no pressure

A series of interviews – an exercise in truth:

If you want to play along, read the following statements given to a police officer and then answer the questions at the end.

“I saw the whole thing!  I was across the street talking with my coworker, Jim, and the car jumped the curb and hit the lady.  It was horrible!”

“I saw the whole thing!  I was out walking Measles, that’s my dog, and we turned the corner from Alpine onto Fifth, and this guy punched the lady, she fell backward into the street and was hit by a car.  It was horrible.”

“I saw the whole thing!  My husband, Tony, and I had just finished our meal at the little café at the end of the street.  The lady and man had walked passed our table arguing as we were paying the bill.  They were both shouting at each other.  When we left the café, their yelling drew my attention and I watched as she slapped him and he raised a hand to ward off the attack.  Then she tripped on a fire hydrant and fell backwards into the street where she was struck by the car.  It was horrible!”

“I saw the whole thing!  I was on my bike, Agnus, at the time, and we were on our way to make a package delivery uptown.  The congestion on the street forced me onto the sidewalk for a moment, yes I know the laws, and I had to stop because the lady and man were blocking my path.  They were arguing, which isn’t that uncommon, but then the lady slapped him and that really caught my attention.  Then she pulled out a knife from her purse and looked like she was going to attack him.  He grabbed her wrists to try and wrestle the weapon away from her and she tripped on the fire hydrant and fell into the street.  The car had no time to stop before it hit her.  It was horrible.”

“Oh my gosh!  Oh my gosh!  I was on my way to see my friend, Charles, who lives up Fifth, on the other side of Alpine, and …  And I just can’t believe this happened.  I was in the far right lane, almost up against the curb because the cars around me had just nearly collided.  Some jack-hole in an Audi was traffic weaving and nearly hit a minivan.  I… I don’t see that either of them stopped.  I don’t see them here still.  And then all of a sudden the lady was falling into the street.  I hit the brakes and swerved to try and avoid her, but there was nothing I could do.  There was no room to maneuver.  There wasn’t time to stop.   It was horrible!”

“I’ll tell you everything!  My wife, Gwen, and I were fighting over her brother, who has been staying at our apartment for the last couple months, ever sense he made parole.  I wanted him out because he is a bad person.  She wanted to let him stay because she thought she could help him turn his life around.  Things got pretty heated as we approached Alpine and she slapped me when I suggested that she was blind to the truth of how bad he truly is.  Then she pulled a knife from her purse to show me that she wasn’t that naïve.  She had confiscated the weapon from him that morning.  I reached out to her, to apologize, to offer comfort.  In that moment I knew we would figure out how to make it work.  I love… I loved her.  But, her heel caught in the air vents on the sidewalk as we turned to continue our walk, she lost her balance and fell over the fire hydrant into the street.  The car hit her before I could even react to try and save her.  It was horrible.”

Pertinent information:

The car is on the street, with dark tire tracks left in the road from brakes.  The lady was thrown several yards in front of it.  A knife was recovered near her.  The interviewees all appear visibly distraught.  An agitated crowd is gathering, and the longer you take to make a decision and clear the scene, the rowdier they get.  Half are screaming that the husband of the deceased needs to be arrested immediately for domestic violence, and half are screaming that the driver of the car needs to be arrested for reckless driving.


Which version of the events do you believe?  Which witness(es) do you trust?  Why?  What additional information do you need?

What do you decide to do?

Quick!  The whole nation is watching…


Update:  In a couple discussions in the comments I remembered and brought up a video I had watched in one of my psychology classes in college that showed how unreliable eye witness testimony can be.  I went looking for it on youtube, and while this isn’t the study I remembered, but it is close enough:



She screamed.

He’d expected that.  Planned for it.  And, thus, was not startled or derailed from his process by it.

The giant trees surrounding them soaked up the cry of pain and terror, diffusing it, muffling it, keeping it hidden and safe from the rest of the world.

Plus, it didn’t last long.  He made sure of that.



Blood dripped from the knife and disappeared into the muck of the forest floor.  The part of him that needed to control everything cursed his inability to staunch and contain the flow.  He had wanted to leave no trace.  He had planned on leaving no trace.  And while it was unlikely the ground would offer up any usable evidence against him, the possibility remained.

His mind scrambled over potential solutions, rejecting each idea for the lack of control he would have with each.  If he shifted the mud around.  If he set the forest ablaze.  If he buried the scene under an avalanche somehow.

Wiping the blade clean with a rag he would incinerate later, he tossed the weapon and the cloth into the plastic bag he’d brought for exactly that purpose, then turned his back on his crime and left the way he had come.  It was all he could do.



He found that he was relieved with how little his hands shook as he packed away the gear into the back of his jeep.  He’d expected to be more nervous.  He’d expected to have a physical reaction to the emotional and mental trauma, because it was traumatic even if he had been the one to instigate it.  Taking a life wasn’t something most humans were capable of doing calmly.

Yet, he had.

He didn’t have time to ponder that, and what it implied about him, as he double-checked he had stowed everything securely and then started up the vehicle and eased out of the parking lot.  A small smile touched the corners of his lips when he saw the tracks from his jeep blend in with the other vehicle tracks from the wet weekend.

The forecasted storm for that evening should confuse things further.



The drive went quickly and without incident.  As a bonus, the rain didn’t start until he’d already parked and pulled his gear inside.  He left the jeep out in the open to let the downfall wash away any traces of mud and mountain that had remained after the journey home.  It was one less thing to worry about.

He would still check it in the daylight the following day, and more than likely wash it again, but he didn’t mind the helping hand.

The knife went into an ammonia bath.  As it soaked, he started a fire in his hearth and tossed in the cloth, the plastic bag, and then added the clothes he’d been wearing one piece at a time.  He stirred the coals as needed to make sure every last scrap was obliterated, as though they had never existed to begin with.

A long shower afterwards rinsed away the last bit of evidence, and tension, that had somehow managed to cling to him.  After removing the knife from the ammonia with a pair of plastic gloves, he drained the ammonia down the bathtub drain, and then washed the whole tub out with bleach.  The gloves were tossed into the fire once he was done.

He stood before the flames, naked, clean.  They flicked and flared in their dance of life and death.



He’d obtained some over the counter sleep aids in case he needed them, but he had no trouble at all falling asleep.  His body rested into the comfortable mattress, his arms and legs found their normal position, he closed his eyes, and he easily drifted into his dreams.

He woke refreshed and ready to tackle the remainder of his cleanup to-do list.



After washing the jeep, vacuuming out the inside, and scrubbing down every inch of the interior with a cleaner soaked rag, he jumped in and took it for a drive.  He let the road and traffic patterns dictate his route, and when he found a diner he’d never eaten at before, but still looked good, he pulled off and parked in the back.  On his way into the restaurant he removed a bag of trash from the jeep and tossed it in with the diner’s refuse.

The knife, the final link to his crime, was buried within the bag and therefore transferred into obscurity.

He enjoyed a large meal and then headed home.



With each following day that passed without officers knocking on his door to handcuff him and haul him to jail, his confidence increased.  The certainty that he had gotten away with murder settled around him.  The world looked different.  There was nothing he couldn’t accomplish if he set his mind to it.

At work, concepts he hadn’t fully grasped before came to him easily.  He worked smarter and his bosses noticed and rewarded his efforts with increasingly difficult tasks and a series of promotions.

Life was good.



Nearly a year, shy by less than two weeks, from taking her life, he had the first nightmare about getting caught.  He’d left something at the scene.  The cops came for him.  He went to jail and was placed on death row because he’d stupidly left them a clue to follow.

When day broke his worries eased.  Too much time had passed.  Anything that had been left would have degraded in the wilds.  He breathed a sigh of relief and went about his day normally.



As the anniversary approached the nightmares grew in frequency and intensity.  The terror faded with the coming of the sun, but he felt like he was losing his mind.  He didn’t know what to do.  He didn’t know why he should be worrying about it so long after the fact.



When he woke the day of the anniversary he knew exactly what he needed to do.  He had to start planning the next murder.


This twisted little tale was brought to you in response to the current Flash Fiction Challenge – Ten Little Chapters:

“You still have 1000 words.
But you’re going to break that up into 10 chapters.
Now, ostensibly that works out to about 100 words per chapter, though variation on that is fine. However you see fit to make it work. The goal here is to maintain brevity but increase scope. Can you tell a larger story in a smaller space? Does breaking it up make that easier — or harder?
Otherwise, standard rules apply.
Any genre will do.
Post at your blog, then drop a link in the comments [on the post linked above] to that blog.
Due by next Friday, March 28th, noon EST.
1000 words, split into ten chapters. Now write it.”

The idea of splitting 1,000 words into ten chapters was too much fun to pass up.  And, I have to say, it was harder than I thought it was going to be.  I always knew the last couple chapters were going to be shorter so I’d some room to open up the earlier chapters, but it was still very difficult to get under the word count limit.

How about you?  Do you have a story to tell in 1,000 words?  Do you have recurring nightmares?  Could you get away with a crime as heinous as murder?

Rickity Roller

Detective Carl Graff’s phone chimed, that damn tune his Captain had set as a joke and he was too technologically stupid to remove, and he answered before the first verse of “Wrecking Ball” finished.  If nothing else, the song had trained him to answer his Captain’s calls quickly.

“Yo,” he snarled into his phone.

“Carl, we need you to head over to the Rickity Roller.”

“Kids getting in trouble again?”

“No,” his Captain sighed, “there’s been an incident.  You’ll be doing more than keeping the peace, more than just strength in numbers.”

“On my way,” he clicked off, shoved the phone back into his pocket and headed for his car.  It was a department issued, unmarked, hunk of junk, but it hadn’t failed on him yet and he always felt better about heading towards a crime scene knowing he had his full arsenal of tricks and treats in the trunk.


Carl honked his horn and flashed his high beams to get the throng of gawkers to move out of his way.  Amid some cursing and rude gestures, he managed to pull up to the entrance, which had been crisscrossed with yellow crime scene tape.  He flashed his badge to the uniform who stepped up to his window, and then surveyed the rest of The Boardwalk amusement park, or Rickity Roller as it was lovingly referred to not just in his department but throughout the town.

The locals hardly ever went, once they passed their teenage years and had grown tired of groping their significant others in the dark corners of the Clown’s Fun House and necking on the Seaward Ferris Wheel.  It was a tourist trap and a hub for unruly kids to blow off some steam.  Occasionally the youth gathered in greater numbers than the tiny park was equipped to handle and the police were called in to help keep the peace.

Carl hated those calls.  They always came on the hottest nights of summer, and he usually ended up having some punk kid throw a soda at him, or key his car, or worse.  Then he’d have to cuff them and haul them to the station for processing and a call to their parents for the lucky ones or a night in jail for the unlucky ones, stay late to complete the paperwork and generally rue the day the Rickity Roller was approved by the town council as a way to bolster the coffers.  Or whatever asinine excuse they had used at the time.

The only bonus, usually, was he got to see George Rawlings, his old partner when they both wore uniforms to work, before they had both made Detective, and probably the best friend he had.  But, Carl hadn’t seen George in over a week and, aside from being annoyed that he wouldn’t get to bum around with him for the next couple hours as they mopped up whatever the mess was, he was starting to worry.

Continuing his assessment of the scene, Carl began counting cars.  He noticed at least two other Detective junkers near the entrance, and a whole slew of black and whites.  That number of officers in one place was quite the party, which meant it was also quite the mess.  When his Captain’s car pulled up behind his a minute later, he started to worry more.


“What brings you out of your dungeon?”  Carl met Captain Rickards between their  two vehicles, pulled out his pack of Reds and lit a fresh one.  The warm pull warded off the chill of the approaching evening and eased the nerves that had popped up when the car had pulled up behind his.

“I don’t want to be here anymore than you want me here, but I’m needed on this one.  It’s one of ours in there, in the Fun House.”  Captain Rickards flicked his gaze over the fence towards the glare of spinning lights fighting desperately to beat back the coming darkness.

Carl frowned, “Shit.”

“Exactly.  I don’t know who it is yet, but we do this one right the first time.  No slips.  No missteps.  No errors.  We owe it to them.  You got that?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good, now let’s get in there.”

Carl took the last drag from his cigarette, dropped the spent butt to the dirt parking lot and stamped it out with his heel.  He knew he could get in trouble for littering like that, especially right in front of his Captain, but in that moment there were much bigger concerns.  A cop was down.  That took precedent over everything else.


Later the autopsy would confirm what they all knew at the scene, cause of death was cardiac arrest and loss of blood from the single bullet that entered the officer’s back between his lower ribs, tore his insides to shit, and exited just above his sternum.  Detective George Rawlings hadn’t been wearing a vest at the time of the incident, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.  The gunshot residue on his clothes, along with the singed fibers, indicated his assailant had been standing too close for the kevlar to be effective.

After seeing his friend, outlined in blood, Carl lost the the contents of his stomach, a lovely pasta dish from Romero’s that he had finished moments before getting the call from his Captain, but had the training and scene presence to remove himself before he hurled on anything that could be remotely considered as evidence.  It was the first time he had ever lost it at a scene, but he took it in stride.  Sooner or later it happens to every cop.  He spat out as much of the flavor as he could and then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

He looked up from his mess when a shadow passed over him to see Captain Rickards standing next to him.

“I’m sorry, Carl.  If I had known I wouldn’t have called you in.”

Carl waved him off, then spat and wiped his mouth again.

“Get out of here.  Go home.  I’ll put in so you get a couple days off on the Department’s dime.  Pack up and go fishing or something.”

Carl scowled.  That was the last thing he wanted to do.  He need to know what happened.  He needed to know what the investigation turned up.

He started to shake his head, but Captain Rickards firm tone stopped the rebuttal he had been forming. “You will not be working this case.  You will be taking some time off.”

“Fine,” he forced the word through his clenched teeth, fought back a second round of returning dinner, rose to his feet and marched back to his car.  The carnival speakers had been silenced, thank God, once the detectives arrived but their work lamps did little to diminish the incessant spiraling, twinkling, flashing lights that bounced through the dank alleys between the park’s buildings.

When he reached the comfort of his car, he slammed the door, lit a new cigarette and closed his eyes against the pain of the lights.  Even the sight of his dead friend that greeted his closed lids was a mercy compared to the brightness of the park.  But, only for a few seconds, then his stomach started rumbling again and he opened his eyes, fired his engine and peeled out of the parking lot.

Enough of the crowd had dispersed to allow such a maneuver, but he wasn’t sure he would have been able to calm his exit even if they hadn’t.  There was a bottle at home calling him and he couldn’t keep it waiting.


The knock on his door came halfway through the bottle.  He wasn’t sloppy drunk yet, but he had moved well beyond where he should be trusted to do more than channel surf.  He ignored the door.  After the scene he had left, it could only be more bad news.  He wasn’t in the mood.  He didn’t want it.  He was on vacation and whatever it was could wait until he was allowed back on duty.

When the knock came again, Carl dragged himself off the couch and swayed to the door, cursing the whole way.  His right hand stayed close to his Glock which was tucked into the back of his jeans, as he opened the door with his left hand.  He was drunk, but he wasn’t stupid enough to answer the door unarmed.  He knew who might be out there, closing up loose ends.

He was more than a bit surprised to see Captain Rickards standing there, flanked by a couple of uniformed officers he didn’t recognize immediately.  “Yo, what brings you out to interrupt my vacation?”  His words slurred, and he tried to exaggerate his excessive body movement to make them think he was drunker than he was.  His gaze passed over the papers in the Captain’s hands to peer between the stoic expressions of the uniformed officers.  He knew then they were there to make sure he went peacefully.  They were enforcers.  The men called upon to back the issuing of a warrant for his arrest in the hopes that just by his presence, they wouldn’t be needed.

In that instant, Carl considered going for his gun.  He liked his chances.  They wouldn’t expect it of him.  They probably still held out some hope that he was innocent of whatever they were accusing him.  But, he was too curious how they had found him out, since he truly hadn’t had anything to do with George’s death.  He needed to know how his friend’s demise had led them to his door.  He stepped back and motioned them in from the dark hallway outside his apartment.

“We’ve got a warrant here,” Captain Rickards started but Carl cut him off before he could finish.

“I can see that,” he fired back.  “What are you looking for?  How on God’s blue marble can you think I had anything to do with George?  Okay, okay, I’ll let you finish,” he said seeing the mixture of sadness and anger in his Captain’s eyes.  “What’s the warrant for?”

“Warrants, actually.  One to search your apartment,” he deadpanned, “and one for your arrest.”

Carl licked his lips.  The liquor had given him a bad case of cotton mouth and his nerves were begging for a cigarette.  He would have lit one up to soothe them but he wanted to keep his hands free.  His palms were slick with sweat but his face was flushed with embarrassment and anger.

Captain Rickards cocked an eyebrow at his Detective, “Did you know that George had been tailing you for a couple weeks.  We’ve got you on video.”

“Damn,” tumbled from Carl’s mouth.  His lips loosened by the same liquor that had assuaged the grief in his heart.  His best friend had betrayed him.  As he went for his gun, he wished he had only had a quarter of the bottle instead of half of it.


The nationwide man hunt for Carl Graff started the next day.  At first his fellow officers were loathe to believe the rumors being spread about him, but as the video and wire taps become general knowledge they quickly switched gears and started saying they had always suspected him of being a dirty cop, there was something that wasn’t quite right about him.

As the days turned into weeks turned into months, they assumed that he had used his drug running connections to find safe passage out of the country.  Internal Affairs and the FBI got involved and issued formal statements that the rest of the department had been reviewed and was found to be clean, restoring the public’s faith in their men and women in blue.  The official results of the investigation were, of course, classified, but John and Susie Public rarely concern themselves with such details.

A cellphone, placed under a chair, playing the “Wrecking Ball” ringtone at the Captain’s funeral, while considered a massive lead at the time, never amounted to anything.  The man hunt continues…


Word Count: 2,000

The Who: Dirty Cop (4)
The Where: Amusement Park (2)
The Uh-Oh: Betrayal by best friend! (1)

I used the =randbetween excel function to come up with which prompt words to use.  Have no idea what I’m talking about?  That’s because I haven’t shown you the prompt yet!  This is another Flash Fiction Challange:

Anyway, this week, we’re back with another randomized challenge –
And, this week, I’m letting you have 2000 words instead of 1000.
The way forward is simple: pick (randomly or by hand) one element from each column below (Who, Where, Uh-oh) and smoosh those three together to concoct a single story. For bonus points, you can actually randomize the Who column twice — either to make a combination protagonist (PSYCHIC CELEBRITY! ASSASSIN ACCOUNTANT!) or to choose a second character to go into your tale, either as a supporting character or as an antagonist.
Post this story at your online space.
Link back here.
Due by Friday, the 24th, noon EST.
And the categories are…
The Who (Protagonist)
1. Detective
2. Ghost
3. Bartender
4. Dirty Cop
5. Psychic
6. Assassin
7. Accountant
8. Celebrity
9. Android
10. Waiter/Waitress
The Where (Setting)
1. Nuclear Wasteland
2. Amusement Park
3. Chinatown
4. Far-Flung Space Station
5. Mad Botanist’s Greenhouse
6. Virtual Reality
7. The Underworld
8. Trailer Park
9. Pirate Ship
10. Casino
The Uh-Oh (Problem)
1. Betrayal by best friend!
2. Left for dead, out for revenge!
3. Encounter with a nemesis!
4. Trapped!
5. Something precious, stolen!
6. Lovers, separated!
7. Warring against nature!
8. An unsolved murder!
9. A conspiracy, revealed!
10. Besieged by supernatural enemies!


I think this may have been my first attempt at writing a crime thriller, and while there isn’t much crime in it, and it probably isn’t that much of a thriller.  I’m pretty pleased with how much I crammed into 2,000 words.  What do you think?  Did you enjoy it?  What would you have done differently?

Or, better yet, roll the dice (pick a prompt word from each category) and play along.  Write it, link it, post it.

bulking up

Duncan was in the process of reinventing himself.

For years he had struggled to be comfortable in his own skin, to be happy with how he looked, and no matter what he tried he never really achieved that.  Working out didn’t help, his body would get tone but wouldn’t bulk up.  Adding extra calories just fueled the work out sessions and gave me more energy than he knew what to do with.  He even parted with half of his savings to hire a personal trainer for six months.  The trainer did their best, but couldn’t get Duncan looking the way he wanted.

He was aware that his vanity had turned into an obsession, and he no longer cared.  After having hated the way he looked for his entire life he was determined to once and for all find the solution, find what he needed to do to look in the mirror and be pleased with the reflection.  Duncan plotted and schemed, researched and formulated plan after plan, discarding those that weren’t feasible, until he finally came upon a solution that would work.

It was risky, no doubt about that, but he had no choice.  He had to bulk up.  He had to look more like a man and less like a one hundred and twenty pound weakling.  He knew he would be happy once he did.  He’d be more outgoing, more confident, and he’d finally be able to do something worthwhile with his life.

He found some likely sources and monitored their movements.  When the timing was right, he would strike.  Then it was just a simple matter of isolating the muscle groups he wanted, a quick cut and paste, and then Duncan would be brawny too.  He’d finally fill out his shirts.  He’d finally be able to walk down the beach without a shirt on and not be embarrassed.  He’d look in the mirror and smile.

Duncan wouldn’t feel sorry for his victims.  He wouldn’t have time as he’d be far too busy with his new social activities.


Word Count: 339

I don’t know what it is about the Inspiration Monday prompts that brings out the silliness in me, but it seems like they always do.  This slightly dark, hopefully humorous, little story is in response to this week’s prompts:


The Rules

There are none. Read the prompts, get inspired, write something. No word count minimum or maximum. You don’t have to include the exact prompt in your piece, and you can interpret the prompt(s) any way you like.


No really; I need rules!

Okay; write 200-500 words on the prompt of your choice. You may either use the prompt as the title of your piece or work it into the body of your piece. You must complete it before 6 pm CST on the Monday following this post.

The Prompts:


the mirror

The knife hung loosely in his right hand.  He continued to hold it because it felt right in his grasp, but he no longer gripped it as tightly as he had been moments before.  There was no longer a need to do so.

Yes, he thought, it belongs in my hand.  It completes me.

The blood running down the length of the blade had begun to pool at the tip and drip to the floor where it soaked into the greedy carpet.  The fibrous material couldn’t get enough, lapping it up and storing it away.

He followed the drips down and saw the growing stain.  He pondered the blood soaking into the carpet and wondered, have I had enough?

He smiled then, both inwardly and allowing his lips to curl up at the edges.  It felt right to smile, too.  He briefly worried that his grin would give away the depths of his sin, that his outward appearance would match the burning fire in his soul.

He moved his gaze up from the growing circle of red in the carpet to study his reflection in the mirror.

His smile was cordial and inviting, his eyes were still piercing blue and full of life.  He was still the charismatic person that had drawn so many people to him over the years.

I appear normal.

But I know that I’m not.  I will never have enough.  I will never stop until they make me stop.

He set the knife on the edge of the sink reluctantly, carefully, with reverence for the tool he continued to use, for the item that had finally set him free from the darkness within his heart, and began to wash away the blood from his hands.


Word Count: 290

This week’s Trifecta Writing Challenge:

1a : to be or come in sight <the sun appears on the horizon>
b : to show up <appears promptly at eight each day>
2: to come formally before an authoritative body <must appear in court today>
3: to have an outward aspect : seem <appears happy enough>