Live Bait by Charlie Wade.

We used to go fishing when I was a lad. Local pond at first. Spend the whole day catching the same fish and chucking them back. One day some old geezer told us of a lake, hidden amongst trees, pikes the size of sharks, he said. We went there, long bike ride, awkward to ride with your rod in your hand. But we made it.

It really was hidden. A small pond but the fish were huge. Every now and then, they’d surface. Some had been there for years, probably decades. Didn’t get a nibble though. All afternoon fishing, not one nibble.

Went back to the old geezer and told him. He asked us what bait we were using. Boilees and sweetcorn of course, we said. What else could you use?

He shook his head. Them fish, he said, ain’t normal pond fish. These lot are tame, they play a game to get food. He pointed at the little pond. That other pond’s different, he says. Fish aren’t used to people. What you need is live bait.

Spent ages digging up worms and trying it. Real battle of wits, it was. The fish were clever, sly old things. It was the fun of the chase. Casting, trying to outwit them. The old man knew that. In his own way, he was passing that onto us. To this day I remember his face when we told him we’d caught something. Never forget it. Sometimes, he said, only live bait’ll work.

Course, he was right. I never forgot it either. When all these murders became a problem, I thought back to his words.

We’d tried everything, the press were losing faith in me and everyone else on the force. I was looking at demotion. I remembered the old man’s words. Would live bait work? Would it?

I passed a message on to this street gal. She was a good gal, never hurt no one. Weren’t her fault she was down and out, kicked out of home at seventeen, on the streets for two years. She did tricks for food and booze. Just to survive, though. Only to survive.

The message said go to the canal at eight. It’d be worth her while. She’d worked down there before. An old shack by the water. Perfect hideout for her kind of work. I felt bad about using her. I’d be there though, there’s no way she’d get hurt.

I got to the shack myself at seven, hid in the old cupboard. Eye holes in the rotten wood, I could see everything. She was outside waiting just after eight. A punter comes up and talks to her. He looked shifty, eyes looking everywhere. I could my feel fists clench when he started touching her. Enough to make you sick, that is. She dragged him inside. Forty quid for full, I heard her say. I could feel my face getting hot, my arms shaking as he started on her.

I burst out the cupboard and the knife started to smash into his body. Blow after blow after blow. Long after he was dead the blows kept coming. Finally the mist cleared and I stopped. I dropped the knife, grabbed her wrists and handcuffed her.

“I’m arresting you for murder,” I started.

Well, who are they gonna believe? Me, the respected policeman, a serial killer? Or a street girl doing tricks, killing the men who paid her? I'd been watching her for a while. Disgusted me what those blokes did. I had to stop them, didn't I?

That’s what live bait's all about. You sacrifice something for a bigger fish. You gotta think of the bigger picture. She’ll be safer inside anyway. Streets ain’t no place for a young woman. Never know what kind of weirdo you’ll come across out here.

Charlie Wade lives in Derbyshire, England and has written three books, a comedy spy thriller, a post credit crunch dystopia and a crime thriller. He's had six short stories published online and his story, Pleading and Bleeding, was in Out Of The Gutter Magazine issue 7. He blogs at http://spiesliesandpies.blogspot.com/

18 comments:

Paul D. Brazill said...

Now that's some sort of twisted logic! Beut!

Luca Veste said...

Loved the voice in this one. Just the right amount of crazy to keep you reading.

Excellent piece Charlie!

Ron Scheer said...

All's well that ends well. Thanks.

David Barber said...

A tense and dark write, Charlie, with a quality ending. The whole of that last paragraph is perfect.

Well done!

McDroll said...

Good story...enjoyed this!

Dana C. Kabel said...

Nice story Charlie. And by nice, I mean filled with nasty, which is what I like.

Mike Miner said...

I liked how this ending revealed itself, through a solid voice. I knew something was coming but was still pleasantly disturbed at the end. Great title too.

MDJB said...

Nice work. Quick and punchy. I thought you were going to describe something large scale from the lead up, but I'm assuming this character is on a roll, and you've left bits for us to imagine. I like it.
And thanks to David Barber for putting the word out that we could find you here.

Col Bury said...

Tight writing with a strong voice. Loved the premise. Hope the fish got some 'live bait' too.
Good stuff, Charlie.
Best,
Col

Thomas Pluck said...

Sometimes you gotta kill two birds with one stone! Nice one, Charlie.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

That was a great read and as others mentioned, well written. Sorry, but since no one else mentioned it, I just can't resist..

"awkward to ride with your rod in your hand."

I bet it is ;)

Bill Baber said...

Mr. Wade, I'm not sure why but this is the best thing I have read in a while. Great job!!

Chris Allinotte said...

The setup was just right for this, and took its time, letting us get to know this guy - and then you turned the screw perfectly.

Great job.

Jodi MacArthur said...

I liked how you used the pond to foretell what was to come later. The suspense! My fave line "Eye holes in the rotten wood, I could see everything." Great story!

William Dylan Powell said...

Great story! Fell for it hook, line and sinker.

ajhayes2 said...

Man. I looked around all the way through the story. Couldn't spot the sucker in the piece until, at the last, I realized he was me. Cool Beans! Had me all the way through.

Glenn Gray said...

Well done, Charlie! Creepy little tale.

Julie Lewthwaite said...

Dark and twisted - nice work!