Flash Fiction Challenge – “Must Contain…”
Chuck Wendig posted a flash fiction challenge on his blog…
This is my stab at it, I called it “Percussion”. I picked #4 & #7 – An Antique Gun & A Hard Drive Full of Secrets
Franklyn turned the pistol over and over in his hands, trying to ascertain something useful about it. It was completely alien to him, other worldly, even if that other world was actually the past rather than a foreign land or distant world. Like ninety-nine percent of breathing Texans over the age of eight he had fired a gun, Hell he had fired many guns, but he had never even seen an old black powder pistol before except in the pages of books at his grandfather’s house. He knew enough about guns to know better than to look down the barrel, but without doing so he was unsure if there was any safe way to ascertain whether or not the piece was loaded. He could see a percussion cap under the striking face of the hammer, that had clearly been lowered carefully else the cap would be spent, and that seemed to suggest that someone had primed the pistol at some point in the past, but for all he knew that could have been as much as or maybe even more than a century ago. Equally it could have been scant hours.
The woman at Franklyn’s feet was still out cold. He had gingerly prised the pistol from her hand when he had come upon her prone form and decided that he did not relish the idea of her awaking suddenly to see him standing over her, perhaps putting the fear of God in her, while she was holding a firearm. She was dressed quite oddly by Franklyn’s standards. He was used to July being short shorts and crop tops amongst the local girls, but here lay a young woman dressed in what could really only be described as Civil War era wilderness garb, drab oliver flannel pants tucked into high and sturdy boots, a flowing undershirt beneath a leather tunic and over the top a simple duster-style coat.
Her hat was still around her neck, bigger than a fedora, but smaller than a stetson, but it was no longer on top of her head. He imagined it had fallen off when she fell and the leather thong that had been tied under her chin had kept it around her neck. So far his best guess was that she was some kind of re-enacter or living history person, even though he was unaware of any renaissance fairs or civil war events anywhere near Odessa, not that those things were particularly high on his agenda. He glanced down at her again, just to check that she was still out, but also that she was still breathing; both still held true.
He stepped away from her and gingerly cocked the pistol, then raised it to arm’s length as he had seen done with old fashioned guns in pirate movies and aimed down the barrel at a tree on the other side of the clearing. He brought his breathing under control, as he had been taught by his father, noting how the rise and fall of his chest made the muzzle of the pistol rise and fall in sympathy. He took one final breath, let a little out and then held it as he began to squeeze the trigger.
The hammer fell with a satisfying, though quiet, crack and then a split second later, before he had time to think or break his aim the pistol fired with a far louder and deeper report. It kicked a fair bit, though nothing like Cory’s Desert Eagle, and there was a lot of smoke and flash from the muzzle, but once the haze cleared Franklyn could see that he had killed that tree dead. There was an unsightly gash about four inches up and down and a good inch and a half across, through which daylight was beginning to pour. His immediate thought was that he was quite right not to have looked down the barrel, as this thing would have made a canoe of his head if it had gone off.
His second thought was that there was something very cold on his neck, and that is when he heard something other than a ringing in his left ear;
“Drop the pistol or the last thing you will see is all of your blood pouring out of your neck.”
Most people do not think like Franklyn, something that he was aware of, but also bemused by. He did drop the pistol as commanded, but all he could think while he was doing it was that this girl had a very sexy British voice and he was really hoping that they could come out of this thing friends.
The cold blade that had been against his throat was lifted away and he felt a powerful shove between his shoulder blades which he gave into and took three paces forward before turning around slowly to face her in as unthreatening and passive a manner as he could manage. It is not easy to appear unthreatening when you are six foot five, two hundred and twenty pounds and sporting a wildman beard and a buzz-cut, not to mention the plethora of visible tattoos and the large bowie knife that was very obviously strapped to his right thigh, but he gave it a try anyway.
She was even prettier conscious and angry-looking, and he was impressed by the grace with which she scooped up her pistol without breaking eye contact or lowering her own quite evil looking blade. He decided to go with his gut and offered her a shallow bow and a nod, palms up and out so that she could not even suspect he might reach for his own knife. He was fairly sure that she relaxed just a single notch and so he decided to break the silence;
“I really meant no disrespect, I’m afraid my curiosity got the better of me, but nontheless I am sorry.”
Her face softened another notch before she tensed up again, suddenly realising that something was missing from the pocket of her coat. She immediately raised her knife and started to advance on him;
“Where is it?”
This was not going well, Franklyn could definitely not see anything good about where this was going as he had no idea what she was talking about but she was, perhaps rightly, treating him as the prime suspect in the disappearance of whatever it was that she was still digging for in her left coat pocket to absolutely no avail. He decided that honesty and open-ness were the only things likely to get him through and keeping as passive a stance as he could manage replied;
“Where is what? Seriously, you can search every inch of me I have nothing of yours. Hell I’ve barely got anything of my own.”
She nodded curtly and motioned to his knife with the point of her own.
“Slowly, take the knife and throw it away, but very very slowly, ok?”
Franklyn nodded, then complied, tossing it gently to his right in such a way as the hilt struck the ground; after all he had only just sharpened it three days before, no sense notching the blade unnecessarily.
“Ok.” She twitched the point of her knife up and down, “Arms up, palms to me.”
Again he complied, not so much out of fear but out of admiration for her apparent poise and professionalism. In an odd way he was enjoying seeing her work and more to the point every time she spoke he just about melted anyway.
She came closer, and holding the knife just under his chin started to pat him down, again very gracefully and without breaking eye contact or losing her poise with the knife once. In a moment it was done and she backed away and lowered the knife,
“I am sorry, Sir, I must concur that you do not have my missing item, but that is most disappointing for me as well as quite embarassing. Please forgive me my suspicious nature?”
Franklyn smiled his big ‘cuddly bear’ grin,
“Why of course ma’am.”
She cracked a smile and put her knife away, another smooth and graceful movement that impressed the heck out of Franklyn.
“Well, that is very decent of you,” she ran her hand through her hair and laid some serious eye contact on him; “Do you think I could ask you for a little more help?”
Franklyn knew that he was being played, but he did not really mind, just so long as she kept talking. He nodded, and motioned that she should continue.
Her smile widened;
“Well, you see the thing is that I appear to have lost a portable hard drive that my employer is going to be very unhappy to learn has left my possession at all. Of course if I get it back, all of his secrets will be safe and I will not be up for early retirement.”
“It would be my privilege to help you out.”