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Another short scene, written in that same fiction class almost two years ago. The assignment was to show an antagonistic character, then transition to another character and show the first one through the viewpoint of the second one. Main character is Rafe.

Scars and Nicotine

The brick wall is rough against the denim of Rafe’s jacket – there’s a soft scratching sound every time he moves. The cold is making the scar tissue across his face and down the side of his neck tight. It aches, an irritating counterpoint to the tedium of standing watch on an evening that’s fast promising to become longer than it is wide.

He exhales, smoke streaming from his nostrils like smog from twin exhaust pipes, then grinds the stump of his cigarette into the dirty, reddish-brown blocks behind him before dropping it onto the cement under his feet. Even without the addition of the little cancer stick, his breath is still visible in the air in front of him. He wishes he’d had more warning before this deal came up, had at least had the time to stop in at his pad and grab a better coat.

Rafe huffs in frustration, lungs filling with the chilly air, then coughs quietly and runs one hand through his shaggy brown hair. He shifts his weight, crosses his arms, then uncrosses them again a few moments later. Tugs the pack out of his jacket pocket and raps it against his palm before shaking another cigarette out into his hand. The flame of his lighter is bright, a stark contrast to the darkness around him.

To Cass, waiting in silence two blocks up the street, Rafe’s annoyance is almost palpable, sensed in countless little mannerisms – the way the man is moving, the way he’s standing, the frequency of the lighter’s flare, the angle of Rafe’s head against the bricks, the rapidity of the taps when he pulls out his pack of cigarettes. They’ve been working together on-and-off for a couple of years now, and Cass likes to think he’s gotten to know the other man as well as anyone possibly could know someone as bitter and typically close-mouthed as Rafe Pacelli.

Cass sighs and settles back against the hood of the truck he’s leaning on. Rafe’s not a nice person by any stretch of the imagination. He is a ruthless killer, mercenary in the extreme, and doesn’t give a damn about anyone but himself – his only loyalty is to the money his various employers offer him, and even they can be outbid.

Two weeks ago, a transient got in the way while they were standing guard on another job almost exactly like this one, cocaine being exchanged in the warehouse behind them – it’s heroin tonight, but the same group dealing it. The bum must’ve been camping out in the warehouse for the couple of nights beforehand, what with the weather getting steadily colder, and he’d returned again that night. Cass would have told him to bug off, maybe scared him a bit if absolutely needed. Most street people had a pretty good instinct for danger, and would take off without much urging. Rafe hadn’t been so gentle – he’d told the guy to leave, once. When the poor bum had scoffed and muttered something incoherent, Rafe had slammed his forehead into a wall a couple times. Left blood and hair smeared across the rough bricks.

The dealers hadn’t been too happy, when they’d come out so see what all the noise was about. Hadn’t liked that they suddenly had a body on their hands – in general, the bodies of weather-beaten vagrants are far less profitable and far more troublesome than bales of coke. Rafe had sneered at their concern, his tone mocking and his words just verging on scorn, and said that disposal was part of what they were paying him for. Half an hour later he and Cass dumped the corpse in the river.

Cass sometimes wonders if Rafe isn’t disrespectful to the bosses on purpose; a way of impressing on them his lack of dependency on their patronage, or perhaps making certain they know for sure how much of a hard ass he is. Then again, maybe he really is that disgusted by them. It’s hard to tell.

It seems to most people – people who don’t know him, people other than Cass - that Rafe runs purely on cigarettes and cheap liquor. Cass knows differently, though. One night, after a long escort job that had gone without so much as a hitch, Cass had diffidently asked Rafe to join him at one of the local bars, fully expecting to be refused.

Rafe had stared at him for one interminable minute, his eyes narrowed unevenly, the right one bisected and rimmed by ragged scarring, then shrugged and thrown his cigarette onto the gravel under their feet, heel grinding down on it and extinguishing the last of its dying embers. “Sure. Why the hell not? Don’t have anything better to do now that this is over.”

Cass had been hard put to keep his surprise from showing, but in the end they’d found a seedy little joint and settled in at a table in the back. After the third pitcher, Rafe had started talking. Had told Cass, in halting, absent words, almost as if he were speaking to an empty room, stopping for a while then starting again without warning or explanation, about how he’d ended up doing the dirty work of even dirtier men. About joining the military, and getting caught by shrapnel from an explosion, and spending a long time in white rooms with sterilized walls and beeping equipment. About the government deciding that he wasn’t worth the money they were putting into his treatment, and kicking him out on the curb as soon as he was considered ‘medically stable.’

Cass likes to think he can hold his alcohol, but by the time the whole sordid story was over, he was drunker than shit and Rafe – who’d been matching him pint for pint – was looking a bit glassy, but moving fine. Rafe had helped him get back to his flat, then left him on the doorstep fumbling for his keys. Rafe had disappeared without a word. When Cass finally got the door open, Monica had been less than impressed with him. She’d made a bit of a fuss about him waking up the boys, coming home that late. In the end, he’d had to sleep on the couch, which turned out for the best after all – when morning came, he was closer to the bathroom. And the toilet.

Cass has spent a long time going over that night in his head, and he’s come to the conclusion that it wasn’t the alcohol talking. Seems to him that Rafe just wanted to open up to someone, even if only a little bit, and only for a little while.

They’ve not spoken of it since, but Cass has a grudging respect for the other man now. Likes to think he understands, just a bit, why Rafe is the way he is.

Doesn’t make him any less of a hard ass, though.

Date: 2009-12-25 05:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

Love the little asides, especially "on an evening that’s fast promising to become longer than it is wide."


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