As you may recall from this post, my sister and I are practicing for Nanowrimo with writing exercizes from the “3 am epiphany” by Brian Kiteley. This week’s exercize is #29, in which we had to present a villian who “enjoys the fruits of his crime and gets away with it” while still making the character likable. What follows is my story of Jack Ripkin. I hope you enjoy it.
Jack watched the cream eddy in his coffee as he poured it into his cup. Whiteness welled up, formed tendrils of chaos that expanded into the black, lightening the dark into brown.
Cream and coffee danced and melded together like lovers in the throes of passion. Much like blood and water. Victor’s blood had swelled and eddied out into the waters of the pool, much like the cream in his coffee cup.
Jack smiled and sipped at his coffee, luxuriating in the sweet bitterness of roasted beans. It had been far too long since he had tasted good coffee; convenience stores and fast food chains all too often burn their brews, leaving a harsh aftertaste and heartburn. But a man without a penny to his name can’t afford to be too picky.
Victor’s coat sagged over Jack’s shoulders. Victor had been a tall man with a protuberant potbelly. His coat gaped widely at the collar and waist, but Jack didn’t care: the wool was fine, with a double twill weave that kept out the cold November winds. It would keep him warm when he slept tonight.
Jack looked up to meet the eyes of a uniformed police officer, a petite blonde woman with suspicion dark in her blue eyes. His stomach clamped up on his pancakes and orange juice. He thought he might puke.
He was conscious of the blood under his fingernails and on his shirt, of the stolen wallet with the stolen cards burning a hole into his stolen coat. But he kept his face smooth and hoped his eyes did not betray his nervousness. He looked the woman straight into her eyes and smiled.
“Good morning, Officer.” He managed to say. It sounded smooth and friendly enough to his ears. “Is there something wrong?”
“This gentleman here–” she gestured to the man behind her, the maitre’d, who had sneered at his oversized coat and ragged shoes when he asked for a table of one. “I am a paying customer, sir.” Jack had told him, flashing a small wad of bills under his nose. “I wish to eat breakfast. A table of one, sir.”
The cop was still speaking. “–he thinks you might be a thief. I must ask if you have any identification upon you?”
“A thief?” Jack pretended indignation. “I am most certainly not a thief! Of course I have ID.” He reached into his back pocket for a threadbare, thin wallet. In it were a few dollar bills and some obsolete credit cards. “I know I don’t look great, Officer.” He said, hoping to explain away his shabby appearance. “My father passed away a couple days ago. This was his coat. But I am not a damn thief! This money is mine.” He shot a glare at the maitre’d.
Jack wasn’t lying about that at least. Victor owed him a lot of money, money that came from his stocks, sold off to pad Victor’s golden parachute before the markets failed.
He pulled out his driver’s license. The picture was a few years old. He had more hair then, and the address on the card was no longer his. It belonged to his wife, who now wanted nothing to do with him.
The cop took the license with an apologetic smile. “Thank you, Mr.–” She glanced at his card–“Ripkin. Is this address current?”
“Yes, ma’am, it sure is.”
She nodded, then left, probably to run his name through the database in her cruiser, he presumed. Jack didn’t worry; he had no record, nothing to incriminate him.
He drank his coffee. The blood on his fingers called to him, and he remembered Victor’s gutted body falling into the pool, only this time he had the maitre’d’s face. He chuckled and glared at the man, who watched him from his podium with lowered brows. “Snob.” Jack muttered. He hated snobs. Victor had been a snob. The world would be a much better place with no snobs in it.
The cop returned and spoke to the snobby maitre’d, whose face turned red and his lips white. Jack grinned. He hoped the snobby little Frenchman was getting an earful.
She returned to the table, and handed his license back to him. Her eyes fell on his hand, with dried blood crusted around his nails. Jack began to sweat. “Is that blood, Mr. Ripkin?” She asked him. Jack swallowed down bile. “Yeah. I had a nose bleed early this morning.” He blurted out, hoping his lie was plausible. “It’s this sudden cold snap, you know?” She nodded and smiled. “You should clean that more carefully. I’m very sorry to have interrupted your breakfast, and I am also sorry about your father.” She winked. “I think you’ll find that your meal is free. Have a good day, Mr. Ripkin!”
Jack heaved a sigh of relief as she turned and walked out the door. Quickly, her presence was replaced by that of the maitre’d, now pale and thin-lipped, but oozing unctuous politeness. “Would you like some dessert, sir? We have strawberry and blackberry tarts, sir.”
“No thank you. I’ve already had my dessert.” Jack grinned and hoped his teeth glinted in the light. The man’s white lips tightened even more.
“Your meal is on the house sir, with my apologies.” Jack simply nodded and sipped his coffee, and the man stomped away.
It was time for him to go, time to disappear into the grime of the streets, into the invisible dregs of society. Victor’s wallet hung heavy and thick inside the lining of his coat. He knew he couldn’t hang on to it anymore, especially once the body was discovered. He had hoped that he would have the rest of the day to play with Victor’s—his!–money. To relive some of his lost life, before returning to the soulless streets as plain old useless Jack Ripkin.
He tossed back the dregs of his coffee and tightened his coat around him, and stepped out of the warmth and into the wind. Gusts tugged at the loose flaps of his oversized coat. He held his head down and wished he had thought to steal a hat.
He soon came upon a trashcan and pulled out Victor’s wallet. It was made from Italian leather and screamed wealth. It was far too conspicuous for him to keep, he now knew. He stuffed three hundred in cash into his jeans and tossed the wallet and all the credit cards into the trash.
A weight lifted, and Victor’s coat hung a bit softer, and the wind didn’t feel so bitter. Jack smiled. It’s a good thing he had no home, no place to go. They’ll never find him. He turned up his collar and walked into the cold November wind.