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Your Life: A Mystery Novel

Categories: Creative Writing Prompts Tags: creative writing exercises, creative writing prompts, writing prompt.

You are a world-renowned mystery writer living a life of seclusion. A random email informs you of a great story, the next bestseller. Unfortunately, you find the details to be a little too close to home. Write a scene where you confront this mysterious informant, who seems to know a little too much about your personal life.

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362 Responses to Your Life: A Mystery Novel

  1. meyersj5 says:

    “And so marks the end of another classic mystery,” sighed Don Thompson, as he closed down his computer. The world-renowned author had finalized the series chronicling the life of Jack Pierce, a computer programmer who was pushed into game of deception, murder, and cover-ups. It no longer mattered whether Jack lived or died, as the fans of the series had now become enthralled with the movie version of his books. At least that’s what Don thought.

    His phone beeped, signaling a new email had been received. Unaware of who might be emailing him at this hour, he grew curious. The sender had managed to cover up his or her identity and the subject line read only, “READ ME IMMEDIATELY.” Relatively sure it was a spam attempt, Don moved it to the Trash on his phone email client and set it down to make a cup of chamomile tea.

    His phone vibrated to life once again, this time with a text message: “Read the email, Don. Don’t make me tell you twice.” Don nearly dropped the phone as he read the message again and again. This new presence in his life felt menacing. He sat down at the computer desk, restarted his computer, and returned the once-ignored email from his Trash bin to the Inbox and began reading.

    “Hi Don – You don’t know me but it’s imperative that you read this message and understand it well. I’m very aware of the final progress you’re making on the Pierce books. You currently have him dying in Paris as he attempts his final rescue of his true love. This cannot happen. If you don’t want to turn this work of fiction into reality, you’ll change the story. You have one week. You cannot keep your family safe. I hear Miami is beautiful this time of year…”

    The air escaped from his lungs as he finished reading. His estranged wife and daughter lived in Miami and Jennifer had filed for a restraining order against him, fraudulently claiming that she feared for her life. The judge had ruled in her favor, surmising that a mystery writer must have connections to the dark world of crime. How could he warn them? Who was this mystery reader and how could he or she know the details of the book? He hadn’t even sent the final installment of the series to his editors for final review. He clicked reply:

    “I don’t know who you are, but there’s no way you could know what you claim to know about my story. I will call the police if you contact me or my family again.” He pushed send and waited with baited breath.

    His phone vibrated with a sense of urgency. It was a picture message from his new “friend” of his daughter sleeping. “She looks so peaceful. Can it stay that way forever?” He sat at his computer screen, staring at his daughter. “She’s only 13. Leave her alone. I’ll do it.”

  2. Adan Ramie says:

    This one was written a little tongue-in-cheek, goes off prompt, and looks better when formatted in MS Word. (Please excuse any HTML markup errors.)

    “Inspired By True Events”

    You crawl through the tunnel, suddenly aware of your own breathing, trying to pretend that you aren’t slithering to your own imminent destruction. Something cold and slimy drips onto your face and slides down your cheek, making you shudder, and you crawl faster. Just when you think you’ll never reach the end, the bottom drops out from under you, and you plummet through the air and land on something rubbery and warm.

    The doorbell rang, and Nathan swore. He pushed back from his keyboard and looked toward the front door. He could see a familiar shape standing there through the (something) glass, and he wrapped his bath robe more tightly around himself as he made his way there.

    “Hey, Mr. Trove. It’s a nice night for writing, huh?” The teenager smiled up at the writer. “Working on your new book?”

    “Yeah.” Nathan Trove took the bagged Chinese takeout from the boy and shoved cash into his hand. “That cover it?”

    The delivery boy’s shoulders fell. “Yes, sir.” He made change, but before he could hand it over, the door was already shutting in his face.

    Nathan took his food into the kitchen and made himself a plate of dumplings, his rice in a bowl on the side. He squirted soy sauce into a little bowl and placed it directly in the center of the arranged dumplings.
    Food in hand, he made his way back to his computer, only to hear the ding of a new email notification. He noshed on dumplings as he read it. Halfway down the attached document, he choked and spit the dumpling back onto his plate. Pushing it aside, he rubbed his eyes and squinted at the text on the screen.

    Tate Roven’s fingers danced over the keys of his laptop, immersed in his imaginary world, when there was a knock at the door. He spat a curse word, then pushed back and went to answer it. As usual, the delivery boy was early, waiting with a smile and word of encouragement as side dishes to his delicious wares.

    The handsome teenager, known only as Scribe, hoped that tonight, his hero would invite him in for some Dim Sum and writerly conversation. Instead, the man took his food, left Scribe with the change as an afterthought, and shut the door in his face. As usual.

    The renowned author carefully placed the food on his plate in a pattern only he could understand. He squeezed soy sauce from the plastic packs into a small dish, which he placed directly in the center of the plate, as he always did. Leaving the rest of the take out on the counter, he made his way back to his computer to read back over what he had written in the last hour. Instead, he found an email waiting for him from a loyal fan and fellow creator.

  3. Abby Gracino says:

    Sitting at my brown, plain, boring desk, I spun around in my rolling chair. I pushed myself along the smooth, hardwood floors. I glided freely, and it felt like I was flying. I remember when I felt like that all the time.

    I’ve been taking a break, you see, from my very busy, full-time job of writing mystery novels. You may think that anyone can write mystery novels, but let me tell you something. I had a gift. One like no other, or so I was told. Many people came up to me on the streets to commend me or give me compliments, but the thing that really confirmed my suspected “gift” was the paycheck I received.

    I had all the money in the world. I could afford anything I could possibly want, but I didn’t want anything. I was fulfilled already. I’d become the successful author that I wanted to be, and that was enough.

    Believe it or not, I don’t have any money left. I’ve given most of it to my elderly mother and my two younger siblings. The rest was donated to charity. It seemed like the best thing to do with the money, since I didn’t have any use for it.

    All I have left now is that wooden desk. I could’ve bought the most extravagant desk in the history of the universe with all the money I made, but I chose not to. I wanted to keep my desk. After all, it was the one I learned the alphabet at; the one I read my first picture book at; and the one I wrote all five of my mystery novels at.

    Now it’s the desk that houses my laptop computer. How times have changed.

    I suddenly heard a ‘DING’ coming from my laptop. I rolled my chair back over to the desk and opened up my email. I had one new message from an anonymous sender.

    “Hello, friend. It has come to my attention that you are no longer writing novels, which truly saddens me. Please take my fresh idea for a new novel into consideration.

    A man, a writer, perhaps, has secluded himself from the human species. His stash of cash is sought-after by many starving artists, but every time a paycheck rolls in, the money seems to disappear. This writer is too suspicious, and his fanbase craves answers, but he has nothing to say; nothing to communicate to them anymore.”

    I sunk into my chair, taking it all in. This person was starting to creep me out. I felt my fingers hitting the keys. I usually didn’t respond to fanmail, but this one was different.

    “Hello, anon. The way you acquired this information, which highlights the past few years of my life, is a mystery novel within itself. There is no possible way you could know all of this. Your idea will not be taken into consideration.”

    I pressed send. The computer dinged again after a few minutes.

    “No. I am your father.”

  4. PromptPrincess13 says:

    Don’t Bite the Hand That Feeds You (491)

    “Who are you?” It was a simple question, one that shouldn’t have caused Agatha Jean, world-renown, universally-beloved mystery novelist so much difficulty to ask.

    The bookroom they stood in was brightly lit, empty of anyone other than the two women, different in name, but closer in personas than either of them knew. These two ladies both had secrets they’d much rather have buried than offered to the masses. They had dabbled in the same world, and fell into it, too deeply, to the point where they sacrificed others to save themselves and their names. Over and over again.

    “My name is Terra Jones.” A simple answer, one that shouldn’t have made Agatha quake as she did. The older woman’s skin paled, any luster of youth left in her dimmed as her past called her back to it, choked her away from the present and into its murk. Arthritic hands numbed; bones seemed to crumble in shock, muscle melting away. But Agatha didn’t fall; she stood steady with a darkness in her gaze that would have smoldered any lesser opponent into submission. Anyone but Terra Jones.

    Agatha barked a dry laugh. “I should have known you would be the one to give me trouble.” Here she managed a sneer, laden with nerves but at least holding a semblance of disdain. “You always were hard to kill off.”

    Terra jerked but didn’t get up from where she was sitting, her tiny form seeming immaturely structured in the light. Turquoise eyes stormed with anger, red lips thinning from being pressed together so tightly.

    One hand, shaking just a smidge, brushed her mid-long hair behind her back, in a futile attempt at elegance as she lifted from her plush chair. Burgundy nails fixated their aim at Agatha’s chest.

    “No more games. You are going to write a series telling everything, every last bit! Nothing will be left out, not a thing! You are going to tell the truth about all the lives of the others and how you mercilessly smashed them out of your stories just to get yourself somewhere. Honestly Agatha, why? You killed them for what? To be on the New York Times Bestseller List?!”

    Terra was holding her creator by the shoulders now, shaking the woman whose body might have been fragile, but whose mind was as keen as ever.

    “And what when I get to the part when you stalk me? And blackmail me? Then what? What are the readers going to say?”

    Terra scoffed and walked to one of the windows in the room. “I’m not the one who’s famous. Their hate can’t hurt me.”

    Agatha laughed. “And how do you think you’re here right now? Because of them. The second they turn on you, poof, you’re gone. Like you never existed. I’m telling you now, if I go down Terra…you’re going down with me. Faster than I could say The End.”

  5. lostwriter says:

    He was standing facing out over the sound near the old anchor the city had placed at the water’s edge along with a plaque. The old anchor had been placed – like the mission he was sent on while on active duty, in a square. Consisting of four steel posts, and a large steel chain connecting them. Unlike the mission he was sent on while on active duty, this scenario had an open end, a way to escape.
    It had been three plus decades since that costly and painful experience in which he lost the sight in his left eye and was left for dead in a mangled condition. waking up in a body bag was more than enough of a frightening experience for chief warrant Jack Wilkie, if he wasn’t dead it was certainly enough of an experience to scare him to death.
    How someone knew of this…what is supposed to be a…Completely black mission, is a complete mystery. The number of people who knew about this nonexistent mission that never took place could be counted on one hand.
    Yet, the stranger standing beside him spelled out details only he knew. Even the other three people who knew about this…event that never happened…because they were never there, did not know the things this stranger was telling him. Accurate, detail for detail this stranger was spelling out all the things that took place on that fateful day back in 1980.
    Jack Wilkie had since then been earning a living as a freelance writer and artist in the civilian world. Living on the west coast of the United States in, what was to him…absolute utter peace. About the time he thought he had outlived that nightmare it reoccur’s in the form of an Email.
    In the “senders address” it stated “undisclosed sender”, in the “to” space it stated “undisclosed recipient”. In the “subject” space it stated – “Your Life’s Story”. Jack Wilkie had to scoff at that heading, after all even God himself did not know some of the details of his life, he was that much of a recluse.
    better known as a loner Jack Wilkie did not even invite a female into his life. The few females that did try to co-habitat with Jack did not last very long before they made the decision to leave. Jack Wilkie knew he was emotionally unavailable to just about anybody. The problem is there is just no other person on planet earth that has a set of life’s experiences that would even closely resembles that of Jack Wilkie. And yet; here is this stranger telling him things that he has kept secret for a lifetime.
    How did this stranger learn of these things and what should Jack Wilkie do about it if anything. More importantly, who is this individual and where did “she” come from?
    I thought I would try to tell my father what it is that I know about him, she stated.

  6. FLETCHER’S RETURN
    ==================

    Carol Bannister placed the breakfast tray in front of her Aunt Jessica and stood staring out the window at the autumn leaves swirling about the grounds.

    “My, it’s fixin’ to be a blustery time of it, Auntie. The colors are spectacular.”

    Jessica remained silent as she had been since the stroke a year earlier. Carol forced a light tone and continued.

    “You received an email today from a fan. Would you like me to read it to you?”

    Nothing. Carol tapped the screen of her phone and read:

    Dear Mrs. Fletcher,
    I have an idea for you’re next adventure. Perhaps your pretty little niece will write it for you. It’s about a catatonic mystery writer who seeks recompense from the cause of her malady. A life for a life, if you pardon the melodrama. I’ll be in touch.
    James

    Jessica moaned and Carol nearly dropped the phone, steadying the matron as she stood.

    “I’ll go get the nurse,” said Carol but was stopped by a gnarled grip.

    “Don’t,” she said, her voice hoarse with disuse. “You’re in terrible danger, my child.”

    “What are you talking about, Auntie? That James fella is just another nut, right?”

    The younger woman picked up the glass of water and, holding the straw, brought it to the old woman’s lips. Both trembled for very different reasons.

    “He’s come to finish what he started, Carol. You read my notes from the last case. I remember many nights, you reading to me. I remember, Carol.”

    This last came out almost as if it were a revelation. Carol was worried.

    “So, the initials, J. M., in your notes was this guy? You were so close but never named him.”

    “Did you show the Sheriff?”

    “No, there wasn’t enough evidence. I kept chasing leads, but they went cold. Who is he, Auntie?”

    “He fancies himself James Moriarty, but his real name is Colin Anders.”

    “Councilman Anders?”

    “The very same, dear. We’ve not a lot of time. We have to–”

    Carol’s cell rang its tuneful melody and she looked at the screen. It read ‘Unknown Number’. She answered the phone but didn’t speak.

    “Hello , Carol. How’s your Auntie Fletcher? We need to have a little chat.”

  7. PeterW says:

    Writing Prompt Mystery Writer

    Over Earth, housed in the D3 American Space Station, sits the world’s best -selling author; the greatest thriller novelist of all time. Its caretaker, Lenny Rhodes floats nearby monitoring pressures and temperatures; reading the outputs with great delight. X3981 has been working on a lengthy piece for Random House. The piece is set in the 1800s in Europe and the researchers at Random have been constantly sending information about dialects, history, tentative plot-outline, the basic traits the want in their main character, a Robert Forester who is to be an American, age 30, a big-game enthusiast, professor of Poetics and Entomology, Darwinist, private eye, who is entangled in a plot to overthrow British Nobility involving Roman Catholic extremists from Italy, a British imperialist general, German factory barons, Swiss Bankers, a beautiful mysterious Scandinavian… The book starts with the disappearance of a leading British emissary: his ship, inbound from Africa, arrives in the mouth of Thames with a single passenger, a young child, perhaps the Queen’s illegitimate daughter, etc. These are the basic premises, but X3981 will take liberties; it always does and it’s always for the better. The Forester series has signed for 5 novels over 5 years.

    Lenny connected to Earth: Mr. Rove, the CEO Rove said, “When will we get done with Random House’s order.”

    “5 days.”

    “Damn we were supposed to start Penguin’s next installation of the Groman’s series tomorrow.”

    “Yeah, all this historical data is tough for her. Plus the plot-inputs are unrealistic at best. She also has to overcome the character deficiencies of Forester.”

    “Oh, well, we can charge Random House for the extra expenses. Let’s just hope it’s not another Davenport.”

    Last month, X3981 had put out a novel in Backbay’s Davenport series where the detective Davenport died at the end. Plot-lines were slightly altered and input, but X still had Davenport dying. After 8 new plot-inputs, Rove said screw it, and the under-writers had changed the ending. However critical reception had been awful, which never happened. Readers though the climax was bogus; they claimed something was missing. Backbay was understandably angry, and even threaten to reveal the existence of X3981 to the general public.

    However X wasn’t running slow, because of the amateur Forester series— X would just take an outline of Eco, simplify it, superimpose it, and add unique nuances… slight shifts, a project that could be done in less than a week— X was running slow because Lenny was running another program on the side. It had taken him years to figure out how to do it. But now X as was writing Forester, it was also writing Lenny’s novel. It only used 2 percent of X’s energy, but Lenny had recently added a new characters which made X stutter and slow. Lenny had added Rove, the CEOs of every publishing company that used X, and himself. He had also added X: all the biographical info, its location, and purpose.

    X had begun writing the greatest mystery ever. Lenny had cultivated it and soon he would take it down to earth and sell it himself. Lenny would be the last real thriller writer.

    …To be continued in my novel

    • jhowe says:

      What a great tell-all book Lenny’s novel will be. Very clever story PW. If this computer ever becomes reality, it will make it tough for us hopeful writers.

    • jmcody says:

      Your mind is a strange and awesome place, Peter W. Actually this might not be all that far fetched. This might explain a lot, including the programming on the Disney Channel.

      • bishop_veno says:

        I like your comment and agree jmcody. This story was strange but a good strange and I never thought of that; surprised really because not only am I a writer but one who is into conspiracies, the “future”. Interesting if like you mentioned with Disney, if this is already happening. But I will not discuss this now, wrong place but great topic – you gave me something raw to write about, not fiction but an article/essay. I love writing those!

        Anyway, good job Peter, definitely love where your imagination has led you in this short story! – Bishop V.

    • Ahsuniv says:

      The concept was really interesting… Really enjoyed it!

  8. pinkbamboo says:

    Hi, this is my first time writing a prompt and I actually wrote it in a book before typing it out here. Hopefully I’ll be accepted into the community here :)

    ***************

    Please don’t hurt me, I begged. He shook his head, his colorful hair swaying side to side. His face broke into a smile as he reached forward and pulled my hair.

    “Miss?” I jumped as the waiter looked at me with concern.

    I smiled weakly at him.

    “Would you like to order?”he handed me the menu cautiously. I ordered a glass of orange juice and gave him another smile.

    “Angela?” I looked up as a young man stood in front of me.

    “Mark? The email sender?” I knew it sounded silly but I’m still trembling.

    “Yeah, I’m so excited to meet you. You’re my favorite author. Wow, I can’t believe you emailed me back” he chuckled and sat down in front of me.

    “Always nice to meet a fan. I just want to know how did you get the idea of the story you sent me” I was being direct but this has been gnawing at the back of my head for the past two days ever since Mark sent me that email.

    “You mean the one about the clown chasing the girl because he was obsessed with her?” Mark asked casually.

    “Yeah, where did you get the idea from?”

    “Well, I was at the carnival with my buddies and there was this clown who tried to give one of his balloon animal to this little girl and she freaked out crying. I thought hey that’s a pretty cool concept so I emailed you, hoping that you’ll use it” he shrugged.

    I closed my eyes and replayed the scene in my head. Me screaming, his footsteps and in the end, the sound of him falling into the water where the last I seen of him was his big yellow boots. I started crying and Mark looked alarmed. I assured him I was fine. I just had a lot on my mind but I could breathe again.

    Coincidence.

    Mark began telling me how I inspire him to write and gave me review of my books. He’s just an ordinary kid who is trying to find his way in this world.

    “My dad never came home from work since that day” he sighed.

    “What happened?”

    “I don’t know, he went to the office as usual and until now he has been reported missing” Mark waved his hand like he’s dismissing something. I reached out and pat his arm

    “I’m going to the bathroom then we’ll talk some more okay?” I smiled and Mark grinned back. I looked at myself when I was in the bathroom and for the first time in days, I felt like a normal person again. A person who made a new friend. Sure, his story plot was creepy but that doesn’t mean I can’t modify and use it.

    When I returned to the table, Mark was gone but he left a box for me.

    ‘To sweet Angela, thanks for everything’

    I opened the box and my smile disappeared. I won’t be smiling again for a long time. There was a red costume nose with a note for me.

    [Don't worry cutie pie, I won't hurt you]

    • gamingtheblues says:

      Very intriguing story line. All sorts of interesting questions raised. Welcome to the community!!! We have some awesome writers here and many can and will share their…interesting comments on your work ;) I think this was a very good first entry with some nice ambiguity there. Was the clown a dream? Was it his father? What is the significance of his father? Was HE the clown? And I “know” that someone on here is going to whip out a clown phobia so be ready for that one! Good last line, nice close out while upping the tension.

    • Reaper says:

      The story is intriguing. There are some tense errors where you switch from past to present. A couple of them seem stylistic. I notice that mostly because it is something that plagues me in my own writing. I like the use of a clown because I love them but everyone I know seems to have a mild to severe phobia so it plays on a common fear without ever having one in the story. Your story slides easily between a very realistic form and a surrealist feel which gives those moments of memory a dream like quality that I appreciate.

      • Reaper says:

        Oh, and since I’m rude and always forget this. Welcome! I would say people here don’t bite but I know from experience that they do. It is always in a caring way that will only help and I have been very appreciative of the criticism as well as the compliments that I receive here.

  9. Ahsuniv says:

    Eric peeped into his neighbour’s house through his binoculars. He had been looking through all day. His legs were cramped and aching. He needed a break.

    He went inside to make coffee and heard his mobile ding from the coffee table. It was two O’clock in the afternoon. He had ten e-mails and a countless number of messages on whatsapp.

    He opened his whatsapp with some excitement that died as soon as he saw the messages. They all belonged to a group that he was a part of. They were mostly talking among themselves.

    Sighing, he opened his mail. It was full of spam. He opened each one with the hope of atleast finding a good deal, but he was once again disappointed as he opened each one.

    “10 great tips on building a bestselling mystery story”, said one mail instilling his attention. It was not that he needed any “tips”. His book was on the NY Times bestseller list, yet, the mail drew him in.

    One: Pay your neighbour a friendly visit.

    Two: Steal their favorite, or even better, most precious decorative object you can find in your reach. Make sure that the object is noticeable or the owner might not even realize that it’s missing.

    Three: Hide it in your puffer coat.

    Four: Methodically leave clues for them to find the object. For example leave your shirt button in the vicinity of the object.

    Four: Hide the object away in a clever place, such as, your dog’s house.

    Five: Keep your pair of binoculars at the ready and observe your neighbour’s movements, day in and day out.

    Six: Go to their house the next day for coffee and talk casually, observing their reaction all the while.

    Seven: Don’t forget to take notes as you observe!

    Eight: Wait for them to get on your trail.

    Nine: Make sure that you have a good explanation as to why their object is in your possession! You do not want to end up in jail.

    Ten: Now put everything that you observed into writing…

    Eric felt his fingers grow cold and his neck starting to sweat. This was his game plan for writing his next novel. He wanted to observe and record the reactions of a real person in a real situation. He knew that he had gone too far, but he did have a decent explanation to give. This however, was his entire plan out in the open. No amount of explanation about him having kleptomania would suffice now.

    As he bit his nails looking through the e-mail again, his doorbell rang. He went and opened the door nervously, closing his mailbox.

    His neighbour, Ronnie stood in the doorway looking serious.

    ‘Hey, Ronnie,’ he said, grinning awkwardly, ‘come on in.’

    She came in and sat in his sofa with a hard look. She pulled out her precious, gold plated swan out of her coat. Eric felt his eyes widen for a moment and quickly softened his expression trying to look normal, but his heart continued to hammer.

    ‘You received my e-mail, I presume?’ she asked in a no nonsense tone.

    ‘Oh, that was your mail? I thought it was prank…’ he said with a nervous laugh.

    ‘Stop beating around the bush, Eric. I know what happened,’ she said, ‘I found this swan in your dog’s house.’

    ‘How could you know?’ he asked, exasperated.

    ‘Well, let’s just say that, it was me who stole you book on writing tips last week. But, you didn’t seem to have noticed that it’s gone,’ she said and before he knew it, she came up to him and kissed him square on the lips.

    ‘I’m stealing your mystery novel idea, Eric. Forgive me,’ she said as she released him and gave him a wink as she closed the door behind her.

    ‘Bummer!’ said Eric to no one in particular.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      There’s some steamy underlying tension in this one unless I am mistaken. Really interesting take on the prompt . I liked the check list approach.. I thought things were about to get more than pg-13 =)

      • Ahsuniv says:

        You are so right, if Eric and Ronnie could get past their rivalry, they could be soul mates. And as for the PG content, it was as far as I could go for a weekly prompt ;)

        Sorry about all the mistakes though… A little distraction can go a long way while writing, I realize. I’m going to be more careful next time.

  10. gamingtheblues says:

    I hope the powers that be do not mind me taking a second shot at this. This story came into my head out of no where and it needed to find a place to take shape. This week’s prompts took a lot out of me. I hope you enjoy.

    The world swims in visions, shades of shadow and mist obscuring my sight. I was a mystery writer, until the mysteries that stand behind cob webbed curtains, and lie under dank moldy beds revealed themselves to me. It…changed something in me. The broken clockworks will never quietly click click; cogs, wheels, spinning precision, I would never put pen to paper again.

    The attic streams with light; the air is cold and dark. When was the last time I cleaned up here? The dust reviles me, casting off in great drifts as I silently move to the little brown box. Her box. My box. Ours… I… can smell her hair. That earthy, sweet sour smell of love. It sinks into your brain, and you breath so deeply that you hold her in your soul for as long as you can without letting it go. I can’t let go, I can’t… I don’t want to let out my breath…please don’t make me.. god don’t make me… she’s here with me and I can’t touch her, only taste the hint of her by holding this sweet smelling box. I fumble when I try to open it. It won’t open and I can’t see straight, my fingers slip. Why did I come up here? why…

    I’m losing it…losing it… I can’t stop the pain. My eyes are blind, shadows everywhere. But I can’t feel the tears on my face. I can’t feel them…feel them…feel. I know that if I could only feel, I could stop them from falling and leaving me so empty. I have to get out of here.

    In my office its better. Though I can not remember when I changed the paint, the paint. The paint is too bright and offensive. What was I thinking. I sit at the computer. The email is open to an old message.

    Subject: Check this out… Don’t let your wife read this one! She won’t sleep again in the house again!
    Body: Hey Chris, check out this new book premise I came across. Crazy stuff, don’t quote me at this but I think it explains quite a bit. Call me later.

    Headline: “Some ask too soon??? Next month premieres ‘Flowers and Oak: The life and death of Elliot Spitts’

    It has only been several months since the world famous mystery writer Elliot Spitts was found dead after apparently hanging himself in the attic of the home he had shared with his wife of 30 years. Just weeks prior, Sandra Spitts had been tragically murdered by one of Spitts’ fans who had become obsessed with the writer. Some think that a book so soon afterwards is in extremely poor taste. The title, based on Sandra Spitts known propensity for collecting flowers and her husband writing her flowers into each of his stories is especially repungnant- ”

    I can’t keep reading. This is… I… Who the hell is this Chris?? What kind of sick joke… who would send me this trash so soon after… the words attic, murdered, flowers, flowers…they start to spin. I grab at the mouse and go to close the program. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click clicklclickclicklcikclick…… it won’t close!! My mouth is open in a silent scream of rage, and I explode outward at everything I can touch. Papers flying, pictures I can’t even recognize smashing off the wall, glass shatters, I can’t stop myself. I hate…all I feel is hate and loss…why why why. Its all my fault……..

    The door slams open. Great… I’ve been so loud one of the neighbors must have heard. He doesn’t come in immediately, looking around with a wary expression. I don’t blame him, I was not myself there for a moment. But.. why isn’t he saying anything. “Hello I’m sorry I bothered you, its just I was a little upset…”

    Nothing, he won’t even meet my eyes. I’ve fallen so low… He brushes right by me, looking at the destruction. He whispers something to himself too low for me to hear as he looks at the open email. He reaches out and turns off the computer, turns and leaves the room without a word. I call out to him. “I’m sorry.”

    Curling up on the floor is better… its not so cold, the darkness of the room feels right and warm and…I’m feeling better. Good enough in fact, to go up into the attic.

    • MJ Munn says:

      Very nice! I guess even ghosts can be haunted!

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Eerie, rhythmatic, cadence. Overpowers the reader into some hypnotic feeling as he reads this. Really did enjoy the writer’s voice in this even though it’ll take a while before I can sleep tonight. No wonder you wanted a second shot at this.

        Too bad it’s already dark and my only protection from your story is my 20 pound cat, Miss Kitty.

        • gamingtheblues says:

          When I write pieces like this, the rhythmic cadence you reference takes over my writing and it just flows out, it is very hypnotic but is often impossible to convey that properly and it comes out sloppy. I am ecstatic that it came out.

    • Reaper says:

      I was trying to find a word to describe this and then I saw hypnotic. That is perfect. I found myself slowing down to read it. The present tense and the points of second person were used perfectly. I found myself thinking it is masterfully Kthuluesque and without shifting gears that feeling changed to something else but still similar. This took my breath away. The only constructive criticism I can offer is in the third to last paragraph in his quote you have an its that should be it’s. I noticed it only because it bumped me out of the trance for a second when everything else is, in my opinion, perfection. I know, I’m nitpicky tonight.

      • gamingtheblues says:

        Actually things like that are really funny to me so no worries on nitpicky. I am an insane stickler for details in terms of people pointing out errors, and truly appreciate it when people do so. I have no baseline for offense when it comes to grammar, structure and syntax. I am a horrible person because I did not edit or proof read this one though. It took too much to write it and I did not re-read it before posting.

        In reference to your feelings on the piece itself, I am very pleased that you found it hypnotic and that you seemed to really feel it. I write for the opportunity to touch and connect with people and there is no feeling in the world like it.

    • jmcody says:

      I also had to read it several times and SLOWLY to get the full flavor. Continuing our earlier conversation, somehow you pulled off emo and creepy at the same time and it equated to madness. Wicked good, GTB! There were some grammar issues that I mostly attributed to stylistic choices.

    • Ahsuniv says:

      Made the hair on my neck stand on it’s ends…It was beautifully written. I loved how the protagonist doesn’t want to come to terms with the fact that he is a ghost.

    • agnesjack says:

      I thought this was amazing, gamingtheblues. The surreal whirlwind of his confusion and grief indicates that, perhaps, you have experienced this kind of pain. If not, you have imagined it well. And the ghost’s resistance to let go, to find peace, is symbolic in a way that I’m not sure I can find words to define. It’s pure emotion.

  11. agnesjack says:

    Lily waited calmly at the kitchen table. The tea in the porcelain teapot was ready, so she poured herself a cup. A second cup was waiting for her guest.

    The e-mail had contained the usual flattering fan falderal. The writer, Irene Binghamton, had always wanted to be a mystery writer just like the famous Lily Rowan Hunt. She had read all of Lily’s books, and seen all of the movies made from the books. She had never ever written a fan letter before, but — and there was always a but — she had a synopsis for the next best-selling mystery, which she had humbly attached. The story was far from unique, but Lily found the location and time period a bit unsettling.

    Lily hoped the snow wouldn’t make Irene late. Maine roads were usually relatively clear, but the last stretch to Lily’s cabin could be a little treacherous.

    Soon, she heard a car crunching up the drive.

    “It’s open, dear” she called, when the knock came.

    A very thin, nervous girl walked in carrying a shopping bag.

    “Please sit, Irene,” Lily said.

    “My grandmother, Cordelia, died last month,” Irene said without sitting.

    “Cordelia,” Lily repeated.

    “Yes.”

    “And?” Lily said, a bit impatiently.

    “And,” Irene said, “That story was in an envelope in the bottom drawer of her desk.”

    “Ah,” Lily said. “So it wasn’t yours, then.”

    “No.”

    “Well, my dear, then I can be frank. The story is a terrible cliché. A girl observes another girl pushing a third girl off a cliff at some isolated, boarding school in England? My goodness, that old saw of an idea is so beyond moldy, it’s petrified. Then the pusher, a mere schoolgirl, vanishes into thin air? It’s all too implausible.”

    Irene was silent for a moment. Then she pulled an envelope out of the shopping bag.

    “I always wondered why your picture was never on the back of your books,” Irene said.

    “I have phobias, dear, one of which is having my picture taken.”

    Irene reached into the envelope and took out a picture.

    “This picture was with the story. My grandmother is on the left, the girl on the right looks like you, and the girl in the middle fell off a cliff under mysterious circumstances fifty-three years ago.”

    Lily looked at the picture, but didn’t touch it.

    “Your name wasn’t Lily Rowan Hunt, then. On the back it says your name was Penelope Morstan.”

    “Irene,” Lily said, “I’m sorry you came all this way. Although you might think there is a vague resemblance, that is not I.”

    “Then why did you agree to see me? You never see anyone.”

    Lily picked up the extra cup and poured tea into it.

    “Join me in a cup of tea, won’t you?” she said, “And I’ll explain.”

    “Arsenic in tea is a bit of an old saw, too, don’t you think?” Irene said as she put everything back into the shopping bag and headed for the door.

    “By-the-way,” she added, “my grandmother’s not dead.” Then she pulled her cell phone out of her pocket, snapped Lily’s picture and ran out.

    Lily sat for a long time staring at Irene’s cup. Finally, she picked it up.

    “Arsenic in tea is the oldest of old saws, my dear,” she said and took a sip.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      That was…. that was… I don’t know! Clever? Tense? Who WON??????? Lily for some reason reminds me of an old, crafty spider. (Come in, come in, said the spider to the fly, enter my parlor and have some tea…..” The Tet-a-Tet played out very very nicely. Two characters who are more than they would appear, ready to play a battle of wits! Awesome

    • jmcody says:

      I’m not sure if the girl was simply a loon, or if Lily actually did it. And was there arsenic in the tea and Lily drank it because the jig was up, or was she just thirsty? Either way, that Lily is one cool customer. Fun mystery!

      • jmcody says:

        Okay, I get it now. Sorry for being a dolt. The good news is that I went to sleep last night pondering your story and woke up pondering it some more, and the it hit me. Any story that stays with you like that and makes you think is a winner. Bravissima!

    • snuzcook says:

      Delightful! Wonder if Irene’s initial nervousness was an act, or true trepidation.
      Lily’s calmness might be less from a stoic knowledge that she is finally found out than it is from secure knowledge that she has employed another classic ‘old saw’ and sabotaged treacherous route out, so she has truly nothing to fear.

    • MJ Munn says:

      This is pretty excellent, agnesjack. I love the interaction between Lily and Irene. It’s rare but nice when both adversaries are likable. Makes it difficult to know whom to root for, and that kind of ambivalence is mind candy to me.

      What speaks most true about this is that writers want to write their own endings, as Lily/Penelope does here. Thanks for writing this, agnesjack.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Extremely excellent Nancy. Reminds me of “The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers” a noir movie with Barbara Stanwick, Kirk Dougkas in his first screen appearance, and Van Heflin. Different circumstances of course but with the same results in the final scene of the movie.

        The tension and realistic dialogue is similiar. Are you doublely sure, you haven’t been reincarnated as a noir screen writer? I believe this is one of your best and certainly intriguing.

    • jhowe says:

      This is a great story. Nice job with the characters and the dialog. Superbly written. Is that how you spell superbly? I’m taking the view that Lily sipped the tea knowing it contained arsenic.

    • Ahsuniv says:

      That was one awesome take on the story… Had me guessing till the end. Kudos :)

    • agnesjack says:

      Thank you everyone for your wonderful comments. I was busy this week and did not get to read everyone’s contributions, but I will try, even though the new prompt has been posted.

      I’m a big fan of mystery/detective stories, but had never attempted to write one. I like the hard-boiled stories of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, etc., but I also like the more refined drawing room mysteries of Agatha Christie, P.D. James, Arthur Conan Doyle. My favorite stories in this genre are actually a combination of the two. Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories have the erudite, agoraphobic Wolfe, and the hard-boiled legman, Archie Goodwin.

      This story is more in the style of the drawing room mysteries, but I wanted it to be a mystery within a mystery, along the lines of the play, “Deathtrap” and the film, “Sleuth,” where it is not immediately clear who is telling the truth and who has the upper hand. So, as you all pointed out: Is Irene loony or crafty, and did Lily really put arsenic in the tea?

      p.s. The names I chose for my characters are tips of the hat to characters in stories by some of the writers I’ve mentioned.

    • Critique says:

      Great read! I think Lily did it – she knew the gig was up when she read the email and she planned to silence Irene. Loved the characters.

    • Adan Ramie says:

      I really like how it ended. You did a great job with the prompt. I love how clever both characters are, and how you really don’t know who wins in the end. Kudos on a great tale.

  12. gnatseyebrow says:

    Lightning hit close by and the resulting clap of thunder shook the house making the windows rattle. Jack Strong sat up abruptly, not sure where he was at first. He began to regain awareness and realized he had fallen asleep in his recliner. The last thing he remembered was sitting at his computer working on a manuscript.

    He climbed out of his chair and hobbled over to the computer. He moved the mouse making the screen come alive, revealing his email. He sat down and said to himself out loud “Let’s see what kind of garbage we have here.” Most of it was the usual junk email, but one in particular caught his attention. The subject read: The
    Next Bestseller!

    Jack said “Oh yeah? Let’s see.” He opened the email and began to read. After reading several lines, he realized this next bestseller was based on his life. He wondered how anyone could know this much detail about his personal life.

    He picked up the phone and called his agent. “Charlie, what the devil is going on here? I just got an email about the next bestseller and it’s obviously based on my life!”

    “Jack Strong, how are you? We don’t talk much since you moved to the middle of nowhere. Where are you anyway, Utah is it?

    “Charlie, I’m in Colorado near the four corners area. What about this story?”

    “You’re kidding, right? What are you doing all that way out there in the middle of nowhere? You should move back to Chicago. That kind of isolation isn’t good for you.”

    “Charlie, listen to me. Someone is writing a book and using me as the main character. Do you have any idea who it might be?”

    “I don’t have time for this, Jack. Call me when your manuscript is ready. Bye!”

    Jack stared at his computer screen and tried to think who might be doing this. Just as he was coming up with a few possibilities the phone rang. Jack picked up the phone and said “Hello?’

    “Is this Jack Strong?” a male voice asked.

    “This is Jack. Who is this?”

    “Did you get the email about the next bestseller?”

    Jack was struggling to recognize the voice on the other line. It sounded vaguely familiar, but he just couldn’t quite put a name to it. “Yes, I saw the email, who is this?”

    “I’m someone you know very well.” said the voice on the other end of the line.

    “What do you want?”

    “I want to publish a book based on your life.”

    “If you publish that book without my permission, I’ll sue you for everything you have.”

    “I already have your permission. You’re a mystery writer, Jack. Go figure it out.” The person on the other end hung up.

    Jack thought for a few moments. He turned to his email and clicked on his outbox. He saw an email with the subject: The Next Bestseller. The email was addressed to Jack Strong, Mystery Writer.

    • snuzcook says:

      I like that! The story begins with the last line. Nice!

    • gamingtheblues says:

      Hello Gnatseyebrow. I think its amazing that you are so enthusiastic about getting into this forum. I think you have good ideas and its a good start. How are you with constructive criticism? I see some areas where you might benefit from some advice even though I am terrible at advice but I would hate to dissuade someone from writing if they er… are not into constructive help ;) We have some real masters of writing on here and every one of us has benefited from their strong help. So please leave a comment back if you would like any pointed thoughts. Thanks and keep writing!

      • gnatseyebrow says:

        Dear gamingtheblues,
        I would definitely be open to some constructive criticism. Most of my writing experience comes from writing a food blog. I had several people tell me I have a knack for writing so I thought I would take a crack at fiction. The only fiction I’ve written is what I’ve posted here. My writing is a form of therapy. It has really helped me because I enjoy it so much. I really want to get better, so I appreciate any help anyone on this forum is willing to give. Thanks!

  13. Observer Tim says:

    It’s not quite on prompt, but I’ve been doing technical writing for the last several days and my brain is a bit fried. Enjoy anyway.
    _____

    When I arrived at the Baker Street apartment, my good friend Sherlock Holmes was stretched out in his chair with his pipe and a cup of tea, reading the newspaper and warming his feet by the fire. I was not sure why he had called for me at this beastly hour, when the chill of the night fog was making way for the chill of the daytime fog, but I sensed from his mood that an adventure might be at hand. He addressed me without looking up.

    “An interesting day, Watson, is it not?”

    “I shall let you know when I can see beyond this blasted fog, Holmes. You seem in a chipper mood this morning, has some matter caught your attention?”

    “Indeed it has, Watson. I have been contacted by Sir Henry Baskerville of late regarding your account of the affair of the Hound. He was rather insulted.”

    “Insulted?”

    “Yes, Watson. It appears the publisher mistook your handwriting and mis-spelled his name as ‘Bastardville’ throughout. This poor penmanship is not well-befitting a writer of your reputation, especially on a typewriter. Then I looked at the recent details of our relationship and found a few other items of concern.”

    “Items of concern? Such as?”

    “You are aware that my slippers are lined with rabbit fur. Recently I noticed that they also had rabbit ears on the upper surface, and were made of a pink plush material. They are not really the footwear of a gentleman, Watson; at least, not of a sane gentleman.”

    “Further, you have depicted me sitting in my favourite chair holding this pipe, sipping from this cup of tea, and holding a newspaper, rolled though it is, in my hand. You have exceeded my usual number of hands by one, Watson.”

    “Egad, Holmes! How can this have happened?”

    “The answer is Elementary, Watson. Not only are you an idiot, you are also not Conan Doyle, and you are not a great mystery writer. Finally, your name is Eric, not John. Now wake up!”

    I woke up to see her staring into my face, brandishing a scrunched-up pillow. I leapt out of bed and grabbed her, pulling her close so she could feel my excitement.

    “Eric, you are going to have to rewrite that last sentence! I am your sister, and I will never – I repeat, NEVER – want to feel your excitement.”

    “But Wanda, I had a great idea in my sleep! A new Sherlock Holmes novel!”

    “And we can power London by hooking up a generator while Conan Doyle spins in his grave. Now get your butt in gear, Eric, you don’t want to miss your job interview.”

    I could see the anticipation in this dame’s eyes; she had plans for me, and those plans would take away more time than the Grim Reaper with a Hoover. I could have pulled out my piece and drilled her right there …

    “Eric!”

    • MJ Munn says:

      Finally! Observer Tim is back! And Eric and Wanda-not-Wendy! And Sherlock Holmes and Watson! And Spillane? I think?

      Sorry to hear about the fried brain, Tim. But if this is what you can do with a fried brain… :-)

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Tim,

        Your rest from the prompt, brought your wit and charm back with you. I can see the undertone of Mickey, carrying on here. A sister no less! Glad to see your smiling, witty prose embrace the pages of this forum. You’ve been quiet for almost a week and I feared you might have made another move on Wanda and she finished you off with a premier # 13 cast iron skillet of the 16″ variety.

    • Bilbo Baggins says:

      I’ve been looking for you to arrive on the scene, Tim, and you came in with both guns blazing. Glad to see Eric and Wanda are back at their usual antics again.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Thanks, guys. I’m likely to be a bit of a lurker here for the next month or so; I’m working on updating my one published book – a breviary for my church (the ‘ACLH’ if you look on lulu.com). Unfortunately, when put in a normal-sized font it’s just under 800 pages, and there’s a deadline of mid-April.

      At least I get a chance to read everyone’s wonderful prose – I’ll post when I can, and I intend to at least take a stab at every prompt.

    • snuzcook says:

      “…she had plans for me, and those plans would take away more time than the Grim Reaper with a Hoover.” Great line, among many!
      Fun all the way to the reveal, and then I got a little worried about Eric and Wanda, and what Wanda is likely to do to Eric if he doesn’t SNAP OUT OF IT!
      Great read, O.Tim!

    • MJ Munn says:

      Just realized what Wanda was doing with the pillow when Eric woke up. :-D

      Where do I pre-order the Eric & Wanda novel, “Me ‘n My Sister”?

  14. moscoboy says:

    Leave Me Alone, For Now
    By
    Ernest Espinosa

    I was an author of two bestsellers that garnered three commas to my checking account. In time, my muse left with my money, and I was left with an empty skull. I decided to try writing screenplays in LA, but I was a colossal flop. I moved south as my funds dissipated and found myself in bankruptcy court in Dallas Texas. I felt like Garbo, I just wanted to be left alone.
    I ended up running a bait shack in Bayside, Texas. In a fishing hamlet of 75 I found anonymity.
    Friday morning I received an email from an unknown address. “Meet me at the pier at midnight tomorrow. Come sober, I have a surprise for you.” The sender was B. L. Buzz.
    I fished off the pier for years; I knew where all the protruding nails and the weak spots in the planks lay. My visitor was able to arrive unannounced. I turned to face my guest when I felt his warm putrid breath scrape the back of my neck.
    “Who are you? By the cut of your suit and shoes you’re not from the states.”
    “Mind if I sit?” In the whipping yellow light of the pier he looked 60 years old. When he sat on a canvass stool the light softened on his silhouette and he seemed 30 years old. He handed me a two-inch manuscript. “Read it, I’ll have you back in New York in three months at the Plaza as we peruse which contract to take.”
    I took the manuscript in my dry hands and I felt a warmth that had eluded me for years.
    “The feel of the paper eases your arthritis,” said the Buzz man.
    “How did you know?”
    “I know it all Larry. Don’t you remember I was your first agent? You bored me so I reinvented myself, moved on and now we’re back.”
    “ My first agent was Lebanese and he died a few years ago. Who ever you are, you’re pulling my leg, this is just a bunch of blank pages.”
    “Rub your hand on the blank paper and your masterpiece will be revealed.”
    I shielded the notebook from the salty breeze and rubbed the blank pages and phenomenal words appeared. “Is this a dream?”
    The Buzz man stood next to me, my body felt revitalized. “Sign your name to the last page and I’ll make you bigger than JK.” He gave me a satisfied smile; “You’ll have the sequel in six months.” He handed me his diamond encrusted Diamenta pen, “Keep it as a covenant between us.”
    I took the pen and stuck it between my teeth and began to rub pages as the wondrous words leapt from the paper. I turned to ask a question, but The Buzz man had vanished. No problem, I was back!

    • MJ Munn says:

      Interesting parallels between this story and peetaweet’s below. Washed-out writer meets Satan by the ocean to discuss the terms of his contract. Nice of B. L. to let your MC re-up his contract, though.

      That having been said, you’ve certainly made this story your own. I especially like the bit about the pen: “Keep it as a covenant between us.” And, holy crow!, “three commas”! Where do I sign?

    • jmcody says:

      You write in a style that is straightforward and readable, but at the same time is packed with nuances and telling details — B.L. seeming to morph from age 60 to 30, knowing that paper makes him feel better (paper makes me feel better too), and the fact that he was his first agent. The pen was an inspired touch

  15. gamingtheblues says:

    I am so sorry guys… I just could not cut it any more its at a little under 700 ;( please forgive??

    In the darkness, I could neither move nor see. My hands and feet were tied, and my tongue felt fuzzy. What the hell was going on? Then a voice in my ear, dull agony against the splitting pain there that I was only just aware of. A voice I was very recently acquainted with, deep honeysuckle and jasmine.

    “I would like to tell you a story Mr. Bernstrom.”

    “Now wait a goddam…”

    “Mr. Bernstrom, if you insist upon speaking, then I am afraid this conversation is over. Done? Good.”

    ———————————————————————

    It all began with a delivery.

    No one was supposed to know where I was.

    Death threats for each book, ridiculous.

    All of that though was driven from my head when I opened the door. Tight brown uniform, shoulder length blonde hair, short, fit with sculpted cheek bones and blue eyes that sparkled with sudden recognition.

    “You… You’re Theodore Bernstrom! Oh my god! I can’t believe it’s you! I love your stories, they are amazing, and your characters! They are such monsters!” She suddenly blushed prettily. “I’m sorry Mr. Bernstrom, I’m just a really big fan! I have something for you, a package… I mean.”

    Jesus Christ. Her voice was soft and sensual, dropping a little when she blushed. She must have been all of 25, and my wife several hundred miles away.

    “Not at all, not at all. I love to meet with my fans. Why don’t you step in for a minute and we can, chat.”
    ——
    I could still hear the shower running in the background. How long was…Chrissy? Christie? I had to check the name tag on her uniform. Cassie, that was it. How long was she going to take, I had work to do.

    *Bing* What was…oh my email. Hmm… that new lead inside the Attorney General’s office. Had the biggest story of the year. Contact by…. wait… what? The package just delivered? I had already forgotten about it. I curiously shook the box and heard something bounce around inside, and opened it. A brand new over the ear phone. Intrigued I put it on and hit the power button. Then, a sharp pain on the back of my head and fade to black.
    ——————————————————————————————-

    “I would like to tell you a story Mr. Bernstrom.”
    “(…De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine: Domine, exaudi vocem meam …)”

    There was another voice I could hear, muffled and low in the background.

    “Once upon a time there was a writer who lacked imagination. This writer, having no ability to craft stories of his own, used underground contacts to dig up disgusting, untrue and horrific rumors about various high profile people. “
    “(…Si iniquitates observaveris, Domine: Domine, quis sustinebit…)”

    “This writer would then write novels, twisting the facts just enough so that all knew WHO the story was about, but only behind closed hands and doors. This disgusting parasite of a person destroyed the reputations of countless people over the years. Does any of this sound familiar Mr. Bernstrom? Tell me if you’ve heard this one.”
    “(…Sustinuit anima mea in verbo ejus: speravit anima mea in Domino…)”

    I had heard this one before. “What do you want wi-”

    “My father, a gentle man who made some mistakes took his life because of this writer. And I am not alone in my suffering, my rage and my exquisite restitution.”

    “(…Quia apud Dominum misericordia: et copiosa apud eum redemptio…)”

    I heard other voices muffled, repeating the Latin from somewhere over my head. “Look! I…I’m sorry. It’s not my fault that people think my stories are about them. What do you people want???” I could feel the wood under my head now, the air was becoming stale.

    “We want to say goodbye Mr.Bernstrom.” That sweet, honey voice. And then softly, many whispers in my ear.

    “Good bye”

    “Good bye”

    “Good bye”

    Dozens of whispers carrying me.

    “(…Requiem aeternam doma eis, Domine.
    Et lux perpetua luceat eis.
    Si iniquitates observaveris, Domine: Domine, quis sustinebit?)”

    Inches from my face, a thump, and then another. Clatterings of pepples dancing. I began to scream.

    “Nam amor in Dominum”

    • MJ Munn says:

      Creepy! I’m not a big fan of the language (the cursing, not the Latin, although we all know the Latin language has had its run), but this was a chilling one. I think (without checking to be sure; I’m lazy that way) most of us have taken the “mystery writer” cue to fashion a mystery story. I think you’re the only one to answer it with a horror story, and — BRR — you did an outstanding job.

      One question. In the penultimate paragraph: “Clatterings of pepples dancing.” Is that supposed to be “pebbles” or “people”? Because either would work, and be terrifying in its own way.

      • gamingtheblues says:

        Oh it was most certainly pebbles! Being not a religious person myself, I did not think that some might take offense, so if you did I do apologize. I purposely set up the MC to show very loose morals, and be an all around godless man. So the language choice was very deliberate. The Latin is the counterpoint to the language and action of the MC when translated. I admit to a little writer hubris, I was hoping that anyone interested would take time to find the translations to the Latin as the piece is considerably weaker without them, but they lack gravitas when just written in English. I LOVE Latin… LOVE it to death, the sounds and flow of the language. I would go so far as to say that without the counterpoint of what the words are actually saying, I am not a real big fan of the story.

        • MJ Munn says:

          Don’t apologize! I can bear being offended. I did in fact see what you were doing: his swearing was used in contrast to the religious chanting. Unfortunately, I am speaking as one who has gotten to the point that profanity seems to be used to create false urgency and false “maturity”, both in fiction and in real-life conversation, as a kind of “shorthand” for those things. But, yes, “religious” profanity does rub me the wrong way on spiritual grounds.

          That said, all I would ask of anyone is that they be true to their own convictions. Just as I reserve the right to voice my distaste for the stuff, I extend to you (as if I had the authority) the right to use it as you wish. (Besides, it’s not me you have to apologize to. You didn’t write, “MJ Munn. Her voice was soft…” ;-) )

          I promise I’m not here to proselytize. My soapboxing is done.

          My jibe about Latin was a joke, nothing more. You’re completely right, the rhythmic, chanted Latin does add an essential vibe to the story that heightens its creepiness.

    • jmcody says:

      I am not very happy with you right now, gamingtheblues! You just made me confront my number one phobia and I am completely CREEPED out right now, thank you very much!

      That being said, you never fail to surprise me with tales that are off-the-charts in terms of inventiveness. You are also in command of some pretty erudite knowledge. Do you actually speak Latin, or did you just fake it well? The editing paid off handsomely, as this is a taut, tense tale that more than accomplished it’s goal of terrorizing this reader.

      As always, your sheer intensity and originality bring you to the top of the heap for me, GTB, although I will be relieved to see your emo side next time!

      • gamingtheblues says:

        Hey Jm! Thanks for the accolades as always. Its funny, I did not see the creepy side until I re-read. Often my pieces just come on their own. I saw this as a tale of real sleaze ball getting his own, guess I am creepy on the sly ;) As for my intellectual repertoire as it were, I “wish” I knew more Latin than I do. SPOILER ALERT by the way!!! ——-> As it is though, I did not pull this from my personal knowledge, the Latin is actually lines I chose from very old prayers said by priests during burial services. Translated, they form the undercurrent of the entire tale. I can post the translation if anyone is interested or you can google translate it. And to address my emo side, it will be an interesting exercise, as I tend to fall into over-detailing emotional scenes. As a virgo, I tend to be alittle insane on details when too emotional.

        • jmcody says:

          At first I thought the Latin was some kind of DaVinci Code/Illuminati type weirdness, but I figured it out once the dirt and pebbles started hitting the box. I hold you responsible for any nightmares I may have to tonight! ;)

          • Kerry Charlton says:

            I did take the trouble to translate the Latin. I couldn’t agree with you more, it powered up your story even higher. I won’t sleep tonight from what you’ve written along with Nancy [Agnes Jack ]

            “Grant them eternal rest O Lord
            May everlasting light shine upon them, with thy saints in eternity, for thou.
            If you Lord, were to mark inquities, who, Lord, shall stand?”

    • Reaper says:

      I read this and found it creepy. Then I did as you suggested and with the translation it evoked sadness from me instead. The lines you chose can be creepy, but the sentiments are beautiful and forgiving. Reading them in this story painted a picture of zealots using words of mercy to condemn and vilify. I suppose that is still creepy but in a very different way. Thank you for suggesting the translation because this story does gain something with them. I do agree that swearing can be used to excess and detract from stories and conversation. However it can also be used as spice. In this case I think you did that well. Your language choice draws a clear distinction between two different types of villains.

      • gamingtheblues says:

        Thank you for that well thought out and considered response Reaper. I find it very…poignant in a way that it evoked sadness from you, and am grateful that you took the time to get the full translation and ponder the usage. There is very very little in my writing, from even my grammatical errors such as in the second post this week from me, that is not intentional and thought out. Your interpretation of this particular piece makes me reflective so thank you doubly.

    • Adan Ramie says:

      What a fascinating story. I really like the use of Latin, and I think that, even without translation, the reader gets the sense that something serious is happening in the background of that phone conversation. I really like the way it ended, especially how Chrissy-Christie-Cassie was in on the plot the whole time.

  16. Carlos Hammer says:

    The Authors Dilemma

    I half expected to meet him in a parking garage, only seeing a silhouette piping out smoke through my headlights, talking in a terrifyingly monotone voice. But no, it was day, and I was sitting at a coffee shop outside, enjoying the weather. That was where and when the man had said we’d meet. No twisted book-like confrontation that I had wished for. When he approached he looked normal. Again, I was surprised; I wanted him to be devilishly handsome with a trench coat, glasses and a look that said “Yes, I’m the badguy.” My books, apparently, had twisted my vision of the world and caused me to always wish my life would be a mystery like them. I thought this e-mail would be the start of my dream coming true.

    “I am the “Mr. Meyer” who sent the e-mail,” he smiled, and I tried to find a “badguy look” but couldn’t.

    “Where’d you get your idea for this book?” I asked immediately, almost like I was frightened. But no, I couldn’t be frightened. I wanted this. I felt like I was finally living one of my books. So I kept a straight face.

    “Your life of course. You, of all people should’ve recognized that,” now he had that badguy look to him. It made him a better antagonist, the fact that he seemed like he made me think he might’ve been good. I moved uncomfortably in my seat and picked up my coffee cup, looking around. Other costumers were giving me odd looks, like I was insane.

    “Are they with you?” I suddenly turned to Mr. Meyer and asked out loud, “If I make a wrong move, are these people ready to get me?” This was perfect.

    “You tell me,” Mr. Meyer smirked. He looked like he was looking at a specific costumer, like maybe I had made him crack and give away who here was working for him. I turned and looked towards the customer. The man even looked like the kind to be a henchman. He looked at me oddly, like the rest of the people, and then got out his cell phone, dialing frantically. I turned towards Mr. Meyer, in shock. He was laughing, making me know that it didn’t matter who that call was going to, it only mattered that it didn’t make it to that person. I jumped out of my seat and got my gun from my pocket, pointing it at the man. He dropped his phone and flung his hands into the air. I looked down to see who he had called. The police? Suddenly there was a ringing in one of my ears. Someone had shot… at me? A police man was putting my hands into a pair of handcuffs.

    “She was talking to herself oddly when suddenly…” I could hear the henchman explaining to the police. I turned to see Mr. Meyer gone, or never there. My obsession of being in a book had gone too far.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      Very nice, it took me a second read to get that Mr.meyer was all in her head. Sometimes we author’s do get lost in the worlds on the page.

    • MJ Munn says:

      Nice job, Carlos. If there’s one disconcerting thing I’m getting from this thread, it’s that writers have a clearly-defined propensity toward mental illness. GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN!

    • jmcody says:

      As someone is brand new to writing fiction (yes, I am a complete fraud, I’m afraid) I am starting to see how quickly it can suck you up inside your own head. This was a very interesting approach. Nice job!

  17. Poeeop says:

    Extortions Are Tricky

    I read the email sent from a fan, an overzealous fan at that who called himself Jeff. For this to be a coincidence was improbable, the sender knew far too much about my past. A past I assumed to have been long forgotten by anyone who cared. Hell, even Detective Davis, who hounded me and followed my every move for two years gave up and eventually retired from the force.

    So to suggest a best seller where a mystery writer kills his wife, then after the police conclude her death was an accidental shooting, the author then moves to a secluded mountain home and continues his writing alone, well the odds were too astronomical to calculate.

    So given all facts, as far as I was concerned this meant only one thing, thus I sent a reply.

    Dear Jeff,

    Thank you so much for your interest in my writing. I adore fan mail and any new fresh ideas are always welcome.

    I don’t usually do this, but would you like to come to my home, see where I write and discuss this novel further? It is so hard to find bright, enlightened readers these days; I would love to get to know you further.

    Sincerely,
    A.J. Wentworth

    I received Jeff’s next email a couple of days later confirming his interest in helping with my next piece of work. I assume an extortion attempt from Jeff is coming, he obviously has some evidence damning to my further freedom. So prior to our meeting I took a visit to my bank and made a substantial cash withdraw and developed a plan to quiet Jeff.

    I had the money in a briefcase, set open on the coffee table when the doorbell rang. It was Jeff, I ushered him inside and asked him to sit with me in the den. As we sat, his hesitation was noticeable as he stared at the open briefcase. He was obviously aware now that I knew what he knew.

    “So Jeff, let’s talk about the novel. What exactly did you have in mind for the main character? Maybe he pays off the fan who knows his secret?”

    “Well it is a secret the main character doesn’t want known, so a payoff does make sense don’t you think?” Jeff smiled a confident, triumphant smile.

    As Jeff started leaning over towards the briefcase, I quickly snapped it shut it shut with both hands and chuckled as I stared into Jeff’s eyes.

    “Not so fast Jeff. You see there’s something you may not know about great mystery writers.” I let the statement hang for a bit, “we have sick minds Jeff. Where do you think the twisted plots and torturous scenes emulate from? Did you honestly think I was going to let you blackmail me?”

    I stood up and slowly walked to the armoire in the corner of the den, never once losing the gaze of my guest.

    “I duped a fairly intelligent detective into believing my wife’s death was an accident, and your disappearance Jeff will be nothing if not inspirational for my next thriller.” I produced a gun from the armoire and pointed it squarely at Jeff’s head.

    “BANG!”

    The door shattered open in splinters as the SWAT team busted in with weapons drawn, screaming at me to drop my gun and lay down.

    As the handcuffs went on, a familiar voice spoke over me.

    “I told you I would never give up, you bastard. Your wife can now rest in peace.” Former Detective Davis, now consultant to the FBI said. Then he turned and thanked Jeff for his outstanding undercover work.

    • jmcody says:

      A snare within a snare within a snare. You have a devious mind, Poe! This was lively and suspenseful, and had me doing that thing people do when they watch a good mystery movie: “No, don’t go in there! It’s a trap!”

    • gamingtheblues says:

      You jerk! You really had me going. I thought that the writer was going to win for just a split second. You have one of the better hands at sentence structure that I have read and it makes everything you write feel effortless and smooth. Nice plot, nice writing, nice twist. Well done.

    • MJ Munn says:

      Well written, Poeeop. I especially appreciate the “BANG,” understood to be the MC shooting Jeff, only to signify the SWAT team bursting through the door.

      There is a plot point I’d like you to consider. I feel that Wentworth conceded his guilt far too easily. Jeff, the would-be blackmailer, offered no evidence that Wentworth killed his wife. He implied a knowledge, but proffered only suspicion, which the police already had in spades. Who cares if some wannabe writer claims you killed your wife? Detective Davis has been saying that for years, and Wentworth is still a free man. There was literally no reason to take him seriously without even the suggestion of evidence of his guilt.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Reading your story, which I enjoyed immensely and MJ’s response above illustrates how many problems all of us face in writing a full story in 500.
        I gave up the idea a few months ago and am trying now to set the stage and them write one scene that seems to apply.

        Writing short has been a goal of mine before I joined this forum and it still is. I’m not there yet and am still struggling with it. What a challenge each of us face every week, especially with this prompt, trying to set up and write a mystery in 500.

        So, in my mind you did a wonderful, readable response in the [500 style] as I choose to label it.

  18. Kemter says:

    I looked down at the black, blocky letters blinking up at me from the green digital display of my watch. Two minutes had passed since I last checked the time.
    A bell rang as another trucker entered the old dinner themed rest stop. My eyes tracked his tired shuffle to a raised bar seat with red, cracked plastic upholstery. That made three now.
    Three others in that small dinner beside myself: an ancient couple in the corner booth farthest from my own enjoying coffee and eggs before they resumed their travel out east, a Russian mobster taking a meal before he returned to disposing of the poor sap locked in the trunk of his silver Honda, and now a friendly trucker making a point to stop at this dinner every time he hauled along the interstate to see the daughter he never had the guts to tell was his.
    Of course I knew these were wild stories, but then wild stories were my specialty.
    Leaving my outlandish conjectures about the people sharing the dinner with me on hold, I searched through the rain splattered window for another car. Even with the crusty heater wheezing to my right, a chill had nestled deeply into my bones.
    My hand convulsed nervously around the printed pages in the pocket of my worn coat. An email from a fan, a beautiful suggestion, the next great plot, the reason for the steady collection of icy sleet in my stomach as I waited to meet this mystery writer.
    Fear seemed to be the predominant emotion as I watched a black Ford pick-up truck grumble to a stop next to the Russian’s Honda with the man in the trunk.
    The rain picked up, blurring my view from the booth window.
    My hands were white from gripping the navy coffee cup between them as the mystery man stepped into the dinner. His eyes flashed among the faces of my fellow customers before settling on my own. With a smile he sauntered over.
    I took in every detail of him, from the knock-off leather loafers to the khaki business pants to the pale blue button down under a sports jacket and still I could read nothing. He was younger than I, but how much younger was a riddle.
    “Good morning Mr. Jennings,” his voice had the confidence of a marketing major, “I’ll admit it was a struggle finding this place so far from civilization.”
    I watched silently, letting him get to the point.
    “Right then,” he coughed, “Mr. Jennings, why does a man choose to live like a recluse?”
    I answered then, neutrally, “To keep to himself.”
    The man shook his head and tsked like therapist sensing a lie, “Perhaps it has more to do with a fire, a car accident, and a suicide?”
    I stayed still, listening to my own heart quicken.
    “But why then,” the man continued, “would the leading mystery writer of our time ignore his greatest story of all?”

    • jmcody says:

      Here’s what I really liked: starting with the narrow focus on the watch and then panning out to the wider scene of the diner. You also get high marks for tactile and visual details that make it come alive.

      Here’s what I didn’t like: Umm… Nothing, actually. Great job!

  19. Kemter says:

    I looked down at the black, blocky letters blinking up at me from the green digital display of my watch. Two minutes had passed since I last checked the time.

    A bell rang as another trucker entered the old dinner themed rest stop. My eyes tracked his tired shuffle to a raised bar seat with red, cracked plastic upholstery. That made three now.

    Three others in that small dinner beside myself: an ancient couple in the corner booth farthest from my own enjoying coffee and eggs before they resumed their travel out east, a Russian mobster taking a meal before he returned to disposing of the poor sap locked in the trunk of his silver Honda, and now a friendly trucker making a point to stop at this dinner every time he hauled along the interstate to see the daughter he never had the guts to tell was his.

    Of course I knew these were wild stories, but then wild stories were my specialty.

    Leaving my outlandish conjectures about the people sharing the dinner with me on hold, I searched through the rain splattered window for another car. Even with the crusty heater wheezing to my right, a chill had nestled deeply into my bones.

    My hand convulsed nervously around the printed pages in the pocket of my worn coat. An email from a fan, a beautiful suggestion, the next great plot, the reason for the steady collection of icy sleet in my stomach as I waited to meet this mystery writer.

    Fear seemed to be the predominant emotion as I watched a black Ford pick-up truck grumble to a stop next to the Russian’s Honda with the man in the trunk.

    The rain picked up, blurring my view from the booth window.

    My hands were white from gripping the navy coffee cup between them as the mystery man stepped into the dinner. His eyes flashed among the faces of my fellow customers before settling on my own. With a smile he sauntered over.

    I took in every detail of him, from the knock-off leather loafers to the khaki business pants to the pale blue button down under a sports jacket and still I could read nothing. He was younger than I, but how much younger was a riddle.

    “Good morning Mr. Jennings,” his voice had the confidence of a marketing major, “I’ll admit it was a struggle finding this place so far from civilization.”

    I watched silently, letting him get to the point.

    “Right then,” he coughed, “Mr. Jennings, why does a man choose to live like a recluse?”
    I answered then, neutrally, “To keep to himself.”

    The man shook his head and tsked like therapist sensing a lie, “Perhaps it has more to do with a fire, a car accident, and a suicide?”

    I stayed still, listening to my own heart quicken.

    “But why then,” the man continued, “would the leading mystery writer of our time ignore his greatest story of all?”

  20. jmcody says:

    CAIRNS

    Cree Stark had lived in the little chalet in the shadow of Mount Washington for years, and still the harsh, immutable beauty of the mountains was sometimes more than she could bear. Today was one of those days, with crystalline skies and air that was knife-edge clean, as far removed from Manhattan as it was possible to be.

    Cree sat motionless at her laptop, willing her beloved characters to return to life, to speak to her once more, but there was only silence.

    In her ad agency days in Greenwich Village, this had been her dream: To be a successful writer living in an idyllic New England hamlet, where she would turn out sequels and prequels in the shade of covered bridges and flame-hued sugar maples.

    But instead, they had come here, to this land of granite and ice.

    Rory Stark was a trader at Cantor Fitzgerald who harbored his own dreams of writing. They met in a writing class at NYU, and when he kissed Cree one night in Washington Square Park, it was the beginning and the end of everything.

    They first came to New Hampshire to ski in the winter of 2001. Later that year, on a brilliant blue September morning, Rory got up late for work, and emerged from the subway just as the first plane plunged into the heart of the North Tower. After that, Rory and Cree returned to the mountains and never left.

    It was the haunting beauty of Echo Lake that inspired Cree to write “Echo of Ages,” the paranormal mystery series turned blockbuster movie trilogy, in which an unreasonably beautiful, Laboutin-wearing starlet portrayed her stony-faced L.L. Bean-wearing New Englander.

    Rory had tried to write too, mostly action thrillers, but the lure of the powder proved too great. Before long he was a ski instructor who spent his summers staring at a blank computer screen.

    Cree sighed and switched over to email, where she found the usual assortment of strange requests and dubious offers. When you write about the paranormal, you attract all kinds of fringe people – people who want to cleanse your aura and summon your dead relatives. She had no use for any of it. It was fiction after all. Entertainment.

    The wind outside began to whip up swirling eddies of snow. Cree hugged Rory’s fleece to her, the same one he had worn that day in early spring when they had hiked Mt. Washington and the weather had turned so abruptly, stranding them in a blinding squall.

    It was the cairns that saved them that day, those strange, prehistoric looking towers of rocks that mark the trails for hikers. The local lore was that some of them were also sepulchers – monuments marking the graves of early settlers who had frozen to death on the mountain. For hundreds of years they had withstood the harsh climate with no mortar to hold them. The twin towers had crumbled to dust, but the cairns still stood.

    “Follow the cairns!” Rory had yelled over the howling wind, and somehow they made their way down the mountain to safety.

    And now Rory was gone just the same. His trader’s lust for risk and thrills had lured him to heli-skiing in Tuckerman’s Ravine, where he was swallowed by a churning wall of falling white. They found his body in the spring, and Cree’s heart became one more pillar of stones marking the forlorn landscape. It had been two years now since Cree had written a word.

    Scanning down the list of emails from charlatans and celebrity stalkers, Cree’s eyes settled on one entitled “Your Next Chapter.” What she read startled her: It was an outline for a love story set amidst the ruins of 9/11 New York, complete with a hipster downtown ad agency, and a first kiss in Washington Square. Someone had gone to great lengths to find out about her life.

    But it was good, and it was true; she could feel it in her bones. It was warm and bright and funny and completely different from anything she had ever written.

    And it was signed “Forever, Rory.”

    “Oh for God’s sake,” Cree cried out loud. What was WRONG with people? But just before she hit the delete button, she spied the postscript:

    “Follow the cairns, Cree. You’ll be alright.”

    She laid down her head and cried for what seemed like a thousand years, until she could feel the warmth of Rory’s arms around her, until the stones in her heart shifted ever so slightly, and as she began to write, Cree Stark began again.

    • swatchcat says:

      Now that was definitely a good read. I loved the description of the cairns. Nice lesson, had to look up and see, check out Mt. Washington. Nicely done, sad and happy at same time.

    • MJ Munn says:

      Wow. As a general rule, I think, these stories might lose something by removing them from the premise. Certainly, mine would. But this is an excellent standalone tale that relies not at all on the prompt that inspired it. Outstanding. The description of the “idyllic New England hamlet” and Echo Lake are unsurpassed, but the traveler’s guide through Cree’s emotional landscape is more beautiful still. A very fulfilling story, jm. Thank you for drawing attention to a side of the craft that I tend to neglect.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        When I read what you’ve written here, I realize how long my journey still lays before me to become a writer. There isn’t a wasted or a mis-placed word in your heart-felt tale. I guess this is what I’ve always referred to as the hallmark of literature.

        The descriptions of Cree’s emotional landscape was only matched by the settings you presented. Wondeful resd for six in the morning, while the earth is still.

        • jmcody says:

          Hey Kerry, thanks for the lovely words. I don’t think we should compare ourselves to each other. Writing is a very personal thing, and various styles have equal worth. I have enjoyed your writing style for its spontaneity and zest for life. Not sure what my style is yet, but I think this piece brought me one step closer to figuring it out. I am happy to be taking this journey with all of you on this forum.

      • jmcody says:

        Prompt? What prompt? :)

        I appreciate this positive feedback. This one really took it out of me, hence my failure to comment on anyone else’s response. I will get back to reading and commenting though. Looking forward to reading your response.

    • Kemter says:

      Wonderful writing, nice job

    • Bilbo Baggins says:

      This is the kind of excellent stuff I love commenting on and writing myself. The descriptions of Rory’s life and the landscape were right on, IMHO. Thanks for this gem, jmcody.

    • Bilbo Baggins says:

      Thanks for posting this, jmcody. This is the kind of excellent stuff that I love reading and commenting on. The descriptions of the landscape and her life, as well as Rory’s, were right on.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      Oh Jm. Jm, Jm, Jm…. I must admit I was looking for yours in the first batch and was quite disheartened when it had not yet shown its face. I see now that this is because you were seeking that place where writers go to find their hearts and then paint them on the page. This is pure artistry, the emotions and visual evocations are beautiful, poignant, haunting and hopeful at the same time. I had tears in my eyes as she sat there, waiting. I knew Rory was gone (never fully though) because I could feel her pain. You inspire me to write an human piece for next time, something I am always afraid to do, I always end up crying ;) You mention trying to find your style. Whatever you may call it in the future, know that you’re writing touches and changes those who are privileged to share in it.

      • gamingtheblues says:

        oh god, how could I forget to mention the cairns!!! I will have dreams of those stone pillars and the correlation of loss, hope, acceptance in personal loss with that of the towers was really powerful and a risk that paid off.

      • jmcody says:

        Geez, G, your comments alone got me a little choked up, so if you write a “human” piece next week, I’m a goner!

        As I mentioned, this piece kind of beat me up, to the point where I was beginning to question why I would voluntarily subject myself to this. Your comments gave me some excellent reasons why I should continue, so thank you for that, and thank you for getting it. Your input means a lot to me, and your reaction and your encouragement is beyond anything I could have hoped for.

    • agnesjack says:

      Wonderful piece, jm. I live in NY and was in Manhattan on 9/11. Two of my brothers-in-law worked downtown and saw people jumping from the towers. Horror and grief is something that stays with you always, but you’ve shown the way to recovery. The touch of Rory’s arms, whether real or remembered, told her that it was O.K. She could move, now. She could “begin again.” Lovely.

      • jmcody says:

        Thank you agnesjack. Don’t know if anyone is still reading this or if I am talking to myself, but I realized that I committed a rookie error by assuming that everyone knows about Cantor Fitzgerald. The images of those traders jumping will be forever seared into my brain, and I thought that was true for everyone, but maybe its just us New Yorkers. Anyway, Rory’s death in a churning, falling wall of white was supposed to mirror the death he had escaped in New York.

        I worked downtown a block from the trade center for many years. I was not there that day, but had friends and a brother who were. EVERYONE here knows someone who died that day, or was in the towers that day. 31 people from my town died. Some of my kids’ classmates are missing a parent. Thirteen years later it is still difficult to think about.

  21. john godfrey says:

    Holmesmade

    The brisk London air was harsh and unforgiving this time of year, similar to the circumstances that had dragged me to the location. A simple letter, handwritten in excellent penmanship, had informed me to meet the letter’s author outside of Watson’s (a café that I had frequented for many years), or else the horrible circumstances that had brought them together would be revealed. I had long since decided that the letter’s author, who had taken to calling himself “M”, was blackmailing me, but I could not risk angering him any further. My life depended on it.

    I pulled the collar of my coat up to help warm me from the cold. Sitting at one of the café’s outside tables was M. He looked sickly, very sick, in fact. I wondered if M had gotten ill since our last encounter, or if his lifestyle had finally gotten the best of him. I sat in the chair across from M, and our meeting began.

    “I’ve read your latest publication,” M said. “I did not enjoy it.”

    “Is that so?”

    M stirred a small cup of coffee, and took a sip. He looked at me, and I at him. I noticed how cold his eyes were.

    “Yes. Arthur, you know our agreement. I allow you to continue your…”, M waved his hand, struggling to find the word, “…writing, on the condition that you only publish stories of a…life-threatening nature to you-know-who.”

    I nodded. I knew our agreement. I adjusted my hat on my head. My hair had become thin, so the air felt much colder to me than it had usually. I sighed. I was getting too old for any of this business.

    M noticed.

    “A sigh, Arthur?” he asked slyly.

    “I am becoming too old, James, old and bored. When I first realized what I had done, bringing you to life with words, knowing whatever I typed would come out and live a life, here, in London, I was astounded. You and Holmes and the doctor…all of you now have lives. You should go and live those lives, without my intervention.” I said.

    M, who I knew to be truly named James Moriarty, scowled. He was not pleased. When he spoke, his sickly frame shook with anger.

    “You don’t understand, Arthur. Your words gave us life, but what would we do after? Without my suggestions, the series would have ended years ago. We would have lived and died boring, average lives. Masterminds like Holmes and I deserve better. But my intervention kept it going. Without me, you will fail as an author, Mr. Conan Doyle. Many years from now, nobody will even know the name of Sherlock Holmes.”

    I stood from the seat, looked longingly at the café where I wrote my first Holmes story. I gave a final look at Moriarty, who also stood. With a final look at each other, knowing that it would be our last encounter, we parted. A light snow began to fall on my way back to my house.

    When I arrived, I recognized Holmes’ jalopy of a cab, its driver asleep in the front seat, the same one he always brought to my home. I would have to tell Holmes about my plan to kill Moriarty, knowing that with a few typed words I would be changing the lives of two men forever. I was wondering what to call this final problem, the last one Holmes would ever solve, as I entered my study with my two most famous fictional characters, Holmes and Dr. John Watson, by my side.

    • lionetravail says:

      Very inventive, and another unique way to take the prompt. I love all the original Holmes stories, and this was a fun read. I could almost hear the English accents- only suggestion might be to throw in some colloquialisms that sell the accent and the era of the story location. Really enjoyed!

    • Bilbo Baggins says:

      Excellent! I was actually going to do a Holmes story, but dropped it. You made me wish I’d done it after all. You certainly wrote this well, and I agree with lionetravail that I could hear the accents in my mind.

    • MJ Munn says:

      This is a sweet epitaph to Conan Doyle’s magnum opus. Very enjoyable, john.

      Now the truth is out as to why our favorite literary heroes find themselves so repeatedly in dire straits: blackmail! The villains threaten to withhold the plots unless we do what they say!

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Delicious prose you’ve written. Perhaps the most famous adversaries in literature. One story follows another in this prompt and I continue to read through masters of writing.

        Have you ever thought what fun it would be on this forum to put a book together of flash fiction from all of us and present it to the public. A legal and financial nightmare to publish it, but oh, what fun it would be. Does anyone wish to comment on this?

        • gamingtheblues says:

          I think this is a brilliant idea Kerry. More than brilliant in fact. Send me a message, I think some idea brain storming is in order.

          • Kerry Charlton says:

            My thoughts would be to contact Wrirer’s Digest and see if this idea would have any merit with them. If they could handle the process, I would be willing to help in any way as I’m sure all of us woud.

            Taking this further, any receipts from publishing after the expense of distribution should be donated to a world-wide charity, perhaps promoting world peace and undertanding.

    • jmcody says:

      This was so creative and well written. Thank you — I really enjoyed it!

    • gamingtheblues says:

      Holmes and Watson are my all time favorite literary characters. I devour the books multiple times, I watch both modern adaptations with joy and I loved having a new, albeit short story with them involved. Thanks!

  22. Dennis says:

    Heading down the mountain in his Dodge Dart, Nelson kept convincing himself why he was doing this. He hadn’t been down for months and only for supplies, cherishing the solitude. But the email seemed almost too good to be true. A plot for a new mystery novel that he just knew would be a best seller. Having been without a book the last three years, he could use the break.

    As the various details floated through his brain, Nelson became slightly uncomfortable. Somehow everything about this novel idea felt familiar, like faded memories he caught glimpses of. Even more so was the mystery writer who gave him all of the details, well almost all. But it was what was said and how it was said that gave the impression Nelson knew this person. Who could it be? He hadn’t received emails in years and he spoke to no one other than his editor and the publishing firm.

    Nelson spotted the diner he was asked to meet at in order to receive the rest of the details for the novel. He pulled into the parking lot and looked around to see if he could spot the suspicious person. The fog was heavy that night and played tricks with the lighting. ”Great, I’m starring in one of my own novels,” he thought.

    Slowly Nelson opened the door and slid out of his car. Peering through the fog, Nelson thought he saw movement. Then he heard footsteps approaching. “Who’s there,” he called out. The figure grew more visible and finally stopped a few feet away.
    “Hello Nelson.”

    Nelson froze, not believing what he was seeing. There was some disfigurement, but he couldn’t forget that face. His face.
    “You’re dead.”
    “Obviously not.”
    “But, I don’t understand. What are you doing here?”
    “I’ve been following your career after I saw one of your books in a bookstore, waiting for the right time to contact you. Seeing your readership dropping and no new books, I thought now would be the perfect time to meet and jumpstart your career.”

    Nelson slowly put the pieces of the email together. “All those ideas about the story, that was about me, about us.”
    “Yes, including the amnesia part. You see, you hit my head hard enough for me to lose my memory temporarily, just not enough to kill me.”

    Nelson started to back up towards his car, his pulse racing.
    “Where are you going Nelson?”
    “This can’t be happening. I need to go.”

    Nelson jumped in his car and locked the doors. He felt an anxiety attack coming on and knew he needed to get up the mountain, quickly. He spun out in reverse, seeing the man who he once knew, who once had been his lover, just standing there. He threw the car into drive and sped off. Faintly he heard the words behind him, “You can run Nelson, but you can no longer hide.”

    • gamingtheblues says:

      You evil person! The first thing that I thought of when I read the prompt was something about the person being the same but different! Now I need a new idea! Well done, though I am a little unsure who the second Nelson is? Was that purposely left ambiguous or am I having a brain fart day?

      • swatchcat says:

        I believe there is only one Nelson. This was interesting and the mystery of what happened or why the mystery person got hit by Nelson cliffhanger is nice however it would have been nice to hear more about.

        • Dennis says:

          Thank you for both for your feedback. Sorry, I wasnt’t trying to be confusing with the names so you can still use your idea.. And I thought later that someone would probabaly want more info but I was trying to stick to the 500 world limit and was close. Probably could have shortened the first part.

  23. AlienAlmanac says:

    MEET ME

    Michael sighed at the text message. He launched the attachment. A local map of the city displayed brightly on his smartphone. A red pin flashed at the center of the screen. His informant, whoever he may be, was only three blocks away. He knew the way. He stuffed the phone and threw his laptop into his backpack and exited the tiny café into the drizzling evening. He desperately wanted to call this whole thing off and just go back to his warm home, but his feet led him across the street toward the meeting place.

    A million questions ran through Michael’s mind as he tugged his collar close around his face. Who was this guy and how did he know so much about me? On top of the fact, the man was persistent as all hell and promised information that would rattle the world.

    Michael had given up a long career in journalism years ago and settled quietly into writing novels. He worked with a good agent, a good editor, and liked that they basically left him alone as long as he met their deadlines. He was done chasing stories across the globe, or so he thought.

    For weeks he had dismissed the man’s messages as another fanatic who was lucky enough to find his contact information. When the messages changed from innocent inquiries to specific personal experiences that seemed impossible for anyone to know, he assumed his identity had been stolen. He should have just called the police. And yet, the idea of a detective combing through his personal files and cloud accounts was about as appealing as a colonoscopy. He’d seen and done too much in this world to be pressured by some lunatic.

    The drizzle turned to a steady rain. Michael stopped at the next corner. The adjacent blocks were mostly small businesses and single apartments. Very little through-traffic cruised this part of the city. How clever. Michael felt certain his informant could see him now. Right on cue, his phone vibrated. Another text.

    4808

    Michael looked up and started down the neat row of buildings. As he approached building 4808 ahead, a figure stepped out of the shadowy doorway. Dressed for the weather, the man wore a long coat and dark pants that draped over a pair of black derbies. A grey hoody underneath his coat pulled over his head and shrouded his face. The man also carried a familiar looking backpack, identical to his own.

    “What do you want?” Michael stopped several feet away anticipating anything.

    “You and I have something in common,” the man said.

    Something about the man’s voice sounded oddly familiar. “Who…who are you?”

    The man took a step forward and dropped his hood. The street lamp lit the man’s face perfectly. Impossible! Like looking at a reflection, stubble chin, nose, hair, the same scar, eyes…his eyes.

    The man raised a gun. “What’s the matter? You don’t recognize yourself?”

    • jmcody says:

      See, now this is the trouble with a 500 word limit — the writing was very good, very immediate and keeps you in the story, but the story was a teaser. I wanted to understand why this guy is possibly going to shoot himself.

  24. AlienAlmanac says:

    MEET ME

    Michael sighed at the text message. He launched the attachment. A local map of the city displayed brightly on his smartphone. A red pin flashed at the center of the screen. His informant, whoever he may be, was only three blocks away. He knew the way. He stuffed the phone and threw his laptop into his backpack and exited the tiny café into the drizzling evening. He desperately wanted to call this whole thing off and just go back to his warm home, but his feet led him across the street toward the meeting place.

    A million questions ran through Michael’s mind as he tugged his collar close around his face. Who was this guy and how did he know so much about me? On top of the fact, the man was persistent as all hell and promised information that would rattle the world.

    Michael had given up a long career in journalism years ago and settled quietly into writing novels. He worked with a good agent, a good editor, and liked that they basically left him alone as long as he met their deadlines. He was done chasing stories across the globe, or so he thought.

    For weeks he had dismissed the man’s messages as another fanatic who was lucky enough to find his contact information. When the messages changed from innocent inquiries to specific personal experiences that seemed impossible for anyone to know, he assumed his identity had been stolen. He should have just called the police. And yet, the idea of a detective combing through his personal files and cloud accounts was about as appealing as a colonoscopy. He’d seen and done too much in this world to be pressured by some lunatic.

    The drizzle turned to a steady rain. Michael stopped at the next corner. The adjacent blocks were mostly small businesses and single apartments. Very little through-traffic cruised this part of the city. How clever. Michael felt certain his informant could see him now. Right on cue, his phone vibrated. Another text.

    4808

    Michael looked up and started down the neat row of buildings. As he approached building 4808, a figure stepped out of the shadowy doorway. Dressed for the weather, the man wore a long coat and dark pants that draped over a pair of black derbies. A grey hoody underneath his coat pulled over his head and shrouded his face. The man also carried a familiar looking backpack. It was identical to his own.

    “What do you want?” Michael stopped several feet away anticipating anything.

    “You and I have something in common that I think you should know about,” the man said.

    Something about the man’s voice sounded oddly familiar. “Who…who are you?”

    The man took a step forward and dropped his hood. The street lamp above lit the man’s face perfectly. Impossible! Like looking at a reflection, stubble chin, nose, hair, the same scar, eyes…his eyes.

    The man raised a gun. “What’s the matter? You don’t recognize yourself?”

  25. NoBlock says:

    Charlotte looked out of her second story window down upon the children playing hopscotch in the street. She smiled a little and remembered what it was like to not have a care in the world, to not have responsibilities, a job or deadlines. Sometimes she wished she could just go down there and play with the children in the streets, but they would think it was weird and plus, she was too anti-social anyways. Her only companion really was the one she referred to as her “roommate”, Anna. Anna was much older than Charlotte, but intellectually they were entirely compatible.

    Her life was this room and this room her life. There were lots of people who thought it was unhealthy for her to shut herself up in her room, her mother especially worried about her. She would call on Charlotte often to check up on her and to see if she needed anything, but mostly Charlotte needed to be left alone.

    She was now in the midst of a whirlwind of a YA novel, her protagonist a young woman who despite being blind, went out on harrowing adventures through treacherous environments, solving murders, saving lives and maybe she might even decide to script in a romantic scene or two.

    Charlotte’s tongue was out and her fingers flashing across her laptop, when there came a knock on her door. She ignored it and continued typing.
    Knock, knock. “Charlotte? He-llo?” a few seconds then a loud sigh.

    She hated interruptions like these when she was writing, she often hung a homemade, cardboard do not disturb sign on the door, which of course worked only occasionally.

    Charlotte continued writing, when she heard the inevitable “ding” alerting her of an incoming e-mail. “Jeez, what?” she said as she minimized the Word program and opened her e-mail. She began reading it and grew more frustrated with every word. The sender had made it clear that if she did not cease with her writing there would be consequences.

    “This is not happening right now!” she exclaimed loudly as she slammed her laptop shut and stormed out of the room.

    Her thunderous footsteps could be heard throughout the house as she stomped her way down stairs. “Anna! “ her voice cracked a little when she screamed. She rounded the corner of the kitchen and stood arms crossed and feet planted.

    “I told you not to call me that. I am your mother and even 12 year old child prodigies need to eat their dinner!”

    • gamingtheblues says:

      That. Was. Delightful! I love the mini twist at the end. You had me completely by surprise, and fed me the hook, line and sinker from the very beginning. Charlotte has such mature (for an adult writer) inner dialogue that it was easy to miss the small clues that she might not yet be old enough to drive. Even the pre-teen hormone stomp was hidden because I think all of us writers know the infuriating moment when you are in the zone, and then someone comes a knocking.

      • jmcody says:

        This is also one of my favorites for the week. I love a great zinger that catches you by surprise like that. Plus, as the mother of a teenager and an 8-year old who thinks she ‘s a teenager, I would say you nailed it. Very enjoyable read. Thanks for the smile.

    • Silver Sister says:

      Awesome! Charlotte is a perfect bend of prodigy intellect and tweener brattiness.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I also was slam dunked. I thought something evil was about and was quite amused with your twist. The smarter twelve year olds are, the more to handle. We have a eleven year old grand daughter that found her Mother’s disconnent button, when she was five. More than brilliant. I liked the reader friendly story and also missed all the clues.

        • swatchcat says:

          This seemed like a nice story but I got hung up on too many glitches to enjoy as much as I probably could have.

          You have to right like the reader doesn’t know anything, or at least not much. Don’t write “YA” unless you are sure we all know YA in this contest is Young Adult. First paragraph, no “s” in anyway. Third paragraph, maybe, just maybe, not one full sentence. It you just said there was a knock at the door, there is no need to write, “knock, knock” unless the person doing it has an annoying habit of calling out “knock, knock. Hello” in a sing-song voice as they are doing it. I think a little comma happy.
          Okay, read through the story and the final lines fragged me up. Since there is not attribution to the final quote, I had to go back to the first lines figure out timeline/ages to fit anna, and charlotte. So anna is mom and char is daughter who calls mom by first name, gets a message to eat her dinner via email because she doesn’t come out of room too much. So where is the prompt. Now that I think of it, I was reading the door knocking as someone at the front door and couldn’t figure why roommate wouldn’t answer since she, char, wouldn’t. Do you see?

          • swatchcat says:

            Now, see, even as I reread my own comments I found little faults that even make my own comments have less integrity because of them. Proofing is key.

          • gamingtheblues says:

            You know…I am such a bad influence. I have terrible grammar (though sometimes that is artistic choice in my short stories) and I did not even notice that there was no prompt because I thought the concept was amusing.

    • lionetravail says:

      Very nice, and a unique take on the prompt. Well done indeed!

    • MJ Munn says:

      Wonderful! Read it three times through and I’m still smiling ear to ear. I don’t know that I could enjoy a story more! Thank you so much for this, NoBlock

  26. watrump says:

    Since her husband of thirty three years had died seven months ago, Leslie had still not felt safe in their long-time home they had built together. Nightly creaks from the rough cut timber frame. Was it just the beams or was her love Michael trying to somehow contact her.

    They had talked about spiritual connections for months while Michael was undergoing experimental treatment. “I will always look out for you” he would say as he saw the terror in her eyes.

    It didn’t help that she had spent the last ten years writing books that were scary even to her. Michael often teased her that he slept with one eye open wondering if she would act out some of her suspenseful scenes.

    She took a break from her latest work and checked her email. She was so overwhelmed by the amount of mail. She had cut herself off from the world since his death and couldn’t bear to riffle through each message. She decided to clear the whole account and start fresh. Just as she was about to hit delete she saw it. The subject line read “Meet Me Lou”. She stared at the words; Michael was the only one who ever called her Lou. The content of the email read “You are my favorite author and I just wanted to share an idea I have been thinking only you could do justice to…..meet me at the Jefferson Tavern Saturday at seven”.

    She trembled as she checked the date, today was Saturday. Driving to the tavern Leslie didn’t even know how she got dressed but she had decided to leave her house for the first time in over a month. As she sat in the exact booth Michael had proposed to her in, she wondered what in the hell she was doing. She reached down and grabbed her coat off the seat and planned a speedy exit when she saw it. She had been searching for it since his death. The picture snapped on their honeymoon with Michael’s big arms wrapped around her petite frame and on the back his scratchy writing saying “I will always watch over you. M.”

  27. AlienAlmanac says:

    MEET ME

    Michael sighed at the text message with great annoyance. He launched the attachment. A local map of the city displayed brightly on his smartphone. A red pin flashed at the center of the screen. His informant, whoever he may be, was only three blocks away. He knew the way. He stuffed the phone and threw his laptop into his backpack and exited the tiny café into the drizzling evening. He desperately wanted to call this whole thing off and just go back to his warm home, but his feet led him across the street toward the meeting place.

    A million questions ran through Michael’s mind as he tugged his collar close around his face. Who was this guy and how did he know so much about me? On top of the fact, the man was persistent as all hell and promised information that would rattle the world.

    Michael had given up a long career in journalism years ago and settled quietly into writing novels. He worked with a good agent, a good editor, and liked that they basically left him alone as long as he met their deadlines. He was done chasing stories across the globe, or so he thought.

    For weeks he had dismissed the man’s messages as another fanatic who was lucky enough to find his contact information. When the messages changed from innocent inquiries to specific personal experiences that seemed impossible for anyone to know, he assumed his identity had been stolen. He should have just called the police. And yet, the idea of a detective combing through his personal files and cloud accounts was about as appealing as a colonoscopy. He’d seen and done too much in this world to be pressured by some lunatic.

    The drizzle turned to a steady rain. Michael stopped at the next corner. The adjacent blocks were mostly small businesses and single apartments. Very little through-traffic cruised this part of the city. How clever. Michael felt certain his informant could see him now. Right on cue, his phone vibrated. Another text.

    4808

    Michael looked up and started down the neat row of buildings. As he approached building 4808 ahead, a figure stepped out of the shadowy doorway. Dressed for the weather, the man wore a long coat and dark pants that draped over a pair of black derbies. A grey hoody underneath his coat pulled over his head and shrouded his face. The man also carried a familiar looking backpack. It was identical to his own.

    “What do you want?” Michael stopped several feet away anticipating anything.

    “You and I have something in common that I think you should know about,” the man said.

    Something about the man’s voice sounded oddly familiar. “Who…who are you?”

    The man took a step forward and dropped his hood. The street lamp above lit the man’s face perfectly. Impossible! Like looking at a reflection, stubble chin, nose, hair, the same scar, eyes…his eyes.

    The man raised a gun. “What’s the matter? You don’t recognize you?”

  28. PeterW says:

    Want to start this: “He knew my height, my weight, my blood-pressure, and the exact size of my erect penis. He was standing in the doorway with a chart. There were other measurements too.” …. but I think we know how it will end =D

  29. TheAwkwardLlama says:

    Vincent woke with sunlight caressing his face through the window. This was the way to wake up. He looked at his bedside clock. 8:33 AM. Not too late, not too early. He swung his feet down to the hardwood floor and walked out to the kitchen leaving a nest of blankets behind.
    “Good morning, Jake,” he said to the grey-muzzled mutt in the dog bed in the kitchen. Jake wagged his tail. Often as not, he didn’t get up to greet Vincent anymore. Poor boy. He’d be up when he heard Vincent getting breakfast.
    Vincent started up the coffee maker, poured Jake some kibble, and sat down at the kitchen table. He absentmindedly opened his laptop. God, but life had gotten to be…good. He was making a comfortable living off the “Detective Jake Spade” novels, and he and Jake the dog were doing just fine in their routine. Making their own schedule, enjoying the views of the Rockies, savoring the peace. A decade ago he would never have thought it possible to be this content.
    An email from his agent, three forwarded fan e-mails from his publisher, and one from “Celia Sanchez”. Vincent’s heart jerked peculiarly in his chest. Celia Sanchez, the instant physical reaction he felt was not unpleasant but it destroyed any illusion of contentment he’d previously felt. There was no question that he’d open the email, he had no choice at all.
    “Hey Vincent,” read the text, “I know you write detective novels but how does this sound for a plot in an upcoming book? A sexy, passionate writer loves a woman who doesn’t realize how lucky she is. She makes some terrible mistakes and leaves him, but he never stops wanting her. Ten years pass and she finally realizes what an idiot she was. Meet me for breakfast at nine at Duke’s, we can discuss the outline.”
    Vincent snatched up his car keys and headed out the door without a second thought, coffee still brewing. He had time to make it there by nine. He wasn’t making conscious decisions any longer, running to the car was a simple reflex.
    Fifteen minutes later he was at Duke’s. His heart was pounding so hard that he could hear the blood swooshing in his ears. Nothing was more thrilling or more nerve-wracking than knowing she was there, hoping she was there, hoping the next second was the second he would see her.
    There she was. Her dark brown hair was swept over shoulders, she was wearing the dreamcatcher earrings he gave her.
    She stood up. She must have seen him. But another man walked up between them. The man took her hands and kissed her. She kissed him back. He was saying something to her, and she was listening.
    Vincent did not know the man. But he knew Celia. Some pages, once turned, are better not re-read. He remembered. He paused for a moment, then turned around, his own man again.
    “Jake will need a walk,” he muttered.

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      A very romantic and realistic story. Your writing reflects you have taken this pathway before. Especially, the driving force and emotions you describe while he’s driving there. Love can be the most terrifying force or it can be romance at the ultimate level. You describe both passions with ease and tendeness.A wonderful write.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      This resonated greatly with me. I all to well know those feelings of long term unrequited love, regret and acceptance. I could do well with taking a leaf from Vincent’s book, let me tell you. I love this take on the prompt.

    • Silver Sister says:

      I liked the originality of this take on the prompt. I must confess to a little bit of confusion, however. Why would Celia reach out to him after a decade, set up a meeting, wear earrings that are meaningful, only to talk to some other guy? Is she cruel? Do they have a Charlie Brown / Lucy relationship where she encourages him to kick the football just to yank it back? I was a little confused by this. But I do think it was very well written.

    • MJ Munn says:

      Fantastic, AwkwardLlama. That’s how to keep them guessing. The final paragraph is a masterpiece. First, the wording is beautiful. “But he knew Celia.” Second, the obvious reading is, as Silver Sister pointed out, that Celia is putting Vincent through all of this just to cruelly “yank [the football] back.” But third, that’s not necessarily evident! You’ve crafted the exchange between Celia and the other man with just enough ambiguity that there could be any number of possible relationships between the two of them. And Vincent, through 3rd-person limited narration, thinks she “must have seen him,” but neither is this explicit. Very well done, AwkwardLlama. Very enjoyable.

    • Critique says:

      Excellent read. I wonder what Vincent ‘remembered’ in the pages? Whatever it was, Celia’s behavior made it clear he is better off with faithful Jake.

  30. Tick.

    Tock.

    Tick.

    Tock.

    As the sound of the ancient grandfather clock echoed in the background, so did the sound of fingers tapping on a sleek wooden surface in a seemingly agitated rhythm.

    I nursed a much-needed dose of caffeine close to my chest with my free hand, and, with the other, switched off my laptop as memories flickered through my mind, like flickers of a flame in darkness of shadows. They were mainly of sweet sunlight and bitter snow, mixed with everything in between.

    “Thank you…”

    A soft smile, a feather-light touch, a warm embrace.

    “I’ll always love you. With all my heart.”

    Flash.

    “I don’t understand…! Why…why did you…?”

    “Why?”

    “Why?!”

    Laughter burst out then – twisted and cruel, bitter and mocking.

    “You will never understand…”

    Gunshot.

    The grandfather clock rang, suddenly jolting me out of my thoughts. I let out a curse as I swallowed a little too much of the burning liquid.

    It was time to meet the one who sent me the email.

    “Well, it’s been a long time, hasn’t it?”

    I looked up to see an attractive female with hazel eyes and dark hair styled in an edgy pixie cut, features refined yet delicate.

    “Forgotten me already?” A mocking smile touched the edge of her lips, dark amusement flashed in her eyes.

    “Maybe this will remind you, Sky.”

    My eyes widened in shock at the use of the name I hadn’t been called for more than five years, and horror as I realized who it was.

    The cup of coffee fell onto the ground, shattering into pieces.

    Like how my heart was.

    “…Eli?”

    It was impossible. It couldn’t be her, it couldn’t be. I had seen her die in front of my eyes, attended her funeral.

    She had been murdered in front of me.

    “Wondering how I found out so much about your life?” Eli inquired conversationally, as if her presence wasn’t wreaking havoc on me.

    “I investigated, of course. Not to mention, you’re quite famous these days so a lot of your information was easily accessible.”

    Lifting a slender hand, she examined her fingers minutely as I stood shock-still, “You never did think I would find out about the Incident, didn’t you?”

    “Eli, I…”

    I couldn’t find the words to speak. I couldn’t move.

    Ta-dump. Ta-dump. Ta-dump.

    My heart beat furiously against my chest as, with a vindictive gleam in her eyes, her lips curled into a saccharine smile.

    It was beatifically chilling.

    “This is for him.”

    Her tone, low and controlled yet as smooth as velvet echoed eerily as she pulled out a gun.

    And moments later, all was silent.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      Well hello there! Seems that there are a lot of different faces around here ;) If you are an oldie but goodie I apologize for not having noticed you before. If you are new then welcome to our little prompt corner of the internet!

      Well well well… you have quite a bit going on in this piece and A lot of it is good. Your writing reminds me…scarily, of how I used to write not that long ago. I am going to give you the same advice that I received. First, I am a HUGE fan of using perceived sounds to set mood, tone, or even drive forward plot points. That being said, its important to make sure that the beat you set complements the action. Case in point, the ta-dump as written suggested a slow, hard beat, almost a long moment in time. But then you write that his heart is beating furiously.

      Nit picking? perhaps, but I think everyone has the chance to be more than just a good writer, to be a GREAT writer and its the little things that make the difference. Speaking of little things, you should never use the word “like” outside of saying I like cheese. Also be careful of repeating the same word in describing something.

      And I understand leaving out normally expected words for artistic and dramatic effect, but when you do so make sure it flows smoothly and naturally unless you are purposely conveying a confused mind. So bringing those three points together instead of …” flickered through my mind, like flickers of a flame in darkness of shadows.” you might try

      “(burned, danced, smoldered) (through, in) my mind, (the) flicker(s, ing) of (a) flame(s) (in, cast-by) the darkness of shadows.

      I wrote that as a way to see all sorts of options to play with the same general sentence which is AWESOME by the way.. I love this sentence. Sometimes more is more honestly. That being said, be careful not too put too many of these types of metaphors in one story lest they take over. =)

  31. Carlos Hammer says:

    RIGHTWRITERS.COM

    RightWriters.com, June 5th

    MisterMystery (commenting on “LifeSucks’” story post): That was a great story, wish I had used the prompt that way!

    LifeSucks: Thanks MisterMystery, I’m sure you’ll come up with an equally good idea for the prompt. You always do.

    MisterMystery: But it’s an entirely different thing for a published author to write a good story and a normal person
    to write an excellent story!

    MisterMystery: Sorry, not normal… didn’t know what other word to use…

    LifeSucks: ;) That’s okay, :)

    RightWriters.com, June 8th

    LifeSucks (commenting on “MisterMystery”’s story post): What were you talking about you writing “good” stories, this was amazing!

    MisterMystery: I appreciate the feedback LifeSucks. It’s too bad I have to disagree; this wasn’t my favorite story…

    LifeSucks: If this was one of your worse stories I’d love to read one of your better ones!

    RightWriters.com, June 12th

    LifeSucks (commenting in forum): Anyone have a decent prompt I could use? I didn’t really care for the one put up on the website.

    RightWriters.com, June 13th

    MisterMystery (commenting on “LifeSucks’” June 12th forum post): I have a good one for you LifeSucks, but I don’t know that you still need it, how do you post so late? You must sleep in the day.

    LifeSucks: Actually I do, I just don’t like the day as much. Something calming about the night that morning just doesn’t have. Plus, I sunburn way to easily.

    MisterMystery: Well, none the less I have a good prompt. What about this: Have a question beginning with “where” be the central theme of your story”.

    LifeSucks: Broad prompt MisterMystery, I guess that’ll make it all the more challenging…

    RightWriters.com, June 15th

    MisterMystery (commenting on “LifeSucks’” story post): Great story LifeSucks! I feel like I’m having déjà vu with
    continuously telling you how good these are but honestly, you’re a natural writer.

    LifeSucks: I don’t mind the constant positive feedback MisterMystery!

    MisterMystery: Believe me LifeSucks, this story was so good! While reading it I felt like I was being pulled through an adventure in your head and suddenly BOOM! A surprise ending hits me in the face, and it wasn’t sudden either. There had been clues throughout the story that I didn’t even notice before. For once having to read a story twice was a good thing and not a matter of misunderstanding the writing.

    Quickmail.org, June 21st

    LifeSucks@quickmail.org: I have a great idea for a book “MisterMystery”! And I (of course, you’re a published author!) wouldn’t mind your help. Maybe we could even make it a collaborative project. Anyway, get back soon. I can meet any day this week, but, as you know I prefer nights. :)

    MisterMystery@quickmail.org: I can do Wednesday if that’ll work with you.

    LifeSucks@quickmail.org: Wednesday is great.

    Johnathan Scott, owner of the “MisterMystery” Rightwriter’s account was found dead on June 23rd with what would be considered traditional “vampire” markings (two holes on the neck and blood drawn). The owner of the account “LifeSucks” has yet to be found.

  32. ehrenkauferm says:

    It had begun as all stories the main characters are introduced in their dismal normalcy only instead of me holding the marionette strings of the scene. I found myself the main character. I sat before the open laptop reviewing my e-mails as my manuscripts sat precariously about me creating my fortress of thought. But on that morning it had changed forever.
    I scrolled past the never ending chatter of ads and plunged into an email form my editor, I could feel the nerves prickle my arms with anxiety as I skimmed the never ending content. I nodded at the pressure for the latest manuscripts due. I almost hit delete when at the very end of her prattle she mentioned a new writer that might be getting in touch with me. I rolled my eyes at the thought of what I might find in the attached document from the writer. As I opened the file the ever comforting flow of words appeared before me. As I slowly began to immerse myself in the world spun by the author.
    Marigold Herring sat before her laptop typing away everyday slave to her craft.
    I chuckled Marigold was my middle name and Herring was my mother’s maiden name. Coincidence’s always made me laugh. I flipped through the pages finding the main characters cat was also named Hikaru, weird….she also had brown hair and green eyes, I laughed commenting to the walls “was this book written for me or what?”
    But then I stopped laughing as I read the in-depth descriptions of my everyday things and life. I shook my head and sat back surely I had been cooped up for too long. A walk would clear all worries. But it didn’t nor did the twenty times I reread the similarities or should I say journal of my life. If that had not been creepy enough it had described the ignorance of the main character being hunted by a predator. Just as a frog to the warming water knows nothing of the dangers that grow in the belly of the pot. I shuddered and continued reading to enthralled by the insanity. At the end it read like this
    As the slashing stopped as did the gasping for air the sweet innocent Marigold Herring’s life ended her killer an unknown shadow in her world. While she had been his entirety, part of his identity so far was his obsession with Marigold that she had become part of his very makeup ingrained in his very DNA. Now what was he to do? But had she not refused him? Spit on his love and concern, without him how could she exist. And so ended Marigold Herring. And so too did I, after this is done I shall join my beloved Marigold in the eternal slumber leaving behind the record of my love.
    I trembled as I pieced together the many mishaps and strange things that spoke to my peace of mind having been an illusion.
    And now he stands before me his eyes calm and determined. His black hair neat, face clean shaven, not the image I had forced upon him. His name is Johnas Jones we had first met in High School he had been popular. While I remained the ever forgotten book nerd. My back pressed against the bricks of my childhood home. His arms blocking off all escape his breath humid and stale.
    “What do you want?”
    “I want you….Just as I wanted you back then.” All said quietly and as seductively as a Venus fly trap tickles its prey.
    I forced out a nervous chuckle “Huh?…I never knew that you wanted me,” as I searched for some sort of escape “Wish I had knew back then….I, I would have loved to have got some coffee with you or something.” But I was captured in the spider’s web.

    • ehrenkauferm says:

      Okay some of my editing didn’t show but parts of it is the character reading the content of the file.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        The basic bones of your story are captivating to the reader. With a little polish and perhaps shorter paragraphs, your thoughts and ideas would jump from the pages. Most of my stories appear similiar to yours with first draft

        By the time my second rewrite, done with reader clarity in mind, they change. I think it is a jewel of a write. Let it sit a day, work on it and resubmit. You will be amazed at the results.

        Please don’t get me wrong. I love this.

    • MJ Munn says:

      I’m with Kerry on this. “Captivating” is a pretty good word choice. I found some of your phraseology unique and interesting. I’ve never heard the proverb about the frog, but it suits the voice of the MC. But also as Kerry said, it could only benefit from another go-through. Thanks for posting this, ehren. It was a fun read.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      Since I seem to be on a constructive criticism kick if you would like some editing assistance or advice please post back and I will go over your piece in some detail. There are good bones here as Kerry stated and some dusting,sanding, spit shining and varnish will do this a world of good.

  33. Critique says:

    The sun streamed through the cabin windows heralding another hot weekend. I tossed back my cold coffee and reread the anonymous email. Slowly.

    The story idea was brilliant: A reclusive millionaire was found dead near his remote lake cabin. The only way in and out was by floater plane. His pretty assistant of fifteen years found him early one morning near the boathouse. He’d fallen and apparently split his head open on a stone chair. No blood was found on the chair. A bloodied axe lay in the woods nearby. The assistant maintained her innocence.

    Alarm buzzed at the edges of my brain.

    Fifteen years ago I met Margo and we’ve been inseparable ever since. I marvel – many times – at what a vibrant woman like her sees in a (twice divorced) old codger like me. While our cabin in Northern Ontario was in its construction stages we explored the property and discovered a stone, the size and crude shape of an armchair. We had our contractor move it down to the lake.

    “Margo. Can you come here for a minute.”

    “What’s up Honey?” Margo fresh from a morning shower sauntered in nude and poured fresh coffee into my mug.

    She read the email over my shoulder. I heard her sharp intake of breath.

    “Who sent this Carl?” Frowning she set the pot down with a clunk.

    “I’ve no idea. But it raises a few interesting questions don’t you think?”

    The second email arrived – a request for the two of us meet and discuss profit sharing in the event this book hit the New York Times Best Seller list.

    I emailed back to meet Tuesday afternoon at a bistro in downtown Toronto.

    The reply came. “I’ll be there. Come alone or no show.”

    “This is freaky.” Margo chewed her thumb nail while reading the email. “We should get the police involved.”

    A plan took shape in my head and I made a few phone calls.

    On Tuesday I arrived early at the bistro and sat facing the street.

    When she walked in I wasn’t surprised – that she would stoop so low was.

    I remembered her from writer’s workshops. Who could forget that scrutiny from such strange eyes – one blue the other green.

    From the hasty research I’d done, she was unheard of in the publishing world.

    She perched on the chair across from me.

    “How much did you pay the contractor who built my cabin Melanie?” My eyes never left her face.“He’s made a full confession and is with his lawyer as we speak.”

    Incredulity and hate twisted her face.

    “The police are waiting for you outside.” This had to be the most unpleasant encounter of my life.

    “You’re lying.” She hissed.

    She fled out the door into the arms of the police. She fought as they slapped the handcuffs on her.

    I have witnessed jealousy at its ugliest – an experience I don’t care to repeat.

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      Twists and turns , one after another. Fast paced and a great read. Boy there have been some great stories so far on this prompt and yours is in the fore front. Congrats, Critique.

    • Reaper says:

      An amazing and unique take. I agree with Kerry, fast paced and brilliant.

    • MJ Munn says:

      Very good, professional-quality story. Brisk, succinct, and full of as much drama and suspense and arrest resisting as one can reasonably expect from 500 words or less. Thanks Critique.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      I agree that the writing is fast paced, tight, and the premise intense. I personally got a little lost though between the meeting place and the arrest. Was she arrested for just the threat? What happened with the contractor? If I am just being really stupid tonight please someone hold my hand and walk me through the scary woods? ;) Thanks guys, and awesome read Critique.

      • Critique says:

        Sorry I didn’t make it too clear. Melanie was arrested for extortion. She paid the contractor for information about Carl. When found out the contractor spilled the beans and was consulting his lawyer. Glad you thought it was and awesome read :)

    • Silver Sister says:

      I admired the phrase ‘She fled out the door and into the arms of the police’. I also felt like I got a real sense of Carl and Margo as a couple. I enjoyed it.

  34. Jerrittanne says:

    The familiar jangle that emitted from my computer alerted me to a new email as I walked into the living room, carrying a bouquet of freshly cut wildflowers that I had picked from my garden. Aside from living in complete seclusion, social media was the only outlet I had to the outside world, which was fine by me. Before moving to the log cabin in the middle of nowhere, I had often found myself distracted with life – dinner dates, agent meetings, social gatherings – all things that would hinder my writing. Moving somewhere that made me a little harder to reach made it easier for me to concentrate on my writing. With three mystery novels published and a fourth in the works, concentration and quiet was what I needed. I almost found the ominous silence welcoming, a familiar and welcoming sense of warmth when it came to writing.

    I placed the fresh flowers in a vase before checking my email, half expecting another nagging plead from my agent for the next 30 pages of my latest novel but instead, an unfamiliar name popped up. B. Stoddard. Clicking on it, I waited for the email to load while I kicked my shoes off and settled at my desk, stretching. When the email finally loaded, I first scanned the document for any traces that would alert me to any familiarity to a B. Stoddard but nothing – except for the mentioning of a new novel idea. Intrigued, I read the email from the beginning.

    Miss Scoll, I know you don’t know me but I assure you I know you and I wanted to let you in on a new novel idea that I have, one that I think will be the new breakout of all novels.

    I kept reading, my finger lingering on the down arrow, words filling my screen as B. Stoddard began detailing the novel idea, which focused on a middle-aged writer who had moved away from civilization, to acquire a certain peace while writing.

    This writer, you see, is a well-known mystery writer, all alone in the woods, miles away from the nearest town, and it’s actually kind of funny to know that while she was writing a new mystery, her life and death would soon be a mystery all its own. Miss Scoll, this writer, who has turned her back on her friends and family, would soon find herself vying for life as an unknown person stalks her, teasing her with phone calls, emails, constant communication to let her know that she wasn’t completely alone as she believed.

    A brisk breeze entered the living room through an open window, causing my skin to prick with goosebumps, as I continued reading the strange email.

    In a twist of fate, wouldn’t it be ironic if the mystery writer just… vanished? I figured this would grab your interest as oddly, it mimics your very life, doesn’t it?

    Chilled by the cryptic message, I stopped reading it and instantly hit the delete button, chalking it to another strange fan. Just as I was about to open my manuscript and continue writing, a shrill ring echoed through the house, reminding me that I wasn’t as cut off from the world as I would like to be. Sighing, I stood up and searched for the cordless phone, still wailing it’s shrill ring.

    “Hello?”

    “Miss Scoll?” A raspy voice breathed into the phone and I put my hand on my hip, impatient. My concentration was breaking and I wanted to get a few chapters of my novel finished before the night was over.

    “Yes. Who is this?”

    “Did you get my email? The one about the new novel idea?” Again, the voice rasped into the phone, like a person with asthma was finding it hard to breathe. The mention of the strange email caught my attention.

    “Is this B. Stoddard?” I asked as I walked over to the window and closed it, the breeze becoming chillier as the sun dipped lower into the sky. “If it is, I have to say, you definitely had my attention for a moment. But tell me, how do you know this story line you’ve concocted mimics my life?” A long pause followed before the raspy voice spoke again.

    “Because it IS about you. You see, I’m writing my own mystery and you’re my main character – a mystery writer who suddenly disappears. No note, email or phone call. Just poof – vanishes into thin air.”

    “And how do you suppose you’re going to do that, Stoddard? My agent is the only one who knows where I am.”
    I folded my arms across my chest with one hand still holding the phone to my ear. Again, the raspy breathing filled the ear piece.

    “He’s not the only one, you know. By the way, your arms folded that way makes you less becoming, almost angry-like.”

    The last sentence instantly sent a dread through me and I quickly cut the call off. As the sun settled deep behind the tree lines, I ran through the house checking all the windows and locks, making sure I was secure, when another jangle from my computer filled the silent air.

    Isn’t it time to finish the story, Miss Scoll?

    Again, I deleted the message and sat down on the chair, rocking on my haunches until a knock at the door startled me to.

    “Miss Scoll, this has to be done. It’s the final chapter in my story. Please don’t fight it! Miss Scoll?”

    More knocking soon turned to banging as the person behind it became persistent. I had no where to go except for upstairs and that seemed like a terrible idea.

    “I’m coming for you, Miss Scoll. And you’re going to be my perfect manifesto. A masterpiece.”

    Searching for a place to hide, the last sound I heard was the splintering of wood as the door was forced against the hinges.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      I do not say this often, and only say it now because it is such a nice fleshed out story and sounds to me like a chapter in a book than a stand alone story. This piece would greatly benefit from just a little editing. A couple of the word choices felt a tad awkward and pulled me from the action and left questions that needed answering. The best example is the choice of ominous. If the MC enjoys ominous silence, it would hint there is more to her than would appear, either in mood or action. Rather if used as foreshadowing of later trouble, then why would she enjoy it as later on it is evident she is not the most… decisive when under stress.

      Also, the ending felt a little rushed to get the action of the actual break in to be in the story. After ratcheting up the dramatic tension quite nicely through their dialogue, it ends so quickly and with a whimper more than a bang. I feel that this is more from the constraints of the word limit than in the design of the writing.

      There is more to this story, MUCH more to this story and it really deserves to be heard. I would suggest either cutting this piece shorter, and leaving the reader with the dramatic tension high and purposely not resolving it or word limit be damned and flesh out their confrontation with the details it deserves. A lot of people in this forum (upon request) get around this by posting follow ups and sequels. I would love if you would do that.

      A last word of advice, be careful to keep the tone of your main character (MC) consistent. I was very much surprised when a MC whom I was starting to consider to be cool-headed, fleshed out and a really good set up for a main story, gets so easily taken out with nary a bit of spark in her.

      By the way you did a really good job of “creating” her as a believable person. Stretching, collecting wildflowers ect… she really does seem to be the mc of a novel that I would like to read. Deliberately short stories typically eschew such character building in lieu of immediacy and impact, unless for brutal effect, which I do not feel here as the build in tension is slow and deliberate not fast and furious.

  35. Kemter says:

    Testing testing testing. I apologize if this one goes through. I can’t figure out how to post a comment

    • Hey Kemter,

      When you’re new to the site, your post go into a folder that await approval–and I have to approve them to confirm the posts aren’t spam. Once I approve the first couple, you won’t have problems anymore and the posts will show up immediately. Often, if the first posts by a new user are on Friday afternoon or over the weekend, I’m out of the office and can’t approve until Monday (which is the case here).

      Anyway, you are now approved and can post away! Welcome to the Writer’s Digest community.
      Brian

      • gamingtheblues says:

        Woah woah woah WOAH…. There are MODERATORS HERE????? *looks all around* Now I know how Winston Smith felt…. And here I thought “we” were in control….

  36. lionetravail says:

    I had daydreamed for a moment while writing, lost in a “what would the character do now?” moment as I looked out the window, when the email chimed that obnoxious dinging sound I’ve always wanted to change. I moused over and clicked, and saw a new message in the box.

    “FORGET THE PENIS ENLARGEMENTS; YOU’VE GOT, PARDON THE PUN, BIGGER PROBLEMS” it read in the subject line. Curious that, and I looked at the sender: A_Non_A_Hole@gotproblems.com. I rolled my eyes: nice, I thought.

    No attachments, so I opened it.

    “Hey buddy. Thought you might like to know that I’m wise to you, and what you did to that extremely-underage call-girl during your road trip to Vegas last month,” it read.

    Shit.

    I quickly put the thing in spam, while my stomach tied itself in knots. Someone knew?? I leaned back, thinking over who it could possibly be!

    The email chimed again. Same sender.

    “That won’t work,” it read. “You can’t just forget about it. I won’t let you, you goddamned pervert.”

    A chill. How’d whoever-this-was know what I’d done with the frigging email?! I got up, went to the window, and looked around. A gorgeous day out by all considerations, and yet it seemed grey around the edges, cold, and a little unreal. There was no one around, plenty of normal animal sounds in the woods around the cabin. I went back and sat down at the computer and hit “reply”.

    “Who the hell are you, and why are you saying these things to me?” I wrote. “You have the wrong person.” Send. I closed my eyes and took some deep breaths, feeling queasy.

    *Ding* “I’m the one who’s going to stop you, and I’m saying these things because you know you did it, you sonofabitch, and someone the hell has to! And I don’t have the wrong person, Bruce P. Granville, do I?” it read.

    Shitshitshitshitshit.

    I typed back. “WTF do you want from me?” I fairly screamed in the message. I stared at the screen, feeling my heart race.

    Nothing happened.

    Nothing continuing happened. I put my head down in my hands, and *Ding*. “I WANT YOU TO ADMIT IT, YOU COWARDLY, PERVERTED PILE OF SHIT!!!”

    I felt my heart stutter as the shock of it went through me, and I felt a tingle in my left arm which ran up to my chest and became the worst pain I’d ever felt. I felt the world narrow as I started trying to breathe, but couldn’t get enough air, and I was suddenly aware of a little icon flashing in the bottom of the screen in front of me. Gasping, clutching my left hand to my chest, I pushed the mouse over it and clicked.

    The world got grayer around the edges, and I saw a different email program open, with emails in the inbox… from my own account!

    Then I felt the ground come up and slam me in the back, and pretty soon felt nothing at all.

    • Kemter says:

      fascinating, in less than 500 I go from getting to know the character to hating his guts to feeling scared for him to watching him die (possibly). And I’m still wondering if he’s really dead.

    • Kemter says:

      Very interesting work, is he dead?

    • Kemter says:

      I can’t figure out why I can’t see the comments I post. I apologize if this one gets through, I’m experimenting

    • Reaper says:

      Extremely underage call girl, caught on the internet. It is unfortunate your MC died before his congressional career could take off.

      Seriously though this has a very good with an ending that had me reminiscing on The Tell Tale Heart. You managed to have me smiling and creeped out at the same time. Beautiful work drawing out conflicting emotions simultaneously.

    • MJ Munn says:

      Wow. Bleak! You can certainly feel the narrator’s terror as his mind races to uncover who his mystery penpal could be. How could he know about the call girl? How could he know I closed his email? How did he get such an awesome email address?

      The last bit is powerful stuff, and the last sentence is weighty. Probably the best part of the story.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      This was a twisted, awesome take. Such REALLY good prompts this week guys and gals. I think I actually get what is going on here. Second email program, inbox from his own email account. This guy was caught by his own horrific guilt. I wonder if he started off with a split personality or if it branched off after his unknown crime. Either way, good riddance and good job Lion for making the protag both interesting and reviled.

      • lionetravail says:

        Perfect! You got it- I thought I might have made it too obscure, but I was trying to not be too overt with the punchline.

        I’m so excited, and yes, his own guilt took over whenever he daydreamed or stopped paying attention. (Was hard to try to get all that in the 500 word limit, and to do something new from some of the brilliant ones which went before.)

        Thanks everyone for enjoying and commenting!

        (And yeah; glad he actually had a can-do conscience :))

    • Silver Sister says:

      Kudos on the clever subject line and email address. Glad he got what was coming to him.

    • Critique says:

      The desperation and weight of a guilty conscience was very well done. Liked the ending.

    • agnesjack says:

      This was great. I had to go back and reread the end to grasp the second e-mail account — very clever. My only question is: Was the pervert personality’s death real or symbolic? Excellent job.

    • lionetravail says:

      Wow, thanks everyone!

      So, my intention was that his guilt was eating him up, and the emails only came when he was daydreaming, or his head was down, or he wasn’t watching the screen… giving the possibility that his conscience was doing the emailing when he wasn’t conscious of it. For the purpose of this story, the repeated shocks of his crime being ‘known’ were enough to induce a cardiac event, and true death.

      The prompt did, after all, suggest a scene with the confrontation… so, this confrontation was with his conscience, and the outcome was stress-induced heart attack.

      So rest easy, the despicable guy really died :)

  37. Mazie OHare says:

    It had been fifteen years since I sat in the coffee shop and poured my life story out to Tom. Tom, who’d read my first story and promptly invited me out for coffee. “Your story’s so unusual,” he said. “I feel like there’s something you want to say.” I didn’t realize he was a writer, nor that I was so naive.

    I was drinking coffee now, too. Black, no sugar. Burnt gas station coffee I picked up at 2:00 a.m. Marriage number three just ended; thus, he’d scuttled back to this dirty, brick hovel, which resembled a cheap hotel more than an acceptable domicile. Won’t be here long, I guess, I thought bitterly. His new book hit the bestseller list three weeks ago. His book about me.

    He can’t come up with a story of his own. He has to use mine. A murder mystery where the main character, a renowned novelist who secluded herself in the bleak vastness of rural Idaho is found shot to death in her barn. There was such a novelist living among the potatoes. Me. Now, my phone rings off the hook.

    “Ms. O’Hare, is it true your mother was put away in a facility for the criminally insane? Did your father really strangle her with an electrical cord? (No, he’d gone at her with an electrical prod.) “Can you verify whether you kept your sister hiding in your closet for over two years?”

    My cell phone buzzed. Audrey.

    “I’m here.”

    “Where’s here?” She sounded wary. “I tried you at the house.” I’d sounded deranged, I know. “He thinks he’s going to get away with this?” I’d said. “Well, he’s got another thing coming.”

    “Where are you? Tell me right now.”

    “Benton. Outside his building. I can see the light in his study. Probably writing the sequel. I’ve got a sequel I’ll write for him.” In the passenger seat lay the cattle prod. Twenty-five years old, but plenty of juice. I’d jury rigged and checked it myself.

    “Mazie Shannahan O’Hare, if you don’t turn that car around and go home this minute I’ll call the police. I mean it.”

    “You’ll do no such thing,” I said, unconvinced. She was my little sister. Owed me plenty. But she might see it as protecting me. I grew still. She’d come a long way from the hollow-faced girl who’d crept from the closet an inch at a time. Luminous white from the absence of sun. She couldn’t read. Daylight hurt her eyes. But life had come into her these many years; she’d welcomed it. She wasn’t like me, didn’t brood in darkness. Audrey only craved light.

    “Have you even read it?” she asked.

    “Read it,” I retorted, “We lived it. Why would I read it?”

    “It’s not bad, Maz,” she said, too gently. “It’s not what you think.”

    Her words hung between us, our secrets exposed. The cattle prod gleamed silver in the pale light of the moon.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      This was fascinating. At first I thought it was a dark humor piece, then…. well some really messed up interactions in this back story let me tell you! Very cool. I enjoyed it

  38. megsylegsy says:

    I’ve gotta give it to him, this guys seriously dedicated. Or completely nuts. 33 emails, 20 voice messages at least and a whole bunch of stuff through the post. Still, might be worth a shot; after all, I’ve not chucked anything out for, what, four years now? The oldies keep chugging over but that wont last much longer. Fortunately I kept a bunch of earlier stuff back which seems to satisfy old Jonesy boy but that’s just about dried up. Wish I could say the same for the liquor. But how in the Sam Hill does this guy know about… well about all that stuff? I mean, that was years ago, right? They din’t have nothing on me, I made damn sure of that. Ain’t nobody got no right to judge me anyhow, man was a scumbag through and through. The Inspector was very kind to me and all, made sure I wasn’t upset none. Moron.

    “Grace Davies?”

    I turn around. Guy in’t so bad looking, nice brown eyes and all. But he got a right mean streak running behind those chocolate eyes of his. Guess this might not be the walk in the park I thought it was gonna be.

    “Depends who’s askin”

    “I’m asking.”

    “Well then, I guess it’s your lucky day handsome. Just what can I do for you?”

    He sits down and helps himself to my whisky, cold as ice. Flattery never worked on his brother neither. He sighs, rubs his hands across his eyes and looks at me like he wishes he didn’t have to do this.

    “I think you know what I want. I want a little compensation for the loss of my poor dead brother”

    “Cut it Harry, you’re brother was a no-good lying piece of you-know-what and don’t think you can fool me that you’re so cut up by him takin off. Ain’t nobody liked that dirtbag. Besides, he’s dead and buried, case closed, brutal murder by a burglar likely as not, poor widow etc etc. What d’ya think you’re gonna do about it now, all these years later?”

    “As far as I can remember, wasn’t there some problem over the murder weapon? Couldn’t find it, couldn’t make a case without it. Now suppose that little ol’ gun turned up again, all these years later? Wouldn’t that be strange?”

    There’s a malicious twinkle in his eye that makes me wanna punch him straight in the face but I realise I’m gonna need to be a bit more subtle than that. Play him like I did Micky.

    “I guess so. In fact, there’s a lot of strange things happenin today. In a few minutes for instance, an ambulance will be called too late for some poor guy who OD’d in a café whilst talkin to that nice detective writer lady.”

    He looks down at the whisky and his face goes white, he can already feel it workin ya see. And soon, it’ll work all the way to his heart. Kinda cool to watch actually. He starts gaspin like a beached whale.

    “You’ll never get away with it”

    “Honey, you think I don’t know how to spin a yarn?”

    • don potter says:

      Loved the dialouge with the regional accent. Can’t tell the location. My guess is West Virginia or Eastern Kentucky.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        A necessary elimination you have here. Nice and tidy especially if the poison’s not traceable. I’ve always said this and I’ll continue to say it, “Never mess with a woman.”

        My thought is Mississippi. Enjoyed your story a lot.

        • megsylegsy says:

          Wow thanks guys, I’m so glad u like it ;) I’m actually British so I’ve no idea what accent I’ve got going on here, I just kinda rolled with it, just sort of fit my character. Glad you guys liked it though

          • Bilbo Baggins says:

            Oh, greetings from across the pond! One of my friends moved to England as well. Very nice story you got going on here. I’d have to agree with Don that the accent sounds like Kentucky somewhat.

    • Reaper says:

      Beautiful tales are hard when they are both dark and tragic, you nailed that. The voice changed a little with the Kinda cool to watch line. For some reason that slipped me from visualizing an older era to a more modern one which works because suddenly your character became a modern woman with classic charm. I was also trying to place the accent as it felt like Brooklyn with British polish, almost like what I’ve heard the folks in Bow sound like.

      • megsylegsy says:

        Wow, thanks everyone for your feedback, I really appreciate it, just tryin to work on creating an interesting voice so decided to experiment with accent and dialect a bit :)

    • MJ Munn says:

      Brilliant! Love it when the writer wins in the end! If there is one thing I’m taking away from these stories, it’s that writers do NOT mess around when someone threatens them. (Although sometimes they wet their pants. I’m looking at you, bilbobaggins321. Don’t think changing your name is going to fool me.)

      Right: back to your thing, megsy. The story was clever, but it was easily the expressions, the word choices, and the colloquial (East End?) dialect that made it such a charming read. Most enjoyable!

    • gamingtheblues says:

      I was as taken by the dialogue as everyone else, in fact I forgot I was reading a short prompt piece and was just getting myself into reading/visualizing mode, so very well done. I “do” think that your MC is going to be having some problems very soon though. No way a detective does not at least place a little flag next to her after both dead brother’s have a connection with one lovely writer.

    • Silver Sister says:

      Perfect last line!

    • agnesjack says:

      She’s hard core, that “detective writer lady.” Great last line.

  39. Kerry Charlton says:

    KILL ME SOFTLY

    Mike plied his trade as a privite eye in Brooklyn. He sat in his second story walk up, staring at a telegraph he had received a few minutes ago. His face showed little emotion as he read the message,

    ‘I know about Jack’s murder. Meet me at 2355 Fifth Avenue, suite 410 at two. STOP
    Dr, Manning STOP

    Mike rose from his chair with effort and stared at the street below through the dingy window. Tough as nails, with a chisled face and piercing brown eyes, his face finallly showed his hate and rage over Jack’s gory death.

    ‘A set-up for sure,’ he thought.’But I’ll go for Jack. I owe him because of Iwo.’

    He owed allegiance to two men only. Jack Williams had bent over him, compressing his chest wound while a medic crawled toward the two marines under withering fire. And the second of course, Mickey, a writer who had made him what he was today, a ‘give no quarter’ detective. He had the toughness he needed but Mickey had placed a remarkable fondness for sexy dames that haunted his life style.

    Mike had no faith in New York’s finest and worked to find Jack’s killer himself. He had pledged the son-o-bitch would die the same cruel death as Jack. Two bullets in his gut, he had crawled across a blood-soaked carpet toward his revolver, while his killer had watched him bleed to death.

    Ringing a buzzer next to a door labeled ‘Dr. Charlotte Manning, Psychology’, he stood waiting, his 38 police special, a heart beat from his right arm. The door opened to a statuesque, willowy blonde, her hair falling across one side of her face.

    “Come in Mike, my name’s Charlotte.”

    She sat across from him, her legs continued to cross back and forth under a skirt set mid-thigh.

    “Did you know Jack was messing around on his wife?”

    Mike stared at her half-buttoned silk blouse.

    “He told me. It’s you, isn’t it Chsrlotte?”

    “I didnt kill him Mike. He was under cover, trying to bust a drug gang.”

    “That’s bullshit. He didn’t rejoin the force.”

    Charlotte slithered across her office floor and slowly turned her body half-way toward Mike.

    “Wouldn’t you like to feel what Jack felt?”

    She slowly removed her jacket and with one hand, unbuttoned the rest of her blouse as she walked toward him. Her breasts heaved against the transparent silk as her left hand reached for Mike’s face. She pulled him close, her tongue pierced his mouth, ran along his teeth and then proved deeply.

    The double explosions rang through the office. A bewildered look on Charlotte’s face was memorable as she slid down Mike’s body, a small ice pick fell from her right hand.

    Mike’s face reflected no emotion, no regret and no satisfaction. He has Mickey to thank for that. He moved toward the door and glanced back at Charlotte. Her body had twisted on the floor and blood had oozed into a puddle that expanded across the carpet.

    “One for Jack, Charlotte. And the second for me.

    He opened the door, stepped out and closed it quietly.

    • don potter says:

      I see this playing in my mind as a film noir scene. Great gritty stuff. I presume Mickey is Mickey Spillane.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        You nailed it Don and Mike Hammer came alive for this story, not that he wasn’t alive in Mickey Spillane’s novels. I had a lot of fun with this one, even though I digressed and bent the prompt a little. Kerry

    • Amyithist says:

      How are you not a published author, Kerry? This was effortless. It flowed so beautifully. I felt the steel-like determination from Mike and when he killed Jack’s killer, the emotion was so subdued, it was creepy. It reads like an old detective novel; the kind of stuff they just don’t make anymore. You are fantastic! Bravo!

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you Amyithist, for the wonderul compiments. I have been lucky to have five short stories published in the last three years, and two essays and a featured page one article in the Life Section of the San Antonio Express News.

        I’ll tell you, I enjoy this forum and the writers in it and I’m never going to leave it except feet first.

    • jhowe says:

      Mike Hammer, what a great name. This was a very enjoyable read Kerry. Two shots, just like he promosed.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thanks jhowe. Mike Hammer never looses it except when he sees women mistreated by anybody. He is a complete paradox. That’s what makes him interesting.

    • Reaper says:

      The pace on this amazes me. You start blazing fast and then slow it down in a way that it still all flows together. Exceptional as always and I love that in one line you get across the empty, unhappy feeling revenge brings. I definitely agree it has that classic hardboiled feel that time has sadly stripped from detective stories.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you Reaper. Did you know that Mickey Spillene has sold more mystery books than any other writer, including Agata Christe. Pulp fiction was 35 cents when he wrote his first book. It was banned from Boston to LA and it just made it sell more.

        He started out writing for comic books in the late forties and his novel, ‘I, The Jury’ made him an overnight sensation.

        • Reaper says:

          I was unaware of that. I do know that when I was young my great grandparents had a cabin, it was actually the inspiration for my story this week, and we would vacation there because it was cheap. In that cabin were some objects from other times. In the books were pulp novels and I devoured them when I was supposed to be outside. Eventually I tried newer mysteries because I remembered loving those books and I was so disappointed I gave up on them. Some things evolve well but in those the next generation lost something. I think it was a sense of wonder and a love of grit. Thank you again for letting me revisit the thing I loved.

          • Kerry Charlton says:

            When I was nine or so, I started reading rape and plunder historical novels my Mother read. She’d chew me out for taking her library books but gave up and took me to the library with her each week. I would read stories like “Green Dolphin Street,” Forever Amber” and all the romance novels I could get me hands on. Gritty ones like “The Postman Always Knocks Twice.” And on to “I The Jury” “Kiss Me Deadly’ and all that Noir stuff. What fun!

            Now I’m trying to write that way. It’s a real struggle for me but I enjoy the hell out of it.

        • Critique says:

          I need to acquaint myself with Mickey Spillane.
          The ending came as a surprise… thought the dude might stop thinking with his brain. A man with convictions. Bravo.

          • Kerry Charlton says:

            Spillene’s character, Mike Hammer was created in the same manner as Ian Fleming’s invention of James Bond. Alter egos, with major flaws going through life as delusional misfits, sometimes their minds clouded from the values of right or wrong. Flawed MC’s make wonderful stories. At least, I think so. Thanks for reading my story. I always enjoy yours.

    • MJ Munn says:

      Well done, Kerry. You hit every beat: the hard-boiled private eye, the plot-advancing telegram (DUM-DUM-DUM!), the old army (er, marine) buddy, the homicidal temptress, the ice pick, and the remorseless retribution.

      Very nicely done. Mickey lives on!

    • Bilbo Baggins says:

      Insanely good, Kerry. All I have to say.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you, Bilbo. Charlotte definitely was insane and probably had killed over and over, hiding behind her professional handle. This story also gives me the creeps even though I wrote it. I do know there are women like Charlotte and before one of you knock down dead beautiful women on this forum, come after me, the same goes for the male counterpart. Whew! I barely got out of that one!

        • Bilbo Baggins says:

          Yes, definitely a healthy sense of insanity in that character. It’s good he killed her then, otherwise he would’ve bought that farm pretty quickly (insert witticism comparing MC to Trotsky here).

    • gamingtheblues says:

      As I have no reference point for Mikey Spillane or Mike Hammer, my mind rested more on film noir that I saw in film class at college. Maltese Falcon, double indemnity and the like. Very gritty, and this guy is something else. I couldn’t help wondering how he knew she was lying! You do not dissapoint Kerry, when the writer takes me to my mind visuals instead of reading words, they have succeeded.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you gamingthe blues. [Love your handle by the way.] My take is, Mike watched Charlotte intently as she moved across the room and saw her palm the ice pick when she turned around toward him. They were a very efficient way to kill a person, with little blood loss. Ground down to about three inches on the blade and with a wood handle, an ice pick was easy to hide.

        I have an ice pick in the kitchen drawer but go to a hardware store and try buying one. I think they’re banned from being marketed.

    • Silver Sister says:

      In so few few words, trying to advance plot and render characterization can leave nothing left. Not here. Tone and mood are perfect, Kerry. Another winner!

    • agnesjack says:

      Loved the old detective novels, and you’ve captured the pace, atmosphere and dialogue so well, Kerry.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you Nancy. I like to write in this voice once in a while, when I can fit it into the prompt. Cross and double cross, fast dames, band canaries singing torch sons and whispers and glaces everywhere. Oh yes, we musn’t forget the black and white and the shadows. Especially the shadows.

  40. Mazie OHare says:

    It had been fifteen years since I’d sat in the coffee shop and poured my life story out to Tom. Tom, who’d read my first story and promptly invited me out for coffee. “Your story’s so unusual,” he said. “I feel like there’s something you want to say.” I didn’t realize he was a writer, nor that I was so naive.

    I was drinking coffee now, too. Black, no sugar. Burnt gas station coffee I picked up at 2:00 a.m. Marriage number three just ended; thus, he’d scuttled back to this dirty, brick hovel, which resembled a cheap hotel more than an acceptable domicile. Won’t be here long, I guess, I thought bitterly. His new book hit the bestseller list three weeks ago. His book about me.

    He can’t come up with a story of his own. He has to use mine. A murder mystery where the main character, a renowned novelist who secluded herself in the bleak vastness of rural Idaho is found shot to death in her barn. There was such a novelist living among the potatoes. Me. Now, my phone rings off the hook.

    “Ms. O’Hare, is it true your mother was put away in a facility for the criminally insane? Did your father really strangle her with an electrical cord? (No, he’d gone at her with an electrical prod.) “Can you verify whether you kept your sister hiding in your closet for over two years?”

    My cell phone buzzed. Audrey.

    “I’m here.”

    “Where’s here?” She sounded wary. “I tried you at the house.” I’d sounded deranged, I know. “He thinks he’s going to get away with this?” I’d said. “Well, he’s got another thing coming.”

    “Where are you? Tell me right now.”

    “Benton. Outside his building. I can see the light in his study. Probably writing the sequel. I’ve got a sequel I’ll write for him.” In the passenger seat lay the cattle prod. Twenty-five years old, but plenty of juice. I’d jury rigged and checked it myself.

    “Mazie Shannahan O’Hare, if you don’t turn that car around and go home this minute I’ll call the police. I mean it.”

    “You’ll do no such thing,” I said, unconvinced. She was my little sister. Owed me plenty. But she might see it as protecting me. I grew still. She’d come a long way from the hollow-faced girl who’d crept from the closet an inch at a time. Luminous white from the absence of sun. She couldn’t read. Daylight hurt her eyes. But life had come into her these many years; she’d welcomed it. She wasn’t like me, didn’t brood in darkness. Audrey only craved light.

    “Have you even read it?” she asked.

    “Read it,” I retorted, “We lived it. Why would I read it?”

    “It’s not bad, Maz,” she said, too gently. “It’s not what you think.”

    Her words hung between us, our secrets exposed. The cattle prod gleamed silver in the pale light of the moon.

  41. jhowe says:

    Catlin Carrier wrapped a towel around her wet auburn hair as she switched on her computer. She walked back to the bathroom and was wiping steam from the mirror as she heard her computer ping. Only a handful of people knew the e-mail address she was using while sequestered in a rustic stone cottage in the mires of Scotland. Where exactly in Scotland that this quaint abode was located was not known as her driver had dropped her off in the dark of night with instructions to return in six weeks.

    That had been two weeks ago and she had yet to type a single sentence that satisfied her. Her editor was adamant that the fourth book of the Trevor Rider series be completed by the end of the year. Trevor Rider had debuted as a congenial teenage computer hacker from South Florida and had taken the mystery genre by storm. Her second and third books in the series were equally as popular and by design, the fourth book would be the finale.

    The e-mail was from Rafael. Dear, sweet, fucking Rafael. Catlin moved the curser over the attachment and almost hit delete but of course opened it instead. It was another outline. The fourth outline she had received in as many years. She didn’t want this outline. She was entirely capable of coming up with her own ideas. But maybe she would take a quick peek.

    Trevor Rider had been chosen, commandeered actually, by the FBI to infiltrate an exclusive private high school in Fort Lauderdale where three unexplained deaths had occurred within an advanced acceleration program dubbed “Beyond Genius.” Catlin continued to read and her loins began to tingle as she started typing. With one eye on the screen and the other on the outline she had printed out, Catlin worked feverishly. As the pages piled up neatly on her desk Catlin knew she had another blockbuster on her hands.

    In the back of the limousine Catlin peered out the window. The leafy heather brushed the glass as the car twisted and turned down the dusty back road. She was about to call her editor when her phone chirped. “Hello,” said Catlin.

    “My, my,” said a raspy low pitched voice. “You made short work of this one my dear Catlin.”

    Catlin pushed the button that raised the privacy glass. “Who is this?” She knew who it was but this was the first time he had called her on the phone.

    “Fourth time’s a charm, right dear?”

    “What do you want?”

    “Catlin, my sweet, I only desire what is rightfully mine.”

    “Leave me alone Rafael or I’ll call the police.”

    “The police? The fucking police? What pray tell would the police have to say about such a thing?”

    “Please, just leave me alone Rafael.”

    “Perhaps Catlin, I will add the police to my list. It makes perfect sense. I have all four outlines ready to send out, to reveal to the world, certified, notarized and all that.”

    “Why do you do this Rafael?”

    “Why? You want to know why? “

    “Yes, I want to know why.”

    “Perhaps,” said Rafael. “Perhaps you need me.”

    Catlin closed her eyes and trembled. “Maybe I do.”

    The limousine slowed and the privacy glass lowered. “Perhaps we should discuss this in person my dear,” the driver said.

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      Oh wow, what an intriging situation, jhowe. A perfect story for the prompt. The meeting might lead to murder and malice. Can I convince you to fire up the old computer and add to this tale? You set the story line up in a marvelous way. I wanna find out, jhowe. Kerry

      • jhowe says:

        “Rafael?” Catlin said.

        “You were expecting maybe chopped liver?”

        “I didn’t know.”

        “No, that much is obvious.” Raphael opened her door and she stepped out.

        “What are you going to do to me?”

        “What would you suggest?” said Rafael.

        “Is that a flashlight in your pocket?”

    • don potter says:

      Is she a goner or what? Your set up was terricific and the ending left me hanging enough to want more.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Come on jhowe, give with the next part! Kerry

        • jhowe says:

          “As a matter of fact, it is,” said Rafael removing the flashlight from his pocket.

          “That’s some flashlight,” said Catlin.

          “You realize I’m in love with you, don’t you Catlin?”

          “Why did you send me the outlines?”

          “Simple. I’m a concept man. You’re good with details.”

          “That’s it?”

          “What else is there?” said Rafael.

          Catlin looked into Rafael’s deep brown eyes. “You tell me?”

    • Reaper says:

      I am apart from the crowd here. I love this ending because it is open for murder but leads my mind to a wedding born of Stockholm Syndrome.

    • MJ Munn says:

      As the above commentators state, this definitely leaves you wanting more. Pace picks up nicely and keeps the reader’s attention. Very well written.

      But the addenda really made me laugh! “That’s some flashlight.” Thanks jhowe

    • Silver Sister says:

      Hey, do you have Raphael’s number? Kidding. This is a very engaging story.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      Was I the only one that thought Rafael was going to want a little somethin’ somethin’? I did not feel murder when I read his phone call, I heard passion of a different sort. :) You actually made me forget that this was even a prompt! I completely forgot about someone who knows too much, and was thinking, ” Oh no! She didn’t write any of them!.”

    • agnesjack says:

      I really liked this, jhowe. A well-detailed story, with intriguing characters and a mystery for an ending. Rafael kept quiet through the first three books and now he wants something? Hmmm. Tell Caitlin I know a pretty good intellectual property lawyer who might be able to argue that the “story” not the “outline” is the thing. Unless, of course, Caitlin wants Rafael to pursue . . . something further?

  42. danbill says:

    Tomkins’ eyes skirted around the pub. “I’ll bring a signal,” the e-mail had said. Probably not the man with a sun hut slouched over an ale at the bar then. Or the curly-haired youth poking aimlessly at a smartphone with a cola at his side. Or the scrawny man with pierced ears throwing cash at a fruit machine that flashed and growled moronically.

    Tom Smith was the name the e-mail came from. MI6 pseudonyms obviously aren’t nearly as imaginative in real life, thought Tomkins, chuckling to himself.

    It has to be their doing. He didn’t like the sound of this co-called draft bestseller, why the hell were they going through this rigmarole instead of confronting him directly? Was he really worth blackmailing?

    Tomkins’ left eye detected movement. He span around to see the youth with the phone whack a hardback copy of Vendetta on the table. It looked like the fifth edition from 2001 or so. Good god, there was a barcode stuck on the front. They could have at least bought a copy for this absurd plan instead of borrowing from the library. At least he had his man now.

    “Tom Smith, I presume?” asked Tomkins sardonically, ignoring the young man’s outstretched hand, much to his apparent displeasure.

    “God you lot get younger all the time,” said Tomkins, adding a grumble for pure emphasis.

    “Well, actually my publishers want to encourage young authors”, replied the young man meekly. Tomkins sighed at the contrived attempt to maintain the guise.

    “Look I know who you are and why you’re here. Let’s get to the point, who told you?”

    The young ‘author’ glanced sideways. “Erm . . . what do you mean exactly?”

    “Who gave you this great idea of this, ahem, fictional mystery writer being seduced by a Russian agent in Moscow and providing some trivial pieces of intelligence on other authors.”

    “Well actually it was set in Saint Petersburg.”

    Tomkins slapped his temple and looked up to the ceiling. “Well at least get your facts right. Look, what do you want from me?”

    “I was just hoping you could take a look at my draft, maybe see if you think my portrayal of a mystery writer is accurate.”

    “And after I fill in any blanks, then what?”

    “I’ll send it to my publishers and they’ll deal with it from there.”

    “Well listen here. You can tell your bosses, okay let’s call them publishers because that old sot at the bar might just be Mossad or whatever. Tell your publishers, come speak to me directly with their demands. Tell them to use proper codenames as well instead of wasting my time with spooks barely out of school.”

    Tomkins smashed the palm of his hand to the edge of the table and stormed out of the building.

    The barman was shaking his head as Tom sat open-mouthed. “Don’t take it to heart kiddo. He’s totally cuckoo. Forty years living alone as a cold war mystery writer around these parts gets to you.”

  43. Mya says:

    Me: This sounds like a great story. I would like to know more about you and where you came up with the idea.

    Informant: Oh, I can’t think why you need to know the details. Unless—-you already know the details.

    Me: What do you mean? What is your name?

    Informant: You already know my name.

    Me: Yes, I know thousands of people—and their names, but which of them are you?

    Informant: I am someone you knew in the past.

    Me: Well, why are so unforthcoming? Just TELL me your name, and then we can get on with this. I am quite busy, you see, and haven’t the time to play guessing games. Just come to your point.

    Informant: Are you saying you are interested in writing a book about this story?

    Me (beginning to squirm uncomfortably): Possibly. But I have to be careful of plagiarism; that is, I can’t steal the story from somebody else.

    Informant: You mean steal it from me? That’s not a problem—I give it to you.

    Me: YOU give the story to ME? Then, let’s hear it. What is the whole story?

    Informant: Well, it will need fleshing out, but I can give you some of the details.

    Me: I’m all ears.

    Informant: Some of the details are that a young woman worked at a company and did some things that she was not proud of.

    Me: What kinds of things?

    Informant: Nothing illegal, but, perhaps, morally questionable.

    Me: Yes?

    Informant: She had a dalliance with the CEO, you see. She was so very young and naïve, and the CEO was so very mature and attractive.

    Me (feeling uncomfortable): Oh? And what happened?

    Informant: Well, the two of them took great pains to hide the affair. No one knew about it—except, perhaps, one particular person.

    Me (pausing to reflect upon this): And that person was YOU?

    Informant: I cannot say who it was. But the CEO was married and had four young children.

    Me: What was his name?

    Informant: Richard, I believe.

    Me (standing up and walking around with the phone): OK. Then what happened?

    Informant: Well, like all passionate affairs, this one fizzled out. Fire burns hot, and then, when the wood is all burned up, it goes out, and leaves cold ashes under the grate.

    Me: Yes, I suppose that does happen.

    Informant: It happens, but sometimes there is a smoldering coal.

    Me (feeling flustered and anxious): A smoldering coal? Are you saying there was some aspect of the affair left?

    Informant: I think there was. There was a smoldering coal.

    Me: What do you mean, exactly?

    Informant: It means someone knows about the baby you gave up for adoption.

    Me: ME? What do you mean? I gave up a BABY for adoption? What on earth makes you think that?

    Informant: Because I know the baby. He is grown up now. It took him a long time to find out who his real mother is, and was.

    Me (stifling a sob): Oh my God.

    • jhowe says:

      Interesting format. It worked well.

    • don potter says:

      The format told me this takes place in a room that is bare except for a small table and the chairs upon which the characters are seated. The dialogue carried the story from there. Nicely done.

    • MJ Munn says:

      Powerful stuff, Mya. You have an ear for dialogue. I especially love the repeated “smoldering coal.” This is a haunting story that leaves a lot to the imagination: What does her son want? Why does he choose this creepy, aggressive way to introduce himself? What does he mean by “who his real mother is, *and was*”? It gets the reader’s imagination going, Mya, in a good way.

      A couple logistical things, though: “You already know my name.” Does she? Would she? And why does he have specific knowledge about his father, but seem unsure about his name? I grant you, the Informant seems a little unbalanced, which is good enough answer for both of these questions, but I wish it was a little more clear how much of these statements are directly tied to that.

    • Critique says:

      An interesting read in an unusual format. The ending wrapped it up very well. I enjoyed it.

    • Silver Sister says:

      I liked the line where she tells the informant that she knows thousands of people’s names and wants to know which one he is. I feel bad for her. Her son is bad news. I have a feeling he’s not looking to forge a heartwarming bond with Mom.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      Yes, very intriguing read. I felt a malicious sinister aspect to her son’s voice, before I knew it was her son. When I found out, I re-read it, hoping that it was my assumption of the story and that it would bear different fruit with the new information. Alas it did not. I think this man has trouble in his heart and in mind. She should watch out. Nicely done.

    • agnesjack says:

      I could see this as a teleplay for “The Twilight Zone”. The atmosphere is stark and the fact that the MC is talking to the informant on the phone gives it another layer of mystery.

  44. bilbobaggins321 says:

    A COLD REFLECTION

    I was sitting across the grimy booth from the muscular man whose head magically managed to always stay in the shadow. We each held a nano-coffee cup balanced in our hands.

    “I got your message around two hours ago,” I said, fear audibly creeping in.

    “Good,” he replied, in a voice sounding like a cement truck had poured its load into his vocal cords.

    “It’s a great idea,” I said, pausing momentarily to look out the window. I wasn’t scared of him. Or at least that was what I kept telling myself. “A bit too personal, but—“

    “Personal is the whole point,” he rumbled. He raised his cup, I heard one slurping noise, and then he set it back on the counter.

    “Why exactly is that? We can always edit it to make it marketable.” I suddenly felt uncomfortable for saying the last part. My agent always warned about getting on the bad side of a conversation with a cyborg- they could rip your heart out with a wrist flick.

    “Because, this whole book is about you . . . isn’t it?” He drew out the blood-cold words one by one until the whole sword was revealed. His hands had bulging veins.

    “Even the part about the- the main character being murdered?” I resisted the urge to gulp, for no doubt his beady gaze was already focused on my throat.

    “Yes, even that part.” I felt glued to my seat as he weighed the cup in each hand.

    “You see, Mark, I watched you for years from afar, waiting for this moment, when your fame would perfectly blind from weakness. I would even call myself a fan of yours.”

    I regained some of my paltry strength. “Thank you, kind sir. I may just use this idea.”

    He laughed, one that seemed without any real motivation to do so. “Yes, please do. Lift yourself over me one more time, Best Author of 3017. Show this universe just how great you are.”

    I took one sip, the muscles in my hand taken over by a 4-point earthquake. He sat perfectly still, but underneath his shirt I could tell he was prepping for a move.

    “Thank you for the lavish praise. I best leave now.”

    I had just grabbed hold of my cup and was going to race for the front door when he leaned forward, his scarred red visage like a specter from the deep. My lips struggled for words as I faced- myself.

    “At last, after all this time, I will exact due revenge. You have put me through too much.”

    I didn’t leave the seat fast enough. His thumbs moved on my jaw with one motive.

    “Model 45A, welcome to hell.”

    I tumbled into the abyss as my clone twisted my life, shattered. I crumpled to the floor as he calmly got up from the seat, quickly drowning in my own blood. The jig was up at last. The real Professor Mark didn’t look back at the dead imposter.

    • jhowe says:

      I like how you inject description along side the dialog. It keeps the story flowing nicely. Confronting ones clone has got to be difficult.

    • don potter says:

      “The year was 3017, yet you managed to recycle “the jig was up” into the story. A gripping tale, with great dialogue, from beginning to end.

    • MJ Munn says:

      Ah, Dystopia. There’s no place like home.

      This is a truly great story. So many great lines. (“He drew out the blood-cold words one by one until the whole sword was revealed.” “His thumbs moved on my jaw with one motive.”)

      My favorite part is how much Professor Mark’s gravelly voice and empty, hateful laugh remind me of (perhaps ironically) Frankenstein’s creature (original, 1818 version), the bestest monster ever.

      The denouement is classic. Not a lot of narratives end with the death of the narrator. Lovecraft has done it, but I think the tone reminds me mostly of the great Fritz Leiber. Thanks for posting this, bilbo.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        A gritty, fast moving tale, bilbo. I tried writing a death struggle with my clone a couple of months back on a prompt here and didn’t realize how difficult the job was. I wish I had read your’s first. You’ve done a much better story then I did. I’m going to keep reading it and studying it and try to keep my old brain, remembering it.

      • Bilbo Baggins says:

        MJ Munn: Thank you for the gracious comment. The Professor character I originally made out as the hostile clone, but I decided to switch the roles later on. You’re very welcome.

        Kerry: Thanks also. I was trying to work on dialogue this time, so I’m glad it flowed nicely for everyone. The clone idea actually came into my head halfway through, which is why the ‘clones’ have so much differences between them, but I chalked it up to malfunctions in the cloning process.

    • Critique says:

      I liked your use of descriptive words: his voice sounding like a cement truck… rumbled. I could hear it. Writing about one’s clone would be a challenge and you did it so well.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      I love that the close was the voice for this one. All my clone brain stories that I Never put to paper always have the clone being an antag instead of the protag. Did not think of the reverse until now. Good on you.

  45. Reaper says:

    What You Know

    Twenty years of success then I moved to an old family cabin just outside of North Bend, Washington. A dirt road led to the cabin. Lacking electricity I took to the resident antique typewriter to produce my manuscripts. The first five years were perfect. Then came the development, little ranch houses that make me want to vomit when I drive past. A bunch of yuppies and hipsters with more money than sense were suddenly living across the path from me. Seven years ago that was. I had the cabin moved deeper into the property. I still don’t have electricity, but there is cold spring water and a wood stove. Life is almost perfect but every week I have to drive into town to get the mail.

    Most folks think I dropped out of life to get away from my fans. That’s not the case. I moved here because sometimes people just get too close to knowing you.

    The critics said, well say, two things about me constantly. The good, my work is so factual and real that it could be true crime. The bad, I always write my villain getting away with his crimes. Both make me laugh.

    I moved so I could continue doing God’s work farther from real cops. I started writing my exploits as mysteries because getting rid of pedophiles, rapists, and the truly blasphemous doesn’t pay well. My heroes don’t get caught because I don’t. So it was surprising when I got a letter a year ago outlining the novel I was writing. A piece about a politician that made it easier for those bad guys to get off that went missing in a quarry. The author demanded a meeting the following Friday at the truck stop near my cabin.

    I was terrified when I arrived. Then I saw the steel grey hair, the stooped woman, the brutally large wheelchair. I knew my accuser, but how did she know? Slumping to her table I saw she had ordered for me. Defeat edged my voice as I greeted her.

    “Mother?”

    “Of course you ass.” She rasped around the oxygen tube. “Who else would know the truth?”

    “How did you know? I was careful!”

    “Your first book, the dog that guy killed as a teenager had the same name as your dog that went missing when you were in school. So I started checking up on what you did and were doing.”

    “What do you want mother?”

    “I want out of the nursing home. I’m moving in with you until I pass. You can keep doing God’s work.”

    I didn’t want to say yes but there was no choice. I’m finishing up the book about the mayor while mom drives me nuts. At least I have the plot for the next book already. It’s about a serial killer that takes in his mother in during a moment of weakness. She lives with him until she dies; until he can’t take it anymore and buries her under his cabin.

    • don potter says:

      Loved it. I knew was going to get it, but I had not considered there was a book deal in it.

      • Reaper says:

        Thank you Don! I almost changed track when I read your story because the idea of getting mail and out in the woods started to feel like I was stealing, but I soldiered ahead because the idea came with the original reading of the prompt. Now I’m glad I did. I guess it’s my curse that I don’t write happy endings so her getting it was pretty obvious, but I’m okay with that. I actually thought about cutting a few more words to add the line “I think I have to move again” to the end. Getting a Loved it from you makes my night.

        • Amyithist says:

          Reaper, well done! That was creepy. Kind of reminded of a Norman Bates sorta thing. Great job!!

          • Kerry Charlton says:

            I’m with the crowd, Reaper. Great story line and it’s a killer when you bring his own Mother and the blackmail. Moms have a lot of priviledge wth their kids but this is not one them,. Moving in with a serial killer.

    • jhowe says:

      Pretty clever Reaper. I liked how the yuppies and hipsters ruined the neighborhood by moving in. Too bad about the mother, I liked her.

    • MJ Munn says:

      Beautiful! I want more! Dexter’s no longer (R.I.P. Debra*), so write it up as a treatment and let’s get a pilot done. Perhaps the best part is that everyone in the comments thinks it’s a foregone conclusion that he’s going to off his mom, but don’t forget: she’s a sharp sleuth and she knows exactly what he’s capable of. She won’t go down easy.

      *SPOILER ALERT. Wait. Shoot. Which way do we read again? Up-down or down-up?

      • Reaper says:

        MJ, your words are a gift. Never been good at treatments, need to get on a ghostwriter for that. I didn’t give thought to the mother turning it around on him but that would be an interesting continuation.

        By the way, if you haven’t I suggest reading the Dexter books. The show was based on only the first book and that feel. The story diverges sharply at the end of the first season and book, and the feel gets much darker as the books progress. Very worth the read in my opinion.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Right to left MJ. No wonder I didn’t do well in English.

    • Critique says:

      Every sentence drove your story forward. I enjoyed it. Mother is a tangled character in this tale. What happens to Mama? Does God’s work continue?

    • Silver Sister says:

      I have to echo everyone’s kudos. I absolutely adore this story. Looking at the mother, you can understand the son more. They may have met each others match.

      • Reaper says:

        MJ, Silver Sister, and Critique. I normally, with the exception of one idea that has turned into a six parter, put these aside when I am done. However your thoughts on the mother and wanting to know more inspired me to write a follow up. To me it is not as good as initial, but if would like I can post it as a continuation of the tale.

        • MJ Munn says:

          Yes please!

          • Reaper says:

            Okay MJ. Here be the follow up.

            Trinity

            When they say “write what you know” they fail to understand how hard it is to put yourself out there. I bent over the ancient typewriter, squinting at a half filled page through my one unswollen eye. My old friends click and clack urged me through my next best seller.

            Silence and melancholy echoed in the shadowy interior of the forlorn cabin. Harry purposefully prowled forward. Crafty as his mother was God willed that she shuffle off the mortal coil. The hammer of God could not tolerate an old biddy nagging him to scrub behind his ears. She had shown him strength then become his weakness. The weight of the miniature sledge was a comfort in his hand when he hefted it to his shoulder.

            More than one lost soul had been steered to the path of righteousness by her hand after her only son left home. Loving her was easy. Harry was a servant so when love and duty warred in his heart duty always won. He should have remembered servant is a word for not yet master.

            The floorboard he kept meaning to repair creaked underfoot as he was raising his bludgeon to strike. He cursed his lack of vigilance. As the polished wood of the cane his mother carried in her lap struck and numbed his wrist Harry remembered his mother knew the cabin as well as he did. He still had enough strength to finish his task.

            The stinging reprimand was nothing more than a stall. Black on dark rushed through the room, tackling Harry. Winded, Harry was staring into the face of a man twenty years his junior. One splotch of white coalesced in his field of vision. He had been bushwhacked by a priest. Another moment of contemplation allowed him to realize it was one of the ragamuffins his mother had taken in. The voice that issued from the younger man was kind but stern.

            “You intended to kill her?”

            “I am doing God’s work. Interference will not be tolerated.” The excuse sounded weak to Harrys’ ears.

            “God is a trinity.” The young priest nodded to the matron. “The Holy Spirit guides and acts as conscience, the Father who guides and teaches, and the Son who acts out will of both. Right, Father?”

            “Remember which of those dies at the whim of another.” Harry showed his teeth in a predator’s smile.

            Cold, sharp steel settled against Harry’s throat. For the first time in his life je was outmatched.

            “It would serve you to reflect upon how forgotten the Father is. Without the glory of the child the old man’s houses would be sad empty places. You will not forsake me and you will not murder your conscience.”

            I could write no more at the moment. I did not know the next twist in the tale. I understand now why God looked away at the last moment. Teaching is a bitch. For the first time in years, however, my work makes me feel alive.

        • MJ Munn says:

          Trinity: Wow, not what I was expecting at all. You turned the story a completely different way. That’s some stark religious imagery. I liked it, but in a completely different way: certainly a much more challenging read, but challenging = rewarding. I would like to have seen more of mother. I was hoping for some of that “Of course you ass” dialogue from the first part, but this one stands on its own.

    • agnesjack says:

      Dexter meets Norman Bates! Reaper, your stories are always original and a roller coaster of a read. Poor mom — but what did she expect?

    • jmcody says:

      Or… Dexter meets Throw Momma from the Train (Owen!). I think that mother would dominate her son, even if he is a serial killer, The second part got even darker, but both parts were a great read/

    • gamingtheblues says:

      I was struggling to come up with my response to this piece. Its a gripping story for me, but the first piece of the prompt felt…incomplete and for some reason I hesitated to write a reply. Why was I waiting? I didn’t know, but today I realized I was waiting for the next part, even though there was no guarantee that it would be here. Well thankfully, it has arrived and now I know how to respond and why I hesitated. I felt the mother was the powerful one in the piece, where the real strength, and…what’s the word…. where the real emotional weight lay. And your using the young priest as the voice of the mother (the killer’s god/controller/something) was inspired. Without more of her…heart? if you will, I did not know how to feel about it.

      I can not put my finger on it but I sense deep waters in this piece, even as the power dynamics amuse me darkly. In reading some of your comments above, I actually think the second part is or makes the entire piece stronger than the single alone so I am pleased you posted it. Well done.

  46. bilbobaggins321 says:

    When the glow subsided from my first hit, the number of cats curled up near my fireplace climbed, the locks on the doors went up, and I mailed all my manuscripts. I’d settled down to a Dickinson life, so I couldn’t help but get a chill when I received “it”. I felt invisible tentacles curl up beside me as I read in the dark. The anonymous sender had an idea for me- about a secluded writer who has six cats and then is kidnapped in an alley. The second chill arrived right on time. He’d requested to meet me at the restaurant. Downtown? That seemed more like an alien ship than home.

    But I was prepared to oblige- reluctantly. The next morning, when the sun was barely licking the panes, I slipped some jeans and a jacket on and shoved myself into the open air.

    “Bye, Smoky,” I called to the chocolate Siamese watching me from his traditional spot. I needlessly feared that I would never see him again. Would this house remain empty until my body was dug up in the woods? Cat skeletons flashed through my head, and I laughed in my intense fear. I had nothing to worry about, right?

    My boots squished in the mud as I reached the turn before the restaurant. Gloomy clouds spiraled above like a hostile tornado, and my lungs sucked in another breath of fresh air. I was about to turn back. My light jacket felt so close to strangling me.

    “Mr. Higgings. We want to speak with you. I have an idea for another novel for you.”

    The shadowy figure was just out of recognition, his black clothes hanging onto the brick corner.

    “What is it you want?”

    “Just a little bit of your time.” He held up a shiny black object.

    My fight or flight mechanism was wrenched into full gear. My heart bolted up to the clouds with each second I tensely waited for him to fire.

    “Just don’t shoot me, please!” I advanced cautiously, rocks crunching.

    The wind whipped my hair into undulating wisps. Just before I could see his face, I saw the yellow flash. I lunged to the side, standing after the roll.

    Around the corner was a group looking with amusement. I embarrassingly brushed myself off and went into the restaurant with the reporter, who told me he was from the Gazette. He told me of the new idea he had, yellow flashes going on all around me as I tried to eat. After a few hours I traipsed home.

    The next Sunday the paper greeted me. I took a large sip of orange juice, and had it just as quickly splatter over the tablecloth. Because guess what was on the front page in bold lettering, with a picture, nonetheless?

    AUTHOR J. E. HIGGINGS, SEEN OUT OF HOME FIRST TIME IN YEARS, WETS PANTS FOR PAPARAZZI

    I slapped the paper onto the stain, the juice sinking into the ink, and rushed for the bathroom.

    (Sorry for not even trying to match you guy’s awesome responses, but this was apparently all I could pump out for this one. It is in the word limit, though.)

    • don potter says:

      I found this an amusing tale. The prompt does not set the stage for humor, but you were able to find it.

    • Reaper says:

      I agree with Don, the ability to bring humor into this is well done. I love the contrast in the character. Seeming skittishness that he falls into in thoughts and actions contrasted with brutal word choice in the first person; shoved myself into the open air, wrenched into full gear, there were some others but those two caught me. You paint a picture of someone that wants to be a bad ass but knows he isn’t.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Loved the story. Bad asses wet their britches when they run up against badder asses There is a pecking order that exists in live for all species that breathe. I though the humor was a clever touch. Bodily functions are jewels to wrap humor around.

    • MJ Munn says:

      A clever vignette. You can never go wrong with pants-wetting and spit-taking.

    • Critique says:

      Great use of descriptive words. I could sense the terror the MC battled when he left his safe cocoon.

    • Silver Sister says:

      You’ve created a unique character. I made the mistake of reading this in public. I got a few looks when I laughed at your headline. Oh, well. Totally worth it.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      This was a blast of fresh air to be honest, there are some pretty heavy entries to this week’s prompt and a well written, very funny story just about hit the spot.

    • agnesjack says:

      This was great, bilbo. Your character was vivid and believable and I applaud your ability to find a unique and humorous idea for this prompt.

    • jmcody says:

      So many crazy author characters came out of this prompt. Should I be worried?

      Also, I had to do a double take after your first line about the glow from your first hit subsiding. You wouldn’t by any chance be from California, now, would you???

  47. MJ Munn says:

    My coffee grew cold while I waited for my computer to boot up. Apparently I have the same taste in computers as I have in women: boxy, slow, and with a real bad memory. I poured a little more Jameson into my coffee so that I wouldn’t care.

    My name is Wade. Boston Wade. I live alone in a two-story cabin in the darkest depths of Wyoming, where I am only accessible by email. I let other people worry about my social media presence. I don’t do signings or make public appearances. I churn out pulp and that’s all I do, and I make a pretty decent living at it. Enough to keep my publisher off my back, anyway.

    I check my email first. I have six. Two from my editor; one from my agent. They’ll keep until the weekend. Two different emails tell me I’m paying too much for my insurance. Spam filter’s slacking on the job. I’d box its ears and tell it to hit the bricks, but it’s literally my only friend. But friends are funny: your best friend is always just one bad day away from becoming your worst enemy. This was that day.

    Sixth email was a press release forwarded from somebody called “bostonspilledbeans97,” regarding a murder thriller from a writer named E. L. Reis, being published under my imprint. Name didn’t mean much to me; I don’t really keep up with the other writers out there. Unusual, though. By request, I don’t even get press releases about my own books. But I was intrigued enough by its presence in my inbox that I read it through.

    Tale was a familiar one, and I don’t mean plagiarized. Described a mystery writer named “Austin Dade,” guy who retired from private investigation and found some success writing novels based on his old cases. That ain’t the catch, though. The catch is, seems “Austin Dade” retired from P.I.ing after he killed a guy. Hid the body and got away with it, but the guilt drove him to isolation. Now it seems a mysterious stranger has information regarding his crime.

    Like I said: real familiar. But after eighteen years on the force and ten as a private dick, you better believe I got a concealed carry permit and a list of sources that reads like Batman’s Facebook friends.

    In a second act that involved a fistfight, a case of mistaken identity, and no fewer than three car chase scenes, I used an old buddy on the force to trace “bostonspilledbeans97” to a broad in the Windy City, my old stomping grounds. It’s really too bad you couldn’t read it.

    “E. L. Reis” turned out to be Elizabeth Reis, a.k.a. Betty Gibbs, the sister of the man I killed. She didn’t want revenge, though. What she wanted was to blackmail me into sponsoring her career as a writer, and co-authoring a book or two with her.

    “I can make it worth your while, Mr. Wade,” she said, drawing attention to a neckline that had migrated well south of the equator. Betty wasn’t bad in the looks department, and more curves than the Kennedy Expressway. But I couldn’t risk my career or my freedom on the sister of a no-account like Jimmy the Tooth Gibbs.

    “Sorry babe. I swore off dames, and I swore off booze, and I only got enough hypocrisy in me to lie about one of those.” Her indignant expression melted off when I pulled my old Smith & Wesson. Felt good to draw it again, like remembering you used to paint pictures and weren’t half bad, and then thinking maybe you’d like to see if you’re still any good at it.

    I wondered briefly if I still knew where I buried old Jimmy.

    “Look at the bright side, sweetheart. Got a peachy idea for an Austin Dade sequel.”

    • lionetravail says:

      Brilliant! Funny, story moved briskly, and you had me totally hooked in the noir voice at the second line. Awesome, and I laughed all the way through. Especially with the hypocrisy line towards the end. Excellent work.

    • don potter says:

      You, too, found humor in the prompt. The tale was funny in a Chandler/Spilane way. Most enjoyable.

      • MJ Munn says:

        Thanks don! I think Kerry nailed the Spillane feel much more closely than I did in his story (above), but I’m gratified you enjoyed the humorous approach.

    • Reaper says:

      The lines in this make it fantastic. That pulp feel with the modern age is something I see done poorly too often so it is amazing to see it done so well. I didn’t think you could beat comparing the computers and women and the whiskey to not care then you did, and you did again. The voice on this hooked me and kept me.

      • MJ Munn says:

        Thank you Reaper! I think “Batman’s Facebook friends” was a little weak, but I find I ignore my internal editor just to get the words down. The “computers and women” line just kind of came to me while thinking about the prompt (and my stupid, stupid Dell), and the rest of the story flowed from that spring.

    • jhowe says:

      Just pour more Jameson in the coffee; it fixes anything. This was well written and very enjoyable. I like it.

    • Silver Sister says:

      This story has a very distinctive ‘voice’. Nobody is going to mistake it for anything else, nor does it fade into the background of other stories. It stands out. Good job!

    • gamingtheblues says:

      …”swore of dames and I swore off booze, and I only got enough hypocrisy in me to lie about one of those.” I Love this line, brilliant. This guy is a real bastard though, I would love to see him get some comeuppance. He is more gritty and hardcore than I initially believed.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Top drawer, give no mercy, S O B MC’s voice. What’s so good about your writing, it looks like it comes easy and natural off your finger tips like you’re writing a personal story. That isn’t easy to write in this relaxed mode like you don’t care a damn if anybody reads it, for you’re writing this story for self pleasure.

        When you don’t push things, they come to you.

        “Sorry babe, I swore off dames,” is exactly what I’m talking about.

        • MJ Munn says:

          Well thank you very much, Kerry. Some of it does come easy–not necessarily because I don’t care, but like you said, self pleasure. I have a lot of fun writing, especially these prompts, and I hope that’s why MOST of us do it. Your post looked fun to write as well. No lie: I wish I’d come up with, “I owe him because of Iwo,” and that’s not even the best line in your story. If it wasn’t fun, I’d hang it up and see what the people OUTSIDE of my head are up to.

          Unfortunately, it more often than not causes me to write one draft and move on. That’s probably why the second and third paragraphs are in a different tense than the rest of the story. ;-)

      • MJ Munn says:

        Thanks GTB. Fortunately, Betty was more cagey than her brother. Although she was, in fact, buried outside of Chicago, she had the foresight to prepare a letter documenting her suspicions and intent to confront Jimmy’s killer (leaving out the part about her extorting him for a shot at the bestseller list).

        UNfortunately, there was a postal workers strike, and the letter subsequently never made it to its intended destination.

        REfortunately, Boston suffered a massive heart attack while digging Betty’s grave. Also, Betty kind of deserved it.

    • agnesjack says:

      Excellent voice, mj. I agree that it is hard to pull off a modern noir piece, but you succeeded.

    • jmcody says:

      Saucy!!! I had so much fun reading this. So many good lines. I even liked the Batman line, although I spend way too much time around kids, so don’t go by me.

      You are a riot, MJ.

      • MJ Munn says:

        Thank you, jm! You’re too kind. BTW you CAN’T “spend way too much time around kids” (unless you’re on some kind of watch list). Their imaginations are so pure and contagious. (Although they do make it difficult to find the time and the quiet to write!)

  48. Kemter says:

    I looked down at the black, blocky letters blinking up at me from the green digital display of my watch. Two minutes had passed since I last checked the time.
    A bell rang as another trucker entered the old dinner themed rest stop. My eyes tracked his tired shuffle to a raised bar seat with red, cracked plastic upholstery. That made three now.
    Three others in that small dinner beside myself: an ancient couple in the corner booth farthest from my own enjoying coffee and eggs before they resumed their travel out east, a Russian mobster taking a meal before he returned to disposing of the poor sap locked in the trunk of his silver Honda, and now a friendly trucker making a point to stop at this dinner every time he hauled along the interstate to see the daughter he never had the guts to tell was his.
    Of course I knew these were wild stories, but then as a writer, wild stories were my specialty.
    Leaving my outlandish conjectures about the people sharing the dinner with me on hold, I searched through the rain splattered window for another car. Even with the crusty heater wheezing to my right, a chill had nestled deeply into my bones.
    My hand convulsed nervously around the printed pages in the pocket of my worn coat. An email from a fan, a beautiful suggestion, the next great plot, the reason for the steady collection of icy sleet in my stomach as I waited to meet this mystery writer.
    Fear seemed to be the predominant emotion as I watched a black Ford pick-up truck grumble to a stop next to the Russian’s Honda with the man in the trunk.
    The rain picked up, blurring my view from the booth window.
    My hands were white from gripping the navy coffee cup between them as the mystery man stepped into the dinner. His eyes flashed among the faces of my fellow customers before settling on my own. With a smile he sauntered over.
    I took in every detail of him, from the knock-off leather loafers to the khaki business pants to the pale blue button down under a sports jacket and still I could read nothing. He was younger than I, but how much younger was a riddle.
    “Good morning Mr. Jennings,” his voice had the confidence of a marketing major, “I’ll admit it was a struggle finding this place so far from civilization.”
    I watched silently, letting him get to the point.
    “Right then,” he coughed, “Mr. Jennings, why does a man choose to live like a recluse?”
    I answered then, neutrally, “To keep to himself.”
    The man shook his head and tsked like therapist sensing a lie, “Perhaps it had more to do with a fire, a car accident, and a suicide?”
    I stayed still, listening to my own heart quicken.
    “But why then,” the man continued, “would the leading mystery writer of our time ignore his greatest story of all?”

    • agnesjack says:

      This was intriguing, kemter, but it left me with many questions, that, I believe, would have to be answered with a chapter two. The imaginary descriptions of his fellow patrons was a very nice touch. One quibble: it should be “diner” (a place) not “dinner” (a meal).

    • gamingtheblues says:

      Kemter, I have many thoughts on this piece and some rather long suggestions that I was typing out and then realized that my suggestions ended up being longer than your story ;) Not in a bad way. I sense potential here and want to offer some advice, but with such a long response I do not want to post it forthwith without first consulting with you as to your wishes to receive it. There were many things I liked, and only a few things that I would suggest, but the suggestions are about some fundamentals so it takes a bit longer to delve into them. Please respond so I feel more comfortable about continuing =)

      • gamingtheblues says:

        Meh… I have been a little too deep down the rabbit hole this week of writing. Actually cut what I said. I love this piece, find it very intriguing and you really have inspired me. Just be careful of how and what details you choose to elaborate on so as not to detract too much from your main focuses.

  49. don potter says:

    “He looked exactly as I’d remembered, down to the last mole.” What a description. I enjoyed the read.

  50. Amyithist says:

    I pulled the lace curtains aside and looked out the window. The tree line silhouetted against the pitch black and I felt a shiver run over me. Beyond the sallow pool of light breaking through the dark from the front porch, I couldn’t see anything. I pulled away from the icy pane and let the curtains fall back into place, sighing heavily.
    I looked at the clock on the wall and took another sharp breath. My anxiety was on another level. I read the email over again. “The next big story is about a writer who accidentally kills her lover in a fit of rage…” I scanned down further. “She flees to the middle of the Pacific northwest forest, certain that she can escape her past…”
    Images of Booker lying in a pool of his own blood tore through my mind and I suddenly felt sick. I stood up and ran to the kitchen, leaning over the sink and gagging. I coughed and gasped, sucking in a mouthful of air. Who was this person? And why did they know so much? Nobody, not even my family or closest friends, knew what happened between Booker and I.
    In fact, nobody knew anything. They were probably searching for me; convinced that I had died somehow. Whatever the case may be, I had no intention of going back home.
    Suddenly, my email pinged and I felt another wave of panic slam into me like a tsunami. I closed my eyes and steeled myself against the fear building inside. I walked over to the laptop and fingered the pad until the screen lit up. My stomach flopped. It was from the mystery person.
    I read the email: “Miss Pratt, please understand that I have no intention of turning you in. I simply wanted to tell you how fascinated I am by your story. Please, contact me. My number is at the bottom of this email. I look forward to hearing from you.”
    My eyes flitted to the bottom of the short letter. The number had a Portland area code. That was where I was from! My mind whirred. I was terrified. Who could this be? I pulled myself up from the table and walked back into the kitchen, pulling a bottle of Wild Turkey from the cabinet. I filled a small glass and took a quick sip, wincing as the whiskey burned down my throat.
    There was only one way to find out who this person was. I downed another shot of whiskey and took a deep breath. My hands trembled as I picked the phone up and dialed the number from the email.
    The phone rang once. Twice. On the third ring, someone answered. For a long moment, neither one of us said a word. My heart seemed to be thumping in every section of my body at once. Finally, the person at the other end of the line spoke and when he did, my blood went ice cold. “Did you think I was dead,” he asked.
    I felt my stomach tighten at the sound of his voice. He sounded the same: dangerous and unpredictable. My jaw hurt just hearing him speak my name. “Laura, I didn’t die that night. And I know where you are. And I’m coming to finish what you started.”
    The line clicked off. I stood there for a long moment, gripping the receiver. Booker was alive? How was that possible? I’d nearly caved his head in! At least…I thought I had.
    I ran to the window and peered out at the night again. I turned and reached into the floral cookie jar my grandmother had given me and pulled my Special .38 handgun from it. If Booker was alive…I’d be ready for him!

    • Reaper says:

      Okay Amyithist. You had me hooked, and I want more of this story. I don’t feel like anything is missing, I just have so many questions. I love that in a story.

    • don potter says:

      You took me a couple of different directions with the story. I felt her fear. Then I felt her sorrow for what seh had done. Back to her fear. Followed by her being ready to finish him off. You did all this in 500 words or so. Nicely done.

    • bilbobaggins321 says:

      This story flashed by as fast as a bullet from that Special .38 because I was reading it so fast. Excellent!!!

    • jhowe says:

      Nicely done Amyithist. This one flows nicely. Good job with keeping the tension cranked up.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I liked your swing from one emotion to the next and then back again. That’s hard to without visual. The reader has to depend on the prose he’s reading and you did a masterful job on this. Shoot Booker first at least four times and then ask more questions. If he answers, shoot him twice more to be nice.

    • MJ Munn says:

      Chilling. I love the descriptions; they really speak to how terrified the narrator is. I was going to choose an example, but they are so brilliantly woven throughout the story, it’s difficult to pull one out without diminishing the effect. Wow, Amyithist: I actually like your story even more through trying to describe it!

    • Critique says:

      Tension building thriller that captivated me from the first sentence. I’m biting my nails off – need to know what happens when he shows up.

    • Silver Sister says:

      I felt the MC’s fear. The tension building in this story is phenomenal. I like that while this character is remorseful, she’s also a survivor. I’d definitely keep reading about her and her confrontation with Booker.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      I personally did not feel any remorse from her, panic, fear of discovery yes. But remorse no. She refers to him as dangerous and unpredictable, and he obviously beat the *#@$ out of her as her remembrance of him is in a hurting jaw. I do not think she regrets anything, except, now, she is regretting she didn’t hit him harder the first time. You do not “accidentally” almost cave someone’s head in! That being put aside, this was phenomenal. I am a huge fan of strong female MC’s and this was is ready to kick some more ass.

    • agnesjack says:

      There is definitely a second chapter to this suspenseful story, amyithist. Actually, there’s a prequel, too. Well done.

    • jmcody says:

      You are a masterful storyteller. I agree with everything that was said about tension, pacing, and the keen portrayal of a complicated mix of emotions.

  51. don potter says:

    Unless I travel fifteen miles each way to the post office in town, I might not read my mail for weeks on end. Living out here in “God’s Country” allows me to think and write, but it sure limits my contact with the rest of the world. No reason to complain, though, I’ve been turning out mystery novels from my hermit’s hideaway for the past decade. One was voted the best mystery of 1975. That was two years ago.

    I have no worries about money as long as the royalty checks keep coming, even though they are not as big as before. It is time to turn out another winner, but my inspiration and drive are gone. I have been pretty dry since that night at the awards dinner. I should not have downed all those martinis before making the acceptance speech in which I insulted everyone of any importance in the mystery writing field. Even my agent avoids me other than to send cryptic notes asking when she can expect the next manuscript – proof I still have a fan base out there.

    There is a knock at the door. Odd. No one ever comes here. I open the door, anyway.

    “My name is Cross. I have some information for your next novel.”

    “Come in, Mr. Cross.” This is careless, but I am desperate for any idea that might get me writing again.

    “Before starting, may I have something to drink?”

    “The water’s fresh from the spring.”

    “Got anything stronger? I need to unwind after the long ride from the city.”

    “There’s a bottle out in the shed for medicinal purposes.”

    “That’ll be fine.”

    “This one hasn’t been opened,” I say after returning with a fifth. Then I crack the seal and pour him a hefty drink.

    “Aren’t you joining me?”

    “I try to stay away from booze.”

    “One won’t hurt.”

    “Well, okay. Just to be sociable.”

    We clink glasses and down the liquid in short order.

    “Want another?” I ask as the warmth of the alcohol spreads through my body.

    The stranger nods and I pour again.

    “Your last book was an absolute masterpiece,” the man says, holding up the hardback copy of my novel, which he took from the bookshelf while I was retrieving the bottle.

    “I’m sure you did not travel all this way to praise my work.”

    “Correct. I am here to help you get started on that allusive next story. Let’s have another drink while I outline the plot,” he says pushing the glass to me.

    Filling the glasses was the last thing I remember. When I came to, I was alone and could not recall anything about the storyline. All that remained of the interlude was an empty bottle and two glasses – one had been used while the other was unused and sat on top of my book, as if the bestseller was a coaster.

    “Better drive into town and pick up a couple of bottles in case that Cross fellow comes back,” I say to the empty room. “While I’m there, maybe I’ll pick up the mail.”

    • Amyithist says:

      Hmmmm. Was Cross an illusion? A figment of one’s imagination, perhaps? Could you write a follow up, please? WONDERFUL work, Don Potter! I’m enthralled.

    • Reaper says:

      Don, this is beautiful. Creepy in a subdued way. For some reason both Poe and Bradbury came to mind as I was reading the end of this. It wasn’t the style that did it so much, it just gave me those same kind of chills.

    • peetaweet says:

      Enjoyed this, I was humming along and then, boom! Great stuff!

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Everybody needs a Cross in their life to lend a crutch to walk on the wild side.Illusions are part of the Id that comes out in us. Don’t think it isn’t real. How else can you explain a session of automatic wriring? We’re just a typing mechanism who bends to their subconscious mind. Your story certainly evokes the shivers.

    • MJ Munn says:

      This is an interesting one. Nice dialogue. Flows briskly. Well done, don potter.

      (I’m glad I have imaginary friends to compliment my work too. :-) )

    • Critique says:

      Excellent writing in my view. Cross is an illusion? The sentence: ‘as if the bestseller was a coaster’ is a rather woebegone picture of where he’s at right now. I hope he gets back on track??

    • Silver Sister says:

      I particularly liked the image of the drunken writer addressing his peers with more frankness than prudence and the consequences of his speech. Well done.

    • agnesjack says:

      This was intriguing, don. I, too, think Cross is an illusion, and I wonder if there is a significance to the name that is eluding me. I also like that he couldn’t recall the splendid storyline – like a dream that fades as soon as one wakes.

    • jmcody says:

      I had kind of a Poe moment with this one too. As for the name Cross, two things came to mind: One is that the author’s alcoholism is his cross to bear, or his doom. The other thing it made me think of was the character of Randall Cross in Stephen King’s “The Stand,” who was basically the devil, and the name was ironic.

  52. peetaweet says:

    I used to love my world. The quiet mornings, Vicki asleep in bed, the smell roasted coffee beans. Back before my brain clouded and sputtered like soggy firework. It was beautiful, my fearlessness. I took on the blank page like a fresh snowfall. All mine to put tracks in.

    Now it was garbage. Every sentence was forced and awkward. I was a phony, a one hit wonder. Lucky for me it was one big whopping hit. I began savoring the way the horizon glowed to life with the gift of a new day. Because who knew about tomorrow?

    Even in my struggles I thought there was time. And I never thought it would come by email. But the old man was with the times. He even had a twitter account. Reading the proposal again, the writing was not only brilliant, this time it was personal. The day passed and I’d hardly moved. My agent wanted to see me.

    As a writer, I’d lived out the drive for the past 20 years, right down to the marbled frost on the windshield. The lot was empty as I parked. Pulling my slicker tight I scaled the steps and swallowed before I opened the door. He was already seated, in the back booth, wearing the same dark suit from twenty years ago.

    “Burton. It’s been a while.”

    “It has.”

    “You’re not looking so good, how’s the prequel? Or is it a sequel?”

    He looked exactly as I’d remembered, down to the last mole. I swallowed and he seemed to revel in my flinch.

    “My condolences about Vicki.”

    My skin prickled. I wasn’t here for small talk.

    “Burton Carter, my star client. The heralded bestselling author here in the flesh. You know, I never told you how much I enjoyed your appearance on Oprah. What was that, 2001? Yeah, yeah, it was just before 9/11, wasn’t it?”

    Outside, a rigid wave crashed to the beach. I shifted in my seat and the black eyes glimmered.

    “The arthritis?”

    “It’s nothing.”

    A haggard waitress waltzed over with coffee and attitude. She walked away and we were all alone. I couldn’t believe the time was up.

    “Okay, Burton.”

    “I wish I’d never found you.”

    He smacked his lips, his words as smooth as brass. “They all say that in the end. It’s business, that’s all Burton. Look, you had some talent, but nothing that the world had never seen before. You needed me, and you were all too willing to see it through.”

    He pulled out the folder and I saw the original contract. Behind it, on a yellowed sheet of 24lb paper were the scared, careful words of that fateful yellowed query. My eyes fell shut.

    “I gave you 20 years, Burton. That’s more than I gave Sallinger.”

    We stood, agent and writer, two old men looking out at the sea. I turned to him.

    “What’s next for you?”

    “Got a release date for a breakout author.” He gestured towards a couple on the boardwalk, embracing in a kiss. There was an overturned bottle of champagne foaming at their feet.

    “He signed it all away?”

    A hint of a smile broke across his face, as though he could share one last secret. “It’s going to be big, bigger than yours.”

    Outside, the young writer picked up the champagne, thrusting it towards the sky with a cheer.

    “Poor guy.”

    “I think you mean ‘poor girl’.”

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