Tanja Cilia: The Stranger at the Crossroads

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is divider-2.png
( Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.) 

The Stranger at the Crossroads

By Tanja Cilia

You know what they say about truth being stranger than fiction? Well, you can believe it’s true.

So there I was, convalescing in Rome, reading Murder on the Orient Express, while on one of those buses that have the middle like an accordion so they can go around corners. Bendy buses, I think they call them.

I was thinking that this would have been the ideal vehicle on which to kill someone — you just sit at the back, with a potential victim, when all the people are in the front half, and do the deed. Then you alight from the door serving the hind part of the vehicle, and Bob’s your uncle.

And then it happened. You know how in another book — or was it another film? — Miss Marple saw a man strangle a woman on another train, and since a body was not found the police assumed she was rambling, what with being old and all? We were just nearing Le Quattro Fontane (the Four Fountains) — that group of four Late Renaissance fountains located at the intersection of Via delle Quattro Fontane and Via del Quirinale, the most famous crossroads of the world — or so the Italians say.

Well — I happened to look out of the window and I saw a bus coming the other way, and — suddenly — I saw a woman stand up, thump a man on the head with what looked like a frying pan, and then she just rolled him out of the emergency door. I gasped and followed the body with my eyes.

Suddenly, from behind the sill of the Fountain of Diana (the only one of the four, as I recall, designed by the painter and architect Pietro da Cortona, for the rest were the work of the fortuitously-named Domenico Fontana), up jumped a man dressed in black from head to toe. He sneezed, and put his little fingers to his lips — I am assuming he whistled in that shrill chav way I hate so much. A Black Maria-like car drew up, the driver hopped out, and together they half-pulled, half-lifted the man into the back. Hecate would have been proud of them.

Our bus rounded a corner — I rang the bell but the driver did not stop. I ran to the front of the bus, but I could not make the driver understand what I wanted him to do. My Italian is patchy at the best of times, and he kept saying something like “Espresso, diretta, non posso fermarmi.” I couldn’t have cared less about his offer of coffee when we got to the terminus — I just wanted him to stop, so I said “Polizia,” and he said something that sounded like “My my my!” and I thought he was telling me I was making a fuss.

Of course, the nuns at the Convent of Saint Elisabeth, at whom I was staying, saw how shaken I was, and they understood what I was saying because a couple of them spoke almost perfect English. They explained that I had inadvertently caught the direct line that did not stop. What the driver had really said was “Mai!” which means “never.”

So they drove me to the police station where I made a report about what I had seen. They found the body a week later, when they dredged the section of the Tiber nearest the place I indicated, weighted and dumped. Later on, the full story was splashed across the papers, on all three RAI television stations and on the Mediaset ones too. The woman was an Albanian hooker, and the man she attacked had been her pimp. The man at the crossroad was her boyfriend — an ex-client who wanted to give her a better life and had hatched the plan. The pimp had been threatening to have her deported, because she was not earning him enough money, and she did not want to go back home.

I had to stay in Italy longer than I planned, but since I was a key witness I was given free board and lodging for the extra fortnight I remained; and of course, my Italian improved no end, in that short period. For a time, I was quite the media star.

This is weird, considering that I am a Maltese nun.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is divider-2.png

Please visit Tanja on her blog: https://paperjacketblog.wordpress.com/

Alfred Warren Smith – The Apple’s Core

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is divider-2.png
( Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.) 

The Apple’s Core

By Alfred Warren Smith

All the way there, the subway car clattering and rumbling, making everyone standing sway a bit drunkenly, Al struggled with his emotions. He’d been gone so long and so much of what he knew, the places he’d haunted and came to know and love, were gone, closed, or about to close.

The city of his youth was gone, relegated to history like ancient tombs and temples under the desert sands.

Welcome home, Ozymandias.

Well, how about Oz, for shorter. Oz was short.

No dude, Oz wasn’t the wizard. It was the name of the place. Like Frankenstein? It’s the name of the doctor, not the monster. 

The train mercifully came to his stop, forcing him to shut down the stupid word association. He got off and just went to the nearest staircase, ignoring the signs that would have put him closer to where he wanted to go.

The fragrances of filed steel, perfumes, sweat, breath, and desperation clung to him like warring auras and followed him outside.

There was a time he loved it all.

He emerged from the station, breathing deep, eyes adjusting to the sunlight, taking in the scene before him: human zip lines still walked at a frenetic pace, as if the sidewalks would disappear if they took too long to get to the next block.

He took in the street view, a concrete canyon filled with high caves of glass and steel, glinting in the sun when the clouds passed.

He was grateful for the shade, even in intervals.

All the nations of the world were here, and he tried not to get too distracted by the skirts, sundresses, and top-button-loosed blouses on the smartly made-up, vibrant women of those nations that walked with determined purpose, on their way to make that purpose known.

He took another look around. This was a city where an impromptu concert or a gunfight could break out any second.

Smiling, he’d had a destination in mind when he got here, but he’d forgotten where it was and why he needed to be there.

Fading away, just like the old haunts…

Stepping out into the flow and rhythm of the street, he was glad that even though all he knew and loved about the place was in the past, and he would walk these long blocks slower than ever before, the vibrancy of the place was still infectious, and he began to hum a medley of songs about the city he’d once called home.

He could leave it behind all he wanted, but he knew in his heart’s core, it would never leave him.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is divider-2.png

Please visit Alfred’s blog at https://mywritemind.press/