Flash fiction prompt 10! Since I wasn’t going to write about actual Batman, I thought about aspects of his character that would work in a story and because my mind goes to dark places, his parents being shot in front of him appealed to me the most as a plot device. As luck would have it, one of the characters from Car Thieves decided to share another part of his story with me and it fit nicely. He is so bloody hard to write because while I absolutely adore who he’s shaping up to be, I don’t relate to his experiences at all. He’s been mostly constructed by combining aspects of various people, from my own father to graphic novel anti-heroes.
If Car Thieves does become the Big Project it’s threatening to become, I have a feeling it might end up being a bit apocalypse noir, which I’ve decided is totally a genre. I tend to avoid easily identifiable genres but this is such a fun style to write in and it completely matches the visuals in my head. Speaking of visuals, if you’d like to imagine the appearance of the guy in this story while you read, take your pick from Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises, Liam Neeson in Taken or Mads Mikkelsen in Casino Royale. In my mind, he’s kind of a mix of those people in those films. Apply scars and mannerisms as described.
I’m content warning this right at the top where it can’t possibly be missed. Bold text and all. The main character in this story has had a very fucked up life, not least due to his parents’ abusive actions. It’s physical and emotional abuse, not sexual abuse, in case that makes a difference to how OK you are with encountering it in a fictional setting. That subject matter is in there, in a fair amount of detail, so please make an informed choice about reading further before you scroll down. Thanks.
“Evan, have you forgotten how to count again?”.
Chance leaned back in his chair, fingers steepled in front of him, levelling an impenetrable gaze at the young man standing in front of him. Evan’s posture shifted to something more feline, flirtatious, and as he opened his mouth to respond, Chance cut him off.
“Don’t. Even. Try. You’re a smart boy, Evan. You should know by now that look doesn’t work on me. Just hand over the money and go be pretty at someone who cares”.
Evan sighed and with an almost imperceptible roll of his eyes, reached into his back pocket and pulled out the notes he had been hoping to keep in his possession. He leaned across the desk, skirting around the edges of Chance’s personal space, and set the cash down.
“This look works on everyone, Chance. Everyone”.
“Well, I’m not everyone, am I?”.
“You are most certainly not”, and with a wink and a smile, Evan turned and sauntered across the office and out the door, probably on his way to seduce some naïve soul who would soon learn a valuable lesson about recognising a triumph of packaging over content. If Chance had been capable of having a soft spot for anyone, he would have had one for Evan. Not because of the boy’s expertly cultivated seductive demeanour but because of his apparent lack of conscience. Chance appreciated that in a person. It was useful, or at least it could be when it was on his side.
After locking Evan’s takings in the safe, Chance scanned the CCTV monitors. He took his job seriously in as much as he refused to have his work complicated by arrogant, careless dealers. He wasn’t particularly interested in what they were selling or who they were selling to but when they were selling in his club, they better not cause any trouble. The ones who did were only stupid enough to do it once. Nothing encouraged good behaviour like a private encounter with Chance’s special brand of ice-cold education. He wasn’t one for percussive retribution, but his hands were surprisingly strong and quick to find their way around the throat of anyone who didn’t conduct themselves appropriately. He spoke quietly, always, which somehow made him all the more terrifying to anyone foolish enough to get on the wrong side of him.
Later that night, Chance slid the third bolt across the door, locked the heavy padlock and headed out into the damp autumn air under the subdued haze of streetlights shrouded in mist. According to people whose life experience hadn’t frequently reassured them of their own invincibility, this wasn’t a good part of town to walk through alone. There were dangerous people here, doing dangerous things, and Chance was usually one of them. He wasn’t a particularly large man, although what there was of him was sinewy and solid. He walked with a slight limp from one of the many times his father had exploded in an uncontrollable, drunken rage and Chance had been unfortunate enough to be within kicking distance.
The shattered kneecap was far from the only, or worst, injury his father had dealt him. His chest, back and arms were littered with scars from cigarette burns, although to be fair his mother was responsible for at least half of those. She would cry while she burned him, telling him it was his fault for ruining her life, for making her do it. His father, on the other hand, showed no emotion whatsoever even when he aimed a claw hammer at the face of his ten-year-old son. Despite his size, Chance had the slight advantage of sobriety and moved swiftly enough that he managed to live through the impact. It took three surgeries to repair the damage and he was left with a scar that ran through his top lip to balance the one that split his left eyebrow, another gift from his father.
His face was a map of a hard-travelled road and his pale eyes had stared down death enough times that physical pain was at worst an inconvenience and at best, evidence of survival. He neither rejected it nor craved it and he had learned too early in life that to fear it brought only weakness and vulnerability. He took no pleasure in inflicting pain on others but he didn’t exactly avoid it either. Guided by neither a desire to harm nor a desire to help, his primary motivation was simply to get to where he was going with a minimum of obstruction. Any obstruction that found itself in his path was dispatched efficiently as he continued on his way.
When he reached the darkness under the bridge where something like karma had intervened in his life at the age of eleven, he stopped to offer his usual prayer to a god he didn’t believe in. “Keep them in hell, where they belong”. He allowed himself a quiet moment to remember the night when everything took a turn for the better, when a stranger with a gun had stepped out of the shadows and demanded his parents hand over anything of value. His mother was too drunk to argue and his father was too drunk not to, so it hadn’t ended well for them. When the man sneered, “Who do I shoot first?”, Chance calmly took a coin from his pocket, flipped it in the air, caught it, then pointed to his father and answered, “Him”.
As Chance’s parents lay dead at the side of the road, the man hurriedly went through their pockets with a level of expertise suggesting that this was not his first mugging. In the spirit of the event, the boy offered him the coin. The man shook his head and said, “No, kid. Keep it. And go. I’m giving you a chance here”.
And in that moment, as the pool of blood crept closer to their feet but wasn’t quick enough to touch them, a name was given and a life began.
About the photo
This is not a bad part of town. It’s actually a lovely part of Edinburgh but there’s a bridge and some hazy streetlights going on, so it works. I can’t remember when I took it so it must have been years ago. It was definitely taken on a phone camera and judging by the (perfectly, in this context) terrible image quality it was a long-time-ago phone camera.