Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Incessant Storm

I wrote this story for the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge 2014. How the competition works is that each participant is randomly allocated to a heat and he has a week to write a story by working around the conditions set by the judges. I got selected in Heat 22 and the three pre-requisites for my story were, 1. Genre- Action/ Adventure, 2. Central Character- A Mafia Boss and 3. Setting- A storm, which explains the foreign setting. With the clock ticking and me having absolutely no reading experience in the genre, I took movies as a inspiration. From Reservoir Dogs, I took the idea of post-robbery tension and from Johnny Gaddar, I took the idea of turning the whodunit into more of a how-is-he-going-to-come-out-of-it. As you will realise when you start reading, I took my inspirations rather literally and copied unashamedly. Not much of a surprise then that the story didn't get through to the next round. But I had great fun writing it and it'll remain a special memory. And though technically this never got published, I look at it like an assignment written for publication.

Written in February 2014.
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The Incessant Storm

Five men rob a bank. That’s the easy part. Now, they have to split the loot.

 As he heard the crowd walk out of the metro station, Ralph checked his watch, took one long drag of his cigarette, crushed it under his foot, upturned the collar of his overcoat against the biting wind, dug his hands deep into his pockets and walked towards the oncoming crowd. He spotted his man coming out with a brown bag, their eyes met, the man curtly nodded and Ralph followed him, maintaining a certain distance, until the crowds thinned out and they had reached a dark, empty alleyway.

As Ralph approached him, the man set the bag down and blew air into his gloved hands.

“It’s fuckin’ freezing. They say the storm’s going to stay for a few more days. And the bag’s heavy as a dead-fuckin’-pig”

“Is it all there?”, Ralph asked, nodding towards the bag.

“What do you think?”, he grinned, “All two million of it”

Ralph unzipped the bag and checked it. Stacks of bound notes. He zipped it, picked it up, took the Glock out of his pocket and shot the man right in between his eyes. Yes, the bag was heavy as a dead pig but it didn’t matter.

                              *

“What do you mean he didn’t come? Paul handed him the bag and saw him get into train”, the boss said and added, “You still can’t reach to him?”, to Marty who was trying on the phone. “And where the hell is Paul? He said he was going to be here three hours ago”

It was past midnight, Ralph was nursing his second drink, and as he sat down with
Marty and Steve, he knew the long night stretched further ahead.

“Let’s get this straight”, the boss said, “Paul and
Marty walk into the bank at 2:00 in the afternoon. They walk out with the cash in two bags at around 2.15. They drive four blocks away to the other car, change their clothes, dump all the money into a bigger bag and drive to the station where they’re supposed to meet Frank. Paul hands over the bag to Frank-“

“No”, interrupted
Marty, “I handed over the bag to Frank. Paul got a phone call and said he had to leave urgently”

“You said he left after he handed over the bag”

“No, I said before. And I have been trying to reach him after I dropped the bag off but he isn’t picking his phone up”
“So, we now have two people missing. Guys fork out and look for them. I want them here”

Ralph and Steve went looking for
Frank and Marty went the other way looking for Paul.

“I don’t trust the guy, man. I heard
Marty say Paul handed over the bag and now he’s saying he didn’t. And what’s this urgent business he’s talking about”, Steve said lighting his cigarette. “I was there, I created the accident and caused a traffic jam so that the cops would be delayed. And I saw his face, Marty’s face, as he walked out of the bank. And something about it didn’t seem right. I knew there was going to be trouble right then, man”
Ralph wiped the sweat off his forehead.

“What do you think, man? And if
Marty killed Paul and took the money, where the hell is Frank? He would’ve called up the boss and told him that Marty hadn’t turned up-“

“But boss didn’t want any of us to call each other, right? In case all of it could be traced back. Which is probably why he didn’t
-

“Yes, but if he didn’t get the money anyway, what’s the issue in phoning him? So, he must’ve gotten the bag, in which case
Marty isn’t lying about Paul”

The snow fell on the windshield, staying for a fraction of a second before the wipers pushed it off. Ralph drove ahead.
“But the other possibility could be Marty killed both Paul and Frank”, Steve’s eyes shone. “That explains everything. The two people he was in contact with are missing. Mate, I have a gut feeling about this. Tell you what, drive to Marty’s place”, he said tugging at the steering wheel.

“Hey, what the fuck? We’re going to look for
Frank
“No, I’m telling you. Marty’s got the money. And we can catch him red-handed”

                              *

“Hey, what are you doing here?”, a visibly shocked Marty said as he opened the door.

“We couldn’t find Frank. We wanted to drop by and check out about Paul. Any news?”, said Steve forcing himself through.

“No. Been to all his hangouts. No one’s seen him since yesterday night”, he said as Ralph walked in. Steve picked up things and threw them about, searching for something.

“Hey, what the hell are you doing?”, protested
Marty.
Steve didn’t respond and Marty grew visibly agitated.
“You can’t come in here and do shit like this mate. It’s my home. Get out of here. Otherwise, it’s going to get nasty”, he said moving towards Steve.

Just then, from the drawer below his television set, Steve pulled up a bag full of money.

“That’s different money”, leaped up
Marty but Ralph had already taken out his gun and was pointing at him.

“Sit down, buddy. We need to talk”, said Steve.
“Listen, there is a misunderstanding. This isn’t the bank money. This is my other stash and boss knows about it. Let’s talk to boss and he can explain you everything”, he said pulling out his phone. Ralph wrenched it out of his hand and as he pushed him back, Marty pulled up his gun and pointed at Steve who raised his arms.

“That’s my money. Its got nothing to do with you. Hand it over”, he said stretching his
free arm out and beckoning towards Steve.
“Easy man, no one needs to get hurt”, said Steve handing over the bag.

As
Marty took the bag and walked backwards, his gun pointing at Ralph, he tripped and the gun went off hitting Ralph in the knee. Ralph yelled in pain and shot him in the gut before jumping behind the sofa. Steve stood shocked, his hands above his head, unable to retrieve his gun or jump into safety. Marty collapsed on the floor, writhing in pain, as Steve took the bag and walked upto Ralph.

“Are you alright, man”, he asked, before both of them walked
back to the car.

Starting the car, Steve called up the boss, “Found the money.
Marty had it. Ralph’s injured. We are coming there now”
“What do you mean Marty had it? Paul’s here and he says he handed over the bag to Frank at the station-”

Steve threw the phone down and ran into
Marty’s house. Ralph picked it up, cut the call and slowly walked inside. From the doorway he saw Steve trying to revive a visibly dead Paul, pulled his gun out and shot Steve dead.

                              *

“Steve shot Marty and Marty shot him back. Both of them are dead in Marty’s house”, said Ralph as he sat down next to Paul.
“Why the hell did you shoot Marty”, yelled Paul walking onto Ralph, holding him by the collar and lifting him off his chair.
“I didn’t. Marty tripped and shot me. Steve shot Marty and so Marty shot him back. I-“

“Why the fuck did you go to his house in the first place?”, asked the boss.
“Steve thought he’d taken the money and killed both Paul and Frank. And when we went to his house, we found a bag full of money. And so, Steve tried to take the money but Marty shot us”, said Ralph.

“Ok
ay, where is that bag of money?”, asked the boss.

“It’s in the boot of my car. I’ll go get it”, he said getting up.

“Paul will go with you to the garage”

As they descended the stairs to the cellar, their footsteps echoing in the empty space, Paul looked forlorn.

“I’m sorry Paul. I know how much
Marty meant- “, started Ralph.

“Hush up, asshole”, hissed Paul, “Once all this is over, I will find out what the truth is and if I find out you were responsible for it, I will blow your fuckin’ head off”, pushing Ralph off the stairs.

Ralph staggered to his car, opened the boot and took out a bag, handing it over to Paul. Ralph shut the boot and turned around to see Paul looking at the bag quizzically. And then the horror dawned on Ralph’s face as he realized that the bag he took out was the one he had taken after shooting Frank. Marty’s bag was in the backseat.
Paul seemed to have read the fear in Ralph’s face because he gaped his mouth open in shock before pulling gun out and pointing at him.

“What is it Paul, what’s wrong?”
“Stop acting”, he roared, “You fuckin’ well know what’s wrong. I bought this bag two days ago. I handed it to Frank today afternoon and despite everything pointing at you, despite me telling the boss over and over again it was you, he believed none of us would be traitors. He trusted you too much and this is how you repay him. You killed Frank; You killed Marty and you killed Steve. I’m going to kill you”, and he shot at Ralph who missed it by a whisker and jumped behind his car. Paul went on shooting and Ralph ran, with the pain in his knee blinding him, scurrying to safety among cars. He found a hiding place behind two cars in a darkened part, and as he sat there panting to get his breathe back, Paul yelled his name over and over again, urging him to come out. Then he suddenly stopped, and as everything quietened, he could hear Paul’s footsteps walking slowly around the garage.

Paul was slowly moving in his direction and Ralph crouched deeper; The air outside howled and sent chills up Ralph’s spine.

“You are never going to get out of here alive. I will find you and kill you”, screamed Paul and shot a couple of round in the air.

And then, click-click. The moment he stopped to reload his gun, Ralph was out of his hiding place, gun in hand, and ran towards Paul shooting until long after the man was dead and he had run out of bullets.

                              *

Jimmy stood outside the subway station smoking a cigarette, cursing the freezing winds and waiting for his man. The storm had killed tens of people and had been responsible for recording some of the lowest temperatures ever. It had been there too long and he sometimes felt it was never going to leave. Just when he was wondering if he should go get a coffee, Jimmy spotted him- a young man, with blonde hair that fell into his eyes, with a big bag slung across his shoulder. He took out his phone to see the photo the boss had sent. It was him.

He followed the man inconspicuously, and when they reached a forlorn alleyway, tapped him gently on the shoulder. He turned back, surprised, as if waking up from a deep slumber. Jimmy shot him in the face.
“Boss, I’ve killed him”, said Jimmy on the phone.

“Are you sure it was him?”
“Yes, he was limping”
There was a pause on the phone line and then, “There is money in the bag. Take it, it’s yours.”


And then the line went dead.

--

Here is the feedback the judges had to give.

''The Incessant Storm'' by Aditya Kashyap 451 - WHAT THE JUDGE(S) LIKED ABOUT YOUR SCRIPT - ...........................The focus of your narrative is innovative. Normally we see what happens in the lead up to the bank robbery - I enjoyed having the chance to see what happens afterwards!..................The plot's twists, turns and motivations make for the possibility of a gripping tale. ..............................   WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK - ...........................What if you staggered the timeline a bit? I think you could create more suspense and intrigue if your story opened with the guys searching for Paul and the money, and then you allowed the reader to see what is actually happening by slowly unfolding the narrative...................The story is really only characters discussing events instead of the reader experiencing them, which is the true way to create a dramatic thread that grips the reader. Too much is happening off-screen to make this engaging. …........................

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