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Dick Winchester in... The Movie Night

A Dick Winchester Book 2 Adventure

By Stephen A. RoddewigPublished 2 months ago 14 min read
Dick Winchester in... The Movie Night
Photo by Alex Litvin on Unsplash

Hello! If you're new to the Dick Winchester series, I highly recommend starting with Chapter 1 of Book 1: The Box with No Name

This is Chapter 5 of Book 2. If you haven't already, I recommend starting at Chapter 1 for the sake of continuity:

***

Book 2, Chapter 6

Fall had finally settled across the D.C. metropolitan area, and with it, the ability to stand outside for more than five minutes without sweating through your clothes or fainting from blood loss after the mosquitoes located a bare patch of skin.

Of course, any pleasant weather also proved the bane of a deliveryman’s existence. For, while there would always be a subset of residents too lazy to venture out or too stressed to take the time away, the vast majority of folks were now discovering the wonders of walkable Arlington City anew.

As part of this spiritual awakening, they then remembered that this walkability was part of the reason they were willing to lose such a vast chunk of their money to rent. And that picking up their dinner is both healthier, cheaper than most delivery services, and that being able to access so many food options and support local business was yet another reason why they handed over so much dough to the Rent Deetmar company.

This downward spiral was known among the delivery circles as “Wait, that restaurant I paid to get delivered is how close to my apartment?”

And even a delivery service as cost competitive as Winchester Delivery Services had to weather this slump. Although, I anticipated that we would suffer less in future spring/fall downtimes as even restaurant pickup provided the “option” to tip. Someday, the tax-free underground delivery service would truly be the cheapest option around, and then we wouldn’t have to rely on the humidity to drive up business.

On the bright side, this seasonal dip in orders meant several employees could afford to take the traditional evening dinner rush off to attend the most bizarre movie night I’d ever seen.

Not so much because of what was playing, but what wasn’t playing.

One might assume that the Pentagon employees enjoyed a good war movie like We Were Soldiers, but here I sat in a camping chair, gazing up at Love Actually as Liam Neeson’s character talked to his son about his crush at school. I wondered if Neeson ever thought his likeness would be projected onto the north side of the Pentagon, even with all his fame.

Somehow, I doubted it.

Still, one day after being shot at and working with sentient trees to defeat CIA office workers in the middle of the building that oversaw America’s military might, to be watching a movie on the outside of the five-sided megalith felt even more surreal.

Not to mention, there was a perfectly good viewing area already set up, seating and all.

Barry, sitting on a picnic blanket beside me, must have followed my gaze. “Might be a bit insensitive to have movie night there.”

I turned to face him, eyebrows raised in question.

“You know,” Barry said, chuckling. “Being a memorial and all.”

“Oh, so those benches…”

“Yeah.” Barry reclined back on his elbows. “Not really a good idea to keep making those kinds of jokes, Boss. I already got an earful today from everyone you were trying bits on last night.” Then he shrugged. “Honestly, I find them pretty funny, but read the room, you know?”

“I was just asking questions! They kept assuming I was making obscure local history references.”

“I don’t know if I’d describe the day a 757 flew into the building as obscure…” Barry’s voice trailed off. “But the D.C. Sniper one was reaching, so I see your point. But sensitivities aside,” Barry jerked his thumb over his shoulder, “the helipad is the perfect spot to set up the projector.”

I nodded. “Oh. Yeah, I guess it is.”

Katie looked up from her spot between Barry’s legs, an area I had been avoiding looking at with the kind of prejudice typically reserved for some Victorian broad who has been declined a dance by some stuffed shirt who’s never held a gun a day in his life.

“What’s going on, Dick?” she asked. “You’ve been way too quiet.”

“Well, it is rude to talk in the middle of a movie.”

Katie smirked. “Would you have your new water glass if you let social norms stop you?”

Good point. Although that glass hat is a bit tricky to drink out of in the middle of the night.

I sighed. “I had a rough night last night.”

Barry chuckled again. “Yeah, I’ve been there.”

I felt the hackles rising on the back of my neck that this intern would claim to understand the horrors of combat.

Then Barry qualified his statement with, “The annual competition always unearths the old wounds.”

I held back my original reaction and instead asked, “From?”

He shrugged. “The previous year’s contests.” Seeing the look in my eye, he added, “They don’t always go as smooth as last night. We’ve lost guys.”

Then he mouthed the words, “And trees.”

That reminds me: I’d better plant those seeds before Barry catches any heat.

“Thankfully, that was a smooth ride last night thanks to your slick moves, Boss.”

Katie laughed. “Boys and their basketball. You all take it way too seriously. Acting like people actually die over some interoffice tournament.”

I started to correct her when I saw Barry shake his head.

Keeping secrets from your partner, are we?

Then I considered how Katie had already proven her ability to make rash decisions and how revealing the truth of the “basketball contest” could have resulted in her attempting to insert her Predator drone into the mix. And, given the walloping a Hellfire missile packed, that could have wiped out everyone in the courtyard: DoD, CIA, or civilian auxiliary.

Or, equally unpalatable, the central threat AI that could pick off birds would swat the outdated Predator from the sky, and then no one would get to play with the cool toy.

I take it back. Well played, Mr. Nelson. Well played.

“Yes, that was quite the shootout, wasn’t it?”

I turned just in time to catch the slightest wink from the Secretary of Defense herself.

Barry straightened up on the picnic blanket. “Yes, ma’am.”

“We count ourselves lucky that Mr. Winchester could sub in when one of our star players had to be benched.”

Katie looked up and crinkled her nose. “I thought you said you hated basketball.”

“Uh, only women’s.”

The SecDef gave me a sideways look, and Barry gave me a sarcastic “Okay” sign with his fingers out of Katie’s line of sight. Still, the ruse paid off as Katie shrugged and turned back to Love Actually.

“If you two don’t mind,” the Secretary of Defense nodded to Barry and Katie, “I’m going to borrow Mr. Winchester for a bit.”

I followed the Secretary of Defense over to the memorial benches where she sat down, facing out toward greater Arlington City as she leaned back. After a moment, unsure of the decorum in this scenario, I sat beside her at a respectable distance.

“Do you ever ask yourself why it is you do what you do, Dick?”

The philosophical turn took me aback, and in that uncertainty, I found only the raw truth in the chamber. “My dad said I was a fuckup who would never amount to anything. So I decided I’d prove him wrong by sticking it to all these flashy food delivery apps.”

Janessa smiled slightly. “Really? He said those exact words?”

“Well, it was more like ‘You’re always making mountains out of molehills, Richard. You read too far into everything.’”

“I do seem to recall some signals intelligence around a certain false rumor that kicked off a small-scale war in the streets of Arlington not too long ago. A phone call traced to a certain anonymous line?”

My eyebrow rose. “I thought you weren’t allowed to be involved in policing on American soil?”

“Just because we can’t take action doesn’t mean a girl doesn’t like to know all the gossip.” She smiled again. It was a nice smile. “Don’t worry, Dick. Your secret is safe with me. Though I can’t imagine your police lieutenant girlfriend would be all that pleased to know who put all that paperwork on her desk.”

“That thought had occurred to me.”

“I like her. She’s solid, capable, but still knows how to have a good time. You should have seen her during our little ‘sporting’ event last night.” Her features hardened in an instant. “So don’t fuck it up with her, or you’ll have to take it up with Space Force satellites so secret I don’t even know all that they’re capable of.”

“I won’t,” I promised, feeling my skin prickle. For all I knew, there was a satellite tracking me right now. Just in case I got a sudden urge to decapitate the Department of Defense. An intrusive thought, as the kids liked to say.

It would explain the otherwise lack of security around us.

“Good,” she said, relaxing a little more.

In the silence that followed, I kept coming back to her original question. “Why do you do what you do?”

The Secretary of Defense shrugged. “It’s just a job.”

I waited for her to say something more inspirational, but nothing came.

“What?” she asked. “A girl’s gotta eat.” Then she sighed. “Besides, it’s not exactly like there’s a whole lot of opportunities for advancement past here.”

“Presidential appointment and all that?”

That drew a new smirk. “That’s another PR job, I’m afraid.”

I had to fight the urge to roll my eyes. “I’m getting a bit tired of everyone telling me that I don’t know how things really work around here.”

“Oh, but you don’t, Dick. And sooner or later it’s going to catch up with you. You may think that Öber Eats and FloorDash are your only enemies, but you’re prodding at an ant hill—taking inspiration from your father. You’ll be a bit less than pleased when the fire ants come swarming out to attack.”

Seeing my incredulous expression, she shook her head. “Fine, you want the bald truth? I’ll tell you the bald truth. No more metaphors. I take my orders from the King of America, who is currently overseeing all conspiracies from his underground lair. Loch Ness Monster? His operation. Jennifer Lawrence? Flagship project. And the economic subjugation of Arlington City? A cash cow of his. A cash cow that you’re currently threatening.”

My incredulous expression now had company: the lightest of smiles.

A snort joined the party a moment later.

Then the mask cracked and I let the laughter flow, pure and rich like a good bottle of Jim Beam.

The Bottled in Bond stuff. Not the Small Batch trash.

“Oh,” I said, wiping a tear away. “Thank you. I haven’t laughed like that in a long time.”

Janessa’s face was neutral. “What makes you think I’m joking?”

“The King of America? Really? After we fought so hard to escape one monarchy? And then they decided to be petty and burned down the White House? Not in Dick Winchester’s America.”

“That’s exactly what he’s afraid of,” she muttered.

That comment was quickly set aside as the layers of gloom and anomie shed away like old snakeskin. For the last week, I had been listless, aimless, letting others take the wheel.

But this was Dick Winchester’s story. Dick Winchester didn’t turn tail and cower from his app-based delivery rivals. Dick Winchester didn’t let the memories of Mariupol haunt his waking hours. He plowed on no matter what might stand in his path, be it laws, conventional wisdom, or physics.

“All right,” I said, returning to the business at hand, “so let’s say that all is true. This ‘King of America’”—I winked, which drew a wince from Janessa—“is actually orchestrating everything. So what?”

“If you keep threatening his hold, he’s going to eliminate you.”

I shrugged. “So then I kill him first.”

That drew a half laugh, half scoff from Janessa. “I’m not sure that’s possible.”

“Killing a coded metaphor would be a bit difficult, sure.” I smirked at the opportunity to call on my literature degree. “I guess I’m still missing the reason why I’m such a threat here.”

“The app-based food delivery enterprise is his creation. Should you succeed in gaining a foothold here, what’s to stop you from taking the Winchester Delivery Services model nationwide? Even global?”

“Easy,” I said. “I don’t want to.”

That caught her short. “You… don’t?

“Nope, this is strictly a local venture.”

“But what happens when you’ve maximized your profits in Arlington City?”

“I start another business, I suppose. Dad always wanted me to get a steady 40-hour job and climb the corporate ladder. This entrepreneurial stuff annoyed the hell out of him.”

“Have you… structured your entire life around spiting your father?”

Dead father,” I corrected before replying, “Sure. Doesn’t everyone?”

“Perhaps the world would be a better place if we did,” the Secretary of Defense said, nodding. “After all, I see in you the key to my own goals. I want more than this backwater job can offer. But to do that, I must either kiss the ring or overthrow the crown. Since I’m not on the best terms with the lizard people after bungling the Initiation Ceremony, I look to the latter.”

I leaned back with a hearty chuckle. “Ah, yes. The ‘King of America” and the ‘lizard people.’ Want to throw in a few government bird drones?”

“As a matter of fact…” Janessa held up her hand, and a brilliant flash of green flittered across the lawn to land on her finger.

“Jordan!” I exclaimed, almost forgetting myself and reaching for the rose-ringed parakeet.

Before I could ask how this massive coincidence transpired, the Secretary of Defense spoke to Jordan. “Commence playback.”

“I’m out of ideas,” Jordan chirped. “These people actually believe all of this. I keep making it more outlandish, and they keep eating it up. Can’t they see I’m trying to breaking their suspension of disbelief? But it’s like there’s no critical thinking left!”

“Report location,” Janessa said.

“Basement window, 657 North Umber Street.”

“Impressive trick,” I said, fighting the urge to coo at Jordan with all my might. “But what does this have to do with me?”

Janessa patted Jordan’s head. “It’s simple. That address and the person who resides there are your next stop. From her, you will get the full picture of the challenge before you.”

The longer I listened, the more I was convinced this was all one big practical joke. But fuck it, I liked practical jokes. Besides, this odyssey sounded like the perfect excuse to get away from Barry and Katie for the next few days.

Plus, in the Winchester book of romance, early and strong attraction like I’d established with Teresa then dictated a full withdrawal. Thus establishing a healthy element of mystery that kept the partner on their toes and always guessing at the outcome of the next encounter.

Will he text me back? Will he kiss me or insist on a firm handshake? Why does he keep telling me he’s going to Mexico for weeks at a time but his SnapMap shows him four miles away?

And so, I decided to play the role of hapless contestant on the hidden-camera show.

“Of course,” I said, this time suppressing my wink. “Let me jot that down in my phone.”

The Secretary of Defense’s eyebrow rose as I proceeded to do that. “I’d really ditch that phone, if I were you.”

“Right, because they’re listening to me. I almost forgot.” I held the phone at arm’s length with only a bit of added theatrics. “Good thing you’ve been talking in code this whole time.”

“Yes, of course…” Janessa muttered, shaking her head. “Just go to that address, okay? Everything will be clear after that. But before, you might as well do a little reading.”

She handed me a card. K-Incog.com.

Now that was rich. “Ah, yes. I’m about to meet the infamous K—”

Janessa cleared her throat, and I cut myself off as she glared at my phone.

“Sorry,” I continued, “whoever lives at this particular address. I’ll start doing my homework right away, ma’am.”

The Secretary of Defense sighed. “So glad you’re on the case, Mr. Winchester. Best of luck.”

“Ha, thank you. But Dick Winchester doesn’t need luck.”

“You will,” she muttered as I marched off into the growing chill of the evening.

A few seconds later, Janessa called after me, “Wait, aren’t you going to say goodbye to your friends?”

“Just tell them I’m catching a flight to Mexico!”

That ought to throw them off the scent for a few days, I thought, nodding between my imaginary employees and the phone in my pocket.

Then Jordan landed on my shoulder.

“You joining me for this, green-feathered queen?”

She nodded.

Boy, they’re really pulling out all the stops for this practical joke, I concluded. Lucky for them they picked a participant who also happened to win an acting award for Most Committed Tin Man in high school.

And my insistence that the suit be made out of actual tin only required one trip to the ER for tetanus. Not that Dad could be bothered to stop shaking his head as the ambulance pulled away.

Yep, I concluded as I checked the ammo load in my .38 and reached for my flask stocked with my two friends Jim and Beam, imagine how much worse my life might be if not for his horrible parenting setting me on this path.

***

Author’s Note: The Future of Dick Winchester

Less than a year after first deciding I wanted to produce a Dick Winchester book, it is wild how the vision has expanded. Now I stand with half of Book 2 out of 3 drafted, about to update those loyal fans on Vocal where we go from here.

First, I do not want it to be lost that Dick Winchester Book 1 The Opening Salvo is right on track of release on September 27, 2024, with two new print-exclusive chapters!

Which brings me right back to the course of Book 2 from here. You’ve been given a pretty good idea of the arc from Dick’s exchange with the Secretary of Defense, and that will carry us into the climax of Book 2. A manuscript that I have another *checks watch* 5+ months to finish drafting and then another 6 months to produce after The Opening Salvo goes to market in September. Currently aiming to release The Counterattack in March 2025.

And, since this chapter is a good transition point between the first and second half of the book, while still providing a teaser for those who are interested, it is likely the last chapter to go on Vocal. I need to give folks a reason to buy the full version, don’t I?

Will I be back with content for Book 3? Maybe, but I think it will be hard to appreciate without having read Book 2, since a major part of this book is shifting from self-contained Dick Winchester adventures to an actual chapter format where the central conflict drives the plot, not just our title character. Naturally, that approach will continue into Book 3.

If nothing else, I will be back to announce the release of Books 1, 2, and 3.

I will also be back in the next month or so to announce a shift in my Vocal strategy at large. Rounding out the Dick Winchester-Pentagon arc was one item off the to-do list before I make that transition.

As always, more to come! Thanks so much for reading and following the evolution of Dick Winchester :)

More Dick Winchester in...

The Opening Salvo (Book 1)

  • Opening chapter: The Box with No Name

The Counterattack (Book 2)

  1. The Deflation
  2. The Interrogation
  3. The First Date
  4. The Pentagon Part 1
  5. The Pentagon Part 2
  6. The Movie Night — you are here
  7. [The rest of the book] — drafting in progress

ThrillerAdventure

About the Creator

Stephen A. Roddewig

I am an award-winning author from Arlington, Virginia. Started with short stories, moved to novels.

...and on that note: A Bloody Business is now live! More details.

Proud member of the Horror Writers Association 🐦‍⬛

StephenARoddewig.com

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Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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Comments (2)

  • Hasan16 days ago

    A brilliant piece—enlightening and very well-articulated.

  • Lamar Wigginsabout a month ago

    I’m digging the evolution of Mr. Winchester. In fact, he has long surpassed the memorable stage for me. I look forward to seeing what he gets into next. Secdef was a nice touch, lol. Your ability/commitment to take on such huge projects like this series is admirable. Its like watching the making of a career author in action. Can’t wait to be able to say to people. “Stephen, yeah, him and I go way back.” I’ll probably exaggerate a little, but that’s what writers do, haha. Best of luck, my friend!

Stephen A. RoddewigWritten by Stephen A. Roddewig

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