A story for Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #115 …
by Dave Williams
The crash was difficult and embarrassing. Arrested in a Las Vegas hotel room, no time to hide the cocaine — although the cops surely would’ve found it anyway. At least the woman wasn’t paid company. Although, she — Katie? Kaylee? — had enjoyed what his money could buy.
Serving jail time became a marker in Brandon Keener’s life. A separation of what came before and what happened afterward.
Lock-up reminded him of an earlier marker. High school English class, an assignment was finally given that was much better than Shakespeare — which was hard to understand and boring except for the sword-fighting scenes.
“The Most Dangerous Game,” by Richard Connell, was short and thrilling. Brandon had enjoyed The Hunger Games, but that was set in another world, another time. The short story could’ve happened in the current world.
Brandon was more focused than most of his peers after high school. While others partied, Brandon studied for his classes — and the stock market. Rarely did he go to a party and blow off steam.
After college, he landed an entry-level job at a consulting firm. The hours were long, but Brandon still studied stocks. Fortunately for him, mom and dad had paid for college in full, so he wasn’t burdened with paying back a loan. His available money was invested in stocks.
Some of his risky bets lost money, but some hit big. The financial rewards were reinvested. While others went to restaurants and clubs, his money bought stocks.
When Brandon was in his mid-thirties, he quit his job to trade stocks full-time. He relaxed his policy of just occasionally going out. Now he could afford better restaurants and clubs than his peers.
That relaxing was controllable for a while in going out with friends and dating. He bought an enviable condo and filled it with expensive toys. He jetted off on luxurious vacations with various women. Top-shelf booze flowed and drugs were inhaled.
Brandon’s control slipped and the dam burst. He lost big at card tables in Vegas. Stumbled to the suite and partied harder than he ever had. Then lock-up.
He came to feel grateful for jail. After he survived the transition to sobriety, he poured energy into exercising his body and mind. Lifted weights and read business books, which gave him an historical perspective that wasn’t part of his research when he was younger.
Once into freedom, Brandon focused on rebuilding his wealth. And he acted smarter how he spent free time. No drugs, only booze. No crazy gambling trips.
Brandon purchased a large swath of wilderness land and hired a contractor to build a spacious lodge. He asked his old drug dealer for other contacts, and through a network, Brandon met “Mr. Dulin,” who wore a thick gold necklace and claimed to be able to deliver what Brandon wanted.
Sure enough, Mr. Dulin brought a man in his fifties to the lodge, the man’s head covered in a hood and his wrists restrained together.
Excitement thrilled through Brandon as he explained to the stranger: “You’ll get two days to rest. Then the door to your room will be unlocked. I’ll give you three hours head-start. Then I’ll hunt you. If you can make it off my property, you’ll be a hundred grand richer. I’ll give you a phone number to call.”
“What the fuck,” the stranger yelled. “Are you fucking crazy?”
“No,” Brandon said. “Just inspired.”
The stranger was placed in a locked cabin away from the lodge. He never saw Brandon’s face. The cabin was stocked with food and clothes.
On the morning of the release, Brandon’s voice came through a speaker in the cabin: “You have two hours until starting time.” The man yelled it was unfair and his captor really was fucking crazy.
The door was unlocked. Cameras on the cabin’s exterior showed Brandon that the stranger rushed off. Bulging pockets on his jacket showed that likely food was stuffed in them.
Brandon killed the man that afternoon. Didn’t take long for Brandon to track him, as the stranger wasn’t careful in rushing through the woods. Brandon could’ve bought a rifle and shot the man from long range, but that didn’t seem sporting. Nor as rewarding. So Brandon walked closer to the stranger. Let the stranger see the face of his killer. Raised the pistol and fired three times. Exhilaration and nerves burst in Brandon. The death was wrong, yet he could not deny the rush he had felt. Better than drugs.
Brandon called Mr. Dulin and told him they were going to have a long and profitable relationship. At Brandon’s request, Mr. Dulin’s delivered younger, more fit strangers. They came in different seasons to mix up Brandon’s game. And he mixed up the weapons he used.
Every time, he told himself that each stranger had a chance to win more money than they’d earn in a year. And every time, he killed them and burned their bodies and buried their ashes.
copyright © 2021 Dave Williams