What Happened After The Crime: Reservoir Crocs
A writing group I’m part of recently set a 750-word writing prompt: “What happened after the crime.” This was put forwards by Catriona Ward, the author of ‘Raw Blood’, who sat with the group for an interview a couple of weeks ago.
Here’s my take on the prompt. No attempt at originality. Or quality. Or style. Just read the damn thing. Or don’t, I’m not your boss.
The van listed from side to side as it careened around corners and through junctions. The midnight roads were empty, but the van was full of five masked men and one crocodile, savagely thrashing in protest at its rope restraints. One of the men lay on the floor next to it, clutching his arm to his chest, blood soaking his black turtleneck as he cried out in pain.
Another man was knelt over him, desperately trying to staunch the bleeding with a rag. He looked up at the masked occupant of the front passenger seat. “I thought you said you had put it to sleep, Derek,” he said, trying hard to be heard over the roar of the engine, the racket of the writhing crocodile and the screams of the wounded thief.
Derek looked back. “I did put it to sleep, Hank, I put a dart into its big fat yellow belly. You idiots were responsible for extraction. You must’ve woken it up. Or something. Damn thing’s enormous, probably needed a bigger dose.”
The driver swore and the van swerved to avoid a lorry; the wounded man cried out again. Hank examined the wound. “Looks pretty clean Fred, if we still had the hand you could probably get it reattached.”
With a whimper the prone, blood-covered Fred lifted his head. “What…? What do you mean, ‘IF?’ What happened to my hand?”
Hank shrugged. “It’s probably still with the other crocodiles. We were in a hurry, we didn’t really have time to go back for it, fella.”
Fred wailed. “My hand! You left my hand behind!”
“Funnily enough,” Hank said, “it was your left hand and all.”
Fred wailed again. Derek rolled his eyes. “Calm down. We’ll just have to hire someone to open jars for you. Besides, you’ll still be able to read the newspaper.” He thought for a moment. “As long as you’ve got a flat surface to lean it on.”
The fifth member of the team, Jerrod, was yet to say a word. He was on his knees behind the crocodile, a coil of rope in his hands, nervously eyeing the restless beast.
The driver swore again as he barely missed a taxi. Derek thumped him in the shoulder. “Watch it, Ryan, you arsehole. We want to get to the airfield in one -” He looked back at Fred. “We want to get there alive.”
Ryan switched gears on the run-up to a bend. “Would you like to drive, or are you happy to sit there and keep patronising me? Do you have any tips on driving a van with six-hundred kilos of angry yellow-bellied crocodile in the back?”
Derek’s eyes narrowed. “Yes, actually, here’s a tip: Do It Better.”
Ryan purposefully swerved the van, sending Hank flying into the side wall. The crocodile rolled over onto its back, thumping down next to Fred who wriggled away from it frantically.
Jerrod, in the back of the van, stared at the sprawling croc and raised his hand. Fred watched him enviously. “Ah, Derek? I, ah, have a question,” Jerrod said.
Derek rolled his eyes again. “I swear to God, Jerrod, if you ask one more time why we didn’t use a helicopter I’m going to feed you balls-first into that bloody lizard.”
Jerrod shook his head. “It’s not about the helicopter.”
“Oh, thank goodness,” Derek said, with genuine relief.
A few moments passed with Jerrod’s hand still in the air. Hank, Fred and Derek all glared at him. Hank snapped first. “Well, what was the question, idiot? If it wasn’t about helicopters, what the hell do you want to know?”
Jerrod might have found that hurtful, but it was difficult to tell beneath the mask. He lowered his hand. “All I wanted to ask was, did you say it was called a yellow-bellied crocodile?”
Derek turned in his seat. “Of course I bloody did, that was – that was the whole damn point of this all! You were in the bloody briefings! This breed goes for two million to the right collector, that’s why we’re stealing this one in particular, you moron. This is the only yellow-bellied snapper in the Western bloody hemisphere, and we only had tonight to get the damn thing before it gets sent off for breeding. Why would you even ask that? Why now, of all times, are you suddenly checking what the name of the bloody thing -”
He looked down at the monster, rocking on its back, its legs uselessly thrashing the air.
“Oh,” he said, “shit.”