So I came up with this story about a really bad guy. I mean, he's bad, a real piece of shit. You don't know it at first, but it soon becomes apparent but that's okay because it turns out everybody is a real piece of shit, so it doesn't even matter.
But in the course of coming up with this story, I had to come with some kind of backstory. Each character has one, and so do the various plot threads. One in particular has me tickled beyond belief. Indeed, it could almost be a story in its own right.
Here it is:
There's a gang of con artists and criminals. They're low rent, not mafia but organized. Their main trade is the bustout -- taking over a business and busting it out until its bankrupt or burnt down -- but they'll do anything greasy they can get their hands on. If an opportunity falls into their lap, they'll take it. Money's money.
So one day, they're hanging out at their latest bar, and Artie, the old guy, starts talking about this huge pile of money he saw on one of his errands. It belongs to a guy named Roger Choke, a shady Dr. Feelgood working the medical marijuana trade. "Yeah, man," Artie's saying, "Big stacks of cash, with bands and everything. There was probably thirty-forty thousand dollars just sitting there. He said he had more in his safe."
Later, three of the gang's more thuggish members --Jack, Skunk, and Miller-- decide that Roger Choke has too much money and they're going to rob him. They get his address and break in during the night, ski-masks, gloves, dark clothes, the whole nine. Not wanting to mess around, they roust Roger Choke out of bed and take him down to the living room.
"Where's the money?"
"I don't have any cash."
They search the place, find no cash, but in the back bedroom under the closet floor, they find the safe. It's locked.
They brace Roger Choke again. "What's the combination to the safe?"
Roger Choke won't say. They start breaking his fingers, one by one. Roger Choke tells them to suck a dick. They start pulling out his teeth, but still he only opens his mouth to spit blood.
In a fit of anger, Jack starts beating him. Skunk starts in, too, but Miller just stands back and watches. Before long, Roger Choke isn't even moving. His head hangs down, his bloody tongue dripping out of the side of his mouth.
He never does tell them combination to the safe.
Jack orders them to take it anyway. They spend all night breaking it out of the floor and hauling it down to the van. They leave Roger Choke dead in a pool of his own blood.
The safe remains in Jack's basement. He still tries to pry it open. It's pitted and battered and blackened from blow torches, but its contents remain a mystery. It could be filled with cash and jewels, or insurance documents and baby pictures.
And that's the tragedy of it. They killed a man for no good reason. And that's what sets the cops on them. This is the case they are building against the gang: the robbery and murder of Roger Choke.
None of this, of course, takes place in the story I'm working on. It's all just backstory.