Friday, September 17, 2010

[Fiction] Friday Challenge #173 for Sept 17th, 2010

Prompt: Why did the Tooth Fairy fail to deliver coins one evening? (follow the link to [Fiction] Friday's other responses! 

With a splintering crash the Tactical Response Group brought the operation to a close. Through the haze left by smoke grenades, James could barely recognise the interior of his newspaper's press room. Embedded with the local TRG he never thought his reporting would take him back to his own office or that he would face the possibility that anyone he knew could be embroiled in such an incredible tale of organised crime. In fact when he first took the assignment, he thought it would be a bit of excitement to keep him from a boring week of reporting banal suburban life and trivial small-town gossip.
Ainslie Buxton, chief editor of the Oldstown Herald was the quintessential newspaperman with half spectacles teetering precariously from the tip of his crooked nose and the piled up ash tray by his elbow bearing the weeks old butts looking for all the world like a small pyramid of animal droppings. The musty aroma surrounding Buxton also left much to be desired and any way you looked at him he was not in the running to win a popularity contest. He did however have one redeeming feature; the uncanny ability to spot a good story and sniff out the possibility of a scandal from 100 miles. As editors go he was decidedly old school and though the reporting team were terrorised by his constant screech for copy and his obsession with deadlines, there remained the grudging respect given a senior journalist who could wring a headline from thin air if necessary.
At precisely 5 AM every morning Buxton pushed his chair away from his desk, stubbed out his last cigarette of the night and donned his rumpled old hat, before heading out to the stairwell and making his way to the basement where he kept a private corner amid the floor-to-ceiling stacks of archived files. A leather chair, a cigar box and a small beer fridge had been fitted in around the assorted detritus of 110 years of newspaper production looking for all the world like they were growing there. 

On Friday the 17th however, he didn’t slump into his seat or prepare and light a cigar, or open a Guinness stubby from the fridge as was his custom. Upon entering the basement, instead he turned left and exited through a fire door into the narrow alley filled with the smells of inner-city garbage collection.
James came to the corner of the building and did his best to become an imprint in two dimensions against the rough stone alcove where he waited, etched into the shadow like a duotone graffiti print; just as cold and just as still. Then a movement at the far end of the alley, where the disused backdoor of The Herald discharged a weary, disheveled figure looking very much at home among the discarded rubbish and empty boxes.  James was jogged from his revere by the sound of a BMW that  coming to land like a Learjet, blocking even more of the light from the cross street to his right. Four Jag-clad thugs disembarked and made their way down the alley in the jingle of gold chains and glinting Rolex.
To James' surprise the four paid deference to the rumpled figure, then passed over a slender black briefcase which the surprise Don opened quickly and, glancing at the contents closed again with a snap. Peering through the muted halftones of the streetscape, James struggled to recognise the old man. Even when he disappeared back into the building he could not make the leap to consider it to be other than a strange intruder. It was when slipping back toward the side street that the resemblance struck him with a blow more devastating than if he had actually suffered violence. Mr Buxton.
Surely not, he thought. Then the pieces fell into place. It had shocked him when the sting's location was disclosed. The authorities had revealed little, despite his probing questions. He was mystified by the task-force code name “tooth fairy” - their droll name for the gangland figure who was rumoured to be ordinary by day and a ruthless autarch by night. If this were true, James wondered where the devil he found the time? Of course, he did have a small army of reporters to send off on information gathering expeditions, and he had great contacts inside the local police. In fact, all things considered, it was the perfect position of power. With a jot of his pen he could end a career, choose what was published, and what the population knew. He could rule the history of the town by wit and publicity. But not today. James broke into a run as the black SWAT van arrived and he followed the helmeted and kevlar swathed cops into the stair well, then onto the second floor. The door was locked from inside. A battering ram came forward. Two sharp pops of grenade launcher and then with masks down and automatic weapons leading, the squad stormed in.
On the floor, like the spill from a charity bin, lay Ainslie Buxton, AKA The Tooth Fairy and former chief editor of the Oldstown Herald. A fortune in gold coins, recently stolen from the museum, spilling across the floor from the briefcase in a luminous cascade.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent take on the prompt. Awesome out-of-the-box thinking on this one. Great descriptive narrative.