Short story – The Ballad of Joe Ferocious and the Triggers

Finally! A short story for you all, enjoy!

“My brother and I are glad you could all make it here, at such short notice.” Rufus Grey leaned forward in his chair, letting his ragged yet clean-cut face become enveloped in the pale moonlight, which shone through the nearby window.

    “This is a very urgent matter we wish to discuss with you gentlemen.” Rupert Grey did the same with his chair, yet Rufus’ plump exterior stole much of the moonlight. Instead, the tall desk-light to his right cast a thick, jagged black shadow over his own well-shaven face, sharing much of his brother’s craggy and stern expression.

   The ten men waited with bated breaths on the other side of the desk, some sat and some stood. Their thuggish looks contrasted sharply with the tense body language they all feebly tried to hide. It was their job to answer to the Grey Brothers, usually regarding rowdy club members or dodgy dealings with other businesses. But this was the first time all ten of them were in the brother’s office at once.

   “We have a job for you,” said Rufus.

   “All of you,” said Rupert.

   “As you know,” began Rufus, “what with all these Chuck Berry’s and Elvis Presley’s coming across the sea, and the airwaves, we’ve had to adopt adapt and improve the way we run our clubs.”

   “The kids want to go to places where they can let themselves go,” added Rupert, “and we’d like to think we offer that service. After all, 1960 is just around the corner, and we must appear fresh and instant to the kids.”

   “But it’s not without its consequences,” warned Rufus, “This so called, ‘rock and roll’, is proving to be quite a violent form of musical expression.

   “As you know, we’ve had nights where some minor ruckus has arisen between patrons,” continued Rupert, “and my brother and I am pleased to see you’ve all risen to the challenge.”

   “But there’s more,” Rufus leaned in even more so, passing through the moonlight and letting his face plunge into near-total darkness, “England is only just starting to get their own rock and roll bands on the go, and some are proving to have a violent impact wherever they go.”

   “In most cases, this is something that cannot be helped,” Rupert added, “the bands conduct themselves with a degree of grace and stability, it’s the audience that are the problem.”

   Rufus leaned back in his chair and reached down into a drawer. Opening and shutting it, he produced a large flyer with a drawing of a tall, muscular young man, complete with slicked-back hair, clutching a guitar, and singing into a microphone. Below the drawing it read ‘Joe Ferocious and The Triggers, The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band!’

   “But here, the problem is this young man. He, Joe Ferocious, and his band, The Triggers, actively encourage the audience to go berserk. Everywhere they go, places are smashed and people are hurt.”

   “Which is why you’re here,” continued Rupert, “we wish to make an example of this young man and show our audiences the full extent of the destruction he causes.

   “That is why,” added Rufus, “we’ve invited you to our office. We wish for you to deal with him.”

   One of the thuggish men suddenly interrupted;

   “Excuse me, sir; do you want us to give him the usual? Busted teeth, broken bones, that sort of deal?”

   Rufus and Rupert looked at each other gravely.

   “No, Boris, we want the full business done on this young man, and his band. Plus, make it look purely accidental.”

   The men gave out a slight whimper of anxiety.

   “But sirs,” piped up another man, the smallest of the bunch yet sporting the deepest voice, “we’ve never done anything like this before, won’t people notice?”

   “It’s all in hand, Mick,” Rupert assured, “as long as we keep our cool, and you follow our instructions, we’ll surely make an example of him.”

   “When d’you wants this done then?” enquired the first thug.

   “Tomorrow night.” Rufus answered.

   Rupert then proceeded to reach down into his side of the desk and pull forth a large map, unfolding it and spreading it out on the table before the men. On it, a small portion of the River Thames snaked along with various small blocks and squiggly lines running around it.

   Two buildings were marked clearly in thick, black biro, while a stretch of winding road connected the two, also in biro. One building was marked ‘J.F+T.T’, while the other was marked ’21.J’.

   “Now then boys,” began Rufus.

   “This is the plan,” finished Rupert.

   On the other side of the office wall, the club was opening up and patrons were flooding in and the music began booming all around, sending everyone into a swing and a swagger. To any passing dancer who may have leaned their ear against the office door, Rufus’s and Rupert’s instructions would have been totally drowned out.

   The following night, Joe Ferocious sat at the helm of the clapped-out tour van, his eyes gleaming and his smile broadening every time he turned a corner. The streetlights gleamed away, giving a fuzzy shade of yellow, zooming over head one by one. The many passing buildings of brown and grey seemed to grow darker as the evening sun sunk behind them.

   Every few seconds, the van gave a splutter and a splurge, sending thick, swelling swirls of black smoke out of every possible hole the van had and into the night.

   In the back of the van, the band’s instruments swung from side to side with every sharp turn made by Joe, while The Triggers sat huddled together in the front with Joe.

   “Slow down, you idiot,” demanded Nigel, the pianist, “the show’s hardly going to start before we before we get there!’

   “I know that!” Joe retorted, “But even so, actually being invited to do a gig is something I want to relish as best I can, and invited by the Grey Brothers to play at one of their very own clubs, The 27 Joint!”

   “This is the stuff that’ll go down in rock and roll history!” added Timmy, the drummer, but his shared enthusiasm only made Nigel and Jeremy, the bass player, feel all the more exasperated. The two of them, sitting side by side gave each other a wearily look that told of many more similar journeys this band had undertaken.

   “It’s never a good idea to add fire to Joe’s flame,” he said to Timmy, poking him in the side with what free fingers he could muster.

   “There’s no need to poke me!” retorted Timmy.

   “I’d be hitting you across the head, if I could get my arm round!” Jeremy shuffled in his seat vigorously, sending several springs tearing through the seat’s worn-out layer of leather.

   “Keep still,” demanded Nigel, who was being shoved into the door by Jeremy’s razor-sharp elbow, “you’re big enough as it is so you automatically get the most room!”

   “I can’t help it,” Jeremy bemoaned, “even when I’m not moving the van makes me move!”

   The rattling vehicle tore alongside the River Thames, its rust-ridden doors rattling loosely like jangling keys, made even janglier by the four young men pushing and shoving each other against them.

   Further along the road, Mick and Boris sat huddled in their own van, parked snugly within a darkened alleyway, waiting patiently for Joe and the band to appear.

   Boris let the window down, slowly and quietly, to release the smoke from his cigarette. Leaning back in his seat, he watched the thin, wispy whirls of smoke float into the air, eventually fading away completely.

   Meanwhile, Mick sat beside him, chewing on his fingernails as if he were playing the piano. With every rapid bite, he let out a jittering cry that made both of them uneasy.

   “Can’t you keep quite and still at the same time?” Boris asked, “shan’t be long now, then we can all go home and forget this every happened.”

   “But what if it doesn’t work?” Mick asked, “what if we get the wrong van? And the street lights! We’ll be done for this, you know.”

   “We’ve been given a complete description of the van and the band,” Boris assured, patiently, “they have to go through this road to get to The 27 Joint, don’t they? And when we take care of all the lights, no-one will see what we’re doing, so no-one will catch us, okay? And even if something does go wrong, the Grey Brothers’ have got a backup plan.”

   Mick continued to shake in his seat.

   “I still think something will go wrong, it’s bound to!”

   “But what’s there to go wrong?” Boris’ voice grew deeper with loss of patience, “we wait for Dave to give the signal, we shoot out their lights and the street lights, they have to stop, we get out and deal with them, then we drive on, simple!” but as Mick carried on jittering, a faint rattling sound came through the open window, “there’s Dave!” said Boris firmly, pulling out a revolver from the glove compartment as a large man waved towards them, “here we go!”

   Inside Joe’s, he was growing more and more restless.

   “Hey guys, can you get the map out and check where we are, we must be nearly there by now!”

   Timmy reached behind the driver’s seat for the map and opened it up clumsily, loosing his grip on it every time Joe failed to miss a pothole or a street corner in his enthusiasm.

   “Hang on, I’ve got it,” he said, managing to catch it after its fourth drop. He opened it feverishly, carelessly ripping several pieces as he did so.

   “Be careful!” warned Nigel, grabbing the map and opening it out even more, covering both his, Timmy’s and Jeremy’s laps.”

   “Now then, we are here,” began Jeremy, his lanky finger following a jagged grey line.

   “No we’re not, we’re here!” retorted Nigel, poking at another jagged line on the other side of the map.

   “Let’s open it up some more, we must be somewhere on here!” suggested Timmy.

   They spread the map out fully, covering the dashboard and part of the windshield. Joe’s jittery driving meant the map was soon lost all over the front of the car, barely visible for Joe to see the road.

   “You’re all wrong!” said Joe, diverting his gaze from what road was visible, “we’re here!”

   As soon as he pointed to the map, a bullet came piercing through just above where his finger was. It sped between him and Timmy, piercing through the cab’s wall and into the back, knocking several guitars out of tune. Barely having time to react, another bullet came, sending one of the van’s lights clean out.

   Joe pushed the map away from him and veered wildly all cross the road, narrowly missing several thuggish looking men who jumped out the way.

   Above them, the street lights seemed to instantly go out with a resounding bang, leaving only the one light on Joe’s van to guide the way. But as Joe began to gather himself, two other vans appeared either side of him.

   “They’re getting awfully close,” noted Jeremy.

   “Maybe they got shot at as well,” suggested Timmy, “and they’re running away, like we are!”

   “Well either way, they must be petrified,” added Nigel, “they’re nudging into us!”

   Sure enough, both vans rammed themselves as best they could into Joe’s little tour van, its rusting body work denting easily like kneading a ball of dough.

    The swirling smoke coming from the van gave way to a sticky, black liquid and began pouring all over the road. The thug’s van on the left, having slowed down slightly, caught up with the stuff and spun out of control into a nearby shop, fitting like a glove into its small display window.

   Inside the other van, Boris drove like a wild bull seeing red, while Mick shook away more petrified than ever.

   “Shoot them!” Boris snorted, pointing to the gun next to him.

   “Oh I can’t,” wailed Mick, “I can’t! I told you this would happen, I told you!”

   Boris looked away from the road and tried shoving the gun into Mick’s hand, before letting it off accidentally into the engine. The van instantly disappeared into a roaring gulf of flames, leaving Joe and the band to carry on with their journey. Nigel looked back at the damage.

   “Don’t you think we ought to stop? One of them crashed and one of them blew up!”

   “Oh we can’t do that now! We’re nearly there, I’m sure!” Joe panted, “and besides, I’m sure those vans were trying to stop us deliberately!”

   “What, even the bullets?” Nigel enquired.

   “Well, I don’t know about that,” Joe replied, “but those vans didn’t want us to get to our destination. I’m sure!”

   “But why should anyone want to do that?” asked Jeremy.

   Joe looked at him sternly, slowing down.

   “Maybe, just maybe,” he slowed even more, “they weren’t fans of the band.”

   The others all let out a gasp of horror.

   “What a shocking thought!” mused Jeremy.

   “Imagine it! People, who aren’t fans of Joe and The Triggers!” wailed Timmy.

   With that reasoning behind them, Joe floored the clutch once more and they drove off, once more, into the night.

   Several streets away, Rupert and Rufus made their way through the back of a small, grotty building, with several of their thugs behind them. As they closed the door behind them, finding themselves in a damp, grimy storeroom, the two brothers gave the thugs a stern stare. The thugs were caked in blood and drenched in cuts, scars and bruises from their first attempt at killing Joe.

   “So,” began Rufus, “our plan didn’t work out as we’d hoped.”

   The thugs, who hung their heads in shame, shook them slowly.

   “Then its time to put Plan B into operation.” Rupert smirked, menacingly. Opening another door which led out into the main club area floor, Rupert gestured to the men. “Right, you’ve got your guns ready? Well surround the place, but do it surreptitiously, we don’t want anyone suspecting anything.”

   “You needn’t worry about the bouncers, they’re with us,” added Rupert, “plus, they’ll help you control the crowd once you shoot the band. Right, off you go, and wait for our signal.”

   The thugs began to file out, one by one, until the chain suddenly stopped as the last one turned back to Rupert.

   “You mean shoot the band when they’re on stage?” he asked incredulously, his gun rattling in his hand as he shook with fear.

   “Not when, once they’re on stage, Trevor!” Rufus yanked a nearby towel from a crate of beer, “and cover your gun up, for God’s sake!”

   The last thug joined the others into the club, carefully making his way through the eager crowd. Their eyes were glued to the empty stage ahead of them, waiting for the band to come on. The Grey Brothers retreated slightly back into the store room, keeping the door open slight ajar.

   “Are you sure this is the right place?” asked Rupert, “it doesn’t look all that familiar.”

   “I thought so too,” agreed Rufus, “but we haven’t been in this washout for a while. Anyway, it must be The 27 Joint, the only other club around here is The Slippery Dick.”

   “One which we don’t even own,” Rupert added.

   “Exactly!” assured Rufus.

   Trevor spied his colleges, who had all positioned themselves against every door and all along the outside of the crowd, ready to close in on them like a pack of wolfs against their prey. Trevor sidled up to a heavily-tattooed bouncer, giving him a sly, if shaky, wink. The bouncer gazed down on him, giving him a blank expression.

   Suddenly, the crowd let out a roar of excitement as four individuals staggered onto the stage. Rufus and Rupert, peering out from behind the store door, gave a wide-eyed nod to their thugs, who each caught the stare.

   The zealous energy produced by the crowd suddenly exploded into a manic rave as the band began playing. The thugs pulled on their triggers, only to have their guns knocked out for aim by the bouncing crowd and their shots drowned out by both the band and the audience.

   Within seconds, the thugs became lost in the crowd, their weapons falling to the floor as one by one they became entangled with the dancers. Rupert and Rufus both let out a cry of exasperation, and each grabbed for the guns they could spy being kicked around the floor.

   At last, they each got hold of one, and standing upright, aimed at the stage and pulled the trigger. This time, two bullets flew through the air and hit the front-man straight in the chest. Falling to the floor, the rest of the band immediately stopped playing and more shots rang out.

   The audience’s cheers turned to screams as they ran for the exits. Rupert and Rufus, unable to reach the store room in time, became lost in the crowd as they neared the exit. But before they could escape, they felt several rough, heavily tattooed hands clutch them firmly.

   “Oh no, you don’t,” came a gruff voice, “we saw what you did.”

   “You’re coming with us!” said another.

   “Look here!” shouted Rufus, “Don’t you know who we are? We own this club!”

   “The Slippery Dick? This is one of the few places you haven’t got your dirty hands on, and yeah, sure” assured another guard, “you’re the Grey Brothers. And now that we’ve actually seen you do air your dirty laundry in public, you’ve got to be put away, ain’t you?”

   “Slipper Dick?” repeated Rupert, “Slippery Dick? We’re in the wrong bloody club!”

   Rufus looked quickly at the stage.

   “We shot the wrong bloody band!”

As the guards dragged the protesting Grey Brothers deeper into the club, the crowd continued to pour out into the streets. Some ran away, some huddled together, and some ran straight out into the road, where a clapped-out van narrowly missed them. Inside, four young men were arguing over a slightly torn map.

   “Hey look,” said Timmy, pointing towards the club, “is that the place?”

   “Nah,” replied Joe, “that’s just The Slippery Dick, rubbish place!”

   “Most awful,” agreed Jeremy, “no matter what the act is, the audience does have a reputation for being rather over-zealous.”

   “We best not go there anytime then,” warned Nigel.

   “I’ve been in the audience a couple of times,” added Joe, “and you’re right Jeremy, whoever it is on stage, the audience kills them, figuratively speaking.”

   “The road is clear now Joe,” spotted Jeremy, “we can proceed.”

   “Great, now get that map back up and keep searching, if The Slippery Dick is here, The 27 Joint must be near!”

   The van tore back into the night; it’s clattering almost drowned out by the sounds of arguing from within the cab.

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