First Draft: Minder Chapter 1

Here's is the first draft of the first chapter of a new project I'm working on.  Remember, it's just a first draft, and I already see all the flaws, so be gentle. I will post new chapters when they're ready.


The air was full of cigarette smoke, the smell of beer, and hoots of victory as a team, dressed in red T-shirts scored another win in the trivia contest. There was much hooting and howling, as the red shirted teammates, who looked like a coven of secretaries on "girl's night out," walked up to the front of the tavern to collect their trophy. One, going for a "saucy librarian" look with horn rimmed glasses and short skirt, blew kisses to the crowd, sparking more hoots, hollers, and more than few propositions. As far as I knew, she was lucky, no one was planning to kill her that night.

Rain pattered on the frosted glass of the mock Tudor window next to my head, distorting the yellowish glow of the ancient streetlight outside.

One woman, about thirty, long built, with blonde hair tucked in a ponytail, stood up from her table as she peeled off the baby blue T-shirt she wore over her plain white blouse. She was talking to the others at her tables, all guys around the same age, all wearing the same baby blue T-shirts.

All cops.

I couldn't hear what she was saying, but it didn't matter. She was making excuses to go home right after the contest, and not stick around to bend the elbow a few more times with her co-workers. Although I was looking at the backs of their heads I could tell they were disappointed. While she made no attempt to glamorize herself, one can understand why young men wanted to keep her around, and the possibilities that might have.

She folded up her T-shirt and tucked it into the pocket of her long beige raincoat. She was still talking, probably telling them about the paperwork she had waiting, and how she had an early morning.

What she wasn't telling them, what she didn't know but I did, was that there was someone in the tavern whose job was to make sure she didn't survive the night.


About seven hours earlier the sun was shining, and the birds were singing, and I was waiting in an office that overlooked the waterfront. The place was pretty bland late 70s early 80s modern, lots of glass, faux paneling, and colorless carpet. The etched glass door proclaimed this office to be the home of the President of Local 199 of the International Transit and Transportation Employees Union. His name was Chester Wallace, and his smiling face, that resembled a bulldog that stole grandma's dentures, was beaming down on me from a big photograph hanging on the wall.

His face wasn't the only one looking down at me. Down at the end of the reception area a bull necked shaved gorilla, prison tats just visible under the sleeve and above the collar of his drip-dry suit, was giving me the stink eye.

I didn't blame him; he probably thought I was some stray crossing the line he had pissed by the hydrant. I'd probably be doing the same thing in his shoes. I'd be doing it without letting the other bastard know I was doing it, but I'd still be doing it.

Anyway, the big blonde wood door to the inner sanctum opened, fittingly enough by a big blond carrying a clipboard like this business was all perfectly normal.

"Mr. Fitz?" she asked me. I nodded. "Mr. Wallace will see you now."


I pulled my baseball cap low over my face to keep the glare of the streetlight off of it. Rain dribbled off the bill. I was dressed dark, not black, that would make me look like I was playing ninja, and stand out like a sore thumb. I went for a dark grey jacket, and dark blue pants. The only black I was wearing was the baseball cap.

She was about one hundred feet ahead of me. Her head was gently bopping side to side and I could catch flashes of the streetlight glaring off the white cords of her ear-buds. I imagined what might just be the last song she might ever listen to. She was too old for the kiddy pop that polluted the airwaves, too white for rap, and her popping was to gentle for some wheezy dinosaur rock.

The sound of an empty can rolling across pavement stumbled from a nearby alley, cutting through the patter of the rain, and snapped me back to the present. Someone was moving, someone who didn't want to be seen.

I had to be quick and quiet, so I drew the stiletto out from its hiding place in my jacket sleeve.


"My business is all about balance," said Wallace as he poured himself a shot of whiskey, "are you sure I can't get you something? This is pretty good stuff."

I shook my head. He snorted, causing his smashed bulb of a nose to flutter slightly around the nostrils.

"An Irishman that turns down a free drink," said Wallace, "I think that's a sign of the rapture."

"Let me know when it starts raining blood," I said. "So I can run to the nearest church for a quick confession."

"I'm sure that one would be a whopper," said Wallace, giving me a smirk, as he headed for his desk. It was a big slab of ancient oak that didn't fit with the rest of the semi-modern décor, but seemed to match the style of his old fashioned double breasted suit. "What was your last job for the IRA?"

"I was in charge of keeping the peace within the ranks," I answered.
"Never a popular job," he added as he lowered his bulk into his equally bulky leather chair. A dark cloud was barely visible on the fringe of the bright blue sky beyond the office's usual view of waterfront cranes and cargo ships. Rain was coming, probably as soon as the sun went down. "That's probably why you're here."

I shrugged, I don't tell people I like that much about me, so I wasn't going to tell him any more than he already knew.

"What were we talking about a second ago?" asked Wallace.

"Balance," I answered.

"Right," he nodded, "balance. We base everything in this town on balance. There are forces that make this town what it is, and they have to operate in proper balance with each other, or else everything goes straight to hell. Those forces all meet here, at the waterfront. It is the source of everything in this town. There's the naval base, the shipyards, and the most important, at least to me, the port."

Wallace turned his chair around to look out over his kingdom.

"Billions of dollars of cargo go through this place every year," said Wallace, his voice growing wistful. "And that's just the legal stuff. About a billion more passes through that port every year that requires special attention, that's where I come in. I make sure that it comes through here, and gets to its appointed destination intact. Do you know what the most essential ingredient of keeping that business intact is?"

"Balance," I answered.

"Exactly," said Wallace. "I have to keep this town relatively clean, and calm. In doing so the police and politicians keep off my back."

"Something threatens that balance?"

"There wouldn't be any other reason to bring a man like you here," answered Wallace. "It's a cop. Specifically a detective named Janet Rankin."

"Is she investigating you?"

"No," answered Wallace.

"Is she dirty and demanding too much money?"

"Nope," answered Wallace, "as far as I can find out, she's as pure as the driven snow, and that's even after a tour in the vice squad."

"What's she doing now?"

"She's working in the fraud squad now," answered Wallace. "It's mostly desk work from I've been able to gather."

"How does she affect your precious balance?"

"There's a million dollar price tag on her head."


I stopped dead and pressed my body against a brick wall, letting Rankin get a little farther along. Moves were about to be made.
A shadow emerged from the alley. He fit the description Wallace gave me, tall, cadaver thin, with rain soaked hair plastered to his narrow skull and rat like face, and dressed in a long black coat. His body language screamed predator, as his eyes never left Rankin.

One skinny arm dipped into his coat; that was my cue.

I clamped one hand over his mouth while my other hand drove the tip of my stiletto through his coat, between his ribs, his liver, and then his heart. His teeth clamped down hard on the heavy leather of my glove, as his pistol, a .380 automatic with a silencer, slipped from his freshly deceased hand and clattered on the sidewalk.

I kicked the pistol behind a garbage can as I dragged the dead body back into the alley from whence it came. There was a dumpster by the back door to a restaurant with the lid up, which was really convenient for me. One heave and he was inside, the whole bin wobbled and the thin metal lid came down with a crash.

That second the rain decided to take a break, and I heard sensible shoes scraping along the wet pavement of the sidewalk.

It was Rankin, she must have heard it, and she was coming back.


"I think there might have been a misunderstanding," I said as Wallace turned his chair around to face me. It squeaked just a bit as he turned. "I won't take out an honest cop. There are too many complications involved."

"We don't want you to take her out," said Wallace. "We need you to keep her alive."

"That's a twist," I said.

"You're damn right it is," grumbled Wallace. "Three days ago this guy shows up in town, he's an enforcer for the Mexican Cartels, and starts sniffing around. I do some of my own sniffing and find out that someone, we don't who yet, put out word among some gang bangers in the southwest that there was a million dollars waiting for whoever killed this particular cop. He's come to the other side of the country to collect."

Wallace sighed.

"We have to nip this thing in the bud," said Wallace, "and fast. The cops let us get away with a lot as long we don't cause trouble inside this city. If an honest cop gets dies of something other than liver failure or heart disease the people will freak out, the politicians would piss themselves, and the cops will be forced to make an example."

"And that would put a crimp in your operations."

"Exactly," said Wallace, thumping a fat fist on his oak slab of a desk. "If my operations get crimped, that crimping would spread over half the country. A lot of people would get pissed off, money would get lost, people would start getting hurt, and then the shit will hit the fan."

"So you need me to stop all that from happening?"

"Damn right," said Wallace. "Right now that chick is the most important person in the world. We need you to keep her alive, and to find out who the hell is behind this mess. I can't trust anyone local, too many greedy idiots, and I can't go to police because that's a can of worms all on its own. That's why I need you."

"What's the fee?"

"Keep her alive and there's a million dollars in hard cash for you," explained Wallace, "find out who is behind this nonsense and make them shut the hell up and there's another half a million in it for you. I'll even cover your expenses."

"That's very generous."

"It's very essential."

I paused, put on my thoughtful mask, and acted like I had to think about it for a second.

"Okay," I said, "I'll do it."


"Who is there?" called out Rankin from the mouth of the alley. I crouched low behind the dumpster. This job didn't need this sort of complication.

A circle of white light ran up the middle of the alley. My whole body tensed, and I held my breath so couldn't hear my lungs move.

The circle of light from her torch ran up the side of the dumpster.

Then it clicked off.

"Probably just a damn cat," I heard her mutter. Then her footsteps faded away.

No comments: