Friday Fictioneers – A life for a life

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz (the blue frog) on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

FF - A life for a life 190213

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

A Life for a Life

Once they were past the entrance, only the flimsy door of the apartment kept the gang out.

Robin cowered, white faced in the corner. Magdala yelled down her phone to the police.

“They’re here! Be quick!”

The door burst inwards, hurling screws from its hinges like shrapnel.

Sunlight from the window flared from a knife. A man leapt at Robin.

With a shriek of defiance, Magdala threw herself in front of her lover and felt the blade bite deep into her chest.

“Stop!” called the gang leader. “Let him go. She’s paid. A life for a life is enough.”

What Pegman Saw – The Poacher

“What Pegman saw” is a weekly challenge based on Google Streetview. Using the location provided, you must write a piece of flash fiction of no more than 150 words. You can read the rules here. You can find today’s location on this page,  from where you can also get the Inlinkz code. This week’s prompt is Bamboi, Northern Region, Ghana.

WPS - The poacher elephant 180915

The Poacher

Yes. It is he. The one who used his distant-death against Kmmbwla-Mera. He is alone, sitting by a fire in front of his canvas house. He’s drinking that-which-maddens from a metal flask.

I remember the day Kmmbwla-Mera fell. It was bright and the leaves on the burkea trees tasted moist and refreshing. We grazed and paid little heed to the jeep and its passengers.

Kmmbwla-Mera noticed first. A man was standing, pointing his distant-death in our direction. Kmmbwla-Mera was a great bull, a brave bull. He trumpeted an alarm and ran full-tilt at the man.

The man’s distant-death shouted. Kmmbwla-Mera stumbled. I heard his dying gasp; I felt him die.

We ran.

Later, I went back.

Kmmbwla-Mera’s corpse; they had mutilated it; they had cut out his tusks. There are no words bad enough to describe such desecration.

Tonight, your murderer will face justice my love, my husband, my Kmmbwla-Mera.

Pillars of the Community – back story

Last Wednesday I wrote a piece of flash fiction for Friday Fictioneers that I titled “Pillars of the Community”. People were kind enough to show an interest in what had happened to cause three very respectable women to keep a secret for fifty years, surrounding it with ritual and a dread oath. I promised to publish the back story – and here it is!

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Pillars of the Community – back story

Diane. Abigail. Susan.

They were inseparable.

When Diane was four, she had insisted on going to see Abigail and Susan to show them her Christmas present – on Christmas day – before lunch.

When Susan was five, she had demanded that Diane and Abigail should come on holiday with her family and had thrown multiple tantrums when this didn’t happen.

And Abigail always had to have the same things as Diane; if Diane had a pink hair-slide, then so must Abigail; if Diane read ‘Bunty’ then so must Abigail.

They all joined the Brownies on the same day. They moved up to the guides on the same day. They went to the same school, and when Diane had said “I want to do Ten Tors,” the other two had said “Great!” and “What a good idea!” even though Susan normally shunned strenuous activity, and Abigail was scared to death if she was ever alone outside after dark.

The training was tough. For their first outing on Dartmoor, Mr Johnson took them six miles on a rough track, allowed them thirty minutes to eat lunch and then marched them the six miles back on the same track. “A nice gentle stroll” was his description of the day. Susan slept in the minibus all the way back to school.

“What do you think of Mr Johnson?” Abigail asked Diane the next day.

“He’s okay.” Diane thought for a minute or two. “What did you think of him?”

“I think he’s creepy.” She looked at the ground. “Didn’t you mind when he put his arm around you?”

Diane flushed.

“Not really.” She studied the expression on her friend’s face. “I suppose I was a bit surprised.”

A few weeks later, they were practising packing their kit properly when Diane noticed that Abigail had disappeared – and so had Mr Johnson. A few moments later Abigail was back, scarlet and breathing heavily.

“Are you alright?”

Abigail nodded, but Diane could see the tracks of tears on her face.

“Here, let me help you,” she said.

Abigail sniffled; she never had a handkerchief. Diane passed over her own.

During the lunch-break, Diane said to Abigail, “Do you want to tell us about it?” Abigail’s face puckered, and she shook her head.

“I can’t,” she said.

“One for all, and all for one,” said Susan.

“No, I really can’t.”

“Was it Johnson?”

“He told me not to tell anybody,” wept Abigail.

“Yeah, well we’re your friends. You know you can trust us.”

“He kissed me. I said not to but he did anyway.”

Diane and Susan looked at each other. Susan put an arm round Abigail.

Diane was indignant. “I’ll find him after school and tell him he’s out of order.”

“No! No, please don’t, Di, or he’ll know I’ve told.”

“Somebody ought to say something, Abi, otherwise he’ll think he’s got away with it, and can try again.”

“You said I could trust you…” wailed Abigail.

“Yes, you can, of course you can, pet. Di won’t say anything, will you, Di?”

“Not if Abi doesn’t want it, of course I won’t. But Abi, I really think we should say something.”

Abigail’s tears were slowing. She shook her head.

“I’d much rather not,” she said.

A week or so later, Diane and Susan were waiting at the school gate for Abigail, who was coming from the private study classroom.

Diane glanced at her watch. “Where on earth can she be? She’s usually here before us. Shall we look for her, Sue?”

“We might miss her. She’s probably had to run an errand for the Head Mistress or something.”

Just then, they saw Abigail, trudging, dragging her feet. As she approached, they could see she was ashen.

Susan hugged her and held her close.

“Was it Johnson again?” demanded Diane. “What did he do?”

“I don’t want to say,” muttered Abigail.

Susan looked at Diane, and held her finger to her lips.

“You don’t need to say anything, Abi, dear. We understand. You’re alright now, you’re with us. We’ll take care of you.” She looked at Diane, who was fidgeting in her anxiety to say something. “Shut up, Di! Now is not the time.”

They set off home in silence. When they came to the bridge over the river, they stopped. They often did, for the river was beautiful in all seasons and at all times of the day.

Abigail leant over the parapet. Her feet left the pavement. Diane took hold of her arm.

“Don’t do that,” she said. Abigail sighed and put her feet back on the ground.

“He kissed me again. Then he tried to…to feel me, you know. I pushed his hand away but he’s so strong.” Her face was no longer pallid, but fiery red with shame. “It felt…it felt…” She couldn’t finish.

“What a bastard!”

“Really, Diane! You don’t need to swear!” Susan was indignant.

Diane took hold of Abigail’s shoulders. “Abi. Listen to me. We’ve got to tell someone now. Will you let us all go and talk to the Head Mistress tomorrow morning?”

Abigail pondered for a long moment, then, “Alright,” she said.

Next day it was Diane who took the lead, Diane who made an appointment with the Head Mistress, Diane who cajoled Abigail to speak.

The Head Mistress listened carefully. These were trustworthy girls. She would have believed them about almost anything. Why, she was hoping that Abigail would win a scholarship to Cambridge in a few years time!

And yet, Mr Johnson was a highly respected teacher. There had never been a hint of scandal about him. He was highly qualified and his pupils did well. Surely he would have shown signs of this sort of weakness before?

“Did he leave any marks on you, Abigail?”

“No, Miss Carter.”

“Did he expose himself to you?”

“No, Miss Carter.”

Miss Carter folded her hands on the desk. Any hint of this would end Mr Johnson’s career. There wasn’t enough evidence to report to the police. She couldn’t, she really couldn’t take action. She cleared her throat.

“Now, girls. You’ve come to me and made a most serious accusation against a senior member of my staff. If I believed for one moment that you were motivated by malice, I would punish you all; you would be facing expulsion from the school.”

She paused.

“Diane and Susan, neither of you witnessed any impropriety. Your testimony is that you saw your friend badly upset, and she told you about an assault that she said had been made on her. Abigail. You tell me that you have been assaulted, but there is no physical evidence of an assault having been made. Is that a fair summary of the situation?”

“Yes, Miss Carter,” they mumbled. Even Diane didn’t dare to contradict.

“I believe that all three of you are truthful girls. I can only conclude that you, Abigail, must have misunderstood an ambiguous situation. The matter must stop here. All of you understand, please, that you must say nothing about this outside this office. I will treat any slander against Mr Johnson with great severity.”

She looked at each of them in turn. One by one they dropped their eyes.

“You are dismissed.”

The three girls slunk out. As they walked down the corridor, Diane whispered, “I’m sorry, Abi. You were right. We shouldn’t have said anything.”

In her office, the Head Mistress worried for the entire morning as to what she should do.

Abigail became very quiet. As far as possible she avoided being anywhere near Johnson. She changed her private study group on the pretext that she needed to work in the library to be able to use reference books. Susan and Diane became expert at spotting when something had happened. Without questioning, they just offered support, love and encouragement.

“Are you sure you want to come on the overnight camp, Abigail?” said Susan.

“I can’t do the Ten Tors if I don’t, and then the rest of you in the Patrol would miss the event too.”

“You’re very brave,” said Susan, hugging her tightly.

“We’ll look after you,” said Diane, fiercely. “He’d jolly well better not try anything.”

They camped near the Mires.

“Don’t stray out of your tents tonight! One false step into the Mires, and it’s down you go, never to be seen again!” Johnson laughed ghoulishly and rubbed his hands.

He took Abigail with him to fetch water for the evening meal. When they returned she was shivering.

“Are you alright, Abi?”

“Yes. Just a bit cold.”

The six girls of the Patrol bedded down in two three-person tents. Susan and Diane slept in sleeping bags either side of Abigail, whose head was by the entrance to the tent. She lay there, stiff with fright.

Minutes passed. Diane fell asleep first. Susan turned over several times, but then her breathing became regular. She snored, gently but noticeably. Abigail waited a few minutes longer, and then, as quietly as she could, wriggled out of her sleeping bag. As though hypnotised she undid the tent flaps and walked into the night.

Diane stirred. Something was wrong. Her eyes opened. She felt the chill air of the moor. She saw the open flaps of the tent. Abigail was missing.

“Quick, Sue! Abi’s gone!”

Susan stretched, then sat up abruptly.

“What do you mean, gone?”

Diane pointed to the empty sleeping bag and the open tent. Susan scrambled out of her bag and started scrabbling for her trousers.

“Come on! We haven’t got time for that!”

Diane led the way outside. There was torchlight in Johnson’s tent, and noises. They could hear Abigail, sobbing, protesting.

Diane picked up a heavy stone.

The two girls ran to the tent and tore open the door. Johnson was lying on Abigail, who was struggling, weeping, trying to push him away. Her legs were spread, and Johnson, trousers around ankles, lay between them. He looked up – and Diane hit him with the stone, hard. He slumped.

There was quiet.

There was silence.

“He’s not breathing,” whispered Susan.

“You’ve killed him,” whispered Abigail.

“It’s my fault. I’ll have to take the consequences.” Diane breathed heavily as she thought of the implications. Prison, not university. Disgrace. Shame for her parents.

“One for all, and all for one.” Susan and Abigail spoke simultaneously.

“No. I can’t let you,” began Diane.

“Let’s put the body in the Mires,” said Susan.

They looked at each other.

One for all and all for one.

They hauled the body out of the tent, tidied the interior and tied back the entrance, so it would look as though Johnson had walked out.

“Lucky there’s no blood,” said Susan.

They lifted the body as best they could, and carried it to the edge of the path.

“We’ll swing it like we were giving him the bumps,” declared Susan.

The body splashed into the water about five feet from the path and started to sink immediately. The girls watched. Was the corpse going to disappear entirely? It was submerged to the waist, then to the chest, then to the neck.

And then the eyes flickered open. A look of terror flashed across Johnson’s face, and the girls recoiled. A whispered “Help me” came from his mouth. Susan seized a stone and threw it at the distorted face. There was silence once again, and then bubbles as the head went under.

“Good riddance,” said Susan.

 

 

 

Friday Fictioneers – Playing Hard Ball

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz (the blue frog) on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

FF - Playing Hard Ball 180207

PHOTO PROMPT © JS Brand

Note

The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, or CICIG, is an international body charged with investigating and prosecuting serious crime in Guatemala. It is particularly concerned with rooting out corruption.

Playing Hard Ball

Lilian, immaculate in white blouse and cherry-red pencil skirt, sat waiting as Hilmar Benitez crossed the bar of the Hotel Henry Berrisford to join her.

She slid a business card across the table.

“’Personal Assistant to the Interior Minister’? I want the organ-grinder, not the monkey.”

“This is not a negotiation. Have you spoken to CICIG?”

“No. But without we reach an agreement, I certainly will.”

“That wouldn’t be wise.”

“I know enough to gaol the minister for life!”

Lilian rummaged in her handbag. There was a muffled report.

Hilmar slumped back, crimson trickling from the hole between his eyes.

Friday Fictioneers – Courtesy Car

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz (the blue frog) on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

FF - Courtesy Car 180124

PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

Courtesy Car

“When I get back from the garage you’ll tell me who your lover is, or I’ll kill you!” John yelled, as he slammed the door.

Panicking, Sue phoned Robert, owner of the garage. “Darling, he’s threatening to kill me!”

John drove up the motorway in a ‘courtesy’ car. It was filthy, and rattled.

“Courtesy car?” he exclaimed. “It’s the ’I don’t give a stuff’ car!”

No, it was worse than that. The ‘Blow you, go somewhere else’ car?

As the brakes failed, he had just time to realise it was the “I hate you and wish you were dead” car.

Friday Fictioneers – Mugabe’s Gone

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz (the blue frog) on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

FF - Mugabe's Gone 171122

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Genre: Historical fiction

Word count: 100

Mugabe’s Gone

The television booms in the background.

He’s gone. Mugabe’s gone.

I can’t believe it. My breath comes in gasps. My legs wobble as I stand.

I go to my little store room. There is the clock, exactly where I threw it at 11:15 on the evening of January 15th 1983. Shuddering, I feel for the photograph, hidden under some cloth.

Yes. Here it is. I hardly dare look.

My beautiful boy, my son, my Joshua.

“Don’t view the body,” they said. But how could I bury him without looking one last time?

Tears flood down my cheeks, my own Gukurahundi*.

      *       *       *

*According to Wikipedia, Gukurahundi is a Shona word which loosely translates as “the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains”. It was the term used by Robert Mugabe and his supporters for the purging of political opponents during the 1980s.

Trapped! (long version)

Recently, my Friday Fictioneers post “Trapped!” left the main character covered in blood and stuck on a mudbank in the middle of the river. Several readers asked what happened next – so I have extended “Trapped!” into a 2000 word short story. And, right at the very end, you will discover what happened to the man who was trapped!

Trapped - long version 171106

Trapped! – long version

All the teachers knew they had to keep Donald and Lee apart in class. Donald would whisper taunts at Lee, until Lee lost his temper and lashed out. Lee would steal Donald’s things and hide them, and then deny, face open and innocent, that he knew anything about them. Oh yes, those two boys were trouble alright.

As they passed through their teenage years, matters became worse. The two fights they had were only the most obvious symptom of their animosity. Lee broke Donald’s ankle with a sliding tackle on the football pitch. Donald knocked Lee out with a bouncer on the cricket pitch, concussing him and putting him in hospital.

Even so, as they matured they learned to conceal their dislike. The teacher who ran the Cadet Force claimed the credit. ‘Army discipline,’ he bragged, ‘make ‘em understand there’s something bigger and more important than both of ‘em.’ And perhaps he was right, for when Donald was made sergeant, Lee was an exemplary corporal under him.

When they both fell in love with the same girl, everybody expected the worst. Sue’s long, wavy hair was fair, with coppery tints, her eyes were large and cornflower blue. Her smile, warm, open and friendly, nevertheless hinted at secret delights. The two lads courted her assiduously.

Donald, whose parents were well-to-do, dressed smartly and took Sue to expensive restaurants. Heads turned as they entered; waiters were attentive; they were a power couple.

Lee, unable to use wealth as a lure, shared his knowledge of the countryside with Sue. They crouched by the river at dawn to see otters play, and Sue was dazzled by the brilliant blue flash of a kingfisher. One magical evening, they watched silently as a vixen raided a duck’s nest, swimming back and forth from island to shore carrying the eggs carefully in her mouth, bringing them one by one to her cubs.

By the time Donald went to university that autumn to study engineering, he had lost. Lee and Sue were engaged.

On the day of the wedding, Lee’s dad took him on one side.

“You’ll need a better wage than I can pay you now, lad. Had you thought you might need to change your job?”

Lee shook his head. “I’m sure we’ll manage. It wouldn’t seem right to leave you to cope with the business on your own.”

“It’s about time I retired, son. Do you fancy taking on the business yourself? I’ve money put by, and your mum and I would enjoy having some more time to ourselves. Anyway, you think about it.”

It wasn’t a difficult decision. Lee took over the business.

It was tough, trying to make enough profit from a small car repair business. At Sue’s suggestion they specialised in four wheel drive vehicles. As their reputation grew, customers came from miles around, but it still wasn’t enough.

He heard through the grapevine that Donald had started his own civil engineering business.

“Making a packet, he is,” said the man in the pub.

Next day, one of his customers, Mr Coombes, asked “I wonder if you could handle the sale of my car?”

“We don’t sell cars, just maintain them,” replied Lee.

“But you have contacts. I bet you know everybody within forty miles with a four-by-four. I’d make it worth your while.”

The documentation seemed in order, and Coombes was prepared to pay ten percent of the selling price. Lee shrugged. “Why not?” he thought. And it was easy. He sold the vehicle within hours. Money for old rope.

A few weeks later, Coombes told him that he’d recommended Lee to a friend with a car to sell.

“Same terms?” confirmed Lee, and they shook hands on the deal.

The Old Manor House came up for sale. Way out of Lee’s price range, of course, but he heard a rumour that Donald was making enquiries.

It was when Coombes brought him a third vehicle ‘from a friend’ that Lee felt misgivings.

“Look, are these things – well, ‘dodgy’ in any way?”

Coombes winked.

“Ask no questions and you’ll be told no lies. You’ve got the documents, and what they say matches the VPN and the licence plate.” Then the man stroked his chin, and said, “Obviously I have a source for these cars, and of course I’m making money out of the deal. Just to set your mind at rest, they’re repossessed vehicles. They fetch much more sold like this than at auction”

Lee looked him in the eye.

“I want fifteen percent. It’s not worth the risk for less.”

They made the deal. There were plenty of cars. Lee had a showroom added to his premises and took on a full-time salesman. After two years of this, Lee felt financially secure enough to take a holiday.

And then Donald showed up. He was looking over a nearly-new Range Rover.

“Good afternoon,” said Lee, baring his teeth in something that was almost a smile.

“You seem to be doing well. Congratulations.” Donald smirked like the small boy who had goaded Lee twenty years before.

“Thank you. From what I hear of your business, you hardly need to buy second-hand vehicles.”

“I need something for my personal assistant. This looks like a good deal. Is it kosher?”

“All my vehicles are meticulously inspected and maintained before I offer them. I’ve built my reputation on it.”

“Ah, but are they yours to sell? That’s the big question isn’t it?”

Lee nodded in the direction of his office.

“I’ll show you the documentation.”

“Documents can say anything, old lad. Tell me does the name ‘Coombes’ mean anything to you?”

Lee froze, then nodded once again towards his office.

This time, Donald walked with him over to the office. Lee closed the door.

“You see, I know Geoff Coombes rather well.” Donald looked down at his solid gold cufflinks, fiddled with them, admired them. “He’s told me some very interesting facts about the provenance of your cars. Facts that would interest the police rather a lot, I fancy.”

“I have acted in good faith in all my business dealings.”

“Oh, I very much doubt that. Acting in good faith would surely require you to show a little more interest in where your stock originates, wouldn’t you say? Besides, good faith or not, those cars are stolen and can be reclaimed by their original owners. How are you going to recompense the poor people who bought and paid you for them?”

“What do you want?” Lee ground out the words through gritted teeth.

“Well, for starters, five hundred pounds a month, in cash. And don’t be stupid enough to take it out of the bank; use cash that people have paid you – we don’t want regular transactions alerting the police.”

“Five hundred a month is nothing to you. Why are you even bothering?”

“It’s less than nothing to me – but not to you.” Donald’s smirk grew broader. “It will give me pleasure to think of you working hard in order to pay me something I don’t need. And I want something else as well. Something that you have, that should have been mine, should always have been mine. I want Sue.”

“She won’t go to you.”

“Oh, but she will, Lee, she will. She’s smart. When I tell her about the shaky foundation of your business, she’ll know exactly what her refusal would mean. Prison, probably, for you. Penury for her.”

He glanced around the office. “Nice furniture. What about a scotch from that handsome drinks cabinet? No ice, please.”

As Lee poured the drink, Donald continued, “It’s not as though I want Sue full-time. The Honorable Fiona Tremayne – whom I marry in the New Year – would object, I fancy.” He chuckled, slack-jawed. “No, all I require is that she makes herself available sexually when I require her.”

He drained his glass.

“You’ll pay me the first instalment next Monday, and you’ll bring me a letter from Sue confirming that she wants to make love with me.”

Lee’s face went white. He balanced on the balls of his feet, and his hands rose a little. The vileness of Donald’s proposal to degrade his wife, the woman he loved, choked him. He would die before he allowed that.

Abruptly, Donald said, “Enough of this. You know this area better than I do. Where and when can we meet discreetly?”

Lee thought for a few minutes.

“You know out on the Fernicross road, that old building on Convicts’ Creek?”

Donald nodded.

“Well, nobody goes there; we’d be completely safe. Make it 4:30 in the morning, and we’ll meet nothing on the roads.”

Donald drained his glass, and held it up to the light.

“Nice,” he observed, squinting at the crystal tumbler. “OK. Don’t be late.”

It was misty at 3 a.m. that Monday, as Lee drove down the lane on the bank opposite Convicts’ Creek. He parked out of sight of both road and river. The backpack he took from the trunk was nearly empty, and he slung it onto his shoulders. He left he suitcase containing a change of clothes where it was.

He had a small dinghy with an outboard moored nearby. He didn’t use the motor, though – too noisy; he rowed, with the rhythmic stroke of a man who was used to it, albeit a little tight with tension, a little hurried. The mist was patchy in the pre-dawn greyness. The tide was just starting to ebb, but he’d have no problems returning; there was a channel meandering from the creek that would take a dinghy like his at any state of the tide provided the helmsman was careful.

He ran the dinghy up beside the building, and glanced at his watch. 4 a.m. He’d best go cautiously, although Donald wasn’t the kind of man to enjoy the early morning. Lee grinned, mirthlessly.

No. There was nobody there. He settled himself close to the entrance, checked the plane tickets and passport in his backpack, and took out the knife. It was a wicked implement with a nine inch blade, one edge razor sharp, the other edge serrated. His breath came fast, in little spurts. He listened intently.

4:30 came – and went.

A blackbird started to sing.

Lee wanted to go and look at the road, look at the water, see if Donald was in sight. “Stay put,” he told himself. “Surprise is essential.” He tried breathing deeply and rhythmically. It helped a little.

A robin, and then a chaffinch joined the dawn chorus.

Five o’clock came. The light had grown pinkish; it was almost sunrise. “Damn Donald!” thought Lee. The tide ebbed fast.

Footsteps! Crunching on pebbles! Why hadn’t he heard the car approach?

The door swung open, and Donald’s smirking face confronted him.

Lee hesitated for a moment; only a moment, but he saw Donald’s eyes widen with shock as he spotted the knife. Rage reared inside him, like an out-of-control stallion. Snarling, he hurled himself forward, burying the blade in Donald’s abdomen, then pulling upwards with all his might, sawing with the serrated blade.

Blood gushed from the wound. Panic bloomed on Donald’s face, and then faded. He tried to speak, but only blood came from his mouth. Lee saw Donald’s eyes go dim, then roll up into his head. He pulled out the blade, looked with consternation at the damage it had done – and then ran.

It was pointless, Lee knew, but he paused to wash his hands and the knife before climbing into the dinghy.

He tugged at the cord to start the motor. Nothing. He swore, and tried again. A splutter, but that was it. He looked to the heavens, rosy with dawn, in supplication. He tried once more, and the motor started, misfiring at first, and then speeding as he wrenched the throttle wide open.

Lee’s heart stammered and raced like the outboard motor of the dinghy. The clean, dawn air was polluted by the stench of petrol and blood.

All he needed to do now was get back to the car, wash, change clothes, and drive to the airport.

There was a thud, and the boat stopped.

Hell! He was trapped by the falling tide!

*       *       *       *

Sue reported Lee missing that evening. The longer he was absent, the more distraught she became.

Donald’s colleagues reported him missing a couple of days later. Police found someone who’d seen his car near Convicts’ Creek, and it didn’t take them long to find the body.

They found the bloodstained dinghy, too, and traced it to Lee. They discovered his car on the far bank, with the suitcase.

The police dragged the river, but without much hope; the estuary’s mudbanks were notorious for being quicksand. They found nothing.

At Donald’s inquest, the coroner recorded a verdict of ‘Murder – by person or persons unknown’.

And that was that.

Sue sold the business, and the house, and lodged with Lee’s parents.

Twelve months later, she transferred all her money to a bank in Panama, and flew there discreetly.

Waiting for her at Tocumen Airport was a familiar figure.

“My dear, sweet love, how I’ve missed you!” sighed Lee, as he kissed her. “Welcome to our new life!”

 

Friday Fictioneers – Trapped!

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz (the blue frog) on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

FF - Sunset - 171025

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

Trapped!

Lee’s heart stammered and raced like the outboard motor of the dinghy carrying him to safety. The clean, dawn air was polluted by the stench of petrol and blood.

He’d almost given up. Donald had been late. Then the first greyness had lightened the eastern sky, and the man’s smirking face confronted him. The light had made it harder; it made it personal; but Lee had driven home the knife, twisting it savagely. Donald had struggled, retching out his life through clenched teeth.

There was a thud, and the boat stopped.

Hell! He was trapped by the falling tide!

Friday Fictioneers – Revenge

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz (the blue frog) on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

FF - Revenge 171004

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

Genre: Crime

Word count: 99

Revenge

The last ferry of the day, with its single, drunk, passenger, shuddered away from the Stag Hotel jetty.

The steward, Jamie, hoovered the saloon.

Laurence Glanville, the owner of the Stag Hotel, wasn’t going to be enjoying Catriona any more, gloated Jamie, as he took a small, heavy package from his locker. He hastily concealed it as the mate approached.

He glared at the drunk.

“Dinna puke on ma floor, laddie!”

The mate nodded and went to the wheelhouse.

Swiftly Jamie dropped the package into thirty fathoms of water.

On the mainland, flashing blue lights hurtled towards the port.

Payment in full

Gambling - 170806

Payment in full

Joe Caradonna was done, cleaned out. He scooped his jacket off the back of the chair and slouched away from the table towards the bar. Tomorrow he would have to face the reality of his $250,000 debt; for now, he would drink.

“Cash only, Mr Caradonna,” the barman told him.

He slumped into a chair near the bar. He’d have to sell his house and move back to a rented apartment. The kids weren’t going to like that. All things considered, it would be easier just to put a bullet through his brain, and let his wife collect on the insurance.

A smartly dressed man beckoned the barman, slipped a $100 bill to him.

“Bourbon, isn’t it, Mr Caradonna?”

Joe grunted. The barman poured two doubles, handed one to the stranger, the other to Joe.

“I’m Harry, by the way. Can we talk?”

They moved to a secluded booth. Nobody else was near.

“Quite a mountain to climb, $250,000. I guess you could use a little help.”

Joe looked up sharply. Harry laughed gently.

“Don’t worry, Joe. I’m not here to break your legs.”

Joe winced.

“No, I have a proposition for you. You work for Winston Davies, the architects, don’t you?”

Joe stared at Harry silently.

“I need to get into their building, in, shall we say, a clandestine fashion.”

He raised a hand to silence Joe’s immediate objection. “Hear me out, won’t you?

Winston Davies have swindled me; stolen my intellectual property. Help me, and you’ll be helping to right an injustice.

All I need from you is to know where certain building plans are filed, and the detailed security arrangements that protect the office. When I have recovered my property, I will give you a quarter million, cash, untraceable.”

Joe dropped his eyes before Harry’s compelling gaze.

By the time Joe and Harry left the building, Harry had exactly what he needed and Joe had a manilla envelope containing $10,000; a gesture of good faith, Harry called it. Joe called it a lifeline. What a fool he’d been with the gambling! He stood more upright and walked more confidently than he had done for months.

The following night, a nondescript figure walked up to the office of Winston Davies. He unlocked the door with a key and punched in Joe Caradonna’s six digit pass code. The door opened smoothly and he went in, locking it carefully behind him. Once at the back of the atrium, in the shadows, he slipped on a face mask, and then took the elevator to the fifth floor.

The files were where Joe had said they would be. The intruder carefully photographed them, checked to make sure he’d found them all, tidied up, and locked the cabinet again. He went back to the ground floor, took off the face mask, and left. Nobody would know that the office had been burgled. Harry would be pleased with that.

Harry was indeed pleased. He gave the burglar $10,000 and a bonus of $5,000. At $15,000 dollars, the detailed plans of the Monod Institute were a snip. His patient research was paying off. He now had a map that would show him a way into one of the most secret and secure places in the world, the biological weapons facility in Yeruham, Israel.

A night later, Joe waited until his wife was asleep before slipping out of the house. The address he had been given was in a dirty, ill-lit street. He realized suddenly that it was behind a club where he had played some high stakes poker. That had been in the days when he won more than he lost. He felt a flicker of excitement. Maybe at last his luck had changed, and those days of triumph would come again!

He was early. He glanced up and down the street. No-one. He checked the entrance against the description he’d been given. It matched. The door was unlocked and he walked in. The room behind was empty. Joe looked for a light, but there was no bulb in the fitting.

The door to the street opened again. Confident, smiling, Harry came in. He reached into his breast pocket.

“Here’s your payment, Joe.”

His hand swept out, concealing the gun until the last second. He jammed the muzzle under Joe’s throat. Joe had just enough time to feel the cold metal and half raise his arms as Harry squeezed the trigger, and then he slumped to he ground.

Harry pressed the gun into each of Joe’s hands in turn, and then placed it into his right hand as though he’d killed himself. The only other prints on the gun were those of the salesman who’d sold Harry the gun that afternoon. Harry put the receipt into Joe’s wallet. That should be enough to convince the police, hard-pressed as they were for resources. Open and shut case.

Harry said a quick prayer for the dead man; and left.