The Botched Job – short story

Here’s the other one (submitted to Fantasy-Faction.com for their monthly contest) I promised to share.  I’m relatively happy with this, but there are flaws which are easier for me to spot now.  Hopefully this means all the effort I’ve been putting into honing my craft is paying off.  This, as well, may get a couple alterations before making it up on Wattpad, but again this is the story as it was submitted.

“Stay with us, Thar.” I squeezed his arm. My hand came away red, warm, and sticky. He sprawled on the carriage floor wide eyed, holding his stomach. His white shirt was soaked with red, which seeped between his fingers and trickled down his side. It had already begun pooling around his body. “Can’t these damn horses go any faster?” I shouted at Rowan.

“Sure, I can go faster.” He narrowed his eyes as he turned and met my gaze. “Won’t be able to keep steady though. Want me to kill him?”

“We need the healer. Now! He’s losing a lot of blood here.” I said through gritted teeth.

“I thought this was supposed to be easy money.” Rowan shouted after several moments of silence. “You said this guy was harmless. Next thing I know he’s swinging a knife around.” Rowan shook his head as he urged the horses on.

“This guy is half elf.” I stared at him with my mouth agape. “You insulted him, so he got excited. You know their kind. If Thar didn’t step in it’d be you who got a knife in the gut, so treat him with a little respect. I’d start by caring about whether or not he makes it.” Rowan glanced back at me again and opened his mouth like he was about to say something, but clamped it shut wordlessly.

Couple misses, but one good shot.

“I care…just didn’t realize elves were so damn proud.” Rowan shook his head as he muttered.

Thar started to struggle for breath. His face twisted with pain and he started to moan.

“Almost there.” Rowan glanced back. “He still with us?”

I nodded. My lips sore from being pressed together. “Barely.”

When we arrived I leaped out of the carriage down into the muck below. My boots squelched and twisted as I rushed to the old wooden door. I hammered on it with the palm of my hand until I heard movement within.

“This isn’t some witch doctor, is it?” Rowan called from the carriage.

“Witch doctor?” I turned my head to look at him sideways.

“You know, not some old nut with a wand…or something? He’s an actual doctor, right?”

I shook my head. “She’s a healer.”

The door swung open suddenly, flooding the outside with light. A young woman with half moon glasses and a mop of curly brown hair opened the door. She puffed on her pipe and blinked at me before looking beyond to the carriage. She paused for a moment, squinted her eyes, and then dropped the pipe in her rush to get to Thar. Her shoulder bumped into mine as she went by.

*

“What happened to him?” I asked to Rowan as I ran a hand through my thick, curly hair.

That’s a lot of red…

“Stabbed.” Rowan said.

“I can see that much.” I inspected the wound, then clamped my hand down on it. “What happened?” I looked back towards Lorne.

“Thar was dealing.” He shrugged. “It went south. Honey tongue over here,” Lorne jabbed his thumb at Rowan, “got into a fight over price and the guy pulled a blade. Thar tried to break it up and ate steel as a thanks.”

I nodded silently and reassessed Thar’s wound. “I can’t do anything for him here. You,” I pointed at Lorne, “run inside. Tell my husband to clear the table.”

He nodded and disappeared inside, slamming the door shut behind him.

“There is,” I coughed awkwardly while I maintained pressure on the wound, “of course, the matter of pay.” I did my best to look apologetic as I brought it up. “Lorne can assist,” I nodded toward the house, “I’ll cut your rate considering.”

“Rate?” Rowan’s brow furrowed. His eyes flicked curiously from Thar over to me.

“You think you get back alley healing in exchange for nothing? ” I shifted my weight and felt my foot sink further into muck.

“I…guess not.” Rowan blinked. “How much?” He eyed me suspiciously. Looking me up and down as if appraising my skill as a negotiator. Luckily, most men have no idea how to do this when it comes to women. “Not a witch doctor…are you?” His eyes narrowed.

“Witch doctor wouldn’t do much good here.” I shook my head. “I apprenticed under a magi. I know my craft.” I smiled. “But the fact remains, Thar’s dying. I could ask for your whole purse. Are you really willing to say no? To waste Thar’s life haggling? Try explaining that to Lorne…” His eyes shifted to the door. “Unless you want to stick your hand in that wound.” I raised a brow mockingly.

Rowan eyed the wound and quickly looked away.

Squeamish? That’s lucky.

“Not…particularly.” He admitted with downcast eyes.

I grinned. “Luckily I have a fee structure. Reduced rate is five coppers.”

“Seems reasonable.” Rowan shrugged as he reached into his purse to fish out the coins.

“…Then add the danger pay.” I continued.

“Danger pay? What are you doing that’s so dangerous? Anyone holding steel to you?” Rowan’s voice was starting to rise, his face flushed.

“If he gets caught here he’s going to the noose. Who do you suppose will hang beside him?” Rowan’s mouth twisted as he thought about it. The light in his eyes changed as understanding dawned on him. “That’s right. Another five coppers for the risk. Add the standard two silver for good measure. Three silver in all.”

“For good measure? What’s that mean?”

“Means I keeps quiet and only ask two silver for it.” I fixed Rowan with a stern gaze.

Rowan glared at me and weighed his coin purse in his hand. He looked about to say something when Thar started shaking violently. “Wh-what’s happening?”

“He needs a healer.” I looked at Thar with wide eyes. My forehead wrinkled as I raised my eyebrows. When I made no motion other than to eye the coin purse suggestively Rowan grumbled angrily as he reached into it. “Fucking angel, aren’t you doc.”
“I can’t eat gratitude.” I grunted as the door opened behind us.

“Fiennes!” I turned to see Lorne hurrying over. The muck sucked at his boots making him strain with effort.. “All set in here. He okay to move?”

Rowan slapped the coins into my hand. “Grab his feet.” I grabbed Thar’s upper body and we carried him toward the house.

“Meet me at the safe house tomorrow. Sun down.” Rowan called over. “If I’m not there…leave town.”

I bumped the door shut as we carried Thar to the dining room. We lowered Thar to the ground. “I’m famished. Got anything?” He beamed.

“Help yourself.” I smiled and gently slapped Thar’s face to rouse him.

*

“Sleep herb wearing off Thar?” Lorne was grinning ear to ear.

“How did we do?” I blinked down at the impressive red stain on my shirt. Looks like I died…

“Took him for three silvers.” Fiennes smiled. “I hope you know you’ll need a scar if you expect him to go for the long con.” She eyed my stomach. “You had another episode too…”

“One each? Not bad.” I nodded thoughtfully. “The fits are coming more frequent lately.” I shrugged, “and as it so happens…” I lifted my soiled shirt and wiped the fake blood. Right where I was supposed to have been stabbed there was a scar.

“Nice planning.” She nodded approvingly though her eyes betrayed her concern, “it’s old, but I’m sure you can dress it up to look fresh.”

I nodded, my mouth twitched upwards.

“What’d you give the guy who show-stabbed you?” Lorne tilted his head.

I shrugged. “A few irons. Had him convinced he was getting the better of me too.” I chuckled. “Probably thinks he made out like a bandit.”

After the long con goes through, Hennen and I will split your shares and he’ll be right. It’ll be sad to turn on people I’ve called friends for years…

“Him?” Lorne laughed. “Half elf, half idiot.” He and Fiennes giggled incessantly.

I flicked my eyes from one to the other and my guilt melt away.

They’ve become like a family. Unfortunately for them, ‘like’ family isn’t enough…not if we’re going to buy our sister back from the slavers.

“To the long con.” I raised my glass. Almost there now, Ava. Everything is in motion. We all clinked cups and swallowed deep before pouring over the details and final preparations of our long con.

Of course Hennen and I had ours worked out already.

I grinned. Wine never tasted so good.

As always, thanks for taking the time to read!  I’ll try to post again later today as more of an update on the novel projects.

—CR Alexander

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