Category Archives: Flash Fiction

Saving Time: Part 4 Mismanaged

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Saving Time - A Flash Fiction - READ FREE

The next morning, I arrived in the parking lot seconds before the other employees. We simultaneously swarmed the entrance of Saving Time, like bees to their hive.

Blue Tie snagged my sleeve as I walked though the door. “Not so fast, Missy,” and led me back to the bank side where Darlene was lighting a new cigarette. “You have to finish your work from yesterday.”

“But I did–,” my eyes stared blankly at several new mountains of paperwork. Was she here all night making this mess for me to sort?

Darlene glanced at me with devious eyes before she waved Blue Tie to her computer screen. She pointed a greasy fingertip to the glass, “Can you believe her?”

Blue Tie’s shoulders sagged. “Would you please not start drama today, Darlene?” He nodded to the screen, “Not with Mr. Acetone coming in.” I noticed Darlene roll her eyes as Blue Tie began trotting away.

“Everyone, get this place cleaned up ASAP! Mr. Acetone is on his way!” Blue Tie called out, his voice fading into the back of the building.

“Who’s Mr. Acetone?” I asked Darlene, her attention focused solely  on what looked like someone’s personal Facebook profile. As if in response, a low rumbling, like thunder, came from the street and rattled the piles of empty food containers littering Darlene’s work space.

“Mr. Acetone is here!” she spoke in a sing-song voice, running her fingers through her stringy hair, leaving behind slick streaks.

I looked up from the endless tower of papers to see monstrous wheels creep passed the glass door. It was the largest pickup truck I had ever seen, outside of the monster truck rallies on television. It had an extended cab, extended bed, several sets of lights, and four exhaust pipes.

The driver parked directly in front of the buildings’ entrances, half on the curb, dangerously close to the doors. The door to the bank flew open and in strode —

“Mr. Acetone,” Darlene squeaked.

The man’s flawless blonde comb over grazed the door frame as he stepped in and he removed his aviator sunglasses. His physique was that of a man who had played several seasons of football 30 years ago, but now his age was catching up, whether he liked it or not. He flashed an overly white smile at Darlene and sauntered up to the desk and placed a thick elbow on the counter. “Morning, darlin’. How are we today?”

Darlene beamed. I could taste stomach acid rising up into my mouth.

“We’re great, Mr. Acetone,” Darlene spoke in a professional voice I wasn’t convinced belonged to her. “Here are the numbers from last week, your emails, lunch menus for today, your balanced checkbook,” she leaned over to reach under her desk. For a moment, I thought I heard her chair leg crack. She pulled out a tan garment bag and more papers, “And your dry cleaning, yesterday’s mail, that recipe you asked for, the information on the four wheeler in the paper, and…” She started looking around her desk, lifting up old candy bar wrappers, then pulled an envelope out from between her stomach rolls. “Here it is! The names of the new ladies,” she placed the envelope on the counter beside the pile of other junk.

When the hell did she do all this sh–

“It is a miracle this place ever functioned without you, sweetheart,” Mr. Acetone peeled his arms out of his black leather jacket and handed it to Darlene. “Hold on to that for me, love. I need to introduce myself to the new hires.” He started to open the envelope, “Where’s Boss Lady and that puny fella that always wears the same blue tie?”

Darlene never took her eyes from the man. “I haven’t seen them.”

Lie. I chuckled under my breath, returning to my so called work.

“I remember when you first started here,” Mr. Acetone cooed at Darlene, but was looking over the paper in his hand. “And how long have you been here, love?”

“Oh, um…” Darlene seemed confused by the question.

“Not you,” he snapped at Darlene, still lost in thought.

I looked up to find him starring directly at me, sitting in the floor amongst the heaps of paperwork. “Well, hello there,” his ice blue eyes seemed to burn behind his too bright smile. “And who are you?”

“Bobby,” I answered immediately. The thought of this guy knowing my real name made me uncomfortable. For the first time, I was glad to have a pseudonym.

“Nice to meet you, Bobby.” He winked and flexed what little muscle he still had under the accumulative flab. He extended a meaty hand and waited for me to shake it.

I slowly rose from the floor, mentally listing the things I would rather do.

With one jolting shake, he said, “Jack Acetone. This,” he indicated the entirety of the bank, his gaze lingered way too long on Darlene, “is mine.” He looked at the crumbling hole in the wall and the clock factory beyond. “I suppose that, too, now.” He returned his piercing eyes to me, “Hopefully soon, you’ll become a valuable employee like our dear Darlene.”

 

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Saving Time: Part 3 Overtime

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Saving Time - A Flash Fiction - READ FREE

 

I had spent my last miserable work hours tediously sorting piles of paperwork, after spending my first hours sorting out rusty clock parts. I was more than relieved to be home opening the bottle of wine that had been chilling in the refrigerator since my birthday. I poured a generous glass and flopped onto the couch. I reached for the tv remote when my phone rang.

The unfamiliar ten digit number flashed while the phone vibrated in a small circle. I contemplated throwing it across the room, and whether or not my phone would survive.

“Hello?”

“Hey, uh, Bobby?” It was Darlene. Her words were spaced with heaving breaths every few syllables, as if she had been running. I knew that was not the case. “They need you. To come in. Now. I couldn’t find you. On Facebook. So, I had to. Call you.”

I looked down at my glass of wine. “Am I getting paid?”

“Yeah.”

“Overtime?” One could be hopeful.

“No,” she said flatly and ended the call.

I placed my glass in the refrigerator and set out, once again, to this hellish place I now called work.

I arrived before everyone else, again, and decided to park at the end of the block. I waited as the cars descended upon the parking lot like flies on fresh dog shit. After taking her parking spot back, the petite girl exited her car, still streaming profanities, and entered the bank without sparing a glance for anyone.

Blue Tie opened the door and leaned out, motioning everyone inside the buildings. “Bobby! You came back!” he beamed with awe as I approached.

Yeah, I can’t believe it either. I grinned, gritting my teeth.

“Come with me,” Blue Tie instructed to those who had shown up, then jogged away towards the back of the clock shop.

Namer was slumped against the wall, seeming to be asleep.

Then it hit me. The putrid, sulfuric odor assaulted me like a physical force. “What is that smell?”

“The Separator is leaking again,” choked Blue Tie. “We need to find the leak.” He went to a corner and grabbed a cardboard box.

“I don’t know anything about machines,” I said, thinking back on all the appliances I had thrown out when they refused to work.

“Oh, it’s easy! Just take this,” Blue Tie held out the box, which was full of half-used rolls of various tapes, “and follow your nose!” He pinch my nose, like a grandfather does to his helpless infant grandchild.

I pulled the collar of my shirt up over my nose as I and several other people approached the gaseous device. I noticed that no two people had the same kind of tape.

As I rounded the corner to the backside of the machine, I could see far more tape than metal. Duct, masking, electrical, and even scotch were all in abundance.

“Could they not call a repair man?” I asked no one in particular.

“Oh, they did,” said a stocky man to my left, sniffing like a hound. “Pro’lly two years ‘go. He whacked at it a few times with a big ‘ole wrench, then stuck a patch on it. Told management he’d order us a part and come back when it came in.”

“They should call him back,” the smell was beginning to make me light headed.

“They did, but the guy went outta business. We’ve been trying to hold out until he can get that part over to us.” The man reached up to slap a strip of tape onto a random patch of metal.

 

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Saving Time: Day 1 Part 2

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Saving Time - A Flash Fiction - READ FREE

Saving Time: Day 1, Part 2

 

“Oh, no,” said Blue Tie with mock sympathy, standing uncomfortably close, peering over my shoulder.

I had drifted into a trance sometime during the monotonous work, but his gut-wrenching comment woke me. We were nearly done sorting the junk parts, but now stood frozen. I was the only one to speak, “What’s wrong,” do not call him Blue Tie, “sir?”

“You’re supposed to sort them by color, not by design!” His frustration came across rather whiney for a grown man in a semi-suit. “Seriously, it isn’t that hard,” he groaned as he rolled his eyes with his entire upper body, his arms flailing wildly in frustration.

The older woman pointed in my direction, “It was her idea,” with unmistakable accusation and said nothing more.

I fought the urge to throat punch the woman I had only known for 3 hours, while Blue Tie refocused on me, clearly distraught and demanding a response. “But would it not be easier to find what you’re looking for this way?” I asked.

“That’s not the point, “Blue Tie responded sharply. “We have always sorted them by color. Boss is not going to like this. Wasn’t there four of you?”

I realized for the first time that one of the young men was missing. The rest of us shrugged, unknowing of the man’s whereabouts.

“Let’s just say he’s in the restroom,” Blue Tie glanced over his shoulder, then turned back attempting to whisper, “Boss doesn’t like quitters. Be right back!” then turned to run off once again.

“What do we do with the rest of this?” I yelled after him, gesturing to the remaining cogs and gears left unsorted.

“Keep going!” he yelled back, jutting up his thumbs before returning to his jog in the opposite direction.

I turned back to the barrels, debating on “going to the restroom” as well, when I heard a faint psst coming from behind the rusty bins. I leaned forward, peering over the far rim when a young woman popped her head up. I jumped backwards, grabbing hold of the barrel to keep my balance.

The girl silently slid her hand over the rim, a crumpled business card held between her fingers. Her wildly frazzled hair complimented her shifty eyes. “Don’t trust HR,” she hissed nearly inaudible amidst the metallic swishing of the group sifting through the barrels’ contents.

I took the card with a questioning glance, but remained silent, unsure what to say. Thanks?

Human Resources, ha!” She threw her head back with the single laugh. “That,” she pointed a grimy finger at the card, “is who you call if you need a real person to help you.”

I looked down at the card and saw a hand written number, ink running from what looked like a grease stain.

I heard the jogging return of Blue Tie, and when I looked up, the woman was gone. He used his animated arms to separate me from the rest of the group, “Boss said she wants a word with you later,” he said as he ushered me back to the front of the building. “But now they need your help on the bank side. You are coming back tomorrow?”

My first thought was to ask why I wouldn’t, but after what happened with the other young man this morning, I decided to keep my answer simple, “Yes.”

“Great! Come with me.” He led me through the shattered wall and into the bank building. Behind the counter, at the far left, sat a rotund woman miraculously perched atop her shockingly small office chair. Her eyes were locked on her computer screen while her right finger constantly rotated the mouse’s scroll wheel, keeping the screen in constant motion. Leaning towers of paperwork surrounded her work station, accompanied by several white Styrofoam take-out containers and soft drink bottles.

“This is Darlene,” said Blue Tie, and cleared his throat to draw her attention away from the glowing screen. “You’ll be helping her for the rest of the day,” and he turned on a heel to begin jogging to his next destination.

Darlene swiveled in her chair, the chair protested loudly, and she gave me a once over. She smelled like an ashtray cheeseburger. In fact, she had two lit cigarettes dangling from her mouth and at least 4 unlit cigarettes peaking out from under several of her many rolls.

What else is tucked in there? I immediately decided to never ponder that question again.

Darlene returned her face four inches away from her computer screen and wiggled her porky fingers towards the teetering paper stacks. “Sort this crap out.”

As I stepped closer to take one of the parchment skyscrapers, I glanced at her screen and saw several separate windows open, all of which with the Facebook logo at the top.

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Saving Time: Day 1

Saving Time - A Flash Fiction - READ FREE

 

My heart raced with nervous energy and five cups of black coffee. I parallel parked my outdated sedan on the side of the desolate street. I heard my front tire scraping the sidewalk. At least no one saw that.

“Where the heck is everybody?” I whispered to myself before chugging the last of the coffee from my thermos, swallowing a generous amount of coffee grounds.

I checked my watch. The second hand sat bouncing in place, the time still reading 10:28 p.m. I threw the useless thing in the glove compartment, slamming it closed.  I strained to read the folded sheet of paper in my lap I had printed off last night from the job placement’s website. My printer’s ink levels were so low it made their tiny map impossible to see. The instructions were large enough to make out:  “Arrive 15 Minates Befor Start Time: 8:00 A.M.” No matter how many times I read it, the amount of typos left me flabbergasted.

I exited from my horribly parked car and attempted to straighten my wrinkled blouse with no success. I approached the old brick building, my new job, and immediately froze when seeing there were two doors. The door to the left had green block letters, “Saving”, and the other with a paper sign taped to the glass hiding part of the name and only revealing the word “Time.” Glue residue remained of old letters that had obviously been removed, once reading “Financial Savings”. A bank?

Three people approached the two doors I had idly been standing before. Two young men and a middle aged woman, all baring the same look of confusion as myself. The woman held a sheet of paper like the one I had printed, but her printer clearly had more ink than mine.

“What time is it?” She asked no one in particular.

One of the young men, immersed in internet land via his cell phone, nonchalantly mumbled “7:45.” As if on cue, seven more cars screeched to a halt along the side walk.

A violent combination of rock, heavy metal, and rap music echoed through the street until the listeners cut their engines in sync. Another car and it’s driver, who is now officially late, stopped abruptly in the middle of the road next to my own car, as if I had stolen a claimed parking space. I heard a stream of profanities from the driver as the car’s tires spun, producing a small puff of smoke. The car jumped the curb onto the sidewalk, narrowly missing the brick wall, a fire hydrant, and a small bird. A petite woman bounced out of the car, still swearing, and entered the bank side without acknowledging the small party gathered around the entrances.

Out from the other door appeared a young man in a bright blue tie, dingy white dress shirt, and faded black slacks one size too large. “Mornin’!” he bellowed with a wide smile. The entirety of the group, myself included, jumped at his unnecessary volume. “Come on in!” and he waved us inside, his arm rotating widely, like a one-bladed ceiling fan on the highest setting.

I haven’t ate enough coffee grounds for this I thought as I veered into the doorway. I glanced back to see the rest of the name hidden by the sheet of paper “It’s Clock Time”. A clock repair shop? What?

I first noticed the haphazardly formed doorway through the central wall connecting the clock shop to the bank. Two sledge hammers leaned against the freshly punched out passage. I pointed, poised to ask a question, “Is that sa–”

“Wait here,” he boomed over my cut-off question. He made an elaborate showroom gesture to a machine that gave the impression of a man leaning against the wall. Instead of a head, an antique Apple computer balanced atop a receipt dispenser with an unnecessary amount of duct tape connecting the two. An old leather office chair positioned at the base held onto the top half with several sets of cables and rope. “This is Namer! He’ll give you a nametag and I’ll be right back with your daily assignment.”

I approached the robot as it/he spit out a small strip of paper that read “Bobby.”

Blue Tie came running back to the group gulping air. “Nice to meet you, Bobby!” Blue Tie said, looking at the nametag.

“It’s Barbara, actually,” I said, rather confused. His breath smelled of onions and maple syrup.

“Well, that’s quite a bit closer than Namer usually gets to people’s old names. It’s easier if you just learn to go by the name Namer gives you. Less confusing that way. Come with me, Bobby. Come along everyone!” He herded us like cattle to the far right wall. “These are the machines you won’t have anything to do with.”

I began glancing around as the others ogled the machines. He then pushed us toward large, rusty metal bins in the corner that I thought were going to be full of garbage. I was close I thought as I saw various cogs, gears, and springs piled high to the brim. “Sort these,” Blue Tie instructed and started to walk away. He turned on a heel and added, “Before lunch.”

The taller of the young men raised his hand awkwardly. “When is lunch?”

Blue Tie chuckled heartily, “Oh I meant my lunch!” He checked his watch, and looked at the bins. “Then we’ll see if you’ve earned a break. Chop, chop!”

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Red Herring: Part 10

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Red Herring Cover Part 10 - Conclusion to the FREE Flash Fiction series!

The door to the cramped interrogation room thumped shut.

Charlie Whittmore sat silently, handcuffed to the table with his fingers laced. He looked up as Peirson slid into the chair opposite him. Peirson placed a small voice recorder on the table between them, and with an exaggerated effort he pressed play.

“You wanted to speak with me personally?” Peirson asked.

Charlie breathed a heavy sigh. “I killed Irma Patterson.”

“That’s a different song than the one you were singing back at the Carmine residence.”

Charlie sighed again and restarted. Peirson realized he had interrupted a prepared speech. “I killed Irma Patterson. She found out about the affair Carol and I had, making Jack my son and not John’s. Irma would have told John, and I had no idea what John would have done to any of us, including Jack.”

Peirson reached for the recorder and pressed stop. “Bravo. A well delivered speech that is now on record.” Peirson stared at Charlie, who now had small beads of sweat forming along his hairline. “Alright, show’s over, enough of the bullshit. It’s obvious that you were in on it, but I know you did not kill Irma.”

Charlie opened his mouth, but Peirson used his hands to make the “time out” symbol.

“I’m going to tell you what I think happened,” Charlie’s mouth clamped and his head dropped between his slumped shoulders. Peirson took that as a sign of defeat and continued, “And you’re going to fill me in on anything that I might have missed.”

Charlie never moved as Peirson restarted the voice recorder.

Peirson took out his notebook as back up and drew in a breath, “John was an abusive husband, most likely the mental aspect rather than the physical. Carol is every bit the battered wife. No surprise why she came to you for comfort, and boy, did you comfort her.”

“I know what I–,” Charlie tried to interrupt, but Peirson spoke over him.

“But to keep the peace, you three kept the secret locked up tight. Then a meddlesome babysitter put a dent in your plans and forced a course of action.”

Peirson glanced at Charlie, his body was clenched and his knuckles were white. A nerve had been touched.

“So you three decided to snuff out the match before it could start a fire,” Peirson let his accusations lay heavy in the air. “You decided to crowd up the house one night for dinner and make it impossible to find out who killed Irma Patterson because there’s safety in numbers!” If you want an egg to crack, put it under pressure.

“We didn’t mean to!” Charlie shouted in defense, mistakenly giving away vital information.

“‘We’? So it wasn’t just you?” Peirson was so close he could feel it tingling in the tips of his fingers.

“Ok,” Charlie began, “you’re right about the ONE TIME affair. And , yes, we had all agreed on keeping it quiet: Linda, Carol, and I. The less John knew, the better.” Charlie’s eyes began to brim with tears, “but she couldn’t do it anymore. She had had enough of his shit…”

“Fantastic,” Peirson breathed. “A bunch of fancy pants taking matters into their own hands and now two people are dead! Why didn’t you call the police sooner?” Peirson’s hands flew up into the air in frustration.

“She did! Her dad said he would make sure it looked like an accident,” Charlie unlaced his fingers to place his cuffed hands palms up on the table, as if he was giving up the last bit of information he had.

Act like a detective. “It was right in front of me the whole time…” Peirson mumbled, remembering Jackson saying he was first on the scene. “If her father could make it look like an accident…” Father. To Carol. Who named her son after the grandfather! Peirson’s hands slammed down hard on the table and Charlie jumped. “Where is Jackson taking his family?”

Charlie sat in brief silence with his lips pursed. “I’m willing to take the fall for this if it means Jack and his mother are far away from everything they have been through.”

The detective let out a breath and counted backwards from ten. Charlie believed he was doing what was right. After someone had that mindset, they were immovable.

“An innocent woman is dead,” Peirson slid Irma Patterson’s photo across the tabletop into Charlie’s hands. “Do you know where they went?”

Charlie glanced at the photo and lifted his head to meet Peirson’s stare. “Even if I knew, I wouldn’t tell you, Detective. John is dead and my family is alive; that’s all that matters.”

Peirson gritted his teeth and stepped away from the table to compose himself. He turned back to Charlie and pointed a shaky finger at the tip of Charlie’s nose, “You’ll all go down together.” Peirson left the interrogation room, slamming the door behind him.

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Red Herring: Part 9

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Red Herring: Part 9 - FREE Flash Fiction series

Pierson was pulling Kyle up from the floor in handcuffs when the brunette photographer ran past him into the sitting room. The female officer gave her a look of relief, “Molly! Thank you, I was afraid you had already left.”

“And miss all the action? No way!” Molly turned to Peirson and beamed a wide smile followed by another wink.

Molly? I was way off.

Shutter clicks and bright flashes filled the now quiet room. There was murmuring amongst the officers. He assumed they were talking about him and how this all looked. It was Peirson’s gun, and his only two witnesses were a convict and a suspect. He walked over beside Molly and studied John’s body. She took four more photographs before acknowledging Peirson looming over her shoulder.

“Ash? Really?” she asked while concentrating on the bullet hole in John’s chest.

Peirson shook his head, but never took his eyes from John. This was bad. His own weapon killed this man.

“Look, Detective,” she said after several moments of silence, “you didn’t do it. He wasn’t exactly a saint either. Ten minutes ago he wanted to kill his brother-in-law. I could hear all the shouting from outside at the van. Your gun or not, this isn’t your fault.” Peirson turned to face her. She smiled overzealously and pointed to her lapel. A small clip read “Molly” and he couldn’t help but chuckle. “You’re a detective, start acting like one.” She returned her attention to her work with an added, “Sir.”

He shook off the brief mirth and squatted down to John. “I’m sorry it ended like this,” he said to the dead man as he eyed the bullet hole in his upper chest. He stood and walked into the hall with Kyle and Charlie, who were being guarded by the female officer and one other male officer. The detective accompanied the handcuffed men with their escorts to separate squad cars. He followed the female officer and after she shut the door to Kyle’s seat, Peirson held out his hand. “Thank you for your help, Officer…”

“Hambee, sir,” and she shook his hand heartedly. “Anyone else in there would have taken that shot to the face,” Hambee said and walked around to the driver’s seat.

“I’ll be damned,” Peirson breathed and caught a brief look from Kyle before the officer drove out of the gated drive.

Peirson patted his pockets checking for his notepad and gun, then ran to his car, not hearing Molly or anyone else calling out to him as he passed. Traffic was low with the storm coming in. Rain fell in fat drops across the windshield, while Peirson’s car wipers darted frantically as he drove as fast as he dared towards the police station.

Peirson entered the police station through the double glass doors. He was soaked from the rain and still breathing hard. I should really get back in shape. With his heart racing, he scanned the room.

Greg, one of the older officers sitting at a desk near the front entrance, stood. “What’s the matter, Detective?”

“I need to speak with the two women Jackson brought in a little bit ago,” Peirson said, wiping rain water away from his eyes. “It’s urgent; one is the wife of the now decea–”

“Uh, are you sure?” Greg slowly interrupted, trying to take Peirson’s urgency in earnest. “Jackson’s been resigned from the department for over a week.”

 

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Red Herring: Part 8

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Red Herring: Part 8 - FREE Flash Fiction series

Peirson escorted Charlie from the sitting room and into the hallway. As soon as the door closed behind them, handcuffs clicked together around Charlie’s right wrist. “What the–” he protested, but Peirson forced his wrists together and another click followed.

“You’re under arrest for the murder of Irma Patterson. You have the right–”

“What?”

“–to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”

“This is ridiculous.”

“If you can not afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.”

“Jesus…”

“Do you understand these rights as they have been presented to you?”

“I didn’t do it!”

“Do you understand?”

“Yes, yes, I understand, but I didn’t kill Irma.”

Peirson turned Charlie around to face him, looking him in the eye, “Irma knew you were Jack’s father, and she was willing to prove it.”

Charlie dropped his head, “I know.” He let out a heavy sigh. “Linda works at city records. She overheard Irma asking for Jack’s birth certificate. We– Linda and I– assumed her next move was to tell John.” Charlie refused to keep eye contact with the detective.

“So you decided to make sure that didn’t happen?”

“Look, you don’t understand. John would have–”

“You,” the low voice came from behind Peirson. “You killed my Irma?” Kyle whispered from clench teeth. Peirson jerked around to find Kyle, eyes seething with rage. The officer in charge of guarding his room was gone, probably watching John. Peirson needed backup but he knew Kyle was mentally unstable, unpredictable, and very pissed off.

Without taking his eye’s off Kyle, Peirson gently pushed on Charlie’s chest, moving him back toward the wall. “Kyle,” Peirson said firmly. Kyle’s knuckles cracked as he formed and released his fists repeatedly and stared intently at Charlie.

Peirson walked slowly toward Kyle, trying to keep his body between the two men in the hallway. Peirson placed wary hands on Kyle’s shoulders.

“Kyle,” Peirson repeated and Kyle almost looked at him. His knuckles faded from red to white. “I made you a promise, Kyle.”

Kyle’s hands began to shake. He remained intently focused on Charlie. “My Irma is gone because of you,” he breathed, a single tear dropped from his cheek.

“I didn’t–” Charlie started to say.

For a split second, Peirson turned to Charlie, not wanting him to make the situation any worse. Peirson’s heart skipped a beat as he felt a sharp tug at his belt, near the center of his back. It’s worse.

Kyle thumbed the safety and leveled the gun.

Peirson lunged for his firearm, putting his full weight against Kyle before the gun fired twice. Peirson tasted the warm metallic presence of blood in his mouth and his head was filled with a high pitched ring.

Somewhere in the distance Peirson could hear the muffled cries of officers, “Man down! Man down! We need an ambulance!”

He shook his head drunkenly, trying to dismiss the temporary deafness. His tongue found the hole he had bit into his cheek. Kyle lay shaking and sobbing against the wall, cradling his arm. His shoulder was likely injured after Peirson shoved him, creating a sizable dent in the sheetrock.

Peirson reached down and picked up his gun lying on the floor beside the whimpering Kyle. Peirson re-engaged the safety and looked to find Charlie huddled by the door to the sitting room, trying to make himself as small a target as possible. Beyond him, a police officer, gun drawn and ready, exited the sitting room. There were two bullet holes in the door. Charlie, you’re one lucky son of a–

“What the hell happened?” The police officer relaxed and slightly lowered her gun when she saw Peirson.

“Later,” Peirson spat, harsher than he had intented. “Is everyone okay?”

She returned her service pistol to its holster and reached for her shoulder mic, “We need an ambulance on Alpine Circle. Shots fired, man down, over.” She looked up at the detective, “One of the rounds caught Mr. Carmine in the chest. It doesn’t look good.”

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Red Herring: Part 7

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“Mrs. Carmine?” Peirson called as he peaked in through the cracked door to the sitting room. “May I have a word with you?” Everyone turned to face him and he did his best to catch their expressions. Reading a room was more difficult than it seemed, but what caught his attention was John’s lips slowly stretching toward his ears.

Carol exchanged a concerned look with Charlie, then Linda, as she smoothly transferred the sleeping toddler into Linda’s cradling arms.

While waiting for her in the hallway, Peirson looked at the birth certificate again. He lowered it as Carol came through the doorway.

“Walk with me, please,” and he headed to the entrance hall. Carol followed but remained silent. When they had nearly reached the front door, Peirson turned to Carol. Her eyes were fixed on the floor and she was noticeably trembling.

“I won’t keep you long. It’s common for people like Linda to not do well with young children. Especially in this case.”

“Excuse me?” Carol’s stare lifted from the floor to Detective Peirson. She seemed utterly confused by the comment. She glanced back in the direction of the sitting room.

“How long have you and your husband been married?”

Again, she looked behind her toward the sitting room. She began a series of nervous ticks, first pinching at the skin of her knuckles and then adjusting her impressive wedding ring. She inhaled sharply, “Um… five, almost six years.”

Peirson nodded, trying to simultaneously jot down notes and watch Carol’s fidgeting body language, “And he is Jack’s father, correct?”

“Yes, of course!” Carol answered immediately, with a hint of defensiveness.

Peirson’s eyes scanned her silently and she returned her attention to the massive glinting rock on her finger. He pulled from his pocket the bagged copy of Jack’s birth certificate and slid it over her hands, “Irma didn’t seem to think so.”

Shock spread across her features and she gasped, “What?” She reached for the paper while looking back again, as if she feared someone was overhearing their entire conversation. She missed the evidence bag and grazed Peirson’s hand instead. The unintentional touch jerked her focus back around. Carol’s eyes locked onto Peirson’s and she stepped closer, wrapping both hands around Peirson’s right wrist. “Please, please!” she whispered with a quivering urgency, “John can’t know. He’ll kill me. And Charlie! And I don’t know what he’ll do to Jack–” Tears formed in her eyes and her chin began to quiver. “Please, you have to help me,” she pleaded.

Peirson tried to gently pry her shaking hands from his wrists, but she held her grip. She was terrified and he knew he wasn’t getting anything else from her unless she felt safe. He placed his other hand on her shoulder, “I’m going to keep you and your son safe, Mrs. Carmine.” As if on cue, Jackson stepped through the front door.

“Oh, hey! Everything ok in here?” Jackson looked down at Carol’s grip on Peirson’s arm. “I was about to head out, unless you need me to hang around.”

“Please take her to the station and see to her safety,” Peirson told Jackson, then he leaned in so only the officer could hear, “she fears for her life.”

“Yes, sir,” Jackson said with a nod and offered his arm to Carol.

Carol stopped, “Jack–”

“I’ll have Linda bring him out,” Peirson said as he watched Jackson escort her under the yellow tape draped loosely across the entrance doorway. A flash of lightning lit up the darkening sky as Peirson turned back to the sitting room. Thunder echoed through the house, followed by distant heated voices.

“You philandering piece of shit!” John yelled out.

Peirson ran the rest of the way to the sitting room.

An officer, nearly a head shorter than John Carmine, was trying to hold John back from Charlie, who was on the edge of his solitary chair. Charlie appeared torn between fear and mirth as he glared defiantly at John, debating on whether or not to take the bait.

Charlie shot up from the chair, but remained at a safe distance. “You, of all people, have no right to make moral judgements!”

John wrenched his arms free of the officer’s grip and followed through with a wide swing of his fist. The officer’s knees buckled from the impact, then he collapsed unconscious. John took two steps towards Charlie and froze. His clenched fists relaxed and slowly lifted up to his ears. Five handguns were silently sighted on him.

“Don’t move,” an officer demanded as he walked over to lock John in handcuffs.

Jack was crying, despite Linda’s attempts to calm him. She stood with her back pressed against the wall beside the door Peirson had just entered. Peirson stepped out of the doorway and whispered, “Carol is waiting for Jack out front.”

Linda’s wide eyes fell on Peirson. She hesitated long enough to look back towards Charlie. She nodded and left the room without saying a word.

Peirson waited until he heard the door shut behind Linda, then crossed the room to Charlie, who was still standing by the chair, “I think it would be best if you came with me, Mr. Whittmore.”

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Red Herring: Part 6

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“You can’t be serious, officer,” John said with a laugh.

“Detective,” Peirson corrected,”and, yes, I’m quite serious.”

John took a step closer to Peirson, using his considerable height in an attempt to intimidate. “Look, detective, I’m not telling you how to do your job or anything, but why the hell would I kill a girl in my own damn house?”

Peirson, stepping over to block the doorway, shrugged his shoulders. “You tell me.”

John shook his head. “This is ridiculous. I can guarantee you that it was not me.” Then John’s voice grew very quiet as he leaned towards Peirson. “What can I do to help you wrap this investigation up quick and quiet like?”

“You can answer my questions,” Peirson stated.

John looked around the small bathroom and nodded at the blocked exit. “The bird’s already caged, might as well sing for you, too.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “But seriously, I need this kept as quiet as possible. Your boys have already lit up the neighborhood with those gaudy strobe lights. I run the biggest business in the city, my deceased father’s business. I sure as hell don’t need this kind of publicity. I think we can help each other out on this one.”

Peirson stared in disbelief at John for a moment before confirming what he just heard, “Are you offering me a bribe during a murder investigation?”

“No,” John barked an overzealous laugh, “of course not, detective. That would be illegal and immoral.” He dramatically placed a strong hand on Peirson’s shoulder and bared a toothy grin. “A bribe? Come on, I’m a respectable man.” He made a show of composing himself after Peirson squirmed under the weight of John’s grasp. “We’ve gotten off topic. The matter of the poor girl’s death needs to be resolved.”

“When was the last time you spoke with Irma?” Peirson asked in a flat tone to reflect his disparagement with this arrogant moron.

“A few hours ago,” John answered immediately, “in the kitchen.”

Peirson dropped his head with a furrowed brow. “Where she was murdered?” The sentence crept out, emphasizing the irony of John’s statement. Was this guy seriously this dumb?

“She was alive when I left her.” John retorted. “She was getting Jack some juice. I guess I kept her too long ’cause Jack started crying upstairs. The kid’s got a hell of a shriek, like nails on a chalkboard.” Peirson’s mouth slightly gaped open in shock at that last statement. “Anyway, I told her to calm down then I took the juice up to Jack myself.”

Peirson stopped scribbling halfway though the explanation to watch John’s body language. John’s arms remained crossed in front of him as he stared towards the hallway beyond Peirson during his explanation. “Would you like to elaborate on any of the details you’ve left out?”

“Damn, you’re good, detective. Fine. I was flirting with her. She was a hot piece of–”

Detective Peirson cleared his throat to steer John back on track.

John continued as if he was not interrupted, “…shame, really. But she got all pissy about me being ‘too forward’ and a ‘chauvinist pig’,” John explained, offering air quotations and a dramatic bob of his head. “Obviously, I didn’t need another whistle blower, so I took the juice upstairs and left her to sneak one of her cigarettes.”

“Sneak?” Peirson asked.

“She leaves her purse in the kitchen. I see her sneak in there all the time then out the back door.”

Peirson pressed the line of questions, “But you never saw her leave the kitchen or smoke?” This guy was going to have a legitimate alibi, son of a…

“Nope. She was heading for her secret stash when I rushed off to silence the screaming banshee,” John explained. “I was on the phone with a manager from the plant while walking Jack around when the police sirens announced their presence to the entire neighborhood.”

“Very well,” Peirson said and stepped back into the hallway, allowing John to move back towards the sitting room. “Anything else?”

John stopped halfway between Peirson and the police officer. He glanced over his shoulder. “Carol was adamant about having Linda and Charlie over for dinner tonight. You might want to lock them in the bathroom and see what you can detect, detective.” Then he continued towards the sitting room.

The police officer closed the door behind John and nodded at Peirson. “Did the asshole do it?”

“Detective,” the brunette photographer called from the other end of the hallway. “I’ve got something for you. I found it in the victim’s purse.”

Peirson quickly took the evidence bag. “Thank you, Allison.”

She shook her head. “Nope. But keep trying, sir. You’ll figure it out eventually. It’s your job,” and with a playful wink she turned and walked away.

Peirson sighed, “I am definitely too old for this,” and he turned the evidence bag over. It contained a single sheet of paper. A copy of a birth certificate for Jack Carmine, and at the bottom of the sheet was a black and white photograph of a familiar face with the curving letters of Irma’s handwriting: “Charlie?”.

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Red Herring: Part 5

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Red Herring: Part 5

“And who would these guests be?” Peirson asked.

“Carol’s sister, Linda, and brother-in-law, Charlie. The ones in the photo,” Kyle responded and pointed at the photograph of the couple Peirson had just examined. “Its the only guests Carol ever looks forward to having. But the last few times they’ve visited, John has acted odd.”

Peirson cocked an eyebrow. “Odd? How so?”

A voice, quickly increasing in volume, carried through the house. “… in my own damn house? I can come and go as I damn well please.”

Peirson jerked open the bedroom door and stepped into the hallway. A uniform police officer stood sentry outside a closed door at the far end of the hallway, presumably where the police were keeping the other suspects. The police officer saw Peirson and stepped lightly down the hall to the detective.

“Sir, that is Mr. Carmine. He says he needs to use the restroom,” The police officer answered the unasked questions. “Are you about ready to wrap it up in there?” the officer nodded to the room Kyle was being kept in.

“Yep, just got through,” Peirson told the officer, then leaned back into the room to look at Kyle. “Stay here. I believe it is time for me to have a word with the man of the house.” Peirson closed the bedroom door before Kyle could say anything else.

The uniformed officer resumed his post outside the door as Detective Peirson followed him. “He started making threats rather than, you know, just asking,” the officer explained. “You can cut the tension in there with a knife,” the officer let the statement trail off into a sigh as he shook his head, “They’re all yours, detective.” He stood aside to let the detective pass.

Peirson stepped quietly into the room. Half a dozen police officers were strategically placed around the room, all of which noticed his entry with a nod. Near the center of the room, John Carmine paced heatedly with his hands perched low on his alligator skin belt. No one was talking.

Peirson could see two women sitting together on a large white couch, their hair a matching blonde. The one he assumed to be Carol had a  loose ponytail swaying with her as she rocked a sleeping infant against her chest. He assumed this to be her son, Jack.

The other woman must have been her sister, Linda, with a hairstyle of several layers and angles which appeared to have taken hours to achieve. Peirson was not an expert on hair, but he knew mom hair when he saw it. Linda did not have mom hair.

Charlie Whittmore sat in an antique chair to Carol’s right, close to an elaborately decorated electric fireplace. He was a lean man of below average height. Although still appearing to be in his 30s, the man had a full head of gray hair cut short enough it would not require any combing. Charlie’s focus was almost exclusively on Carol and Jack, with the exception of darting glances to either John or Linda.

“Mr. Carmine,” Peirson called out, “come with me. I’ll escort you to the restroom.”

He eyed Peirson for a moment. “About damn time.”

John Carmine looked down at Peirson as he passed him but said nothing further as he led the detective down the hallway to the bathroom across the hall from the bedroom in which he had left Kyle.

He started to close the door behind him but Peirson pressed his palm against the door. “Door stays open,” Peirson said in a firm voice.

“Whatever does it for you, pal,” John said with a shrug. While relieving himself, he asked, “So, have we got this mess straightened out yet?” He flushed the toilet before waiting for a response then glanced questioningly at Peirson before washing his hands. “I have a ton of paperwork to go through, not to mention we have not yet had dinner.”

“Mr. Carmine, I’m going to need you to tell me about Irma Patterson.”

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