Ok, so my short story based on your comments didn’t get accepted by the magazine I submitted it to. Wah.
But it’s a win for you because now I get to post it here. I had so much fun writing the story that I’ll probably write some more and keep submitting them for publication and see what happens. Anyway, without any further ado… Under The Eyepatch:
(The words left in the comments by you are in all caps.)
Garret Randall Nehring lived and worked in a small clock repair shop on East Street, the shop being downstairs and the living space, up. It was evening. The moon had already risen in the black, cloudless sky and he made his usual rounds on the lower floor, checking the locks on the windows and doors. Click, click, click. Three turns each. He quickly examined every bar over the windows and the long bar across the door frame, front door and back. He was behind schedule tonight. He rubbed his wrists nervously, worsening the rash he’d previously made by rubbing.
Why had that woman come in at closing? He walked through the show floor of the shop in a perfect circle, visually inspecting each clock on display as he did. The moon is already out and I’m not finished. It’s inexcusable. Everything appeared to be in perfect order. He quickly made his way upstairs. Any moment now The Revelry would begin and he desperately needed to have his ear plugs in before.
In the bathroom, he brushed, brushed, brushed and flossed, flossed, flossed. Three times each. Always three. He carefully inspected the eyepatch covering his left eye. How often he had wished he had a second patch to cover his right. Symmetry. But that line of thinking often led to wondering why so many things came in twos instead of threes. He was late tonight, however, and could not indulge himself in pointless contemplation. He quickly wiped down the bathroom surfaces and shuffled off to his bedroom. The Revelry hadn’t begun yet; he may still have time.
He reached into his bedside table and retrieved a new pair of ear plugs, wrapped tightly in plastic. Elation. He would make it. He let himself feel a modicum of joy as he opened the plastic bag. Small victories really do give one so much pleasure, he mused. A tiny smile spread across his face.
Bang, bang, bang.
His smile disappeared.
Bang, bang, bang.
“Hello?” It was definitely a female voice. She sounded youngish.
“Hello? I see your light on. I need help.” She was at the back door.
And this is why I should never let customers in at closing time, he thought to himself.
Bang, bang, bang.
“Please, The Revelry is going to start any second. Please, open the door,” she called out loudly.
“I’m coming,” Nehring said with a sigh. He threw the ear plugs into a nearby trash receptacle, fastened his robe securely and shuffled back downstairs.
Nehring stood a few feet away from the back door, located in his workshop. Scowling, he attempted to peer through the bars over the window, trying to see who was banging so loudly.
“Hello?” the girl said. She was young, just as he’d thought. Fourteen? Fifteen? In the darkness her light blue eyes were almost all he could make out of her face. Something about them…
“Are you going to let me in?”
Sirens. The Revelry had begun. The girl began to hyperventilate.
“That’s the siren,” she said between breaths, “Let me in. Let me in.”
“Aren’t you kind of young to be out this late at night?” was all Nehring said.
“I got lost on my way home and then it got dark and I realized The Revelry would be starting soon but I don’t know where I am or how to get home from here and then I saw your light on and I thought you could help me and please,” she said all in one breath. Nehring tilted his head slightly, still trying to gain a view of the young lady outside the door. Finally, with a heavy sigh, he gave up and crossed the last few feet to the door. Click, click, click. He turned the lock and unbarred the door.
“Come in, I suppose,” he offered weakly, pushing the door open. And before he’d even realized what was happening, the young girl was swinging a shotgun up from her side, gripping it tightly and pointing it in his face.
“Don’t mind if I do,” she said grinning.
“Wonderful,” Nehring muttered, raising his hands in the air.
“In,” she said gesturing with the gun, the smile disappearing from her face. With a heavy sigh, Nehring turned around and began walking through his workshop toward the front of the building, more annoyed than frightened. The girl quickly circled around, keeping the gun aimed directly at him. She gestured and pointed until they arrived at the small kitchen. She nodded toward a kitchen chair.
Nehring sat. He let out another heavy sigh. Surely she could sense his annoyance by now. A moment later, two men appeared in the kitchen doorway, each carrying two empty duffle bags. One man was tall and heavy set, he looked as though he could have been a boxer in another life. The other was shorter and small, his clothes were too big for him and he seemed to be full of nervous energy. The girl nodded to them.
“You got the ROPE?” she asked. The small one produced a rope from the folds of an oversized coat. He grinned from ear to ear as he tied Nehring tightly to the chair.
She eyed the large one, “Did you secure the door?”
“Excuse me,” Nehring broke in, “but who are you and what are you doing?”
“What’s it look like?” the large one sneered.
“Argh, MATEY. We be PILLAGIN’ and PLUNDERIN’ yer shop,” said the small one, letting out a high pitched peal of laughter not unlike a six-year-old girl.
Nehring furrowed his brow, “You’re what?”
The small one looks something like a lizard, he thought, His face is pointy. I’ll call him Lizard.
Lizard grinned and pointed at his eye, then at Nehring.
“I see. My eyepatch. How clever.”
Lizard let out another peal of laughter.
He has as much intelligence as a lizard too.
The large one slapped Lizard on the back of the head to shut him up. Lizard frowned and rubbed his sore skull but was none-the-less grinning again a moment later.
“You two know what to do,” the girl said, “Get to it.”
“C’mon, Squid,” the large one said and the two of them headed out into the shop.
Squid. Well, I wasn’t too far off, was I? Nehring smiled at his own thoughts. He was quite witty, if he did say so himself.
“Why are you smiling? Stop that,” said the girl, breaking into his thoughts.
Nehring frowned. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know smiling was against the rules.”
High pitched laughter.
“Squid! Quit messin’ around.”
The two men could be heard clearly from the kitchen and it seemed they were determined to break everything in the shop. Nehring felt his heart go into palpitations and he tried to steady his breathing, knowing his perfectly ordered shop was being destroyed.
“Do they have to break everything?” he asked the girl.
“Do you plan to tell me what this is all about?”
The large one and Squid returned a little while later, duffle bags, presumably full of valuables, in each hand.
“We took all the good stuff but I gotta tell you, Norry, there wasn’t much. I thought you said this place would pay off,” the large one said. The girl made no answer. She sat awkwardly on the edge of the kitchen table, staring off into space.
The girl snapped back from whatever dream world she had been in.
“Sorry, Tank. What did you say?”
Tank, Nehring thought, How comically appropriate. He made sure not to smile this time.
“I said this place didn’t pay off like you said it would. What’s wrong with you anyway,” Tank replied.
“Nothing. I’m fine,” she said, “I guess I just got bad information.” She jumped down from the kitchen table and walked over to the window, peering out into the dark night sky.
“It’s too dark to leave. The Revelers will still be out. We need to wait until dawn.”
Squid pulled a knife from somewhere inside his vast coat and began cleaning his fingernails enthusiastically. “What are we going to do with this POPPET?” he said grinning again and gesturing to Nehring.
“Nothing,” the girl said.
“Nothing? He’s seen our faces,” Tank said, “He knows our names.”
“If it helps any, I could care less,” Nehring offered, “I just want my shop cleaned up.”
The girl pointed a finger at Nehring, “You, shut up.” To Tank she said, “Nothing is happening to him right now because we can’t leave yet and I don’t want to stare at a BLOODY mess for the next few hours.”
Squid pocketed the knife and pulled out a bit of twine he had tucked away. “It doesn’t have to be bloody, CUPCAKE. I know how to be clean and quiet.” For just a moment, Nehring was almost afraid.
“No,” she said, raising the shotgun again, this time aiming it at Squid and then Tank. “Nothing happens to him until I decide. It’s my call. Understand?” No one moved or made a sound. “Good. Now, each of you take a door and stand watch. When it’s time to end this, I will end it.” Still, no one moved. The men eyed the gun and the girl, mulling over what she’d said. Eventually, Tank picked up the duffle bags he’d carried in and headed out of the room towards the front door. Squid shrugged, grinned and followed, leaving his duffle bags behind. A moment later, he returned.
“You got anything to eat?”
“Yes,” Nehring said. Squid smiled, raising his eyebrows in anticipation.
“More soup.” His smile quickly faded.
“BANANAS,” Squid muttered under his breath.
“What was that?”
“I. Don’t. Like. Soup.” he said through gritted teeth. The knife made an unexpected return. He jabbed it into the wall and dug a jagged trench through it as he walked out.
“Why did you let him do that?!?” Nehring screamed, “Oh, I’m gonna be sick. I feel like I’m having a heart attack.”
“Would you shut up? It’s just a wall,” the girl said.
“Well, excuse me but I didn’t ask to be tied up and have my home destroyed, did I? I’m dying. I think I’m dying.”
“You’re not dying. It’s just a wall. Shut up.”
“I am dying. My heart is racing. I’m going to throw up. I’m dying. I’m dying. I’m dying.”
And that was when Nehring was gagged.
The girl stood by the kitchen window staring out into the darkness for almost two hours before abruptly saying, “Does the name ‘Tibby’ mean anything to you?”
Nehring said nothing. He couldn’t.
“Oh, right, the gag. Sorry.” She crossed the room and removed the gag from his mouth.
A barely audible, “Water,” came from Nehring. She opened several cabinet doors before finding a glass and filling it will tap water.
“What was the question?” he managed with a raspy voice after taking a drink.
“Does the name ‘Tibby’ mean anything to you?”
“More water, please,” he said, “And, yes, it does.” After another drink he added, “She used to work for me.”
“That’s it? She worked for you? Nothing else?”
“We were close.”
“But she did more than just work for you, right?”
“It was a long time ago.”
“How long? How long ago was it?”
“I don’t know,” he said, “I’d say 16 or 17 years now. Why do you want to know?”
“I have my reasons. What’s under your eyepatch?” she asked, changing the subject.
“An eye. Why are you asking about Tibby?” he countered.
“I said I have my reasons. Why are you wearing an eyepatch?” Nehring could see this was going nowhere.
“Why did you choose the night of The Revelry to rob me? There are much less dangerous nights, you know.”
“I have reasons for that too.” Nehring sighed. This had been a very trying night. He cleared his throat.
“Can I have another drink of water? I’ll tell you all about Tibby.” The girl leaned down and gave him a drink, sizing him up.
“Tibby was my apprentice, of sorts,” he said, “But not in clock repair. I started repairing clocks after… Anyway, when she was my apprentice we grew very close. I think that I… well, I know that I… loved her. I don’t know if she loved me but I like to think she did. Something happened. I was injured. I sustained a head injury, actually, and after that I… changed. The change was too much for her. She left and I haven’t seen her since. And that was 17 years ago, or thereabouts.”
“Hmm? That’s all you have to say?”
She stared out of the window again for a few minutes.
“What’s under your eyepatch?”
“Oh, for crying out –“ Nehring started to say but was interrupted by Tank entering the kitchen.
“There are Revelers out front. Should I take care of them?” he said.
“No,” said the girl, “Just turn off as many lights as you can. They’ll get bored and leave.”
Bang, bang, bang.
“That came from the back door,” Nehring said, “You idiots left all the lights on and now we’re surrounded by Revelers. Did you at least relock and bar the doors?”
“Let us in!” a loud male voice yelled through the back door. Drunken laughter erupted from the other Revelers. A moment later Squid appeared in the kitchen doorway, knife in hand, picking his teeth.
“I don’t like this, Norry,” he said, “Stuck in this house all night, nothing to eat, and now Revelers banging down the door. I don’t like this at all.” He stuck the knife into the kitchen table, nearly giving Nehring a heart attack.
“I say we unlock the back door and go out the front,” Tank said, “The Revelers will come in here and take care of him for us. Nice and neat, no mess.”
“I don’t know, Tank. I was kinda looking forward to that part,” Squid said, pulling the knife out of the table.
The girl looked back and forth between Tank and Squid and then at Nehring.
She stared hard into his good eye, “What’s under your eyepatch?”
“Do you really think this is the best time to be asking that?!?” he yelled.
She searched his face again, “Nehring, we don’t have time for this. What is under your eyepatch?”
“How do you know my name? I never told you my name.”
Tank and Squid exchanged looks. Something was going on.
“Tibby is my mother. She had me 16 years ago. I never met my father, until… Tell me what’s under your eyepatch!”
“Tibby’s your mother?”
Squid broke into the conversation, “Why does it matter if she’s 16 or not?” He looked at the girl, “Norry, how do you know this guy? What’s going on?”
The girl looked back and forth between Tank and Squid.
“Nehring, what’s under your eyepatch?!” she said, “I need to know. Now.”
“Exactly what you think is there.”
The girl wasted no time, she ducked behind Nehring, grabbing a chunk of his hair and pulling up the eyepatch as she did. She aimed Nehring’s head first at Tank as a blinding flash of light burst forth from Nehring’s left eye socket, reducing Tank to a smoldering pile of ashes in a moment’s time. Squid dropped the knife and tried to run but he was stopped by the light and joined his friend Tank on the floor. She let go of Nehring’s hair and replaced the eyepatch before coming out from behind the chair.
“You’re real,” she said.
“I am,” he said, “I didn’t know about you.”
They stared silently at each other for a moment taking in all they had just learned and experienced.
Bang, bang, bang.
“Yoo-hoo?” the loud male voice called out again from the back door, “Let us in or we’re coming in!”
“Revelers,” she said.
“Yes,” he replied, “What is your name again?”
“Norry. Well, really Norretta but everyone calls me Norry.”
“Norretta, I’m Garret Randall Nehring. Pleased to meet you. Do you think you could untie me?”
“Oh, yes, sorry.” She grabbed the knife from the place where Squid had dropped it and cut the ropes away from the chair to which Nehring was tied. He stood slowly, rubbing the places on his arms and torso where the rope had been.
“Right. Revelers. I’ll take care of them,” he said. He marched over to the back door in the workshop trying very hard to ignore the mess he saw all around him. Once there, he placed a hand on either side of the door, closed his good eye, breathed in deeply and said in a loud, low voice, “Go. Away.” A strange calm fell over the whole place. Norry looked out the window and gasped as she witnessed all of the Revelers casually walk away from the building.
“That was amazing!” she beamed as they walked back to the kitchen. They carefully avoided the two piles of ashes in the kitchen doorway and sat down at the table. Nehring positioned his chair so he couldn’t see the mess behind him.
“Yes, well, I probably should have done that when you came to the door, but I’m glad I didn’t.”
“Oh, right. I’m sorry about all of that. I didn’t really know anything about you except the few things Mom told me and they always sounded like fairy tales. I figured I needed some strong back up if I was going to meet you.”
“Uh huh. I think your planning skills need a little work, my dear. How did you find those two morons, anyway?”
“Tank and Squid? Oh, I’ve been working with them for a few months now doing jobs.”
“Jobs? You mean you’ve done this sort of thing before?”
“Not by choice. See, Mom went missing about 6 months ago. It was on a night of Revelry. She left work late and never came home. I went to the police but they were no help. Crimes that happen during Revelry can’t be prosecuted. I ended up in a shelter and that’s where I met Tank and Squid. They sort of took me under their wing, you know, protected me, but only in exchange for helping them rob and hurt people. I didn’t like it.”
“So how did you end up at my doorstep?”
“Well, even without help from the police or really anyone, I kept trying to find out what happened to Mom. I found out she’d been kidnapped by a group of Revelers who keep her locked up until the night of The Revelry each month. They discovered her ‘abilities’ and now they bring her out each month to do magic for them like a performing monkey. I’ve tried and tried to figure out where they keep her locked up but I can’t. But I know where they make her perform each month. The catch is, I’m not strong enough to rescue her myself. And I remembered all the stories Mom had told me about you and…”
“I see. So you want my help? Why didn’t you just ask those two to help you?” he said, gesturing behind him.
“They’re terrified of Revelers. Or, I guess they were, before I incinerated them with your eye.”
“Yes, that’s another thing we need to discuss.”
“Let’s save it for another time. It’s going to be sunup soon and the Revelers will put Mom back wherever they put her for another month. I know where she is right now. Will you help me? Will you help me rescue my mom?”
Nehring looked hard into the face of the daughter he hadn’t known he had. Her eyes were so much like her mother’s, light blue with a fire behind them. He suddenly wondered why he hadn’t recognized her as Tibby’s daughter right away, she was practically the spitting image of her mother.
“Of course I’ll help you. But afterwards you’re going to help me clean up this mess.”