Explanations are in order. You have probably heard me mention my idiot ex-brother-in-law from time to time. Well, there's good reason he's an idiot. Mike is a bigot and racist, a man who seems to want to turn everything into an argument. He argues with everyone around him, seems to think he's right about everything, and I believe is intimidated by people who are smarter then him. Obviously I've never gotten along with him. I met him when I was twelve or so, saw him for exactly what he was straight off. I've been civil for the sake of keeping the peace, but in the end, that was all for naught.
The last time I saw him, he took me aside and started out by saying these words: now I don't mean to degrade you. In my experience, anyone who says that intends to degrade you. He went on to chatter about seemingly trivial things and give life advice, but the subtext behind it was: I still think you're a spoiled brat. It's a curious thing... taking life advice from someone who monumentally screwed up his own life.
Anyway, as much as I would have liked to have called him out and said all the things I'd kept to myself for years on end, I didn't. And when I got to writing Heaven & Hell, I added in a passage featuring Tom Stryker with two friends at a chalet in the Alps, soon after making an ascent of Mont Blanc. I wrote a thinly disguised version of Mike into the passage (the physical description and less then savoury personality is pretty much him, and while the name's changed, the initials are the same). I even incorporated that particular fully intended insult into the dialogue. It felt good at the time. Ultimately though, I felt it didn't fit into the book itself, and so I've decided to remove it from the chapter and adjust things accordingly.
And so with that, I give you a scene that won't be making the cut for Heaven & Hell, but which I liked anyway. Enjoy it, and let me know what you think of it....
|Mont Blanc, France|
Something was wrong. They were both looking beyond him, and he heard the voice, a local, speaking in French. He turned, and saw a man standing at the lodge reception desk. Slightly swaying, the man was in ski gear and glasses. He had brush cut brown hair and beady brown eyes. Everything about his body language seemed to suggest he was perpetually angry at everyone else. “Someone you know?” he asked.
“Marc Ducharme,” Lambert answered distastefully. “He’s a real waste of oxygen.”
“Jean is too kind,” Marie agreed. “He’s a skier, though he shouldn’t be. He broke his legs last year on the slopes. Since then he’s been spending his time drinking, yelling at strangers, smoking, and antagonizing everyone. He doesn’t listen to the doctor either. They told him he’s finished skiing. Still thinks he can ski. Still thinks he’s half his age.”
“A real piece of work,” Stryker remarked. Ducharme was harassing the clerk, irritated about his room not being up to his standards, and she had better do something about it. Stryker smirked. “Oh, my. He really is an idiot.” He looked back at Marie and Lambert. “Any objections if I teach him some manners?”
“None at all, mon ami,” Lambert said with a grin.
“Give him hell,” Marie remarked, laughing lightly.
Stryker rose, walking towards the reception desk. He heard Ducharme clearly. “Now look, I don’t mean to degrade you.” The words were in French, but Stryker was fluent. He rolled his eyes at the words. Someone says that, it means that’s exactly what they mean to do. He assessed as he walked, thought the man was probably drunk already, and with legs that had been broken.... The smirk became a smile. Stryker, you’re terrible. He closed the distance between them, deciding how to handle the man.
He shifted slightly, approaching from the side, his knee rising up and knocking hard into Ducharme’s leg. Ducharme fell back, howling in pain, clutching his leg, and Stryker spoke pleasantly in English. “Oh, I’m terribly sorry, sir. I didn’t see you there.”
Ducharme was cursing in French. And there was the smell of tobacco and whiskey on his breath. “Bastard,” he muttered in English. “Are you blind, you damned fool?” He was favouring his leg. Stryker hid his smile; it was obvious the man was hurt.
“Miss, has this gentleman been bothering you?” he asked in a very polite way, seeing the clerk nod, and looked over at Ducharme. The Frenchman looked up at him as he steadied himself, cursing under his breath about Americans, and Stryker saw the irritation and the pain on his face. In return, Ducharme saw a dark, dangerous look in Stryker’s eyes. He might be an idiot, but at least he recognizes trouble when he sees it. “Apologize to the lady,” Stryker insisted. The politeness was gone from his voice.
Ducharme sneered. “Sorry,” he said in a way that indicated he wasn’t.
“Good. Now, get out of here.” Stryker told him. Ducharme glared back.
“Damned American,” Ducharme muttered in French, limping away from the desk.
“This damned American speaks French,” Stryker answered in French. Ducharme seemed to pause, thought better of arguing, and moved on. Stryker glanced back at the clerk. “My apologies for the behaviour of that buffoon, Miss,” he said graciously, and walked back towards Marie and Lambert. Both were laughing.
“He won’t forget that anytime soon,” Marie predicted.
“So, my friend, felt good doing that?” Lambert asked.
“Teaching buffoons manners is a service to humanity,” Stryker said with a grin. There was a faint ringing coming from his jacket, and he picked it up off the chair, reaching into a pocket. It was his encrypted mobile, which meant it was business. He glanced at Lambert and Marie; they thought he worked in consulting, and had no idea what he actually did now. “Excuse me,” he said, taking the phone with him, moving down the hall to answer it. So much for a vacation.