The “Gabriel Writer” has printed the 2nd installment of “Chapter Play.” You can catch up on the whole story here: Chapter Play
I hope you enjoy it
Chapter II: In which the hero finds love
Carl McGavin knows he’s screaming. He can feel the muscles in his jaw strain, the vibration in his throat, and the pain in his lungs. But he can hear nothing but a high-pitched whine. Something is in his eyes, blurring his vision red. He rubs them with the back of his clenched fist and sees that it’s blood. Was he shot? Maybe the one-eyed dwarf shot him because Carl wouldn’t find his daughter. He pats his chest with his bloody fist and then his stomach where the scars of two bullet holes still remain. He doesn’t find any new wounds. No, he wasn’t shot and there was no dwarf. That’s only in his book. In reality, Louis wasn’t even a dwarf, just a short man with a Napoleon complex. But he did have one eye. Is it offensive to make him a dwarf in the book? Carl doesn’t know. And why is he on the kitchen floor?
Carl coughs and tries to sit up but his left arm collapses under his weight. Pain shoots through him and makes his jaw ache. There was an explosion. Jesus Christ, a woman just exploded in his house. What was her name? Martha…Stuart? No, Ellington. Martha Ellington. She claimed Carl’s daughter was missing. But that doesn’t make sense. He doesn’t have a daughter. She exploded, right in front of him. The blast must have knocked him into the kitchen. He coughs again, rolls over on his right arm, and pushes himself up onto his feet. Carl shakes his head to clear the fog. Fresh blood gushes down his face and he wipes it away with his forearm. The Ellington woman knew a lot about him. Too much, it made him uncomfortable. She knew he was forced to retire and she knew Katarina.
Coughing, he stumbles into his office. The air is smoky. The heat has him sweating. Something must be burning. The room looks like a charred cinder. His desk is wrecked and there is no sign of his laptop. His book is gone, all the notes he’s taken over the years, his outline, the short stories, the previous drafts, the shaky re-start to his first chapter, everything. The thought makes him sick. He remembers the Ellington woman’s wrinkled nose expression when she read his main character’s name out loud. Now, there is only a scorch mark where she stood, along with a few scraps of clothing and some chunks he won’t let his mind decipher. Someone must have planted a bomb in her bag, but why? Then Carl remembers what’s in his clenched right fist. He relaxes his hand and looks at the ring Ellington gave him. Katarina’s ring. She offered it as proof that he had a daughter. It doesn’t prove anything. He rolls it over and reads the engraving again, “LOVE ALWAYS – CM.” The same engraving he asked a jeweler to put there sixteen years ago. Damn it, all of this is Saffy’s fault.
Carl was a beat cop in New Orleans when he busted Saffron James for rolling some tourist. She was a fifteen-year-old junkie with no family and no future. Carl had already lost his sister, Marguerite, to drugs and didn’t want to see Saffy end up on the skids too. He took her under his wing, helped get her sentence reduced, and put her in rehab. He did what he could for Saffy but mostly he just listened when the kid needed him to.
Carl coughs but doesn’t notice the flickering orange light coming from behind him or the intense heat. The Ellington woman knew how important this ring was to him. Did Katarina tell her the story? Did she tell Ellington how they met?
One night, Saffy showed up at Carl’s door with a beautiful Russian blond named Katarina Sereda. She was in a bad way, Katarina had been beaten but refused to say who did it and wouldn’t go to the police. Carl reluctantly agreed not to report it and took care of her wounds. Although her English wasn’t very strong, Katarina and Carl talked most of the night. By morning, Carl knew two things. First, he’d been on enough domestic abuse calls to recognize the work of a wife-beater and second, he was in love with Katarina. Both spelled bad news. Saffy didn’t know much about Katarina’s husband, Igor Sereda, other than he was a dangerous man. He had been Saffy’s dealer and she became good friends with his wife but beyond that, she never had much to do with him.
Smoke fills the room. Carl tries to keep from coughing but can’t. Could Igor Sereda have planted the bomb in Ellington’s purse? Carl wouldn’t put it past him but bombs never seemed to be his style, too elaborate.
Igor was a small time thug. In the two years he’d been in the U.S., he’d already had a couple of run-ins with the law. A few charges of drug possession, one charge of dealing, some assault and battery, but none of the charges stuck. It seemed that Igor was protected on high. Because of this, the N.O.D.T., New Orleans Drug Taskforce, were keeping tabs on Igor. They suspected he might have connections to the Russian Mafia and could be trafficking drugs into the U.S. Carl tried to convince Katarina to work with the N.O.D.T. and put this scum ball behind bars. She wanted to but was afraid. Not only of Igor but also of the man he worked for. Igor’s benefactor had arranged for them to enter the U.S. and now they were his slaves. Carl promised he would protect her and she reluctantly agreed to wear a wire.
For six months, they tried to get the goods on Igor but he was too clever. Carl and Katarina saw each other whenever they could and fell deeply in love. But they got sloppy and Igor found the engraved pearl ring Carl had given Katarina. He followed them to a motel on the outskirts of town, kicked in the door, and put two rounds in Carl’s gut before grabbing Katarina and making a run for it. They didn’t get far. The police caught up with them and Igor was arrested. The taskforce couldn’t get him on the drug trafficking charge but shooting a police officer was good enough. They locked Igor away. However, once again, the case was ultimately dismissed. Maybe he turned stoolpigeon on his benefactor. Maybe Carl’s indiscretion with a key witness was a liability. All he knew was that Igor was on the streets a few weeks later.
Carl was still in the hospital when Katarina paid him one brief visit. Something had changed in her. She told him that Igor was going to be released and planned to leave town. Katarina made it clear she would be leaving with him and that Carl was not to follow. Igor’s bullets had almost ended Carl but Katarina’s words destroyed him.
“It’s because you were pregnant, wasn’t it?” Carl mummers to himself, “That’s why you left with him.” Tears stream down his face as he looks at the ring. “He would have killed you, me, and the baby if you’d stayed.” He coughs. Blood drips into his eyes again and he wipes it away. Carl looks around at the destruction. The flickering orange light of the fire now fills the room. He should get out. Carl starts for the door but a wave of dizziness washes over him and he stumbles to his knees. The fire quickly engulfs the room. “You should’ve told me about our daughter, Kat.” Carl’s vision blurs and he falls face forward to the floor, unconscious. The ring bounces into the encroaching fire. Flames quickly surround him, leaping onto his pant leg.