Saturday, July 02, 2005

Claim Your Prize

"There were too many parrots around here. And it wasn't just the birds."
That was the phrase the Original LRU gave me to work with, and an original phrase too.
So, here's the story as the prize, as promised. It went a little longer than a short, short story, but there you go.
When I read the phrase, it was kinda funny, but I instantly thought of a dark noir story with someone saying something like that in thoughts or voice over. So that's what this is, hope you enjoy.

"Goodbye, Angie"
by Eaglewing

So, just how did I come to be standing in a pet store on the corner of North and 5th? I certainly wasn't looking to become a new owner of an aquatic or four-legged money soaker.

Truth be told, it was because the dang phone rang. I really shouldn't have agreed to come. I shouldn't have answered the phone. But what the hell, I guess I'm just a sucker for good looking redheads with sad stories.

Either that, or I'm a bigger fool than I thought. But then, what are you supposed to do when the dame that ripped your heart out calls you up out of the blue, and before hanging up, tells you she needs your help, she's desperate, and to meet her in the bird section of Flusher's Pet Shop. I knew it was the owner's name, but considering they did sell fish, they probably should give serious thought to changing it. Maybe that explained the poor business they were doing and the fact I was the only one here.

She was late, which didn't surprise me in the least. Some things never change. I had seen all I cared to of the various domesticated-for-your-enjoyment animal life this place had to offer and was thinking of leaving.

Then the door chime sounded, and she walked in one hip at a time - all doe-eyed vulnerability and an air of knowing how to use it.

Damn. I shouldn't have answered the phone.

"Ellis, I'm so glad to see you!" she began breathlessly. "I wasn't sure you'd come."

"What do you want, Angie? I don't have a lot of time."

"No hello? No kiss for old times?" she looked up at me with that look of hers.

It used to work, but that was many long nights and many whiskey bottles ago.

"No. Old times got me here. They won't keep me here. The truth will do just fine."

"You've changed."

"You haven't. Let's get on with it Angie."

"Fine. Play it your way." I felt the temperature drop, just a bit. "There are some men after me. They think I have something that can get some people in trouble. Important people. I don't have it and don't know what exactly they're looking for, but they don't believe my story. I saw your P.I. ad in the phone book and couldn't believe my luck. You know the rest."

"Not really. What exactly do want me to do?"

"Protect me. Get them off my back. Do whatever it is you P.I.'s do to get people out of trouble!"

I gave her an exasperated look and noted the door open again ushering four people through. Three men, one woman. They were too old for pets, and too young to be anything but trouble. The leather, hard looks, greasy hair, and the not unexpected holster shaped bulges told me they weren't here for the guppies. The woman asked the clerk something, then they all headed for our end of the shop.

"C'mon," I grabbed Angie's arm. "Time to fly this coop."

I wasn't too keen on helping her, but it looked like I was in this now whether I liked it or not. We walked calmly past a row of bird cages and headed for the back door. I was disappointed at what I found. The door was locked. Sealed closed actually. Looked like the only way out was the way we came in. Not good.

"What now?!" exclaimed Angie. "You gotta get me out of here!"

"I'm working on it," I muttered. I grabbed her hand and headed back the way we came. I turned the corner, and there was the foursome at the other end of the aisle. Nothin' but a row of squawking birds in between.

"No more running, Angie. Give it to us now." spoke the woman.

"Give it to us now. Give it to us now." squawked a parrot halfway down the aisle.

"Shut up!" a thug yelled. "Shut up! Shut up!" the parrot shot back.

"Shut up!" Thug.

"Shut up!" Parrot.

The rest of us watched in confused amusement as the thug and parrot continued their war of words. I didn't like where this was going. I figured me and the parrot had the only level heads in the room. Then the woman led two of the thugs our way, closing the distance.

I'd had enough. I was starting to feel claustrophobic. There were too many parrots around here. And it wasn't just the birds.

I gave Angie a soft push back and stepped forward to meet the threat head on. I'd have to be fast, since I wasn't packing heat. Thug 1 reached under his coat, but I got to him first. A hard backhanded chop to his larynx and a punch to the gut had him on the floor desperately sucking wind. I swung my right hand out, smashing across the face of Thug 2, before spinning around and back kicking him in the gut. He went down, smacking his head against the shelf and was out cold. I turned again and stopped cold as I took a good look down the wrong end of a Colt .45.

"Nice moves," purred the woman, voice soft as silk. Then, in a much colder voice, "Kill him, Burt."

I didn't hesitate. I grabbed the gun, and Burt and I struggled to gain control of it. Somehow, two shots rang out, hurting neither Burt or I as I fought to get the gun out of his grasp. I sensed an opportunity, and rammed my elbow up, under Burt's chin. I heard something crack, and Burt went limp, falling to the ground. I took proper control of the Colt, and turned to find the next threat. There was none.

One shot had found the woman. She was on the floor, quite dead and bleeding out. The other shot had found Thug 1, also quite dead. Thug 2 was still out cold and Burt's head was at a wrong angle to his body, dead from a broken neck. I wasn't going to shed a tear for any of them, but still, this wasn't the way I had wanted this to go.

I looked back to Angie, and saw her crawling out from behind the shelf corner where she had hidden. She had dropped her purse and the contents were scattered over the floor. I walked over, knelt down, and started to help her gather things up.

"You ok?" I asked. She nodded. I put some things back in her purse, then stopped as my hand closed over a roll of film. "What's this?"

"Nothing, just some pictures I had forgotten to develop." She tried to play it cool, but her eyes gave it away. She reached out to take it, but I didn't give. We both got to our feet.

"This is what they were looking for, isn't it Angie?" She did nothing. "What exactly is on this?"

"What do you think? It's my ticket out of here. That's worth a lot of money to some very rich people. Come on, we can share it! Just give it to me."

"No Angie. Three people died here tonight, and I killed one of them. All because of you and what's on this roll of film. No, it ends here. I'm not looking forward to it, but I'm not worried about me. This was self defense, and that camera up there will prove it. Now, the way I see it, you've got two choices. Stay, face the music, and get clear of this the right way, or start running and don't look back. I'm not going to stop you if you want to run...for old times sake."

She looked at me for a long minute. Then she took a step backward, and I knew she had already made up her mind.

"I know what you think of me, Ellis, and maybe you're right. But I'm sorry about this, I really am. But I'm not going to stay."

"I know Angie. It's not your style. But keep this in mind - Don't call me again. Don't come back here again. Don't try to use old times again. 'Cause from now on, when I think of old times, I'll be thinking of tonight. It's been a real trip babe, but it's over."

"Good bye, Ellis." She turned and walked out the door. I watched her go.

"Good bye, Angie." I felt an odd sense of relief for having finally said the words.

"Good bye, Angie." the persistent parrot echoed. I smiled in spite of myself. I pulled out my cell phone to call the cops, and it rang in my hand.

I knew I really shouldn't answer the phone.


The End.

Comments on "Claim Your Prize"


Blogger The Original LRU said ... (July 03, 2005 11:53 AM) : 

Now that's a prize! :-)

Thanks very much. A funny and interesting story. Makes me wonder what was on that film!

Sequel! Sequel!


Blogger Eaglewing said ... (July 03, 2005 1:20 PM) : 

Glad you liked it. Thanks for the phrase - I always like a good writing challenge...

What was on the film, eh? Well, in Hitchcockian fashion, the film was simply a McGuffin to tell the story of a man finally saying goodbye to an old flame that did him no good...

Hmmm, maybe there could be a sequel, though...I now have the P.I. character Ellis, who has a hard time not answering his phone ;-)


Blogger The Original LRU said ... (July 03, 2005 1:34 PM) : 

Yeah... I liked that ending. Makes for a nice lead in to the next episode. :-)


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