VIEW LEADERBOARD

Kickbox Caramel - Chapter 1

Kickbox Caramel - Chapter 1

Carly Singh runs a security firm. Her brothers provide the muscle, and she charms the clients. It's a strictly discreet operation- art galleries, garden parties- nothing too confrontational. But a small clash with London low-life flares into a race-hate vendetta. Now it's her biggest case, and she's the one she has to protect.

1

Crime / Suspense / Mystery / Thriller


author-small

Marco Ocram (Australia)


CHAPTER ONE.

I’m meeting a potential client at a west London pub. The bar is heaving, even just after seven. I have to thread through the revellers to find the quieter room at the back where he said he's waiting. That must be him…

“Simon?”

He looks up with the look clients usually have when they meet me for the first time. My photo’s on our website, but they still can’t believe that the head of a security firm really is in her twenties, really is so feminine-looking, and really is Indian. Or so they think. I’m half Pakistani and half Dutch, but I don’t make a point of telling them.

“Hi.” He stands as I approach smiling, and offers his limpish dampish handshake. He looks in his fifties, rumpled clothes, slight, unfit, on the Bohemian side of middle class- more-or-less as I expect the owner of a gallery might look, except he’d sounded younger on the phone.“Can I get you a drink?”

I decline politely, and we exchange the usual pleasantries. No, not his regular pub- just seemed a good landmark for meeting. Yes, very crowded. Yes, pretty boisterous. And so on. Then we talk about the job.

“Have long have you had the gallery?” I ask.

“About ten years, although it’s my wife’s really. She owns it but I run it. She’s not well.”

I give a little smile of sympathy but don’t ask why the wife’s not well. None of my business.

“And what’s the event you want us to support?”

“It’s a viewing. Nothing special, but last time some people crashed in for the free drinks and it all got unpleasant. We had a few things broken, and the insurance company said we needed to get some security if we do anything like it again.”

I nod along to his explanation. Just our sort of job. Nothing too heavy. No need for the crew-cut and tattoo brigade. Smart, low-key, polite and unobtrusive presence, only to intrude if trouble threatens. Just our sort of job.

“How many people are you expecting?”

“It’s hard to say. The artist is Teddy Palmer and he’s got quite a following. We sent out about three hundred invitations. A lot of them won’t turn up, but a lot of them might bring other people, so, you know, it’s hard to say. The main problem is we’ve no control over when they turn up. If a lot do at the same time it can get a bit frantic.”

“I’ll need to look at the gallery, and then I can tell you how many of my people I’d need.”

By people I meant brothers, mainly. The business had been my dad’s, and when he died I took over. The little sister, but the bossy outgoing one. The one that had always pushed the boys round, even though they were twice her size. Pakistani father, and Dutch mother. Big strapping boys.

“Fine. Yes, that’s fine,” says Simon. “Do you have a certificate?”

He meant the official ID that proves I’m legit. His insurers would have asked for that. Mine was in the car. I say I’ll fetch it, smiling as I leave him. Won’t be a minute.

I have to get back through the crowd near the bar. Some men move to let me through, some don’t. Just ahead there’s a circle, my age or younger, of mainly girls, plainly drunk. There’s a sudden commotion and one girl steps backwards into me. The bump spills her drink all down her dress. She turns, not sure which is the worse sight, me or the long wet stain on her party frock.

“You stupid Paki bitch!”

She’s about my height, but hefty. Frizzed hair. Rage and too much make-up distort her face. She swings for me but misses. Without thinking, I push her swinging arm, adding to the momentum of her turn. I don’t even have to trip her, as she corkscrews to the floor all by herself, landing in the pool of the rest of her drink. As her outraged mates help her up I move sideways round them, palms showing upwards in the universal sign for not wanting trouble. Something we got from the apes, no doubt, so should be clear enough to these yobs.

On the street I blip open the car to get my ID. I’m shaken. Mustn’t let it show, either to them or the gallery man. Shock’s not a reassuring sign to a client looking for security services.

Back by the bar the would-be slugger is in a chair. Her friends fuss over her wet dress with tissues. They unite in hostile look as I pass, and someone says something I didn’t quite catch about Pakis. It’s funny how they think you’re Indian unless they’re insulting you.

I show gallery man the ID. A plastic card with my photo, name, reference number, and expiry date. The card’s chipped, and the chip holds my fingerprints, but he doesn’t know that. He writes my name- Carlijn Singh- and the reference number together in a little book.

“Lovely. That all looks fine.” He hands back the card. “When would you like to see the gallery? We don’t open it much but I can be there to let you in if …”

He runs out of words, clearly out of his comfort zone, so I give him my very best smile, check dates on my phone, and we agree a rendezvous. Then it’s time to go.

“That’s brilliant,” I say, somewhat overstating things, as we make our way out. “Can I give you a lift anywhere?”

“If it’s not out of your way, the Tube would be great.”

“Sure. The car’s just over there.”

But even as I point I see something’s wrong. The lights on the driver’s side are smashed, a frost of glass on the tarmac. When we get closer it’s worse- the wing and doors are horribly dented.

“Oh dear,” says gallery man, as we stare at the damage.

Behind me there’s laughter. I turn and the drunken crowd are there by the door of the pub, all hoots and whistles. Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit. My temper’s boiling, and I feel myself flush. My heart is suddenly thumping. Bastards.

“Don’t worry about the lift,” says gallery man. “You need to sort this out. I can walk, it’s OK.”

I take a long breath, but my voice still comes out strained. “Sorry. I’ve no idea how that’s happened.” Even as I say the words they sound stupid. I’m trying to be too composed, as if a car getting kicked-in is an everyday thing, like a loose shoe-lace. The truth is I feel humiliated, and don’t know how to react.

“I’ll see you Tuesday.”

We shake hands and he walks off after another quick look at the damage. It’s a bad advert- security firm can’t protect its own car on busy London street. I get in the car and stare at the yobs and think. I can’t tackle them myself, but I’m absolutely not just leaving it. Time to call big brothers. I try Sepp first. His phone goes to voicemail. I don’t leave a message. I call Tam. He answers.

“Hi Carly.”

“Where are you?”

“Home. What’s up?”

I tell him what’s up, and he doesn’t sound happy. He’s twenty minutes away. If he can’t find all the bro’s he’ll bring some friends.

I watch the yobs still drinking and animated around the door to the pub, maybe sixty metres away. They’re enjoying their little joke- looking my way and laughing.

I think.

There’s absolutely no way I’m going to let them get away with this. Absolutely no way. But I need to think. With back-up I can confront them, but then what? They’ll deny it. I won’t have proof. Open reprisals are out – satisfying, maybe, but could lose the licence. If they get away with this they’ll do something like it again, possibly to someone more vulnerable than me. In fact, definitely to someone more vulnerable than me- I’m not feeling vulnerable any more, not with the boys on the way.

I get out of the car and look more closely at what they’ve done, conscious that they’re still watching me. Where the rear door has been kicked in there’s a partial tread print in the dust- a complex and distinctive pattern. I snap it with my phone, and it shows clearly enough in the pictures.

A few minutes later they’re here. Tam, Pauly, and three of our associates- freelancers we sub-contract for bigger events. They’re all tall and heavy and serious looking. Five generous helpings of capable muscle. As the boys start asking what happened and looking at the damage, the yobs see trouble and retreat into the pub. I’ve had enough time to think, and I know how I’m going to play it. I brief the boys. It’s time for a talk with my friends at the bar.


Competition: The Pen Factor 2016, Round 1

SEE MORE LIKE THIS



Read Reviews

Review 1:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • The grammar, typography, sentence structure and punctuation would benefit from a further round of editing to avoid distracting from the quality of the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Characterization
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing!
Character conflict
  • The reader’s experience of the story is heightened when the characters’ goals, conflicts and purpose are clear. Perhaps giving this aspect of the story further attention could be worthwhile.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a difficult balancing act. Are you sure all the material is relevant to the plot, setting and atmosphere? Make sure each sentence makes sense to the reader, and each paragraph moves their experience forward.
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. Your story makes compelling reading.
Technique and tight writing
  • The writing was tight and economical and each word had purpose. This enabled the plot to unravel clearly. Your writing exhibits technical proficiency.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Style and originality
  • I loved your fresh approach. Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose requires both skill and practice.
Atmosphere and description
  • Your story was a feast for the senses. The atmosphere wrapped itself around me and transported me onto the page alongside your characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The scene needs to be vivid and realistic in order to hold the reader’s attention. Being concise and plausible at the same time is tricky. Giving this further attention could perhaps be worthwhile.
Opening line and hook
  • Great books, nowadays, start with a powerful opening and compelling hook in order to keep the reader engaged. Have you baited the reader enough?
General comments from your fellow writer 1:
I love your main character! She's very well developed--nicely done.

Review 2:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Characterization
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing!
Character conflict
  • Your characters drew me into their world from the very beginning. Their goals, conflicts and purpose were clearly introduced and I wanted to find out more about them.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a challenging balancing act. The story had a clear and coherent progression with a structured plot.
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. Your story makes compelling reading.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The setting was realistic and vivid. The characters’ mood and emotions were conveyed successfully through the believable setting.
Opening line and hook
  • Your strong opening and compelling hook was a promise of wonderful things to come!
General comments from your fellow writer 2:
Hi. A good bit of writing. A few small issues. "limpish, dampish" - too much, 'dampish' is fine. Typo - "How long have you had the gallery?" - not - "Have long..." Not sure you need to repeat "Just our sort of job." Thats about it technically... please don't call your brothers. I enjoyed reading your piece. Evocative pub and street scenes and good characterization. I like a good hard-boiled romp and this looks like it's going to deliver. I want to see those skanky racists get what's coming to them, not to mention the possibility of a bit of bovver at the gallery. Keep up the great writing.