Private Eye

You’re a private investigator who is down on his or her luck and hasn’t had a client in months. Suddenly the phone rings. It’s a kid. The kid proposes a silly case to you. Normally you wouldn’t take such a ridiculous job (from a kid, no less), but you need the work, so you accept. But what you uncover during the investigation is a much, much bigger problem than the kid (and you) ever expected.

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167 thoughts on “Private Eye

  1. Gizmo

    A word of advice: if you want to become a PI for a living, don’t. It is arguably the worst profession ever. The pay sucks, the clients suck worse, and my secretary regularly attempts to seduce me so she can sue and win my life savings in a sexual assault case.
    Then this call came in. Some little kid – Alfendi, his name was – had lost his pet cat when the thing chased after a rat. He hasn’t seen his cat for a few hours, and some lady handed him a card and said to call the number. I really didn’t want to help some kid find his lost kitty-cat, but when you haven’t had a client for months… Well, you’ll do anything when you’re desperate. Even charge a kid ten bucks an hour in the poorest suburb of New York. And drag him halfway across the city to make $50.
    So I told Kathy, my almost-hooker secretary, that I was going out, and she latched on and shoved her double-D girls in my face.
    “Oh, c’mon, Toby,” she said, smiling. “Stay in. Have some fun with me.”
    “Can’t. Kid lost his cat,” I replied, then left, purposefully shutting the door. I couldn’t disappoint the kid. Even if it would be nice to bang the secretary.
    So I met the kid on the corner of Glory Street and Havana Street, and he shook my hand like a seasoned adult. “Mr. Bernstein. I’m Alfendi.”
    To be honest, with his rusty hair and blue eyes, he looked innocent. But beneath that I could see something lurking.
    “Let’s get moving, kid. What’s your cat look like?”
    “Actually, that was a ploy to get you out of your office. There’s something in the sewers and I want you to figure out what.”
    I raised my eyebrows at the shrimp. “Really? Call the cops, kid. I’m a PI, not a sewer maintenance man.”
    “I’ll pay you $1,000 dollars cash and get you a pet tortoise. They’re surprisingly good pets.”
    That got my attention. “Fine, kid. But,” I grabbed his collar, “You’re going with me!”
    What we found down there that day haunted me to the point that I called the cops. I called the city sewer company to discuss sealing manholes in that neighborhood. I even called a real estate company to discuss moving my office.
    Because it wasn’t some mangy sewer rat the size of my leg, or a giant gator escaped from the zoo.
    No.
    It was a bunch of were-rats. An entire colony – probably hundreds, maybe thousands.
    And they tried to kill us that day.

  2. Rowyn

    How to get to Sesame Street

    I was two days past an almighty bender and I still had the headache from hell when the kid walked in. She had to be desperate to turn to a down-on-his-luck gumshoe like me. And Becky was just precocious enough to point out that the gumshoe reference might be why business was slow. She was also curious to know why I was narrating the scene like I’m doing right now. And I said “hey kid, I’m just making sure I have the facts straight.” She seemed to buy it. So she laid it all out for me, the problem, the suspect, and exactly what she needed me to do. The job was ridiculous. I opened my mouth to say “no can do kiddo” but somehow I couldn’t get the words out. Maybe it was the pigtails or maybe it was the puppy dog eyes but I couldn’t turn her away. Besides, what if she was being stalked by the Cookie Monster? She could be in serious danger. Now I’m pretty hard-boiled so I couldn’t take the job pro bono. You start taking on charity cases and pretty soon that’s all you’ll be – a charity case. So I hung tough; told her I’d take the job for a dozen packets of Girl Scout cookies.
    The kid went back to school and I headed out to find me a Cookie Monster. I knew just where to look, a bakery on 36th Street that boasted the best cookies in town. Sure enough at 2:15pm in walks a big fuzzy blue guy and I knew I had my man. He walked up to the counter and said “Coooooookies! Cookies! Cookies! Cookies!” This guy really knew how to appreciate a biscuit. I walked up to him, grabbed his elbow and had a word in his shell-like (or more accurately … the side of his head … the guy seemed to be missing his ears but that was a case for another day).
    “I hear you like little girls,” I said (though I didn’t mean it to come out quite so skeevy).
    “No. Me like cookies.”
    “Then why’ve you been harassing Becky?”
    “Who Becky? Becky have cookies? Me love cookies.”
    “Well sure. She’s selling those Girl Scout biscuits. I like the peanut butter patties myself – they’re awesome.” It suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t specified that in our contract. What if Becky paid me in Thin Mints instead? I hate mint. I left the suspect munching on cookies and went outside to call the kid. She was still in school and her phone was off so I left her a message to call me urgent. Whilst I was gone the Cookie Monster gave me the slip. I wasn’t too worried though. How hard could he be to track?
    Turns out Cookie Monsters are surprisingly stealthy. After a couple of hours of fruitless searching I gave up and went back to the office. I’d just walked in the door when the kid called me back. She was terrified; said she came home from school to find a new problem – a vampire problem. I rushed over straight away. She’d trapped the thing in a hallway closet. With shaking hands I unholstered my taser, threw open the door and drive-stunned Count von Count. After the shock had worn off he spoke.
    “One, one terrible shock. Ah ah ah.”
    I knew what he was trying to do, so I tased him again.
    “Two, two terrible shocks. Ah ah ah.”
    I was going to tase him a third time but Becky grabbed my arm.
    “Why is he doing that?” she asked.
    “I’m not sure kiddo, maybe he’s OCD.”
    “He doesn’t look scary now. I don’t think you should tase him any more.”
    I looked at the felt vampire, “How ’bout it Count? You gonna come quiet?”
    “But ve haven’t reached ze number of ze day.”
    “Which is?”
    “Seven.”
    “You want me to stun you seven more times?”
    “No. That vould be nine – you already stunned me tvice. You need to stun me five more times.”
    This guy really was OCD.
    “You know Count, I could have sworn today’s number was two.”
    “That’s right,” said Becky, “Sesame Street was on earlier and it was two.”
    The Count looked hopeful. “Really? Then vere’s the confetti and balloons.”
    “We … forgot them.”
    “I’ve got some milk and cookies though.” Becky was trying to help but it was the wrong thing to say. The front door slammed open.
    “Did somebody say cookies?” The biscuit-obsessed beast was back and this time he’d brought friends.
    “I’d like a cookie too please,” said Elmo. He was already sitting at the kitchen table with a plate and a hopeful expression on his fuzzy red face.
    “Me too please.” This from Big Bird who was craning her head in through the kitchen window.
    A voice spoke up from the trash can under the kitchen counter. “Hey, how come I didn’t get an invite. Well fine; I don’t want your stupid cookies anyway. I bet they’re all yummy and tasty – yuck! But can I at least get a glass of sour milk?”
    “Sorry Oscar, we only have fresh milk. But hey, we have brussel sprouts – they’re pretty yucky,” said Becky.
    “Now you’re talking. Give me the sprouts. And then … GET LOST!”
    “That’s not very nice,” said Elmo.
    “Nice? I’m a grouch. I don’t do nice.”
    The hairs stood up on the back of my neck. I knew exactly what was going on here. Sure, it was possible that Becky was being stalked by the entire gang from Sesame Street; but it seemed much more likely that I was suffering a bad case of the DTs. It had been two days since my last drink. So the case was solved but that was cold comfort to me. Clearly I was never gonna get paid my peanut butter patties. And with that thought I passed out.

    1. lionetravail

      Matter
      universal, durable
      convincing, constituting, demarcating
      embraceable, traceable, erasable, irreplaceable
      perplexing, effacing, abnegating
      rare, ephemeral
      Anti-matter

      1. lionetravail

        Matter
        universal, durable
        convincing, constituting, demarcating
        embraceable, traceable, erasable, irreplaceable
        perplexing, effacing, abnegating
        rare, ephemeral
        Anti-matter

        1. lionetravail

                                  Matter
                         universal, durable 
                convincing, constituting, demarcating
           embraceable, traceable, erasable, irreplaceable
                    perplexing, effacing, abnegating 
                             rare, ephemeral 
                               Anti-matter 

          1. lionetravail

                                        Matter
                               universal, durable 
                      convincing, constituting, demarcating
             embraceable, traceable, erasable, irreplaceable
                         perplexing, effacing, abnegating 
                                     rare, ephemeral 
                                        Anti-matter 

          2. lionetravail

                                          Matter
                                   universal, durable 
                    convincing, constituting, demarcating
             embraceable, traceable, erasable, irreplaceable
                         perplexing, effacing, abnegating 
                                      rare, ephemeral 
                                          Anti-matter 

          3. lionetravail

                                          Matter
                                   universal, durable 
                    convincing, constituting, demarcating
             embraceable, traceable, erasable, irreplaceable
                         perplexing, effacing, abnegating 
                                    rare, ephemeral 
                                        Anti-matter 

  3. lyngralee

    It’s a dark and stormy night, and I’m distracted by thoughts of the blonde bombshell I bought drinks for at the corner saloon yesterday. I hear the phone ringing, and think it might be her. It’s my wife, reminding me to bring a quart of milk, and also reminding me it’s not dark, not stormy, and there never was, nor ever will there be, any bombshell but her. Also, no one uses the word saloon anymore.

    I look around my dingy office, and wonder what the hell I’m doing. My phone rings again, and I suppose my shopping list is about to expand to something longer than my list of clients. But it’s some snot-nosed kid from the local middle school looking to hire a ‘gumshoe’, as he puts it. His snarky attitude grabs my attention, and holds it, like that blonde bombshell holds my…”You can’t afford me, kid.”

    “Sure I can,” he says with a man’s confidence, as he explains the case he has for me.

    While deciding between skim, 1%, 2%, and whole at the market, I decide to take his case. It sounds intriguing, and somebody has to bring home the bacon. I forget about the milk, and start looking for the bacon aisle.

    So, as the fanciest investigator in history would say, I say, “The game is afoot.” I explain to the kid who Sherlock Holmes is.

    “Oh, Robert Downey, Jr., cool.”

    “Well, I prefer that Cumberbatch guy, but whatever.”

    So we agree to meet at high noon, a week from Saturday. I have no ‘high noon’ joke for him, because I hate westerns.

    I spend the week on the job, digging deep and taking names. Come Saturday, I hoof it to Joe’s Diner, to meet the kid, and enjoy the swill they call coffee. He flops into the booth and slams his palms on the table.

    “You first,” he grins.

    “Listen and learn,” I retort. “You’re in the eighth grade at Lincoln Middle school, play soccer and the saxophone. You tried basketball, but realized it’s more fun to go right home on Tuesdays and try your mother’s patience. You like mac and cheese, but only the kind with the powdered cheese. You’ve got straight A’s except for Creative Writing, because you think that’s for girls.”

    “Okay. You walk with a limp because you wear a gel insole in your right shoe for shin splints from years as a beat cop. You like Himalayan cats. Your wife makes beef stew with your mom’s old recipe. You keep cookies hidden in your bottom desk drawer, because your wife says to lose ten pounds. You wish she was still blonde.”

    So, the kid doesn’t owe me a dime, and he’s got the goods for his term paper about ‘quid pro quo’.

    But, the hard cold facts are tough to ignore, especially to a seasoned P.I., like me. It’s time to hang up the trench coat for good, and go home and eat beef stew with my wife. Finally.

  4. JRSimmang

    THE HARKENING

    It’s been so long since I’ve held the fragile, righteous hand of a child. My sons are in college now, and the only time I hold their hands is when they shake them at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    Clare’s grip was crushing for a 2nd grader. And, as she pulled me along to the field behind the courthouse, I couldn’t help but wonder how we lose our tenacity for life, for adventure, how we let our abandon give way to ambition.

    “There it is,” she stopped suddenly, let go of my hand, and pointed to a log on the ground.

    I was suddenly regretting my decision to allow children in my office.

    “That’s where I saw the man.”

    “You’re sure.”

    She looked up at me and nodded.

    “Positive.”

    She nodded again.

    I covered my eyes against the sun and scanned the horizon. Nothing in sight but the courthouse and a few other government buildings. I walked over to the log and kicked it. It thumped and wiggled clear of a hole.

    A hole.

    A man-sized hole.

    “What the?” I looked back at Clare, who was covering her mouth and visibly shaking. I strode back to her, knelt down in front of her, and pulled her close. “You’re sure it was him?”

    “Yes sir,” she whispered. “He was dressed in a black robe like you said he was, and he had a hood like you said he did, and black wings were on his back like you said they would be.” She started sobbing into my shoulder. I clutched her tightly and felt her tremble.

    “Thank you for getting me.”

    I knew Khalhem would return, I just hoped it wouldn’t have been in my lifetime.

    “Will he kill us?”

    “No,” I said, but I lied. She and I were now inextricably linked, more than the dreams we have shared for the past eighteen months, more than the realities that shifted underneath us, more than her mother. More than I.

    I stood up and reached out for her hand, finding comfort now in her grip. We were standing on the outskirts of Revelation, and I had to find my missing spirit.

    -JR Simmang

    1. Reaper

      That’s some intense and very interesting writing. Love how you threw me into the deep end but didn’t leave anything out. I would definitely read the more that this implies.

  5. ReathaThomasOakley

    Don’t know if I’ll have a chance to come back to comment individually before the prompt changes, but there is some fantastic writing this week. I especially enjoyed the noirish ones! Great work, everyone.

  6. Critique

    It was obvious from crunching the numbers that my financial pool had become a dry gulch. I hadn’t seen a client in weeks and soon I would have to give up my lease on the tiny office space.

    Startled when my dormant phone rang I picked it up. “Hello. Trisha Pringal Private Investigator.”

    A raspy voice responded. “Can you help me?”

    “Who am I talking to?” My heart sank at the childish voice.

    “Well, I’d rather not say until you hear me out.” The caller sneezed three times.

    I held the phone away from my ear then said. “Fair enough. What’s on your mind?”

    “I’d like you to find out who’s trying to…” Another loud sneeze. “Kill me.”

    “What makes you think someone is trying to kill you?” My interest was piqued.

    A hoarse whisper said. “My cellphone’s probably bugged. Could we meet? I’m on my lunch recess.”

    “I need to know your name and your age before I agree to anything.” I said.

    “Madelyn Stafford. I’ll be nine next week. Meet me in the southwest corner of the playground at Kindersley Elementary School.” She hung up.

    Later, feeling conspicuous, I stood beside the fenced playground scanning the myriad faces of the children shrieking in joyful play until someone sneezed to my right.

    A pint-sized girl with blond pigtails stood alone, her blue eyes peering at me over a wad of soggy tissues held to her nose .

    “Madelyn? I’m Trisha Pringal.”

    Madelyn said. “I found you on a website and don’t worry I can pay you. I have a lot of change.”

    “Madelyn does your teacher know you’re doing this?” I stuck my hands in my jacket pockets.

    She shook her head. “Mr. Easton doesn’t want us using our cellphones.”

    “You better tell me what’s going on.” I said.

    “Someone’s putting flowers on my desk, hiding them in my jacket pockets and even in my backpack.” Her forehead creased into a worried frown. “I have allergies. That’s why I know someone is trying to kill me.”

    Madelyn agreed to accompany me into the school.

    The receptionist summoned Mr. Easton from the teacher’s lounge. He was tall and had a friendly face. I noticed his ring-less fingers.

    “What’s up Madelyn?” He asked after we introduced ourselves.

    With a little coaching Madelyn retold her story about the flowers, her allergic reaction and the fear someone was trying to kill her.

    The recess bell shrilled and the halls flooded with noisy children. Mr. Easton led us inside his classroom and closed the door.

    “Madelyn, I’ll make sure you won’t get any more flowers.” He said gently. “Someone was just trying to be a friend and they made a mistake. They didn’t know you had allergies okay?” She nodded slowly.

    Mr. Easton explained to me quietly- his interested gaze never leaving my face – the flowers were from Lance, a shy boy in class who was smitten with Madelyn. We chatted easily as the classroom filled with students. As I prepared to leave Mr. Easton blushed and shyly asked if I’d like to go out to dinner with him. I said yes.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Sweet and gentle story and told with laid-back skill that holds your reader through the story. Hope at the end shows a chance for two earnest souls that care about our children. Nicely presented with a light touch, we so need in our lives. Good job, Critique.

  7. harry123

    I want to say that guys my humble request is please share with us more in future… I really appreciate your all post. Please keep it up guys… Get gym mats & rubber flooring from rubberflooringsupplier.co.uk

  8. pauli101

    The phone wouldn’t stop ringing. On and on it reechoed. I couldn’t get to it on the first set of giggles due to managing a call from Mother Nature.

    Mother Nature was slow this morning like business has been in months. Shitty, too.

    The phone stopped; and so did my duty with relief.

    Walking back into the office the phone started its yelling, “Pick me up, it is a fatal message, a job that needs solved.” In my head, the phone sound like the movie, “The Fly, starring Vincent Price” “Help me. Help me.”

    I was in dire straits, my bank account was running on empty like my car running on fumes, and I could only eat so much rice and beans. I picked up the phone, “Hello, this is P.I. O’Hara, can I help you?”

    “Hi, I’m Jimmy. Jimmy Michaels. My dog, Minnie, disappeared last night. I need your help in finding her.”

    “Look, kid, I’m a people finder, not pets. Thanks for calling.” Squawked O’Hara into the receiver.

    As O’Hara started to hang up the phone, he heard a trail of sobbing, and felt a tug at his heart. Again, at the phone receiver. “Okay. Jimmy. Stop being a sissy. Talk me your story.”

    Jimmy explained for an hour of Minnie’s disappearance. O’Hara was getting excited. “Okay, I normally wouldn’t take a case like this one, but it sounds intriguing; and from a kid no less, but you got me hooked.”

    Apparently, Jimmy’s family had money. Money talks. I took the case and did my diligences as I would any assignment.

    Come to find that Minnie was taken by the butler. A trusting servant of forty years. But, Why? I wondered.

    I decided to go undercover with permission from Jimmy’s patients, posing as a gardener.

    On the first day, I learned that the other worker of the household took break at ten o’clock for coffee. So, I joined in and introduced myself as Bob, the garden. Alphonso’s replacement until he came back from Holiday.

    During the chat, I got the chance to size up the butler, Duffy. Quirky! And, he didn’t seem to be a dog lover. I decided to take him out to the bar and have a beer to get to know him better.

    “Hey, Duffy, you, me, at Ray’s for a beer?” I inquire.

    “Sure, after work, about seven.” Replied Duffy.

    At the bar, and six beers later; I learned the story. Duffy didn’t like dogs. Yeah! He took Minnie because he caught Alphonso burying Minnie in the garden.

    Alphonso wanted the family to think the dog run away, but really he had a history of killing pets.

    Though Duffy did not like dogs, he couldn’t stand pet serial killers.

    Duffy did the next thing.

    Alphonso isn’t on Holiday.

    Duffy killed him.

    Alphonso, buried in Minnie’s place in the garden.

    Minnie at the veterinarian’s hospital healing.

    Well, Duffy is in jail, and the Michaels is helping him.

    Me! Steak and potatoes.

    1. Reaper

      This got a little harder to follow at the end but it was an interesting story. Other than some POV shifts in the beginning and the language needing some cleaning up, or removing the clean and making it a bullet point story which would work for this as well it was a good story.

  9. Dana Cariola

    “I can remember a time when my calender was full. I actually had to turn new clients away, because I couldn’t keep up with the demands of the existing ones. Now, look at me! Sharpening pencils to a razor’s edge, just so they would stick into the drop ceiling – Like nails into a coffin. My coffin. I don’t why I even bother? I mean, look at this place! The floors are littered with paper. All of them, bills! I should just call it quits and take up some job in Oregon. At least there, someone would be expecting me to show up for work. Not like here, Nobody knows or even cares, that I still show up!” Harold laughed out loud to himself, then starred at the phone sitting onto of an old telephone directory book of Miami. “Ring! God dam it!” he yelled at it laughing. Then reached into the bottom drawer, and pulled out a bottle of Malt Scotch Whiskey, and forcefully placed it in front of him, wondering whether or not it was too early to sink one on. “Hell, I’d even hire myself out, as a bodyguard for a street hooker, If only she’d just call!” he declared aloud, shaking his hands over head in frustration. Nothing. Nothing happened. Harold fumbled with the sealed aluminum bottle cap, as his moist hands were unable to get a firm grip on the cap. “Come on…come on…little more..Got it!” he shouted, gleefully. And a feeling of satisfaction washed over him, replacing his gloomy outlook.

    “I was saving this for something special.” Looking at the now open bottle of aged Scotch, wondering whether of not, he should have opened it, at all? The air-conditioning unit blew out warm air, as the plastic strip attached to the vent, fluttered in it’s air flow. Harold watched it for a few seconds, as he considered his real reason for not opening up the expensive drink, and tucking it safely away in his desk drawer. As soon as the first few measures of the liquid began filling his glass, the phone rang. The unexpected, but welcoming sound startled him. As he fumbled to reach over his desk to take the call, he’d knocked over the glass and all of it’s contents onto his disorganized desk. Still in disbelief, he cleared his throat, and answered the phone.
    “Harold Graner, speaking. Can I help you?” he asked, nervously. “Mr. Graner?” the voice on the phone asked.
    “Yeah, This is Harold Graner. How can I help you? he politely replied back.
    “Ahh, I found your number on the wall. Down at the Cafe’ on Stanton Street. The owner said your there everyday for coffee, in the morning.” the small voice continued. “I’d like to talk to you. Is today alright?” he asked.
    “Well? Yeah, I guess I could fit you in?” Harold replied. “Ahh, that’s swell.” the tiny voiced responded.
    “For the record, I don’t take on any infidelity cases, any longer.” he said. “Infidelity? What’s infidelity, Sir?” the voice asked. “Your kidding! Right?” Harold was now convinced that the call was a prank.
    “Who put you up to this? Was it a man named, Ryan.” he drilled the young boy
    “No! I’m dead serious. No one put me up to anything! I swear! Can I see you today?” he pleaded.
    “Listen kid, I’d really don’t think I can help you! What I do costs money…a lot of money!” Harold tried to reason with the young man.
    “I can pay! Really!” he again, pleaded for Harold to see him.
    “I charge $800.00 a day, kid! Plus, expenses. Where you gonna get that kinda cash?”
    “Done!” the young man agreed.
    “What’s this about? I need some background before I can commit to any job.” Harold firmly stated.
    “My dog. He’s been kidnapped.” the boy said, earnestly.
    “Your what? Did you just say, “your dog’s been kidnapped?” he asked, as he choked back a quick laugh. Harold couldn’t believe his own ears. And, now that he’s hit rock bottom, he may have to agree to be hired on as one of the Hardy boys.
    “Yes, I did say, “My dog, Mr. Graner. So, When can I see you today?”
    “Are you close to Stanton Street kid? he asked.
    “I’m on the pay phone, inside of the Cafe.” he replied.
    Harold pulled down the aluminum blade on the blinds and peered down at the street. Stanton Street was just outside of his office. And, the cafe. Just across the street.
    “Ok, kid. I’m in the office now. Cross the street and go through the red double doors. I’m on the second floor. Follow the sign to my office. I’ll be waiting for you.” he instructed the lad, then hung- up the line.
    Harold shook his head in disbelief over the thought of his newest client’s request for hire. He bent down and picked up the unwashed glass from the floor, and poured himself a strong measure of Scotch, waiting for his client to arrive.

    The office door creaked open, slowly, and a small figure stepped inside of the room. “Mr. Graner? …You in here?” he called out to Harold. “Back here!” he shouted back to him. The tiny fellow walked to the back room, stepping over discarded boxes of empty storage files, along with other debris lying around. The boy walked through the door frame and entered the room.
    “You really should hire a service, Mr. Graner? I could recommend someone to you.” the brazen young boy offered. Harold looked up from his downward glance, at the boy, in astonishment.
    “I’ll take that under advisement. Now, What can I do for you? he asked.
    “Well, it’s like I said before. Someone has stolen my dog, Xavier.” he looked at Harold. “Right…Right, your dog!” he said, smiling back at the kid.
    “Have a seat, please. Mr.?” Harold stopped in mid-sentence, asking the boy’s name. “Arthur Kregling, Sir.” he stated proudly, extending his hand out to Harold.
    “Well, Mr. Kregling…What can you tell me about your missing dog?”
    “Here, take a look at this ransom note.” he said, “It’s all there.”
    Harold leaned over and took the note from the boy’s hand.
    “Ten Thousand dollars for the safe return of your dog. Put the money in the red trash can at Bronston Cemetery, next to the maintenance building. Don’t even think about calling the cops. If you do, the dog get buried in it.” Harold read the note, looking for any clue as to why someone would pick the cemetery as a drop-off location.
    “Let me ask you something? Did you ever walk your dog anywhere near this cemetery?” he probed the boy for a clue.
    “Not me. The dog walker would cut through the graveyard to get to our backyard.” Arthur stated.
    “Well, kid. I have a theory. Wanna hear it?
    “Why, of course. Let’s hear it!” he grinned.
    “It’s the dog walker! He stole your dog!” Harold confidently explained.
    “How? How did you know just by reading that ransom letter?” Arthur pressed for an answer.
    “The red trash can! That’s the give away.”
    “So, now what do I do, Mr. Graner?” he asked.
    “Well, I think I just may have solved your case. But, were gonna need proof! Do you happen to know where this person lives?”
    “Yeah, I know exactly where she lives! Can you come with me, Mr. Graner?”
    “I hate to ask this kid. But, you need to pay me, like we agreed. Only, you don’t have to give me $800.00. Just give me half, and we’ll call it even. Do you even have that kid of money, Arthur?”
    “Right here in my pocket.” he stated. Then, he pulled out a stack of $100.00 bills.
    “Geeze, Kid! You shouldn’t be carrying around so much money! Where you’d get that, anyway?” Harold queried.
    “My father owns an excavation company. Maybe you’d heard of it? Wrights and Triton?”
    “That’s your father? Have I heard of him? He’s only the biggest company in Southern Florida!”
    “Alright, then! Let’s go get your dog back!” Harold eagerly took the payment.

    The two of them took off on foot towards the dog walker’s house, just a few blocks away from the cemetery. When they arrived at the house, Harold spotted an unmarked car parked across the street from the house. Harold reached his hand out, and stopped the boy, mid-stride.
    “Wait! Somethings not right here? Better stay here.” he ordered. Then walked over towards the unmarked vehicle, and tapped on the window. Arthur could see Harold talking to the detective. He was nodding his head, a lot. Then he walked back towards the young man.
    “Listen, I found out why they’re watching the dog walker’s home. And, We’re just gonna leave it up to these guys to get your dog back.” he said, in a defeated tone. “Here’s your money back, Kid. Come on’ Let’s go.” Arthur commanded.
    “What?.. No!… Why? Arthur demanded an answer.
    “The cops know all about this girl’s scheme. They know all about her scheme. Your dog’s safe. The police know where all these dogs are being kept. You’ll get him back, Kid. I swear!”

    The End

    1. Reaper

      This has a Great Brain feel to it which is interesting. That structure could use a little clean up as there are paragraphs that seem like they should be broken up. Otherwise the story is good though I’m lost by the ending. Why would a hard up detective return money when the job is done? I think it’s mostly that I just want to know what nefarious plot this girl is up to with more than one dog.

  10. Craig the Editor

    Red Herrings

    It was half past three on a Friday afternoon and so far I was drawing clients like bees to barbells which is to say not at all. This was the third month in a row like this and it was becoming clear that my life long dream of being a P.I was headed to the unemployment office. I was about to close up shop when I heard a soft tapping on my office door.

    “Come on in, there’s nothing left to steal.”

    The door swung slowly open and there was a pudgy kid, ten to twelve years old, wearing thick glasses. The kind that said, “Please beat me up and take my lunch money.” He gave the room the once over and looked directly at me.

    “I wasn’t going to steal anything. And if I was, I wouldn’t have knocked. Besides what is there to steal?”

    “Good point. I am, currently, in an economic down turn but hopefully things will improve now that you are here. Let me guess, you are secretly we’d to one of the Kardashians but you fear she may be unfaithful and you want me to tail her and get the goods on her.”

    “Wow, you have the sort of people skills one usually finds in zombies. No you moron I am not married to any of the Kardashians. I have a real case and I have real money. Will you help me or not?

    I hated to admit it but the kid was right,. I was in no position to refuse a client, especially a paying one.

    “Okay we eliminated the cheating spouse so I guess that leaves us with a missing dog or a missing stamp collections or missing Star Warr collectibles.”

    “Are you really the detective or just a decoy?” The kid looked around as if someone else would pop out from under the desk.”I am serious about this. I am looking for a pair of Red Herrings. They belonged to my father. It is of the utmost importance that I get them back. I have the money.”

    He showed me a wad of cash that would have choked a race horse. Suddenly he had my attention.

    “Okay you have my undivided attention. You must have the only paper route in this city. Now in my line of work I usually avoid red herrings but I suspect this is a different kind of red herring.”

    “Paper route? Nobody reads newspapers these days. I’ve got a a couple of apps out there. And as for what a Red Herring is, it’s the premier brand of shoe for curling.”

    “Curling? Isn’t that the sport where they slide stones across the ice? They have special shoes for that sort of thing?”

    “Yes, of course they do. Every sport has special shoes. For curling it’s the Red Herring brand, like Air Jordan is for basketball. The point is that I need to find this particular pair as soon as possible.”

    “And why all the rush? Couldn’t you just go out and buy a new pair? You’ve certainly got the cash for it.

    “It’s not that simple…..Thess are not ordinary curling shoes. When my father found out they were missing he totally lost it. The truth is they were made to look like Red Herrings but in fact they were made from some old shoes my grandmother had.”

    “And your grandmother is…..?”

    “Grandma Gale…..she lives in Kansas.”

  11. pinkbamboo

    I’m back for this one!

    **********************

    “Don’t hang up .. don’t hang up” I mumbled as I ran across the room. I need this call but seriously, the phone has to ring when my hands are covered with oil fixing the darn car.

    “Hello, Kathy’s PI here” I used my pinky to turn on the speaker phone.

    “Hi Kathy. I’m June. I need your help” it was a little girl.

    “Hi June, how can I help you?” maybe.. maybe there might be hope.

    “My brother’s racing car is missing. Can you help us find it?” she sounded so young and desperate.

    I shook my head. This is not exactly my type of case.

    “June, sweetie. I think your ..”

    “Please Kathy, please. My brother had been crying non stop because of this. You have to help us”

    I sighed and rubbed my hands together.

    “Fine. Okay June. Can I have your address so that I can see you and your brother?”

    June gave me her address as I struggled with to scribble it down with a pencil. I hung up, took a shower and ate a sandwich before heading out.

    It took me more than 15 minutes to get to June’s house since I can’t find it on GPS so I had to manually comb through every street and slowed down to check on the numbers before I found her home.

    June was standing at the gate waiting for me. She looked younger than I thought and she was holding a doll in her hand. Her blonde hair was tied up in tiny bun as she ran towards me with a big smile.

    “June?” I looked down at her.

    “Kathy! You’re here!” she grabbed my hand and started running towards the house. It was a little single storey house with a concrete pathway up the front door.

    Instead of taking me into the house, she lead me to the back yard through the side of the house.

    “Jason! I found Kathy! She’s going to help us!” she yelled.

    I looked around the yard. Empty with a swing set in one corner. No sign of her brother.

    “Jason!” June let go of my hand and looked up at the tree. It was only then when I noticed the treehouse.

    “June!” a woman’s voice called out. We turned around to see a young woman standing at the kitchen door.

    “Mummy, Kathy’s going to help Jason..”

    “June!” her mother said sternly.

    “But mummy she’s ..”

    “June, no! Come here!”

    June bit her lips as she started crying. Her mother ‘s expression softened and June ran over to her mother who pulled her into a hug. I stood there awkwardly, unsure of what I’m supposed to do.

    “I’m sorry, baby but you cannot keep doing that okay?” she spoke gently to her little daughter.

    June nodded and went into the house without turning back. I decided to leave since there’s nothing left for me to do here.

    “Wait, Kathy is it? I’m June’s mother, Marianne. Would you like to come in for a cup of tea?”

    I hesitated but Marianne smiled at me politely with a little bow so I nodded with a little bow. I followed her into the little kitchen.

    She put on the kettle and we sat by the table as Marianne smiled shyly at me.

    “I’m sorry for all the trouble, Kathy. This is not the first time June has done this”

    Prank call private investigators? I must have looked confused because Marianne blushed and smiled .

    “June thinks her brother lost his toy. I don’t know how to help her snap out of it. You see, Jason.. ” she cleared her throat and I could see tears brimming her eyes.

    “6 months ago, Jason drowned when he fell into the lake. Since then, June has not been able to accept this and she kept visualizing her brother looking for his toy. I don’t know how to help her ..” Marianne started crying.

    “I’m sorry Marianne. I’m so sorry.” I reached out and grabbed her hand.

    I got up to look for tissue but my eyes looked at the mirror across the room. It took me a few seconds to realize what was happening. Marianne’s crying had subsided and I was staring at the reflection of the kitchen but most importantly I was looking at my own reflection.

    Only mine was visible.

    ***

    – I’m sorry that this might be a little cheesy and cliched XD –

    1. Reaper

      Things become cliches because they are good and speak to us well enough that everyone can tell the story and if they do it well we will listen every time. I don’t think this was though, at least not for me. My only suggestion would be to handle the end with a little lighter hand. Take out the last sentence and put an only in front of the my in the one before it.

    2. Critique

      Pinkbamboo, I didn’t find this cheesy. There was a tense issue (couldn’t find it on GPS – instead of using can’t) and a few other wee glitches but I enjoyed this very much especially the shocking ending that swings this story into a completely different direction.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I also enjoyed it Pink. I thought it well written with care and understanding. Reaper’s idea to soften it is an excellect one. We need more stores on this site the explore the effects of intense grief and sorrow, thank you for posting it.

  12. jhowe

    The weasel drooled with eagerness as the fat hen pheasant walked up the path to his den in a hollow tree. He watched, bewildered, from a nearby thicket as she knocked with her sharp beak.

    “Is anyone home?” said the hen.

    “Oh, hello,” said the weasel as he walked up to her from behind. She was taller than he with strong legs and sharp talons. As tempting as it was he could not risk a confrontation without an advantage. “What can I do for you ma’am?”

    “I’d like to hire you?” she said.

    “What for?” This was highly unusual. He was the only private investigator in the forest but he had never been hired by anyone near the bottom of the food chain before.

    “I need you to find my chicks,” the hen said with a series of clucks in the language all forest creatures could understand.

    “You don’t say.”

    “I’m afraid so,” she said with a voice laden with fret. “They all went missing this morning and they’re so helpless.”

    The weasel sucked in a stream of drool and quickly agreed to take the case. “Helpless you say… such a dreadful situation.”

    Following his ultra-keen sense of smell, the weasel found the chicks’ trail in no time. He pictured a table laden with roasted pheasant and quickened his pace.

    “Where are you off to in such a hurry?” said the fox who was blocking the path.

    “Oh, nowhere in particular,” the weasel said with strained pleasantness.

    “Methinks perhaps you have something in mind I should know about.”

    “Oh don’t be silly.” The weasel saw a patch of wild raspberries and he hurriedly ran to it whereas the fox would get caught up in the briars and be unable to follow. Sometimes being short and wiry had its advantages.

    The weasel soon found the trail of the chicks again and set off. After traveling for some time he heard peeping from a clearing up ahead. He slinked even lower and crept closer. The chicks were pecking at an ant hill, feasting on the scurrying insects. Oh great, thought the weasel. Now they’re going to taste like disgusting ants. Oh, well, nothing that a good roasting won’t fix.

    The weasel gathered the chicks and led them back to his den, avoiding the area where the fox was last seen. Upon arrival he found the fox sitting on a rock near the hollow tree. “My my, what have we here?” the fox said.

    The weasel was at a loss. The fox was much bigger and much stronger than he. His only hope was to abandon the chicks and make his getaway. But the problem was he couldn’t do it. The chicks really were helpless and he couldn’t just let the fox devour them. “Leave them be!” he said.

    “And what, may I ask, are you prepared to do if I refuse.” The fox sidled closer.

    The weasel attacked with speed he didn’t know he possessed. The fox, though, with his superior strength soon overpowered him and pinned him to the ground. “That was a very foolish thing you did weasel.” The fox bared his considerable claws and prepared to strike when a shriek was heard from behind and a pair of sharp talons sank into his thick fur. The hen pheasant stomped over and over on the fox’s back which gave the weasel the opportunity to sink his small sharp teeth into the furry leg. The fox yelped, swatted at them and ran off into the thickest part of the forest.

    The hen gathered her chicks, thanked the weasel and they all waddled off. She had left a small basket woven from prairie grass that contained three pheasant eggs. The weasel drooled with vigor as he carried the basket into his den.

    1. Reaper

      jhowe, this is so perfectly bizarre. I’m not actually sure if this reminds me of Aesop or Kafka or a weird combination of the two. This was just amazing all the way around, especially with the moment of humanity from the weasel.

    2. cosi van tutte

      Hey, j!

      I really liked this story. It was a lot of fun with great characterization. Only one question: Is it okay if I imagined your weasel character looking like the weasel from the Foghorn Leghorn cartoons? 😀

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Oh jhowe, king of the weird, there is so much good presented here, it has the foundings of a great children’s story. Can you imagine it set to drawings in a small book? There are so many publishers looking for moralist tales that children can absorb. They could call you,” Mr. Potter”.
        And then you can buy millions of dollars of real esatate in Scotland.

  13. Observer Tim

    FAVOURITE DRESS

    “No sign of it in here, kid. These are all men’s clothes.”

    “But I was sure it would be here!”

    “It’s not. Look, we’re running out of rooms. Why don’t you just tell me where your dress is hidden?”

    “Because I don’t know. I just know it’s in a closet!”

    “It’s only a dress, Carlotta.”

    “It’s not only a dress! It’s my favourite dress. And it’s really really important that we find it soon.”

    “Why is it so important, girl? Why are you paying me two hundred bucks an hour to search your own house?”

    “It just is. If you don’t want the money I can find somebody else…”

    “With your deadline half an hour away? Come on, you hired me as a last resort and we both know it. I only took the job because I haven’t had any work since August.”

    “I’m sorry. Please, we have to find the dress before midnight or something very bad will happen.”

    “Sigh. Let’s check the next closet, then.”

    “Clothes, clothes, … nothing. Wait! What’s this? A duffel bag?”

    “What’s a duffel bag?”

    “It’s like a big sack that soldiers used to put clothes and stuff in. Man, this one is heavy. Let me reach in… yeah, there’s cloth in there.”

    “Check it! Check it!”’

    “I am! This knot is just… got it! Now we open the top and…”

    “That’s it! That’s my dress!”

    “Oh shit. That’s blood!”

    “Uh huh.”

    “And there’s a body! Why is there a corpse in your… wait! She’s alive! What in hell is going on here kid? Kid?”

    “911? This is Patricia Sansom, private investigator license number 22158437. I’m out at the old Gordon house, 224 Merivale drive. There’s a girl here, about seven years old, covered in blood, mostly from a… a wound… in the lower abdomen. She’s still breathing, but it’s shallow. I’ve slowed the bleeding but we need an ambulance. And the police.”

    “Miss Sansom?”

    “You can call me Pat.”

    “Miss Pat? Thank you for saving me.”

    “No problem. I had help, though. Do you know a girl named Carlotta? About your age, wears frilly dresses, black hair in pigtails?”

    “She’s my friend. When Mum and Dad are away she plays with me.”

    “Well, she called me in and had me search for you, but she didn’t know which closet you were in.”

    “…”

    “She saved your life.”

    “Miss Pat, it can’t be Carlotta. Nobody else can see her; she’s my pretend friend.”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      OT, this sparkles like a diamond, perfectly paced, tension high so much story, so few words. And of course a killer line at the end. If I may be so bold, I’d call it perfect. What a great surprise for an early Monday!

  14. Amaria

    I don’t know why I read this prompt when I suppose to be focusing on the Poem-A-Day challenge. But I started writing and couldn’t stop. So here it goes:

    “Private Detective”

    “Private Eye”

    As I drove to the meeting place I kept asking myself, why? Why would I such a case, from all people, a twelve year old? I guess that was how desperate I was for work. I knew I should have been more suspicious when the kid said he could pay me my usual fee. And I really should have been suspicious when he asked if we could meet in person to give me the money. Where on earth would a kid get such cash I couldn’t phantom. That was until he told me where to meet. It was at a park not far from where he lived. When I wrote down the address I knew how he got that money. It was in one of the well-to-do neighborhoods in New Jersey.

    When I pulled up to the parking lot I saw two kids sitting at the picnic table. The kid told me he would be at the picnic table, but he said he would be alone. Somewhat puzzled, I stepped out of my car and walked towards the two boys.

    “Are you Matthew?” I asked.

    The boy answered, “Yes. Are you Regina?”

    I nodded. “Yes, nice to meet you Matthew. Who is this?” I asked as I glanced at the other kid.

    Matthew answered, “This is my friend Jesse. He’s cool though.”

    Jesse then said, “You look a lot like Olivia Pope, only taller.”

    I looked at Jesse curiously. “What do you know about Olivia Pope?”

    Jesse shrugged. “My mom watches Scandal. She is real gladiator.”

    Shaking his head Matthew said. “We have business to attend to.” He then pulled out an envelope handing it to me. “Here’s your fee.”

    I took the envelope and open it. After counting the money – all in twenty dollar bills – I said, “So can you tell me where I am going?”

    Matthew stood up. “I can lead you there. Me and Jesse can sit in the backseat of your car.”

    I put my hand up. “Hold on. That is not how I work. I work alone and certainly not going to be driving around town with two kids in my car who are not mine.”

    Matthew replied, “But the place is kind of hard to find. You need me and I paid you in full.”

    He was right about that. Damn it. Shaking my head I relented. “Ok, let’s go.”

    As we walked towards my car – on old Nissan – Jesse asked “is this your car?”

    I turned to Jesse. “Yes. What’s wrong with it?”

    Jesse answered, “I just thought a private detective would have a better car, given the money Matthew just paid you. Shouldn’t you at least have tinted windows? I mean, how can you do recon if people can see you?”

    Becoming a bit annoyed, I sighed. I began to say, “Listen, Jesse…” before Matthew cut in saying “Jesse, just get in the car.”

    Thankfully Jesse did without a word. After we all got seated and buckled, we drove off to our mission.

    1. Amaria

      And Part II:

      We drove for about a half hour. Matthew did not tell me we would be driving so far. If he was adult I would have asked for more money – at least to cover the gas. He was right about the location. I may not have found it since I didn’t a GPS – something else Jesse pointed out.

      “You don’t have a GPS? I thought everyone has one,” Jesse complained. “Matt, what kind of detective did you hire?”

      Matthew answered “Jesse lay off. We have more important things to focus on.” I was glad Matthew spoke up. I was at the end of my patience with Jesse and I was about to give him a piece of my mind, despite the fact that he was only twelve.

      Matthew told me that he believed something was going on at his late grandmother’s house. She had died a few months ago and the house was unoccupied. He and his father visited on the weekends to make sure everything was still in order. However, Matthew had noticed a few things missing during his last visit, specifically a coin collection that once belonged to his grandfather that was supposed to be passed onto him. When Matthew asked his father about the coin collection, his father quickly changed the subject.

      When we pulled up towards the house, there were two cars in the driveway. “What is this?” I asked.

      Matthew said, “I don’t know. Wait. One of the cars belongs to my dad. Why is he here? He is suppose to be at work. I don’t know the other car.”

      Jesse then piped in. “That’s look a lot like Miss Christine’s car.”

      Matthew turned to Jesse. “Miss Christine?”

      “You know Tara’s mom,” Jesse replied.

      I was getting a bad feeling about this. “Maybe we should go boys.”

      Just then a black Mercedes pulled up. A man in a very nice suit stepped out the car. As he walked towards the door, I saw something in his hand, but couldn’t tell what it was. Surprisingly, the front door was unlocked because the man just walked right into the house.

      “He just walked right into the house”, Matthew exclaimed.

      “We got to follow him”, Jesse added.

      I interrupted. “No. You guys stay here in the car. I will go up to the window and see what I can find out.”

      Matthew and Jesse began to protest. In a stern voice I replied, “I said stay here in the car. No matter what.”

      I stepped out the car and walked cautiously up to the house. I began to wonder what the hell I was doing. This was certainly not what I signed up for. I stopped at the door, which our mysterious man left slightly open. I then heard shouting voices – No, Stop, Please – then I heard several loud pops that sounded like firecrackers. But in my training I knew they were not firecrackers, but gun shots.

      Oh, Regina, what have you gotten yourself into?

      1. Reaper

        I can see the poetry challenge creeping in. The wording on poems is very different and you kind of have that cadence here. I would say as a detective you might want to use a few more contractions in her speech but otherwise this was spot on and interesting.

  15. Bilbo Baggins

    BUTTERFLY EFFECT

    The smoggy vault of the sky suddenly disappears under a maze of metal girders.

    “Douse the light!”

    The kid instantly obeys, waving the match and it’s nearly pitch-black. I can hear my heavy breathing and try to listen for footsteps. Not every day you’re combing the alleys with the local street urchin like an unemployed Holmes and his latest apprentice. I’d laugh, but I don’t. Two thugs are lurching down Fifth Street wielding empty bottles.

    “Stay here, watch our backs,” I hiss.

    I step into the glow of a streetlight, taking out my wallet. The bigger thug veers towards me and my heart hammers. His pupils are mere specks and his grin’s creepier than a puppet show. He swings a meaty fist with nothing behind it.

    “Look out!” the kid yells.

    I duck and the thug’s fist soars into crumbling brick. He roars, convulsing and jabbing at empty air. The smaller thug bolts for the end of the alley, picks up the kid, and shakes him like he wants his lunch money. Eyes burning, I draw my pistol.

    “Put him down!”

    The smaller thug turns to me with a crazed smile, his head tipped. No way I’m going to open fire in the middle of a slum but it’s a threat. For a second I think he’s going to listen. Then the bigger thug leaps on my back, fingers digging into my shoulders.

    I step backwards, crushing him against the wall. He falls and reaches blindly for my legs. Kicking him in the stomach, he finally slumps. I quickly turn and fire a shot. It ricochets off the pipes. The smaller goon’s racing for the street, evidently scared of the same fate. He has James tucked against his waist and I can hear the boy crying out.

    I shoot again, aiming high. The crisp recoil gives me a shiver. The thug tips to one side, his arms flailing. He collapses onto a garbage can and rotten food and clothes spill out.

    James runs to my side. His arms wrap around my legs and I look down, uncomfortable. The two bodies lie still, mangled. My adrenaline dies down and there’s a metallic feeling on my tongue.

    “Better get away. I’m not eager to meet these guys’ friends.”

    We head down the sidewalk, taking a circuitous route to my office. Halfway there, a police cruiser screams by. James ducks his head and then looks after it.

    “Did you know those men?”

    “Yes. But they weren’t my family.”

    He gives me a look that reminds me of Tom while I had him. I raise my voice.

    “Have they attacked you before?”

    He replies more slowly. Another car passes, blowing black exhaust.

    “I’ve see them some nights. And they offer me what they have.”

    We eventually reach the glaring lights of the apartments. In the tiny kitchen I have a cot set up. James sits and watches me make coffee. Sunlight begins to hit the dusted blinds.

    “Listen, I don’t want you going there again. Once was enough.”

    He’s still frightened, but then smiles when I give him another lollipop.

    “I know. Good-night.”

    After James falls asleep I empty my mug and go into the bedroom. My brain feels tight, cold, methodical. Strange thoughts take hold of me. I’d shed my badge and coat faster than a butterfly in a cocoon. Because I hadn’t really known. It’s like ripped grass, an askew shutter. Youthful eyes hardened into solid stone. And I cannot hope to rescue them all.

    Almost time to head out to the café. Look for work one more time. I change clothes and a sudden wave of sorrow strikes me. With trembling hands, I touch the pistol on the nightstand.

    He’d called me father.

    (Just a quickie since I forgot last week. Feel free to comment. GJ)

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Bilbo, Your writing has so much color, power and emotion here and tells a story of desperation and one man’s dedication to eiminating it. You’ve oudone yourself this time….Bravo

    2. Reaper

      This is a snippet so there are things hinted at that I’m not sure of, and that’s okay because everything Kerry said is perfectly correct. I want more, but I don’t need it. One thing, I might change stepped back to lurched or jerked because stepped isn’t as violent as the rest of the actions around it. I’m still in awe of this one.

  16. Kerry Charlton

    ROBIN DIEHARD
    PART TWO

    Robin and Charlie left the restaurant, both deep in thought,

    ‘How am I going to tell Charlie, he needs to step out of this?’ Robin pondered as they walked to their cars in the parking lot. Charlie knew already, fast friends since high school, he understood how his friend’s mind worked.

    “Ol’ buddy,” Charlie said, ‘I’m stepping out of this, it’s your bailiwick.”

    “Are you certain? I did invite you to come.”

    “Sure as I know, you’re totally smitten with her, aren’t you?”

    Robin slid in his car, rolled the window down, “Yes, I’ll stay in touch..”

    “You know where to find me, good luck.”

    Treading up three flights of stairs to his walkup, gave Robin all the exercise he sought. His world consisted of a front office, one chair and desk and a futon from college. The back area held a small bath and shower along with a Murphy bed on the wall.

    ‘Dreams,’ he thought, ’what happened to my ambitions? Have I been marking time, waiting for this? Obviously a girl with the name Firestone, private girl’s boarding school, came from money a hundred and some years ago and I’m captivated with her ghost. Well, for once in my life I’m throwing reasoning and intelligence in the disposal, I’m going to help her if I can.’

    The white screen of his laptop brought history of the Firestone empire of commerce. The family went back to the middle seventeen hundreds, branches spread through most of Ohio, New York and Philadelphia. He set the screen to ’Brearley School. Bingo, the original location was shone as East 45th Street, New York. Having moved several times, the girl’s school was now forty two grand a year and rated as best girl’s prep school in the country.

    Early the next morning, he sat in the register’s office of Brearley School for Girls and wasn’t pleased with what he heard.

    “Mr. Diehard, our records only go back to 1912, when a fire swept through the school and destroyed all our documents. I am sorry but I can not help you.”

    ‘Dead end,’ he thought, ’at least for now.’ At the New York Times however he had fortunate luck. The graduating class of 1894 from Breasley, showed up on the society page, only twenty seven girls. A photo joined the article, the second row clearly marked Rebecca Denise Firestone as one of the students.

    His hands trembled as he turned a handle on the exit door and faced the street. He paused for a moment, ‘Incredible,’ he mused. ‘There is no mistake now, and how am I to handle this? God only knows.’

    He waited out side the restaurant when a Central Park carriage pulled up in the parking lot, and a vision from heaven descended to the pavement.

    “Hello Robin, thank you for waiting for me, I didn’t realize we were so far from Brooklyn.”

    She appeared to be in her very early twenties, wore a Victorian riding outfit as if she were on a formal fox hunt.

    “You are an exquisite vision if I dare say to you.”

    “I’m certainly not offended, but I am in a desperate situation.”

    “It doesn’t have anything to due with Mrs. McGregor, does it?”

    No but we’ve feared the worst for years from Father’s former business partner
    harassing us and Daddy’s been kidnapped since I saw you three years ago. Our family needs your help Robin.”

    ‘Three years ago? Yesterday?’, he thought.

    She ran to him and started to cry. He gently touched her hair and held her,

    “I pledge to you my mind and my soul. But how can I go back?”

    “Come with me, we own a brownstone in Central Park West. Our family has
    Lived in the house for 140 years. I have the way.”

    [To be continued]

  17. Douglas K. Burton

    ALL THAT WE SEE OR SEEM: PART II

    Stillwater Elementary had changed in the nearly thirty years since I had set foot on its grounds. It was to be expected, however. Nothing could have prepared me for what I had found instead of the bright playground equipment of my youth and presumably Timmy Carpenter’s only a couple of years before.

    Mother Nature had reclaimed the playground immediately behind the abandoned building in the years since its closing. Trees had begun to grow, some smaller and some a little bigger. Weeds popped up between my loafers with each step I took towards the playground. The cold, dark and rainy day did help me admit to myself that the old playground had a creepy vibe. As I neared, I noticed a light fog had developed on the field behind the playground. A deer, barely visible in the fog as a silhouette, scurried away from the playground as I approached it.

    The kid sat by himself on one of the swings, gently rocking as he looked down at the ground. The other swings around him blew gently in the wind, producing an even creepier vibe. In his hand he held a half-crumpled piece of paper. I walked up to the swing set, and the kid perked up and jumped from the swing.

    “Mr. Hobbes!” he said enthusiastically, running towards me.

    “Calm down, kid. You don’t want to make a scene, okay?” I said, putting a hand up to stop him, which he did.

    “I have the picture of Wuffle you wanted.” the kid said, thrusting out the paper.

    I took it and looked it over. Wuffle was exactly how the kid had described him, or how the kid had drawn him: a large frame, both tall and wide with bright orange fur. Light blue polka dots populated the fur all throughout the body. A big, blue nose sat squarely on Wuffle’s face above a wide, innocent grin. A tuft of lavender hair spread out plainly on the very top of his head and on the end of his long, flowing tail.

    I looked up from the drawing into Timmy’s wide, hopeful eyes.

    “Okay, Timmy. The first thing we need to do is to think of some places where Wuffle could hide. Where did you and Wuffle like to play?” I asked, and the kid looked down in thought, scrunching his face up as they did so.

    “Well, there were a couple of places we used to play.”

    “Alright, what’s one place?”

    “There was a bridge over there,” he said, pointing behind me towards the woods, where a few feet away I saw a fairly large stone bridge, used for traffic, above a small, flowing stream leading into a large ravine at one side. “Wuffle and I would go under there after school sometimes to play hide-and-seek.”

    “What another place, Timmy? Anywhere else?”

    “The field outside of where the planes are.”

    “You mean the airport?”

    “Yeah! The airport! Wuffle and me would go there to watch the planes go off into the sky.” he said, grinning as he said so.

    “Okay. I’ll go look for Wuffle over under the bridge and the airport, okay? But you need to go home, Timmy. I don’t want your parents to worry about you.” I told him, hands on my knees so I could get face to face with the kid.

    “Okay, Mr. Hobbes. I’ll go home…but you promise you’ll find Wuffle? He’s my best friend.”

    “I promise, Timmy.”

    The kid smiled, and ran off to his bike, which was up against the fence of the playground. He got on and rode away into the mist, breaking it as he did so, riding until I could see him no more.

    I turned my attention to the bridge next. I walked over to it, tucking the picture of Wuffle into my pocket as I did so, and slowly walked down the small hill down into the ravine. I got to the ravine and took out my flashlight. I shone it through under the pitch-black underneath of the bridge towards the end of the other side.

    The beam of light lead me as I walked, crouched, under the damp, cold environment under the bridge.

    The beam swept across as I called out softly: “Wuffle? Wuffle?”

    I sounded like a child, but I supposed that was the point.

    Suddenly, the beam settled on a shiny, jet black mass that was as big as a tiger. That wasn’t the bright orange, cuddly Wuffle I was looking for. The mass moved from place to place as it realized a light was stuck on it. I was awestruck…what the hell was this thing? Two bright green eyes appeared out of the mass, and a hissing sound echoed through the area where I stood. Then, it jumped at me, fangs and claws out.

    I dropped the flashlight and was plunged into darkness. I grabbed my pistol and shot in the air, temporarily igniting the area with a sudden flash of light. The creature hissed and clawed me in the leg. I yelled out and stood, turning to fire three more shots in the direction of the fleeing creature. It ran down away from me, hissing, until I finally heard a splash from the other side, leading me to believe that it had sought shelter in the ravine. I was not going to follow what I knew was not the creature I was looking for.

    But then what the hell was it?

    I walked down towards the end of the tunnel where I had come in. My light again stopped, this time on what appeared to be some kind of animal nest. I bent down and fished through it, finding animal carcasses and bones, mud and twigs. Finally, near the bottom, I felt what appeared to be paper. I pulled it out and opened the ball of paper.

    Faintly, I saw a light sketch of a little, black baby lizard-type creature, grinning a mouthful of gums. I took this to be what I had encountered moments before. Under the picture I saw a hastily scribbled world from a child’s hand, which I read as Hampy…the thing’s name.

    Under this, in small, child-like script, I saw a name and date.

    It read: Elise Donovan, age 7. 1936.

    TO BE CONTINUED…

    1. Reaper

      This is amazing. For some reason your alcoholic detective is associating in my mind to that line from the Prophecy about how most men lose faith because heaven doesn’t show them enough, but some lose faith because it shows them too much. I’m now officially addicted to this series and waiting as impatiently for the next installment as I did for the Green Mile when it came out as a serial novel.

  18. Not-Only But-Also Riley

    Moreau and the Monsters
    Part II

    Her wings had shriveled with the rest of her wrinkled skin and her horns were longer than her sons.

    “How long has she been sittin’ here?” I asked, circling the body. The stench was unbearable but I couldn’t tell if it was death, monsters, the area in general, or a combination of all three.

    “A week or so. I don’t really know, lost count after a couple days. Ain’t nobody gonna help me bury her.”

    “Don’t look at me kid, I’ma detective not a gravedigger. Besides, ain’t never met a monster that deserved a proper burial.”

    “But the picture…”

    “Will you shut up about the picture kid?! My personal life is separate from every case, no matter what that case is,” I wanted to hit him but knew that was a good way to lose a client. Besides, in the corners of his dark shack where his dead mother sat who knew what lurked. Things had changed since I’d last been out and I wasn’t changing with ‘em.

    “Sorry Monsieur, I didn’t mean ta…”

    “It’s fine kid. You feel up to something to eat?” I thought about how stupid this sounded. Asking the kid if he was up to something to eat as we stood over the rotting body of his mother. But his eyes lit at the mention of food.

    “You mean you’ll buy me somethin’? Some real food?”

    I held back another sigh. Monster’s complained about the stereotypes yet they fit them perfectly.

    “Yeah I’ll buy you something.”

    But he was already dashing across the wooden floor.

    The kid tore into the bread with his fangs. They were small but would tear human skin as soon as they met it. He finished quick and I handed what was left of mine to him.

    “Thanks Monsieur,” he grunted into between snorts as he shoveled the bread into his mouth. I looked away, didn’t wanna think a kid could look like that, could eat like that.

    “What’s your name kid?”

    In between slurps, “Georges.”

    “Where’s the resta your family?”

    “You mean my dad?” The bread was gone. I’d bought and entire loaf and this little beast and gulped it down, “’cause my dad was always mysterious. A man with many faces.”

    “A man with many faces?”

    “A shapeshifter.”

    Oh. So this kid knew more about the world than I’d given him credit for. He knew about shapeshifters, dark creatures who took the forms of handsome young men, or beautiful young women, and had one goal only: repopulate. They’d have a kid and move on. How did this little kid, Georges, know about such a cruel thing? What had this kid’s life been life that he knew about the darkest parts of our world?

    Suddenly, interrupting my thoughts a big monster exited the bakery, He approached Georges, a large, hairy creature crawling along all fours with huge tusks protruding from its face. What had always scared me the most about the big monsters was the way their faces still appeared human, like the humanoid monsters, but with subtle changes that made them seem animal.

    “Whatsa kid like you doin’ in a rough parta town like dis?” the monster asked, kicking the kid with its rough knuckles against the bakery wall. The kid growled, but I knew he didn’t stand a chance against this thing.

    “Hey, back off,” I stood and felt my hand reach for my gun.

    No, I tried to reason with myself, killing this monster would get me in huge trouble. Death penalty kind of trouble.

    “Who you think you talkin’ to human? You see me, or are you blind as a bat!” he thrust his fist hard into Georges chest and the growling coming from his crumpled body grew louder. I found my fingers resting on the gun.

    Be careful Jean Moreau, be careful, I tried to reason.

    “Huh? You plannin’ on savin’ you little bat boy here? You soft fer monsters, is that it?” he picked up Georges and threw him back to the ground. He hit hard and I saw his eyes begin to close. I heard his growl begin to shy away and transform into a whimper.

    The big monster leaned toward Georges, his tusks on either side of Georges’ small body.

    “You friend ain’t gonna save you, he’s a human. I’m tha thing that that human’s kids dream are in their closets, the thing under the bed. I’m the monster.”

    I could no longer take it. I thought I could stand, watch this thing kill Georges before my eyes so I wouldn’t have to worry about the picture, wouldn’t have to worry about my past. But instead my fingers grasped the handle and flew up, five bullet lodging in different places in the big monsters head. The body stumbled, falling beside Georges allowing him to stand. His breathing was heavy, his head, bleeding.

    “Monsieur Moreau…?”

    “Be quiet Georges, we need to find a place to hide.”

    And then we ran.

  19. Douglas K. Burton

    ALLTHAT WE SEE OR SEEM: PART I

    Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream? –Edgar Allan Poe

    ***

    The call came in at nine in the night, awakening me from a drunken slumber. The bottle of whiskey crashed to the ground in a blizzard of glass that showered the dirty floor in globs of the brown liquid and a shower of glass. A sigh slipped out from between my lips among alcohol breath as I arose from the desk to answer the phone. I fumbled around in the darkness for my phone and finally found the receiver, nearly falling off of one corner of the desk.

    “Hello?” I answered in a drunken tone, slurring my words.

    “Mr. Hobbes? Mr. Jack Hobbes?” a light voice asked from the other end.

    “Yeah, who’s this?”

    “My name is Timmy Carpenter. I live at 2371 Macaroon Street. My zip code is…”, the voice began, but I cut him off.

    “Look, buddy, I don’t need your life story. I just need to know if you’re hiring me, how much it pays and what you need me to do, okay?” I said next.

    “Uh, okay. I have a job for you. I can pay you a hundred dollars, because that’s all I have, is that okay?”

    “Yeah, yeah, no problem. I’ll take any money I can get right now. What do you need me to do? Investigate a murder? Blackmail some political enemy? What?”

    “I need you to find my best friend. He’s missing.” the little voice replied steadily, as if rehearsed.

    I grinned in the darkness.

    “Ah, a missing persons case? Haven’t done one of those in a while. Sounds like a challenge; an opportunity to hone my skills. Can you give me any information on him?”

    “Information?” the voice asked, clearly caught off guard by the question.

    “Yeah, information. Age, approximate weight and height, hair color, gender…whatever. Anything for me?” I said, rubbing my temples due to both frustration and a probable alcohol-induced headache.
    Was this kid new to this? He was an amateur at best.

    “Oh, yes. Yes. He’s six-feet tall, bright orange with blue polka dots, a tuft of purple hair his head and tail…”, but I cut the voice off for a second time.

    “Look, pal, I’m not in the mood, alright? I’m really drunk right now and I just want to get paid quickly.” I told the smart-ass on the other end.

    “But, Mr. Hobbes…Wuffle is who is missing. He’s my imaginary friend…he’s my best friend.” the little voice replied.

    “Buddy, that’s sick. How old are you, like six years old? Even that’s a little old to have an imaginary…”, I began, but this time, the voice cut me off.

    “Yes.”

    “Yes?”

    “Yes, I’m six years old. Wuffle is my best friend.”

    I was silent as the voice was silent for at least a minute.

    “Kid, how did you get this number?” I asked.

    “My nana’s phone book. You were in that. When Wuffle went missing, I knew I had to find him. You were the first name I found for a mystery man. A detective like in Uncle Royce’s crime movies.” the kid said in reply.

    I sat quietly for another moment.

    “The money is real?”

    “Yes. All the coins I’ve collected over the years in my piggy bank.” Timmy said.

    “Look, kid, I don’t want to take your money…”.

    “No, take it Mr. Hobbes. I want to use it to find Wuffle.”

    “Okay, kid. Okay. I’ll help you find your friend. Can we meet and can you give me a picture of your friend? I can call your parents.”

    “No. My parents can’t know. If they help you, they might scare Wuffle away. Just you and me, okay?”

    “Okay, kid. Whatever you want. Where can we meet?” I asked.

    “The playground at Stillwater Elementary. That was my old school, before they shut it down. We can meet at the swings; I’ll bring a drawing of Wuffle for you. Do you know where that is?”

    “That was my old school, kid, when I was your age. I’ll find it.”

    “I’ll meet you there tomorrow at ten, okay? In the morning.” Timmy said, his light voice perking up.

    “Yeah, kid. Okay.” I replied, still in disbelief at the job I had just taken.

    “Mr. Hobbes? You’re going to find Wuffle, right?”

    I hesitated for a moment. I couldn’t tell the kid no, even a drunken, silver-haired, jackass detective didn’t have the heart for that. I would have to figure out some way to reveal this to him later, but not now.

    Instead, then I said: “Of course, kid”.

    As I set the phone back into the cradle, I knew I was in for a monster of a case.

    TO BE CONTINUED…

  20. Not-Only But-Also Riley

    Moreau and the Monsters
    Part I

    A small winged kid with a turned up, bat-like nose and horns approached my desk, a picture in hand. As he approached I watched the way his dirt-caked claws barely tore through the worn picture. He set it on my desk.

    “You Monsieur Moreau?” I sat up in my chair and brushed a spider from the arm.

    “Yeah.”

    The kid looked around. His upturned nose made him look like he was constantly judging his surroundings so it was difficult to tell what was actually going through his head.

    “You still a detective?”

    “Not for bratty little monster kids,” I sighed, leaning back into my chairs.

    “Hey, listen, I ain’t gonna be a bother none at all if you can help me. I heard you good Monsieur Moreau, I heard you really good…”

    “That was a long time ago. Before there were the other kinda monsters…” the kid cut me off.

    “You mean the big ones Monsieur?”

    I sighed again, “Yeah, the big ones. Not the humanoid ones like you and…”

    “An’ you Monsieur Moreau.”

    I looked at the kid’s ugly monster face, his huge orange eyes filled with the innocence of a child, with the readiness of a predator.

    “I’m not a monster kid, I’ma human.”

    “Are you Monsieur Moreau?” the kid tossed the tattered picture to the dark wooden desk. A cloud of dust shrouded the photo, flying up from the desk and pouring onto everything nearby. The kid coughed and as the dust cleared I saw the picture. Me. With a monster woman.

    “Where’d you get this kid?” I mumbled picking it up.

    “Don’t matter Monsieaur, what matters is that I got it and now you gonna have to help me. ‘Cause either you a monster or you a human havin’ affairs wif monsters and if that’s the case…”

    “What do you want?”

    “My momma. Someone killed my momma. I want you to find out who,” as the kids mouth moved he revealed a row of tiny sharp teeth stained with dark colors that I’d rather have left to my imagination as to how they got there.

    “You really think I’ma be seen with a monster kid, on a monster case? That’s ridiculous.”

    “You don’t seem to be seein’ much anyone else…”

    He had me. Times had been hard for a detective since the bigger monsters had shown up. They practically ran things and when anything bad was done there was no mystery because they had done it.

    “We get started tomorrow. Maybe. I gotta check a little into it first.” At this the kid snatched the picture and jumped from the chair, his skin coated wings moving awkwardly at his sides.
    “Oh thank you Monsieur. I got money to give you I swear…”

    “You gonna give up that picture too?” The kid looked down at the yellowed picture.

    “If you solve the case,” he said, strutting out excitedly. For the first time in years I had a case. Was it given by a kid? Yes. Was it a foolish case where I was helpin’ some dirty humanoid monsters? Yes. Was I gonna solve it anyway? Absolutely.

    1. Reaper

      This one has me captured, I really want to see where it goes. The line about leaving to his imagination how the stains got there was clunky, I mean the idea is good but the flow pulled me out of the story and I had to reread it a few times. Other than that one line I was completely in this. My favorite thing about this is that it is a kind of story that effortlessly puts me into a different time with different ideas that we would find repugnant now but were just accepted in that time and allows me to see them without judging the people holding those ideas. You do this so well but just making the words monster. Beautifully done.

  21. Roan

    Another day of nothing, I stared out the window at the playground across the street, and watched the children playing. My son would have been eleven, had he survived the accident. My wife would be having her birthday next week. Two years had passed and I was no better off than I was the day they died. I reached for the Zoloft, opened the bottle, and chugged it down with stale coffee. My Private Eye business, a reflection of me, was floundering. Then, the phone rang.

    “Hello, Jone’s Agency.”

    “Are you a spy?”

    Not another prank call. I almost hung up, but there was something about the voice. “No, I’m a Private Eye.”

    “This is Jeremy. Can you find my dad? I have been saving up from my lunch money. I can pay you. I have 10 dollars and 42 cents.”

    “What does your mother say about this?”

    “She’s dead.”

    “Who do you live with?”

    “With my foster mother, Mary.”

    “Jeremy, can you hold on? I’ll be right back.”

    I leaned back in my chair, looked out the window at the children. Heck, why not. I don’t have any work.

    “Jeremy, I will take your case, but first I have to speak with your guardian … I mean Mary. Give her this number and have her call me. Oh, and you can call me Jim.”

    A few days went by and I didn’t think much about the conversation with Jeremy, not until the phone rang.

    “This is Mary, Jeremy’s foster mother. I understand he spoke with you and he said that you would help him find his father.”

    “That’s correct.”

    “Oh, I thought maybe he made it up, although he is a good boy and doesn’t take to lying. So you’re really going to help him? There is no money to pay you.”

    “Well Jeremy told me he had $10.42.”

    “I know, but that’s not enough for your services.”

    “It’s enough.”

    “OK, I’ll call Child Protective Services and ask them what they think.”

    Again, a few days passed, and I couldn’t stop thinking about Jeremy. It was Friday when Mary called to say the Agency had checked me out and had given me the green light. I arranged to stop by her house the next day.

    I walked up the dirt path that led to the mobile home. A boy, sitting on the top step, jumped up and waved. My heart jumped and stuck in my throat. He looked to be the same age as my son. Well, that my son would have been had he lived, and a tow head at that.

    Inside, we sat at the kitchen table. Mary brought each of us a root beer. It appeared that Jeremy’s dad had gone missing when Jeremy was three. I pulled out a pad from my brief case and wrote down the few details Mary gave me. Then with a sideways glance at Jeremy, she handed me an envelope. “Take this with you. It contains more information.”

    Jeremy jumped up. “Hey, come see my dog”.

    He led the way out the back door to a small fenced yard. An old black lab with graying on his chin slowly rose to his feet. Jeremy went down on his knees, threw one arm over the dogs back.

    ”He’s the best.”

    Again I choked back the tears. “He’s lucky to have you, Jeremy.”

    “So, you’re going to find my Dad?”

    “I’ll do my very best”

    When Monday rolled around, I jumped into the case after having read the information Mary had given me. At least I knew where to start. Jeremy’s father’s name was Darrell Ford. First I checked missing person’s records, but there was nothing. Mary had also included Darrell’s birth certificate along with Jeremy’s mother’s and her death certificate. She had died in a car crash, hit by a drunk driver.

    “What is wrong with me?” I reached for the Kleenex box again.

    Well, a few more days and I found him. Well, I found out what became of him. He had died in prison when Jeremy was five.

    “Oh God, how do I tell him?”

    I placed a call to Mary and gave her the news. She said she would break it to him. But, I also asked her something else.

    “Saturday?” She responded.

    “I’ll be there at noon.”

    Jeremy was waiting for me on the porch. He ran down the steps. “Mary said you wanted to ask me something.”

    I looked down at him. “Sorry about your dad.”

    Jeremy stared down at his shoes and kicked the dirt

    “Jeremy?”

    He raised his head and a tear broke loose.

    I put my hand on his shoulder. ”Jeremy how about you and me go to the Packers game today?”

    “What?”

    “You like football right? Want to go with me?”

    His face lit up. “REALLY?”

    “Yup.”

    He turned on his heels and ran to house screaming, “Mary, Mary!”

    A few minutes later they both came out. Mary was smiling a big smile.

    Jeremy ran up to me. Clenched in his hand was 10 dollars and 42 cents.

    “Hey buddy, how ‘bout you pay for the hotdogs with that.”

    I reached to my back pocket and pulled out 2 Packers caps, plopped one on his head and the other on mine.

    “Let’s go!”

    1. Reaper

      You did a really nice job of mixing the melancholy with the feel good and just giving us a scene of these people’s lives with some good background. I don’t know why I fixated on this detail but the detective with a floundering agency producing two football tickets threw me off. I think I just wanted a touch of explanation like them being donations, or from a buddy on the force, or that he was getting cases with his returned confidence. Like I said, not sure why that stuck out to me because I should be able to just read it as part of the story. No matter what, very well written and heart warming.

      1. Roan

        Thank you for making me address this. It was also a question of mine, but nothing seemed to fit without breaking the flow at the ending. Between last week’s comments from Nicki EagleReader, Tim’s and yours, I am learning that I really need to trust myself when these questions come up for me. So in reviewing this story, I see that after … “I’ll be there at noon.”
        I can add , “As I headed out the door, I stuck an envelope in my pocket, a gratitude gift from an old client.”

        Thank you one and all. 🙂

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Roan, I enjoyed the story also, unless I’ve gone wacky this moning, it’s written very much in my style alhough I seem to be stuck in ghost stories and time travel. Listen to the sage advice from Reaper, he’s as good as it gets.

  22. cosi van tutte

    Place: The city.
    Time: Night.
    Person of interest: Jake Marcone, private detective.
    Currently: Single.
    Currently: At his office.
    Currently: Unemployed.
    Currently: Bored.

    Jake looked at his short list and sighed. “Yep. That sums it all up, don’t it?” He pulled out a red ballpoint pen and underlined the last item. “Bored.” The pen ran out of ink half-way through the second underline. He flipped it across the room in disgust. “I can’t believe I’m bored in a city with this kind of reputation.” He paced. “Murderers. Gangsters. Thieves. Prostitutes. Broken houses. Broken families. All manner of sin and misery. There are people out there crying out for help and savin’, but they sure ain’t callin’ me.”

    He stopped pacing. “Ehh, to heck with it. I should just call it a night. If no one’s come in by now, ain’t no one comin’ in at all.” He grabbed his cheap Sam Spode trenchcoat just as someone entered.

    “Hey here, mister.”

    He looked down at his visitor – a pale-skinned boy with red hair and a stubborn set to his face. Jake had a strong feeling about that face, mostly that he didn’t like it and he didn’t want to deal with it at this moment. “Go on home, junior. This ain’t a place for little kiddies to play around in.”

    “Who says I’m playing? Look here, mister. I got you a case. A real big case. A real big case that could make you rich and famous.”

    “I get those e-mails every day. Don’t feel like gettin’ them face to face. Go.”

    “What? You got something better to do? Huh? Do ya? I bet you don’t. I bet you’re gonna go home and eat potato chips all night and watch crummy grown-up tv shows and belch real loud and complain even louder about how crummy your life is. I tell ya. I got you a case.”

    “Yeah? And how you payin’? With Monopoly one dollar bills?”

    “Oh, you think I’m so dumb. Look here.” Red-Head pulled a card out of his jacket pocket and handed it over to Jake.

    “Visa. This is legit? You ain’t spammin’ me?”

    “What? You’re doubting an honest kid’s honesty? And me being a client too.”

    “Don’t you get jumpin’ ahead of yourself. I ain’t workin’ for you.”

    “Not yet.”

    Jake studied the card. It sure looked a real credit card. He handed it back to Red Head. “Okay. Let’s say I take your case. What is it?”

    “You gotta rescue my kid sister’s Legolas doll.”

    “Why?”

    “Because Head Hunter Julie stole it.”

    Head Hunter Julie. Jake threw his trenchcoat at the nearest visitor’s chair. It spilled out of the chair and landed on the dirty floor. He sat down at his desk. Head Hunter Julie. he thought. My nemesis. Wait. Is there a feminine form of nemesis? Nemesette? That don’t sound right. “Head Hunter Julie ain’t a broad a kid like you should get mixed up with.”

    Red Head shrugged. “Can’t be helped. My kid sister really likes that doll. She sits there and stares at it and smiles at it and giggles at it and pets his hair. I don’t get why she likes it all that much. It’s just a dumb doll, but she really wants it back. So, mister. Get it back for her.”

    Jake leaned back in his seat. It was a gesture he’d seen other detectives do and it made them look awesome and wise. But they had high quality desk chairs. Their chairs didn’t creak like a family of haunted houses. He didn’t feel awesome. He leaned forward and set his elbows on the desk. “Now, the question is: Why would Head Hunter Julie steal a doll?”

    Red Head shrugged again. “She wants to pet his hair too?”

    “No. Head Hunter Julie steals for monetary gain. If she stole that doll—”

    “She did! I saw her do it. She just walked up to my kid sister and fwhooped it out of her stubby hands. My kid sister screamed and wailed and threw up, but Head Hunter Julie took the doll from her and left. You got to get it back. My kid sister won’t stop screaming.”

    “There’s gotta be a good reason why she stole that doll.” Jake rose to his feet. “I will find out that reason.” He returned to his slumped trenchcoat and put it on. “And don’t you worry, junior. I ain’t gonna charge you this time. This is personal.”

    to be continued…

    1. cosi van tutte

      Continuation…

      Place: Gungan Hide and Find and Store.
      Time: Night.
      Person of interest: Petunia Grubb, proprietor.
      Currently: In a bad relationship.
      Currently: At the cash register.
      Currently: Not helpful.

      “My sister Daisy has it good. She’s with a guy she likes. Oh, she doesn’t love him. But she LIKES him. I don’t even like Mike. He has a face like a pug with a skin condition. He has an ugly voice. He never brushes his teeth—”

      Jake stopped writing in his notebook. “Yes. Now, how’s bout Head Hunter Julie?”

      Petunia stopped talking.

      “Has she come in here, tryin’ to peddle off a Legolas doll?”

      “I haven’t seen her since last year. Please leave.”

      ***

      Place: The street.
      Time: Night.
      Person of interest: Jake Marcone.
      Currently: Out walking.
      Currently: Thinking.
      Currently: Stumped.

      Jake flipped his notebook shut. “Why would she steal a doll? It’s a stupid thing for a grown woman to steal. But what if it’s worth something?”

      He ran back to Gungan Hide and Find and Store and strolled over to Petunia.

      She glared at him. “Head Hunter Julie hasn’t been here since last year.”

      “I ain’t here to talk about her. I’m here to talk business. How much is a Legolas doll worth?”

      Petunia calmed down. “It all depends on whether it was made by Mattel or by Crafty Maniacs.”

      “What’s the difference?”

      “Mattel made exactly thirty-five Legolas dolls to be released with the original Lord of the Rings movies. They were beautifully designed. Even had Peter Jackson’s seal of approval. Only problem is they were all defective. The ears fell off and the hair wouldn’t stay rooted. They wound up selling only three of them. The rest were returned to the manufacturer to be destroyed. Despite their unfortunate defects, these dolls are highly prized collectibles.”

      “And the Crafty Maniacs?”

      “Crafty Maniacs released their version of the Legolas doll with these new Hobbit movies. They’re just cheap junk, barely worth the $4.95 price tag. Most of the Crafty Maniacs Legolas dolls have black hair, instead of blonde. And they all have ugly faces.”

      “Are they considered collectibles?”

      “Are you kidding? No. Never. Not even in one hundred years.”

      “They got the same defects as the Mattel ones?”

      “No. They’re just too ugly to look at.”

      Jake thought it over for a few minutes. “So, if a little girl kept petting the Mattel Legolas’ hair…”

      “She’d get a handful of hair and a bald elf doll.”

      “Hmm. Thanks for the information.”

      ***

      1. cosi van tutte

        Continuation and Conclusion…

        Place: The city.
        Time: Night.
        Person of interest: Jake Marcone.
        Currently: At his office.
        Currently: Thinking.
        Currently: Puzzled.

        “So, it must have been a Crafty Maniac Legolas, but those things ain’t valuable. So, why’d she steal it? Maybe junior was right. Maybe Head Hunter Julie just wanted to pet his hair.” Jake tried to imagine that and it creeped him out. He never wanted to imagine that ever again.

        “So, why’d she steal it?”

        The phone rang.

        “Yeah?”

        “Helllllo, Jake.”

        His pen fell out of his hand. “Julie.”

        “Mmm, you’ve been asking about me.”

        He scrambled his wits back together. They weren’t in order, but they were together. “You’ve got a Legolas doll that ain’t yours.”

        “Oh, ho! Listen to you, the outraged detective. Yes. I have it and I will not give it back.”

        “Why? According to my sources, it ain’t worth a pink penny.”

        “Mmmm-hmm-hmm-hmm. Value, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder.”

        “Ehh? That don’t make a lick of sense.”

        “Well, that’s because sometimes value is something a little more and a little less than mere money.”

        “I don’t get—”

        “Come to the park on Grand Center. I’ll be there. And I will tell you…” She hung up the phone.

        ***

        Place: The park on Grand Center
        Time: Night.
        Person of interest: Jake Marcone.
        Currently: Puzzled.
        Currently: Puzzled.
        Currently: Puzzled.

        Jake sat on a park bench in a lamp post’s streaming light.

        A couple of women approached him with hopeful flirtation, but he shooed them away. “Value. What does Head Hunter Julie value more than money?”

        Another woman sat beside him. He was all set to tell her to get lost, but then she spoke.

        “Hellllo, Jake.”

        He snapped to attention. “Julie.”

        She smiled. “Have you solved my riddle?”

        He shook his head. “There ain’t a thing you value more than money.”

        “Oh, but there is, my dear detective. I value fame and notoriety.”

        “Yeah. I get that. I don’t get why you’d value a cheap, ugly doll.”

        “Because there is one more thing I value. A truly good-looking man.”

        “Oh?”

        “I saw those movies. All of them. From the first Hobbit movie all the way to Return of the King.” Her smile grew. “Legolas is a truly good-looking man.”

        He stared at her in horror as he imagined her petting doll Legolas’ hair. It was an unholy mental image. “Couldn’t you just buy your own?”

        “No. It had to be stolen. That’s what Madame Iridia told me.”

        “Madame Iridia? Madame Iridia, the witch?”

        “Yes. He should be coming soon.”

        Jake wondered if he were as peaked as he felt. “He?”

        A slim man in a trim jogging suit approached them. He stopped in front of her. His long blonde hair blew in the night’s gentle breeze. “I am here, my lady.”

        “Hellllo, Legolas.” Head Hunter Julie rose to her feet.

        “What the heck? You turned that girl’s doll into a human?”

        “No. Madame Iridia did. You can try to reclaim him for your client, but I’m sure he’ll resent the manhandling.” She looped her arm around Legolas’ arm. “See you around, detective.”

        ***

        Place: The park on Grand Center
        Time: Night.
        Person of interest: Jake Marcone.
        Currently: Baffled.
        Currently: Dismayed.
        Currently: Soundly defeated.

        Jake checked his wallet. “Ten dollars. I guess I can buy her a new one. Red Head ain’t gonna believe it, though.”

          1. Kerry Charlton

            I was totally entertained by your story but also am totally lost. It’s hell being stuck in 1954.

  23. Manwe38

    Sadly, I’m well over the word-count, but I had to write a tribute to one of my all-time favorite films, which is poised to make a come-back.

    ***

    “Private Eye”

    I leaned back in my chair and wiped the sweat from my brow. My eyes were still burning–the salty rivulets had nearly tenderized the delicate globes–but I didn’t care.

    The tax man was gone.
    This was the third time in a week he’d just shown up, his cheap polyester suit frumpy and wrinkled, his acne-scarred face peering back at me through the door’s ever-vigilant camera. I owed, you see, and if I didn’t pay up, I would lose it all. Or so Uncle Sam said.

    I needed a case. Badly. Like yesterday. Like the desert needs the rain, the chorus of the song that was currently playing on the iPad I couldn’t afford. Like the brain needs oxygen. I need a case, and I didn’t have one.
    I didn’t even care who the client might be. Theft, divorce, corporate intrigue–any port in a storm, or so my dad used to say. If it paid the bill, it wasn’t an ill. Another father-ism, but you get the point. Sadly, dad was long gone, and so was his money. All of it.
    My eyes darted around the dusty office. It needed a cleaning, but Jim wasn’t here. He was almost too gay to function, but as secretaries go, there’d been no-one better. And he laughed at my jokes. Unfortunately, a man’s gotta eat, and when his paycheck sailed away, Jim went along for the ride. It had been two weeks, and he wasn’t coming back.

    I swiveled around and gazed out the window. The day was bright, but cold, typical for Philly in mid-February. Maybe I should go for a walk. Yeah, that would work. Maybe-

    The phone rang.

    It was earsplitting, loud, a cacophonous assault on my delicate drums. My shout was no match for its uncouth braying as I spun back around and lifted the handle. Its cord, thankfully, had decided not to tangle today, and I cradled the cold plastic between my shoulder and ear.

    “Hello?”
    There was a pause, as pregnant as a cloud before a freak summer storm, and then a voice drilled into my brain. “Is this Derek Jensen, private eye?”
    It’s pitch was high, almost nasal, and an image of NyQuill popped into my mind. “Yes.” I shifted in my chair. “Who is this?”
    “Luke.”
    “Luke who?”
    “Just Luke.”
    “How old are you, Luke.”
    “Eight.”
    “I see. Do your parents know you’re calling?”
    “No.” Another pause. “They had to go away. They said you could help.”
    I reached up and grabbed onto the phone. “You’re all by yourself?”
    “Uh-huh.” I could hear the tears, caught behind the dam of his rapidly-weakening control, aching to break through. “Can you come? I’m really scared.”
    “Where do you live?”

    Another pause, then he spit out an address. Society Hill, an eight-minute walk from my row-house office. “I’m calling the police,” I said, “they’ll meet me there.”
    “No!” The tears arrived, and with them loud sobs. “They said no police. Not even once.”
    “Who?”
    “The man who called. They want mommy and daddy. He’ll kill them if I call the police.”

    Shit. Whatever was going on, this kid was in trouble. I didn’t do children, but something was up, and whatever it was, it didn’t sound good. “Okay, just stay put. I’ll be right there.”
    I hung up the phone and slipped through the door. I might not get paid, but at least some good might come from this day.
    Yeah, right.

    ***
    The house was historic, but had been recently re-modeled. I looked around at the dark-cherry wood, the white crown molding, the polished marble, and a slow whistle escaped my lips. Whoever these people were, they had money, and by the looks of it, a more than just a little. But where was the boy?

    “Luke?” My voice echoed down the narrow hall. “It’s me, Detective Jensen.” I liked the sound of that–it made me feel important, like a real cop. “Where are you?”

    Silence. I started to walk. My steps were slow, methodical, like a mouse venturing out from its hiding place, unsure if a cat would be lurking around the nearest corner. Most of the home’s lights were off, and the room at the end of the corridor was filled with shadows. Despite the bulge of the .45 Remington resting comfortably in my pants, I was suddenly cold.

    Dammit, where was this kid?

    My eyes darted up-and-down the wall, and then I saw it: a waiting light switch. One hand on my weapon, I sped up, reached out, and-
    “Don’t!”
    I spun around, gun drawn, my body shifting into an A-frame, and looked for a target. He was three feet away, short, and had a familiar nasal voice. “Luke.” I shook my head. “You could’ve been shot.”
    “I’m sorry.” He pointed to the wall. “If you turn on the light, they’ll know someone’s home.”
    “Who?”
    “The ones who are bad.”
    I walked over and placed a hand on his shaking shoulder. “Where are your parents?”
    “I told you, they ran away.”
    “From who?”
    “Him.”
    I frowned. “You’re not making any sense.” I reached over and flipped on the light. “Now why don’t we start from the beginning?”

    His lightly-freckled skin grew pale. “I told you not to do that that. Now he’s gonna come.”
    “Who, Luke?”
    Before he could answer, the lights suddenly went out. Luke screamed, and dashed behind me like a squirrel running away from a predator. “Quick!” he said. “We have to hide! Follow me!”
    I shook my head back-and-forth. “I’m not going anywhere. At least not until-”
    The door blew open, and I felt Luke’s hand tighten on my arm. “He’s here,” came the barely-audible whisper.
    “Who?”
    “Me.”

    At the sound of the voice, my blood froze, and the breath congealed in my lungs. Slowly, I turned around, and there he was–a tall, dark shape, cloaked in black, with a bizarre, slitted metal face mask that hid more than his eyes. But it wasn’t his appearance that sent my jaw racing towards the top of my chest.
    He had a blade. A red, glowing blade. Protruding from a black, cylindrical object, it stuck three feet into the air, and was cross-hatched by two smaller perpendicular beams just above the hand-grip. It made a sound like bacon sizzling in a skillet, and the air crackled around it.
    My mouth worked up-and-down. “Uh….”

    I felt Luke shift, and then a shaft of cold metal pressed into my hand. Eyes bulging, I watched as Luke stretched out my arm, then pressed a button on the side of the shaft. Instantly, a bright-blue beam appeared, making the same hissing, frying sound as the one three feet away.
    My mouth opened again. “What the hell is going on?”

    In front of the door, the dark figured laughed. It was a cold, soulless sound, the kind of noise made by someone who enjoys lighting animals on fire. “You don’t remember, do you?”
    “Remember what?”
    “Never mind.” He raised the red blade. “Prepare to die.”
    I turned around to look for Luke, but the boy had quietly slipped away. Unfortunately, he’d left me to deal with his problem. My eyes flicked up to the hideous mask, and I felt my breath grow ragged.

    It was time for a choice. I had no idea what was about to go down, but if I didn’t want to be cut to pieces, I’d better learn to wield a lightsaber, and fast. If I couldn’t, well, I could always fake it, and hope my opponent wouldn’t notice. Another father-ism…although if this one didn’t work, I would shortly be thanking old dad in person.

    As I slowly stepped forward and raised the blade, it occurred to me that perhaps I should’ve just gone with the taxman. At least in jail, the demons were familiar.

    Dammit.

    1. cosi van tutte

      😀 😀 😀 This is just awesome, Manwe. For some reason, this is one of my favorite lines -> “He was almost too gay to function…” And, yes. I loved the whole Star Wars second half. 😀

      1. Manwe38

        thank you thank you, cosi!!!

        With the new teaser out, I just had to bite.

        Full disclosure: I borrowed the “gay” line from the movie “Mean Girls.”

        I couldn’t help myself :p

    2. Reaper

      This was pretty intense, especially for something based on a movie that while visually stunning and epic in nature was not a literary masterpiece by any stretch. So I think you just went all in on Mr. Lucas. I really liked this a lot.

      1. Manwe38

        Thanks Reaper!

        You know, I have high hopes for the upcoming new film, but you’re right in that they are not at all ‘literary’. It’s interesting, given their mass appeal, how raw and powerful certain themes are in our culture (or any culture). Mr. Lucas managed to capture those themes, but I think there’s a lot of room to run with those themes.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          So glad I stopped by to visit. I was invited to a private showing of the movie. We distrbued the record label the soundtrack was on. No had seen it yet and there wasn’t a lot of hype out on it. I remember walking out and telling my wife, “That was one hell of a movie” You did a great job on this.

  24. turtles88

    (Part One)

    “BREAKING NEWS!! THE 2015 KENNEL CLUB DOG SHOW WILL BE CANCELLED MAY 12th. ALL OF THE PAID TICKETS FOR THE EVENT HAVE BEEN COUNTERFEIT. WITH NO AUDIENCE, THERE’S NO SHOW. POLICE ARE INVESTIGATING NOW-”

    The phone suddenly rings cutting off the newsman. I practically leap over my desk and grab the receiver.

    “Antonio Brunelleschi, New York Private Investigator. The best investigator here in Syracuse. What can Tony do for you?”

    “Hi, my name is Cynthia Richards and I have a problem with my grandmother. I lost contact with her five months ago and can’t seem to find her. I was hoping if you could. I’ll pay you seven hundred dollars up front, if you’d like.”

    Seven hundred dollars could pay the rest of the rent. And the gas bill! I might actually keep my job.

    “Sure thing, Miss Richards. Just tell me the last time you saw her, got in contact with her, her name, birth date, house address, social number, and so forth.” I get my notepad and pen ready to write.

    “Can we talk maybe off phone?” She laughs, “I sometimes get nervous thinking somebody’s listening.”

    I scribble in my pad, ‘Client is paranoid.’

    “Forget about it, Miss Richards. Don’t worry ’bout it. Just name the place and we’ll talk.”

    “How about the Rosie n’ Rose Diner this afternoon at four?”

    “I’ll be there.”

    The time is 2:50. If I leave now, I could be there at about 3:45, the latest.

    So while I’m slipping my coat on and grabbing my briefcase, the doorbell rings.

    I peek through the window and see three kids standing on my porch. Two boys and a girl. The oldest boy looked about twelve maybe younger.

    The bell rings three times louder.

    I can already feel the headaches coming. If there’s one thing I don’t like is children. They whine, cry, and don’t know when to shut up.

    I whip the door open, startling them, “What you kids want? I’m busy.”

    The oldest looks me up and down, “Are you a detective?”

    I frown, “Maybe.”

    All three of them smile and exchange looks.

    “Good. Cus’ we need your help, Mister Detective Sir. My baby sister lost her teddy bear and it’s real important that you….”

    I shake my head, “I find people, kid. You need a person found? I can do that. No worries.” I gesture at myself, “Tony got you. He can help you. You need a toy found? I don’t know. I can’t help you. Go ask your mama. She can help you.” I wave them away.

    The middle child stomps his foot and whines, “I thought you were suppose to bring peace and reassurance to your clients!”

    I eye him irritably, “Who told you that?”

    He folds his arms, “The internet.”

    “Please, Mister.” The eldest boy says. “We’ll give you thirty dollars.” He digs in his pocket and hands me crumpled up pink paper.”

    “Kid, this is pretend money. Fake money. No good money.”

    He shrugs, “Well that’s all the money mommy gave us.”

    “Where is she?” I look around for her.

    “We dunno.”

    An awkward silence follows.

    The little girl motions for the eldest boy to lean down and whispers in his ear.

    “Oh yeah! I almost forgot.” He digs in his pockets again, pulling out a wrinkly piece of white paper with a bear drawn on it. “Here is a picture of the bear. His name is Teddy McBear. But we just call him Ted for short.”

    They stare at me, waiting and looking at me with big eyes.

    I message my neck, look at the horribly drawn bear, then at my watch. It was seven minutes till three. I guess if I hurry, I could still make it before four. If push comes to shove I can just buy them a new bear.

    “Fine. Let’s make this quick.” I take out my pen and and pad. “When was the last time you saw Ted?”

    (Part One)

    1. turtles88

      (Part Two)

      Talking with them in the car, I learned the kid’s names were Hiccup, Dallas and June. Hiccup is the oldest and June the baby. I also learned that Teddy was purchased at the local circus a week ago. They said everything was fine until their mom had to go on a business trip. Once the babysitter arrived, the bear was gone. I asked if they searched everywhere in their home before coming to new but they kept dodging the question saying Teddy went back to the circus cus’ he missed his family and that I had to find him.

      Anyway, that’s where I’m driving to. The circus. Getting closer to the big red circus tent, I can start to see tall circus performers on stilts giving balloons to people waiting in line. I can also begin to smell that classic circus scent: sugary dough, hot pretzels, and cheap cigars.

      I park the car and we being the bear hunt. And almost instantly, I spot two curly red hair clowns selling stuffed animals.

      One of the clowns walk away carrying a box of teddy bears. He enters a small blue tent then leaves without it.

      “Look, June. Some bears. I think Ted might be in there. How ’bout we go ask this happy clown if he seen Ted? ”

      She sucks on her finger and nods. I smile inside. This is going better than I thought. Get the bear, dump the kids, get to the diner, then get the money. Easy. Seven hundred dollars easy.

      “One brown bear please.”

      The clown squeezes his red nose and laughs, “Sorry, pal! We ran out of berry brown bears. Why not have a friendly little lion?” He gives Ian a lion. “Here you go, son. And one for you young lady. Bongo just knows this lion will make you happy. Enjoy the show everybody! Come again!” He randomly shouts.

      The children look up at me.

      I frown, “Wait, what do you mean you ran out? I just saw your friend, Chuckles over there carrying a box full of them.”

      Bongo suddenly narrows his eyes and says through tight lips, “You must’ve been seeing things, pal because I said we ain’t got any! Either you pay for the lions or leave, your choice.”

      I glance over at the blue tent and sigh, “Forget about the lions. I left my wallet in my car.” I give the lions back and drag the kids away.

      Hiccup glares at me, “Why didn’t you get our bear, Tony? You said you’d get our bear.”

      I have them sit on a bench.

      “You promised.” Dallas shouts.

      “Would you two shut up? Sit here and don’t move. Understand? I’ll be back.”

      Once I’m sure they understand, I turn around and walk.

      Bongo is busy cheering up a kid to notice me walk by and slip into the blue tent. To my surprise, the tent was empty. No box of teddy bears or anything. Nothing.

      Except…. two yellow tickets for the Kennel Club Dog Show.

        1. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

          There were a couple of tense shifts. I’m not particularly fond of telling stories first person present tense where the main character is talking to the reader as if he’s there but not actually there. Other than that, it’s not bad. Keep up the good work, and edit edit edit! 😀

          Got more coming with this story?

          1. turtles88

            Thank you, Jay for pointing out the tense shifts. I have to remember to re read over and over again before I submit. And more? Maybe, maybe not.

      1. Reaper

        For something outside of your comfort zone this seemed effortless. I liked the past tense of the first bit a little better but would be happy with it if it stayed in one or the other. This is very interesting and I think the only place your discomfort showed was in some misspelled words. Other than that I saw nothing wrong with it at all.

      2. lionetravail

        This is definitely interesting, Turtles, but stopping it here would be awful. You haven’t brought it around yet to link things other than with the counterfeit dog show tickets showing up on a lark of a case; there’s a lot more story to tell, and the story’s offbeat enough that it’s worth following. Iron out your tenses, but keep it going, I say 🙂

  25. Stephen S

    “From the mouths of babes”
    I let the phone ring twice; before I recalled that I no longer could afford a secretary. I answered it; sure it was just another debt collector. “Hello, CI investigation. How can I help you?” I asked, striking a wooden match off the bottom of the desk and lighting up a cigarette.

    “Hello, hi, my name is Mary and I need you to find my bear,” the voice on the line blurted out.

    “Did you say a bear like the animal?” I asked shaking out the match and depositing it into the over flowing ash tray on my desk.

    “Yes, like the animal, but a stuffed animal, not like a real one,” she stated.

    I could tell Mary was young; her words where pushed out more then said. “Listen, kid you called a real place of business, call a cute boy at school if you want to play games on the phone, I am busy,” I said and was about to hang up the phone when she said, “I know this is a business and I want to hire you to find my bear.”

    “Mary, I am to busy and I don’t take candy, cookies or thank you cards as payment,” I said and flicked an ash into the tray.

    “I can pay your rate plus a bonus if you find my bear,” she stated.

    “Not to be rude but you sound all about ten,” I said and sat back.

    “I’m eleven and I have the money for your rate, plus a bonus if you can find my stuffed bear,” She stated again.

    “Ok kid, when was the last time you had seen it and are you sure it isn’t under your bed or left at a friends house?” I asked grinning and blew smoke towards the celling of the small office.

    “I have never seen it, it was taken from me when I was still a baby,” She said.
    I grabbed a pad and pen and marveled at the fact I was treating this like a possible case. If nothing else it killed the time until the lease ran out on the office.

    “Can you describe the bear; what color it was?” I asked.

    “Yeah, it was pink with a rainbow its stomach,” she said. I paused, all breath had left my lungs and the air in the room suddenly felt too thick to inhale. “Hello? Are you there? Are you there father?” Mary asked and now her voice had become serious, or at least as serious as a girl of eleven could sound.

    “Yes I am how did you find me?” I asked holding the cigarette in my now shaky hand.

    “Mom, she told me your name and it wasn’t hard to find you on the internet,” She said.

    “Oh, listen, I’m sorry I took your bear when I left you and your mother. I guess now you want to meet me,” I said.

    Without a pause she said, “Hell no, but I want my bear back, asshole.”

    1. lionetravail

      Hah! Nice one. Great reversal in expectations with the twist, and the mirroring twist in who held the power in the on-the-phone conversation. Excellent writing here, Stephen!

  26. Waxy_Earwig

    I sat at the fold-out table that functioned as my desk in my dank, dusty office on the corner of 23rd and East Street. I waved the half-full tumbler I kept on my desk back and forth, watching its amber contents slosh from one side to the other. It was apple juice; I’d been sober for four years, but any self-respecting private eye needs to keep up appearances. It’s the same reason I kept the useless antique revolver duct taped to the bottom of my table-desk. I’m sure it hadn’t fired successfully in a century, but it was easy enough for those entering my office to see it.

    There hadn’t been many people to impress, of course. I hadn’t had a good case in a month. You’d think with all the free time this provided me I could have cleaned my office, but forget it. I’m a detective, not the janitor.

    The phone rang. I picked it up.

    “John Vaughn, detective for hire.”

    “Hi, this is Riley Adams, and I have a job for you,” said a nervous, resolute voice from the other end of the line. It was a kid!

    “Kid, I’m an actual detective and I’m very busy. Take your prank calls somewhere else,”

    “This isn’t a prank!” I heard him yell as I moved to hang up. I put the phone back to my ear. I was bored anyhow; I might as well humor him.

    “It’s not?”

    “No. I have a job for you.”

    “Well, let’s hear it.”

    “Every Tuesday and Thursday, when my dad is at work, a stranger comes over. My mom lets him in and they go straight to her room. A few hours later, he leaves, and my mom tells me that he’s an old friend of hers and that my dad can’t know he visits,” explained Riley.

    “Oh, Jesus…”

    “What? What’s wrong?” he asked.

    “It’s… er… nevermind.”

    “I think something suspicious is going on, and I want to find out what,” the kid said.

    “You know what, I’ll take your case,” I said.

    “I can pay you,” Riley said, using his most mature voice.

    “No, no; this one’s pro-bono.” He told me his address and told me what time I could expect the man to be there tomorrow, then I hung up.

    Awful stuff. What kind of person has such a blatant affair in front of her kid, then makes him lie about it? Perhaps it was the lack of work, perhaps it was the fact that my wife had cheated on me years earlier and I still had a sore spot regarding the subject. Either way, I was going to expose this woman. Besides, maybe I could blackmail her for some rent money, depending on what her marriage was worth to her.

    I arrived at Riley’s street early the next day and parked a few houses down from his. It was a nice, suburban neighborhood just outside the city. I fiddled with my defunct revolver- the handgun- as I staked out and waited for the strange man to arrive. It wasn’t very long before a black Mercedes pulled into the driveway and the garage opened for it. The car pulled in and the door closed, successfully hiding the car from the neighbors.

    I got out of my car and snuck around to the back door. Riley met me there per our agreement on the phone. He quietly slid the door open and I went inside.

    “Are they up in her room?” I whispered.

    “Yeah. Is that a real gun?” he asked, distracted by the pistol on my belt.

    “Yeah, want to play with it?”

    “Sure!” I handed it over to him. It would keep him distracted while I went about my ugly business.

    “Which one’s her room?” I asked. Riley took me to the stairs and pointed to the door at the end of the hall, hardly taking his eyes off of my gun. I left him there and walked up the stairs.

    I approached the door cautiously. Once there, I placed my ear up to the wood. It was just as I had thought. I gently turned the door knob; it was unlocked. I pushed the door in and made myself look large in the frame.

    “Excuse me!” I said. The man practically sprung out of the bed, expecting to see the woman’s husband. A look of confusion came across his face as he realized it was me instead, then it passed and he grew angry.

    “Who the hell are you!” he demanded in all his naked fury.

    “A man with a big mouth who knows something he shouldn’t,” I said. I’d been planning that line. The man stepped towards me.

    “Ah ah ah, I wouldn’t do that,” I said, reaching towards my back jeans pocket. It was empty, but the gesture was enough to scare the man into staying still.

    “Now, I don’t want to have to spill your little secret. But silence doesn’t come cheap,” I said. Riley’s mom cowered behind a sheet on the bed, not seeming to fully comprehend her situation yet. The stranger seethed. He did not make another move at me.

    A gun shot exploded somewhere below us. I jumped. Riley’s mom screamed. The stranger staggered.

    There was a hole in the floor a foot in front of him and a bullet wound in the center of his naked belly. Blood poured forth, overflowing from his hands as he tried to stem the bleeding. He looked at me pleadingly. I heard someone running up the stairs. I turned around to see Riley appear in the hall behind me.

    “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to!” he said. Riley held my antique revolver that probably hadn’t fired in a hundred years in his hands, the barrel still smoking. He didn’t know he’d hit someone yet, so I positioned myself in the doorway so that he couldn’t see inside the room.
    “What the? How did you…“ I stuttered. Was it even loaded when I gave it to him?
    I heard a thump behind me as the stranger fell to the floor.

    1. Reaper

      A beautiful example of both Checkov’s gun and why people who say coincidence should be left out of fiction are missing out on something. Very darkly entertaining story there.

  27. Kerry Charlton

    ROBIN DIEHARD

    McDonald’s was a cultural shock to Robin but he hadn’t a case in months, his
    office rent was three months behind in his Brooklyn walkup. He watched a tall timid girl
    walk toward him, probably twelve or so. She stopped at his booth.

    “Mr. Diehard, my friends across the restaurant, said you’re a great detective and I

    want to hire you.”

    ‘Oh Good Lord’ he thought, ‘but what else do I have on my radar? . Nothing‘,

    “What is you name and how can I help you?”

    “Denise, someone stole my dog Mrs. McGregor, a Scottie mix. . I have money,

    how much do you need.?”

    “ What can you afford?”

    “Three dollars okay?”

    “Perfect.”

    Denise’s plain dress, resembled an antique school uniform, red and white,

    “Do you have a photo of Mrs. McGregor?”

    “I lost the picture but I have the tintype here.”

    That startled Robin, but he didn’t mention it,

    I’m sure I can make a photo from this. How can I reach you and where do you
    live.?”

    “I go to a girl’s school, but I can see you here tomorrow afternoon if you like. The
    school is on East 45th Street. That’s where I lost her.”

    Robin looked up after making some notes and Denise had vanished. Intrigued with Denise, he walked to his office and typed in ‘private girl’s schools, East 45th Street.’ Nothing. The next morning he walked to a professional graphic arts store.

    “You have to be kidding me. You say you talked to the girl in your tintype yesterday?” The store manager smirked at Robin
    .
    “She looks exactly like this, same dress, and she lost the dog.”

    “Mister, this tintype hasn’t been used since the turn of the century, think again.”

    He left the store, puzzled and perplexed, ‘Somebody put her up to this, probably
    Charlie,’ he thought. When he called him and related the prank, the receiver crackled with
    laughter,

    “Robin, you smoking the weed again?”

    “Listen, smart ass, come with me to McDonalds this afternoon, see for yourself.”

    More yee-ha’s erupted, “Okay Robin, what time?‘’

    “Three and don’t be late, see for yourself.”

    The restaurant was teeming wit high school kids as Robin and Charlie waited that afternoon,

    “She is a beautiful girl,” Charlie said.

    “Oh please for God’s sake she twelve. Are on your perv charge again?”

    “Sorry, only kidding,” Charlie answered.

    Mr. Diehard have you found anything yet?”

    He looked up at her with astonishment as he gazed into a seventeen year old beauty. Both men rose to their feet,

    “Denise, I recognize you but yesterday you were only………..”

    Charlie smiled her way, fixated on her beauty,

    “Aren’t you going to introduce me, ol’ buddy?”

    “Denise, this is Charles Inger, my best friend. I’m sorry you never told me your last name.”

    “Firestone,” she replied as she extended her hand to Charlie.

    “Please sit down Denise.” Robin pulled a chair out.

    “I couldn’t find any girl’s school on East 45th street.”

    “Well it’s there, Brearley School. Do you think you can help me?”

    “I’m sure both of us can,” Charlie answered.

    “I have a better photo of Mrs. McGregor.” she handed the photo to Robin. ‘Archer Studios, 1887’ was stamped on the back side. Robin handed the photo to Charlie.

    “We’ll get right on it, Denise”

    “Thank you, I can’t come tomorrow, will Thursday, same time be all right?”

    “Of course.” they both answered. “Do you have a phone we can reach you at?”

    “A phone? I don’t think so. Thursday then, goodbye.”

    She faded into the crowd.

    “Robin,” Charlie said, “I take it all back.”

    [To be continued]

    ,

    1. DMelde

      Hi Kerry,
      I really like the concept of your story and I’m looking forward to reading more. I agree with jhowe, it’s intriguing. The only thing that’s distracting for me is it’s choppy, meaning that there aren’t enough words in the story, and I know, the word count for these short short stories is a bitch, but I like your story idea and I wouldn’t mind it being fleshed out more. Great start!

    2. lionetravail

      Nice work here, Kerry! Love the flavor of how it’s rolling out already. Thought I knew where it was going with the tin-type mention; it’s classic, and a wonderfully concrete image. Can’t wait to see more.

    3. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      Hey, Kerry. It’s good to read one of your stories again. I agree, I’m intrigued and a little sad that I have to wait for the finale! 🙂 Also, I agree with Dmelde. This is nothing like your usual stuff. Normally you have very fleshed out stories, but this one is incredibly choppy. What gives, brother?

      Can’t wait to read the rest!

    4. Reaper

      Love this and want to see where it goes. I don’t see chop, I see hectic flow. You could flesh out each scene into a longer piece and there would be nothing wrong with that but what I felt here was a stutter step of an old time movie that left me guessing and feeling like I was catching pieces of the story because there are only pieces to catch. I might change my mind on that when I see the continuation but for now I think it is intentional.

  28. Observer Tim

    LOST DOG

    “Look kid, I’m calling this off right now.”

    “You can’t! Shaggs is out here somewhere!”

    “Kid, this is a dead bear! And whatever killed it made off with about 40 pounds of meat; if your dog ran into that, you don’t have a dog any more!”

    “But we have to keep looking!”

    “No we don’t. We’re going back to town now.”

    “And you’ll tell the police why you took a 12-year old girl into the woods alone.”

    “You wouldn’t.”

    “Only if I get my dog back.”

    Chase had called me that morning to hire me to help her find her missing Saint Bernard dog. If it hadn’t been my first case in over two months I wouldn’t have taken it. Now I’m in the woods twenty miles from nowhere with a little blackmailer and the fresh corpse of a bear. In the words of the prophet, life sucks.

    We keep going up the path; every minute or so she shouts out the dog’s name. Whatever killed that bear is gonna know we’re here.

    Ten minutes later I’m sure we’re being followed. Chase doesn’t seem to have noticed, and that’s good. The last thing I need is for her to run off and get lost up here too. Ever since I got off on that inappropriate conduct charge a couple years ago the police have been waiting for me to screw up.

    “Sha-aaggs!”

    I hiss into her ear, “Can you keep it down? I don’t think we’re alone out here!”

    She turns and screams.

    I turn. There’s a monster in the tree.

    I’ve heard of bigfoot but this isn’t him. It’s about the size of a person, white as a sheet, and skinny like that Gollum guy. It has six long spider legs, one in a cast, and it has tits. And its face and front parts are covered in half-dried blood. It stares at us wide-eyed, like we’re next on the menu.

    While I’m going over all the variations on the word ‘disembowel’ in my future, the kid puts her hands on her hips and says, “Have you seen my dog?”

    It tilts its head.

    “I said, have you seen my dog?”

    The kid’s pocket chirps. She’s got cell service here? She takes it out, looks at it, and starts texting.

    “Kid, this isn’t really the time…”

    “I’m talking to the spider.”

    The thing climbs slowly down from the tree and starts looking Chase up and down while Chase keeps typing rapid-fire.

    I don’t make any sudden moves.

    “Yes!” Chase takes one of the creature’s hands.

    “What the heck?”

    “She knows where Shaggs is. Her friend Karen is taking care of her at their cabin near here. We’re going there now.”

    “With that monster?”

    “Monster? She’s a librarian where she’s from. Come on; we’ll go get Shaggs and then head home.”

    As Chase and the monster skip down the path I follow. This Karen woman sounds like someone who needs a PI…

    1. jhowe

      How in the world did you come up with this one O. Tim? The cast on one of the creature’s six legs was great. Good combination of dialog and narrative that keeps moving nicely. Strange and wonderful.

    2. Nicki EagerReader

      YES, alien lady is back! You won’t wanna get caught turning pages with filthy fingers in her library… 😉

      Anyway “And you’ll tell the police why you took a 12-year old girl into the woods alone.” was definitely my favorite line. It’s hilariously bratty. Looking forward to the continuation (btw lovely detail that one of the alien’s arms was in a cast- that’s coherence, that is).

    3. Roan

      OK … this is real, I’ve been there. There is no such thing as a monster. Consciousness shows itself in many forms. I love your gentle respect for “the other forms” , and your sense of humor.

  29. Reaper

    Part Four, I might have something for Kerry’s requested continuation this week too.

    In the Beginning – I Spy

    The sign read Throwback Investigations and Jackson Clancy, Jack to anyone that didn’t want a punch in the face, was one. Hard-boiled with a soft spot for dames with amazing gams and urchins with more spunk than brains. Ex-cop drummed off the force for doing the wrong things for all the right reasons. Oh, and broke as an off color joke in the PC age. All that and a little bad luck led him to peeking inside that window as rain sloshed over his brown fedora and overcoat.

    The day before he sat in an office occupied by himself, a bottle of bourbon, and some dust bunnies, only the latter gaining substance. If he didn’t get work soon he might have to go dark side. He almost jumped out of his skin when the phone rang.

    “Throwback Investigations,” Jack growled through a throat grown rough from years of going rounds with tobacco and cheap booze.

    “Find out why this asshole kicked my dog!”

    “You sound about nine. Too young for language like that. Way too young to hire me.”

    “Grandma sent fifty bucks for my birthday.”

    Fifty bucks wouldn’t even keep the lights on. Jack didn’t like the idea of taking money from the kid, and for such a stupid case. Still, how many pounds of discount ground chuck would that buy?

    “Spill the address and the info. I’ll swing by and talk after I know.”

    So Jack stood in the rain, watching this guy Chester, who looked like a dog kicker, through the window. The dog kicker might be a satanist with all the black candles burning around the house. Though, the gold leaf crosses on them were right side up. Then there was the dame. She had legs that made Jack want to see her kick anything. The two seemed to be a couple, a long term one from how they argued.

    Things took a turn for the strange when Chester dragged another girl into the house. The first girl, the hot one, seemed pleased to see Chester mid kidnapping. What kind of sick, deviant sex game were these people into? If Jack could prove the younger woman was there against her will the reward would trump the kid’s payment. Jack would still find out why the dog got kicked though.

    Jack’s cell rang. He looked at the ID and shuddered. It was never good news when the priest called.

    “Father O’Reilly. I assume you’re the one that sicced the kid on me and you’ll actually be footing the bill instead of him.”

    “You assume correctly. Have they started the kidnappings yet?”

    “One just arrived. I assume I’m not saving her so this job is costing triple the normal fee. What do I do, and what do I need to know?”

    “Find out exactly what they’re working towards and report back to me. All you need to know is they are very, very dangerous. Before you ask… especially the moll.”

    1. jhowe

      Nice grit Reaper. You have the skills of Elmore Leonard when it comes to crime fiction dialog. What was his rule…. ‘leave out the shit people skip?…. I think that was it…. and you nailed it.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Loved it also, a touch of ‘Mickey’ at the start was cool, especialy the ‘gams’. ‘A bottle of bourbon and some dust bunnies…” is a great line. Small suggestion, change bourbon to ‘Old Crow’. Where is this heading?

        1. Reaper

          Thank you Kerry. I was trying to channel your detective voice for this one but while I’ve seen you use Old Crow I’m not familiar with it as a term yet. I avoid most terms I don’t know because I feel like if they seem like I’m faking them to me they will to my reader as well. I kind of know where it’s heading, now if I only knew how it was going to get there.

    2. lionetravail

      Great story, Reaper- this read like you had tons of fun writing it. Not sure why the subterfuge of the priest using the kid, but I freely admit to a memory with holes in it like swiss cheese in following prompts for more than a week.

      I very much enjoyed the flavor of this one 🙂

  30. Trevor

    Word Count: 811 (had some fun with this one)

    The Dolls

    The ringing phone broke through the silence of my office. I was in such shock that it took me a few moments to pick up the receiver. I ran a private investigation business out of my apartment, and I used to get a lot of clients, mostly desperate people who wanted help locating missing loved ones. But after many months of not solving a single case, word spread and people stopped coming. For so many months, that phone sat on my desk, silently collecting dust.

    “Hello?” I shouted into the receiver, unable to hide my relief at finally having a new customer after so long.

    “My Daddy won’t let me play with my dollies anymore.” A high-pitched voice said. The girl who was on the line sounded like she was about 6 years old. My relief quickly turned into irritation at having my time wasted by a stupid kid who got a hold of her father’s phone. But I tried to hide my anger towards the child.

    “Honey, this is a phoneline for adults. How are you even calling me?” But my disinterest didn’t deter the young girl.

    “Please….this is really important. I love my dollies. And I’ll pay you for it.” That was what changed my mind. Not only did the girl’s sad, pleading voice touch me, but I was so desperate for a case that I was willing to take the case of a little girl who was probably just being punished for not eating her vegetables.

    The girl, whose name was Hannah, gave me her address and I headed into town. I showed up at an old brownstone that didn’t look like it could house rats, let alone a young child. The paint was peeling and one of the upstairs windows was shattered. Oddly enough, though, the other window had security bars over it.

    I walked up the front steps and rung the doorbell. I expected one of Hannah’s parents to answer the door, but instead I was greeted by Hannah herself. She was short, pudgy, and had light blonde hair. She wore a baggy pink T-shirt and a pair of ragged blue jeans. But despite her impoverished environment, she still had a warm smile on her face.

    “I’m so glad you came!” Hannah squealed as she wrapped me in a hug. “I really want my dollies back.”

    “Yeah, I’m here. So, where did your Daddy put your dollies?” I asked as I looked around the living room. Old newspapers were cluttered everywhere and the TV was turned onto the 6 o’clock news. Hannah seemed to be all alone in the old house.

    “He keeps them in his room.” Hannah took me by the hand and led me down the small hallway. “I tried to go get them, but he keeps the door locked.”

    I examined the door that led to the father’s bedroom. I turned the knob, but found it was tightly locked. But upon seeing the knob’s large keyhole, I realized it would be easy to unlock. I went back into the living room and saw the perfect tool: A pair of scissors sitting atop of a stack of newspapers. I went back to the door and, after several minutes of jimmying, I heard the satisfying click of the lock.

    “Yay! You got it!” Hannah shouted as she pushed past me and threw open the door. She ran into the room and I followed her inside. I watched as Hannah ran to the closet and pulled out a large wooden box.

    “Do you wanna see my dollies?” Hannah asked.

    “Sure.” We both sat down on the floor and Hannah pulled the lid off the box. The dolls in the box resembled Barbie dolls, but they seemed much more detailed and no two dolls seemed alike. “Allie’s my favorite.” Hannah said as she picked up a thin doll with blonde hair and wearing a silky red dress. That’s when I noticed that the dolls had names written on their backs. The doll Hannah was holding was labeled, “Allie Barton” I started to examine the other dolls in the box.

    Tamara Williams….Gemma Caulfield….Penelope Stradling….

    That last doll rang a bell. I remembered hearing Penelope Stradling in the news. She was a young woman who had been abducted from a grocery store parking lot. The case was high-profile and it was covered for weeks.

    The police never found her.

    I slowly rose to my feet, the horror spreading through me. Suddenly, I heard the door being shut and locked behind me….

    It’s been three days. I’ve been trying ever since to find a way out of this prison, but it’s hopeless. Every day, Hannah’s father takes pleasure in torturing me in the most inhumane ways imaginable. I’m so weak and the pain is excruciating. I know I don’t have much time left.

    Soon, Hannah’s gonna have a new doll.

    1. jhowe

      You did a nice job on this one by keeping the tension cranked up and revealing little tidbits along the way. Do you think Hannah and her father are a team and Hannah lures people in?

    2. Nicki EagerReader

      In my opinion this is the best piece you’ve posted so far. The characters were credible and the narration moved along at just the right pace to create tension without slowing into a slog. The premise was scary and great.

      Very well done!

    3. Roan

      Oh … MY … Gosh! At first I thought this wasn’t going to be believable. But it is so seated in the twisted psyche. My hope for Hannah is that she can somehow have a normal life and the PI can find a way to break free. But that’s me. I surrender to the outcome. Great job.

    4. Reaper

      I agree that this is the best thing I have seen from you. It is amazing and you can see the joy you took in writing it and the passion poured in. I’m not sure if this was a weird turning people into dolls, or the dolls were a way of remembering but either way it’s creepy. I am hoping Hannah really is innocent in all of this, or at least doesn’t understand what she is involved in. The only two things on this are her voice is a little too old, which I struggle with when writing children, and there should be some male dolls in the box. Him being the first male name is strange because it seems like a serial killer story and all women so far and then suddenly a man throws off the pattern. Though, even with that this is just some amazing writing.

    5. lionetravail

      Trevor, great job. Very well written, and a lovely twist. Pacing was excellent- I agree with others, might be your shining piece. Nicely done!

  31. Cceynowa

    [Part 1]
    I hung up on the kid twice before I let his call go to voicemail. Paying work is tough to come by in the private detective business, and I learned early on which cases had the income to see them through to the end and which left me sleeping in my car. I’d been stiffed a time or two, but for the most part I ran a successful business. I’d of even considered myself extremely successful until a few months back. Times had gotten tough as of late, and I didn’t have the time for prank calls.

    I ignored the voicemail until late that night. I’m not even sure why I listened to the call instead of deleting it right away, but I did, “Mr. Lain? I’m Tyler Jenson and I’ve found the nightlights! Meet me at East Moreland Park at midnight tonight. I’ll be under the bridge.” The kid sounded young, and I felt a twinge of guilt for waiting so long to listen to the call. Glancing at the time, I figured I could still make the meeting if I hurried. I didn’t think the kid was going to pay me for my time, but my conscious couldn’t let him wonder around East Moreland Park alone. It was a bad neighborhood even by my sometimes shady standards.

    While I drove I reviewed what I knew about the situation. Over the past year nightlights had been stolen from every home and store in the city. Yeah nightlights, like the ones you plug into bedrooms to help kids sleep or put in hallways to keep from stubbing your toes. If a family bought a replacement, it was hit again within the week. About three months after the first thefts I’d been approached by the police department to handle the massive volume of calls related to the matter. I had been as unsuccessful as they had in apprehending, or even identifying, the thieves. Eventually stores refused to restock, people accepted it as a weird fetish, and life moved on. Ever since then my business in a funk.

    Twenty minutes later I was quietly slipping along the shadowy sidewalks and under untrimmed trees that bordered the park’s edge towards the bridge. The stink of garbage wafted upwards from the seasonal creek bed. The water runoff system throughout the city was a joke, but East Moreland’s area was worse than most. After even a small rain, water flooded into the park, carrying food wrappers, used needles, and discarded containers to funnel into the creek. The bridge was used until the late ‘50s, but then the city built a freeway bypass, effectively isolating East Moreland from the more profitable areas of the city. Consequently, the whole area had been left to rot.

    I paused, hidden by one of the bridge’s supporting columns, and listened. From under the bridge a gravelly voice said, “Y’sure ‘es com’in?”

    “Yes,” I heard Tyler say. He sounded nervous.

    “Leave the child alone Groat. The detective is here,” A female spoke. Her voice was seductively sweet. “Mr. Lain, please step into the moonlight so I may see you better.”

    Holding my gun in one hand and a Maglite in the other, I stepped into full view of the group waiting for me.

    [End Part 1]

    1. Cceynowa

      [Part 2]

      The woman was tall, and slim, and had knockers that put most Playboy Bunnies to shame. If it wasn’t for the cold look in her eye, the thin set to her mouth, and the Samurai swords strapped to her back I would have had an instant erection. Beside her stood a very, very, large man. He was well over eight feet tall, had long muscular arms too long for his body, and was slightly bowlegged. Tyler was standing off to the side, looking worried and afraid. He was young, not yet a teenager, and dressed in clothes far too large for his thin frame.

      “Well, you see me,” I spoke to fill the awkward silence.

      “Indeed we do,” the woman spoke again. “I am Klista Margianate of the Under Realms. This is my personal guard, Groat.”

      “Let the kid go,” I had no idea what was going on.

      “We are not holding him, indeed he is helping us contain the Darkness.”

      Slowly I lowered my gun and looked more closely at Tyler. “Care to explain what’s going on kiddo? Why’d you call me?”

      “I saw them,” he said. Again I felt a twinge of unease. For some unexplained reason I wanted to help this kid. I felt like I needed to help him.

      “The nightlights?”

      “No, the shadows,” he started twisting his hands together. I made a waving motion with my hand inviting him to continue. “I saw the shadows creep into a house, and then all the lights went out, and then I saw the shadow come across the street and into the street drain. It was pulling a nightlight with it. And it had something else. It had a shimmery shadow following it. It looked like a baby.” He began to cry silently.

      I stared at him for a moment, and then back at the woman and her guard. They were staring at me expectantly as well. “I’m going home,” I said as I holstered my gun, “Tyler, come on. I’ll take you tonight and see that you get put into a good shelter in the morning.”

      “Detective,” Klista spoke to me, “This boy lives on your city’s streets. He sees more than you; he knows more than you. These ‘shadows’ are fugitives which Groate and I have been trying to capture, but we are unable to do so alone. I need your help. Please, for your city’s survival.”
      “Who are you again,” I asked.

      “Klista Margianate of the Under Realms. I live in a world below your feet Mr. Lain where souls of those from this world who have never found The Light reside. I am a Seeker, and with Groate’s help, work to reclaim souls who have escaped back into this world. There has been a breach between the worlds, and young Tyler is helping us find it. I need your help as well.”

      “You are crazy.”

      “No, Mr. Lain. Let me show you. Come with us this night, and if you still want to be done with us by morning, that is your choice. Help this child,” she gestured towards Tyler, “help your city.”
      [End Part 2]

      1. DMelde

        Great story, but then, I’m a sucker for under realms of every kind. The only thing I noticed is the dialogue is all in the same voice (which I’m guilty of doing also), otherwise it was great! I’m looking forward to reading more.

      2. Reaper

        Very nice Cceynowa. I look forward to more of this. You’re building a intense and interesting world full of already grey characters, which I love. I am particularly enamored with the line, This boy lives on your city’s streets. He sees more than you, and the implications behind it. Amazing stuff all around.

      3. Roan

        “I saw the shadows creep into a house, and then all the lights went out, and then I saw the shadow come across the street and into the street drain. It was pulling a nightlight with it. And it had something else. It had a shimmery shadow following it. It looked like a baby.” He began to cry silently.”

        OK, I am captivated… or maybe captured, willingly. 🙂

  32. DMelde

    The Dick cradled the phone and looked up as a chubby, red-haired boy walked in through the door.

    “What do you want kid?” the Dick asked.

    “My name’s Tweaks. There’s somebody I want you to follow. His name is Timmy and he plays for another ball team. He keeps stealing our bases.” Tweaks said.

    “Bases are meant to be stolen kid. Get a better catcher.” the Dick advised.

    The Dick was a private investigator, a gumshoe who knew the underbelly of the apple. He knew it was rotten to the core.

    “He steals our bases at night.”

    “Then play ‘em during the day. Look kid, quit wasting my time.”

    “I can pay you.”

    “I’m listening.” the Dick said, leaning forward. “How much you got?”

    “My bank is full.” Tweaks held up a chipped, pink piggy bank.

    The Dick leaned back in his chair and sighed. He hadn’t had a client in months. The kid didn’t have much, but it was better than nothing. He shrugged his shoulders.

    “Alright, I’ll look into it. Tell me what you know.”

    “We play on the field at 4th and Powell. The last couple weeks we show up for a game and our bases are gone. Nobody knows where, just gone. So I staked out the field, and last night I saw Timmy hanging around. It’s not his territory. We can’t afford any more bases mister.”

    “Did you see him take them?”

    “No, I couldn’t stay all night, but it’s gotta be him.”

    “Okay, where can I find Timmy? What does he look like?”

    “He’s a pretty boy, wears a bow tie and slicks his hair. He hangs out at the soda shop over on 155th.”

    “Go home kid. Come back tomorrow.”

    The Dick left his office. Then he drove over to 155th.

    “You Timmy?” the Dick asked, eyeing up a kid talking to the soda jerk.

    “What’s it to you? You a copper?” Timmy asked.

    “If I was a copper I’d already have you in the slammer for lifting those bases. Wanna talk about it?”

    Timmy’s face turned whiter than the soda jerk’s apron.

    “In the b-back room.” Timmy stuttered.

    “How’d you finger me?” (once they were in the back.)

    “That’s for me to know. What’d you do with the bases?”

    “I ain’t no canary!”

    “Sure you are. You’re going to sing and if I don’t like what you’re singing I’m going to get on the horn to the coppers. Is that what you want?”

    “Listen mister, it ain’t me!” Timmy said, worried. “A trigger man came by and told me to do it. I don’t know where they take the bases.”

    “But you know why they want them! Tell me!”

    “All I know is they’re using them to smuggle dirty money out of the city. They stuff ‘em full of cash. Those bases are loaded!”

    The Dick smiled. This was bigger than either he or the kid had thought. There was money to be made here. Yes, this could play out nicely.

    The Dick looked Timmy straight in the eye. “When do you steal the bases again?”

    1. jhowe

      This was non-stop comedic gold and very enjoyable. Sometimes a story like this can get a little cheesy but you pulled it off with flying colors. Abbot and Costello couldn’t have done it better.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Who’s on first, What’s on second, How’s on third, a modern version. You really punched your clever button with this . Could be plot for a new script for ‘Our Gang’.

    2. Reaper

      I think jhowe and Kerry hit on most of the salient points here. This was wonderfully funny with just enough serious in it and a perfect voice to keep me smiling all the way through instead of becoming a parody of itself. That requires an expert touch that you delivered masterfully.

    3. lionetravail

      Wonderful, Dmelde. I chuckled out loud when it came to the ‘bases are loaded’ comment, and love the noir detective take (since the novel I’m currently working on is a noir detective fusion set in 1928). Great job with this- tongue in cheek, well-written, and it delivers.

  33. TwistedLyric

    The day started fine, my office was quiet, my fellow P.I’s doing their work with a silent boredom that didn’t penetrate my still drug addled mind. The booze on my breath went unnoticed for the most part and my pounding headache didn’t interfere with my Mahjong playing. I repeat my day started fine and I sure wish it had stayed that way.

    It was eleven when the craziness started and it started with little ceremony. Just a phone call from a 12 year old kid who said his mum was missing. Something I didn’t usually deal with, something I usually avoided. That was police territory and territory that often lead to very disappointed kids.

    “Is this Miss Kia?”

    I gave a slight grunt and rubbed my head, the phone pressed to my ear.

    “I have a task for you Miss Kai. If you would be willing to accept.”

    “Look, you sound about 10, I don’t take kid’s cases. Go phone the police.”

    About to put the phone down I stopped short when a slight sniffling sound reached my ears. Raising the phone back to my ear I cussed internally and sighed.

    “What do you want kid?”

    “My mum’s missing. I need you to find her.”

    “Jesus…alright kid, where you want to meet?”

    The kid stuttered out the address in shock, more that I had accepted than I needed to meet them but it was a close call between the two. Saying Jesus probably played a role to, kids hated blasphemy even if they probably didn’t know the word.

    I met the kid outside a warehouse, his eyes continually roaming the street as I pulled up and resisted the urge to vomit as the jolting of my car parking rocked my currently fragile body more than it desired.

    “You the kid I spoke to?”

    I asked as a precaution. No need to spoke a random child out for a walk. That was a way to be called a kidnapper and something less pleasant..

    A slight nod before the kids eyes settled on me, eyes wide.

    “You look like a murderer.”

    I waved the comment of and surveyed my surroundings.

    “Yeah yeah kid, what am I here for? This where your mum went?”

    A slight nod and a hand movement to a small home on the end of the street with dying grass and broken windows.

    “They took her in there.”

    “Took her? Who took her?”

    A slight shrug before the kid pushed my thigh a bit.

    “Go get my mum.”

    I sighed again then moved, glancing behind me warily. Who took the mother? In fact why the hell was I moving at all, I should be demanding answers…but the kids face was so innocent and worry ridden that I had to do it for him.

    The house was pretty silent, no obvious signs of indirect entry and no weapons visible on the outside of the house and none visible through any windows I could see through, which were few and far between due to thick blinds and heavy curtains that blocked all light and sight into the house. Giving up on stealth I walked right towards the door and kicked it slightly, frowning when it blew open as soon as my foot touched it.

    “Hello? Anyone here? This is private investigator Kai looking for a missing child’s mother.”

    A slight creeking sound and a whimper before a snarl and a wolf met my gaze from where I stood in front of the door.

    “Well hell.”

    “Mummy?”

    The kid ran up behind me, voice slightly strained and laden with the sound of repressed tears.

    “Double hell.”

    This was not gonna be fun.

    1. jhowe

      Nicely written suspense that brought us up to the wolf conclusion. The first time I read it, I couldn’t figure out the wolf, was it the mother I wondered? And then I thought maybe a Red Riding Hood scenario. Either way, it got me thinking. I think a ‘triple hell’ may be needed to clear this up.

    2. DMelde

      Great story TwistedLyric. You set the mood well. You could tighten the story if you want by replacing the last line of the first paragraph with a line that doesn’t repeat, like “it was a pleasant day with an unpleasant hangover that I sure wish had stayed that way”. and the sentence that introduces the house is stronger if you say dead grass instead of dying grass (at least to me) “a slight nod and a hand pointed to a dark house at the end of the street with dead grass and broken dreams”. Those two sentences really stood out to me, but like I said, I really enjoyed this!

    3. Reaper

      I liked this a lot, the ending was good but I’m with jhowe on being initially confused. For me it wasn’t the ending itself though. I got the idea of something bad from how bossy the kid was, and am assuming the them in question were government men. What threw me off was the line, I’m looking for a missing child’s mother. I paused and tried to figure out who the missing child was and it pulled me out of the story and because of that I wasn’t as connected to the end as I was the rest of the story and now I was in a mood to be confused. If you changed that to child’s missing mother the flow would keep me in and I think that what is going on feeling would fade away.

    4. lionetravail

      I’m going out on a limb to posit that the kid in the story is Lil Red Riding Hood’s get in an alternate universe story where the wolf won.

      Cool idea, I think as others have suggested, one or two more dots to connect with would sell this one.

  34. QuiverPen

    I should never have talked to that stupid kid. I mean, seriously, if I’d known where answering that phone would lead, that I’d be here, I would have just gone on being down on my luck. Maybe I would have gone back to school, my wife always said I should do that. Maybe I would have gone back and joined the force again – well, probably not.

    Anyway, it all went pear shaped when that pesky kid took me to the scene of the “supposed” crime. He claimed his friend had been abducted. What he neglected to tell me was that his friend had been kidnapped by means of a portal – yes, that’s what I said, a portal. You know, one of those funny doors you see on scifi shows but never expect to see in real life. Yep, there it was, glistening blue at the back of the dark alleyway. No, I wasn’t drunk or otherwise mentally impaired. It was a real, honest to goodness, portal.

    And then the kid just jumped right through it. Stupid kid. What was I supposed to do then, just turn tail and run? No, the kid was gone, his supposed friend too, and there was something strange about it all.

    So I jumped in too.

    And straight into a cage. Some strange alien-bug thing slammed the cage door shut. Crackling blue energy appeared between the bars and that stuff hurts when you touch it, I’m not gonna lie. The kid was there, except he wasn’t a kid anymore, he looked like an alien-bug too, except with different eyes. Human eyes. They creeped me out.

    So now I’m here, stuck in what I can only assume is a research lab. The sun is blue and the moons, all three of them, dominate the sky at night. I can breathe, so there’s oxygen in the atmosphere. But I can’t help but wonder what’s become of Earth. What’s Mary up to?

    There’s no escape. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve tried. And failed.

    Stupid kid. No, stupid me. Stupid, stupid me.

    1. jhowe

      Very clever QP. Since there is no dialog or live action in the story you used this method of the narrator recalling the events that got him locked in the alien world cage and you did it very well. I loved the way you described the portal and the unbelievability factor that the narrator emphasized. Heck, I probably would have jumped in too.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Not me I wouln’t have jumped in. I do think it was a very image conscious tale with the alien bit. How in hell is he gonna get out of there? He can still pray for sexual experimentation.

    2. Reaper

      This is well written and very strange. The complete alien nature of the images and hopelessness and anger of the voice lead me to looking for morals and messages without even trying to. I don’t know if you meant for this to be social and political commentary but it certainly became it for me in a very metaphorical and powerful way.

  35. Pete

    I’m on my lunch break, slogging down a sandwich in the office. It’s not as bad as it sounds—the eating in my car, which also happens to be my office—but the sandwich is awful, wet and soggy from the mustard water.

    I’ve just finished my case for Mrs. Pinkerton, whose Pekinese was underneath her porch again. She’s eyeing me from the window when my phone buzzes. I wipe at the crumbs on my lap and then flip it open.

    “Is this Mr. Pinkerton?”

    “Speaking.”

    “I have a job for you.”

    *Let me just insert here that yes, I did go rescue my mother’s dog, again. And yes, I accepted the five dollar payment. Anything else or can we move on?

    On the phone, I gauge the voice to belong to a kid, maybe twelve. I toss out the rest of the sandwich. “Go on.”

    “Not on the phone. Meet me at Bilkens Park at three.”

    On the way over I’m thinking it’s a waste of time. The kid lost his dog. Maybe a bully slapped him around or stole his bike. None of it is worth my time, although my time is pretty plentiful.

    I’ve been thinking about going back to school. Moving back in with Mrs. P and taking some night classes. At first living in my car sounded like an adventure, going all Into the Wild and shit, but I’m 38 now, and my back feels like an old dog anchor that’s been staked in the dirt and yanked around by a pit bull. A bed would be nice.

    My home/office/1974 Plymouth Valiant is all too happy to collapse in the parking lot. By habit I take in the adjacent neighborhood, considering I might be sleeping here. Over by the gazebo I see a figure. He waves me over.

    I’m halfway there when it dawns on me that he could have walked to me. I once took pictures of a tennis instructor’s cheating hot wife for $500 a day. Now I’m doing this. At least it’s a nice day.

    When I get closer I see that he’s rifling through a bag and looking fidgety.

    “Okay, so what’s the story?”

    The kid sizes me up. “You’re not that tall.”

    “Right to the point aren’t we?”

    He’s stringy, with shaggy bangs, his head about to my shoulders. His eyes skip along, like he’s sifting through a universe of thought in that head of his. Finally he holds up a stick and says, “I need to swab your tongue.”

    I cock my head. “You want to tell me what’s going on?”

    He looks at me like I just told him to put away his clean laundry. “It’s better if you don’t know.”

    “Okay, so what’s your case?”

    “You are my case,” he says, annoyed. “Actually, it’s kind of funny you’re a P.I., considering.”

    “Considering?”

    The kid rolls his eyes. “Look, I just need to do this test.”

    I take a seat and put my hands on my lap. My mouth is suddenly really, really dry. “Not until you tell me what this is about.”

    He drops his arms and turns his head in frustration. Something about his gesture chokes my heart and I go all tingly, gasping for breath like I might pass out. Or worse. Right here in the park with the constant rush of the creek, some loud joggers, the far off beat of a basketball.

    The kid wipes his eyes, but still holds his back to me. Another minute goes by like this, a few more breaths. It doesn’t take a detective to figure it out, it’s one of those big moments in life, even for a guy who lives in his car.

    I smack my leg, because I’ll be damned. Fine.

    “Okay kid, swab away.”

    He doesn’t move. “We’ve narrowed it down to four, you know.”

    Come on kid, you’re killing me here. I stick my tongue out. “Ahhh”

    He turns around, misty-eyed and almost smiling. I feel the swipe of cotton on my tongue. Then he turns back to his bag, all business. “I should know something in three to four weeks,” he says, zipping up. “If…I mean…if it’s positive or whatever don’t worry, I just want to know. I don’t want money or anything…”

    He slings the bag up around his shoulder and starts off.

    “Hey, hang on a sec.”

    He stops and turns. The way he stares at me only makes me all the more sure. We don’t need three of four weeks.

    “What’s your name?”

    “Caleb.”

    “Well Caleb, I might be able to give you a ride.”

    He looks to the parking lot and smiles. “In that beater?”

    “You’ve got jokes, huh?”

    He almost smiles again as we start for my old car, his own case work strapped to his shoulder as we talk about my last case. He takes a particular interest, andf from the looks of things, I think I’ve found a new partner.

    1. TwistedLyric

      This is really well written and is a good story. I enjoy the description you used and the story is clear yet you describe it in a way that leaves the reason up for guessing should a person feel uncertain. Excellent 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Dead on Pete, a lot of emotion here, and sentimental at the same time. You leave the reader with the idea, they’d be good for each other. Nice last sentence also.

    2. Reaper

      This is beautiful both in story and writing. You touch very subtly on some truths about humanity and fatherhood in a way that brings it home. The statement that you don’t need three or four weeks is perfect. Mothers usually have this natural connection to their kids because they carried them. Men have to choose to be a father so the results of the test aren’t as important as the moment you described right here.

    3. lionetravail

      Nicely done, Pete. I wasn’t really sure what the paternity test was until I read others’ explanations- I might be a bit dense this week. You might want a little more of a telegraph for the ‘aha’ moment later… for me, I was wondering “huh, wonder what he’s testing?”.

      Like I said, I feel like my timing is off this week, but you might consider a little tick in the first sentence or two about failed relationships he’s lost track of, or how he looked a bit like a mom he half-remembered. For me, that would seal the deal, moving me right to what you were thinking rather than being confused.

  36. jhowe

    The bedraggled alley cat with tabby fur hissed loudly, flicked its stub of a tail and backed away as the man in a worn olive green trench coat walked past. Parnell Butler hissed in return which caused a fearful howl and a flurry of movement as the animal scurried away. Turning a corner, Parnell heard the shuffle of feet; human feet and he stopped walking.

    “Are you the private detective everybody talks about?” said a boy of indeterminate age. At first glance the boy seemed capable and what he lacked in height he made up for in girth.

    “That depends.” Parnell eyed the boy wearily. “What does everybody say?”

    “That you’re very affordable.”

    “They’re wrong.”

    “Did you see that cat back there?” said the boy. “The orange striped one?”

    Parnell said nothing.

    “You wanna know what happened to his tail?”

    “Not really.”

    “I have money.”

    “Where does a kid like you get the money to hire a man like me?”

    “Let’s just say I collect lunch money, among other things.”

    “You’re a bully I presume.”

    “The city needs to be protected,” the boy said.

    “From you?” Parnell looked skeptical.

    The boy nodded and did not break eye contact. “I’m bad news.”

    “What could I possibly do?”

    “I want to hire you,” the boy said. “To kill me.”

    “That’s ridiculous,” Parnell said and started to walk away.

    “Hey dude!” the boy said.

    Parnell turned and the boy held a hand gun at his side. Parnell pulled his Glock and pointed it. “Drop the gun son.”

    The boy raised his gun slowly and aimed at the man’s chest. “Are you going to do this for free or are you going to take my money?”

    “I don’t want your money son.” Parnell’s hand shook slightly. “Put it down.”

    “There’s a third option.” The boy pulled back the hammer on the revolver his hand unwavering. “You had your chance.”

    Parnell fired and the boy fell to the pavement, blood pooling beneath the body. He checked for a pulse and found none. With hands of lead he pulled out his Tracfone and dialed 911. The squad car and the ambulance arrived simultaneously with tires squealing and sirens whooping. Parnell dropped his gun and raised his hands high.

    “I can explain,” Parnell said as the cuffs were snapped on him.

    Four hours later Parnell walked out of the police station where he was once employed as a homicide detective before his disgraceful exit for a wrongful death scandal.

    “You just can’t keep it in your pants can you Parnell.”

    “It was him or me Larry,” he said to the lieutenant.

    “It seems it’s always him though, in your case.”

    “I wish I could have made another choice,” Parnell said shielding his eyes from the setting sun.

    “You’re lucky the boy kept a diary; outlined everything he was gonna do.”

    “Yeah, lucky me.”

    The lieutenant shook his head and watched as Parnell walked down the street. An orange tabby cat with no tail appeared from between two cars and fell in step behind him.

    1. Reaper

      Well jhowe, that one made me shiver and was far too believable. That cat following at the end just makes it that much more disturbing. I have so little to say because this was just so good.

    2. Nicki EagerReader

      Sinister in a way, and a riveting read. That boy had my full attention- he seemed wise beyond his years (in a subversive manner). I agree with the others on the cat- I loved how you built the feline in and kept her as a “theme”.The entire set up left me wondering if maybe seers and shapeshifters and other shadow creatures are involved… this could just be the beginning…

      Thanks for a story that spurred my imagination!

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