Pseudopod 310: Unfeeling

by J.D. Brink

This is its first appearance anywhere. This story will be one of four dark fantasy/crime-noir tales featured in the e-book A LONG WALK DOWN A DARK ALLEY, to be published on Smashwords.com and Amazon.com (and others) in late 2012.

J. D. Brink has been in the Navy a long time, first as an enlisted intelligence collector and later as a nurse corps officer, with a few years as a wandering civilian in between. His adventures have taken him around the Pacific on a warship, living all over the States and in Japan for a couple years, and had him deployed to an Army hospital in the deserts of Kuwait. Today he and his family live in south Texas (almost as hot as Kuwait) where he serves as a corps school instructor. What little bit of his life the Navy doesn’t own he leases from his family; fortunately, they let him write. He has two blogs: BRINK’S CHAOS THEORY can be found at the link under his by line above, and also check out FUGITIVES OF PURGATORY.

Your reader this week is W. Ralph Walters, whose FREQUENCY OF FEAR website hasn’t been updated in a while but still has treasures to be plundered. He read the extremely popular “What Makes You Tick” in Pseudopod 228: Flash On The Borderlands VII – Tableaux & Displays.

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“The pecking order in the car is standard: George drives, the boss rides shotgun, and Shovel and Byrd ride in the back. The valet brings the Caddie around and everyone starts to climb in, but August takes Byrd’s seat and tells him to sit in the front. There’s a moment of confusion at this sudden change in protocol, but they’re soon on their way. Byrd runs the music too loud to talk, which is fine; the boss isn’t in the habit of explaining himself anyway and no one wants to ask. About halfway back to the house, August grabs Shovel’s idle hand and gives it a squeeze, kind of a _you’re my main man_ gesture. Shovel, as expressionless as ever, just gives the boss a single nod. Once they’re back at the house, he finds out why.

‘I don’t trust them anymore,’ August tells him. They’re in the master bedroom, which is about as big as Shovel’s whole damn apartment. George and Byrd are downstairs, checking out the car and getting everyone something to eat, respectively, as instructed. August is standing in the middle of his closet holding up various neckties in the mirror. ‘You’re the only one I can trust with her. Shovel the Unfeeling, the human instrument, a man with no emotion, no fear, no regret. Your reputation made your career, and mine. You’re solid as a rock. But those other two…’ He decides on a cobalt blue tie, silk. ‘Good with my eyes, eh?’ he says, knowing he’ll get no reply. ‘Those other two, they might get jealous. Can’t have that. That’s why I need it to be just you and me from now on. You’ll manage the other crews but keep them at a distance. You, me, and her, from now on.’

‘I don’t think I understand,’ Shovel says.

‘Get rid of them.’

Shovel gives August a look, one that only he and George can get away with. ‘Boss… Byrd’s just a splatter on the windshield, I don’t mind giving him the heave-ho and busting his beak for good measure, but George has been with you a long time. Longer than me. He’s as loyal—’

‘As loyal as a dog,’ August snarls. ‘And as soon as the right bitch comes in heat, he’ll turn on me and try to take her for himself. No. Things are changing.’

‘Maybe you should take the night to think about this, August. Don’t see what’s-her-name tonight, just have a sandwich and a drink and get some sleep.’

That famous icy glare returns with cold fire behind it. August’s finger rises an inch from Shovel’s flat nose. ‘Don’t you back talk me. You get your ass downstairs and do your fucking job. Get rid of them, before they get rid of me. And I don’t want them coming back for me later, you hear? _Get rid of them._’”