3 Line Stories: Week 2 – See the submission rules from Only 100 Words here.
For those of you unfamiliar with the series: A Story from 10 Words, please check my about page for details.
This weeks submission gave me these words to work from: 10 words – love, happy, soccer, triumph, motivated, green, Vedder (as in Eddie), endless, run, and beach; (ii) Theme – thriller; (iii) Song – “Let It Be” by the Beatles.
So, without further ado, here is: Lauren’s Story
“You won’t get away with this, you bitch!” the man shouts from his low-backed leather chair. Restrained as he is, his threats are a bit empty.
The woman turns to him, the waves of her tawny hair swishing back over her shoulder as she does, and gives him a wry smile. She saunters toward him, her cranberry sheath cocktail dress hugging her body and the leg slit showing more of her thigh than makes the man comfortable. His pulse quickens as she approaches and the smell of roses and jasmine fill his nose. The long, toned body of the woman in the form fitting dress stirs him in ways he wishes he could suppress, but nature is not within a man’s control.
“My dear Phillips, I will get away with it. I can promise you that,” she says, her steel blue eyes smiling at him.
“Others have tried and failed,” he growls.
“I’m more motivated,” she says slyly.
She sets her handbag down and reaches up behind her neck to unfasten the collar of her dress. She pulls it down and slowly shakes her head at the old man, whose mouth has dropped open. Spittle forms at the corners and he starts licking his lips, eyes wide. She laughs at him and he soon learns why.
“Don’t look so happy. You aren’t going to get a show, you old pervert.” The mockery in her voice brings a sneer to his lips. As she pulls the dress over her chest and slides it down to her ankles he sees that she has a tight fitting body suit on underneath it. She pops open her hand bag and pulls out a small plug. Air decompresses from within the bag and the woman extracts a black lycra body suit.
The woman slides off her high heels and steps into the body suit. While her new outfit will not fend off bullets, it can withstand knives and most other stabbing weapons. She pulls the zipper up her back and slides her hands into a pair of black leather gloves. She produces a set of small knives from the handbag as well and then starts pulling at the bag, twisting it around until it transforms before the man’s eyes. The woman wraps it around her waist, clipping it in front of her and sliding the knives back into a set of small holsters at her hips. The bag has turned into a belt.
“For a man adept at stealing things, you should have seen this coming.” She says. “But then again, you’ve always lacked the proper motivation to steal things first hand. You have little servants that do that for you, don’t you? Well, now you know what it looks like close up.”
The woman leans close to the chair, her wavy hair brushing his face and her sweet smell assaulting him. He shifts his lower half around, trying to fight off nature, but the flush in his cheeks is giving him away.
“This letter,” she says, holding a yellowed piece of paper, vacuum-sealed in plastic, “didn’t belong to you. You stole it from hard working people who came by it honestly.” She places her lean, strong hand on his cheek and then clamps down on his chin. “So I am taking it from you.”
“And that makes you the same as me.”
The woman smiles at him wolfishly, her steely eyes shining.
“Oh, I’m so much better than you, pumpkin.” The smile fades, accentuating the lines of her slender face, and the intensity of her glare makes the man shudder. She draws back, placing the letter into a pouch that she attaches to her abdomen.
“You stole this for the love of money. I’m stealing it back for the love of discovery. You see, I’m going to make sure the people who found this letter in the first place are taken care of. After that, the rest of the find will go to a museum, where it belongs.”
The man laughs, his jowls shaking along with his pot belly.
“Thieves of a different stripe. That is all those museum types are. They’ll sell off small pieces of it to fund their operation, just you wait and see.”
The woman picks up the heels she had worn into the room and twists the stems off. Connecting them together brings a soft beep and she places the connected pieces on the man’s oak desk. She looks around and sighs. It will be a shame to destroy so many wonderful books.
The old man’s eyes shoot wide and he blinks rapidly.
“What is that,” he asks in a whisper.
“A going away present,” she answers, scooping up her dress and stuffing it into a pouch of her belt.
She steps around the desk and feels about underneath it until she finds the button she is looking for. Pressing it a secret drawer ejects and she finds a pair of pistols with the words, Mother Mary, etched into them. She takes out the two guns, along with the extra clips she finds, and winks at the old man.
“Keeping these for when you find yourself in times of trouble?” She laughs openly. “I guess that’s right now, but seeing as how they won’t do you any good, I’m going to borrow them. Hope you don’t mind.”
She steps back around the desk and gives him one last look.
“You killed a dozen people to get this letter. I would hand you over to the police to deal with, but we all know what kind of sentence people with your kind of money would serve. So I guess it’s only fitting to show you the same mercy you showed them.”
The old man bares his teeth at her, spitting in her direction and thrashing at his bonds.
“Filthy cunt! You think to kill me? Do you know who I am!”
Striding past him she casts her voice back over her shoulder.
“Who you were, old man. Who you were.”
His shouting voice assaults her as she leaves him in the study and she knows the six guards still need to be dealt with. The man had not wasted his time shouting before because he had told them to leave them in peace. He had foolishly assumed a woman in a cocktail dress that tight could not possibly be concealing a weapon. He had been very wrong.
From the second floor landing she sees the first two and decides it is time to get the party started. Her lithe, athletic body was built for this part of the job. A lifelong soccer addict who spent her days working her body into top form, this part would be a piece of cake. Taking off at a sprint, she runs toward the staircase, raising the pistols as she goes, and she puts a spray of bullets into both men before they can think to raise their weapons.
She reaches the staircase and puts her back to the wall. The third guard comes rushing into the room and she mows him down before mounting the banister and sliding down to the first floor.
Three down. Three to go.
She takes no joy in killing these men, but she does not have the luxury to hesitate. They would murder her without a second thought, so it is kill or be killed. She will take the former, thank you.
Shouts and panic are exploding from the next room and she knows that the last three are trying to organise. She will need to make that a bit more difficult. Bursting into the entry way, all three heads turn toward her in stunned shock. She presses a button at her belt and the study where she left the old man erupts, shaking the house to the foundation and levelling the rear half of the complex.
She brings the pistols up and starts firing, killing one man and winging another. Then the pistols click dry and she realises she does not have the time to reload them. The man she winged is down on the ground so she drops the pistols to the ground and rushes the one still standing. His eyes flare and he starts to fumble with his automatic rifle.
Still green, this one.
He is bringing the rifle to bear, but he raises it too slow. She slaps the barrel down, draws one of the knives from her hip, and drives it into his jugular. She rips the gun from his hand, turns her head to the man nursing his arm and fires a volley of bullets at him as she walks away, Eddie Vedder’s voice floating about in her mind.
You’re still alive, she said
Oh, and do I deserve to be
Is that the question
And if so…if so…who answers…who answers…
The house continues to collapse in series of endless eruptions and she picks up her pace. She gets out the front door just as the fire and destruction begin to flare out of control and a bullet comes flying in from the left. She hits the deck and starts to scan the area when a black BMW M3 comes speeding in, clipping the assailant, and sending the man sailing into the night.
The car pulls up and the passenger door flies open.
“You missed one,” a voice says from the drivers seat.
The woman gets up and steps into the car. As she slides into the seat she leans over and kisses the man driving the car.
“No, love, I didn’t miss him. I was leaving you one.”
She smiles at the man. Rolling his eyes and shaking his head, he turns toward the road and peels out of the driveway as the mansion erupts a second time and the whole building begins to collapse.
“Did you get it then?” he asks.
“I did,” she replies with a smile.
She peels the letter from the pouch on her abdomen and shows it to him.
“The San Miguel, babe. This is going to lead us to it. How does a few months on the beach sound?”
The man in the driver’s seat bites his lower lip and lays into the accelerator, a look of triumph caked on his face.
The prospect of billions of dollars in treasure can do that.
If you would like your own story, please feel free to contact me with 10 words, a theme (it can be a genre, favourite movie or book) and a song and I will write you a story as well! I am open to any and all submissions! They are posted every Sunday.
Next Sunday (14th February) will be Charlotte’s Story. Look forward to it please!
I’m white with brown spots and you’re brown with white spots.
Why the hell does colour even matter?
We’re all just meat.
If you would like to join the challenge please visit Sonya’s blog here. I hate to sound like a parrot, but I concur again with my fellow poster, you should spend some time looking through her works as well. She does marvellous things with so very few words. I have to ramble on to get to the punch. She does it in a paragraph. Colour me jealous.
“How does one quantify a life?”
A crowd of black clad mourners stands in the pouring rain, taking in the words of the soaking priest with blank expressions. The rheumy eyed man drones on, the lower half of his cassock clinging to his body and water hammering his umbrella, drowning out his words. That the woman had been murdered in the rain and was now about to be buried in the same circumstances escaped no one present, least of all the man delivering her eulogy.
God works in mysterious ways.
“In second Corinthians four, verses seventeen and eighteen, the scripture tells us not to focus on the struggles of the flesh, “for light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
“And so we entrust our sister’s body to the earth, not in sadness, but in joy. For we here gathered understand and believe wholeheartedly that the world to which she will now be commended, the unseen world for which all true believers are bound, is eternal. It is a place of peace and rest. A place where she may lay her many labours aside and rejoice in the glory of the Lord!”
Scanning the crowd, the father’s face begins to constrict. He is met with indifference and boredom. They no more believe in the salvation of God than magic or fairy tales, these servants of gold and earthly riches. They stand before this grave a mockery, spitting in the face of the Almighty.
Their fallen companion was no better. She had been baptised in his church many years ago but had not attended in nearly 10 years. The moment the choice had become hers she ceased to turn up. Only on holidays where the rest of the family came together did she deem God worthy of her time. She had chosen the rewards of the flesh and now she would lie with the maggots. Opening his pale hands to them and narrowing his eyes he continues, struggling to contain the true words he wished to unleash upon these charlatans.
Lukewarm. You are all lukewarm and will be spewed from the mouth of the Saviour. Spewed like the self-serving sycophants you are. Filth.
“As for ourselves, we must take comfort in first Thessalonians four, verses seventeen and eighteen, “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
The hymn was sung after and the burial ceremony began. The priest stood with his bony hands clasped before him, starting at the gathered crowd from his pale, hallowed face, and wondering if they had caught the subtle message he sent in his last words. He highly doubted it. Sinners that they were they could not raise themselves up from the filth long enough to understand the true magnificence of God. This lot was the very reason he had had to struggle so mightily to build his church. The congregation had money enough to go around, and yet the tithes had always come back short of expectation. Why? Because tangible sin is so much more enjoyable than the intangible promise of salvation.
A slow smile spread from his lips and his gray eyes narrowed.
Great shall be my reward. I cannot say the same for the likes of you.
The crowd began to disburse and the priest stood long, allowing the taint of vanity and selfishness to wash away before he could perform his final duty. He would need one final conversation with the woman before he could be satisfied that the work of his station had been fulfilled. When the last of the attendees were out of sight he began.
“Alone now, I shall take your final confession,” he began in a voice laced with hate. “As you are unable to give it of your own accord I shall have to make assumptions as to what you may have said.
“Forgive me father, for I have abandoned the Lord and made my own self master. Pride and greed are my sins and I have revelled in them like a pig in shit. I have spat on your name and sought my own rewards here on earth, caring nothing for the heavenly riches I should have striven for whole heartedly. I shared the temple you created of my flesh with any man willing to worship it and I disregarded almost every commandment you laid forth, casting off the burden of righteous living and choosing instead the path of least resistance and greatest worldly pleasure.”
The priest took a deep breath and his lip began to twitch into a snarl. The next part he could not twist or allow to be tainted. It would make him as guilty as she and he would not allow her sins to drag him into hell. He would see the face of God, even if this selfish whore would not.
“You are forgiven, child. Now go with God.”
The priest’s tongue felt heavy and he licked at the roof of his mouth as if the words he had spoken were distasteful to him. Staring down at the woman’s grave he found himself filled with rage and hate. It was people like her who had forced him to do the things he had done. Her sins had brought him down. If she had given as she should have, none of it would have happened.
Lost in thought, the priest never heard the man approaching from the rear. He registered a sudden swift whooshing sound and then the world exploded in a firework of pain and colour. He fell to his knees in the sloppy mud, felt the back of his skull cracking open like an egg shell, and his brain began misfiring hundreds of millions of last second messages. He needed to know that he was in pain, that his head had been caved in from behind, and that several pieces of skull bone had pierced his brain. He needed to know he was dying there in the mud.
Only God knows if he understood.
A man clad in all black stepped around the priest, a piece of carbon steel piping in his gloved hand. He carried a black umbrella in the other hand and he stared down at the dying priest in disgust.
“Sanctimonious falsifier. You cast your eyes down upon others, but it will be you who stands first in line for the great lake.”
The priest’s mouth hung slack and his eyes glassed over. Drool began to run down his chin and onto the soaking ground as the man with the umbrella leaned in closer.
“You are not forgiven, wolf. Now go to hell.”
The priest breathed his last breath, collapsing face first into the mud and the muck. The man with the umbrella tossed the steel pipe down on top of the fallen priest before disappearing into the gathering storm, whistling the tune to A Lake Without Water as he went.
To the loyal readers of this series, welcome back and sorry for the delay. Life, as they say, got in the way. I also had a mighty struggle over who my black clad friend would kill next. It took me a while to be satisfied with the target and now I am. Thoroughly.
Update on scheduling:
Downfall is one of two series I am developing on this site and a new episode will be released every other Friday on what will now be entitled, “Fiction Friday.” Posts on Fridays will alternate between Downfall and Othersiders from now on.
Next Friday (February 12th) will be the next episode of Othersiders. The next instalment of Downfall, in which our faithful friend the detective finally finds a large clue that will help to unravel the true motive of our umbrella buddy, will be released on the 19th of February.
Thank you so much for reading and, as always, I appreciate your feedback and support!
For those of you unfamiliar with the series: A Story from 10 Words, please check my about page for details.
This weeks submission gave me these words to work from:
10 words: unknowingly, sailor, night, trinkets, sapphire, drastic, luminescent, loon, velocity, circular / Genre: slasher / Song: I Was Young When I Left Home by Bob Dylan
And this is the story I produced from it. This week does not have an accent, but I would like to pay homage to the Silent Hill video game series for my inspiration on the setting. I hope you enjoy it!
*Images are not owned by the author and are used without permission. Any and all lyrics contained within that reference the song submitted were not done so with intent to plagiarise*
She awoke to a nightmare.
Blood ran from the walls of her room like sap down the tree of death and all around the smell of murder began to accost her. A sudden and unrelenting need to flee took hold of her and she bolted from the room without a second thought. Her bare feet slipped and slid through a mucus like substance she could guess at, but refused to look down to confirm. Putting one hand to her nose and mouth to shut out the smell of putrefaction while also keeping her desire to vomit down, she grasped at the door handle that led from her room only to have it shoot out of her grasp.
Momentum carried her forward and she collided with the door, causing it to burst into a cloud of rot and filth. She landed on her side just beyond the frame of the door and slid nearly ten feet through what she now knew for a fact was a mixture of blood, entrails and excrement.
Cursing and in a state of wild panic she leapt back to her feet. She could feel the filth she had fell into coating her arm and her back, but she could not afford to focus on that. She had to escape. That was the only thought that continued to repeat in her mind like it was being beaten from a drum.
Run. Escape. Run. Escape.
She blinked back the fear and started to look around. She was outside. How had she gotten outside? She turned back to the doorway and saw that her room was now a cube floating in space. Above it hovered a large bowl that was overflowing with gore, and a large skull hung just above the bowl with bright sapphire eyes and a savage grin. The blood that spilled over the edges of the bowl and coated her room was pouring forth from the skull’s gaping mouth. She could not fight back the feeling in her stomach any longer and she added to the stench with her own vomit.
This was hell.
Just then a tinkling sound reached her ears and she spun back the other direction. She was faced with an impossibly large, luminescent moon. It shined down from the night sky like a diamond lying on a sheet of onyx, lighting up everything about her. She took in her surroundings and her heart began to pound. Sweat ran down her face in streams and all the muscles in her fingers began to twitch.
This can’t be real. This has to be a dream
She was staring at a run down carnival. The lights blinked on an off and the rides moved slowly about their business as if they had been waiting just for her. Strange music tinkled from music boxes but they had the sound of being hundreds of years out of repair. All the notes were off, either too high or too low, and a scratching sound ran underneath it all, almost like a record player that was being jostled. The lights were wrong too, some had burnt out and others were impossibly bright. Rust caked everything and the smell of caramel and sugar blended in with the ferric scents that had filled her nose previously. All of this did nothing to help her fight off her nausea.
Going forward meant walking into the carnival. Going back meant going into a pool of blood. Where the hell does one go when one has nothing but death to choose from? She chose the carnival. She would come to regret that decision rather soon.
Stepping onto the midway she looked to her left and right. There were games and attractions offering prizes. Many were just the usual shiny trinkets that one takes home from the carnival but others were not. She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw a dart throwing game. It offered a large teddy bear dressed in a sailor’s uniform as a prize. That was not what shocked her. In place of balloons were human hearts. Human hearts that were still pumping blood all over the board they were pinned to.
Wake up. Please, God, wake up.
“Ah, you want to go home so soon? But you just got here!”
The manic voice comes from behind her and she knows better than to look. Everyone with half a mind would know what is back there. Trapped in a nightmare like this, could it be anything other than a clown? Is there any place more fitting than this for one such as he to exist. Still, she spins and comes face to face with the loon.
He is tall and lanky, face covered in paint, but it is the drastic contrast between his head and the rest of his body that leaves her in stunned silence. He is naked save for a lace neckpiece and all his parts are mismatched, purple, bloated, and stitched together with puss leaking out of him from a hundred different places. His face is pristinely painted and a huge smile spreads across it but the haphazardly stitched together body is what truly terrifies her.
Why? Why am I seeing this? Why… why… why….WHY!?
“Now, now,” he says with a smile that only the truly insane can muster, “you are hurting my feelings!” He laughs, forcing yellow fluid to ooze out of the stitches covering his body, and she fights off the desire to soil herself.
Run, damn you! Run!
She runs. Turning her back on the clown, she heads deeper into the nightmare. She bolts past a ferris wheel that looks like a roasting spit with a fire blazing beneath it and carousels with flayed human beings bobbing up and down with horses sitting on their backs. She goes past a whack-a-mole game that features real live moles and actual hammers and finds herself unknowingly headed toward the house of mirrors.
No, no, no. That is a terrible idea.
She slows to think and then hears a circular saw fire up behind her and she knows who wields it.
No choice. No fucking choice.
She enters the house of mirrors and knows she has been corralled here, led like cattle, and that the butcher is only a few steps behind. She twists and turns, hearing his sick laughter behind her and a new thought comes cascading into her brain.
You can’t outrun him. He’ll catch you. You have to fight him. Kill him.
She stops and faces a million versions of herself reflected in the mirrors – some short, some tall, some thin, and some fat. The question is, is there a killer amongst them? Of all the versions of her, can she find one strong enough to face this nightmare? She hears him coming and a calm comes over her. I have to face it.
“The itsy bitsy Popet ran in a frantic fit,” the clown sang, his voice high and impossibly happy. “Down came the happy man to slice her all to bits. Out came the hack saw to make her into mince meat, and the itsy bitsy Popet was gobbled up hands and feet.”
She waits, knowing the demon will not make this easy. She has nothing to fight with, but this is her nightmare. She will think of something or die trying.
The clown comes smashing through the mirrors in a shower of glass, his perfectly painted face smiling for all the world like death was a pleasant afternoon stroll. The circular saw spits out smoke from behind it as he swings it down toward her head. She dives forward, just under his arching swing and rolls toward the other side. Her shoulders and back are cut up from the broken glass and an idea strikes her. She glances around and finds what she needs, waiting for her attacker to come back.
“Now, Popet, it isn’t nice to run from your Uncle Smiley. Come on over and give us a kiss, bitch,” he says, his voice high and bright.
He raises the circular saw over his head and she lunges right at him, driving a large piece of glass right under his chin and into the back of his throat. Blood cakes her hand and she knows she has cut herself deep, but the velocity of the blood now gushing from the clown’s neck tells her he is hurt much worse.
She leaps back and watches as the clown falls to his back. His body twitches and blood continues to sputter from his wound for several moments. She draws breath in heavy, shaking gasps as her fingers continue to twitch. She can feel blood running down the fingers of her right hand and knows she will need to dress the wound if she does not want to get an infection. This thought alone drives her to a manic laughter. This entire nightmare is one never-ending infection.
A slow clicking sound begins to register in her ears and she turns to face a man in a brown suit with a bowler hat and a half smoked cigar hanging from his mouth. His amber skin and golden eyes tells her this man is far more dangerous than the clown could ever have hoped to be. She begins looking around for another piece of glass when bowler hat shook his head slowly.
“I ain’t your enemy, girlie. So don’t bother. I come to send you home.”
She looks at him in disbelief. How could he send her out of her own nightmare? The man steps closer and she realises that she cannot raise her arms. She is paralysed.
“It’s time to pawn that watch and chain, little missy.” He places a warm hand over her eyes. “Now, go on home.”
Sitting up bolt right in her bed she looks left and right for signs of blood and finds only the room she has always known. She takes a deep breath and steadies herself. A laugh escapes her lips, sad and relieved at the same time, and she wipes a cold sweat from her brow.
It was just a dream
Then she holds her right hand in front of her face and finds a long scar running down her palm.
In the distance she can hear Bob Dylan singing as a shiver runs down her spine.
“I don’t like it in the wind
Wanna go back home again
But I can’t go home thisaway
Thisaway, Lord Lord Lord
And I can’t go home thisaway”
The voice of the bronze man fills her ears and she begins to tremble.
“You done well, Popet, but you ain’t done yet. No, no. You ain’t done yet.”
She lets out a scream known only to the damned. The nightmare was not over.
It had only just begun.
If you would like your own story, please feel free to contact me with 10 words, a theme (it can be a genre, favourite movie or book) and a song and I will write you a story as well. They are posted every Sunday.
Next Sunday (7th February) will be Lauren’s Story. Look forward to it please!
*Image courtesy of weekinweird.com*
Evelyn strode into Raith’s Miscellany, Oddities and Curiosity Shoppe with her shoulders back and her eyes straight ahead. Finian followed behind her with his hands stuffed firmly into the pockets of his jeans, his shoulders hunched and his eyes darting all over the place. Every step the two friends took along their journey only firmed Evelyn’s resolve while simultaneously chipping away at Finian’s. Still, as much as he wished to run for the hills, Finian would never abandon Evelyn. Even if following her was a non stop dance with danger.
Raith’s shop gave every indication of being as horrible as Alice King’s home had been, and the place was strange to say the least. There were marble busts of people with bulging eyes and outstretched tongues — like they were being hung at the moment of creation. There were rats, spiders, and bats swimming about in glass jars, dead animals that had been stuffed and hung from the walls, glass balls, tarot cards, hundreds of ticking clocks —all set to different times, an entire shelf of left sided clothing: shoes, gloves, socks, and all of it was covered in a thin film of dust. There was a large section of magic objects and talismans from all over the world, and so much bric a brac was strewn about on the floors and the shelves that it was impossible to focus on any one thing before your eyes became distracted by another thing. Walking through the shop itself was also a task in careful stepping so as not to knock something over or step on the merchandise.
Evelyn blew past it all without even seeing it. She wanted to speak with Raith about necromancy. She had read all she could on the subject, learning that necromancy was a kind of magic and one often associated with communicating with the dead. In Evelyn’s mind that meant this man knew ways of speaking with people who had passed into another world. She did not believe in an afterlife, as much as she believed in spirits and ghosts, but reading about necromancy flipped a switch in her mind. It was not the dead these necromancers were speaking to, but the people who had been taken over to the other side by the spirits, like those that had stolen away her brother and Finian’s family. Raith had the answers she needed.
Finian peeled off when Evelyn reached the main counter. She slammed her hand down on the service bell and Finian began browsing, trying to look for all the world like he had not come in with her. Evelyn’s tendency to go on the attack from the get go made Finian a bit nervous.
Evelyn made to slam her hand down on the bell again when a tall man with a lean face and angular features reached his thin hand out and grabbed Evelyn by the wrist.
“I heard you the first time, girl,” said the shop keeper in a slow, smooth voice that gave the impression he had sung the words. The man was of medium height but his presence was enormous. Staring coldly into Evelyn’s eyes with his white blonde hair hanging down to frame his face, his pale skin and ice blue eyes amplified by his all white suit and his delicate features, she could not help but feel that the man was beautiful in a way that men should not be.
Finian stood puzzling, how he keeps those clothes as immaculately white as they are in this shop is magic in and of itself. He tried to fight off the feeling that they had just come face to face with an angel but could not quite get past it.
“Is there something I can help you with?” the shop keeper asked.
Evelyn did not respond for several moments. She was lost in the trance of the shop keeper’s beauty and Finian had to cough several times before she was able to shake herself free.
“Yes,” she began, returning to herself in a flash. “We were sent here by a woman named Alice King. She said that you could teach us about necromancy.”
The shop keeper smiled a faint smile and clasped his pale hands before his breast.
“I am not sure what that is to mean, but I can promise you that I know nothing about necromancy.”
Finian was ready to take his word for it if it meant getting out of that shop. He was walking past a row of bottled insects when a scorpion lunged at him from inside its liquid prison. Finian jumped, letting out a high pitched squeak, and fell into a pile of books. There was several moments of ruckus as Finian broke various objects in an attempt to stay erect, only to fall back into the shelf housing the scorpion.
The shop keeper’s smile broadened a bit but he never took his piercing eyes off of Evelyn.
“You are Raith, aren’t you?” Evelyn asked.
“I am,” he said in a low whisper.
Finian managed to raise himself off the floor and began trying to piece things back together.
“We’re good over here, nothing broken. Well, nothing of mine broken. This, uh… hey! Is this a magic eight ball?” Finian shook it and then read the result, mumbling a string of obscenities under his breath. Luckily no one was listening to him.
“Then you’re the man I’m looking for. Alice King told us you wouldn’t want to help.”
“I am afraid I do not know any Alice King,” Raith said, with a slight shrug of his shoulders.
“Yes, you do. You also know about the arts of the necromancer and you’re going to help us.”
Evelyn placed both hands on the counter and drew her eyebrows down. The muscles in her arms tensed and she flexed her jaw. She was not going to be brushed aside.
Raith licked his lips slowly and then held his hands out in mock surrender.
“I am a seller of odd things, this much is true, and many times I have been mistaken for something I am not. This Alice King of yours would not be the first to have erred.”
“Hey,” Finian broke in again, “is this a picture of Ozzy Osborne? Ah, no, that’s Lindsey Lohan. Sorry.”
“That is a portrait of Nikola Tesla, my young friend, and can be had for a very reasonable price.”
“Yeah,” Finian said, running his fingers through his rust coloured hair, “I think I might have bought enough already.”
“The broken items are of no consequence. I can sell them just as easily now as before you entered.”
Finian cocked an eyebrow at Raith and began looking around him at the mess he had made. Then he took another look at the rest of the shop and realised that a man who ran a shop like this would probably prefer his items broken up a bit.
Raith turned back to Evelyn to find that she had not moved an inch or taken her eyes off Raith for a moment. He sighed and reached for the telephone at his side. He held the receiver end out to her and said in a voice that betrayed the underlying threat.
“I must ask you to leave. You have come in to my shop seeking wares I do not sell, your friend has destroyed my merchandise, and this line of questioning is beginning to border upon harassment. If you are unwilling to go I will have no choice but to phone the authorities.”
“You said the broken things didn’t matter!” Evelyn shouted.
“My willingness to forgive your friend’s accident has been altered by your stubbornness. If you will consent to leave I shall let bygones be bygones. If you insist on staying I will seek full remuneration.”
Finian started stumbling about and there was a mad shuffle behind Evelyn. Raith was denying her just like Alice King told Finian he would. Evelyn bit her bottom lip and growled deep in her throat. He had what she needed and he was not going to give it to her. If Finian had only been able to keep his feet she would still have room to pressure him, but that option was off the table the moment Finian did what he always did, fumble around and mess things up.
He came up behind Evelyn and pulled on her arm.
“We’ll go, gladly. So sorry again for everything. We wish you a wonderful selling venture here and I know now where I will be coming when my dryer eats a sock.”
Finian pried Evelyn from the the counter and she tore her arm from his grasp. She struck the door hard on their way out and Finian was certain the glass would shatter. Luckily it held but Finian had to jog to keep up with Evelyn’s furious pace. Her face was bright red and her mouth was pursed. Finian had mucked up her chance to learn something from Raith and she was going to blow up at him at any moment. Finian knew he had to make things right quick if he did not want her to hate him.
Finian placed his hand on Evelyn’s shoulder and she spun on him with lightning flashing in her eyes. She could have burned a whole forest down with all the hate radiating off of her. She shoved her pointer finger in Finian’s face and sucked in a deep breath but was stopped short. Finian was holding up a book, a really old, worn out book and the title cooled her rage in an instant. Evelyn stared at the book for a long moment and then laughed. She shook her head and then crushed Finian to her chest. Finian tensed and his face flushed. It was a rare occasion that he earned physical contact.
“Every time I start to doubt you, you find a way to prove that my first instincts about you were totally right,” Evelyn said into Finian’s ear. Evelyn’s breath was hot on his neck and the strength of her embrace was incredible. Finian stood frozen in place, too cowardly to reciprocate the hug and too weak to fight it off.
Evelyn finally pulled away and Finian realised he had been holding his breath. Looking at the book, Evelyn smiled.
“The History and Practice of Necromancy,” she whispered. “Finn, you are my hero.”
“Well, I’d love to say I broke all his crap on purpose, but the truth is I just sort of fell into that book. Literally.”
Evelyn’s smile broadened and she clapped Finian on the shoulder.
“Let’s go see what Raith was hiding from us.”
All it took was that one sentence to reignite all the nerves in Finian’s stomach. He was certain that he would be the first teenager to die of ulcers, but how could he say no to Evelyn? She would step in front of a moving train for him, he was certain of it. So, whatever the danger, they were in it together.
At least he told himself that.
The Othersiders is a weekly ongoing series that will be published every Wednesday. Please look forward to next week’s edition where Finian and Evelyn learn their first bit of necromancy.
Finian was shouting at three people.
Well, two people and whatever the thing could be called that continued hurling things in his direction. He was imploring Evelyn to wake up, demanding Alice King put the lid back on whatever insanity they had cut loose, and cursing the being throwing objects at his head with the force and precision of a professional pitcher.
Alice King for her part was fighting to do what Finian asked, but it was much harder than he presumed. Her green eyes flashed with electricity and her leathery skin was pulled taunt over her skeleton as she began waving her hand back and forth before her. Then she closed her eyes and her hair blew back from her shoulders. The room filled with electricity and the hairs all over Finian’s body began to stand on end.
Alice King brought her hand to a stop on her throat and she spoke in a deep, grave voice.
The tips of her fingers began to glow blue and a painful stillness weighted Finian to the ground. He tried to stand, to fight the force that threatened to crush him, but it was pointless.
Alice King’s eyes flared open and she spoke again.
“Manipura,” she said, and the blue light that flowed down her hand mixed with yellow. “Sahasrara.” As she spoke the last words a violet light erupted from the crown of Alice King’s head. She took her hand from her throat and drew a triangle in the air, repeating the three words again and a wall of blue light exploded out from the centre of where she had drawn.
The ruckus and insanity of only a few moments before came to an abrupt stop and the objects ceased to fly. Alice King turned to Finian and he was certain she would kill him where he sat. He was in the midst of praying internally that witches did not truly boil their victims alive whilst cackling madly about their pretty little dinner morsels when the old woman’s face sagged and she began to shake her head slowly.
“You’ve not idea what you’re getting yourself into, do you? You know nothing and yet you come barging in here and almost get yourself claimed before you know what is at stake.”
She crouched down and placed her old hands on Evelyn’s temple. Alice King began to mumble or chant something softly and Evelyn stirred.
“Look, Wynona Witchy Pants, I know full well what is at stake here,” Finian lied, “and I would suggest you take your hands off my friend before I have to show you a thing or two about magic. Think you’re the only one around here that knows about conjuring and whatnot? Think again. Now step back before I have to drop the bibbidy bobbidy boom on you.”
Finian was feeling more panicked than he had been in quite some time. He was staring some kind of magician or sorceress in the face and praying to all the gods he did not believe in that mind reading was not one of her strong suits. Turned out it was not, but it did not need to be for her to see right through Finian.
“Boy, save your threats and chest thumping for the young ladies who still have it in them to swoon. I am too old to be impressed by such things.”
Finian opened his mouth to speak and the old woman held up a shaking finger to stop him.
“Furthermore, we haven’t the time. You must take this girl and leave this place. What I have done will keep the creature back for a while but when it breaks through I need you to be gone. It will drag you both over and the bounty price will be well more than I can pay.”
“What the hell are you talking about lady! I don’t understand what you just said!”
Finian had decided to give up all pretext of being in control of the situation. If she was not in the mood to kill him he needed answers.
“This is exactly my point, young man. You don’t have the first clue as to what you’re doing. Yet, you’ve come this far so I shall tell you what I’ve learned and how I learned it.”
Finian’s eyes were wide and his palms were drenched in sweat. He clutched Evelyn’s unconscious hands in his own, shaking them involuntarily, and his heart hung on every word that came from Alice King’s mouth.
“You must seek out Raith and learn the arts, the arts of the necromancer.”
“Arts of the what? And wraith as in a kind of ghost? After today I don’t think I want to go hunting any wraiths.”
“No,” Alice King shouted, a vein in her neck bulging forth to accost Finian. “Raith is a man. You must find him and learn of the triangle. He can teach you. He will shun you at first, fein ignorance, but he knows more than he lets on. He tried to fool me, to trap me as I have trapped the one he sent for me, but his knowledge can be used against him.”
Finian’s mind was spinning. There was a man named Raith and he knew about art, that much Finian had down. He could draw triangles, or knew about triangles, or was a triangle. All the words and meanings became an explosion of colour in Finian’s mind. Everything blended with everything else and it left him with nothing but a rainbow of nonsense.
“Where can I find this Raith?”
Alice King smiled like a Jack-o-Lantern, all teeth and wickedness.
“If you are strong enough to find me, you will find him. Now go!” she shouted, “before the other gets loose and you leave me with three times the trouble I had when this day started.”
“What am I going to do with her, she’s out like a light? And what about your son? What happened to him?” Finian asked, the thought coming back to him as his brain was reeling through all the information he had gathered that day.
All the features of Alice King’s withered face drew together and she snarled.
“Let me worry about my son, you just worry about yourself, boy.”
Finian knew in that instant that asking any further about Alice King’s son would lead him to a place he did not want to go. He turned back to find Evelyn struggling to sit up and prying her now drenched hand from his. She worked her fingers to get feeling back after Finian had been crushing it and she looked from Finian to Alice King with darting eyes.
“Your boyfriend can explain later, get out.”
Evelyn made to protest but Alice King proved that she was nowhere near as feeble as she appeared. She grabbed Evelyn up by her lapels and threw her bodily from the house. Evelyn stumbled on the front porch steps and Finian came rushing out after her. The door slammed behind them and Evelyn turned to Finian for answers he did not have.
“What the hell was that, Finian? What happened in there?”
“I’ll explain later. We need to get out of here, right now.”
Finian turned on his heels and bolted from Alice King’s front lawn at a run. Evelyn caught up to him quickly and the two friends ran the entire way back to the train station.
This was what I was given: Randy (aka: Mentor), Butch (aka: Gus), and Paul (aka: Lucky) – 10 words: trout, deer, bear, tent, fire, cold, snow, boat, cigars, beer. Setting: Convict Lake
And this is the story I made from it:
(Today’s accent is going to be, “old west cowboy.” Again, trust me, reading it in this accent will make it more fun! Enjoy!)
image courtesy of: scenicusa.net
“Well ain’t this a happy heap ‘a horse shit you got us in to, Lucky.”
A shot rang out in the clear California morning and the bullet richoceted off rock, sending a resounding echo bouncing off the nearby mountains. Snow had been falling for nearly two days and a thick layer covered the ground where three men crouched behind a cluster of fallen aspen trees.
“We got enough on our plate without having to listen to yer bitchin’, Gus.”
“Ignorin’ me is what got us here in the first place. We were supposed to be fishin’, that was the plan. Drink some beers and catch some fish. Then you two jackasses decided it would be a good idea to chase after ’em convicts made a run for it outta Carson. Now I find myself knee deep if slush, freezing my balls off and likely about to get my fuzzy ass shot in the bargain.”
Lucky turned toward Gus with a laugh on his lips.
“Two of us came out here to catch fish, that’s for sure,” he said in an harsh whisper. “One of us came out here to bait the hooks and run his mouth. You wanna take a guess as to which one that is, pretty boy? Now, you don’t shut yer trap you ain’t gonna have to worry about them convicts blowing your ass off, ‘cus I’ma do it for ‘em.”
The Mentor turned back to his two friends with a slow, steady glare.
“I don’t suppose it would be too much to ask of you boys to focus on the problem at hand. We got six men out there looking to put us in the dirt and, contrary to the plans a’ you two princesses, I don’t intend on cashin’ in today.”
More shots rang out and the bullets were getting closer to the target. A deer bolted from the brush and rushed out into the clearing between the convicts and the three lawmen. The convicts saw only movement and a chance to empty their cannons into a moving target but it proved to be the perfect distraction.
Three of the convicts erupted from behind cover and the mentor twisted around the fallen trees and laid to. He pulled the colt from his hip and fired six shots fast, fanning the hammer with his free hand.
Lucky spun around and placed his rifle across the barrier of trees, zeroed in on the nearest target and fired off three rounds. He worked the lever action with quick jerks and fired with tried percision. This was a man who knew how to kill when it was called for.
Gus turned the opposite way, bringing his scattergun to bear. The blast boomed in that wide open space and birds peeled off into the grey sky. A rabbit broke from cover and the other critters followed their lead, fleeing their homes to escape the sudden invasion of violence.
The three convicts who had presented targets all fell, bullets tearing them to shreds and painting the snow with their life’s blood. The mentor had placed all six shots into his man’s chest, caving it in and throwing the man back into the tree behind him. Lucky set his shots a mass, putting two in his target’s chest and the last right between his eyes. Gus hit his man first, but it took his the longest to die. The buckshot tore his chest to shreds and several pellets riddled his face as well. An ear was torn off and the man was lying face down in the snow screaming as the three lawmen ducked back down.
“Three down, three to go,” Lucky said.
“Don’t reckon those other three‘ll surrender peaceful like,” Gus added, sounding resigned.
“You could always go on out and ask,” the mentor said, grinning at his brother.
“I’ll pass. I got me a date with a nice fat trout in that there lake and I wouldn’t want the fate of the triple crown left in the hands of you two amateurs.”
“Mentor, please let me shoot him. I promise we can find you a suitable replacement.”
“Ain’t no use, Lucky. You shoot him he’ll only get more irritatin’.”
“Don’t see how that’s possible.”
“Shows how little you understand. I been acosted by his stupidity since my first breath and I guarantee I got more sufferin’ commin to me.” The mentor turned toward Gus and was greeted with a shit eating grin. “God don’t let trials like him end easy.”
“Yeah, old Job ain’t got a thing on you, that’s for damn sure. How you put up with his mouth for this long I’ll never understand.”
“It’s a’cuz I’m so damned pretty,” Gus added.
All three men had a good laugh at that and the firing began again. The lawmen ducked down instinctively and the mentor began reloading his Colt. Lucky checked his rifle and Gus gripped the boom stick close to his chest as they waited for the firing to cease.
“You all gonna die, law dogs! Come on out ‘ere and get your desserts, damn you!”
That was Greer, the worst of the bunch.
“Way I see it, we just cut your number in half, Greer. Why not come on out yerself and we’ll introduce you to a nice California collar? Least that way you can go God with a clear conciense,” Lucky replied.
This was answered with more bullets. These men wanted to go out guns blazing. They had escaped prison and made it this far, the last thing they wanted was to surrender to three over-the-hill lawmen.
“We ain’t gonna see no end to this but by blood my friends. What say we get it over with?” Lucky said without the slightest hint of fear. This was a man who had stared death in the face more than once and he was not going to blink now.
Gus and Mentor both nodded their heads. It was time to take the fight to the devil.
Mentor bolted from cover, fanning his Colt and making for a small spread of trees off to his left while Lucky vaulted straight over the cover they had been crouched behind, firing his rifle as he went. Gus followed behind, his shotgun barraging the surrounding trees with pellets and sending wood chips flying.
The three men raced forward through the snow, guns blasting apart the trees and sending a roaring thunder of noise rebounding off the mountainside. Canfield broke from cover first and Mentor venilated him before he could bring his iron around. Maxwell followed and Lucky near took his head off at the neck with a shot that struck him just below the chin. Greer was all alone and he decided to make a run for it. He panicked and turned the wrong way, only to come face to face with Gus and his shotgun.
“Guess you shoulda’ surrendered after all, asshole.”
Gus put a hole in Greer’s chest the size of a man’s closed fist. Greer dropped to his knees in the snow and then fell down, face first.
Gus rested the barrel of the shotgun on his shoulder and turned toward the other two men.
“Well, now that I got you two jackasses outta’ this mess, what say we find that boat and get to fishin’?”
“It’s nearly sundown, we can’t fish in this. So what say you set up the tent, your highness, seein’ as how you ain’t never caught anything out here but a cold?
Mentor laughed and holstered his Colt. “I’ll see to the fire, gentlemen, and I’ll leave you two to figure out who puts up the tent.”
After some fuss the men had their camp set and a fire going. Lucky passed cigars out to his two friends and the three men sat before the fire arguing over who killed who first, who killed the most, and which one killed the biggest man. Little did they know that the lake they sat before would forever be named for this very shootout: Convict Lake. That was not important to them then though, what was important was they would live to see another day, which meant one more chance to fish together — and argue like old women.
This is the meaning of friends. It’s the ones who go to war with you. They walk in knowing what’s on the line and they never blink.
Friendship is also about history. The longer you live the more you will experience those moments that only your true friends understand. Words are exchanged and simple phrases that mean nothing to anyone else, but everything to you. In those moments your true friends are revealed and it creates a bond that stands the test of time.
Here’s to true friends and the dangers we face in their name. Here, too, is to simple pleasures like fishing, beer, and cigars with your brothers.
Just beware the bears.
If you would like your own story, please feel free to contact me with 10 words, a theme (it can be a genre, favourite movie or book) and a song and I will write you a story as well. They are posted every Sunday.
Next Sunday (23 January) will be Rachel’s Story. It is a very special edition of Stories from 10 words as the Rachel I will be writing the story for is the namesake and inspiration for the main character of my action fantasy novel, Sisters of Fury. Look forward to it please!
Image courtesy of: whyifearclowns.net
What is it about dead whores that always reminds me of circus clowns?
Is it the way their faces, ravaged by drugs and mascara, always seem somehow comical in their extremity? Or is it just that the profession is so similar that my mind is putting the two together on it’s own? After all, what is whoring other than parading around in a painted mask hoping for cash and a few smiles?
This woman died happy though, which is more than the killer did for the last two. Maybe she made him smile too.
Probably not, but she’s dead. Let her dream.
“If you want dead crack whores, I know at least ten more sitting in the morgue we can go poke. Seriously, why the fuck are we out here?”
“For a man who desires to do my job you should focus a bit more on your own before you open your mouth,” I tell the coroner.
“What the fuck does that mean?” He hurls his cigarette against the wall, balls his huge hands into fists, and looms over me.
Oh my stars and garters, I have angered him.
“It means, my dear doctor, that this woman was not a crack user. Crack cocaine is smoked. This woman was a needle user and, unless I am mistaken, more prone to the heroin crowd.”
The coroner is shaking his head. What difference does it make, right? One drug or the other still makes for a dead whore and he doesn’t give the first goddamn.
I do. The devil is in the details.
“The point, detective, is why do we give a shit about this piece of human trash.”
I have to bite my tongue. I shouldn’t answer this question, it isn’t worth it. So of course I will.
“Because, you monument to hubris, none of the other women in your morgue were killed by our umbrella toting friend.”
Three witnesses reported seeing a man in a dark suit approach the woman and pass her something. She took it, injected it, and passed out. She hadn’t moved since. The woman was about to be passed over when I heard about it because who cares? She was a prostitute, a drug addict, and generally seen in the same light as the coroner was now viewing her. It also didn’t help that the testimonies of other drug addicts and street people were taken with less than a grain of salt.
“If he did kill this bitch then good on him. He did us all a favour. Maybe we should start calling him the garbage man because he’s getting rid of our trash for us.”
When dealing with bigots one must draw a line. The more I address this neanderthal the more he will vomit his stupidity on me, and I like this suit.
Why did he kill this woman? What was special about her? How did she stand out? There could have been anywhere from five to ten just like her standing within a stones thrown when he killed her. Why this one?
Damn this guy. He has to be saying something, so what is it? Why be so cryptic. If you have a message, out with it already you asshole.
“Detective, can I speak with you a moment?”
My headache has taken on a new aspect. That spot right behind my left eye begins to throb and I feel my eye twitch. Would that I could have gotten through this whole day without having to deal with the captain I might have lasted long enough to down something heavy and brownish to kill it, but alas my luck is not so hot these days. Here we go again.
“Yes, captain, what is it?”
“What are we looking into this woman for? I don’t see the need for this many hands just to clean up a street walker.”
At least he is addressing her with more political correctness. Being the police chief means being schooled in the university of pretty mouth, and his is top notch. I am sure this woman would have appreciated the hell out of him.
I stand up, fingers rubbing my temples, eyes shut tight and I can feel it growing. This killer is getting in my head and it hurts like nothing I have ever felt.
“Another late night, detective? Are you even sober enough to be out here?”
I have to laugh at this. The assumption that I am an alcoholic is cliche to the point of being moronic.
“I have a headache. That has nothing to do with drinking, it has to do with not sleeping.”
“The job is getting to you. Maybe you need a vacation.”
I laugh again. This is turning into a veritable tennis match of stereotypes.
“I don’t sleep because I am an insomniac. I am not an insomniac because I do this job, I do this job because I am an insomniac.”
His one brow raises and he leans his head to the side, putting his hands on his hips.
“My mamma always told me, ‘son, know what you’re good at and use it.’ Only thing I’m good at is living without sleep and being able to look any horrible thing in the eye knowing it couldn’t possibly lead to nightmares. You have to sleep to have nightmares.”
I pause and he sighs, shaking his head as he does so.
“So here I am, not giving a shit if my life makes sense to you.”
“This is a dead end,” he cuts in. “The woman doesn’t fit the M.O.”
“For once, we agree. She didn’t stand out like the others. That does’t mean he didn’t kill her, it means the M.O. wasn’t correct.”
He’s giving me the jaw.
“Look, serial killers can usually be broken into two main types: the ones with a manic obsession who kill a specific type of victim in order to fill a need, and the ones who kill to send a message. This man is the second type. He’s sending us a message and we have to figure out what that is.”
“You said the message was about standing out and that appears to be wrong. So what is the message now?”
I honestly don’t know the answer to that anymore. That is why my head wants to explode. It is so full of all the different things these murders could possibly be saying and I can’t sort them out or shut them up.
“What I know is this: he planned this. The others weren’t planned, or did not bear the appearance of being planned, but this woman’s death was. Or perhaps it was simply a plan to kill the first drug addict he came upon, but he knew her drug of choice and brought it along with him. He knew he was going to kill a drug user and he was prepared. That means he could have known he was going to kill the others as well and is a master of making it look unplanned.”
The captain is looking as if he just opened his organic frozen yogurt to find that some plebeian has replaced it with pedestrian ice cream.
“This is both bad and good. It is bad because we were initially on the wrong track, but it’s good because that means these three victims have a stalker and possibly a connection we missed. He’s given us another piece of the puzzle and we have to see how these three fit together.”
“So a street walker, a day trader, and a high end fashion designer are all connected?”
“It’s a mad world, captain.”
I turn from him and start walking toward the other end of the street, the sun assaulting my face. The part I left out was that it had been a month since this woman had been killed, according to the coroner, and the killer hadn’t made a move since. We found her on a nice sunny day because her death hadn’t lead us to her when the rain had been falling. It’s rained a few times between then and now. Either the killer has more presents out there waiting for us to find or he was waiting for us to find this one before moving on.
My mind is telling me its the latter. He’s watching. He wants us to appreciate his work and understand. He can’t move on until we find his little present, like a cat who shits in the living room.
Well, we found it. Now I have to check the weather report and see how long I have until he drops another pile for me to appreciate.
“Alice King?” Evelyn said, her voice clear and strong like a river.
The middle aged woman at the door smiled with the corners of her mouth, gentle lines of old skin pulling and folding, making her face ripple out in waves. Opaque shadows clouded her green eyes and she looked slightly confused to hear her own name.
“May I help you, young lady?”
“Yes, my name is Evelyn Stone, and this is,” Evelyn said, turning her head to the left and right to find that Finian had stayed a few steps away from the door. Evelyn reached out and pulled him up next to her bodily. “This is Finian Kelley.” Evelyn was staring hard into the side of his face, daring him to take a step back. Turning back to face Alice King, Evelyn continued with a sigh, “we would like to ask you a few questions about your son.”
Alice King’s tired eyes began to blink rapidly and she raised her feathery eyebrows.
“Son? I don’t have a son,” Alice King said, clutching her hands to her breast and popping her knuckles as she did so.
Evelyn watched as the two sides of Alice King’s nature began to battle. The brittle old woman she wore as an exterior struggled to maintain control but the hardened warrior who had lost her most prized possession was fighting to get loose. The white streaks of flyaway hair that framed Alice King’s face fell into her eyes and her smile slackened.
“I am sorry, you must be mistaken.” Alice King said in a voice as cold and sharp as folded steel.
Evelyn licked her lips slowly. Alice King wanted to play hardball. Evelyn was battening down her own hatches while Finian, on the other hand, was pulling at her sleeve and trying to whisper into her ear.
“Evie, maybe I was wrong about her. Let’s just go. I don’t think she want’s to talk with us. Besides,” he added, “I am allergic to cats.”
“I don’t have any cats,” Alice King said, puzzled.
“She doesn’t have a cat, Finian,” Evelyn repeated, never looking away from Alice King.
Finian rolled his eyes and moved closer to Evelyn. “Look at this woman, Evie. If she doesn’t have a cat then she’s just the crazy lady. At least being ‘the crazy cat lady’ makes you sound cute. People can sympathise with a cat owner.”
Evelyn shook her head in a mixture of disgust and frustration. Finian would either follow her lead or go home. She had no time to humour him further.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. King, but my friend is a little strange.”
“Really? I’m not the one trying to strike up a dialogue with Mrs. Coo-Coo for CoCo Puffs,” Finian whispered rather too loudly into Evelyn’s ear.
“Finian!” Evelyn shouted, finally turning to glare him into silence.
“Mrs. King, I am sorry once again for my friend’s mouth. He can’t always seem to control it.”
“It’s quite alright my dear,” Alice King said.
“As I was saying, we’ve come to ask you a few questions about your son. I am sure this is a sensitive subject and I know that we are strangers but I assure you we are very interested in anything you might be able to tell us about his disappearance.”
Alice King blinked several times and took a deep breath. She was wrestling again. Her smiled returned again, only wider, and crows feet spread from the corners of her eyes like talons.
“As I told you before, young lady, I don’t have a son.”
Evelyn finally caught on to the game of semantics Alice King was playing.
“Of course. You don’t have a son because he was taken. You did have one before though, didn’t you?”
Alice King’s knuckles cracked again.
“Young lady, I really think this conversation has become inappropriate and I am going to have to ask you to leave. I have been as patient as I can be with complete strangers.”
Alice King made to close the door on them and Evelyn put her hand out to stop it. She would not be so easily dismissed.
“Mrs. King, please. We need to see the album. We need to know what you remember. It might help us! We’ve lost loved ones too!” By the end Evelyn was shouting in the woman’s face.
“Lower your voice,” Alice King rasped, her eyes flashing hawklike. “Your shouting will draw it out!”
“Draw what out?” Finian shouted.
A chair was thrown from Alice King’s house. It exploded from the front window near where Finian was standing in a shower of glass. Finian ducked behind Evelyn and she instinctively put her arm out to shield him. Alice King tried to use the distraction to slam the door shut but Evelyn was too fast. She got her foot into the gap before it closed and then used her youthful strength to shoulder the door back. Alice King went sprawling onto the hard tile floor with Evelyn and Finian tripping into the room behind her.
A glass frame came whizzing from a neighbouring room and smashed into the wall above Finian’s head. He let out a high pitched squeal and dropped to the floor with his hands over his head.
“What in great holy hell was that, Evie!”
Evelyn was looking around for their attacker and found nothing. Then a glass vase was lifted from before her eyes and there was no hand holding it. Whatever doubts she had before she entered this house were blown out like a candle in a high wind. It was all true.
The vase came pelting toward her and smashed into her face. She had been so awestruck by it that she did not even raise her hands to defend herself. Evelyn dropped to the floor on top of Finian in a shower of glass, violets, baby’s breath and cascading water. The last thoughts she had before blacking out where of her brother and knowing that she had been right all along.
He was alive and she was going to find him.