Head Tax

escalator

Photo credit: Kaique Rocha pexels-photo-125532 escalator

Manny almost jumped back from top of the escalator when he saw Leah walking across the baggage claim area right below him. She hadn’t looked in his direction and was out of sight by the time he reached the bottom.

He hadn’t expected her to still be at Seatac. Her flight should have arrived hours ago. “Plane must have been delayed,” he muttered, approaching the line of waiting taxis. Entering the closest one, he uttered the address he was given. Manny was grateful the driver wasn’t chatty.

He arrived at the designated part of South Park, paid the driver including a generous tip, and got out. He’d be staying here for a few days, and the first thing he had to do was buy a gun, which wasn’t hard if you had the right connections.

Tomorrow, he’d greet and then kill Leah Thompson just as she left her upscale condo in Belltown. Then he’d exterminate everyone else on the city council who voted to repeal the “head tax.” His uncle Darrel had been murdered by another homeless person six months ago. If the city had been able to provide affordable housing to the needy, he’d still be alive.

I wrote this for the Week #24 writing challenge at Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for creating a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 196.

The photo looks like it could be an airport and I picked the city of Seattle at random. Looking up news for that city, I found Seattle quickly repeals ‘head tax’ that Amazon opposed. Apparently, Seattle had passed a law taxing big businesses like Amazon and Starbucks $500 per full-time employee so the city could fund affordable housing and services for the homeless. However Amazon pushed back in a big way, so the city council voted 7 to 2 to repeal it. Well, they actually dropped the tax to $250 per employee, but a lot of people were unhappy that the council caved in to big business.

I had planned to write an ominous tale when I first saw the photo, and my research just served to fill in the details.

My having written this missive doesn’t imply that I support or oppose Seattle’s “head tax.” I just needed to give Manny a motive for murder. Oh, the names used in my story are totally fictitious, and as far as I know, no one named “Leah Thompson” is on Seattle’s city council. I’m also not condoning killing anyone associated with this issue or for any other reason.

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

As I’ve mentioned before, this link up needs a lot of love, so please consider contributing your own flash fiction piece.

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The Missing Manuscript Affair

Gwynedd

Stream near Bethesda in Gwynedd county, Wales on 23 Dec 2013 after a storm – Photo credit: BBC.com

Only about a dozen or so people knew that Olivia Lewis, the woman discovered drowned in a fast-flowing stream near Bethesda after a storm, was a retired SIS operative. She never carried a gun, for her talents were in finding the right approach to a target and then getting them to tell her anything she wanted.

Aging MI6 agent Ian Dennis took part of his training under her decades ago, which was when she had confided with him. He knew why she was murdered. She had owned the first draft of one of World War Two veteran Leslie Bonnet’s short stories, which contained a seventy-year-old secret he had learned while training pilots in China.

Now the draft was missing, and it was a race to discover the true location of lost Sichuan Temple, which legend said contained an ancient device more powerful than all the world’s arsenal of nuclear weapons.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to take a Google Maps image and location and use them to inspire crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Gwynedd, Wales.

Of course I looked up the county of Gwynedd and discovered, among many other things, that World War Two veteran turned author made his home there after the war. Before that, he had spent some time in China in 1943 helping to create the Chinese Air Force as a service separate from their army.

I also found a 23 December 2013 BBC news story that reported a woman had drowned in a stream in Nant Ffrancon near Bethesda after a storm.

The lost temple is totally made up, though loosely based on this news article.

I created the beginning of yet another “Ian Dennis” mystery just for fun. Some of you may remember Ian from my short series The Mauritius Robbery Affair.

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

Aftermath

train

The Sunset Limited eastbound in 2004 – Found at Wikipedia

The Eleventh Chapter in the Undead Life of Sean Becker

Jonathan Harker had boarded the Amtrak train hours ago at the station on Folsom Street. He’d never been on a train in his life besides BART and the Napa Valley Wine Train but these were part of the instructions he’d been given. He’d have rather gotten on a plane. Jonny wanted to leave of the Bay Area behind. Watching the scenery roll by all too slowly reminded him of her and she was the one person in all the world he desperately wanted to forget, though of course he never would.

He had met Dolengen months ago at an after hours place called “Delirium.” His best friend Bobby had conned him into it. Bobby knew he’d just asked Lucy to marry him but his “wingman” thought he deserved one last night on the town. Bobby wanted to introduce him to two young women he’d just met, Verona and Dol.

It wasn’t long before Verona and Bobby disappeared and almost against his will, he found himself following the raven-haired Dol into a back room containing few other items of furniture besides a bed.

Dol wasn’t a prostitute but she did want something from Jonny, his sex and his blood. Dolengen looked like she couldn’t be older than twenty-five but she had died a century ago in Central Europe and been reborn a vampire.

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Telltale

two cups of tea

Found at bothellnaturalmedicine.com

“Come James, you call this tea?”

“I call this America John, but I didn’t call you in for criticism.”

When James heard his friend, part of a famous London detective team would be in LA, desperation compelled him to reach out. Now they were seated in the study of his 1920s mansion once owned by a silent movie star sipping a disappointing Darjeeling.

“My wife has been gone a month and the police are useless.”

“I see.” John noticed that James seemed distracted and kept glancing down. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

“It’s the damned pounding. It won’t go away, John.”

“James, I know you and Mary hadn’t been getting along. Are you sure she just didn’t run off?”

“No, it was foul play. I’m sure of it. Only you can help me, John. Only you can discover…” He stopped talking, picked up his cup and set it down again. He kept staring down at the throw rug and tugging at his ear.

“I agree, James. I know where Mary went now. She never left. Why don’t you lift up the rug and show me how you buried her body under the floorboards.”

“Then you can hear her heartbeat too.”

I wrote this for the Weekend Writing Prompt #40 – Afternoon Tea challenge hosted by Sammi Cox. For prose work, the idea is to use the phrase “Afternoon Tea” to craft a mystery-themed story solved over afternoon tea that is no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

First of all, I cry foul, because it’s almost impossible to create a credible mystery including clues in a mere 200 words. But since that’s all I had to work with, I felt forced to “borrow” a pre-existing mystery, in this case Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. I remember having to study this story in Junior High and it totally freaked me out.

I also “borrowed” John Watson as played by actor Martin Freeman in the BBC television series Sherlock which I thoroughly enjoy.

Hopefully you got how my character James murdered his wife Mary and then deposited the corpse under the wooden floorboards of his study in his 1920s spanish mansion in Los Angeles (probably something that looks like this). However guilt makes him continually look back at that section of the floor and has him imagine he can still hear Mary’s heartbeat. John, being no slouch, quickly figures out that James wants John to solve the mystery (it had to be quickly since again…200 words).

This being America, we don’t tend to value our afternoon tea as they do in London.

Playtime

child vampire

Child vampire – Found on Pinterest.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office has announced plans to seek the death penalty for a San Jose man accused of sexually assaulting his girlfriend’s infant daughter before beating her to death in October 2015.

Wayne Moreno, 25, had been dating the infant’s mother for roughly six weeks when she left 14-month-old Diana alone with him for the first time on October 2, 2015.

After she left, Moreno allegedly spent hours repeatedly sexually assaulting the baby. When Diana wouldn’t stop crying, Moreno beat her – resulting in multiple skull fractures, according to prosecutors.

By the time police arrived at the residence in San Jose around 2:30 p.m. Diana was already dead.

Moreno claimed the infant had been injured falling off a changing table, but an autopsy determined that was not the case. He was arrested two days later.

Moreno has been charged with murder occurring during the commission of forcible lewd acts on a child, assaulting the child resulting in her death and three separate counts of forcible lewd acts on a child.

“Wake up, Wayne.”

Wayne Moreno was in a cell in a secure wing of the Santa Clara County Jail on suicide watch. It would have been impossible to place the high-profile prisoner in the jail’s general population, and although he had not made any explicit threats of suicide, the nature of his case required the Sheriff’s Department take every precaution.

However, they couldn’t have been prepared for the impossible.

“I said wake up, Wayne.”

“Huh? Wha…?”

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Sex, Candy, and Murder

marcy playground

American alternative rock band “Marcy Playground”.

“Jemmy, who’s this bloody tart sitting in my chair?”

“That you, Danno?”

She was calling from the bedroom. Dan had come home high as usual. Having closed the door behind him after spending three minutes just getting the key in the lock, he was leaning back against it so he wouldn’t fall over.

“Yeah, Luv. I say though, who’s the bird sitting in my chair looking like she wants to cut off me neither bits?

“It’s a bloke.”

“Looks like a bird to me, giving off a sort of angry Grace Jones vibe. What, you bringing home transvestite hookers, now?”

Dan laughed frantically as if it were someone else who’d told the joke and he found it fantastically funny.

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Spectacular in Flaming Gold

New Year's Eve San Diego

San Diego – New Year’s Eve fireworks – Found at NineByNine.us

Mila’s gown sparkled in effervescent gold as she entered the ballroom that was hosting the midnight gala. She held a glass of champagne in her hand as if she were royalty. From somewhere to her left, a flautist and guitarist were playing Schubert’s Ständchen. It was one of her favorites so he must have arranged it.

She watched Marcelo descend the stairway and then stop at the bottom, his eyes were enchanting like the invitation for a kiss. Mila finished her wine and nonchalantly placed it on the tray of a passing server. She approached him as one approaches a dream or fantasy.

“I knew you would be here waiting for me, Marcelo.”

“Naturally. Otherwise you wouldn’t have come. You hate these garish affairs.”

“But you love them.”

“I love spectacle and this one will be my greatest.”

“Our greatest, my dear. Is your car waiting outside?”

“Of course, angel. I just called for it to be brought to the door.”

“Then it’s time to leave, Marcelo.”

“I quite agree, Mila.”

She took his arm and he guided her way through the crowd and out of the main doors of the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. A valet was just stepping out of the driver’s side of an ebony Ferrari LaFerrari Aperta with crimson trim. Marcelo reached inside his tuxedo jacket and extracting his wallet, tipped the young man more than he could hope to earn in three months.

“Thank you, sir. Thank you very much. Happy New Year.”

Ignoring the grateful valet, Marcelo opened the passenger door for Mila and once she had secured herself, he got in behind the wheel and slowly drove away.

In the first minutes of the New Year, they were racing north on Interstate 5 near La Jolla, a gigantic celebratory fireworks display illuminating the sky behind them, when a brilliant and devastating explosion reduced the Bayfront Hilton to flaming, iridescent rubble and debris. Nearly six-hundred people were killed in just a few moments. Marcelo and Mila would watch the golden spectacle he had created later on the news. This was the first of their astounding mass murders but certainly not their last.

I wrote this for the Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie “Bonus” Wordle for “New Years”. The idea is to use at least ten of the twelve words posted, or some variation of them, in the body of a poem or story. I used eleven only omitting Chanel No. 5. Click the link above to find the full list and to see if anyone else responded to the prompt.

A few things. I did a Google search for “Largest New Years Gala” and quite a few came up in the results. I picked San Diego because it was high on the list and for no other reason.

I chose a flautist and guitarist duet because that was who provided the music for my wife’s and my wedding over thirty years ago and I found it quite beautiful. I don’t remember what specific pieces they played and selected Schubert’s Ständchen because it’s what came up in another Google search.

Marcelo must be exceptionally wealthy because his Ferrari LaFerrari Aperta costs $2.2 million. I thought I’d give him an extravagant getaway car.

Yes, I suppose I could have written a more optimistic “Happy New Year” story, but I’m sure just about everyone else will be or has already done that, so I chose a more sinister theme. At least it’s not vampires this time.

Happy New Year. No, seriously. I mean it this time.

My Semi-Controlled Nightmare

nightmare

Nightmare wallpaper

“Can you tell me why you did that, Latisha?”

Ron Fielding was sitting in the Elementary School Principal’s office in a chair opposite the six-year-old girl. She had wanted the Principal to sit with them during the interview which was fine, but he hated the idea that his partner Lauri Marin and two uniformed police officers were also crammed into the room with them. He knew the case was likely to go to criminal court so the cops had to be there, but he didn’t think it wouldn’t make it easy for a little girl to tell a roomful of strangers why she lifted up her dress, pulled down her underwear, bent over, and told her classmate Timothy to put his penis in her butt.

“I do it all the time at home when Daddy turns on the camera.”

“What do you mean?”

Ron already knew about the videos. When the janitor caught Latisha and Timothy undressed in the girl’s bathroom during recess, he took them to Principal Kate Barrows and Latisha calmly told her all about how Daddy made movies of her with other grown ups and children. When Barrows called the local P.D., they’d notified State Police, the FBI and of course Child Protective Services, which was how Ron and Lauri became involved. The State and the Feds were actively searching the web for child pornography sites using an algorithm to match the little girl’s school photo with any of those videos. They had also put together a task force ready to raid Latisha’s parents’ home right after this interview.

Latisha wouldn’t be going home after school.

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You’re Too Early

soldier hitler group

Hitler (far right, seated) with his army comrades of the Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment 16 (c. 1914–18) – Found at Wikipedia

“Confess, Adolphus. We know you’re an anti-Semite. We know what horrors you are going to commit.”

“Please, Fräulein. I’m blind. I’m supposed to be in hospital. Who are you? Where have you brought me? I’ve done nothing. I’m just a wounded soldier.”

“Rivkah. Leave him in his cell. I need to speak with you.”

She stood suddenly and spun away from the shoddy bed with the terrified soldier upon it.

“In a minute, Barak. I’m busy.”

“Now, Rivkah. We’ve made a terrible mistake and you’re about to make another.”

“Fräulein, who is that with you? What language are you speaking?”

“Fine.” She scowled at her older brother and stormed toward the open door to the dilapidated prison. Barak slammed the door and then secured the rusty lock.

“Wait,” the young Austrian called through the door. “Don’t leave me.”

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When Erica Walks in Darkness

portal

© Sue Vincent

Erica knew she had been down this corridor before but she couldn’t remember when. She wanted to stop, turn around, and go back the way she’d come, but she didn’t recall where she’d been before now. The corridor was cold but it felt warm ahead where the light was coming from.

“Come now, Erica. Don’t dawdle.”

A man’s voice. He sounded familiar but she didn’t know from where.

She took another step forward, then another. She stopped and looked down. A simple, white blouse, plain woolen skirt with the hem down to her knees, black patent leather shoes. She was dressed almost like a schoolgirl, but she knew she was an adult. Erica started walking toward the light again. Then she was at the entrance to the room.

Even standing at the threshold, it was hard to see. There was a fireplace, a piano, chairs, a small sofa, all early 19th century, all very expensive. The portrait over the mantle was of a distinguished gentleman. It was the same man who had called to her, who was standing just to the right of the very same mantle holding a drink in his left hand. He offered it to her.

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