The Devil’s Dilemma

Beyonce

Pop singer Beyonce – Image Source: Getty / Larry Busacca

The radio was playing the oddest song. “What the hell?”

“Don’t curse, Timmy.” 37-year-old Colleen Quinn looked ten years older, particularly when she was scolding her 16-year-old son in the living room of their worn down tenement flat in the middle of New York’s “Hell’s Kitchen.”

Timothy Patrick Quinn thought he’d heard the last of those strange news stories coming out of the radio after it told him about a 14-year-old newsie named Alexander Luszock who was supposed to be murdered by another crazed killer, this one named Carl Panzram. It had happened to him before, almost a year ago. That’s when he started hearing news stories from the future. This last time, he didn’t try fighting Panzram himself, though he had to give his Mom and his foreman at work an excuse why he had to take the bus to D.C. and visit for a day or so. He had to be near the crime scene to make an anonymous call to the cops, and then stay nearby to make sure they stopped Panzram’s attack on Luszock in time. That worked out a lot better than when he did this once before.

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Mona Lisa Smile

monalisa

Found at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie and taken from Reddit.com – No other photo credit listed

Today was the day that Stefan Günther determined he would finally speak to his own personal Mona Lisa. Everyday for weeks, she sat across from him on the S-train as he made his evening commute home to his one-bedroom apartment outside of Wiesbaden and she went to who knew where.

“Hi. My name’s Stefan.” The twenty-seven-year-old accountant leaned into the aisle hoping she could hear him over the train noise and all the other conversations around them. “Since you smile at me every time I see you, I thought I should introduce myself.”

“Ludovica. Pleased to meet you, Stefan.” Her accent was unmistakably Italian and the same, subtle smile she had been wearing throughout all of their silent encounters never left her lips.

“Pleased to meet you.” He took her hand and remembered not to apply too much pressure. Her skin was warm and smooth, and her scent was slightly earthy speaking, he hoped, of seduction.

“I don’t mean to be too forward, Ludovica, but why do you always smile at me?”

“I like to smile. Besides, you remind me of someone.”

He chuckled nervously. “Anyone in particular.”

“If I like you, I might tell you someday.”

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The Chiromancer

palm

A diagram of the palm of the hand from Magnus Hundt’s Antropologium de hominis dignitate (1501) – Found at Wiktionary

For the first time in her career, petite, forty-five year old Sheryl Valdez regretted being a chiromancer. Like the Prophet Joseph from the Bible, she had correctly interpreted a person’s future, but instead of being made a dominant ruler, she was on the run, at the moment, trying to blend in with the other evening commuters on the BART train approaching San Francisco International. Her only hope would be to grab the first available flight out of the country and then try to disappear.

“I want to know how my trial is going to go next week.”

His name was Rico Nguyen and he had been accused of being the financial manager behind the Hình Su gang, which was notorious for the flood of home invasions and mass transit robberies the Bay Area had suffered for the past two years.

“I’ve been wrestling with whether I should try to fight this in court or just get out of the country. No one else has been able to give me any input that helps me figure it out.”

He was effusive and thanked her repeatedly for the uninterrupted hour-long session, which was far more time than she needed.

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The Man Who Would Be God

railroad tunnel

© Dawn M. Miller

Fanatic time traveler Michael Robert Obe knew only murder could change the future. “Sorry, kid. This is the only way.” The eccentric (or insane) physicist held the bound five-year-old boy by the collar of his shirt while standing on the railway trestle.

“I loved this view when I was a kid. That’s why I brought you here. Too much at stake in my future world to let you live.”

The child looked up at his captor in terror.

“Good-bye, Freddie.”

Obe rolled Fredrick Christ Trump into the Colombia River to drown.

“Now to see what sort of world I’ve created.”

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields photo challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 100.

As you may have guessed, Fredrick Christ Trump was the father of our current President Donald Trump. I know this harkens back to the old time travel paradox of whether  or not you would kill Adolf Hitler as an infant in order to prevent the Holocaust. I’ve written stories like that before, but given that (at least in social media) any action that would inhibit, stop, impeach, erase, Donald Trump (or anyone conservative, or anyone suspected of being a Trump voter or at least not a Democrat) seems justified, I decided to take it one illogical step further. Would you murder Trump’s Dad when he was five years old to prevent a Trump presidency? In other words, would you kill an innocent little boy in cold blood because you think it’s the greater moral good?

Interesting question.

To read other (kinder, gentler) stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

A Slight Miscalculation

grand canyon

© Google 2018

Eccentric billionaire Randolph Houston was making the adjustments on the temporal transfer device at the bottom of Arizona’s Grand Canyon as his fourth wife, 26-year-old Paulette watched.

“Why not wait for that expert, what’s his name?”

“Carlos Bradley, and he’s late.” The aging scientist continued his adjustments.

“What is he? A geologist, paleontologist, archaeologist?”

“All, which was why I hired him. By attaching the TTD to strata here in the canyon, I can travel back to the formation’s origins 2.5 billion years ago.

“How do you know what you’ll find?”

“Bradley, if he had been on time, was to tell me.”

“You’re going now?”

“The battery will only last fifteen minutes. Tempus fugit.” The 75-year-old flipped a switch and vanished.

Carlos arrived and passionately embraced Paulette.

“You’re sure he’s never coming back.”

“My dear, 2.5 billion years ago, there was almost no oxygen in the atmosphere. He would have died in seconds.”

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw 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 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Grand Canyon, Arizona, which I’ve visited many times. I looked up the history of the Grand Canyon and found that “nearly two billion years of Earth’s geological history have been exposed as the Colorado River and its tributaries cut their channels through layer after layer of rock.”

I looked up what was going on about 2.5 billion years ago, and found out, among other things, that there was hardly any oxygen in the atmosphere. Too bad Randolph didn’t do his homework.

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

Seven Weeks of the Devil

hell's kitchen

Hell’s Kitchen in the 1920s – This file is licensed under a free license.

I was working as a printer’s devil for old man MacPherson, me, an Irish boy of only sixteen, but it was good pay, through my hands became black as night as I sorted the cast metal type in the hellbox and put ’em back in the job case. I’d gotten used to the noise, but in order to kill the monotony, Grady Owens, the chief printer, set up a radio so we could listen to music and the news, though he had to turn the volume up pretty high.

I figured I’d do my hitch at MacPherson’s, learn my way around the trade, then move up to something more substantial. Occasionally, he’d have me move heavy reams of newsprint, but I didn’t mind. Gave me a chance to wash my hands, then have a smoke with the other boys and men on the dock before putting my back into it. Even the older Joes respected me on account of my bouts at Clancy’s on the weekends. Clancy says I’ve got potential, box like the devil, which is another reason they call me that name.

I’ve always been big for my age, which causes Ma fits because she keeps having to let the hem out of my trouser legs.

For a long while, I didn’t have a clue that what I was hearing on the radio was different than everyone else. While they were listening to “Cow Cow Blues,” “A Gay Caballero,” and “Sonny Boy,” I was hearing nothing but the news. That wouldn’t be too unusual, but I’d get all kinds of news, from different days, and weeks, and months, all in the same hour.

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Inescapable

night market

Night Market (JuanChrist) by JuanChrist (flickr) Tags: fujifilm x100t market nightmarket cambodia bavet

Bavet police inspector Borey Seng stood in the market’s bathroom as coroners continued to examine the body of the 66-year-old Malaysian man, murdered by an object that gashed across his face and eyes.

“Who would gouge out an old man’s eyes, and what was he doing in Cambodia in the first place?”

“I might have that answer to that inspector.” Officer Channary Som’s face was as round as her name suggested.

“Continue,” he muttered.

“His name was Rayyan Megat. Records indicate he entered Cambodia at the Bavet-Moc Bai border last week, but get this. His fingerprints match those of a former CIA assassin known as bóng, “shadow,” in English.

“So?”

“So bóng was noted for gouging out the eyes of his victims.”

“There is no escape from karma.”

Seng’s and Som’s voices faded from the specter’s hearing as he ascended, his spirit set free from his forty-five-year-old quest for vengeance.

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 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Svay Rieng Province, Cambodia. A quick search of Wikipedia revealed very little interesting information about this province, as did one for its largest city Bavet.

Then, a news item titled Malaysian killed in Bavet caught my attention. I preserved some of the details of the actual murder, but added fictionalized names and situations, including the 1973 assassination of some nameless victim of a CIA operative during the Vietnam War. In this case, karma or justice is blind.

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

The Partner

beretta nano

Found on the FateofDestinee YouTube channel

Samantha Gill was a terrific fan of the movie “The Martian” and was working out joules to newtons conversions in her head (which, admittedly, wasn’t difficult) as she stood at the iron grille waiting to be let in. She heard the mechanical click of the bolt being remotely pulled back, and watched the gate automatically swing open.

Her supple hips moved seductively, which was more out of habit than intent, and the brunette could smell roasting meat as she crossed the long driveway. This confirmed her prediction that Harold would have put something on the grill by now to celebrate. The front door was unlocked, and she let herself in, walked through the foyer, down the hall, past the great room and the office, into the kitchen, and then out onto the back patio.

“How’d things go?” Her middle-aged partner was just making conversation as he turned away from the propane barbecue and glanced in her direction. The eighteen-year-old’s wry grin had already told him the answer. Sammy reached in her jacket pocket and jangled the jewels, the sound confirming her most recent success.

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Seeking Justice

the chelsea beach bar

© Michelle DeAngelis

Jeannie and Richard met outside the Chelsea Beach Bar in Atlantic City, their hometown. She had barely been able to hold in her tears, but became hysterical when he’d gotten out of his car and walked over to her. There was nothing left for the PI to do but hold his old girlfriend and let her cry. The Marine veteran’s instincts never let him tune out his surroundings, such as the multicolored para-sail against a dull blue sky and the sound of the wind blowing through the grass.

“You’re going to find them for me.” She’d finally stopped sobbing.

“I figured that’s why you called me after so long.”

“We were going to get married. He wanted to wait until after tomorrow’s boxing match in Vegas to announce it.”

“You know when I find them, it won’t help. He’ll still be dead.”

“I know. But he deserves justice. I don’t trust the cops on this one. I think they’re in on it. Habib thought the fight was rigged.”

“I know. I’ll find his killers.

I wrote this for the 183rd FFfAW Challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 174.

I looked up The Chelsea Beach Bar since it’s figured prominently in the photo, and found it is in Atlantic City. I looked up the local news and discovered that Atlantic City boxer Qa’id Muhammad was found murdered yesterday near Las Vegas. I decided not to use Muhammad’s name in my story and to fictionalize the crime out of respect for the grieving family.

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

I Hold With Those Who Favor Fire

burning cabin

Found at ComicVine.com

Spider silk clung at the doors, over the windows, across everything she had left behind. It was the one place she had allowed to remain, had not purged with fire, the first home she had ever known with Mommy and Daddy.

But that was over twenty years ago. She and Daddy had abandoned their small mountain retreat after Mommy died of cancer. It, along with everything else Daddy owned, had passed down to her in trust when he died. She had only been five at the time, and Daddy’s boss, billionaire Keyne Harlan, took care of everything for her, adopted her, provided her with the finest of everything, home, clothes, education, everything a little girl needed to grow up. Everything except love.

“I wish I didn’t have to do this.” Twenty-five year old inventor and heiress Alise Egan was standing on the front porch of the new dilapidated cottage in the High Sierras, thirty miles from Yosemite National Park. Keyne and his usual entourage used to rent several suites at the Yosemite Valley Lodge twice a year as she was growing up, Spring and Autumn, taking her to the park for their biannual bicycle and music festival, but it was the closest she ever got to the Egan’s vacation home up until now.

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