Monday July 27th, 2015

The exercise:

Write about: the standoff.

Since they've been on my mind a lot lately, I figured it was time to revisit The Gang - except this time, the story is moving forward.

I did a whole lot of weeding today. I finished the second row of strawberries and a row of onions this morning, then went out again after dinner to clean up around most of our broccoli plants (which are still putting out healthy looking side shoots) and some of our leeks.

My wrists and fingers and forearms ache right now. So I'll get right to the prompt.


"We can't let them look inside the van." Crystal didn't shift in her seat beside me but somehow she still seemed to be closer to the gun taped to the underside of her cushion.

"I'm sure she's not going to offer them an invitation to join us in here," Tammy said when I remained silent. There were only two more vehicles ahead of us in the line at the roadblock by then - a pickup truck with an extended cab and a four door sedan filled to bursting with a family of three and their dog.

"If they come in, we're done." Crystal glanced back at Tammy before returning her attention to me. "Done, okay?"

"What do you want her to do? Run over some innocent cops just to be on the safe side? The whole country would be after us then, and they would be shooting first and asking questions never!"

"Keep your voice down!" Crystal hissed. "We don't have to run anybody over. There's space right there to get through." She tilted her chin toward a gap between two of the cruisers blocking the highway. "We'd only need that one guy to jump out of the way."

"And if he doesn't?" Tammy sounded like she was about to break a tooth the way she was working that piece of gum in her mouth. "Or if he's too slow? Or if he just starts shooting instead?"

I kept quiet, considering our options. There seemed to be a definite lack of good ones. Everything appeared to lead either to jail or the morgue, sooner or later.

"We run the roadblock, we stand a chance." There was only the sedan between us and the front of the line. "We take our chances with these guys and we're sitting ducks."

"We talk to them, we get through without drawing their suspicion, we're free and clear to the border." Tammy was trying to remain calm and failing miserably. "We blast through here and they'll have a description of the van, probably even our plate number, and, by this point, I'm sure they've had a good look at each of us!"

"Voice. Down. Tammy."

I squeezed the wheel and shifted my gaze toward the gap, then back to the waiting officers. One was talking to the driver, the other inspecting the trunk. Which was so full that items were spilling out onto the road.

"We can't run."

The officer at the back was calling for his partner's help stuffing things back in now. A grocery bag full of chips and pop upended and the two of them bent down to chase after the runaway bottles.

"We have to."

I hit the gas.


Greg said...

So why have the gang been on your mind so much? Are you planning on robbing a bank? I can see Kat being Crystal maybe, and you're obviously Tammy, but... Max as the unnamed narrator?
I like how the conversation, jolting back and forth, builds the tension in the cab as the gang decide what they're going to do about the roadblock, and how the final decision isn't exactly a joint one, but definitely isn't one of the girls acting on their own either. The whole thing feels very natural, which is testament to the way you're handling it, of course. The moment of opportunity is neated presented too and I'm now wondering what exactly happens with the roadblock. It feels like the beginning of a tragedy.

The standoff
The sky was as grey as the pallor a three-day old corpse and the rain fell in an incessant fine spray that ended up being like an especially clinging, soaking mist. The tables outside at the Café Ecossais had collected puddles of water already, and the cast iron chairs were glistening in their slickness. Inside a group of mathematicians were arguing animatedly, pens being pointed at one another with force and then used to scribble justifying arguments on the white cloth napkins.
Alexa sat down on a cast iron chair in the rain and leaned slightly back in the chair. Her posture was stiff, her back was rigid, and her hands were as pale as the face of the corpse's weeping mother.
"Coffee?" asked Alexis. His face was almost smothered by a tartan scarf and his heavy overcoat dripped water from its hem like it was a raincloud all by itself. Alexa nodded.
"Don't kill the proprietress," she said.
Alexis paused, turning back to her questioningly.
"Oh, it was a year ago," she said casually. "The woman annoyed me and I poisoned her camomile tea. Her daughter runs the place now, and I feel a little like I owe her something. Don't kill her."
"There might be a problem there," said Alexis. "The proprietress is Brigitte malChat and I have a commission to.... decommission her."
"I slept with her mother," said Alexa.
"And you've done me the favour of never sleeping with me," said Alexis. "But that doesn't outweigh the weight of this job."
"You can't kill her," said Alexa. "Not this time. Perhaps another, when I'm not here."
Alexis sighed. "Another time she might not be here. Then I'd have to track her down and it becomes less worth the effort."
"True. We seem to be at a standoff, don't we?"
"Another one, yes."
"How did we resolve the last one?"
"We tossed a coin."
"That seems like a cheap way to decide a life."
They smiled simultaneously, as friendly and forgiving as cats.

Marc said...

Greg - it's been so long now that I can't remember why I was thinking about them. Probably just realized I hadn't written about them for a while.

These two are quite the pair! I liked the descriptions in the opening, they really set the scene nicely. After that... these two took over quite naturally. And, as usual, you've left me wanting to hear more from them.