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'Slight' of Hand

by Christopher Gabriel 5 months ago in fiction

Nobody is whom they seem

“I can’t bloody believe this Quinn…”

David kept fluttering his fingers, his hands clammy as he paced in the room. Water seeped in from the ceiling in the corner, the smell of mildew thick on the air as the incessant drip, drip, drip echoed like a distant drummer.

Their whole lives, they’d lived like this. A trailer, a dilapidated flat; nothing that ever kept them safe, whether from the elements or from illness. Always the specter of danger loomed in the background, seen yet not quite felt.

“Jesus David, just stand still for a moment would ya?” Quinn said, arms thrusting forward in protest.

“It’s our shot finally, yeah? $20,000 American! Just think what we can do with it.”

“I know, I know but… we don’t even know what’s in there. What kind of bloke are we even dealin’ with?”

He turned, locking eyes with her.

“Do you know? Can you tell me that?”

She looked away, feeling the guilt, the potential danger. A rat scurried across the floor past her feet and she felt the steel within. Her whole life since her parents died… she wasn’t living like this anymore.

“Where are ya goin’?”

“It’s not bloody blackmail David. The note man offered it for its safe return.”

She held up a small black notebook, a gold band of ribbon tying it closed, her eyes and stance challenging.

“How did he find us? You can’t just open up a note from some random that shows up with a few quid in it, then wander off to find him for the promise of more. You ain’t a whore.”

Quinn stepped back as if slapped.

“How dare ya! I will keep it for my own then. I’m done lookin’ after ya.”

The door slammed hard as she stormed out into the rain, leaving David alone. He knew his sister would react this way. She was always so excitable, emotional. The burden of responsibility had done that to her; becoming a parent to David after their Ma and Da died years before they should have. The things she had to do to get them food or even a roof over their head…

A pang of remorse flittered in his gut.

“Gaah, Quinn! Why did ya have ta-“ he clenched his teeth, biting back words.

The air was brisk and thick with precipitation. Water pooled into David’s boots as he ran, sloshing through puddles, searching for where she had gone. Night came fast with the grayness of the storm, streetlights not yet illuminating the dark.

David knew he could have stopped all of this; demanded Quinn put the notebook back when he saw her lift it from the leather case in the cafe, yet he remained silent. She forced his hand, encouraged him to goad her, to say things she wouldn’t normally mean. He needed her to cast him aside.

Turning a corner, he nearly fell stopping himself. Quinn was huddling below an awning in front of a dress shop, eyes sweeping the area, expectant. She looked harried and disheveled. What he had promised.

David had opened the notebook. Names and ledgers, likely nothing to most but he recognized the names. Mobsters all of them; headline men, on top of the world with everything to gain or to lose depending on who got their hands on that book. She had never read a word inside. It was just like Quinn to act first and think later, if ever.

Tires splashed as an auto drove by, its headlamps sweeping across a man in a trench coat on the sidewalk opposite. David watched the man, his fedora pulled low, shadowing his face from the shop lights behind him. He knew this must be him, the man he sent the letter to.

Quinn had thrown the notebook with the refuse when she didn’t find any bills or cheques.

“All that risk for nothin’.”

“Did you read it though? Maybe there is-“

“Enough David. There is nothin’ in it. We need money. Don’t you get that? I don’t have time to read this bleedin’ book. For what? Huh? This ain’t some bloody adventure or gossip hour.”

He should have known she wouldn’t understand but he kept trying until he couldn’t take her disregard anymore. Her putdowns, labeling him as some immature brat, not letting him grow up.

The man slowed and approached Quinn, she took a step back. He could see her tension as she spoke to him before calming, soothing her flight instincts. David shook his head as he stepped out of the shadows, crossing the street to join the man and his sister.

“Where is the money you promised?” she was asking, as David approached, her eyes locking on him, conveying shock, annoyance, and a hint of fear.

“Don’t worry I have it.”

The man’s voice was deep and reassuring like Da’s, disarming to even David who knew what was to come. He held out an envelope to Quinn as he eyed David, confidence never slipping.

“Now hand it over girl. It’s alright, it’s all here.”

David stopped just out of reach as Quinn handed the book to the man, his hand latching onto her wrist before she could register what was happening. Several more men came around the corner, putting a bag over her head and shackling her wrists.

“Good work son,” the man with the notebook said, speaking over Quinn’s muffled screams.

“As agreed, here is the reward for getting this back to us. $20,000. How did you find her exactly, anyway?”

“I saw her lift the book from a police satchel on Fifth so I follow’d her to a flat. Tommy Fioroni showed up right after that and I knew she was the real deal.”

The officer whistled and gripped his shoulder. David lowered his eyes, feigning bashfulness, ignoring Quinn’s protests, trying to call out his name.

“Did she say David? Who is that?” the arresting officer asked as they put her in the back of an auto around the corner.

David shrugged.

“I haven’t the slightest,” he said before turning away.

So long Quinn, its my shot now.

fiction
Christopher Gabriel
Christopher Gabriel
Read next: Chad Alan Lee
Christopher Gabriel

Slinger of short stories along with the almighty novel. Besides writing and reading a lot, I'm a dad, a husband, and an avid traveler to the wilderness.

See all posts by Christopher Gabriel

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