The Voice, The Hands, and Rattlesnake Rodeo
By J.B. StevensNovember 4, 2020
The Voice, The Hands, and Rattlesnake Rodeo is the story of Nick Kolakowski. Many of you know Kolakowski from his loveable online persona and his exciting, fast-paced fiction. Unfortunately, that could not be further from the truth. This public face is a mask. The majority of Kolakowski’s crime fiction is autobiographical. Below is the story of what happened to one man when he crossed “Big Nick” right around the time Rattlesnake Rodeo was released.
The Voice streamed from the loudspeaker. It sounded like Tom Hardy’s Bane. James Whitten didn’t know if the accent was an affectation, a homage, or the truth. None of that mattered. Whitten was long past caring.
The Voice was the whole world. The Voice dominated.
For Whitten, time had morphed into a nebulous, flexible, thing. He didn’t know how long he’d been chained to the steel chair. Or how many hours, days, weeks, years he’d been in the dank and humid concrete bunker. The rotting-vegetation smell and thick wet air were, now, his whole world.
Static popped and Whitten heard The Voice. “I ask again, where did you get the book?”
Tears streamed down Whitten’s pale face. “I swear, I found it on a table at some coffee shop in Brooklyn.”
“I’m tired of your lies,” The Voice said. “Time for correction.”
The rusted-steel battleship-looking door creaked open. The two large men, the hands of the Voice, entered. The man on the right popped black leather-clad knuckles. He drove a bowling ball fist into Whitten’s nose. Whitten fell back and smacked his head on the concrete floor. The last thing he remembered, before the dark took over, was the warm feeling of blood flowing down his cheek.
Whitten awoke in the murk, still secured to the chair.
“I’m tired of games.” The Voice said. “Tell me about the book.”
Whitten knew he should be worried about the sudden change in questioning, but he was too tired—too beat to care.
“What do you want to know?”
The Voice exhaled. “If you answer a question, with a question, one more time. I will call upon the hands.”
Whitten’s throat tightened. “The book is called Rattlesnake Rodeo.”
“Yes, yes. Go on tell me more,” the Voice said.
“Guy named Nick Kolakowski wrote it,” Whitten said.
“Did you enjoy the prose?”
“I did. Kolakowski is good.”
“And what did you dislike?”
“I’m sorry wha—I mean… I guess it was so closely related to the prequel, parts felt like you must have read the prior novel to pick up on the story.”
“I see… Ignore this hunting club. Tell me of the rodeo.”
“Shall I call upon the hands?”
“No, shit, no! Longpig was about some rich assholes that hunt and hurt people for fun. I read it and loved it. Rattlesnake is the sequel, the aftermath.”
“Only assholes hurt people… for fun.” The Voice laughed. “Go on.”
Whitten’s blood turned cold. “In Rattlesnake, the main hero, Jake, his wife Janine, and sister Frankie, try to figure out what to do after killing the rich hunters.”
“It sounds reminiscent of the most dangerous game.”
“Longpig was, Rattlesnake is the follow-on blowback.”
“What else occurred in this snake tale?”
“There are dirty prosecutors, and police shootings of unarmed minorities, and coverups galore. All wrapped within gunfights and violence. It fast, fun, topical. A very good book.”
“Yes,” The Voice boomed. “Invigorating.”
“It was, but…”
“It was so speedy,” Whitten said, “That some pertinent quiet moments were missed.”
“To be clear, the deficiencies were limited, and the writing was outstanding. My only, limited, complaint was that… sometimes, the reader needs more about the characters… what makes them whole.”
The Voice clucked his tongue. “Is this rattlesnake adventure worth my time?”
“Very much so. I enjoyed it immensely. It was an outstanding novel. I’d buy it. Kolakowski is a rare talent.”
The Voice chuckled. “And why should I trust your opinion?”
“I… I have no idea.”
“Why did you upload this work to the internet?”
Whitten’s heartrate exploded. “What?”
“Question with a question… Wrong.”
The door creaked. The hands entered. One held a TASER.
40,000 volts ran through Whitten’s soul. His universe was pain. Whitten’s bowels exploded and the hands stepped away. The door closed. Whitten felt his will to live slip and the stink filled the room.
“I ask again. Why did you dump this on the world-wide-web?”
Whitten started crying. “I don’t know… I’m sorry. I figured… I got it for free, I wanted to share the love.”
“Where is the love for the author, Nick Kolakowski? The publisher, Down and Out Books? Where is their affection? These artists produce joy for the masses, and you steal money from their pockets? Bread from the mouths of their children?”
“I… I didn’t see it that way. I thought it was just a book.”
“Just… Just a book? This is Kolakowski’s very essence. You animal.”
The static from the speaker cut off.
The door creaked open.
A normal-sized man stood in the space, backlit. The lights cut on.
It took a moment, but Whitten recognized the face from the Rattlesnake’s back cover, Nick Kolakowski.
Whitten’s mind reeled…
Kolakowski frowned. “That book went on sale October 26th, 2020. In the middle of a freaking pandemic, $14.95 in paperback, and $5.99 in Ebook. You put my baby out for the masses to abuse like some cheap prostitute? You’ve taken literal cash from me.” Kolakowski pounded a fist into his palm. “You’ve stolen from me.”
“You… You’re the voice?”
Kolakowski sighed. “I am.”
“But… But why?”
“Money, baby, it’s all about the Benjamin’s.”
Blood cascaded down Whitten’s face. “I had no idea you were so evil.”
“You know the hard-ass main female character in Longpig and Rattlesnake?”
“The hero’s sister? The murderous gun-runner?”
“Yea. She’s a real person. She is me.”
Kolakowski snapped his fingers, turned, and left.
The hands reappeared. One held a pistol with a long-black suppressor on the end.
Whitten clenched his jaw. The night came swift.