How My Blog Novel Works
Click on the 'Chapter 1' tab above. That will take you to the start of my novel.Every weekday I aim to write 500 words or so. As each chapter is finished, I'll add another Chapter Tab. Each time you visit the site, simply return to where you left off, and continue reading as the story grows and develops, chapter by chapter.
PS: Can you please share this with all your friends!
There was a naked woman in the window. That’s what got my attention.
Big breasted, long legs. Pretty too. Just wearing a G-string and cowboy boots. She was swaying to music I couldn’t hear.
A neon sign bathed everything in hot pink.
I went inside. An old crone in a black leotard squinted at me. ‘Five bucks admission,’ she said. One of her false eyelashes had come unstuck. Looked like a spider crawling up her face.
The room was gloomy. Fans were on but the bar smelled of stale beer and sweat.
A raised timber platform jutted through a black curtain. The runway ended in the centre of the room at a steel pole. The nightclub was full. Groups of guys clustered around tables. Young girls in sequinned skirts and bikini tops.
I found a stool at the bar.
A guy came from out of nowhere. He put his hands on the counter to let me know he was there to sell me overpriced alcohol.
I nodded. He picked up a cigarette from an ashtray, inhaled briefly. Put it back into place. He knocked the top off a bottle of beer. Took my money with a little smile. Like he knew something and wasn’t telling.
I didn’t get any change.
A girl’s head came through the black stage curtain. I heard her shout, “Seven Bee” to a guy in a cage.
Music filled the club. It was loud and thumping with so much bass my beer bottle hummed with the vibration.
A stripper appeared on stage in a devil’s costume. Twirling a plastic pitchfork. Twirled it like it was a baton. Swished her tail too. There was a smatter of applause and a wolf-whistle as the girl gyrated to the music. Once the pitchfork went the costume followed quickly. Good figure, but no smile. Just going through the motions. Probably thinking about the weekend or something. The girl headed to the pole at the end of the stage to finish her routine. It ended in a sweaty spread-legged pose.
The lights went down. The girl vanished behind the curtain. Picked up her clothes. The noise of the club came up in volume.
At a table in front of me were four guys in suits. Two had girls on their laps.
Another guy had a hand inside a girl’s bikini top. He was jabbing his friend in the ribs to get his attention. The guys were all laughing the way middle-aged men do when they’re around young girls.
The barman asked me, “What do you think so far?” He put a half-empty basket of peanuts beside my beer.
“Interesting,” I said.
“You ain’t seen anything yet, bud.” He nodded back to the stage.
I turned on the barstool. Music pumped into the room again. The curtains were flung open.
The stripper was a tall redhead. She wore a school girl’s uniform. Her skirt was short, her white blouse tied in a knot around her tanned midriff. The white stockings and high-heels were not standard school uniform. Her hair was in two ponytails. She was wearing glasses. She strutted to the centre of the stage.
The stripper moved with practiced sensual energy. Her blouse and glasses disappeared. Then she glided to the pole. Undid two buttons on her skirt. Like a matador, she flung her skirt open to the crowd. She played to the audience. Lapped up the looks she was getting. Moved like she knew she was the club’s star attraction. Guys cheered. She wore red panties with less material than a pirate’s eye patch. She flung herself on to the pole, twisted to the beat.
When the music ended the room went black. The crowd applauded. When the house-lights came back on the stage was empty.
I ordered another beer. I bought cigarettes from a machine. Noise around the room was getting louder. Young girls fluttering around like butterflies. Trying to pay their rent, I guess. I got back to my stool and found a beer waiting. The barman winked at me through the fly-spotted mirror on the wall.
The suits in front of me were becoming bolder. One of them had his hand under a girl’s skirt. She squealed and hit him across the face.
When I reached back for my beer a woman was standing beside me.
Her eyes were dark in this light, but they glittered with a twinkle of mischief. Her mouth was full. Red lipstick framed a beautiful smile. Her hair was flaming copper.
She was wearing a white blouse and jeans. The barman saw her. He made a glass of ice-water appear from out of nowhere.
When the barman moved away the girl turned to me. “Beer will make you sick. Did you know that?”
“So does everything else I like,” I said.
The girl raised a curious eyebrow. “Everything?”
“Just about,” I said. “Congratulations on your performance. You’re a great dancer. No schoolgirl I’ve ever met could dance like that.”
She put a small silver handbag on the counter. She got out a packet of cigarettes. She put one in her mouth, lit it with a flourish. With the cigarette between her pursed lips she used both hands to fasten the catch of her bag. Then she tossed her head back and slitted her eyes as smoke crawled up her face.
“Thanks for the compliment,” she said. “Those shoes are murder to dance in.”
“You were wearing shoes? I didn’t notice.”
She laughed. Flashed even white teeth. Then she cocked her head to one side. Her eyes narrowed like she was curious.
“Say that again...” she said.
I lit a cigarette. Looked for an ashtray. “I said that I didn’t notice you were wearing shoes.”
She watched my mouth. “You from out of town?”
“You could say that,” I said. “I’m Australian. My name’s Todd.”
“Well I’ll be...” she took a sip of her drink. “I love Aussies. Kangaroos, Ayers Rock, Mel Gibson...”
I put my finger to her lips to stop her. She smiled. “That’s enough,” I said. “I don’t know Mel Gibson, and I don’t have a pet kangaroo.”
An ashtray appeared at my elbow. I caught the barman’s reflection in the wall mirror. Nodded my thanks. He did the wink thing again. Maybe he had a problem with his eyes.
“Tell me about you,” I said. “Do you have a name?”
“Sarah,” she offered her hand. I held it longer than necessary. “Just Sarah.”
“Have you been dancing for long, Just Sarah? You’re very good.”
She smiled again. Sipped more water. She turned against the bar to face me. She stood close, hemmed in by the crowd.
“You want to know how long I have been a stripper?” she said. “I started three years ago. I’d always been a dancer, ever since I was a kid. But when I hit the teenage years, I kinda filled out, if you know what I mean.”
I looked at her breasts. I knew what she meant. I wondered if she was wearing a bra.
“Exactly,” she saw the direction of my gaze. Her face crinkled into a sultry smile. “So my dreams of being a ballerina went out the door, and I had to find a way to pay the bills. What about you?”
“No. I never wanted to be a ballerina. And my breasts aren’t anywhere as nice as yours,” I said.
Sarah punched me. It was playful, and kind of sexual.
“You’re easy to talk to,” she said. She stared at me like my appearance might explain the reason. “Have other women ever told you that? I bet they have. You know when to listen. Not many guys do.”
Sarah edged closer. She thrust one hip forward. Her breasts lifted so they pressed against the thin material of her blouse.
She wasn’t wearing a bra.
“What brings you to New York?”
“I’m on holiday visiting my sister. She’s been living here in the States for eighteen years.”
“Maybe we can see each other again.” She reached out and touched my arm. Her hand was warm. I could smell her perfume.
“I’m not lucky with women,” I said. “You’d probably end up hating me.”
“I’m not lucky with men either,” she said. “Guys can be a real pain.” She stubbed her half-smoked cigarette into the ashtray. Crushed the butt like it was an old boyfriend.
Sarah leaned against me.
I noticed two guys several tables away. The shorter guy was looking around the room, smiling like he’d had too much to drink. The tall guy was glaring at me. He was built like a footballer... only bigger.
Sarah saw him too. I felt her stiffen. She reached for my arm and looked into my eyes. Then she rested her head on my shoulder.
The tall guy got angrily to his feet. He stormed off towards the restrooms.
When he was gone Sarah smiled weakly. “I hope you don’t mind. He’s an old boyfriend, and he’s very possessive.”
I slid my arm around her waist. She pressed close. She was warm, her body firm and toned.
“Some guys think that because I’m an exotic dancer, I can be treated like a cheap toy,” Sarah said.
“Well you do have that effect on men,” I said.
She pulled away from me. Not too far away. She laughed. “You think I’m some kind of toy, mister?”
“Well, I was thinking of some games we could play. Do you have a nurse’s uniform?”
Sarah stood on her tip-toes to whisper in my ear. “He was a bastard,” she said. “I wasn’t the only woman he was seeing. I loved him and he broke my heart.”
Suddenly I was uneasy. Some instinct twinged a warning. I leaned back and searched Sarah’s face.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw her angry ex-boyfriend come back to his table. He was a monster. He was wearing a fisherman’s woollen jumper, denim jeans and boots. He had an unshaven stubbled jaw like an anvil. He glared across the room at us.
“Sounds like a messy situation,” I said. “When did you split up?”
Sarah pouted at me. She impulsively threw her arms around my neck. Pulled me down to her mouth. It was a long kiss. She clung to me. “Today,” she breathed. “We broke up today.”
It took a moment for the words to sink in.
I had been used.
I grabbed Sarah’s wrists. Held her away from me.
Her eyes were wide, her expression reckless.
“You little....,” I hissed. I shook her hands away from me.
I thought the lights had been lowered again. It was Sarah’s boyfriend. He stood facing me, Sarah between us. He was tall and wide enough to block out the light.
“Sarah,” he said. His voice sounded like a barrel of cement being mixed.
“Go away, Jules,” Sarah said over her shoulder.
“I want you back.” I could see the guy’s rage. He was clenching and unclenching fists the size of baseball gloves. “I’ll do anything,” he said.
“I’m with Todd now, Jules. Can’t you see that?” Sarah tried to press against me. I held her at arms length.
“Then I’ll tear his throat out!” Jules spat the words out like bloody teeth.
I shot Sarah a vicious glare. Her expression showed no sign of guilt or remorse.
I held my hands up in surrender. “You’ll get no fight from me, friend,” I said. “I’m no part of this little game.”
Sarah looked at me. Screwed up her face in disgust. I gave her the same look back and headed for the door.
I knew the whole bar was watching. I went carefully, in no great hurry.
I should have run. If I had none of what happened in the weeks that followed might ever have occurred.
I walked out of the bar, but I didn’t walk fast enough. Behind my back I heard Sarah. Her voice was shrill and spiteful.
“Are you a man or a mouse?” she shouted. “That’s right! Run, you coward. Run away!”
It was a lousy night. Wind alternated with torrential rain.
You can never find a cab on nights like that. I made a couple of half-hearted attempts, but cabs don’t stop for guys like me, on nights like that, in streets like this one. I started to walk.
I walked with my head bowed. I kept my hands deep in my pockets. And I walked quickly.
The garbage-littered footpath was dark. The shops were shuttered and barred for the night. I caught a glimpse of my face in the window of a Lebanese cafe. I frowned like I was seeing a stranger. I didn’t like what I saw. Mirrors made me think about myself. Nothing good ever came of that.
But was I a coward?
I hadn’t caused a scene at the bar because Sarah wasn’t worth it. As for running away? That barb burrowed a lot deeper. Sarah’s bitchy parting shot had hit close to home.
I had spent the whole of my adult life running away.
I’d moved from job to job, and country to country, and not once in thirty-four years had I found anything worth staying in one place for. For that matter, I’d never known anyone worth fighting for. That included Sarah the stripper.
I was a loner who enjoyed the company of others... if such a thing is possible.
I did have a way with women, though. But, for all my success, I’d never had a serious girlfriend. I owned nothing that couldn’t be carried around in a couple of suitcases. I had ten grand in the bank and enough hands-on experience in a dozen different fields to pick up work when I needed it.
A block away from my sister’s apartment I ducked into a narrow alley to light a cigarette. I was in no hurry to get back to Charmaine’s. Now I’d opened the door on my thoughts, I knew I was in no mood for company.
I smoked through numb lips. I pressed my back against the damp wall to avoid the wind and rain. Across the road I could see a drunk under the winking bulbs of a massage parlour. He was curled up on the doorstep. He clutched a brown paper bag. His head was hunched down into the collar of his tattered coat.
I took three steps into the alley. I cupped my hands against the wind to light another cigarette. Suddenly, out of the darkness, a harsh voice growled, “Man, your sorry ass just stepped into a whole world of pain.”
I stared into the blackness. A figure emerged. I felt my chest tighten in panic.
He was powerfully built. He had bulging muscular lumps under a black jacket. He was holding a gun. The gun was pointed at my chest. Right where I could feel it tightening. He was ten feet away.
He gave me a cold sneer.
He waved the gun, beckoning me closer. “Hands on your head, man.”
“If its money you want, take my wallet.” I dropped the cigarette. Tried to reach into my jeans pocket.
“Don’t move! Don’t move!” The gun came up into my face. I froze.
“Hands on your head!” he said.
His skin was sallow and pockmarked. Down the left side of his face I could see a scar. It reached from his ear to his chin. His eyes were black and lifeless. I’d seen his type on the streets since I’d arrived in New York. I just hadn’t seen them this close. I hadn’t seen them carrying guns before either. He scared me.
I did as I was told. I was frightened. He waved the gun at me. I stepped slowly into the deeper darkness of the alley. He backed away into the shadows. Kept his distance.
The alley was narrow. Two storeys up I could see light behind small curtained windows. From somewhere I heard a toilet flush. The alley was lined with garbage cans and binbags. Maggots infested the debris. Dark shapes scurried out of sight. Rats had ripped into the plastic bags. There were cardboard containers and cigarette butts everywhere. Food scraps squelched under my shoes.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Scarface said. “You think you can take a couple of slugs from this little Beretta and still get to me, right?”
I wasn’t thinking anything like that! I was thinking I was about to die. I was thinking ‘what the hell is a Beretta’.
I said nothing. The tightness in my chest moved. Now it was a solid lump in my throat.
“Well you’d be wrong, man. Hollow points. I can cut you down with one shot and you’ll bleed to death before the paramedics get anywhere near here. So move it.”
I moved it. I walked uncertainly into the alley. I took short jerky steps. My legs were trembling.
Suddenly to my left I saw the glow of a cigarette lighter. Then it was dark again.
I was startled. I turned to face where the light had come from. As I did, Scarface hit me in the small of the back. Then he hit me with a short vicious punch to my kidneys. An electric shock of agony went through my body. I felt myself falling. The other guy came out of the darkness: a huge black shape towering over me. I heard his footstep splash in a puddle. He punched me hard in the stomach. I felt my lunch heaved up into my mouth.
I fell backwards. Hit the ground hard. I was only half-conscious. My mind was numb with pain. I couldn’t think straight. I vomited. There was the coppery tang of blood in my mouth.
The two guys stood over me. Scarface prodded me with the toe of his boot. I groaned. I lifted my face just far enough out of the water to prop it on a putrid garbage bag.
Then I heard a third voice.
“It’s him all right.”
I opened an eye. I saw black boots, glistening from the rain. I looked up. The guy was watching me dispassionately. He was smoking. In the glow I could see he had greasy skin. His hair hung in a dirty mat to his shoulders. He had a bandanna tied around his forehead. It was just a dirty red scrap of material.
“You got something we want,” the guy said.
I groaned again.
Scarface and his partner hauled me to my knees. I sobbed with the pain. I hung like a slab of meat. Rough hands ripped open my jacket. Turned out my pockets. My cigarettes, wallet, the key to Charmaine’s apartment. Everything was handed over to Bandanna.
One by one, everything got thrown back at me angrily.
“Where is the page, asshole?” Bandanna said.
I shook my head. There was a singing in my ears. Behind my eyes I could see tiny bursts of exploding colour. His voice seemed muffled, but there was a savage edge to it.
“I... I don’t understand,” I said.
He grabbed my face in one of his massive hands. Squeezed hard. Dug his fingers into the skin under my cheekbones. He wrenched my head. I could see the evil intent in his merciless eyes.
“Where is the page?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said. My fear was tangible. I could feel it in the pit of my guts. I knew I was going to die. “Jesus!” I said. “I just don’t understand...”
Scarface and his partner tightened their grips. Clamped hard on my arms. Bandanna took a step back. I heard his boot whistle as he kicked me in the stomach. Blood and spit flew from my mouth. I gasped. The air was driven out of my lungs. Pain like a red hot poker.
“Last chance,” Bandanna said.
“For Christ’s sake,” I said. “I don’t know...” I was near hysterical with fear but the words sounded flat in my own ears.
At the moment I knew death was to come, there in the alley on the other side of the world, I suddenly heard the muffled tone of a phone ringing. It was so out of place, I gulped down my next sob. Looked up dazedly.
Bandanna had his back to me. He had a mobile phone to his ear. He was standing stiffly, like a man about to receive a medal. His voice was hushed.
The conversation was short. Nothing I heard made any sense.
Bandanna put the phone back into a pocket.
He looked at his two companions. His eyes were hard, jaw set.
“Hobble,” he said simply.
Then everything happened at once. I was down on the wet asphalt before my mind could register the fact. There was a knee on my chest. A hand like a vice crushed around my throat. Other hands forced my legs apart. I struggled feebly. Bandanna crouched close to my face. I looked up at him. My eyes were wide with fear.
“You have a page of very important information, Mr Kent,” he said. His voice was different now. I saw the gun in his hand. He pressed the cold steel of the barrel between my eyes. “If you ever want to walk again, you will tell me right now, where that page is.”
With a hand clenching my throat, I couldn’t have spoken. Not even if I’d had something to say. He could tell by the look in my eye that I didn’t have the answer he wanted. He frowned.
Then I saw the hammer. He held it up to my face to make sure I saw it. My eyes flew wide. He twisted the handle in his hand as if examining the hammer for the first time.
“I’m going to have to hobble you, Mr Kent. Know what that means?”
Scarface had his knee on my chest. He was looking down at me. He smiled viciously. Like he was really enjoying himself. Like this was the highlight of his week. He laughed, hawked a gob of phlegm in my face.
“It means, we’re going to cut those wet jeans off you, and then, very carefully, I’m going to use this hammer here to crush one of your testicles.”
With a sudden vicious ‘crack!’ Bandanna crashed the hammer down on the ground, like a judge pronouncing sentence, not an inch from my ear. I felt sharp splinters of gravel sting the side of my face. There was a split-second pause. Then I jumped and heaved and struggled. Flapped around like a landed fish with strength I didn’t know I had.
Scarface held me down. He laughed like a hyena. His partner had my legs. I couldn’t break free. I fought frantically for a full minute then slumped back in exhaustion. I was gasping for air. My lungs burned. My chest was on fire. I was crying. Tears of frustration, fear. Humiliation.
Bandanna patted my cheek. “It’s just gonna hurt for the rest of your life, that’s all,” he said. His voice was malicious. “You see, the hammer will flatten your nut like it’s a grape... oh, and there will be a lot of blood. Try to stay still if you can. I only have to crush one of ‘em. You don’t want me to accidentally get ‘em both!” He thought that was funny. He chuckled. “You’re gonna be jumping and flapping around like you’ve been electrocuted for a while after this so you might want to close your eyes.”
I lay there bleeding. I stared up into the rain. My ears were ringing. The side of my head was numb. There was so much pain.
I felt a sharp stab in my left thigh. Through the terror I realised my jeans were being hacked away with a knife.
Bandanna smiled. “Want I should warm my hands?”
There were two shots. Close together. The roar was deafening. I thought Bandanna had decided to shoot me. Would have preferred it right then. But I felt nothing.
Then I saw Scarface’s expression. His face was twisted in a painful grimace. His grip around my throat slackened, then his weight was shifting off me. He slumped sideways. A groan of agony escaped through his gritted teeth.
I staggered to my feet. I heard another shot ring out. I looked up. It seemed a long time before I realised I was standing under a powerful light. Behind the light was the window of one of the alley-side apartments.
I didn’t shade my eyes. I wiped mess from my face and suddenly realised I was alone. Bandanna and his henchmen had melted into the night.
I couldn’t see where I was running to. I didn’t care. I was running away. Running for my life. That was all that mattered.
I lurched painfully out of the alley. I staggered and slipped, pursued only by the echo of my own footfalls. I ran as fast as I could, one arm clutched to my stomach to brace against the pain in my chest. I could see dull rain-swept reflections of the street. I stayed on my feet long enough to stumble into the gloomy light. I sucked in a painful gulp of air. My body began to shake with relief.
When the pain in my chest became too much I slumped into a doorway. The door had been propped open with an old housebrick . Inside was a narrow flight of stairs. A girl with a tender pubescent body and weary eyes was sitting the steps. She wore cut-off denim shorts and a black bra. The stockings on her legs were holed. Her shoes filthy with mud.
“You looking for a date, darling?” she said. Monotone, like a bad actor. Like she never really expected me to take her up on it. It was probably just what she said to every stranger.
I doubled up and coughed painfully. My breath sawed across my swollen throat in ragged gulps. Blood from the stab-wound had washed away to a pale stain on my jeans.
We stared at each other. Said nothing. When the pain in my chest eased, I pushed myself back out into the rain.
Charmaine’s apartment was just a hundred yards away. Then I could rest. I clenched my teeth. I was going to make it.
The street door led to a grimy staircase. I took the steps slowly to the second floor. I pushed open a fire-door into a corridor. I walked stiffly. Climbing the stairs had started the pain in my chest all over again. I passed dusty shuttered windows and drab walls covered with graffiti. Then I froze.
Charmaine’s apartment door was ajar.
A wave of sickening dread swept over me. The door was hanging open. The timber frame had been splintered around the brass lock. Smashed open, not picked. Not subtle. Violent.
“Charmaine?” I called.
There was only silence.