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The Lighter

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					                                  The Lighter
                                  By Roeloff Horne



It was by no means a jubilant night when our lighter made its first appearance.
In fact, the night permeated that odour of impending danger, that touch of cold dampness, that
taste of fresh gasoline. That which can be found in the most downtrodden places and the most
luxurious mansions, in parks and on street corners, in shopping malls and airports, in small
laundry rooms and in attic dark rooms was lurking around.
Yes indeed, death was looming and our lighter was its witness.
There was a man standing on the deck of a small yacht called ‘The Revenge’.
He was a fat man and he knew he was a fat man, but no one ever made mention of it as that
was just the way he had always been. A black bowler hat covered his bald head and an
unbuttoned black trench coat hung about his shoulders down to his feet, revealing an
unhealthy amount of stomach and a buttoned down white shirt with a red necktie beneath its
collar.
Behind him stood two men, both had bulging muscles and were sour faced. They were those
guys that you saw at the gym every day of the week pumping iron. Those guys that gave you
dagger eyes and a condescending grunt when you dropped a weight on your foot and yelled
like a girl. Those guys that thought yoga was a little alien from Star Wars. They were also
those guys that would beat the crap out of you if their boss told them to.
All three men were staring at a man tied to a rickety wooden chair in the middle of the deck.
He was fairly well into his sixties and quite a bit of grey streaked his head at the temples,
invading the once dark forest of hair that was almost a thing of the past. His face was a
handsome one, with high cheek bones and a solid jaw line that was covered in stubble. There
was a cloth gag in his mouth covered in duct tape. He was also doused in about ten litres of
gasoline.
If there was a full moon out, the moonlight would have caught on his damp forehead,
reflecting the silhouettes of the three men standing before him. But there was no moon out
that night, for the business at hand did not permit it.
“What d’ya think boys? Does Mister Coleridge look cosy enough?” said the fat man.
“Yeah boss, he looks snug as a bug” came the reply from one of the thugs.
“Never did like bugs very much, boys. I think it’s time for this bug to be dead” said the fat
man whilst removing a golden Zippo from his coat pocket.
“Is the boat ready? I don’t wanna ruin my coat when this yacht goes boom.”
His only reply was a shout from the thug to his left down the side of the yacht, followed by
the roar of an engine that belonged to a slick speedboat.
The fat man took out a plump, leafy brown Cuban cigar from his shirt pocket, smelled its
length twice up and down, savouring the aroma, and lit it with the golden lighter. Big plumes
of blue-grey smoke puffed into the air relieving the smell of the gasoline for a brief period of
time with its pungent aroma.
The fat man strode towards Mr. Coleridge and spoke in the tone of a man who knew he was
in control.
“This is what’s going to happen Mr. Coleridge,” he said “I’m going to drop this flame and
when I do so, things are going to get a little hot for you. I’ll then scoot over to my very
luxurious getaway vehicle and… get away, so to speak. At a distance of my choosing I will
tell one of the boys over there to push a button. Then all this will be over. Debt settled, end of
story.”
Then what appeared to be a flash of steel came across the fat man’s eyes and his face became
rock hard.
“Let this be a warning to all those mother fuckers out there that no one, not even you Mr
Coleridge, can mess with Tony Barrone!”
The man in the chair, Mr. Coleridge, mumbled a plea under the gag.
The fat man walked over and ripped off the duct tape, a yelp escaping the throat of Mr.
Coleridge.
“I don’t really like to hear the people I kill die, but for you Mister Coleridge, I’ll make an
exception.”
Before Mr. Coleridge could get a word in crosswise the lighter had dropped and the fat man,
Tony Barrone, had stepped away and over the side of the yacht where a small hang ladder
draped alongside into his speedboat.
Flames erupted all over the deck of the yacht and soon the screams of Mr. Coleridge tore
through the night sky, trying to rip apart the very fabric of the heavens in its fury and pain but
finding no purchase. The only other noises that could be heard besides the roaring lungs of
Mr Coleridge was the cracking of timbre as the flames gorged on the well varnished deck of
‘The Revenge’ and the distant rumble of a speedboat engine.
As the yacht exploded, the lighter was tossed into the air almost fifty feet high, and if one was
close enough, one would have seen the glint of fire on its golden side, as it came alive in a
flash and then disappeared as the lighter dropped into the briny ocean.

                                                  ****
Our tale resumes in a noisy bar, where Andrew the diver was sitting and having a whiskey
sour. The bar was half-full and a cacophonous din buzzed its way in circles around the
premises. The barman, who was a friend of Andrew’s, was serving drinks from behind a
sturdy wooden counter. He always blessed the fact that the bar counter was indeed sturdy, as
all bar counters should be, for drunks were never easy on furniture. The L-shaped bar was
surrounded by high-backed wooden barstools, the seats of which were quite comfortably
cushioned. Spread about the rest of the bar were tables and chairs of various shapes and sizes,
occupied by a few people from around the block and a few people that weren’t from around
the block, and in one corner huddled a few couches that were slightly worn but still
serviceable. In the other corner near the entrance was an old jukebox, playing some old
eighties rock & roll that no one really listened to.
Andrew liked to come here, firstly, because every now and again he scored a few free drinks
from Trevor, secondly, it was right down the street from his apartment and thirdly, he just
really liked the place.
“Can I top you up again Andy?” asked Trevor as Andrew took the last sip of his drink, the ice
clinking back into the bottom of the whiskey tumbler as he put it down.
“Yeah, give me one more for the road,” Andrew replied “and make it a double this time will
ya?”
“Sure thing bud.”
Trevor walked to the end of the bar, poured the drink and strolled back to give it to Andrew.
“So you finally shaved that damn birds nest you called a beard, have you? You looked more
like a pirate than a diver, wearing that thing.”
 “Ha-ha, you asshole, I pay you for your booze, not for image consulting.” Andrew said,
grinning over his fresh drink.
“It was just time for a change that’s all. And I was getting tired of people tossing pennies at
me like I’m some hobo.”
Trevor chuckled at the comment and began cleaning a glass behind the counter with a clean
white towel.
Andrew pulled out a packet of cigarettes from his right jean pocket, the box was crumpled
from being squeezed as he sat, and lit one cigarette with a golden Zippo that he had removed
from his other pocket. He then took a big drag, sat back in his stool and then exhaled the
smoke into the fan that was slowly whirring above his head, sighing in relief as he did so.
“That’s quite a fancy looking flame-maker you have there Andy, must have cost you a few
bucks too.”
“That, my friend, is where you are mistaken,” replied Andrew “I found it a week ago when
we where salvaging that wreck I told you about. Almost nothing left of the damn thing but a
few splinters of wood. I found this pretty little thing, laying there in the sand, waiting for a
pocket to fill. It’s a bit scratched up no doubt, but I decided it would light up my cigarettes
perfectly fine, so I took it as a little souvenir and so far it’s been nothing but a boon. It has the
strangest inscription though…”
Andrew was interrupted by a cell phone that started ringing in a coat pocket that was hanging
over the back of his bar stool. He reached back and pulled it out of the coat, grimacing as he
glanced down at the screen.
“It’s the ex again…” he said whilst standing up, “I have to take this, just watch my drink ‘till
I’m back.”
Nodding, Trevor reached under the counter and poured another shot of Jack Daniels into the
tumbler. Andrew grinned and walked away to take the call.
When he came back he wore a sour expression on his face and the cell phone was clenched in
his right hand, the plastic creaking a little as he almost crushed it in his grip.
“That damn woman wants to ‘talk’ again” he hissed, taking his drink and slamming it back,
into his throat.
“You better go then, before she pulls one of her stunts again. You know what happened last
time. You don’t want to have to ‘talk’ her down from a roof again, do you?”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m going. Maybe I’ll come by again before closing time, if not I’ll see you
tomorrow. Cheers.”
“Cheers bud,” Trevor said “you know where to find me.”
Andrew walked out of the bar and turned left down an alley that was a shortcut to his ex-
girlfriend apartment. As he walked he stuck his hand into his left jean pocket and felt the
scratches on the golden lighter that was resting there. Maybe, he thought, it would bring him a
bit of luck. Maybe he would be quick at his errand so that he could go back to the bar and get
really drunk. Maybe…
As he stepped around the corner of a dumpster that half-filled the alleyway his head exploded
right above his neck and he could feel his face hit the paving. The last thing he remembered
before darkness’ descent was hands rummaging through his pockets and a pair of black boots
scuffling away into the night.
                                                 ****
Samuel Coleridge was walking and thinking. He thought of the last two weeks, how he had
heard of his father’s disappearance and then of his death. He was sure his father was dead. It
was the only conclusion he could make.
After going through his father’s office, searching every nook and cranny and reading almost
every document he could find, all the clues pointed to one man: Tony Barrone.
Mr. Barrone was known throughout the state as a mafia don, a man that was untouchable, a
man not to be messed with, and a man who was ruthless in every facet of his life, be it
business or pleasure.
Samuel Coleridge had a score to settle with Barrone and that was exactly the reason he was
walking and not sitting. He hated the man with a fury and wanted to see his end before the
month was out. The previous week had been trying. He’d had to call on all his connections,
and bribe quite a few people, to get the answers he was looking for. Taylor Knox, a man
known for dealing with the shadier characters in town, had let him know there was a man that
had some information on the don. His name was Seedy Sam and he was a small-time criminal
that had some eyes and ears on the streets. He was the man that Samuel was paying a visit to
that very evening.
He stepped into an alleyway, one of those places that are always occupied by the things
people mostly choose to ignore: the waste, the dirt, the criminals and their crimes. As he
proceeded down this lengthy rubble strewn passageway between two looming apartment
blocks, he spotted a green steel door to his left, with a closed slit in it at about chin height.
He tapped on the door three times and waited. The slit opened with a clang and some light
from the other side of the door spilled into the alleyway only to be extinguished two seconds
later by someone on the other side of the door. Two grim eyes stared back at him as Samuel
peered into the slit.
“And who the fuck might you be?” said the voice behind the eyes.
“I’m the last man you’ll ever see.”
Samuel lifted the Glock he already had in his right hand, jammed it into the slit and pulled the
trigger. The noise that escaped the silenced gun was almost the equivalent of a school kid
firing a pea shooter, and was followed by a heavy thud as the man behind the door fell to the
floor.
Samuel then proceeded to shoot the lock on the door and kick it open with all the force his
right leg could muster. Soon he found himself in a dimly lit and empty hallway that lead to
two doors; one at the end of the hallway and one to his immediate left. Noting that the door to
his left was rusted shut he quickly made his way past the bloody corpse on the floor and on to
the door that in all likelihood belonged to Seedy Sam. Another twenty or so paces found him
facing a plywood door, the only evidence of it being ever being painted, the few flecks of
flaking white paint that clung on for dear life. Slowly he turned the rusty knob and found that
it was not locked as he had anticipated it would be. The door creaked slightly as he opened it
and he made his way into a well lit room. What he saw inside quite frankly surprised him a
bit. The room was opulently furnished. Leather couches were placed against the walls to his
left and right and ahead of him was an immaculately polished mahogany desk with a leather
backed chair in front of it. The floor was carpeted with fine rugs and a crystal chandelier hung
from the roof. There were also a few paintings on the walls, not some crap that you buy off a
guy in a pawn shop either; there was some proper art on display here.
“You really shouldn’t have shot Sully in the face like that Mr. Coleridge, very bad manners.
And I thought you quite a sophisticated man at that.”
The man called Seedy Sam sat in a high-backed leather parlour chair, a cigarette in his right
hand; his legs propped up on his desk as he puffed a fat plume of smoke into the air.
“How did you know…?”Samuel said, almost gaping at what he saw before him.
“I know a great many things Mr. Coleridge and that is probably why you are here, isn’t it?
Come, take a seat and we’ll talk. Oh, and put that thing away will you,” Seedy Sam said
pointing at the gun “before someone gets hurt.” He glanced to his right and tapped his
cigarette on the edge of a glass ashtray that was placed on his desk next to a scratched golden
Zippo.
Samuel heard a noise to his left and saw that a painting on the wall had slid aside and was
replaced by a hand holding a gun.
Realising the gravity of the situation he found himself in, he placed his gun neatly back in its
holster and sat himself down on the chair in front of the desk.
“That’s better. Now, I believe we have some business to discuss.”
“You’ve obviously been expecting me, so how is it that I’m not dead yet Mr... may I call you
Sam?”
“That would be fine, yes. Well you see Mr Coleridge, I’ve known about your father’s death
for a while now and I knew it would only be a matter of time before you contacted me, so I
arranged for Mr. Knox to drop you a hint or two to lead you to me.
I could not possibly contact you directly as I would then become a target as well sought after
as you will soon be if our plan fails.”
“Our plan?! What plan? I came here for information about my father’s murderer, not to
scheme with a criminal!” Samuel yelled, his temper getting the better of him.
Samuel had never been too coolheaded when it came to pressured situations and in that
respect he was much like his father.
“Calm down Mr. Coleridge, have a cigarette. I assure you my plan will be as beneficial for
you as it will be for me.”
Samuel took a cigarette from an open box that was on the desk and lit it with the golden
Zippo, pocketing it as was an old habit of his. Sam noticed this and flashed a quick grin at the
man sitting opposite him.
“I’m listening…” murmured Samuel not seeing the criminal smile, his quick flash of anger
dampened by sudden interest.
“Good. You will kidnap and then kill Tony Barrone. How you do it I do not care, all I will be
helping you with is the when and where. You must be thinking to yourself why I would want
him dead, am I right?” the criminal asked the question with a raised eyebrow and then took
another drag from his cigarette as Samuel nodded in reply.
“It’s simple really. Tony Barrone is a double crossing son of a bitch and you present me with
an opportunity that I simply cannot pass by. See Mr Coleridge, if I or any of mine kill Mr
Barrone there will be a price on my head so high that every man in this city with a sharp
pencil will be after me. You on the other hand are a relative nobody; a nobody with a lot of
cash to be sure, but a nobody none the less and that is what puts you in such a unique
position. You can kill Barrone and then spend the rest of your life living it up on some island
in the South Pacific, whereas I cannot, even with the resources at my disposal, do the same.”
“I see. So I am your little assassin.” Samuel paused, a thoughtful look on his face and then
continued, “How will I go about this then?”
“Glad to have you on board Mr. Coleridge.” The thief grinned and gave Samuel a wink.
Twenty minutes later Samuel took his leave from the charismatic criminal.
“Goodbye Sam, hopefully I’ll never see you again. No offence, I just hope to avoid these
situations in the future.”
Seedy Sam grinned and nodded at Samuel.
“No offence taken, Mr Coleridge. I hope you make it out of this alive.”
As Samuel turned to leave he felt an unfamiliar bulge in his pocket and, realising that it was
the golden Zippo he had used earlier, stuck his hand in to give it back to its owner.
“Keep it,” Sam said, “maybe it will bring you more luck than its previous owner who was
unlucky enough to fall prey to one of my boys earlier this week.”
Samuel frowned, but then just left the lighter where it was and made his way into the passage
that led to the exit of the building and the end of that strange encounter.

                                                ****
Staring down at the hauntingly beautiful landscape before him, Samuel Coleridge lit up a
victory cigar and gave himself a mental pat on the back. The night had gone according to plan
and without any hiccups.
He had to give it to Seedy Sam; the man could scheme.
After making sure that fat Tony’s limo driver met with an unfortunate ‘accident’, things had
gone quite smoothly. He remembered thinking how the whole plan could go down the toilet if
Tony just pushed a button to open the window that separated the driver from the passengers.
After picking the don up from his mansion, Samuel proceeded to drive him and two of his
goons in circles about town. The mobster had an event to attend near the harbour, some ball
or gala event, either way Samuel wasn’t interested, he only wanted his revenge.
He had opted for poison as the don’s demise. Seedy Sam had mentioned that the don liked a
good scotch and so Samuel had laced the best bottle he could find with a quick acting poison
that rendered the unfortunate person who consumed it first paralyzed and then dead within a
matter of minutes.
Lucky for Samuel, he didn’t even have to get his hands dirty and shoot the goons when they
realised the don was dead. They also had some scotch as their last drink. At least it was a
good scotch.
Maybe the lighter did bring him more luck than its previous owner. Maybe…
In any case just a half hour drive later, Samuel could have been found standing next to a black
limousine, staring out at the ocean from a sheer cliff and reminiscing on the night’s events.
As he came back to himself, he realised his cigar was finished and on inspecting his watch, he
had been standing there looking at the ocean for over an hour. It was indeed hauntingly
beautiful, with the full moon stretching its blanket of shimmering light over the dark waters.
Samuel tossed the small cigar stub to the ground and stomped out the last bit of burning leaf
with a black leather shoe. He opened the limousine door and put the car in drive then quickly
jumped out of the then moving vehicle. Slowly the limo etched its way forward and
eventually over the precipice. As the car smashed into the cliff and rolled down into the ocean
Samuel removed the golden Zippo from his pocket and gazed onto its shiny scratched golden
surface. In it he saw his reflection: his dark hair and hazel eyes, his kinked nose and his high
cheek bones. Turning the lighter over in his hand he noticed an inscription right at the bottom
and wondered how he hadn’t noticed it before.
It read: “Fuck you Coleridge”

				
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