Burn Down Bloody Twilight: Preview 3

Posted: November 4, 2009 in Threat Quality
Tags: , ,

tqp-logo-readyAnd now, the third of four preview excerpts from “Burn Down Bloody Twilight,” the forthcoming novel by Jeff Holland and published by Threat Quality Press. (ON SALE FRIDAY)

It is an epic and yet easily accessible fantasy-adventure yarn (can epics take place over the course of three days?) with soldiers, pirates, zombies, alarmingly profane magicians, and stoned warrior-monks. And here’s a bit from the fourth chapter:

Chapter 4: Customer Relations

Cord grunted angrily and leaned back into his chair. After several minutes of sitting with his arms crossed, frowning as hard as humanly possible, he picked up his book, flipped it open, and stared at words he didn’t absorb. Failing that, he shut the book and threw it at the far wall. It just missed a customer sitting at the head of a table in the opposite corner.

Startling him enough to spill his beer on his lap.

“Fuck! Who does that asshole think he…fucking cock!” The customer stood up, ready for confrontation, but was quickly pulled back into his seat by Wallace Pitts, one of the regulars. One of the few that Cord ever saw and gave an approving nod to. Wallace quite liked this place, considered it a sort of haven, and was beginning to regret bringing his two nephews to his usual drinking spot. Good guys, but they got hot too easy.

“Wouldn’t do that, Dale,” Wallace advised wearily. He’d been in this kind of situation with his sister’s boys before, and wasn’t happy at the prospect of it happening in his local watering hole.

Dale shrugged Wallace’s arm off. “You kiddin’ me? Guy nearly took my head off.”

“That guy’s the owner.”

“Hell of a way to run a place…”

Wallace leaned in, his face deadly serious. “Let me put it to you another way. If the things I hear are true? That guy would kill you without a second thought. He kills a king and gets away with it, what do you think your chances are?”

Dale sat back, his face suddenly blank as he processed this new information. “This is the guy killed Arius? Says who?”

Shrugging, Wallace said, “Word gets around. Can’t say for certain what’s true, but do you want to try him on for size?”

“That’s the king-killer…well, he looks crazy enough. Shit…now I’m not sure whether to turn him in or buy him a drink.”

Wallace smiled, and made a gesture to Udo. Udo registered the order with a nod and not much else.

But then Curtis, the younger of Wallace’s two cousins, twenty-two and a 6’5” wall of muscular anger, stood up much the same way Dale had. “This is stupid, there’s no way that’s the king-killer. I heard the guy got captured trying to get on a boat, and his head’s mounted in the Orphan’s bedroom.”

Wallace shook his head in embarrassment. “Goddamn, Curtis, that’s the stupidest thing I ever heard. If the guy who killed the king had been caught, there would’ve been a public trial, a hanging…hell, they might have made a show of the Blue Knives kicking the shit out of him beforehand.”

“Yeah, okay.” Curtis gave serious thought on it, but instead of sitting down like Wallace had expected, the kid came to an entirely different conclusion. “So that means that grumpy piece of shit over there ain’t no king-killer. Means he gets beat just like any other asshole.”

Having made up his mind through a use of logic that Wallace would under other circumstances have found admirable, Curtis shoved his way out past the table, and barked “Hey! Asshole!” in Nathan Cord’s direction.

Cord looked up, expressionless, and, understanding the provocation, answered, “Didn’t like that, huh?”

“Fuck no I didn’t like it. Made my brother spill his fuckin’ beer!” Curtis puffed his already massive chest out. “Stand the fuck up!”

Cord, behind the table, did as asked. “And what are you going to do about it?”

Curtis crossed the barroom in several long, quick steps, until he stood facing Cord at the opposite end of Cord’s corner table. “Get out from behind there, you fuckin’ pussy.”

Cord nodded, processing the request. Then he grabbed the edges of his table and flipped it, launching it violently toward Curtis. The edge of the table smacked him square on the jaw, bloodying his lip and causing him to stumble back. But it didn’t knock him down.

With deliberate casualness, yet quicker than any man should be able to, Cord circumvented the table. He was standing a breath away from Curtis, his forehead just meeting the big man’s chin. It was a good angle. Cord waited for Curtis to stop stumbling, and then plowed his forehead into Curtis’s jaw.

The big boy dropped this time. When he hit the floor, Cord slammed the full weight of his knee onto Curtis’s chest, knocking the wind out of him. Then he delivered three brutal punches. A right to the side of the face. Then a left to the other side. And then a direct shot to the big man’s nose. His head collided with the ground hard enough for everyone to hear.

Blood and spit clung to Cord’s fist as he pulled it back.

Cord looked up at his patrons, and as expected, found that a lot of perfectly good conversations had halted immediately in favor of watching the crazy man beat up a new customer. He stood up, nodded to no one in particular, and walked back to the table, propping it back up. Then he turned back to look at the far corner table, and noticed Wallace Pitts, hands hiding his face, sitting there with someone he didn’t recognize.

“Wallace, this guy one of yours?”

Wallace noted that Cord wasn’t even breathing heavy when he asked. Flustered and frankly annoyed that his usual quiet beer after a hard day’s work had suddenly turned into a brutal spectacle that he’d have to explain to his sister when he brought the boys home, he answered as calmly and apologetically as he could, “Sorry, Nate, they’re my sister’s boys. Thought they’d like the place, but…you know.” He looked at Dale, then Curtis on the floor, and shrugged. “They’re idiots.”

Cord made a face that snarls come from, but nothing was heard. He glanced at Dale. Without any emphasis, he asked, “You the guy spilled his drink?”

Dale was frozen stiff, but hoped like hell that his head was nodding like he wanted it to.

“I’ll have Udo get you another,” Cord barked. “Wallace, this kid” – he jutted his index finger in the direction of Curtis’s ragdoll form – “he doesn’t come back here again, right?”

“Will do, Nate. I’ll ship him off when he, uh…y’know, when he gets up.”

“Good man.” His customer service moment concluded, Cord walked back to his seat at the table. He sat, drumming his fingers tensely on the oak, partly because he was very keyed up, and partly because his book was still on the other side of the room and he’d be damned if he was going to walk all the way back over there to get it just so he could continue not reading it.

(Tomorrow: Something less violent, more delightful.)

  1. V.I.P. Referee says:

    Excellent! It’s moving at “full speed ahead”. This scene/chapter grabbed me. Meaning: We’ll be cruelly cut-off, just as it taunts us to go on…

  2. Jeff Holland says:

    That is the goal of long-form stories with (relatively) short chapters – constantly teasing the reader.

    Except it’s not much of a tease, since the reader can just turn the page and go, “Ah, so that’s how that resolves.”

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