Thursday, April 25, 2019

Flash Contest Entry - Madam's Treasure

Following is a story I wrote for a contest. The prompt was to incorporate three phrases, and they were as follows:

1. "It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution."
2. "He's never done anything like this before."
3. "What's it going to be then, eh?"


“I am Rudolfo, Madam’s Personal Assistant.”

“Name’s Johnny, The Agency sent me over about the gardener’s job.”

“You’ll be on a trial basis. If your work is satisfactory, you’ll become permanent. Your duties are to maintain the lawn and rose garden areas. Any questions are to be directed to me. Madam is not to be disturbed.”

“Grass looks dry. I’ll start with that.”

“Good man. FYI, at this time each day, I shall be occupied for one hour while I polish Madam’s treasure. Any difficulties you encounter will have to wait until that task is completed.”


“Yes, a gift from her late husband. She keeps it in a black velvet bag on her lap.”

“Is it safe to keep her treasure in the open like that?”

“She wants to keep it on her person at all times.”

“I understand. Well, you go on and I’ll get the hose.”


“She keeps her treasure in a bag on her lap.”

“What is it?”

“He didn’t say, but I’ll bet it’s jewelry, like a diamond necklace.”

“You want my help to steal it?”

“Yeah. You could break into Fort Knox, grab a million bucks, stroll out, and nobody would be the wiser.”

“I am that good. Where’s her room in the house?”

“She sleeps in her wheelchair in the drawing room downstairs.”

“And her butler?”

“In the guest house. Would your brother be our look-out?”

“He’s never done anything like this before.”

“He’d just have to watch out for Rudolfo.”

“So, we grab the bag and run?”


“Sounds like the perfect plan.”

“What’s it going to be then, eh?”

“We’re in.”


“Rudolfo, is that you? What time is it?”

“It’s time to hand over your treasure, lady.” Johnny flipped the switch and lit up the drawing room. “What’s in that little black bag?”

“It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution,” the old lady said, as she pulled the pistol from the bag and pointed it at the intruders. “It was my husband’s pride and joy. I keep it polished, and I keep it loaded.”

“We’ll just leave, okay, lady?”

As the three robbers turned toward the front door to make their escape, the old lady shot each of them in the back. She moved her wheelchair closer to the bodies, leaned down, and whispered “But, my dear departed husband always said I was the reckless one.”

Rudolfo was awakened by three gunshots. *Must be the new groundskeeper who seemed so interested in Madam’s treasure*, he thought, *and two acquaintances to assist him with the caper.*

“Rudolfo?” The urgency in the old lady’s tone was apparent.

“Madam, no worries. I shall remedy the situation.”

Rudolfo got up, dressed, put on his work gloves, and headed for the garage to retrieve a large shovel. *Johnny was an ineffective groundskeeper*, he thought, *but he could still be of benefit to Madam’s garden. Her roses have been looking a bit peaked lately…*

Friday, April 19, 2019

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 16 - Missing

This week’s prompt was You bought a new house, over the winter. It was a great deal, heavily discounted after months, maybe years on the market. It’s an older place, a ‘fixer-upper’, but has great potential. Supposedly there had been a garden in back, too, buried under all that snow. It’s spring now, most of the snow has gone, and you’ve scraped off most of the old leaves. What will start pushing its way through the warm dirt first? Sometimes Spring brings up more in the garden than flowers…


I couldn’t believe the house was mine. I waited years for old lady Nash’s estate to be officially closed so her home could be sold. She had vanished years ago, and it took time to get her declared legally dead. She had family who didn’t want it, so a sale was a strong possibility. Jimmy Beasley and I made a pact that we’d buy it when we grew up, but when he turned 15, Jimmy wound up on the wrong side of a drug deal. He’s resting at Seven Gables Cemetery; although, probably not in peace. I became Director of Marketing at a farm implement manufacturing company. A few years ago, I married the company President’s daughter, Rachelle, so I was set for life. Still, over the years, I continued to follow real estate sites hoping that someday, 77 Lansing Lane would be on the market. That day came, and when I showed it to Rachelle, she immediately fell in love with it, and urged me to make an offer right away. I did, and it was accepted.

We closed during an afternoon blizzard in January. The attorney was surprised we wanted to move in right away considering the shape it was in. Most folks fix up a fixer-upper before they move in. Rachelle had lived in high-rise apartments all her life, and welcomed the opportunity to live out in the country. She also wanted to have a garden. I wanted that house so I could search for the cash hidden within its walls. I also needed to make sure what was buried in the garden out back stayed buried in the garden out back.

I never told Rachelle that I had already been inside our new home. Mom’s Cousin Melvina had a place down the road from it, and I had spent my summers with her until I was 16. I met Jimmy Beasley during my first summer there when I was 11, and we became best friends. He spent his summers with his Gram, who lived in town. We used to break into homes in the area looking for cash or valuables we could hock after we went back home. We never got caught, and usually ended up with quite a haul. The house at 77 Lansing though – that’s the one we drooled over. We knew the rich widow Nash lived there, that she didn’t trust banks, and that she kept large amounts of cash stashed in the house.

That summer when we were 12, we decided we could handle an old lady. We brought baseball bats, and snuck in late one night. We made our way to her bedroom, and grabbed some jewelry. We were on our way out, but she woke up and started hollering. We hit her with the bats until she stopped screaming, and kept hitting her until she stopped breathing. We dragged her outside and dug a deep hole in her garden. We covered her grave with weeds and left. When she disappeared, nobody thought anything of it since Jimmy and I spread rumors that when we were out playing ball, we saw Mrs. Nash get in a car with some man. Folks thought she just took her money and left town with some guy. Jimmy and I never did think about pawning what we took from her. I kept it all in a box with some books in the attic. Murder tends to change your priorities. I often wondered what happened to that box.

When Spring arrived and the ground was soft, Rachelle got to work outside in her garden, while I got to work inside tapping the walls looking for hatboxes full of fifties. Jimmy and I put the widow in real deep, so I wasn’t worried about Rachelle’s petunias disturbing her. Last Monday morning, I heard my wife calling frantically for me, and I ran outside to find her kneeling in the dirt staring at something sparkly in her hand. It was a necklace, with diamonds set in small gold squares.

“When I started digging to plant some seeds, this was just under the surface,” she said. “What would a necklace be doing buried in our garden?”

What, indeed. I recognized it as one of the pieces I had taken that night so long ago.

On Tuesday afternoon, my wife’s soil shifting revealed the old lady’s ruby ring. Jimmy had grabbed that. On Wednesday morning when Rachelle unearthed the tiara, I ran to the downstairs bathroom and threw up. Someone knew, but who? Jimmy was 6 feet under, and I knew how to keep a secret. I couldn’t remember what had happened to that box of books in my parents’ house. Garage sale, maybe, and it was sold to a relative of the widow Nash, and they recognized the jewelry? But, how would they link it to me? She’s got to be moved, but where? Basement floor isn’t finished yet. Rachelle’s visiting her mom on Saturday, so Saturday night it is. I went out and bought a burlap bag.

As I was relocating the widow’s bones from the ground to my burlap bag, the backyard’s flood lights came on, and there on the patio, stood Rachelle, the Chief of Police, and several patrolmen.

“Katrina Nash was my Great Aunt. I visited her often, and knew every piece of jewelry she owned. I was told she ran off with a man, but I knew that was a lie. She would never just disappear like that. After your parents passed and we went through their house, I found the box with your name all over it and her jewelry inside. They were treasured gifts from her husband, and she would never part with any of it if she were alive. I needed to find out what you did with her body, so I pretended to find her jewelry in the garden. It seemed the best place to start. You bastard.”

So, that’s what happened to that box…

Friday, April 12, 2019

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 15 - The Last Ride

This week’s prompt was a setting. You fall asleep on a bus, but when you wake up, the bus is empty, and the engine’s still running. It’s dark outside. You remember five words from your dream. I got my five words from the random generator, and they were dead, evolution, care, tasty and origin. I’ve highlighted them in the story.

The Last Ride

Oh no. I can’t believe I slept so soundly. I can imagine what the other riders must be thinking seeing me spread out across the back seat like this. I’m no deadbeat, people. I’m a businessman whose car is in the shop. They had no loaners available, and I’m too cheap to rent a car. Sit up and see how far past your stop you are. What the…

It’s dark outside. Man, I blew it. Where the Hell am I? I’ll just check with the driver. That is, if he’s still awake. When I got on, he looked as if he was ready to begin his afternoon nap too. Wait. The bus is empty? How could it be empty? It wasn’t packed when I got on, which is why I was able to have the back seat to myself. But, there were folks around me. Where the Hell is everybody?

I’ll bet I slept through every stop and we’re in the terminal. They are really going to hear from me tomorrow morning. Mr. Bus Company President, do your drivers normally just drop their bus off at the terminal without making sure all the passengers are off? That’s got to be some kind of violation. How long does it take to walk back here? It’s not like this is a train with 25 cars. It’s a city bus, for Christ’s sake. The driver’s going to get a piece of my mind too. He can’t just…

What? No driver? This isn’t funny anymore. Is this some kind of prank? Of course not, Jack. Don’t be stupid. Think. This is weird. The engine’s still running, the inside lights are on, but no driver? We can’t be back at the terminal. I can’t see out the windows because it’s so dark, but we must be stopped on some side street. I’ll bet the driver’s out taking a smoke. But on a pitch-dark street? Why would he…

I know. He saw me sleeping and decided to let everyone else off so he could rob me. That’s it. Sure. Why not? Nice suit, briefcase, probably lots of cash. He probably took my wallet and cellphone and just left me here. At least the bastard left the keys in it; although, he probably disabled the radio. Wait a minute. My wallet’s still in my pocket and so’s my cell. Ah ha! The deed hasn’t been done yet. He’s outside the door with his buddies planning how to get me under control so they can rob me. That’s why we’re on a dark deserted street. They’ll be coming back in here any second. I’ll be ready for them, and so will the cops. If I call 911 now, they should be… No signal?

Okay. New plan. No way am I going to wait to be jumped. I’ll climb out the back window. What the… Since when don’t bus windows open? What if there’s an emergency? They’ve got to open. I’ll just try some of the side ones toward the back since the driver and his cronies are probably at the front. None of them open? Well, maybe they don’t open, but they will break when I kick them. I don’t care if the driver and his creep friends hear me.

They don’t push out? I can’t even get a small crack? Surely my briefcase will… What is going on? Wait a minute. What is wrong with me? Deep breath, Jack Cooper. You’re still dreaming, you idiot. You never really woke up. Try to remember. I got on, and folks were talking. One woman was saying she didn’t care about some guy. A couple of kids from college were talking about an exam on the origin of man and evolution. Some guy was eyeing a gal in another row and saying she looked tasty. Then some guy in a white coat was talking about something that was dead. Then I woke up and…

No. I didn’t wake up. Maybe they were in the dream. But, that can’t be because I’m not awake now. Or… I’m getting off. I’ve got to wake up then, right? Why won’t the door open? I’ll just get behind the wheel and drive. I’ve got to wake up then, right? The bus won’t move? What is happening? I can’t figure this out. Hey! Somebody! Please…


“Dr. Hill, Mrs. Cooper is in her husband’s room waiting for you.”

“Thank you, Nurse.”

“It’s so sad. Do you know what happened?”

“Terrible accident. The warning lights failed, and when the bus crossed the tracks, the train hit and split it in half. Those in front died on impact, but those in back survived while the train dragged it a few hundred yards. Once the train stopped, the back half rolled into the field, and those inside miraculously survived, with the exception of Mr. Cooper. The back window had blown out and he was ejected. He struck his head on some rocks when he landed. He was briefly in coma, then completely flatlined. I’ll go speak with his wife now.”


“I’m terribly sorry, Mrs. Cooper, but when we re-ran the tests, the results were the same. There is no brain activity at all.”

“Are you going to disconnect all these machines?”

“Not without your permission. I know this is difficult for you, but we need to face the reality of his condition. These machines are all that are keeping his body alive. I hate being so blunt, but I can’t mislead you either.”

“I understand, and I know Jack wouldn’t want to go on like this. Can my Pastor join me here when…”

“Of course. You can call him from here. Just dial 9 first. I’ll be at the Nurses’ Station. Use the Call Light whenever you’re ready.”


Wake up, Jack! Wake up! Why doesn’t somebody come? Because you’re in a dream, dummy! No, I’m not. But I…Somebody help me! Please! I don’t want to be here anymore! Help me, somebody! Please…

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 14 - Rain, Rain, Go Away...

The prompt this week was called Rain. And More Rain. The topic was rain, but more than expected. My characters got a lot more than they ever expected. 

Rain, Rain, Go Away…

“It’s the end of the world…” Even though William Hudson was 74 years old, he could still shout with the best of them. His neighbors on both sides of Northview Boulevard heard his warning. When he got to the corner, he turned right to also share his apocalyptic vision with the residents on Sheridan Drive. Walking around the subdivision was difficult considering his age and declining health, but he believed it was his duty. He couldn’t explain how he knew, but there was something in the air…

“He’s at it again, Roger.”

“I know, Louise, but what can we do? Ever since his wife died, he’s gone off the deep end.”

“I have no doubt losing her took a toll on him, but this is too much. He’s frightening all the children in the neighborhood with all this end of the world nonsense. Last week, the days were too sunny, and the week before, the nights were too dark. This week, we’ve been getting too much rain.”

“I know. Mitch and I stopped at the Clubhouse for lunch this afternoon, and he was out front pointing out how the rain had changed. He was describing how it began as a light drizzle, and then kept getting stronger over time. He insisted that before long, it would turn into such a strong downpour that it would be difficult to see well enough to drive through it. Once that happens, the whole area will be flooded because the drains won’t be able to handle that much water on the streets.”

“So, we’ll all end up trapped in our houses? Roger, he is right that the rain is getting steadily stronger, If it becomes bad here, we’ll just get in the car and go into the city. According to the weather channel, it’s not even raining there.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it, Louise. You know how it gets around here once Spring arrives. Don’t get caught up in Hudson’s delusions. Let’s watch the news and then get some sleep.”


Over the next few weeks, the rainfall did become stronger.  Yards were flooded, and the drains in the streets were backing up. Water on the sidewalks and streets in the entire subdivision was flowing like rivers. One Saturday morning, all residents were notified by the Homeowners’ Association that there would be a meeting at the Clubhouse regarding the weather. A representative had hand-delivered the meeting notices to all since telephone service had become sporadic. The rep had walked to each of the community’s homes since driving on the flooded streets had become too dangerous.

“Thank you all for coming.” Sandra Peterson was President of the Association, and she wondered how many of their residents already knew of the dire situation they were in. “I know it was difficult for some of you, having to walk so far through all this water, but I feel this meeting is important. The rainstorm we are currently experiencing is like nothing we have seen before, but we want to assure you that we are doing everything we can to keep everyone safe and resolve the difficulties at hand.”

“It’s the end of the world. I told you that, but nobody believed me. I told you the rain would keep coming down hard…”

“Mr. Hudson, you need to stop saying that right now, or you’ll be removed from the premises,” Sandra Peterson cautioned. “I’ll not have you,,,”

“I have the right to be here same as anybody,” Hudson insisted. “But you all know what I’ve said has come true. The end is coming.”

“Maybe he’s right,” Suzanne Miller said. “This morning, I tried to call my mom in Phoenix, but our phone’s out. Our car won’t start, and the lights are flickering off and on. What’s going on? We can’t reach anyone outside the area and we can’t leave. We can’t even walk out of the neighborhood because the flooding is much worse as you get toward the highway. Plus, the rain keeps coming down harder, and it’s getting impossible to even see where you’re going. Have you even tried to contact anyone in the city?”

People began firing questions at the Association’s President, but she had no answers to any of them. The group was angry, and Sandra wasn’t sure how to keep them under control.

“We pay you every month to keep things right. Is someone coming to get us out of here?”

“Don’t you have a radio to use if the phones go out?”

“TV reception is fading, and it’s raining harder with every hour. Maybe this is the end.”

“Ladies and Gentlemen, please remain calm. Help is on the…”

“I don’t believe you. I’m getting out. Who’s with me? Rog…”

“Calm down, Mitch. We need to wait for...”

“Since when are you in charge?”

“Tom, I’m not saying I’m in charge. It’s just that…hey, watch who you’re shoving.”

“Don’t tell me what to do. If I want to shove you, I’ll…”

“Please, people, we…”

“Somebody shut that Peterson bitch up. Let’s check out her house. I’ll bet her phone and lights are working. Come on and…”

“Stop all this. We…”

“Get your hands off me. Lock him up in the…”

“Come on, Mavis. We’re going home. I’ve got a gun so…”

“I’ve got one too, and nobody better…”


“That didn’t take long.”

“It never does. You disrupt their miserable little lives and they turn on each other.”

“It’s only rain and small glitches in their power, yet still they panic.”

“Yes, but create a situation like they’ve never experienced and they get confused. It’s a small leap from confused to dangerous.”

“It works better with small groups though. They’ll kill each other off in no time. Larger groups tend to band together in a crisis.”

“That’s true, but patience, my friend. Soon, this place and all its resources will be ours. Should we change its name like we’ve done with all the others?”

“Definitely. I never cared for this one’s name anyway – Earth.”