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InspektorF
June 28th, 2014, 09:01 AM
This is the fourth chapter of a project that I have been working on for a couple months. I was trying to drop hints in regards to what Fergus is, but after posting it on another site it seems I was too vague. I thought I would see what response this piece gets here. Looking for general feedback: grammar, spelling, etc. as well as whether you liked it or not, were the characters interesting, so on and so forth. Thank you for your time.

O Death Chapter 4

The bar was one of those places with sawdust strewn across the floor and a permanent smoky haze in the air where you could order a wide range of artery clogging items from a menu covered in decades old grease. In the corner, a mournful ballad of love lost wailed from a jukebox as old as the bar itself, half its lights burned out and several buttons missing.Fergus slid into a booth near the back, extracted a slightly sticky menu from the holder in the middle of the table and perused his choices with a critical eye--he did so love greasy, heart-attack-on-a-plate food and the best could only be found in dives such as this.

The waitress slouched over, a cigarette hanging off her lip and her hair teased into a tall rat's nest that needed a good washing and retouching of the roots.

"What'll ya have?" Her voice was as heavy with southern twang as her face was with dime-store make-up. Dark eyes, so at odds with her snowy white coif, regarded him from beneath a thick layer of frosty blue eye shadow. Her eyelashes were rather sparse but she had managed to coat them with enough mascara that what little she possessed resembled the legs of a spider stick out from around her blood-shot eyes.

He ordered the chicken-fried steak dinner and the local favorite brew, to be preceded by an order of jalapeño poppers. Spider-eyes drawled something about getting his order in right away and scurried off to the kitchen.

Fergus settled back in his booth to await his dinner, looking over the assembled crowd with interest. He usually trolled for clients in more upscale establishments like The Red Oak Room, a favorite watering-hole of the rich and famous located at the corner of Wilshire and Canon, but tonight he wasn't looking to make any deals. Tonight he had business with two clients, both of whom were threatening to become major liabilities. Fergus didn't like liabilities and his boss liked them even less.

She sat at the bar, the first of his evening's appointments, a silk scarf draped over her head and wearing large, dark sunglasses to hide her face. She didn't have to go to all the bother, however, since most of the bar's patrons didn't watch drivel such as that which she starred in. Fergus watched her with mild interest, wondering what deal she would have up her expensive sleeve this time. He'd already given her an extension three times; he doubted he'd give her a fourth.

Samantha Wallace spotted him and smiled. He noted the smile was forced, not the usual toothy beamer she bestowed on fans of her reality show. As she approached his booth, Fergus thought she looked very good for a fifty-three year old woman--that is if one squinted just right and the light was to her back. Hells, the woman had made a fine mess of herself with all the surgery. Was growing old gracefully such a bad thing, really?

"This is quite the unusual little place here," she said, sliding into the seat opposite him.

"Well, sometimes I like a little privacy," he replied. "We wouldn't want any of your fans to see us together,would we?"

"No, I suppose not." She glanced around the room nervously. "I appreciate you taking the time to meet with me."

He nodded genially but chose to keep quiet, waiting for her to launch into her spiel, only vaguely curious about what she had to offer this time. Having seen her up close and in the flesh, he was all but certain there would be no fourth extension. She was used up and while she'd been most useful in garnering attention for his cause, eliciting envy and covetousness among her viewers (thereby swelling the numbers of clients who came seeking the lifestyle she flaunted), ratings were down and there were rumors her show was on the chopping block.

"Look," she said, "I know my contract is almost up--"

"You've got six weeks left on it," he interrupted.

"Yeah, six weeks sounds about right."

"Six weeks is right," Fergus said. "I can show the contract to you if you want."

"No, no...I'm sure you're right." Samantha had paled somewhat. She fidgeted with the napkin her drink sat on, idly tearing off little bits of it as she spoke. "I was wondering about the deadline. I thought maybe I could get--"

"Another extension? No, sweetheart, I don't thinks so."

What little color that was left in Samantha's face drained completely away. Fergus thought for a moment she was going to faint dead away but the woman managed to recover. He could see the gears turning in her head, grasping at straws, desperate to find something that would tempt him.

"I brought you my daughters," she began.

"Yes, lovely girls they are, too."

"I have another daughter and two grandchildren as well,"she offered.

Fergus took a drink of his beer, hardly listening as she babbled on about her youngest child and the two infants whom she purported to be her pride and joy on that wretched show of hers.

"So, you see--"

"No."

She stared at him, stunned to silence.

"No deal," he said firmly. "Believe it or not, there are rules. One of those pesky little restrictions states that the client must be able to choose for his or her self--and they must be of legal age, otherwise the contract is null and void."

"Well, maybe not the babies, but Brandy is nearly eighteen."

"Samantha," he chided, shaking his head. "We both know sweet Brandy is only fourteen."

“You have to give me more time,” she pleaded. “I didn’t understand what was happening. You didn’t explain what I was agreeing to.”

Fergus eyed her coldly. Here it was, the old ‘You lied to me’ sob story he heard from almost all his clients. Everything was all ‘I’ll-agree-to-anything’ when they were standing at the crossroad, begging himto the them their heart’s desire, but when it came time to pay up, well, then it was ‘I didn’t understand! Or ‘You never explained what would happen!’ Weak, sniveling man-monkeys, always living for the day and never giving a moment’s thought to the future.

“You were given full disclosure, Sweetheart. You knew exactly what you were doing and what it was going to cost you,” he said. “You stood at the crossroad and made your deal and I kept my end of the bargain. You wanted a rich husband who would take you away from that little piss-ant Nebraska town and I delivered. Then it wasn’t enough that he was rich, no, you wanted to live the life of a celebrity so you struck another deal with me—and all it cost was your husband his soul. And then, on top of that, Mother of the Year that you are, to save your own worthless hide, you coaxed two of your daughtersto make a deal with me, just so you could get another extension on your debt.”

"Please," Samantha said, the tears starting to flow, marring her heavy makeup. "Please, give me more time."

"Sorry, sweetheart, your time's run out--or at least it will be in six weeks."

"Please, I'll give you anything you want, please." She made as if to reach across the table and grasp his arm but stopped short, perhaps finally remembering that the man who sat across from her was not really a man at all. "Please, anything you want, anything."

"I already have everything from you that is of value," Fergus said as the waitress arrived with his chicken-fried steak.

"But I'm rich," she persisted. "I could get you anything."

"Thank you," Fergus said to Spider-eyes, who had paused in setting the plate before him and was staring at Samantha like she had the vague notion she'd seen her before. "That will be all."

Spider-eyes blinked at him stupidly. "Do you want any ketchup with that?"

Fergus glared at her. "Did I ask for ketchup?" He let slip just the tiniest bit the mask that hid his true visage from humanity; Spider-eyes took several fearful steps back, her breath catching in her throat.

"No, sir."

"Then go," he growled. Fergus turned his attention to the woman sitting across from him. "You've made your deal and you knew what that deal entailed. The time has come to pay up. At the appointed time an associate of mine will pay you a visit. We are done here."

Samantha stared at him. For a moment he thought she was going to continue begging and sniffling for mercy but instead she got up quietly and walked out of the bar. Fergus watched her go, wondering, as he did from time to time, what went through the minds of the condemned. Was Samantha even now working on some new scheme to extend her life? If she had any sense, the silly twat would kill herself; suicide would certainly be an easier death than the one that would arrive on her doorstep in six weeks’ time.


“Who was that?”

Fergus was startled to find his next appointment standing at his elbow. “No one of any importance. Please, have a seat.”

The woman sat down, shoving Samantha’s drink out of the way. “What did you want to see me about?” She was a pretty young woman with pale blonde hair and vibrant green eyes. When she spoke it was with an English accent.

“I just felt the need to make sure you understand the terms of our agreement.”

The woman shrugged. “I understand quite well what is expected of me.”

“Do you, Rose? Because where I sit it looks like you’re a bit behind on fulfilling your end of the bargain.”

Rose shrugged again. “And I told you when we struck the deal it would take some time.”

“My boss expects me to meet a certain level of production,” Fergus said, cutting his chicken-fried steak into bite sized pieces. “My boss has high expectations.”

“My boss also has high expectations,” replied Rose, watching him eat with a look of disgust on her face. “And he is also by nature a very suspicious individual. I have to go slower than I expected, especially since that spot of difficulty a few weeks ago.”

“Difficulty? What difficulty?”

“I had to eliminate one of my fellow reapers.”

Fergus nearly choked. “You killed a reaper?”

“Yeah, he caught me reaping an unscheduled soul,” she said matter-of-factly. “That spell you gave me works quite well, by the way.”

“That’s good to know.” Fergus leaned forward eagerly. “You really killed another reaper? I didn’t know it could be done.”

“Neither did I until I did it,” said Rose. “It’s not like he goes around instructing us how it’s done, you know?”

“How did you do it?”

Rose eyed him suspiciously. “Why do you want to know?”

Fergus tried to downplay his interest. “Just curious is all,” he said, stabbing a piece of gravy laden chicken-fried steak with his fork.

“As I was saying,” Rose said, returning to the topic of quotas,“It will take a little longer for me to hold up my end of our deal.”

“I won’t be extending the deadline,” Fergus warned, still feeling nettled over his conversation with Samantha. “You do it in the time allowed or the deal’s off.”

“You won’t make an exception? Not even for thousands of souls?”

That piqued his interest. “Thousands of souls, you say? How?”

Rose was clearly quite pleased with herself. She sat back in the booth, grinning broadly. “Got a bit of insider information, didn’t I?” she teased.

“And that would be…?” He didn’t like games but knew too much was at stake to risk pissing her off.

“There’s going to be a huge hurricane striking the Gulf Coast in two weeks’ time,” she chortled, “and a major earthquake in Japan—all in the same week. Can you believe it?”

“Really? Humanity must have really pissed off someone upstairs for them to go to so much trouble.” He considered the possibilities with great anticipation, envisioning how pleased his boss would be if her were the one to deliver all those condemned souls to Hell’s Gate. “A bit out of season for a hurricane, isn’t it?”

“Guess that’s what’s going to make it such a huge thing,” she said, looking around the room. “I reckon the news outlets will have a field day with it. They love it when massive amounts of people die, don’t they?”

"How are you going to be able to deliver all those souls without anyone noticing? Especially if your naturally suspicious employer is on hand, supervising as I assume he will be?”

“That nifty little spell you gave me,” she beamed at him. “I found a way to strengthen it. With it masking my activities—and all the chaos that will be ensuing during the aftermath of these events—I see no problem getting you the souls you require.”

He sat back, studying her closely. “Well, aren’t you a little bag of surprises?”

“I can be.”

“And what happens if your boss discovers your little side business?”

Rose’s expression changed like the sun going behind a cloud. She scowled at him, arms folded defiantly across her chest. “Let me worry about that,” she snapped.


“Very well,” he said, motioning for Spider-eyes to refill his beer. The waitress approached hesitantly, snatching up his empty mug and scurrying away as fast as her spindly legs could carry her. “Just keep in mind, if he does find out, you’re on your own. I’m not sticking my neck out for you.”

“Like I expected you would,” she said disdainfully.

Spider-eyes returned with his beer; Fergus leered at her, sending her into fresh spasms of fear. He watched with a chuckle as she scuttled back to the kitchen, squealing about devils in business suits.

“Never gets old,” he told a disapproving Rose.

“Do we have an agreement then?” She barely concealed her annoyance with him.

Fergus lifted the mug of beer to his lips, regarding her over its edge as he took a deep quaff. Setting the mug down (and belching because he knew it would further irritate her), he pressed the issue that had been lurking in the back of his mind. “Is he really worth all this?”

Rose looked away. “He’s my son,” she said, as if that should explain everything.

“Son or not, he’s not exactly the picture of sanity, is he? And he won’t have gotten any better after a century down-below.”

Rose glared at him. “He can’t help what he became.”

Fergus raised the mug to his lips again. “Well,” he said, eyeing her with distaste,“you would certainly know about that. You were his mother, for hell’s sake.”

InspektorF
June 28th, 2014, 09:23 AM
I found a bunch of places where words had been jammed together. Not sure if I made all those typos or if something happened when I was copying and pasting. Anyway, hopefully I got them all fixed now.

Deafmute
June 28th, 2014, 10:39 AM
she possessed resembled the legs of a spider stick out from around her blood-shot eyes.

sticking


she didn't have to go to all the bother, however, since most of the bar's patrons didn't watch drivel such as that which she starred in.I know you are trying to use interesting sentence structure here for effect, but I am not sure its the best way to phrase it. Since I don't think its actually wrong I won't try to fix it, but consider rewording it.


Everything was all ‘I’ll-agree-to-anything’ when they were standing at the crossroad, begging himto the them their heart’s desire

one of those typos you were talking about.


and all it cost was your husband his soul.

all it cost was your husband's soul



envisioning how pleased his boss would be if her were the one to deliver all those condemned souls to Hell’s Gate

if she were the one


All right that's all I could find. Well I have to say I really enjoyed this. It was very well constructed. Honestly you crafted the scene very differently than I do with heavy emphasis on dialogue(something I certainly need to use more of). You craft a delightful mystery with reapers and demons all very Dr. Faustus, Can't wait to see who become the actual main character as I assume the demon here is more an antagonist than a hero. This felt like a professional work a full chapter that could easily be in a novel on bookstore shelves. No complaints about characters, descriptions, or pacing. Yea keep me posted on this one, I would love to keep tabs on it as it develops.

Dark modern fantasy is also similar to my own writing, so I would love to get you to take a look at my work and give me a critique. Death Throes is my current novel if your interested at all.

InspektorF
June 28th, 2014, 03:59 PM
Than you for taking the time to read and reply. I do appreciate it very much. I think the points you made were fair ones and I will incorporate your ideas in the next draft. I find I have a tendency to be wordy and sometimes phrase things strangely.

jerich100
July 2nd, 2014, 03:47 PM
All of my comments are subtle.

How about starting with, “Sawdust covered the bar’s floor and a permanent...” Starting off with “The bar was...” strikes me more like a marquee or sign-post announcement that attracts attention to itself. Shouldn’t narration be like a good waiter: it stays out of the way until it’s needed, then it slips in, does its job quietly and then slips away?

You’ve described everything and everyone very vividly. This is nice. I can’t tell whether it’s too much or not. You probably know that description should be limited to what sets the tone for and forward the story. If all these things “matter” then keep them all in. But if the waitress’ eyes, which are “too dark”, for example, aren’t particularly related to the story, then omit their description. I’m not the author, so can’t make that decision; I’m just asking the question.

“Samantha...smiled.” I’m writing two novels right now. I use the word “smiled” too often. I’m starting to hate the word and am actively digging it out of my work and replacing it with more creative descriptions. If I were a GOOD author, I could give you brilliant alternatives. Again, I’m just raising questions and thoughts.

Why would Samantha babble on about her youngest child and the two infants? She doesn’t strike me a friend to Fergus. Perhaps have the “So, you see—” be in the same paragraph as the “babble” paragraph, or the “babble” paragraph becomes more of a “telling”. Of course it’s “telling” because the content of her babbling isn’t necessary. So including the “So, you see” in it makes the paragraph a little more rich.

Remove, “ ’Then go,’ he said.” I think that Fergus’ ignoring the bartender is better than Fergus’ telling him to go. But just ignoring/dismissing him makes Fergus more hardened.

I didn’t read chapters 1 – 3, so the following may not be useful, but nevertheless: :) I don’t “care” about the characters. Am I supposed to feel empathy for Fergus? Am I supposed to be his buddy or his friend? Reading about him is like reading about some senator in Rhode Island. He may be wonderful, but I don’t care about him. Maybe this is accomplished in earlier chapters. For me to “care” about Fergus, wouldn’t I need to know of his weaknesses, desires, complaints, phobias, and roadblocks? This way I can stick to his side and want him to succeed. Otherwise, he’s a vase on a countertop.

InspektorF
July 2nd, 2014, 10:36 PM
Thank you for the time you spent reviewing my work. Fergus is a cross-road demon and Samantha is a "client" of whose time is almost up. If she can't get Fergus to agree to an extension, then he will collect his payment for services rendered--meaning he will claim her soul. Sam is trying to get him to agree to take her the souls of her youngest daughter and her grandchildren in exchange for an extension on her "loan". She's nattering on to him about them, trying to play up what a good deal it would be for him but he isn't buying it. An innocent can not have their soul entered into a crossroad deal without their consent and as children they can not give consent. I guess I need to go back and clarify these things.

Deafmute
July 3rd, 2014, 02:12 PM
Thank you for the time you spent reviewing my work. Fergus is a cross-road demon and Samantha is a "client" of whose time is almost up. If she can't get Fergus to agree to an extension, then he will collect his payment for services rendered--meaning he will claim her soul. Sam is trying to get him to agree to take her the souls of her youngest daughter and her grandchildren in exchange for an extension on her "loan". She's nattering on to him about them, trying to play up what a good deal it would be for him but he isn't buying it. An innocent can not have their soul entered into a crossroad deal without their consent and as children they can not give consent. I guess I need to go back and clarify these things.

I don't know if I would agree, I think the way its written is fine. Its fairly easy to follow what is going on and the lack of explanation gives it a mysterious vibe that is just vague enough to get the reader thinking. I imagine anyone reading this would know the basic premise and understand very quickly as they would have at least read the description of what the book is about before starting and this is chapter 3 so they know where they are by now. If you go in and start breaking it down to much it could very well clutter up the story and remove a lot of the immersion. Honestly I wouldn't change much in this chapter other than some of the typos.

Fergus isn't likable, but I imagine he is not suppose to be. He isn't so much hated either, he doesn't seem overly evil as much as just apathetic and self interested. He is a demon I think he feels about how a demon should. I would repeat I don't think he is the main character or protagonist so I think this is fine.

InspektorF
July 4th, 2014, 10:52 AM
No, Fergus isn't the main character, as are none of the characters in this chapter. The intent of this chapter is to shed light and inform the reader of behind the scenes activities that have been mentioned earlier in previous chapters by one of the Main characters. Giving the reader a little of Rose's inside information, so to speak.

Deafmute
July 4th, 2014, 10:54 AM
That is about what I thought, would love to see the other chapters.

InspektorF
July 4th, 2014, 11:14 AM
I'm needing to go back finesse them some but I'm afraid if I do then I will lose my momentum and get stalled. This next chapter has been a bit of a challenge. I know where it needs to go but keep wandering all over the place with it. I am feeling somewhat focused today, so maybe I will get it done over the holiday weekend.

Deafmute
July 5th, 2014, 01:59 AM
I'm needing to go back finesse them some but I'm afraid if I do then I will lose my momentum and get stalled. This next chapter has been a bit of a challenge. I know where it needs to go but keep wandering all over the place with it. I am feeling somewhat focused today, so maybe I will get it done over the holiday weekend.

yea this a struggle I get into sometimes too. I get really excited, work on it for a while and then hit a wall, not even really because I don't know what to write as much as sometimes I just can't seem to get the focus to do it, I just keep going back to older chapters and trying to rework them. But you have to move forward its fine to polish here and there, but you have to keep moving towards that finish line, or you will get stuck in a rut.