Let’s see, the last time I actually wrote dialogue was…(counts on fingers and toes)…I don’t remember.
Honestly, I don’t.
But, this is a good thing, right? I need to dive into the deep end of the pool if I want to learn how to swim, right? Dialogue isn’t my strongest suit and in so recognizing it, it can be something I could and should work on.
This is my first entry in my “Whatever I want Wednesday” as well as another contribution to +MJ Bush ‘s “Tell Me A Story” series of writing prompts. I apologize in advance for the slapdash nature of this entry as I was wrestling with making this a Single or a piece of flash fiction. There is a difference, right? One’s longer than the other? Oh well, in any case, I am heeding the word of my heroes and writing it until it’s finished…which it…kind of is.
Anyway, here is my short, Hitchcock-inspired piece, “In Vino Veritas”.
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“You always were a pain in the ass, Maurice.”
“Oh just…just shut your mouth and get on that…thing…over there!”
“…Thing? Oh. Oh you mean, ‘the chair‘?”
René has made it a point to return every year to the same suite at L’Hôtel sur la Seine to celebrate yet another successful year. Every year, he would set his away message on his phone and email, lock up his office, pack a weekend bag, and head straight to Paris for his yearly rendezvous with his beloved Lilly; a striking woman with impeccable taste. Every year, they would act out the same scenario of “accidentally” bumping into each other on the elevator, sharing a polite but tense trip to the fifth floor only to find out that the hotel “accidentally” booked them into the same room at the same time, to which they would try and make the best of the situation by feigning their gentility and refinement, only to wind up making mad, noisy, crazy, messy love in every room of the suite until the sun rose the following morning. The next day would see them part as convivial strangers. This was his vacation. His escape from the corporate life. His one of very few vices. René would be enjoying this right now, in fact, were it not for Maurice, Lilly’s Husband; a bear of a man with a short temper and even shorter wits, not-so-accidentally met him in that very suite with a fully loaded pistol.
“Same old Maurice,” René smirked. “Using brute force to accomplish what your limited vocabulary could not. I still remember the first shiner from you. We must have been what, eight years old at the time?”
“We were six,” said Maurice. “I remember because it was the first time I saw Lilly.”
“Ah, yes.” said René recounting all the years of this triangle. “It would appear that you have finally caught wind of our liaison. It’s only taken you…oh…thirty years to finally catch on that she never loved you?”
Maurice was not known for his patience. Especially when he felt that he was being slighted, cheated or denied what he wants. Maurice was also not known for his language comprehension skills. Which might explain René’s bafflement as Maurice sat up straight, smiled and laughed. A warm and hearty laugh. It was the kind of laugh that you would expect from a grizzly bear of a man waving a pistol around in your face. “Please, René,” said Maurice catching his breath, “please stand on the chair.” His weapon trained on René’s head as he walked into the other room and procured a length of thick rope from a satchel. “Here,” said Maurice as he tossed the rope, “tie off a noose and then tie one end to the foot of this bed.”
“You don’t expect me to do this willingly, do you?”
A smile crept back onto Maurice’s face.”You see, that’s always been your problem is: you are over confident. You’ve always thought that you were better than everyone else, and you always had to prove it, and you always felt the urge to rub my face in it. But what you never counted on was that I might be smart too. I’m not easily fooled and I am not the guy you want to fuck with.” he placed the cold steel of the barrel against René’s cheek as a knock rapped against the door.
“And just who the hell is that?” said Maurice through clenched teeth, his face turning five shades of red.
“That would be room service,” said René calmly. “Considering the current situation, it would probably be best if I spare you the details. They know me. I told them to come up at this time.”
Without hesitation, Maurice pulled back the hammer of his pistol and raised it to René’s head, “Get rid of him. Make it quick.”
“I’ll take care of him, but would probably be wise to put away your gun so as not to raise suspicion.”
“I’m not that stupid. I will be behind the door just in case there is any funny business. Hurry.”
René took one moment to collect himself. He took a deep breath and flew open the door, nearly crushing Maurice’s nose in the process. “Bonsoir, monsieur. Voici vos articles comme vous avez demandé.” said the young voice on the other side of the door.
“Ah yes, right on time. Thank you very much, Bernard. I trust the family is doing well?” said René as he slipped a €20 note into his gloved hand.
“Oh, c’est pas mal. Merci de demander. La petite Marie se rendra à l’école l’année prochaine,” said Bernard while Maurice grows quietly impatient behind the door.
“How wonderful is that, eh? They grow up so fast. Love to the wife.” René called out to the porter as he shut the door with his hip. His left hand held a bouquet of flowers while his right held a bottle of red wine.
“Oh for me?” asked Maurice, “you shouldn’t have.” It’s amazing how confident one gets with a gun in his hand. “Get back to it,” he said with a motion towards the chair with the rope.
“Yes of course,” said René with an easy smile. “It seems rather tragic that this fine bottle of vintage should go to waste.”
“You’re not talking your way out this time, old man,” huffed Maurice.
“I wouldn’t think of it, sir, and I must concede that you have the upper hand in this conversation. Here, take these. Pour the wine and tell me how you knew about Lilly and I while I set the stage of my own demise.”
Maurice stood for a moment to let that sink in. He was expecting blathering, pleading, maybe the soiling of underwear. Not this calm demeanor. Not from him. Eventually, it caught up to him that René is who he always was, and truthfully shouldn’t expect anything less from him. He strolled to a table, placed his gun down when he saw his victim happily fumbling his way to tying a 13 loop noose, uncorked the bottle and poured. “It was simple, really. I knew something was going on, but I couldn’t quite figure out who or what or…” he sipped his wine before finishing his thought. It had been a long time since his lips tasted wine. “when…Mon Dieu, this is a good wine.”
“Yes. It’s your wife’s favorite, did you know that?”
“I know everything about my wife. She just never told me about this. Anyway,” he continued as he poured another glass, “I knew because I was going through her purse to find her keys and I found your name on a piece of paper, one thing led to another, and it brought me here.”
“My, my. Your deductive skills have improved since we were kids, I see. Kudos to you, sir. They must come in awfully handy in….beg your pardon, what is it that you said you do again?”
“Shipping and receiving,” Maurice answered, his brow heavy with sweat. “‘t’s honest murk…”
“I’m sure it is, old friend,” said René with the jauntiest of smiles. “I’m sure you’ve worked so hard your whole life to claw your way up to middle management. How exciting that must be!”
“Hey!” Maurice squawked as he flopped in his chair not handling his third glass very well, ” ‘t’s a helluva lot better’n what you do. At lease Lilly don’t complain.”
Silence fell between them as René slowed his pace at feebly tying a not he had no intention of finishing. He glared at this monster slowly losing his grip on his words, his breathing, his gun. “Actually, Maurice, she did.” his words heavier than stones. “She complained a lot. Mostly about you, about your job and how you came home late. How you never did anything to satisfy her. Oh, and how you fly off in a rage and beat her. That was a big one. You put her in the hospital, Maurice, and I cannot let that stand. She has always loved me, and I have always loved her. From the very beginning. She only married you because she was in fear of her life. She was sure that you would kill her if you married anyone else.”
“At least I work,” was all Maurice could muster.
“As do I, Maurice. You see that bottle? Did you happen to see who’s name is on the bottle? I’ll spare you the suspense, it’s mine. I built a vineyard up from nothing, and today I ship globally to discerning clients. I don’t like to brag, but I do well. Well enough to buy this hotel. Yes, mine too.” René tossed the rope away and slowly approached Maurice. “Did you know that many wines today are mass produced in huge metal vats and packed in crude boxes?” René genuflected himself as if to remove the sin of it. “I’m what you would call a traditionalist. I still age my wine in solid oak barrels.”
” ‘nd watsat got to do with me?” Maurice spewed forcing a grin.
“Maurice? How’s that tree nut allergy of yours?” Maurice’s grin fades slowly. “Oak has been the traditional method and preferred wood of many wine makers since the dawn of civilization. Oak is also a fruit bearing tree. Acorns, to be specific. As I remember, you would land in the hospital if you so much as sniffed a peanut when we were boys. It would probably explain your demeanor. Always a bully.”
“I… not…bully…” Maurice began to struggle. He grabbed his tie to allow himself more room to breathe.
“You hit Lilly, Maurice. I cannot allow that to happen ever again. What you’re feeling right now is not intoxication, it’s the beginning stages of anaphylactic shock. Your body is rejecting just the minutest amount of acorn found in the barrels. Soon your airways will tighten, and judging by the amount of alcohol you’ve consumed, you will suffocate peacefully and eventually die. You see, Maurice,” René whispered in his dying ear, “I buy and sell shipping clerks like you for breakfast. Your fists may have saved you many times before, but you were always forgetful, prideful, arrogant, ignorant. And while I must respect your prowess in getting what you want, you hurt the woman I love. Your fists are no match for my brain. I,” he whispered with great relish as Maurice struggled in vain to breath, “…I am the guy you…comment avez-vous dit don’t want to fuck with.” And with that, Maurice went stiff.
A moment. A moment was spared to remember a fallen human. One who, although led a life of violence and intimidation, must be remembered at least as a human being. The moment ended as soon as there was a knock at the door. “Come in, Bernard.” said René.
“Is it done, Monsieur?”
“Yes, my friend. It’s finished.” said René smiling that smile. “Have the cameras been rolling this whole time without a problem?”
“Oui, Monsieur. No problem whatsoever. The police are already on their way.”
“Splendid, Barnard, absolutely splendid. A perfect job as always. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to make a phone call.”
“Of course, Monsieur. Pardon.”
He walked; Strolled, to be more specific towards the elevator. Taking the time to make sure he could hear her voice. “Allo?” said the voice at the other end of the line.
“Hello, my love. It is finished.” Stainless steel elevator doors polished to a mirror shine shut with a whisper behind him.