Ah, smell the fresh school supplies and this ripe shortlist for The M.O.! Read four sneak peeks of very-short stories, based on the theme of “Lesson Learned,” then vote at the bottom for the one you'd most like to read through recess and on to The End. (We'll be posting more about all the year's malefactors at The M.O.'s Rogues' Gallery.)
- “Dinner in Paris” by Joe Henriques
- “The Outfit She Wore to Court” by Jennifer Soosar
- “Night Watchman” by A.M. Thurmond
- “Partners” by Whit Young
“Dinner in Paris” by Joe Henriques
Clarice picked up what she needed at the hardware store. Ran another quick errand at the pharmacy. And made a final stop at the Marché Bastille where she slowed her frantic pace to savor the scents, the sights, the haggling over prices one last time at her favorite outdoor market. All that remained now was to get home in time to make her boyfriend dinner.
Then kill him.
She got home by four and pressed an ice pack over the shiner beneath her eye. Didn’t hurt as much as it had the previous night, but it still stung, was still noticeable without the extra caked-on makeup. She re-applied makeup then started a red sauce with the tomatoes, garlic, herbs, and sausage she’d just purchased. The intoxicating aromas that floated through the kitchen soothed Clarice’s soul; what heaven should smell like, if she had her way. By dusk the sauce was nearly ready. She left it simmering and escaped out the back of her villa with a bottle of Bordeuax. Sat at the small bistro table on the tiled patio and looked out in the distance at the glow that was Paris. She lit a smoke and sipped wine as the sun dipped below the horizon, leaving her beloved, adopted city shimmering in raw hues of yellow and orange.
These were the moments she would miss most.
The nostalgia evaporated quickly when Phillipe’s car pulled up front….
“The Outfit She Wore to Court” by Jennifer Soosar
Tabatha paid the image consultant woman $200. That wasn’t including the cost of two pairs of shoes, one fancy jean jacket, three skirts and six tops purchased on the shopping trip. The $200 was the cost of the image consultant telling her what to buy on the shopping trip. Altogether, the price for Tabatha to look like a touch of class instead of like a deadbeat was $1,270. Worth the risk of borrowing—okay, stealing—a patient’s credit card from the convalescent home she worked janitorial at.
The image consultant took Tabatha into stores she was too intimidated to go into by herself. Places where the sales clerks behaved like girls in the popular clique at school; staring with disgust, sizing up and down, evaluating worth. Crazy—five years out of high school and still feeling like the greasy geek!
Thankfully, the image consultant—some loud-mouth named Rozlyn Searl—took command and did all the talking. All Tabatha had to do was hide out in the change room and try on the items Rozlyn threw over the curtain. They were going for the ‘professional-yet-casual look’.
“Do a show for me,” Layne ordered when Tabatha got home with the bags. “Model it.” … His fuzzy stare told Tabatha he’d been spinning again, making himself dizzy for the free high.
“Baby, that causes brain damage,” Tabatha said, at the risk of nagging again. The spinning was a fairly new thing, something Layne picked up from his buddy Chuckie who just got out of jail.
Night Watchman” by A.M. Thurmond
“Dormez bien, Monsieur Cheshire,” Judy said, winking. Sweet dreams. It's our little joke, Judy going off shift, me coming on.
Judy's got a thing for me, it's no secret. She'd take me home if I gave her a sign. I think about it from time to time. Gets a little old sleeping in the back room of the office all these years, and I ain't getting any younger. But I've got a job to do.
I yawned and stretched, relaxing a bit when I heard her key in the lock. Eight years and she's never forgotten, but it's my business to notice these things.
Thursday night and we're closed until Monday. In the old days I'd be on my own until then, but lately he's been showing up after hours. The Fucker. I used to think of him as Dr. Tooson, but that was before he started screwing people.
Used to be an okay doc, I'll give him that. A decent cancer doc with a fantastic nurse, 'cause Judy knows her stuff. When the Fucker bought this oncology practice she came with it and he got a bargain.
About a year ago the Fucker started hanging out at fancy parties with high rollers who got him into cocaine. That kind of snow takes a chunk out of the old budget, even for a specialist….
Doctor Death has figured out if he cuts the chemo drugs by just a smidge, maybe a smidge and a half, he can save a few cents.
“Partners” by Whit Young
She was carrying when she strolled into my jewelry store. The metal detector in the foyer told me about the pistol and magnetometer hinted at an automatic with a full clip. The inner door opened, I relaxed, a cop.
The sleeveless linen pantsuit didn’t hide her curves. If Rubens had been in the shop, she would have received an invitation from the artist. The voluptuous body couldn’t disguise the carriage or the awareness that said law enforcement. I have been a retired detective for decades and I can still spot officers before, “Hello.”
The sleeveless pantsuit said money and offered not one scintilla of space for a pistol. A classic Chanel bag confirmed her taste and sheltered her weapon. She was a redhead with freckled arms and face. South Beach’s sun had been kind; her glow spoke of moisturizing and controlled exposure. A woman near the peak of her powers.
She drew a business card from her bag; the scent of Chanel swirled toward me. “Are you Mr. Cooper?”
“I am, may I state for the record that you are the loveliest cop I have seen in years.” The compliment was not driven by a need to supplement my police pension. Custom tailoring and Chanel both speak to my jewelry business, which requires high-end clients.
That Irish colleen complexion allowed her to blush in way only redheads can. “I’m staying at the Setai for a forensics seminar. Captain Taylor gave me your name. Is my vocation that obvious?”
(once you pick a story, you may have to scroll inside the red window to find the Submit button)
You can vote (once, you rascals!) until midnight on Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015, and the following Friday, September 25th, we'll announce which story's been selected. Two weeks after that, we'll publish the selection here for all to enjoy!