This is a short story I wrote for a contest in a Facebook writing group. The task was to take a Bob Seger song and use the lyrics to tell or inspire a story. I’m going to admit that I’ve never listened to much Bob Seger and I don’t own any. My options were limited while searching Spotify, but luckily the first one I found struck a chord and the words began to flow. Below is my take on Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band’s Shakedown. (Lyics and a Youtube of the song is at the bottom.)
I’m called Law. Not because it’s my name, but because of what I do. The irony is that I don’t actually carry a badge, but that’s never stopped me before, nor will it stop me now. They run. Every single damn time. And I catch them. Every single damn time. One of these days, the game of cat and mouse is going to get old. But, until then, I enjoy the chase.
The neon buzzed outside my window, turning the entire room a shade of alien green. The vacancy signed flicked off, submerging everything in darkness. Then, before my eyes could adjust, the obnoxious green glow returned. I’d only been in the room a few minutes and already glad I didn’t need to sleep here. This was recon, and my target was in the bar across the street.
The vacancy sign hung down off the building splitting my view down the middle. It was like paying for the obstructed view seats at a game, but, in this case, it worked to my benefit. I could position myself to see around the sign; in turn, I remained mostly hidden from street view. The chances of being spotted while tucked behind a giant blinking thumb was slim. I could survive the light and the sound long enough for my target to show.
I’d tracked many through this spot. I knew the ins, the outs, and the details. They always showed. It was just a matter of time. They always thought they’d bested me by this point. They would have burned their last bridge, used their last lifeline, cashed in their final chips. I chuckled to myself—I liked to stay a step ahead of their two steps ahead.
I barely had time to get comfortable in the worn and ragged chair when my target crashed through the bar entrance, tripped, and tumbled face down into the street. Before the poor sap could stand and dust himself off, I was next to him in the street, hand under his arm, helping him to his feet. He thought he was safe, so he relaxed and got hammered. Same shit, different day. I shook my head as he staggered and I hauled him, by his collar, into the shadows of the alley.
I pulled his sorry ass all the way to the end, where I tossed him up against a dumpster. The clang of his skull against metal reverberated against the walls. His eyes fluttered as he tried to clear the cobwebs.
“Wh…who are you?”
They always asked the same questions. I liked to have a few different answers to keep myself from getting bored. His worst nightmare or the end of the road were two of my favorites. This time, I simply pulled back the side of my duster to reveal the pistol strapped to my hip.
“Oh, my God. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to,” he blubbered.
“Shut up. Do you even know what you’re copping to?”
His eyes glassed over. “I…well…”
“That’s what I figured.” I cleared my throat and launched a ball of spit and mucus at him, aiming over his shoulder. He flinched. I missed—on purpose. Making them sweat wasn’t usually part of the contract, but, as I’ve said, I like to keep things interesting. This time there was no contract. I was flying solo.
My target shifted and moved an elbow underneath his body. My foot connected causing a pop as the steel toe cracked ribs. He groaned and fell back to the ground.
“I know you didn’t do it intentionally—cuz you’re not that smart—but you lost me for a few days. If you were smart, I’d give you credit, but you did it by accident. Hence the steel toes,” I said, tapping the toe of a boot against the dumpster.
Huffing between pained breaths he managed to expel a question. “What…do you…want?”
“It’s quite simple really,” I said. “Tell me where Honey took the kid.”
The pain on his face disappeared, replaced by stone-cold fear. “If I tell you, he’ll kill me,” he sobbed.
Ha! “If you don’t tell me, I’ll kill you and then I’ll find them anyway. Your choice.”
It was like I could see the wheels turning, his mind working out his best chance of survival.
“Let me give you some motivation.” He squinted at me in confusion. “Five…four…” I reached for the gun at my hip.
“Okay, okay,” he cried. “To the docks, he’s got a warehouse, like in the movies.”
I smiled all nice and pretty for him. “That wasn’t so bad, now, was it?”
He shook his head slightly. I pulled my arm back and cracked him once across the nose. He slumped backward. I tossed a card onto his unconscious form on my way out of the alley.
There were a lot of warehouses scattered around the docks, but I knew the one I needed. Anyone who was anyone in this business knew which one–it wasn’t exactly a secret. Honey thought he had such a sweet setup that he was untouchable. I guess it was part of how he got his nickname. The other part of the two-fold reason was that he was quite fond of using “Sweet!” as an exclamation for nearly everything. He liked to joke that there wasn’t a judge in the state who could make a criminal charge stick.
That was about to change.
Honey and I had done business before. He would hire me, and I’d do the job. The cash was clean. I’d move on. Every so often, Honey would ring me again. Another job. I made sure to avoid jobs that would conflict with his business ventures. He paid well, and I didn’t see a reason to burn the bridge. Until I caught of whiff of one of his dealings that crossed more lines than a two-year-old coloring a crossword.
If I’d known finding the kid would be as easy as knocking on Honey’s door I wouldn’t have wasted my time tracking that loser middleman. I shook my head and knocked on the maintenance door on the waterfront side of the warehouse. The secret knock. The one only his hired guys knew.
“Who is it?” A gruff call came from the other side of the door.
“Law,” I responded in an equally gravelly tone.
There was a click and a squeak as the lock was pulled back and the door opened. The guy on the other side was new. At least new enough that I didn’t know him. But, it had been a while since Honey had hired me.
“What’s the password?” the grunt stared down his nose at me.
God, I hate this part. “Worker bee.” I rolled my eyes.
“Is Honey expecting you?”
“No. But he’ll see me.”
He shuffled his feet and wrung his hands. My confidence was larger than this grunt’s physical size and I could tell that unsettled him.
“Today, Junior. I got shit to do.”
The grunt turned and waved me into the building. “Wait here.”
He returned quickly and ushered me upstairs into the overly plush office that seemed completely out of place in the rundown grungy warehouse, then left the two of us alone to talk business.
“Law!” Honey laughed. “It’s been too long. How are you?” He rose from his oversized ornate desk and met me halfway into the room.
I met his enthusiasm with a fake smile and a warm handshake. “I’m good. And, yes, it has been too long.”
Honey reached for the decanter to pour me a drink. Just like a stereotypical criminal underworld boss. I hid a smirk.
“What brought you to my neck of the woods? Should I be concerned?” he joked.
I didn’t respond. He turned back to me holding a drink for himself in one hand, one for me in the other. I took the drink and slugged it while Honey’s eyes settled on my other hand which held my pistol. His drink fell from his hand and bounced on the lush carpet.
“Whoa, now, Law. I’m sure that, whatever it is, we can talk about this.” He instinctively raised his hands.
I raised the gun. “Sorry, Honey. Not this time.”
“Nah, it’ll be alright,” Honey said, his voice cracking with fear.
“You crossed a line that you can’t uncross.”
Honey opened his mouth again to plead his case, but they called me Law for a reason. I felt the recoil as I pulled the trigger. The red of Honey’s blood splattered the wall behind the desk as his body landed with a muted thud.
“You let your guard down, Honey.”
Lyrics to Shakedown
Audio of song via YouTube