Day 27 – The Whisky Rhumba

Inspiration: Andy Cameron for saying the “B” word.
Idea: made up as I went along. Sorry. Sense may be lost. Continuity abandoned (I never read these things).


Word count: 1694


The cityscape was a tungsten pastel set against a maroon evening, a sprinkling of the sunset still lingering in the sky and somewhere, floating aloft on the urban breeze, soft cellos humming to the on coming night. Steering the city gears, the taxis below skidded by with busy passengers and Friday nighters in the back while low lives scrounged the streets for pitiless pennies and an easy fight. Steam from the subway wafted up through the vestiges of society and rose up passed five star luxury apartments, penthouses and high rolling bars selling fine cocktails laced with gold. Rats would scurry freely between them all; all knowing, all seeing. The classless beasts cared not for rules or segmented society; they would wander wherever the sewer or pipe would take them.

Atop the roof of the apartment block, Jack chanced a glance over the edge and saw the miniature traffic driving by below. The tip of his shoe was on the very edge of the drop. All that was between him and the hard concrete below was several flower boxes and an open window, curtain billowing in the wind. It wouldn’t be a clean fall. It would hurt. With his hands held against the back of his head, he was sure that if he let himself, his hands wouldn’t be able to react by following the gut instinct to survive and latch on to anything as he dropped.

All these thoughts were rushing through his head in a mere fraction of a second. That it had come to this at all was a miracle in itself. After all these months he never thought he’d ever make it this far and to finally be here was an immense relief.

“It’s too late, Jack,” Harry yelled over the racket of the rushing city below.

Jack smiled and looked behind him to see his friend standing there, gun still pointed at Jack’s chest.

“What, Jack, have you finally ran out of things to say?”

Jack stepped back and away from the edge. The wind flared his long jacket into the air like a cape.

“You know,” Jack mocked, “out of all of you, I never thought it would ever be you.”

Jack saw Harry’s guard slip a little, the gun lowered a fraction.

“Well then I must be good?” Harry recovered his confidence, steadying the pistol once more.

Jack edged closer towards Harry and began to descend the little step down away from the side of the building.

They were standing maybe a few metres apart on the top of some inner city apartment block. High though it was, there were giants taller still towering above flanking all sides. There was an old water tower, most likely swarming with the corpses of dead pigeons rather than water. A sorry looking billboard was lying pathetically underneath a pile of scaffolding gear. They were alone.

“No, Harry, no… Just too pathetic to cross my mind…”

Jack flapped his coat behind him and sat down on the little steps.

“Oh! Hold fire, hero,” Jack said, reaching into his inner pocket, “Just a quick nip of courage before the pigs come…”

He extracted a silver hip flask and stole a quenching swig of soothing whisky.

“Ah,” he exhaled, tasting the alcohol on his wet lips. “Why did you betray me?”

Jack stared Harry dead in the eye and surveyed him as if he were God himself. The more intensely he looked at him, the most disgusted he was by the very existence of this morally bankrupt, sad excuse for a man, let alone friend.

“Did they offer you money, was that it?” Jack fished when Harry remained silent. “Did they buy you a nice suit?”

“What you were doing was wrong, I had to put a stop to it,” Harry yelled, justifiably.

“Really? It took you long to argue that one with yourself. I mean you were kind of having fun at the start, weren’t you?”

“I didn’t know the full story, evidentially.”

“So it’s got nothing to do with you finding out that I’d slept with your wife?”

“She’s not my wife any more,” Harry gritted his teeth.

“True, but you’re a man…” he took another gulp of whisky, “you’re possessive… but I tell ya, I don’t fault you in that one, I mean she is… woaw!”

Harry cocked his gun. Jack could see the tension twisted upon his forehead. He was reaching the spot.

“She’s not dead you know,” Jack explained.

“What?” Harry muttered in shock.

“No, not at all. We faked her death when we made you for who you were.”

“But you… how…?”

“Oh, Harry, m’boy! We’ve known for weeks! Did you just think you were found out now, when you pulled out the trigger? I’m a bank robber, I’m not stupid!”

“You’re going to go to jail for a long, long time, Jack…”

“Harry, Harry… me and jail wouldn’t work out. There’s no point. Put the gun down,” he waved his hand to make it vanish.

Jack had almost finished his whisky now. He swirled the dregs around and looked up at the sky. He could see his breath dissipating into the air and felt relaxed, at ease with the world. Flying overhead were a few aeroplanes circling the skies or jetting across to horizons new.

“I know what you think I am, just a common thug – a glorified thief. I guess I am, maybe. I’m not sure. I ain’t going to justify what I do, but I can pretty much guarantee that if it weren’t for people like me there wouldn’t be people like your cop friends, no security, no nothin’. We’d all live in some glorious sunshine state of unicorns and fairies and all that bullshit we like to tell our children to make them sleep at night so we can go screw our wives and have a drink with our friends. Sure I might nick a few thousand here and there – possibly – a bit more…. but whose was it anyway? Was it people like the good people in the very building beneath us? D’yhink it’s the tellers’ at the bank? How about the bankers? The clerk? Was it the security guard’s? And the government? Was it theirs? They’re so far in debt they won’t see real money for centuries,” he took another sip of the whisky, now savouring the last few drops left, “But don’t see it that way.”

“Jack, you’re disillusional,” Harry spat.

“Harry, Harry, stay with me. I take the money from the bank,” he took a pause after each word to allow Harry to follow, “But I don’t keep it all. I give it out equally. All my boys get a share and they give it to their families and their wives go out to the very shops next door to the bank and buy their shoes and dresses and furniture. And the shopkeepers? They take the profits right back home and back into the bank we stole from in the first place… it’s round, it’s even. It’s… it’s complete and it ain’t really doing anyone any harm, is it? We don’t shoot nobody, we don’t ruin nobody’s life, do we?”

“Except mine,” Harry muttered.

“Yours? Now listen, big H, your gambling problems are entirely your own… I ain’t going to have no gambler taking money from a bank… not in my team!”

Harry lowered the gun and stormed towards Jack, who was broken from his reverie of staring into the sky.

“You left me alone to deal with it! You discarded me, what kind of friend does that?” Harry was fizzing with anger – Jack could hear Harry’s braincells snap with wrath.

“What kind of friend grasses him and his entire gang into the pigs – forcing them to all go on the run and them never to see their families again? All for the sake of a few grievances between a Shylock and a pathetic ex-thief?”

Jack turned towards Harry and looked up at him and thought carefully.

“The police will be here soon,” Harry said.

“I thought they might, which is a shame…”

“I’ll bet. You don’t look like the person to enjoy jail.”

“True, true. But that’s not what I was meaning… I meant it’s a shame that you have to decide this in a matter of minutes…”

Not so far off the cry of police sirens screamed through the streets.

“Point your gun at my head,” Jack said, motioning towards the weapon and gulping back the rest of the flask.

Harry did so.

“No, no, a little bit closer,” Jack encouraged, “Perfect, right…”

The tip of Harry’s gun was solid against Jack’s forehead. But not a jot of fear raced through his veins.

“Cool, right now Harry, I’m going to ask you something. I want you to think very carefully here…I don’t like jail. I don’t want to go there. So you’ve really only got two choices… let me walk… or shoot me dead.”

Harry laughed.

“Now don’t laugh, no, no. You’re not getting it! Listen here, I still have many friends – many friends that hate you more than I would if you shot me in the noggin. Now they’d know exactly what to do if they heard you sent me down. They’d take me entire stash and… put it in your bank account. Now I’m sure a mighty clever judge wouldn’t need his wig to know something’s afoot there. And of course I’d deny anything and everything and you – you’d look a right fool and probably we’d end up cell buddies. So that’s what happens if you shoot me dead. And if you let me walk…well I’ll even tell Chloe ya said hello.”

Jack was smiling broadly, gun still poised between his temples.

Harry had not said a word and his arm remained stiffly stationary.

“I’ll be off now then?”

“I’ll shoot you… I will…”

Jack stole Harry’s concentration and gazed at him right through his eyes and to the back of his soul. Very slowly, very quietly Jack breathed in and out, licked the last of the sweet alcohol from his lips and grinned at the darkness of it all…. “I dare ya.”

~ by S.G. Mark on November 3, 2011.

One Response to “Day 27 – The Whisky Rhumba”

  1. nice

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