Tag Archives: The Speakeasy

Checkmate

l-Checkmate

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“Don’t blame the sinner.”

“Don’t fear for him sister, I promise his death will be as swift and painless as possible.”

“It wasn’t his fault, he was being manipulated. Please, hasn’t there been enough killing already?”

“Another of the Black Queen’s pawns, is that it?”

“No, he’s much more than that.”

“Yes he is, a knight disguised as a bishop, very clever.  But I saw through your little trick, didn’t I?  I’ve always been three moves ahead of you.”

The White Queen and the Black Queen, Luminous and Caliginous, locked in a battle that had been going on for decades.  They were the twin daughters of King Stalemateous, who ruled over a vast empire.  Upon his death his expansive kingdom was divided in half and split between his two daughters.

Everything to the west of Lake Isongard; the golden fields of Adelphia, the orchards of Kalipula, the rolling plains of Surmanthia where the horse lords bred steeds for the royal patrol, and where seldom a cloud was seen in the sky, along with all the people who lived among those lands, now fell under the rule of Luminous, the White Queen.  The lands to the east of Lake Isongard and the few people who still lived there became the kingdom of the Black Queen, Caliginous;  these were the lands filled by the nearly impenetrable Dimwood Forrest where nothing was said to live except for the twisted and gnarly trees that were as old as the world itself, the tar pits of Undoora that were told to have swallowed entire regiments of knights, and the rocky peaks of the Heltermonth Mountains which reached up to snow-covered heights.

After their father’s passing Caliginous implored her sister that they should reunite the kingdom, and rule together.  Luminous, however, had other plans.

Being born minutes before her sister the White Queen believed herself to be the rightful heir of all that her father had, and she struck out violently in an attempt to rest control away from her younger sibling.  The surprise attack was devastating, and sent Caliginous and the few people loyal to her into hiding in the depths of the Dimwood Forest.  The family feud raged on for years, the Black Queen and her armies battled back, and at one point seemed poised to win the war as they toppled one of the White Queen’s castles.  But then on that same night, as the fires among the remains of the ruined stronghold were still burning, the Black Queen and her followers fled back to the safety of Dimwood Forrest.

Luminous, blinded by her fury, sent wave after wave of her soldiers into those cursed wood, none of them were ever seen again.  Unsuccessful at flushing her sister out, the White Queen withdrew and lived secluded from her kingdom until her sister came out of hiding and asked for a meeting to discuss the fate of the knight that had been captured sneaking into the White Queen’s castle.

“Please sister, you don’t know what you’re doing.  He was not sent there to kill you, he came with an offering of peace.”

“This war will end when I reunite father’s kingdom, only I am his rightful heir, and after I rid myself of your assassin I will send my armies across the lake to end this once and for all, even if I have to burn that entire cursed forest to the ground to do it.  Until then, this is what I think of your peace.”  and with a flick of the White Queen’s wrist the young knight was flung over the castle’s wall, his body snapped to a stop as the rope tied around his neck went taut.

“Nooo!” the Black Queen screamed out to late.  “What have you done.  He was no killer.  He was your son, the secret child you hid away in the castle I destroyed all those years ago.  I found him among the rubble and took him back to Dimwood Forrest.  I taught him of our father, and of our feud, and I sent him to you to beg for peace.”

Luminous turned and looked into the eyes of the now dead man who hung from her castle’s wall, and as the heavy realization of what she had done sunk in she collapsed to her knees.

Caliginous signaled her army to attack by removing the black veil she was wearing, and as she turned her back on her grieving sister she uttered, “Checkmate.”
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written for: The Speakeasy #149
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Counting Stars

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“Lets see, there was Harrison Ford back in the seventies, before the whole Star Wars thing.”  The woman talking to the group of uninterested men was Meryl White, an actress that hadn’t been in front of a camera in over thirty years.  “I’ve been with Kevin Costner twice.” Meryl continued as she sipped champagne from the long-stemmed glass that she casually held in one hand as she flicked ashes from the cigarette that was in the other. “And of course Kevin Bacon, but everybody’s been with him.  Oh, and Mickey Rourke, back before he messed his pretty face up with all that plastic surgery.”

Meryl always insisted on being the center of attention, and tonight was no different; it made no difference to her that she had not actually been invited to tonight’s party, she showed up wearing the kind of shiny black dress that you would expect to see on some starlet at the red carpet of an awards show, her favorite costume jewelery hanging from around her neck, and her hair was held in place by enough Aquanet to stand up to a hurricane.

As soon as Gracie made the mistake of mentioning the celebration that her new employer, Alpine Marketing, was going to have to mark the occasion of signing their first million dollar account in front of her mother, Meryl had guilted her daughter into letting her tag along.  Gracie had made her mother promise to remain low-key and not do anything to embarrass her in front of her new bosses, but she couldn’t bring herself to be surprised by her mother’s appearance; Meryl didn’t know what low-key meant.

Gracie wasn’t a part of the marketing team, she had only been at the firm for a couple of weeks and did mostly secretarial work; her job at the party was to oversee the refreshments, which meant making sure the bartender had everything he needed and occasionally making a trip around the room with a tray of hors d’ourves.

Gracie set her tray of food down on the bar after making her latest round, “Give me double shot of the strongest thing you’ve got back there Charlie.”

Charlie was the bartender that had been hired for the night, and Gracie had been telling him about her mother.  She had told him about Meryl’s obsession with being known as a star of the silver screen, even though she had never starred in a single movie.  Meryl liked to act like she was a box office magnet, but in reality she had only ever played small bit roles, doing parts that no one would ever remember. “What’s she up to now?” Charlie asked.

“She’s counting stars.”  Gracie answered.

“Counting stars?”

“It’s what she does at parties.” Gracie explained, “She recounts for anyone that will stand still long enough to listen the names of every star she was in a movie with, no matter how small her part in the film was. That is, until she gets a little more champagne in her, then she’ll start counting all the stars she’s slept with, but we’re going to stop things before they get that far.”  Gracie gulped down her drink.

“Really, how are we going to do that?” interested in hearing what her plan was.

“You’re going to start mixing these drinks a lot stronger, and I’m going to pray everyone gets so drunk they don’t remember this night at all.”  Gracie told him with a smile on her face.

“Good ole alcohol,” Charlie said, “the magic potion to solve many a problem.”

Gracie had another plan that she didn’t share with Charlie though, and after he filled her tray with drinks once again and turned back to washing the dirty glasses in the sink behind the bar, Gracie deftly sprinkled the crushed Ambien into the cocktails before delivering them to the men surrounding her mother.  No one could ever know what happened here.
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written for: The Speakeasy #148
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The Blackadder

Pirate_in_the_storm_by_peterconcept
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Dark clouds started to congeal in the sky above The Blackadder; the waves of the open sea were no longer gentle and rolling, and began to crest as they smacked into the side of the wooden ship; and a cold arctic wind blew down from the north.

Captain Laurie swung open the door of his private quarters and stepped out onto the main deck of his pirate ship, the wooden peg that replaced the lower section of his right leg thumping as he went.  He glanced at the dark clouds forming overhead, and then at the men on deck mulling about.  “Mr. Rowan, what be the meanin’ of this lollygagging.  Can’t ye see thar’s  rough waters on the horizon?!”

“Yes sir.” Mr. Rowan, the ship’s first mate, replied.  “Sir, it’s just that…”

The captain didn’t stop to hear what Rowan was about to say, and instead pushed him out-of-the-way as the rain began to fall, and strode forward to address his crew. “Now look here ye lily-livered, yellow-bellied, flea ridden sea dogs, stop ye standin’ about gwakin’ at the purdy clouds and batten down the hatches, and stow away that main sail before she’s ripped asunder.” Unsheathing the cutlass from his side and flailing it around he continued to lambast them, “Now get to it before I run everyone one of ye scurvy infested, parrot stranglin’ harbour hogs through.”

All of the men ran in different directions to carry out the captain’s orders except one.  Captain Laurie fixed his irate gaze on the lone man half hanging over the side of the ship. “This is no time to be fishing for mermaids, ye can find ye a wife the next time we make port. Now get to work ye grog-snarfing, hammock hoggin’ rapscallion.”

“Sir,” Rowan timidly interjected from behind the captain, “that’s one of the new recruits we took on before leaving Tartooga.  I believe this is his first time at sea.”

Captain Laurie approached the young man, and stood behind the recruit that was still bent over the railing of the ship.  With a much kinder tone he addressed the young deck hand. “Is that right son? Is this ye first time on the high seas? Does she be havin’ ye a bit weak in the stomach with the rockin’ to and fro?”

“Harrrhgrhhrmragl…” the man tried to reply but was sick again.

The captain turned to Rowan, “Well I can’t be abiding some landlubbering freebooter on me ship.  We are pirates are we not, we do have some standards.” The captain then turned back toward the young man, “Please, be givin’ me regards to Davey Jones.”, and the captain kicked the man hard with his peg leg, sending him screaming into the waters below.

The splash the captain heard came sooner than expected, “Mr. Rowan, why we be sittin’ so low in the water? Do ye not have the men working the bilge?!”

“Yes sir, but as I was trying to tell you earlier, it seems that the bilge is being blocked by something.”

“Probably just a rat, stuck in the pipe.  Must I be doin’ everything around here.” The captain shouted behind himself as he headed below deck. He headed for the intake to the bilge pumps on the lowest level, the pumps were used to remove the water that seeped in through the hull.

Rowan stayed on the main deck and saw to it that the crew finished preparing the ship for the storm that was coming in.  With everything finally stowed away and the sails all secured;  the men gathered around the bilge pumps, working the handle and waiting to see it once again expel the water that was seeping into the lower reaches of the ship.  As the ship began to set lower and lower in the sea Rowan ordered the men to ready the life boats, and as the first of the waves began to break over the ship’s side Rowan and the crew wearily watched the doorway that led below deck.

*****

“And so you never saw Captain Laurie again after he went below?” Rowan was asked by the captain of the ship that had rescued the crew of The Blackadder after they had been adrift for nearly a week.

“No.  I ordered the men to cut the life boats free from the ship.” Rowan explained as he looked blankly out across the now calm horizon, “I sat there and waited, but he never came back.”
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written for – The Speakeasy #146
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photo by: Peterconcept


Dalton Grady

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I have spent years chasing the tail of my darkness.  Trying to atone for the sins of my past.  Doing whatever I can to not be remembered only for the worst thing I’d ever done.

I had never been what was known as a ‘good boy’ growing up.  I always had a fascination with books and learning, but when you come from a family of outlaws there is a tendency to become one yourself.

Mother was a harsh and exacting woman, and for that reason my siblings and I stayed as far from that house as possible growing up.  This was probably the only good example ever set by my father, Patton; who left the woman when I was still quite young and did not return to her even after several stints in prison.

Now I do not mean to paint a negative picture of my father, he is not an inherently bad man.  Like myself, he was born into this life of crime.  The Grady clan has been living, and doing the family’s business, in the mountains of Appalachia in central West Virginia for more generations than any can now recall.  And for all that time the family has never been on the right side of the law.  But even if my father is a violent, gun-toting, drug runner, who demands payments for ‘protection’, and has a taste for illegal whiskey and women of the night; he is also a man of his word.

Funny as it may sound, but in this overly litigious world we now find ourselves, the word of a man like my father is still as strong as oak. So maybe you will understand that my father could not simply let it pass when Harlowe Bennet set up his little poker house in our very own town of Cowen, and forgot to cut my father in for a piece of the action.

Now this was no mere oversight on Harlowe’s behalf, the Bennet’s had long been a member of our little community and they knew to whom the tolls must be paid.  However, with my father finding himself once again as a guest of the great state of West Virginia’s correctional department, and the responsibility for the running of the family business having fallen to my older brother Bo; it was I, who had just come of age, that was sent to remind Mr. Bennet of his obligations.

There was a look of surprise on Harlowe’s face, a look that was shared by the faces of the three men still playing poker in that early morning hour,as I kicked the door in, and held them at gunpoint.  They handed over the money quickly enough, and with no objections.   The three men at the table sat speechless, from the looks of them they were coal miners, probably just looking for entertainment on a Saturday night. Harlowe was a hard man though, much like my father, and objected to my presence in his house; even going so far as to tell me there would be retribution no matter the cost.

I could not tell you why  my trigger finger began to itch the way it did;  maybe it was Harlowe’s impertinent attitude, or maybe it was just some darkness that had always been in me.  When my anger finally subsided the three men at the table along with Harlowe Bennet all laid dead at my feet; their blood pooling on the battered wooden floors, the thick smoke from the shots, and the smell of burnt gunpowder clinging to the air.  The silence that now filled the small room in the back of the beaten down old house on the outskirts of town was matched only by the calmness that filled me.  Never in my life had I felt that kind of peace, right down to my very core.

In the past I’ve wondered if it was a mistake to leave the boy who hid behind those dingy yellow curtains alive.  I find myself wondering that same thing now, as I stand outside the same house all these years later.  For now, it is Harley Bennet who has taken it upon himself to resume his father’s weekly poker game, and even though cleaning up this kind of mess is no longer something that falls to me, I cannot help but feel the deep burning desire to finish what I started.
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written for: The Speakeasy – 145

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Songs About You

kaliedoscope_eyes_by_weasel_island-d4cmyh5
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Have I ever told you about Lucy,
The girl with kaleidoscope eyes.
She could ruin your faith,
With her casual lies.

She had a smile, that it seems to me,
Reminds me of childhood memories.
I remember how I found her there,
Alone in her electric chair.

She took more than her share,
Had me fighting for air.
Until I was blinded by the light,
Cut loose like a deuce, another runner in the night.

They say you found somebody new,
But that won’t stop my loving you.
After all the songs we’ve shared together,
Some things can’t be forgotten.
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written for: The Speakeasy #144
lyrics taken from: ‘Lucy In They Sky With Diamonds’ by Elton John, ‘Betty Davis Eyes’ by Kim Carnes, ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ by Guns N’ Roses, ‘You May Be Right’ by Billy Joel, ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ by AC/DC,  ‘Blinded By The Light’ by Bruce Springsteen, ‘Am I That Easy To Forget’ by Englebert Humperdinck
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photo by: weasel-island


Down The Hall

peek_by_muttermeem
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There was a loud crash in the hallway.

“What was that?” Lilly asked groggily, as she tried to wipe the sleep from her eyes.

“I don’t know.” Jacob replied, as she sat up in his bed.

Jacob and Lilly were brother and sister.  Eight-year-old Jacob, and six-year-old Lilly shared the upstairs bedroom where they lived in an old cottage with their parents on the outskirts of Hackensack; a somewhat small and not the least bit impressive town that was surrounded by the country side, and thick forests, and which sat at the foot of the Wandaway Mountains.

“What are you doing?” Lilly asked, as she watched Jacob slip from his bed and start tip-toeing towards the door.

“I’m going to see what all that commotion was.”

“If Mommy and Daddy catch you up, you’re going to get in trouble.”

“Don’t be such a baby.”

“Don’t call me that.” Lilly spat back in a huff as she slammed her hands down on her blanket.

“Well then, don’t act like one.”

Lilly understood the challenge, and quickly got out of bed and plodded across the room to the door where Jacob waited for her. “Turn on the light, I can’t see.”

“No!” Jacob hissed under his breath, someone will see it.

“Who’s acting like a baby now?” Lilly taunted.

“Keep your voice down.  I think I hear something outside.”

The two huddled next to the door, straining to hear what was going on after the loud crash that came from the other side.

“I hear it too.” Lilly proudly announced, and then suddenly realized she had proclaimed her triumph too loudly, and hunkered down behind Jacob ready for the door to swing open and to be caught out of bed by their parents; but as they waited nothing happened.

Jacob reached for the door.

“Don’t.” Lilly pleaded, “Let’s just go back to bed.”

“I’m just going to peek.” Jacob slowly turned the knob, and pulled the door open just a crack so it wouldn’t squeak the hinges.

The two children peeked out into what used to be the hallway outside of their room, but was now a vast valley with a slow meandering stream cutting across through its middle; and though outside their bedroom window the moon still hung high among the stars in the night sky, out in the hallway the sun was out, and it was midday already.

“Where’s the rest of the house?” Lilly asked.

“How should I know.”

“Where’s Mommy and Daddy?”

“How should I know.”

“Call them.”

“What if there’s something else out there instead.”

“Stop it, you’re scaring me.” Tears started to form in Lilly’s blue eyes.

No sooner had Lilly spoke the words than dark clouds suddenly began to fill the sky, and loud rumblings of thunder shook through the doorway, and into their small room.

Jacob shut to door again and locked it, and headed for the window.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m going to climb down the gutter pipe, and try the front door. If Mom and Dad aren’t there I’ll climb right back up, I’ll only be gone for a minute, you’ll be fine.” with that Jacob lifted the window and disappeared outside.

Frightened and alone Lilly climbed back into her bed, and pulled the covers up tight around her.  She tried to tell herself this was all a dream, and that she would be waking up soon.  As she anxiously waited for her brother’s return the door handle started to tried to turn and  rattled behind her, then the whole door started shaking, someone was out there trying to get in.  Lilly dove under the covers, hiding and waiting for whatever was outside to pass, but it didn’t seem to be giving up.  Then she heard the eeriest of sounds, the sound of someone, or something, sliding the key into the lock.

The door creaked open.

“Lilly.” it was her mother’s voice.

Lilly threw back the covers, “Mommy, everything outside our room was gone and I was so scared.” Lilly tried to explain through the tears as she looked past her mother and out of her bedroom door to the quite normal looking hallway outside.

“It was just a bad dream, you’re fine now.” her mother cooed into her ear.

“Get back in bed.” their father told Jacob, before he glanced back into the hallway and thought to himself; the last time I heard of something like this, I was just a boy and wandered into the back of a wardrobe.
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written for: The Speakeasy #143
photo by: muttermeem
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Shadow Tower

Big Ben UK

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The clock tower at the heart of the city had not always been a clock tower.  Long before it was a tourist attraction,  it was the last place on Earth that anyone would willingly go; and long before the clocks were installed, the four walls of the chamber at the top of Shadow Tower had one very small window each.

Shadow Tower was built during one of the darkest periods of the kingdoms past.  King Heckleford had ordered the tower built, and upon its completion he locked away his unfaithful queen and her secret lover, they were never seen again.  The tower would go on to be used by many kings, as an unspeakable way of dealing with many problems.

Shadow Tower had become synonymous with death, until many hundreds of years later when revolution relegated the royal families to a much more pagent-like figure-head role.  During one remarkably brilliant renaissance the darkness of the tower’s past was debated, and there were more than ever that wanted to see the tower pulled down.  But fears of disturbing the evil that once took place within the stone walls kept such talk from going very far.

It seemed that the light, and goodness of the renaissance would be marred for the kingdom, until one exceptionally talented tinkerer appeared and offered to transform the tower.  No longer would it be Shadow Tower; it would be renamed The Timely Tower, the largest and most accurate clock tower in all the world.

It took the tinkerer seventeen years, eight months, three weeks, four days, and eleven hours to complete his work; and once done he left the kingdom forever, nearly blinded from the job, and his hands so struck with arthritis his fingers were permanently curled.

* * *

When Brent broke the news that he would have to work on New Year’s Eve, Kira was none to happy, but when he reminded her that he had keys to everything in the museum, including the clock tower, her mood improved.

“No one gets to see the clock tower like this.” Brent told her as he slid an old iron key into a lock that had not been opened in decades.

“Do you think it’s really haunted?” Kira’s voice betrayed the fear that she was trying hard to hide.

“No, those are just old stories….I’ve never seen anything, and I’m here five nights a week.”

They made their way to the room at the very top, it was full of gears and pulleys, clicking and twirling away.  In the center of the room sat a table made of solid iron; it was cylindrical and perfectly smooth; it contained no handles, buttons, or switches.

Kira sat on top of the table, “Come here and kiss me, it’s almost midnight.”  Brent was more than happy to oblige.

“Mhmm, I’m getting hot.” Kira said, as she ended the lustful embrace.

“I bet you are.” he replied full of swagger.

“No, I mean I’m really getting hot.” and she slid off the iron table just as the clock tower struck the first chime of midnight.

The large iron table began to give off a faint eerie glow.  With the second chime the light that was being emitted became more defined, it was coming from the smallest of openings that encircled the top of the table.  The third, fourth, and fifth bells of midnight rung out as the two lovers watched in awe.

“It’s a lid.” Kira knelt before the table and reached out tentatively.

“What are you doing?”

“What do you think, I want to know what’s inside.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Don’t be such a chicken.” she mocked.

The ninth, tenth, and eleventh bells rang out.

Just as the twelfth bell was rung, announcing the arrival of the new year, Kira lifted the lid.  As soon as she had every movement of the clock came to a grinding halt, and the light that flashed out from the container blinded her and Brent, and sent them reeling.  The room at the top of the tower was filled with shrieks of terror, and then everything was deathly still and quiet.

As Brent and Kira reopened their eyes, huddled together in the nearly complete darkness, the only light that remained came from the underside of the still open lid, from the words that were inscribed in scrolling letters upon it, and that were now glowing, ‘There Is Only Peace and Rest Inside, The Outside World Holds Nothing but Destruction’.

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written for: The Speakeasy #142
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