A Story by Noir85

Set in Ireland, this is a story of revenge gone awry. A local thug destroys one of the last things an elderly woman has in her life. Her grandson seeks to punish the thug, but things go downhill fast.

     Eddie Carroll has a history which should worry me. A life punctuated with violence. One of those fuckers you hear about on the news with fourteen previous convictions who the judge inexplicably lets go on a good behaviour bond. Since the honourable warden of the courts seems less than moved by the situation, I decide to take matters into my own hands. A self-appointed agent of karma.
   I soak a rag in the gallon drum and the fumes turn my stomach. My Zippo shimmers silver in the moonlight. 
   I know he acted out of malice. Ritchie Cummins saw the whole thing. Ritchie was ambling home from the chipper with one hand being kept warm by a sausage supper, and the other by some young one's back pocket. He recognised the scattershot gurgling of Eddie’s exhaust before ever saw it. He watched the Ford Escort Mk 2, gleaming from its daily wash, slowing  to the junction. He saw Rosie step out onto the road. Eddie had to have seen her too. The Escort roared and broke the only red light in town. It smacked the side of her face and she spun to the tarmac, blood spraying like a punctured beer can. Eddie sped off, techno beats competing with the volume of his exhaust. Ritchie rang and I came running. The light was fading from her panicked eyes when I got to her. Golden hair matted a deep syrupy red. Life twitched out of her with one last spastic flick of her tail.
    I only owed him for a fifty bag. 
    I have never understood the appeal of a Mk 2 Escort. In rallying circles they are prized. Being from the eighties, they’re classed as vintage and command a high price. I approach it in the still night with the rag dripping onto my Converse. Hood pinned tight to my scalp. I silently curse the twigs which crack underfoot. It’s the first time I’ve ever agreed with the Bible. An eye for an eye. The hatch covering the petrol cap is more of a struggle than I anticipated. My screwdriver gouges the paintwork, makes loud scraping sounds. I flash vigilant eyes all about as I work at it. The kitchen light is on, but the car shields me from view. The house stands alone at the end of a steep driveway, nestled into the brink of a forest. After a valiant fight the hatch submits with a pop. I unscrew the petrol cap and stuff the rag in its place.  
I lay flame to the rag and it dances a fitful orange jig. 
   Bark splinters from a tree behind me. The rifle’s crack takes a moment to catch up. My legs twitch to life and I’m in amongst the trees before the second shot whistles past my hip. I’ve never heard a gunshot before. Shock ripples through me, nerve endings on fire. In my haste I had missed the dark shape creeping toward me. I had missed the glint of the barrel. My feet struggle to take the terrain. Fallen branches and pine needles crunch and shuffle underfoot. I slide at full tilt and correct myself, arms flailing for balance. No bright burst penetrates my peripherals. No boom fills my eardrums. He must have stopped to deal with the rag. Precious seconds.                    
    Dusk has only just relinquished itself to night and my eyes take time adjusting. Branches jut out like broken bones, casting eerie silhouettes. The day began with a hard rain and the smell of it hangs in the air. I crane my neck to where great pines pierce the navy sky and feel like a head louse lost in the bristles of a giant hairbrush. The stars are up there somewhere. My lungs are stuffed with fiberglass. Saliva builds and sours the pockets inside my cheeks. He’s cursing back there and I hear the distance between us growing. I’ve no sense of direction out here. I’m sprinting in a straight line, but I don’t know what dead ends lay ahead. What rock formations. What drops. You’ve had better ideas, Sean.
     Ritchie has his engine idling at the top of Eddie’s driveway, but I’m sure the gunshots have changed his mind. Can’t say I blame him. A silver beam fans the trees to my left. So bright it can only be a hunting lamp. The type hunters use to dazzle rabbits, to pin them in place, right before they make fine mist of their organs with high velocity rounds. My legs sag, but adrenaline cheers them on. I need cover with that thing illuminating the forest. Over everything else I hear my heart. It sounds like it’s trying to get out, tear through my rib cage and make a run for it without me. The light traces a jerky arc that passes over my head. He’s hollering at me now. 
   “I’ve got enough ammo to do this all night. One of ‘em's gonna hit you sooner or later.”
    My lungs can’t keep this up much longer. I slow my stride, heave for air, wait for the light again. Something tiny and fast scampers through the leaves by my feet. I’m trotting now. Ready. Light stabs the darkness to my right. I bolt left into endless pines. I urge every sinew into action. I hurdle rocks, dip my shoulder under sharp branches like I’m breaking tackles in Thomond Park. I’m only aware of the blinding beacon in my periphery now. He hasn’t noticed my sharp deviation. My feet find a mud path worn through the scrub and the crunching and crackling sounds are no more. In the fresh silence I hear running water, distant but strong. 
    “You can’t outrun what’s coming.”
    His voice is further off now. Something solid looms out of the darkness ahead. A structure. 
   “You’re the one who set this in motion. Come face it like a man.”
    A sliver of light finds a tree too close to me and my neck instinctively turtles into my shoulders. It swings away, I creep low to the ground. The structure used to be something grander. The years chewed it up and the forest swallowed it and all that remains is a crumbling pile of rocks with one corner wall holding tough. It’s low enough for me to vault and I land in soft mud. I scoot my back against the stone and draw my knees to my chest. I peel off my hood and check that the wall covers my head, then I work on filling my lungs. The night makes a cold mask of my sweat. I share my cosy corner of these woods with crumpled cans of Dutch Gold, an empty vodka naggin and a scattering of blanched cigarette butts. 
   I inherited Rosie when my grandmother started going downhill. Fair to say we didn’t see eye to eye at first. She was a spoilt little thing who upended herself in expectation of a belly rub at the sight of anyone on two legs. She barked at unreasonable hours at an over-zealous censor light which patrolled my front garden. But she’d a way of tilting her head when I scolded her. A little-ol'-me? look. She made a sucker of me quick enough. I followed her through the park with plastic bags. I dutifully tickled her belly. I even - exclusively -bought her the  extortionate Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Dog Food to which she was accustomed. My grandmother continued to fade, but the staff let me bring Rosie to the nursing home.    
     Eddie’s light skims the crisp air seeking flesh. My flesh. Leaves rustle as he cuts a path through the undergrowth. The sound trails off and I‘m alone with my breath. It steams out of me in rapidly vanishing clouds. How long was he out there watching me for? If he knows it’s me... even if I get away tonight...Jesus! I tuck the screwdriver into my belt, count down a full minute before I peek. His back is to me, about fifty yards off, light flitting through distant trees. The water is closer. It sounds in a hurry to reach the ocean. If I can get to it, I know a bridge. I ease to my feet and lactic acid scorches my calves. 
    “I know these woods. You won’t be the first thing I’ve killed out here.”
    The light angles down toward his feet and it's gone. This throws me. I should be moving toward the river, but I hesitate. He’s seen me. He’s creeping my way with a rifle cocked at his hip. Then a smaller light appears. He hasn’t budged. The new light isn’t searching. It’s a floating beacon in the dark. I squint at it for a moment before it dawns on me. By the time I make the connection it’s too late. A generic ringtone erupts from my pocket like a siren in the still night. I scramble to silence it. White light smacks my face and knocks me back on my a*s. Primary colours bombard my field of vision. I dig the heels of my hands into my eyes and only compound the problem. A rifle shot sharpens my senses. These woods are an awful lonely place to die. He’s barrelling toward me. I can hear it. I’ve no clue how many rounds that thing holds, when he might reload. A stand of trees separates me from the river. They’re grouped close, embracing  each other with gnarled limbs. It might be too tight to move through, but I’ve no choice. A shot slaps the wall. I’m gone. I weave my run, try to make an awkward target of myself. The light finds me and I shimmy out of its path. It bobs about and catches me again. The scrum of trees is opening up to swallow me. A shot rings out. Wherever it goes it doesn’t threaten me. I duck into a web of branches and hear him laugh. S**t.
    They scrape my shoulders, they scrape my face, one of them stabs my gut and doubles me over. I get as low as I can on two feet. I pull my hood tight and cradle my head in both hands, elbows forward and I barge through. Stubborn as the day is long. It doesn’t get any better. I’m engorged by a wild f*****g tangle. Knee high brambles seize my legs. My jeans are no match from them. Blood trickles to my socks. I stomp vegetation flat as I go, leave snapped branches in my wake. I move like someone locked in the depths of a bad acid trip. I curse the branches and I curse the brambles and I curse Eddie " out loud, I’m unable to stem the urge. His laugh finds me from somewhere out in the open. I’ve lost all sense of orientation. He could be behind me. He could be ahead. I plough on.
   “Are you having fun in there?”
    Light shears through the brambles. I don’t think it finds me. I can’t be sure. 
   “You take your time. I’ll be waiting when you get out.”
    I stop. The river gushes ahead of me. It can’t be far off. I stretch to my full height. It does little for my cramped legs. Branches mistake my shoulders for pincushions and I retreat to my haunches. I pat my hip. The screwdriver's gone. Before I continue I need to know where he is. I wait.    

    When I visited yesterday, most of them were asleep in the day room, their heads lolling against the high sides of their armchairs. The TV was at an impossible volume, but I suppose if you’re tired enough you’ll sleep through anything. The ones who were awake perked up with hopeful smiles which eased off when they realised I was no relation. My grandmother’s eyebrows went up and I could see her wheels turning.
“It’s Sean, Granny.”
“I know.” she said. After buying a few seconds with a smile the cogs seemed to crank into place. We embraced and said our greetings. She was all sharp angles and the skin hung loose from her arms. There was a wet catch in her breathing. It’s been that way for a while. I don’t think she has the strength to hack it clear. She looked past my leg. 
    “Did you bring Rosie?” Her eyes so animated. 
    “Sorry, I’ll bring her next time.”
    She gave me that tight smile of reluctant acceptance. She’s had to accept a lot the last few years. Rosie might be a step too far. She ran me through the list of visitors she’d had and we exchanged mundane family news. I’d to help her along with some of the names, and each time she told me “I know.” Other than that she followed the conversation well enough. When the orderly brought us tea, she introduced me as her nephew. It went that way. After a while the silences began to outlast the generationally stilted small talk. They came and propped a tray on a fat cushion on her lap. She spat her teeth into a handkerchief and took weak slurps of soup. On a plate next to it steam rose from an ensemble of over-boiled offerings: spuds, carrots, turnips and what looked like pork.
    With an effort, she hauled herself forward in the chair. She peered over the side. Deep gouges furrowed her brow.
   “Where did Rosie go?”
   “She’s not here today, Gran.”
   “I know, I know.”
    She pondered it for a moment, then rediscovered the soup like it just arrived. I leaned in gently and kissed her on the forehead. Left her to it.

    In the tight thicket I hear my heart. I hear my breath. I hear the river. I don’t turn my head for fear of gouging a retina. He knows it’s me. I’m done. Whatever happens, I can’t be anywhere near here tomorrow.                                                                                           
    “Jesus them stars are something else. Can you see them in there? What a beautiful night to die.”
    He lets out a fresh burst of mocking laughter. Still behind me. I cradle my head and resume my T-Rex stomping routine. 
     I emerge shredded and wrathful from the labyrinth. Riled by pain. I've had enough. I want the f****r. I want to drag him to the pine needles and the leaves and the dirt and hear the wet smacks of my knuckles opening his face, but he has the gun. 
    There’s a savage slope down to the river. It brings to mind the snowy fields we sleighed down on fertilizer bags as young fellas. There’s a beautiful sound. I’ve never been so glad to hear car tires whir over a bridge. Staying in cover, I scan the ridge. I can only assume he’s taken the long way round. A route of less consequence. Then again, if I make a run for it he could be propped with the rifle resting steady on a rock and that would be all she wrote.
    There’s that f*****g light again. It skims the river bank from the crest of the ridge. I’m closer to the road than he is, but it’s all open ground for a couple hundred yards before the ridge bends out of sight. He’s close enough that I can see the light is taped to his barrel. Far enough away that I have a moment to ready myself. His steps are slow and deliberate, the rifle butted to his shoulder. He alternates his search between the bank and the tree line. I back into the bush and scoop up a rock around the size of a sliotar. Through spindly limbs, I’ve a fractured view. He dips in and out of the trees as he comes, palming branches, investigating false leads. Something distracts him and he doubles back on himself. In that instant, I spring out of hiding and hurl the rock his way with everything I’ve got. It skitters through kindling branches on the shore before breaking the water's surface. Eddie starts toward the splash with his rifle ready to put a hole in something. I force my legs to break into one final sprint. 
    It’s a poor effort I make on faded limbs. I hear my under-16 rugby coach bellowing clichés at me. Dig deep. Pain is weakness leaving the body. You don’t stop when you’re tired, you stop when you’re done. They didn’t help back then and they don’t help now. I reach the bend panting. My stride is wild. Heavy. My feet slap the earth. Just when I dare to hope, the light halos my head. I veer left and cut the corner short. I check over my shoulder, see his beam scything up and down through the night. Gaining. 
    My shin catches something angling up from the dirt. Flesh separates from bone and I go skidding face down through grass. There’s no time for this. The swinging pendulum of light is too close. I haul myself behind a great fat oak. I hear his breath approaching. If I’m going to do it, it has to be now. There’s a rounded grey rock at my feet. A two-hander. I heft it overhead. Timing is everything 
     F**k him and his fourteen convictions and his plastic drug empire and his hunting rifle and his f*****g Mk2 escort. I launch the rock and tumble forward with the effort of it. It thumps his upper back and he goes down making sounds I’ve only ever heard coming out of an elk on the National Geographic channel. Eddie Carroll, the local hard man heaves in search of precious oxygen. I take up his gun, butt it against my shoulder and draw down on his face. He squeezes his eyes against the light and tries to say something that comes out as a rasping wheeze. I take a run up and bury my laces into his cheek. He goes limp. The pain in my shin brings me to all fours but it’s worth it.                                             
    I fling the gun into the river and hobble toward the traffic. Through the rip in my jeans I see wet bone. Twice I slip back down the embankment as I clamber up to the road. I gingerly swing my leg over the barrier and onto the footpath. From the bridge Eddie is a writhing silhouette.
    The worst part will be letting my grandmother down. But if I’m honest with myself, at this stage, I’m not sure if she'll notice. Someone will have to lie to her about Rosie.                 
    A car comes to a dead stop behind me and I tense. Eddie's boys. He must have rang them. I haven’t the power in my legs to run. I’ve no fight left in me. My only chance is to make a scene in front of the other drivers. But there are none. I hear the handbrake crank and instinct kicks in. I take off, my leg buckles on the first stride and I’m a sprawled mess on the concrete. The door opens and a voice says, “Well that didn’t go too well.”
    Ritchie scoops me up and helps me into the passenger seat. He examines my leg like he knows something about medicine. 
    “Hospital?” He says.
    “Plenty of hospitals in London. Take me home to get a few bits first though. Fast as this thing'll go.”

© 2017 Noir85

Author's Note

I welcome any and all feedback.
A glossary of Irish terms:
Young one: young woman up to the age of 25 (ish)
Naggin: Hip flask sized glass bottle.
Sliotar: Ball used in the sport of hurling. Around the size of a tennis ball.
Thomond Park: Rugby stadium in Limerick

My Review

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You have a good way with word, with some really nice sentences. This was my favorite-It smacked the side of her face and she spun to the tarmac, blood spraying like a punctured beer can. Thats when you grabbed my attention and made me smile-in fact still does.I love that visual.
The story becomes tense very quickly and stays that way. I do not have much in the way of critism as I belive you are on point.
If anyone reads my review before they read the story, if thriller is your game give this a read.

Posted 1 Year Ago

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Added on September 29, 2017
Last Updated on September 29, 2017



Cork, Ireland