There’s no rhyme or reason to this story. I just started writing and this is what came out.
It’s weird because I’m not particularly fond of either character, and I very rarely write anything without at least one character I adore. Nevertheless, I think Harkins is kind of a mental pushover and Carter is just too high-strung. I wouldn’t want to share a cup of coffee or a glass of beer with either of them. But the the tension in their exchange was interesting to me, and that got me thinking.
In a way, there’s always an unnamed character in every story we write: the story, itself. The plot has its own personality. In this case, that’s the character I like, and the only reason I stuck with this story long enough to finish it. If I didn’t like it at all, I’d just delete it and start over. I’ve done that plenty of times.
But enough yammering. On to the story. No prompt this week. Just plain-jane flash fiction. Enjoy.
“He’s making this awful easy.”
Carter takes a hard pull on her cig. It hangs limp from her bottom lip, giving her the look of some kind of steampunk gunslinger. Like she’d just stepped out of the pages of a comic book. Or a nightmare.
“Congratulations, asshole. I think you just set a record.”
Harkins huffs a sigh and waves smoke out of his face. “For what?” he asks.
“Falling for the oldest trick in the book,” Carter says. She makes it a point to exhale in his direction, a fog bank of smoldering haze rolling over her lips. It’s both sensual and annoying, but Harkins will admit neither. “He wants you to think it’s easy. Hell, he wants you to walk right in through the front fucking door.”
“Seriously, Carter, do you have to be like that? You’ve got the chick-with-a-chip-on-her-shoulder thing down pat. Why don’t you give it a rest? You know, act like a human being?”
Carter rolls her eyes. “You cope your way, I’ll cope mine.”
“Fine,” he says. “Whatever.”
They’re hunkered over the blueprints. The records the city had on file, at least. Neither of them is gullible enough to believe they’re complete. You don’t survive for hundreds of years without learning how to keep a few secrets, and their current target is one of the oldest living active vampires in the world.
She flicks the butt on the ground, smashes it with her boot, and lights a new cigarette in one fluid motion. She makes it look like an angry interpretive dance, the way her fingers caress the lighter. The way she flits the cigarette to get rid of the ash. The way she exhales. Harkins makes himself focus on the mission.
“What do you suggest, then?”
She laughs. “Well, not a frontal assault, that’s for sure. The fact that it looks easy guarantees it’s not.”
“How ’bout something useful? Like a suggestion.”
She grins. He can tell this is part of the game for her. It’s her persona, yes, but it’s more than that. She knows he finds her attractive. She’s teasing him in much the same way little girls tease little boys. It’s more sophisticated, but it’s the same. If he drops his guard, she’ll either welcome his advances or laugh in his face as she pushes him away. He won’t know until he tries.
“High stakes,” he says, mostly to himself.
“They always are,” she says. Pointing to the blueprints, she continues. “Here. This window is isolated, out of sight from the street and faces east. We’ll have sunlight and no witnesses. We can break in at dawn and at least scope the place out.”
“And if he has security?” Harkins asks.
“He does. Tasers first, then guns. Weapons hot if need be.”
Harkins chuckles to himself. “You really do think you’re Annie Oakley, don’t you?”
“Nope. She died in her bed. I plan to die on my feet.”
“That’s not what I mean, you stubborn bitch.”
He hears the word coming out as he speaks it. When she looks up, he knows he’s overstepped his bounds. She can call him ‘asshole’ all day long, but he returned fire with a little too much force. Or he hit a nerve. Or she’s a fan of double standards.
It doesn’t matter. He’s pissed her off.
Faster than his eyes can register, she ditches the cigarette and steps to his side. Her hand swings around and when he looks down she’s holding a knife to his groin.
“Call me that again and I’ll make you one of the girls,” she says.
“I meant no offense,” he says.
“Some taken,” she spits. “And you made me waste a perfectly good smoke. Damn you, Harkins. You’re a real dipshit.”
“Shake it off, but don’t let it happen again. I’ll fill the commander in. We ride at dawn.”
With that, she leaves the room, sheathing her knife as she walks. Harkins stands there for a moment, still caught in the adrenaline of the last exchange. He doesn’t know what he hates himself for most. Wanting her, calling her a bitch, or getting a hard-on when she put a blade to his dick.