For the Terribleminds Flash Fiction challenge, “Sub-Genre Mash-Up with a Twist“:
Work was hard to come by after the war. It could have been easier if I didn’t have a face like a mile of bad road. The rest of me was built better than a solid steel forklift, though, so I could at least work down by the docks. It wasn’t much, but it paid the bills. I was at least getting by until Grace went missing.
I knew it wasn’t ransom they were after. They wanted me to do some dirty work for them, ‘enforcing’ they called it, maybe some killing on the side. Guess a veteran looking the way I do is an appealing notion for a mobster unwilling to get blood on his hands. Either way, it didn’t matter to me. Answer was and always would be ‘no’.
So when they took Grace, I called Harry, the one other guy from our unit who made it home in one piece. Smart guy, started working for a company doing research something called ‘micro-electronics’, whatever that means. He had been working the radio for our lieutenant when we got shelled and the tunnel collapsed on him. I’ll never forget the look on his face when I pulled him out with one hand.
“They’re still highly experimental,” he told me. “Some of the components are rather delicate.”
“I promise I’ll pay you back if I break any of it.” The gloves were a little small for me, but I’d make do. When I made a fist, the vacuum tubes on the back of the hand lit up and crackled. “You know I’m good for it.”
“Just be careful, Frank. These are dangerous men.”
“Ain’t more dangerous than a guy looking for his girl.”
Don’t remember the real name of the guy who wouldn’t shut up about how great my new job would be. Giovanni Something-or-other. Whatever. I knew him as “Johnny Moneybags” and he liked to eat and be seen at this swank joint uptown. Sure enough, that night I found him there surrounded by dames with a tripe-digit bottle of wine on the table.
I can hit pretty hard, but with these gloves on and charged up, I put a me-shaped hole in the wall with just a couple punches. As folks ran screaming past me I made a mental note to tell Harry he did good.
“Well, hello, Frank. Glass of wine?”
“Nah. I’m a beer man.” I grabbed Johnny by his tux lapels and hauled him up. “Where’s the girl?”
“Dammit, Johnny, I hate repeating myself. Don’t make me do it.”
He sneered at me. “Why don’t you go ask her whore of a mother?”
That did it. Every word I said next, I punctuated with a punch in his smug little face. “Where. Is. The. Girl.”
He was bleeding out of his nose and mouth and his whole body was twitching as I held him up. Apparently getting shocked and pasted in the mush at the same time messes up your nervous system. Who knew?
“F-F-Fiftieth street and C-C-Cedar. S-S-Second Floor. She’s g-g-g-guarded.”
“You think that’s gonna stop me, palooka? Take a look in the mirror next time you wanna mess with someone’s girl. I’d break your neck if I didn’t have somewhere else to be. Enjoy your wine.”
I dropped him and walked out. Damn gloves barely fit in my pockets as I rounded the corner, putting distance between me and the sirens. Someone was going to have to pay big for that hole in the wall. Glad it wasn’t me.
Fiftieth and Cedar was a brownstone on a corner with a couple goons out front. So I found my way in the back and up to the second floor. I sent the guy outside the door flying through a window. Inside was a little girl’s room, complete with bright wallpaper and furniture and dolls, the works. She was fed okay, her blonde hair in pigtails, and when she saw me she ran up and hugged my leg.
“I promised your momma I’d take care of you,” I told her.
“Are we going away now?”
“Yep. Hop up on my shoulders so’s we can make with the getaway.”
She did. The goons out front moved to stop us but I shot them a look. Grace gave ’em a raspberry. That’s my girl.
We were waiting for the train when the last person I wanted to see ran up to meet me.
“Frank, what in the hell are you doing?”
“Taking Grace to California. Why, what’s your beef?”
“My ‘beef’ is that your name is all over the radio. You’re a wanted criminal.”
“Rescuing a little girl in trouble is a crime, Jimmy?”
“Dammit, Frank, you know she needs…”
“You shut your damn mouth about that little girl’s needs.” I was a good head taller than my brother, and I reminded him of that fact. Harry’s gloves were in my steamer trunk, and I was praying I wouldn’t need them. “We’ll get along just fine, may not be easy, but better we stick together and take the hard road than wait around here for another goomba to make a play for me.”
“You do this, Frank, and you’re on your own. I’m with the Bureau, now. They tell me to hunt you, I will.”
I grabbed him by his tie. “Jimmy, I hate repeating myself. Don’t make me.”
He glared at me. He got all of the looks in the family, but only a bit of my size. We’d scrapped before, coming out about even, and we’d both seen the war. I didn’t want to fight him. But I would, if it meant Grace had a shot.
I felt a tug on my pant leg.
“Daddy, the train’s here.”
I let Jimmy down.
“We’re leavin’, Jim. That’s that.”
He fixed his tie, looked at the two of us, and nodded.
“Guess I better wish you luck, then.”
I tried not to think about never seeing my brother again, and shook his hand.
“Yeah. You too.”