Writing Prompt “Detective Trouble!”
Theme: Write a story about a detective and the various troubles he comes across when investigating a serious case.
A detective, murder, suspect, wolves, blood.
Word Count: 1,200
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259 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “Detective Trouble!””
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I resemble that remark!!
I replied to your comments (and asked you some more questions!), if you’d like to go back and see them. I’m mentioning this here, because I don’t know if many people actually go back to the old thread at all.
Actually, if you reply to my reply, do tell me here, as I may not even realize!
Thanks also to all the others who commented. I replied to you all, but you probably already nsaw my replies as I did so when the thread was still active 🙂
Ok, detective work now…
I loved your cat in Rome story! I’ve never been to Rome (or anywhere else overseas) and from your descriptions, I felt like I was there seeing it all first hand. I had an early suspicion of who the cat was (or was connected to) but I enjoyed the tour through Rome just the same. At one point, I was hoping it was leading him to Rosalba and that they would have a reunion. I guess a heavenly reunion is even more wonderful. Great work! You definitely had my vote!
Thank you for your comment and your vote, Adi! I’m also glad I’ve transported you to Rome through my story. I was there last nearly two decades ago, so my description is a bit of a time-capsule too… For starters, I think the Colosseum is not a traffic-island anymore, as it was when I saw it: they’ve finally pedestrianized the area. It took them two-thousand years!
I’m working on this prompt’s story, now. Given the subject at hand, it can’t be a (somewhat) sweet story like I offered the last time. Rather grim, actually.
Anything from you?
Congrats on your third place finish. I had you in second right behind Phil. Once again I had Dennis (Wagers) up in the top five, but others didn’t see it that way. His story was untitled, and what a missed opportunity I had to come up with a name for it.
As for your plain and simple question: What I meant (and said, unless I’m mistaken, which happens pretty frequently) is that your story comes across with such clarity, that one could erroneously mistake it for a simple, straightforward story, when in fact, it’s quite complex, even deviously so. As for layers? Jesus Ken, even your critiques and comments are (multiplexogonally) layered.
They’re so layered, in fact, I had to make up a word to convey the complexity of the layerization. (Okay, I made up two words. Don’t gloat.) Speaking of old gloats, to address your references to Bradbury and Asimov… Bradbury was grammar challenged, ‘Something wicked this way comes?’ I mean come on, who talks that way? And Asimov? A god. A, God.
Not really, just kidding. Bradbury was great, and Asimov was human. Shakespeare sure talked funny, but that’s the way people talked back then, I guess.
I think, seriously now, that simplicity is the goal in the writing, you know, to convey the story as clearly as possible whereas, there are no rules when it comes to plot, other than avoiding a plot so complex that one can hardly remember who’s good and who’s bad.
I NEED to sleep on my stories. Sometimes several times. Sometimes I need to tie a rock to them and throw them overboard.
If you reply to my reply to your reply, please reply here, even though I practically live on the old threads, I’m sorry, I live IN old threads, not on them, so yes, you should reply here, not there, unless there’s time travel involved, in which case, you’ll want to reply ‘In Care Of’ Phil Town. Together Ken, we’ll make his brain strong again. We’ll get that old brain of Philip’s up and moving around on its own two hemispheres. Imagine what that guy could do with a fully unenfeebled (three new words) brain. Just imagine.
No one goes to those old threads. I once tested this theory by posting a picture of myself wearing nothing but a Speedo bathing suit, and I received no hate mail, and no death threats. Pretty conclusive proof that no one goes there.
I’ve started a campaign, in here, in comments to various people, to start going to the old threads.
There must also be a frantic search now for your Speedo pic.
On Bradbury, indeed, the guy had little formal education, so his grammar isn’t exactly the way school-teachers want it to be. But, to hell with school-teachers – a writer has to unlearn almost everything he learnt from school (not the alphabet) to get something decent written.
I mean we’re all victims of all those pedantic rules and clichés they fed us at school and quite a good deal of our writing effort (mine, anyway) is to shed off – unlearn – most of what we’ve been taught and use language and life-experiences as they really are, unfiltered, raw, messy.
But there is hope, as we see in this group’s effort here. And I did start the last sentence with a “but”, no matter what the teachers say (and this one with an “and”). God forgive me.
In my chronic need to be humorous, I forgot to mention your comments on Asimov and Bradbury. I would like to see these interviews you speak of, no doubt they can be found on the Internet. Can you supply a link?
I was (and am) a huge fan of Isaac Asimov, even though, at times I was a little disappointed in his work. His ‘Foundation’ Trilogy was a masterpiece, ‘The Gods Themselves’ was one of my favorite books, I enjoyed many of his short stories, and of course, he invented ‘The Three Laws Of Robotics.’
Bradbury, on the other hand, I don’t know much about. I read ‘The Illustrated Man’ when I was in my teens, and I think that book steered me toward sci-fi in the short story format, but I never became a big fan of his. I think I read ‘The Martian Chronicles,’ and was disappointed. The ending was too understated, too obscure, too much investment for such a small payoff. For me.
Asimov: I read lots of his stuff (including the non-fiction books, some about science, others about writing) when I was in my early mid-teen years (I think). I mean, I’m sure I read them, but I *think* it was when I was in my early mid-teen years. It could have been my mid mid-teen years too. But, anyway, who cares?
He’s brilliant and ground-breaking of course. The only criticism is that he is very emotionally leveled. Now, that can be a good thing, sometimes, especially in Sci-Fi. But he really, but really, disowns the emotional side of human (or other) beings, most times. I suppose it all depends, in the end, in which mood one reads his books. About the Shakespeare-and-stained-glass quote, it’s from one of his books about writing I read back then (and still remember, wow!). Thinking about it, maybe it was in my mid-early mid-teens, actually…
Bradbury: The interview I’m quoting is from a recent copy (Year of the Lord 2019!) of a British magazine (yes in the physical form, made of paper, they still exist!) for writers I’m subscribed to and receive by snail-mail. But I’ll find it for you and somehow let you see it in some form or another. Remind me if I don’t get back to you on that one!
I went back to an old thread (egads, what’s happening to me?) and read your story, the sequel to;the ‘Julienne’ story. I can’t remember the prompt. (One week to live?) Pretty good story. Appropriate and realistic. Not sure it was worth going all the way back to last weeks thread though. It was pretty traumatic. Fortunately, while I was back there, I came across a very flattering comment by Ken F. about my story that made the whole sketchy experience totally worthwhile.
On a separate note: ’roundabout’? ‘traffic island’? You Euro-people have such quaint names for things. It’s a traffic circle. Actually, I find those subtle language differences fascinating.
What I like about that story is the follow-up element – the fact we “meet” people in it we already knew from a previous story, and hear the other woman’s point of view. I don’t have much experience of that (of serializing stories, I mean, not of hearing women’s points of views!) – my stories are usually self-contained, like all the stories by the other writers in here I read so far.
It’s not so easy, after all, one might stretch things out for – well – stretching’s sake! Hollywood sequels excel at that (with some notable exceptions of sequels topping the debut film, but really really few).
Anyway, Ken, I’m glad you (somewhat) enjoyed the Ju-Ju story and that thanks to it you found Ken F’s flattering comment you hadn’t yet seen. Now this is really sounding like a Conspiracy of the Three Kens!
As for the other English(es) around the world, it is indeed fascinating (though sometimes annoying, too) that there are so many differences in the way the same language is used around the globe. It reminds me of this vid by Mike McInyre I watched not long ago. He hits at American English, this time round:
By Kristin Record
“There is no possible way that someone released the hound of hell!” Florence laughed “That’s the most bizarre theory you’ve come up with yet Boyle, simply insane!”
Detective Florence Duskdale shook her head in dismay. Boyle, her gumshoe assistant stared at her, the photo of a three headed wolf held out before him.
“Just hear me out!” he said, lowering the photo to his side. “The raid at Place Fifteen happened last month, you do know that right?” Boyle rubbed his hands together, a small raspy sound of dry skin made Florence shiver.
“Place Fifteen?” she sneered, “I thought that was a hoax? Who would seriously think to raid a place where the most dangerous mythological creatures are held?” Florence mused and gave Boyle a wan smile.
Boyle raised a hand, his face serious. “Listen, it happened. There wasn’t a ton of media coverage but it happened.” He paused and pointed to the crime scene photos that littered the desk. “Every one of these victims were slain brutally by an animal, but no animal can cause this kind of damage except the Cerberus.” He snatched a photo from the top of the pile and held it up for examination.
“What do we know?” He shook the photo slightly at her. Taking the photo from his hand she studied it before speaking.
“Okay,” she breathed, “Each victim had 3 major wounds the last one being fatal.” She examined the blood-soaked victim in the photo closer. “One wound is to the buttocks, on all victims the left glute was removed by teeth, or some type of bear trap.”
Boyle nodded eagerly, “Go on, what else?”
Florence sighed, “Okay, the second wound is the eyes.” she shuddered, blinking rapidly. “They all had their eyes removed from their head, again with teeth or perhaps a serrated knife.”
Boyle tapped his finger to his nose and Florence pressed on. “The third wound and perhaps the fatal blow, is that all victims had their reproductive organs removed, or eaten by your logic.”
Boyle’s face lit up and he started shaking the photo again.
“Okay, now listen to my theory, and try to take it seriously Flo!” He pointed to the first head of the wolf.
“Legend has it –” Florence started to cackle, cutting him short
“Legend has it!” She fell into a fit of laughter wheezing the word ‘legend’ and doubling at the waist.
Boyle frowned and smacked his hand on the desk, “Damnit FLO!” She stopped laughing and tried to maintain her breathing, “I’m sorry Boyle, I truly am, please continue.”
Boyle cleared his throat. “Legend has it that the three heads of Cerberus stood for the past, present and future.” Florence nodded and he went on. “If we consider this, then we can correlate each wound with a head of the beast. The buttocks for the past, the eyes for the present and the reproductive area for the future.”
Florence stared at him in disbelief. She rubbed at her chin. “Boyle, listen, this isn’t the act of a mythological wolf thingy, they released nothing from Place Fifteen, and if we take this story to anyone else, they will laugh us out of our badges.”
Boyles’ face turned crimson and stomped his foot. “I’m telling you it’s happening, explain the hair samples that match nothing human or animal, explain the growling that witnesses heard?”
The door to the office blew open and Linda came rushing in her face pale and drawn. “There is another body,” she whispered. They both looked at her and then to each other. Grabbing the keys, Florence nodded at Boyle to follow and strode towards her car.
The gore was insurmountable. Florence vomited twice before gaining her composure. Boyle drew a crumpled napkin from his pocket and handed it to her. Wiping her mouth, she surveyed the scene that crawled with patrol cops.
“What do we know so far?” she asked Boyle, who was snapping photos of the crime scene.
“It is the same. Female, three main wounds, reproductive organs removed.” he gestured to the blood-soaked sheet covering the victim’s body. Crouched to the ground Boyle snapped a picture and gestured for her.
“Look at this!” Florence gazed down at what was the largest paw print she had ever encountered.
“What the hell,” she murmured and placed her palm in the center, the print was three times the size of her hand. “This print is monstrous!”
Boyle gave her a pompous expression and from his pocket produced the image of Cerberus.
Florence stood up and shook her head, “Boyle, now is not the time for this.” Boyle ran a hand through his hair and frowned.
“Fine, I am telling you it’s worth looking in to!” he rose from his position by the print and wandered away snapping more photos.
Florence’s shoes created a soft thump as she ran the trail near her home. The sun was setting and twilight was upon her. Thoughts of the three-headed wolf plagued her brain. She marveled at how Boyle could be so confident of something so preposterous. As she paced herself, she lost sight of her surroundings, so when Boyle appeared on the trail, she practically ran him over.
“Jesus Boyle, what are you doing here? You scared me to death!”
Boyle looked at her, his face somber and his eyes vacant. “I wish you would’ve listened to me,” he whispered.
“What are you suggesting, Boyle?” she walked closer. “Stop muttering, what is going on?”
Boyle staggered towards her. “I tried to warn you, Flo, sought to tell you what was transpiring.” he raised his eyes to hers and she detected a yellow hue glinting from the pathway lights.
“Boyle, listen. You’re kinda freaking me out, let’s discuss this tomorrow in the office.” She stepped backward and threw him a dismissive wave of the hand.
“That will not work for me, Flo!’ He growled at her, “You see I know for a fact what is going on.” another growl now and his gaze lowered, his hands flexing. Florence’s heart was thumping in her chest.
“Boyle–” she began, but he barked at her.
“I set it free Florence, don’t you understand, I set it free and now I cannot control it!” he said this last part in a howl and his body began to morph. Bones cracked and crunched. He dropped to the ground; his head split in half. Blood spurted down his torso as his shirt ripped and three wolf heads emerged.
Florence screamed and twisted to run. She fled through the woods and behind her she could hear the thundering steps of a monster. He was faster than her. First, she felt the power of him, and then the blinding pain that ripped through her backside.
“Boyle, please no!” She shrieked at him, but there was no human Boyle. Grasping at roots she struggled to pull herself away. She squirmed onto her back and came eye to eye with three snarling wolf heads. Flesh danged from the mouth of the left head. Florence screamed and backpedaled her feet in a weak escape. The second head was moving closer to her and she knew for a fact, it was coming for her eyes.
Now Cartisano is the cup holder – he had a brilliant (non-)survival story for us. You should go back to the prompt and read it. Also to prove him wrong that nobody revisits the old threads! (He said there is also a picture of him in a Speedo bathing suite somewhere – if you do find that, tell the world!). Seriously, though, there were also loads of other great pieces last week, so many entries too – many came in quite late in the second week and it was one *frantic* day of reading, just before the vote!
But you practiced good taste too, with Stephen King. Can’t go amiss there! Looks like “The Institute” is one of those books I ought to lay my hands on, by what you say. I’ll look out for it…
I see that while I wasn’t looking, stories have already been pouring in. And you set the pace right, with the first story to enter the contest – an early bird, this prompt round!
I find it good to have time to read and savor most of the stories along the way rather than almost all at once at the end. Also to let them play out on me well before having to decide which to vote for. Some stories have an immediate impact, others need time to soak in. But the latter are often the more remarkable ones in the long run.
Ok, I’ll start this week’s reading by reading yours. You’ve given us exciting pieces already. So, I’m looking forward to this one. But you set the bar high for yourself now, you know! I’ll leave you a comment on how your story hits me, once I’ve read it 🙂
Wow, Kristin, truly a mythological piece brought to our times. Almost believable. My fave bit is the past-present-future allegory of the body parts that the Cerberus devours from its victims. So much can be derived out of that – the total annihilation of the self, not just by eliminating the victims, but also canceling the memory of what they were and their potential projection into the future. Total oblivion. I love the way you put it.
I see a sequel coming there. We know that Flo has had her backside severed. Which is bad enough; you can have her in a hospital recovering from the wound, but having near total memory loss – her past is gone. Not completely, perhaps – the bite was not that deep. But we don’t know if the second head manages to get her eyes, and the third her reproductive organs. So it’s not a totally tragic ending. There’s room for hope for Flo.
But then, again, I don’t know what you had in mind for her! Maybe she needs to be punished for having been a non-believer throughout. I can tell you I sort of sided with Boyle (until before he turned nasty), and believed in what he was trying to tell her/us. I think that was also your intention, right? Her refusal to believe his admittedly outrageous assertions, and at times even ridiculing him, made her a bit of an anti-heroin to me. I like to pay at least a little attention to the prophets of doom and gloom. I certainly don’t ridicule them.
I may have missed something, but I didn’t find a clear connection between the Cerberus escaping from Place Fifteen and his very werewolf-like manifestation through Boyle. There is apprehension in Boyle about the Cerberus throughout the story, but I didn’t locate the moment when the Cerberus got the chance to own him. There is that point where Boyle says he set the Cerberus free, but what does that mean exactly?
To explain what I’m saying, I am looking for a hint like some blood contamination, or a bite or something that logically connects the Cerberus with Boyle. Even if it’s a completely made up, non-scientific justification, of course. (Btw, I’m sometimes accused of trying to find some logic even in fantasy pieces. So don’t take my plea for a “logical connection” as necessarily a generally sought thingy by all readers! Others may prefer to live with the ambiguity. I would enjoy reading some other comments by other readers here on this point that your story presents to us so well. Is a logical connection necessary or not?)
Could, perhaps, Boyle have been the Cerberus in disguise from the beginning? But I don’t think so. I got the impression that Flo already knew Boyle before the Place Fifteen events. Also, he seems genuinely concerned about the Cerberus having been set loose.
Or (oh my!) could the Cerberus be Boyle’s own dark-side? A dark-side he’s both aware and fearful of? The victims were female, right? This could be a very dark psycho-sexual story, with the mythological elements introduced to both conceal its surface and give it its form. There is no human Boyle anymore, you say, when he turns predator. It’s the animal that sleeps in every man, even the most “civilized”, that tears Boyle apart – first mentally, then physically – and finally breaks loose out of him to hunt down Flo! This could be a much scarier story than I first thought, if one affords it this reading. From a 1950s monster horror movie, it suddenly turns into a sophisticated Freudian rape-tale, about the much more frightening monster that is us. “Place Fifteen”, rather than a geographical place, may be synonymous with that dangerous zone in everyone’s brain, especially the males’. But I suppose females possess something similar too.
I’m going to put a spoiler alert on top of this comment – I’m very curious to find out if any other readers independently come to this same conclusion. At least those who bother to write it down in a comment…
On a different note, the story came to you from the real events of the recent online campaign to descend upon Area 51. I’ve been aware of those events, but only made the connection when I read your comment to Peter. I think it would be interesting for readers to make that connection, and sort of very ingeniously marry ancient Greek mythology with present day All-American mythology of aliens and such. Maybe that’s what the Greeks of old saw after all! And then dressed up their aliens the way they did. Perhaps simply calling the story Area 15, instead of Place Fifteen would do that trick, for those who want to make that connection. That’s while still keeping your story distinct from the real Area 51, which is a bit of a worn-out story topic (with so many stories already written about it). But again, a SciFi reading of your story with aliens and co. in mind would be an inferior reading, IMO, to the potential psycho-sexual reading I touched upon above.
I started this review with a wow, Kristin. Now I must capitalize that and finish it off with a WOW! Earlier on, I mentioned a sequel, now I say this is novel material.
I really enjoyed it, and I’m not usually a Area 51 or werewolf fan. I would like a little more foreshadowing from Boyle’s actions, but the bone crunching and bloody dialogue kept me reading.
You are masterful in your descriptions. I thought the dialogue was stunted and repetitious at times. You could reduce some of the repeated parts and put the idea in the dialogue tags. I think this would speed up the text a little.
Just an amateur’s thoughts.
Thanks for the read.,
I think you’re being a bit overly descriptive. For instance, in the fourth paragraph, Florence sneered, ‘mused and gave Boyle a wan smile,’ all over one single thing.(She just sneered.)
In another instance, ‘Boyle tapped his finger to his nose and Florence pressed on.’ (Florence pressed on…) That’s sufficient to inform the reader.
‘Boyle looked at her, his face somber and his eyes vacant.’ If his eyes were vacant, he was NOT looking at her.
You’re overdoing those descriptors. Doesn’t need it. Your story’s good, well-written and your dialogue is clever, until you add these little, unnecessary things.
I do this myself, all the time, and then I go back and remove them wherever I can, and improve them where they’re absolutely necessary.
If a character isn’t doing anything, it’s totally okay, if the dialogue moves the story along.
You’re draping too many clothes on a story with a good body, and when it goes in the pool, it’s drowning under the weight.
Roy York (I just have numbers in my ID until I get that fixed.
Shouldn’t A Gone
Doris and Bert were standing on my veranda when I awoke. I hadn’t seen either of them in nearly two decades. Why now, I wondered?
“Are you going to ask us to sit?” Bert asked.
I yawned, “Yeah, sure,” and pointed at the other chairs.
“We want you to come to the twentieth-class reunion of the Cathedral class of ’71.” He said. Her hair wasn’t the straight glossy black it had been when we had been students together. Her hot yellow sleeveless shirt and neon green pants screamed at my eyes. I had to squint to look at her. Orange leather sandals clash with the hot pink polish on her toenails. Large hoop earrings and plastic bracelets, matching her shoes, were from another era.
I’d already made up my mind not to go. “I haven’t been to the others, reunions, why now?”
She looked at Bert. “Cuz, the old bunch will be there, and have asked about you.”
Bert’s belt buckle was working overtime on holding up the paunch pushing against the wife-beater T-shirt. He was trying to look seventeen again and failing.
As he talked, extolling all the reasons to come to the reunion, Doris eyed me.
I wasn’t listening. Instead, I was studying her. The intervening years hadn’t been kind. She’d lost her reputation in the ninth grade and never missed it. In Chicago, she used her only talent and found a job.
He rambled on about the upcoming event. Tuning him out, my mind wandered back to the Friday twenty-something years ago before last hour. I’d walked toward her locker. She shooed her two friends away. Her look said we were on the same page in the Anatomy textbook. I asked her to meet me after the football game.
Bert hadn’t given her a glance in school. He’d been a faithful kind of guy. The day after graduation, he married the girl he’d knocked up. Doris and Bert were friends, nothing more. They were the recruiting team trying to drag former classmates back into their salad days.
She agreed to meet me at the north end of the stadium after the game.
“We graduated on Tuesday, June first, remember?” He asked. “The reunion is on June first, a Saturday, at the Pickwick. It’ll be exactly twenty years.” He paused and waited for my answer. “Well, what do you think? Are you going to come?”
It was getting late, “Sure, why not?”
“Happy hour starts at seven.”
I nodded. They left.
I didn’t go to the football game that Friday.
A class reunion is the stupidest idea I’d heard, ever. My flick knife slit the stitching holding shut the pockets of my new dark green sports coat from JC Penny’s, three-button jacket, the latest style. I wondered for the hundredth time ‒ why was I goin’ to this crap-fest.
Dressed, I headed out to spend a dull evening with a bunch of nearly forty-year-old kids. I’ll breeze in, have a drink, chat a bit, and breeze out, come home, and polish my Wellington boots.
As I drove, I thought about the women that would be there. I remembered Dad’s advice on women. Rule one; it’s as easy to love a rich woman as a poor one. I had followed it to the letter and dated only rich ones.
Rule two; meet the mother, because your date will look like her in twenty years. I followed that one too. I even dated some of the mothers.
The last rule, date a hundred women before you settle on one. Somewhere along the line, I must have overlooked Miss Right. I quit counting somewhere around two hundred twenty, two-thirty.
I realized I shouldn’t have come the moment I entered the private room in the Pickwick. If I hadn’t read the name tag on her more than ample bosom, I would never have guessed the rotund woman standing before me was once a cheerleader. It was probably still there but hidden under a large cheap floral polyester print tent dress. Back in the day, she had a body to make strong boys drool and the weak ones faint. There wasn’t a wedding ring among her collection of rings on both her pudgy hands. She explained she’d been married, twice, and verrrry well.
I excused myself, walked around her to the bar, and ordered a Johnnie Walker Black Label, neat. I hardly recognized the woman who joined me as I waited for my drink. She looked as if she’d been ridden hard and put away wet. She asked if I would save her the first dance when the band started. In high school, I’d asked her to a school dance. The back of my neck still tingles at her laughing rejection. Worse, the snickering of her three girlfriends and the remark one of them made about my forgetting which side of the creek I was from. I knew why she wanted to dance with me now. I was famous. She’d have the first dance? In a pig’s ass!
Many of the women classified me as untouchable because of where I lived in my youth. Now they wanted to spend time with me. They wore cheap knock off Versaće dresses and perfume you’d find at Woolworth’s five and dime for a buck and a half a quart.
Some of the men had young trophy wives and dressed them in style. Other men acted as if they were movie stars. These losers clapped me on the back as if we been best friends. We hadn’t and weren’t. They hoped I’d forgotten the way they’d treated me in high school. I hadn’t.
Now, I was acceptable. I was still the same kid from the wrong side of Chester Creek. The one big difference now was – several of my novels were on the New York Times Best Seller List.
The time passed. I chatted with Bob and Johnny, two of the few friends I had known long ago. I didn’t see a woman I would care to ask out after this reunion was over. Then, I spotted her, Cathy. We’d gone to a school dance, once. She wouldn’t date me again. Not because I lived on the wrong side of the creek. No, she hadn’t wanted me to get beat up again by her brothers. She wore no rings. I could, and maybe I should have, talked to her. I didn’t. She was surrounded by a pack of salivating married wolves. I turned to set my glass on the bar and stopped.
Doris was there.
Our eyes met. “It seems I haven’t had the opportunity to thank you properly.”
“Thank me for what?”
A small smile curled the corner of her mouth. “You, for rejecting my offer.” Everyone saw or heard her slap my face. “I’ve waited twenty years to do that!” Her slap had caught me off guard.
Some people ignored it, some frowned, and others smiled.
Wiping the drop of blood from my lip, I realized I’d spent more time at this farce then I’d planned. No regrets about missing the other reunions; none at all!
The early the next morning, at the police station, I learned of Doris’s murder, and I have.an alibi.
Bob, I love your handle there, very funny. I’m Alice one of the moderators, welcome to the group. I think you’ll fit right in 🙂
I think this is it
Thanks, Ken, I will axe the Mods for a favor.
Alice, please delete, “The early the next morning, at the police station, I learned of Doris’s murder, and I have.an alibi.”
The next morning, at the police station, I learned of Doris’s murder. And I don’t have an alibi.
And Ken, thanks, thanks a lot. I will get even!
Zane, you missed it. The narrator became the one suspect. About clichés, they paint a quick picture and work if not too many are used.
To all, do not miss the opportunity to go to a class reunion. The one in the story references my fortieth, not twentieth.
The truth, the invitation came in the mail. I looked at it and thought as my protagonist thought, ‘a crap-fest,’ and discarded it. The next day it was back on my desk. She wanted to go and to hers also. We had attended different schools, and the two reunions would be a week apart. She’d attended a private all girl’s school and wanted to see some girls she hadn’t seen in forty years; I did too.
Having read “The Peter Principle” by Laurence J. Peter, especially the chapter on gatherings, I enjoy the reunions on a totally different level than most of the other attendees.
In general, there were three types at the gathering, the achievers, the non-achievers, and the pretenders. The achievers were interested in you. The non-achievers talked sports. The pretenders became the evening’s entertainment. They glad-handed everyone they could and regaled groups with stories of their wonderful deeds and their accomplishments. [i.e., Bullshit] They competed to see who could tell the biggest lie.
My wife and Cath went to a corner and chatted, while a few old friends and I took possession of the bend in the bar. We did a little [okay a lot] of rehashing of our juvenile exploits. We’d been hell risers back then. However, two amazing facts emerged, none of us had ever gone to jail, and they were, though they never said it, were extremely successful.
Cathy was there. She’s the one real person in the story. According to my wife, after high school, Cathy married. And verrrry well. Unfortunately, he died in an auto accident shortly after their 15th wedding anniversary. She went to college and became a Pediatric Ophthalmological surgeon. As she had money she worked pro bono. [still does]
Hopefully, I will, as Ken Miles requested, “give more.”
The experience has been interesting and enjoyable.
Thanks for the opportunity.
The next morning, at the police station, I learned of Doris’s murder. And I don’t have an alibi.
There are so many funny bits (inside the greater tragedy). I’m still rolling on the floor over some of them. Just to mention one: “walked around her to the bar” – you cracked me, man!
I will read it all over again, I’m sure I’ll reap something I may have missed the first time. And, if for nothing else, to enjoy every little quip and gibe one more time.
As for the story-line, I enjoyed the ride so much that I found myself reading without my usual “what’s-going-to-happen-next” attitude. I just let it beautifully unfold before my eyes. So when the twist at the end came, it came as a very fitting surprise.
Well done! A really good debut here, Bob. Welcome and pleeeease give us more!
My favorite line is, “Bert’s belt buckle was working overtime on holding up the paunch pushing against the wife-beater T-shirt.” Although, I might take offense to it, haha—I’m not wearing a wife-beater.
I read quickly and thought the descriptions of stereotypes at the reunion are what we all think about those things. I slowed down a little and wanted some more when you defaulted to a cliches for descriptions. Give me some more of your unique descriptions to salivate over.
I was wondering where the blood and murder was until the end.
Was the detective the narrator? Or did I miss something?
Great work and thanks for the read,
A humorously sarcastic tale. Lots of funny lines and images. Nice writing, has a real fluid, natural and polished feel. Like a comedy routine.
Your last line has an error in it. ‘The early the next morning…’
Don’t you just hate it when that happens? I know I do. Carrie or Alice can probably fix it without much ado, if you ‘axe’ them.
The hard-boiled macho first person narrator is a staple of the (American) detective genre, and I think you have it to a tee here. Some lines are really sharp: “She’d lost her reputation in the ninth grade and never missed it.” “She looked as if she’d been ridden hard and put away wet.” (#metoo has past this guy by, for sure!) “the recruiting team trying to drag former classmates back into their salad days”.
The wolves are tangential, and the murder seems a bit of an afterthought – but well written and the story carried me along with its sour and sharp observations – gives a good insight into the narrator’s jaded and unreconstructed outlook.
You said, “The wolves are tangential, and the murder seems a bit of an afterthought . . . “
Almost correct, the wolves are tangential, as is the blood on the lip. The murder is the center piece. It’s the Reader’s Digest version of chapter 2 of my, as yet to be edited, novel “20th Class Reunion.”
With the word restriction, I was unable to use the novel’s the 76-word tease ~
It’s been years – no, decades since I’d made a date to meet her at the North end of the stadium after the Friday night game.
I chickened out.
Payback’s a bitch.
At the reunion, everyone saw or heard her slap my face. “I’ve waited twenty years to do that!”
I left the reunion.
The next morning, four cops escorted me Downtown. Doris Wilner’d been murdered.
There was only one suspect, and I didn’t have an alibi.
Bill’s not as crass as you assume. He just hates it when he does stupid things he said he wouldn’t [or shouldn’t] do.
He’s the mellowest character in the novel.
But I do find him an engaging character as it is, and this my favourite story of yours to date, Bob. Those one-liners have been really crafted and polished.
Not too much to pick on in your story, although I’m sure I could nit pick somewhere. Then again, I did find this little typo/punctuation error: “I haven’t been to the others, reunions, why now?” You need to drop the ‘s’ and comma off others. It’ll save you some money in proof readers when you hit the big time with your novel. Good decent read, Van. I enjoyed it.
I never went to any of my reunions and the sixtieth is coming up in 2020. Maybe I’ll make that one. I correspond with a few classmates on Facebook, so there might be some interest. Or, like you said, maybe it will be a crap fest, it’s why I didn’t go to the others, figuring the same thing. I figured those that were assholes in high school probably hadn’t changed, and the two or three people I would have liked to have seen are dead now.
“Farm to Market 121”
He imagined her waist soft in his arms as she approached the table. He had been staring at her legs every time she made her way to the kitchen. He adjusted his eyes out the window to the quiet street when she returned. “Top you off?” she asked. Detective Peterman nodded and she poured.
“Is it Ashleigh?” Peterman asked cocking his head at her name tag.
“Yes, sir. You’re the new detective, aren’t ya?” He nodded again, sticking his bottom lip out, impressed with himself.
“Yep, that’s the job. It’s quiet today, huh?”
“It’s quiet every day.”
Detective Peterman finished his coffee. With a twenty on the table, he left the diner for his car. Spade County hired Chase Peterman to investigate some suspicious activity in its communities. The county was 1,005 square miles and had about 25,000 residents. There were over 130,000 head of cattle when the feedlots were full. And the town was so flat that a view from the water tower revealed pieces of all eight of its towns. Peterman was taken up on his first day to give him an idea of the land.
Driving Farm to Market 121, Peterman noticed a truck on the side of the road. Two cotton strippers had stopped at the edge of the harvested rows. Peterman pulled in behind the truck and stepped out, eyeing the overalled men in the field. Two of the farmers had their hats off and would not take their eyes off of the ground. The other peered at Peterman and relaxed his spine at the sight of Peterman’s badge in the air.
“Hello, gentlemen.” Peterman offered.
“Well, howdy, Detective Peterman. This is a mess.”
Stepping through the cotton rows, Peterman saw their focus. The man was dead, and his head was only attached to the body by three inches of flesh. Peterman asked the men to back up from the crime scene. He also asked them to stick around to give their testimonies to the officers when they arrived.
After the uniforms evaluated and recorded the scene, the coroner processed the body. Peterman worked his way back to town to hunt for leads–the three farmers didn’t know anything more than he did. They didn’t recognize the victim which meant he must have been from out of town.
Peterman found himself back in the same seat at the diner and noticed Ashleigh still working. Ashleigh mentioned that the diner was her father’s, and he passed away a couple of years ago. She said that she could get some help, but it’s never enough to hire someone for the slow days.
He ate and watched her move around the diner between writing in his notebook and listening to the music from the diner radio. The music went on and on, playing Hank Jr. and Conway, with little reprieve from the bump-chink of each chorus. Before leaving, Peterman asked Ashleigh if she had heard anything about an incident in the cotton fields north of the diner.
“You mean the man that was killed earlier today?” She said.
“You know about that?”
“Well, yes, Sir. That’s what you are here for, right?”
“That’s right. I just didn’t know that the town knew about it yet.”
“Mister, you have to be pretty careful for others not to know everything about everything in this town.”
“I guess so. So…do you know anything?”
“I just know that he was up at Marshall’s house earlier in the week.”
“And that’s the farm on 134?”
Peterman closed his notebook, paid his tab, and made his way to Marshall’s before dusk. Marshall was sitting on his porch, shotgun in hand. He was a thin old man in pressed Levis and a pearl snap shirt who looked like he was once a lean, ornery cowboy.
“How can I help you, Detective?” Marshall called out before Peterman reached the porch.
“I just wanted to know what you know about the murdered man off FM 121?”
“I knew you’d be around askin’ about ‘im, goll dern it. He was looking for work on a stripper or module builder. I’ve got all my labor right now, so I sent him down the road. He was just looking for work.”
Peterman questioned Marshall a little more, but Marshall made it clear he didn’t know anything else–shotgun firm in his grip. Peterman apologized for the disturbance and turned his car back to the main road.
That night, Peterman thought of Marshall, the farmers, and Ashleigh. He went through the deputy’s interviews and had no leads. Unable to sleep, he went back to the crime scene to try and see something he missed. Getting out of his car and crossing the bar ditch, Peterson’s phone dinged with a notification from the coroner.
The autopsy paperwork was finished and the victim suffered a broken neck from an animal attack. The paperwork said it had to be a canine of at least 150 pounds.
As Peterman clicked his phone off, he noticed a set of glowing eyes staring at him through the cotton rows. By the time he focused his mag light, the eyes were gone and nothing was left but the dried blood staining the dirt where the body once laid. Nervous and shaking, Peterman drew his pistol as he made his way back to the car. Combing back through the evidence, Peterman found canine tracks and hairs located around the body and in the blood-soaked dirt.
The next morning, Peterman beat Ashleigh to the diner. After opening the store, she brought his coffee like the day before, but this time he noticed two gray hairs on her blouse.
“Any leads on the murder, Detective?” Ashleigh probed.
“I’ve had a few.” He said as Ashleigh sat on the stool next to him with her knees a couple of inches from Peterman’s.
“What sort of leads are they? We don’t get much to gossip about around here.”
“You know I can’t say anything until I am sure what happened.”
“Oh, you’re no fun,” she said standing and grazing his leg with hers, “I won’t tell. Promise.”
“I do have a question. Have you noticed any large dogs around recently? You know, like huge dogs.”
“Well, it is the country. Everyone has farm dogs. Wait, did a dog kill that poor man?”
“I can’t say anymore,” Peterman said taking a sip of his coffee. Ashleigh took the hint and went back to work in the kitchen.
Pulling out of the parking lot, Peterman took a right and peered behind the diner and noticed eyes glowing in the darkness of Ashleigh’s barn. He turned into the driveway and focused on the barn. Peterman began to consider if he heard Ashleigh speak of her own dogs. After stepping out of the car, Peterman peered into the shadow of the barn and noticed two sets of eyes come into view.
“You couldn’t just leave it alone, could you, Detective?” He turned his head toward the voice and saw Ashleigh pull back the door to the cage.
Two silver wolves were upon him. Ashleigh shut the barn door.
Hello Zane, I’m Alice, one of the group’s moderator’s. Welcome to the group, looking forward to reading your story.
Your story does have those titillating moments each time Peterman and Ashleigh are together (except at the very end, of course!), and I think this is actually its most remarkable quality.
The dialogue is good, although at times I felt that the rough image of the country folk, which you painted so well, doesn’t match the rather courteous way the characters speak. Maybe you did that for effect, to make the reader suspect insincerity on their part, but I’m not too sure of that.
My main issue with this story is that I can’t find a strong enough motive for Ashleigh to be doing what she does. Unless I missed some important clue, which is very, very possible. There is also a sense of pure coincidence in the detective happening to go and return to Ashleigh, of all people in a county of eight towns and 25K inhabitants.
It took him long (for a detective) to smell something rotten. There were those suspicious gray hairs on her blouse, which Peterman didn’t fail to notice. Not because he’s necessarily a brilliant detective, but because (you lead me to believe) he’s quite interested in her breasts. That’s quite a master-stroke in its own right, if you ask me. But, while it may constitute an important piece of evidence, we’re still without a clear overarching motive.
I once attended a course in Detective Story Writing (well yeah! – do I happen to be prepared for this prompt, guys!) with a prominent writer whose work was adapted for a TV series, and who used to be herself a forensic detective (before the cameras were turned on and she became one of the lucky few who can live it up off her writing. Besides, she doesn’t have to touch and smell dead bodies anymore).
She pointed out that in every murder case there have to be four key elements (hmmm the next contestants are gonna have an advantage now!): a murderer, a victim, an instrument (of killing) and a motive. All these items are interesting and important and need to be studied well by the detective, but it’s the motive that really makes the story. Also in real-world detective work.
Back to your story, you picture the small town/rural atmosphere very well, I’d say, both in the references to the landscape and in the small town mentality of the inhabitants (thirst for gossip, everybody knows everything and those kinds of things).
When the drama happens, I would clip the sentences shorter, if I were you. It would add a sense of urgency and panic.
Zane: “After stepping out of the car, Peterman peered into the shadow of the barn and noticed two sets of eyes come into view.” – Interesting…
My revision: “Peter stepped out of the car. He peered into the shadow of the barn. Two sets of eyes glared/looked back at him. – F’n scary!
In the revised version, we’re not focused on the investigation anymore: he’s himself in danger!
Zane: “As Peterman clicked his phone off, he noticed a set of glowing eyes staring at him through the cotton rows. By the time he focused his mag light, the eyes were gone and nothing was left but the dried blood staining the dirt where the body once laid. Nervous and shaking, Peterman drew his pistol as he made his way back to the car.”
My revision: “Peterman clicked his phone off. A set of glowing eyes stared at him through the cotton rows. He focused his mag light. The eyes were gone. Nothing was left but the dried blood staining the dirt where the body once laid. Shaking, Peterman drew his pistol as he hurried back to the car.”
The word “noticed” pops up. Show us what he saw, you don’t need to tell us that he “noticed” it. That’s self evident. This is an emergency situation for Peterman, and we need to feel we’re in his shoes. There is no time for fluffy words like “he noticed that “, “after”, etc. Those eyes mean no good. His life is on the line. The sentences have to flow quickly.
I also took out the word “nervous” – we don’t need it. It’s quite self-evident too – he’s shaking, he’s just seen something scary, he’s alone, he’s rushing to his car, he’s got his pistol drawn, the sentences are now clipped and short. I mean, even a stone would get nervous in such a situation. We don’t need to inform the readers of that, they’ll realize that much.
Do I make my way back to the car if I think I saw a killer wolf intent on getting me? No, I’d run/rush back to the car. “Make my way back” would be a bit too leisurely for such circumstances. (Now, someone is going to say that running makes a canine more prone to following me. I know that. But, still, I can’t help it, guys – I’d f’n run as fast as I can!)
So that’s my two cents, Zane. I hope you’ll find something of what I said useful! I’ll be posting a story at some point, too, I hope. Do tear it up for me, when it comes, that’s why we’re here!
And btw welcome to this club and keep ’em coming! It’s quite fun here, really 😉
Ken M. (one of three: the others being Ken C. and Ken F. – they’ll both be around at some point, you’ll see).
I knew that the motive was weak. I toyed with having Ashleigh be a murderer of men who come onto her, but I think I need 2000 words for that. Maybe I could do something with her father’s death and Peterman might overhear a detail that incriminates her.
Thanks again, Ken! I look forward to reading yours.
I didn’t see much wrong with your story at all. I thought the writing was effective as well, but it’s impossible to deny the wisdom of Ken M’s advice and examples. I don’t know about you, but I sure learned a thing or two. (But can I remember it?) One area I disagreed with Mr. Miles was his criticism of the plot itself. Ashleigh’s motive was clear, she was angry at having her name misspelled for most of her life.
But seriously, she’d been found out, it was as simple as that. You describe her animal magnetism well, which seems to cloud the detective’s judgement.
Ken’s advice notwithstanding, the story was well-composed and very well written.
The Kens around here are great!!!
I also felt the execution of the story was a little flat. “The county was 1,005 square miles and had about 25,000 residents. There were over 130,000 head of cattle when the feedlots were full” – sounds a bit like an extract from a tourist guide in a former soviet state … (There’s also an error in the next line to that, “the town was so flat that a view from the water tower revealed pieces of all eight of its towns” – ‘town’ .. ‘towns’) And I’m not sure that any of this adds much to the story?
Essentially the land was very flat, agricultural and life was slow – against that background, the exposition/description could be shrunk a bit and more about the case emerge through the dialogue perhaps?
I think I understand what Zane’s saying. He’s saying 25,000 people is a tiny number of inhabitants for an area of 1005 square miles, but there are five times as many cattle. But I don’t think the random reader would understand the significance of those numbers. He needs to take your advice and describe a flat and sparsely populated farm county, in a brief and colorful way. I think it belongs in there. We all know what he’s trying to convey, it just isn’t as effective as it could be.
Pardon me for speaking my most useless and inconsequential opinions. I get carried away with the words sometimes.
I also think ‘a couple inches of flesh’ rather than a strict ‘three inches of flesh’ measurement is also a little better by not being exact. That also bothered me a little bit. If this guy was attacked as you explain later by a canine of over 150 pounds, saying his head was only attached by three inches of flesh did not give me the impression it was an animal, but rather a routine slashing by some unknown murderer. A crime of passion. It just didn’t match the horror I think you could have conveyed with a niftier description.
Feel free to ignore my comments if you think they aren’t on spot, but I think that going over the story a few times and taking a word here, adding a word there, makes all the difference in the world. Like I said, however, I found it a good read and wished we had more words in our stories because I’d like to know more about your characters. They only other comment I’ll make is the use of ‘goll-darn it’. Maybe it’s just me, but a guy that crusty holding a shotgun wouldn’t use ‘goll-darn it’. Sounds hokey. I’m not even sure he’d use Goddammit. I’d drop it, you don’t need it.
Enjoyed it. Ashleigh is a piece of work.
Great story. I can’t add much to the comments already made.
Even though motive isn’t mentioned, you do provide us with the information that Ashleigh is involved. She insinuates herself into the discussion/ investigation and probes for details. That’s what guilty people do. They have a need to know if the cops are on to them.
She gives herself away by asking if the man was killed by a dog. Not everyone would have automatically made that jump by a detective just asking if there were dogs around. (Theoretically, the man could have been killed and eaten by the dog(s) afterward.) The coroner had given the cause of death to the detective but none of the neighbors would have known that detail yet. Ashleigh knew what happened because the dogs were her instrument of murder. Not revealing the motive just adds another layer of mystery to the story (and provides inspiration for a longer story.)
I agree with the comments about the mention of the dead man’s head being attached by a 3 inch bit of flesh after the attack. While I am very grateful that the story was not overly gory ( I have a weak stomach and would be tossing my cookies) however, this piece does not accurately reflect the result of an animal/dog attack. Unfortunately, I know firsthand the damage 1 dog can do to kill a human, must less two dogs/wolves. It would be a great deal more than taking the head off. I’m not saying go into gruesome gory detail (please don’t), but the description could imply the true savagery that a realistic attack by 2 wolves/dogs would leave on the victim.
I really liked the story and it was an easy read. Hope to see more stories from you!
“Impossible” (1198 words)
“ENOUGH DETECTIVE MANDA, YOU’RE OFF THE CASE!”
Detective Johnny Manda stormed out of his chief’s office, oak wood splinters flicking the back of his black leather jacket. He’d been working on a seemingly unsolvable case for the last couple weeks. Consequently, he’d been bombarded with hate and ridicule, nevertheless, he was determined to crack it wide open.
Despite wanting to put his fist through a wall, Manda knew he had to keep a level head. Glancing up at the other detectives, he slipped his hand inside his drawers. If someone saw him taking the case files, he’d be suspended. When he was confident he’d grabbed the right file, he concealed it within his jacket.
“Good evening Manda.”
“Bloody hell Peroni, don’t go creeping up on someone like that.”
“Not like you got anything to hide is it Manda?” Peroni was Manda’s old partner, before he was suspended for a while. Nobody ever found out why, though there was rumours circulating that he’d shot a suspect…
“Get your wiry fingers and tiny nose outta here Peroni. Go creep someone else out.” Peroni’s slender figure straightened up at the insulting comment, like an arrow flying through the air. Sensing Manda’s desire to start a fight, Peroni slithered back to his desk, where he drank his fresh coffee all in one go.
Manda winced in disgust, then promptly walked out the precinct. Realising that it would rain soon, he rushed home. The black-paint door refused to open; Manda groaned as the rain started to fall down his face. He slammed his shoulder against his door. It scratched against the floor and the frame stabbed the wall plaster. Old habits die hard…
Two hours later, after he’d eaten his microwave pizza and had half a glass of wine, he collapsed into his bed. With his covers over him, he laid under the duvet, unable to stop thinking about the impossible case. Every time he thought he was getting closer to the vanishing thief, the criminal slipped away again. The chief always told him that he was the best detective on the team. But recently Manda knew he’d been letting the whole squad down.
Suddenly a thought entered his mind, a thought that he’d never considered before. He let out a dry, raspy choke of surprise. What if Peroni was the thief? He certainly had the power to kill someone, so stealing jewellery and breaking into random houses would likely be easy for such a creep. He had to question him. Reaching for his phone to contact the chief, he leaned forwards.
The world twisted, his eyes rolling backwards.
Lights blurring and blinding, blowing up in his face.
He passed out.
“Johnny? You awake Johnny?”
Confusion drowned Manda. There was only one person who had such a voice like velvet. And only one person who called him Johnny… He forced his eyes open and was met with the sight of his detective partner, Lana.
“Lana? What are you doing in my house?”
Manda’s partner enveloped his cold hands in her embracing palms, pulling him up off the floor. “Johnny, look around. You’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Once his eyes adapted to the harsh rays of sun, Manda spun on his feet to stare at his surroundings. An alleyway. Specifically, the alleyway two blocks from his house. And…
Shit. He was butt-naked.
Well, almost. There was at least a shred of his jacket over his… bikini area. However not a shred of dignity in sight.
Lana offered her sweater to him, and he stretched the warm crimson wool over him, pulling it down as much as possible as to cover all his vulnerable body parts.
“Come on Johnny, let’s get you back to your house and I’ll whip up a quick hot chocolate while you get dressed into some proper clothes.”
They walked hand in hand to her small, yet surprisingly warm car. She cranked up the heat even more however, as Manda’s deteriorating body temperature was incredibly obvious. Although he’d never admit it, he appreciated her help. She knew what he meant though when he kept holding her hand.
As the car snaked through the city roads, Manda struck up conversation to stop the awkward silence. “How’d you know where I was? I mean, nobody else has come to help, and I didn’t even know I needed helping.”
“I care for you more than you think Johnny. I knew something was wrong when you didn’t turn up for work, because if the best detective on the squad isn’t working, then there is something seriously wrong. I’ve been driving round for a while, until I heard reports of a homeless-looking guy. Like I said, I had a strong hunch, so I checked it out. And there you were, lying butt-naked across half-eaten burritos and scavenging rats. Not your best look if I’m being honest.”
Manda chuckled for the first time since he’d taken on the case. He smiled at Lana as the car stopped outside his house. He stared at the flowers next to the iron railing, the wide stone steps to shelter. It didn’t feel like home though. He looked at it for a few minutes, his stare never wavering.
He stepped out the car, Lana’s sweater still forced over him, and tried to unlock the door. Unfortunately, his fingers moved like icicles, and felt like them too. Lana once again took his hand and opened the door after slamming her shoulder into it. Quick learner, Manda thought.
Attempting to avoid more embarrassment, Manda hurried to his bedroom, yanking clothes from his cupboard. Another jump to the shower, and a mortifying slide across the marble floor, and he was safe.
When he stepped out, he strolled the kitchen, having gained his confidence (and hygiene) back. Lana handed him a plate with enough bacon pancakes to feel like a new man. “You, Detective Lana Swanson, are a lifesaver. Thank you so much.”
“No worries Johnny. In this increasingly corrupt world, I think we need to stick together as the only good people left.”
“Couldn’t have said it better myself.”
Manda went in for a hug. Lana kissed him. Silence. Had she done something wrong? Had he done something wrong? Never mind, more kissing. To say Lana blushed would be an understatement, and Manda almost passed out for the second time in 24 hours. “Let’s get to work.”
They shouldn’t have done that. The next few hours were a blur. The fear of it all moved remarkably quickly. No report. No survivors. No happy ending.
Upon arriving at the precinct, they were told of new evidence in Manda’s case. They jumped into Lana’s car. They rushed to the crime scene, one street away from where Lana found Manda. “Let’s see what we got here.”
Death. Peroni’s cold, dead, snake-shape body. Wolves feasting on the fresh meat. Blood spurting out of every hole. When they saw the detectives, they pounced away into the alleyway shadows. Waves of surprise swept through Manda’s head. He fell to his knees, begging for an explanation. Lana screamed, pointing at Manda. She had a dirty piece of paper in her hand.
It read “Courtesy of Johnny Manda. You’re welcome.”
Nice smooth writing, creative plot. I had to read it twice to really get it though, which left me wondering, who wrote the note? (well it had to be Johnny.) But why?
If there’s a weakness in this story, it’s the lack of a clearly understood trespass/offense on the part of the former partner, Peroni. It comes across as though the main character’s real problem with Peroni is the former partner’s physical appearance.
I always thought the expression you used, ‘butt-naked’ was actually ‘buck naked.’ Which means, very nearly completely naked. I could be wrong. (Could be one of those ‘traffic circle’, ’roundabout’ deals.)
Is Manda being set up? Why was he abducted and left in an alley (or was that some kind of act?). So I’m left somewhat mystified, even after 3 readings …
Death. Peroni’s cold, dead, snake-shape body. Wolves feasting on the fresh meat. Blood spurting out of every hole.
Detective Writing 101 – dead people do not bleed. Period. At any time. Once the heart stops beating there is no spurting. Readers will be on you like five year olds on a carousel.
Now we jump to the top. Why were oak wood splinters flicking the back of his black leather jacket? Are we supposed to infer anything? If not, why mention them, and for that matter, why describe the jacket color at all unless it’s germane to the story.
Then you write: The black-paint door refused to open; Manda groaned as the rain started to fall down his face. He slammed his shoulder against his door. It scratched against the floor and the frame stabbed the wall plaster.
We don’t care if the door is black or painted. And when doors open, the frame doesn’t move, so it cannot stab the wall plaster/ The door itself can, or even the handle, but not the frame, unless the whole thig caves in, and that was not the case here.
I could go on, but you get my drift. In writing flash fiction words are important and very dear. Using descriptive words when not needed wastes them, and when you need a word later on in the story, alas, you find you’re over your limit of 1200 already. Until a few years ago, this thread was limited to 800 words, and that my friend, is a challenge.
On a positive note, I do like your writing but there are so many questions. Such as, they were told there was new evidence in Manda’s case so they go to the site. There are wolves feasting. If the police are aware of this evidence, why did they leave it unattended. A line telling them someone called in about a body would eliminate this flaw, as the two of them would be the first investigators to arrive. I know you are running out of words to explain how the hand written note suddenly appeared in Lana’s hand. Don’t you wish now, you had all those extra words you used for no reason at all earlier in the story. There are quite a few.
This part also confused me: They shouldn’t have done that. The next few hours were a blur. The fear of it all moved remarkably quickly. No report. No survivors. No happy ending.
I have no idea why this is in this story and what it means. At first I thought they got it on, but with no happy ending, that rules that theory out. So why? Please tell me.
You’ve got a good start, Peter, but you need to go through your story carefully. Read it out loud and make sure the dialogue and action scenes make sense. And, research is also nice. Try it, you’ll like it.
I hope to read a lot more if your work in the future.
I once invited a writer friend I’d known for years to join our club and submit a story. She did and after the voting, promptly sent me a scathing email about the fact her work was critiqued by a group of amateurs who didn’t know how to write to begin with and was particularly incensed that her superior work placed next to last and that she was done with our group and wanted her work and all references to it be erased from public view. I declined, of course, but even though I thought we had a good relationship, haven’t heard from her again. C’est la vie!
I once participated In a competition where they send your story to 2 readers for critiques.
A man wrote that my story did not make sense . I need to improve if I have to consider writing.
A woman wrote that she liked my story and that the main character leapt out of the page as she read..
I discarded the first critique and took notice and encouragement from the second critique.
He was actually pretty harsh.
But I took everything he said to heart and wrote a story about a ship and a girl who’d been kidnapped. And it almost freaking won the contest, it came in 2nd place by two votes. It was the only time I came close to winning or even placing in the top 5 in the scifi microstory contests in 3 years.
Like Roy said, I think critiques are by nature somewhat negative. But I’d prefer it. Tell me what’s wrong. Tell me what sucks so I can fix it and make it better!
Near the front door, a uniformed officer was throwing up violently into a rose bush. Detective Inspector Bennet turned to his sergeant, Cole, and raised an eyebrow.
“Bloody beginners,” he muttered as they entered, past another officer guarding the door.
“We’ve all been there though, haven’t we sir?” Cole observed.
Bennet shook his head.
They moved through the ground floor of the house towards the back, where other officers in Tyvek suits gathered at a doorway. When she saw the D.I. and the sergeant, one broke away from the group and approached them.
“What have we got, Tilly?” Bennet asked.
Tilly lowered her mask and pushed the hood of her suit back to reveal a face that was whiter than normal.
She swallowed hard and avoided eye-contact with Bennet.
“I’ve … I’ve never seen anything quite like it sir.”
“So, let’s have a look then, shall we?”
Bennet made to move to the back room. Tilly grabbed him by the sleeve.
“I must warn you sir that–“
Bennet removed her hand.
“Don’t be daft, Tilly! C’mon Cole.”
The two pushed their way past the forensic technicians and stood at the doorway, peering in.
At first glance, it was difficult to make out the furniture, but Bennet eventually identified a sofa, an armchair, a coffee table and a television. The sofa and armchair were beige, but that wasn’t their predominant colour now; now they were a glistening scarlet, as were the table and TV. The carpet and walls were splattered the same colour. Here and there, lumps of flesh sat or hung. Bennet spotted a couple of fingers next to the armchair. On the sofa, the hair matted and in disarray, half the head of a woman. A coppery smell, mixed with the stench of faeces and urine, hit Bennet in the face, and he felt bile rise from his gut.
Cole found Bennet in the back garden, leaning over a flower bed, and laid a hand on his shoulder. The gesture seemed only to trigger another convulsion. Bennet straightened and wiped his mouth with a handkerchief.
“Don’t–“ he began, before bending over and retching once more, drily this time.
Bennet walked away, taking deep breaths, then turned and adjusted his tie.
“So, what do we know?”
Cole consulted his notebook.
“That is … was … a Mary Abbot, single, 35, lived alone.”
“I’ve got Perry looking into that.”
“Cause of death?”
Cole coughed to hide a laugh.
“Okay,” Bennet nodded, “silly question.”
“You know, sir …”
Cole paused, reluctant to annoy the D.I. with what he had to say.
“What, Cole. Spit it out, man.”
As if to emphasise that, Bennet spat on the ground and wiped his mouth again.
“You know what happened in London late last night? That little old lady who got mutilated?”
He let Bennet finish his thought for him.
“You think there might be a connection?”
“Well, the M.O. is the same: victim ripped apart, window shattered outwards, suggesting panicked – or crazed – flight.”
Bennet began to walk across the lawn towards a side gate.
“Okay, they’re similar. But where does that leave us?”
“Well,” began Cole tentatively, still afraid of the D.I.’s reaction. “I heard they’ve brought in a lycanthropologist for that case.”
“A ‘lycan’ what?!”
Cole cleared his throat.
“Lycanthropologist. It’s an expert on … werewolves.”
Bennet peered into Cole’s face – illuminated by the moonlight – searching for the wind-up but finding only sincerity. He burst into angry, mocking laughter.
“Don’t be a dickhead, Cole. I told you when we partnered up what I expected from you: no ‘out-there’ theories; always follow the most sensible route; standard procedure – that’s what gets our man.”
“I know sir, but–“
“No ‘buts’, sergeant. Let’s get back to the station and start doing some proper police work.”
They drove into the night, Cole doing the driving. Bennet was annoyed with himself for his reaction to the murder scene and with his colleague’s naivety, Cole chastened by his superior’s upbraiding of him.
Driving through a wooded area, the road lined with fir trees, Bennet glanced at his partner and began to thaw. He realised that although he knew he had been pragmatic, perhaps he had been a little harsh in his manner.
“Listen Cole,” he began. “You’re a good cop. Probably the best partner I’ve had.”
Cole relaxed, almost visibly.
“But you know, we really do have to keep our feet on the ground. This job’s complicated enough without bringing in nonsense like werewo–”
He did not get to finish his sentence. Cole braked and wrenched the steering wheel to avoid hitting the hunched thing that leapt across the road in front of them. The car screeched, swerved and spun, overturning and sliding to a halt on the grassy verge, the headlights illuminating the nearest fir trees. Bennet, upside down, knew that his legs were broken.
“Cole! Cole! Are you all right?”
The D.I. twisted to get a look at the sergeant. Cole was staring back at him, his head at an impossibly unnatural angle in relation to his body.
Bennet was sobbing now. He clawed desperately at his safety belt but stopped at the noise: a loud snuffling close by. He looked at Cole again, at the same, staring, lifeless face; the sound wasn’t coming from him. Then all at once he knew. He twisted back to peer nervously out of the side window.
On that remote stretch of road, there were no witnesses to what happened next: the smashed window, Bennet’s desperate screams, and the hunched, unnatural form feasting on its prey.
(How many men, though? 😉 )
I’m not really into this genre, so I may be a little off the mark when I say that I think this is a fairly traditional werewolf tale of the modern variety. (hence the cops.) But your writing is excellent. This is like a demonstration on how to write dialogue, which must make up (I would guess) about 80% of the story, or more. I was trying to give someone else, Kristin I think, advice about effective dialogue. I should go back and suggest that she read and study your story (as I intend to do) to see for herself a perfect example of how it’s done.
This is not to take away from the exposition (?) as the last two paragraphs are great too;
Excellent writing Philip. You’re the real master story-teller on this site. I don’t care what Ken and Una say.
It is, though, a very simple story with no surprises – I think the prompt kind of invites this.
I kind of get the feel that the experienced captain has set the autopilot here in clear skies and is taking it easy, rather than having to use all his skill and experience steering us masterfully through turbulence and lightning strikes …
I think when Andy referred to ‘the experienced Captain’, he was referring to you, my sweet. Not your character.
(I had to look Lyn … Lycna … Laycan … that word up …)
The Howling Demon
Written by Writer2019
Detective Ross Williams was on the trail of a murderer, or more specifically, Robert Marsh.
Ross had been investigating a trail of animal attacks. About ten people, each almost twenty miles away from each other, were mailed to death by their beloved pets. At first it had been an usual case, animal attacks happen all the time. But then Ross Williams had found something very interesting. All of those pets had gone missing about a week ago, and when they’d come back, the owners died. Not one of those pets had a bad history either. That’s when Ross had become curious. Taking his suspicions to the police, Ross hoped for some answers.
The police department had brushed it off, claiming it was the owners fault, saying they didn’t take enough care of their pets. The only thing they did was put up another flyer urging people to stop animal abuse. Not one of them even consider that a man, not an animal was involved. Ross had walked away a very angry and disappointed man.
From then on, he’d taken upon himself to find out who’d killed those people’s. For weeks Ross had painstaking visited each crime scene, trying to connect each victim with each other. And then, on one hot summer day, Ross Williams had finally figured it out.
Every single one of those victims were either friends, or coworkers of Robert Marsh. And every single time one of those persons died, Robert Marsh was in town. Ross Williams had literally screamed with excitement. The rest was a cinch. Ross had quickly found out the location of Robert Marsh. Within days Ross had packed and headed out, not heeding his wife’s worried words. He’d brushed off her concerns. The plan was simple. Find Roberts house, report it too the police and then leave. That was literally it. Or so he thought…
The location of Robert Marsh’s house was a sketchy, stinky land of rotting trees. Nothing was there except for mushrooms and toads. Anger surged through Ross Williams. Blowing out another frustrated sigh, he slowly tromped back to his heavy duty pickup truck, parked a couple feet away. As he approached the truck, Ross stopped, a chill running up his spine. It was silent, the forest noises all coming to a halt. The very air was heavy, the silence covering everything like a blanket. Ross shivered and then started to slowly work his way towards his pickup again. And then that’s when he heard it. A bone chilling howl rose up through the night, reverberating across the night sky. It was filled with hunger, relishing it’s next kill. Ross picked up his pace, bounding towards the truck. He hated wolves, more than anything else. Reaching his truck, Ross yanked the door open, sliding in quickly. Only once the door was fully shut did Ross relax. He took a deep breath, and released it, blowing out all his tension. “Dad? You okay?” A voice inquired. Glancing to his right, Ross saw his son Randy, looking at him, his eyes wide with concern. “Yeah, just fine” Ross grunted, starting the truck up with a rumble. Randy peered at him, suspicious. “You didn’t find that guy, did you?” He suddenly asked. Ross glanced at his son, surprised, before slowly nodding. “Just a wild goose chase” he admitted. Randy clicked his tongue in sympathy. “You’ll get them Dad, you just gotta be patient” he said soothingly. Ross threw his son a grateful glance, before slowly pulling the truck out of the murky woods.
They only had gotten a couple feet before the howl came again. Randy’s window was open halfway, so Ross quickly rolled it up, trying to block out the sound. It was futile. The bone chilling howl sounded just as clear as it did a couple second prior. And it was close. Very close.
Ross Williams pushed down the overwhelming fear that was threatening to choke him. Now was not the time to panic. Revving his engine, Ross pulled out of the woods with a roar, the trucks tire squealing. Randy let out a small noise of surprise, and quickly pulled his seatbelt down, strapping himself in. “Mind telling me what that was all about?” Randy asked once they were safely on the main road. “Wolves” Ross grunted, refusing to meet his sons gaze. He heard Randy scoff slightly, and Ross held back a stinging retort. Now was not the time. He heard that howl, and despite his sons skepticism Ross knew that howl wasn’t from a wolf. It was something else, and right now all he wanted to was get away from it. Very far away.
Ross Williams slowly twirled his fork around the undercooked spaghetti, idly thinking. “You feeling okay dear?” His wife, Noel asked, looking up from her plate beside him. Randy, who was sitting across from the table also glanced up, concerned. “I’m fine” Ross replied, his voice dull. Noel gave him a skeptical look, her eyebrows raised high. “I’ve got something that’ll cheer you up” she suddenly murmured, a sly look coming into her eyes. Ross watched, interested, as Noel slowly brought over an oak box, covered in spiral designs. “This is your birthday present” Noel said, winking. “But I think it could come a little early.” Ross’s lips curved upwards in a smile. “And this is why I married you” he whispered, planting a kiss of his wife’s forehead. Noel giggled like a little schoolgirl, her cheeks turning a deep red. And then, on his wife’s urging, Ross slowly and carefully opened up the box. When he saw what laid inside, Ross let a gasp escape him. Laying on a soft red velvet blanket was a radiant silver knife. It was breathtaking. Small little gold flowers layered the side, giving the knife an anesthetic look. “My gosh” Ross whispered, fingering the knife. Noel smiled and opened her mouth to reply, but was suddenly stopped short, her eyes fixed on the window behind him. “What is it dear?” Ross asked uneasily, turning around. Facing the window, Ross peered our into the dark night, trying to see through the inky depths. “I saw eyes, big yellow eyes” Noel replied shakily, her voice trembling. Randy let a small moan of terror. Taking a deep breath, Ross slowly got up, approaching the window, his eyes squinted.
The only thing that Ross saw was his own reflection staring back at him.
“I don’t see anything” he said, turning around. Randy, who was behind him, suddenly let out an ear-piercing scream and scrambled backwards. Ross whipped around, but was too late. The window shattered into a million tiny pieces as a big hairy beast burst through it, straight towards Randy.
What happened next was so fast that if Ross had to explain, he’d be at a loss for words.
The beast slammed into Randy, and with a screeching sound started to tear. Randy started to scream, and blood spurted onto the white walls, shockingly bright. There was a big bang as Noel grabbed Ross’s pistol from his belt and fired it. Absolutely nothing happened. The screams and screeching continued. Ross was panicking, seeing his only son being torn into bits. With a shout of pure fright, Ross grabbed the silver knife that was laying on the table, and plunged it into the creatures backside. There was a wail of agony before the creature collapsed, writhing on the ground. Then, with a final wail, it fell still.
Everything descended into silence, only broken by Randy’s whimpers as he curled up on the floor, shivering. Ross stared, fascinated by the creature before him.
Matted brown hair covered its body, and bloodied teeth were hated in a silent snarl. But that wasn’t what Ross was concentrated on.
Staring back at him, eyes glassy, was the face of Robert Marsh, the very man who’d Ross had gone to persecute, was now dead before him, a savage light in his dead yellow eyes. And then that’s when Ross knew it. What had stalked him through the woods earlier that evening wasn’t a wolf…
‘an usual case’ (?)
‘Mauled to death…’
‘taken (it) upon himself’
Five glaring mistakes I found in your first three paragraphs.
Another key mistake is in the next to last paragraph: ‘…and bloodied teeth were hated (?) in a silent snarl.’
I think, after introducing us to Ross Williams, you can then shorten all future references to Ross, or Williams. Same goes with Robert Marsh. I noticed you alternate back and forth. I concur with a couple of instances where the use of the entire name adds gravity to the narrative, I totally agree, but then you bring the full names back a little later for no apparent purpose. (It’s a pretty minor offense, story-wise.) And in fact, I admire the creativity of using the full name for emphasis, it never would have occurred to me to do that, but having seen it, I can see what a marvelous little trick it is.
‘He tromped slowly back to his pickup truck, PARKED A COUPLE FEET AWAY.’ A couple, is two. That’s two feet. A distance that could be covered by falling down. It should be several yards, meters, a stone’s throw… not ‘a couple (of) feet.’ This minor correction would make the rest of the paragraph make much more sense.
All in all (who are you? ah yes, writer2019) you have a nice, clean and cogent writing style and the plot is nicely and subtly developed. Nor is it overdone or unbelievable. Truly, grammatical errors and factual discrepancies are this story’s shortcomings. There is certainly nothing wrong with your writing, it’s very engaging and free-flowing. Enjoyable, without a doubt. You gotta watch and scrutinize your work for those grammatical errors, though.
I once wrote a grand book, published it, but only to find it was chalk full of errors 🙁 I’ve tried to be more alert in finding these tricky buggers, but unfortunately I must’ve fell short on this one. Thank you for all the tips, they help a lot. Hopefully next prompt I shall squash all those word ninjas, sending them all running back from were they came from!
I agree with the other comments – it’s easy to follow the story (apart from where Randy suddenly appears in the truck?), but it would benefit from paragraphs being broken up, and devices to bring us more immediately into the story (showing rather than telling, etc).
I look forward to your next story.
As for that part where Randy suddenly magically appears into the truck, that was the point of my most struggle. I couldn’t decide where to put him!
I didn’t want him out with Ross. I mean what father takes his son out into the woods while hunting for a serial killer? Randy probably shouldn’t have been allowed to go anyways. But I didn’t want Ross to share the terror alone, as crazy as it sounds.
I tried multiple versions of the story with Randy not there, Randy going out with his father, even Randy hiding in the back of the truck(few flaws in that one) but Randy just being there in the car, scoffing at his father sounded the best.
Along with grammar mistakes, paragraphs are also my doom. I must break free of them! As you can see above, I’ve tried to break up the paragraphs. I’ve either failed miserably or exceeded exceptionally.
Thanks again for all the tips!
Would love to see more of your writing, but I think you can tighten things up quite a bit. There’s a lot of talent there, lurking underneath the surface. Rewriting is not a sign of weakness, but of strength in the writing world. Top authors will tell you that perhaps even their greatest work could use a bit of rewriting.
It really means a lot.
And for Ken C. I was not aware that a couple feet away was such a short distance. I probably should’ve said a couple yards away. I often underestimate distances.
All your stories are awesome by the way! It’s going to be hard to choose between them for voting!
If you got a comment from Ilana, perk up, she gives them out only when she means it, not to brush up your ego.
I’ve always hoped for one of Llanas renowned comments. I guess today is(hopefully) my lucky day! I worked a lot on this prompt lol, gave me a bit of trouble.
Also, I can’t wait to see your story Roy, Interested in what you and The Kens are gonna come up with…
I want a day resting, reading and writing 3 Rs
Investigation Officer, Detective Robert Coussins flicked over the pages on the folder of Dr Celine
Hotra murder case, then looked with narrowed eyes at Daniel Cross, sitting opposite him with his arms locked behind his head.
Police Officer Mike Messa with arms crossed in front of him, stood by the and watched them.
Detective Robert Coussins, “Admit to it. This is taking a long time. Your legal aid lawyer will shortly be here. Admit that you killed Dr Hotra!”
Daniel, “I didn’t! I am telling the truth! I was walking in the woods, the short cut many of us in the village cut through, when I noticed Dr Hotra and his dog lying on the pile of leaves with their head covered in blood. I went to help. I turned them over, on their back and although I don’t know much about resuscitation I tried to press on her chest to revive her. The blood spilled over my clothes. I then ran out of the woods to call for help.”
Detective Robert Coussins paused with his pen pointed at Daniel, “Admit me! You killed her and her dog. You slit their jugular vein and let them bleed to death.
She was not doing what you asked her to.
We checked your medical records and found that she refused to sign your medical certificate, asking you to follow an anger management programe and get back to work. You disagreed with her, then walked out swearing at her. The staff witnessed you threatened to kill her as you left the surgery.
Your girlfriend said that you left in a rage after bashing the door down that afternoon. ”
“I got angry at her, I might have said it but I didn’t mean it. They’re are just words. Go and do a proper job as police officers. Stop annoying me. ” Daniel replied. He brought his fist on the table.
“All evidence point at you, Daniel. Her blood and the dog’s were found on your clothes.” Detective Coussins said with his lips pressed together. “Spare us the aggro and admit it. You can’t escape from what you’ve done.”
“You’re doing my head in.” Daniel pulled at his hair. “Ok. Take your version of what happened. I killed them and left their bodies on the pile of leaves.
I’ll suffer few years in prison for this! At least I won’t have everyone on my back, nagging me, accusing me.
I don’t want the solicitor to interview me, to pester me and frame me too.”
“You know she walks her dog in the morning before she goes to work, in her lunch time and in the evening. You waited for her, killed her, then to cover up, ran out of the woods to seek help.”
Detective Coussins continued writing and talking at the same time.
When Mrs Butler, the solicitor arrived, Detective Coussins read out the investigations he made regarding the case.
“She had some normal arguments with the partners in the surgery. They were all on duty at the time of the murder. Her husband, Mr Salim Hotra has some history but he was out on business. We checked his train tickets and appointments at the Forum he visited that day. Was a widower who lived in America for some times, moved into England when he met and married Dr Hotra. Happily married as the staff of the surgery and Gold Club mentioned.”
“Heard about him, Good reputed, wealthy businessman who does a lot of charity work.” Mrs Butler added after she listened.
“Yes. Runs the marathon every year for Cancer Research.” Detective Coussins passed the pictures of the murder scene to Mrs Butler. She looked at them.
“Indian, isn’t he? Sealed his future after a large sum received after the death of his first wife, I guess. More to gain with this case.” Mrs Butler winked.
“Not pleasant to experience two deaths.” Detective Coussins said as he thought. “His first wife was an inexperienced driver. She drove the car into the ditch when the brakes failed.”
“Perhaps, you need to dig in a bit more in his past history. I know he’s cleared out of all suspicions. But, it’s just a thought. Usually, the husband, beneficiary, is prime suspect in most murder cases. Dr Hotra is a wealthy, childless, English woman. Anyhow, my client is a simple guy although he has a history of bad temper and laziness. I don’t rule him out but he gains nothing out of killing Dr Hotra. He may be telling the truth, that he did not murder them. But then, who did. Daniel sounds like he can’t cope with all these questioning anymore”
“Okay. I’ll pay him another visit. You given me food for thought, now”
The next day, before Mr Hotra arrived for his second interrogation, Detective Coussins focused and examined all the notes and photographs once again.
He shared his thoughts with Police Officer Mike Cross.
“The autopsy report says that the bodies suffered no trauma. The cut to the jugular vein on the neck are the cause of both deaths.” Detective Coussins handed the pages of photographs of the murder scene to PC Mike Cross to give his verdict.
“That dog won’t stay calm if a stranger attacks its mistress. He would fight like hell got loose. This indicates that they knew the killer.”
“I follow your point.” PC Cross nodded,
Mr Hotra was sweating profusely as he sat to answer the questions Detective Coussins was shooting to him. “You bought the train tickets well in advance, then ran back into the woods. Fairly easy for a marathon runner, isn’t. I made further inquiries at the Forum. You looked at other stalls as you mentioned, then attended your appointments fairly late. You had the space of time to commit the murders and cover your tracks.”
“I loved my wife. We were happily married. I was worried for her, worried the wolves that escaped from the zoo could lurk in the woods and attack them. I had a premonition that something like that may happen. But, she insisted she would be safe, she had the dog with her.”
Detective Coussins frowned and shook his head. “The dog was ferocious enough to challenge someone, then.” He asked. “Wolves don’t attack with knives. Weak coverup plan for if you get recognized.”
“The European maid! She was stealing from us. She went beserk when my wife dismissed her. It could be her with accomplices. She has gone back to Europe. No idea where.”
“Dr Hotra did not sack me. Mr Hotra did. So much arguing and shouting since he came back from holiday from his country. I don’t listen.” The maid said when Detective Coussins found her and interrogated her. “ Daniel is simple man. He can’t kill a chicken. How can he kill Dr Hotra and her dog? We, people judges in the village, are saying that. The judge in the Courts will wrongly sent him to eat porridge for a long time. Police, victimizing innocent people are making their caseload light.”
A while back a general practitioner was murdered as she walked her dog in the woods. Their heads were smashed with a stone. Can’t remember if the killer was caught.
I used this story to spin the tale.
Now I’ve guessed the woman’s story and told my version of what happened.
I was surprised myself at what came up in my mind, how I worked out what could have happened to the doctor. I thought of Daniel as the murderer, but then changed and expanded the story by turning onto the husband, and then the maid came in to nail him even further. I had to throw the wolves in because of the prompt and was surprised as I thought of the idea of them perhaps running loose in the woods after escaping from the zoo. It makes it plausible.
You should indeed be pleased with yourself, it’s a very clever, realistic story. I especially like how you ended it. Informing us who the actual culprit is, even though, we must presume, he was never actually found guilty.
Yes, Mr Hotra killed his wife for monetary gains. That what I was trying to write.
So that’s how you get to post extra stories, when you have them, and still have them eligible for the contest! I lost a couple of chances to compete with decent stories, as I had to post them as B-sides, so they couldn’t take part… I doubt if so many people even read them in that case.
Btw – and this is s.e.r.i.o.u.s. – for the last prompt (One Week To Die), I posted a second story, which many may have missed, as it wasn’t even listed. I have that suspicion because while Orange Cat got me so many comments, the other story got none.
If (way back) anyone read and liked that story of mine of the young lady of the multistory carpark who’d do anything to avoid any contact with Ju-Ju, my extra story of last week was a sequel to that. So, if you’re a fan, go look for it!
If you start with the story-list, go to Ken Frape’s “Seven Days To Oblivion” (read that, if you haven’t) and then scroll down the comments till the next piece-in-blue. That’s the Ju-Ju story I’m talking about.
It’s my first piece here shorter than 1,200 words. So it won’t take you long. You’ll also prove Cartisano wrong that nobody revisits the old threads. But why am I mentioning Cartisano, here, in a reply to Una?
Well, I certainly need to go back to that deep conversation between Cartisano and Una of some prompts ago, about Eve and worms I think it was. I need to read it all over again, in this new light. A man talking to his other self. And the other self actually responds. It might be useful for my Psych PhD dissertation when the time for that comes…
So, I am now thinking of my own alter-ego, so that I find it handy when I need it. (I hope it won’t find *me* handy when *it* needs me).
Nay… I’ve got to be more original. I’d need to sleep over this one. Drop those double o’s, to start with.
Btw, Ken C., you’re not Carrie Zylka too, by any chance, are you?
Or (my, my!), Phil Town?
How many of us are really in here…? It’s not just me and you, is it? It’s getting a bit creepy now…
I had the story removed because it needs a few more (dozen) tweaks.
However, now that the ‘Una’ cat is out of the bag, I can confess to the simple, innocent reasons for my duplicity. Although you must keep in mind that for one week I was suffering(?) from fever-induced hallucinations. (This is a long, boring, drawn out story, so you may want to just skip to the end, where Carrie and Alice will deny that any of what I said is true, and I will point to the banner at the top of the page and reply,,,, So? So what?)
BUT… and it’s a big but, I was on vacation, and I posted a story that I felt was mediocre. A few days later, I came up with a more gripping story. (About a woman with a psychopathic child. Very compelling. Or, as Andy would say, ‘Autobiographic?’) And I posted it too. Then, when my conscience kicked in, (a day or two later) I informed the moderators that I had two stories posted and strict directions on which one to remove.
Well, Alice disagreed. She said, ‘We knew you had two stories posted, we can see your genit, wait, what was it they could see? My server address or something. (I didn’t even know I had a server. I never see him, or her, or it.) ‘We can see the hairs on your modem.’ They said. Or something like that, and ‘We think you should leave both stories up and see how much humiliation you can suffer.’ (More or less.) And of course, I protested vehemently, with all the vehemence I could muster on short notice. (I voiced my objections vociferously.) But they overruled me by virtue of the fact that I secretly thought they were right. But I pointed out that it seemed intrinsically unfair, and they responded with, ‘No problem, Roy does it all the time.’ (Editors note: They never said that.) Even though we all know it’s true.
So,,,, it came to pass that my mediocre story outperformed Una Poole’s far better story. Which made me think, in my fevered state, that people are biased toward me. (It never occurred to me that I was biased toward my newer stories.) So the next week, I asked, and received permission to do it again, but out of an inappropriate and wholly irrational sense of decency, I only posted a story by Una, and pulled the story by Cartisano. (Which, I don’t mind telling you, was so good, it would’ve beat any story ever written, by anybody, except Bradbury and Asimov.) That was the one I pulled, and Una’s story came in fourth. Which I thought was pretty good for an unknown, fictitious entity with a strange name, gender issues and no references. (Remember: I hardly know her, so I’m probably making a lot of assumptions.)
So far, so good. But here is where the story grows eerie. Una Poole tried to take over. Let me clarify that. All of the engines of the digital world, determined that Una, was my new name, my new ‘identity’. When I tried to log on as Ken Cartisano, my devices didn’t believe that I was a real person anymore. They wanted PROOF,,,,,, of who I was. (Uhhhh, a friend of Una Poole?) No, no. They wanted confirmation.
Are you a robot? NO! YOU are.
How many cars do see in this kaliedescopic picture of an Italian traffic circle? 42, point 3.
That’s not how you spell ‘kaleidoscopic.’ I don’t care.
What’s your mother’s maiden name? Zelda
Where was your mother born? Zeldaland.
When did your mother first lose her virginity? Twenty-two times the square root of Zelda, times 2.
I proved my self time and again. but was only granted limited access. I was losing my ability to access my media, my devices, my web pages, my data. One computer, (my biggest, fastest turd-processor,) refused to recognize me on any social media.
Which made me think, however briefly, ‘Okay, whenever I want to be Una, I’ll just use that computer.’ But I soon found that
1. I couldn’t reliably write two stories a week anyway;
2. Having a split personality is a lot more work if your not really insane;
3. I couldn’t remember which computer was me, and which was Una, or why? and
4. Other applications were becoming more and more reluctant to believe that anyone but Una Moona (I mean Una Poole. See what I mean? This Una Moona personna is persistent.) anyone but Una Poole should have access to my data. My devices. I went after Una. I closed her portal. Erased her digital memory. I shut her down for good. She doesn’t exist anymore. She’s gone.
It’s just me, Una Moona. (I mean Ken, lol.)
It was so creepy, I intend to write a horror story about it, but just haven’t gotten around to it. Besides, I think it’s already been done about fitty-thousand times.
so anyway Ken U. B. Miles, You deserved this lengthy, convoluted explanation of nothing. (You do it all the time so don’t complain.) Except in my case, every word of it, (except for the lies) is completely true. That kind of complexity is hard to argue with.
Ok, phew. That would have been something. I’d have been totally confused. I can now see you as Una. Once you even spoke on her behalf to me, when you two together tried to distract me from writing a story. I should have seen through that back then.
With the Phil bit out of the way (or so I hope, since you didn’t mention it in your lengthy, honest-sounding explanation), what can I say? Well, yes, you had quite some remarkable adventures with this Una Moona. She tried to take over your identity, huh? Certain people… Once a blue hippo did that to me too. But I reined him back in easily.
I have an idea. Tell Alice or Carrie to turn your Comment above to blue and you’ve got your detective story for this week! Una Poole is dead. One condition is fulfilled. Una Moona is certainly a suspect. That’s another. But you need some blood. Digital blood, it gotta be. Broken, bleeding pixels seeping horrid binary juices. Absolute ASCII gore.
Ah, and the wolves! Why did they even put the wolves in this prompt? That’s pretty restricting. I had a wolf story not long ago for the Shadows theme. Complete with blood, victim and suspect. It did very well back then, got second place (and was your fave too, I remember). It would have fitted perfectly this time too. How can I even think up of another one along those lines? It’s like I’ve already put it out there, out of my system. That’s it – I’m gonna cheat! Then you’ll see how.
Back to your story: just fix that kaleidoscope line: you have to count the wolves around a Transylvanian traffic circle to prove you’re not a robot, instead of the cars at an Italian roundabout (that’s the word for a traffic-circle/traffic-island on the right side of the Atlantic, when looking at a standard map of the world, a small place called Europe). You see, you’re almost done there, with a little help from your friends. Una’s got a winner story.
Ken Cartisano can still post his own masterpiece, of course. I don’t know why I’m even saying this, why I’m making the connection…
Dua Loona (aka Ken M.)
You WISH I was Phil, masquerading as an amoral miscreant.
You’re pretty observant K. Miles. I had a lot of fun flirting with myself, working my legendary charm on someone who really deserved it. Me.
The great thing about flirting with your imaginary alter-ego, is no fear of offending, okay, HARDLY any fear of offending anyone. (There’s no ‘We Two’ movement yet.) I have to admit, she was a bit terse, and very pithy. (Two words whose definitions I forgot.) But I think we just need to give her a chance, some breathing room, a new hat and shoes.
Originally, I saw her as an experiment, a bit of litmus paper. But then she tried to take over. Women. Criminy.
I was going to erase her altogether, but I think I’ll keep her around for awhile. She’ll be great fun, my foil for the uninitiated.
I think the most important thing to remember here, Ken (M.) is, how easily I was able to get Alice and Carrie to let me cheat. They’re enablers, Ken. Alice can be tough sometimes, but Carrie? Give her a cupcake and she’ll…. draw down, DRAW down on you and steal the rest of your cupcakes. (She’s pretty hard core–for an enabler.) Actually, she just enables herself.
I have some name ideas for your alter-ego. But where’s the fun in that?
These are real people so you can’t use those, but anything else you come up with will be great, Ken.
Thanks for reading and commenting on my story. With the word limit I had to finish the story there.
Glad you enjoyed the read.
In my copy, Mr Hotra’ s luck of committing the perfect crimes ran out when Daniel’s solicitor demand for a lie detector test from all 3 suspects.
Pressure from Detective Coussins drove him to admit his crime.
By Alexis Winter
The air was chilly as Detective Erin Taylor walked towards her companion, Mr. Evenhart, the local coroner and medical staff for the small town of Cloverfield. “So, do you know how she died,” Erin questioned as she came to a stop at the diseased girl’s feet. “Pretty cold to be out here without any shoes and wearing a pair of shorts, don’t
you think?” The detective shivered as she thought of how cold the poor girl must have been before she died.
“Your not wrong, Detective Taylor, it’s very odd. It’s nearly twenty degrees and she’s dressed for summer… though, maybe she didn’t willingly come out here. We still have yet to find her uncle who apparently called the death in. One death with him around is a coincidence, not two, I’m afraid.” The man’s words only caused a frown to form on the young detective’s features. It was a horrible thing to think about someone being killed by their own flesh and blood, but it definitely wasn’t a rarity in this world. “Why don’t you go take a look around.”
Erin took one final look at the poor girl, her body crushed and lying near a tree damaged from the impact of her hitting it. It was a sorry fate for someone who was barely even old enough to be an adult. Yet, also a strange one. Evenhart sure thought it was her uncle who did her in, but how would that have even been possible. The car was clean of any blood and from what she could see there were no tire tracks to indicate that someone had sped towards the tree either. It was almost as if something else had thrown her against the tree. But, what would that have been? Surely a human couldn’t do that much damage to anything. Let alone throw a girl into a tree so hard that it scared the tree. It had to have been something else.
As she got closer to the busted lamppost near forest entrance, the woman had stopped at the sight of something on the concrete. Erin reached down and lit the area with her flashlight. Her eyebrows creasing as she looked down at the trail of blood which seemed to lead further down the path and into the forest. She looked back to where Evenhart likely was before turning back to the path with a small sigh. “I’ll be back before he gets worried…”
The young woman stumbled down the worn pathway. Though as she got further from the mansion she could hear the howls of wolves echo around her. Her eyes trailed across the path as she attempted to keep her fear to a minimum. Hoping to think of anything which would take her mind off the thought of being attacked by the creature.
Erin raised a brow as the trial suddenly stopped and she came to a large clearing with only an old tree in the center of it. It was fat and fairly tall with some form of chicken scratch etched into the bark. The barks and howls got louder as she came closer to the tree to make some sense of the foreign words carved deep into the bark. “Great another Cult rolling around. I thought I got rid of those things when I transferred from Springfield.”
A hushed mumble brought the woman away from her thoughts as she looked up from the bark and towards the thick branches of the tree. Her eyes moved around until they settled on the shaking figure of a young man in the tree. She was sure that he wasn’t the Uncle that Evenhart was talking about, but the kid definitely looked rough. “Are you hurt.” The boy shook his head as he looked down at the ground, his body still rocking back and forth as she watched him. The woman ever so slightly attempting to get the boy to speak, though with each attempt it was met with nothing but silence. “Do you know what killed that girl?”
“We shouldn’t have come back after she died… Aunt Christy didn’t deserve to die, neither did Sam, but no one wanted to listen… Nope, don’t listen to me… maybe they’d be alive now if we would have left.” His words were frantic, almost like he was muttering to himself, yet each sentence seemed to come out louder until he was nearly screaming at nothing at all. “Stupid black wolves… dogs… whatever they are. They didn’t deserve to die either. This is his fault.”
The words swam around in the woman’s head as she looked to the side of her. She could see the many beasts surrounding them and the tree, though their eyes weren’t locked on her, but the boy in the tree. “Why don’t you just kill me already if that’s what you want!” She looked from the beasts surrounding her to the boy. He wasn’t looking in her direction where the small band of wolves had corralled her, but towards the tree line on the other end of the clearing.
Faintly she could see red eyes looking her way and a long silver chain lashing out from the forest and hooking around the boy before pulling down from the tree and deeper into the recesses of the forest. The faint sounds of his sobbing quickly drowned out by the snapping and growls of the wild beasts before her. She wanted to move, to grab her gun and shoot one if she had to so she could go after whatever dragged the boy away, but she could only stand there, entranced by the glowing red eyes of the wolves. “Please let me go…”
The creatures stopped circling around her. Slowly backing away before disappearing within the confines of the forest once more, their hold on her quickly diminishing as she fell to the ground. Her heart hammering in her chest as she looked back to where the boy disappeared only to see the faint apparitions of the girl and the boy standing before that of a large wolf, its eyes almost burning into her soul. “They are mine, leave this place and do not return or you shall suffer the same fate,” the hellish beast growled before the three apparitions fizzled out into nothing.
I was afraid you may be a hit-and-run trophy snatcher! But here you are again – that’s great. Thinking about it, you must have had a very busy last few weeks, given the stage you are in life. Hope everything is going fine with you and you had a memorable kick-start!
I hope I’ll have the time to say something about your story after I’ve read it.
Yup, that’s me! I’m surprised you remembered me since I kinda disappeared.
I really didn’t intend to run off and never return, I just had a lot going on since school started. For one thing, my cousin’s son (who I was helping to babysit) got me sick for the second time at the end of August. And then school started and I really just got better last week. Besides that, we had a lot of tests and quizzes these last couple weeks and my brain was practically mush after that. Though, now things are a lot better. Especially since I did pretty darn good on all those tests and quizzes and that.
The dead girl was deceased for instance, not diseased.
Thanks for taking the time to read my story. I’m really sorry for the kinda glaring mistake there, but thanks for pointing that out. I’ll make sure to read a bit more thoroughly next time.
But, putting aside that, I’m happy about how the setting came out. I was kinda worried that it wouldn’t have turned out good. But, I’m glad that it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Thanks.
A few things to tidy up, as Ken says – also ‘scarred’ instead of ‘scared’, missing question mark at two points, “We still have yet” – ‘still’ or ‘yet’ … but these are minor editing tidy-ups.
One thing – in my story below I have a detective Eddie Taylor. I honestly hadn’t read your story till now, but I’m guessing they’re related? (Erin – good name btw, as one of my daughters will agree!)
I’m definitely planning to fix those up and possibly even add onto the story a bit more. I don’t know why so many screwy mistakes went by me so easily, but thanks to you and Ken C for helping point out these mistakes.
Honestly, Erin Taylor was kinda the first full name I could think of. I really liked the name Erin (which I thankfully hadn’t used twenty times already) and Taylor was the first last name that popped up when I was writing.
Also, I really loved your story it was very entertaining and I loved that the story centers around the MC possibly being the killer, but that rather than it being some amnesia thing, it’s more like his alter ego and thereby also himself are possibly being framed. Oh, such a good story.
Murder In The Forest Degree.
By Ken Cartisano © 9/26/2019
It was late afternoon, and the shadows were creeping across the hollows of the small, isolated Appalachian town. They sat in the corner booth, by a window. She read the three-page case file in five minutes while wolfing down a sandwich.
When she finished, Detective Dunbeau said, “What d’ya think?”
“There’s not much here,” she said, brushing crumbs off the folder, “and what there is, seems pretty useless.”
He was visibly disappointed.
Seeing that, she leaned across the table and dabbed a bit of mustard from his cheek with her napkin. Her name was Rita and she was a college graduate who now worked full time in the county library. After rescuing her from an FBI raid that would have ruined her life, they began to date, more or less, despite their differences and her blue-green hair.
“You want me to quiz you, Dunbeau? Would that help?”
“No.” He said.
She opened the folder. “Or, we could just go over it together.”
“I’d prefer that.”
“Okay, let’s see. According to the file, you’ve got a critter-cam video of a pack of wolves attacking someone, but there’s no missing-persons reported, no remains, and no witnesses.”
He cleared his throat. “No, but the video picked up a second person, not present at the attack, but obviously in the same area, and he’s our main suspect.”
“A suspect? How do you know he’s not the victim?”
“First of all, the video is time-stamped. And he shows up after the attack. Tries to clean it up in fact.”
“But you got a blood sample anyway?” She guessed.
“Yeah,” Dunbeau confirmed. “There was an abundance of blood at the scene, and hair.”
“We tested it.”
“It came back labeled ‘Unknown Biological Substance.’
“Unknown biological substance? What the fuck does that mean, Dumbo?
“Rita.” Dunbeau exhaled as his face grew taut. “Don’t call me that. I asked you not to call me that.”
She didn’t blink. “That’s your name, detective. Dun-beau. Don’t blame me for your French heritage.” She sat back and stirred her milkshake. They lapsed into silence with Dunbeau staring into his coffee while Rita glowered at anyone who caught her eye.
After thirty seconds, he cracked first and said, “You see? I told you this case was fucked up.”
She’d been thinking about it. “So you have a murder, but no body, a suspect but no witnesses, a pack of wolves…”
“Seen on video.”
“Seen on video,” she repeated. “And unidentifiable blood. That’s what really intrigues me. What exactly does this report say?”
“It says the blood is not human, nor is it from a wolf.”
That sent Rita sliding back in her seat.
This was not the first time he’d recruited Rita to help him sort through the facts of a case. She provided a fresh, unrestrained perspective, and it didn’t hurt that she was probably twice as smart as he was. This strategy proved fruitful once again when she brightened visibly and said, “Have you talked to that guy up on the mountain? The one who gives talks, on wolves?”
“What guy? What mountain? What talks?”
“Oh you know who I mean, he gives lectures once a week, at that fancy resort at the top of the mountain. He keeps wolves, too.”
“Oh hell, I don’t know. Who knows the names of mountains, Dunbeau? Can you name any mountains? I can’t.”
Dunbeau threw a crumpled twenty-dollar bill on the table and reached into his pocket for more change. “Do you know the NAME, of this place, Rita?”
She hesitated. “Mmmmm… The Sasquatch Inn I think.”
He slid out of the booth. “Do you know where this, this Inn is located?”
“Sure…” she said, and had just enough time to grab her milkshake before she was whisked away. The coins were still spinning on the table as the door closed behind them.
It was an unlit, narrow, winding road that led to the top of Sasquatch Mountain, and it was getting darker by the minute.
“This doesn’t look right, Dumbo. There’s only one road up the mountain, and this ain’t it.”
“Rita. My name. I’ve told you…”
“Oh. Yeah. Sorry. Maybe I should just call you Detective from now on.” She stirred the milkshake while looking out her side window, at nothing. “Or Detective Duh,” she mumbled.
He glanced at her several times, his sense of regret plain to see, but she didn’t notice. Everyone else called him Dumbo, it wasn’t fair to hold Rita to a higher standard, but…
At the top of the mountain the asphalt ended and the road led them into a deserted theme park: featuring a row of dilapidated, western-styled storefronts lining either side of the street. A deteriorating Ferris Wheel loomed above the far end of the road. By now, the darkness hid most of the details: rusty nails protruding from bent planks; broken windows, cockeyed shutters. The ‘Ghost Town in the Sky.’
“I think we made a wrong turn, Dunbeau. I don’t like this.”
He turned the headlights off and killed the engine. It was eerie but not quiet, as millions of bugs trilled in a near deafening chorus of irrepressible life. “Christ, them bugs are loud, ain’t they?”
She didn’t reply, and was startled when Dunbeau suddenly got out of the car. She watched him as he came around to her side and opened her door. A full moon painted the sand a dazzling white, casting stark shadows under every porch, every plank, under the car door as it opened. Her senses seemed enhanced. “What are we doing?”
He held out his hand, as if to assist her, but she demurred, politely keeping her milkshake between them as she exited the car. He persisted, patiently waiting until she took his hand, then he dropped to one knee in the dirt.
“Rita, sweetheart, will you marry me?”
She was stunned—and not really all that thrilled, but she could see that he held a diamond ring whose beauty seemed impressive, even under a full moon.
She frowned, “What about the murder?”
“Oh I solved that already, days ago.”
“I solved it. I’m a detective, it’s what I do.”
“You didn’t need my help?”
“No, it was a ploy.” His knee was starting to hurt.
“A ploy,” she said. “To get me up here to this godforsaken…” she looked around, “…nightmare on Bonanza street?”
“Ghost town in the…”
“To get me up here alone, so you could spring your stupid emotional trap?”
As he pulled himself to his feet, the car door slammed shut. The window was rolled up and Rita sat in the passenger seat staring straight ahead.
He muttered under his breath as he brushed the dirt from his knee. “Was that a yes? Or a no?”
Back in the car, they were halfway down the mountain before she finally spoke. “So, Sherlock, who was the victim in your mysterious murder then?”
“It was Bigfoot, Rita. The wolves ate Bigfoot.”
So, the wolves ate Bigfoot – who’s the witness? Presumably another bigfoot who tries to clean up the evidence? I guess that makes sense … as much as anything else 🙂 Though I could be on the wrong track, I usually am …
Ack-choo-alee, she was a witch, they never married, but she put a spell on him, he quit his job as police detective, started writing scripts for porn movies and articles for Hustler Magazine. They currently live in an apartment over a dry-goods store in Indianapolis, Indiana.
🙁 Let down.
Trouble is my business.
My name is Kevin and I’ve always wanted to be a pizza delivery guy. I imagined myself ringing a front door. Hungry people would be waiting behind that door, looking forward to a fresh, warm pizza. They would be so happy to see me, and they would thank me. I could see how with a pizza I could make everybody happy.
Unfortunately, I was not allowed to deliver pizza to hungry people. I grew up in a very conservative family. And because my father and my grandfather had been private investigators, I had to become a private eye too, it was a family tradition. I was very unhappy because I couldn’t relate to this lifestyle. For example, my favorite drink was chamomile tea. Chamomile tea can make a person very happy, that’s my experience, and it’s good for your skin. But as a private detective, I had to drink American bourbon whiskey. I even had to keep a bottle in the desk drawer in my office. Why? Because my dad and granddad had done it that way. And in my family it was better to ask no questions; you could image the answers anyway.
One Thursday morning I was sitting in my little office on Hollywood Boulevard. On the door you could read “Kevin Marlowe – Private Investigatior” in gold letters. I pulled open the desk drawer, which had two whiskey bottles in it. One had the label torn on one side; that was my secret chamomile tea bottle. I drank from it when no one from the family was watching. This bottle showed I was a rebel at heart.
There was a knock and a lady entered. She was a very beautiful lady, wearing a tight red dress. She pointed an unlit cigarette in a holder at me and said something like “Howdy!” Then she looked me in the eye. I get nervous when a woman stares at me like, so I looked away and offered her a seat. My father had bought a very comfortable upholstered chair in which the visitors should feel comfortable. The lady didn’t sit down on that chair but on my desk. She came very close to me, and she smelled expensive. With a deep, smoky voice, she said,
“Do you have a match, partner?”
I wanted to tell her how many books of matches I had, but then I realized she meant I should light her cigarette. So I did that.
“Got a name, lady?” I asked my first question. I spoke like a hardboiled detective as I had learned from my dad.
“Carmen Sternwood. Please call me Carmen!”
I offered her coffee and hoped she didn’t want one because I forgot to buy coffee. She asked me if I had something stronger. I reached into the drawer for the bottle and poured her a glass. She took a long sip and immediately spat it out on the floor.
“Partner, your whiskey tastes like chamomile tea,” she cried.
I put on my poker face and asked her what brought her to me.
She dangled a bit with her foot, took a drag on the cigarette and said:
“I want you to find a man for me. His name is Floyd Thursby. ”
In such cases, I considered what my father would have said.
“Floyd Thursby, eh? You have to tell me more if you want me to help you. ”
“We’ve known each other since kindergarten. When I cleaned up the attic yesterday, I found a small wooden horse that once belonged to him. I want to give it back, but I don’t know where he lives. ”
“Did you try the phonebook?”
“I’d rather have a professional look into it.”
“I get $136 an hour, plus expenses.”
She threw a brown envelope into my lap.
“I hope that’s enough for now.”
Then she gave me a picture showing two toddlers in kindergarten. The girl with the pigtails was obviously her, so the boy with the energetic chin had to be Floyd Thursby. Then she said that Floyd always liked to go with his mother to the ice cream parlor Dream Cones on Sunset and Cahuenga.
When Carmen left, the phone rang. It was Mother. She lived on the other side of the street and enjoyed watching my office with her binoculars. I guessed that she had done that in my father’s time as well.
I hoped she hadn’t discovered the second bottle.
“A visit from a lady, Kevin boy? Your father had those too. The best cases always started with a blonde broad sitting on his desk; they always ended with a pile of corpses. This is where you become a real detective, my darling boy.”
I wondered where my mother and father had met.
I took my hat off the hook and went to the ice cream parlor called Dream Cones. The man behind the counter was cleaning the sundae glasses. I showed him the photo.
“Seen this man here lately?”
“Looks more like a kid, I guess.”
At that moment, the windows smashed, a machine gun rattled and the man sank to the ground, a red spot of blood on his white waistcoat slowly growing.
I patted the dust off my clothes, took the photo from the dead man and left.
This case was becoming more and more complicated.
I walked over to Joey’s pizza delivery. Sometimes they let me go on one or two tours when they had a lot to do. There is nothing better to clear you head than delivering some pizzas. I got good tips, too.
I went back to the office late in the evening.
I made some chamomile tea and filled up the bottle.
The telephone rang.
It was Mother. She had solved the case as usual and explained every detail to me.
Floyd Thursby was the man who had been cleaning the sundae glasses behind the counter. He was known as an illlegal breeder of wolves. His father and Carmen Sternwood’s mother had had an affair. They wanted to flee, and the situation became intricate. Something about a car and a killer. Lot of suspects everywhere. Someone’s uncle got involved, a gangster named Eddie Mars was waiting in a road-side motel. An old lady was murdered with poison. Pearls were hidden inside a goldfish. A fat man whom everyone called the “fat man”, had kidnapped a lady’s dog to blackmail her. The wolves escaped from their kennel. Then a thief named Joel Cairo, who used perfumed handkerchiefs, shot the dog catcher. A man called Rusty Reagan had stolen the wooden horse, which contained a treasure map inside. And so on …
At some point, I stopped listening. Somehow I didn’t care who shot whom and why. I realized that I had to fight for my dream of becoming a pizza boy.
I decided to start fighting for that the next morning. Now I was looking forward to my bed.
The Big Sleep was waiting for me.
heh, heh, he, he, he, he, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.
Snortle, snort, snicker-snack, mfffll. Uhhhh, Jesus.
Very, very, very, very funny Jurgen. You have a knack for writing, a genius for comedy.
One mistake. ‘You could image the answers anyway. (you could imagine the answers)
I know a long, long joke about someone who wants to be a bus conductor and whose father disapproves. But I’ll save that for another day. The pizza delivery ambition was very sweet and highlights the hero’s simple and benign character, a good contrast to the hard-talking and hard-boiled requirements for being the lead in a detective story.
So, when will you tell us the long joke about the bus driver?
“Bit of a mess, wouldn’t you say?”
“You can say that again. A pretty exotic place to die, though. Why choose a zoo? And the wolf enclosure?”
“You think it’s a suicide? Or someone who thought he could talk to the animals?
“Hard to tell from the remains.”
“Yes, they’re a bit kind of … chewed …”
“But there’s something that doesn’t seem right … “
“You think it’s murder?”
“Look at the blood-spatter pattern.”
“We’ll need to wait for the SOCOs to confirm it, but to me it seems there’s not the kind of blood spatter you’d expect from someone being mauled to death by wolves.”
“Helluva lot of blood though. But I see what you mean. A big pool of it, rather than signs of spurting. Been dragged, too, by our four-legged friends over there.”
“You’re getting good – could be a policeman yourself, one day. Ah, I think that’s the first of our Scene-Of-Crime Officers arriving.
Juliet Miller approached the constable stationed by the yellow crime-scene tape. She looked curiously at the man standing alone by the body of the deceased, talking animatedly to himself.
“That’s the famous Eddie Taylor over there?”
“Detective Inspector Taylor – yes, he’s the officer in charge,” replied Constable Doonan.
“Is he … OK?”
“I think so.”
“I mean, he looks a little … unbalanced?”
“No, ma’am. He’s just being his normal self. Or selves … Don’t worry – he’s really very brilliant. Or rather, ‘they’ are.”
“Wow. I heard some stories when I was down in Hampshire, but thought people were pulling my leg. He really has multiple personalities?”
Doonan nodded. “Well, you know, two heads for the price of one.”
Juliet smiled. “OK. So who does DI Taylor think he’s talking to?”
“Drew McAndrew. You know, the crime writer.”
“Really? I love his stuff. You mean Drew McAndrew is really Eddie Taylor? Wow!”
“Well, I’m not sure you can say it quite like that. In theory, they’re two separate personalities. Taylor says McAndrew is shadowing him to understand police procedure better. Together, they’ve had some brilliant insights on cases. Taylor the analytical mind, McAndrew the imaginative one. A powerful combination.”
“Interesting! Just those two?”
“Other selves do pop up from time to time. One evening I spotted him dressed up like Tom Cruise in Top Gun, another time wearing a dress. I don’t judge, by the way. But Taylor and McAndrew are the two we get to see in police work.”
Doonan lifted the tape for Juliet to go through. “Don’t worry,” said Doonan. “They’ve moved the perpetrators to another cage!”
After Taylor briefed her on the background, Juliet started examining the body. She photographed the corpse from various angles, then gently probed some of the multiple wounds on the body. Carefully she pulled to one side the large flap of skin sagging over a hole in his abdomen.
“Hm, entrails pretty much all missing. A dog’s dinner, I’m guessing. This is interesting, though.”
Taylor (and probably McAndrew too) leaned over to look.
“What do you see, sir?”
“Some very shattered bones.”
“Multiple fractures to the pelvis and lower vertebrae. No teeth marks on the bones …. A rhino could do something like this, perhaps, but not canines. Actually, these look like injuries from a fall. From a considerable height, in fact.”
By morning the incident room was set up, ready for Taylor to brief the team.
“We’ve examined all the CCTV from the zoo, and there’s no sign of anyone bringing in a broken body and dumping it. So we’re working on the assumption that the deceased fell directly into that enclosure. And our SOCO thinks he could have been just about alive when the dogs got to him. So, we need to find out what he fell from.”
“Could be a stowaway?” suggested one of the detectives in the team. “There’s been a few falling off aeroplane landing gear recently.”
“Worth checking out. But in those cases they’re pretty much frozen to death before they fall. No sign of that here. And it’s probable he fell – or was pushed – from something flying a bit lower.”
“Like a helicopter?” suggested Detective Constable Maria Philips. “I’ll check out with air traffic control and all the charter companies. Didn’t you used to fly one, boss?”
“I did back in the day. But not this one, of course!” For a moment Taylor seemed lost in thought, muttering to himself.
“What’s that, boss?”
“Just thinking, what else could fly low like that”
“A bit far-fetched, perhaps, but we need to check out every possibility.”
* * * * * *
“Boss,” said Philips. “We’ve got a lead. A microlight plane was signed out last night from a private airfield near Enfield, and hasn’t returned. But – there’s something you’re not going to like …”
“Give me a name.”
“Sounds like an alias.”
“The photo on his membership ID, Boss – it’s the spitting image of you!”
Philips projected the photo onto the wall screen. Everyone in the team nodded thoughtfully, looking at DI Taylor. “That’s me,” he agreed. “But I haven’t flown in years, not since I was in the military …”
The scepticism in the room was almost tangible.
“Well, maybe not *you* exactly …” said someone in a stage whisper.
* * * * *
Taylor spent the afternoon pacing the length of his garden, gesticulating wildly and talking heatedly to (apparently) himself.
“So little faith in me, Drew. Suspending me just like that!”
“Well, you can’t be both chief suspect and investigating officer … Besides – in every good detective story the hero gets suspended at least once.”
“But this is real life, not one of your fantasies. It must be someone setting me up.”
“Hmm. I’ve tried to keep this from you, Eddie. But Joe Speed is one of us. One of your unconscious selves.”
“Nonsense! I’d know.”
“You can’t remember when you’re him. He doesn’t fit. Rule-breaker, thrill-seeker, doesn’t care who he hurts. Maybe a bit like you before ….. Well, you blank him out.”
“And you don’t?”
“I get glimpses. He’s … interesting to a writer.”
At that moment a text came through from DC Philips. “DNA results: victim is Harry Doncaster.”
“Ah, so at least Maria is standing by me,” said Taylor. “I know Doncaster. Lowlife scumbag …”
“Even scumbags don’t deserve to die like that,” offered McAndrew.
“No. But him dying that way – it changes everything. You remember that corruption case with former Chief Superintendent Mortimer?”
“Sure, the vice ring you busted open. I put a character like Mortimer in my second novel.”
“Doncaster was the messenger-boy who used to bring Mortimer the brown envelopes stuffed with cash. He turned Queen’s evidence in return for immunity.”
“How does this all tie in?
“The last thing Mortimer said to me when I arrested him was: ‘So, Eddie, you’re throwing me to the wolves.’ He’s must have been watching us and signed out a microlight as Joe Speed. ”
“Wow, what an imaginative payback. Throwing Doncaster to the wolves literally, and you metaphorically. Excellent! I must put that into a story!”
“It’s time to throw him to the wolves again, Drew. You can write it all up later!”
Well, I have mixed feelings about this story. The more I think about it the more I like it, but it requires a lot of thinking for that to happen. I was confused at the conclusion of my first reading and had to read it again. (I only had one drink, I swear.) A second read through and I got it.
There’s a slow introduction to the main character as the story opens with the two constables, one whose name is Doonan. Then we’re introduced to the ‘SOCO.’ Juliet Miller. ( I assume she’s some kind of ranking investigative police official.) Who is then introduced to a guy with at least two predominant personalities. (Drew McAndrews and Eddie Taylor. (Eddie’s the main character.)
Shortly after that, Maria Philips is introduced. (Or perhaps she’s the other unnamed constable at the beginning of the story.) But she’s named at this point so I presume she’s a new character.
Then you introduce Joe Speed. A third personality of the main character. So by this time in the story we’ve got five characters and seven personalities.
And then, in the last scene, we learn that the victim is Harry Dorcaster, who was the bag man for Superintendant Mortimer. Seven people, nine personalities. (Unless my math is wrong.) And what we learn then, (even though the case is not exactly solved yet) is that Mortimer, must have used the name of Joe Speed to implicate the head detective, (Eddie Something.) What I balked at was, how could anyone know the name of a personality that the detective himself was unaware of?
But after thinking about it, I suppose the assumption is that his other personalities were obvious to others, even while unknown to him. But at that point, the whole premise becomes a little farfetched. Which, I suppose that’s what you intended, but the story is written in a very straightforward style.
All that having been said, the first three characters are not too important. I would forego using the names of either of the constables, and refer to the SOCO only by her title. (the SOCO.) This reduces the number of character names we’re expected to remember for most of the story. Until the end, when you reveal the victim and the murderer.
You might also consider adding a line, when the main character is talking to himself (Drew). Drew might explain to Eddie that, ‘You have more personalities than you need, more than you want to know about.’ (Joe is the least of your worries. Perhaps.) We don’t realize that other’s might know about his other personalities until well after reading the story. (and when I say ‘we,’ I mean of course me, my cats, my tapeworm, my cat’s tapeworms, and the other readers who read your story at the bottom of this long and growing thread. More of a collective, multi-species book club.)
Everything else is great. (The writing, the dialogue. Natch.) Now that I think about it, you might be onto something here. The more personalities you can come up with, and the fewer actual real characters, the more zany the story would be, wouldn’t it? Up to a point?
I was just trying to do something that explored the detective as much as the case. In the genre the detectives always have some kind of Thing about them – drink problem, failed marriage, big debts, kicked out the army after being wrongfully accused, etc. On the BBC they are all pregnant, or have work-life balance problems caring for their kids, mainly because they are women these days. So a bit of fun to go down the ‘neurodiversity’ route. But only if it works.
I did include a definition of SOCO in the story shortly after its first use – ‘scene-of-crime officer’ – and I’ve asked our supervisors if when they have a mo they can capitalise that explanation, like Scene-Of-Crime-Officer. To make it easier for Americans and people without Google 🙂
Actually, it may all be too complicated (or self-involved) for 1200 words, as I think you are hinting. I did have a few more plot twists in the original, including confusion between African Wild Dogs and Wolves, even more named characters and a whole lot more banter between the detective and himself. The scalpel has been out, but I fear the story may have lost a limb too many as a result.
– Actually, this is (skilfully!) foreshadowed near the start when Constable Doonan tells the SOCO* : “Other selves do pop up from time to time. One evening I spotted him dressed up like Tom Cruise in Top Gun … (etc)”
Sounds a bit like that Joe Speed character has been noticed around town, it would seem?
(*scene-of-crime officer, that is)
There are a couple of ‘Huh?’ points in the story – deliberately, playing a trick on the reader. So it seems there are two people in the first exchange but it emerges that is not so … so it does require some backtracking or rereading, no doubt.
Many thanks for your comments 🙂
Are you asking if I believe my own fiction, Roy, lol? Er, of course I do!
Going down the neurodiversity route, which is a big thing in my field of work at the moment. But pushing it to the limits of plausibility. More fun out there on the edge!
In real life (TV, that is!) there are detectives like Monk and Professor T (Belgian) who have OCD, and Saga Norén from The Bridge who (it appears) is on the autism spectrum – so it’s a growing area to explore, along with the treatment of Sherlock Holmes you rightly cite.
And thanks for the compliments.
Excellent, excellent, excellent. so many layers. The intriguing foreign lilt to the narrative. ‘a foot of floss’
‘that annoying string of kebab finally comes off, he lifts it to the bathroom light, not unlike a trophy…’
Fuckin brilliant. (Wolfgang. Perfect.) I have to go to a jazz festival. (Yes, have to.) Can’t wait to come back and read your story again, Ken. This is just absolutely brilliant, sir.
Troubles By The Score
by Roy York
I knew the minute the captain called me into the office she wouldn’t have good news. She never does. We were an item once, but that was before three kids; her getting a degree and becoming independent, and a not so civil divorce.
We get along better now that we’re not married, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t get a sadistic thrill out of giving me crappy assignments. I knew deep in my soul that’s what I was going to get as I walked to her office.
“Whatcha got, Susan?”
“Homicide. Sit down Detective.”
She indicated where with a wave of the folder. I sat, knowing nothing else would happen until I did. She’s bossy. It’s her nature. While I recognized that early in our relationship, her cute rear end and perky topside kept clouding my judgement. I thought the bossiness would go away after we were married. I was wrong.
“Her neighbor found what we now know are Linda Flannery’s remains on the kitchen table after going through a meat grinder. The neighbor freaked out and called us. We found the rest of her in the freezer. ”
She tossed the file on the desk. I thumbed through it and stopped when I came to the photos. “Jesus. Are they sure it’s human?” The picture was of ground up meat laying in a pool of blood.
“They’re sure. That’s not all, look at the last picture.”
“What are those? Bloody dog paw prints?”
I looked up. “What in Hell would a wolf be doing in Chicago?”
She shrugged. “That’s what forensics told me. Get over to the house and see what you can find out. Take Toni Benson with you, she needs experience.” I sighed and shook my head. Benson was a pain in the ass, just like my ex.
“The usual; her ex-husband. If I were you, I’d start with him.”
“See, that’s the best part of this. You aren’t me. You gave this case to me. I’ll do it anyway I see fit.”
She gave me the famous Susan stare then said, “That’s fine, as long as you take Benson and start with Flannery. Oh yeah, It’s your turn to pick up the kids from school.”
Like I said, she’s bossy. I grabbed Benson and we rode over to the Flannery house where we found Joe Flannery sitting on the front porch.
We introduced ourselves and I said, “We’re pretty sure this isn’t a suicide.” Benson poked my side with her elbow. “What do you think happened?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Lenore had a lot of enemies. We haven’t lived together for several years.
“How’d you find out she was dead?”
“When the cops came and told me she was. That was yesterday, and you’re just now showing up? You should be out looking for the guy that did this.”
“How do you know it was a guy?”
“I don’t, that was a figure of speech.”
Benson and I walked into the kitchen. “He did it,” I said.
“How do you know?”
“The husband always does it, especially ex-husbands. They got cause.”
The remains were gone, but some of the blood was still there. I was fascinated by the wolf prints. Then, I noticed something and pointed it out to Benson. At first she didn’t see it. The prints were each exactly the same size, and had a distinctive notch in the fat part behind the toes. They were also irregular in the amount of blood tracked. Some were light, some were heavier. “These weren’t made by a wolf, but by someone who wanted us to think they were,” I said.
Then, the kitchen door opened from outside. A young kid stuck his head in.
I flashed a badge. “Get in here. You know anything about this?”
He looked down and pointed. “It wasn’t my dog that left those prints.”
Interrogation 101. Let ‘em talk and if you get lucky, they say something that makes it easy. “How did you know there were paw prints?”
“I uhhh … I … didn’t know.”
“You just told me there were dog prints.”
“No, those are wolf prints … I mean … I don’t know what they are.”
I shook my head. Criminals can be so stupid. “So you’ve been in the house.”
The kid, not more than fifteen or so, looked at me in fear, his face now pale. I had reached the point where the next person who talks loses. He lost.
“I was walking by and heard a scream one night about a month ago and rang the bell. Mr. Flannery answered the door and told me to get lost. Then Mrs. Flannery screamed again and I ran.”
“Why didn’t you call the cops.”
“Figured it wasn’t none of my business. My old man lays wood on my stepmother all the time. It happens.”
“I came back the next morning and looked in the window. Mr. Flannery had something in his hand and was pressing it in the blood and making those tracks on the floor. I’m pretty sure he killed her. You gotta protect me.”
“Again, why didn’t you call the cops?”
The kid just shrugged.
“Benson, go get Flannery and bring him in here.” We heard a noise and Benson ran toward the front porch drawing her gun.
I heard Benson say, “Stop or I’ll shoot.”, then a gun shot. I grabbed the kid and went onto the front porch where Flannery, still alive, lay bleeding.
“He started to run,” said Benson, “so I stopped him.”
“I guess so,”
I leaned over Flannery and told him his rights. “You’ll live. We got an eye witness. You have anything you want to say, or should I have Benson finish the job and save the state a lot of money?”
“I’ll save you the trouble of a trial. I just don’t care. I couldn’t take it anymore. She pissed me off one last time,” he said. I knew that same feeling, but I was always able to suppress it. I guess some guys just can’t hold it back after a certain point.
He continued. “I killed her, cut her up and put her in the freezer. I was grinding her up and putting her down the disposal a little at a time, figuring I’d get rid of everything before anyone ever came looking.’
He talked about it like he was taking apart a cabinet. “I was gonna leave a couple of body parts on the floor, among the paw prints. Then, anyone would think some wild dog killed and ate her over a period of time. But, someone found her before I was able to do that and they called you.”
Occasionally things just fall in your lap. “You know you can get the chair for this, don’t you?”
“What do I care? I just hope I ain’t going to the same place she is. I’ve got an inoperable brain tumor and only have a week to live.”
We booked him and I remembered I needed to get my kids. After waiting over an hour, I found out Susan had already picked them up. She better not keep pissing me off.
Pretty ghoulish story, great writing though, great dialogue and a very ingenious plot. I only have one observation.
When I read the section where the ex-wife informs him that it’s his turn to pick up the kids? I thought, ‘That’s not bossy.’ That’s informative. Bossy is when she reminds him to pick up the kids when he already knows it’s his turn, and has never forgotten to pick them up. That’s bossy.’
And, you wouldn’t even need to change the last line.
Thanks for your comments, they are greatly appreciated.
I’ll be doing some critiques on all the other stories later, but I want you to know I read yours and enjoyed it. Almost as much as last week’s story. You write well with good and quirky plots. Keep it up.
Roy – Until I get the word press number thing straightened out, I’ll be signing my name to avoid confusion.
Interesting logic in the motive, but not unbelievable as men do some crazy things when they’re in the mindset to brutalise their partner.
And a little bit disturbing how the cop, who also feels a little hen-pecked, identifies to some degree with the murderer. And again, sadly, that’s believable. The last line takes this further too – there’s a threat to his wife growing in his mind there 🙁
Makes for interesting characterisation.
I wasn’t real happy with the fact I had too much story for 1200 words and that made it a little clunky for me, but I finally trimmed it to the point I could post it. I’m really pleased people put the last line together with the murderer’s motive, and I couldn’t resist the impulse to include last week’s prompt along with the new one. What’s one more requirement when you already have 4 or 5?
My lovely wife who is a beta reader for me, actually got pissed at me. She said people would identify the character with the author, to which I replied, “Since you’re the only other person who has read it, are you saying you think I have this capability?”
She stammered a little, and said, “No.”
I now have my doubts. You seemed to have picked up on the believability of it, which was where I was going. And, I for one, often wonder if people do identify the author with offbeat scumball characters. If so, why don’t they equate them with the same enamor for their favorite characters? Maybe they do.
My ex-husbands have no reason to murder someone they do not have contact with. I am no longer important to them.Nor them to me. My son is though.
Oh well, some are lucky and some are not.
Good story and I hope the detective and his ex get on better. How did she end up as his boss I wondered.
I really like your writing style. Can’t put my finger on it, I just like it. You pack a lot of story into your writing and you never use cliches. That’s probably part of it.
You have a couple of minor errors, like an ‘ask’ instead of ‘asked’; ‘sweat’ instead of ‘sweet’; but those are not important.
The one thing that holds this story back is your use of the character’s names. After a formal introduction, you use several variations of Mr. Charles Brandish. And you have that character oddly refer to the detective, Jack Mulligan, by his full name. Over and over. This mental tic of the character is annoying, and I don’t think it adds to the story.
I think it would read so much better if Brandish was consistently referred to in the narration simply as ‘Brandish.’ And likewise it would be better to have Brandish refer to Jack Mulligan, in the dialogue simply as ‘Jack.’ Calling him Jack Mulligan in every other sentence comes across as extremely weird, without benefit of explanation.
Other than that one thing, it’s a fine story that’s very skillfully written. I always look forward to reading your stories, Dennis.
I can always count on you for a nice word about my writing even when I think it stinks. I was attempting to add to Mr. Brandish’s oddity by having him use Jack’s full name over and over again. I can see how that might me annoying however. Thanks for pointing out the mistakes. I’m going to correct them and try to get the story reposted quickly, sometimes it takes awhile.
Seems English is not your first language – like some of it may have been through a translation engine?
e.g. “Sir Daniel Burnadale, a fine gentleman of matter”, which doesn’t work though ‘gentleman of substance’ would.
I think another run through to polish it and you’re on to something 🙂
The massive, ogrish, racist cop is a great and memorable character. Racism is hard to deal with in a story (or film – e.g. the flak that The Green Book has received), and you portray this character well, his strengths and flaws are glaring.
The portrayal of the immigrant community, on the other hand, doesn’t work for me. If this had been Wolfgang’s depiction of it, then fine. He sees things in black and white.
But what we have is a set of stereotypes set out as the factual narrative context of the story. These are the kind of tropes one finds on an alt-right website: the immigrant no-go area (Slaughterhouse district) of dark-skinned (apparently Muslim) people where there are honour killings and where white European girls aren’t safe – the dark-skinned lawless Muslim immigrants even cook them and eat them. And serve them up to cops.
Now maybe I’m a born-again snowflake, but I think some nuance might have helped?
The Wolves of Balmoral Hall!(Re-write #1)
By Neha Neil
Word count= 1,029
“Wait, tell me this again!” Brandon Hatten leaned back on his sturdy chair, smoking a tobacco. Smoke flooded the room, making Watson Brand cough and wheeze.
“It is believed that the murder of this young man was a carcinogenic curse brought back to the late 2000’s.”
Brandon Hatten cautiously stared across the room towards his assistant Watson, trying to unravel the mystery of this all in his lost thoughts.
It was a fine morning upon Burnishing street, and detective Brandon Hatten was on another mysterious case again. It was his 150th case in a row, but this one was yet to be solved.
“So, you say that no one was there during this disastrous incident!”
Watson took a deep breath, before taking out an ancient manuscript from the bottom of his pockets, and then handing it over to Brandon.
“This, sir is a legend found in the year 2007, believed to be a relation to the case, which you desire to accomplish.
For a moment Brandon just stared down at the tattered paper in his hand, wondering what clues it held.
It was that very day that Dr Harrison had assigned them with a case of a severe murder, namely a murder of Sir Daniel Burnadale, a fine gentleman of substance. This gentleman was said to have died of a supernatural cause, which was never discovered. All they know was that the very gentleman had been taking a peaceful stroll in Balmoral park before found dead hours after taking a wrong route towards Heathrow police station, found by a guard off duty that had been of a drunken man at the time.
Brandon cautiously placed down his tobacco before adjusting his speckled glasses, unfolding the dilapidated paper to be able to read out loud:
‘It was Monday 13th February 2007 when the incident occurred. All had been quiet at Balmoral park, except from the howling of barbarous wolves. And there far beyond the borders of the park, cased in a special container that scintillated like shimmering stars in the starry sky, had been the Tail of Balmoral hall. Yet it laid untouched for many centuries (even now) until that very day.
His name was Gomer Burnadale known to be impudent and arrogant of mind. He was a Canadian and had lived in Canada for some time, before moving to Balmoral square to be able to work as a History teacher in Rosmary School of amazement. It was during the subject of the Tail of Balmoral Hall, was when Burnadale had increased such interest of wanting power over this mysterious artefact.
It had been laid down at balmoral park by the owner of the Hall, before the family during that dynasty had evacuated from an enormous fire breakout. It was said that this tail belonged to the unnamed owner’s hound, killed during the breakout of the combustion. Because historians had an increasing interest in this artefact, the tail had been cased and placed at the very spot in Balmoral park, reminding people of the history behind the tail of Balmoral Hall.
Gomer knew nothing about how he would uncase this wonderful artefact without setting of an alarm or what he was to do if he was to get caught, however , he had managed to use the withering ivy to make his way up and over the locked gate of Balmoral park. Fortunately, it was lustrous with the moonlight shining upon the beauteous surroundings, which urged him on my helping him orientate his way through the many trees towards the cased off area of which the tail laid.
Some say that the security was out on guard and had said to be so drunken as to topple over Gomer before handing him over the keys to the case in such a frenzy. The time had been 3.00 am in the morning, and the sun had started to glitz, making the scenery seem lighter than it had been.
The wind had whistled wildly, circulating the shivering Gomer. But he did not mind the wind, and so stepped forward with bated breath. Then it was said that he came upon a glistening light at the centre of the park that brightened and brightened at every step Gomer took.
Some say it was the spirit of the hound that came to take revenge on the sinful Gomer who had previously stolen many precious artefacts of Leamington Spa gallery, however, some say that Gomer was in bad luck as it was the 13th, a day that you would call an extremely unlucky day.
The very next morning police were summoned upon a pernicious case of murder at Balmoral park. When they had arrived at the scene, they identified the body of Gomer Burnadale laid dead on the floor, blood oozing out from his ripped throat. It was said that the teeth marks left behind were those of a vicious hound, very rare in these parts now!
Dear Grandchildren, this shall be reminded of you the devils awakening spirit and the sudden destruction of sinful lives of those who wish to steal the tail of the hounds and those who sneak into Balmoral park at night. (This was a letter written by Paul Burnadale, younger brother of Gomer, to his two young children Daniel and Henry.)’
Brandon took a deep breath, before handing back the tattered manuscript back to Watson.
“Tell me about this more Watson!”
Watson, now suffocating from the smoke that had risen as he spoke, stretched his dusty tie out and sat on a leather seat next to Brandon, before continuing his investigation theory.
“Where had the blood been oozing out from?”Burnadale asked, slightly conscious of the time running past.
“From his ripped-out throat, suspected to be a wolves bite!”
“There had been found a few yards from Sir Daniel a paw print that had been identified as a ‘Capntigolicionaicel,’ a rare breed of wolf!
Burnadale raised his eyebrow in surprise, before settling down to a cup of hot cappuccino and some tender biscuits.
“Well, well, well, this must be the case of the hounds of Balmoral Hall!” he said, before ushering me out of his front door.
‘Capntigolicionaicel,’ a rare breed of wolf!’ A rare breed of wolf indeed. So rare in fact, that it cannot be pronounced, nor correctly spelled, nor researched, nor found. It does not show up in a google search from Mercury to Jupiter, including the vast reaches of the hemorrhoid belt.
These rare wolves, perhaps they can only be seen early in the pre-dawn twilight, just before the sun starts to glitz, while the shimmering stars are still scintillating in the starry sky?
But I dimose from the thrust of my cantilevered flock. Your syntax was, at times more sinister than the story’s plot, and you seem prone to ubiquitous and exuberant redundancies, as well as a predilection for the inclination towards the inclusion of repetitive information. But I fraught not. For the vagaries betwixt the nuances is the realm of the inscrutable. And there it shall re-toast itself. Burnt. Sundered. Over-easy.
Seriously? It’s a fun and creative story, the re-write showed considerable improvement over the previous version, but was still a little loose in the legerdemain. But you’re getting there.
by Ken Miles
1,200 words (excluding title and this line)
Serge Wolf spits in the sink and watches the blood-stained stream of toothpaste travel slowly towards the middle. He feels defeated.
He hasn’t inched any closer towards finding Yanika Preis. All he’s managed was to have the boys remove Erika Preis, her mother, from his desk at the Police Station. He wouldn’t take her crying under his chin for another minute. Wolf assured her he’ll find Yanika. This must be just a teen-runaway case, easy and straightforward. Or so he thought. But it’s proving to be anything but. He’s now run out of leads.
He is starting to feel sick too. He shouldn’t have eaten so much.
He spits more toothpaste, then cuts a foot of floss, as he mentally goes over the day’s events. He must have missed something, somewhere. Yanika Preis couldn’t have just vanished into thin air.
Sergeant Wolfgang Vollmann isn’t known as Serge Wolf for nothing. He isn’t by any measure a likeable guy. Rough in attitude and manner, he is one of the old guard. They don’t make police-officers like that anymore. Forty years in the Force and two weeks till retirement, he’s reputed to have once smashed two criminals’ heads together, killing them both. That’s probably police lore, for there would’ve been consequences. Nonetheless, he’d do it if he had to. Seven feet tall and carrying around some 400 pounds, he is a fearful sight, a mountain of a man. And he won’t hesitate to throw in his full weight to fix a crook.
“No fuckin’ guns!” he told the boys today afternoon. That’s how he called the other officers, ‘the boys’. This no-gun mantra was a thing of his, a true believer in brute muscle power.
“But it’s Schlachthauserhof, Serge,” protested one officer.
An invisible wall separates that downtrodden district from the rest of Dullheim. The Dreists run that place like their fiefdom, as they always have. Townhall turns a blind eye. The police, both. The rival Dreist cousin-clans can settle their own scores, their own way.
But this time things spilled over. Yanika Preis isn’t one of theirs. The teenager crossed the invisible wall when she dated Herbert Dreist. Yesterday, she didn’t return to her single-mother’s home.
“Dated? The Dreists don’t do dating! They only do marriage business-deals,” Constable Jaeger informed Wolf, “Miss Preis isn’t gonna extend them territory or wealth, she’s only gonna be in the way. This fool Herbert should’ve known, the Dreists aren’t allowed to love. I’ve a bad feeling about this case, Sergeant.”
“Fuckin’ medieval stuff!” Wolf replied to Schlachthauserhof-born Jaeger, with unmistakable contempt.
“But then, once married, they don’t let’em wives run off with every fresh dick,” Jaeger hit back, not at all unaware of Wolf’s recent bitter divorce battle.
“Kna’what? If you weren’t a police-officer, I’d twist your neck like a chicken’s!”
Jaeger wasn’t scared of the big man, just a rank his superior. The two often had such altercations, and held each other in disdain. They kept at arm’s length and things just wound down naturally.
“Fine!” Wolf said, after a long pause. “Since I have to work with sissies, I’ll come along too. You dig up the dirt. I’ll hang around. If one of them Trolls lifts but a finger at you, I’ll shatter his head against the nearest pillar. But no fuck’n guns. Got me?”
Jaeger just frowned, but kept quiet this time.
Wolf had only once, at thirteen, been to Schlachthauserhof. There was a church there with a particularly graphic painting of the Ecce Homo his dad wanted to show him, to impress upon the adolescent rebel what would become of him if he insulted his father once more. Wolf glared at that church, now abandoned, as he walked down Schlachthauserhoferstrasse, earlier today, and dedicated a profanity to his long-gone old man.
Incognito and in plain clothes, Wolf got to the steakhouse owned by the sixteen-year old Herbert Dreist, a baptism-gift, that also included the apartments upstairs, from Karl Dreist, his paternal ascendant. The Sparkasse security-camera next door caught a glimpse of Yanika Preis going in there. That’s the last trace of her. No footage showed her going out.
“So she’s obviously still in there!” Wolf told himself with confidence. “Elementary, Dr Watson!”
Wolf sat down at a table and asked the waiter for the best of the day, large portion: enough food to keep him under cover till the boys were ready. And, in any case, he wasn’t one who survived on a nibble.
“So, double for you, Sir?” the waiter squeaked, his accent betraying his recent import into the country.
Wolf lifted four chubby fingers.
“So, four times, Sir?” asked, bewildered, the undernourished lizardly waiter.
Wolf just tapped on his pompous tummy in reply, no words needed.
A police-car arrived. The unusual scene caused some commotion. Kids swarmed around the vehicle. Equally curious mothers pulled them away. Five uniformed officers, led by Jaeger, went inside the building. Wolf expected them to walk out with Yanika in minutes. End of the story. Then he’ll enjoy his meal in peace.
The skinny waiter commuted several times to bring all Wolf’s food, each time gesticulating with excessive servile courtesy to his patron.
“What are them cops doing here?” Wolf asked the waiter. You just never know – this idiot might have beans to spill.
“My Master, Sir, he had outings with young lady. Then lady evaporated. So, him blamed for that. Him good guy, my Master.”
“Evaporated! Outings? You mean ‘dates’?”
“Yes, Sir, I don’t speaks very well.”
Wolf chewed on that word ‘Master’, as he devoured his mountains of steak – so it’s really slavery, shameless modern slavery, he couldn’t help thinking.
He’d incredibly downed everything and the restaurant was about to close by the time the boys finally emerged. Yanika wasn’t with them!
The acrid smell of whatever illegal shit was used to clean the restaurant with was starting to bother Wolf. He just wanted to get away from that place.
As the boys left the building, only Jaeger dared glance back at Wolf with that ‘I told you so’ look firmly imprinted on his face. They carefully placed the plastic-bags with the objects they lifted inside the trunk and left.
By late evening all forensic tests of the items from the steakhouse came back negative. The special-forces had finished combing the woods of Dullheim, the scuba-team the lake. Every minute of footage from all cameras in and out of Schlachthauserhof had been scanned in great detail. But no trace of Yanika Preis.
Wolf jams his thick fingers inside his mouth, struggling to floss between his back molars. That annoying string of meat finally comes off. Relieved, he lifts it to the bathroom light, not unlike a trophy, as if to celebrate victory over that minor misery.
As he observes the glowing fragment, he starts shaking. They had beefsteak, on the menu. And pork-steak. And the special one of the day that the lizard-man got him. Special Steak? Just what the fuck is in ‘Special Steak’?
His lips move, almost involontarily: “Yanika Preis!”
He stares at the unsettling, grave sight of his ugly distended abdomen.
“Wolfgang Vollmann. Moron!” he chastizes himself, “Detective School, Lesson One: Whatever you do, don’t eat the goddam victim!”
I am wondering how he could be incognito at seven feet tall and 400 pounds. He would kind of stand out, I believe unless the people around him have severe dementia and do not remember people from one moment to the next? I fancy he would need a Harry Potter invisibility cloak.
“Wolf just tapped on his pompous tummy in reply.”
affectedly grand, solemn, or self-important.
“a pompous ass who pretends he knows everything”
I am trying to imagine a pompous tummy. At present, my imagination is bringing up all sorts of weird images. I leave it to you. I understand literary licence however. I got a wonderful image of a know-it-all stomach with a smirk. Interesting!
Going back to my wonderful Rosh Hashannah borscht soup. It’s calming despite being a mixture of wild black rice, lamb shanks and beetroot plus onion and herbs. Looks like blood with bits of meat floating in it amidst the wild black rice. The rice is pretty wild too. Doing a dance amidst the blood red soup. LOL
Why don’t you try magisterial stomach or imperious stomach?
Otherwise an interesting story and good plot line. I have to say that was the best part. You could rework it a little to make a tighter more believeable story.
My comment was that this monster sized detective did not seem overly perturbed that he may have eaten the victim and they would find traces of human flesh in the cooking pots to be sure. My comment is to do your research and build on your story and edit.
– I’m reminded of Tsar Peter the Great who used to go and work ‘incognito’ in the naval shipyards, despite being 7 feet tall and having a retinue of bodyguards. I guess people had no choice but to play along!
So sometimes people do kid themselves it’s possible, I guess …
This was one of the points that worried me when devising this story. Indeed, the whole idea of coming up with a no-go district – a world of its own within what I perceive is a large metropolitan city – was to create a safe-haven for this large man to remain unrecognized, in order for the plot to work properly.
Now, it could be that he *thinks* he’s unrecognized. Perhaps he very much is, and that’s why he was fed what he was. But that’s another matter.
A man of his size certainly can’t go unnoticed, but being actually recognized is another thing. I made sure to point out that the last time he was in that district was when he was 13 years old. Now he must be in his early sixties (“two weeks till retirement”). So I can’t imagine anyone recognizing from that one sole visit so long before.
The only person he actually relates to in “Slaughterhouseplace” is the waiter, who I purposefully portray as “a recent import into the country” who can’t even yet speak the language properly.
In spite of all these measures, it still seems (from your reactions, Andy and Ilana so far), that it’s still not quite a credible solution. If I use this story elsewhere in the future, I will try to reinforce this issue. Perhaps I’d make Wolf himself concerned about it. He may shave his life-long emblematic Sergeant’s Moustache. [This may give me an opportunity to induce some black(ish) humor in the story – like him remarking “my curtain will be down in a fortnight, an old rotting rat needs no whiskers…” or Jaeger: “Gosh you look like my mother-in-law with a bad shave!”]
Or just make no fuss about it and leave that word ‘incognito’ out. Maybe I attracted too much attention by emphasizing that. Perhaps he’s recognized, perhaps he’s not. Fact is he doesn’t recognize the meat.
What do you think? (I may really use this story for my next project elsewhere, so all advice is worth its weight in gold to me!)
PS. As for Peter the Great, I may believe he could get away with it back then. After a century of moving pictures – and a new one of social-media – we’re so used to this “nowhere to hide mentality” that we may forget how much shadowier the world of past centuries must have been… But, true, it may be the other workers just played along, that’s a very viable explanation too.
I know of a particular Archbishop whose face was all over TV back in the day, who used to go “incognito” (with a few cosmetic facial alterations) to the cinema, ostensibly to get to know first hand “what the people are watching”. He dragged along with him his secretary, a Vicar who also presided over the board for film censorship ratings. I got to know this story from the Vicar himself, who is a family friend. It was in the pre-Netflix (pre-Internet!) days, of course. Nowadays, he wouldn’t have had to get bothered!
‘incognito – Having one’s true identity concealed.’
He was in plain clothes, incognito. They didn’t know he was a cop. The word you’re thinking of is inconspicuous. Yes, it would be difficult for a 7 foot, 400 pound man to be inconspicuous, but incognito is a person hiding their true identity. Anyone can do it.
The same goes for ‘pompous.’ His pompous stomach works perfectly, because his stomach is larger than life, but not something he’s proud of. When I read that word, I thought that Ken considered it very carefully before choosing to use it. And if his claims can be believed, that’s exactly what he did.
Andy, you know I like you man, I think you’re a really wonderful guy, and a great writer, and a knowledgeable and cheerful voice on the thread. Your advice is usually excellent. So much so, that I find myself disseminating your advice. But on this, you’re dead wrong, Bucko. I wish you wouldn’t try to convince other writers to adopt a pc-washed approach to telling stories. At least, not Mr. Miles.
Ken’s description of the ghetto is full-fledged and genuine. Like any ghetto, or area of concentrated immigrants or refugees, it may seem blighted, and to some extent must be, but Ken’s description painted a picture of colorful buildings, clotheslines, dirty children playing in dirt, dreadful hoodlums loitering in dank hallways. A place of danger and dread for outsiders, but a sanctuary for those who live there. It’s not heaven, or hell, it’s just a ghetto. Ken conveys its essence with amazing accuracy and brevity. A goddamned masterpiece of linguistic power.
My reaction to the original story was that the overload of stereotypes made me uncomfortable, and the word I used was ‘nuance’. It wasn’t a call for PC-washing, as you put it, or to delete it. Just some nuance.
Making readers uncomfortable can be OK, like stuff by the French author Michel Houellebecq. Pulls no punches on what he portrays as the Islamicisation of France. (Is that how you spell Islamicisation? My spellchecker offers no advice). Controversial, but also layered.
However – I do regularly see posts forwarded on by dimwits on social media that originate from far right sites. Interestingly, often reposted by evangelical Christian ‘news’ sites, which is how they get to otherwise nice friendly people: ‘facts’ about how white (Aryan?) girls are abducted and raped or murdered on a daily basis by Muslim immigrants in Germany. They even have the (untrue) numbers. All makes perfect sense. Immigrants are portrayed pretty much as verminous people behaving verminously. And we know where that can lead.
I’ve recently come back from Austria, where there was an election going on. They have an extremely far right party there, makes Trump look like a liberal. They were even part of the government till recently. You see election posters up saying “Austria for the Austrians” and such like – no doubting what they’re evoking, what they mean, which other Austrian they’re echoing.
My original comment was deleted along with Ken’s story, and I don’t want to repeat it as the story has gone. I could start wittering on about the social responsibility of the writer and I think there is something of that.
But, in general terms, and from the creative point of view, I think if you’re going to deal with whole groups of people in a realistic way you need to dig beneath the tropes and stereotypes, rather than use those as building blocks for a story. If you write a story from the POV of a racist, or include those tropes in their dialogue, that’s one thing. But an omniscient narrator should have a more rounded viewpoint.
I’m with DH Lawrence on this, who said something like when dealing with the culturally unfamiliar, you need to have a ‘ghost’ inside you that can see both ways, or many ways. So in writing about ghettoes and immigrant communities I think there’s a need to get under the skin of the place and the people. If they’re the villains, let them be real people not two-dimensional stock foreign villains aligning with majority-fear archetypes.
I guess it’s hard to get the necessary character-depth in a very short story, but worth the effort surely.
I was indeed torn on whether to heed Andy’s intriguing advice or not – the voice of caution eventually prevailed and I took the challenge to rework the story in a way that it runs along the same plot, but on top of a different background.
It’s Serge Wolf’s story, after all. The rest was created around him, so that his story may take place. I needed a place where he can go incognito, or else the plot won’t really work too well. The immigrant ghetto (where the population changed in a wholesale manner since he had last been there) gave me that opportunity.
But it apparently brought up new issues of another kind, for some at least. Not for everyone, though, as I can see from your reaction – expressing a totally opposite viewpoint.
Like you, I sort of prefer the original setup, as it sounds more contemporary (immigration is the issue of our times). The family-gangland version would have been more theme-of-the-day at the turn of the other century. I was tempted to move everything to southern Italy, where that kind of scenario still sort of prevails even nowadays. But I had a story in Rome last week, of the Orange Cat, and I didn’t feel like going back there again.
The changes I had to apply to create the second version were quite an interesting challenge in themselves – I tried to keep as much as possible of the original write-up, but a lot had to get dressed in new attire to make perfect sense. It was quite a good writing exercise all in all. So I’m not whining about it.
It’s also quite an interesting take on the debate about what and what not to (self-)censor and how different people react to the same piece in such a diverse way.
I was quite keen, in my first story, not to paint things too much in B&W. Bad things happen of course, and honor killings are probably the pinnacle of human horrors – making Serge Wolf’s repellent personality seem mild in comparison. That was my main idea for this story: to bring this big man down to size. For once in his life, humiliate him. But, while showing its horrific side, I also described the ethnic neighborhood as “rowdy, colorful, where fun is a priority”, which are positive things to me. In contrast, the larger town is called Dullheim, as in “Dull”, refering to the rather boring, bland, all-work-and-no-play atmosphere one finds in most European-only areas.
Now it’s gangland, instead, the traditional type – with intrafamily feuds and Godfathers and all. Also a fascinating theme. But which could have been left for another time. And I’m still not in the clear. Now I have the Dreist family after me. I revealed too much about them. Can’t please everyone, can I!
On the choice of words:
If, as you say, “incognito” is being mixed up with “incospicuous”, perhaps I should leave that word out altogether, and let the sense come across through the narrative itself. This is another thing I’m often torn about – should I change things to avoid misinterpretation by the reader or be stubborn and challenge the reader? One would usually say the latter is nobler, but, ultimately, what’s written is written to be read, for the reader to enjoy…
I have a big writing project in mind for some of my stories (and anyone else who may want to join me), for which popularity among readers is going to be a factor. Not the biggest factor – “damn good writing” remains tops.
Some pandering, or at least a certain degree of accommodation, to the readers is therefore something I do ponder upon while writing. Especially with this project in mind. This Place for Fiction Writers is a good lab-setting for this. And I appreciate all views – from Andy’s to yours – as part of my edification in understanding readers needs and desires, in all their extremities. Without, of course, denying myself any of my rights and joys as a writer.
So, in short, maybe “incognito” is not a very reader-friendly term. Pompous, next.
I wrote a detailed explanation to Ilana about my choice of the word “pompous”, so I won’t repeat it again here. You can read it below or above, wherever that message has chosen to appear. Your evaluation is quite correct, Ken, very much along the lines of what I had in mind. Except perhaps for Serge Wolf actually being somewhat proud of his excessive weight – it gives him presence and power. And also the freedom to eat as much as he likes of what he likes. Until, that is, his overconfidence and gluttony lead him to make of his tummy a grave for poor Yanika Preis. It’s the price (“preis” is German for “price”, pronounced almost the same) he has to pay for his excessive personality and life-long arrogance.
I’m flattered by your defense of my writing style and manner. I’m appalled to have somewhat disappointed you by changing my first story (I read your very favorable comment about it, and kept a copy of it before it went down with the removed piece; also a copy of Andy’s comment of course, appreciated too for the other point of view, which I take seriously as well). Again, this whole process, this week, has been a very interesting experience and experiment to me 🙂 Thank you Ken, Andy, Ilana for contributing to it.
The only thing I’m not happy about (besides the fact I may be dead by tonight at the Dreists’ hands) is that I’m left with next to no time to comment on some of the other stories the way I usually do. There is some really good stuff out there (and still more to read) (and it’s already Wednesday). And, alas, work (the one I’m paid to do!) is piling up on my desk too…
Kenneth C. Kilometers
(the politically-correct version)
(and, phew! my middle name is not “Keith” – that would’ve been very, very embarrassing…)
What you say is all correct, of course. I may have joked about it here and there (and I don’t think there is anything under the sun so serious to be exempt from being subjected to some degree of humour. Churchill himself quipped some of his best classics during the darkest hour…), but at the same time I see very well the seriousness of your argument.
If the pen is mightier than the sword (and I suppose it still is), social responsibility ought to be an issue for writers to consider.
Indeed, I took the drastic measure to change my story, thanks to your valid calls. Even if it cost me to lose some of its “contemporariness” in doing so (see my full explanation of this in my reply to Ken C.).
My first reaction was to just expand a little on the ethnic ghetto to make it clear that one man’s (or family’s) actions – in this case the honour killing of Yanika Preis – does not make the whole community guilty of it. Horrific things happen in all community, by individuals or families within them.
But then I realised that, I really wasn’t going to have the space to do that within the very restrictive the word limit. Such layering and nuance on what was actually the background and not even the main element (Serge Wolf) of the story need more words. Or a better word craftsman than I am. There are too many guillotines at once with flash fiction! Somehow getting the backstory out right, the unsparing word-limit, dealing with ethical issues…
I was very aware of the ethnic thingy while devising the story. That’s why, perhaps, your comment did strike a chord with me, when it appeared. I had tried to be careful. The names Lentor and Bedyl are completely fictitious, made up by me. “Lento” in Italian, is slow, because I had in mind a rather dim-witted young man who was not himself guilty of the slaughtering of Yanika Preis, but who was culturally-ignorant enough to put her in grave danger at the hands of his sanguine family. This word made its way into English, by way of music terminology. But, I didn’t expect all readers to see that – I’m just explaining where I got the inspiration for the name for.
I didn’t mention, at any point, any particular ethnicity, religion or nationality. Alas, the choice of meat might have been the only thing that was quite suggestive! It was at one of those restaurants (where I’m often found, myself!), while I could see the meat for my sandwich being carved by a huge machete-like knife, that the idea of what could really be in that meat came to me! Just a fictitious idea – fodder for my story – not that I had any real doubt in the meat or the nice guy who was preparing my lunch – I can assure you I had no qualms about downing my sandwich!
In my story I wasn’t completely negative about the “ghetto” area (lively, colorful, etc. in contrast with the rest of Dull-heim), in an effort to see both the good and the bad sides.
All this to say that the issue was very much present in me, all the way, and I don’t blame you for also noticing it.
This is going to end up becoming the most deeply debated story in the history of “A Place For…”, which wouldn’t be a bad thing, really!
But I’ve got to leave it at that, as time is my enemy right now.
Thanks Andy, as always, for taking the time to read and comment. Much appreciated.
I heard it said in here that, whether they’re a slap on the face or a pat on the back, your comments, when they do come, are renowned for their sincerity. So I’m pleased to receive such a long one about my story – which I read with wholehearted interest.
Good you found the story interesting, plot-wise – I mean, that’s the backbone, all else can be fixed.
I had two main issues of great concern while creating this story, that could have affected its overall viability. I tried to work around them and thought I somehow solved (or at least “smothered”) them, but the fact that you pointed them out to me (the incognito bit and the forensic tests of the cooking pots) goes to show that I need to iron them out further.
I already wrote something about the incognito issue further down as an answer to both you and Andy. So, I won’t repeat it here.
About the forensic police surely finding some traces of Yanika’s DNA on the cooking utensils, I totally agree with you – they surely would with today’s technology. But Sergeant Wolf wasn’t even considering this case a murder case, not even a kidnap, at first – just a teen-runaway case. So, the preliminary tests may have concentrated solely on video-footage and such and not actual forensics.
When Yanika wasn’t found, I do specify that the cops lifted some items for lab testing. But it hadn’t as yet crossed their minds that she may have not only been murdered, but actually *cooked*. That revelation only comes at the end, to the not-so-dumb Sergeant (someone else would have just rolled the flossed-out fragment between his fingers and wash it down the sink). So they would not have lifted any items/samples from the kitchen/restaurant. That was my logic.
However, as your comment indicates, I evidently failed to make all this clear enough. I’m wondering how to fix this. Perhaps I leave the lab testing out altogether (but most readers would then most probably bring it up to me – why wasn’t it done?). Or I specify clearly that the police lifted objects for testing from Herbert’s apartment upstairs. After all, that’s where they expected to find Yanika, not in the restaurant/kitchen. After the flossing incident, they of course need to go back to that kitchen ASAP. But my story ends before that.
As a side note, I added that part about the mysterious acrid chemical they used to clean the restaurant with (which was bothering Wolf) as a possible explanation as to why nothing was detected in the lab. I think that these criminals knew what they were doing and used this chemical to destroy all evidence. But, I understand (and was aware of it, also at the time of writing) that not all readers would make this connection.
I am not keen on going into detail on police procedure (of which I actually happen to possess quite an extensive knowledge) as I think it’s quite boring and I’m not fond of procedures in general, anyway. That’s why, whenever I involve police officers in my stories, they are always the oddball types who don’t follow their own in-house rules, either due to flaws in their character like arrogance or a know-better follow-my-hunch attitude, which in the end often prevails over procedure. I find such characters much “sexier” (in a very wide sense of the this word – don’t get me wrong!) than conforming characters who just follow the rule-book.
Well that was a long one!
W.r.t the pompous tummy, that’s more amusing, I suppose! I used that word deliberately, knowing I’m taking a risk but perhaps to stretch the metaphor a little bit too. Out of the dictionary definitions you gave me, “affectedly grand” does perhaps get close to what I had in mind. “Grand” not only in the physical sense, but in the big role Wolf’s large belly had in his life.
“Affectedly” because we know he is a food-lover, but also because it gives him presence and a sense of self-aggrandizement. He doesn’t see himself as a fitness failure, but as a large no-nonsense guy no-one would dare mess around with.
Of course I kill his ego – and his tummy – at the end of the story, when I make him realize what he ate. He made a glaring misjudgement, he was after all taken for a ride. At that point I do dare call his pompous tummy “ugly” and “grave” (also in the sense of tomb – the girl he was looking for is indeed “buried” in his belly, as if it was her grave). I was going to write “her final resting place”, but then refrained (as he needs to go to the toilet at some point. Did I even need to say this?).
I very much like your suggestion to replace “pompous” with “magisterial” or “imperious”. I think I’ll pick “imperious” if I use this story again elsewhere – it contains an embedded sense of power in it, with an ironic twist to it. Thanks! Very fitting.
Then there is your point about Wolf not being too perturbed about having eating a human being. To tell you the truth I had him puke, flooding the whole bathroom, in my first draft. But the whole disgusting scene was going to make *me* puke too! Plus, I was well over the word limit.
So, instead, I went for the more regal solution of having him lift the flossed-out fragment of meat to the light, rather Olimpically, and that’s when he truly sees the light and understands what had happened. True, a normal person would be much more shaken, I suppose, after coming into terms with that. But I think, one like Wolf can take it. He really finished his long career with a bang!
Your Rosh Hashannah borscht soup… well, sounds intriguing. Delicious too. But I’d only consider it after this story is completely out of my head. And there is also Halloween coming soon…
Whoa – did I break the record here for the longest-ever non-story Comment?
I think I did…
Thanks again Ilana!
I just needed a no-go area of some sort where Serge Wolf won’t be recognized – or else the story won’t work.
So it’s gangland now, instead of an ethnically marked area. It may now seem a bit less contemporary, but my main interest remains in how this larger-than-life veteran police officer gets taken for a very rough ride – so that’s still all in there!
Thanks, Andy, for letting me in on you thoughts and feelings (on both versions).
Born-again snowflake? Ha – loved that one 🙂
Going off at a literary tangent – Have you read China Miéville’s ‘City and the City’? It’s a detective story in a kind of uniquely divided city, where one is never entirely sure where the border is or what jurisdictions apply. It’s a brilliant concept and clever plot (though maybe the characterisation actually isn’t as strong as yours?). But a very good read IMHO.
Sorry to break into your mutual-respect-fest. (Especially with this.) If it sounds like I’m pissed off, it’s because I read the exchange of comments regarding your story.
If you touched a hair on this story’s head, one tiny little hair, you will find my new attitude toward you will be most inhospitable, unless, by some miracle of God’s Divine Grace, And Benevolence, you have saved the previous version. Which you Should then Restore, to its Rightful Place, as your Final Draft. Hopefully, you didn’t do that.
This story was perfect, Ken. A perfect story, perfectly executed, perfectly written. (Except for one extra word and one misspelled word.) It was so good, that these two mistakes were the story’s only imperfections, two words. It was like two tiny drops of paint on a huge and perfect billboard. That’s why I didn’t mention them in my previous comment, which was so enthusiastic, that I used foul language and forgot your first name, Ken. (I called you Miles.) I assume that that is why the comment was deleted. Because I called you Miles. It must be, because I use foul language all the (expletive deleted) time, and it rarely gets deleted. (But I’m going to eschew all profanity for the moment, just to be on the safe side. Because, you never know.)
As for the story, Ken M., I was really intrigued by how much thought you put into its various aspects, but I didn’t need any explanations. The story speaks for itself and is absolutely magnificent. Much like its main character, larger than life. A lifelong cop who has seen it all, and then, two weeks before his retirement—he gets a big kiss off from the criminal community for his lifelong dedication to their misery and racist harassment.
That’s what makes the story so devilishly divine. He’s certainly no angel, though he sees himself as fair-minded, he’s a racist brute, so its ironic that through his men’s general incompetence, he ends up eating the victim and the evidence on one of the last most tragic cases of his career, and realizes this fact in the next to last sentence of the story. It’s brilliant, Ken. And the beauty of your description of the immigrant community, is that you’ve maintained their anonymity. You never say what ethnicity they are. (If you did, I was unaware of it.) They’re simply ‘darker’ than Policeman Wolf.
Also, (to further address the concerns of your critics) you hint at your main character’s repulsion at what he’s done, but the story ends before the part where he has to ‘digest’ that information. Which, let’s face it, will likely be for the rest of his life. (Although, the character strikes me as the kind of guy who could (after the initial bellyache) put that whole affair behind him as easily (or not) as a divorce.
No Ken, this story is very well conceived and composed, and a lot of the genius in this story are the traits you’ve bestowed upon your character.
Here are the two mistakes I found. (The only two mistakes I found.)
1. “No fuckin’ guns,” he told the boys today afternoon.’ (Was it today? Or this afternoon?)
2. ‘His lips move, almost involontarily.’ (involuntarily.)
I just re-read the story, Mr. Miles, just for the sheer pleasure of it, to find—that you have changed it.
It’s not as good as it was. Hardly. It’s author used a consultant and it shows. A Baptist culprit in a clan infested neighborhood of what? Stranded pilgrims? I’m totally confused. The immigrant waiter is merely a coincidence? The trip past the abandoned church, what was that for? It meant nothing to me. It was a distraction.
The changes you made have left a trail of confusion and stretched credibility.
I’m sorry, but I’m disappointed in the changes you’ve made. (And the feeble rationale used to explain the ‘new and improved’ motives.) In one passage, you explain how the young victim’s inability to increase wealth or power to anyone in either of the ‘clans’ will render her a problem. Not likely. Lacking political value, she poses no threat, therefore, I see no motive for ‘the clan’ or ‘gang’ or whatever they are, to murder her in the first place.
Furthermore, in the previous version, there were certain implied reasons why she may not have come home, which matches Policeman Wolf’s confident belief that she’ll turn up harmed maybe, but alive and in one piece.
The new version raises the possibility of a serious crime, which no longer jibes with his laid back approach to the search, he certainly doesn’t act like his officers might find a dead body, yet that is more strongly inferred in their discussion at the precinct. Doesn’t make quite as much sense anymore. This is the problem with making changes to an already well-composed story.
The changes you made do not enhance, they force unneeded complexity, diluting the plot, weakening the power of the story. They are unnecessary accommodations.
It’s still a wonderful story Mr. Miles, despite the mauling you gave it, but I don’t like this version nearly as much as the previous one.
By the way, Mr. Miles, I wrote a story with a similar theme a few years ago on this site. It was a scary Halloween contest story, and I called it ‘Good Neighbor’ I think. About a woman who is befriended by a middle-aged neighbor who suddenly starts inviting all of her neighbors over for barbeques, while complaining that her philandering husband has run off with a younger woman. (Hint: The meat she served had a weird, totally unique flavor that the mc had never encountered before.) I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.
Well, German city setting, white flight, dark-skinned immigrants, honour killings, seeing European women as promiscuous, kebab shop, abducting and murdering a white girl – so the type of community is not named, but I’m guessing from this combination they’re not Buddhists, Mennonites or Samoans…
And to be honest, I wasn’t enchanted by the denouement of the original where a racist gets his comeuppance by eating the victim of a racially-aggravated murder – wasn’t sure what to make of that, seems the victim gets done by racists twice over.
Sorry. I did and do love the depiction of the main character
All I was suggesting was a bit of nuance in the context …
Andy, I just want you to know that I’m not really mad at you. And I welcome a discussion about writing from any conceivable angle. I’m sure that you and I agree on most political subjects. Unless I’m completely wrong about you, I expect you’re liberal, environmentally friendly, socially progressive. Me too. I have dozens of unflattering pictures of me actually hugging trees. I’m a staunch environmentalist and I fight for the environment in my home town against developers and apathetic city planners. I’ve been called a snowflake, and much worse on account of my liberal views.
Mr. Miles was very gracious to incorporate your suggestions into his story. It’s true that you didn’t force him to. And he took it as an interesting literary challenge, so no harm is done one would think. But my biggest issue here is the fact that your advice, and Mr. Miles’ re-write, did not result in an equal, or better story. Far from it. You think I disagree with your desire for responsible writing? Not at all. I couldn’t care less about your philosophy, or maybe I do, I don’t know what it is. I’m indignant because you managed to influence another writer to adjust his story to conform to your literary philosophical view— at the expense of the story.
Setting aside the issue of who appointed you as unofficial arbitrator of what’s responsible and what isn’t, a more relevant observation is the high probability that your take on that part of the story wasn’t very accurate. So how valid could your opinion be?
In my equally quasi-relevant opinion, your advice diminished the power and beauty of the story. Advice that does that deserves more criticism than the story itself, no matter how well-intentioned.
This is fiction. Mr. Miles presents us with a wonderfully gruesome story of murder and irony, and you’re worried about the portrayal of the immigrants. Come, on. You did a disservice to a wonderful story.
I’ve read every story here at least twice, and commented on all. We all see different things in stories, react differently as readers. And writers react differently to comments, re whether to make changes or not. That’s all there is.
Except I hope I’m not going to get it in the neck every time someone disagrees with how I react to a story they rate highly … 🙁
(I think you missed my last comment, btw.)
CARTISANO: “In one passage, you explain how the young victim’s inability to increase wealth or power to anyone in either of the ‘clans’ will render her a problem. Not likely.”
MILES: This passage is key, since it contains the motive for the killing (and disappearance of the body). I know, it doesn’t come across as “natural” as in the censored story. I had in mind a criminal family, with rival branches, that acts very much like the royalty of old, using marriages as a means to extend wealth, territory or power. I imagine this youngster Herbert falling in love for real with Yanika Preis, while his family had someone with more dough or clout in mind for him. And the 16-year old, typical of teen rebels, may have been obsinate about his choice. So the family had only one thing left to do. But I suppose all this didn’t come across too clearly…
One solution could be to have the waiter spill some beans, for real:
“My Master, Sir, him loving a young lady, wanting marry her. But Big Dreist no agree. Then lady evaporated.”
CARTISANO: “The trip past the abandoned church, what was that for? It meant nothing to me. It was a distraction.”
MILES: Yes, it was intended as a distraction. I needed some kind of transition to cut from the police station to Slaughterhouseplace. But, more importantly, I had the feeling that somewhere around that point some readers might sniff out what’s coming – the meat! “Gone girl + ample meat = I think I know where this is heading!” I wanted to keep the surprise till the end, of course. So I put in some mental distractions. The funny immigrant waiter also came to be for that same purpose: to distract the reader from the meat he was serving. Again, in the original story, the introduction to Schlachthauserhof and its community was more relevant than the “abandoned church” version. But there we go again, still crying over spilled milk?
Know what? We have both disappointed each other at least once by pulling away each other’s fave story. I did it to you with “Lesson One” 1.0 and you had done the same thing to me with the story I have liked most of yours since I’ve been here, “A Mother’s Love”.
I propose an under-the-counter deal: I’ll give you a copy of “Lesson One” 1.0 for your private reading pleasure, if you let me have a copy of “A Mother’s Love”. I can supply an email address here, if you agree and then we’ll take it from there.
Well, I GTG – life’s other duties calling (loudly!)
It was fun guys seeing this heated debate over my story- happening literally over three contintents – I don’t think anything I ever written got this much attention 🙂 I’m seeing the bright side, you see…
Poor Andy has my sympathy and Ken M too. Your testy tongue is lashing all and sundry.
I cannot add more as I am too upset.
So I am going to reread Roald Dhal’s Lamb to the Slaughter which is a darn good story despite the author being a rather obnoxious anti Semite. This story of the D who ate his victim reminded me of that story. I think for voting for the best plot this story has the winners trophy well in hand. That’s my last twenty pence worth. 🙃😉
Love and Murder
The IBM clock on the wall reads 5:29 PM. Jack Mulligan’s hand is on the doorknob as the phone rings. He’s tempted to leave it, go home, take a hot shower, have a cold beer, but he knew it would bug him all night, so in two strides he’s at his desk. The substantial feel of the receiver was mildly comfortable in his hand, like an old baseball glove. “Mulligan’s Detective Agency.” His voice dry and tired sounding.
The voice, on the other end, sounds refined and male. “Mr. Jack Mulligan, please.”
“Mr. Mulligan, my name is Charles Brandish; I believe you should know the name.”
“Charles Brandish of Brandish enterprises, I would say every soul in town knows your name Mr. Brandish. How may I help you?
Brandish cleared his throat nervously. “I’m afraid I need your services. Come to my home straight away.” The phone clicked.
The Brandish Estate is twenty miles away from Salem. Jack makes the trip in twenty-two minutes. He presents his ID at the sentry house, and the iron gate hinges open. The etched concrete drive is littered with October leaves. He stops at the foot of white marble steps that lead up to the front of the mansion. Two armed guards escort him inside and into Mr. Brandish’s study. A slender white-haired Brandish waves them away as soon as Jack takes a seat before an ornate mahogany desk. Brandish doesn’t speak. Jack watches the millionaire calmly pouring bourbon into two faceted shot glasses, while at the same time wondering to himself why Brandish hadn’t called up one of the big time detectives from the larger city of Lincoln? Hell, Brandish could afford to hire the whole Federal Bureau to work for him if he wanted. Jack took notice of the older man’s confident way as he approaches and places the shot glass on the desk in front of him. It clopped on the wood. “What is it you want from me, Mr. Brandish? Jack said, assuming a business air.
Brandish doesn’t answer right away. He gazes at Jack as if studying him, then, throwing his head back, he downs his shot of bourbon. “Have you ever been in love, Jack Mulligan?”
Jack is taken back. “What, what kind of question is that? I mean Mr. Brandish, I know you didn’t ask me here to discuss my love life.”
Brandish’s blue eyes remained calm and unemotional. Jack notices a spot of dried blood on his chin, a cut from shaving possibly.
“I asked you here with the possibility of employment.” Brandish replies, his voice edgy while pushing the untouched shot of liquor closer toward Jack. “May I call you Jack,” he continues, his voice lowering. “I want to know if you are the man I need for a special and very lucrative venture, and to make that decision, I must have the liberty to ask you such questions.” He paused, his eyes never leaving Jack’s face. “So, have you ever been in love?”
Jack swallows hard. “There was this girl back home.”
“Oh, fuck Jack Mulligan,” Brandish growls. “I don’t mean a sweet fuzzy kind of love where the sex is good, and you have a snack after. I mean a love so strong that you can’t breathe; you ache in the pit of your stomach when she is gone.” Mr. Brandish eases himself into his leather desk chair. “I’m talking about the kind of love where you never think to eat; food means nothing to you. You could spend hours just watching her sleep, and when she touches you, nothing else matters, if she so much as says another man’s name you die inside. He suddenly becomes quiet and appears a bit embarrassed.
Jack watches him take another shot of bourbon.
“Well, have you?” he asked again in a sharp tone, without looking into Jack’s face.
Jack wants to have the right answer, the answer that Mr. Brandish wants to hear, He could use a shot of cash right now, the gambling had put him behind, but he had no way of knowing what the right answer was, so he decided to go with the truth. “Yes, Yes, Mr. Brandish, once…a long time ago,” and with that admission, he threw back his first shot of bourbon, feeling the slow burn go down his throat and into his chest.
“Good!” Mr. Brandish said, nodding his head. “You’re just the man I need, Jack, I’ve been looking into you, and I have everything about you in my desk drawer, except for that bit of information you just shared.
“Really?” Jack said, not sure how he felt about that, but favoring anger.
“I’m a thorough man Jack.” His eyes shone.
“Find anything interesting?” Jack asked.
Charles Brandish eyes him oddly. “We don’t have to do this, Jack. You already know what I know. There’s some embarrassment in your past.”
Charles Brandish drew in a heavy sigh.” I know you were once involved in a homosexual relationship while in college, but you managed to put that mess behind you. You spend eight months in jail for assault, and you push the limits of the law in your work with several of your cases almost to the point where you were being investigated yourself, and I also know that you will do nearly anything to solve a case.
Jack’s eyes are ablaze with anger, surprised at how deep this man had dug into his past. “Yep,” he said with ice in his voice. That about sums it up.” He shoved his glass toward Mr. Brandish. “So why am I here?”
“Because Jack, you are just what I’m looking for, a brash, gritty detective with balls.” He poured Jack another drink. “You are focused and determined. I value that.” A moment of quiet slips between them. Jack stands and walks to the enormous, ornate window. Outside the yards are well lit, and he can’t help but see security at every corner. “So what’s the case about?” Jack asked, His voice sounding tired.
“There’s been a murder in this house.” Brandish says as if he were announcing the time of day.”
Jack’s jaw hinges open, and he stares at the man with a blank look.
“Is this some kind of joke, or a test maybe?”
“No test, no joke, I’ve killed my wife, Jack. She wanted to leave me; now, she’s up there on our bedroom floor with a pool of blood around her head. Your job will be to discover the clues that will show I did it and erase them, make it look like a suicide.
Jack’s eyes examine the man’s face, looking for something there that would indicate apparent madness. With cold certainty, Jack realizes that the speck of blood on Mr. Brandish’s chin was not from shaving. “Look, I really don’t think I’m the man for this.” Jack insisted as he heads for the closed door.
From the doorway, with his hand still on the handle, Jack hears Mr. Brandish’s hard voice.
“Five million dollars, Jack Mulligan.”
The door closes shut; the handle mechanism clicks loudly in the quiet room.
Actually, Brandish has so opened himself to Jack now, that one wonders what would happen to Jack if he refuses. Would there be a second murder (there are armed guards about)? Brandish surely wouldn’t let him go the police …
Really enjoyable, and thought-provoking too.
But, where are the wolves in the story? Perhaps you can include them as one of a crimes Jack committed in his younger days, such as he was a trophy hunter and got away with killing some endangered wolves.
I have doubts too whether although cocky enough, he would be able to erase all the evidence, to outsmart the best lawyers and detectives.
“Follow the money. There you find the motive.” He paused. “And the perpetrator…usually.”
Callum Hollumes sucked vigorously on the e-cigarette. His greying eyebrows beetled together under an equally grey streaked thatch of sandy hair that threatened to fly off his head. Jonathan didn’t understand how a man of his great intellect could give up cigarettes and then take up e-vaping. Stupid if you asked him, but then no-one was. His Uncle Callum had once been a top detective on the homicide squad and he now needed advice on a troubling case.
“But that is the problem Uncle. There is no money. She was a single parent. Raising her child alone. Totally alienated from her biological family who all decline to be interviewed. They said she was a total nutcase and a drug addict. None of the family would have anything to do with her. Their picture of her is quite at odds with that of those who knew and worked with her.
They said …” And here he leafed through some notes, “funny, droll sense of humour, opinionated, didn’t suffer fools gladly, creative, dedicated and hard-working; yet to hear her relatives’ opinion of her, you’d think she was the original Lizzie Borden. A Sydney dentist cousin practically frothed with fury, he so hated her. They pulled up past incidents and labelled her a narcissist with a severe borderline personality disorder, someone you’d want 100 miles away to be comfortable. Someone with no future, except to be homeless. In fact, her brother’s wife called her ‘a pathetic woman, a loser of the worst kind who refused help; should be institutionalized for life. She’s better off dead’ she said. Couldn’t understand why any school would ‘hire that bloody brainless woman as a teacher. She’s nothing to offer anyone.’ her exact words. Then, ‘I’m very glad she’s dead. Good, she was murdered. She deserved to suffer.” Were her exact words.” She asked me, “How long do you think she took to die?” and smiled a nasty smile as she asked.
“Oh, and what exactly had she done to make them suffer?”
“That was my question too. But she didn’t or couldn’t give details. Just went on a rant about how obnoxious the dead woman was. Said she hoped her son would have a short life or go and live with his father and that they didn’t want to hear any more about this and I should leave them alone.”
“Sounds a charming woman. With relatives like that, who needs enemies?” Callum chuckled drily.
“She also said, ‘My husband’s sister’s child should not get one cent of the money left to the grandchildren. It should be divided among the white grandchildren. He’s not a real grand-child of my husband’s mother. He should go live with the nigger, my husband’s so called sister married! Those were her exact words.”
At this, Callum laughed incredulously.
“She said this to your face?”
“Yeah, she started ranting on about blood; how no nigger blood would taint the bloodlines of her husband’s family. As the child was IVF apparently, he should not be considered a blood relative. Apparently the lawyer handling the mother in law’s estate did not agree and followed the terms of the will. Much to her angst.”
“How did you handle it?”
“Oh, I ignored her racist rant and stared her down. The contemptuous looks she gave me were sufficient for me to know what I was dealing with.”
“How much money?”
“Not a lot. Certainly not worth killing someone for.”
Callum sat back. “Oh, you’d be surprised how bad blood in families can lead people to do the unimaginable. And it don’t have to be even much money involved. It becomes really personal.”
“You mean like settling a score?”
“What concerned me is the level of torture. This woman’s eyes were gouged out with a palate knife and she was flayed alive. The murderer had set strips of her skin up to dry and he’d stretched them out like stretching a canvas. He’d or she’d also drained out two liters of her blood. She was then painted with pitch and set alight. Why?”
“That is not all. Her fingers were broken. Literally smashed. As if someone had slammed a brick on them, one by one.”
“What about this artist chap? The distant cousin. Have you ruled him out? People who’ve failed to succeed as well as they’d like in their chosen career – they can be dangerous people. Deranged and quite unstable, even though they may appear quite normal; they’re not, but they are the worst kind.”
“He’s kind of a wolfish chap, thin moustache, a French beret perched on his head. Pretty mediocre. Very superficial person. Doubt he’d have the imagination to carry off a crime like that. Then again, he might. Two bad eggs together can make quite a stink.”
“So you have followed up his alibi? Yes, met him at the hotel in Melbourne visiting the USA relatives who had come to Australia. The brother of the murdered woman and that wife. They were here visiting other relatives in Australia. Apparently they’d not seen the sister since the father’s funeral nearly twenty years ago. Also made it plain they wanted nothing to do with her. They seemed oddly pleased she’d been murdered. The sister-in-law was like, oh well, justice is done, then creepily crossed herself and said “Thank Jesus for small mercies. She’s dead … about time.”
“The brother? Did he seem upset?”
“No. Surprisingly emotionless. More interested in some international car show on Foxtel than anything to do with his sister’s death.”
“How very odd.”
“We are looking into the artist chap. However.”
“Well, frankly Uncle some things are not adding up.”
Callum gazed at his nephew thoughtfully.
“Well, they couldn’t give a credible account of where they were at the approximate time of the woman’s murder. They said they were at Walhalla – an old gold mining town. Yet no one saw them there at the time they said they were there.”
“And the significance?”
“Well, Walhalla’s 50 minutes by car from the murdered woman’s property. We also discovered mud from that property on their hire car tires. Plus strange tire tracks found at the scene matched the hire car’s.”
“And … anything additional?”
“Yes.” Jonathan slender brown fingers slid into his folder and pulled out two photographs. They was one picture of two wolves sitting on a verandah and another of them on a bush track.
“The second picture was around the estimated time of death give or take an hour. On the artist chap’s phone. He said they were on the road to Walhalla. However, she was known to have fostered these two animals. They were rescues and stayed close to her homestead.”
Callum leaned forward to examine the photos.
“So your theory?”
“The sister-in-law and the artist cousin drove to her property. Tortured and murdered her. About a frenzied hour. Then drove back to lunch at Walhalla with her brother and his children and family. On the way they saw the wolves on the track and photographed them.”
Just a couple of little points: near the beginning the detective says the family refuse to be interviewed, but then he produces a whole lot of notes from having interviewed/interrogated them.
At the end, I wasn’t quite sure whether it’s the detective or his uncle who comes up with the theory. It reads like it’s the detective’s turn to speak, but then I’m not sure what advice he is looking for from his uncle? So then I assumed it’s his uncle who solves the case.
Thank you for you comment. I was beginning to feel quite a failure as no one had commented on
My story this week. 😬
The question of an interview is solved by asserting that the relatives ‘talked plenty, but would give no deposition, no sworn statements.’ A big, big difference in an investigation. All their talk is just hearsay, but necessary to fill out the characters and the plot.
Otherwise, great dialogue, but the story is not particularly redemptive, and the ending, the theoretical act and perpetrators of the murder is still speculative and comes across as an addendum to the main story of extreme family infighting.
Hello there! I’m Detective Manny. Now retired.
Allow me to pull you into my story. This is my corner on the Corniche where I wait for the guys to show up. Two of us sit us down on the park bench right here and invariably somebody joins us. Then we tell our stories to each other. They aren’t the best, but it gets us through the week.
Don’t get stumped about that last bit, but hey! we still need some pizzazz at this age.
Here, here… have a seat.
I look young, but believe me, I’m 70. Today’s my turn to solve cases-
Spot the Villain- that’s how we keep our brains active.
C’mon, don’t look bored. Nobody wants to talk to old men these days, do they? But I tellya, 70 ain’t old. You know, my wife gets ecstatic when the gas station attendant asks for her ID to prove she’s over 60? Out here you gotta pay 10 dirhams more for gas, unless you are a senior.
I live in this little town called Delma. It’s a quiet place, not a bit simple though; very affluent and glitzy. You get my drift? The shiny towers are so high they kiss the clouds. The folks out here, so well dressed, there’s not a string out of place. They wear lipstick and mascara to the grocery store to buy potatoes. Moms dropping their kids off at school wear tight leather pants just because the level of keeping up with the Juliets have reached a new high. You could say it’s the best of times. But I reckon it’s also the worst of times.
And why do I say so?
I see nobody laughing together even as they sit together.You know like in the old times. That awful black thing they hold in their hands have taken over family life. It was yesterday I saw Alia sat down on the couch in the posh lobby of the hotel. The family had just finished a chill out weekend stay. Her three kids lazed by her side, digging deep into the sofa. All four held their gadgets close to their eyes, so engrossed in the oodles that caught their fancy. The mom was watching some tearjerker mini series. I couldn’t follow though it was loud. I don’t speak their language, you see.
But I notice those little hands holding that cruel black thing.
The prime suspect.
Killer of families.
How about if I go tell them they got werewolves in their palms, devouring each one, slowly but surely, making mince meat of them? The kids drooled in concentration, and something dripped out of their little mouths, looking like blood on their tees. But it was just raspberry lolly.
The dad joined them after paying up the bill. Undoubtedly in a bad mood.
“Know where my fitbit is?” he asked. “The kale smoothie is giving me the rumbles. I need to go for a run.”
Nobody looked up or heeded him. It was Dora and batman that held their gaze.
‘Eat, drink and watch videos’ is their philosophy, they ain’t looking for the bare necessities! Life has just gotten too easy for this Gen Z.
You call it the age of wisdom, I call it the age of foolishness.
“Jim said he’d drop by for a drink after his working hours.”
I looked at my watch. He’d show up, I know. It’s the epoch of belief.
Detective Maurice looked like a parrot with his pipe, as he strolled up.
“Hi Manny! Good to see’ya, mate. All well? When is Jim arriving? He shoulda been here by now. I so look forward to our weekly parkbench meetup. What a great idea!”
“Howz it going, Maurice?”
“I just got here from school. Grandson held after class. Coz he called his teacher a bad word. She is a nun. Howdya expect a boy to understand why they wear those whatchoomaycall them on their heads? Some of them nuns have perpetual mood disorder. I had to go bail him out.”
“And how did it go?” Manny guffawed.
“When she saw me, the grand old man, she softened up. I didn’t want her beating up my Joey the way I got beat up.”
Manny knew a story was coming.
“Takes me back to when I was a kid way back in the 60’s, I was playing Red Riding Hood with some pretty girl and started screaming, ‘Wolf wolf’ just when Sr. Mary Jane walked in.
“That’s naughty,” Manny chuckled. “You must have been quite the horror.”
“Well, she beat me so hard,I swear there was blood on my arms. That ain’t allowed now, is it? But then my ol’ man was summoned, and she melted into honey n’ sugar. ‘Twas 65 years ago, me up to plain innocent fun, and she ‘the villain’. Taught me something! I didn’t turn out so bad did I, Manny?”
“No, you turned out pretty good. It’s a pity your family finds you a pain.”
“Well, aren’t all families the same? What’s better? Be a pain or plain ignored? It’s the epoch of incredulity.”
“Look who’s here! Life of the party….. Ahhh… more stories.”
Lyla started jabbering the minute she arrived. Our Woman in Red.
“Hey guys, I need words of wisdom. Your verdict ‘coz i trust you…I got this girlfriend who persistently keeps tab on me, nosing about in my biz. Belittling me like I’ve wasted my years. I tell her I bake raisin muffins-no sugar. She gets envious that I travel and sing, while she has to rough it out in her local workhouse. She stabs me with words, and every time I die a little.”
“She ain’t no buddy. Wolf in sheep’s clothing, I’d say.”
“Yes, avoid her like the plague.” Maurice agreed.
Finally Jim, retired lawyer friend, arrives. Bench in order.
“Sorry, I got caught in traffic. But I found my story for you, right there.”
“Spill it out, Jim. We all ears.”
“Well, this XX couple was walking up to the traffic lights. The young mom pushing the stroller far too quick through the dips to cross the road. Her baby rocked hard inside. She was carrying a huge black knapsack on her back, which looked mighty heavy. A tall guy, her husband apparently, strolled beside her, hands in his jean pockets, no bag on his back. I’d call him a carefree bozo while she’s sprinting to keep pace.”
“Was she trying to prove something about her gender. That she can do anything? Meanwhile, her man’s taking advantage, havin’ a good time?”
“He musta called her señorita, and she loved it mucho tita.” Maurice sang in deep baritone.
“Wolf,” Detective Manny called out.
“Great stories, guys. We gotta deal with wolves of all kinds in this world. But life’s still good, right? We have each other. Love y’all,” Layla blew a goodbye kiss as she drove off.
“Calls for a toast. Bloody Mary for y’all tonight. Try not to spill, Maurice. You’ve got shaky fingers now, dear Mr.Parkinson! You don’t want blood all over your white shirt,” Manny teased, poking his walking stick at him.
The murder was metaphorical, with figurative wolves. The blood is tomato puree. And nobody gets eaten? What will you do for Halloween? Seek shelter in a hardened bunker? Seriously though, a clever non-violent approach to the prompt. The dialogue is good, but I got lost in the back and forth between characters in a couple of places. Good writing though and a very creative solution to your low tolerance for gruesomeness.
Truth be told… I got lost too in the back and forth with the word limit.
Had to fortify myself to read those stories in this thread. Ugh! Nonviolent to an extreme.
As for halloween, it’s NOT in my scheme of things.
But I did have a lot of fun with the metaphorical take. That saved the day for me.
You know the drill… It’s time to vote!
Remember you MUST vote for your story to count, you can only vote once, and you may NOT vote for yourself.
You officially have 24 HOURS from the timestamp of this comment to read through the stories vote.
oops wrong url – try again!
I contracted a significant case of West Tennessee-itis courtesy of the mold, bacteria and fungus that permeates this area from the benevolent Hatchie Water Bottoms. (Roy can attest to my susceptibility to this area.) Fall is always bad for me (even though we are still experiencing summer heat.) 2 day sinus infection and on day 3, a double ear infection and straight to the lungs! A new record. The meds created problems of their own. I got sick on 9/21/19 and yesterday was my first day back to work – not healed but able to breathe some better.
I started to read the stories while I was sick but some of them are so well-written and VERY detailed in the blood and gore arena that I had to pass on reading any more. I’ll go back and read them when my stomach is a little more stable. (This was definitely not the time for reading or responding to this prompt.)
Best of luck to all! Can’t wait to see who the winners are.
I was reading your comment without my glasses. I read you pass out instead of pass on while reading the stories. You almost gave me a fright there.
I think I was reading how unwell you were and my thread of thoughts tricked me.
Only in my wildest dreams when this first started did did I think we would have this many contributors. Love it, but it does take time to read, evaluate and critique properly.
You, Adi, Phil, and a couple others are foundation members. I think I started writing here in 2013 and it took my mind off very depressing family situations – grieving my mother in a home and possibly still grieving about my marriage break up in 2003 and my father’s death from lung cancer in 2002 and being micro managed and bullied in a workplace situation as well as other family issues – this group and writing made me feel as if my existence was somehow still validated and I was not completely useless.
That and my goats and son not necessarily in that order. When I was recovering from
My brush with the dreaded big C it gave me some sense of purpose. I remember on LinkedIn we used to write under a bit more pressure – once a week. The fortnightly prompt handled by Alice and Carrie gives us just that bit more time to edit and draft up more.
When life grinds you down and spits you out – you strive to rebuild self and contribute in positive ways and this has been so good.
I’ve commented on each of 16 other stories, and had 3 comments on mine in return so far (including yours, Ilana, for which thanks).
I know people have different amounts of time available to them (and I work full-time and travel a lot), and different levels of confidence about writing what they think about others’ writing – but I’d lose interest if this imbalance in feedback were the case every time …
I challenge you to a duel, sir. Water pistols at 5 paces. (Only three comments on your story? I think that’s what I got.) That’s a little disappointing. I haven’t checked in a few days, maybe a few more people were uninspired enough to leave a vague, misspelled opinion with a few words of encouragement
* I really expected more deaths at the end.
*Look at the bright side Ken, the only thing that got murdered this week was someone else’s story and your normally buoyant sense of optimism.
* Good dialogue. How’s that Bigfoot interview coming?
The Bigfoot interview is coming along nicely, thank you very much.
I honestly feel that constructive criticism is why i keep coming back. And, the best criticism is where you end up in the voting. I thought my story last time around warranted a better finish than 8th, BUT my fellow authors disagreed. Depending on how I finished this time around, and if it isn’t a tad higher, then perhaps I need to go back and look at content, plot lines and so on. What are the hooks that grabbed the voters attention? What do I need to do to finish higher?
I’d be disingenuous if I said I’m not trying to win each time I enter a story, because I believe that winning is validation you can write, and write fairly well.
Actually I don’t. I’m lethal with water pistols. You’ve no chance, you should throw in the towel now, or you’re going to need more than one later!
And just to correct Ilana … I wasn’t a founding member, in fact, though I did appear quite early on (I remember Adi tearing into my first story! 😉 ). I don’t remember how I found this group, but it’s the best thing I’ve ever done in terms of my writing.
Someone needs an afternoon cocktail!!!!! 🙂 🙂
My last story was posted in May.
I spend my writing time moderating comments, replacing stories, answering emails from the contact page, verifying stories are within writing prompt compliance and word count, tallying votes, creating voting pages, creating prompt posts and newsletters.
Instead of writing.
Hahahahaha ok fair enough.
I’ll try to get a story in for this next prompt!
And what is it Ernest said? “Write Drunk, Edit Sober”. I’ll take a double scotch on the rocks lol
It was obvious to me they use the wrong reader for my story. He couldn’t grasp stories of another culture and got bored and couldn’t bother to read anymore.
Almost all people around here are familiar with people of different background or culture. The guy must be living somewhere in one of the isles up in Scotland.
Hey Ken M.
Your serene rationality is most refreshing, Ken. (I don’t have that mode, unfortunately.) But I want to make sure that you understand my criticism of the re-write is as a comparison against the original.
The quality of your story, and of your writing, suggests that the only thing that casts a negative light on your stories, is a better previous version of one of your stories. (I’m pretty sure that’s a compliment.)
The latest incarnation of ‘Lesson One’ is still pretty fabulous, as stories go, only against the previous version do I find it wanting. I’m sorry if I made no previous attempt to clarify that. This story was, without a doubt, far and away, the best story this week, and one of the best stories I’ve ever read. (It’s quite remarkable, esp. when you consider the prompt and the subject matter.) Perhaps this confession best explains my discernible lack of cordiality in the matter, to everyone, even you.
You said it yourself in your comment, it seemed a bit like someone else’s idea of voluntary censorship. And self-censorship is sort of like saying, ‘You’re allowed to burn the flag, as long as you don’t burn the flag.’ That’s conditional. I don’t like it.
So I hope, and assume that whatever others might think, you know I was defending your original work while criticizing the ‘post-censored’ version. All things considered, you did a great job on the re-write. And the story was still riveting even though I knew how it would end.
As for the question of replacing words, I throw principle out the window and lock the door. A word that gets misconstrued is the same as the wrong word. Entertaining the reader is paramount. (Unless it involves massaging their feet while they read.)
I commend you for being so amenable to other people’s advice, but really Ken, if they told you to throw your story off of a bridge, would you do it? (I’m sorry. I promised we were going to leave that behind.) Accepting criticism is easy, acting on criticism is the mark of an excellent writer. (Most of the time.)
I would’ve replaced both ‘incognito’ and ‘pompous.’ (covert for incognito? and ‘indomitable’ for pompous? His indomitable stomach.) I don’t quibble over words. Whole sentences fear me. Entire paragraphs quake with fear when I’m at the keyboard. But let’s be clear, I definitely thought it was quibbling.
However, I accept your offer to exchange stories, this could make us a weird kind of literary blood brothers, or not. (the blook brothers?) I had Andy send me one of his stories once. I treasured it until yesterday, now, it’s tacked over the dart board in the bowling alley downstairs. (I kid, there’s no bowling alley.) Actually, to throw darts at Andy’s story, I would have to buy a dartboard, remove the hard disk drive from my computer, and hang the whole hard disk on the dartboard. What good would that do? That would make me look crazy. (er?) (I’m just kidding Andy, if you accidentally read this, I don’t hate you.) (But boy, if I could squirt you with a water pistol, I would jump at the chance.)
So Ken, Do you need my email? Alice or Carrie has it. I don’t want to post it here. I’m trying to prevent Vlad from getting it. Have you heard about Vlad? (And if Una gets a hold of it, she’ll ruin my reputation as a raging lunatic. Can’t have that either.)
You know Ken, your story stirred controversy over word usage, stereotyping, immigration, racism, self-censorship, personality disorders (me), and the benefits of flossing. That’s quite the achievement. Who did you say you were again?
Ok, I’ve checked the email logs behind the scenes in the website to make sure the emails didn’t get lost somewhere in cyberspace.
I did not receive votes from Chitra, Peter, Zane, Ken C or Kristin.
I’ll give ya’ll another 20 minutes and then I’m posting the winners!
Without further ado the winners are:
1st: Love and Murder by Dennis Wagers
2nd: Personality Plus by Andy Lake
3rd: Believing by Phil Town
4th: Shouldn’t A Gone by Vanilla Bob
5th: Troubles By The Score by Roy York
6th: Murder In The Forest Degree by Ken Cartisano
7th: Untitled by Ilana Leeds
8th: Lesson One by Ken Miles
9th: Trouble is My Business by berlinermax
10th: The Howling Demon by Writer2019
11th: The Wolves of Balmoral Hall!(Re-write #1) by Neha Neil
12th: The Tale of Two Tecs by Marien Oommen
13th: The Wolves of Cloverfield Mansion by Alexis Winter
Favorite Character: Narrator from “Shouldn’t A Gone” by Vanilla Bob
Best use of dialogue: Believing by Phil Town
Congrats to all of you – the stories this round were excellent!
And amongst a goodly number of other good stories too, to whom also congratulations
I could swear I sent my vote in on October 2. It must have got caught up in one of those quantum cloud fi things.
As for yours (and Alice’s) participation, I was not trying to goad, coerce, blame or induce guilt in you or anyone. I was merely setting the record straight. If you haven’t contributed a story since May, you’re not ‘a regular contributor.’ You’re a moderator, which means you’re deeply involved, in fact, essential to the entire enterprise, but no, I haven’t read one of your stories in five months. Five long, dreary, destitute months. (Ten stories ago.) Making you feel guilty about your lack of inspiration for five months is too easy. You must perceive me as a very lazy person to reach for such low hanging fruit. Sure, it’s right there, hanging right in front of me, and that’s why I have every right to be offended at your attempt to minimize the scale of my sinister machinations. I have more evil intent in my little pinky, than you can imagine with your whole brain, (and then some.)
Obviously, it’s going to take some more effort on my part to convince you, and the voices, of the full extent of my sinisterness.
Seriously, (well, not too seriously) it would be great if you came up with a story, in between your other duties as a turkey stalker, wild game hunter, trap shooter, supermodel, pod-caster, adventuress and metal head. But clearly, your plate is full, your cup floweth fulsomely. Over.
I’m thinking Mr. and Mrs. Bigfoot.
Surely you have a couple of characters that are tailor made for such a prompt.
I enjoyed your story thoroughly. (I might’ve even voted for it.) And your writing style is very pleasing. Great win considering all the competition and great stories. It feels good to sit on top of the heap for awhile, doesn’t it? You deserve it, dude. You’ve been writing some killer stories. (I’m watching you. That’s right. I’m…….watching………you.) JK. Good job, man.
(Una’s watching you too.)
I like the video you put on on this thread.
I made a similar comment not so long ago and was pulled for it by my great American Associates on here I am amused you got away with it.
Is it because I am a woman …..?
I did not vote. I was struggling with choosing the best stories and casting my vote, and I ran out of time.
I hope to manage my time better and not let it happen again.
Love you all
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