An Angel among Devils – Chapter one, A Quick Getaway.

I wrote this story about a year ago for a challenge hosted by Teresa Grabs, whose blog was the Haunted Wordsmith.

I thought it was time to share it again. The Word of the Day is Quick

woman with snake on her wrist
Photo by Kuya Yus on Pexels.com

This story was written for The Haunted Wordsmith’s Genre Challenge, click on the link below to see the post:

https://thehauntedwordsmith.wordpress.com/2019/04/21/genre-writing-challenge-april-21/

Today’s genre and image: Crime Thriller/Suspense

 

This was not the kind of place Inspector Tanner usually frequented. In a city renowned for it’s high level of crime, this district was particularly notorious. It was funny how things had changed so dramatically in just over two decades. This area was once a prestigious university but now, crime gangs roamed the campus and the university building itself had long since been burned to the ground. Arson was a common here as thievery. In the centre of the old university grounds was the Black Jack tavern. It was said that you could find out anything there, who murdered who, who had stolen what, for the right price.

Inspector Tanner was dressed as inconspicuously as possible. Rather than his usual smart trench coat and trilby, he now wore a rather shabby afghan coat over a pair of denim jeans. He was here to meet an informant, but not someone he had ever met in person before.

As the inspector pushed open the black painted door, the fumes of smoke emerged in fine tendrils into the clear night air. Not tobacco smoke, the smell was far too pungent for that, not even pipe smoke was that foul. The tavern was not particularly well lit. Electric lights buzzed and flickered from various points around the room, making pools of light that the many bodies standing around seemed to avoid, preferring to linger in the dark recesses and corners instead.

Through the haze, he could see the bar and the barman. The man was tall and thin, with lank dark hair that fell to his shoulders, yet the crown of his head was bare. He wore no shirt, but a black leather vest, unbuttoned showing a hairy chest with more grey in it than it’s original black. His bare arms were covered in tattoos, mainly flaming skulls. He knew of the barman by reputation, they had a file three inches thick on him back at the station. Jack Peel had a record of petty larceny and aggravated assault with intent to cause harm. He used to like collecting ears too, an unpleasant habit that had sent him to prison for twelve years. On his release he had opened this establishment, which had hardly given much assurance that he had decided to go straight, but they had not been able to catch him at anything lately.

He was told to buy a drink and then walk over to the pool table. Grasping the bottle of beer, he wandered over to find two people sitting by the pool table. In one corner, a small, smartly dressed man, in a striped suit and blue tie, with mousy blond hair neatly trimmed. He had black round rimmed spectacles. As he looked in his direction, the man smiled slightly, his eyes remained devoid of emotion. In the other corner sat a large ugly man. His face was covered in small scars, a nose that looked like it had been broken several times sat above a grimacing mouth filled with gold fillings. This man was dressed in denim, head to toe, but his left sleeve appeared to have been ripped away, displaying an arm that was decorated with a snake tattoo that wound around it from his shoulder, with the snakes head, complete with fangs, tattooed on the back of his hand.

The Inspector turned back to the suited man and sat next to him.

The man smiled again and leaned towards him. “Can I help you?” he whispered.

This had to be who he was sent to speak to. “I understand you can tell me about the recent murders in Market Street. Was it the Armstrong gang?”

The man jumped up and practically ran out of the bar.

Suddenly, he felt a tap on his shoulder. The ugly brute of a man was sitting close enough for him to smell his after shave and his foul breath.

“Why did you speak to him for? He’s the man I was going to tell you about. He’s probably gone to tell his boss you’re here now. You had better follow me, if you value your life, quick, out the back way.”

 

I have included the following word prompts:

https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2019/04/21/ugly/

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/04/21/rdp-sunday-snake/

https://lightmotifs.wordpress.com/2019/04/20/three-things-challenge-pl66/

Today’s prompt: campus, pipe, haze

 

https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2020/05/18/quick/

 

 

A Frisson from the past – Part one.

Some of you may be aware that I recently took a trip down to Devon and while there visited the home of one of my literary heroes, Agatha Christie. It was such a thrill to see her house and it really felt that she was still there, maybe just popped out to get a pint of milk. Inspired by my trip I wanted to write a story based on one of the minor characters that she’d written. So here is my attempt:IMG_4417.JPG

Miss Felicity Lemon sat at the desk in her study, the morning light streaming through the window, and did what she always did at that point of the day, she made a list. Always methodical, she sat down every morning and made a list of the all the tasks she intended to do. She left out the mundane things, like washing, attending to her hair and breakfast, but listed all the other tasks in a systematic and thorough manner. An early riser, she always wrote her morning correspondence first thing, so that she could ensure her letters went off in the morning post. It was too early for most people to make her necessary telephone calls, people seemed to be quite upset if you rang before 9am.

As she wrote, her eye fell on a silver-framed picture that had pride of place on her desk. It was a picture of her one of her former employers, Monsieur Hercule Poirot. Of all her employers, he had been the most satisfactory. He had a sense of order and method that matched hers, and a sense of decorum that sadly was lacking generally nowadays. Looking back on those days as his secretary, she remembered him fondly. He had been a great man, a private detective and though very famous in his day, now seemed to be almost forgotten. She considered it strange that when the fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, still loomed large in peoples mind the greatest detective, M. Poirot, had sadly diminished. Lacking any British sense of modesty, he would have vehemently agreed with her view, but despite his ego, he was undoubtedly the best. Not without acrimony, she considered it a shame that he no longer had the fame he so deserved.

She had a frisson of emotion, remembering those times when she had helped her employer solve a gruesome murder. She would never have admitted it to anyone, but underneath her calm and ordered manner, she had enjoyed working on those cases. Each one, like a jigsaw puzzle or a crossword, so impossible at first, but as you slowly slotted things into place, the solution became clear. She’d never murmur the phrase, ‘little grey cells’ but she had used her own methods and often had guided her employer to the right conclusion. Not that he ever really knew she had. She was always discreet. Oh, how she sometimes longed for something like that to happen, just like the old days. Her life had become so humdrum, and while she looked very much like the person who preferred life to be dull, predictable and humdrum, and she would never be one to actively court adventure, she did enjoy it when life brought something to her door.

She finished her last letter, a complaint to the laundry who had taken to using far too much starch on her collars and having stamped and addressed the envelope she stood and walked towards the front door. As she did so, she heard a loud scream come from one of the other apartments, followed by a frantic ringing of her own doorbell.

No English person ever rang a doorbell in that persistent and demanding manner, foreigners often did but only in a state of pure desperation would an English person ever hold down the doorbell for longer than two seconds.

Opening the door, Miss Lemon was surprised to see a young woman standing there, her long brown hair dishevelled and looking quite pale and distraught.

“Oh, please help, there’s been a murder!” the woman said.

To be Continued…..

 

I have included the following word prompts:

https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2019/10/06/your-daily-word-prompt-acrimony-october-6-2019/

FOWC with Fandango — Court

https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2019/10/06/frisson/

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/10/06/rdp-sunday-impossible/

 

Once Upon A Blog Crime – Death Comes Syncopated

Chief Inspector Rory has asked me to write a blog post about a crime.

See his post here:

Once Upon A Blog Crime ……..

The Crime is to involve the following bloggers:

Perp 1

Cheryl of The Bag Lady

Perp 2

Clare of Dreams and Adventures of Cosy Cottage

Perp 3

Carol Anne of Therapy Bits

Perp 4

Cyranny of Cyranny’s Cove

Perp 5

Sandman Jazz

 

So here is my tale:

Arriving back from his Easter Break was always tough. You just had time to relax and forget about work, when before you knew it you were back in the office staring at the computer screen. Inspector Kristian had made the most of the beautiful weather they’d had and taken a trip to the seaside. There was something about sitting on a windy beach and eating sandwiches with real sand in them, that really made him feel happy. Dipping his toes in the sea and seeing how long he could keep them there before frostbite set in was a fun game too.

The Chief poked his head around the side of his cubicle wall, plastered with pictures of his pet chickens, and jovially said “Did you enjoy the beach? Well if you’re yearning for the sea, you’ll enjoy this next assignment then.”

“No rest for the wicked,” thought Kristian to himself.

He grabbed his coat and ran out of the door in a hurry.

It took quite a while to get to the scene of the crime. He had to drive down to the coast, which took about thirty minutes but then had to wait for a ferry to take him over to Crab Island.

The island was a popular spot for holidays, with two beaches one on the sheltered side that had a family holiday park on it, complete with caravans and a swimming pool. The other beach was a bit wilder, facing the open sea. This was a popular nudist beach in the height of summer, but this time of year, there was a chilly wind that was not at all kind to exposed areas.

He was surprised that anyone would be around that part of the island to wind up dead at all.

Finally, he arrived at the Cove to be greeted by a local constable, Constable Carruthers.

“The Body’s down here, Sir, on the beach.”

“Was it a suicide, Constable?”

“Well, it could have been, but I’d say it was more likely Murder. It’s a nasty sight, Sir, Brace yourself”.

They had to carefully negotiate their way down the steep path and the narrow concrete steps to the secluded Cyranny’s Cove and there on the beach lay the naked body of a man, half buried in the sand. A Tenor saxophone lay discarded by his feet and a plastic bag was tied around his head.

From the deep gouges made in the sand by his feet and the sand under his fingernails, it was clear that the man had put up a struggle.

Combing the beach, the Inspector found an empty pizza box, A box of matches and a revolver.

Above the beach was a Café called the Cornucopia and a small cosy looking cottage. There were several pairs of footsteps crossing the sand that must have been made fairly recently. The tide came in almost to the cliff edge and would have wiped out any footsteps made more than six hours ago.

“Constable who lives in these buildings?”

Constable Carruthers looked up from removing the plastic bag from the victim’s head.

“The café’s only open in season from the beginning of May to the end of September. The owner lives in the village on the other side of the island. Cosy Cottage is lived in by a lovely lady who moved here for some peace and quiet about a year ago. She keeps to herself mostly.”

“While forensics come and take the body away, we’ll best go and ask the lady some questions.”

The forensics team were coming down the narrow steps, Inspector Kristian walked over to take one last look at the victim’s body, before the autopsy. The face was grossly swollen and purple from blood and a terrible welt was around its neck where the bag had been tied on tightly.

“Nasty” though the Inspector.

Knocking on the door of Cosy Cottage, it wasn’t long before a lady answered it, wearing a loose-fitting fisherman’s smock embroidered with flowers and a daisy in her hair.

She introduced herself as Clare and invited them into her front parlour that overlooked the sea. The sound of the waves gently bumping onto the beach was very calming and relaxing. The room was decorated with seashells and pieces of driftwood tied with string. Inspector Kristian enjoyed folk art and commented favourably on them.

“Oh, I made them myself. It’s part of my therapy. It’s why I came here. I’m sorry to say, I had a bit of a mental breakdown a few years ago. The noise of the city would get on my nerves and I’m a very light sleeper, I need silence and calm about me. That is what my Therapist, Carol Anne of Therapy bits, recommended for me. Total rest and relaxation by the beach.”

“I see, Clare. Could you please help us with our enquiry? A man has been found dead on the beach outside, did you hear anything?”

“Oh, no, I’m afraid I didn’t hear a thing. I slept like a log last night. I had some chamomile tea and that always makes me sleep deeply.”

The Inspector had a good knowledge of herbs himself, he often suffered from anxiety attacks brought on by the sight of so many gruesome bodies. He took St Johns Wort and also occasionally Chamomile to help him sleep. However, as he looked around the cottage, he found several herbs but no chamomile at all.

“Excuse me, Clare, but clearly your bed has not been slept in, and there is no chamomile here. You already said you were a light sleeper and so I can’t believe that a man could be murdered outside your front door and you didn’t hear a thing.”

A change came over Clare’s lovely face. It became twisted and she twitched awkwardly. Suddenly she burst out “I HATE JAZZ! I HATE IT!” She shouted.

“Carol Anne, my therapist, said I had to have complete peace and quiet and that man came down to the beach every night to play his blasted Saxophone. I couldn’t stand it any longer. I asked him quite nicely to stop. I even took him out some cigarettes and my novelty lighter in the shape of a revolver. He smoked the cigarettes then laughed in my face. He just kept playing that Jazz music. I just snapped. I found a plastic bag that had washed up on the beach and I sneaked up on him while he played Take Five. It was mental cruelty!”

Inspector Kristian and Constable Carruthers read Clare her rights and took her into custody.

The inspector shook his head, he couldn’t help but feel sorry for Clare. Here was another brutal crime caused by Jazz.

Who is the victim?

Sandman Jazz

https://sandmanjazz.wordpress.com/

Who is the murderer?

Clare of dreams and adventures of cosy cottage

https://cosycottageandthequestforthegoodlife.wordpress.com/

Who is the location?

Cyranny of Cyranny’s Cove

https://cyranny.com/

Who is the murder weapon?

Cheryl of The Bag Lady

https://rugby843.blog/

Who is the motive?

Carol Anne of Therapy Bits

https://therapybits.com/

 

I hope that no one has taken any offence by this story. 🙂

I have also included the following word prompts:

https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2019/04/25/yearning/comment-page-1/#comment-22377

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/04/25/rdp-thursday-cornucopia/

FOWC with Fandango — Hurry

https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2019/04/25/your-daily-word-prompt-negotiate-april-25-2019/

https://lightmotifs.wordpress.com/2019/04/24/three-things-challenge-pl70/

Today’s prompt: pizza, daisy, revolver

 

Genre Challenge – Penitent Hostage.

This story was written for the Genre Challenge: Romantic Thriller

https://thehauntedwordsmith.wordpress.com/2019/04/03/genre-writing-challenge-april-3/

 

Rosalie stepped out of the shower and wrapped herself up in a soft towel.

Something instinctively told her that she was not alone in the flat.

The hairs on the back of her neck started to rise.

She should be alone. Her husband was at work and she had the flat to herself for a few hours. That was why she decided to have a nice long shower. There was something about letting the water drench you, that usually calmed and relaxed her. She had been very tense of late.

She just finished drying herself off and put on a loose tracksuit when her instincts told her to move away from the door just as it burst open and two men wearing black from head to toe stormed in.

She screamed but one of the men forced a leather-clad hand over her mouth. She kicked out, hitting the other man in the neck with her foot. Then she felt something heavy hit her on the head and then nothing but darkness.

When she regained consciousness, her head was still sore, and waves of nausea nearly caused her to regurgitate her breakfast.

Her hand and feet were bound together tightly and a gag was tied over her mouth. She lay on the floor of a dimly lit cell.

She started going over things in her head, reciting poetry that she’d learned at school, reciting Shakespeare plays. This was part of her training to keep her mind active in situations like these.

Just as she finished re-enacting Julius Caesar and was about to start The Merchant of Venice, the door to her cell opened and two more black-clad louts came in, possibly the same ones.

They roughly picked her up and carried her out of the room.

She let her head and body go limp but carefully tried to catch a glimpse of something that would give her a clue to where she was. The corridor was long with a handful of empty cells leading off it. Only dim electric lights provided any illumination.

At the end of the corridor, they climbed up several flights of steps, then emerged into a large room, with white walls and smooth floors.

She lost track of the turns they then took, down several corridors, three rights, then a left, followed by several more stairs.

Finally, they dumped her body into a chair, removed her gag and left her.

Then a bright light shone in her face, blinding her.

From beyond this light, a voice came, rough but with a certain sarcastic tone to it.

“You are Mrs Maxwell, I take it? Wife of Jonathan Maxwell the Spy?”

She said nothing.

“Your husband has been giving us quite a bit of trouble recently, Mrs Maxwell. Preventing our shipments going through. I am hoping that you will provide the leverage to get him to stop. It is imperative that our operations continue. I have prepared a ransom note, and to add that touch of authenticity, I’d like you to sign it yourself.”

“What if I don’t?” her voice did not betray any of the fear that she felt inside. She was proud of that.

The voice laughed, “Oh, Mrs Maxwell, you don’t want us to get nasty, believe me. If you cooperate, there is no reason why you cannot survive this and in time be reunited with your husband.”

Suddenly the door burst off its hinges and several armed men ran in, wearing SAS uniforms. A man dressed all in black, his head obscured by a balaclava sauntered in and walked up to two SAS soldiers who were holding a smartly dressed man, dripping in gold.

The man in black then punched her former interrogator in the stomach and he doubled over grunting.

“Take him away,” he said, pulling off his balaclava.

She glared at him and said “I can’t articulate how mad I am with you at this moment! What kept you?”

He laughed “I’m sorry, Darling, I couldn’t act as quickly as I wanted to, my contacts at the SAS took a while to pull strings. I hope they didn’t hurt you. I assure you I am most penitent. How can I make it up to you?”

He untied her bound feet and arms then pulled her into his arms.

“Oh, I suppose a trip to the Bahamas might just do the trick,” she said as they kissed passionately.

“I have to admit, that was an excellent plan, you made the perfect bait, my darling”.

 

The End.

Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 03/April/2019

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/04/03/rdp-wednesday-articulate/

https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2019/04/03/penitent/

https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2019/04/03/your-daily-word-prompt-drench-april-3-2019/

FOWC with Fandango — Contacts

 

Once upon a Crime…. a Challenge from Rory, A Guy Called Bloke.

inspector-160143_960_720

It was a cold and frosty morning when the telephone rang on Inspector Kristian’s desk.

He was just in the middle of dunking his chocolate hobnob in his tea, it was the crucial third dunk, the one where he would either place the gooey mess into his mouth, or the whole thing would disintegrate into the cup. Quickly he shoved the soggy biscuit into his mouth then reached for the phone.

“Yes?” He said, or would have had his mouth not been full of biscuit.

The person at the other end knew his little foibles and understood him anyway.

“It’s Officer Rory speaking Sir. There’s been a Murder. Can you come to the Lighthouse at Paula’s Point straight away?”

“Typical” Muttered the Inspector to himself “I was just looking forward to putting my feet up and reading another Agatha Christie novel.”

He picked up his large, leather Gladstone bag, filled with all the tricks of his trade and ran out of the door. The quicker he got this done, the quicker he could have afternoon tea.

On Arrival, Officer Rory greeted him at the entrance to the old Lighthouse.

“So, Officer, what do we have here then?”

“Well, Sir, we have the body of a Lady. She was found slumped in a large leather armchair. It was the Lighthouse keepers daughter. She was tending the lighthouse for her Mother, who is away on vacation. Someone called the police when the lights all went out.”

As he entered the building, the Inspector couldn’t help feeling a sense of Deja vu. He had done this all before.

The main room was decorated with flock wallpaper, a flowery patterned carpet and chintzy armchairs. In a leather armchair, by an empty fireplace, slumped the body of the murder victim. Next to her was a small table, on which there was a diary. There was also an old fashioned Tiffany lamp with a shade covered in multicoloured glass in the design of a dragonfly. On the floor was a crushed page from the diary.

At first, there did not appear to be any injuries on the body. No blood, no wounds of any kind. The inspector could smell something, though. Something that reminded him of bonfire night.

Suddenly it came to him and he jumped up exclaiming “Sparklers!”

Officer Rory in a calm and deadpan manner asked: “What was that, Sir?”

“Sparklers, my dear fellow. That is what I can smell. This lady has been electrocuted!”

As they took the body away, the Inspector picked up the piece of paper from the floor.

The date was that of the night before. On it was scrawled “We need to maintain secrecy at all times. No one need know. Dinner is served at 8pm”

The Diary itself gave no clues it had been a gift to the victim, in it was an inscription.

“Dear Sadje, You have a dream. Keep it Alive. Lots of Love. M.”

The Inspector sat down in one of the other chairs, with swirls of paisley and a gold coloured antimacassar, and had a think.

When he entered the building something had plucked at his brain, but what?

Officer Rory came in with a young lady wearing overalls and carrying a large bag.

“This is the electrician, Sir. She has come to fix the electrics so we can switch the light back on. Don’t want any ships crashing on the rocks, It’s dangerous waters around Paula’s Point. Have you finished sir?”

Inspector Kristian stood up. He recognised this young woman. She did several jobs around the town. He had last seen her singing her heart out in the local night club. He also recognised her perfume.

“Officer Rory, arrest that woman. She is the murderer!”

The woman tensed and dropped her bag. It fell to the floor with a loud bang. Several heavy tools fell out and rolled across the floor. She tried to run, but another officer stood by the door. She turned and exclaimed to the Inspector “But how did you know?”

“I recognised your perfume, my dear. It’s Poison, isn’t it? I smelt it that night when you sang at the karaoke bar and I smelt it again when I entered here. I knew you have done many jobs, but I didn’t know you were also an electrician. It would have taken an electrician to carefully remove the plug, electrocute the victim with the bare wires, then put the plug back on. You were clever, my dear, but you couldn’t fool Inspector Kristian.”

“But Sir, What was the Motive?” Officer Rory asked.

“I believe it was Blackmail. She was going to talk wasn’t she?” The Inspector replied, turning to Crushed Caramel, the electrician.

“Yes, I told her a secret about my friend, Tao, and she said she would talk if I didn’t give her £1000. I don’t have that kind of money. I knew that I could use the old Tiffany lamp to electrocute her. I thought I could get away with it, but you are too clever for me.”

With the Crime Solved, Inspector Kristian returned to the office and while typing up his report enjoyed an enormous scone smothered in cream and jam.

The End.

 

So, Hopefully, I haven’t missed anything or anyone. This story is a bit of light-hearted fun, written in response to this challenge set by A Guy Called Bloke, see the post here:

Once Upon A Blog Crime ……..

Who is the victim?

https://lifeafter50forwomen.com/

Who is the murderer?

https://crushedcaramel.wordpress.com/

Who is the location?

https://lightmotifs.wordpress.com/

Who is the murder weapon?

https://sparksfromacombustiblemind.com/

Who is the motive?

https://tao-talk.com/

 

I hope no one was offended by this story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Dead Man Walking – A Collaborative Story

This story is a collaborative effort. A total of 10 different bloggers worked on this, myself included. Each person added their own spin on the story. The result is something quite unique. 

Thank you to Denny McBride and Em for coming up with the idea and organising it.

Thank you Liz Charnes for designing the cover picture.

I hope you enjoy this story and please check out the blogs listed below:

 

Denny McBride, https://theceaselessreaderwrites.wordpress.com/

Jo Frei, https://eclecticexclamations.guru/

Liz Charnes, https://lizcharnes.com/

Melisa Lewis, https://fingerstosky.blog/

Kara Bernard, https://bernardsbookblog.wordpress.com

T. Shaw, https://tshawwriter.wordpress.com/

The Britchy One, https://bitchininthekitchen.org/

Rachel Ann, https://fitfulfearfulphantasmal.wordpress.com/

Em, http://earthlybrain.com/

 

Part 1 by Denny McBride, https://theceaselessreaderwrites.wordpress.com/

Darla Nyte plugged her PalmPal into her car’s navport and set her office as the destination.  The car drove, and she half-heard the radio report of the mysterious death of the young heir to the Bond family business fortune while she observed the faces of other riders as they passed.  Most were lined with worry or concern.  Darla smiled, pleased with her own good fortune.

America had endured a long, difficult recovery following 20 years of the disastrous Great Again wars and the resulting Trumpocalypse that finally prompted the Joint Chiefs to forcefully remove the ancient, senile President from the Oval Office handcuffed to his hospital bed.  Darla was one of the MPs escorting the removal detail.  She had been appalled by the corpulent, ranting despot as he raged, apopleptic and foaming at the mouth, unwilling or unable to accept his ignominious end.

While the country worked to heal and recover, Darla had remained in the Army.  When her final term of enlistment was up, she had enough money saved to buy a small apartment and an even smaller office in the city, where she achieved her dream of opening the Nyte Detective Agency.

She parked and took the stairs 5 floors up to her lobby.  Her assistant, Steve, greeted her.  “You’ve got a doozy of a case in there today, Boss.”  She sat down behind her desk and was struck by the strange pair across from her.  The older man wore a white lab coat with a name tag identifying him as a coroner, and the extremely handsome younger man was uncommonly pale.  He stood and extended his hand.  Darla stood and shook with him.  His hand was dry but shockingly cold.  “I’m Franklin Bond,” he said, “and I want you to figure out who killed me.”

Part 2 by Jo Frei, https://eclecticexclamations.guru/

Darla covered her surprise by taking a sip of the coffee that Steve had left for her.  She made a face at the awful taste.  She was going to have to teach him how to make a better cup of joe. Sighing to herself, she lifted her gaze to Franklin. “It would seem to me that if you are dead, you would be your own best witness,” she said.

Franklin gifted her with a beatific smile.  Her breath caught in her throat.  He was completely not her type, but he made her heart skip a beat.  “I assure you that I am quite dead,” Franklin said.  “I brought Dr. Dawson here to testify to that fact.”

Dr. Dawson, looking a bit shell-shocked, said, “By every scientific test we ran, he is dead.”  He handed her a signed death certificate.  “Thank you, Dr. Dawson, I think you can leave now,” Franklin said.  Dr. Dawson, looking much relieved, headed out the door.

“So, Ms. Nyte, now that I have assured you that I am indeed dead, will you help me find my murderer?”

Darla tilted her head and looked hard at Franklin.  “Before I agree to accept your case, I will need to hear more,” she said.  “First you must to agree to this,” Franklin replied, pushing his PalmPal across her desk.  She looked down and saw what appeared to be a standard non-disclosure agreement.  After reading it, she had the AI notarize it with her thumbprint and retinal scan, then handed it back.  Her PalmPal chirped to let her know that it had her copy and that it had been filed.

Franklin sat back looking satisfied.  “I am cursed with being a draugr until our family heirloom is recovered and returned to my family,” he told her.

Part 3 by Liz Charnes, https://lizcharnes.com/

A draugr?  That’s a new one.  Darla sat, careful to remain professional.  No need to vex the crazy.  “What do you remember?”

Franklin ran a hand through his thick blonde hair, frustration marring his handsome face.  “I don’t know.  It’s all a blur.  The last thing I remember is dinner the night I died.  It was at my Uncle Jeff’s home with him, his new wife Alina, my sister Ingrid, and her husband Malcolm.”  He grimaced.  “It was bad.  Ingrid and Alina were at each other’s throats.”  He paused.  “I’m sorry.  That’s probably not relevant.”

It wasn’t, but it made for some lucrative gossip she could sell later.  One good thing that came of the Trumpocalypse was the demise of NDAs.  These days only fools thought non-disclosure agreements had any power.  “Why doesn’t your sister like your uncle’s wife?”

“Alina was a strip… Uh, exotic dancer.”  He chuckled.  “Jeff’s got a thing for exotic dancers.”

“Don’t we all?”  Darla winked, then swallowed a burp.  Damned acid reflux.  Where are my Rolaids?  “Anything else you remember?”

Franklin shook his head.  “Other than the fighting, no.  I was tired, so I went to the summer house.  When I awoke, the room was dark, and I was dead.”

“That’s it?”  The Rolaids were hiding under her calendar.  She took two, then two more just in case.  “You died in your sleep?”

He nodded.  “Pretty much.  Oh!” He snapped his fingers.  “And the Spear of Destiny was missing!”

Oh, for God’s sake.  Darla felt a headache coming on.  “You’re saying that your family has the Spear of Destiny?  The Spear that supposedly…”

“… killed Jesus Christ, yes, my family has…er, had, the Spear of Destiny,” Franklin finished. “My great-grandfather brought it back after World War II.”

Darla stood.  “Frank, you need a therapist, not a P.I.  I can’t help you.”

Part 4 by Kristian Fogarty, https://talesfromthemindofkristian.wordpress.com

“You must help me, Ms. Nyte.  I’d hoped you would do so voluntarily, but I took a precaution in case you wouldn’t.”  He smirked, “How was your coffee?”

Darla felt a cold feeling in her stomach, a feeling of dread, as she caught the threat in his question.  “What did you put in my coffee, you freak?!”

“Nothing that will harm you permanently, dear, there’s no need to call me names.  Have I not suffered enough?  It’s not easy being dead, you know?  I have a dose of the antidote to the potion, and I will give it to you if you help me.  Please find out who murdered me and help me retrieve the Spear of Destiny.  Then I can rest.”

“I don’t seem to have much choice, now, do I?  I think we should start at your uncle’s home, the scene of the crime.  By the way, how did your uncle and the others react when you woke up dead?”

“I don’t know.  No one else was there.”

“Tell me more about your uncle, his wife, your sister, and her husband.  They are after all the chief suspects here.”

“Uncle Jeff has always been an eccentric, but then, most of us are in our family.  You don’t become guardians of a holy relic without it affecting you.  Alina is a tramp on the make, nothing more.  I believe Ingrid, who’s ten years older than I am, rather resents me, the heir, but I don’t think she would have murdered me.  Her husband Malcolm has always been … distant.  I never knew what went on in his head.”

“Well, let’s get back to your uncle’s and start looking around.  What is that stuff you put in my coffee going to do to me exactly?”

Part 5 by Melisa Lewis, https://fingerstosky.blog/

“It’s a hallucinogenic.  Ancient Mayans supposedly used it to see the future.  Some people say it opens your mind to unimaginable possibilities.”  Franklin stood, ignoring the perplexed and worried look on Darla’s face.  “Will you drive?  The law doesn’t look kindly on deceased drivers.”

Darla nodded and gathered her belongings as quickly as possible, her mind counting down the minutes until she might start hallucinating.

On the ride over, Darla was increasingly uncomfortable, noticing her breath was the only sound between the two of them.  They arrived at a large stone mansion surrounded by wrought iron gates.  Security cameras swiveled about and turned toward the car as they drove up to the intercom.  Franklin reached over her and placed his forefinger on a scanner.  Darla arched her head back to stay out of his way.  She noticed he smelled like sandalwood and citrus.  She quickly reminded herself that the shoulder that grazed her chin was cold because he was dead, not because of the weather.

The gates creaked open, and they drove just a few feet inside when a tall man with a fur coat and skinny blue jeans held up his hand to stop them.  His thinning hair was greased back, and he wore a gold ring on every finger.

Franklin stuck his head out the window and hollered, “Uncle Jeff! Is something the matter?”

“You’re not welcome here, Franklin!  You are a thief!  I’m filing a police report!  Stay back now, don’t come any closer!”  Uncle Jeff remained planted with his hands out in front of him. Darla checked Franklin’s expression, unsure if she was starting to hallucinate or if she really did see a smirk as he lowered his head back into the car.

Part 6 by Kara Bernard, https://bernardsbookblog.wordpress.com

Her gaze drifted back to Franklin’s uncle.  Darla leaned out of her window and directed the mass of fur blocking the driveway.  “Mister Bond… Do you mind if I call you Jeff?”

“You get away from here, you hear me?  I’m warning you, Franklin!”  The rings on Jeff’s fingers clinked as his hands shook, the sound crashing like thunder in Darla’s ears.  She winced as she stepped out of the car. Her thoughts went … fuzzy.

She took a step forward.  “Look, Jeff, I need you to step aside.  My name’s Nyte, and I’m here to – oh, god. Oh, god!”  Darla sank to her knees, eyes wide, as the rotting corpse of an animal slithered its way out of Jeff’s fur coat.  Matted fur dripped off its skin like oil.  A slimy tongue smeared itself between black, jagged teeth.  A sound like bones on metal pierced the air as the creature fell to the ground and began dragging itself toward Darla.

A collision of sounds – screams, claws on gravel, dragging limbs – forced its way under her skin. She covered her ears and shut her eyes before an ice-cold slab of flesh gripped her arm.  Darla cried out, tried to pull away, and then … nothing.

She woke to the smell of cinnamon.  Slowly opening her eyes, she saw Franklin kneeling beside the couch she found herself on.  He held a steaming cup of tea up to her.

“Welcome to my humble abode.”  He smiled.  “Well, Uncle Jeff’s humble abode.”

“What?”  Still groggy, Darla’s words slurred together.  “Wha’appened?”

“Well, you see, the thing about hallucinogens is, well, they make you hallucinate.  Sorry ‘bout that.”

Darla groaned and reached for the tea.  “Wait, you said we’re inside.  He let us in?”

“Hm.”  The corner of his mouth twisted upward.  “Not exactly.”

 

Part 7 by T. Shaw, https://tshawwriter.wordpress.com/

“What do you mean, ‘not exactly’?”

“Shortly after you stepped out of the car and politely introduced yourself to nice Uncle Jeff, the hallucinations started.  You fell, and my previously unwelcoming uncle was so startled by your altered disposition that he bent down to see if you were alright.  Who knew you’d almost kill the guy?”  Darla’s eyes enlarged as she sprayed Franklin with the gulp of tea she’d been about to swallow.  Franklin reached for his handkerchief and annoyingly dabbed his pale face dry.  Darla would have apologized, but since Franklin was the reason she had lost control of her faculties in the first place, she held back.  “Like I was saying, you fought valiantly.  Unfortunately for Uncle Jeff, he got a little too close.  I’m pretty sure your punch to his throat is what sent you both into darkness, which is why I maintained my place on the sidelines.”

Darla set her cup of tea on a nearby end table that looked a few hundred years old.  “Before becoming a detective, I served in the Army.”  Darla stood up; although still shaky, she was ready to gain momentum in Franklin Bond’s case.  “Is this the same room where you woke up and realized that you were dead?”  Darla began her search before Franklin could respond.

“No, this is the parlor.”

Spying several gaudy antiques, Darla said, “Seems like you and your family really admire objects with a bit of history.”

Franklin smiled.  “Yes, but we most prize the Spear of Destiny.”  After perusing the room with no luck, Darla decided they should visit the kitchen and interview the cooks to determine whether Franklin had been poisoned, but before exiting the room she glanced back at a portrait on the mantelpiece.  The subject’s eyes reminded her of Dr. Dawson’s.

Part 8 by The Britchy One, https://bitchininthekitchen.org/

 

Leaving the room, Darla stumbled and had to lean against the door frame.  “Wait,” she commanded, “you want me to solve your murder, but you’re withholding facts.  Why did your uncle accuse you of theft and threaten to call the police?  That’s not exactly the reaction of someone who thinks you’re dead.”

 

“Ahh, Ms. Nyte,” Franklin chuckled, “here are the shrewd deductions you’re famous for.  It’s true, I have been economical with facts.  I was hoping you would solve my murder without incriminating me.”

 

Darla ground her teeth.  Coherent thought was becoming difficult.  “If you want me to solve this, give me the antidote.  I can’t proceed if I can’t think.”

 

“Very well.  I’ll give you half now, which will abate your symptoms, and the full dose upon revelation of my murderer.  If you take too long, I’ll be stuck as a draugr forever.”

   

He gave Darla a small vial of clear liquid.  She wouldn’t normally take anything without knowing what it was, but she’d never been in a situation like this.  She felt her mind sharpen. “Where were you when you started to feel sleepy?  Were you in this house?  Why did your uncle accuse you of theft?”  She had more questions plus the niggling feeling there was more to Dr. Dawson, but she had to start somewhere.

 

“You’re correct in guessing I wasn’t inside the house.  I was in the summer house near the tennis court.”  “I’ve had a bad run at the casinos lately, and my creditors were pressing for payment,” he whined.  “I’d arranged to sell a couple of treasures that I would’ve inherited anyway.  It wasn’t really theft.”

 

Darla wasn’t surprised at his attitude.  She’d seen his type before.  “Surely you weren’t selling the Spear of Destiny?  Is that why you’re still here?”

Part 9 by Rachel Ann, https://fitfulfearfulphantasmal.wordpress.com/

“Do you know how much the Vatican would pay for it?”  Arms crossed and frowning, Franklin’s façade of victimhood had vanished.  “Anyone would’ve done the same.”

Darla was reminded of the former president thrashing in the Oval Office.  His comb-over had flapped around like a wounded vulture’s wing, its white roots long overdue for a dye job.  “Don’t you know who you’re dealing with!?”  Trump had railed.  “None of you will ever work again! Believe me!”  The Velcro straps had held, but that hadn’t stopped his mouth.  Nyte had to listen to that sewer-pipe overflow as she escorted his gurney to the waiting ambulance.

Why are the rich such egomaniacs?  Darla wondered.  If Bond is a draugr, she thought, it’s due to sheer stubbornness.  Everyone owes a death, but when his came due, he’d been too arrogant to succumb.

“You can’t buy your way out,” Darla said, wrinkling her nose. “And holding me hostage won’t change facts.  Your cologne won’t cover the stench of your decomposition much longer.”  Franklin glared.  “But you were murdered, and the culprit must be brought to justice.”

“Right.  To the summer house then, shall we?”  Franklin gestured.  As they approached, they heard a woman’s screams.  Darla kicked the door in, gun drawn.  A man had a woman pressed against the wall, in flagrante delicto.  Her screams weren’t of fear, but passion.

“Alina…really?” Franklin said. “With the gardener?”

The gardener’s pants slipped down farther than they already were. A metal object fell from his back pocket.

“The Spear!” Franklin yelled. “Thief!”

“What, this?” the gardener said, picking up his pants first then the object.  “This is just a Hori-Hori.”

“What did you call me?” Alina shrieked.

“Not you,” he said, brandishing the Spear of Destiny, “isn’t this a weeding knife?  I need it to weed the rose bushes.”

Darla stared at the gardener.  She felt her mind going fuzzy again.  “Doctor … Doctor Dawson?”

Part 10 by Em, http://earthlybrain.com/

“What doctor?” Alina squeaked.

 

“D-Dawson,” Darla stuttered, pointing a shaky index finger at the gardener.

 

Franklin shook with fury.  “That’s not Dr. Dawson, that’s our son of a bitch of a gardener who’s stealing MY inheritance.  Focus, Nyte!”

 

The gardener stared at Darla, his eyes burning a hole in her skull.  His lips slid into a crooked smirk.  Darla tried to visualize his scheme:  he’d seduced the distressed Alina after dinner, coercing her while Franklin slept in the summer house.  “Let’s bend the rules a bit”, he teased, sensing that Alina ached to be mischievous.  After acquiring the Spear, he had spiked the air purifier with Dragon’s Breath and zombie powder.  Overnight the substances numbed Franklin’s senses, made him pale, ghostly cold, and clouded his perception of reality.

 

“I am Dr. Dawson,” he’d whispered as Franklin lay in a drugged stupor, “you have been unjustly murdered and robbed of your most precious inheritance.  Seek revenge within 12 hours or forever remain a draugr.  I have retained an apt detective to solve this mystery.  Give her this potion, and she’ll be compliant.”

 

Darla’s vision swiftly evaporated into floating shreds.  The sound of cracking bones on metal reverberated in her ears once again.  She shifted her gaze, and the creature revealed itself anew, hauling a horrid pile of disintegrating flesh and bones.

 

Darla pointed her gun at the repugnant creature and pulled the trigger repeatedly without hesitation.

 

“NOOO!” Alina screamed.

 

Franklin dropped like a stone.

 

Uncle Jeff ran in to the room.  “What’s with all the—“.  The sight of the half-naked Alina, the exposed gardener, and Franklin’s lifeless body in a spreading pool of blood scorched him mad. “MURDERER!”

 

Darla saw only stars, spinning in infinite spirals.

 

Dawson pulled his pants up and sauntered out, simpering as he fondled the Spear in his pocket.

 

The End