Enzo Stephens: He Wore a Pearl Necklace 

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, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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He Wore a Pearl Necklace

Enzo Stephens

“Edgar? Edgar, is that you?”

Well, DUH. Who else would it be? Had Ma been there in front of him as he struggled to a) remove the door key from the stubborn, rusted deadbolt that refused to give up the intrusive sliver of toothed metal and b) not drop any of the stuff that thoroughly occupied his dinner-plate sized hands—one such item was a lovely little old box that was fragile, mostly because it was, you know, pretty old—she would have seen him glare at her, and she surely would have given him a piece of her mind about his attitude!

“Yeah, Ma.”  Success on the key extraction. However, it was the key and not the stuff in his hands that hit the floor. Eggsy looked down, trying to spot the red-white-and-blue HOUSE key against the scuffed hardwood floor of their cramped living room off the front entry. Eggsy blew a raspberry after a cursory search yielded nada nada empanada. Effing key probably skittered under the damned couch.

Eff it. I’ll come back for it later.

Clatters and bangs emanated from the kitchen—Ma’s Domain. She was Queen and Goddess of that space. Russia and Red China could be launching their ICBMs at the good ole US of A, but Eggsy suspected that Ma’s Kitchen would be one of the safest places in the world should that cataclysm come to pass.

Eggsy raced down a short hallway to the small bedroom he shared with his younger brother, hoping he was not in residence. He was an absolute pain-in-the-ass and was also the dipshit that came up with the name ‘Eggsy.’

And lo, another crappy nickname was born.

He tossed his backpack onto his twin bed which was made up with military precision and placed his Walkman on his pillow along with a small sleeve of cassettes (Judas Priest, anyone?). He then dropped into a cross-legged seat on the floor, leaning back against his bed as he took up the small, intricately carved wooden box and held it up before his crystal, cerulean eyes.

Eggsy bought it at a pawn shop for five bucks, knowing instantly that his Ma would love it. Five bones was a DEAL for this kind of workmanship. 

The pawn shop owner—a wizened older woman with a pronounced stoop and a distinctive palsied quiver—admitted to Eggsy that it was a fine piece of workmanship from another era and that five bucks was an amazing deal for such a piece.

“But I’ll tell ya, young fella, pawn shop prices sometimes ain’t for the piece itself. Sometimes I price it because of what I think is a lack of demand for something like that. T’ain’t much call for what’s obviously a hand-crafted wooden box nowadays.

“Whatcha gonna use it for, if’n ya don’t mind an old lady being nosy?”

Edgar smiled—practically beamed, as he placed the wooden box on the smudged and smeared glass countertop. “It’s gonna be a gift for my Ma. It’s her birthday!”

“Izzat so? Now you ain’t gonna be like most menfolk with a special lady in their lives and get it for her at the last minute, now are ya?”

“Gosh, no! Her birthday is next month!”

She patted his massive hand, her touch warm, dry, and maybe a little papery. (Although he’d never felt papyrus, Eggsy imagined it would feel like this old woman’s skin.)  “Well, look at you! Your Ma certainly raised you right.”

The intricate beauty of the box entranced Eggsy. Gently he nudged the lip of the lid open with a sausage-sized finger. A breath of musty cedar escaped, and Eggsy thought that was just about the finest smell in the world.

“It’s empty, of course.”

“Yes, ma’am. I expected as such.”

“Well, I can fix that if you have a mind.”

“I dunno, ma’am. I only have five more dollars.”

He might as well have been talking to the box because the little old lady was suddenly gone. Eggsy looked left then right for her, but she was nowhere in sight. It was as if she had stepped into a wormhole. “Hello?”

The old woman came out of a room behind the counter with a big smile that exposed severely yellowed dentures. “Right here, sonny. Typical kid, always in a hurry. Lemme tell you a piece of advice, learn how to wait, and do it with grace.”

He didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded good. “Yes, ma’am, and thank you for that.”

“Advice—like farts, are free.”  Both seller and buyer snickered over that one. The old woman stepped up to the counter, placed her closed fist on the glass top, turned her hand over so the palm would face the ceiling, and unfurled her gnarled fingers.

Eggsy’s eyes grew wide. “Wow,” was pretty much all he could muster as the woman laid out a string of pearls that shimmered in the afternoon light.

“These are … beautiful.”

The woman moved them around on the glass counter; the pearls glimmered and glistened, captivating Eggy’s eyes and imagination. 

She opened the lid on the small box and placed the pearls inside, draping some over the front. “Now tell me that your Ma ain’t gonna love this?”

“Ayuh, I think she will. But I only have five—”

“Sold!”

“Edgar? Come into the kitchen if you would please.”

Oh, shoot! He cursed himself for dawdling when he should have worked on getting the box and its contents wrapped for her. 

Well… I’m just going to have to give it to her like this, and he pushed the pearls back into the box and closed the lid, ensuring to clasp the tiny brass hasp to the matching brass pin on the front of the box, and then into his pocket it went. “Coming, Ma.”

And that was a Truth in their household; when Ma called, you came a-runnin’. Edgar hustled his gangly frame and misshapen head out of his bedroom and into the kitchen, where a riot of delicious aromas bombed his nose and triggered his salivary glands. Ma was standing over the sink with the water running. She glanced over her shoulder, making eye contact with Edgar. She twisted the faucet until the water stopped, snared a hand towel, and turned toward Eggsy.

A rush of concern flitted over her brow as she stared at him intently, as only a mother could do with a pre-teen man-child. She dropped the towel on the counter in a ball, raised a glass with clinking ice to her lips, and nipped the beverage soundly, polishing off the contents. “Two things I need you to get me, Edgar. Grab me a bottle of Jack Black from the basement, then a pack of Marlboros from the hall closet. Then gitcher butt back here, boy, because you look like you’ve been up to no good.”

Eggsy gulped and felt an anxiety that no twelve-year-old kid should feel. “Yes, Ma,” and he bolted off to do her bidding. Ma really liked her Jack Black, and Eggsy was a-ok with that because it made her happy for a while, and then it made her fall asleep nice and early, which pretty much gave him a wee bit of freedom to have another go of weed without interference.

Getting buzzed was cool.

Eggsy collected what she asked for and skidded to a stop at the entrance to the kitchen, setting everything down on the counter in front of a battered, stainless-steel toaster. Ma was there right away, grabbing the fifth of whiskey, popping the lid, and dispensing a considerable amount of the amber fluid into her glass in which a few chunks of ice clinked. “Thank you. Now, why do you look like you’re up to the devil?”

Eggsy shuffled his feet and looked at his shoes. “I ain’t up to no good, Ma.”

She peered at him. “Bullshit.”  And with that proclamation, she meandered her way over to a small Formica and chrome dinette and had herself a seat, reaching over for her favorite ashtray. “Sit.”

Eggsy pulled a chair out and sat across from her as she snapped her thumbnail over the head of a match. She applied the sputtering flame to the cigarette’s tip and inhaled deeply, flicking her wrist to extinguish the match. All the while, she stared at him, and it was… uncomfortable, to say the least.

“What are you up to, Edgar?”

“Nothin’ Ma.”

“Hmmm.”

“Ma? Happy birthday!”  And with that, he yanked the box from his pocket and placed it on the puke-green surface of the table, then slid it across to her.

She sat back in surprise, her mouth forming a little ‘O’. “What’s this?”

“Just a little something that I hope you’ll like, Ma.”

“Oh my,” slipped from her as she took the box and held it up to her eyes. She turned it around, sliding her fingers over the surface of it; sides, front, bottom, and finally, the lid.

Eggsy could barely contain himself, but he clamped down on his tongue as he didn’t want to ruin anything for her.

The tip of her fingernail found the edge of the brass hasp, and she flicked it open, then lifted the lid to reveal the string of pearls. “Oh, Edgar …”

“Do you like it?”

She took the pearls from the box, letting them dangle in her grasp, and placed the box on the table. “Edgar, these are… oh Edgar. And that box! Edgar, this must have cost you a fortune. Where did you get the money for this?”

“Just picked up some odd jobs, Ma,” which was more true than not, although Eggsy did not share exactly what those jobs were.

Eggsy was quite certain that she would not approve of his ‘odd jobs,’ specifically, selling weed.

Her gaze softened. The hard lines around her mouth and at the corners of her eyes seemed to smooth out as she studied the pearls and the box. Eggsy sat there quietly, watching her appreciate the sheer beauty of her birthday gift. He grew momentarily alarmed when he saw a tear course its way down her cheek.

She brushed it roughly away and looked at him, though Eggsy could not ascertain what emotions she was feeling. Maybe a little embarrassed?

“Help me put these on, Edgar.”

He sprang up from the chair (almost knocking it over) and rushed to stand behind her, and she handed him the pearls. He found the clasp and opened it—no small feat considering the thickness of his digits and was struck by the seeming frailty of his mother’s long, pale neck.

How easy it would be to snap it.

NO!

He fumbled the clasp open, then clipped it over the link in the chain and let it gently fall where it settled against her skin and flat out looked like it was meant to be there for her entire life as if she should have been born with it. 

He patted her shoulder, and she stood up and made her way into the living room, where there was a mirror on the mantle over the fireplace. Eggsy followed her, and as she gazed at the gleaming pearls, he caught sight of himself and quickly averted his eyes.

He hated seeing himself, his deformed and misshapen head, brown-spotted and completely hairless, and not for the first time, he cursed the air for his misfortune.

Someone once told him—maybe a sympathetic guidance counselor at school—that there would come a day when he would not think about it. Not once. Eggsy found that hard to fathom and pretty much told the well-meaning counselor that she was full of crap.

How the hell could he NOT think about it?

“Edgar, these are so beautiful, don’t you think?”

“Oh yeah, sure do, Ma.”

“Okay, I wanna enjoy them a bit more before your Pa comes home. But I’d better get dinner finished.”

Mother and son looked at each other knowingly. Neither wanted Pa to come home. “Sure, Ma. I’m going to knock out my homework.”

She patted his shoulder. “You’re a good boy, Edgar. You certainly deserve better than the hand you’ve been dealt in this life.”

The two hugged, then broke and went their separate ways, her humming something vaguely familiar and him just wanting to be alone so he could enjoy his weed.

Time skittered past on happy feet as it tends to do when not paying attention to it,  kind of like, you snooze, you lose, and Edgar was thinking about twisting up a joint when a loud, masculine voice invaded the peace of the home.

“I’m home!”  The front door slammed, and just by that door slam alone did Edgar know the mood of his Pa, and it wasn’t a good one. He sprang to his feet in alarm—thoughts of protecting Ma forefront.

He whipped his bedroom door open and was met by the sound of the TV/ Local news from the sound of it. “C’mon, c’mon, I just wanna hear the damned weather!”

Eggsy eased his way down the hall, around a corner, and into the living room to see his Pa sprawled out on his recliner, staring bullets at the TV. “Hi, Pa.”

He fluttered his hand in the air but said nothing. Eggsy rounded his way into the kitchen, where Ma was doling spaghetti with hotdog medallions into a clear glass bowl. “Edgar. Can you please take this into the dining room?”

“Sure.”  He took the bowl from the counter and felt like he was drowning in a flood of apprehension. Both he and his Ma were just waiting for the old man to blow a gasket. It was inevitable; as certain as the sun rising and setting, if the dude was home, he was going to erupt.

“Dinner’s ready,” Ma announced as she headed into the dining room with Eggsy right behind her. Pa clumped his clodhoppers into the dining room and yanked a chair out from the table. Eggsy and Ma were already seated, and both looked up at him as he sat himself down.

“Shall we give thanks for the food?”

“Fix me a drink first.”

Ma paused, knowing full well that if she did, he just might take to a little manhandling later, and that wouldn’t do at all. And even though the Jack Daniels caused her to slur a bit earlier, she was razor sharp and sober now.

“Mitch, c’mon. Can it wait until after dinner?”

He hammered the table, furious. Plates and silverware clinked and clanked noisily, causing Eggsy and his Ma to jump back in their seats. His voice was low. “Now.”

“Okay,” and she pushed herself back meekly from the table to comply, leaving Eggsy and his Pa to stare at each other.

“You’re turning into a big boy now, ain’tcha?”

“I guess—”

“Are you screwing your ma?”  Pa was leaning over his empty dinner plate, face red and glaring at Eggsy.

He was serious!

“Pa!  No!”

A pause. Silence as the two stared at each other. Then, “You’re a damned liar. I know you’re banging her.”

Ma came back into the room carrying a tinkling glass. Eggsy looked at her, and she met his gaze with a quick wink, which meant that she’d spiked his drink with some kind of barbiturate, like Phenobarbital.

She set the glass down before him and took her seat, handing the bowl of pasta to Edgar’s father.

He grabbed it and slapped a couple spoonfuls onto his plate. As he set the bowl down on the table, he spied the string of pearls around his wife’s neck.

“Where did those come from?”

“I’m sorry. Where did what come from?”

“Don’t play stupid with me, bitch! The pearls!”

She touched the pearls and smiled at Edgar. “Remember, today’s my birthday.”

“Did your lover give them to you? Did you blow him after he gave those to you?”

“Oh my god, Mitch, these are a gift—”

“From WHO?”

He was beginning to slur his words, and Eggsy knew it was only a matter of time before he passed out. They just had to make it that far, and there was no guarantee that would happen.

“I gave them to her!”  He stood up quickly, causing the chair to fall backward with a jarring clatter.

Pa practically jumped up himself, and he was fuming. “I knew it! Can’t keep it in your pants.”

“No, Pa, it ain’t like that.”

“Dumb son-of-a-bitch, I shoulda killed ya when you were little like I wanted to. But who woulda guessed that you’d be banging your own ma?”  He reached over and ripped that string of pearls from his wife’s neck and threw them at Eggsy, and then he sagged back down into his chair, his head lolling and his eyes closing laboriously.

Ma was sobbing softly, clutching at her neck and Eggsy’s heart broke, but while Ma wallowed in her pain and self-pity, Eggsy would do no such thing. Righteous fury blazed in his eyes, and he began clenching and unclenching his fists.

“Whatcha gonna do, ya little piece of shit?”

Ma looked up at Eggsy, shaking her head. “No, son, let it go, please.”

Pa’s head drooped against his shoulder, and his eyes were no longer fluttering to stay open. They were closed, and the man began snoring, and Eggsy wondered just how in the hell such a man could be permitted to continue to get away with this kind of abuse. 

Had Ma not slipped him P-Barb, he’d be up terrorizing both Edgar and Ma. 

Ma had her face in her hands, and her slim shoulder jerked with her sobs while Pa snored and slobbered all over himself in the other chair, and the bowl of pasta was pretty much forgotten by the entire family as Eggsy found and retrieved two knuckle-sized pearls on the floor by his foot.

Eggsy opened his hand to look at the pearls. Slowly he began walking around the table to where his father snoozed in his chair. “Enough is enough, Ma. Enough is enough.”

“Edgar—”

Eggsy grabbed the back of his father’s chair and threw it—and his father, to the floor.

The damned sod never awoke, and rage flooded Eggsy, a terrible, all-consuming rage that was both white-hot irrational and coldly rational and meticulous, and Eggsy fell to the floor beside his Pa, took a pearl in each hand, and rested one each against his father’s closed eyes.

He looked again at his Ma, who was crying and nodding as if she wanted him to do it, do it, do it, and kill the damned bastard.

Eggsy rammed a pearl into both of his father’s eye sockets, pushing further and further with all his strength until he was sure they were now a permanent part of the brute’s brain, and only then did he relent.

He stood up, gore dripping from his fingers, looked at his Ma, and spat on his Pa.

He then went into the kitchen, located the beautiful little box and jammed it into his pocket, then rushed into his room and began packing himself a bag, his mother’s cries and sobs drowned out by the thrashing metal music of Judas Priest, who was announcing to whomever would listen that they do indeed Got Another Thing Comin’.

Please visit Enzo on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Enzo.stephens.5011

D. A. Ratliff: The Dowager’s Pearls

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, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by kropekk-pl from Pixabay.

The Dowager’s Pearls

 D. A. Ratliff

A Detective Elijah Boone Mystery

She preferred everyone to call her Dowager Estelle Montmorency, a title befitting her status, at least in her mind, as New Orleans nobility. As of this morning, however, she would be known as the late Dowager Montmorency. A blow to the back of her skull changed her status rather quickly.

Her body lay before me, sprawled across the marble steps leading to the enormous marble tub. She was clad in a pale-yellow silk robe now stained with ever-darkening blood. ME Julia Marrow was in her usual stance, hunkered down next to the body, as she unceremoniously made a small incision in the body’s abdomen, then stuck the probe of a digital thermometer into the liver.

Removing the probe, she stared into space for a few seconds and then stood. “Eli, best estimate on time of death, based on liver temp and rigor, around nine to ten last night. The tub is full, so I suspect she was about to take a bath when she was struck from behind.”

I sucked in a quick breath. “Not accidental?”

Julia wrinkled her nose. “Nope, no traces of blood on any surfaces in the room, and the wound is concave. I would say a heavy round object.”

“So, murder?”

She laughed. “Not getting out of this one, definitely murder.”

My partner, Hank Guidry, walked in. “Man, Eli, I’ve passed this place forever and never realized how big it was. I’d heard it was a mansion, but there’s room for parking fifteen cars within the walls, in the middle of the French Quarter.” He leaned around me to view the body. “Natural causes?”

I shook my head and grunted a no. Hank uttered an expletive under his breath. “We aren’t getting out of Major Crimes for a while, are we?”

“I don’t think so. Who found her?”

“Montmorency’s assistant, Della Chapman. She called 9-1-1, then called Montmorency’s youngest son, Guy. You better come with me. It looks like this was a robbery gone bad.”

We walked through a large dressing room with glass-doored closets and mahogany dressers into an expansive bedroom. Hank directed me to an alcove, which appeared to be a private office. Behind an antique French desk, a painting on hinges was swung out of the way, revealing an open wall safe.

“Any idea what was in here?”

“No. I got here just before Julia did. Uniforms had Chapman and the son waiting in a lounge downstairs. Talked to them, then came here.”

“Lounge?”

Hank chuckled. “Yeah, Guy… and he corrected me on that too… pronounced Gee, not like guy as in dude. He also informed me when I told them to remain in the living room that we were in the lounge, not the living room. That room was much grander.”

“I bet. Other offspring?”

Hank looked at his phone. “Daughter named Monica Germaine, and a son, Louis, and that is Lou-us, not Lou-ee.”

 I chuckled. “Fun times. Let’s talk to them.”

I followed Hank as he navigated the hallways of the enormous house and thought about what I knew about the place. It wasn’t much. I had read that the house was built in the 1800s and was nearly fifteen thousand square feet with a courtyard, pool, and multi-car garage. Space like that was a premium anywhere in New Orleans, but in the Quarter, a miracle. From the outside, the place looked nondescript, but from the inside, opulent.

Guy Montmorency and his mother’s assistant were waiting for us in the lounge. To say there was tension in the air was an understatement. Hank did the introductions, and I sat in a chair across from the son.

“My partner told me you described finding the body to him, Ms. Chapman, but could you tell me again?”

She huffed. “I arrived at eight a.m. as normal. The Dowager was always downstairs by then, having made tea and waiting for me to fix her breakfast. She won’t let the cook come in until eleven, doesn’t—didn’t—like to be bothered. It was odd that the security system was off, as she usually has to let me in when I get here. The electronic gates won’t open when the system is armed, so she never turns them on until bedtime and only off when I arrive. Doesn’t want to be bothered with having to go to the laptop and let anyone in after I arrive.”

“How did you realize the gates were unlocked?”

“I always text her in the morning. When she didn’t answer, I tried, and the gate opened. I assumed she turned the alarm off early.”

 “What happened when you entered the house?”

“When I didn’t find her downstairs, I checked upstairs and found her on….” Chapman’s voice quivered, and she dropped her head for a second. “I found her in the bathroom. I knew she was dead from how ashen she was and all the blood. I called 9-1-1 and then Guy. Then the police arrived, and then you arrived.”

I turned my attention to Guy, who sat ramrod straight on the settee. “What did you do when you arrived?”

“I went upstairs to make certain my mother was dead.”

“Alone?”

He glared at me. “No, Della went with me. I truly didn’t want to be alone with my dead mother. I could barely stand to be alone with her when she was alive. At least, this way, she couldn’t talk back.”

“You didn’t get along?”

He cackled. “My mother liked no one, and I can assure you no one liked her.”

“Did you call your brother or sister to let them know?”

“I don’t talk to them often. I don’t care how they find out.”

“Do either of you know what she kept in the safe in the office off her bedroom?”

Guy turned pale. “Why are you asking? Was the safe broken into?” He looked toward Chapman. “Della, was it in the safe?”

Della nodded. “As far as I know, yes.”  Guy sank back against the cushions, turning even paler.

“What was in the safe?”

“The most expensive pearl necklace in the world, the Duchesse Montmorency pearls. Several strands of hand-tied perfect pearls in graduated sizes and held together by a diamond and platinum clasp. My father found the owner and purchased it for my mother years ago.”

“A valuable piece?”

Guy sneered. “If you call eleven million dollars a lot of money, yes. I am assuming the safe was empty?”

Hank uttered a low whistle, and I swallowed hard. This was a clear motive. “Yes, it was. Who knew that she kept the necklace in the safe?”

“Me, my charming brother and sister, Della, and I would say Mother’s attorney.”

“Why did she keep such a valuable piece here and not in a bank vault?”

“Because she was paranoid that we would steal it from her if she didn’t keep It with her.” Guy scoffed. “Well, that certainly worked out.”

~~~

I dropped my car off at the police station and rode with Hank to do the notifications to the other Montmorency children. Monica Germaine lived in a home in the Garden District. Recently divorced, Louis had purchased a penthouse near Lafayette Square but wasn’t home and wasn’t answering his phone. We drove on to Germaine’s house located on Coliseum.

Hank parked and whistled. “This is a double lot. Don’t see this much yard in the District.”

“No. Let’s get this over with.”

A housekeeper opened the door, surprised when she saw our badges, and hurried to the back of the house. In a few moments, a woman I assumed was Monica Germaine appeared, followed by a man. She introduced her brother, Louis, who explained he was staying with Monica while workers renovated his condo. We followed them to the front parlor.

“What can we do for you, Detective?”

“I am afraid we have some bad news.” I proceeded to tell them of their mother’s death. Their response was somewhat surprising, but I had suspected no less after speaking with Guy.

Louis Montmorency shook his head. “I suppose it’s too early for a celebratory drink.”

“You didn’t get along with your mother?”

He smirked. “An understatement, Detective Boone. I dare say even Lucifer was afraid of her.”

Monica Germaine had gasped when I told them. “I am surprised. I didn’t think she’d ever die.”

“Do you know of anyone who would want to hurt your mother?”

They laughed simultaneously. Monica smirked. “That list is far too long, and honestly, Louis, Guy, and I probably are at the top of any list you compile. Our mother was a caustic, mean bitch who controlled us using money. Only Guy really needed her money, and he kowtowed enough to her to keep her purse strings tied to his belt, but he hated her too. She could easily drive someone to want to kill her, but I didn’t.”

Louis chimed in. “Nor did I, and Guy? He’s too soft. He couldn’t do it.”

“We found the safe in her bedroom open and empty. We suspect whoever killed her stole the valuable pearls kept there. Any thoughts on who might have done that?”

I threw the question out without a lead-up to gauge their reactions. The shocked looks on both were visceral.

Monica blurted out. “The pearls—the pearls are gone?”

“Yes. Do you know who had access to the safe?”

Louis replied. “Monica, Guy, me, Della, and Mother’s attorney.”

“Detective, let’s be upfront about this.” Monica scowled. “The house and everything she had will likely go to Guy. He was the only one of us who tolerated her corrosive behavior. My father’s will directed the pearls sold upon Mother’s death, and all proceeds divided among his children. Those pearls are our only inheritance. Find them.”

“You damn well better find them.” Louis rose, our cue to leave, I presumed. He continued. “My foolish mother stopped paying the premiums on the insurance policy years ago. Said the pearls were perfectly safe, and it was foolish to spend that money. Not so foolish now.”

~~~

My head hurt, and an entire pot of coffee hadn’t helped. I skipped breakfast, so despite it being ten-thirty a.m., I was scarfing down leftover cold Spaghetti Pomodoro from Mamma Leone’s that I stashed in the refrigerator two nights ago. The best perk about working for Major Crimes is that their refrigerator worked.

If I had any doubt the Duchesse Montmorency pearls were infamous, I knew now from information Della Chapman provided. I left the crime scene with a provenance statement, a hefty insurance policy that lapsed eleven years ago, and several photos of the pearls. I was intrigued by one image of the pearls tucked into a small wooden casket with a painted domed lid. The image spoke to the age and historical sense of the pearls.

About an hour later, Hank returned from the scene. “Think we know what the murder weapon was. After forensics finished in the bathroom, I took the maid in to see if anything was missing. She ID’ed an alabaster candle holder that sat on the countertop. It was there the day before. Started a search for it.”

“Good. I sent Clemente to get the CCV from around the area. He called and is on his way back with views from about six cameras surrounding the property. Meanwhile, complied info on the siblings.”

Hank sneered. “They sure didn’t like their mother.”

“No, they did not.” I tossed him a folder. “Had Jamison run financials on them. Guy runs an art gallery and interior design studio in the Quarter. Finances are shaky, and his house on Esplanade is on the market. Listing agent is Sherilynn Montmorency the ex-wife of Louis. Bank records show consistent deposits from his mother, so it looks like she kept the business afloat.”

Hank whistled. “Monica Germaine isn’t doing too badly for herself. Married to Steven Germain. Isn’t he the city councilman who is running for mayor?”

“Yep. He’s the grandson of Herbert Germain. His family made their money in cotton and sugar cane.”

“Doesn’t look like a motive here. She doesn’t need the money, but hate is a good motive too.”

“That it is. As for Louis, besides a huge divorce settlement, he’s pretty solid. Architect in partnership at Orleans Design. No criminal records, no tax issues, for all purposes look like an average family.”

“Average family?” Hank scoffed. “I’d like to be that average.”

“I’d just rather not be dead.”

Hank nodded. “Did you check out their alibis?”

“Yeah, and unfortunately, they all seem to be where they claimed to be.”

Hank flopped onto a chair. “Rats.”

~~~

Jeff Monroe, media forensics tech, texted me around four that he had the CCV vids racked and ready for us to view. I grabbed Hank and we headed to the media lab.

The first footage was from a camera inside the property. Jeff fast-forwarded to the first activity, a woman exiting the house and walking toward a car. “This is timestamped four minutes past six.”

Hank pointed to the screen. “That’s Della Chapman, leaving when she said during our first interview.”

At six-forty-two, the gates opened, and a black BMW drove in. “That’s Guy, Eli. He said he came by for dinner around six-thirty and left about eight.” 

I told Jeff to fast-forward to when Guy said he left, just after eight. “Any other activity, Jeff?”

“No, we ran through all the cameras on the house exterior, and that was the only movement on the property until the next morning when the first woman arrived, followed by the BMW again and then the police units.”

Jeff ran through all the surveillance footage from the four cameras they had accessed. We saw pastry shop patrons, a couple walking past the boutique hotel on the corner of the Montmorency property, and a few people walking along the streets. No one had entered the house that night. We had nothing.

~~~

Dowager Montmorency’s death was front-page news, but the media was far more interested in the theft of the pearls. When I arrived at NOPD HQ at seven a. m., reporters were waiting, clamoring for information. As I pushed through them to reach the elevator, I reminded myself I was a homicide detective. I was supposed to solve murders, not commit them.

Captain Lourdes, the head of Major Crimes, was waiting for me when I arrived to make my day even better. He pointed to the coffee pot. “Grab a cup, and let’s talk.”

I did as told, and we sat in his office a few minutes later.

“Captain, I have three words—Acting Mayor Ingles.”

“Can’t get anything past you, Detective.”

“I just know my politicians, sir.”

“Look, Ingles is running for former Mayor Cormier’s seat..  vacant thanks to you.”

I chuckled. “Cormier was a bad man, sir.”

Lourdes rested his head against the chairback. “Ingles wants this solved. He doesn’t want incompetence to give Germaine any fuel to use against him. Incompetence was his word, by the way.”

“If I had anything to tell you, I would. Surveillance cameras show nothing. We corroborated the alibis of our best suspects, family, and staff. We have officers going to all the pawnshops and jewelry stores searching for the pearls, and forensics IT has placed an algorithm on the internet looking for activity.”

Captain Lourdes pinched his lips together. “Go back. Look at everything. I don’t like Ingles, but I have to follow his orders. “

~~~

I have seen dead ends before, but this was ridiculous. I read the crime reports, autopsy, witness reports, everything, and we had nothing. I decided to spend the rest of my day watching the video surveillance. Maybe we missed something.

Two hours later, my head hurt, and my stomach growled. I was about to get lunch when Hank called. They found the murder weapon about a block from the house. He said he grabbed lunch.

Hank walked in with buffalo wings and fries, and I dived in. Wasn’t going to live long eating like this. Hank sat across from me, gnawing on a greasy wing.

“Uniform found the candle holder behind some bins on Chartres, wrapped in a towel and with blood on the stone. Forensics is checking it in.”

“Hopefully, there’ll be fingerprints, and we’ll have our killer.”

“Aren’t we optimistic?”

I threw a chicken bone at him. I wasn’t optimistic at all.

I continued watching the security videos while Hank wrote the murder weapon report. My eyes crossed, but it was near the estimated time of death. Nothing. The area was residential, with the only business, a patisserie shop that closed in early afternoon across from Montmorency’s compound. There was little foot traffic, and I was bored.

An uneasy feeling crept over me at the ten-thirty mark as I watched a couple hurry down Ursulines toward Chartres. Something about the couple seemed familiar. I quickly scrubbed back to the couple walking past the hotel. The same people, I was sure of it.

“Hank, you done?”

“Yep, just getting ready to file my report. What’s up?”

“Let’s take a ride.”

My curiosity was piqued. The couple in the video on the block alongside the Montmorency house at nine-thirty had to be the same couple rushing toward the street where we found the murder weapon. I don’t believe in coincidences.

I parked behind a work truck across from the small hotel and was surprised to see it was closed for renovation. “I have a hunch, Frank. Let’s talk to these guys.”

Hank spotted the realtor sign. “Look, the building is for sale, and look who the agent is.”

“Sherilynn Montmorency. This is getting interesting.”

We found the foreman, identified ourselves, and asked for a look around. He babbled on about the murder, asking questions, and then said something surprising.

“Detectives, let me show you something wild.” He led us to the back of the building. “This building was built at the same time as the building the Montmorency’s use as a garage. We were tearing out this wall and found this staircase that leads to the garage attic.”

“Did you inform Mrs. Montmorency?”

“Didn’t have to. Her ex-daughter-in-law, the real estate lady, was here. Said she would tell her ex.”

As we got in the car, I called Clemente. “Get me everything you can on Sherilynn Montmorency.” I glanced at Hank. “Now we are getting somewhere.”

~~~

At seven p.m., with a search warrant in hand, Hank and I, along with backup, arrived at Sherilynn Montmorency’s home. As soon as she opened the door, I knew she was guilty. I’ve seen that look in a guilty person’s eyes too often. We had her, and she knew it. Standing behind her was a man, who I was sure was the man with her in the video. We identified ourselves, and the man jerked the warrant from my hand.

“I am David Kramer. I’m Ms. Montmorency’s attorney. How dare you come into her home. On what grounds did you obtain this warrant?”

I turned my phone to show him a still image from the CCV footage. Not the clearest photo, but enough that Kramer’s pupils widened. Good, I had him too.

Twenty minutes later, Hank found the pearls in an old suitcase in a closet.

I motioned for a uniform officer to cuff the pair. “Sherilyn Montmorency, David Kramer, I am arresting you for the murder of Estelle Montmorency. You have the right to remain….”

~~~

It was nine-fifteen p.m., and I had just filed my report when Captain Lourdes set a cup of coffee in front of me.

“I’ll buy you a drink later.” He sat down. “Good work, the acting mayor is pleased.”

“Good for him.”

“Quite the quick case close too.”

“We had nothing until I noticed the couples on the CCV about an hour apart were the same. When we found out they had access to the property through the hotel, we knew. Checked with Louis, and Sherilyn never told him about the access from the old building.”

“Motive? Other than the obvious?”

“Sherilynn claimed her divorce settlement was a joke. When she discovered a way onto the property, she remembered where Louis had hidden the safe’s combination. She hated the Dowager and wanted revenge to keep Louis from getting his inheritance. She was having an affair with Kramer—what led to the divorce, so he was more than a willing partner—but we think she killed Montmorency.”

He rose. “By the way, word came down. You and Guidry are now assigned permanently to Major Crimes.”

As the captain left, I called Mamma Leone and told her to keep the kitchen open. Her food would soften the blow when I told Hank we were on Major Crimes for good.

I closed the Montmorency file. We recovered the Dowager’s pearls and caught her murderer. Not a bad start in Major Crimes.

Please visit Deborah on her blog: https://daratliffauthor.wordpress.com/

Lynn Miclea: The Best Gift

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, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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The Best Gift

Lynn Miclea

Sheri paced back and forth in her living room. She regretted accusing Derek of cheating, and she knew she was wrong. She couldn’t blame him for being angry after what she had said to him. She knew her previous boyfriend, Ryan, had cheated on her, and she was probably too sensitive and suspicious now, which caused her to not trust anyone. But she knew Derek did not cheat on her, and she should never have said what she did. Was it too late to make things right again?

It had been a full week since she had accused him of cheating. He had explained that his boss needed him to work overtime, and that’s why he needed to cancel their date. At the time, she didn’t believe him and said things she wished she hadn’t said. She had jumped to conclusions and doubted him because of her past with Ryan, but she knew she was wrong. She wished she could take it all back and re-do that night.

Now, a week later, he was coming over, and she wasn’t sure what to expect. They had not spoken since that night. Was he still angry? She deeply regretted everything she had said. Her belly churned. Was he coming over to break up with her?

She let out a long sigh. Until last week, she had thought they were so right together and she hoped he would propose to her. She wanted to marry him. After seeing each other for three years, she had been convinced Derek was the one for her. She was so comfortable with him and could talk to him about anything. He was her best friend as well as her boyfriend. They matched in so many ways and rarely fought.

Until last week. Until she accused him of cheating. And that might have messed up everything. Now she wondered if they would even stay together. If he felt she no longer trusted him, what would he want with her now? Did her accusation ruin everything?

She missed what they had before. The comfort she felt in his arms. His warm and passionate kisses. Could they get back to that? She wasn’t sure. She pushed aside her feelings and told herself to just go with whatever happened. If he was willing to try again, that would be good. And if he wanted to break up, well, then he was not for her. But that thought made her belly ache with loss and grief. She knew she loved him. She couldn’t bear losing him.

Shaking her head, but hoping for the best, she placed two wine glasses on the counter. A bottle of wine was chilling in the refrigerator. And if they broke up, she would put them away.

Don’t get your hopes up, she told herself.

The doorbell rang. She swallowed hard and she ran to answer it. Derek stood there, as handsome as ever, in the blue shirt she loved, and her heart beat faster. She hated the thought that this could be the end.

“Hey, Sheri,” he said softly. “Can I come in?”

“Yes, of course.” She stepped back and watched him enter. She knew she still loved him and yearned to be in his arms again, but she kept her distance. “Do you want to talk?”

He nodded. “Sheri, I’m sorry I got angry and we fought. I would never cheat on you, and I hope you know that.”

She bit her lower lip. “Yes, I know that. And I’m sorry too. I should never have thought that or accused you of that. I know you wouldn’t do that. I’m sorry. I was just … since it had happened before …”

“Sheri, I’m not Ryan. I would never do that. Like I told you, I had to work overtime that night. My boss said there was a new client coming the next morning, and I needed to get something ready. That was all. I was at work. I’m sorry.” He shook his head and stared at the floor, and then his gaze rose to meet her eyes. “Sheri, you’re the only one for me. There is no one else. You have to believe me. If you don’t believe me or don’t trust me, then we have nothing.”

Tears burned her eyes. “I do believe you. I’m so sorry I said that. I was wrong. I wish I could take it back.” She looked away, not sure what else to say.

Derek’s warm voice cut through her fears. “Hey, come here. Can I hold you?”

Her eyes filled with tears, she moved into his arms and breathed in his familiar scent. He held her tight and murmured into her ear. “I missed you so much.” He kissed the top of her head. “I love you, baby.”

“I love you too,” Sheri whispered back.

“Can I take you out to dinner?”

She looked up at him and saw caring, hope, and love in his eyes. “Yes, that sounds good.” She hugged him again. Maybe they would be okay.

“Is Italian okay? I know you like that.”

“Yes, I love that.”

“Good.” He gazed at her and then held her close. “I don’t like fighting with you. I want to get back to what we had.”

“Me too.” She wiped a tear away and looked up into his eyes and saw the sincerity there. “I was afraid I messed everything up between us.”

“No, no, it was just a misunderstanding. We need to talk to each other and trust each other. Share our fears with each other, but stay open and honest. I will always be honest with you. And if we talk about it, we can make it right again.”

“Yes, I trust you. It was my fault. I was wrong, and I’m so sorry.” She buried her face in his chest.

He held her and then leaned in and pressed his lips to hers. “I love you, baby. Please don’t forget that.”

She nodded and he reached for her hand. “So for dinner, I thought we could go to your favorite Italian restaurant.”

“Emilio’s?”

“That’s the one. Is that okay?”

Sheri smiled. “That sounds great.”

***

The aroma of garlic, tomato sauce, and cheese filled the air as they ate and talked. By the end of the meal, Sheri felt more relaxed and it felt like old times.

She squeezed Derek’s hand. “Thank you.”

“For dinner? You’re very welcome.”

“I mean for talking to me and clearing the air between us. I was scared of losing you.”

“Sheri, you mean more to me than you know. And I want us to always be able to talk to each other — about anything.” He looked away and fiddled with his napkin. “But we need to trust each other. That’s really important. So thank you for trusting me and believing me. I need that. We both need that.”

“Yes, I agree. And I do trust you and believe you.”

“Good. And I have a surprise for you when we get back home.”

“You do?”

“Yep. I hope you like it.” He smiled, leaned over, and kissed her.

***

After they were back in Sheri’s apartment, she poured the chilled wine into the two glasses. “To us,” she said, lifting her glass.

“To us,” he answered, as they clinked their glasses together and sipped the wine. “Hopefully for a long time.”

She smiled. “Hey, you said you had a surprise for me.”

“Yes.” He handed her a white cardboard box and gestured toward it. “Open it.”

She placed it on the counter, lifted the cover, and took out a small wooden box. Glancing at Derek, she slowly opened the wooden box and saw a beautiful strand of opalescent pearls.

She gently fingered the pearls. “They’re beautiful,” she said softly.

“I wanted to get you something special,” Derek said. “I know you always loved pearls.”

“Yes, I do.” She was mesmerized and touched by them, but she knew all she really wanted was him.

She took the strand of pearls out of the box and ran her fingers over them. Holding them up, she smiled as they glistened in the warm light, elegant and dazzling. As she held them, she noticed a small note sitting at the bottom of the wooden box. What was that? She reached in, took out the note, and read the four words written on it.

Will you marry me?

Her mouth fell open and she stared at Derek. Did he mean that?

His eyebrows rose in a question. “Well? You mean everything to me, Sheri. I don’t want to lose you.”

“Are you serious?”

He caressed her face and gazed into her eyes. “Absolutely. I don’t want to ever be without you. You are the only one for me. Will you marry me?”

Tears filled her eyes as Sheri nodded. “Yes, yes!” She fell into his arms “Yes!” She pulled back and looked at him. “This is the best gift I could get.” She swallowed past the lump in her throat and gazed into his eyes. “This is all I ever really wanted — you.”

“You got me, baby.” He picked her up and spun her around, then put her down and kissed her. “We got each other.”

“Yes, we do.” She kissed him hard and then giggled, as relief and joy flooded her system. She finally received the only gift she really wanted — him. And love. And forever.

—————————————–

Copyright © 2022 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit Lynn’s blog and follow her at – https://lynnpuff.wordpress.com/
Please also visit Lynn’s website for more information on her books – https://www.lynnmiclea.com/
And please visit her Amazon author page at – https://www.amazon.com/Lynn-Miclea/e/B00SIA8AW4

Anita Wu: Stages of Truth

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, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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Stages of Truth

Anita Wu

They told me that some things are better left unsaid, that some secrets should be taken with me to the grave. But what if they eat at my conscience and drive me to my demise? Should I tell you then, before the lies consume someone else?


Act I: The First

Dear …

I never meant to hurt him. You have to believe me.

It was something minor — innocent — like the pranks he always pulled on me when we were kids. Yeah… like his pranks.

Like when he told me to wait for him after class, told me with his ear-to-ear smile that he would drive me that day, yet I found myself walking the hour and a half home when the sun was setting because he never showed. I found him there, watching a movie before he apologized for “forgetting” that he was busy and had promised someone else a date.

Or when he stayed over at his friend’s place and refused to answer anyone’s calls for days. He convinced his friend to tell us that he was not there when we frantically called everyone, including the police, for fear that he was kidnapped.

It was a prank. Just a look-a-like.

The body was not his. The blood was not his. It was just a photo.

He would waltz into the house again, his legs wobbly beneath him and his breath reeking of alcohol, and he would collapse on the couch with his stained shirt and sticky hands, slurring the words only he understood. I would find him in a pile of vomit in the morning and smack him in the face.

He will answer my text in three days’ time like he always does. I will force him to brunch with me, he will sleep in, and we will argue about time: my insistence that people were busy and his retort that people didn’t deserve his holy presence.

He will be back, just like I remember him, just like how he always came back.

Right?


Act II: Public Knowledge

Everyone kept their distance, but their murmurs sounded louder to my ears than usual. Perhaps it was their gaze on me from the corner of their eyes, or their weak attempt at pretending to be talking about something else, or their fingers pointing my way while poorly concealed by the books they held to their chest.

“That’s her brother,” they whispered.

“She’s still coming to school? I would have stayed home. Perfect excuse to skip Tojin’s chem exam.”

“Were the pearls real though?”

“I slammed my computer shut when I saw the blood.”

I reached my locker, and the crowd around the area quickly scattered. A brief grin flashed on my face as I was not against being alone this day. I wasn’t sure what I would do if they asked me about the article. I wasn’t even sure why I kept sending texts to Jim after the same photo someone texted me appeared on the news.

But I heard the familiar click of heels and winced. Lilia walked up next to my locker and leaned against the metal frame, her head tilted like she had a question, her eyes on mine. Her arms crossed, her perfectly painted nails tapped against her skin like she was waiting for the acknowledgment she deserved. I continued to rearrange the contents of my locker, ignoring her.

“Hey,” Lilia popped her gum, “is it true?”

I closed my locker and turned to leave. I had never entertained her before, and I refused to start today. I would have preferred if she stayed away like the rest of the school, like everyone who treated me and my family as though we were poison.

“I mean, he had it coming, right?” one of Lilia’s tag-alongs showed up and chimed in.

“Totally — gambling like that? He was bound to get it someday.” Another one.

“But who knew he would try to pull one over his debt collectors?” Lilia laughed with that sweet voice of hers.

I spun and punched my locker, just missing her nose, the crash slightly rocking the entire row. I glared at her. “Shut up.”

Lilia smiled, her eyes narrowing as she realized she hit her jackpot. “Well, if your family would stop cheating the innocent community, then maybe I would. Sure, you guys can gamble if you want, but only do it if you have the money. Don’t do things you can’t afford. Especially don’t try to repay debt with fake pearls.”

I clenched my teeth and curled my fists tighter, my nails digging into my palms. I didn’t have the luxury of starting a fight with the rich girl. Mom was already devastated by Jim’s death. I could not make it worse for her; her old heart would not be able to handle it.

I imagined hitting Lilia’s face, pulling her braided hair, and smearing her makeup against the metal lockers; I imagined returning the bleeding favor her family gave my brother without the covert of the night or the police’s purchased blindness.

But I probably deserved worse punishment than she.

“My brother is no liar,” I spat instead and walked away.

“Perhaps you should check to see where he hid the real ones then,” Lilia called out, laughing. “You might need it someday.”


Act III: Secrets

Dear …

Could I swap my life for Jim’s? He had done nothing wrong. He just wanted to pay off his debt honestly. He wanted to give them the real pearls — he did.

I just didn’t know at the time. If I knew it would lead to this, I wouldn’t have done it. If I hadn’t done it, he would still be here. So, he should be here, and I should be wherever he is. It’s only right.

God — is that it? Do you want me to recognize you? Call your name? Would you listen to me now, then? What do you want from me? What do I have to do for you to give me Jim back?

Do you need a confession?

Do you need the real pearls?

I’ll gladly tell you, gladly hand you the pearls myself. So long as you give me back my brother.

I did it. I —


There are some secrets that must be taken to the grave, and I should not have the luxury of relieving my heart of its pain.

Please visit Anita on her blog: https://soreispeaks.wordpress.com/

Riham El-Ashry: The Jewelry Box

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, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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The Jewelry Box

Riham El-Ashry

After coming this far to visit her, it had been a quarter of an hour, and she hadn’t shown up yet.

In a big stylish chair sat Anya, shifting from one side to another. Her gaze also traveled from the expensive chandelier to the vintage blue vase on the marble-topped table. Anya, a 38-year-old, tall and plump figured, looked slim and elegant at first glance. Whereas, for another, one discovered that she concealed her fatty body with oversized clothes, which she chose very carefully to resemble expensive brands. Tapping her feet alternately, Anya examined the floral shapes on the thick carpet and inspected the door every few seconds.

Many years had passed since they last met. Though it was Anya’s wedding, Anastasia, her closest cousin, drew huge attention, not due to her beauty or elegant appearance, but because of the extravagant pearl necklace. Its triple strands surprised everyone at the party; Anya noticed all eyes were turning to the big genuine pearls and the gold flower that centered over Anastasia’s marble chest. One can scarcely imagine how a pure white marble-like spheres could flame such a fire in someone’s heart? Or how would some hearts be stained forever with jealousy and envy for many years? And what might be a cure to that? Could it be watching the soaring eagle fall be a good treatment for an ill-hearted sparrow? Or could it be forgiving and forgetting? Picturing the eagle falling from the sky was more alleviating to Anya. 

When the door opened to let Anastasia in, Anya’s eyes rolled over her chest and neck to see if the high-priced necklace was there. In spite of her and the self-control she had imposed on her facial expressions, a smirking smile scraped the confinement allowing her left dimple to appear. Anya’s fine features had always gained the admiration of others—especially boys—even Anastasia’s boyfriend.

Silent conversation started immediately between the two women like a tennis player would imagine her shots and the reaction of her rival even before the game began. An invisible tennis ball flared to and fro across the cool room, controlled by the power of the eyes. 

You should have called before you visit.

Anastasia did a great effort not to ask this question. Her thin whitish fingers clutched the golden lion-like heads of the chair she tried to fit in and relax. Her hair was tied up and nearly half-covered with a bright scarf, though the colors didn’t add their brilliance to her cheeks which remained pale in contrast to the fabric.

Her clothes were not as remarkable as Anya would have anticipated. Surveying the hostess’s appearance, Anya was obviously disappointed; her great expectations ruined, and the effort she had made to look better than her cousin was swept away by the latter’s modest one. Having a strong opponent proved one’s superiority.

******

Standing beside her curtained window, Anastasia’s eyes followed her guest exiting the front gate. Her exhausted body leaning on the wall and her hand resting on the table, she couldn’t think of the reason of Anya’s quick visit, nor could she figure out the meaning of her last words about keeping in good health for she made sure that no one in her family knew what was happening with her.

Moving slowly, almost dragging her feet, she stood in front of her mirror, unzipped her high-neck jacket, and her fingers traced the surgical stitches that crowned her left breast. The heavy painkillers she consumed still gave relief. However, she could feel the scissors working through her skin. She grabbed her favorite pearl necklace, hung it over around her neck as if she would put it on, closed her eyes for a moment, half smiled, and then patiently placed it back in its carved jewelry box. A vintage wooden case she had inherited from her mother, just like the disease she was enduring now. Memories of her mother’s final days tortured her mind, forced her to sit down, and made her wonder how much had she taken after her mother. And how free were we in this world? Or how far real chances did we get? Her face slightly frowned. “What did she mean by ‘It’s better for you to wear a high-neck these days’?”

Please visit Riham on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010254645147

Kenneth Lawson: Carrie’s Revenge

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, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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Admin Note: This story is a sequel to a story the author wrote for the June 2022 Write the Story Prompt. If you would like to read that story first, please click here: The Treasure Box

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Carrie’s Revenge

 Kenneth Lawson

A warm summer breeze blew through the street as Benny stood on yet another corner waiting to meet a contact. In mid-August, the temperatures were running as high as the tension in the country. Something had to give. 

In the months following Carrie’s death and finding the note in her treasure box, he had been working with the underground, taking up where Carrie had left off. At first, it had been a burning rage that had driven him, but the rage subsided, leaving a deep and powerful need for justice with a hint of revenge for good measure.

Benny had long ago burned the note Carrie left him inside the treasure box, which now sat on his mantle. A daily reminder of why he was risking his life to help bring down the totalitarian government that had slowly and steadily taken over the country for several decades. Freedoms, once casually bantered about, were no longer theirs—now only spoken of in secret. It was past time that the government was held accountable by the people.

He knew it was easy to say the government was evil, but it wasn’t the government that was evil. The prominent players in office who were running things were the problem. He was under no illusions that getting rid of them would instantly fix anything, but it would go a long way toward it. There had been considerable pushback in the early days, but now only a few souls refused to do as ordered. They learned to keep their resistance secret. 

As far as they could tell, State Security had chosen to ignore Benny publicly after Carrie’s death. While there appeared to be no surveillance on him, tail, phone, or email tap, they suspected he was watched and took appropriate precautions.

Benny leaned against the brick wall of a storefront near a bus stop, pretending to read a newspaper while he waited for his contact and hoped she wouldn’t be late. 

Laura was a short redhead with an attitude that managed to get her into the top government offices. She was intelligent, pretty, and flirty enough to get their attention but not make them suspicious. Her current position in the IT department gave her access to many top-secret documents, but getting them out of the secure file server room had been impossible until recently.

They had introduced a door access code that bypassed normal security protocols and gave her access to any file on the server regardless of security clearance. It also wiped any trace of her snooping and copying behind her. She was fully aware that even with those precautions, it would be possible, with the right tools, to figure out someone had been there. But it should eliminate how or who. At least, she prayed it did.

Getting the information out of the building was as challenging as getting into the secure rooms. She had become friends with one of the guards, and he often let her pass without looking too closely. Thus, she could slip past with a tiny USB drive hidden in plain sight. Laura had started wearing computer-themed jewelry—cutesy jewelry designed to look like cartoony thumb drives. She would slip the real thumb drives inside, and the guards didn’t notice that she smuggled a working drive out.

Benny spotted Laura’s red mane bouncing half a block from where he stood. As she approached, he dropped the newspaper just in time for it to land in front of Laura as she reached him. Laura helped him pick up the scattered paper, and they made polite conversations, with him thanking her for helping pick it up. She went on her way down the block and around the corner while Benny spent a few minutes refolding the newspaper before he headed off in the opposite direction. The drop was made.

Benny took his time. He stopped at a coffee shop for a cup of java to see if he had picked up a tail. As he sipped his coffee and nibbled on a couple of donuts, he slipped the USB drive from the folded newspaper and placed it in his pocket. He detested sports but pretended to read the sports section while he finished his last donut and downed his coffee. Paying his bill, he collected the newspaper and headed to the sidewalk.

Turning right, he thought he caught a glimpse of a figure standing across the street and down the block a bit. His blood ran cold. They would kill him instantly if they found the USB drive on him. No questions asked, and Laura would be next.

Spotting a bus stop with several people waiting, he slipped inside the group. Within a minute, the city bus pulled up, and the doors hissed as they opened. He resisted the urge to be first in the line up the steps into the bus. When the bus pulled away, he started to breathe again. That was close—too close. 

***

Benny slouched down as low as he could in the seat to avoid anyone seeing him. He assumed they had seen Laura stop to help him with the dropped newspaper and worried that they suspected her or that they would now. 

Benny got off at the next stop, a large box store, leaving the newspaper on the seat. He followed a group heading into the store and broke off to find a restroom. Once inside, he grabbed a handful of paper towels and headed into a stall, where he took the USB drive from his pocket and slipped it into a hidden slit in the back of his leather belt. He took the usual precautions, wiping the door and anything he’d touched to remove his fingerprints, then left the restroom. He felt calmer, but the kicked-in-the-gut scared feeling never left him. The outline of the thumb drive pressed against his back was a constant reminder to keep on guard.

He returned to his apartment and busied himself with housework. His regular job had left him little time to keep up with everyday chores, and now that he was doing covert jobs for the resistance on the side, he had less time. As he cleaned, Benny would stare at the treasure box on the mantle that now held the pearls he had given her and let his mind replay that horrible moment when Carrie had been murdered right before him. Swearing to himself, he vowed that someday they would regret that killing. He didn’t know how yet.

It was dusk when Benny ventured out again. Over the last few months, taking an evening walk had become his practice. The route took him along a street with several deserted houses and tall lawns filled with debris. Benny had wrapped the USB drive in a candy wrapper, placed it into a plastic grocery bag, and as he passed the first house, he dropped the wrapper in the grass near the well-worn sidewalk. Returning home, he casually checked his mail, lifted the red flag on his mailbox, and went inside.

The following day Benny found the flag on his mailbox down. His indication that the drop was successful. 

***

Benny met with Laura again the following week. This time was no less stressful, but the stakes were even higher. The files she had stolen from the secure server room proved invaluable in formulating a plan to bring down the current regime.

For that to happen, certain people had to die simultaneously. The list was specific. The top name on the list was Maxx Barker, head of the State Security Department and known to be responsible for the disappearances of a large number of members of the resistance underground. Laura had also found the paperwork ordering the killing of Carrie. Benny trembled with rage as he read the documents. The moment all those months ago came rushing back to him. Replaying the scene one more time in his mind, he almost crumpled the paper, but Laura gently took it away from him.

“We need this.” She spoke calmly.

Benny sighed and let go. He knew they needed all the paperwork to prove what they would announce in a few days.

On Friday, July Fourth, Benny found himself waiting on a back street near the headquarters of the security department. While the Fourth of July was still an official holiday, the government discouraged an active celebration and chose to mark the day with a ceremony and speeches broadcast over the media, with as little fanfare as possible.

As expected, Maxx Barker emerged from the rear of the building into an alley where his car was waiting. With two security guards in tow, Barker approached the Mercedes.

Benny whispered into a concealed mic, “Got Barker,” stepped out of the shadows, and fired two quick rounds, dropping the guards where they stood. Barker stopped in his tracks, a glint of fear in his eye.

“Maxx, Maxx Barker?” Bennie aimed his rifle at the center of Maxx Barker’s chest. “You remember Carrie Anderson? You ordered her murdered in the street like a dog.”

Maxx swallowed but seemed to gain his composure. “Yes, I remember her. She was a remarkable young woman. Pity, she had to die so soon.”

Benny felt an iciness in his voice as he replied. “Yes. She was remarkable and believed in standing up for what’s right and true.”

“Like you are now?” Maxx sneered, seemingly unafraid of Benny or his shotgun. By now, Benny could see the scars and wrinkles on Maxx’s face and smell his alcohol-induced bravado. Benny chuckled. The bastard seriously didn’t think he would shoot him.

The knuckles on Benny’s hand turned white as he gripped the shotgun. His right hand firmly wrapped around the grip and his finger in the trigger guard gently touched the trigger. His left hand extended to the stock and held the wooden slide under the barrel, keeping the gun level with Maxx.

“Yes, I am.”

Maxx reached out to take the gun from Benny. “You might have shot a couple of thugs like my guards, but you know who I am and what I am capable of doing. You don’t have the balls to shoot me.” He showed a toothy grin.

“I grew them the day you killed Carrie.”

Benny’s earpiece crackled, and a voice yelled into his ear. “NOW!!!!”

Benny fired the shotgun three times, dropping Maxx Barker onto the street like the mangy creature he was.

The revolution began with revenge for Carrie. 

Please visit Kenneth on his website: http://kennethlawson.weebly.com/

Writers Unite! Anthologies: Dimensions of Love

Writers Unite! presents:

Dimensions of Love

The greatest of these is love….

No other word evokes more emotion than love, be it romantic, familial, or platonic. The Writers Unite! authors explore the passion, joy, hate, desire, longing, pain, and affection that represent love in all its forms in this collection of short stories and poems.

Dimensions of Love will be released in Mid-August 2022! Details Soon!

Lynn Miclea: Strand of Pearls

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, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by kropekk-pl from Pixabay.

Strand of Pearls

Lynn Miclea

Robert approached the apartment door and hesitated before knocking. He wasn’t sure why he felt so nervous going on this date, but something kept nudging at his mind, haunting him, and putting him on edge. Something wasn’t right, and he didn’t know what.

Maybe it was the weather. Dark clouds had been filling the sky all day, and the air was oppressive. A storm was imminent. Maybe he was just feeling the change in air pressure. He tried to dismiss the eerie feeling in his gut, but it persisted.

This was the second time he was seeing her. His neighbor Pete had set them up, and even feeling reluctant, Robert went through with it. He was beginning to regret this. The first date was okay, although something felt off then too, but he thought maybe it was just him. He decided to try one more time. Now he was not so sure this was a good idea. A tingle ran up his spine.

After hesitating for a few more moments, he knocked on the door. He was not looking forward to this. Maybe he would keep the date short and go home early. Maybe he should just tell her he didn’t feel well and call it off.

The door swung open. Jasmine stood there, her face blank for a moment, and then she smiled. “Robert, come in.” She stepped back and turned, making room for him to enter her small apartment.

“Hi, Jasmine.” Something definitely felt off. “Is everything okay here?”

“Yes, everything is good. Are you all right? You look pale.”

“Well, I’m not feeling great. Could I get something to drink?”

“Is water okay?”

“Sure, water is fine. Thank you.”

“Okay, I’ll be right back.” She turned and went into the kitchen.

Robert looked around the tiny living room. It was somewhat messy, with shoes discarded on the floor and a glass of water sitting on the coffee table. A few piles of books and various papers were scattered around. He walked over to a bookcase on the side wall and perused the few items on the shelves. Books, a small vase, a few colored stones, and a small wooden chest with a strand of pearls hanging out.

His hand started reaching for the pearls when he gasped and quickly snatched his hand back. The pearls were glowing. His hand reached forward again, and the pearls glowed brighter and started vibrating. A soft humming sound filled the air. What was that? Goosebumps rose on his arms.

Staring at the pearls, he felt the pit of his stomach churn. What was going on?

A sudden flash of lightning outside lit up the room, and the pearls glowed brighter again, flickered, buzzed, and then were quiet.

Jasmine returned to the room holding a glass of water and looked at him, her face reflecting concern. “What’s wrong?”

“I … I’m not sure … I …”

Lightning flashed again, followed by a boom of thunder. He glanced at the pearls. They were glowing brightly and buzzing. He stared at them. Those were not from this world. The hair stood out on his neck. He needed to leave.

He glanced at Jasmine. She seemed nervous and pulled at her hair. She put the glass of water down, quickly grabbed a small kitchen towel, and threw it over the box with the pearls, hiding it from view. “It’s fine. Let’s go.”

Robert stared at her. “What are those?” His voice was weak.

“Oh, nothing.” She cleared her throat. “Just a toy.”

“That isn’t a toy. And it isn’t nothing. Something is really wrong here …”

Another flash of lightning. The glow was visible from under the towel. He shifted his gaze back to Jasmine.

She gave a nervous half smile and seemed to shimmer.

Robert took a step back. “What … what …” Was she even human? What was she? He swallowed hard, his mouth dry. He had to get out of there now.

Another flash of lightning. Jasmine glowed and then flickered a few times before solidifying.

Keeping his eyes on Jasmine, Robert backed up to the door. “I need to go …”

“No.” Jasmine’s voice was firm and her eyes bored into his. “Not yet. I need to do something first.” She glowed brighter, reached toward him, and enveloped him in a brilliant blue light.

Feeling weak and queasy, he felt her enter his mind. He was too weak to respond, but he heard her thoughts. “We are here to observe and learn about your species. We still need to know more. That is why you were sent to me. There is a network of us, and we use the pearls for communication and to transport to each other. But I now realize having you here during a storm was not a good idea. You have seen too much. I must clear your memory — you will not remember any of this.”

The blue light retracted, and Robert took a deep breath. Why did he feel so weird? He looked at Jasmine. “Are you ready to go?” He felt like he was missing something, but he wasn’t sure what. He knew something strange had happened, but he couldn’t quite grasp it. Why couldn’t he remember? Why did he feel queasy?

“Sure, let me just get my purse.” She went down the hallway to a back bedroom.

Lightning flashed again, a few raindrops hit a nearby window, and a soft glow came from under a dish towel on the bookcase. Goosebumps rose over his entire body from head to toe. A few images started coming back as Robert began remembering. Pearls. Something glowing. He needed to get away.

On impulse, he reached out, lifted the towel, and grabbed the strand of pearls, which were now vibrating. He quickly shoved the pearls in his pocket, turned, and ran from the apartment.

Robert flew down the stairs, almost missing a step, quickly caught himself, and ran out the door into the rain and to his car. Jasmine came rushing out the door after him, yelling something. He couldn’t understand her words, but he knew he was in danger and had to leave.

He jumped in the car, locked the doors, and started it. Jasmine pulled at the door handle. She screamed and yanked at it again. Robert pressed on the accelerator, lurching forward, moving away from the curb. Cutting someone off, he forced his way into the stream of traffic, skidding slightly on the wet pavement, and kept going, his heart pounding in his chest.

His hands were sweaty as they gripped the steering wheel. What the hell happened in there? He couldn’t wrap his head around any of it. Shaking his head, he focused on driving, as fat drops of rain splashed on the windshield. Flashes of pearls, a glow, and a strange humming sound filled his mind as he drove home.

Feeling shaky and scared, he pulled into his driveway and sat there for a while, catching his breath and listening to the rain pounding on the car roof. When the rain eased up a bit, he got out of the car and ran into his house, shutting the door behind him.

He stood there for a few minutes and took the strand of pearls out of his pocket. They glowed softly and vibrated in his hand.

A knock at the door made him jump. Was that Jasmine? Could she have gotten there that fast? Did she even know where he lived?

“Robert? Are you okay?” His neighbor’s voice came through the door. The neighbor who had set him up on the first date with Jasmine. Did he know about her?

Robert opened the door. “Hi, Pete.”

Pete’s brow furrowed. “What happened? How was the second date? Why are you home already?”

“I’m not sure … it was strange …” He opened his hand and showed the strand of pearls to Pete. “I found these. There is something very strange about them. They seem to glow and buzz and vibrate … Look.” He held the pearls closer toward his neighbor.

Pete’s eyes grew wide and he stepped back. “I know what those are. You shouldn’t have them.”

“You know about these?” Robert stared at his neighbor. “What are they?”

Pete glanced around the room. “You need to return them to her. And keep them away from me.”

Robert’s gaze fell to the pearls and then went back to Pete. “Why? What are these?” He took a step closer to Pete. “What are you not telling me?”

Pete sighed and shook his head as he backed up. “Look. I have similar ones.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a similar strand of pearls. “But they can’t come into contact with each other. They are too powerful.”

Robert’s mouth fell open and his voice grew quiet. “What are they? Who are you?” He held out the pearls toward his neighbor, and the pearls began to glow brighter. “What would happen if they touch each other?”

Pete took another step back, the pearls in his hand buzzing. “They are linking pearls.”

“Linking pearls?”

“Yes. They link to each other. They are used for communication and transport. They are incredibly powerful — far beyond your technology.” He paused and shook his head. “This is dangerous. You don’t know what you’re doing.”

Robert tossed the pearls at Pete. Pete’s hand came up, and the pearls touched, creating a large spark. Pete yelped as both strands of pearls glowed brightly and emitted a loud buzzing sound.

As Robert watched, the two strands of pearls flickered a few times, emitted a red light, and then softened to an eerie glow, as Robert’s pearls fell to the carpet.

Robert turned his gaze to his neighbor as Pete held his strand of pearls close to his chest. His entire body flickered. Robert gasped as he remembered Jasmine flickering. “You … you …”

Pete remained quiet and carefully kept his eyes on Robert.

Robert picked up his strand of pearls from the floor and threw them at Pete again.

Pete flickered and suddenly appeared a few feet to one side, and Robert’s pearls dropped to the floor.

Frozen in place, Robert stared at his neighbor. How did he do that? “Who are you? What are you? Where are you from?”

Pete remained silent for a minute and then spoke slowly. “We … just want to observe. Learn more about you. I thought—”

“What? You thought what?” Memories of Jasmine’s words in his mind came back to him. Horror filled him as he realized a network of them were here and he had been a pawn. “You set me up with her. You knew!” He glared at his neighbor. “You sent me to her deliberately! How could you do this? How many more of you are here?”

Pete took a deep breath. “We are here to observe and monitor humanity and learn more about you. We live among you and are already infiltrating many levels of your government. I cannot say more than that.” He paused and seemed to consider what to say next. “There are … two thousand of us … we …” He flickered, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. When he opened his eyes, they were glowing.

Robert watched in horror, wondering how he could possibly fight against any of them.

Pete held his pearls and spoke softly. “You are making a big mistake.” Then he flickered and disappeared.

Robert’s mouth went dry. Where did Pete go? Did he transport somewhere?

A bit shaky, Robert went to the kitchen and poured a glass of cola. He sipped it, trying to figure out a way to destroy these beings. He returned to the living room and put the strand of pearls on a side table and poured some of the cola on it to see what would happen. The pearls immediately sizzled and sparked.

As he thought about dropping the entire strand into the cola, a strange light flickered in the room. He stared at it as Jasmine materialized in front of him.

Robert’s eyes widened in horror. “How …”

Jasmine snickered. “I have a backup set of pearls. We all do.”

“Where’s Pete? What happened to him?”

Jasmine laughed. “He’s fine. He transported back home. You have no idea what you are dealing with here or how strong we are.” She gestured at the pearls on the table. “Hand them over. They’re mine and I need them back.”

“No!” Robert grabbed the pearls and took a few steps back.

“You will regret this. You don’t know what any of us are capable of.” She rushed at him, and Robert threw the cola in her face, splashing it all over her.

She shrieked, glowed, and flickered. Then she solidified again, reached her fingers forward, and the pearls flew from his hand to her outstretched palm.

Robert stared at her. “How … how …”

Jasmine laughed, glowed for a few moments, and then disappeared.

Robert gaped at where she had been. A sinking feeling filled his gut as he realized they were much more advanced than humans were. And much more powerful. And there were two thousand of them? What could he do? What did this mean for humans?

He reached for his glass of cola and gulped it down as he thought about what happened.

A few minutes later, a bright light flickered in the room. Robert stared in horror as Jasmine, Pete, and three other people who he knew materialized in front of him. Terror flooded his system and he felt sick. How many more of his friends and neighbors were part of this …

Jasmine’s eyes bored into his. “You need to be taught a lesson, earthling.” She held the strand of pearls and pointed at Robert’s right leg.

Robert cried out in agony as a searing pain ran up his leg. He collapsed to the floor, desperately grasping his leg.

Jasmine stepped forward and surrounded him with blue light as her voice filled his mind. “We are now moving into phase two. You have actually helped us a great deal, and we thank you for that. And now we need to keep you at a distance. You will not remember any of this.” The blue light withdrew, and Jasmine, along with the others, flickered and disappeared.

Robert ran his hands over his face. What was he doing on the floor? What happened? He rubbed his leg. Why was his right leg so achy? Maybe he was just working too hard. Thunder rumbled in the distance. That’s it, he must be overtired. Shaking his head to clear it, he slowly stood up. His leg throbbed and felt hot. He must have injured it when he fell to the floor, but he couldn’t remember how it happened.

That was okay. He just needed to rest and take it easy for tonight. He limped into the kitchen, poured a glass of cola, and went back to the living room to watch TV. All he needed was peace and quiet and time to relax, and he would be okay. He was glad he wasn’t dating anyone.

He settled onto the couch, sighed, and rubbed his leg. Then he turned on the TV, sipped at his cola, and looked for a good sci-fi movie to watch. Something strange and ludicrous and off the wall to get his mind off his achy leg. Space monsters and crazy things — that would be good and very entertaining.

He smiled in anticipation and idly massaged his leg as he watched the movie start.

—————————————–

Copyright © 2022 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit Lynn’s blog and follow her at – https://lynnpuff.wordpress.com/
Please also visit Lynn’s website for more information on her books – https://www.lynnmiclea.com/
And please visit her Amazon author page at – https://www.amazon.com/Lynn-Miclea/e/B00SIA8AW4

Lynn Miclea: Memories

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, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by kropekk-pl from Pixabay.

Memories

Lynn Miclea

Dottie saw the cream-colored pearls hanging out of the box, draped over the edge. A slow, nostalgic smile crossed her face as the memories came rushing back.

The day of her wedding, so many years ago, when she married the sweetest, kindest, most handsome man she had ever known. He had given her those beautiful pearls on their wedding day, and it meant so much to her that day. It still did.

So many memories blurred together. When they first started dating, both of them nervous and awkward, then wanting to be together all the time. The overwhelming joy on their wedding day. The year they both lost their jobs — he was laid off and she got fired, and there was not enough money to pay their bills.

She shook her head as more memories flooded her. The time when he was injured in that horrible car accident and was in the hospital, barely conscious, and she was terrified she might lose him. The time when she needed surgery to remove a cyst from her left breast, and then when she was so relieved after the doctor told her it was benign.

Her eyes grew wet as she remembered the incredible joy at the birth of their sweet baby boy. And then the horrible loss and grief when that sweet boy, their only child, was killed just fifteen years later. Even now, her heart still ached with grief.

She remembered all the birthday parties and celebrations throughout the years, and all the traveling and cruises after they retired. And the time she was worried that her husband was showing signs of dementia.

Through all the ups and downs, the good and the bad, the laughter and the tears, her husband was always there for her, kind and loving. They were each other’s anchor in the world, no matter what happened.

Now, at age 85, she reached out and caressed the pearls. Her husband had passed ten years earlier. Her eyes filled with tears as she gazed at the lovely strand of pearls. So many difficulties over the years and, through it all, there was always so much love between them.

Running her fingers over them, Dottie smiled and then wiped her eyes. In all those years, even with all the heartbreak and difficulties, she loved her life — all of it. She still felt like the luckiest woman in the world, and she wouldn’t change a thing.

She turned from the pearls and pushed her memories aside. There would be time for reminiscing later. For now, it was time to make dinner. And she would make her husband’s favorite meal. Although he was no longer physically with her, she felt his presence every day, and she wanted to honor him, just as he had honored her all those years.

After dinner, she would look at those precious pearls again, which brought back all the beautiful memories of every moment, and she would relive them all one more time.

—————————————–

Copyright © 2022 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit Lynn’s blog and follow her at – https://lynnpuff.wordpress.com/
Please also visit Lynn’s website for more information on her books – https://www.lynnmiclea.com/
And please visit her Amazon author page at – https://www.amazon.com/Lynn-Miclea/e/B00SIA8AW4

Calliope Njo: Gella’s Tears

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, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by kropekk-pl from Pixabay.

Gella’s Tears

Calliope Njo

The eternal day started with a meeting that nobody was prepared for and ended with another meeting over dinner that threatened to put me to sleep in my rice pilaf. I didn’t have time to be sympathetic. This was the business of money and it had no empathy. I had more important things to worry about. Such as raising the profit another ten percent this quarter.

After a morning shower, things were better. After that, I grabbed a cup of coffee from the Starbucks up the street. I didn’t need filler. Plain ol’ black cup of java always did it for me.

When I got home, a man stood in front of my door. “You would be Sabella Joseph? Yes?”

“Depends on who’s asking.”

He carried a cane and had on this floor-length robe. “I am a messenger here to give you this.” He held out a box. “Inside, you will find the answers you seek. Be they imaginable or not believable, that is up to you to decide.”

I looked at it and wondered if it was a Jack-In-a-Box thing. It didn’t explode and nothing out of the ordinary happened. It sat there. That was it.

I grabbed it. “Thanks. Now what?”

“It will provide the answers you seek.” He left my door and walked up the sidewalk. When he did that, he disappeared. Not all at once, but a little at a time. Freaky.

“I’m a businesswoman. I have spent a lot of time and effort into building my business. This would only be a waste of my valuable time.” I brought it inside with me, intending to throw it away. Something made me hold on to it. A voice or something. I had work to do, so I went to my computer and started working on that with that box in the trash in the kitchen.

I had already gone over the quarterly report and the idea draft for the summer get-together when that box wiggled in front of me. I could’ve sworn I left it behind. It somehow ended up in my office.

I looked at it again, and about to put it down, it shook. The lock took a bit of work to open, but it did, and a golden pearl necklace was inside. Pearls weren’t that valuable and so easy to fake. The giveaway was the gold color. I dropped it in the trash and the box too.

If anybody told me a necklace came up and put itself around their neck, I would’ve thought they were on drugs. That’s what happened to me. It put itself around my neck. It didn’t choke me, but when I searched for a clasp, I didn’t feel any. I went to my bathroom mirror and turned it around to find nothing. As in nonexistent.

I pulled on it to break it, but it only stretched as far as I could stretch. How do I take it off?

An image showed itself in the mirror. “Oh, my oh my. Calm down, Sabella. I am the host of the box and am here to teach you about the history you do not know. I can only show you some things, not everything. When you are ready to learn the rest, you will. Let me take you on a journey. Let’s start from the very beginning.”

Before I had a chance to speak, I ended up someplace else. “Where di—” That wasn’t my voice. I searched for a mirror and found one against the other wall. I was a tall woman with shoulder-length black hair. Some said I could be on a basketball team because I was that tall.

The woman that looked back at me was a woman with long blonde hair and I had to say short. What happened? Where did I end up?

The door opened. I could’ve asked where I was, but whoever inhabited this body spoke first. “Father. I was getting ready. Are you in need?”

“Oh. Come, come, Sprog.” He smiled. “Your promised one will be here soon, will be soon. Do not fret until then. I already have the guards on special alert for anyone who does not belong here.” He cupped her cheek. “You see, you and I have different ideas. I want this to be a fruitful joining while you simply want… uh… well, you know.”

“I hate him. He has no regard for anybody else other than himself. I do not bark on command. I am not a precious doll.”

Which him did he mention? I lost track already.

“You are anything I say you are.”

She smiled. “What do you get out of this? Answer me that. New land? New women to join your harem? Somebody else to make a deal with to get—”

He slapped her across her face. “Enough. Do not make me hurt you. You do what I say and everything will be splendid. You go against me and well, let me say your demise may not be as sweet as you imagined. I suggest you bathe to erase that odoriferous aroma from you.”

“I die and then you take your next daughter and do the same thing you are doing to me. In case you need a reminder, promised arrangements are no longer done. It never led to anything.”

“Oh, I will do what I feel must be done. Don’t make me hurt you. Scars are so difficult to erase.” He let go and left the room.

I wanted to run after him and use that Jujitsu training I learned. I tried to make her go but I couldn’t. She stood there for a few minutes until she leaped from her window. She turned into a dog and ran over some hills. After that time, I had a horrible itch on my belly. Nothing I could do about that.except hope I didn’t end up with fleas.

We kept running until we got to a river. She transformed back into herself and whistled. Out came a man that was a lot like herself. Baggy clothes made of some sort of thin material with a lot of holes in it. Reddish blond hair, blue eyes, not that much taller than her, and he smiled. They grasped each other and held on for a long while. It wasn’t uncomfortable. I never did hug anyone because nobody hugged me, so in that way it was awkward. I guessed that wasn’t the him she mentioned.

“Dillion,” she said, as she kissed his hand. “I missed you. Did you travel well?”

“Yes, my sweet Gella. I did. I missed you. We have to leave now. If we don’t, we will never be able to be together.”

“I know. I know. The promised one will be here in a short while. I have to get cleaned up.” She bit her lip. Her thoughts got more prominent. Something about—he was the only one and this would be the last time. What was she talking about?

He grabbed her shoulders. “Your father is not realistic. If we leave now, then he would not be able to find us. You know he would never reach outside of this land.”

“Even so, Dillion, he would not stop until he held your head in his hand. Laugh as he did so.”

Dear God, her father was a monster. A male chauvinistic monster that needed to hurt.

She didn’t want to tell him she risked coming here, but he needed to know. She transformed with tears in her eyes and returned to the castle.

A hot and fragrant bath waited for her and she climbed in, intending to stay in as long as she could. The rose petals were a nice touch. A servant came in, nervous I thought, at the way she closed the door while trying to look through the crack she left.

“M’lady. Your father’s guest is here. They expect you this night. To dine with them. Your father ordered the best wine, the best game, the best of everything to cheer him on with. This would be your—”

A man walked in. Tall, dark, and ugly. He reeked too. I could tell he wore silk, or something similar. Gold jewelry as well. That stuff couldn’t override the horrible body odor. If his smell overrode the perfume emanating from this bath, he smelled that bad.

He climbed in without permission and the look on his face told me what he had in mind. It wasn’t good. This had to be the him she mentioned.

She didn’t want to, but she had to. She knew where to stroke and where to rub. What words to say and how they were supposed to be said. Everything her mother taught her what to do to please such a man. All to keep him from inflicting too much pain.

“That’s just a taste. I hope you enjoyed.” He smiled and laughed buck naked when he left.

A sponge flew, and water bombed the wall. I could only hope things would get better. I still didn’t know who she was or why I was there.

When she left the bath, a golden tear dropped from her eye. It turned into a pearl. She held it and put it into a pouch. She gave the pouch to the servant as the servant grabbed it and nodded.

Two other women came in to put a dress on her. Things were a little uncomfortable from the encounter. Meanwhile, thoughts of torture and deceit ran through her mind. It seemed to calm her down a little. She went from wanting to kill to thoughts of maiming.

Putting on those clothes was difficult. She winced and yelped multiple times during the process. The two idiots left the room when she waved her hand toward the door.

She looked at herself in the mirror. “How do I say I am with child? How do I hide it when it makes itself known? I hope that this is a love package from Dillion and not that monster.”

When she cried again, the same thing happened. Golden pearls appeared in her hands. They were put away in a hidden pocket in her skirt. With the way she was crying, I expected a boatload of those things.

I didn’t know who my father was, but I hoped not that sonofabitch. I tried to convey warm thoughts and at least give her the imagery of being held. It had to have worked. She looked in the mirror and smiled. Out of the room and down the hallway, to the dining room, where everybody waited.

When she finished eating, her father, and her fiance had an idiot contest. Who could drink and eat more as well as ye ol’ arm-wrestling contest. I had to sit there and watch. She wanted to leave to get to Dillion and accept his offer. She kept looking at the guards around the room and thought that she would be dead if she ever left.

Everybody left as the sun rose, about time, and left the dining room. She knew what that meant and wondered if she could kill him or put him in so much pain he wouldn’t be able to follow her. The idea was OK but the success rate of that I didn’t think was that high. She sighed.

It didn’t take him long to pass out. He climbed in and fell asleep on top of her. She couldn’t move because if she did, that would mean torture. She didn’t sleep at all that night for a lot of different reasons. The least of which he never did clean himself up.

About the middle of the day, he crawled off and got off the bed buck naked. “Am I gorgeous?”

Oh God, gag me.

“Simply handsome.” Until he left the room, she smiled as best she could. She counted until twenty and opened the door. She ripped off the clothes and gave it to the servant. “There’s more in the pocket.” The servant handed her a bucket of water and a sponge. Then the servant ran away but came back a moment later with clothes.

She scrubbed herself red. Her skin pulsed when she finished. She put her clothes on and had thoughts of Dillion on her mind. It calmed her down to a point, at least until he came back. I couldn’t take it anymore. I still didn’t know how she could.

“Come. Follow,” the man said. “We will join Father.”

Yes, master. OK, master. I tried to think those thoughts with a hint of sarcasm. It must’ve worked, because she laughed.

Again with the dining hall. No wonder Father was a bit thick around the middle. She sat down and looked at her plate. Not that the food was bad. She knew the cook and knew where they got the food. It was that she couldn’t eat because she felt sick.

“So, Sprog, did you enjoy yourself? Nothing like a real man letting himself—”

“Father, my name is Gella. Yet you continue to call me Sprog.” She didn’t want to hear the rest of what her father had to say. It had the chance to sound so animalistic, for the lack of a better expression. “As for last night, the promised one fell asleep. When the promised one woke up, he just left. Did not ask about anything.” How’s that for your future son-in-law?

“I have so many things to take care of, silly things slip my mind,” the promised one said.

If only I could get her to throw a punch.

She stood up. “If you will excuse me, I have some things that must be done.”

She left the room and almost ran outside the door. Yup. She was pregnant because I didn’t think it was the food. That would’ve meant that her father would be sick as well. If the food was bad, he wouldn’t have sat at the table the morning after.

She stood up and looked around. Stable hands were working with horses. The guards were exercising in the yard. The servants were doing their thing as well. Nobody was around to stop her from escaping. Yet, she didn’t. She returned to her room and lay down on the bed.

The servant returned to the room with a mug in her hand. “This will help.” She held up the mug.

She took the mug and drank the contents. Her stomach felt better. At least it wasn’t queasy anymore.

“Ma’am.” She bowed her head. “I found all the golden pearls you left in your skirt. I gave them to a jewel merchant. He looked at them and told me he would take care of them. They were too precious to leave them alone. He will return as soon as he is done.”

“I hope you’re right.”

“Yes, ma’am,” the servant said. “There is another group of visitors that will be here. I must clean the guest wing. Call me and I will come. Remember, ma’am, remember the secret passageways.” The servant almost ran out of the room.

Secret passageways? I heard about them. She went to a large wardrobe and opened the door. A slight push on the clothes to put them aside. A push here, a slide there, and two kicks later, the back opened.

Oh, that secret passageway. She did the reverse to close it. If my guess was right, she smiled as another plan came to her head.

Her stomach settled in an instant at that point. A few strokes with a hairbrush later, and she made her way to the guest wing. A woman in her position would need to see to the guest’s needs. At least provide the image that she will fill that role.

I loved this woman.

They were Father’s guests. All of them were big men with small heads. I laughed at that thought. I had to remember that one.

With that chore fulfilled, she returned to her room to sleep that night. The Promised One never showed. She thought he had plans that included other people. It didn’t matter as long as he wasn’t there.

Father never made it a point to be up so early in the morning, or in the morning at all. She used that to her advantage to find her servant. Her servant was in the laundry hall, walking around in the bathing tub.

“Ma’am.” She stepped out and reached into a pocket. “The jewel merchant found me and gave this to me.” She brought out the same wooden box I got. “He strung the pearls. He said, ‘The pearls were too precious not to be shown.’ All of them are here.” She put the box in her hand.

She nodded. “Thank you. I will never forget all that you have done.”

The servant looked towards the door and stepped back inside as quickly as she could.

Gella put them in her pocket when she heard footsteps.

She took off her shoes with plans to use the secret tunnels as her escape route. As she left the grounds, she became a dog. She had to keep going to reach Dillion.

She looked up as she came down a hill and stopped. Dillion hung from the tree, beaten, torn, and left in pieces. They found and killed him.

She felt a rope around her neck and that was when I returned to my home. I looked in the mirror again. It took a good long minute to realize that the sonofabitch was my father. Not Dillion.

The necklace was still around my neck. I rubbed it and hoped a genie would appear. Nothing happened.

Gella had to have been my mother. I felt tears run down my cheek. I cried for the first time. “These aren’t fake. They were created out of pain and longing.” I felt bad at that point for not being able to cherish them like I should have from the beginning.


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