Preview of my Short Story “The Haunted Detective”

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Promotional image for the Gemini Wordsmiths anthology “The Trench Coat Chronicles”

About six weeks ago, I announced that my short story “The Haunted Detective” was accepted for publication in the Gemini Wordsmiths anthology “The Trench Coat Chronicles.”

The graphic above not only includes my name among the accepted authors but relates that this book will be available sometime around the winter holidays.

If you can’t wait, here’s a small excerpt:

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My Short Story “The Haunted Detective” To Be Published!

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Screen capture from Facebook

In the last ten days or so, in pretty rapid succession, I got three rejection notices, two from the same publisher. Needless to say, I was bummed. That’s why when Ruth and Ann from Gemini Wordsmiths told me this morning that my short story The Haunted Detective was accepted into their Trench Coat Chronicles anthology, I was thrilled.

I can’t find a formal announcement on their website, but I did find one on a Facebook group, which is where the screen capture comes from.

Here’s part of the submissions call, just to give you an idea of what I had to shoot for:

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Cloverdale

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Cloverdale Picnic (www.midbarrach.com) date unknown

“Been coming here to Cloverdale for a while now, Taklishim.” Alan Tupper stood in front of the abandoned general store, almost all that was left of the ghost town in southern New Mexico.

“You have been my good friend since you were a boy.”

“I’m twenty-six now and getting ready to get out of the service.”

“I thought you liked the Army.”

“Talking to you every year since that last reunion changed me.”

“You have never taken life unjustly.”

“But ol’ Captain Tupper did.”

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The Ghost Before Christmas

christmas

Photo credit: Akshata Ram

Raymond walked into his bedroom with a fresh cup of coffee for a relaxing Sunday morning and found the Christmas decorations laid out on the bed next to his newspaper. “You never give up, do you, Mom?” Setting his cup down on the end table, the 45-year-old divorced engineer sat at the foot of the bed and picked up the dollar store Santa. “I miss you too, Mom, especially this time of year.” He knew his ex had her place elaborately decorated for the season, and that his three sons delighted in trying to guess what was inside all of the brightly wrapped packages, but he’d given up on Christmas and everything it was supposed to stand for when his Mom died a month after his divorce was final. Taking a deep breath, he picked up his cell and punched in a number.

“Hi, Sherry. Is it okay if I come over for a while? I’ve got some presents for the boys.” He listened and smiled. Of course, he’d have to go shopping first.

I wrote this for the 196th FFfAW Challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 174. This is pretty much a “stream of consciousness” thing. I just wrote the first thing that popped into my head.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

The Grayland

spectral

© Sue Vincent

At first Alise Egan thought she had been trapped in a cursed painting of herself facing an ocean wave, but then she realized it was an interdimensional gateway to another reality. In the painting, the twenty-two year old MIT graduate looked much as she appeared in real life, tall, what her billionaire benefactor, the painting’s owner Keyne Harlan and men of his generation would call “curvy,” long, blond hair streaming behind her along with her extravagant crimson gown, a ostentatious gift from said-benefactor, the man who adopted her after her parents died.

But once across the chaotic field of alabaster and sapphire, she entered the realm of the dead. Well, that’s what they had wanted her to believe, all of the non-corporeal entities who inhabited that realm. Two of them had initially passed themselves off as her dead parents, but then she saw them for what they truly were, invaders intent on using her as a bridge from their world to hers for reasons unknown and undesired.

But one of them said, “Physical laws don’t apply here. There’s no difference between science and magic.” That’s when she realized she could do anything, and so she did. Alise pushed back, at first driving a few away from the threshold, then hundreds, then thousands, and finally all that there were, millions and tens of millions.

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The Eagle of Hans Langsdorff

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© EPA – Graf Spee Eagle

He watched as divers brought up the figurehead of his beloved Graf Spee from the muddy depths where it had lain for nearly seventy years. If he could have wept, bitter tears would have streamed down his face, but this was denied him as well as peace he had sought long ago. Instead, damnation has been his constant companion, and though he could take no breath, what was once his heart was crushed at this bitter reminder.

They covered the swastika displayed beneath the eagle’s nine-foot wingspan out of consideration of those still sensitive to Hitler’s bloody legacy. So be it. The Nazi dream was just as dead as Hitler, and just as dead as Captain Hans Langsdorff who committed suicide two days after scuttling the German battleship rather than have it fall into enemy hands. How fleeting and meaningless history has rendered his ship and his wandering spirit.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to use a Google maps image/location as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 149.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Montevideo, Uruguay. As usual, I looked up the location and under 20th century, I found this:

During World War II, a famous incident involving the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee took place in Punta del Este, 200 kilometers (120 mi) from Montevideo. After the Battle of the River Plate with the Royal Navy and Royal New Zealand Navy on 13 December 1939, the Graf Spee retreated to Montevideo’s port, which was considered neutral at the time. To avoid risking the crew in what he thought would be a losing battle, Captain Hans Langsdorff scuttled the ship on 17 December. Langsdorff committed suicide two days later. The eagle figurehead of the Graf Spee was salvaged on 10 February 2006; to protect the feelings of those still sensitive to Nazi Germany, the swastika on the figurehead was covered as it was pulled from the water.

I found the story verifying this at BBC News and the rest, as they say, is history.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

Oh, the location seemed familiar, and earlier this year, I wrote a tale for the same location.

Dark Carnival

carnival

Image credit Grace Ho via Unsplash

“Oneida, I wish you wouldn’t torture yourself this way. Come back with me.” Del held out long, skeletal fingers toward the diaphanous waif that he loved with all his heart, that is, if he still had one.

“Just a few more minutes. I like to hear their laughter.”

“We have laughter, too. It just takes a bit of adjustment.”

“I know.” She continued to stare wistfully at the people being whisked about on the rides. “You’ve told me before.” She turned towards him, a quizzical look on what was once her face. “How long has it been?”

“Since you arrived? Barely a decade, my love.”

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The Lady in Black

woman in pool

Image credit Mari Lezhava via Unsplash

The lady in black, as the tabloids dubbed her, had drowned in Victor Fountain’s swimming pool five years ago and now she was back. Marcela Saenz was twenty-eight when she died. Mr. Fountain, CEO and President of one of the top software engineering companies in the world, was on holiday with his family at the time and had no knowledge about how the personal assistant for his company’s Marketing director had gotten onto his property.

The coroner declared the case death by misadventure. Based on the contusion on the back of Ms. Saenz’s head, and the amount of water in her lungs, he determined that she must have fallen into the pool, struck her head against the side, rendering her unconscious, and subsequently drowned.

Her body was found by Johnny Morales, an employee of a pool cleaning service, some forty-eight hours after she died. The nineteen-year-old quit his job the next day.

Marcela Saenz drowned in Victor Fountain’s swimming pool five years ago today. The pool had temporarily been drained to repair a cracked drainage pipe.

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The Haunted Detective

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San Francisco Chronicle Archives – From the back of the photo: “F Car goes through – The two months long blockade of the Fourth and Market intersection ended completely yesterday morning as F cars moved from Fourth Street across Market into Stockton. While police officers experimented with the new traffic pattern at the complex five-way intersection, workmen rolled down the last of the fill in the project. City officials hope the revised schedule will end one or more downtown bottlenecks.” September 9, 1947.

“I keep telling you this, Marguerite, but you never listen. You are just as breakable as the next person, maybe more so given your line of work.”

Private Investigator Margurite Carter was getting sick and tired of Cohen’s lectures. “Do I tell you how to stitch a cut, Sawbones? Just do your job. I haven’t got all night for you to fix up my broken wing. And what’s that crack about me being more breakable? I’m as tough as any guy in the business.”

“Tell that to your broken arm. It’s a good thing you’re left-handed. From the way you described the thug who jumped you, he must have had a hundred pounds on you. By the way, the name’s Dr. Cohen or Joel, not Sawbones.” The fatherly doctor tightened the binding a little too much on his thirty-year-old mouthy patient just to make his point.

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Where the Ghosts Come From

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Pedro Fogueras pexels-photo-626164 shadow

“Let me out, do you hear? Let me out!”

Olsen Hoyt pressed his intangible form against a non-existent boundary between the neither-world and the real one.

“Why did you do this to me? I didn’t do anything wrong!”

Pressing his non-face against the nothing holding him, he wept nullified tears.

Their plan was to leave Hoyt, and everyone like him, alone in the dark for all eternity, but inventor Dennis Tyson couldn’t resist adding more payback. He walked into the Qualdonitron control systems matrix and selected his former supervisor’s virtual cell, one of over a billion. Then he whispered across the void, “You deserve it.”

“Who’s there? Why do I deserve this?”

“Your kind has been in control long enough. It’s time for the rest of us to take charge. Monsters don’t deserve existence, but death isn’t punishment enough. Now thanks to the invention of the Qualdonitron, the privilege of dominance is ours.”

“Privilege?”

“Your people have caused millennium of suffering. Now it’s our turn to create the pain.”

It took all those like Hoyt countless years, but eventually, they learned how to come back to the world as ghosts. Now their presence would be forever haunting.

I wrote this for the Week #26 Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is ~200.

I very loosely based my story on some of the lyrics from Gordon Lightfoot’s 1971 classic song If You Could Read My Mind and specifically:

If you could read my mind, love,
What a tale my thoughts could tell.
Just like an old time movie,
‘Bout a ghost from a wishing well.
In a castle dark or a fortress strong,
With chains upon my feet.
You know that ghost is me.
And I will never be set free
As long as I’m a ghost that you can’t see.

Of course, there are other themes involved, but I’ll leave it to the reader to discover who Hoyt and Tyson could possibly represent.

To read other tales based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com. As I’ve said in previous weeks, this link up still needs a lot of love, so please consider contributing a story. Thanks.