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Do you write short stories? I didn’t until recently. I soon discovered writing murder mystery short stories is great fun.

It was a Goodreads invitation that set me off. It was from Support Indie Authors (SIA) who appear to run short story competitions with differing themes on a regular basis.

I guess it was this part of the rules that hooked me right in:

DESCRIPTION
We’re looking for Murder Mysteries!

Your short story MUST INCLUDE the following:

“When I saw the bouquet of 7 roses, I knew exactly who had murdered Mrs. O’Connell.”
Failure to include this sentence of dialogue will result in your story being disqualified.

It went on to say submissions must be between 1000 – 2000 words. Multiple submissions are permitted. After I submitted my first, I couldn’t stop. There are now three altogether for the moderators to consider.

My biggest takeaway from all this is short stories can be a great foundation for a future novel. Indeed, the beta reader/fan club I operate gushed over the first submission and many said, “It would make a great novel.” That is the plan!

The second takeaway is this: there seems to be a market for short stories. I invite any author reading this to get in touch to explore the possibility of publishing an anthology of themed short stories. [see foot of post for more details]

Call For Submissions Now Closed

All three short stories can be read below.


Eleanor Rigby: A Short Story

By Stephen Bentley

©2019 Stephen Bentley All Rights Reserved

 

Mrs. O’Connell, Rosemary Eleanor Bernadette O’Connell nee Rigby, would have been celebrating her seventieth birthday save for her funeral taking place on the same day.

No one cared. She was one of millions of lonely people. “Eleanor Rigby,” she told school friends, “like the Beatles song.”

Detective Constable Lorraine Cassidy recognized that story well. She often wished she had a pound for every time Mrs. O’Connell recounted it. Not that DC Cassidy had seen Mrs. O’, as she called her, for some years. Not alive, that is. She had seen Mrs. O’ dead, murdered, in her own home four weeks ago.  Strangled, in her own bed.

Cassidy had first met Mrs. O’ as the neighbourhood copper before her promotion to the C.I.D. Contemplating the open casket, Cassidy felt guilt. Mrs. O’ Connell’s eyes stayed closed, no doubt about it, but the detective swore they opened for a second. Enough time for Mrs. O’ to flash a message imploring the detective to find her killer and bring him to justice. Cassidy, looking at the sweet innocent face of the old lady, swore under her breath to do just that.

“I will, I promise you, Eleanor Rigby,” said Cassidy dabbing her moist eyes with a tissue, her mind filled with the haunting Beatles tune.

“Now, now, dear,” said a voice as a hand fell on her shoulder. The detective turned to realize the funeral director, a portly man dressed for the occasion as befitted his occupation, had spoken. “Are you a relative?” he inquired softly.

“I’m a detective. But I did know her.”

“Pity. It appears the dear lady has no one from her family here to pay their last respects. Always sad that; been in this line for over thirty years and it still gets to me.” A caring undertaker supposed Cassidy.

The cortege of the priest, Cassidy, the undertaker, and the solicitor dealing with Mrs. O’s will, followed the coffin bearers to the plot. Prayers offered, casket lowered, dirt thrown; the gravediggers completed their task,  as the dark, grey English sky drizzled adding more depression to such a sombre scene.

“Care for a cup of tea back at my office, DC Cassidy?” said William Brewster, the solicitor. “Perhaps something stronger?”

“Yes. I need to ask you some questions anyway. Now is as good a time as any.”

***

Snubbing the offer of brandy, Cassidy drank her tea sat in a comfortable leather chair in Mr. Brewster’s High Street solicitor’s office. They had met formally a few times owing to their occupations. Brewster had defended several rogues and vagabonds known to both. DC Cassidy had been the arresting officer. Not serious criminals, serious crime did not happen in Little Benton until the murder of Mrs. O’ Connell.

Headquarters had left Cassidy to her own devices. The Force Murder Squad stretched for manpower owing to a serial killer on the loose in the county’s biggest town, Rivington. Once established Mrs. O’ Connell’s demise could not be the serial killer’s handiwork, DC Cassidy was left to get on with it.

“Have you made any progress?” Brewster said.

“No. I was hoping for some help from the HQ SOCO team but they found nothing. No fingerprints, DNA, nothing.”

“Hmmm. That doesn’t sound good. What do you know about her?”

“I knew her…  but I didn’t know her …  if you know what I mean.”

“I’m not sure I do.”

“Right. Forgive me, I’m still upset from the funeral. As you know, I was a uniformed copper in her neighbourhood. I got to know her when I stopped to chat to her in the corner store. She told me she was lonely and I could have a cuppa with her any time I was passing. I did. I called in to see her once a week until I was promoted to detective.”

“Well, it seems to me you knew her as well as anyone.”

“Not really. She never mentioned family or friends. Now I come to think of it, she was a bit of a mystery. She even mumbled mysterious stuff when she took a nap.”

“Oh, such as?”

“Seven.”

“Seven what?”

“I have no idea. Just seven, repeated it in her dream. I assume it was a dream. She was napping in her old armchair. She’d wake up and I’d ask her what it meant. She would stare out of the window, shake her head and mutter, ‘Nothing. Don’t worry about me, dear.’”

“How strange, sad too. No mourners today, no flowers. A real mystery woman, our Mrs. O’ Connell.”

“True and you know what? I hate mysteries.”

“I guess so. That’s why you became a detective.”

“What’s in her will, Mr. Brewster?”

Clearing his throat, Brewster said, “I suppose it can’t do any harm. Strictly speaking you need a court order. Here, look. You never saw it here, right?”

“Of course.” DC Cassidy perused the legal document in front of her. Gasping for air, she exclaimed, “she was rich. Left the lot to St. Augustine’s Orphanage in Melchester. All half million.”

“Read to the bottom.”

“Twenty thousand pounds to me?”

“That’s what it says.”

“Wow!” DC Cassidy said.

***

DC Cassidy and her boyfriend, barrister David Teller, a man ten years older than her, finished dinner in David’s country cottage located just outside Little Benton. He had cooked a pot roast followed by a home-made apple pie with vanilla ice cream.

They both enjoyed an undemanding relationship, content to be with each other when mutually convenient. They also had common interests – good food, wine, horse riding, books, the theatre and most of all – classical music.

Dinner finished, David loaded the dishwasher before returning to the cosy lounge and replenishing the two wine glasses. The logs crackled in the inglenook hearth as both relaxed into the antique Chesterfield sofa. Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 2 played in the background.

Examining the ruby liquid in his glass, David said, “You know what. You may be missing something obvious with your Mrs. O’ Connell. Something so obvious, no one can be blamed for not seeing it. A bit like a spy’s tradecraft: hiding in plain sight some call it.”

“Interesting. But what? I told you, she’s a little old lady with no family or friends.”

“What if she isn’t Mrs. O’ Connell at all?”

“David, what are you saying?”

“Nothing. Just prompting you to think out of the box. God, I hate that expression.”

***

“DC Cassidy, what a pleasant surprise. What can I do for you?” Mr. Brewster said, opening his office door.

“I need the keys for Mrs. O’ Connell’s house.”

Brewster again cooperated, explaining to DC Cassidy on the way to Mrs. O’ Connell’s house he was the sole legal executor of her estate which included her home, the only thing of any value. He was in the process of  arranging the sale off any assets from the estate.  When sold, all proceeds including those from the sale of the house, would also be bequeathed to the orphanage. Rather than the half million mentioned in her will, the final amount would more likely be nearer a million.

Nodding in comprehension at every word uttered by the solicitor, DC Cassidy finally spoke as she parked outside the house. “That’s Jock Weir,” she said.

“And, who may he be?” Brewster frowned.

“Stop worrying. He’s a SOCO. I asked him to come to dust for finger prints.”

“I thought all that had been done after her body was found.”

“It was … we may have been looking in the wrong places.”

***

Three weeks later, DC Cassidy answered the phone in the C.I.D. office at Little Benton Police Station. “You’re sure?” she asked.

She then made a call, interrupted by questions:

“David. I’ll be away for a few days.”

…  “Yes. Work.”

…  “Staringford. Just outside Liverpool.”

… “I will. See you when I get back and … thank you.”

***

Gazing out of the window overlooking the city centre, cathedrals, and the River Mersey, DC Cassidy turned around on hearing a man’s voice. “So, you the girl from down south who nicked the killer?” He asked in an unmistakeable Liverpool accent.

“I’m she, but I’m no girl.”

“Sorry, no offence. I’m Detective Chief Superintendent Edwards.”

“It’s okay. Pleased to meet you, sir.”

“When did you suspect your prisoner of the murder?”

“When I saw the bouquet of 7 roses, I knew exactly who had murdered Mrs. O’Connell.”

“Interesting. I have the Force Press Officer banging on my door. Care to tell me the story so I can properly brief him? This’ll end up on national TV news, you know.”

Sitting at a table in the small Merseyside Police HQ conference room, DC Cassidy took a deep breath and told her tale, first covering the history of how she met Mrs. O’ Connell, moving on to her murder.

“Funny thing is back then, I had no idea why she muttered seven in her sleep, during her little catnaps. Someone told me to think out of the box. I did. I thought what if Mrs. O’ Connell isn’t Mrs. O’ Connell at all.

“When I got the call from my HQ confirming a match with Mrs. O’s fingerprints found in her home, it all made sense. We had been looking for the intruder’s prints not those of the victim. The intruder was the murderer but we didn’t find those prints and even if we had, my prisoner in the cells downstairs has no criminal record.

“So, that’s how I discovered Mrs. O’ Connell was really called Eleanor Rigby from Dublin. She had never been married. She told me her name was Rosemary Eleanor Bernadette O’Connell nee Rigby. Now, I think she was trying to give me a clue by revealing the Eleanor Rigby bit. And, perhaps subconsciously, mumbling ‘seven’ in her sleep.

“Mrs. O’, or Eleanor Rigby, had been a registered nurse here in Liverpool. She worked paediatric wards. She suffocated seven kids, infants really. Got life with a minimum 15-years for murder, but on appeal the murder got reduced to manslaughter and a 10- years sentence imposed instead because of new evidence she suffered from Munchausen syndrome. She did her time, got released, changed her name and came to live in Little Benton.”

“Where did the money come from to buy the house and leave all that money in her will?”

“She never married but engaged to a much older man, a wealthy man. When he died, he left everything to the love of his life, Eleanor.

“When we identified Mrs O’ through her fingerprints, I did some digging on the old case – her manslaughter conviction. One mother understandably launched a campaign, a vitriolic attack on the nurse Eleanor Rigby. She became a clear candidate for murdering Eleanor aka Mrs. O’.

“I jumped on the train and came here to Liverpool to interview that campaigning mother. It wasn’t only the seven roses in a vase in her front room. I spotted a torn florist’s card in the waste paper bin. On piecing it together and reading the card, it said ‘I hope you rot in hell. There are seven reasons why you should.’”

“I arrested her and she made a full confession right away. She also told me she planned to send the flowers and card to the funeral. She decided against that fearing it might have led us to her.”

“How did she know where Eleanor lived?”

“Her brother is a prison service social worker. He works in the section keeping tabs on convicted killers. He told her.”

“What’s her name? Your prisoner?”

“Rita. And, guess what?”

“What?”

“She’s a traffic warden, A meter maid.”

The Detective Chief Superintendent spluttered, “Only in Liverpool! Eleanor Rigby and Lovely Rita, the Meter Maid,” adding, “fancy a beer?”

“Thought you’d never ask,” DC Cassidy said, smiling.

The End

©2019 Stephen Bentley All Rights Reserved


The Rose Slayer

By Stephen Bentley

©2019 Stephen Bentley All Rights Reserved

1526 words including title & Copyright designation

Six murders. Two detectives. More than four million LA residents. “That’s a hell of a lot of suspects,” Bill Pawson said. His partner, Sean Wells shrugged.

Pawson and Wells, Detectives First Class of LAPD Robbery Homicide Squad, had been working this homicide case for the past three years. It was cases rather than a case. It was clear to them, their Captain, the Chief of Detectives, the media, and the public there was a serial killer at large in Los Angeles. What wasn’t clear was the identity of the killer. The cops had no clue as to who it was or why.

The modus operandi told them it was the work of one person: all middle-aged female victims; all single or divorced, lived alone, only had a cat or cats as a pet, no dogs, and no kids.

All the vics’ homes’ rear windows jimmied, night-time entry believed to be between three to four in the early hours; cause of death identical in all cases: a .22 slug in the brain fired at not more than two-feet away, using a pillow to muffle the sound. A rose left on or next to the vics’ bodies. A single red rose the first time. Two roses on the second vic. Yeah, you got it – six roses on the sixth victim. The media called the perp, ‘The Rose Slayer.’

The crime scenes yielded no clues. No prints, no fibres, no DNA. No witnesses. Nothing. Nada. Before you ask: no, have you any idea how many florists there are in and around LA? Not to mention rose growers.

Casts were taken of the jimmie marks on the window frames and preserved in the evidence store. They were as useful as an Eskimo’s refrigerator. Without the bar used to force entry there was nothing for the CSI lab to compare.

Sure, there were the slugs recovered during the autopsies. They were all from the same weapon but where was that gun? Detective work is easy once you have the perp’s identity, search his place, find the bar and gun. He can lawyer up as much as he wants. The DA will have a field day in court. Juries love CSI.

“Hey Sean!” Pawson shouted, “wanna beer or three before we knock it off for the weekend?” The robbery homicide squad room was full of detectives’ noisy banter about the Lakers. Wells called back over the hubbub, “Yeah, sure thing. Just give me two minutes, will ya?”

Pawson impatient and sighing, pulled his Glock .45 and holster from a desk drawer, secured them to his waist belt and threw his jacket over one shoulder ready to leave. Moving his shield clipped to his shirt breast pocket, to his belt, he muttered under his breath. His partner had taken a new incoming call.

Wells listened while holding his free hand ramrod in the air. Pawson recognized that was a signal to wait. Over the next thirty seconds, they both realized the weekend was cancelled.

“Wait up,” Pawson heard Wells say as he listened to one side of the conversation.

“.22, okay, yeah could be.”

“Point blank in the head. Pillow?”

“Yeah sounds like our perp. Waddya mean, different?”

“Okay, be there ASAP. Depends on the freeway traffic.”

Wells grabbed his gun, holstered it, and threw on his jacket.

“What’s with the ‘different’?” Pawson said.

“He wouldn’t say. Just said, ‘you can see for yourself.’”

***

An Echo Park side street was the location of the single-storey home of Mary O’ Connell, a divorced woman aged forty-five years. The crime scene tape in place when Detectives Pawson and Wells rang the front door bell. A twenty-two-year uniformed veteran, Jim Cowie, opened the door. “Holy Moly, what brings Laurel and Hardy out here? Not seen you two for years.”

“Knock it off, Jim.” Pawson said.

“Please yourself,” Cowie snapped, “but let me tell ya this – when I saw the bouquet of 7 roses, I knew exactly who had murdered Mrs. O’Connell.”

“What! Who?” Wells said and immediately regretted it.

“The Rose Slayer, is who.” Cowie guffawed.

“Go fuck yourself,” Wells said.

“Charming.”

Ignoring the uniform cop, the detectives walked through to the bedroom. They had witnessed a similar crime scene on six previous occasions. The ME spoke, “Thought it’d be you two. You got a seventh vic now but there’s a difference.”

Mike Nakamura, the ME, pointed at the corpse on the bed, “Looks like a .22 entry wound here. No exit as usual. I’ll dig it out for comparison later. And, there’s the pillow used to muffle the noise.”

Pawson moved over to the other side of the bed taking in her face and front of her body. “Holy crap!” Pawson said, “she has no fingers.”

“That’s what’s different. I was about to tell you,” Nakamura said, “if you look at her mouth, the perp cut them off and stuffed them down her throat.”

“Sick fuck!” Wells said.

“Time of death, detectives, was about three this morning. Three a.m.”

The phone on the bedside table rang. Wells picked up on the second ring. “Hello. Who’s this?”

“Uh huh. Uh huh. I see. Okay. Thanks,” he said before hanging up.

“Her boss. He called it in when she didn’t show for work this morning. Cowie caught the despatch and found the back window forced.” Wells said. He added, “the thing is, her boss asked us to check if her laptop is on the kitchen table.”

“What for?” Pawson asked.

“He says there’s a load of commercially sensitive info on it.”

“Cowie!” Pawson yelled. “Go check the kitchen. Find me a laptop and bring it here. Put some gloves on though, won’tcha?”

There was no laptop in the kitchen or anywhere else. It had gone.

***

Captain Charlie Hills called a case conference for first thing Monday morning at the Robbery Homicide Squad’s downtown HQ office.

“Any of these other vics have laptops missing?” Hills said.

“No way of knowing. We can’t trace family or friends for any of them. Co-workers either said ‘yes, they had one, but, no, they hadn’t got a clue if it was missing or sorry, don’t know.’” Pawson said.

Hills said, “I’m sure this is the key to cracking this case wide open. Think. Let’s assume they all had something in common. Something that would be revealed in emails or on a website, even Facebook.”

“We don’t have the smartphones, laptops or any devices of these vics.” Wells said.

“No, but we have their details. Let’s get on to the service providers – the internet and telephone companies, and email providers. Check with them. I’ll get the DA on to it now. We’ll need subpoenas.”

***

Captain Hills pulled some strings in arranging for twenty academy recruits to scour through voluminous records provided under subpoena. It took them five days working fifteen hours every day to make the breakthrough.

He wrote down the essential piece of information, before summoning Pawson and Wells to his office.

“Here it is,” he said as he waved a sheet of paper in the air, “GreatReads.com!”

Pawson and Wells looked at each other, baffled. “So?” They said in unison.

“So, you go get a warrant right now. We got the “Rose Slayer.”

***

The front door of the apartment crashed inwards. Detectives Pawson and Wells shouted in unison, “Police! Robbery Homicide LAPD!” Fanning out, Glocks drawn, they both entered the first room off the small hall. The door was open.

A man, about thirty-five years’ old, swivelled on an office chair to face them. His hands left the computer keyboard as he raised them in surrender. “Don’t shoot,” Tommy Queen said.

“Where’s the piece?” Wells said.

“There. In the second drawer,” Queen said pointing at his desk drawer.

As Wells gave him his Miranda rights, Pawson pointed at the computer screen and asked, “What’s that?”

“My latest novel.”

“You’re a writer?”

“Yes.”

“On Greatreads?” Wells asked.

“No that’s just a place for authors and readers to hang. Readers leave reviews there.”

“Readers like Mary O’ Connell?”

“Yup.”

“So, tell me, Tommy. Why did you kill her?” Pawson said.

“I’m sure you’ll find out anyways. She trashed one of my books. Gave it a one-star review.”

“Why chop off her fingers?” Wells said.

“She refused to apologize.”

“For what?”

“For writing such lies about my book.”

“Are you saying all the others apologized before you shot them dead?”

“I am. They died happy, detective. Believe me. I saw them smile after I asked them to say sorry.”

“Sonofabitch,” Wells said.

“Enough, Sean, enough. Tommy Queen. I’m arresting you for the first-degree homicide of Mary O’Connell and six other of your victims. Do you understand?”

“Yes. I do. I am a good writer and now I’ll be famous. They were all liars, I hope you know that.”

As Wells snapped the handcuffs on Queen’s wrists, he noticed a single red rose in a vase on the writer’s desk. “Who’s that for?”

“Number thirty. There were way more than seven bad reviews. Detectives, you need to check my frequent flyer points.”

©2019 Stephen Bentley All Rights Reserved


Diva

By Stephen Bentley

©2019 Stephen Bentley All Rights Reserved

“To hell with it! I’m not saying that,” Pandora Pointer said.

“What?” Marshall Cleaver said. She stabbed her finger at the script. Cleaver read the line aloud, “when I saw the bouquet of 7 roses, I knew exactly who had murdered Mrs. O’Connell,” adding, “why the fuck not? Those are your lines. You are an actor, darling.”

“You’re darn right. I’m box office so this freakin screenwriter should know better.”

“Better than what? What the hell are you talking about?”

“That number, I’d rather burn in hell than say it.”

“What fucking number? What you been smoking, Pandora?”

“I can’t say it. It’s my unlucky number.”

“Seven,” a camera man whispered.

“See, even the film crew know. How come the screenwriter doesn’t. Prick!”

“Maybe the camera man is screwing you, darling.” Cleaver said.

Pointer picked up a glass vase, a studio prop, and threw it at Cleaver. It missed but struck a young man standing behind the director. Pointer sashayed off set as the young man took out a white handkerchief, dabbing at a small cut above his right eye.

“Ken, are you okay?” Cleaver said.

“Sure. I’m fine. It’s nothing,” Ken said.

“Can you change it?”

“The line? The number seven? No way!” Ken said, shaking his head, “it’s the theme. The premise of the whole movie. Nothing makes sense if it’s six or twenty or whatever freakin number you choose …  just to keep a diva happy. Bollocks to that,” he added in a strident British accent.

“Look, darling, we have only just started to shoot. We can change everything. It’s not too late.”

“I’m not doing it. Period.”

“You’re fired. Period!”

***

Ken Golightly had been writing screenplays since he was seventeen. At twenty-three, he had a script accepted for a BBC comedy series. Four years later, he moved to Los Angeles to break in to Hollywood. His screenplay for Seven Roses was a monumental moment for his career. A multi-million-dollar budget, a box office star in Pandora Pointer and an Oscar-winning director in Marshall Cleaver. What could possibly go wrong? A diva’s superstition?

Seven years after his dismissal on the set of Seven Roses, he found himself selling cars for a living. Not any old car. Bentleys. The Bentley dealership in Beverly Hills welcomed him, or to be precise, his British accent. He knew the history of the famous British marque all the way back to the 1930s. He ended up selling a legend to legends.

He remained dissatisfied, despite earning top dollar selling one of the most expensive range of cars in the world. It wasn’t every day he made a sale. No sir! It wasn’t an every-day-kind of car for the every-day-kind of customer. It was made by an elite for the elite.

Dreams? He dreamt every single day and night. Pandora? She had gone on to win three consecutive Best Actress awards at the Oscars. Bitch! he thought. His daydream was interrupted when the dealership sales office phone rang.

“Pandora Pointer’s PA here. She would like to take a Bentley for a spin. Is that alright?” she said over the telephone.

“Of course. Say a time and a day and I’d be delighted to accommodate her.”

***

The appointed time and day arrived. Pandora and entourage arrived in a Porsche SUV. Ken watched as she glided across the dealership car park accompanied by her PA and a bodyguard.

No hint of recognition as he was introduced to the diva. Following the perfunctory handshake, the PA left leaving Pandora, the bodyguard, and Ken alone.

“I’ll take her out of town. Get rid of the crazies on the freeway then we can switch. You can drive and get the feel of her.” Ken said.

Navigating by GPS, the Bentley coupe, with Ken at the wheel, headed for I-10 E via Wilshere and La Cienaga Boulevards. Pandora mentioned how quiet it was in the cabin. Ken explained there was sound insulation materials worth tens-of-thousands of dollars. “That’s what you’re paying for. Luxury, sheer class,” he said.

The Bentley made light of the miles. The high-rises of Riverside County a recent blurred memory. Desert landscapes now the norm as the Bentley purred eastward.

“Ms. Pointer, I’ll need to gas up soon.”

“Sure thing. What does it do to the gallon?”

“You really want to know?” Ken said.

Ten more minutes driving and Ken pulled into a deserted gas station. A disembodied voice crackled from a loudspeaker, “Sorry. No full service now.  You’ll need to gas it up yourself.”

He turned around to speak to the bodyguard. “Do you mind pumping while I go pay the cashier? Fill her up to the top.”

Swinging his legs out of the rear passenger door, the big guy wearing a dark suit and sunglasses grunted an okay. Ken checked he was pumping gas while he waited for the cashier to ring up the till. On seeing the bodyguard replace the pump, Ken paid in cash.

On returning to the Bentley, the bodyguard said, “I’m gonna take a leak.” He pointed to the washroom sign at the rear of the gas station.

Ken did not acknowledge him. Waiting a few moments, he opened the driver’s door, leaned in and said, “Ms. Pointer. I won’t be long. I’m going to join your bodyguard in the can. I need a leak too.”  She nodded, a look of indifference on her face.

The bodyguard had his back to Ken, zipping his fly, when the six-inch blade was stuck into the middle of his shoulder blades. The bodyguard turned slowly, with shock etched into his face, when Ken struck the fatal second blow to the heart with another blade.

Ken washed and dried his hands, then walked back to the Bentley. “Where is Charlie, my bodyguard?” Pointer said.

Ken saw her face as he looked at the rear-view mirror but said nothing. Drive engaged, the Bentley moved forward. He tapped the footbrake locking all the doors. He drove east for about thirty miles towards Indio.

She spoke again, “Where are we going?”

“Hell.” On speaking that one word, Ken glanced at the rear-view mirror. He saw puzzlement and fear in her face. He felt satisfied. All was going to plan.

He spun the car off the freeway at the next exit. The road was deserted. After a few moments, he pulled off the road into an abandoned car park fronting what appeared to be the ruins of a bar or restaurant. He cut the ignition.

Pointer tried to open the locked rear doors, first one then the other. She screamed, “Let me out!”

Ken turned around to face her. He smiled. “Recognize me?” She shook her head.

Ken took out his smartphone to read an excerpt from a Wikipedia entry: “Hell was abandoned in the late 1950s or early 1960s when it was isolated by the construction of U.S. Route 60 and U.S. 70. Its remains were demolished and burned by the California State Division of Highways in late 1964 to make way for what would eventually become Interstate 10. Before its demise, Hell had a service station, a beer tavern, and a good supply of drinking water.” Putting the phone back in his pocket, he added, “welcome to Hell, Pandora.”

“Oh my god,” Pointer said as a flash of recognition showed Ken she knew. She fumbled in her purse looking for her cell phone. Ken knew it. He twisted about in the driver’s seat. Now kneeling, he flushed his fist into his hostage’s face. He grinned with satisfaction as he saw her bloody, broken nose, and broken front teeth.

Say it …  or burn in hell.” He yelled drowning out her sobs.

“Say what?” she whimpered.

“Seven.”

“That number, I’d rather burn in hell than say it.”

“That’s exactly what you said on the set. The day you ended my screenwriting career.”

“You are a sicko.”

“That is correct Ms. Pointer. I’m a sicko with a lighter too.”

“What?”

“No matter. Are you going to say that line? Do you need me to cue you?”

“Go fuck yourself.”

Ken Golightly got out of the Bentley, first pressing the electric fuel cap release button. He operated the electronic fob locking all the doors behind him. Making his way to the fuel cap, he twisted his handkerchief into a roll. Inserting the roll into the filler, he pulled out his Zippo, and ran … fast.

The loud explosion followed ten seconds later. The orange flames shot thirty feet in to the air. He heard the hungry inferno gulping in more oxygen.

“Burn in Hell, bitch!”

1431 words.

©2019 Stephen Bentley All Rights Reserved


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A closed group for beta readers & fans of Stephen Bentley books.
Aims:
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Proposed Submission Requirements For Authors

  • Ideally, I’m seeking about five or six authors with about three or more short stories each running about 1k-3k words per story.
  • All stories must fit the ‘murder mystery’ theme
  • Please no excessive or graphic violence or sex scenes
  • Try to make the stories on a similar theme. For example, mine all use the ‘7 roses’ line.
  • The theme need not be a line of dialogue. It might be winter, snow, beach or whatever the author thinks of as a linking theme.
  • All authors would be credited in the Amazon ‘by’ section with links to their Amazon Author Pages
  • Any royalties.payments due (screenshot every month) would be divided equally among the final number of contributing authors
  • All authors retain copyright
  • Publication rights are vested in me for 12 calendar months from the first date of publication. After that, each and every author is free to publish their own work wherever they choose
  • The initial Kindle cover image costs will be met by me, Stephen Bentley
  • The cost of editing will be shared equally
  • I will bear the cost of formatting the ebook professionally
  • Initially, the book will be released as Kindle only, through my KDP Dashboard, and enrolled in Kindle Select
  • If, at some stage, there is an overall consensus the book should be published as a paperback, all authors would contribute an equal share to producing a paperback cover
  • The mechanics of obtaining an ISBN, and the POD platform (Ingram or KDP) to be agreed upon before any paperback launch

I hope that clear up any queries you may have. Contact me at the email address shown at the top of my web page if you need any clarification or have further queries.

I look forward to reading your submissions.

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