Chapter 25: The Sucker Punch Republic

I just wrote this chapter for The Sucker Punch Republic. Give me your thoughts. This is literally as fresh as it gets. 750 words before lunch. I wrapped up the last line three or four minutes ago.

The story so far is that Kirk Conway is apparently a more powerful person that we had at first thought and Paul Mendelssohn is struggling with a case load that's breaking him. His partner Ryan has been sent to aid an investigation in China and Rezo Nevsky looks like he's playing both sides.

Chapter 25.

Thomastown. Not the most salubrious place to find yourself at ten to nine at night. The streets were deserted with the exception of the drug gangs rolling round in large saloon cars like they were executives at multi-million dollar companies. Paul watched the latest car roll up to a stop on the corner at the end of the block where the houses turned to less than appealing coffee shops and sandwich bars. Another deal went down and Paul ignored it. He didn't have the bandwidth to deal with the hassle. Ravenscroft Street was the street he had first bought a house in when he and his wife moved to Hume from Cedar Creek nine years previous. Deep breath. Paul steeled himself his hands on his knees, bracing his body as he prepared for what lay ahead. Moments like these always turned his stomach.

He tapped the door gently with the familiar brass door knocker and took a step back, down off the step. It wasn't his house anymore and he knew it only too well. A thousand thoughts stampeded through his mind. Was he presentable enough? Would they be awake? What if Lisa was having a bad day? Did he lock the car? Where was his phone? He'd had a burger for dinner with onions—did his breath smell? Had he dripped sauce on his shirt? Was she seeing anyone? What if they weren't in? Where would they be? Were they okay? Maybe he should go home. This was a bad idea. Ryan was right, he should always call first. But Lisa had never got shouty angry. Should he have brought flowers? Is it too late? What if they're in the bath? Who would watch them while Lisa answered the door. He should ring the phone to warn Lisa. No, she'd still have to leave them alone in the bath. She never took her phone in the bathroom and the house phone was in the hallway. Go home. If you're quick, she'll think it was the local hooligans. He stepped back two steps. Then forward one, and half-reached to the door knocker again. Fuck. Chasing down a car thief or busting a street gang was child's play compared to this. That's it. He made a decision. He would count to five then leave.

One.

Two.

Three—the door unlatched. The weight of the world was pulling down on the bags under Lisa's eyes. She didn't notice Paul at first, turning to should back into the house 'Leave your sister alone. Get back in bed!'

'Hi.' Paul wringed his hands, twisting an invisible cap in them.

'No. no, no no. It's late Paul. I can't do this again.' Lisa stepped back, regret showing as she slowly started to close the door. Her eyes fell on Paul's and the sadness was palpable.

'Are they awake?'

'Yes. But they shouldn't be. They're in bed. Come back on Saturday Paul. Call me first. Please. You can't just show up like this. At this time of night.'

'Sorry, I...'

'You don't think. You can't see what's right in front of you. That's your problem. Go home Paul. This isn't your home any more. Sorry.'

'I know... I just...'

'Just go. Before they hear you. Come back at the weekend. We'll go to the park. You can buy them ice creams.' She gave him a sympathetic half-smile and closed the door at a snail pace, not taking her eyes off him until the latch clicked.

Paul walked back to his car. Halfway across the street he saw another one of the over-sized lowered saloons pull up on the corner. The passenger window went down and a young kid, only about thirteen or fourteen, went up and swapped a small bunch of bank notes for a packet in a swift handshake. The kid turned, saw Paul and froze. Paul oozed cop from every pore. The smell of police hung around him like detergent in a school canteen. He's had enough form one day, so Paul raised a hand with his index finger semi-stretched in a nonchalant gesture of recognition. They both knew they rules of the game. The kid turned on his heels and ran away down the main street and Paul got in his car and drove home across the city, south of the river.

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