 2015 at 11:45 am

Penny was lost when she found Fong’s fifteen years ago.

Her drunken father had decided that dragging her out here to the untamed West was a good idea, on account of the huge Mormon settlement in the valleys to the East of the Bay. He wanted more than one wife, he’d confided to Penny. She hadn’t bothered to ask what was wrong with the one they’d left behind.

Upon arrival, he’d decided he wanted one less daughter. Selling her had been a simple matter of a meeting in a tavern near the docks in Oak Landing, and soon Penny awoke in a dingy room that stank of piss and gin, being tarted up by a girl not much older than herself who said, “Rivard’s got the calamity. If you don’t want it, better take it in the ass so you don’t get pregnant.”

Penny ran from the room, bouncing down the hall and stairs like a frightened jack rabbit – knocking a scraggly-bearded man ass over teakettle – into streets choked with mud, horseshit and worse. This place looked nothing like the pleasant village of Saint Raymond where she’d fallen asleep the night before: gone were the blue skies over golden brown hills dotted with Oak and Bay Laurel. In their place were a mix of shanties and palaces in a stinking, choking smog.

Shouting men were chasing her. She ran and ran, her bare feet aching and bleeding from a bad stub and a twisted ankle, then broken glass. Unclear thinking and desperate terror sent her in search of the docks: stow away on a boat … or drown herself. Not knowing her way and hearing her pursuers gain on her, Penny dashed toward the masts she could see in the distance — but found herself trapped in a blind alley. Turning to retrace her steps, she saw a sign that hadn’t been there when she’d run in:

FONG’S
Opium Dreams Come True Ladies For You

Punctuation could have helped a great deal, but then Penny might not have stepped inside.

Fong’s

In Fantasy, Fiction, Fong's on May 26, 2015 at 9:17 pm

Knucklebrow Twosie had never been seen in Fong’s before.

Not that there was any great whispering when he walked in. Most of the clientele were in a state of hazy mental undress, too deep in their cups or pipes or kinks to notice. Because, after all, Knucklebrow Twosie was as new to Fong’s as he was to the street, the city and the Republic itself. There was no reason for anyone to take much note of him.

The one person in the room who did see him clearly was Penny Onehole, whose name, while ultimately misleading, nevertheless held enough mystery to keep drunkards coming back for another crack. Penny didn’t like drink, on account of her father. She didn’t like opium, on account of her pimp, Rivard, now deceased, whom she blamed for getting her stuck in this fog-wracked hell. Penny didn’t like that other smoke, on account of it got her fatter than she should be at age twenty-seven, ahem. She had a lot of tricks to make the Johns think she was three sheets to the wind, and not a drop of liquor had passed her lips in fifteen years.

What she saw when Knucklebrow Twosie walked in was a man of a bout five feet, four inches in height, his cap pulled down to his eyebrows. Those thick wrists might mean a thick cock, but she didn’t much care either way. He looked like everyone else who came into Fong’s: lost.

But … something about his jaw, the angle of his head, looked familiar. Penny Onehole suppressed a shiver and smiled at him through the smoke. There was a quota to fill, after all. He looked like he’d do nicely.