Friday, 26 August 2011

Exclusive chapter draft from 'Oliver Twist - The Parish Boy's Revenge'

The rain fell in sheets as the man in black stepped off the curb and crossed the unusually quiet street, avoiding the glow from the street-lamps and turning up his collar against the downpour.  The note he held in his clenched fist had long since faded and run out in the rain, but that no longer mattered; he had committed that address to memory over 20 years ago, and unless Bumble had come into a great deal of money in that time this was the only place he would be.  His stride was long and fast, and even with his shoulders hunched and head bowed, his 6' 4" frame still drew attention from the handful of other people out on the street at this time of night.  It was not a safe place to be at night, he knew that all too well - street urchins lurking around every corner just waiting for some unsuspecting fool to walk past and provide them with jewellery, wallets, mobile phones and anything else that they might hand over at knife-point.  The rain was never enough to deter them, and within the 50m between him and his destination there were two separate shrines, with cards in cursive and flowers that no longer bloomed, tied to lampposts  to commemorate the ones who tried in vain to defend themselves.  But he was a man with a purpose, and a man with a purpose walks with confidence, and a man who walks with confidence walks with a shield.  He gave no thought to the idea that he might be attacked and even though he had considered it a possibility, he would hardly be at a disadvantage in that situation, having spent time in his youth on the streets himself.  The things he had seen in his time - the anguish, the suffering, the violence - these were the things he had been pleased to escape, yet they were also the elements of street-life which had scarred him so much so that his new life of comfort and wealth could not reverse the damage.  He had lasted two years with his new-found family before ending up in a detention centre.

Now, standing before the modest terraced house with his hand on the gate, he hesitated momentarily.  Proceeding with the plan would mean possibly spending the rest of his life on the run, a fate that he had once been saved from, a fate which would surely satisfy the man he was about to confront.  But that no longer mattered.  He was here now, here in the place he had spent fifteen years picturing in his mind and he was not about to walk away.  A firm push on the gate and he was charging up the path to the front door where he ignored the knocker and the bell to thump three times firmly on the door.

Original artwork by N. Hassell

Being 2.15am, he expected to wait a while before getting a response from inside.  But it took only a few seconds before shuffling footsteps approached from the other side, and their owner cleared his throat.  He was also expecting to be interrogated through the door; the street was fairly dimly lit and the windowless front door appeared to have no peephole.  Instead, the door opened a few inches, still secured by the chain. 
"Well?  Who is it?"
"They call me Twist."
A solitary car passed on the street, and in the second that the headlights lit up the front of the house, the two men saw each other.  Short, balding Mr Bumble cowered behind his door in a stained string vest with a few days stubble covering the best part of his face and neck, his green eyes widening at the sight of his visitor.
For a brief moment, Bumble stared at the man who had interrupted his 2am drinking session and could hardly believe that this drenched giant was once the orphan he had neglected and sold.  That moment of recognition had passed however, and Bumble blinked the thought away.  Twist leant against the door-frame with his head still bowed as it had been all the way there, and he didn't even raise his eyes as he began to talk again.
"Don't-" Bumble cut him off by attempting to slam the door, but Twist jammed his foot in the gap and pushed hard, forcing it to come right off of its hinges effortlessly, and as Bumble slithered down the hall and into the kitchen, Twist stepped out of the rain and immediately noticed the smell, a mixture of whiskey, burnt matches and dust.  He followed Bumble into the kitchen, where he had crawled under the dining table and now lay hugging his knees.
"Y-you can't do a-a-anything to me, Twist.  You should l-leave right now, if you're lucky I won't call the p-police!"
"If I'm lucky?" Twist sneered, "Don't make me laugh."  He looked around at Bumble's kitchen; the green walls could have been mouldy or intentionally that colour, the dim light made it difficult to see clearly, but he could make out a humble stove and two cupboards, one without a door revealing the contents inside of a solitary plate and tumbler.  A picture perfect portrayal of a pathetic life if ever there was, he thought.  He noticed a well-stocked knife rack next to the sink but he had no use for that - not he, not Oliver Twist, the boy who had made a name for himself at Moorfield's Correctional Centre for Wayward Youths as the purveyor and producer of the sharpest shivs money or cigarettes could buy.
He took a step towards the pathetic figure under the table, when he heard very faint footsteps and fast, heavy panting behind him.  He spun round to see Bumble's dog take a few steps toward him and then sit, head cocked to one side and tongue hanging out of his mouth, panting loudly and staring at  him as if he presented no danger.  Bumble scrambled out of his foetal position and now lay on his gut, and beckoned the dog.  "Sic him, boy.  Come on, sic him."  Twist shook his head, mildly amused by the dog's apathy.  "SIC HIM!  Come on, boy.  Fagin, come.  ATTACK.  FAGIN, ATTACK!"
Twist froze for a minute, and then let out a loud, bellowing laugh.  Neither Bumble nor his dog knew how to interpret this.
"You named your dog...oh my..." he struggled to get the words out between gasping for breath and continuing to laugh.  The dog turned tail and trotted off, leaving Bumble lying on the floor underneath the table while this lofty threat loomed over him, laughing and gasping like a lunatic.  The laughter subsided though, and Twist looked around the room and started to mutter to himself.  "So high and mighty.  And how they fall."  With this, he looked at Bumble cowering under the table, and was filled with the rage - that rage that occasionally reared its ugly head and got him into trouble.  He leant forward and with one swift movement picked the table up and pushed it up away from Bumble.  He reached into his coat pocket and drew out a long, thin blade.  Bumble let out a high-pitched squeak and started to crawl towards the door, but Twist stepped on his fingers, feeling at least one of them crack under his considerable weight, and brought the blade down across Bumble's back - not deep enough to damage any organs, but substantial enough to leave a gash between his shoulder blades that quickly filled and overflowed with blood.  Bumble screamed again, and Twist brought his foot off from his mangled hand and in the same movement kicked the fat man in his jaw, knocking him onto his back.
"What do you want from me?"  He was tearful, his voice trembled and he had given up his attempts to escape.
"You know what I want, Bumble."  Twist glared at him, and Bumble noticed the man's grey eyes bore almost fully dilated pupils, making them almost entirely black.  He remembered those eyes had looked so weak, so mournful when he had led that boy to the streets and sold him to the first person who would take him.  The boy he had given up on and sent into a life that had led to a series of events nobody could have foreseen, and all because he had -
Bumble knew now what Twist wanted, and Twist knew it by the way Bumble's expression changed.  He knelt down on the floor, and towered over the bleeding man.
"Say it."
"I can't.  Please.  Don't do this."
"Say it."
He started to cry harder now, and Twist leaned in with his blade, and whispered once more.
"Say it."
Bumble closed his eyes.
"P-p-please, s-s-s-sir.   I want s-s-some m-m-more..."

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