Friday, March 14, 2014

The (Again) Return of Flash Fiction

And I'm back!

Yeah, long time without posting...or writing.  No excuses.  Regardless of my lack of ability to stick with continually writing, I did finally manage to sit myself down and dive into one of Chuck Wendig's Flash Fictions Challenges.  Found here.

It was one of my favorites prompts, taking items from a list (or two in this case) and using them as story elements.  I've had the idea in my head for awhile of a detective who finds a dead body in his office, so it was easy to adapt that into two characters.  Actually made it easier since they could play off each other.

It's still a bit rough in terms of some grammar issues, but I'm really happy with the general flow and pacing.  And the characters of course.  And with a word limit of 1500 instead of the normal 1000 I got to play with it a bit more.  There are some particular things I was focusing on for each of the characters, but especially for Don and John so I'd love feedback on how they came across.  Enjoy.

B & B - The Skinner

“Ok,” he sighed. “Tell me that’s not what I think it is?”
            Don Baugmann looked around the office confirming that everything was just as he’d left it last night.
            “If you think it’s a dead body then you’re right.  And I think it’s staining the carpet.”
            Everything, that is, except the bloody corpse in the middle of the room.
            “Thank you John, what I meant is why is it here?
            “Most likely to send us a message.  Who have we pissed off recently?” John asked, stepping around the body into the office kitchenette.
            Don closed the office door, the stenciling ‘Baugmann & Baugmann: Private Detectives’ mirrored on the glass, and crossed the room to his desk.
            “Who haven’t we pissed off is the better question.” Dropping into his seat he put his head in his hands and muttered, “God dammit I hate Mondays.”
            He looked up when John handed him a cup of coffee.
            “It’s Thursday.”  John said.
            Don took a long drink before answering, appreciating the burn of the hot caffinee.
“Thursdays are for wrapping up any big projects of the week so that they don’t monopolize your Fridays and, god forbid, spill into the weekend.”  He pointed at the corpse, “We came to work, early no less, and found that little gift waiting for us.  That makes this a Monday!”
“I’ll phone the station and get Michaels and his crew over here to remove it.”  John smiled, “Why don’t you look at our recent leads and see if this doesn’t tie back to anyone.”
Don finished his coffee and began a more thorough examination of the office.  Michaels would be irritated, and irritating, enough just coming this far out from the station, might as well appease the man by doing some of his work for him,
Not that there was much work to do.  Their office was small, partly by choice but mostly by necessity.  Their clients typically paid more in good will than in good credit.  Searching showed no signs of a break-in, the locks on the windows and door hadn’t been tampered with.  The only disturbance to the normal quiet atmosphere of the room was the body itself.
“So we’re dealing with a dead body in a locked room.”  Don muttered as he crouched to examine it.
Face down with a congealed pool of red staining their tan, ‘Beige, it’s beige Don.’ ‘Yes John, thank you!’ carpeting.
Don took photos of the body; male, five foot ten, looks about one-sixty to one-seventy, nondescript clothes, to pass on to Michaels then rolled it face up to take pictures for ID.
‘Huh, that’s a new one.’  “John?”  Don called out.
“Yes?” John looked up from the phone.
“Does it count as face up if the body doesn’t have a face?”

Leaving John behind to handle Michaels, Don went looking for one of their more reliable contacts.  Jessie, frequent snitch and chronic abuser, was exactly where Don expected to find him.  Face down in an alleyway buried under trash.
Don nudged Jessie to wake him up, absolutely not kicking him.
Jessie's answering groan of pain was probably just caused by whatever he was crashing from.
"H-Hey boss."  Jessie sat up, bloodshot eyes blinking away the light.  "What's up?"
"Didn't John set you up with a room in a clinic?"
"Yeah, yeah he set it up."  Jessie trailed off.
"But you weren't interested."
"Did you actually have a question?  Because if you could just step to the left and block the light that'd be great."
Don sighed, pulling Jessie to onto unsteady feet.  "John and I need you to ask around about something."  He explained the situation at the office.  "Let us know if there's been any disappearance, any bodies found killed the same way, or if-"
"Boss, I know how to do my job.  But," Jessie glanced around quickly, "But if you could front me some cash..."
Don pulled a pack of cigs out of his coat.  "How about I get you a cup of coffee, and we go from there."  He said, lighting one and handing the rest of the pack to Jessie.
Confident that Jessie would find at least enough rumors for a solid lead Don headed back to the office.  He could hear the argument from the stairwell.
‘Surprised I couldn’t hear Michaels from the street.’ he thought.
            “This room is a crime scene!  I demand you unlock those files.”  Michaels blustered, red-faced and utterly failing to make an impression on John, who was in front of the filing cabinet in the office corner.  Leaning casually against it as if that was the most comfortable spot in the room.
            Not that there was space to stand anywhere else.  Michaels had brought an entire forensics team with him, who were currently very busy doing anything except watch their Lieutenant lose his composure in front of a couple of P.I.s
“Those are private files regarding our clients, detective.”  John said.  “If anything is missing we’ll inform you.”
“You’ll understand if I don’t take any comfort from the Bagmen Brothers,” deliberately mispronouncing the name. “But you two are persons of interest in my investigation.  How can I trust anything you say?”
            “We’re not brothers.”  Don grumbled as he flicked the butt of his smoke into the potted plant by the door.  Ignoring John’s glare, ‘It’s just a plant John, relax.’ Then the rest of Michaels’ comment sank in.
            “Investigation?”  John eyed the stain where the body had lain, “So there’s been more murders like this one?”
            Michaels drew himself up to all his quivering glory.  “That is Police.  Business.” He hissed the words.
            “And our files for our clients are our business.”  Don crossed the room in a step and filled Michaels’ personal space the way the fat man filled the office.  Staring down at him Don said, “Your team is ready to leave now, aren’t they.”
            It wasn’t a question.
Ten minutes later found the office much calmer and with significantly more elbow room.
“Well?”  Don asked as John got out the cleaning supplies and started on the carpet.
“His main concern was our case files,” John said.  “He barely acknowledged the body.”
“Why do we have to call him?”
“Because he’s the lead detective of the homicide office…Somehow.” 
“Asshole probably placed the body himself.”  Don muttered.
“You know he’s not a crooked cop, we’ve exposed plenty of those.”
“Yeah, he’s just a bad one.”
“Regardless, what’s our plan?”
“Jessie is sniffing rumors for us but I figure we can hit up some of our other sources, see what they cough up.”
“Figuratively I’m sure.”
“To start with.”
John left the cleaning solution to sink into the stain as they locked up. ‘Not that it seems to matter.’
As they were heading down the stairs Don felt his phone vibrate.
The text from Jessie was direct for once.  “Bad news.  6 other kills.  No faces.  Hired nutcase.  Can I get paid now?”
“We need to talk to DeSarno.”  Don said.

“Well hello boys, thank you for coming.”  DeSarno gestured with his cigar, “Please, have a seat.”
Don let himself get shoved into a seat at DeSarno’s booth.  “Well after your goon squad was so gentle patting us down how could we say no.”
“I like that we didn’t need a reservation.”  John smirked.
“It’s almost like we’re VIPs.”
“If I didn’t know better I’d say DeSarno likes us.”
“And if I didn’t know better,” DeSarno cut in with a glare, “I’d say that B & B was a comedy duo.  But I can’t say I’m amused by the P.I.s who’ve damaged my business as much as you have.”
“Hard to avoid that,” John said.  “Seeing as how you bought half the police department.”
“The stupid half.” Don added.
“Be that as it may,” DeSarno ground his teeth. “What brings you here today.”
“We’re curious about a string of rather disturbing murders.”  Don said.
“And the fact that the victims are all being connected to us.”  Said John.
“A bunch of corpses with their faces removed?”
“One being left in our office to boot.”
“So we were just wondering if you might know anything.”
“Since this seems like the work of a professional.”
DeSarno went pale, “Their faces have been removed?”
Don nodded.

“You boys might want to hide,” DeSarno took a long, shaky drag from his cigart.  “It sounds like the Skinner is in town.”

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