Short Stories and Flash Fiction, p.1Alice de Sturler / Mystery & Detective
SHORT STORIES AND FLASH FICTION
By Alice de Sturler
Copyright Alice de Sturler
CONTENT OF SHORT STORIES AND FLASH FICTION:
1: Downloads and downfalls
2: Dark clouds
3: The waiting room doors
4: It was a long time ago, really
5: He told the cops on her
6: The Hostage
1: The Substitute Lead Singer
FLASH FICTION (1000 words of less)
1: Downloads and downfalls
His notification light was still blinking. He had not opened his latest messages. Comments from his blog came straight to his phone for moderation. His blog was popular and attracted hundreds of readers a day. But that did not cause his anxiety.
Just this one reader.
Another alert for a comment awaiting moderation. There was no escaping this one. He had expected it to come in this morning. It had increased his worries and his anxiety built up during the afternoon.
Posting the comment was the signal. The acceptance of the terms. The IP address on the comment would tell him where to find his next message. The exit link would tell him which paper to contact.
He had no choice.
He scanned over the lists of new emails until he found the one he had waited for. His fingers were drenched in sweat. They left traces all over the screen.
He bent down to wipe his phone on his jeans. From the corner of his eyes, he saw a cop drinking coffee in his squat car. It could all be over in two minutes. He just had to show the cop his phone and all downloads.
He felt tears stinging in his eyes as he stood up straight again. He had no choice. They would find him. They would find his family.
He scrolled down to that one comment he had to approve. Closing his eyes, he said a little prayer, and hit “approved.”
2: Dark clouds
“So you heard it too, right? Tomorrow is the day.”
“Yeah, I wonder who else knows about this. I cannot imagine she’d tell anyone.”
“Why would she? Gonna be tough enough as it is later on.”
Jacob look away from his friend and pretended to study the huge bird flying over the open area behind his house. His friend was actually the younger brother of one of his dad’s coworkers. He had an apprenticeship downtown and often popped in to get a free lunch.
“Do you think she will have to be restrained? I read somewhere that you have these restraining blankets instead of straps?” Jacob said while still following the bird. That bird circled the field. It had found a prey.
Sheldon looked at his fingers. He really needed to stop biting his nails. “We do have those blankets. Not sure they are heavy enough though to stop a teenager from trashing her arms if that’s what she’s gonna do.” He look at Jacob who was now really interested in the huge bird who had tightened his circles.
“Think your parents have some Valium we can sneak into her breakfast?”
Jacob turned and shock registered on his face. “Can that kill her? We just want to stop the screaming!”
Sheldon laughed and said “Dude, we are talking about maybe 5mg to make sure she relaxes. Gas just isn’t going to be enough this time.”
“I know” Jacob said squinting his eyes and trying to find the poor rabbit or other small animal in the open field whose last minutes were almost up. “I will tell mom and dad.”
“Thanks, you’re a good brother. I gotta go. So we see you tomorrow?
Jacob sighed. “I still don’t get it. Why do I have to be there?”
“Because if you come along she will not suspect it is actually her getting braces. You’re up the week after.”
Jacob watched the bird dive, snatch, and sore back up into the sky carrying his prey. “Yeah, lucky me gets braces one week after sis.”
He watched Sheldon get into his car.
“I hate the dentist!”
3: The waiting room doors
Four walls of concrete with three doors and a window. That is the waiting room.
The entry doors remind me of hospital or prison doors. Steel-based with a small rectangular window with mesh wire. The window setting is sturdy and bolted in the door. The window frame is steel-paneling.
Someone tried to make this look more smooth and added layer after layer of paint to the frame and over the bolts. But the paint does not hold up well enough and has started to peel.
Every time these doors open and slam shut you see the little window pane vibrate with the impact.
Every time these doors open and close you feel a breeze. And, you can smell the steel doors. A deeply penetrating cold smell that your tongue reacts to by turning dry. You smell the inferior quality of the paint. It makes your nose hairs itch but not enough to sneeze. However, it is enough to make your hand reach for your nose, just in case. And then you smell the odour again only so much stronger as it comes from up close.
Your hand touched the doorknob and that knob too is from steel. It has that same cold smell but this time it is overpowered by another fragrance. A combination of sweaty hands that have not been washed recently. They smell like an old unventilated locker room. There is a hint of hand sanitizer with a touch of Asper Crème and Vicks Vaporub.
Instinctively, you smell your hand and your nose travels down your fingers to the spots where they are attached to your hand. It is a little stickier in there. Any smells the hand encounters linger there.
If you were a child you probably would smell your hand again. Maybe you would touch that sport with the tip of your tongue but only hesitatingly because you know momma told you not to lick things!
You quickly put your hand down realizing you are not a kid smelling your hand while sitting on the swing set on the playground. You are in the waiting room area. You are waiting for your turn.
“Take out for Jones is ready. Jones?”
4: It was a long time ago, really
I had been here before, a long time ago. I remember everything. Walking along the corridors I see the battered baseboards, the peeling paint, and the hardwood floors that remind me of an English pub. The boards were mismatched, unfinished, and foot traffic had left these narrow light coloured trails all over the place.
When I was a kid I swore those trails were actually etched out in the wood. If you walked in them you’d sink in till your ankles and you’d have to climb out to reach the darker wood again.
As I walk the halls, I feel myself smiling at these memories. My feet do find the trails and I pretend to sink in a little lower, melting into the floor to honour my little self from so many decades ago. A small gesture to accept that I really was here. A nod to the little me who saw what she saw even though nobody else did.
The lights flicker. They are just light bulbs hanging directly from the electrical wires. Nobody ever bothered to hang up real lights with a fitting and a proper cover. The ceilings are even more yellow than I remember. I always thought of those stains as pee spots. Those yellowing stains that became darker at the edges? They reminded me of my sheets. The sheets that I had to hide.
I hid them in my closet, my gym bag, underneath the bed, everywhere until they dried. Then, I would wait till laundry day. I would grab the sheets, sneak up the stairs to the next floor and wait. The staff would leave the carts outside in the hallway when they went in to change the bed sheets in the rooms. That’s when I would quickly dump my sheets in the dirty laundry bags attached to the carts and quietly return to my own floor. They never caught me but I always thought someone would.
I didn’t use to pee my pants at night. It just happened after. Every so many nights, I’d have that dream again and I’d wake up in my own urine. I tried to tell the staff what was going on but they claimed it was my overactive imagination. I do have a good imagination. I am super at making up stories or giving twists to books. Or rewriting the ending of books. Or day dreaming. I love day dreaming. But I didn’t make this one up. I saw it and as nobody would believe me I wrote it on the wall. That someone wanted to kill me. Still nobody took me serious. I doubt that people even saw my sign.
The staircases to the third floor are coming up and my eyes search the walls for the signature message I left there so many years ago. I thought I’d get caught immediately but no. You see that sign to the exhibition? Now go up three steps and look at the wall. You will see a smiling shrimp in blue paint. Someone spray-painted a black “Z” partly over it but you can still see the smile. The eyes are wide open arching the brows. She’s standing on my dead body.
“The shrimp” was the nickname for our cook because she liked her cocktails. Not much of a cook though. Just someone in charge of the pots and pans. She was the most corrupt person you’d come across. Anything that wasn’t attached or bolted was sold. Even the food. One day I saw her selling the food boxes that were meant for us. She had them in the trunk of her car and pretended to talk to a friend. That friend took the boxes to another car. Money exchanged hands but that wasn’t why I got so scared.
To make up for the lack of food she used fillers in our dinner. The fillers came from the farm next door. She’d creep over at night to steal buckets full of corn and meat leftovers usually given to the pigs. She’d add tons of cheap onions and garlic to cover up the taste and added heaps of pasta pretending it was a specialty dish. None of us was sophisticated enough to find out. We were just glad we had three meals a day. And as long as there was plenty to eat nobody cared what we ate.
What really scared me was that one day I saw her separate the corn from the meat in the sink. I should have backed away immediately but I could not help being fascinated by the small intestine pieces she was twirling between her fingers like a cheerleader’s baton. Then she saw me. She dropped the intestines and turned the faucet off. Then, with her hands still wet and dirty she took two steps forward and looked at me. Then she did it. She raised her right arm and with her hand she made a gun. And she pretended to kill me.
It was enough to scare the shit out of me only it wasn’t shit that came out of me, it was pee. She never told anyone and never treated me any different from the other kids. She never denied me food or seconds and never gave me more kitchen duties than I already had. Nothing. She didn’t need to. I guess she knew that.
Even now as an adult, I feel the tremor in my heart and my throat becomes thick when I think back at that moment. I bet my nose is red. I feel the tears coming up in my eyes and I know that if I let them they will roll over my face for everyone to see. If I was a kid right now I would have peed my pants. But I am an adult. I look again at the smiling shrimp standing laughing on my dead little body and I whisper: I hate what you did to me.
5: He told the cops on her
He told me honestly that what he disliked most was to be continuously on edge. The slightest provocation would set her off. And, it need not even be a provocation. It could be the news, a magazine article, her soap opera ending, or her hair. Anything.
He vowed he would never hit her, never return the violence, and never file a report. Until the day he saw her hurt their baby. She had wanted an abortion from the start but then she changed her mind. He had his doubts but she softened so much after she saw the sonograms. She lightened up, became much less violent, less outbursts, and started to enjoy life. She had a smile on her face, became calm, and happy. Or so it seemed.
One day, when he had finished an assignment early his boss had given him the rest of the day off. He went to the nursery where they told him that she had picked up the baby early. He had not given them a note for that. There was no reason for an early pick-up either. They had agreed that full-time daycare was best for her to conquer her depressions, addictions, and mood swings.
When he arrived home, he saw her car in the garage with the driver’s door open. The baby’s carrier was still in the car. The garage door to the mud-room was open and with a heavy heart, he went inside. All was quiet except for the thumping sound of a ball bouncing down the stairs. And then he froze. There were no balls in the house.
He ran towards the stairs and saw his baby fall down the last three steps. Blood came out of her mouth and her neck was completely bend over. He didn’t hesitate. He ran to the phone and called 911. Then he cradled his girl in his arms telling her he loved her, kissing her little bruised head, feeling her dislocated neck bones. With tears in his eyes he looked up the stairs. He saw one hand sticking out holding a bottle. She was unconscious on the second floor hallway.
When the paramedics revived her she asked for him. He had already left in the ambulance with his daughter. In the ER, he told the cops what he had endured and had seen. And told them he wanted her arrested and charged.
I saw her at the arraignment. She was still foggy from the many drugs she had taken. She told me she took drugs that day to ward off the spirits that told her to play fetch with her baby. “Who called the cops on me? Nobody knew I was home. Nobody saw, I made sure of that. Do you know?”
I swallowed and bit back my tears. “I don’t know, sis. I really do not know what happened.” Then I got up and took my seat.
6: The Hostage
If he moved, he’d peel his shirt of the leather back seat. Last time he did that, he tore off the crust that had just started to form over the wound on his back.
I’m numbing again, I have to move.
Simon West leaned forward to change his position on the chair. If he didn’t his lower back would stiffen further and lock. He had learned the hard way that if he kept looking down while moving, he would not get beaten up.
He felt his shirt peel off the leather seat and a breeze caught his skin right before the crust broke off again. He bit his tongue and kept his head down. He rolled his head over his shoulders with his eyes closed to signal he understood the rules. He stretched his legs and tried to push one hip forward, then the other. Then he leaned back again.
“Not too long now, West. Birdie withdrew the cash.”
Christos Samuel walked towards the foldout table. His partner Dominic diMaggio had fallen asleep. He looked at the sleeping man with disdain on his face.
While Christos took care of himself, diMaggio was the exact opposite. If he had showered recently it wasn’t noticeable. His matted hair seemed to drip an oily substance and his pits spread an odor that could knock out an elephant. Always dressed in a singlet and an unbuttoned lumberjack shirt, diMaggio was quite a sight. But despite the fact that Christos couldn’t stand the man’s looks and smell, he trusted him with his life.
diMaggio had “cop” running through his veins. A solid understanding of investigations, weapons, and martial arts. It all came with just one flaw: diMaggio was corrupt. His nickname: Dime Cop.
Christos had his suspicions about Dom and one day he caught him red-handed trying to sell drugs from the evidence room. diMaggio was surprised that instead of being read his rights he was listening to a business proposal. Not a deal to buy Christos’ silence but a 50/50 partnership in Christos’ sideline.
“Dom, wake up.”
Christos kicked his partner’s leg with his impeccably polished shoe. He wasn’t going to touch that man with his bare hands.
“She withdrew the cash.”
“All of it?”
“Yes, it is almost over.”
diMaggio yawned and stretched his arms overhead exposing his partner to his ample haired pits. Christos saw gray hairs in there and looked away. In that moment, his eyes caught West whose face was one painful grimace.
Simon nodded his head and felt a cold plastic bottle being placed between his cuffed hands. He had been surprised that the only restraining he had on his body was an airplane-like seatbelt. They had cuffed his hands in front of him allowing him some range of motion.
After he was attacked, a hood was placed over his head. Once inside the structure (West had not figured out yet where he was) they had yanked it off. One of them, the smelly one, had taken his head in an upside down chokehold threatening to break his neck if he didn’t stop moving. Then he felt how his face was touched by someone else who opened his eyes one by one and placed something in them.
“Relax” the other voice had told him. West remembered smelling a minty breath and knew instantly this man had showered, shaved, was wearing after-shave, deodorant, and clean clothes.
He felt a solution being poured over his eyes and jerked anticipating acid, pain, and torture. But when the drops reached his mouth he tasted a hint of saline water with some sort of chemical.
“Relax, you’re just wearing black contacts, that’s all.”
The smelly one let go off his head and Simon fell on his back hitting the floor with his head. Concrete. He remembered feeling his strained neck muscled relax a little. When he opened his eyes all he saw in front of him were rough shapes and images.
“It’s for your own good, Blondie” said the smelly one.
Simon brought the water bottle to his mouth and emptied it. Where did Britt get the money to pay the ransom? We for sure don’t have it. I wonder if she got the cops involved….
Christos walked over to their hostage and took the empty water bottle away. He had another one in his left hand and considered giving it to the restrained, pathetic looking man. He had to admit it. He fought hard when they grabbed him. He watched West smack his lips, licking the salty sweat from his upper lip, and trying to see where he was. He gave him the other bottle.
“Thanks. What are you going to do with me?”
Christos sighed and looked away. He knew exactly what would come. But for now, he needed West calm and quiet.
Simon heard him turn away, his footsteps fading.
And remember lady, no police
Well, they found my husband a few days later
Yes, the funeral’s tomorrow
This short story was inspired by the lyrics from Donna Summer’s single the Hostage. The album “Lady of the Night” was Donna Summer‘s first. It was produced by Pete Bellotte and released in 1974 but only in my home country: The Netherlands.
7: Substitute Lead Singer