Alright so I for Workshop Wednesday #2 I'm sharing a piece I worked on not too long ago. For those who do not know, I am a pretty big fan of World of Warcraft. Specifically the Goblins in Warcraft lore. They've got the goofy tinkering quirks of Warcraft Gnomes, and some other flavors on fantasy game goblins, with an air of criminality. The whole organized crime, mob-esque feel is fun to think about. The picture below of "Jastor Gallywix" gives a pretty good feel.
So I wanted to write something in the vein as Blizzard's Goblin Gangsters. You can learn more about them here, and see some cool artwork.
Scene Description: So when I think of the mob, or organized crime and stories about them ... one of the top things that comes to mind is the constant paranoia which must be on the back of every criminals mind. You may have heard the saying: "There is no honor among thieves", it seems crime lords/kingpins are never short of people who want to kill them.
So that's what I set out to write about. I wanted a scene which had the feel of a seedy backroom deal, and the way greed could lead to a lowering of defenses. How perhaps the level of paranoia over someone trying to kill you is warranted in that line of work. I also ended the scene in a way which would try and propel the reader onto the next scene/chapter if it were a longer piece.
I think I accomplished these goals in the piece below and I'm happy to see your thoughts, critiques, and otherwise in the comments! Please keep in mind the Workshop Wednesday pieces undergo very little editing. They're extremely raw, so I have no doubt spelling or grammar errors will be lurking within the sentences.
“Welcome to the big time, pal.” The shadowed creature behind the oak wood desk extinguished his cigar in a battered ashtray nestled between a crown of white candles, melted to little more than shapely blobs among tattered papers and knickknacks which littered the work space.
The cigar let out a faint hiss, like a serpent warning its prey to back away while it still could. Coils of smoke framed the beady-eyed face which now contorted into a shark-like grin, causing the shadows cast by the soft flickering candlelight from below to slither deeper into sunken eye sockets. As if to spur a response, a scarred green hand reached forth into the pool of light that bathed the desk and nudged a bulging burlap coin purse a tad closer. They jingled and clinked like prisoner chains. Even from all the way down the narrow corridors of the club Howell could hear the muffled plucks of a double bass and warbles of trumpets as the band drew their song to a close—cheers and applause followed down from the lounge to this back office, slipping beneath the crack of the wooden door and chestnut colored carpet.
A sucker is born every minute. Howell licked his lips, playing out a visible show of apprehension glazed with minor-anticipation. The earthy taste of the cigar hung in the air. He returned the shark grin with a smirk of his own, nodding an acknowledgment to the pint-sized, two-bit, pointy-eared crime boss which stood atop a plushly upholstered chair behind the desk—almost eye level, now. How such a scrawny goblin had ever risen to the top of one of the most feared crime organizations in Gobblesprocket was beyond figuring out. That coin purse, assuming the coinage within was legitimate, held a lot of money.
“So this is it?” Howell reached slowly to adjust the collar of his trench coat, noting an almost imperceptible flinch of the fat ogre bodyguard which loomed over both himself and the goblin a few feet away. The ogre sunk back into the hollow between two bookshelves as Howell eased him back with a calming gaze. Far enough away to be forgettable, but close enough to snap a poor fools neck if the moment came Howell thought. "It wasn't easy to get hold of that damn book. Havelock Stormbound has been hunting for this to bring back to Talon City's academics."
“Lis’n pal, you should be thankin’ me.” The goblin tugged the bottom of his suit coat flat, smoothing out one a few of the hundred wrinkles which marred the front. “I could just have Lug ‘ere snap your neck and be done with it.” The ogre grunted something low and guttural—a shiver went down Howells spine.
“But you’re too smart for that Tact.” Howell reached for the coin purse.
“That’s Sprock Tact to you, guy.” piped a voice from near the ogre.
Sprock? No doubt short for sprocket. As in sprocket wrench. Howell wondered at the obsession these little green freaks had with tools.
“My apologies.” Howell paused and gave a respectful nod toward Tact, and his rebuker—a plump goblin sinking into a tufted chintz armchair. A shock of red hair was plastered down with grease on the goblin's head, it swallowed the fiery light radiating from the dozens of candles on an end table next to him that had melted together into large blocks of beige wax. The plump goblin turned his glare from Howell back to the shotgun he had been obsessively cleaning for the last hour.
Howell grabbed the sack of coins and stuffed it away inside his coat, the weight of the cash a foreign feeling.
But a great one.
“Take it, you’ll be wealthy, kid.” Sprock Tact let himself down from the chair, nestling into the plush red cushions of his seat as he sat back and studied Howell through devious eyes. “Give it here.” Tact snapped and jabbed a long-nailed finger toward the small leather satchel at Howell’s side.
Howell obeyed, slipping the long strap of the bag over his head before dropping it onto a relatively clutter-free edge of the desk and letting the flap fall open. “There you go.”
“If this ain’t the book you said it was, you won’t be needing those coins.” Tact snatched the leather-bound book from the satchel, swift action stimulated by unmasked greed and anticipation. The book bulged from what seemed like pages barely contained by the golden locks and straps which kept it shut. Tact tugged at the straps, they didn’t budge.
“I didn’t know how to open it.” Howell shrugged innocently, tucking his hands back into his pockets.
Tact glowered, then sighed. “I almost didn’t believe ‘em when they said what you were bringing. A great way to end my week, and expand my collection. The only other discovered book like this was lost shortly after archaeological efforts uncovered them ... no one knows where or how." Sprock Tact gave a knowing look, his tone conveying that he indeed knew where. "Snotch, open this baby up.” Tact tossed the journal toward the shotgun-polishing lackey.
“May I be on my way?” Howell jerked his head toward the door, the band had started up a new tune which rolled in the familiar three-four time.
“Yea get outta here.” Tact flicked his hand, shooing away a dog he no-longer had any interest in. “If this ain’t legit, finding you won’t be hard. If it’s legit, then you did good kid. I’ll have some more work for you I’m sure.”
“Noted.” Howell fiddled with a small device sewn into the liner of his coat pocket, running a finger along the bevel of the button which pushed against the coat’s fabric. It was hard not to laugh, or at least chuckle, at the obliviousness of the crime lord. A gangster so known for his caution and paranoia, had thrown that same caution to the wind as soon as Howell had found a tempting enough item in which the prospective reward obliterated the risk of letting in some unknown kid.
Howell nodded toward Snotch and the ogre, as motionless as a statue, before turning around and heading out. He ignored Snotch ... that one gave him the creeps.
The door clicked shut behind him, and with it ended the feeling of unfriendly eyes boring into his back. Howell turned and squinted against the frosted glass, watching as two pointy-eared silhouettes melded into a fat, ogre-shaped, shadow eclipsing the flickering candlelight behind them. Excited voices from within told Howell they’d essentially forgotten about him by now, their attention rapt by the book. Having such big ears, he wondered if they’d hear the click of the striker before they died. Probably not, Howell guessed, if they did, it would be too late for them anyway.
He put his back to the door and pressed a device in his coat that rested against his leg, driving his index finger down on a small button.
So, part of my writing routine involves doing standalone scenes periodically, whether to practice a specific part of the craft, or to work on alternate openings and test settings for manuscripts currently in the works.
Jax Jensen is a special agent for an organization called the Department of Inquiry, that serves the Intergalactic Federation of Free Planets. Think a role heavily influenced by Judge Dredd, or Imperial Guard/Soviet Commissar. The role of the DOI Agent is to essentially do internal investigations, and crack down on corruption or disloyalty.
In the scene below, designed to be an opener for a piece, he has freshly arrived at his hotel in a tropical paradise and is taking in the scenery, and talking with his AI Assistant Keeper, before a startling turn of events.
Jax Jensen, a Special Agent with the Department Of Inquiry, stepped out onto the windswept gallery that ringed the fifth story of the Regal Stay Resort. Jensen swirled a cognac colored liquid around the short glass snifter cradled in his left hand as a light breeze carried the scent of ocean brine and a faint taste of saltiness to his lips.
Shivering slightly, He was still settling into the more relaxed atmosphere that swim trunks and a light t-shirt offered. It was a stark, but welcome, break from the heavy uniform he was normally confined to. His sandals clacked along the tiled walkway as he strolled, stepping to the rhythm of waves crashing against a cliffside that vanished into white churning depths below. Coming to a stop, Jensen ran his hand along the steel rail which capped the outer wall. His eyes slowly scanned the massive crowds gathered on the pearlescent beach below, who were sprawled out in hundreds of small groups divided into camps of multi-colored umbrellas and fields of beach towels. Following the distinct wakes of sleek watercraft as they carved graceful trails a mile out, Jensen noticed two single-man cutters in a seemingly reckless pursuit of one another.
“Oh my, fallen into the lap of luxury have we?” Keeper’s voice broke the sounds of paradise, a haughty and slightly condescending tone lacing his words. “Don’t get too comfortable.”
“Pipe down.” Jensen scowled at the comm-link bound around his wrist, “make yourself useful and find out who botched my travel arrangements back in McCarr to get me a room in this place.” He ran a hand through his hair and leaned forward on the railing taking a draw of the cognac while watching the cutters’ game of chase. The smooth liquid mixed well with the salted air. His gaze wandered from the cutters a little ways away to a much more rundown--affordable as the Department’s financial officers would call it—travel lodge whose sun-bleached pool and spotty walls contrasted greatly with the freshly painted exterior of the more modern Regal Stay. The smaller lodging looked as if a painter had chosen the color palette from a selection of vomit bile hues.
“It seems your lodging was made by President Brant’s office, not the DOI Travel Officer.”
“There is a god. Or ... gods.” Jensen muttered, “damn the travel officers.”
“Glenda is a lovely woman.” Keeper said, “throws fantastic parties.”
“What would you know about that?” Jensen cocked an eyebrow, his interest returning to his comm-link. “She doesn’t throw parties.”
“None that you’re invited to. I however am granted access through her own Home Interface Systems. Lovely lady.”
“Whatever, Keeps.” Jensen wasn’t sure whether to believe his AI assistant’s outlandish claim. “What’s my assignment brief say?”
“Standard apprehension.” Keeper muttered incoherently, mimicking the droning habit he’d picked up off a congressional staffer as he pretended to skim through the pages of assignment details. Even though Jensen knew that his assistant had processed all of the information in less than a second. “Intel thinks the cartel knows you’ve been dispatched here.”
“An agent in general.” Keeper answered.
“Go on…” Jensen swirled his drink.
“An asset of the Dark Hearts cartel has been operating a highly lucrative gambling business beneath the nose of the Kalgary Gaming Commission. Seems like a pretty profitable drug smuggling gig too.”
“Seems a bit excessive to call a DOI agent out here for something local officials should be handling.” Jensen took another long draw, watching out of the corner of his eye as a rather fetching woman in a tight fitting, flowery cocktail dress stepped out from her room onto the same gallery. I need to remember to send Brant’s office a handwritten thank you.
“Er, well.” Keeper hesitated. “The fact that the illicit gains are funding a hefty portion of the RLF efforts on Renia took it out of local hands.” Keeper paused, then quickly, “and the fact that thirteen local officers have wound up dead trying to stop i—”
“What?” Jensen stifled a choke, mid-sip, “lead with that next time.” A sudden feeling of vulnerability swept away the relaxation that had set in, and the fact that he was so exposed out on the gallery came to the forefront of his mind.
Jensen stepped back from the railing, scanning a few of the other high rise buildings that dotted the area. Sunlight reflecting off the glass walls of other luxury towers hindered his effort to scan all the areas an observer could hide, no matter how fiercely he squinted.
“You’ve been out here for a few minutes now, don’t let the fear ruin your luck.”
“Easy for the disembodied assistant to say.” Turning back toward his door, Jensen lifted the snifter to down the last of his brandy. The glass exploded in his hand, seemingly on contact as it brushed his lips.
Jensen fell in a quick spiral, landing with his back toward the Regal Stay’s inside wall. Taking cover, a sharp crack whipped the air, a bite was taken from the smooth concrete wall. Blood streamed from his lips and hand, disorientation playing with his senses. A shriek erupted from the nearby woman as she ran inside.
“Jax!” Keeper shouted.
I post on this blog rather sporadically as some of you may have noticed! As I balance out writing with "the day job" I will do my best to post more consistently.
Thank you for your support and feedback!
Matthew Taylor was born February 13, 1991 in Simi Valley, California. He earned a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from California State University Channel Islands, where he served as treasurer and briefly President of one of the campus's two political clubs. While earning his degree he continued to write and hone his craft, eventually releasing an initial few short stories on Kindle.