Chapter 16 of The Crows is online today!
CW for alcohol/drunkenness drug-dealing, relapsed alcoholic character, refs to parental death and maternal alcoholism/death by drink-driving.
CHAPTER 16: SINISTER LOCAL HISTORY
Links on my podcast page.
…in which Carrie has a night out and Wes tells a dark tale…
It wasn’t long before the curtain of the snug was twitched aside, and in sauntered a man as lean as Ricky Porter if a foot taller, beer bottle in his hand, conspicuous in a plain black plastic mask covering the top half of his face, sharply dressed in a royal purple silk shirt and black skinny jeans.~ C. M. Rosens, The Crows, pp. 341-44
Tina hailed him with a grin. “Wes! You made it!”
“Sorry, Tee.” Wesley Porter went in for a warm hug. “Would’ve been here earlier but I was running a quick errand when you texted. Family thing.”
Tina raised an eyebrow as they broke apart.
Wes raised his hands. “Not selling, honest. Gone clean, on my Aunty’s grave.”
“Yeah, you pass your gear on to one of your cousins to sell for you,” Tina remarked, unconvinced and unimpressed.
“Naun harmful, recreational only, give us a break, love.”
Carrie got the impression Wes was a much better liar than his cousin. It was the strangest thing, but after Wes stopped speaking she could remember what he’d said, but not what his voice sounded like.
“So, how’s things?” Tina shifted along to make room for him, and Wes dragged a chair closer to hers than necessary.
“Yeah, alright thanks, apart from our soothsayer being an awkward sod for some reason. Insisted on coming to me instead of me going there, he’s never done that before. Bloody weird. Only did me a bone-reading, that’s all, nothing special. Gave him something he can sell to the party crowd.” He turned to the table, running his tongue over his lips as he spotted Carrie, now frozen and staring. The implication left her aghast.
(Unbelievable! ‘No sex, no drugs, no rock ‘n’ roll’ my arse. What an absolute—)
“Hel-lo. You must be Caroline.”
Carrie shook his hand. “Carrie.” His palm was hot and dry. “Is it Wesley?”
“Wes, please.” He finished his beer and set the bottle down. “Don’t mind my cousin, if he’s been sniffing around. He doesn’t get out much. Oh, speaking of getting out, sorry Charlie couldn’t make it, she’s got a date.” He made himself comfortable.
“Shame,” Tina said.
“Tee fancies my missus,” Wes said, dropping a hand under the table to rest on Tina’s thigh, “But I don’t take it personally.”
Carrie noted Tina didn’t brush him off.
“Right, let’s get this over with.” Wes took off his mask, and Carrie held her breath. The surprise of his average appearance was a terrible anti-climax. She dropped her eyes to her glass and immediately forgot what he looked like.
She raised her eyes again and fixed his face in her mind. When she looked away, she couldn’t remember his eye colour, hair colour, face shape, the size of his nose.
Am I that drunk?
Not that drunk, no, but her frontal lobe was bathed in blissful numbness, and her thoughts felt more her own.
She caught Tina’s eye and saw she was smirking.
No, I bet this is a thing, she thought. Alright, I’ll play.
“Go on,” Wes encouraged her. “What’s my hair like? Took me hours, this did.”
Carrie closed her eyes and guessed. She opened her eyes. She was wrong.
Mercy clapped. “God, it’s weird, isn’t it? I’m getting another beer.” She slid clumsily by, knocking the table again.
“She’s being subtle,” Wes said as she left. “She doesn’t like me. Anyway, Carrie, let’s get to it. I figured I was coming over to be grilled.”
Tina shook her head. “I think Carrie’s earned a few answers, Wes.”
“Why’s your Gran trying to kill me?” Carrie blurted out, fed up. “And what’s the deal with your face?”
Wes burst out laughing. He shook his head, long fingers toying with his mask. “Gran’s not trying to kill you, not that I know of. From what I can tell, Jan just wanted to scare you and it – got a bit out of hand. Gran was a bit pissed off because she, well, she was pretty close to Jan. I mean, she might have reacted…”
“I was nearly cursed to death.” Carrie scowled, noting how close he was to Tina. “Dr Monday had to Sarcophagus Wrap me.”
“I’m not sure what that means,” Wes said slowly, nondescript voice easily carrying over the music, “but Tee said all of this – it’s got something to do with a ghost? Gran’s got protection against stuff like that. If anything, she’s just doing a friend of hers a favour, though I’ve no idea who that is.”
Carrie grated her teeth. “I want some answers.”
“What d’you want, a potted history?” Wes exchanged glances with Tina, amused. “Cor, she is new here. Yeah, okay. Right. Once upon a time…”
This is how we meet Wes Porter for the first time, before I knew him properly as a character. He’s now the main character in Thirteenth and the short story Overexposure. If you signed up to my newsletter you get a free version of Overexposure in one of the back issues (#2)