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Thursday, September 22, 2011

#FlashFriday The Hundred Dollar Bill

The Hundred Dollar Bill

“Dude I can't cash this.”
“What?” said Jeff.
“I can't cash a hundred -it's a cup of coffee for Christ's sake,” the barista said shoving a hundred dollar bill at him.
“A hundred?” Jeff said confused. Where the hell would he get a hundred? He barely had the ten he put in his pocket every Thursday night. He hadn't even looked at the guy when he handed him the bill. Jeff searched his pockets for the ten, but came up empty.
“'s all I've got.”
“Sorry,” the barista said, not looking sorry at all.
“Fine,” he said, taking back the hundred, “forget it.”
Every Friday for the last year Jeff bought a vanilla latte, grabbed a paper, and paid to ride the bus to work. He looked forward to it every week. Instead of a reheated cup of the swill his wife called coffee, and a carpool with a bunch of grouchy men with hangovers, he had twenty minutes of peace.
Where the hell did this hundred come from? he thought, walking toward the bus stop, until he realized he had no money for the bus. They required exact change or a pass, neither of which he had.
Well, this sucks, he thought irritated at this disruption in his routine. And now I'm going to be late for work. He weaved in and out of the crowds of people as fast as possible but still didn't make it until eight forty. Forty minutes late.
What a start to my weekend. No coffee, no quiet ride to work, half an hour late. Of all the times to find a hundred! Why couldn't it have been last Friday at the bar? Never thought I'd wish for less money.
Wish for money...the thought lingered. What was it about that saying.? Oh, the fountain. He'd been so drunk he'd forgotten until now. His buddy Bill had won five thousand dollars with a quick pick lotto ticket and they all went out to celebrate. Jeff thought Bill would at least buy a round, especially since he was the one who had insisted they go to a fancy hotel bar instead of their usual dive.
“Somewhere the drinks aren't watered down and the waitress ain't a grandma,” he'd said. So they'd gone. But that cheap bastard didn't pay for a thing. Stupid overpriced beers. His tab had cleaned him out. Didn't even have money for a cab. His wife had to come get him. While he was waiting he'd thrown a penny in the lobby fountain and wished for more money.
But that's crazy! There's no such thing as a wishing well.
“Keats is looking for you,” Jeff's coworker, Robert said, interrupting his flashback.
“Of course he is.”
“You getting in on the football pool or what? Today's the last day.”
“That's right!” he said reaching into his left pocket. He'd put an extra ten in his left pocket for the football pool. Today was the last day to get in. But that ten was gone as well.
Hey, can I catch you after lunch?” Jeff said. What the hell was going on? What happened to his cash?
Wishing well...
Wishing well...
No! It couldn't be! There's no such thing as a wishing well. Was there?
But what if...what if there were...he could go back...make a real wish...
C'mon focus!
Maybe he could run out at lunch and break the hundred.
But he couldn't. Keats caught up with him. “Hope you brought your lunch because your working through it today. Unless you want to make up the half hour tomorrow, at regular pay, not overtime.”
So no coffee, no bus ride to work, no lunch, and no football pool! Where the hell did that hundred come from? This is crazy. There was no such thing as a wishing well.
But...where else would it come from? Money didn't magically appear out of nowhere, right?
What if...what if...
It would solve everything...
What would it hurt to try? Just stop by and make a wish...
I could swing by tonight. It was Friday, just like last time.
By the time his shift ended he had decided he would do it. He would go back to the bar and make a real wish. It was crazy, but where else could the money have come from? When he was able to catch a a ride home with some guy who'd stayed just the ten minutes late Jeff needed, and happened to be heading Jeff's direction, he just knew his luck was changing.
He walked into his house with a big smile on his face.
“Hey baby,” his wife said when he walked in. “You must have found my little surprise?”
“What surprise?” he said hanging up his coat.
“The hundred dollars. I put it in your pocket when I got back from Bingo last night. I won two hundred dollars and thought I would share the wealth. You know, brighten up your day a bit.”

Like this short?  Now all my flash fiction is available in one book, Starved.  Available at all ebook retailers. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Flash Fiction The Warning

This story is also available for FREE on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.  

I had just settled into my office when I saw the new hire, Jon, working his way toward me.
“Morning Gwen,” he said, leaning on the doorjamb.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Can’t I just be saying good morning?”
“No. What do you want?” The words were harsh, but the tone was joking.
“You know I got my first case yesterday.”
“Yes Jon,” I said as I booted up my computer.
“Well, I thought you might find it interesting.”
“Did you?” I smiled.
“Yeah, a robbery at a jewelry store. Cops haven’t gotten anywhere so the store owner hired us. The police experts say the security tapes weren't tampered with. They're one hundred percent sure. But one minute the jewelry is there. Next minute it’s gone.”
I work for a company that investigates crimes companies don't want to report. Things that wouldn't look good if they went public. Once in a while, though, we were asked to figure out how a crime was committed when the police couldn't.
“Jon, if you need help just ask,” I said.
Jon blushed. “I’m just not sure what to do.”
“Alright. So the jewelry is there and then gone?”
“Then the answer is right in front of you.”
“I don't...”
“Jon, do you believe in magic?”
“What?” he laughed. “No.”
“The answer is right in front of you,” I said. “Sorry, I can't help you anymore than that.”
He left, sulking a little, I think. The truth is I could have told him. But this was a test. A very important test for new hires. The point being to see who could think for themselves. It should have taken about two seconds to dismiss what the 'experts' said and investigate the tapes himself. Obviously they had been tampered with. But Jon wasn't doing that. He was trying to make what the 'experts' said fit the crime. He couldn't question authority.
It didn't look good for Jon's future at the company.
“Ms. Roberts is here,” my boss Allen informed me at ten.
“Be right there,” I said.
I had a feeling this meeting was not going to go well. Ms. Abigail Roberts had hired us to find out who was stealing from her storeroom. It was obvious she already knew or she would have called the police. But she didn't want her grandson going to jail, nor did she want her other employees to know he was stealing. She just wanted a little proof to make him stop.
But I had followed him, gotten to know him in his hidden moments, and this was not going to work. He wouldn't scare because he knew she would never turn him in. He knew and I knew. Ms. Roberts didn't know though. I'm sure she thought she could be strong enough to turn him in, but when it came right down to it, the picture of him behind bars would be too much and she'd cave.
They were all waiting in the conference room. Allen, Ms. Roberts, and her grandson Patrick, who looked bored.
“Good morning Ms. Roberts,” I said, ignoring Patrick.
“Good morning Gwen,” she smiled warmly. “How are you today?”
“I'm well Ms. Roberts. How are you?” I asked. Typically, I like to skip the pleasantries, but not with Ms. Roberts. There was something about her that just didn't allow it. And, though I hated to admit it, she made me feel happy. Which made this all the harder.
“Let's get right to it.”
I sat down and pressed play on the remote control.
The screen at the front of the room lit up. For three minutes we all sat in silence as images of Patrick stealing from his grandmother's store and her house filled the screen. There were also a few of him deliberately dinging her car as he walked by.
Ms. Roberts looked quite shaken but quickly composed herself. She was prepared for the store thefts, but not her house. And damaging her car must have felt like an especially personal attack.
“Patrick, how could you?”
Patrick looked at me, then at his grandmother. “How could I? How could you, Gram? How could you hire them to spy on me?”
Outraged. What a surprise.
“Patrick, it was for your own good.”
“My own good! How is this for my own good? You made me do this. You won't give me the money for my business. It's just fifty thousand dollars. It's nothing to you.”
“I told you. You're not ready to run a business. You need to finish college, get some experience...”
“You just don't believe in me. You think I'm stupid and worthless. I can't believe you would do this to me.”
“Patrick, I'm trying to help...”
“Fine then,” he said getting up from his chair so quick it fell over. “Call the police. Turn in your own grandson. See what your friends think then.” He gave me a look of pure hatred and ran out of the room.
“Poor Patrick,” Ms. Roberts said. “He's had it so hard. You know his father passed when he was just fourteen. I should have known this was the wrong approach.” She stood and gathered her things. “Thank you Ms. Michaels, for your time, but I want you to destroy that tape and any copies. I won't be needing them.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” I answered.
Once she left, Allen looked at me. “That's it? Yes, Ma’am? That's not like you Gwen.”
“I know, but anything else would be a waste of time. She'll never turn him in and he won't change.”
“But maybe you could have convinced her some time in jail would help him.”
“Sometimes you just have to let things go.”
He raised his eyebrows, surprised at this attitude from me. “Are you feeling alright?”
I laughed. “I'm fine. Trust me. There's nothing else we can do.”
“If you say so,” he said as we both left the conference room.
At five o’clock exactly, I shut down my computer and locked up my office. I said goodbye to some coworkers, ignoring their smiles. I always left at five, on the dot. Always. And I know they wondered why. The truth was, I was good at my job and enjoyed it, but it wasn’t my life, not anymore. It's dangerous to be all consumed with work. I know.
Jack, my husband, and I had some Chinese take out and watched Star Trek on Netflix Watch Now. We went to bed at ten and Jack was asleep by ten fifteen.
Lucky for me he's the world's heaviest sleeper.
“Wake up sunshine,” I whispered, my lips close to Patrick's face.
“What?” he said, trying to roll over. His eyes popped open when he realized he couldn't move his arms or legs.
“What the hell?” he said twisting hard.
I cleared my throat and he turned his head toward me, startled. “You? How'd you get in here?”
“Little boy, I can get in anywhere, anytime. It's really important for you to remember that.”
I sat down in the chair I had pulled right up to the edge of the bed.
“You know Patrick,” I said with a deep sigh, “I'm breaking my rule for you. I never get personally involved. But you see, I like your grandmother. And I don't like many people, so that means something.”
“Let me out of here, you bitch!”
“All in good time, Patrick. I need to be sure I have your undivided attention.”
I pulled a large hunting knife from my boot. I had no plans to use it but it was quite effective in keeping his focus on me. “Let's talk about your grandmother. She was widowed at twenty eight; left with four children and no money to support them. And what does she do? Sit around and feel sorry for herself? No. She builds a thriving business. All alone. A business that supports her entire family.”
“See, it's just that attitude that got you here. You're a spoiled, entitled, selfish prick, and if it wouldn't break your grandmothers heart, I would kill you now and be done with this. But, I've decided to give you one chance.”
“You're crazy,” he said.
I brought the knife close to his throat and leaned in close. “This is my fault. I didn't tell you to be quiet, did I?”
He cringed away from me and I could see the fear in his eyes. For all his bravado, he was just a kid.
I sat back down.
“Did you know your grandmother gives thirty percent of her profits to children's charities?”
He didn't answer.
“You're not real bright, are you? When I ask you a question, you answer.”
“What...what was the question?”
I sighed and twiddled the knife between my fingers. “Did you know she gives thirty percent of her profits to charity?”
“No, I didn't.”
“Did you know she fully funds that shelter she's always asking you to volunteer at?”
“No,” he said bitterly.
“Why are you making it so hard for me, Patrick? So hard to give you this chance. I can see what your thinking. I see it in your eyes. You're easier to read than the comics. You don't care about all the people that money helps. You can only think of how much more she must have than you thought. You don't care about anyone but yourself.”
“So,” I said, pointing at him with the knife, “here's what's going to happen. You are going to become a model citizen and doting grandson. No more stealing, no more damaging grandmas property, and you will volunteer one day a week at her shelter.”
“Why should I?” His words were so strong but I could hear the waver underneath. “You already said it would break her heart if anything happened to me.”
“Yes, but you're hurting her already. Every day you break her heart. So, if you continue, I will be forced to act. Yes, it will cause her pain, but it will be the ripping off the band-aid all at once kind of pain instead of the slow, one hair at a time kind, like you are doing now.”
“You won't kill me.”
“No, Patrick. I won't kill you. Not when someone else will do it for me.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Are you really this stupid? You think that stuff I showed your grandma today is all I have? No, no, no, Patrick. I spared her the worst of it. I spared her a certain meeting with your greasy friend Zander. And everything that happened after.”
He paled considerably.
“I really don't even need to be here. Dealing drugs will get you dead pretty fast, and skimming from these people, even faster. I don't care about you, Patrick, but your future is written on the wall. You're going to get in over your head and then you'll drag your poor grandmother into this. And I just can't have that. So you do what I say and be a good boy.”
I cut the tape that was holding his legs. “I'll be watching Pat, and if I get the slightest hint you are causing her even the tiniest bit of worry, Zander finds out everything. Are we clear?”
He nodded.
I cut his hands free and pulled the chair back to the wall. When I turned he was charging me. God, he really was that stupid. It was an easy move I put on him, but very effective. Instead of blocking him, I stepped aside and pushed. When he hit the floor, I grabbed one arm and pulled it straight up behind him bending his wrist toward his inner arm.
“It's sad really how predictable you are. I know your every move so cut the bullshit.” I pressed harder on his hand which caused him a tremendous amount of pain. Or what he thought was a tremendous amount of pain. But he had no idea how much worse it could get. “There's nothing you can do I won't be ready for. There's nowhere I can't get to you. Try anything stupid and I will kill you myself. Are we clear?”
He didn't answer so I pushed my knee into his elbow, flexing it slightly in the wrong direction.
“I said, are we clear?”
“Yes, yes, please let go.”
“Good.” I released him and he sat up rubbing his elbow.
“Remember, Patrick,” I said bending down and looking into his eyes. “Anywhere, anytime. I. Will. Find. You.”
With all I had done, I think that was the moment he actually believed me. And he believed me because he could see the truth. And the truth was I would happily destroy him then go home and sleep like a baby. And that's not an enemy anyone wants.
A week later, Allen stopped me in the hall.
“Ms. Roberts called to let us know her grandson is like a new man. She said he must have just needed some time after our meeting. He even volunteers at her shelter. Can you believe that?” His question wasn't really a question and he was watching my reaction carefully. Allen wasn't stupid.
I smiled. “I guess some things just have a way of working themselves out.”

Did you enjoy this short story?  Gwen Michaels is the lead in my full length novel, Secrets. Just 0.99 on Amazon, and Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.  

Friday, September 9, 2011

Flash Fiction Never, Ever Bring This Up Again

Sorry everyone but I got distracted this week and wasn't able to finish the new flash fiction story.  So here is a repeat from a couple of month ago.  It's called not quite flash fiction because it is about 2000 words long instead of under 1000.  Hope you enjoy anyway:)

Never, Ever Bring This Up Again

I always knew someday I would kill somebody. I knew it like I knew I wouldn’t like peas or broccoli before I ever tasted them. I’m not a bad person, just felt I had it in me.
So, like a dumb ass, I let it slip to my buddy, Bob, one night when we were drunk. Well, maybe drunk isn’t a strong enough word. We were wasted off our asses. At least I was. I didn’t even remember telling him ‘till he brought it up a few days later.
We were just sitting in The Bar (The Bar not requiring a name since it was the only one in town). We were sitting at what may as well have been our table since we were here so frequently. And he just throws it out there. I’m talking about getting ready for football to start and he just blurts it out.
So, when you gonna kill somebody?” he asked.
What? What the hell are you talking about?”
You told me you were sure someday you’d kill somebody.”
When did I say that?”
When we were drinking the other night.”
I laughed. “What night? We’re here every night.”
Saturday. Don’t you remember?”
As a matter of fact I don’t remember. I do remember wishing I was dead for the first half of Sunday though.”
Well, you said it.”
A few flashes of that night came back but I wanted to stop this now. “Whatever man,” I said and went to get another round.
But he wouldn’t let it go. He bought it up at least once every time we were drinking. He just kept asking me when I was gonna do it. Finally, one night, I’d had enough.
Why can’t you let this go? I was drunk. I don’t even remember saying it.”
He glanced around the bar without moving his head. “Do you really think you could do it? Kill someone, I mean?”
I don’t know?” But I knew. “Why?”
We’ve been friends a long time, right?”
Right,” I said, wondering where this was going.
There’s someone I want killed.”
There’s this guy. He’s sleeping with my wife. I want you to kill him.”
Is this your idea of a joke?”
I’m serious man.”
I took a long drink of my beer. Then I leaned close and looked him right in the eye. “You listen to me and you listen good. I am not a killer,” I emphasized each word with a poke to his chest, “I know we’ve been friends a long time but enough is enough.” I threw a twenty on the table and gave him my best tough guy look, “Never, ever bring this up again.”
The truth is, I was tempted. That’s why I had to end this right now. Cold blooded murder just isn’t the way I thought it would go. It had to be someone who deserved it. And no one could ever find out it was me.
But he just wouldn’t let it go. I guess my best tough guy was more John Denver than John Wayne. And it got worse.
Okay,” he said one night, “it’s not just some guy sleeping with my wife.”
What’s not?” I was distracted by the half naked woman playing pool at the far end of the bar.
The guy I want you to kill.”
I reluctantly looked at Bob. “Oh my God! I told you-“
He leaned in, “I know what you told me,” he whispered, “but this is serious.” Again he looked around the bar, “I didn’t want to give you the real reason cause I thought you wanted to do it, but since you won’t I gotta tell you the truth.”
Does this truth have anything to do with why you’re acting like this?”
“Acting like what?”
Your leg is bouncing like it’s on hot coals and every time someone walks in here you jump.”
Never mind,” I leaned back and shrugged like I didn’t care, “So, what’s the truth?”
They’re plotting to kill me.”
My wife and Tommy.”
What makes you think that?”
I don’t know. I just feel it,” he said.
You’re being ridiculous.”
No man. They really are.”
Then get a divorce,” I said.
That’ll just speed them up. They want me gone and they want the insurance money.”
Then cancel your insurance. Now quit asking me before I kill you instead.” I returned to watching the pool game.
He sat back resigned. For the night anyway. I have to admit my curiosity was piqued. I knew the guy he was talking about. Tommy Hinks, kind of a low life, new in town, and seriously lacking in personal hygiene. I couldn’t picture Bob’s wife sleeping with him. Sue was beautiful, in a small town kind of way. Blond, blue eyed, soft in all the right places, but a little na├»ve and self absorbed. In a big city she would be pretty, but in this small town well, let’s just say, if she wanted to cheat, there was a line of men a lot better than Tommy that would jump at the chance.
So no, I didn’t believe Bob’s story. But just to be sure, I followed Tommy for about a week. I figured people having an affair would meet at least once a week. Bob thought I was avoiding him. Following Tommy was pretty easy since worked the same hours as me. Plus, Tommy’s not the brightest bulb on the tree. Bob was excited when I finally met him at the bar, but for the wrong reason.
So you’ve thought about it and-” he started.
I held up my hands, cutting him off. “Let’s just cut the bullshit, Okay. I followed your friend Tommy all week. He never got near your wife.”
Why’d ya follow him?”
Uh, because you’re a lying piece of shit,” I laughed. “Just tell me what the hell is going on.”
All right,” he took a big swig of beer, “he’s blackmailing me.”
Blackmailing you?” I replied. “With what? What did you do?”
I don’t want to talk about it.”
You want me to kill a man but you don’t want to tell me why? Be serious.”
He took another swallow, “I hit someone with my car. I was drunk and Tommy was with me. I hardly even remember it.” He finished off the beer and signaled for another one.
When did this happen?”
About a month ago.”
Tell me everything, exactly how you remember.”
Just tell me.”
Okay. It was about ten and I’d been drinking for a while already. Tommy came in and we were just talking and drinking. Tommy kept ordering shots and,” he shrugged, “well, you know how it goes.”
Why’d you drive?”
I don’t remember. I just have flashes of the car hitting something and Tommy freaking out. Them I’m at home in bed. The next morning Tommy was there on my couch. He told me what happened – he told me I hit some kid and that he moved the body into the woods, but now I owed him.”
I started laughing. Laughing hard.
What the fuck’s so funny?” He’d gone from ashamed to angry in a flash.
Relax, I’m not the one you’re mad at. Anyway, you didn’t hit anyone.”
Whadya mean I didn’t hit anyone? I sure as hell did.”
I paused and took a drink of my beer, drawing out the moment.
He set you up. He’s scamming you.”
Whatdya mean? How do you know?”
I leaned in. “Look, have you read about any hit and run accidents in the paper or heard it on the news?”
He hesitated, “No, but Tommy said he hid the body. The front of my car was damaged.”
Heard any missing person reports?”
In this small town, you think someone goes missing and you don’t hear anything about it?”
He didn’t answer. I tried another approach.
How drunk were you and who was buying the drinks?”
Really drunk and Tommy was buying…” He stopped and turned red. I wasn’t sure if he was mad or embarrassed.
He set you up and you fell, hook, line and sinker.”
I’m gonna kill that son of a bitch myself!” He started to get up.
Wait,” I grabbed his arm, “I’ve got a better idea.”
Bob better get here soon, Tommy thought. He’s already ten minutes late and I’m freezing my ass off.
He saw the headlights coming toward him and was relieved. He didn’t know what he would do if this didn’t work. He really needed the money. Well, he really needed a fix.
Bob parked, but left the car running. He got out and scanned the area behind Tommy. They were at a deserted warehouse about a mile outside of town.
“It’s about time,” Tommy said.
“Sorry, I had trouble getting the car to start. That’s why I gotta leave it running.”
“Whatever. Did you bring it?”
Bob reached into his inside jacket pocket and took out a plain white envelope. He threw it at Tommy’s feet.
Just as Tommy bent down to pick it up, I stepped out of the shadows with a gun.
“Hold it,” I yelled, aiming the gun at Tommy.
Tommy fell back in surprise.
“Get your fucking hands up now,” I said.
Tommy got up slow and raised his hands, his eyes darting back and forth between the two men. I guess my John Wayne was getting better. Or it was the gun. Probably the gun.
“What is this?” Tommy said.
Bob was smiling. He walked over and punched Tommy hard enough to double him over.
“Did you think I wouldn’t find out?” he said as he punched him again.
“All right,” Tommy coughed, holding his stomach and shaking his head, “I’m sorry. I just really needed the money.”
“And ruining my life was the way to do that?”
“I wasn’t trying to ruin your life.”
“What did you think making me believe I killed someone would do?”
“I guess I never really thought about it,” Tommy said, still bent over.
“You never thought about it!” Bob said. He shoved Tommy so hard he fell to the ground. He started kicking him in the back and legs.
“That’s enough Bob,” I said.
“The hell it is,” Bob said raising his leg for the next kick.
I grabbed his arm and pulled him away, “I said that’s enough.”
“Get your hands off me,” he said yanking his arm from my grip. “You don’t get to decide that.”
“I have the gun so yes, I do,” I said.
“What are you going to do, shoot me?” He started laughing. “You said you wouldn’t kill this prick for me but you’ll shoot me?” He laughed even harder.
“C’mon Bob,” I said, “this wasn’t the plan. We were just going to scare him.”
He stopped laughing, “Plans change.”
“No they don’t. I’m not going to let you beat him to death.”
Bob let out a deep breath. “Okay, okay. You’re right. Seeing him just got me so angry. I don’t know what got into me.” Then he lunged for the gun.
We struggled and the gun went off. Bob went down.
“Shit,” I said, “Shit, shit, shit.” I dropped down next to Bob and felt for a pulse. “Oh God,” I gasped. “He’s dead.”
I heard a noise to my right and looked over. “Tommy,” I said, “this is your fault.” I stood up and started walking toward him.
“I can’t let you leave now, you understand.”
“No, no,” he said waving his hands, scurrying back, “I won’t tell. I swear.”
“I can hardly trust you now, can I?”
Tommy kept scooting backwards, “Please, I won’t tell.”
“Sorry Tommy, I can’t take that chance.” I raised the gun. Tommy backed into Bob’s car and relief flooded his face when he realized it was still running. He jumped inside and took off weaving all over the road. I shot a couple of times near the car.
“That was fun,” said a voice behind me. I turned to see Bob standing up, brushing the dirt off his shirt.
I started laughing. “Yeah, he shouldn’t be a problem anymore.”

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