Every week at Terribleminds, Chuck Wendig issues a new flash fiction challenge. Last week’s challenge was to write a 1000 word story in present tense. I missed the deadline, but thought I’d share my story anyway. Enjoy!
I sit at the end of the bar and sip my club soda. A million butterflies have taken up residence in my stomach and I’m certain my anxiety is written all over my face.
“Relax, Steph. You’re doin’ great.” My sergeant’s voice whispers from the tiny device that’s hidden deep in my ear canal. I pick up my drink and take a glance down the mostly empty bar. My target, Mr. Charlie Ryan, is three stools down to my left. He’s grown a beard since his last mug-shot, but it’s hard to mistake him. He’s tall and slender, deep brown eyes hidden under bushy black eyebrows, and a scar that runs from his right temple to his chin – a parting gift for only bringing his fists to a knife fight.
He catches me watching him in the mirror behind the bar. I smile and blush. He smiles back.
“Hi,” he says to my reflection.
“Hi.” The blush on my face deepens.
“Haven’t I seen you in here before?” He moves one stool closer to me.
“I don’t know. Maybe. I came in a few nights last week.” I tug my hair, curling a strand around my finger.
“That must be it, then. I’m Charlie.” He moves one more stool closer and extends his hand.
“Stephanie,” I say, reaching to shake his hand.
“Nice to meet you Stephanie. Can I buy you a drink?”
“I’m good, thanks.” I swirl the ice around my half-full glass. He nods in a way that lets me know that’s not exactly the answer he’s expecting. He orders a beer and gets distracted by the television that’s hanging over the bar.
“So, Charlie, can I ask…” I prop my chin in my hand, my elbow on the bar. I take a sip of my club soda and set the glass down a little harder than necessary.
“Ask what?” His tone isn’t unkind so much as impatient.
“Where’d you get the scar?” I let my words slur just a bit.
“Doin’ stupid shit when I was younger.”
I raised my eyebrows, eager to hear the story. His file says the fight was over drugs and money. A kilo of coke and three grand in cash, to be exact. A week after the incident, the boy who cut him was found in an abandoned building, beat to death. Charlie was the prime suspect, but all the evidence was circumstantial, so he was never charged.
“Let’s just say I got in an argument with a carving knife, and the knife won.”
“A carving knife? Like you use on the Thanksgiving turkey?” My voice goes a little too high and my giggles come too easily. Just another drunk girl in a bar. He smiles back at me and leans a little closer.
“Yeah, something like that.” He looks me up and down and licks his lips. I laugh harder.
“That’s a terrible story, Charlie. You really ought to work on that. I mean, come on!” I pick up my glass and use it to punctuate my words. Club soda sloshes down the front of his shirt.
“Shit! Charlie, I’m so sorry! God, I’m such a klutz!” I grab a handful of cocktail napkins and start blotting up the mess.
He grabs my hands to stop my frantic motion. I meet his gaze and he’s smiling down at me.
“No harm done,” he says. We sit and stare at each other for what feels like an eternity. I almost decide that he’s going to try to kiss me, and my mind races to figure out what I’m going to do if he does.
Instead, he lets go of my hands and leans back. “How about you and I get out of here, maybe go find something to eat?”
“But your shirt…”
“Don’t worry about it. I probably have a spare out in the car. What do you say?” He holds out his hand as if to help me down from the stool.
The butterflies start churning again as I smile and accept. I hop down from the bar stool and step toward the front door, toward my back up.
“Hey, kiddo. I’m parked out back.” He puts his hand on my back and turns me around.
“We heard that, Steph. Don’t worry, we’re getting guys in position. Stall if you can.” The sergeant’s voice isn’t as calming as I hope.
I let Charlie guide me toward the back of the bar, and realize a split second too late that his hand is resting on my service weapon, tucked securely in the back waistband of my jeans, hidden under my shirt. A rookie mistake, letting him touch my back.
I feel his muscles tense. He snakes his arm around my waist, pulling me tight to him as he pushes through the bar.
“You have gotta be fucking kidding me.”
“Easy Charlie. Just be cool.” I pray the sergeant hears the code words.
It’s a last resort, taking him down in the middle of the bar, but I can’t risk him getting away again. A few more feet, and I see my opening.
I lock my legs mid-step. He falls into me and I ram my elbow into his stomach. The blow stuns him, giving me enough time to turn on him and draw my weapon.
It happens so fast the crowd has no time to process what they are seeing as my squad comes pouring through the doors. The sudden presence of a dozen armed cops stuns the room into silence.
Charlie surveys the situation and raises his hands in surrender.
“Charles Ryan, you are under arrest.” I pull my badge from my pocket as my partner cuffs him. They lead him out to the squad car and read him his rights. I tuck my weapon back in my waistband and take a deep breath. Around me, the bar patrons go back to their cocktails and conversations like nothing happened.
My sergeant walks by and claps me on the back. “Good job, rookie. Not bad for your first bust.”