Hh Com Rd 2 -50 (177)

Hook here

TITLE: Shooting the Moon

I stood outside the guy's door--a basement room in a 4th Ward megabloc. I flexed my right hand. I squeezed--fingers tight around titanium. Most guys these days use stunstiks or shock hammers--less work, less mess. Fuck that. You blow beaucoup bills on some surplus NorKor military package and you're afraid to break a nail? I kept it simple: weighted 'brass' knucks and a good right cross.

I stood. I squeezed. I scoped escape routes. I scoped surveillance. It was ideal: a cramped alley, zero foot traffic, easy street access, windows blocked or covered. No camera concerns out here in the Burbs--any data that went into the FreeNet was too corrupted to be worth a damn anyway.

Back before they walled off the City networks they tried meatfitting video feeds into rats and stray dogs--total surveillance/war on crime shit. These days rats didn't last much longer than cameras.

I stood. I squeezed. I felt the knot in my gut. Pipes sweated overhead--rusted arteries sprouting veinwise from concrete skin. Water dripped down my neck.

Cash said this one should be cake. Cash was throwing me a bone. Cash was giving me one last chance. Cash didn't ask if I wanted it. We both knew I didn't have a choice.

* * *

Cash always called when I was hung over.


"Stubbs." Cash's voice fit his looks: blandly handsome, carefully nondescript. "Got a job for you. Some deadbeat over in the 4th owes some people some money."

I said nothing. My pulse twanged in my neck. Cash kept talking:

"...some Burb shitheel--nothing you can't handle. Tiny's got his hands full right now, so this one is all you."

Unspoken: this is a test. That last fuck-up signaled slippage. Let's see if you can still hack it.

"Swing by the office at three. I'll give you the details."

* * *

Cash worked out of a crappy starter community. I logged in as a guest--security swabbed my cheek; ran my DNA against the invite list; sent me on my way. They didn't even hassle me about Stubbs Jr.--too down-market for animal quarantine.

It was drizzling. Droplets beaded the brim of my porkpie. Welcome to myTown #14: megastores and insta-housing, everything too loud and too bright--aggressively cheerful covering for cheap and shitty.

Locals swarmed the sidewalks. Locals flaunted their skull phones--gaudy plastic covers socketed behind one ear. Locals talked loud--cheap phones/shitty reception.

They were living the dream. They felt sorry for losers like me--no community/no CityNet. They considered themselves lucky.

It was twelve blocks to Cash's office. I popped sweat. I huffed. Stubbs Jr.'s tongue lolled. He huffed. My wraps fogged at the edges. The streets were crowded--people talking to nobody.

Tiny opened the door. Tiny was geeked out with a Zanshin pit-fighter package--reflex maps/grafted muscle/reinforced bone. His hands were too small--doll-like things beneath bulging forearms. He smirked. "Let me guess--old-timer's day?"


He eyeballed Stubbs Jr.: short, thick-necked, with an oversize wedge-shaped head and one mangled ear.

"I swear it gets harder and harder to tell you and that dog apart."

"Your mom has that problem too."

"What the fuck did you say?"

"Stubbs?" Cash's manicured voice. "Come on in."

Tiny moved over a step. He made me push past him. The logo on his neck twisted: a 'Z' into crossed swords, back and forth.

Cash's office: two rooms--dingy corners and water stains. Cash sat at a cheap metal desk. He looked out of place in his fitted suit and surgery-smooth skin.

"Stubbs. Grab a chair."

I sat. Cash laid out the job. Cash said it should be a snap.


He nodded. "It's a Latin Kings 'bloc. I spoke to the madrino, made a donation. We're covered."

We sat. It hung in the air between us. I said it: "What about this guy? Anything I should know? Any mods?"

Cash smiled his bland, perfect smile. "Would I be sending you if there was?"

My neck got hot. Tiny snickered. I turned. "Tell me something--is it true all that extra muscle causes impotence?"

"What did you say meatstick?"

"I said the only thing keeping your dumb ass breathing is that Zanshin package."

His piggy eyes went pinpoint--grafted muscle bunched in his neck. I stared back. Stubbs Jr. growled low in his throat.

"Enough." Cash's tone didn't change. It was an order notwithstanding.

"No wonder he drags that dog everywhere." Tiny said. "They're like twins--old and fat and mean."

I spent the morning reading The Wheelman by Duane Swierczynski so I'm ready for this crisp, no backstory, just get going kind of thing. A little goes a long way though and one thing I notice here is there's very little variation in the short staccato sentence rhythm and there just might be a tiny bit of overkill in the testosterone posturing. That said, of course I'd read this, and probably ask for 50 pages too. I wouldn't call it SF either. I think it's called Urban fantasy but I call it dystopic crime noir and I love it and it sells.


Anonymous said...

I don't mean to be a jerk, but this seems REAL similar to James Ellroy's latest stuff. That's the only place I ever heard "knucks." Ditto the short, repetitive sentences...right out of "The Cold Six Thousand."

Like I said, not trying to be a jerk, but it's so close I figure someone else might notice it, too.

Anonymous said...

To wit:

" Wayne watched. Wayne yawned. Wayne stretched. Peavy walked back. Two men walked with him.

Two men walked close.

Wayne rubbed his eyes. Wayne did a double take. Fuck — it's Rock Hudson and Sal Mineo.

Peavy grins. Peavy snaps a popper. Rock and Sal snort. They grin. They giggle exultant. They get in the limo. Peavy assists them. Peavy grabs their ass cheeks and hoists.

The limo pulled out. Wayne tailed it. Wayne got tailgate-close. A window furled down. He saw smoke. He smelled maryjane. "

Anonymous said...

Er, this isn't urban fantasy. It might be cyberpunk (think William Gibson), but with stunstiks and video feeds, it's solidly on the science fiction side of the speculative fiction genre.

McKoala said...

I'd struggle to read this, it's neither my style or my genre (whichever genre it is!). So ignore me at will. Having said that I liked the first scene, but my heart sank when we backtracked to the interview with Cash. Wanna see the action!

Anonymous said...

I loved this. It might be worth noting (or it might not) that I find Ellroy unreadable, though I do see similarities.

Anonymous said...

This seems quite similar to the Shadowrun universe. The tech side of it, anyway. Especially with the "Moshi" thrown in.
The repetitiveness works the first few times, but is overdone. Cut out at least half of them, and elongate some of your sentences. Congratulations, most people have to shorten theirs.
Definately Sci Fi, unless you start throwing in magic or the supernatural later.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comments all.

@ellmore blitz:
Yup, I'll freely cop to being a huge Ellroy fan, and his writing style has definitely had a big impact on me. Even more so his rational for it:

[The] style is not minimalistic, it's anti-minimalistic... it's a direct expression of the language of the characters, their inner and outer lives, and the language of the base narrator...

That philosophy is what I'm trying to capture with my writing style... something that reflects the language of the characters and the rhythms of their environment.

Since the environment (not to mention the themes) is quite different from Ellroy, I hope when I'm done that it will have its own flavor and style, rather than seeming derivative. But frankly, there are a lot worse writers to be compared to IMO...

Pretty sure he's not the only place I've heard 'knucks' though...

I agree, I'm pretty sure it's sci-fi, even more so as you get further into the story. I assume 'dystopic crime noir' means something like Ferrigno's 'Prayers for the Assassin', which is similar but I think mine will have enough tech to be solidly sci-fi.

(Unrelated side note, I had the opportunity to have my query letter critiqued by a well-known agent with some big name clients, who did not rep sci-fi - she told me not to use the word 'dystopian' because it wasn't in the dictionary and people didn't know what it meant. Why you do agent research I guess...)

Appreciate the feedback. I was expecting MS to whack me for going into backstory… my only defense is that I need to set a few things up before the action of the scene happens, so I tried to keep the backstory as quick and interesting as possible - i.e. it's something happening, not Stubbs telling you about it.


Thanks for the feedback. I vaguely remember Shadowrun from my HS days, didn't it have elves and orcs and the like? I don't remember the setting too well beyond typical cyber-punk kinds of stuff... I hope my setting is a bit different than that, but we'll see, dystopic near-future and all that. Definitely no fantasy elements.


Ginger Garrett said...

Too much standing and squeezing for me. Wouldn't want to meet this guy on an elevator...

Twill said...

Wow, so there are agents who don't know how to Google a definition? Who knew?

I, too, stopped reading at the flashback. After Miss Snark said she liked it for 50 pages, and I read the comments, I went back and read the rest. You wouldn't have gotten that chance at the bookstore.

Staccato felt a little annoying, but then I'm not up for 300 pages of dark and mean anyway, so I'm not your target market.

Best Wishes, writer.

writtenwyrdd said...

This is dystopic fantasy at its best. There were a few glitches, such as when you mention the dog the first time. Because of the name, I thought you meant the pov character. And the first mention fo the sword tatoo, the action wasn't clear.

Other than that, this is good. I agree, though, that the pace needs to change from the staccato pace once in a while.

This voice is good, the world is different, and I would really pick this up if I found it at a bookstore.