Who’s the baddest guy in the room?
April 3, 2015
WE ALL HAVE our own way to write a novel.
Some worry about the plot.
Others can’t get started until they have a title.
Some write prologues.
Others write epilogues.
I only care about the characters.
For Night Side of Dark, I had the protagonist already in place.
Ambrose Lincoln was the easy one.
He’s the lead character in the series.
He can’t be replaced.
I interviewed the prospective heroines.
I didn’t pick the girl I wanted.
I didn’t choose the most beautiful girl.
I didn’t select the sexy girl.
I hired the girl who frightened me, and it surprised me how beautiful a dangerous woman could be.
I called her Celia. It’s a bad name. It doesn’t fit her.
I’ll change it later. I’ll change it when she tells me what her name really is.
It was Devra.
Now comes the villain.
I had three candidates.
One was too young and boyish.
But he was eager.
Roger Richmond tried to look tough.
He was smoking a cigarette he had rolled himself.
He folded his arms across the chest to make sure I saw the tattoo on his bicep.
Born to Lose is what it said.
His face was pale and almost white.
If I were writing about a vampire, I would talk to him further.
His mustache was paper thin.
He had tried to hide the pimple on his nose with a heavy dab of cosmetics.
“Why do you want to be the villain?” I asked him.
He tried to sneer.
It looked more like a smile.
“Everybody wants to be the bad guy,” he said.
“Are you bad?”
“I kicked a kitten once,” he said.
“Thank you for coming,” I said.
He was soft.
I don’t think he ever kicked a kitten.
The second candidate was the perfect choice.
A chiseled face.
Ugly in a handsome sort of way.
Tango Lynch had muscles bulging at the seams of his tee shirt.
He had a scar that the blade of some knife had torn down the side of his face.
The scar was almost hidden by a two-day growth of whiskers.
His eyes were dark. They burned with anger.
“Are you as tough as you look?” I asked.
“What’s you name?” I asked.
“Call me Mister Lynch.”
“Why the Mister?”
“I don’t want to have to hurt you,” he said.
His sneer might have been real, but it didn’t look real.
I picked up a Walther PPK lying on the desk and handed it to him.
“What do you want me to do with this?” he asked.
I nodded toward the old man sitting on the couch.
“Shoot him,” I said.
Tango’s eyes widened.
His mouth gaped open.
“I got no reason to shoot the old man,” he said.
“You don’t need a reason,” I said.
His eyes fluttered.
His hand trembled.
I took the pistol away from him.
Caples Gusarov stood up from the couch and walked slowly across the room.
He was far too old for the role.
He was tired.
He was breathing heavily.
He was grizzled.
He was chewing on a cigarette that had not been lit.
He didn’t spit the loose tobacco leaves. He swallowed them.
Caples Gusarov looked as though he had walked a mile beyond his last mile.
He didn’t say a word.
He jerked the Walther PPK from my hand.
He turned, still chewing on the cigarette, and fired.
The bullet struck Tango Lynch just below the chin.
He was dead before the blood began to flow.
Gusarov looked at me hard. “I’d rather shoot the bastard that kicked the kitten,” he said.
He handed the pistol back to me.
“You’re hired,” I said.
He grinned. “Was there ever any doubt?” he asked.
“Not for me,” I said.
I turned back to the novel and only had one regret.
I wished I had asked him to spell Guasrov before he left.