Sunday, September 4, 2016
Flash Fiction Friday, Week 54: Timing is Everything
The prompt this week was to write a story that includes a clock, and the genre was horror. Please enjoy.
Timing is Everything
“It’s true what they say, Miss Jeanine. Timing is everything. I couldn’t close up the shop early because I had so many customers. I ended up being late to the estate sale and missed out on getting that clock. I picked up a few unusual pieces of furniture, but you were the fortunate one. If you ever want to sell that clock, I’ll make sure you make a profit.”
“Thanks, Mr. Spooner, but that clock really classes up my dining room. I understand there’s a dark legend that goes along with it. Do you know what that’s all about?”
“Indeed I do, Miss. You weren’t living here when old Mr. Branson lived in that house on the hill. Folks still talk about him having made a deal with the Devil to get even with everyone who did him wrong. What happened was, he was paralyzed in an accident at the factory. The investigators found out the machine operator had been drinking at lunch. The guard rails on some of the equipment weren’t secured properly and when Branson switched his machine on, a big piece of it fell on him.
“The owner paid him a ton of money to keep it out of court – the operator was his brother-in-law, you see, and Branson took every penny. But he swore he’d get all of them for destroying his life. He got into Black Magic and told everyone there was a curse on the big clock in his living room – the one you now own. There’s a small drawer behind the pendulum, and if he wrote someone’s name down on a note or something and put it inside that drawer, at midnight that very day, that person would die a horrible death.
“Well, the factory owner and machinist both died violent deaths at midnight a week apart. Branson told everybody in town that the curse worked. No one believed in all that curse business, but everyone in town avoided him anyway. He died a few months ago, but with no relatives on record, it took a while to get his affairs straight. That’s why the estate sale was just this past weekend.”
“He must have been insane. Do you know how they died?”
“Harry Dillan, the machinist, was repairing a leak in his roof, and he fell. That’s bad enough, but when he landed, it was face down right on top of his barbed wire covered fence. No one could figure out how that happened because the fence was 25 feet away from where he was on the roof.
“Ben Cooper, the owner, was nearly decapitated. He was mowing the grass on a piece of property he owned a couple of miles from town. When he didn’t come home, his son went looking for him and found him with his head under the mower blades. No one could figure out how his accident happened either.”
“Disturbing, Mr. Spooner, but I thank you for sharing the town’s legends and gossip with me.”
“No problem, Miss. You’re part of our community now, so you may as well know about all the skeletons in our town’s closet.”
“Ha, that’s a good one. Later, Mr. Spooner.”
“Have a fine day, Miss.”
Brian Haskins had to die. He had made the mistake of telling Jeanine she’d never be promoted to be Cassie’s assistant as long as he was alive. She thought, so be it then, you bastard. She wrote his full name on an index card, and placed it in the clock’s secret drawer. She went to bed around 11:00, hoping that just once, curses were real. If this one actually worked, she wondered when it would get Brian, and how she would know. She didn’t have to wait long.
“Jeanine, it’s me, Cass. I’m sorry to call you at five o’clock in the morning, but Brian’s dead. I’m sure you can’t hear all the sirens at your end of town. There’s police and an ambulance, and our whole neighborhood is out on the street. What happened was that his wife, Suzanne, heard him scream, and found him at the bottom of the stairs. Their clock had just finished chiming midnight.
“My God, Jeanine, he wasn’t just bruised from falling. People are saying his eyes were gouged out, and his arms and legs were broken. Suzanne’s outside in shock, talking about blood being everywhere. How in the world could all that happen to him just from falling down a flight of stairs? I can’t stop shaking.”
“Cass, try to calm down. You know getting upset is not good for your blood pressure. You go lie down and rest, and I’ll go in early and open the shop. I’ll take care of everything.”
“Thank you so much, Jeanine. You are a lifesaver. I depended so much on Brian, especially when I was out on buying trips and at conventions, but now, I’m going to be depending on you. That makes me feel better because you’re so responsible. I’m sorry I couldn’t give you a bigger raise, but I had already promoted Brian before you came to work for me. Of course, you’re my assistant now. I’m an awful person, aren’t I, Jeanine? Talking about business right after Brian’s death?”
“Not at all, Cass. I know it sounds cruel, but just because someone dies, the world doesn’t stop turning. Your store has to open this morning just like it does every morning. Life does go on.”
“Thank you, Jeanine. You’re so level-headed. I’m going to take your advice and lie down. Call me if anything comes up. Bye, and thanks again.”
“Bye, Cass, and don’t worry. Everything will be fine.”
Yes, Jeanine thought, everything will be fine. Now, who else in this miserable town has tried to screw me over. She decided to make a list.
“Cass, it was sweet of you to take me out to dinner tonight.”
“Jeanine, the only reason that big order went out on time is because of you and all your dedication. You deserved an evening out. I had heard nothing but praise about this restaurant. Why is it that all the great places are a couple of hours away from where we live?”
“That’s small town living, Cass. The factory and all our stores do well because of the tourists passing through, but restaurants and movie theaters always build up closer to the city. Thanks for picking me up though. Tonight really was a treat for me because, not only did I have a wonderful dinner, I didn’t have to drive at all.”
“It’s my pleasure. You’ve been helping out with deliveries too, and I figure you’ve put enough extra miles on your car. There’s something else, Jeanine. I was going to surprise you, and I know I shouldn’t spoil it, but I hid a little present for you to show my gratitude for all you’ve done to help me after Brian’s death. It’s a gift card for that new spa that opened in Middleton; you know, the one you spend all day at. You deserve a day where everyone takes care of you for a change.”
“Cass, you didn’t spoil anything. I’ve been wanting to book an appointment there, but the whole day thing is so expensive. I can’t thank you enough, and you are so right. As much as I love my job, I need a day of doing nothing but being pampered. So, where exactly did you stash my ticket to a little piece of Heaven?”
“You’ll love this. When I was at your house picking up those sales reports and you were getting us coffee, I noticed the clock in your dining room was a bit slow. Gorgeous clock, by the way. Anyhow, I opened the door on the front of it and tried to find where to wind it. That’s when I looked behind the pendulum and saw the little drawer. I thought, that’s the perfect hiding place, so I put the card in there. By the way, you’ll have to show ID when you present the gift card so they can make sure the person using the card is the one it was intended for. It’s crazy, isn’t it? I mean, it’s a spa, not Fort Knox.”
“What does my ID have to do with a gift card?”
“Well, it’s the name they’ll be checking – to make sure they match.”
“My name is on that gift card?”
“Of course. Like I said, the place has all kinds of security. You’d think you were trying to get into the White House instead of a salon.”
“You put a card with my name written on it in the drawer behind the pendulum in the clock in my dining room?”
“So? My God, Cass. You have no idea what you’ve…wait. What time is it?”
“Wow, I had no idea it was so late. It’s less than a minute until midnight. Where has this evening gone?”
“What’s wrong, Jeanine? Jeanine? My God. What’s happening to your…”