Friday, August 26, 2011

#FridayFlash - About Last Night

At King’s Cross, and feeling a little giddy, Peter stepped aboard the 0700 destined for Newcastle. Of course, he wouldn’t make it that far; his stop was in Darlington, slightly less than three hours away. He found a seat and sat, his gaze fixed out the window, a smile fixed upon his face. God, what a trip, he thought. Her eyes had been fantastic, and capturing that look at the precise moment of her death, the way her body deflated as her spirit left the earth, had been worth everything—the risks he took in coming down here, in visiting not just one but two of the London night clubs, and then the almost-altercation with the possessive young man who clearly thought the girl would go home with him instead. The stupid git. Thought too much of himself and probably ended up tossing off before the night was through. Thinking about that, Peter couldn’t help but snigger.

The car shuddered, and the train pulled forward. As the platform and station slid past the window, Peter laid his head back. He closed his eyes. Like watching a movie through a camcorder’s viewing screen, he replayed those last moments. How her skin quivered and prickled at his touch. How she groaned with the expectation of something pleasurable, and the liquored taste of her mouth as he gave her one last kiss. How that look of ecstasy surrendered first to confusion and then to panic and fear as the tide of realization set in.

Rewinding the scene, he played through it again. He listened to her words this time (“I don’t usually do this.”) followed by his own (“It’ll be a first for me, too.”) and then the sound of her giggle, mixed with the jingle of keys, as she unlocked the door to her flat. The cool air had tickled his face as he followed her through the living room, walking past the wicker and glass coffee table, past the Calico that fixed him with knowing eyes before it skittered away behind a ratty couch.

In her bedroom, a crocheted afghan covered the bed, and he remembered thinking that her mum had made it for her as kind of a going away present. The little girl had grown into an adult, living by herself now, and would need a little something to remind her of home. As the train snaked into the country, leaving the city behind, Peter smiled as he remembered how he had wrapped her in that blanket before he left. A small gesture of consideration on his part—at least the woman would know that the last thing to touch her daughter’s body had been something crafted by her own hands.

Again and again, he replayed the night, catching a little more of the details each time; and as Darlington slipped into view, he had completely framed everything about last night—the sights, the sounds, and the smells. Even the sharp aroma of voided piss, mixed with jasmine perfume, was clear in his mind.

In his apartment now, he took a moment to greet the dog, give it a scratch behind the ear, before he walked into the living room and sat down at his desk. With a touch and jiggle of the mouse, the monitor winked on. The cursor danced across the screen. A few clicks later, Peter located his manuscript and opened the file.

Typing a few paragraphs of narrative and then a line of dialogue (“I don’t usually do this.”) he quickly found his rhythm. The next three hours vanished like smoke in the wind. The smile never left his face.

Friday, August 19, 2011

#FridayFlash - The Oldest Profession

Parker closed the door and sat down as directed. Even from this distance, the guest chairs at least five feet away from the desk, the familiar look of distress clearly marked the senator’s face. Parker laid a legal pad upon his lap and pulled a pen from his shirt pocket. He waited. The senator had called this meeting; it was on his terms and would start when he was ready.

Senator Dennison finally looked up. He cleared his throat. “You’ve seen the video?”

Parker nodded. “It’s not very flattering.”

“Not very flattering?” Dennison glanced away. “It’s a god-awful mess, you ask me.”

“There’s been worse, you know. Bill Clinton inside the White House or JFK. Every last one of the Kennedys, for that matter.”

Dennison shook his head. “The liberals are going to have a field day with this.”

No news there, Parker thought. Just like Cain and Abel, only without the blood. If Washington were a serial killer, then politicians would be its prey. Well, that and principals.

“A reporter from the Post keeps calling,” Dennison said. “He’s left three messages already.”


“Marc Thomason.” Dennison snorted. “You know, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was him who set me up, sent me the video.”

Parker nodded, thinking about a line in a song by Crosby, Stills and Nash: Paranoia strikes deep. “The reporter can wait.”

Dennison looked away again. “What a mess.”

“Granted, it’s embarrassing. A mess for you, though? It’s not conclusive.”

Dennison looked up again, his expression changing—expectation and hope fighting for a seat at the table. “Oh?”

“In the first place, you never see the man’s face.” Parker scribbled a few notes on the legal pad. “No face, no case.”

“But there’s the girl.”

“True, but the question is who and what, exactly, was she doing there.”

Dennison frowned. “Nobody’s going to see it any other way, Parker. It’s not like she was using her mouth to help me unstick my zipper.”

Parker frowned. Stupidity ran deep, too. “Stay with me,” he said. “The man in the video, not you.”

Dennison rubbed at the back of his neck. “Okay, the man in the video. But what do you think it looks like she’s doing there.”

“I’m not talking about the physical actions; grainy image or not, that part’s pretty clear. No, what I’m asking is why she was in the video at all. Where was this taken?”

“How am I supposed to know? I’m not the man in the video, right?”

Parker smirked. “Once we leave this office, out under the public microscope, you’re not the man in the video. For now though—for me to help you—I need to know where this took place.”

Dennison looked away for a moment. “The Worthington.”

“The Worthington?”

“A small B-and-B across the Potomac.”

“And did this woman pick the place?”

“No, it’s a place I regularly visit.”

Parker nodded. “By now, it goes without saying how crazy-reckless that was.”

Dennison looked down. “I know, I know. Repetition is the grain that gets the deer shot.”

Parker made a few more notes. He allowed for a pause. “Okay, I know a guy that can handle things discretely. He’ll check into this situation at the Worthington, find out who the players are, what their game is. After that, we’ll figure out our best plan of action.” He placed the pen back in his pocket and stood. “Again, this is not as bad as it seems.”

The look of hope started to fight for the chair again as Dennison glanced up. “Thank you.”

Parker said nothing and turned toward the door. As he placed his hand on the knob, the senator's voice stopped him.

“I mean that, you know.”


“I truly do appreciate this. I know we haven’t been on the best of terms after our disagreement over Lockney-Harris, and I know there’ve been rumors floating around that I was looking for a new chief of staff. But I want you to know that I still support you.”

Parker didn’t turn around. The Lockney-Harris bill would have settled the issue on guns, and it was good for the country; Senator Dennison didn’t see it that way, however, and killed it in committee. And as far as the rumors of a pending termination went, they were all true.

He nodded and said, “Thank you, sir. I can appreciate that.” He opened the door. “And don’t forget to call the reporter back. I advise you to deny everything.”

He stepped out and closed the door. In the parking garage, the car’s engine warming up in the cool October air, Parker sat behind the wheel of his Lexus and dialed out on his cell phone. A familiar voice answered.


“I have another job for you.”


He told his friend how he wanted a report. Make up the names. The report would give the senator more hope and bolster his actions before the media. Then, in about a week, they would release the second video, the one with a clear shot of the senator’s face, along with the details of the Worthington’s records–only all of this, as agreed, would go to the Senate Majority Leader’s office before it went to the press. In return, the Majority Leader promised to re-visit Lockney-Harris during the next session (“I’m sorry about your sister, by the way.”) and see to its passage. As an added bonus and a welcome to the other side, there would be a nice office with a view waiting for Parker.

Parker smiled as he hung up. There was some truth to what he had told Dennison. It wasn’t as bad as it seemed. It was far worse.

Friday, August 12, 2011

#FridayFlash - Talking to Rose

The afternoon sunlight glinted off of Myron’s whiskey and ice while the kitchen clock ticked away the seconds. From across the room, Jillian stared at him with eyes he imagined would have smiled if they could.

“You need to throw me a line here,” he said.

She grinned. “That’s funny. I thought even you ex-Navy boys knew how to swim.”

“We do. But that’s not what I’m talking about, and you know it.”

“Well, I was pretty clear. What part didn’t you understand?”

He placed his drink on the counter and crossed his arms. “For starters? The part about you actually talking to Rose.”


It was a question, he knew, not a comment. As if to say that, yeah, she did have a conversation with Rose. Did he have a problem with that? And there was part of the rub; he did have a problem. Rose had been gone two years now, over the rail of the Caribbean Queen and down into the ocean, never to be seen again; and yet, here was Jillian acting like the two of them just sat down with each other at Starbucks and had a nice chat over a couple of lattes.

The other part of the rub—the little nugget he found hard to set aside—was deciding whether or not Jillian was sincere or putting him on. Maybe it was worse. Looking at her, though, he couldn’t say for sure.

He frowned. “You been snortin’ again?”

She scoffed and shook her head. “Same old Myron. Still believing only in the world you can see, cracking wise about the one you can’t.”

He nodded. “Maybe, but it sure beats living on false hopes and superstitions—or that stuff you tend to see with a line of powder up your nose.”

“Screw you.”

He shook his head. “We tried that once. Trust me, it won’t happen again.”

“Oh, you’re right about that.” She reached for her purse on the table and pulled out a pack of cigarettes, a lighter. “Besides, I would never sleep with the man who killed my sister.”

He leaned back and whistled. Now, we’re getting to it, he thought. The problem with a brain nugget, the word he used for puzzles that made him stop and wonder just what he was really looking at, was that sometimes they turned into boulders—much larger problems than he initially thought. And Jillian’s desperate phone call, the bottle of whiskey she brought along with her, made him wonder if this was going to be one those times.

“Where’d you get that one?” he asked. “You see it between the lines you laid on the coffee table? Or better yet, maybe Rose gave it to you, moved the little triangle while you were playing around with your Ouija board.”

“Go ahead, Myron, make some fun. Your defenses won’t work this time, though. And you want to know why?”

She lighted a cigarette and blew out a stream of smoke.

“I’m gonna guess I don’t have to ask,” he said.

“Because Rose told me the truth. About you, and about that night on the boat. She told me what really happened.”

He smiled. “Is that so?” Glancing to his right, he spotted the block of knives next to the coffee maker. Rose gave him the set last year. A Santa gift, she’d told him and clearly meant it, too. As if he should actually believe in the jolly old elf as much as she did. One thing about the Donahue sisters: they were quite the pair.

“She told me how you asked her to go for a midnight stroll,” Jillian continued. “How you told her it had been a long time since the two of you walked hand-in-hand under the moonlight. And how you rubbed the small of her back, and then grabbed her rear while the two of you rode the elevator up to the deck.”

His smile faded. This little nugget was definitely a boulder.

“There’s no way you could have known—”

“Oh, there’s more, Myron. You see, she knew about the gambling problem, too. How you embezzled money from the company to front it all, and then found yourself in bed with the local shylock in order to keep your boss from knowing what you did.”

Myron picked up his glass and drank the rest of the whiskey. The boulder was rolling downhill now, destroying everything he had accomplished and leaving a trench in its wake.

“You’re crazy,” he said. His hand started to shake, so he placed the glass down on the counter, glancing again at the block of knives.

Jillian took another pull on her cigarette. “Am I? Well, try this on: ‘One thing I gotta say, Honey’”—her voice changed, huskier and full of drama—“‘is I want you to know how much I love you, and that I don’t really mean this. There’s just no other way.’”

His blood turned to slush as the words cut through him. Those were his words, just before…

Jillian smiled. “And to think you actually believed you could take the insurance money and—”

Before she could react, before his mind could tell him to stop, Myron grabbed the long butcher’s knife and watched her expression change as he rammed the blade through her.

“You are,” he said.

Jillian’s eyes softened, and then changed. Again, he thought they would have laughed if they could. “Rose told me something else,” she said, her voice breaking down. “That you’re a sucker for a glass of whiskey.”

He let go of the knife and glanced down at his shaking hand, knowing now that it wasn’t all nerves. Sunlight turned to grey, and the room swirled as he fell to the floor.

Looking up he saw another figure, one who wasn’t there before.

“Hello, Darling,” she said. Her fetid breath was far worse than anything he’d ever smelled before.


She smiled, her teeth black and gums white. “I’ve been waiting for you.”