FF Story Winner: When I Came To, This Kid Was Shaking Me by Caith

I have been a member of the Fantasy Faction forum for getting on for five years now and one of the best things about the community has been the writing contest – it’s only 1500 words so come give it a goContest winners were posted on the website but that hasn’t happened for a while, so I’ve been asked to fill in. It’s an honour to do so, and here is another winner.

The theme for the competition when this story won was “Track Marks (image below)” and the story is “When I Came To, This Kid Was Shaking Me” by Caith

“I’m gonna keeps ya. I found ya, so I gets ta keeps ya,” the kid said.

“You can’t keep me,” I managed to get out.  “I’m a person.”

“You’re a dog. Ya can keeps found dogs.”

Where I’m from, the kid would be described as an urchin. She would probably have a cheery smile and indulge in brave but reckless acts of minor larceny. Here in downtown Los Angeles, on the edge of Mission Junction railyard, she looked like just more orphan gutter trash.

“I’m not a dog,” I said.

“You looks like a dog.”

I squeezed my eyes shut, as I rubbed at them. I had a blinding headache going. My tail hurt from laying on it the wrong way. My snout hurt from breaking my fall. “I’m a wolf.”

“Wolf’s a kind of dog.” She gave me a sly look. “Means I gets ta keep ya. Ya gets ta keep stray dogs. Whatcha doing laid there on the railroad track anyways?”

“I’m a private investigator. Its hard work. Sometimes I need to lay down to think about things.” Actually, somebody had clocked me from behind. Left me on the tracks. But I wasn’t going to tell her that. I’ve not got much but I’ve got my pride.

She gave me a calculating look. “I don’t believes ya.” The calculating look turned speculative. “Say, I knows you. You’re that storybook guy from the papers. I heard about you.” As she said it, she hunkered down beside me. “Tell me a story.”

This day just got better and better. Luckily I know how cheery urchins work. Give them what they want and they skip off to steals apples. Or die horribly. Like I could care right now. “Once upon a time, there was a dumb-ass girl. The big, bad wolf ate her all up because she was annoying. Along with being a dumb-ass. The end.”

“You’re mean,” she said, her bottom lip stuck out in a pout. “You’re a mean dog.”

“I told you, I’m a wolf,” I said, with as much patience as I could muster. Which wasn’t much.

She pouted some more. You got to practice plenty to get that good at something.  “You’re still a big, old meanie.” A thought seemed to drift into her head. Or at least, she got this vacant look. “Say, what’s the time, Mr Wolf?”

I did a double take but, in all seriousness, she looked serious. I checked my wrist watch. “Just past midnight.”

She nodded. “Twelve oh two to San Fran comes through here in … just about … now.”

The rails started to shake under me. I can move fast when I want to. Like when  several hundred tons of locomotive is about to  turn me into dog meat. “Thanks kid,” I said, as the train hurtled past, showering us with soot. “Now I’ve got work to do.”  I made a vague gesture at the rail yard, as if that would explain the unfathomed depth of shit I was in. Then I made a fatal mistake. Never ask an urchin their name. “What’s your name, kid?” I asked.

Her eyes lit up. “Adi,” she said. “And I’m coming witcha. So I don’t lose ya. We’re pals now, right?”

What’s a wolf to do?

So maybe I should explain. You can mull over this while I’m stumbling about on these train tracks. I left fairyland and came to Los Angeles on the fifth of December 1933. Look, I had to. After the thing with the pigs? And then the grandma and her scheming grandkid? All lies, I might add.

 I’ve got a nose for finding things, so I became a detective. You can find me at my office in China Town. ‘BB Wolf – Private Investigations’ is what’s painted on the door.  Yeah, I did pick the right day to arrive. I mean, who’d be interested in a six foot tall talking wolf on the day Prohibition ended?

So what’s with the railroad tracks, you ask. Well, there’s these two crazy Greeks,  Little Nicky Athens and Big Nicky Crete. Between them, they own most of the action  in the down town area. Only Little Nicky wants to be Big Nicky, which, naturally, Big Nicky is none too pleased about. So they have a war and now Big Nicky has kidnapped Little Nicky’s virgin daughter and since I owe money to my bookie, who owes money to  Little Nicky … I think you get the picture.

Anyway, my nose got me as far as the Mission City rail yard. I know the daughter’s stashed in here somewhere. But the trail’s gone cold and I don’t know my way around the yard. If only there was a handy someone who did.

“You’re not going in there, are ya?” Adi said. She had a cute, urchin frown on.

“What’s wrong with going in the rail yard?” I said back.

“That’s where The Bull lives. He’s the yard boss. He’s a bigger meanie than even you.” Her frown deepened. “Before you were my pal, I mean. He finds you in there, he’ll beat you up bad and leave ya to get smooshed up on the tracks.”

“I think we already met,” I said.

“He was just warning ya that time,” Adi said with fierce conviction.

“He’s a charmer,” I said. “Say,” I went on, friendly like. “You know your way around the yard at all?”

“Uh-huh,” Adi said, wary like.

“You’d like to help out a pal, wouldn’t you?”

“Jeez, its a maze in here,” I whispered. We were creeping down the narrow space between two rows of boxcars, ducking under their couplings to get into another narrow lane made by looming boxcars, that looked pretty much the same as the last. Gradually, I hoped,  working our way towards the middle of the yard. Where, I fervently hoped,  Adi swore there was an old office building. Where, I prayed, Little Nicky’s daughter was. 
Only we didn’t seem to be getting there. “Are you lost?” I hissed at Adi.

“Course I ain’t,” she hissed back. “I’m right here with you, ain’t I?” 

I was about to make a biting critique of her logic when she silenced me with a look. The cheery urchin was gone. She looked like the hunted. Or maybe the hunter. To be honest, she looked a bit scary.

I froze beside her, because I caught his scent before I heard him. He smelt of coal dust and sweat and old blood. Then I heard. Heavy footfalls crunching the cinders between the tracks, a slow and purposeful tread, with the counter-point rap of a billy club on the boxcar’s sides, tock-tock-tock. Now his breathing, heavy and thick. Now his voice, a Southern drawl. “You all come out now, I’ll go easy on ya.” 

Adi shook her head. Risked whispering  to me. “Its the Bull. He’s fishing for us.”

We crouched down, deadly still, hiding behind the meagre shield of an iron wheel, as those footfalls got closer and closer. Just on the other side of the boxcar from us now. I snatched a quick look, saw boots that would put Karloff’s Frankenstein to shame, grinding the cinders to dust, as he turned this way and that. A snort and one boot scuffing at the ground. If he bent down for a look under, he would have us.

Then he was moving away and Adi took my paw in her hand and led me in the opposite direction and I figured she had been circling us around. Trying to find the Bull. So we knew where he was and avoid him. Smart kid.
We set off again and she took me straight to the centre of the yard, arrowing through the labyrinth of wagons and flat bed trucks with sure and certain speed, to a weed strewn open lot where a building of blackened brick stood. On it, a weathered sign hung askew, “Deedleluss and Son, Engineering Co” it proclaimed.

Was Little Nicky’s virgin daughter in it? Yes she was.

Was the Bull waiting for us, after we found her and got back outside? That too.

Was he as big as I’ve made out? Bigger. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, he was fucking huge.

He roared, put his head down and charged at us. I pushed Adi one way, grabbed Nicky’s daughter and went the other. I figured he would come after me, so I pushed Nicky’s daughter the other way again, so we were split three ways. Only, the Bull was going after Adi.

Adi was fast, I’ll give her that. But the Bull, for all his size, was faster. But still, by the time he caught her and dealt with her, I’d be long gone with the main prize. I watched their retreating backs and all that debt I had, all those markers I owed, retreating with them. Adi was just some gutter trash orphan who’d never be missed. A cheery urchin. Dying horribly.

I can run some. I’ve got more puff than most folks. Still, it was close. But just  before the Bull clapped one big mitt on Adi, I leapt and landed on his back. He just kept right on going, so I reached round and poked him in the eye. Nobody said this had to be a fair fight, did they?

Adi veered away, the Bull hollered like … well, like a bull bull, tripped over a rail, went sprawling forward, I flew off the back of him, see a locomotive rushing towards me, see the ground, see nothing.

When I came to, this kid was shaking me, she’s grinning fit to bust. “Ya gotta lets me keeps ya now,” she said with delight.

So that was it. End of a night’s work for your old pal, BB Wolf. End of story.

What? Oh, now you want all the details? Come on, you know this stuff already. Okay, Little Nicky gets his virgin daughter back, I get all my debts cleared and he gives me fifty bucks. They bury the Bull in three bits. Coffins don’t come that big, but at least he was pre-sliced. Moral of the story? Don’t lay down on train tracks, unless there’s somebody there to pick you up.

And the cheery urchin. Yeah, we’re still pals. I gave her the fifty bucks. Don’t tell anyone. And we all lived happily every after. Actually, we didn’t, but that’s another story.

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