I’m at the pelican crossing, Madness’ Shut Up loud through the car speakers, the rain in competition with the beat. I drum the steering wheel and if I had whiskers I’d twiddle them and slurp some cream. The woman walks slow, her tartan shopping trolley rickety and bound to get stuck in the road’s shallowest cracks. I reach back to touch the bag on the back seat and grin.
The windscreen wipers thud dull and work to ruin Suggs’ cheeky excuse and I realise the old woman is too slow, even for an octogenarian.
Too late, and I should have known. The woman slides out a shotgun from the trolley and points it at me. I slam the accelerator and she swings and arcs her body to avoid my car’s bullhorns. She fires and a tyre bursts. I slip, slide and do an unintentional one-hundred-and-eighty degree turn. The airbag punches my face and sends my nose to the left.
I shake the fuzz away and check the rear view for Sonia Kilvington. She holds the shotgun over a shoulder and swaggers all Joan Jett my way. I grab the bag and slide out the passenger side. I stumble and slip as privet leaves are scythed by shotgun pellets behind me. I hear the reload and the click as she fires again.
She’s either got A-Team aim or she’s playing with me. I don’t wait to find out and run down the nearest alleyway. When I look behind, Kilvington is at full sprint, her arms pistons in a six-cylinder, and though I’m not tired her fixed determination deflates me.
Nah, she’s not having the bag back. Not until she gives me what I want. I hide in a doorway’s shadows. Needles and dried leaves crumple under my feet. I stick my leg out and Sonia slides across the slick flagstones, arms out. The shotgun clatters away from her and rodents squeal to safety.
I step out into the lighter murk and hover over her. Her breath comes out in great billows and wraps us in fog.
“Give me my bag,” she says.
I hold it close to my chest. “I don’t think so. There’s only one way you get this bad boy back.”
“Does it involve this?” She points a gun which fits snug in her palm at me.
“Ah, that might do it.”
She gesticulates for me to throw the bag, so I oblige, right at her head. She pulls off a shot but loses sight of me as her forearm protects her head. I kick the gun from her hand and grab the bag.
I run, stop, run, stop. Pause to hear the slap of footsteps, and charge back towards the main streets. I pinball out the alley’s end straight into Kilvington’s palm-punch. My legs fly above me and my brain crunches on impact. Kilvington puts a bullet in my right thigh and she checks the bag as I writhe. The downpour fails to quench the burn which sears my frame. The golden glow lights up her face and she convinces me she’s climbed into the bag it shines so warm.
She zips it shut before it claims her. “Why’d you steal it?”
My clenched teeth bar an eloquent answer, but I manage to spit out “Answers.”
She sleeves away the drench from her face as the rain slows to a steady stream. She eyes my wound. “You know how hard I worked for this? You have any idea at all?”
My lower lip trembles and I’m not sure if it’s from the bullet wound or her righteousness. I shake my head.
“Because I did work hard. And you come here and steal what is mine without a thought for the consequences.”
She’s got me. I hope the rain disguises my tears.
“Looks like we need to share a pot of tea.” She wraps my leg to stem the bleeding. Once finished, she steps over me and invites me to hop along with her.
I think an hospital is the better choice, but the warm lights of the cafe I see across the road, and Sonia’s answers make me trail a leg that way instead.
Sonia Kilvington writes dark fiction you can see across respected crime fiction magazines such as The Flash Fiction Offensive. Her work is witty, sometimes gruesome, and has a whole lot of heart. As well as writing fiction she also writes features for magazines in Cyprus.
A friend of mine doesn’t read fiction, paraphrasing Frank Skinner about it all being made-up and he has no time for any of that. What words do you have for such a philistine?
Sonia Kilvington (SK): Your life must be so interesting…
What must a protagonist have to make you read on?
SK: I enjoy an emotionally troubled character, someone with serious issues and internal conflict; ideally, they will be a little paranoid too. Unreliable narrators are my favourite sort; you have to put a bit more work in if you can’t trust what they are telling you.
Do you need a likeable protagonist?
SK: I don’t remember reading a book with a likeable protagonist. It’s not my sort of thing.
Name a great antagonist, in a novel or movie, and what they do for you.
SK: I’m interested in cults, and I thought Waco was fantastic! Instead of giving us an entirely predictable Good VS. Evil account of the 51 day siege and standoff, between the FBI, ATF, U.S. military and Branch Davidians, we were given a strange, complicated picture of events and motivations. David Koresh was everything you could hope for in a charismatic cult leader. If there were awards for narcissism… and yet some of his interpretation of religious texts seemed inspired. It was a beautifully done drama with a very tragic ending. I cried my way through the last episode; that’s why I am mentioning it.
What makes you throw a book out the window?
SK: Boredom, whining characters, a lack of involvement or super slow plotlines.
Do you grit your teeth all the way to the end of a dodgy novel?
SK: It depends on whether I’m being paid to review it or not.
What gets you writing? A great novel? Something you saw on the street or on TV? Something else?
SK: Dreams, nightmares; things that get dredged up from my unconscious. I am also partial to song lyrics. My writing is often about trying to a capture a feeling or a conflicted emotion. Maybe I am trying to explain myself in some obscure way? I have used experiences from my real life in disguise too. I tend to be more honest in my poetry.
What did you learn about writing from the last book you wrote?
SK: It has been awhile since I wrote a full length novel; I have been concentrating on writing short stories the last couple of years. The most useful thing I have learnt is to have faith in a story when other people find it too weird or don’t understand what I’m trying to do with it. Maybe it just needs a little re-working…
What’s your next book, in 30 words or less?
SK: I am putting together a short story collection. I write in several different genres, but all of my characters are unified in being psychologically challenged in some way.
SK: Where can readers connect with you?
To get a taste for Sonia’s work, check out the following short stories:
Paranoidat Pulp Metal Magazine
Skin Deep at Spelk Fiction
Jakeat The Flash Fiction Offensive
You can buy City of Forts on all Digital Formats HERE, and in paperback.