Over on Terrible Minds this week, Chuck Wendig is doing another episode of aspects, wherein using dice, or a random number generator, (or choosing piecemeal if you’re boring) you are provided with three elements to use in a piece of flash. With the help of my mighty dice–no picture so you’ll have to take my word for it–I got:
- Subgenre: Murder Mystery
- Setting: Brothel
- Element: Alien parasite or virus
I’m not going to lie to you, I was pretty psyched with that roll. Critical success!
In addition to another round of aspects, Chuck is hosting an awesome contest! Everyone who links back to their flash piece, and opts in, goes into a random drawing for registration to the Crossroads Writers Conference in Macon, GA! MegaWinner gets two nights in the hotel, brunch, other random stuff, and two runners up get registration, lunch and a tee-shirt.
Dude, for a thousand words? Yeah, I’ll throw my hat in that ring.
So, without further ado (except for a tiny content warning: blood!) I present to you:
Call it What You Will
Penelope Bloom slid the garter over her cinnamon-dark skin to hide beneath the hem of her miniskirt. I kept my eyes on hers, while my partner Robbie recorded her little show on his cell.
Good kid, that one.
“I don’t know squat, piggie.” Her mouth, as red as that garter, as red as the light above us, came in two channels: filthy and foul.
“You’re telling me, being not ten feet from her room in the middle of the night, you heard not a peep as your…uh, coworker bit the big one?” I snorted. “I don’t believe it.”
“Don’t have to.” She straightened, showing me more cleavage than my wife had in ten years. “It’s the truth. I had my own noisemaker to play with, if you get my drift.”
Robbie flicked his phone shut. “How long did you know Ms. Winchester?”
“Maybe a week.” She stretched across the bed and plucked a pair of heels off a built-in shelf crowded with shoes, makeup. “I just started. All the more reason for you donut sniffers to get off my case. I. Don’t. Know. Squat.”
This was going nowhere, even though I knew she had something to tell. Call it a hunch. Call it intuition. Call it one stupid cop thinking he’s psychic. I don’t care. I knew.
“You think of anything, you call me.” I dropped my card on her nightstand, and we left.
The hallway had the same lighting; guess nobody wanted to see much in this place.
“I’m going to take another look,” I nodded at Willa Winchester’s room.
“I need a smoke.” Robbie’s nose crinkled. “Place gives me the creeps.”
I ducked beneath the crime scene tape as Robbie nodded to the uniform stationed outside.
The room was a mess: drawers upended, personal effects bagged and taken for evidence, or left behind as unimportant. The mattress was gone, leaving four stained slats in the bed frame, and a big, dead spot underneath.
An image of the fresh scene popped into my head. No, popped is the wrong word. It sharpened; since I’d laid eyes on her I hadn’t thought of anything else. Sprawled on her bed, insides all over the sheets. Looked like she’d been torn clean open, collarbone to cunt.
“Poor, dumb whore,” I muttered.
I’d come back not only to talk to her ‘neighbors’, but to get another peek at the scene. I felt like we were missing something. We had boxes of organics to sort through already: juice from her johns, hair from the hookers, fingerprints from everybody. A whole phone book’s worth of suspects to track down.
We wouldn’t find her killer that way. Another dumb hunch.
But me ‘knowing’ wouldn’t bring Willa Winchester justice. I had to find proof. Whatever that meant.
I dropped into a squat by the bed, slid my hands over the cheap wooden frame. My eyes fell into a squint as I replayed the events of that night.
Ten pm, Willa’s first shows up. He’s with her twenty minutes. He takes off and the old crone running the joint collects her share from Willa. Ten thirty, same routine, only this guy overstays his welcome and the beefy no-neck downstairs has to get rough. Nothing new, nothing noteworthy. The whole night a string of sad sons-of-bitches, until Willa closes up shop around four. Says goodnight to the half-dozen ladies still slinging in the lobby, and goes to bed.
According to the whispers, there was reason enough to off Willa. Men loved her, women hated her; equal motive for murder.
If the ten grand we found soaked through with her blood was any indicator, though, Willa was working toward something bigger than a life of quickies. Some of the girls mentioned the money, but none of it was missing.
I poked around her panty drawer, fighting back an itch between my shoulder blades. Then I saw it. A flash of red, buried under nighties and polyester stockings. I pulled out my pocketknife, flicked the blade open and fished out a piece of lace and ribbon and elastic.
Just like the one Penelope Bloom wore.
I heard a soft knock and managed to get the garter in my coat before hinges creaked and the devil herself walked in.
“Something occured to me, detective.” Penelope didn’t bother shutting the door; I could see the uniform, but it didn’t ease my heart any.
“What’s that?” Calm voice, shaking hands. Looking her over, doubts crawled in. No way this broad could tear open a box of cereal, much less a body.
And yet…that hunch. That deep, instinctual, Hail-Mary feeling told me she was the one.
“Well, I remembered that I like Willa’s room a damn sight better than my own.” She shrugged. “I can’t say I’m sad to see her go. You, though…” She stuck out her hand. “I hope you find the bitch who did this.”
I wrapped my wrinkled digits around hers and squeezed.
“Mmm…I love a man with a good handshake.”
Something slimy slithered on my palm. I felt a pinch, like getting a shot. A rush of numbness spread to my wrist. I tried to pull away, but she had more strength than anyone that pretty deserved.
“Maybe you’ll come back and see me.”
A pale membrane skittered across her baby blues, so fast I couldn’t be sure I saw it. Then she released me.
“So long, detective.”
I stared at my palm. Same old hand, bisected by a scar from a knife fight—back when I was stupid enough to dance with blades. Except, in the dead center, the scar split, interrupted by a patch of perfect skin.
I took a deep breath, coughed out the smell of a thousand men, a thousand broken dreams.
She put something in me. Don’t know how I knew for sure, but I did. Call it a hunch. Call it intuition.
Call me an ambulance.
Photo used under creative commons license from C.-04