First Monday Free Fiction: Countdown to Death

Countdown to Death coverWelcome to the June 2021 edition of First Monday Free Fiction.

To recap, inspired by Kristine Kathryn Rusch who posts a free short story every week on her blog, I’ll post a free story on the first Monday of every month. At the end of the month, I’ll take the story down and post another.

As you may know, I just published Tales of the Silencer, a collection of all Silencer stories to date. Therefore, it’s only fitting that this month’s free story is a Silencer story, namely the very first one, Countdown to Death.

So follow Richard Blakemore a.k.a. the Silencer as he faces his…

Countdown to Death

“SILENCER TO FACE HANGMAN” the headline screamed. Blood red letters, two inch high, running through a rotary press at a rate of five hundred pages per minute.

Jake Levonsky grabbed a paper from the press and scanned the opening paragraph:

Appeal denied — Vigilante to be executed on Tuesday

Today, the governor revoked the final appeal of Richard Blakemore, which means that Blakemore will die in the electric chair on Tuesday.

The local writer and playboy brought many a criminal to justice in the guise of the masked vigilante known as the Silencer, a pulp character of his own creation. Earlier this year, Blakemore was found guilty of murdering the mobster Antonio Tortelli…

“Bullshit,” Levonsky exclaimed and flung the paper into a corner. The fresh ink came off on his fingers and he rubbed them carelessly in his pants.

“Jake, I realize that you’re biased.” Randall Whitman bent down to rescue the paper Levonsky had so casually tossed. Even at a print run of five hundred thousand, he still hated to see even a single paper go to waste. “After all, the man used to work for you.”

“Richard Blakemore didn’t just work for me.” Levonsky puffed his omnipresent cigar. “He is my star author, damn it! The mainstay of my magazine line.”

“And a convicted murderer.”

“Bullshit,” Levonsky roared, loud enough to momentarily drown out the printing press, “I know Richard Blakemore and I know that he didn’t murder anybody.”

“But he was found guilty…”

“A gross miscarriage of justice.”

“There were witnesses…”

“Criminals. Mobsters. Liars, one and all.”

“There was also evidence. Even you can’t deny that, Jake.”

“False. Fabricated.” Puffs of cigar smoke punctuated every single word.

Randall Whitman drew on his pipe “They found Blakemore’s fingerprints all over Tortelli’s mansion,” he said, “They found Blakemore himself, unconscious, in Tortelli’s garden.”

“He was framed.” A perfectly formed smoke ring escaped from Levonsky’s mouth. “Richard Blakemore would never have been so stupid.”

“And what about the full Silencer costume found in Blakemore’s house. Coat, hat, mask, bulletproof steel vest, twin .45 automatics. Just as described in the magazines, to the last detail. What was Blakemore doing with that stuff?”

Levonsky shrugged. “He had all that stuff to try out how it would feel to be in the Silencer’s shoes, to wear that costume and all that equipment. Richard always researched his stories very thoroughly.”

“Come on, Jake. He had the costume and all that, because he was the Silencer. Maybe he really wanted to try out how it felt at first, but then something snapped and he started to believe that he was his own character.” Whitman took another draw of his pipe. “I mean, most of those pulp authors are more or less crazy. That’s probably what happens when you crank out a full-length novel per month. Blakemore just went too far and now he’s paying the price…”

***

This story was available for free on this blog for one month only, but you can still read it in Countdown to Death or the collection Tales of the Silencer. And if you click on the First Monday Free Fiction tag, you can read this month’s free story.

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