Genre: Urban Fantasy
Warnings: Blood, gore, and questionable individuals
Word Count: Chapter 1, approximately 4,000 words
Summary: When Fred is released from jail he plans on laying low and staying out of trouble. Unfortunately, his gang bosses have other plans for his unique talent. Completely by accident Fred falls smack into the middle of an intricate scheme of destruction orchestrated by his gang's worst enemies. To crawl back out alive he may have to temporarily abandon the whole 'lay low' plan he had so eagerly been anticipating.
They said that Sing Sing was haunted. In the 1800s lunatics had been locked up here, and most had died from electroshock therapy or live lobotomies. In the early 1900s all the executions in New Knox had been performed in a large room in the Old Block that currently served as a recreation room for the inmates. A riot in 1962 had ended with the deaths of three inmates carrying murder charges and one guard who was notorious for periodically beating the weakest prisoners. The place had plenty of reasons to be haunted.
At least those were the stories we told at night when all the lights had been switched off and we were locked in our closet-sized cells, when weird noises and strange cold drafts raised the hair on the back of our necks. The dark didn’t scare me, though. In fact, I loved the dark, and my ears were sufficiently perceptive to identify the moaning of ghosts as squealing pipes or the quiet footsteps of the night guardsman.
Even if they didn’t make much noise, I knew spirits still resided in the prison. I’m Fae and attuned to that kind of stuff, like a dog. Once in a while they’d whisper in my ear or poke me with a chilly finger and sometimes even let me see them just because they knew I could, but I ignored them, and after the first few weeks of my sentence they mostly left me alone.
They seemed to know that in the morning I’d finally be leaving. The cell was so cold I could see my breath, and I could hear my human cellie shivering in the bunk below me. He couldn’t hear the voices of the dead as they whispered plaintively in my ear. All of them spoke at once so I couldn’t distinguish what they said, but if they weren’t talking nonsense they tended to blurt vile insults concerning one’s parentage. One kept touching my face, so I pulled the scratchy blanket up over my head to keep the ghosts at bay.
“J-j-jesus’s tits, it’s freezing cold in here!” stuttered my cellie. I heard him blow hot air onto his hands and rub them together. “Isn’t it June?”
I pushed the blanket back and waved my hand futilely through the air where I thought the ghosts hovered, but their insistent whispering continued. “It is.” I pulled the blanket back over my head.
“Can’t even keep this place a decent t-t-temperature!” He rolled out of his bunk and his feet shuffled across the cement floor to the front of our cell. “Hey!” he shouted and banged on the bars. “Will someone turn up the heat in here? I’m gonna get frostbite!”
A chorus of “Shut up!” and “I’m gonna beat your ass!” followed, and my cellie retreated back to his bunk.
“God, something in here is just making my hair stand on end!” my cellie said. “Fred, you feel it?”
I didn’t emerge from beneath the blankets. “Yes. It’s called goose bumps, Carl. Sometimes they happen when you get really cold.”
Carl punched my leg. “Shut up. It’s just creepy, you know?”
“That’ll happen when you haven’t showered for five days,” I said. A ghost whispered something like ‘toilet’ in my ear and I didn’t hear Carl’s next comment, but he punched my leg again and crawled back into his bunk.
“You know, I’m glad you’re leaving in the morning,” said Carl. “I’m getting sick of all your snide little remarks.”
“I’m glad, too,” I answered. “I’m tired of having to smell you every day.”
“Shut up, shit face,” grumbled Carl.
“Ho-ho, good one.”
Dawn and the morning bell were less than an hour away. The ghosts began to fade away as the weak glow of sunlight filtered through the high barred window of the cell. Their chill remained, and the thin prison blanket wasn’t enough to ward it off.
I could hear the cooks rattling around in the kitchen on the other side of the prison building de-frosting our breakfast. In three hours I would be free, and my mouth watered with the thought of food that hadn’t been frozen for three months before I finally got to eat it.
“What’s for breakfast?”
I groaned and sniffed the air. “Sausage and rock-hard pancakes,” I told him.
“Hey, those go fast,” he said. “We’ve gotta book it down to the cafeteria.”
“You can, I’m not,” I said. “As far as I’m concerned, this is my last prison meal. I don’t care how much I get.”
“Aren’t you just the lucky one?” I could hear the sneer in his voice. “What you plannin’ on doin’ once you’re out?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Stay outta trouble, I suppose.”
Carl barked out a laugh. “Yeah, like that’ll ever happen.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I demanded. I hung my head over the side of the bunk to glare at my cellie.
Carl chuckled and shrugged. “You’re a gobbo, Fred. Everybody knows that your kind are always in trouble up to their eyeballs.”
I bared my fangs in a snarl. “You ain’t gonna have any eyeballs in a minute,” I growled.
“Like I said, trouble up to the eyeballs, probably to the tips of those goddamned long ears,” Carl said.
I growled at Carl again and rolled away from the edge of my bunk. I ran my finger over one of my long ears and felt the holes where studs and hoops had once adorned them before the jewelry had been confiscated when I entered prison.
I couldn’t lie in bed anymore. I rolled to the edge and dropped out of my bunk. The cement floor was so cold it burned my feet. I hissed and scrambled to find socks within the jumbled piles of blue prison jumpsuits, yellow-white shirts, and dirty underwear, most of which belonged to Carl.
“Don’t you ever do your laundry?” I said and kicked a pile of gray socks and underwear at the scruffy human.
One of the socks landed on Carl’s face, and the human swore and whipped it at the floor. “Goddammit, that stinks!”
“Yeah, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!” I finally fished a mismatched pair of my own reasonably clean socks from the floor and pulled them over my numb toes. I found my jumpsuit and a shirt at the foot of the bunks and pulled them on as well. They certainly weren’t fresh garments, but they would do for my remaining two hours as a prisoner of the state of New Knox.
I rolled up the sleeves of my uniform, and then I pulled a strip of black cotton cloth from a rung of my bunk’s ladder and wrapped it around my gang tattoo. When I was sixteen I’d earned the crowned goblin skull and crossed bones of the Black Kings by killing one of the humans from a neighboring gang who insisted on encroaching on our territory in Hamlin. He was a highly ranked official in the Coalition and the leader of a raid on one of our warehouses beside the Bundson River. His attack had filched two-hundred-thousand dollars worth of munitions from us, and I’d been chosen to dispatch him.
I remembered creeping through the shadows on the streets of Southside to his residence. The doors of the large house were guarded, of course, but I used a second-story window overlooking a dark, overgrown vacant lot where the crumbling foundations of a house still shakily stood. It was locked, but that was no problem for me. I can open most locks with magic.
The human’s two daughters were sleeping in the room I slid into, but I ignored them and they didn’t wake up at my gentle footsteps. He wasn’t beside his wife in the next bedroom, but there was the sound of running water and a light beneath the door of the bathroom. I crouched in the shadows near the stairs so the two other humans below in the living room wouldn’t spot me. When he emerged from the bathroom I slashed his throat apart with my claws because we weren’t permitted to use knives or guns for initiation.
The man gurgled and tried to stop the blood gushing from his severed arteries with his fingers. I caught him before he hit the floor and made a sound, and I realized I’d killed the wrong human. I lowered him gently to the floor and let him bleed the rest of his lifeblood into the beige rug, one hand over his mouth so he couldn’t croak a call for help.
After a brief search I determined the human I was after wasn’t on the second level. He was doubtlessly one of the two men in the living room downstairs. I snuck down the first few steps and spotted the human. He and his comrade were watching a football game on the television. I could see the two guards sitting on the porch outside through the front door, both of them with their backs to the living room and engaged in a lively conversation of the whores they’d recently visited.
Humans are dull, and their senses are nearly useless. None of them noticed me as I slunk down the stairs and less than three feet behind my target’s chair in the dim living room. I moved in to snap his neck, but then he said, “I’m gonna get a beer.”
He stood, turned toward the kitchen, sighted me crouched behind his chair, and a bewildered expression crossed his features. I snarled and swiped at his throat, but the human jerked back and my claws raked his chin instead. He yelled and fell backwards into a glass coffee table. His comrade bellowed for help, and the guards nearly tumbled over themselves in their rush through the front door.
My target was wiping blood from his eyes and shouting, scrabbling backwards like a crab. I lunged for the human, but I was blocked by his comrade. The man was two hundred and fifty pounds, perhaps thirty years old, and I was half his weight and age but nearly as tall. He brandished a broken beer bottle as a weapon.
I overpowered him easily. I knocked the bottle away and tore out his throat like I had the man before. I ignored the guards who were scrambling to disable me before I reached their leader. They were too slow and cumbersome. My target screamed like a female as I leapt past the falling body of his comrade and sliced my claws through his throat.
One of the guards carried a gun and shot at me, but the bullet sailed wide and punched a hole through the television screen. The football game blinked out and the television set sizzled. The other guard ran to the aide of his boss, but the gaping wound was fatal. I fled back up the stairs.
My target's wife had been drawn from the bedroom by the turmoil. I pushed her aside as I ran past, and she screamed as she fell onto the bloody corpse of the first man I’d killed. The target’s daughters had woken up as well, but they just stared in mystification as I vaulted through their window and fell twenty feet to the hard ground below.
The breath was knocked from my lungs, but I got up and ran. I took the dark alleys and didn’t stop until I reached the small, dilapidated house designated as our meet point. I had forgotten to rip off a chunk of the man to prove his death, but my superiors said the blood was enough. There was a lot of blood.
My father took me the next day to get the tattoo etched in red ink to the underside of my right forearm.
I shook the memory from my head and tied the wrap using my teeth and free hand. To reduce fights, the prison didn’t allow us to reveal our gang tattoos. It didn’t work some of the time because the Fae could usually smell out which gang somebody belonged to. Luckily, Hamlin was on the island of Manlatin in New Knox, and only the Black King and Coalition gangs resided there. We had no rivalries with those gangs on the mainland, and I’d only met up with one Coalition over my three years.
Carl had finally crawled out of bed by the time I finished dressing and began the long process of searching for his own clothes. He’d only managed to find his t-shirt when an alarm bell rang and the doors of our cells popped open.
“Hey, man, wait for me!” called Carl.
I snorted and laughed. “No.” I left him in the cell and followed the growing crowd of inmates to the cafeteria.
My nose had been right. Breakfast was sausage and rock-hard pancakes, capable of breaking the teeth out of a troll if not doused with syrup. After I’d been served, I sat at my usual table with a group of Dark Fae. A small goblin grinned and revealed his jack-o-lantern smile. A cut on his lip opened and a thin trickle of dark blood ran down his chin. He licked it up with his tongue.
“Booger, who did you get in a fight with this time?” I asked. I saturated my pancake with syrup and prodded it with my fork.
“Herman the Ham-Fisted over there,” answered Oglix, a swarthy mountain goblin. He pointed at an enormous human sitting at the other end of the cafeteria. “I saw the whole damn thing. Funny as hell.”
The human had two black eyes, a swollen lip, and four long parallel gashes running across his forehead. He stared at his breakfast blankly with blood-shot, glazed eyes.
“Why’d you do that, Booger?” I asked him, laughing.
Booger growled. “He called me a pipsqueak.”
I bit my laughter back and nodded instead. Booger was a very small breed of goblin, but he was short even among those standards. He was no more than three feet tall at the tips of his ears, but he was fast, strong, brutal, and viciously defensive about his small stature.
“Ah, well, then he deserved it,” I said quickly.
“Funny as hell,” repeated Oglix.
“What’d Booger do?” Klorgon, an orc just as large as Herman the Ham-Fisted, joined us. The whole table shook when he sat down.
“Beat up Herman,” said Oglix. “It was funny.”
Klorgon laughed, a mountainous rumble that resonated deep in his chest. “Good for you, Booger.”
“He knocked three teeth outta me, but I chomped off two fingers and woulda got a third if the guard hadn’t pulled me off,” Booger said proudly. He bit happily into his pancake.
“Thing is, Booger, your teeth will grow back,” I said.
Booger shrugged and continued eating.
The last of our little group to arrive was Lasz. He was a half-breed like myself, half orc and half goblin, except he’d gotten more of the orc side while I’d received the smaller goblin features, much to the disappointment of my father.
Lasz flicked an ear in greeting and sat at the table. His stoic expression was permanent on his face. His golden eyes were bright, though, always calculating.
“What’s up, Lasz?” said Oglix.
“Nothing,” said Lasz, his usual answer. He was the only one of us who didn’t have a gang tattoo to cover.
“Fred, you’re leaving us today,” said Lasz. He picked carefully at his breakfast.
I swallowed my mouthful of food and nodded. “That’s right. ‘Bout damn time, too.”
“What will you do?”
I shrugged. “Stay outta trouble and stay outta here.”
Lasz looked at me with his vivid eyes and the corner of his mouth twitched. “Really?”
I growled. “Yeah. Why does everybody keep asking me that?”
Booger started laughing.
“Do you want us to answer that?” said Klorgon.
I thumbed my nose at the orc and bared my fangs, but Klorgon just laughed.
“I’ll be out in a year, so I’m going to find you, and then you can buy me a drink or two,” said Oglix. “How does that sound?”
I laughed. “Yeah, we’ll see about that.” I finished off the last few crunchy bits of my breakfast and pushed the tray away. “I’m broke as shit, so
I don’t know how I’m going to buy drinks for myself.”
“Your brothers won’t help you?” Klorgon indicated my concealed tattoo with his eyes.
I shook my head. “I don’t know. Maybe. It depends.”
They refrained from making any further inquiries. We’d agreed not to talk about our gang affiliations, but some of us knew who represented who by their scent. I couldn’t identify which gangs any of them were from, but I suspected Klorgon and Oglix knew I hailed from the Black Kings.
After all of us had finished our breakfast we went out into the common area in the center of our block and played cards, as usual. My hands shook uncontrollably and I couldn’t concentrate on the game, so I lost horribly each time.
“Excited, Fred?” asked Oglix with a grin. He was watching my claws dig into the table, release, and dig in again.
“Hell, yeah!” I answered. I threw my cards on the table because I knew I was going to lose anyway and leaned my chair back on two legs. I stretched my arms above my head and interlaced my fingers. “Can’t wait!”
Booger glanced up at the clock. “Just another hour.”
“The guards will come for ya pretty soon,” said Klorgon. “Give your shit back so you can get outta that jumpsuit, and paperwork.”
“Who’s picking you up?” said Booger. “Or do you have to find your own way home?”
“Stacy,” I told them.
Booger’s face brightened. “Ooooo, who’s Stacy?” he leered.
I sneered at the small goblin. “A friend,” I said.
“With benefits? Gonna go park somewhere before you go home?” said Booger. He grinned eagerly and leaned forward as if I’d launch into a vulgar anecdote.
Everybody at the table started laughing and making obnoxious howling noises, and the inmates in the common area glanced over with irritated expressions.
Heat rose to my face. “Shut up!” I growled. “She’s been my friend forever.”
“Is she human? Stacy sounds like a human name,” said Klorgon.
“No, she’s a half-breed,” I said. “Her father was a human and her mother is a Minor Fae, something to do with fire.”
“I heard those fire Fae are feisty,” said Booger. “Better be careful or somethings gonna get burned off.”
I rolled my eyes and Booger started laughing again.
I turned around and spotted a prison guard striding toward me. I grinned.
“Time to go!” the guard said. “Get your shit together and get outta here.”
My friends stood up and clasped my hand and slapped my back before I returned to my cell and retrieved the cardboard box that had been my life in prison. Carl wasn’t in there, but I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to go and find him to say goodbye.
I said farewell to my friends one last time and told them to find me whenever they got out, then I followed the prison guard through a thick metal door I hadn’t seen the other side of for three years. I was led into a little room where I was given a second small cardboard box with my confiscated possessions. It contained jeans, a red t-shirt, a pair of silver sunglasses, my favorite pair of boots, boxer shorts, a cell phone that probably didn’t work anymore, a plastic bag full of gold earrings, and my wallet that had no money in it.
I changed into my street clothes, grateful for their comforting touch despite the strange smell that emanated from the fabric. I left my prison clothes on a bench. I had to sign a stack of documents I didn’t bother to read and make a few promises both the prison officials and myself knew I probably wouldn’t keep.
Then I was free.
They let me out the door and I had to restrain myself from shouting and running down the sidewalk to the parking lot. The day was overcast and threatening rain, but it was bright enough that I had to wear my sunglasses to keep my eyes from burning.
I spotted Stacy’s ancient car almost immediately. The roof and hood of the boat-like vehicle were rusted, and it only had one hubcap. Stacy saw me a moment later, and the car shook as she jumped up and down in her seat and squealed like a little girl. The door swung open and Stacy’s orange head popped out of the car like a flame from a lighter.
“Fred!” she shouted, and she started running with her arms spread out wide and her long orange hair whipping behind her. A big stupid crooked grin was pasted to her round face.
I placed the boxes on the ground before she reached me so she wouldn’t run into them and hurt herself. Stacy wrapped her arms around me so tightly she squeezed the breath from my lungs.
“Stacy,” I said, and carefully extracted her from my person.
“Look at you!” she said. “Just look at you!” She stood on her tiptoes and wrapped me in another somewhat gentler hug. “Look how long your hair has gotten!” She tugged on my hip length horse tail and twirled the coarse black hair through her fingers.
“I have to cut it off when I get home,” I said. I flared my nostrils and breathed in her scent; exotic flowers and marshmallows.
“Don’t they have barbers in prison?” she asked. She stepped back and studied me, her gaze roaming up and down my body. “Gods, you look skinny.”
“They tend to knick your ears,” I told her. “And thanks, I needed to hear that.”
“The earrings,” said Stacy. She reached up and touched my bare ear. “Are you going to put them back in?”
“You shouldn’t. I didn’t like them.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Why?”
Stacy shrugged. “I just didn’t.”
We put the boxes in the back seat and climbed into the car. The vehicle squealed and rocked alarmingly, and I feared it would collapse beneath our weight. Stacy turned the key in the ignition, but the engine spluttered and died.
“Want me to drive?” I said hopefully
Stacy shook her head. “No. You just got out of jail. There’re lots of new things to see, and I don’t want to crash because you’re swiveling your head around looking at stuff.” She tried the key again, and after a few seconds of pathetic blubbering it caught.
Stacy wrestled the car into gear, the cogs grinding like the teeth of an aggravated troll. The vehicle belched black smoke and emitted a strange hissing noise as Stacy pulled out of the parking lot. I watched Sing Sing diminish in the passenger side mirror and foolishly believed that my troubles were finally through.
Author's Note: This is the first installment of a completed novel of approximately 77,100 words. It needs a tad more editing and polishing, so I'd greatly appreciate any critique or suggestions you may have to offer! Thank you for reading!