The Family Business

Longlisted for Australian Writers’ Centre July 2019 Furious Fiction competition


 

Based on a true story – sort of…

Harry pressed his nose to the glass and squinted through the window as the train pulled away. “That’s my bag,” he said, turning to face the other passengers. “My bag got left on the platform!”

They regarded him with vague disdain; the loud American pointing wildly and yelling in English.

 

He rushed down the aisle towards the doors and attempted to pry them apart. They didn’t shift. Not an inch. Not even one.

“They won’t open when the train is moving?” a woman said from behind him.

He spun around. “My bag. It’s on the platform!”

“You can get off at the next stop and return for it.”

“But everything is in that bag. My clothes, my computer, my,” his shoulders sagged. “My passport. Dammit! I put my passport in my jacket, then shoved my jacket in my bag so I wouldn’t have to lug it around!”

“That was stupid,” the woman said, and shrugged as she walked away.

 

Harry raced back to his seat. “What should I do. What should I do?” he muttered to himself.

“Press the emergency button?” a man beside him said.

Harry looked at the guy with the brilliant idea. “Is that allowed?”

“Is it an emergency?”

“Yes.”

“Then, I guess it’s allowed.”

 

He dashed back through the carriage. Everyone was watching him; the loud American with sweat dripping down his neck. The emergency button was covered in glass, so he pulled his shirt sleeve over his knuckles and punched as hard as he could, slamming his fist through the cover, into the button. The train jolted to a violent stop, propelling Harry into the wall.

 

Harry woke up to someone slapping his face.

“Put this on your hand,” the man said.

A frozen gel pack dropped into Harry’s lap. He held the cold compress to his bloodied knuckles. “What happened?” he said, “Did I stop the train or something?”

“No sir, you stopped ALL the trains.”

Harry looked up, still slightly groggy. “I did what?” he said, and peered around the man in front of him. Fifty angry faces were staring back at him; their luggage spilled across the floor.

“When you stop one train in Europe sir, you stop ALL the trains.”

“I stopped all the trains?” Harry said.

“In Europe,” the man repeated, “Which is a 575€ fine.” He handed Harry a slip of paper and helped him to his feet.

 

Harry got off at the next station, pulled his phone from his pocket and dialled.

“It’s true Bobby,” he said. “Every train in Europe. Just one button. Yep, stop ‘em all in the right place, and they’re easy pickins.” He hung up and went to the ticket booth, “I gotta go back for my bag,” he said to the woman at the counter. “Left it behind like an idiot.” he flashed her a smile.

Soon the front pages would belong to Bobby and Harry. It was a train robbery like the world had never seen. Across the whole of Europe. The press would dub the duo a modern day Butch and Sundance.

If only everyone knew the truth to that name.

Bobby and Harry’s great-great uncles would have been so proud…

 

© Amy Hutton 2019

Anaphylaxis

The dining room was laid out perfectly. The knives and forks evenly spaced, the elegant plates emerald green with a splash of red around the edges, the napkins folded neatly in the glasses. A giant bowl of salad sat in the middle of the table like the star of the show, a small pot of oily dressing beside it. By the window was a vase of bright yellow daisies, their petals turning joyfully towards the sun. Everywhere was colour, echoing the brightness of the day.

When the man arrived, he happily looked around, oblivious to the trap that had been laid. He was sweating of course and mopped his brow with a handkerchief. His thin, black hair plastered around the sides of his puffy face. He smiled and took the chair opposite mine as he thanked me for the kind invitation. I smiled back, making sure he felt welcome. As he sat, I noticed a button was missing from his shirt. I could glimpse his hairy gut oozing through the gap in the thin, cheap material. I could see the stains under his armpits. I shuddered as I remembered his stench.

Outside the sky was clear and the kind of deep blue that accompanies a steamy day. The air was heavy with the scent of jasmine and the promise of the afternoon offered no relief from the oppressive heat of the summer sun. People spoke of the cool change that must be coming, as cicadas chirped merrily – their ever-present drone laying the background to season.

I could hear the family next door laughing, living their normal, happy lives, as the children ran about the lawn, their giggles floating towards me on the warm breeze. How I envied them in that moment. How I envied their innocence.

At first it sounded like he was clearing his throat; a small noise that no-one noticed but me. I calmly placed another fork full of food in my mouth. He reached for his glass as he began to cough violently. He tried to drink, but the water spilled out over his lips, splashing down his shirt and on to his trousers. As he gasped and clawed at his throat, people rushed to his side, loosening his tie, and slapping his back. His face changed colour like a confused chameleon. First white, then pink, then red, now purple. I was waiting for blue.

He was on the floor now, his eyes bulging and bloodshot, his doughy face finally the colour I’d been waiting for. Someone with a phone was shouting, asking if the man had any allergies. I feigned panic, and in a fabricated display of terror worthy of an Oscar, I shook my head “no,” while thinking, peanuts, he’s allergic to peanuts.

The ambulance was coming now, I could hear its siren’s song. But it would be too late.

As I took a sip of my wine and quietly enjoyed the chaos swirling around me, I thought about how peanut oil made such an excellent addition to salad dressing.

© Amy Hutton 2019

Scammed: A Supernatural Fan Fiction

Dean Winchester drummed his fingers impatiently on the steering wheel of his beloved Impala, his right hand pressing his phone to his ear. The heat radiating across his cheek.

“Come on,” he said, moving the phone in front of his face to glare at it.

The Impala door opened with a groan, and his brother, Sam, folded himself in, sliding onto his seat and tucking his long legs under the dash. He was nursing a tray with two large coffees and one sticky looking pastry.

“Still on hold?” Sam said, handing Dean a cardboard cup.

“With the worst freakin’ music ever!” Dean grumbled.

He turned his phone towards his brother and hit the speaker button. A crackling, muzak version of Afternoon Delight filled the car.

“Geesh,” Sam said, with a grimace.

Dean hit the speaker button again, silencing the cacophony of electronic notes. He put his phone back to his ear and grabbed the pastry from the tray on Sam’s lap, shoving a large bite of it into his mouth.

“Mm sthick ov wating,” Dean said, through a mouthful of food. “Ib beem ober thirby munmits”

Sam stared at him. “Dude, I didn’t understand a word you just said.”

Dean took a loud slurp of coffee and wiped his face along his sleeve.

“I said, I’m sick of waiting, it’s been over thirty minutes!”

“So, hang up,” Sam said with a shrug.

“And lose my place in the queue? No way.”

Dean angrily packed his mouth with the rest of the sugary treat at the exact moment a customer service member picked up his call. Quickly taking a gulp of coffee, he attempted to choke down the remnants of pastry while motioning wildly for Sam to hold his cup.

“Yes. Hello,” Dean spluttered into the phone, as he struggled to swallow his breakfast. “I want to check my credit card ……… Because I just went to use it, and it got rejected!”

He turned to Sam and rolled his eyes with exaggerated exasperation.

“What. Oh yeah. Hang on.” Dean scrambled for his wallet, lifting his butt to extract it from his back pocket. Placing the wallet on his knee, he held it steady with an elbow while he pulled out his MasterCard. “Okay. It’s 5555 6466 8132 0000 ……… Vincent Cooper. 12 September 1979,” he said, then waited silently.

Sam watched his brother, eyebrows raised, an amused swirl of lines clustering in the middle of his forehead.

“My last transaction?” Dean carried on. “Um.” He glanced sideways at Sam. “It was an online purchase ……… You need me to confirm the purchase? But why? Can’t you see the purchase? ……… Oh. Right.”

He brought the phone closer to his face, cupping his hand over the mouthpiece and twisting inwards towards the window beside him.

“Anime Heaven,” he whispered into the device.

After a beat of silence, Dean closed his eyes and repeated himself, this time in his normal voice.

“ANIME HEAVEN.”

Sam let out a snicker followed closely by an “ow!” as his brother expertly reached across and thumped him without even looking.

“Yeah, that’s been the only purchase,” Dean mumbled. “The card was brand new ……… No. I definitely didn’t order forty pair of Nikes.” He turned to Sam, “Son of a bitch,” he said. “I knew it. Someone scammed my card!”

Before Sam could respond, Dean held up a silencing finger.

“A-ha. Okay,” he continued down phone. “Yup, absolutely, cancel it. That’ll screw up the fitness freaks.” Dean gave Sam a triumphant thumbs up. “And just to clarify, I’m not responsible for that money, right? …… Awesome. Yeah, okay, no that’s it. Thanks.”

He ended the call and turned to face Sam.

“Can you believe it. Freakin’ credit card fraud! Scammers. What ass-wipes. At least we don’t have to pay for it.”

Sam gapped at his brother.

“Dean, we never have to pay for it.”

“What? Yeah, well. That’s not the point.”

“That card was a scam. Vincent. Cooper. We live on credit card fraud!”

“Not the same.”

“Technically it is.”

“But we’re not stealing from anyone.”

“Technically we are.”

“Banks don’t count.”

“Technically they do.”

Dean glowered at Sam, before turning away and starting the car. She roared to life with a satisfying thrum.

“Anime Heaven, Dean?” Sam said with a smirk.

“Shut-up.”

“Really?”

“It’s an art form!”

The noise of screeching tyres mixed with Sam’s raucous laughter, as Dean floored the gas.

-FIN-

    © Amy Hutton 2019
    Story by Amy Hutton based on characters created by Eric Kripke.
    Dedicated to all the Supernatural fans who had their credit cards
    scammed this past week in the Great SPN Credit Card Apocalypse. 
    More Supernatural Fan fiction by Amy can be found here

The Question

Jessie sat in the lounge-room, a glow from the streetlight sneaking through the curtains. She watched the door, anxiously chewing her nails, waiting for James to come home. She wanted to ask him something, something she knew he wouldn’t like. She’d rehearsed the words in her mind, and though they sounded perfectly logical to her, she knew he’d still say no. There was no way James would let her date a cop.

James was Jessie’s older brother, by a whole four minutes, and he never let her forget it. He was always there, watching over her, and though she never doubted his love, she wished, just once, he’d let her make her own decisions. She knew dating a cop could be dangerous for them, but their parent’s death was ancient history. Why would they be discovered now?

 

Jessie heard the key in the lock and watched silently as James stepped into the hall, kicking off his greasy boots. She sat up a little straighter in her chair, swallowing hard as he flicked on the light. He jumped out of his skin when he saw her.

“What the hell Jessie! Why are you in the dark?”

He was obviously tired. Jessie wished she’d picked her moment more carefully.

“I’m waiting for you. I, um, want to ask you something,” she said, wringing her hands in her lap.

“Yeah, well, it can wait. I wanna take a shower.”

“Can you shower in a minute?” she asked. “I won’t take long.”

“I said it can wait!”

Jessie winced. “Okay, sure,” she said, forcing a smile. “You go shower.”

She closed her eyes and listened as James stomped up the stairs.

 

“There’s no way I’m allowing you to go out with that guy, Jess, he’s a cop, are you stupid?”

James was standing in Jessie’s bedroom, towering over her, making her feel even smaller than she was.

“I’m not stupid, James, please don’t say that,” she tried to sound assertive. “How will he find out about mum and dad, no-one else has, besides the case was closed years ago!”

She looked at her twin brother, her fists balled tightly by her sides. She wanted to scream at him, tell him she was 24, that he couldn’t control her anymore. She wanted to hit him, punch him until she forced him to say yes, but she knew it wasn’t worth it, his anger was too much for her to bear.

 

Jessie followed James onto the landing, trying to reason with him.

“He’s known me for nearly a year, James, don’t you think if he was secretly investigating us, we’d know by now? He just wants to take me to dinner. I’m 24, I should be able to go on a date!” She realised her voice was raised, but she didn’t care, she was done with this bullshit.

“You’re not seeing him and that’s it!” James literally stamped his foot.

They stood on the landing, a long, unspoken resentment rolling between them.

“So, is it just him? Or is it anyone?”Jessie asked calmly.

“What?” James said.

“Is it that you don’t want me to date a cop or is it that you don’t want me to date anyone?” She glared at him, challenging. “You can’t risk it can you, because I might leave, and who would you be then? Who are you if you’re not controlling me? You’re terrified that if I meet someone, I’ll finally see how pathetic you are! You need me!”

James flew forward, his face so close to hers she could feel the heat of his breath.

“I don’t need you,” he growled. “You’ve done nothing but hold me back my entire life. Protecting you, watching you, trapped in this shitty existence, all because of you! My psychopath sister! Maybe I should leave you, see how far you get.”

“But who other than me, would love a loser like you?” Jessie practically hissed.

James punched the wall by her head, he was fuming, but she no longer cared, it was time to own her life.

“Maybe I should tell your Officer Becket the truth about you,” James continued, through gritted teeth. “Or better still, take a leaf out of your book and just get rid of him completely.” He sneered down at her.

That was it. Jessie felt something explode inside. “You can’t control me anymore,” she screamed as her hands shot forward, hitting James with all her strength.

He stumbled backwards, realisation frozen on his face.

 

Jessie sat on the footpath, a sense of calm filling the space where rage just lived. She could hear the sirens. She knew what she was going to say, and she knew they’d believe her. She found James at the bottom of the stairs when she got home. A tragedy. She was pretty sure she could fake some tears, she’d faked them before. As she sat waiting for the ambulance, for the first time in her life she felt truly alone. But it wasn’t a sad feeling, it was exhilarating. After 24 years of sharing every emotion, every experience, now she could finally have something for herself. She thought about James’ body, broken on the floor and a rush of pleasure coursed through her. She’d forgotten what it felt like to kill, how liberating it was. James had tried to control her, but now she was free, now she could do whatever she wanted.

© Amy Hutton 2019

Ten Second Hero

Crystal still couldn’t believe she was there, she still couldn’t believe she was doing it. Any minute now she was going to meet her favourite actor, she was going to say hello to him, maybe even touch him.

Her stomach felt like it had a flock of butterflies flapping around inside it and she was acutely aware that she was trembling. Her palms may even be sweating. She wiped them down the front of her dress just in case. She had wanted to come to one of these fan conventions forever, but she never seemed to be able to work up the nerve, her anxiety always getting in the way. And yet somehow here she was, waiting in line to take a photo with a guy she’d been in love with for years! What was she even thinking?

The energy in the room was electric, happiness bouncing off the walls. Music was playing, people were laughing, everyone was excited to be there. As Crystal made her way forward in the queue, she suddenly realised she could see him. There he was, standing in front of a back drop, looking more beautiful than she ever thought possible. It was surreal. Like her wildest dream.

A wave of panic gripped her, she was not emotionally prepared for this! Not even a little! What if she couldn’t do it? What if she couldn’t talk? Or worse, what if she fainted? She felt light headed just thinking about it. As she started to sway, a girl behind her grabbed her shoulder.

“Are you okay?” the girl asked. “Do you need to sit down?”

Crystal looked around, concerned faces staring in her direction. Please don’t let this be how it ends, she thought, with her in a pile on the floor, not when she’d come this far. She took in a steadying breath, determined not to humiliate herself. Determined not to miss this chance.

“Just a bit nervous,” she said with a shaky smile.

The girl smiled back understandingly, and then nodded towards the beginning of the line.

Crystal was next.

He turned as she stepped into the photo area, smiling warmly down at her. He was taller than she thought.

“Hi,” he said. “What are we doing today?”

She willed herself to speak, “Ah ah…”

He leant in closer so he could hear her.

“A hhhhhhhuuuu…,” she stumbled, trying her best to get out the word, just one word. She could feel her face starting to burn. “Aaaa..aaaaaa…A HUG?” she blurted so loud he actually started.

“You got it,” he said, gently guiding her into his arms. She bravely rested her head against the warmth of his broad chest.

As Crystal floated from the room, the noise of the fans and the music behind her, all she could hear was her heart singing. She did it. SHE DID IT! And it was the greatest ten seconds of her life.

© Amy Hutton 2019