Monthly Short Story Winner: Gangsters and Crime Lords
Al Capone. The Godfather. Kingpin. There are many infamous crime lords in history and pop culture. Your job this month is to bring them into a fantasy setting. They don’t need to be the main character but a crime lord and their underground organization have to play a significant role.
1. This can be prose or poetry.
2. The story must contain gangsters and/or crime lords in a fantasy setting.
3. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
4. Poetry must be 100-500 words long.
This month we had two winning stories! The first by Malcolm Pope, with “A Baron and a Princess” and the other by Nora, with “Who Criminals Pray To”.
Congrats on your wins, Nora and Malcolm!
You can find all our entries here.
And now on with the stories!
– – –
“A Baron and a Princess”
by Malcolm Pope
“I hate him!” Clair screamed, slamming the door shut behind her. “I hate him so much!”
Viktor didn’t look up from his work. “I take it the meeting with your father didn’t go well, Princess?”
Clair ignored him and stormed straight to her enormous king-sized bed. She threw herself onto the silken sheets and began to sob. Viktor, ever the dutiful servant, waited a few minutes before carefully making his way to her side.
“Would you like to talk about it?”
Clair let out a huff and pressed her face into her pillow. “Daddy just doesn’t understand my talents.”
Viktor sighed. He’d heard this one before.
“I mean, why won’t he let me do anything important?!” Clair continued. “I’ve spent so much time studying and learning, but whenever I offer to help with the castle finances or with administrative work, he just scolds me and tells me to go play in the Rose Garden!”
Viktor rubbed her back gently. “You know your father doesn’t want you dealing with that stressful work, Clair.”
“But I can deal with it!” Clair protested. “And it’s better than spending every single day wandering the Rose Garden alone!” Her face twisted in a sulk and she sank back into her pillow. “I swear, Daddy would be happier if I was just replaced with a painting. Something to stand there and look pretty.”
“I’m sure that’s not true,” Viktor crooned. “The King loves you, Princess. Never doubt that.”
Clair was silent for a moment. Eventually, she turned her head and gave Viktor a hesitant look.
“Viktor . . . could . . . could you please tell me about the Baron again?”
Viktor smiled. “Of course, my lady. What would you like to know?”
“You told me he’s the biggest Crime Lord in Cromwell,” Clair said. “But nobody’s ever seen his face?”
“Indeed. The Baron is a secretive man, with many enemies who would like him dead. Thus, his true identity is kept secret from almost all in his organisation. However, if you manage to truly prove yourself to him,” Viktor leaned in close, “then, he will allow you to look upon his visage.”
“Wow . . .” Clair’s eyes were practically sparkling. “He sounds so mysterious. Have you seen his real face? Is he handsome?”
“Eheh, well,” Viktor chuckled, “I’m not one to tell tales, you understand.” He paused. “I will say though, that he has the most beautiful blue eyes I’ve ever seen.” He touched Clair’s cheek. “Only your green eyes are as breath-taking.”
Clair gasped with delight and blushed slightly. Her mind was clearly fantasising about the handsome blue-eyed stranger beneath the Baron’s mask.
Viktor, meanwhile, had turned away so she wouldn’t see the scorn in his expression. What a spoiled little brat.
It had been two months now since “Blacktongue” Viktor, the craftiest conman in all of Cromwell, had infiltrated Clair’s serving staff. Two months of listening to whining and bitching from the most irritating girl he’d ever met. She whined when she didn’t get her way, when her food wasn’t perfect, when Viktor missed the tiniest spot of dirt, the lot. More than once, he’d thought about smothering her in her sleep.
Still, he’d kept his cool, wormed his way into her trust and was now in the position to pull off one of the biggest jobs of his life.
Some people ransomed captured noblemen. He would ransom a kidnapped princess.
Still, he wasn’t particularly comfortable talking about the Baron in place like this. Not in case the King’s Guard heard him, problematic as that would be, but in case the Baron’s men heard him. See, although he sounded like a fairy-tale to entertain young girls, the Baron was indeed real and very dangerous. Few knew about him, fewer had even seen him, but his fingerprints were everywhere in Cromwell.
Viktor had never met him. Viktor didn’t even work for him. However, he was happy to use the Baron’s name to entertain the princess. The foolish girl was so enamoured with tales of the Gallant Crime-Lord that she was eating out of his hand. He just had to keep up the charade for a little longer. Then he could trick her into leaving the castle to “meet the Baron” alone.
Then the fun would begin.
* * *
“Well, look what we ‘ave ‘ere, boys.” The tattooed man chuckled. “Looks like a couple of fancy-pants went down the wrong alleyway!”
Viktor swallowed. Things had just gone very, very wrong.
Everything had been going so well up to that point too. He’d successfully snuck Clair out of the castle through a passageway in the Rose Garden, bundled her into a cart and was taking her to one of his hidden lairs. However, on his way, he’d been forced to cross into Baron territory. And it hadn’t taken long for him to walk into an ambush. A small unguarded cart driven by a royal servant? Easy pickings. Now he and Clair were completely surrounded and at the mercy of these thugs.
“Okay, boys,” Viktor said slowly. “I’m sure we can negotiate this peacefully.”
“Can we now?” A man with dyed red hair chuckled. “I’d like to see you pull that one off.”
Viktor licked his lips. “Would it change things if I told you I was working for the Baron?”
Redhair’s eyes narrowed. “Yeah, actually.” He drew his knife. “Because, see, I also work for the Baron. And I’ve never seen you before in my life.”
Shit. Now he’d dug himself even deeper. At this point, his best option was-
“Viktor?” Clair’s voice sounded from the cart. “What’s going on?”
“Idiot! Shut up!” Viktor hissed. But it was too late.
“You got a bit of cargo in there, fancy pants?” Tattoos asked, peering over. “Might be willing to take it off your hands, if she’s pretty.”
Viktor saw his opportunity. “She’s more than pretty. That’s Princess Clair vi Cromwell. Let me go free and I’ll hand her over without a fight. Torture her, rape her, mutilate her, I don’t really care.”
Viktor had expected disbelief or scepticism from the gang. What he hadn’t expected was for them to burst out into laughter. Redhair and Tattoos, in particular, looked like they were savvy to a joke they were dying to share. “Princess Clair, you say?” Redhair chuckled. “Thought you royal servants were supposed to be loyal to your regents?”
“Fuck that!” Viktor snarled. “The bitch can hang for all I care!”
“Good to know.” A voice sounded directly behind his ear. “That makes this a lot easier.”
Viktor yelped and whirled around. There, directly behind him, was Clair. But, simultaneously . . . it wasn’t. She had the same appearance, the same body, the same clothes, yes, but her posture was different, casual, yet sinister. Her usual innocent expression was replaced with an amused panther-like smile, like a cat toying with a mouse. The changes were small and few, but with them Clair seemed like a different person altogether.
“P-Princess?” Viktor stuttered.
“Back to being Princess again, am I?” Clair said dryly.
Viktor shuddered. With her smooth inflections and tone, she no longer sounded like the young girl he thought he knew.
“Such a flatterer, Viktor.” Clair tapped her chin. “I still remember you told me I had the most beautiful blue eyes you’d ever seen.”
Viktor frowned. When had he said that? Everyone knew that Clair had green eyes. The only time he’d mentioned blue eyes was… No.
“At your service.” Clair bowed. The men . . . her men laughed with her.
“But how?!” Viktor was flabbergasted. He couldn’t reconcile the image of the naïve bratty princess and the monster that ruled Cromwell’s underbelly. “How?!”
“Weeeelll…” Clair said. “When you have nothing to do in a big castle with a few secret passages, you tend to pick up a few hobbies.” She shrugged. “Some women like gardening, some like handicraft, I like running a criminal enterprise.”
Viktor came to a realisation. “You were playing me this entire time?”
“Yeah,” Clair admitted. “I wanted to see what you were made of. Needless to say, not impressed.”
“W-Wait!” Viktor knew how much trouble he was in. “I was a good servant, wasn’t I?”
“Hmm, I suppose so,” Clair said. “Tell you what. As a celebration of your loyalty, I’ll have done to you, what you wanted done to me.” She tapped her chin. “Now, how did it go again, boys?”
Redhair stepped forward. “‘Torture her, rape her, mutilate her, I don’t really care.’” Redhair smirked. “I believe that was his exact words, boss.”
“Very well.” Clair’s smile was far too sweet. “I’ll give him to you then. Torture him, rape him, mutilate him…” Her smirk grew wider. “I don’t really care.”
Viktor tried to struggle as two bulky men grabbed him and dragged him from his horse. As he fought, he could see Clair looking down at him, that same infuriating smile on her face.
“Oh, and Viktor?” A cloth bag was pulled over his head. “Don’t fuck with a Princess.”
– – –
“Who Criminals Pray To”
“Won’t you stop shaking that fucking leg of yours?” Mike mutters behind ground teeth. “I’ll cut it off if it bothers you that much.”
“Look at that bunch of street punks,” I whisper back without trying to bring my leg under control. “Just look at them, so little respect, no gravity.”
“It’s your damn job to groom the newbies Sean.”
“I didn’t make the timetable. Go figure why the boss felt like we should introduce them to the god this session. Certainly wasn’t my idea.”
“Can’t blame the runts for being excited though. What kind of crazy rotten luck is it to be here same as the Dons of all people?”
“Want me to call them off?”
Mike chews on his lips, purple and split from a bout in whatever hovel he decided to cool his temper in this weekend. Being second in command in the Phobos family isn’t exactly a relaxing job. Mike likes to go out with the grunts, rough up some locals late on payments or little dealers trying to cut corners. I find my own releases elsewhere.
“Nah. Good test of character, this.”
I’m not so sure. I look up at our five new recruits, mingling with four counterparts of the Don family, jabbing fingers in puffed up chests and engaging in sharp banter.
I assume many first met in the streets. All our new boys were urchins not even a year ago. I read their small, single-paged files, hastily written by the people in charge of them throughout our organisation. I talked to them, tried to educate them as much as I could, grinding rituals in their skulls. At the end of the day I don’t think they really understand what we’re doing here.
After all, urchins have no god.
Raised around the ovens of a small bakery, I was brought up pious. If objects have spirits, places guardian gods, concepts emanations and trades patron saints, it only makes sense to know how to mind your manners and deal with the deities that rule your life.
My mother taught me to keep household spirits happy before I could walk, and my father saved our nicest breads and pastries as offerings. He brought me with him whenever he went for donations. The god of bakers loved us like we loved him, and our dough rose high, our pastries stayed crisp, and I never saw a mouse in the shop. When I went to school, I paid monthly tributes to the god of students and emanation of knowledge and curiosity.
So when I became a gang member and joined the Phobos family, I paid just as scrupulous respects to the god of criminals. I understand the concept in a manner our former-urchins-turned-street-thugs can’t. To them the god is a boss on top of the boss, too high up the hierarchy to care about them. But they’re criminals now, and their success in that new line of business will depend on proper devotion.
“What is the boss doing?” I ask Mike for the tenth time this evening, not trying to hide the worry in my voice.
“Can’t be long. The Dons are waiting too, see. Maybe Phobos is busy cutting that fat fuck’s fingers right outside?”
Mike smiles lopsidedly at the images that conjures, but it’s unlikely. You don’t misbehave like that around your god’s place. You’re not late either. It goes without saying that you don’t get in arguments or fist-fights in the ante-chamber, which I’m starting to worry our boys might have forgotten.
I look up across the small waiting room to where another collection of rickety chairs hold equally anxious higher-ups from the Don family, also waiting on their boss so that the ceremony of Gift-giving and Induction can begin.
There is Franky, the Don’s son and right arm, and Tilda, a cold-eyed woman you really don’t want to meet on the other side of a negotiation table. The man glancing back at me over his glasses is Charles Morrow, a fine fellow with a blade of a face who holds a similar position to mine in his own gang. He raises his eyebrows in silent acknowledgement.
I close my eyes and sigh. Let’s hope the god is in a forgiving mood.
A bang and a yelp snap me back to attention. Phobos slammed the door into the men and is storming through, a package under his arm and a puffing, angry red Erzo Don on his heels, still biting on the last words of whatever argument they were having.
Each group folds over their boss and everyone pays last minute attention to the gifts they brought and the fine clothes they wear.
Phobos is a tall man, sharp and well cut, just like the black suits he favours, and known as the coldest mobster on this coast. He exchanges quiet words with Mike, and pats my elbow briefly. The man’s way of making up for the stress he knows he’s been giving me. Activity dies down as a servant enters the room to unlock the inner chamber’s doors. We shuffle to our positions by hierarchical order and I glance at my charges one last time.
“Remember, don’t react, keep it all in!”
They nod, worry finally settling on their young faces as the solemnity of the event dawns on them. For such a bunch of misfits, they do me proud. All I can hear is sharp intakes of breath as their eyes fall on the deity who will soon learn their name and hold their fates in its heart. The god of transgression, patron saints of criminals and emanation of rule-breaking, looks like a child and a monster.
Five-years-old if you had to put an age on it, with sandy blond hair parting around little horns that poke from its forehead and the crown of its head. Some are black and keratinous, some the off-white of ivory. Its skin is unhealthily pale, cheeks oddly flushed. Its pinched, lipless mouth betrays no feelings. But the real unease comes from the eyes. One dark and filled with odd lights, the other white and full of colourful swirls, both huge and sparkling, and somehow . . . alien.
The child-like being sits on a large pillow atop a carpeted dais, its servants kneeling behind it. Like the building, they are paid for by donations, one of the many ways we show our love to the god.
“Greetings!” Don booms, stepping up to deliver his offering. “I present you with these gifts, my dea–”
Don’s words die in his throat, silenced by a small hand, raised palm out.
“Erzo Don, what do you think you are doing here?” The god’s voice is high as a child’s but its inflections are nuanced, its tone menacing.
“Well… We’ve come to presen–”
“You annoy me.”
The pressure rises in the room and I feel goose bumps all over my skin.
The god stands, face as blank as marble. “I am the god of criminals, Don. I patron thieves, liars, racketeers, yes. People who live on the margins of the larger society. But if there is one thing I don’t condone, it is lying to me.”
The god steps down towards Don. I see the sweat drenching him, Morrow’s bloodless face, Tilda’s hand all white-knuckled around Frank’s wrist and their new men’s confused expressions.
What have they done?
“You can’t go and grovel to the god of killers and murderers thinking I wouldn’t know about it. Did you not think of your family? Of me?”
“God, but it was only a sid–”
Silence hangs over us like a corpse at the end of a fraying rope. There is nothing to do but to obey. One word that ends a whole family business, maybe a fifth of the local territory, suddenly up for dispute. Chaos will engulf them, they will have no divine support.
I’m still thinking of the consequences as the door closes behind the last of them and Phobos steps up, offering the content of his package like nothing happened. Its two hands sawed at the wrists and held together by handcuffs. Charming–and it makes the god smile. Mike is next, showing his split lips and telling his tales. The god nods along, used to the urban-outlaw-cowboy style of our second-in-command. And then it’s me, embracing the being my success in life depends on. He’s done me good and I love it like I loved the pudgy god that ate our bread and blessed us for it.
“What have you for me Sean?” The child-god asks as I cup its pallid face in my scarred hands.
“A secret,” I murmur in its ear. “The cops are coming to crack on the riverside locations. I tipped them to great profit.”
The god chuckles, looking up at me with the same adoration I feel for it. It squeezes my hand and waves for me to introduce our new members.
What’s a spy to the emanation of rule breaking? Nothing more than a good devotee.
– – –
Congratulations again to Nora and Malcolm! If you’d like to enter our monthly writing contest, check out our forum for more information.