"Three Times A Charm" (A Thugs' Credo)

Submitted into Contest #194 in response to: Write a story inspired by the phrase “The short end of the stick.”... view prompt

1 comment

Crime Suspense Thriller

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

My secretary is frantic. She's sobbing, weeping, crying. She's scared shitless. Her words were muttered under the duct tape. I told her it would be okay. I'll figure this out.

"I promise I'll get us out of this.”

Her eyes tried to show she understood, but her tears told something else. We're on the floor facing each other, we could only see each other while the office was savagely ransacked around us. Duct tape binds our wrists and ankles. Her eyes suddenly widened in horror. Something ceramic broke behind me with a thud—my head was thrusted forward—dirt suffocated my senses.

Deep potholes bounced me awake from a potted plant that put me out. I must have been unconscious for a while. Playing possum to not give me away gave me a better look around. From what I see, I'm the only one on the floor in the back of this rusty old van. The van sang its own tune of strained metal creaking while trying to hold itself together. My secretary was nowhere in sight.

A man, wearing a backpack, suddenly stands over me, yells anxiously out to the driver. “He's awake!” Then, in a whole new personality, with a gun, rushes me and says in a deeper, angered voice. "What is it !??"

But before I could say anything, the van's brakes screeched to a stop, and the driver announced we're here. Aching clicking chimed out from the van as it calmed down from its unsettling journey when finally shut off. The door slid open, and I’m tossed-out like disposable garbage. Overgrown weeds cushioned my impact. I first thought we were in a field by how many plants were around, but the ground was harder than earth. We're in a parking lot consumed by plants and serenading crickets, which was the only life around; here weren't even any street lights in sight.

Nor was my secretary.

“Come-on, let's get this over with." The buddy says, with the enthusiasm of a kid waiting for the lollipop after the dentist visit. He's giggling while proving his bullying toughness on me. Him and the driver prodded me to the only building around, an abandoned rundown warehouse.

Thugs. Some people are so cliche and predictable, limited direction due to desires — their Achilles heel — tunnel vision for only the prize.

And here I am, being dragged to my death because these two thugs think they can get something from me that I don't even know what it is. Times like this is why I shouldn't be trusted to begin with. What is it they want …why me? They must think I'm a shark like them. Playing games. Making deals with judges, who then deal out a hand they think you deserve from a short-handed deck. The two-face of justice, allowing the rich to get away with murder; while the poor, the weak, pay with everything. Sharks feeding, without fear. The crooks think I'm a lawyer, "–the shit's scum," and all that.

Understandable, they kidnap me. Their stakes must be too high for them to handle and need me, a tool to gain leverage. Or maybe it is simpler than that? They just want to hunt out vengeance on sharks.

    Their every shove denied my lagging feet not to stay behind. The buddy harshly informed me I knew this place. He said it was my former boss's ancient underground headquarters. He enjoyed shoving me with each shouted word. "You remember this place? Don't you!?!"

The driver's husky voice tugs at me from the other side in a whisper. "I know, you know … that I know you know this place … Don't I?"

My silence met his question, not like he wanted.

His buddy interrupted. "And so do the authorities," then added, "Thanks to you!"

Without missing a beat, the driver grumbled. "And the grand jury too." 

Typical thugs, breaking in by throwing me through a glass door. They used my body in a similar fashion down dark corridors to the factory lift. "CRASH!" Whether coming or going, the old factory lift's gate sounded a crash upon closing. Echoing, but now louder through three empty floors.

The lift's ascent shuddered. It couldn't help it. It was being smashed into the shaft's walls, thanks to the help from the driver and his buddy roughing me up on our way up. I was welcomed to the top floor with the same respect as exiting the van. My extensive sores given since I met the weed infested tarmac painfully met the factory's floor.

They ferried me through the shadowy, vast emptiness on a broken-down office chair to the far corner. Under the high ceiling in that corner stood a large box. It's a single room foreman's office. They dumped me on the desk inside it. One door, and only one big window to look out at the progress. Venetians, three-quarters of the way down, hide privacy, making it harder to look in than out.

The only thing outside that office was a body slumped over, bonded to a chair and unconscious. A shiny pool of blood at their feet. It is my secretary. Due to my bounds, all I could do was just lay there and look at her. The driver's buddy holds a gun to her head as she starts to come to. My secretary's screams are muffled down to moans under her duct taped mouth.

The window also reflects the driver behind me, standing where the boss's portrait once hung. Now, it's on the floor against the wall next to him. In its place is a dug out hole in the wall. A wall safe peeks out of the hole that once was plastered over, for no one to find; now sees light.

Brusquely, he whispered from behind me. "The combination saves her life."

I spitted out in nervousness. "Why would I know it? I don't even know who you two are. Or why are you even bothering with me? And brought us here? I know nothing! Believe me." 

Pistol whipped with one word. "Liar!" Swaying the gun at me, he insists, "What is it? WHAT'S THE COMBINATION!?!"

Squirming to get away from his dwelling gun in my face gave me the opportunity to feel around the desktop, behind my back, without him seeing what my fingers were doing. My duct taped-up wrists limited my range but didn't hinder my goal in finding the letter opener.

I screamed. "I don't know! Leave me alone! I don't know! Leave me alone!" Convulsing to every word while hiding the letter opener stabbing the duct tape.

"You should know! You are… " he paused to wave the gun like a wand at me, " ... a lawyer for our dead boss. He told me you'd be his lawyer. He'd confide in you with the combination to the safe. You're his backup plan if he couldn't open it. He also confided in me, his chauffeur, about this."A gun pointing out the importance with an abrupt curt command. "Open it!" 

I made up numbers to get his attention off of the letter opener, piercing the duct tape. "Right, left, right; four, two, eight."

Tick, tick, tick, and the tumblers couldn't tumble quick enough. Holding my breath, finally, a clanked sounded the last tumbler. A puff of gasy-smoke spitted out into the driver's face. His scream was short. His standing was even shorter. When he dropped from the effects of the gas, he knocked over things, creating a commotion. His buddy ran in, finding his partner not moving on the floor. Sharply, he aimed his pistol at me and demanded to know what had happened. I told him his partner didn't do the right combination, and the safe must come with some sort of weird security measures. 

Across the way, he poked the air as if he was poking me and yelled in that aggressive voice of his. "What is the number, dead man?!?" 

Once again, I stammered in unison to the stabbing of the duct tape. "Ri—Righ—Right. Four—for four—right. T-t-ta. Two-too-to two left. Eigh…T-t. Yah, ate eight - right?"

He turned them exactly like I said, exactly like the driver had. A hum rose into a buzz after the last tumble clicked. His body shook as his hand gripped the safe's handle harder. His gun kept firing uncontrollably. Parts of his body started smoking before the safe stopped its torture on him. His gun stopped firing after accidentally shooting the driver. His body dropped hard.

My duct tape finally snapped, letting me undo the rest of my bounds. Picking up the driver's gun, I found that both were dead.

I shook my head at their vulgar pretentiousness and spoke to them out loud like the dead could listen. "You obviously did not know your boss well enough. As if a chauffeur would know more than his boss's attorney."

I spun the dial to clear their mistakes. 

"If you had truly known your boss, you would have known the numbers yourself. The answer was always in front of you every single time you looked at him." Nodding to the large portrait, on its side, of a full-size man looking grand. "It was his number one love, above money, jewelry, drugs, wines, women, boys, and collecting of personal information. 

"Like he always said, he ate for two.

"It was I who suggested this new security measure on this safe. But I couldn't just open it without him disarming the safe's safeguards. What he didn't know. It needed two wrong combinations to disengage the safeguards before it would allow the right combination to open it. Every wrong combination made the safe become dangerously lethal than the last time. I just needed to wait for two greedy dumb-ass-lackeys to try to break into it."

Smoothly turning the dial, "Some attorneys are poker players, me," turning the dial eight to the right, "I'm a chest master," the dial spun four to the left, "and always having all my pawns," turning the dial one last time to two to the right, "belonging in their proper places." Click, click, click, the tumblers fell into position. The safe opened.

“Third time... is a charm!”

Surprised by what was there. I collected it all into the buddy's backpack and the keys to the van. Looking down at their dead disappointed bodies. "You did't know me either. I was always obvious to you as well. All you wanted to know was that I was a lawyer. But I'm not. I am an attorney. Taught by all the best ones before me. Breaking whatever laws that could be broken to win a case. Learning from their mistakes and their strategic tactics. Taught to act not only for the client but also to the client. Puppeteering and gambling lives; but with a more polite title. A universal, grandeur title of: "Attorney''

Just to make it look like what this is, a robbery gone wrong, a bullet given twice to each head was left behind. Backpack filled and a smile for my years of patience and planning. Manipulating and maneuvering for something I should have never been trusted with to begin with. My upbeat strut couldn't be hidden until I almost collapsed when I got to the office door. My secretary was still there. And still alive! 

My fatigued voice shook a little as I stepped towards her. "Oh my God, you're still alive! I thought you would be dead by now."

Mascara didn't only stain her cheeks but also the duct tape that covered them. Her eyes said it all. Tears of relief flowed uncontrollably until she saw the gun raise towards her.

I calmly whispered. "I promised I'll get us out of this."

Her eyes heard the bang before I pulled the trigger.

"BANG!" Echoed throughout the empty warehouse until a stricken silence consumed the air on all floors, lingered like a statue waiting to be broken. Quietly, sounding more like the rattle of a rattlesnake, footsteps crossed the expansive room. Its shuffled step could be heard sometimes stuttering the pace as it made its way to the lift.

One crash, not two, sung the lift's gate last echo permeating through the old abandoned warehouse.

The End.

April 18, 2023 19:54

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1 comment

Devon B Raphael
22:32 May 28, 2023

Congratulations on everyone here for your incredible works of literature. I guess I did not write this well enough for anyone to leave a single comment here. Let me ask (as if anyone actually reads these comments in the aftermath of the contest). What was so wrong with the story for no one to dare leave any comments? Was the entree theme wrong for the theme of the competition? Was there too much dialog from the main character? Too little character development with any of the characters? Was it too violent? And my big concern: Did you mis...


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