This week’s flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig involved a 1000 word story that starts with a dead body. I ended up with this piece without even knowing where I was going, but perhaps you’ll like it. In case you’re wondering about the setting, I think it takes place in my Elven Progenitors story-world (though I still feel like it desperately needs a punchier name).
“Are you sure?” Sarah nudged Carlo with her toe, looking up at where Bruno stood. Carlo rocked slightly, then settled back down into the growing pool of his blood. Sarah looked back down. Carlo didn’t seem to be breathing. “Fuck,” muttered Sarah, “I guess you’re right.”
Bruno’s laugh sounded sour. “You really needed to ask me?”
“Well, I thought—,” Sarah looked away from Carlo’s corpse and squeezed her eyes shut against the sudden vision of her lying there instead. She swallowed against the nausea. “Ahhh,” it came out in a long hiss, “shit.”
Bruno shrugged. “Whatever.” He leaned back against the rough brick wall behind him, nice shoes as far as possible from the expanding puddle. “Not my problem.”
“Not your problem?” Sarah was incredulous, her sudden anger a good distraction from the mess at her feet. “You’re joking. This was your idea!” She started to take a step forward, freezing in place before she set her boot in the slick blood. She stepped back instead. “You can’t just, just wash your hands of it like that!”
Bruno cocked an eyebrow. “I can’t?” He was methodically squeezing his knuckles, hand wrapped around fist, alternating hands. “I’m pretty sure I can.” He tilted his head to the side, chin jutting forward as he stretched his neck. “But, you know, I’m willing to help you out if you’ll help me.”
“Help you? You piece of…,” Sarah held in her anger and desperation. So far no one but the two of them knew what had happened here. She, of course, was the only one with a bloody blade. If the watch found them here, Bruno could easily claim that she’d been holding him hostage, and then she’d get the stocks for sure. She’d be hung for murder, or sold for hard labor. She absolutely had to get Bruno on her side. She swallowed her frustration and nodded. “Okay, fine. Help you. How?”
“Well, that’s a very interesting question.” Bruno’s exaggerated calm was infuriating. He obviously felt he held the upper hand. “I think that our original agreement doesn’t really work out very well, now does it?”
Sarah sucked in her lips, biting them. She let out a calming breath. “No,” she was impressed by how level her voice sounded, “it doesn’t.” Her try-out for mugging hadn’t exactly gone well. She’d been supposed to scare Carlo, not kill him.
“But I can see that you’ve got what it takes for more, shall we say, arduous tasks. No?” Bruno’s little smile didn’t come near his eyes.
“Oh, fuuuuck,” Sarah moaned under her breath, feeling her shoulders slump.
“I think you’d make a perfectly good killer, with a little bit more practice.” He leaned forward from his spot against the wall. “I’ll help you with this, mmm,” he paused for a moment, looking for the word, “indiscretion, if you’ll work for me in that capacity.”
Sarah’s mind reeled, trying to figure out whether she was more or less screwed now than she had been a moment ago. She’d only approached Bruno in the first place because she was so desperate; Greater Fajardo wasn’t exactly a welcoming town, and without the written recommendations she’d needed to get a job here in the New Sea with the cobbler’s guild, she didn’t have any other skills to fall back on.
It was such a stupid mess. She’d thought that Bruno would appreciate having someone cheaper to take care of his shoes, someone who knew what she was doing. Bruno, evidently, had thought that he could get something else out of her situation. She hadn’t realized that he was already taking money from the cobblers, and wouldn’t cut in on their business. And now here she was, with a horrible man and a dead body in one of the many alleys of Greater Fajardo. It was only a matter of time before someone else found them and her life was ruined for good.
“Fine. Done. I’ll do it.” This time Bruno’s smile was a bit wider, and Sarah frowned in disgust. “Just, help me with,” she looked down at Carlo and felt her mouth go dry, “the body.”
“Of course,” Bruno’s voice was silky, unctuous. “Anything for a lady.” Sarah shivered. She was certain he’d screw her over again without hesitation.
Together, the two of them pulled Carlo’s body around the corner and further into the alleyway, between the back of a chandler’s shop and the back of a rope maker’s. Carlo fit neatly under the slightly raised building, resting up against it’s foundation, and Bruno instructed Sarah in the laborious process of covering all the bloodstains they’d left with more dirt. When she’d finished, it looked more like someone had taken a long piss there a while ago, though the smell was still questionable.
“So, uh,” Sarah looked around, seeing no witnesses, “what next?”
Bruno pursed his lips, nodding. “An excellent question. Now we must make sure that you are known to have been nowhere near here near the time of the event. And then, we must discuss,” he smiled again, as satisfied as a cat with a dead bird, “your next several items of business.” He turned on his heel, waving her after him as they walked deeper into the alley once more, “Come along! There’s a great deal to talk about.”
Watching him step away, Sarah had a moment of dread inspiration, simultaneously horrifying and freeing. She strode forward, following him, and then her knife was sawing through his throat while she held him by the hair. He struggled a bit, but she caught an artery and stepped back to let time do the rest. This time, it was far more satisfying.
Bruno stumbled, thumping gently against the wall of a house, and slowly sat down, terrible hissing and gurgling noises coming from his throat, hands scrabbling. Sarah tapped her foot impatiently. She felt no nausea with Bruno, just a lingering sense of disgust. There was even, she thought, enough room next to Carlo.