Friday, February 4, 2011

FICTION: On the Shards of Broken Glass by David Schembri

She slipped her trembling fingers into his gloved hand and squeezed.
"Y-You don't have to do this," she sobbed.
"You're just scared. Don't worry, we know what we're doin', and we've gone too far now to turn back."
      Her brother turned his gaze over his shoulder and into the backseat. Her other brother sat waiting in the darkness with two crowbars resting on his lap.
      "Pass mine over."
      He took it with a firm grip and asked him, "You ready?"
      "Yep," the other brother answered.
      He turned back to her again and placed a hand on her shoulder.
      "Stay here and remember, you don't have to watch."
      She nodded and cried as her two brothers left the car quietly, and crept off into the night.
      Kerry slid his credit card off the counter and slotted it back into his leather wallet. The Asian shopkeeper bagged up his bottle of Yering Station Chardonnay, and presented it to him, muttering, "Have a g-good evening, S-sir."
      Kerry looked up at the shopkeeper who appeared seemingly troubled - was it the bruise on his forehead?
      “Is everything alright? You don't look well,” Kerry asked, not really knowing why he chose to care.
      The shopkeeper gave a smirk and rubbed his brow. “T-Too many long hours,” he mumbled. “I'd better close up.”
      Kerry took his bottle of liquor and tucked it beneath his overcoat. He gave the shopkeeper a small nod of thanks before motioning to leave. He quickly buttoned up his coat and swung open the door. Old chimes sounded as they hung from the top of the doorway. Kerry then stepped out into the night's chill that draped the small town of Seville.
      His late model BMW waited in the empty parking lot. The night made him squint as he took a quick look at his gold Rolex. It was after midnight. No streets surrounded the small milk bar, only silent fields. It was music to his ears. He loved that old town. Whenever the demands of his company and his wife were too much, he would often escape there.
      Three years prior, he'd secretly purchased a two-bedroom cottage on the outskirts of the township. It was a tidy little hideaway. No television. No phone. A small gas cooker and an open fireplace. It was all he needed.
      His life was full of endless board meetings, and his wife never seemed to stop bickering him for more money to fund the next renovation to her face. His greatest stresses however were the demands of his ex-mistress. He'd associated with many women over the years, to which all understood, that nothing was permanent. Most of his affairs were settled with money, sometimes jewellery, and on one occasion, a late model Jaguar.
      But Tracey (a young assistant) was an unstable girl, and was not letting go. For a time, he tolerated her appeals to resurrect the affair. She'd become less discrete around his office - voicing her emotional torment - so in the end, he had no choice but to fire her. This one really fell for him, so buying her out was not an option. He was bemused on what to do. The open fireplace would help him deal with such turmoil. He would intoxicate himself with wine to the point that all that mattered were the flickering up-rise of the flames.
      Kerry dug into his pocket for his keys. At the door of his car, he pressed the keyless entry button. The darkness was suddenly disturbed by two quick flashes of light, illuminating from his car's indicators. His hand touched the door lever, but suddenly, a noise.
      A thudding noise.
      A group of feet were running towards him. Kerry quickly turned his gaze and he saw two dark figures approach. Each of them wielded a crowbar.
      “Can I help you?”
      His heart began to race.
      The men didn't respond and continued to close the gap. Kerry cried out. His keys dropped from his hands. As he tried to open his car door the first blow shattered his forearm. Kerry shrieked and cried as he collapsed to the asphalt, his newly purchased bottle of liquor smashing beneath his weight. Small shards of glass dug into his hip as the wine began to pool beneath his back.
      Kerry squirmed at the throbbing pain to his arm, and stared wildly up at his attackers. They towered over him; the glow of the nearby store shrouded them in shadow.
      “He-Help me!” Kerry yelled, hoping  the weary shopkeeper would call the police. “Please! Help!”
      Without warning, one of the attackers thrashed their weapon into Kerry's right knee. He screamed as he felt the bone break. The other attacker then jabbed the curved end of his crowbar into Kerry's chest, snapping a rib. Kerry coughed blood as he clutched at the wound to his torso. He looked up again as his head swam with agony. Another crowbar was raised.
      He gasped when the nearest attacker halted his partner, yelling, "That's enough!"
      The voice sounded juvenile.
      The crowbar was lowered and they stood over Kerry, breathing heavily.
      Kerry trembled as he watched the fog of their breaths steam out the shadows of their hoods.
      “Yell out all you want,” one of them muttered. “You think that shopkeeper is gonna help you?”
      The nearest attacker knelt slowly and said, “Gave him a visit before you arrived, so save your breath.” He then motioned his head, as if gesturing a third party to approach.
      Kerry's legs shook anxiously as he heard the approaching footsteps. It was the clack of high heals - a woman? He quivered as his agony pulsed with every beat of his heart. An even colder chill washed over his face when the new stranger came into view. She stood beside the crouched attacker and Kerry recognised her profile instantly. "Tra-Tracey?" he muttered painfully as blood strayed from in-between his teeth.
      She cried at the mention of her name. The standing attacker stepped towards her and placed a gentle arm around her shoulder. She accepted his comfort, and cried into his chest.
"Wha-What's happening?" Kerry sobbed, watching the attacker stroke her hair, his face still draped in shadow.
      The one who knelt, looked up at Tracey and asked, "Have anything you wanna say you him?"
      Kerry's fear suddenly made him soil his trousers. The warmth of his urine draped over the tops of his thighs before drizzling between his legs. Tracey lifted her head and turned her gaze towards him. Her face was barely visible in the darkness, but he could make out the curves of her cheekbones. "I love you," she said.
"Please?" Kerry coughed. "Wha-What ever you're telling these boys to do . . . t-tell them to stop."
      "Take her back to the car," the crouched attacker said, and his partner gently urged Tracy to follow his motion. She resisted for a few steps, but then surrendered to his stride, keeping herself within his embrace as they walked away.
      The crouched attacker reached into the shadows of his coat, and pulled out a white hand towel. He bunched it up in his gloved hands and leaned forward. Kerry struggled as the towel was approaching his face. The muscles of his cheeks tightened in fear of being gagged. His mind was suddenly filled with images of being dragged off into a hidden place, his screams muffled. Chills gripped the back of neck like an invisible hand at the thought of a final blow being delivered - death was coming.
      "Settle down, old man," the attacker muttered as he roughly dabbed Kerry's face. "If I wanted you dead, it would've happened already . . . just calm down and listen," he concluded as he wiped the blood off Kerry's chin. The attacker shoved the towel into a plastic bag and tucked it back into his coat.
      "She's suffered enough, you know that?"
      "I-I didn't me-mean to hurt her, I-"
      "Shut up!" the attacker yelled. "Listen! Not bloody talk!"
      The attacker jabbed a quick fist into Kerry's broken knee. He yelped and squirmed as the surge of pain spiraled from his knee to his head, like an unseeing snake, biting as it climbed.
      "You rich bastard! You think you got it all. You think you can just have anythin' you want, and then toss it away when you're done?"
      Kerry quivered and kept his mouth shut.
      "When we were kids, we had it different, you know? Yeah, she told us about you. Grew up in North Toorak, was it? Big house? Swishy schools? Your Daddy gave you a Lexus for your first car?"
      Kerry nodded.
      "You don't know what it feels like to cry in your own bed, and hear your older sister scream in the next room . . . Didn't tell you that did she," the attacker huffed. "Those scars you would have noticed on her belly? Spotting her skin like a rash? I bet she told you that they came from a burning car wreck?"
      Kerry remained silent and quivered further the more he heard.
"Nope," the attacker nodded. "Our Daddy's cigar. He tortured her for years. Before she was fourteen, he raped her. And do you want to know somethin' else?"
      The attacker moved in, the bridge of his nose emerging from the blackness beneath his hood. "She suffered for us.
      "That's right. She's one brave girl, and we look up to her for that. Once my brother and I were old enough, we fried that old bastard in the bathtub. Cold water and a hair drier did the trick. After that, you see, Tracy took care of us. She found her feet. She put herself through school. Worked her arse off in caf├ęs and hotels for extra cash.
      "All was going sweet until she got that job assisting your sorry arse! Sure, she could afford to get herself some swishy stuff, and hell, got me and my brother a couple of iPods! But, you had to go and screw it all up."
      Kerry let out a tearful breath; his head swam with the wealth of information.
      "What's happened tonight is simple," the attacker said as he stood. "You broke Tracy's heart . . . so we broke you."
      The attacker leaned over him and slowly swayed his crowbar. "I'm wonderin' now, if you're gonna be stupid or smart when folk start askin' you stuff?"
      Kerry shifted painfully upon the asphalt, thinking  the first call he was going to make was for the police. "Well, if you choose to flap your lips, just remember that we have a towel full of you D.N.A . . . got the idea from T.V. I'm not as dumb as you think. We can get you into a lot of strife, old man. So don't fuck with us."
      "I'm g-going to t-tell the truth . . ." Kerry groaned fearfully as his teeth began to chatter. "I f-fell down some s-stairs. . ."
      The attacker huffed as if suggesting approval and walked away into the darkness. 
      Their car disappeared into the night and loneliness surrounded Kerry again. He retrieved his mobile. Able to get a signal, he made his desperate call for an ambulance. As he shivered to the rhythm of his agony, he started fretting about his new and attractive assistant. Her long legs, her flawless face; he shook the thoughts from his head. The boys had taught him a valuable lesson that night. One he will carry into the women of his future.
      He'll start running background checks. 

No comments: