I chose #3. The genre was paranormal. Please enjoy.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
The prompt this week was to choose a title from the list, and then write a story. The titles to choose from were:
1. Last Rites
2. Broken Dreams
3. To Honor All
4. The Invitation
I chose #3. The genre was paranormal. Please enjoy.
I chose #3. The genre was paranormal. Please enjoy.
To Honor All
Mr. Raymond was a good man. My mother had worked for him as his housekeeper and cook. My family and I lived in a small house in the poorest area of the village. Between my father’s sporadic income as a carpenter and my mother’s, we managed to keep our heads above water. When my father was killed while repairing a neighbor’s roof, my mother’s income alone could not keep our home from foreclosure. Mr. Raymond came to our rescue, and invited my mother, my sister, and I to take up residence in his house. A formal education was a luxury not afforded to me, and Mr. Raymond taught me how to read, and encouraged me to discover the stories contained between the covers of his vast book collection.
Shortly after Mr. Raymond died of old age, my mother was notified that his nephew and his nephew’s wife would be taking possession of the house, and they requested she and her children remain in their employ. Mr. Robert and Miss June began the abuse on the day they arrived. Miss June berated my mother and spoke to her in a crude and vulgar manner. Mr. Robert repeatedly struck, and defiled, my younger sister on a daily basis until her mind could no longer cope with the constant trauma. On the night before her tenth birthday, my sister used a carving knife from the kitchen to open both her wrists. Not to be inconvenienced by this act of what he saw as rude defiance, Mr. Robert dragged her lifeless body out to the woods behind the house.
My mother took to her bed shortly after with an unknown malady that rendered her weak and disoriented. I cared for her as best I could with the small amounts of food and water allotted to me. I was beaten, forced to care for the house, and prepare meals for Mr. Robert and Miss June. My mother was physically incapable of joining me in an escape, so I did my work, and prayed for her recovery. She died one evening following a violent seizure. I felt a sense of relief for her; at least her suffering was at an end.
Following Mr. Robert’s disposal of my mother’s body in the woods, I had no desire to flee to save myself. I knew in my heart that they both must die. I decided I would kill Miss June first. Once she was cold and in the ground, I would kill Mr. Robert. The pain and loss they both had inflected on me and my family was unforgiveable. One Friday night, Mr. Robert was asleep downstairs in the drawing room. Miss June called for me to come to her room. When I entered her private bedroom, she invited me to share her bed for the evening.
Mr. Robert’s missus told me she had envisioned my becoming her lover ever since the day they had arrived. I was a young man by then, almost 17 years old. I walked over and stood at her bedside, planning to place my hands around her throat and press them together as tightly as I could until she could no longer draw breath. As I raised my hands, she began to laugh, and I did not see the gun she had been holding in her right hand under the comforter. She pointed the gun at my chest and pulled the trigger. As I fell to the floor, my thoughts became a prayer that I may be permitted, in some manner, to avenge the cruelty that had been visited upon my family. My corpse was also placed in the woods to become a feast for the bears and coyotes.
I could feel myself rising above my earthly shell and went to search for the souls of my beloved family. I found the spirits of my mother and sisters hiding in a small cave deep in the forest. I reached out my hand, but they cowered in fear. I told them, somehow, I would bring peace to us all. I knew I would be unable to physically interact with the living, but wondered if I could be seen. I returned to the house and entered the kitchen where the newly hired cook was preparing luncheon. I placed myself in front of her, closed my eyes, and strained hard as if to push myself through a wall I could not see. She looked in my direction, dropped the dishes she was holding, and ran to the front room where Mr. Robert and Miss June were waiting to be called for their noon meal. She screamed that she saw something evil. She explained she did not see an entire ghost; but saw the light surrounding its form. She told them she could not stay because the house was haunted. She ran from the house, leaving her belongings behind. After the cook, I was able to frighten away the gardener and the stable boy. All the help were now gone, never to return.
And I smiled.
The time had come to bring those responsible for our misery and deaths to justice. One spring day, I followed Miss June to the stable. With no staff, it was left to her to saddle up the steed for her morning ride. I waited until she reached for the gear that was toward the back of the narrow stall, and used that moment to appear before her. She made a high-pitched whining sound and as I moved toward her to force her behind the horse, she put her hands on the creature’s hindquarters and tried to push it in my direction.
Mr. Raymond had instructed us children never to stand behind a horse, this skittish one in particular. He also made sure we understood never to grab and pull on a horse’s tail. Miss June did both as she tried to back away from me. The horse first kicked her face, then followed with blows to her head and chest. She ended up in a slouched sitting position in the corner of the stall, with blood pouring from her eyes, ears, and a gaping wound in the middle of her forehead. She was dead.
And I smiled.
After his spouse’s demise, tumblers of whiskey became Mr. Robert’s mealtime staples. One evening, he filled his glass to the brim and was on his way upstairs to spend the night in his dead wife’s bed, a habit he acquired since her funeral. My timing was perfect. Just as he placed one foot on the top step, I allowed myself to come into view directly in front of him. He gasped briefly, and stepped back. Mr. Robert slipped, lost his balance, and fell backwards down the flight of stairs. I knelt close to him and saw bruises around his face and on his hands. His left leg was bent back beneath him, and his neck appeared broken. His eyes were open, yet his gaze was an empty one. He was dead.
And I smiled.
The house and grounds were readied again; this time, for the last of Mr. Raymond’s descendants and his family. He was called Mr. David, and his wife was called Miss Marie, and they had a young son called Master Jonathan, who appeared to be approximately five years of age.
Mr. David found the journal that had been kept by Mr. Raymond, and continued by Mr. Robert. Mr. Raymond’s script related memories of good cheer, faith, and hope. Mr. Robert’s entries spoke only of degradation, murder, and desecration. I observed Mr. David and Miss Marie weep together for the atrocities that had been committed with the walls of their new home.
Mr. David arranged for three coffins to be built, and three headstones to be carved. There was one for my mother, one for my sister, and one for me. Since our remains had been scattered by animals, the coffins were empty; however, Miss Marie placed a cross into each one before they were sealed. Mr. David arranged for them to be buried side by side in the graveyard behind the church on the hill, and each headstone placed to mark our final resting place in that holy ground.
Mr. David was a good man. His wife, Miss Marie, was a loyal and devoted wife, and a loving and caring mother. Their young boy was a happy and secure child, and filled the house with joy and laughter. The house was thoroughly cleaned, and all the possessions of Mr. Robert and Miss June were discarded. The house was redecorated, and was now filled with bright colors and much love.
I shall let these good people live in peace, because I shall be able to rest in peace.
We shall all be able to rest in peace.
And I am smiling.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
The prompt this week was to write a story set in a healthcare facility, and the genre was medical thriller. If you ever decide to get a second opinion, you might want to really think that through.
I knew something was wrong as soon as I looked into their eyes. Each of them had come for their weekly visit following hospitalization, and all looked terrified as they were led into the treatment room. I got their numbers from the charts, but none would see me; that is, until I called Mrs. Pope. Her daughter, Lucille, asked me to stop by because she had plenty to tell me.
“Something’s going on in that clinic. I’m telling you, that doctor is dangerous. Several times, I’ve told the nurse I want Mom’s records to take to another doctor, and during her next visit, Mom gets deathly sick at the clinic and goes to the hospital. When she comes home, she begs me not to find another doctor and to just keep taking her to Dr. H. What do you make of that?”
Her mother was sitting in her wheelchair, and tears were streaming down her face. I knelt in front of her and took her hand in mine.
“Mrs. Pope, I don’t know what you’re afraid of, but you don’t need to be anymore. I will find out what’s going on and I’ll fix everything. I promise.”
I wasn’t sure how I was going to fix what I didn’t understand, but I made a promise, and I intended to keep it. I decided the logical place to start was with the record of their hospitalizations.
These four patients had presented in Dr. Hargrove’s clinic for routine visits over the past four weeks. Prior to their appointments, I was permitted to review their charts, and even though each was an elderly individual, they were all in reasonably good health. I, however, was not permitted to observe their examination in the treatment room. I questioned the doctor about that and his response to me was that these particular patients would be uncomfortable with another doctor in the room, even if it was only for purposes of observation. Since I had never been directly involved in treatment of any elderly patients, his explanation seemed reasonable. What I could never accept as reasonable was the fact that each collapsed while in the treatment room, and all were rushed by ambulance for admittance to the hospital. The only common denominator was that each had been the last appointment of the day.
Dr. Hargrove waited in the reception area of the clinic for the paramedics and directed them to the treatment room where the patient was lying on the exam table. Each time, he told them he would be riding in the back of the ambulance with the patient to the hospital and would assume full care on arrival. Unusual, but not unheard of. Within a day or two, each was released from the hospital, discharged to home.
Before the paramedics arrived to transport them to the hospital, I took a quick peek at each one of them and, to put it in non-clinical speak, they all looked like death warmed over. Two were vomiting, three seemed to be having trouble breathing, and all four seemed too weak to sit up on the table. What could possibly cause this sudden onset of such drastic symptoms, and how could they recover so quickly and be discharged home with no nursing support? I was determined to find the answers.
The day shift Medical Records clerk at Mercy General, Ms. Rose Danfield, wouldn’t pull any of Dr. Hargrove’s patients’ charts for me to review. I reminded her I was in my residency working with Dr. Hargrove, and chart review was part of that process. She informed me, in no uncertain terms, that only Dr. H had access to those. I knew I had to find one of the staff who hadn’t been employed there long enough to be so fiercely protective of the great Dr. H. My treating the Human Resources receptionist to a double-scoop ice cream sundae at lunch got me the information I needed. Miss June Sanders, the newly hired Medical Records clerk, had a certain taste in literature.
I went to the hospital just before midnight. The 11 to 7 security staff was one man, and he was sound asleep on one of the couches in the lobby. I went straight to Medical Records, where Miss June was sitting at the desk reading a romance novel. I had brought three recently published lovey-dovey paperbacks to offer her as a bribe, and it worked like a charm. Am I proud of employing such a sleazy tactic to get access to the confidential medical records of four individuals who were the patients of another physician? You bet I am.
Miss June pulled the four records for me and left me to return to her stories. It didn’t take long for me to figure out what beloved Dr. H was doing. The charts revealed the following: #1: Miss Bernice Jennings, 74, presented with vomiting, respiratory difficulty, and irregular heart beat; #2: Mr. Harvey Ziegler, 81, presented with double vision, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, and respiratory difficulty; #3: Mrs. Karen Pope, 69, presented with muscle weakness, slow heart rate, and skin cold to the touch; and #4: Mr. Marvin Aaronson, 77, presented with nausea, respiratory difficulty, and weak pulse.
The medication he ordered from the Pharmacy was dixogin immune fab for patient #1, glucagon for patient #2, and narcan for patients #3 and #4. No lab work was ordered for any of them. Why? He didn’t want any results on file because he knew the cause of their symptoms, and, even as only a resident, so did I. The symptoms were the results of drug overdoses of digoxin, insulin, codeine and Vicodin, respectively. The medications ordered were the anecdotes.
My only question now, was why, and the only place I’d find the answer to that was in the clinic records. On Sunday night, I picked the lock on the clinic’s front door – a skill I picked up as a wayward teen. I opened the charts and placed them side by side on the break room table, and I found my answer in his nurse’s clinic notes. Each patient’s family member had requested records be sent to another physician since they intended to seek a second opinion as to why it was necessary for their relative to return to Dr. Hargrove’s clinic weekly for an undetermined length of time, for no specific medical reason. Following their hospital discharge however, the notes indicated those requests for records had been cancelled. Dr. Hargrove would remain their only physician. Coincidence? Hell, no.
I felt the needle-stick in my left arm and became dizzy. Dr. Hargrove eased me into one of the chairs.
“Did I forget to tell you I have cameras all over my clinic that I monitor at home?” Dr. Hargrove sat in the chair next to mine. “Ms. Rose at Mercy told me about your wanting some charts. She found out that new clerk gave them to you. I knew your next move would be to come here.”
“Why do you almost kill these people?” It was hard to form the words. I wasn’t sure what I had been injected with, but I did assume it was a fatal dose. “Was it so you…save and prove…God?”
“I don’t have to prove I am God to my patients. They have always known. Now and then, however, I need to remind the older ones because they become forgetful. I’ve never had to remind any of my younger patients since their memories are quite intact. If, however, it should become necessary, I am quite prepared to act accordingly to preserve our bond.
“A doctor and his patient have a relationship that’s kind of like a marriage. The commitment we make is until death do us part – theirs or mine. You were supposed to sit through a few of my clinics, review a few outpatient records, and move on - not pry into matters that do not concern you.”
“The welfare of…pat…con…” I found it increasingly difficult to keep my eyes open and remain upright in the chair.
“You’ll lapse into coma soon, and my receptionist will find you here dead in the morning. Another case of a resident who couldn’t take the pressure and OD’d. So sad.”
I heard voices coming from the lobby telling Hargrove not to move, and a woman shouting to call an ambulance for me. I looked up and saw Mrs. Pope’s daughter, Lucille.
“I told you he was dangerous, and when you said you’d fix it so Mom wouldn’t have to be afraid, I knew if you tried to do something, he’d come after you. I’ve been watching this place ever since you came by. When I saw you go in and the doctor sneak in after, I called the police.”
“Don’t worry. An ambulance is on the way, and whatever he injected is in the vial on the table. By the way, no Mercy General for you. St. James Memorial is much closer. Safer too!”
Thursday, August 18, 2016
The prompt this week was to write a sci-fi story that included the following words: Fire, DNA, corporate, student, and secret. Students sometimes work, or observe, in a particular field, often in an unpaid status, to gain knowledge or experience. I wondered if there were students in other worlds besides ours who did the same thing. I hope you enjoy my story about one such unpaid intern.
The fire destroyed almost every piece of equipment in the laboratory. It was difficult to extinguish, but eventually, the flames all subsided and only ashes remained. Dr. Ronald Schuster, the Laboratory Director, came very close to being overcome with smoke inhalation. I grabbed him and pushed him out of the door and into the street. I could not let him die. He is not only a brilliant scientist and physician; he is also a decent and highly moral human being. There are definitely not enough of either in the world today.
Because I hold Dr. Schuster in such high regard, I felt obligated to accompany him to the meeting with his superior, Mr. David Hargrove, Director of Research Services, at corporate headquarters. I have already attended several meetings with Mr. Hargrove presiding, and I have found him to be an honorable individual; however, his educational and professional background were focused on the commercial value of scientific research. Investing money in the search to find cures for diseases or the attempt to locate life on other planets within the galaxy is deemed noble and critical, as long as there would be profit to be gained. Mercenary as that may seem, I am not so naïve that I do not realize money is what makes the world go round.
“Please come in and have a seat. Ron, I hate that we have to meet under these circumstances, but what happened in your lab could have resulted in even heavier losses. Thank God you were able to get out and that the Fire Department was able to get the fire under control before the entire building exploded. Have you any idea what could have started it?”
“No Dave, I’m sorry, but I have no idea. As you know, I don’t store a lot of chemicals there, and even the ones I do are not dangerous or flammable. Another thing I don’t know is how I managed to get out of there. I remember having a hard time breathing because I was on the other side of the lab away from the door when the room began to fill with smoke. I made my way to the exit and all at once, the room was engulfed in flames. I must have tripped over something because I basically fell out of the lab onto the sidewalk. It was the strangest thing.”
“Are you sure you’re all right? I was told you didn’t even want the paramedics to check you out.”
“Yes, I’m fine. I’m just still shaken up. I know restoring everything will take time and be quite costly, but do you have a timeframe in mind for when I’d be able to resume my work?”
“Ron, the Fire Department hasn’t even finished going over everything yet. You certainly are anxious to get back to work. We are planning to set up your lab in another building as soon as possible, but there’s something important I must go over with you. The funding for your current project has been terminated by the Board, and the directive I received from them is that you are to go back to your work with DNA manipulation, or whatever that project was called.”
“Dave, you can’t be serious! You know how important my work is. Why can’t you explain to them how critical it is that I be allowed to continue?”
“Because, Ron, I don’t understand what you’re doing well enough to explain it to anyone. The Board has always been concerned that most of what you’re doing is done in secret. I mean, you won’t allow anyone to watch any of your experiments or read your notes. You want to wait until you achieve a breakthrough, but none of us can figure out what kind of a breakthrough you expect.”
“Dave, my friend, I’ve told you that I believe there are other beings all around us. I don’t mean in outer space either. I’m talking about a kind of inner space. I’m not alone in my theory; others before me have looked into this too. To put it simply, there are worlds within worlds within worlds that exist side by side. We can’t see them, but they’re there – or rather, here. I know this all sounds like a sci-fi movie script proposal, but we are only one possible dimension. There are doorways, or portals, all around us that just need to be opened. I’ve already had minor success opening several in a small way, but without warning, my equipment malfunctions and I can’t go any further.”
“My God, Ron, gateways to other worlds materialize out of thin air?”
“Of course not. Combining various types of equipment that produce sound, light and other factors help to make them accessible. It’s difficult to get too detailed about it, but you’ll have to trust me on this.”
“You know I do trust in your work. I had no idea you were this close. I’ll tell you what. For now, work in the other lab we’re going to set up for you and in the meantime, I’ll work on convincing the Board members to reestablish your funding within the foreseeable future. What we could accomplish if we could establish some type of communication highway between other dimensions and ours is beyond comprehension.”
“The doors are out there, Dave. They only need to be pushed open. Who knows what could be on the other side?”
I am the one who started the fire because I do know what could be on the other side. The dangerous consequences of Dr. Schuster’s type of research would not be immediately felt, but the killers would lie in wait, as killers often do, and strike without warning. The end of all living things would result soon after. The good doctor was not aware of the power he was preparing to unleash, but I knew well its magnitude. Now that I have found out the company, in the near future, might permit the good doctor to continue his research into opening random dimensional portals, I fear greatly for him and his kind.
Back home, I am a student – one of many sent here to observe and learn. In my world, we are all devotees of all branches of science. However, there are many worlds situated alongside this one, and inhabitants of all are not content to remain within their own realm. Some are extremely dangerous and not easily vanquished. Dr. Schuster’s equipment seeks not a particular doorway, but any that makes itself available. He does not know that only those who desire to maim and kill are ready and willing to cross over. I am unable to share this knowledge with him as my physical interaction with these creatures, these humans, is limited. I cannot even be seen clearly since I appear only dimly as the shimmer of heat on their asphalt on blistering summer days.
It was never my responsibility to rescue humankind from potential predators. However, since they ever seem bent on destroying themselves on a daily basis, I cannot help but feel an obligation to assist these often foolish and irresponsible beings. My time here is indeterminate. When I am notified that my assignment in this dimension will soon come to an end, I plan to assess how near my subject is to reaching his goal. If he soon will be in a position to pull the deadly ones through, I shall have to destroy him. Conscience be damned. None of us may shirk the duty that is thrust upon us. This human sector is one of the cores, and its destruction would be the death of us all. I wonder if any who reside here know just how important to the rest of us they are…
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
This week, the prompt was to write a story about sisters, and the genre was drama. Sometimes, between sisters, drama is all you get.
WHAT’S BEST FOR FATHER
WHAT’S BEST FOR FATHER
“Are you okay, Sarah? I expected you to arrive long before this. Did your plane have engine trouble or some other problem? These days, traveling by any means can be scary. I would hate to imagine anything bad happening to the best sister in the world.”
“Lillian, I’m the one who has the best sister in the universe. Besides, I’m fine. Nothing went wrong with the plane. We were delayed due to a storm and had a layover in some small airport for hours. I was more concerned for you having to be here alone with Father since he is so ill.”
“It’s bad enough being stuck in large airports, but in a small strip? Not much to do to pass the time, I’m sure. The important thing is that you’re okay. I was worried because I know how you get.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? How do I get?”
“Well, Sarah, you get all worked up over nothing all the time.”
“Really, Lillian? I don’t get any more worked up than you do over everything.”
“Look, the doctor called me and asked me to come since Father needs full-time care.”
“The doctor called me first and asked me to come. Father can certainly do without your kind of care.”
“My kind of care? I would care for him better than you, that’s for sure.”
“Very funny. You always were the joke of the family. I’m going to go talk to Father and you’d better stay away. He always wants to speak with me privately since he’s afraid of you.”
“You’re the one he’s terrified of – you and your big mouth. You’re always yelling and giving everyone a headache. Father told me he’s been having horrible headaches lately.”
“I’m not surprised since you’re the one who’s been here with him. I’ve only just arrived. Leave us alone. I’ll go reassure him that I won’t let you get to him. That’s always concerned him.”
“Sarah, he lives in mortal terror of you. He told me that the minute I got here. Go in there if you must, but he was resting quietly. Don’t get him all agitated. If you do, he’ll make all kinds of weird sounds and I won’t be able to hear myself think. I’ll have to give him a dose of a sedative I got from my doctor. It will put him out for a minimum of 6 hours.”
“Poor Lillian. As if you ever think about anything that matters. If he makes weird noises, it’s only because he knows you’re in the house. If I’m not able to sleep because he’s in there rambling on and on, it will be all your fault. For your information, I got a much more powerful sedative from my doctor than yours could ever prescribe. Mine will keep him quiet for at least 36.”
“Sarah, do you have to make so much noise making a sandwich?
“Shut up for one minute, Lillian. Did someone knock on the door?”
“Do the world a favor and shut up for an hour. Yes, someone knocked on the door. Go open it.”
“I AM opening the door. See? Mrs. Hopper. What do you want? You don’t need to check on our father anymore because my sister and I are here. I thought we made that clear with you when we called.”
“Yes, Ms. Sarah. You and Ms. Lillian made that abundantly clear. The reason I’m here now is to make sure you both were all right since your dad was found wandering alone by the train station. Someone called for an ambulance and the hospital called me since they knew I had been looking in on him. The important thing is that nothing has happened to either one of you. Apparently, he can’t be left alone for even a short period of time now. Let me know if you both need to be out and I’ll come over and sit with him.”
“Lillian, what is she talking about? For your information, Ms. Nosy Neighbor, our father is resting comfortably in his bed waiting for his lunch, which I was in the middle preparing when you so rudely interrupted me.”
“I’m going to ignore the name-calling, Ms. Sarah, because my concern is only for the welfare of your dad. I would suggest that you go and check on him because he is not resting in his bed. The nurse said a man saw your father walking back and forth across the tracks at the station, mumbling to himself. Evidently, he told the man he was waiting for the train because his weekend leave was over and needed to get back to his platoon.
“I told the hospital I would go check on his daughters who were staying with him. I’m happy to see nothing has happened to either one of you. Now, you can take offense at what I’m about to say, but I don’t care. Your dad left the house without either of you knowing about it. You ought to be ashamed. I’m going home now, but let me warn you. If he ends up coming back here with you and I find out you’re not making sure he’s safe, I’m going to call the police. Someone has to protect that poor man.”
“Close the door, Lillian. This woman has crossed the line for the last time. I’m going to check on Father.”
“Lillian, my God, that old biddy was right. Father’s not in his room. She said he was walking back and forth across the train tracks. When I think of what could have happened, it makes me sick to my stomach. What if he had been hit by the train? What if some nasty people had taken advantage and robbed him and beat him up? There’s no way he could defend himself against something like that.”
“I know, Sarah. It’s frightening. He thought he was back in the Army. That poor old man walked all the way into town to the train station. It’s a blessing that he wasn’t hit by a car walking along the road like that. All that talk when I got here first about his bad headaches mixing him up meant something serious was going on, but you didn’t do anything about it, did you?”
“What do you mean ‘all that talk when you got here first’? You know my plane was delayed due to weather. I got here as quickly as I could after his doctor called me. Father told me about his headaches too; although, he went into much more detail with me than you because he knew I’d understand since I’m not as self-centered as you are. Wait. I didn’t do anything about it? What stopped you? See. All you think about is you. At least, I was making his lunch. Where were you? Sitting with your feet up?”
“Yes, you bitch. This trip has been hard on me coming all the way from Phoenix. You were making him lunch? Big deal. What do you want – a medal? Didn’t you hear him leave? That’s it. I’m taking him back with me. There’s a nice facility that’s twenty minutes from where I live.”
“Bitch? Me? Look at the lazy skank talk so big. He’s coming back to Boston with me. I can get him admitted into a care home immediately that’s ten minutes from my house.”
“We’ll just see. I’m going to Mercy to make arrangements.”
“You’d better let me have him because I’ll put him in a better place than you ever could.”
“You wouldn’t know a better place if it bit you on the ass. I want what’s best for MY father.”
“I want what’s best for MY father.”
“Sarah, I’ll drive so you don’t add miles on your rented car.”
“That would be great, Lillian. Thanks tons for helping me save on the charges.”
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
That Green-Eyed Monster (Continued)
At the bottom of the stairs was a hidden exit from the house that led right into the woods. I waited in the trees until the last cop car had left. The lights had been on all over the house, and I figured they’d searched every inch of it. I was glad I had picked up the items from the stairs. One belonged to a friend, who I knew was innocent, and the other belonged to a killer. I made my way home through the dark streets and snuck in through my bedroom window. I knew my folks were asleep. Ma’s shift at the factory started at 5am. My pop was a janitor at Butler Memorial Hospital and his shift started at 4:30am. They’d both be out like lights by now; no sense getting them all excited with me coming in so late.
I got up early and went to the jail. I wanted to let Benny and Joey know I had made it out. Chief Bob told me I could go back and visit the three of them. What?
“Eddie,” Benny hollered, then remembered where he was and lowered his voice to a whisper. “How’d you get out of that house?”
“Not important,” I said.
That’s when I saw Lonny sitting on the bench in the cell. He looked like he’d run into a brick wall – hard - twice.
“Lonny, what are you doing here?”
“The cops came to my house and arrested me. Mrs. Hopper’s sitting with Ma now.” Lonny’s eyes filled with tears. “They said I had the motive to kill that old bastard because of what he did to Pa. They think I went over there this afternoon and fought with him and that’s how I got this black eye. Then, one of the cops said that I sent Benny and Joey over there at night to finish him off. The cop also said some anonymous somebody called the station and tipped them off right after it happened. Who would do that, Eddie?”
So that’s how the cops got there right away. Somebody tipped them off, but who? The killer? I bet he had still been in the house when we got there. He must have heard us fiddling with the front door lock, went upstairs and called the cops, and got out down the staircase. He figured he’d make sure whoever was coming in got framed for the old man’s murder. I wondered if he realized he had dropped his knife on those stairs. I decided to make sure he did.
“Lonny, I found your medal on the stairs leading out of the house, so I know you were there. Not to worry because I have it and I didn’t turn it over to the cops. I know you didn’t kill Harlson, but what were you doing there, and how did you know about those stairs?”
“Eddie, it’s true,” Lonny said. “I did go there, but when I left, he was alive. I gave Ma her pain medicine and she fell asleep. I knew she’d be out for a few hours, so I locked up the house and went to see Harlson. All I wanted to do was find out why he framed Pa. He laughed in my face and said my dad was no better than the dirt under his feet. Then he started pushing me. Out of nowhere, he punched me in my face, and told me to get the Hell out of his house or he’d have me locked up right beside my loser of a father. Then, somebody started pounding on his back door and he went to see who it was. I acted like I was going out the front, but when he went into the kitchen to get the back door, I slipped upstairs. Pa said Harlson kept papers up there and I wanted to see if I could find something to help prove he was innocent.
“I heard Harlson yelling, but I didn’t hear the other person. I figured I’d better get out of there. I knew about that back stairway because Pa told me about it. He said that’s how Harlson’s crooked suppliers brought him faulty materials and got their payoffs. Everything done in secret. I went through the woods to Wilbur’s Crossing, then across the field to my house. Ma was just coming around. I told her I slipped and fell on something and that’s why my eye was swelled up. That’s where I stayed until they came and arrested me. I thought the chain with my medal had fallen off in the woods.”
Okay. So the killer arrived via the kitchen door and left by way of the secret staircase. Time to bait the trap.
I headed over to Rosie’s Diner. Her joint was where everyone in town gathered to gossip. Anything said in here would definitely get around. I decided to use my outside voice inside.
“Hey, Ms. Rosie, it’s early, but can I have a burger and some fries?”
“Sure, Eddie, but I’m the only one who needs to hear your order. The next county sure don’t!”
Yep. My outside voice was dialed up just right.
“Sorry. It’s just Mr. Harlson getting murdered right under our noses is creepy business. First, my best friends get arrested, and now…wow.”
“Now what?” Ms. Rosie asked.
“Well,” I continued, at a slightly elevated volume, so no one would miss a word. “They found evidence in the master bedroom. It doesn’t match up to any of my friends, so they’ve got one of those forensic teams coming from the state in the morning to process the kni…I mean, it. The girl in dispatch is my second cousin, and she told me they didn’t remove it from the house yet. Once those CSI folks get done with it, they’ll have the fourth person involved in the killing. I can’t wait to find out who that is, can you?”
The diner was abuzz with everyone talking about who the other person could possibly be. I knew he was in here somewhere. All I needed was for him to take the bait.
Sitting in the dark waiting for a killer wasn’t cool at all. I don’t believe in spooks, but being in a house upstairs from where a guy had recently been murdered gave me the heebies. I was beginning to think I’d be visiting my friends next on Death Row when I saw the beam of a flashlight under that door to the secret staircase. The door opened and the killer entered, swinging the light around on the carpet searching. I was leaning against the desk and the light eventually shined on my feet. I heard a gasp. Apparently, our killer wasn’t expecting company. The light was moved up to my face.
“What are you doing here?”
“I might ask you the same thing, Mrs. Vanderly. That knife was yours? You killed Mr. Harlson?”
“Didn’t your mother teach you to mind your own business?”
“Leave my mother out of this. Why’d you do it?”
“I guess there’s no harm in letting you in on it. After all, it’s not like you’ll be able to repeat anything I tell you.”
She pulled a gun from her pocket and pointed it in my direction. Great plan, Eddie.
“It was an accident, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I was having an affair with Harlson. He was repulsive, but rich, and promised me big houses and trips. My husband Fred didn’t know anything about it. He’s repulsive too, but poor, and he never promised me anything. Everything was fine until Harlson decided to dump me and take up with that hotel clerk that just moved into town. After I put up with his reptilian touch for months, he was going to kick me to the curb for that blonde dimwit.
“I knew he framed that Draymond idiot because Fred helped him doctor the books. I went there that night to tell him if he dumped me for that bimbo, I’d blow the whistle on him. I had planned to just knock him out and then go through his files to find something I could use against him if he didn’t agree to dump junior miss. I brought the knife to use to get into any locked files. He started threatening me, so I pushed him as hard as I could. He lost his balance, fell backwards and hit his head on the table. I knew he was dead. I didn’t kill him on purpose. I just got lucky.
“After I got upstairs, I heard somebody messing with the front door. That must have been your friends. I called the cops and told them Harlson was dead and the killers were still in the house and then I hung up. I knew about the back staircase since that’s how I came in and left when I visited him. I was in a hurry and that’s when I must have dropped the knife. I saw the medal and chain on a stair halfway down and left it for the cops to find. Pretty smart, huh?”
I had to agree with her, but only to a point. I was pretty smart too.
The lights in the room came on and Chief Bob told her to drop the gun. She looked behind her and cops were coming up the back stairs.
“You heard all that, Chief Bob?” I smiled at Mrs. Vanderly. I had earned the right to be smug.
“Got it all on tape, son,” he said. He pointed to the bedroom door which led to the main staircase in the house. “After you, Mrs. V. You ride with me, Eddie, back to the jail, and I’ll drive you and your friends home after the lady is tucked in a cell. Always remember one thing, son. Hell hath no fury like that of a woman scorned.”
Duly noted, Chief. We hadn’t gotten to that yet in school. I wondered if that was a college thing.
The prompt this week was to write a mystery story that began with one of the listed sentences. The one I chose is highlighted. Please enjoy.
That Green-Eyed Monster
We couldn’t let anyone know we’d been inside. It is true that Benny, Joey and I broke into old man Harlson’s house at midnight, but it was only to find some evidence. See, Benjamin Harlson was a royal piece of garbage. He cheated everybody in town by selling them crap and then charging them to fix it when it broke. He called himself a real estate something or other and when folks bought land in the county, they’d pay his company to build a house for them. What they didn’t know until it was too late was that his crew was made up of nothing but drunks and inmates from the penal farm. He never did get permits; he just paid off the folks in the courthouse to write in the books that everything was being done all legal like.
Families would move in and walls would cave, the roof would leak, and all kinds of other nonsense would go wrong. Then Harlson would send his sleazy crew of repairmen in to fix it up, and charge the residents a pretty penny. This went on all over the county, but folks kept letting him build their houses and fix stuff when it broke. They deserved their troubles, if you ask me, but who am I, but a 15 year old kid that don’t know anything about the world or how it works. What I do know is that bastard Harlson framed our pal Lonny Draymond’s pop for embezzling $10,000 from some families who were building homes in a new subdivision. Mr. Draymond had been responsible for maintaining some of the equipment, and he also ordered supplies, like paint and wallpaper and such. He didn’t even have access to any of the money that changed hands, but Harlson said Mr. Draymond doctored up some invoices and that’s how he got the money.
There’s no way Lonny’s dad made off with $10,000. If he had taken it, why did he, Lonny’s ma and Lonny will still live in a single-wide trailer in Sunset Ridge Trailer Park? Why did Lonny’s pop still drive that heap of a truck with no driver’s side door that dripped oil from here to Kingdom come? Most important of all though, why would he let Lonny’s ma lay suffering and dying in her bed from some nightmare of a disease instead of spending that ten grand on fancy doctors and treatments? Harlson made up that lie and forged some stuff so Mr. Draymond would get blamed and go to jail instead of him. Yep. You guessed it. Harlson was the one who skimmed that cash off the top and would have got caught too because some state auditor was coming to look at his books – something about tax deductions and all. So, Lonny’s pop went to the slammer and that bum Harlson comes out of it smelling like a rose.
Well, us guys weren’t going to let him get away with that. We knew there had to be some papers in the old man’s office that would prove Lonny’s dad was innocent, and we were determined to find them. Harlson had spread it around in town how he was going on a business trip for a couple of days and nobody better get near his house while he was gone. He talked about some elaborate alarm system being hooked up there that would bring the state militia down on anybody who even thought about breaking in. We knew that was bull, but if some lights started flashing or sirens going off while we were there, we’d just hightail it out. Harlson’s backyard was woods anyhow and we knew how to get lost in there real good.
We would have brought Lonny with us, but there were two reasons why we didn’t. First and most important, with his dad behind bars, he had to stay with his ma to give her the medicine that eased her pain, and second, Lonny couldn’t keep a secret if you paid him a million bucks. He didn’t mean no harm, but he blabbed everything to anybody who’d listen. We knew we had to find some evidence on our own, turn it over to the DA, then tell Lonny. That way, when his loose lips let it out, no harm to the case could be done. Sound like a great plan? The greatest plan ever. That is, until we got inside the house, walked into the front room, and found old man Harlson lying next to the coffee table, stone cold dead with a big gash on the side of his head.
There was blood on one corner of the coffee table, so he might have tripped, fallen, and hit his head on it. Only one big problem with that scenario though, and that was the amount of blood on the table and the size of the wound on his head. The ‘fell and hit the table’ story might hold water if he slipped and fell on it from the roof. It was obvious, even to us kids, that a lot of force had been involved; like he had been pushed onto the table hard. That meant somebody else was involved. We looked around and didn’t see anything out of place or hear anybody moving around, so we figured whoever killed him had long gone. We hoped so, anyway. Still, even though we weren’t the ones who did him in, we tried to touch as little as possible. Okay, so our fingerprints weren’t on file anywhere, but we’d seen plenty of shows where folks got nailed for doing something they didn’t do just because they were in a certain place and didn’t touch anything.
Benny and Joey wanted to cut and run, but I told them Harlson was already dead, and since we were already there, we might as well do what we came for. Once he’d been found, maybe any paperwork we’d need would disappear. I told them to look around downstairs and I would go upstairs. Lonny’s dad had told Lonny that Harlson worked out of his house and kept papers all over the place, which made it real hard to keep track of orders and all. Even though the only other person in the house with us was dead, we were all as quiet as we could be. Joey refused to go any further into the front room, but there were other rooms downstairs to search, so he and Benny decided to split up.
I said I would go upstairs and look through whatever rooms were up there. The house was good size, so I figured at least maybe three or more rooms might be up there. I decided to start with the room on the right. When I flicked my flashlight on and scanned the room, I knew this was the master bedroom. Man, the old bastard had some fancy taste. There was a huge four poster bed with silk sheets, a big entertainment center, and…what was that? Somebody yelling outside? I went back to the top of the stairs to find out what was going on. There were cops everywhere, and they were telling Benny and Joey not to move, to put their hands behind their backs, and that they were being arrested for murder. I could hear Bob Dawson, our Police Chief, ask them if anyone else was in the house with them, and they both told him ‘no’. Smart, guys. That way, I’d be free to find out who really killed the old man. First things first though. How was I going to get out of there?
I went back to the master bedroom and saw a narrow door next to the closet that was partly open. It had no doorknob, and if it was closed, it would look like part of the wall. I opened it all the way and saw a staircase that looked like it went down to the first floor. I wondered if it led to another door out the back of the house. Maybe this was how the killer left, but he didn’t close it all the way behind him. I didn’t know for sure where I’d end up, but I didn’t have any choice, so I headed down the stairs and made sure I closed that door with the handle on the inside. What’s this? On the third stair down, was a switch knife. I’ll bet that fell out of the killer’s pocket as he ran down the stairs. What a dumbass. I used the bottom of my shirt to pick it up and slide it into my pocket. Wouldn’t want to mess with those fingerprints. On a few more steps down, I found a broken chain with a St. Christopher’s medal on it. We all got them from Sister Mary Frances at Catechism Class. She had our initials carved on the back. This one had LAD on it. Lonny Allen Draymond. Damn.
I reached the word limit, so this post is at an end. I won’t leave you hanging though. You can find the story's conclusion here.