Thursday, August 18, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 51: Unpaid Intern

The prompt this week was to write a sci-fi story that included the following words: Fire, DNA, corporate, student, and secret. Students sometimes work, or observe, in a particular field, often in an unpaid status, to gain knowledge or experience. I wondered if there were students in other worlds besides ours who did the same thing. I hope you enjoy my story about one such unpaid intern.

UNPAID INTERN

The fire destroyed almost every piece of equipment in the laboratory. It was difficult to extinguish, but eventually, the flames all subsided and only ashes remained. Dr. Ronald Schuster, the Laboratory Director, came very close to being overcome with smoke inhalation. I grabbed him and pushed him out of the door and into the street. I could not let him die. He is not only a brilliant scientist and physician; he is also a decent and highly moral human being. There are definitely not enough of either in the world today.

Because I hold Dr. Schuster in such high regard, I felt obligated to accompany him to the meeting with his superior, Mr. David Hargrove, Director of Research Services, at corporate headquarters. I have already attended several meetings with Mr. Hargrove presiding, and I have found him to be an honorable individual; however, his educational and professional background were focused on the commercial value of scientific research. Investing money in the search to find cures for diseases or the attempt to locate life on other planets within the galaxy is deemed noble and critical, as long as there would be profit to be gained. Mercenary as that may seem, I am not so naïve that I do not realize money is what makes the world go round.

***

“Please come in and have a seat. Ron, I hate that we have to meet under these circumstances, but what happened in your lab could have resulted in even heavier losses. Thank God you were able to get out and that the Fire Department was able to get the fire under control before the entire building exploded. Have you any idea what could have started it?”

“No Dave, I’m sorry, but I have no idea. As you know, I don’t store a lot of chemicals there, and even the ones I do are not dangerous or flammable. Another thing I don’t know is how I managed to get out of there. I remember having a hard time breathing because I was on the other side of the lab away from the door when the room began to fill with smoke. I made my way to the exit and all at once, the room was engulfed in flames. I must have tripped over something because I basically fell out of the lab onto the sidewalk. It was the strangest thing.”

“Are you sure you’re all right? I was told you didn’t even want the paramedics to check you out.”

“Yes, I’m fine. I’m just still shaken up. I know restoring everything will take time and be quite costly, but do you have a timeframe in mind for when I’d be able to resume my work?”

“Ron, the Fire Department hasn’t even finished going over everything yet. You certainly are anxious to get back to work. We are planning to set up your lab in another building as soon as possible, but there’s something important I must go over with you. The funding for your current project has been terminated by the Board, and the directive I received from them is that you are to go back to your work with DNA manipulation, or whatever that project was called.”

“Dave, you can’t be serious! You know how important my work is. Why can’t you explain to them how critical it is that I be allowed to continue?”

“Because, Ron, I don’t understand what you’re doing well enough to explain it to anyone. The Board has always been concerned that most of what you’re doing is done in secret. I mean, you won’t allow anyone to watch any of your experiments or read your notes. You want to wait until you achieve a breakthrough, but none of us can figure out what kind of a breakthrough you expect.”

“Dave, my friend, I’ve told you that I believe there are other beings all around us. I don’t mean in outer space either. I’m talking about a kind of inner space. I’m not alone in my theory; others before me have looked into this too. To put it simply, there are worlds within worlds within worlds that exist side by side. We can’t see them, but they’re there – or rather, here. I know this all sounds like a sci-fi movie script proposal, but we are only one possible dimension. There are doorways, or portals, all around us that just need to be opened. I’ve already had minor success opening several in a small way, but without warning, my equipment malfunctions and I can’t go any further.”

“My God, Ron, gateways to other worlds materialize out of thin air?”

“Of course not. Combining various types of equipment that produce sound, light and other factors help to make them accessible. It’s difficult to get too detailed about it, but you’ll have to trust me on this.”

“You know I do trust in your work. I had no idea you were this close. I’ll tell you what. For now, work in the other lab we’re going to set up for you and in the meantime, I’ll work on convincing the Board members to reestablish your funding within the foreseeable future. What we could accomplish if we could establish some type of communication highway between other dimensions and ours is beyond comprehension.”

“The doors are out there, Dave. They only need to be pushed open. Who knows what could be on the other side?”

***

I am the one who started the fire because I do know what could be on the other side. The dangerous consequences of Dr. Schuster’s type of research would not be immediately felt, but the killers would lie in wait, as killers often do, and strike without warning. The end of all living things would result soon after. The good doctor was not aware of the power he was preparing to unleash, but I knew well its magnitude. Now that I have found out the company, in the near future, might permit the good doctor to continue his research into opening random dimensional portals, I fear greatly for him and his kind.

Back home, I am a student – one of many sent here to observe and learn. In my world, we are all devotees of all branches of science. However, there are many worlds situated alongside this one, and inhabitants of all are not content to remain within their own realm. Some are extremely dangerous and not easily vanquished. Dr. Schuster’s equipment seeks not a particular doorway, but any that makes itself available. He does not know that only those who desire to maim and kill are ready and willing to cross over. I am unable to share this knowledge with him as my physical interaction with these creatures, these humans, is limited. I cannot even be seen clearly since I appear only dimly as the shimmer of heat on their asphalt on blistering summer days.

It was never my responsibility to rescue humankind from potential predators. However, since they ever seem bent on destroying themselves on a daily basis, I cannot help but feel an obligation to assist these often foolish and irresponsible beings. My time here is indeterminate. When I am notified that my assignment in this dimension will soon come to an end, I plan to assess how near my subject is to reaching his goal. If he soon will be in a position to pull the deadly ones through, I shall have to destroy him. Conscience be damned. None of us may shirk the duty that is thrust upon us. This human sector is one of the cores, and its destruction would be the death of us all. I wonder if any who reside here know just how important to the rest of us they are…




Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 50: What's Best for Father

This week, the prompt was to write a story about sisters, and the genre was drama. Sometimes, between sisters, drama is all you get.

WHAT’S BEST FOR FATHER

“Are you okay, Sarah? I expected you to arrive long before this. Did your plane have engine trouble or some other problem? These days, traveling by any means can be scary. I would hate to imagine anything bad happening to the best sister in the world.”

“Lillian, I’m the one who has the best sister in the universe. Besides, I’m fine. Nothing went wrong with the plane. We were delayed due to a storm and had a layover in some small airport for hours. I was more concerned for you having to be here alone with Father since he is so ill.”

“It’s bad enough being stuck in large airports, but in a small strip? Not much to do to pass the time, I’m sure. The important thing is that you’re okay. I was worried because I know how you get.”

“What’s that supposed to mean? How do I get?”

“Well, Sarah, you get all worked up over nothing all the time.”

“Really, Lillian? I don’t get any more worked up than you do over everything.”

“Look, the doctor called me and asked me to come since Father needs full-time care.”

“The doctor called me first and asked me to come. Father can certainly do without your kind of care.”

“My kind of care? I would care for him better than you, that’s for sure.”

“Very funny. You always were the joke of the family. I’m going to go talk to Father and you’d better stay away. He always wants to speak with me privately since he’s afraid of you.”

“You’re the one he’s terrified of – you and your big mouth. You’re always yelling and giving everyone a headache. Father told me he’s been having horrible headaches lately.”

“I’m not surprised since you’re the one who’s been here with him. I’ve only just arrived. Leave us alone. I’ll go reassure him that I won’t let you get to him. That’s always concerned him.”

“Sarah, he lives in mortal terror of you. He told me that the minute I got here. Go in there if you must, but he was resting quietly. Don’t get him all agitated. If you do, he’ll make all kinds of weird sounds and I won’t be able to hear myself think. I’ll have to give him a dose of a sedative I got from my doctor. It will put him out for a minimum of 6 hours.”

“Poor Lillian. As if you ever think about anything that matters. If he makes weird noises, it’s only because he knows you’re in the house. If I’m not able to sleep because he’s in there rambling on and on, it will be all your fault. For your information, I got a much more powerful sedative from my doctor than yours could ever prescribe. Mine will keep him quiet for at least 36.”

***

“Sarah, do you have to make so much noise making a sandwich?

“Shut up for one minute, Lillian. Did someone knock on the door?”

“Do the world a favor and shut up for an hour. Yes, someone knocked on the door. Go open it.”

“I AM opening the door. See? Mrs. Hopper. What do you want? You don’t need to check on our father anymore because my sister and I are here. I thought we made that clear with you when we called.”

“Yes, Ms. Sarah. You and Ms. Lillian made that abundantly clear. The reason I’m here now is to make sure you both were all right since your dad was found wandering alone by the train station. Someone called for an ambulance and the hospital called me since they knew I had been looking in on him. The important thing is that nothing has happened to either one of you. Apparently, he can’t be left alone for even a short period of time now. Let me know if you both need to be out and I’ll come over and sit with him.”

“Lillian, what is she talking about? For your information, Ms. Nosy Neighbor, our father is resting comfortably in his bed waiting for his lunch, which I was in the middle preparing when you so rudely interrupted me.”

“I’m going to ignore the name-calling, Ms. Sarah, because my concern is only for the welfare of your dad. I would suggest that you go and check on him because he is not resting in his bed. The nurse said a man saw your father walking back and forth across the tracks at the station, mumbling to himself. Evidently, he told the man he was waiting for the train because his weekend leave was over and needed to get back to his platoon.

“I told the hospital I would go check on his daughters who were staying with him. I’m happy to see nothing has happened to either one of you. Now, you can take offense at what I’m about to say, but I don’t care. Your dad left the house without either of you knowing about it. You ought to be ashamed. I’m going home now, but let me warn you. If he ends up coming back here with you and I find out you’re not making sure he’s safe, I’m going to call the police. Someone has to protect that poor man.”

“Close the door, Lillian. This woman has crossed the line for the last time. I’m going to check on Father.”

***

“Lillian, my God, that old biddy was right. Father’s not in his room. She said he was walking back and forth across the train tracks. When I think of what could have happened, it makes me sick to my stomach. What if he had been hit by the train? What if some nasty people had taken advantage and robbed him and beat him up? There’s no way he could defend himself against something like that.”

“I know, Sarah. It’s frightening. He thought he was back in the Army. That poor old man walked all the way into town to the train station. It’s a blessing that he wasn’t hit by a car walking along the road like that. All that talk when I got here first about his bad headaches mixing him up meant something serious was going on, but you didn’t do anything about it, did you?”

“What do you mean ‘all that talk when you got here first’? You know my plane was delayed due to weather. I got here as quickly as I could after his doctor called me. Father told me about his headaches too; although, he went into much more detail with me than you because he knew I’d understand since I’m not as self-centered as you are. Wait. I didn’t do anything about it? What stopped you? See. All you think about is you. At least, I was making his lunch. Where were you? Sitting with your feet up?”

“Yes, you bitch. This trip has been hard on me coming all the way from Phoenix. You were making him lunch? Big deal. What do you want – a medal? Didn’t you hear him leave? That’s it. I’m taking him back with me. There’s a nice facility that’s twenty minutes from where I live.”

“Bitch? Me? Look at the lazy skank talk so big. He’s coming back to Boston with me. I can get him admitted into a care home immediately that’s ten minutes from my house.”

“We’ll just see. I’m going to Mercy to make arrangements.”

“You’d better let me have him because I’ll put him in a better place than you ever could.”

“You wouldn’t know a better place if it bit you on the ass. I want what’s best for MY father.”

“I want what’s best for MY father.”

“Sarah, I’ll drive so you don’t add miles on your rented car.”

“That would be great, Lillian. Thanks tons for helping me save on the charges.”



Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 49: That Green-Eyed Monster Two

That Green-Eyed Monster (Continued)

At the bottom of the stairs was a hidden exit from the house that led right into the woods. I waited in the trees until the last cop car had left. The lights had been on all over the house, and I figured they’d searched every inch of it. I was glad I had picked up the items from the stairs. One belonged to a friend, who I knew was innocent, and the other belonged to a killer. I made my way home through the dark streets and snuck in through my bedroom window. I knew my folks were asleep. Ma’s shift at the factory started at 5am. My pop was a janitor at Butler Memorial Hospital and his shift started at 4:30am. They’d both be out like lights by now; no sense getting them all excited with me coming in so late.

I got up early and went to the jail. I wanted to let Benny and Joey know I had made it out. Chief Bob told me I could go back and visit the three of them. What?

“Eddie,” Benny hollered, then remembered where he was and lowered his voice to a whisper. “How’d you get out of that house?”

“Not important,” I said.

That’s when I saw Lonny sitting on the bench in the cell. He looked like he’d run into a brick wall – hard - twice.

“Lonny, what are you doing here?”

“The cops came to my house and arrested me. Mrs. Hopper’s sitting with Ma now.” Lonny’s eyes filled with tears. “They said I had the motive to kill that old bastard because of what he did to Pa. They think I went over there this afternoon and fought with him and that’s how I got this black eye. Then, one of the cops said that I sent Benny and Joey over there at night to finish him off. The cop also said some anonymous somebody called the station and tipped them off right after it happened. Who would do that, Eddie?”

So that’s how the cops got there right away. Somebody tipped them off, but who? The killer? I bet he had still been in the house when we got there. He must have heard us fiddling with the front door lock, went upstairs and called the cops, and got out down the staircase. He figured he’d make sure whoever was coming in got framed for the old man’s murder. I wondered if he realized he had dropped his knife on those stairs. I decided to make sure he did.

“Lonny, I found your medal on the stairs leading out of the house, so I know you were there. Not to worry because I have it and I didn’t turn it over to the cops. I know you didn’t kill Harlson, but what were you doing there, and how did you know about those stairs?”

“Eddie, it’s true,” Lonny said. “I did go there, but when I left, he was alive. I gave Ma her pain medicine and she fell asleep. I knew she’d be out for a few hours, so I locked up the house and went to see Harlson. All I wanted to do was find out why he framed Pa. He laughed in my face and said my dad was no better than the dirt under his feet. Then he started pushing me. Out of nowhere, he punched me in my face, and told me to get the Hell out of his house or he’d have me locked up right beside my loser of a father. Then, somebody started pounding on his back door and he went to see who it was. I acted like I was going out the front, but when he went into the kitchen to get the back door, I slipped upstairs. Pa said Harlson kept papers up there and I wanted to see if I could find something to help prove he was innocent.

“I heard Harlson yelling, but I didn’t hear the other person. I figured I’d better get out of there. I knew about that back stairway because Pa told me about it. He said that’s how Harlson’s crooked suppliers brought him faulty materials and got their payoffs. Everything done in secret. I went through the woods to Wilbur’s Crossing, then across the field to my house. Ma was just coming around. I told her I slipped and fell on something and that’s why my eye was swelled up. That’s where I stayed until they came and arrested me. I thought the chain with my medal had fallen off in the woods.”

Okay. So the killer arrived via the kitchen door and left by way of the secret staircase. Time to bait the trap.

I headed over to Rosie’s Diner. Her joint was where everyone in town gathered to gossip. Anything said in here would definitely get around. I decided to use my outside voice inside.

“Hey, Ms. Rosie, it’s early, but can I have a burger and some fries?”

“Sure, Eddie, but I’m the only one who needs to hear your order. The next county sure don’t!”

Yep. My outside voice was dialed up just right.

“Sorry. It’s just Mr. Harlson getting murdered right under our noses is creepy business. First, my best friends get arrested, and now…wow.”

“Now what?” Ms. Rosie asked.

“Well,” I continued, at a slightly elevated volume, so no one would miss a word. “They found evidence in the master bedroom. It doesn’t match up to any of my friends, so they’ve got one of those forensic teams coming from the state in the morning to process the kni…I mean, it. The girl in dispatch is my second cousin, and she told me they didn’t remove it from the house yet. Once those CSI folks get done with it, they’ll have the fourth person involved in the killing. I can’t wait to find out who that is, can you?”

The diner was abuzz with everyone talking about who the other person could possibly be. I knew he was in here somewhere. All I needed was for him to take the bait.

Sitting in the dark waiting for a killer wasn’t cool at all. I don’t believe in spooks, but being in a house upstairs from where a guy had recently been murdered gave me the heebies. I was beginning to think I’d be visiting my friends next on Death Row when I saw the beam of a flashlight under that door to the secret staircase. The door opened and the killer entered, swinging the light around on the carpet searching. I was leaning against the desk and the light eventually shined on my feet. I heard a gasp. Apparently, our killer wasn’t expecting company. The light was moved up to my face.

“What are you doing here?”

“I might ask you the same thing, Mrs. Vanderly. That knife was yours? You killed Mr. Harlson?”

“Didn’t your mother teach you to mind your own business?”

“Leave my mother out of this. Why’d you do it?”

“I guess there’s no harm in letting you in on it. After all, it’s not like you’ll be able to repeat anything I tell you.”

She pulled a gun from her pocket and pointed it in my direction. Great plan, Eddie.

“It was an accident, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I was having an affair with Harlson. He was repulsive, but rich, and promised me big houses and trips. My husband Fred didn’t know anything about it. He’s repulsive too, but poor, and he never promised me anything. Everything was fine until Harlson decided to dump me and take up with that hotel clerk that just moved into town. After I put up with his reptilian touch for months, he was going to kick me to the curb for that blonde dimwit.

“I knew he framed that Draymond idiot because Fred helped him doctor the books. I went there that night to tell him if he dumped me for that bimbo, I’d blow the whistle on him. I had planned to just knock him out and then go through his files to find something I could use against him if he didn’t agree to dump junior miss. I brought the knife to use to get into any locked files. He started threatening me, so I pushed him as hard as I could. He lost his balance, fell backwards and hit his head on the table. I knew he was dead. I didn’t kill him on purpose. I just got lucky.

“After I got upstairs, I heard somebody messing with the front door. That must have been your friends. I called the cops and told them Harlson was dead and the killers were still in the house and then I hung up. I knew about the back staircase since that’s how I came in and left when I visited him. I was in a hurry and that’s when I must have dropped the knife. I saw the medal and chain on a stair halfway down and left it for the cops to find. Pretty smart, huh?”

I had to agree with her, but only to a point. I was pretty smart too.

The lights in the room came on and Chief Bob told her to drop the gun. She looked behind her and cops were coming up the back stairs.

“You little…”

“You heard all that, Chief Bob?” I smiled at Mrs. Vanderly. I had earned the right to be smug.

“Got it all on tape, son,” he said. He pointed to the bedroom door which led to the main staircase in the house. “After you, Mrs. V. You ride with me, Eddie, back to the jail, and I’ll drive you and your friends home after the lady is tucked in a cell. Always remember one thing, son. Hell hath no fury like that of a woman scorned.”

Duly noted, Chief. We hadn’t gotten to that yet in school. I wondered if that was a college thing.


Flash Fiction Friday, Week 49: That Green-Eyed Monster

The prompt this week was to write a mystery story that began with one of the listed sentences. The one I chose is highlighted. Please enjoy.

That Green-Eyed Monster

We couldn’t let anyone know we’d been inside. It is true that Benny, Joey and I broke into old man Harlson’s house at midnight, but it was only to find some evidence. See, Benjamin Harlson was a royal piece of garbage. He cheated everybody in town by selling them crap and then charging them to fix it when it broke. He called himself a real estate something or other and when folks bought land in the county, they’d pay his company to build a house for them. What they didn’t know until it was too late was that his crew was made up of nothing but drunks and inmates from the penal farm. He never did get permits; he just paid off the folks in the courthouse to write in the books that everything was being done all legal like.

Families would move in and walls would cave, the roof would leak, and all kinds of other nonsense would go wrong. Then Harlson would send his sleazy crew of repairmen in to fix it up, and charge the residents a pretty penny. This went on all over the county, but folks kept letting him build their houses and fix stuff when it broke. They deserved their troubles, if you ask me, but who am I, but a 15 year old kid that don’t know anything about the world or how it works. What I do know is that bastard Harlson framed our pal Lonny Draymond’s pop for embezzling $10,000 from some families who were building homes in a new subdivision. Mr. Draymond had been responsible for maintaining some of the equipment, and he also ordered supplies, like paint and wallpaper and such. He didn’t even have access to any of the money that changed hands, but Harlson said Mr. Draymond doctored up some invoices and that’s how he got the money.

There’s no way Lonny’s dad made off with $10,000. If he had taken it, why did he, Lonny’s ma and Lonny will still live in a single-wide trailer in Sunset Ridge Trailer Park? Why did Lonny’s pop still drive that heap of a truck with no driver’s side door that dripped oil from here to Kingdom come? Most important of all though, why would he let Lonny’s ma lay suffering and dying in her bed from some nightmare of a disease instead of spending that ten grand on fancy doctors and treatments? Harlson made up that lie and forged some stuff so Mr. Draymond would get blamed and go to jail instead of him. Yep. You guessed it. Harlson was the one who skimmed that cash off the top and would have got caught too because some state auditor was coming to look at his books – something about tax deductions and all. So, Lonny’s pop went to the slammer and that bum Harlson comes out of it smelling like a rose.

Well, us guys weren’t going to let him get away with that. We knew there had to be some papers in the old man’s office that would prove Lonny’s dad was innocent, and we were determined to find them. Harlson had spread it around in town how he was going on a business trip for a couple of days and nobody better get near his house while he was gone. He talked about some elaborate alarm system being hooked up there that would bring the state militia down on anybody who even thought about breaking in. We knew that was bull, but if some lights started flashing or sirens going off while we were there, we’d just hightail it out. Harlson’s backyard was woods anyhow and we knew how to get lost in there real good.

We would have brought Lonny with us, but there were two reasons why we didn’t. First and most important, with his dad behind bars, he had to stay with his ma to give her the medicine that eased her pain, and second, Lonny couldn’t keep a secret if you paid him a million bucks. He didn’t mean no harm, but he blabbed everything to anybody who’d listen. We knew we had to find some evidence on our own, turn it over to the DA, then tell Lonny. That way, when his loose lips let it out, no harm to the case could be done. Sound like a great plan? The greatest plan ever. That is, until we got inside the house, walked into the front room, and found old man Harlson lying next to the coffee table, stone cold dead with a big gash on the side of his head.

There was blood on one corner of the coffee table, so he might have tripped, fallen, and hit his head on it. Only one big problem with that scenario though, and that was the amount of blood on the table and the size of the wound on his head. The ‘fell and hit the table’ story might hold water if he slipped and fell on it from the roof. It was obvious, even to us kids, that a lot of force had been involved; like he had been pushed onto the table hard. That meant somebody else was involved. We looked around and didn’t see anything out of place or hear anybody moving around, so we figured whoever killed him had long gone. We hoped so, anyway. Still, even though we weren’t the ones who did him in, we tried to touch as little as possible. Okay, so our fingerprints weren’t on file anywhere, but we’d seen plenty of shows where folks got nailed for doing something they didn’t do just because they were in a certain place and didn’t touch anything.

Benny and Joey wanted to cut and run, but I told them Harlson was already dead, and since we were already there, we might as well do what we came for. Once he’d been found, maybe any paperwork we’d need would disappear. I told them to look around downstairs and I would go upstairs. Lonny’s dad had told Lonny that Harlson worked out of his house and kept papers all over the place, which made it real hard to keep track of orders and all. Even though the only other person in the house with us was dead, we were all as quiet as we could be. Joey refused to go any further into the front room, but there were other rooms downstairs to search, so he and Benny decided to split up.

I said I would go upstairs and look through whatever rooms were up there. The house was good size, so I figured at least maybe three or more rooms might be up there. I decided to start with the room on the right. When I flicked my flashlight on and scanned the room, I knew this was the master bedroom. Man, the old bastard had some fancy taste. There was a huge four poster bed with silk sheets, a big entertainment center, and…what was that? Somebody yelling outside? I went back to the top of the stairs to find out what was going on. There were cops everywhere, and they were telling Benny and Joey not to move, to put their hands behind their backs, and that they were being arrested for murder. I could hear Bob Dawson, our Police Chief, ask them if anyone else was in the house with them, and they both told him ‘no’. Smart, guys. That way, I’d be free to find out who really killed the old man. First things first though. How was I going to get out of there?

I went back to the master bedroom and saw a narrow door next to the closet that was partly open. It had no doorknob, and if it was closed, it would look like part of the wall. I opened it all the way and saw a staircase that looked like it went down to the first floor. I wondered if it led to another door out the back of the house. Maybe this was how the killer left, but he didn’t close it all the way behind him. I didn’t know for sure where I’d end up, but I didn’t have any choice, so I headed down the stairs and made sure I closed that door with the handle on the inside. What’s this? On the third stair down, was a switch knife. I’ll bet that fell out of the killer’s pocket as he ran down the stairs. What a dumbass. I used the bottom of my shirt to pick it up and slide it into my pocket. Wouldn’t want to mess with those fingerprints. On a few more steps down, I found a broken chain with a St. Christopher’s medal on it. We all got them from Sister Mary Frances at Catechism Class. She had our initials carved on the back. This one had LAD on it. Lonny Allen Draymond. Damn.

***

I reached the word limit, so this post is at an end. I won’t leave you hanging though. You can find the story's conclusion here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 48: All in Good Time...

The prompt this week was as follows:

‘You’ve met someone you’re crazy about, but he/she sees you as nothing more than an acquaintance. You mention your crush to a friend, who tells you there’s a simple solution to your problem. All it would take is one visit to the old woman who lives at the north end of town. Tell her what you want, she’ll cast a spell, and your wish for love will come true. Your friend used her ‘services’ and the spell worked perfectly.

You’re not a believer in all that hocus pocus nonsense, but decide to give it a try anyway. After all, what can it hurt?’

The prompt was to write a story about casting a love spell, and the genre was horror.

Patience really is a virtue; although, some folks learn that the hard way.

All in Good Time…

“Cass, I’m so glad you were able to get away for lunch today so we could talk. I really need some advice. I’ll try not to keep you too long so you won’t get in trouble. I know you only have a half hour.”

“Deb, I’m a District Manager now. I don’t have to punch a timeclock anymore.”

“That’s right, I forgot. I don’t think I ever congratulated you on your promotion. You deserved it though. It took them way too long to replace that clown that used to be your boss. What did they do with him? Is he a Vice President now?”

“Didn’t I tell you? One morning, he got up from his desk, walked out, and no one has seen or heard from him since.”

“That’s weird, Cass. Was the job just too much for him?”

“Oh no, Deb. If I told you what I did, you’d never believe me.”

“Cass, my God, you didn’t sleep…”

“With one of the VP’s? No way, Deb. I love my husband way too much to do anything like that. Remind me to tell you how easy it was to make all that happen. Enough about me though. Tell me about your problem.”

“Well, this new guy started in the Sales Department a couple of months ago, and I’ve been throwing myself at him since day one. He’s nice and smart and charming, but no matter what I do, he just looks right past me.”

“Why don’t you ask him out for a drink?”

“I have, Cass, and he always says that would be great, and then invites the rest of the department to meet up at McGill’s. It’s like we’re buddies and I’m just one of the guys.”

“Are you sure he doesn’t already have a girlfriend?”

“I know he doesn’t because after he’d been there a week, he asked Sarah, who works the switchboard, to go out that Friday night. I know they’ve gone out every week since then because on Monday mornings, we all hear about it from her. She and I are the same age, and I’m a hundred times prettier than she ever could be. I know I sound like a petty jealous bitch, Cass, but just once, why can’t I get the nice guy?”

“Deb, I can help you. Do you know where Monmouth Road is?”

“Monmouth Road? Sure. It’s that road off Highway 12 that leads into Cooper’s Woods. But, how does that…”

“At the end of Monmouth, there’s a house. An old woman lives there with her son. Deb, I promise you, she’s got powers. I paid her to put a spell on my boss to make him walk out and disappear, and then on the same day, I would get his job. I wasn’t even up for that position, but you see how it turned out.”

“Cass, you did say ‘a spell’?”

“That’s exactly what I said. You give this woman fifty dollars and tell her what you want. It’s spooky, but she’ll already know most of it before you even say a word. When the stars align, or some crap like that, she’ll cast a spell, and you’ll have what you want. One visit is all it takes. Go between 10pm and midnight. Deb, her spells really work. She was recommended to me by some people I work with. You have no idea what she has done for them. It’s all real. I promise you.”

Cass and I have been friends since first grade and she’s always been the level-headed one. She’s never said or done anything to make me not trust her. But, a woman with the power to put spells on people? Well, what I’ve been doing isn’t working at all. What can it hurt?

***

I got there around 10:15, and only the front porch light was on. I knocked on the door. A man answered – the old lady’s son, I assumed, and he told me to go into the first room on the right. The room was dimly lit, and an old woman sat at one end of a couch. She motioned for me to sit down at the other end.

“What is it you need?” she asked.

“There’s a man that I want to like me.”

Wait. Like? No way. If there’s going to be some magic done here, I might as well go all the way.

“I take that back. I want him to love me. He’s…”

“I know of whom you speak. He works where you do and his name is Todd. You have tried unsuccessfully for some time to attract this man, but he sees you only as an acquaintance.”

How…? Of course. Cass. She got to her and told her all about him. But, I never told Cass his name.

“Yes,” I said. “I need a spell to make him love only me forever.”

“Of course,” she responded. “You will place your donation in the box on the table by the front door and leave. Before long, you will have the love you desire.”

Donation? So, that’s what it’s called. Well, I can’t be any worse off than I was before, so what the Hell?

***

This was too much. Thanks a lot, my dearest friend. You had me believing there was something to all this hocus pocus. Just be patient, you said. The old woman will make it all right, you said. It’s been almost a month and nothing has changed even a little bit. Well, I hope you all had a good laugh at my expense. One more visit to that old hag was definitely in the cards.

This time, I didn’t bother to knock. I found her in that same room on that same couch, only this time, she was waving what looked like dead flowers in the air and mumbling something I couldn’t understand. I wondered for whose benefit this show was being put on.

“You phony old crow. You and my good friend had me convinced this spell crap was for real. You know what happened at work this morning? Todd announced his engagement to Sarah, the little tramp who answers our office phones. He’s known her for less than three months. You can take your spells and…”

“He will forsake the other. I am now saying the words, and tomorrow, he will love only you. The time had to be right to say…”

“I’m done being played for a fool. I’m taking my money back.”

“Careful child,” she said, pointing a shriveled finger in my direction. “Do not disrespect my powers or you will…”

I don’t know what came over me, but I slapped her as hard as I could. She fell onto the floor and began making the most horrible sounds. I hoped I didn’t seriously injure her. This whole situation has turned me into a monster.

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to do that.” I felt sick. “It’s just that I’m so upset and…”

I reached down to help her back up onto the couch, but something was very wrong. What was happening? I was filled with a deep pain. My face felt as if it was going to explode. I put my hands on my face and its shape was changing. Hands? What am I saying? They were turning into claws, as were my feet, and were covered with fur. I ran to the mirror I had seen by the front door. My God. My ears were large, my eyes were turning into small slits, and I had the elongated snout of an animal. My arms and legs were also now covered with fur, and were becoming longer and very muscular.

“What are you doing to me?” I could barely get the words out.

“You will find love now,” she said. “The only love you deserve. The love of such as yourself. The love of the beast. Be gone.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…please don’t do this…please…I…”

Her son came at me swinging a baseball bat, yelling at me to get out and never come back. I tried to run, but I could feel myself being pulled down to all fours. The pain was very strong now. I could feel my teeth, and the talons on my hands and feet, growing longer and sharper. A tail now swung behind me. The transformation was complete. I had become a hideous creature, cursed to live out my life in the woods, killing what I could find to survive.

I could still think and I could still reason, and I will always remember who, and what, I had been, and what I have now become and will forever remain. I ran and ran deeper into the woods, howling from the pain. No matter how far I got from the old woman’s house, I could still hear her and her son laughing. I know I always will.

I’m so sorry. Truly. Sorry. God, please help me…

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 47: Safe

This week, the prompt was to write a story about a blind date, with a genre of romance. It was as follows:

“You haven’t been active socially following a breakup months ago. A friend decided you’ve been on the shelf for far too long, and arranges for you to go on a blind date. Your friend tells you nothing about the person except where to meet, and you are given a code word to use for purposes of recognition. It’s all a bit cloak and dagger for your liking, but you know you’ll never hear the end of it if you don’t go, so you agree.

It’s hard to anticipate how a blind date will turn out. We want you to tell us all about yours.”

Please enjoy.

SAFE

My name is Bea. Yeah, I know. It’s a name that’s a blast from the past, but my mother never fully acclimated to the 20th century, and that name was quite popular in her day. My point is, what was popular in her generation, she visited upon me each and every day; that is, until a few years ago, when she forgot who I was. But, that’s another story best left for another day. To close the issue on mom for you, she’s in good hands, well cared for, and always has a smile on her face. Now, back to me.

I’m a jerk magnet. If a good-looking guy sits next to me, I shamelessly throw myself at him. He gets my number and does call me and asks me out on a date. You didn’t see that coming, did you. I’m no one-night stand though; I want to make that clear up front. Anyway, he does call and I’m wined, dined, and smothered with charm. Before the end of the evening, I could easily see myself falling head over heels in love, but I don’t push it. We say goodnight, and he promises to call again, which he does.

This goes on for a few weeks and I’m told we’re going to be exclusive. What they all forget to mention is that the exclusive clause is totally one-sided. I’m expected to sit home and wait for my lord and master to call while he hooks up with anything in a skirt. How I find out is that he accidentally, or deliberately – I’m not sure, sends me suggestive texts asking me for suggestive photos, addressing these fairly lewd transmissions to someone other than me. Sometimes it’s Lucy, other times, it’s Suzanna – you get my drift. When I bring up the subject, first I’m told I’m too clingy, then I’m summarily dumped. Is it my fault? Maybe, but that’s my life; or at least it was until a few months ago when I decided to throw in the towel and give up on finding somebody to share my life with. My friend, Sally, however, refused to let me die miserable and alone.

Sally and I have been best friends since First Grade and she’s always gone her own way and I mine, until now. She’s been married to a nice guy for 11 years and they have two beautiful kids. Her life is secure and safe – her words, and that’s how it should be for all, including me. I’m too reckless – again, her words, and I need to find someone safe and settle down. Can you guess where this is going? She knows the perfect somebody for me and has arranged a blind date.

She won’t tell me anything about him, except that he is normal and safe. To give this meeting a touch of excitement though, she told me to meet him in front of the fountain at the mall and when I approach him, I’m to say ‘Rosebud’. She’s never seen Citizen Kane, but thought the idea behind the mysterious word might pique my interest. I asked how I was to know who to approach, and she told me after I say ‘Rosebud’, if he responds with ‘Ah, yes. Rosebud’, then, we should let nature take its course. He’s quiet and shy, but stable and you guessed it, safe. Since I’ve yet to figure out how to say ‘no’ to Sally and have it stick, I reluctantly agreed.

How bad could a safe life be? Every day, Sally’s family gets up, she makes breakfast, puts the kids on the school bus, and hubby goes to work. She cleans, does laundry, watches soaps, and helps the kiddies with their homework. In the evening, they sit down to supper, play a board game, put the kids to bed at nine, watch the ten o’clock news, have a cup of hot cocoa, and turn in. She’s described her life to me many times, glowing all the while. The thought of it makes me feel a bit nauseated, but it’s a step up from the migraines I get from the jerks, so what the Hell?

***

I went to the Mall for lunch the next afternoon and arrived at the fountain at exactly one o’clock. There were two men standing there, both looking around. One was a few inches shorter than me and the other much taller. The shorter one looked middle-aged, was a bit overweight, and looked terrified. He had to be married, waiting for his wife to finish her shopping. He had that look. The other one was well dressed and fit, had dark hair, dark eyes, and a killer smile. I approached the dreamboat and said, “Rosebud”. He leaned down to me, and with his peppermint scented breath replied, “Ah, yes. Rosebud”. I owe you, Sally. I owe you big time.

We spent the rest of the day together. We went on a carriage ride through the park, and he invited me to have cocktails and dinner with him in his penthouse. It was absolute Heaven. He was the perfect gentleman, and took me home after dinner. He asked me if I would be up for more of the same tomorrow. Was he kidding? I couldn’t wait to tell Sally all about it in the morning. Turns out, I should have waited.

“What’s going on, Bea? Stanley said you never showed up. My God. Who did you go with?” Sally was frantic.

Stanley? Oh dear. My new guy’s name was Winston.

“What does Stanley look like, Sal?” I knew the answer before I asked the question.

“Well,” she said, “he’s a bit shorter than you, a tad overweight, and always has a frightened look on his face.”

“But,” I was getting a bit frantic myself, “when I said the code word, this other guy responded just like you said he would.”

“An awful coincidence,” she said. “Don’t go near this man again. He’s probably a serial killer.”

I doubted that, although they are reported to be lookers and charming. I decided to keep tonight’s date and clear the air about how we met. If he was a psycho, at least I’d be found dead in a penthouse.

***

Winston picked me up right on time that evening. Sally watched through her balcony window with binoculars planning to jot down the license number in case I mysteriously vanished. Sitting in the back of his limo, I decided to ask him about the ‘Rosebud’ thing. I figured if he tried to strangle me in the car, I could always throw myself out the door onto the curb. Hey. It works in the movies.

“Winston,” I said, “I was wondering. When I walked up to you by the fountain and said ‘Rosebud’, why did you respond the way you did?”

“For one thing,” he said, “Citizen Kane’s one of my favorite films. Too, I thought what a great pickup line that was. I’ve never had a woman come on to me quite like you did.”

Oh my God. It was just a coincidence. But since his hands were occupied with pouring champagne into chilled glasses for both of us and not fixed firmly around my neck, I thought c’est la vie. Onward and upward. Winston told me he had a very special evening planned. He said he felt a connection to me and knew we had a promising future together.

When we arrived at his penthouse, he took me over to the hot tub. I counted six women already in there - naked. Excuse me?

“This will be great, Bea. Remove your clothes and join the ladies. I’ve got cameras set up all around the room. I don’t want to miss anything. Our last film brought in close to $10,000.00. You’ll all be nice and friendly with our new star, Bea, won’t you?”

***

I’m meeting Stanley by the counter at Woolworth’s. I’m so looking forward to fixing supper, tucking the kids in, watching the ten o’clock news, and brewing a couple of cups of hot cocoa.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 46: At The Drop of a Dime

The prompt this week was to write a detective story. I hope you enjoy.

AT THE DROP OF A DIME

Two packs of smokes and a bottle of hooch. My pay for a job well done. Fine by me, sure, but I do believe Betts will blow sky high. Three weeks’ tailing a dame, watching her smooching up her husband Richie’s best friend, giving the husband proof she’s playing him for a sucker, he decides to forget the mess and takes her back. Most days I wonder why I bother getting out of bed, and today was sure no exception. Betts will be back soon and I have to come up with a plan on how to break it to her. Wait. Let me explain Betts to you so you get my drift.

My name’s Mo. Mo Pollniak. I was christened Maurice, but nobody’s allowed to use that on me. Okay, so it was alright for Ma and the nuns down at The Virgin Mary of the Sacred Woods School, but that’s it. My Pop got runned down by a beer truck one Saturday morning when I was 2, so I don’t really remember what he used on me. But Ma worked on the line over at the bicycle factory right up till the day she died so I’d be able to eat and go to parochial, so it all worked out.

I’m a PI, in case you were wondering, and I’ve been doing this near to 30 years now. I never eat breakfast, I shave at least once a week, I hang my one suit out on the fire escape to air out, and the Chinese lady down the hall washes and irons my shirts out of pity since she thinks that I’m broke and a real loser. Smart lady. Now let’s get back to Betts.

I first opened my business in an abandoned storefront, and just hung a handmade sign in the window that said ‘Mo Pollniak-Investigations‘; you know, all classy like, and she walked in. Said her name was Betsy Malone, but if I ever didn’t call her just Betts, she’d break my arm. Her man had went out for a shot and a beer three weeks ago, and hasn’t been home since. She needed a job, this was close enough to walk to so she wouldn’t need carfare, she’d work cheap and she made the best sandwiches in the State. She started that afternoon. The best thing about Betts is when a job gets done, she makes sure we get paid. Not sure what I’m going to tell her about our latest though. Gotta think…

When she got back from lunch, slammed the door, and threw a bag with two roast beef on rye and a cream soda on my desk, I wondered how she found out about Richie. Was I ever barking up the wrong alley…

“I knew it. She told me he was going to kill her and now she’s dead. The cops are wandering around in circles as usual and he’s going to get away with it just like she said he would. Mo? You’ve got to do something!”

I asked her if I could eat my sandwiches while she told me the story, and once the drop-dead look in her eyes passed, I took that as a yes.

On her way back to the office, she passed this town’s only hotel, cops all over it. Betts’ friend, one of the maids, was outside, and told her a man named Howard Marshand had found his wife, Suzanne, strangled in their room.

“What the hell was Suzanne doing here in a hotel anyway?” Betts was boiling mad. “She and I went to St. Mary’s together and her Daddy had some money and when he died, he left her the house and enough cash to get by. I hated it when she married that Marshand character. He’s low-life scum that just lived off her all these years. He’s a lying bum, and the last time I talked to her about 2 months ago, she said she knew he was planning to get rid of her. He had some floozy on the side and wanted the house and the cash. Mo, I’ve never asked you to get involved in my business, but I am this time. I can’t prove it, but I know he killed her. Please?”

First ‘please’ in 30 years. How could I say no?

I got the scoop from one of the uniforms at the scene. The happy couple had booked the weekend to spark their fire, but got into it over something, and he left to spend the night with his part-time gal. Real classy gent. When he got back to the room this afternoon, the poor kid was on the floor with a scarf knotted around her neck. She had an ugly gash in the back of her head too and the desk had blood on a corner. Somebody wanted her real dead.

I went up to the room to have a look-see and my old pal, Lt. Dave Hastings, was finishing up.

“What do you want here, Pollniak? A real crime happened in here.”

I knew he’d be thrilled to see me.

“Just looking around, Dave,” I said. “Can’t hurt to have an extra set of eyes on it, right? Who’s the broad he spent the night with anyway? She alibi him?”

I could tell he wasn’t in a very cooperative mood.

“Not that it’s any of your beeswax, Mo, but her name’s Molly something, and she lives in those rooms in Riverdale. She gave a statement that Marshand ate dinner over there, played some canasta, and he stayed the night, like they were some regular Dick and Jane. End of story. Let her be, okay? This time, the husband didn’t do it so we gotta start looking somewhere else. Now, beat it, huh? Doc will be here soon to get her out of here.”

For some reason, I didn’t feel quite as good about Molly something’s word as Dave did. I figured it was about time I stuck my nose in where it didn’t belong.

* * * * * * * * * *

A week later, Betts comes in, smiling ear to ear.

“It’s over, Mo. It’s all in this morning’s paper. That son-of-a-bitch confessed and the cops were right there listening. They had it all set up. She got him over to her place and told him she wanted him to take his clothes and scram. She said she knew that he had murdered his wife while he was wearing his brown jacket because she found out what happened to the missing button. He said he didn’t know anything about a damn button, and besides, he had been wearing his blue jacket when he killed her--not the brown one--and she’d better clam up about it or she’d get hers. Well, the cops came out and arrested him right then. Can you believe it?”

Uh-huh. I sure could. All it took to shake his little gal up was a quick phone call one night, letting her know she shouldn’t alibi a murderer since the cops were planning to arrest her too unless she came clean. See, they found the button. When he was choking his wife’s lights out, she pulled a button off his jacket and they found it clenched in her cold dead hand. Molly put the phone down to check the closet, and mumbled something that sounded like ‘lying bastard’ before she hung up.

There wasn’t actually a button found, you know. A wife, she isn’t going to let her man leave the house with a button missing, but a girlfriend? A man doesn’t spend time with a girl like Molly because of her abilities as a seamstress. I knew there had to be at least one button missing from something he stashed at her place.

Betts handed me three roast beefs on rye and two cream sodas. There was a pickle in wax paper and a napkin too. Out loud ‘Thanks’ and ‘You’re Welcome’ would have been sappy and were already understood. I was ready to chow down and grabbed at that pickle when Betts said “By the way, Mo. Did Richie ever stop by to pay us for trailing after that cheating tramp of his?”

Uh-oh…