#1 ANOTHER SCARY NIGHT
It was a dark and stormy night, so they hurried inside the casino. Joyce thanked her friends for coming to Oklahoma to celebrate her 34th birthday. They played the slots, enjoyed their dinner and cake, and sat in the hotel lobby’s comfortable chairs discussing what books they would bring to the upcoming book signing at Barnes and Noble in Springfield.
Lola told them about her fourth romance and that it will be ready in time.
Blanche won’t have a new book for the signing but her 7th Spy Novel unveiling will be a month later. She’s working on a Sci-Fi novel.
Carolyn said, “I have to tell you about my cute Children’s dog story series I just started.” She showed us her phone photo of a cute cocker spaniel named Prince. “The stories will be about his adventures with a little boy named Ken. I’m so excited about it.” She was almost bouncing in her chair.
The Sky Hawk Casino lights went out. Everyone was asked to stay seated where they were and those standing to find a seat. The management told us the generators would come on quickly.
Her friends kept talking because of nervousness in the dark casino.
A man bent over by the chair on my left side and said in my ear. “Put your jewels and cash in this bag.” He put a cloth bag in my hand.
My right hand holding the gun shoved it into his heart and I whispered. “Sit in the floor at my feet, keep your mouth shut.” He complied. His body was against the chair and his neck by my hand. The gun’s now against his neck.
Betty Jo said, “Joyce tell us about your new serial killer story.”
I said in the criminals ear. “That’s me.”
I told the group about my new book that was being introduced at the book signing. “My serial killer is a woman who hates all men. She was treated badly by a man when she was young and now is out for revenge. But her killing spree only includes men who are known for harming a woman. They are drawn to her beauty and become easy prey.
The women she saves consider her their hero. The cop who is on her trail might think of her as a hero, too.
The killer and the cop grew up in the same neighborhood and often comforted each other in the bad years. They grew apart in thinking. One decided to arrest offenders and one thought killing them was the only way.
Both had trained intensely in the martial arts and combat and learned all weapons skills.
The cop struggles with the idea of having to kill her one time friend. But she knows if it comes down to that it will be life or death and she isn’t ready to die.” Joyce ended her story information with one last line. “In order to make my books more real, I have had all of this training and I’m a top notch shooter.
Marty tell us your news.”
The guy on the floor shifted his weight and Joyce moved the gun to a better point on his neck.
The writers continued talking until the lights finally came on. Everyone around Joyce was shocked to see a man sitting at her feet with her holding a gun on him.
Joyce saw their faces and said, “When the lights went out I took the gun from my purse. This would be thief tried to rob us and I put my gun on his heart and had him sit during our conversation. Would someone call security.”
Two Security Guards arrived and handcuffed the thief. I handed them the cloth bag he had given me to put my valuables into.
The casino management dropped the gun charge because she had prevented a crime and hadn’t fired it.
The police questioned them and told them they would need to attend his trial and they would be contacted about the date. The thief was well known.
Another road trip and casino visit was in their future.
Marty asked Joyce if she was scared.
“Only that I might have to shoot him. When I put the gun to his heart he was the scared one.”
The dark and stormy night was over.
#2 Mary Gasht
It was a dark and stormy night. Clouds drifted past the full moon whose ethereal light shone through bare trees projecting eerie shadows that danced across the ground. Hooting owls and screaming coyotes sang their songs of victory over fresh kills; their offspring would eat well tonight. Fall had marched into winter and the night was crisp.
I am cold and terrified.
Hiding, I chanced a look at the decaying cabin in which I had been confined for several days or perhaps it was weeks, I wasn’t sure. Time marches at a slow pace when you are being held against your will.
When I was first brought here I had been lowered into a deep, dank well and told to be quiet or they would find me.
“Who?” I asked.
“Them.” The familiar voice of my captor replied.
“I want to go home.”
“You are home.”
Then I was given two bottles of water, a package of crackers and a bucket. I had read enough crime novels to know I had just received my dinner and a toilet.
Surrounding me were walls of hollowed out dirt held back by decaying lumber. I swallowed my fear with a sip of water. If I was going to get out of here, I could not succumb to my emotions. No one would find me, I had to come up with a plan to save myself.
Eventually, I used the bucket as a makeshift shovel to dig hand-holds into the walls of my dirt prison and climbed my way to freedom. Once above ground, I had to move fast before I was discovered missing.
Turning away from the house I ran into the forest and was caught by underbrush tripping my feet and landing on my knees. I stuffed my fingers into my mouth to stifle my cry of pain. When I forced myself to stand, warm blood ran down my legs and pooled into my sneakers. I pushed forward.
Terror filled my mind and fear pumped my legs. My throat was hoarse from gulping frigid air, my lungs were on fire, my arms and legs were shredded by tree branches and my muscles screamed for rest. Then I stumbled on the underside of a rock that laid me flat on the ground, but it wasn’t just a rock, it was an old headstone.
I brushed away the overgrowth covering the stone and read the inscription.
I gasped. I am Mary Gasht; I am thirteen.
In horror, I staggered back as flashbacks flooded my mind. Shutting my eyes, I tried to stem the flow of memories that were invading my consciousness, but it was useless.
In my mind’s eye I saw my image inside an infinity mirror with each layer reflecting different centuries going back a 1,000 years. I shook my head attempting to dislodge the visions, but they held steadfast as if bolted to my brain.
Then voices from each reflection began to speak in warning. The desperation, angst, and fear poured through the cacophony; all with the same message RUN.
I tried to move, but my feet were cemented into the ground. A dark mist swirled around me, capturing my arms against my body and holding me motionless. I tried to scream but no sound left my throat.
I somehow knew I would not be taken back to the well, instead I would be imprisoned with my former selves in the layers of the infinity mirror. The time warp that trapped me would never let my dreams be realized. My family and friends would never know of my demise. All that is me would be born to a future mother, grow to thirteen years of age and once again be forced to fight for the end of this nightmare in order to free me from this hell.
Then I found myself hovering above a hospital bed looking over my emaciated body. A woman dressed in white turned me to my side, stuffed a pillow behind my back and changed the soiled linens beneath me. When she patted my hip, my spirit returned to the dungeon of my body which suffered Locked-in Syndrome, where only eye movement was available for communication.
“There you are, sweet girl no need to worry, you are home.” said the voice of my captor.
Then she left, turning off the light, throwing me once again into the deep, dark well.
#3 The Sassy, Sexy, Senior, Sleuths Society
It was a dark and stormy night, perfect weather for the society’s meeting. Hilda
was bringing her visiting nephew, Nick, a New York police detective, so the evening was
sure to be a success.
The doorbell rang. Inviting everyone in, Agnus took hats, coats, umbrellas, and
indicated where to sit.
Taking a deep breath Agnus started, “After Irene’s excursion to an actual crime
scene last week, to which I must add, wonderful sleuthing girls! The police would have
never solved it without us.”
The members shared nods and comments of agreement, except Nick. Agnes
thought she caught a whispered comment about busy bodies.
“Ladies, ladies, please let me continue. I thought long and hard on how to top
that meeting, and I’ve done it!” A loud crack of thunder made everyone jump. “I’ve
created a murder mystery right here in my kitchen, and you’re all are going to solve it!”
Everyone burst into applause. All except Nick who shook his head and rolled his eyes.
Agnus continued, “Now ladies, your job is to discover; who he is, how he was
murdered, who did it, and why.”
Everyone was out of their seats in a flash. Nick followed behind them with mild
When Agnus reached the kitchen, the group was huddled around the body
looking for clues.
“Gotta be a fake,” Nick said helping himself to some snacks from the table.
“He has a ring. He must be married.” Mabel observed
“That’s a knife wound in his chest; he was stabbed” Hilda shared.
“I have my black light…” Irene announced, “you can now see a hand print on his
cheek! I’ll bet he was slapped.”
“I found his wallet!” Hilda exclaimed, “His name was Calvin Silas,”
“How’d you get that fake body in here?” Nick said.
“Obviously, I drug him in through the kitchen door, and. And he’s NOT fake.” Was
“What!?!” Nick coughed, choking on a cracker then crossed the kitchen trying to
get at the body. Finally, he grabbed Hilda around her middle to lift her out of the way
and set her down behind him.
“Nicolas! That’s no way to treat your auntie,” she huffed.
He started to grab for Irene but she slapped his hand away. “I’ve had both hips
replaced. You can’t be tossing an old lady around like that!”
“Sorry. Ma’am. I need you all to step aside and stop touching the body!”
Mabel’s arm was under the body “I found something!”
“Leave it where it is” Nick commanded.
“It’s a note…” Mabel waved it in the air and shared it with the others before Nick
could stop her. He knelt down to examine the body on the floor.
“This is a real body!” he exclaimed.
“That’s what I said. You can’t have a murder without a real body!” Agnus replied
“Who is he? What happened? How did he get here?”
“That’s what everyone is trying to figure out.” Agnus sighed, then whispered to
Hilda, “Is your nephew a bit slow?”
“I’m going to have to insist that you all stop touching the body and evidence!”
“We have to examine it to solve the crime.” Hilda said softly patting Nick on the
“No! We need to stop touching everything and call the police!”
“Nonsense, that’s why you’re here.” Agnus said.
“This isn’t my jurisdiction!”
“That’s okay, it’s just for fun.”
“Murder is fun?!”
“Well, real murder is terrible, of course. But this is fun.”
“This is a real murder! He’s very dead! Did you kill him?”
“No, I only stabbed him.”
“You stabbed a dead body!?”
“He said he would help me out and be our corpse?” Agnus explained.
The mystery temporarily forgotten, as everyone turned to watched the exchange
between Nick and Agnus.
“There is nothing to get upset over, dearie. This is my neighbor
“And his name is Calvin Silas?”
“No. He’s playing Calvin. His real name is Burt. He promised to be our corpse, but
he died this afternoon.”
“I’d would say a heart attack because of his bad heart.”
Irene Interjected, “She should know, she’s a retired nurse.”
“ Everybody knows Burt always keeps his promises.” Hilda added.
“So, then what?”
“I brought him here, cleaned him up, washed his clothes, redressed him, stabbed
him and placed the clues.”
Hilda put a reassuring arm around her nephew, “Nick, honey, there is nothing to
be upset over.”
“Why me” Nick moaned with his head in his hands shaking it from side to side.
#4 Haker Na
It was a dark and stormy night. It was a cold night. I go back in time to that dreaded night. The wind, howling through the trees, is all I hear. I walk the winding path, alone, through the trees. Their branches seem to reach for me. Above, clouds move by and obscure the moon with their black and grey shapes. I have an uneasy feeling as I glance around, that I am being followed. The clouds break, and ahead in the moonlight I see the faint shape of an ancient stone house, in ruins and deserted. As I come closer a dim glow from a window tells me someone is inside. I knock.
"Come in. I've been expecting you, for a long time. I've been waiting for you. You shouldn't be out there on a night like this."
A squall of wind whines, beating on the weathered windows as the heavy door closes behind me. A low fire in a massive stone hearth casts flickering shadows on the dimly lit walls.
"Do you think it's out there?" I ask. He doesn't reply.
"It's just the wind," I answer myself, "trying to get in."
"Sit down," and he motions to a heavy Celtic table next to the fire. "From the cellar I brought up a bottle of wine, just for us." You gaze at the bottle, old and stained, sitting on the table. Strange symbols are written on it. Next to the bottle is a wooden platter with a loaf of bread, brown and crusty.
"I baked it on the hearth, just for us." An oil lamp is on the table. In its flickering light I see what appeared to be a pile of carved stones on the table.
"Please sit down.” I hesitate, staring at the stones. “I found them buried in the cellar. "It's all about him, you know, the beast that rends and devours. They've stabbed him again and again, but they can't kill him. No one can."
I sit down and pick up a stone and hold it to the lamp's light.
"I think these rocks know things,” he says. I turn my head and our eyes meet. "I think they are alive," he whispers. "Do you think it's possible for stones to be alive?"
"You see it too, don't you, that glow,” he says. “I've sat here a long time watching. At times the stones move by themselves. I've heard voices, whispers, and I’ve heard screams. At times they flicker like dim lightning. I've heard rumblings, thunder maybe, or maybe the raging sea. Don't be frightened. But be careful, very careful, how you touch the pieces. They can burn."
"This is why I brought you here, to show you this stone," he says. I slowly turn the stone. "Look closely. What do you see? Evil? Yes, evil. You see hatred, murder, hypocrisy, and lust. Look again. Do you see her? She's beautiful, isn't she. That's her name, Beautiful. Do you see those men? They're going to burn her alive. Look closely at her. Do you see that light coming from within her?"
Suddenly I jerk your head around. My mind must be playing tricks. The dying, glowing embers of the hearth are casting strange shapes on the penumbral rock walls. Hideous creatures appear and disappear. I hear voices, or is it the wind? I turn back to the stones, stained dark with the smoke of a thousand fires. But in my mind, dripping blood is what I see.
"Why, why, doesn't the stone fit? I asked myself over and over long before you came. It should fit into the puzzle, but it doesn’t. But it must. I consulted with the dead. Does that bother you? They are the high priests of darkness. They told me the puzzle means nothing. They told me the stone means nothing. They told me to burn, crush, and destroy the puzzle. I think they lied to me. Do you think they lied to me? They say it’s not alive. But the stones speak and tell me about the dead. It may speak to you. Ask the stone.”
Seconds pass. I touch a knob on the stone. I hear an echo, "Haker Na". I see the woman again and the men about to burn her. Suddenly, she turns her head and her eyes meet mine. She holds out something in her hand. “Haker Na, do you remember?” I shudder. I tremble at the truth. I had ordered her death.
#5 The Thrill of the Kill
It was a dark and stormy night when my life of causing nightmares came back to haunt me. It was early morning when someone started banging on my trailer door. Even through the noise cancelling headphones it roused me out of my dreams. Damn it. It hadn’t been that long ago I’d gone to bed, had it?
I opened it to find the second assistant director standing in the cold rain with a horrified look on his face. Something was wrong. Tyler was always happy. He’d shown up at the casting call to audition for the part of the serial killer, and the director loved his energy, but he was wrong for the part, so he offered him the second AD position. He was ecstatic, and he was doing a great job. Everybody loved him. He was great for morale. He was like a golden retriever puppy on steroids, but right now he looked like someone just killed his cat. And he was wet.
“Oh, thank god you’re not dead.”
“Not dead?” I motioned him in, confused about the comment, and grabbed a dish towel from the counter, then realized he was going to need something bigger, so I retrieved a towel from the closet next to the bathroom. Tyler started drying off without saying a word. Seriously? “Okay, man, are you going to tell me what you meant by your comment or am I going to have to guess.”
“They’re dead,” he spit out like he was about to throw up.
“All of them. And if I were you, I’d lock the door.”
The kid wasn’t making any sense, but the look on his face made me reach over and lock the door anyway.
“Okay, sit down and start from the beginning.”
He rubbed his hands down his wet jeans as he sat. Sirens broke through the silence that had descended between us, and red and blue flashing lights lit up the trailer. Dread began to spread like an itchy rash through my body. What he was suggesting just couldn’t be possible. I both didn’t want to know but needed him to tell me. “Once we finished wrapping up your scene, I went to get Willow for hers, while everyone got set up, but she didn’t answer when I got to her trailer. I thought maybe she had just stayed on set because I had seen her and the others milling around earlier. I called her, but she didn’t pick up, so I called Greg who said he hadn’t seen her, but he’d check around the set. Hailee was setting up lighting for the scene and found her. She’d been stabbed. They all have. Just like in the movie.”
The knot in my gut expanded. “Why didn’t anyone call me?”
“We did. Check your phone. That’s why I came over here.”
There were five missed calls from the crew. I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t hear the calls. My scenes had been primarily at night, and I hadn’t slept much. I had gotten off early, so I went straight to my trailer, stuck the headphones on, and crashed.
Banging on the door startled both of us. I peeked out the window even though, logically, I knew the killer wouldn’t knock. Two officers waited as I opened the door. I smiled. They didn’t. Okay.
“We’d like to ask you some questions about the events of this evening.”
“Sure. Come in.” The two officers stepped inside. One had a plastic bag in his hand.
“I’m going to leave, so you guys have more room,” Tyler said as he pushed past and headed down the metal steps.
“Who was that?”
“Tyler Trammel, our second assistant director.” They added his name to a pad of paper.
I offered them a seat on the sofa but neither took it. One launched into questions. The other looked around.
“Can you account for your whereabouts today?”
“Yeah. On set most of the evening.”
“When were you at the house?”
“I wasn’t. I was up the street filming.”
“We have someone who says you were.”
“Could have been a stuntman.”
“So, this isn’t yours?” He pulled my blood-tinged costume and mask from the bag. And it didn’t look like fake blood.
“Yeah. There are several in the costume trailer.”
“How about this,” the other officer said as he pulled a bloody butcher knife from under the sofa.
Everything clicked into place. I was screwed.
Honorable Mention, J C Fields
#6 Into the Darkness
It was a dark and stormy night.
For the past month, low hanging, gun metal gray clouds swirled and raced across the sky driven by strong winds out of the northwest. When it grew dark, the rains would commence and last until dawn. God only knew what type of contaminants the water contained.
Over the past three days, the landscape began to displayed a monotone redness, like rust forming on every surface.
I watched the rain from a window in the small cabin where I stood. I knew not the date. My guess, fall. The days were growing shorter as our supplies dwindled. Water was plentiful, as long as you boiled it. Overcast skies barely allowed the solar panels to produce enough electricity to last until early morning.
I turned to my companion, who, like myself, had retreated to our location to shelter from the unrelenting rain. “How much of a charge did the batteries get?”
She drew the blanket tighter around her shoulders. “Less than yesterday.”
“Do you think it’s raining like this everywhere, Noah?”
“I wish I knew. I thought being here in the mountains would put us above the rain. If it is raining at this elevation, no telling what is going on below.
“In other words, we’re trapped.”
Turning back to the window, I sighed. “I believe we are, Tara.” After a short pause, I realized something. “I haven’t heard any birds for a while. Have you?”
“Come to think about it, no. In fact, I haven’t heard the sound of any creatures. Do you think the toxic rain has affected them?”
“Gawd, I hope it’s not that toxic.” I turned and walked out the back door to see how much firewood remained in the covered porch. Off in the distance, muffled by the downpour, I heard an unearthly scream.
Tara appeared at the back door. “Noah, what was that?”
Staring into the darkness, I shook my head. “No idea, but it didn’t sound human.”
The shriek returned, only closer this time.
I turned to her, “Make sure the front door is secure. I’ll get more firewood inside and then secure the back.”
We heard the unholy cry two more times as it grew closer. The only light came from the fireplace after I had extinguished the lantern. She sat next to me, a blanket covering our shoulders. My Remington shotgun across my lap. “You never told me your last name.”
In the dim illumination, she smiled. “I didn’t?”
“No, you’ve been here a week and never mentioned it.”
“I’m not sure it matters, but it’s McNeil.”
“Nice to know, mine’s Adams.” I paused for a moment. “Why were you up here?”
“I thought being this high in the mountains, I might escape the turmoil below.”
“I had the same idea. This is my grandfather’s hunting cabin. It’s been in the family for over fifty years. Looks like I might be the last of the clan to use it.”
“Glad I stumbled upon it. Thanks for taking me in.”
“You’re welcome. I’ve enjoyed the company.”
We heard the unearthly scream again. This time it seemed to be just outside the cabin.
She whispered, “What is it?”
I raised the shotgun toward the front door. “Maybe a wounded mountain lion.”
Heavy foot falls could be heard outside the sturdy entrance. We could see it shudder as whatever was out there tried to enter. Tara encircled her arms around my waist and buried her face against my shoulder. We both remained quiet. Silence dominated, again.
The sound of a heavy downpour surrounded the cabin. I heard a sudden crash at the back door as the creature attacked the entrance to the covered porch. A blood curdling howl assaulted our ears.
She whispered, “It’s at the back.”
“It acts human. It knew we had another entrance.” Standing, I aimed the shotgun toward the sound.
The door shook as the creature bellowed. I held the gun tight as the entry crashed inward. At the same moment, I pulled the trigger. The image of what, at one time had been a man, became forever sheared in my mind. The creature fell back and out of the cabin onto the ground.
We watched as the downpour seemed to melt the skin away as it lay there. Who the unfortunate being might have been at one time, we will never know. But it’s death, gave us a glimpse of what might lay ahead for us.
2nd Place Winner
#7 Fun With Dick and Jane
It was a dark and stormy night. Two twelve year olds, Dick and Jane were wet, scared, tired and cold.
They kept moving into a night as dark as India ink. They could only take a step forward when lightning flashed. Weeds tore at their legs and wind blew so hard it pushed water into their eyes with such force even the lightning seemed as dim as a flashlight.
They had no idea if the killers had followed them.
They knew their Aunt Joyce lived on the other side of the woods. They ran out of the house accompanied by the screams of their mother and the sounds of the gun shots they saw rip through their father’s chest.
Momentarily the rain stopped. Dick pulled his twin sister under a tree. “What do you think happened back there? Think Mom and Dad are both dead?” She buried her head in her brother’s shoulder.
“Of course they are dead, but why?”
Dick, always the adult, said, “I’d say it was a robbery. I saw that bald headed man take Dad’s watch. The tall guy had a bag and he was throwing some of Mom’s things into it.”
Jane stood back and looked at Dick. “Do you think they knew we were in the house?”
“Hard to say,” he answered, “I hope not. I think it depends on how long they stayed and what they saw before they left. The cake dishes were in the sink and our iPads were on my bed.”
Jane began to cry. It was difficult for Dick to understand her words through her sobs. “Do you have any idea where we are?”
Lightning split the sky horizontally. It was the most light they’d had since they left their home. “I’m almost sure Aunt Joyce’s house it right over there.” He pointed to the north.
The rain seemed to be over, the sky lightened up and the kids found the path to their aunt’s house.
They ran to the front porch and were going to ring the doorbell when Dick grabbed Jane’s hand and pulled her back. “Look, it’s the men from our house.”
“They are talking loud. I think I can catch most of it,” Dick said
One of the men said, “Just pay us and we will get out of here.”
Their aunt asked, “Where are those incorrigible children?”
The short man pointed outside. “We heard them take out the back door. Hopefully they were struck by lightning.”
“Gentleman, don’t speak ill of the heirs to twenty million dollars. Especially to their new guardian.”
The kids ran back towards the woods. Once they were clear of the house Jane said, “Did you hear that? She had Mom and Dad killed. For MONEY.”
“She’s the one that should be dead.” Dick yelled angerly.
With dread and heads hung low, they trudged back toward the house where their mother and father lay in pools of blood in the living room.
Jane called 9 1 1 and within minutes sirens wailed in the distance. The closer the sounds came, the more upset the kids were and the more real the murder of their parents became.
Hours later when they’d told what they knew about the crime and how they went to their aunt’s and the killers were there.
When asked if they heard or saw anything while they looked in the window at Joyce’s house.
They both looked down at their feet. With the proper inflections they each said they heard nothing but knew they should leave and come back to their own home.
They were escorted to the back of a squad car after extensive questions about what they saw and heard.
A detective, Nathan Mars, told them they would call their aunt and have her come get them.
After what seemed like hours the man returned with a sad demeaner and tone. “Sorry to lay anymore on you kids, but your aunt is dead. We don’t know what happened but we will find out.
“Meanwhile, we have called the Division of Family Services. They are taking you somewhere safe. We will continue to find more of your family members.” He turned away and slowly turned back. “I’m sorry about your parents and about your aunt.”
Dick and Jane sat quietly and studied their feet.
Once the cop was well out of sight and sound, the kids smiled at one another.
#8 The Storm
It was a dark and stormy night in early November. It wasn’t just any kind of storm though; this was one of the rare “thunderstorm turned tornado turned snowstorms” that occasionally rock the lower Midwest.
All was well when my twins, Ian and Arista got off the bus from school. We were clearing the dinner dishes when the weather alert radio went off, warning us about an imminent thunderstorm and potentially high winds. “Mom, do you think we will have a tornado?” Ian asked.
“Not in November you goof”, Arista chided.
“Not so fast honey, it has happened before.” I said.
The weather showed the leading edge was green and yellow. No harm there. Behind it and advancing at a steady pace was an orange, red and purple mass. That was more troublesome. As I stopped to watch I heard the weatherman issue a stern warning to the people three counties to the west of us to “go immediately to your tornado shelter, if you live in a mobile home please leave at once and seek shelter…”
Ian turned to face me with a most concerned expression and said “mom, this is bad.” I replied, “Yeah honey, it’s not good but we will be fine. This is a very sturdy house. Now go on to bed I promise to wake you if there is a problem”. Ian bade me goodnight and reluctantly headed off to bed.
My daughter was still standing there staring at me.
“Why is he such a dweeb about storms?” she asked.
“Don’t be too hard on your brother, I’m not sure why he frets over storms. I have asked but he won’t explain it, maybe he doesn’t even know,” I replied.
She plopped down on the arm of the couch, apparently the concept of it being her bedtime too was lost to her. “You are going to chant the storm aren’t you momma?” she asked, although it came across more like a directive. My daughter is kind of pushy.
“Yes, my darling girl, I will be up working on the storm, but you will be in bed,” I said.
I pictured white light infusing my being as I took several deep breaths and lit a white candle from the little drawer under the family altar. Satisfied that the candle was safely in its little sconce I proceeded out onto the deck on the south side of the house and began the chant.
The rain smacked me in the face when I opened the door, unusual on a covered deck. Lightning lit the sky from west to east, a glow that hung for a long moment. Stunned at the sight of the darkest, most angry looking rolling clouds I had ever seen I stumbled over my words. I hear, despite roar of thunder, the little voice, the one that says, “Fen get your head out’a your butt!” (You were expecting something sweeter, angelic even. I’m pretty sure that’s my great granny’s voice reaching from Beyond and she had a potty mouth).
I set my feet, raised my arms, palms up and looked straight into that storm. Granny had taught me this was important, “you must look that storm in the face, it won’t listen if you cower behind a rock, you must be the rock baby girl”.
A particularly strong gust of wind knocked me off balance, but I kept my chant going, I could feel the familiar energy begin to surge within and around me. Then my vision changed. I no longer saw the storm from the outside looking up, I was seeing it from the inside looking out. I hear the little voice say “yes, that is the way baby girl”. The storm was still raging, but it was changing too, and it was remarkably quiet. Slowly, my vision returned to normal. The angry rolling had stopped, it was still pouring rain.
My skin tingled and I felt so light, yet perfectly grounded to the earth. I knew that I could stop chanting. I spoke heartfelt thanks to the Universal Spirit. Movement out of the corner of my eye showed me Arista peering out the window, her eyes were as wide as saucers. I couldn’t be mad at her right then; I was too exhilarated and grateful for the grace that settled the raging behemoth storm down.
Suddenly aware that I was cold and soaking wet I went indoors and headed for a hot shower and some dark chocolate. My pillow was calling me.
#9 Nightcaps and Nightshade
It was a dark and stormy night when I met him. Leaning against the breakroom counter, He blocked access to the coffee.
“Excuse me,” I said.
He grinned. “Sorry.”
“I’m Grace Sanders. You must be the new sergeant.”
“Levi Cornell, but you can call me Sarge.”
I took a healthy gulp of coffee as lighting flashed.
“You’re the overnight dispatcher?”
“I’m the records clerk, but we’re short-handed tonight.” I yawned. “I’m usually in bed by now.”
His radio crackled, and I returned to dispatch.
When my shift finally ended, I stood under the awning, preparing myself for the dash to my car in the pounding rain.
“Here,” Sarge opened an umbrella, startling me. “I’ll walk you to your car.”
I smiled. “Thanks.”
Months passed with only brief interactions until one morning when I found him in my office.
“I need your help. Would you see what you can find about deaths involving poison for me? Any unsolved deaths, too. I feel like I’m missing something.”
“The past fifty years.”
“I’m following a hunch. I believe we’ve had a serial killer for a long time.”
“What makes you think so?”
“Levi, are you back here?” a female voice called.
“In Records, Aunt Sue.”
An older woman sauntered into my office, ignoring me.
“There you are. Ready for breakfast?”
“Just finishing up.”
The woman raked her gaze over me for the first time. “You must be the new girl. I’m Sue MacAlister, Levi’s aunt. I was the head dispatcher here for years.”
I forced a smile. “Grace Sanders. I’ve worked here for ten years.”
Eyes narrowing, she turned a saccharine smile to Sarge. “You promised me a special breakfast.”
He nodded to me as Sue cooed like a pigeon.
Shortly before my shift ended, Sarge knocked on my office door.
“Can I come in?”
“Sure.” I cleared my throat. “Here’s what I found today. Since 1972, there have been twenty people die by poisoning or under mysterious circumstances. Interestingly, they were all members of the same gardening club.”
“Cedar Junction Garden Club.”
“Aunt Sue was president of that group for several years,” he whispered. “How did you make the connection?”
“I read the obituaries. Each of them mentioned the club.”
My stomach growled.
“I’m only working a couple hours to fill a staffing gap tonight. How about I take you to dinner, and we can discuss this further?”
I smiled. “Sounds good.”
“Great. Pick you up at seven?”
“Yeah. See you then.”
Sarge knocked at seven sharp.
“Hi,” I said.
“Ready to go?”
I nodded, grabbing my purse.
Over pizza, we discussed our theories.
“I have several of the crime scenes marked on a map at home. Want to see it?” he asked.
“It might put things in perspective.”
As soon as I entered his house, Sue was glaring at me from the couch.
“Grace, is it?”
I smiled. “Nice to see you again.”
“We’ll be in the study,” Sarge said.
“Oh!” I was startled by cat rubbing my leg. “Who’s this?”
Sarge grinned. “Missy, my buddy.”
Missy circled my legs as I studied his map.
“They’re all in the center of town. Close to the garden club.”
“Let’s ask Aunt Sue about the club.”
We joined her in the living room.
“We’d like to ask you about your club.”
“What about it?”
“Was there bad blood, arguments, that type of thing?” he asked.
“Just curious,” Sarge said.
She stood. “Nightcap?”
My spine tingled. “No thanks.”
“Maybe one,” Sarge replied.
Sue marched into the kitchen and retuned with three cocktails.
I raised my glass, sniffing. There was a faint whang. As Sarge raised his glass to take a drink, I panicked, knocking his glass away.
Liquid pooled on the floor where Missy was quick to sniff it. Recoiling with a hiss, her hackles raised.
“They’re poisoned,” I said.
“Nonsense!” Sue shouted.
Sarge walked to the closet, grabbing his tactical bag. He poured my drink into an evidence vial.
As they argued, I went to the kitchen, examining every surface. I found green powder on a cutting board where something had been crushed. Opening a Cool Whip container, I gasped.
“Sarge, you need to see this.”
He stomped into the kitchen, a firm grasp on his aunt’s upper arm.
I gestured to the container. “Green Easten Black Nightshade berries. Highly toxic to humans.”
Her eyes narrowed. “They were out to get me, just like your uncle. They had to go.”
1st Place Winner, Lois Curran
#10 Alone and Scared
It was a dark and stormy night.
The wind roared and rattled the shutters, the sound causing gooseflesh to stand erect on Tina’s forearms. She hunkered down under a blanket, praying the storm would pass by soon. Lightning zig-zagged through the townhouse, making the hallway look eerie. A loud clap of thunder vibrated the window, and she jumped.
That sound made every hair on the back of her neck stand up. A palm flew to her mouth. Was someone in her bedroom?
Good grief! Get a grip. How could someone be in here?
Not my imagination. Someone is in the other room.
Fear grew claws, then she shot from the sofa and pushed through the door, her phone glued to her ear. Rain battered her face, while tears intermingled with the downpour, and she could barely see two feet in front of her.
She punched in 911, her breath coming in ragged bursts.
“What’s your emergency?’ a calm voice asked.
“I think someone is in my townhouse.” She rattled off her address.
“Are you in there now?”
“No. In my car.”
“Help will be there in 5 minutes.”
A bolt of lightning illuminated a dark figure darting out of her front door and she dropped her cell.
Oh my gosh, someone was in my apartment.
But how did they get in? Must have already been there when she got home from work. And that had been over an hour ago. A shiver crawled up her spine, while she cranked the ignition.
Staccato lightning illuminated the sky, splitting the heavens open, while she slammed the gear into reverse.
Thump, thump. Her vehicle only inched backward.
Okay, just get out of the car and see what’s going on.
She pushed open the door and her startled breath rushed into her lungs, letting the cold wind enter her entire body. She hugged herself to ward off a chill.
Both back tires flat. An ice pick protruded from the whitewall on the right one.
Rain washed over her and dripped down in plashes around her feet. A hard fist of urgency punched her in the gut, uprooting her, and she threw open the trunk and palmed the tire iron.
Just when her hand found the driver’s door handle, she felt a presence behind her. She turned and a figure dressed in black sweats and a ski mask grabbed her shoulders. A shiver crawled up her spine. Who is this maniac? And why is he focused on me?
When she twisted to the side, he grabbed her arm and pulled her toward him as easily as if she were a child. Something sharp sliced into her side while the downpour pelted her face. Fear encompassed her, smelling like death. He’s going to kill me.
Suddenly epinephrine soared through her, preparing her body for the fight-or-flight response. She sucked in a breath, and swung the tire wrench like her life depended on it.
Her weapon connected and he buckled, but didn’t go down. Unbelievable. She’d smacked his kneecap and heard it crack, but there he stood, eyes shooting daggers through that blasted ski mask.
“Nice try,” he said.
That voice, she thought. I’ve heard it before. She raised the tire tool again but he snatched it from her in a split second and threw it to the ground.
“Okay, now you’re gonna die.”
A deep guttural snicker, barely audible, escaped his throat and a switch flipped on in her memories.
She knew who this fiend was. Jeff Richards, her ex. After six months his open-handed slaps across her face had turned to fists and she knew she had to escape his abuse. She’d had to get a restraining order to keep him away and he had sworn he would make her sorry for leaving him.
She’d moved to a gated community after he broke the order and nearly killed her. He had served a year in county after that episode and she thought he’d given up on his revenge tenacity. Apparently not.
All at once headlights hit her face, blinding her for a second. A police car pulled to a stop and two uniformed officers jumped out, guns drawn.
Jeff tried to run, but thanks to her handy lug wrench he didn’t make it far before the cops grabbed him.
He raised a clenched fist toward the lawman.
“Don’t even think about it.” The officer tapped his Ruger 38. “Now hands behind your back.” She watched the man in blue snap handcuffs on her stalker.
“Are you okay, miss?” cop two asked.
“I think so.” She placed a hand on her side. “I think he stabbed me.”
“An ambulance is on the way,” he said and took her arm. “Let’s get you in the squad car. You’re soaked.”
And that was the last words she heard before blackness overtook her and she fell forward.
3rd Place Winner, Conetta Taylor
#11 Dark, Dark and DARK!
It was a dark and stormy night, yet Letitia didn’t care. In fact, it was part of her inspiration for the deed. Shane, her husband of twenty-four years, purposely ticked her off by doing the opposite of anything she asked of him. He was acting obnoxious around the house, around her friends and she drew a line. A bold black line with scary Halloween faces on it.
By leaving the toilet up, he crossed that line, and she wasn’t going to take it anymore. After all, no one should worry about falling in the toilet in the middle of the night. A serious infringement in a long-standing relationship. Shane deserved the consequences of his actions.
Yes, it was a dark and stormy night when she dashed outside to his car and turned the headlights on. She came in, set the coffee pot to brew. Then casually she walked into the living room and said, “Huh! Look at that.”
“Look at what?” Shane asked.
“Nothing. Not that you would care, anyway.” She went back into the kitchen.
“Letty! Why didn’t you tell me my headlights were left on? You just want me to go out there in the morning and not be able to start my truck!” He slipped his shoes on. “It’s storming outside! Thanks a lot, ole gal.” He slipped his raincoat on, grabbed an umbrella and headed out.
Letitia followed him to the door and locked it, and turned off the porch light. Hurriedly, she made sure all doors were locked and turned off the automatic garage door opener.
“That’ll teach you to change your attitude about me. Stay outside in the storm tonight.” She sat in her recliner and put her feet up.
Thunder rolled, lightning flashed, rain poured.
Shane rang the doorbell, pounded on the door and yelled, “Unlock this door!”
She did nothing of the kind. He caused her to fall into the toilet in the middle of the night. Let him swirl in the wind and rain. She turned off the lamp and went to bed.
The night was very quiet. No grumbles, no snoring. No more hollering to be let inside. No doorbell ringing. Why did Shane stop trying to get inside? She peeked out the bedroom window. His truck was gone.
Oh great! She hadn’t considered he had the keys to his truck. Where would he go? There were a couple open twenty-four hours a day stores in town. He’d probably come home with a bunch of stuff they don’t need.
The next morning a soft knock on the door caught her attention. She looked outside the window. Nobody was there. So, she went out and walked around the yard and driveway. The truck was still gone.
She did notice a tarp at the corner of the house. Pulling the corner back she saw a dirty shovel, a used roll of duct tape, rope and a couple large dark trash bags. Inside one trash bag was a gun. She picked up the gun. Then noticed a folded sheet of paper rested in the midst of it all.
“What is this?”
Letitia unfolded and read the note.
“As per your orders the deed is done, Letitia. It will be years before they find the body. Here are the supplies I did not need to use. Please don’t kill me, too. I promise to do as you say.”
A disturbing fear crossed her mind. Then she laughed. Shane always did have a sick sense of humor. She’d find another way to teach him a lesson, after this.
She heard sirens heading down her street. A police car blocked her driveway. More arrived. Several officers approached her.
“Ma’am, put the gun down and raise your hands so we can see them.”
Shane was taking his practical joke way too far. She laughed harder and lowered the gun to the tarp and put her hands on her head.
She was handcuffed.
“I don’t know what all this is, especially the gun, but this has to be supplies for a garden.”
“What about the note?” A detective asked.
“I have no idea,” she said.
“Do you recognize this man?” The detective showed her a picture of a dead body.
She shook her head. “No!” She closed her eyes.
“This is all some stupid practical joke my husband is playing on me,” she screamed.
“Why? Where did it start?”
“It began when my husband refused to lower the toilet seat....