I do it because I can – flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig

Ah, the first flash fiction challenge for the new year from Chuck. Our assignment: to pick a random pic from Flicker and use it as inspiration for a short story of 1,000 words. I have to admit I went slightly over the 1,000 but just a smidge:

Untitled by Greg Pths https://www.flickr.com/photos/greg-pths/24075149811
Untitled by Greg Pths https://www.flickr.com/photos/greg-pths/24075149811


I do it because I can

She looked almost alive, swathed in veils and satin in her simple coffin. Like a princess. Ironic, since her killer left her on the side of the road, naked, bruised and obscenely posed for all to see. With a note clutched in her hand that read; “I do it because I can.”

Her grandmother told me in broken English that it was a custom from her home country – to send the loved one dressed in their best, to Heaven. After what had happened, I wondered how the woman still believed in Heaven. Eyes closed, prayer beads rattling between nervous fingers, her lips moved in silent prayer. Her silver hair glistened in the flickering candlight making her as much of a spectre as her dead granddaughter.

I sat in the back row and watched as mourners came and went. Some cried at the coffin, others crossed themselves defensively, lest the same thing happen to their child. Still others sat in the chairs and stared straight ahead. I waited for the killer to arrive. I knew that he would. That he would want to see his handiwork and the devastating effect it had on the world.

My partner sat in our unmarked, just outside the church – smoking and watching. We exchanged texts throughout the afternoon. Mostly to amuse ourselves and in the end for nothing at all because the killer never came to pay his respects.

As the last vestige of sunlight refracted through the stain glassed windows I rose. Tomorrow was another day for catching killers. Awkwardly, I knelt in the aisle, crossed myself and went outside.

After pushing through the ancient door of the church, I stood on the stoop and looked around, trying to adjust to the gray light that shrouded my world. The engine on the unmarked turned over and I squinted at my partner, who cranked a hand to get me moving.

I plunked into the passenger seat and closed the door against the cold. “So?”
My partner, Joan waved a gloved hand. “So nothing.”
I sighed at the tired little church as we pulled away from the curb. Joan smacked my arm with the back of her hand. “Cheer up, it’s beer o’clock.”

I nodded and stared straight ahead, wondering what made the human race so cold and uncaring. But soon, I was perched comfortably on a bar stool and doing shots and beers with Joan and the hard edges of life were softened.

Joan nibbled on a pretzel thoughtfully. “He’ll probably show at the funeral.” She turned bright green eyes on me. “Where he can watch from a distance.”

I nodded, then drained the rest of my beer. “Probably.” I tossed a few bills on the bar and stood. “Let’s go.”

She dropped me at my house, where lights in the window told me Cassie was home. “You want me to come in?”

I frowned at her. “For what?”

“I could make dinner. You two could stand to eat something besides pizza.”

I smiled at her. She was a good woman, a good person. She cared. We both cared. But I had to pretend I didn’t see that extra caring in her eyes – since my wife left last year that look in Joan’s eyes was too much of an invitation. I couldn’t take advantage and I didn’t want to.

“Maybe another time.”

I stood on the sidewalk and watched as her brake lights disappeared into the fog, then turned slowly toward the house. It was probably the fog or the street light reflected in the wet pavement but I saw a flash. When I turned toward it, it disappeared. Could’ve been the beer and whiskey too.

Cassie opened the door and frowned at me – her golden curls backlit and crowned her head like a halo. I smiled – she was my angel. “You gonna stand in the rain all night?”

I hurried up the walk then gave her shoulders a squeeze before going inside. “Daddy’s home.”

The house smelled like coffee and spaghetti. And the table was set and waiting for me. Cassie pulled off my coat and nudged me into a chair. I sipped my coffee and the warmth spread through my body, taking the chill out of my tired bones. “Looks good.”

Cassie smiled proudly. “Made it myself.”

I stared at the plate of spaghetti and meatballs. “Oh-oh.”

She smacked me with a napkin and said, “Eat, you old bear.”

Afterwards, I helped her with the clean up and dishes. “How was your day?”

She told me about school and a boy she liked and wondered out loud if I’d pop for a pretty dress she wanted for an upcoming dance at school. “You think it’ll make him love you?”

She blushed. “Oh Dad, you’re such doof.” She frowned. “How was your day?”

I told her about my unsuccessful stake out and she nodded in sympathy. My daughter was an old soul who understood my need to seek justice in the world and sympathized. She snapped her fingers. “Oh, I almost forgot.” She pulled an envelope out of her pocket and handed it to me. “This came for you.”

I frowned at the unaddressed envelope then tore it open. Inside was a note: “I do it because I can.”

My heart dropped to my toes. “How did you get this?”

Cassie recoiled at my reaction. “It was taped to the door when I came home.”

I went to the window and looked out, then I went to the front door and threw it open. And I felt him out there in the fog, watching and waiting. I withdrew my gun, then said to her, “Lock the door behind me and call Joan. Tell her to get over her now!”

Then, I stepped into the fog, gun raised, flashlight poised. I stepped off the porch, scanning the yard, the bushes, then went around back. The gate was open and my breath caught in my throat.

I burst into the yard but it was empty. Hands trembling, I ran the flashlight beam across the yard and along the house. Then I saw them – footprints in the sodden grass, leading to the back of the house. Panting, I followed them to my patio door which was locked. I pounded on the door. “Cassie! Cassie!”

Then she screamed. “Daddy!”

Chuck wants a peek at the NaNo novel

dog play

Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge this week is to ‘show us a taste’ of that novel you’ve been working on during this month for NaNo. I’m up for the challenge. However, I must warn you it’s an unedited first draft. Descriptions are sketchy, characters aren’t flushed out, and plot lines are still a bit fluid. If you still want to read after all that, be my guest.


A serial killer has come to the small town of Regal Reef, California. With little evidence to go on and no viable suspects, Chief Lottie Stark is beyond frustrated. Especially since the killer’s MO is strangely similar to a serial killer known as The Keeper, who she and profiler Jack Brady caught three years earlier when they were in the FBI.

Dissatisfied with her progress, the City Council and the micro-managing town mayor have gone over Lottie’s head and brought Brady in to consult on the case. Which not only complicates her life but opens old wounds. And her backstabbing lead detective has gotten the California Board of Investigation interested in the case hoping to discredit her by proving she didn’t catch the real Keeper. While Lottie struggles to maintain control of her case and her town, the killer is still out there, free to kill again. And daring her to catch him.

Every Dog Has His Day – Book 2

Chapter One

Delmont followed Barrington into my office and I watched through the open door as they set up their command post. Ben sidled up next to me and quietly said, “So, you just gonna let them take over?”

I turned to my father and sighed. “Doesn’t look like I have much choice, right now.” I kept my eyes on the BI team and Delmont and Barrington were pretty chummy. Then I turned to Ben and said, “I’ve got a little errand, I’ll be back in an hour.”

Jack started to follow me and I turned back and held up my hand. “Nope, this is something I need to do alone.” I frowned at my office. “You and Ben get my desk out of there, with everything in it and set me up in the squad room. Okay?”

Jack furrowed his brow but nodded. “Okay.”

Merrilou gave me a questioning look. I shrugged. “Just show them what you’ve got. We’ll huddle later, okay?”

She nodded then turned toward the new command center and frowned.

As I passed Minnie’s desk, who was speechless and gaping at the circus my office had become, I said, “I’m 10/7 for an hour.”

“Okay Chief.”

As I crossed the lobby, I ran in to Marty who looked puzzled. “Afternoon, Chief.”

I went to the door and pulled it open. “Afternoon.”

He jerked his head toward the station. “Looks like a lot of excitement going on here.”

I grunted and walked through the door. As I walked, I pulled out my cell and called Jack. When he answered I said, “Just listen, okay?”

“I’m listening.”

“You and Ben go over that order from the attorney general with a fine tooth comb, then meet me at the Sunshine in an hour with it.”

“Okay. Anything else?”

“Bring Merrilou with you if you can.”


“All right see you then.”

I ended the call before he could ask for explanations and quickened my pace. As I turned the corner, and the Regal Reef Tribune building came into view, I could see Mendoza at her desk, hunched over her computer. It was as though she hadn’t moved from that spot since the last time I saw her.

I slid my eyes up and down the street, checking for the busybody patrol and then hurried into the building. Mendoza looked up with curiosity in her eyes. “Chief?”

I went to her desk and pulled up a chair. “Look, I don’t have a lot of time, so I need you to listen.” Mendoza nodded and I looked toward the street through the window. As far as Regal Reef was concerned it was just another Monday. I looked back to her. “So first off, our deal is going to change a little.” She started to protest but I held up a hand. “I’m going to give you the story now.”

She smiled and tapped a few keys on her computer, bringing up a blank document to take notes, then also opened the record function on her phone. “Okay, shoot.”

“We have three dead girls. Two are still unidentified, although one has a tentative I.D. The third girl has been identified as Ashley Martindale, the daughter of State Senator Tom Martindale. A few days ago, Agent Blaine Barrington of the California B.I. showed up with a subpeona and took possession of the Ashley’s body and the related evidence. At the senator’s insistence the B.I. was taking over the investigation of her murder.”

Mendoza raised her brows. “Her father has that kind of pull?”

I nodded. “Yes.” I shrugged. “I didn’t like it but since she was the daughter of a prominent politician and he clearly used his clout to get the B.I. involved, I wasn’t going to fight about. Next point. You heard about Delmont’s accident?”

She nodded. “Yeah, so?”

“It’s my belief that he caused it himself.”

Mendoza gasped. “Oh come on. Why would he do that?”

“I found evidence, hidden, not far from the accident site that seems to infer he did.”

Mendoza leaned in with a skeptical look. “But why?”

I explained about Delmont’s association with B.I. and his mission to get fast lab results and then the disappearance of those lab results.

Mendoza frowned. “Maybe the report got thrown from the car and just ended up in the tree.”

I laughed. “And the box of nails flew up there to join it? And they both jumped into a plastic grocery sack?”

Mendoza nodded. “Okay, but again what motivation would he have to do that? To make you look bad?”

I nodded. “Sure, that’s what I thought at first. But a half hour ago, the B.I. led by Agent Barrington, showed up with an order from the state attorney general declaring a joint task force was to be formed on the case.” I smirked. “They even came up with a name for the killer.” Mendoza raised her brows in question. “The dead dog killer.”

Mendoza wrinkled her nose. “Catchy.”

I chuckled. “Ain’t it though?” I jerked my thumb in the direction of the station house. “Barrington is in my office setting up a command post as we speak.”

“And you think Delmont set the wheels in motion?”

I sighed because I was reluctant to give her the whole story but I’d already stepped in it and I couldn’t dance around mud puddles anymore. “Delmont has believed from the beginning that our guy is the Keeper.”

Mendoza’s big eyes widened. “What? Didn’t you and Jack Brady catch…” Then the lights went on in her head and she nodded. “Oh. So that’s why Brady is here?”

“The short answer is yes.”

“What’s the long answer?”

“I don’t have time to explain that right now.” She scowled and I held up a hand. “Later. I’ll tell you later. But the point is this, I believe that Delmont and Barrington have an end game in mind.”

Mendoza nodded so I’d go on.

“I think they want to make enough noise to get the FBI’s attention.”

“Because they believe our guy is the Keeper. Which means that me and Jack got it wrong. And if they can prove that then…”

“You’re both discredited.”

I nodded. “And then they get to swoop in and save the day.”

Mendoza chuckled. “So they get the notoriety then? That’s what they think?”

I nodded. “I do believe it is what they think.”

Mendoza shook her head in disbelief. “They think the FBI will thank them for disproving their case and one upping them?”

….and so it goes, sorry had a 1,000 word limit.

How about you? Are you NaNo-iing this year? Is your first draft as ugly as mine? Care to tell us about it? Feel free to speak all things NaNo in the comments.


Three Sentence Scary Story


Chuck’s at it again – his flash fiction challenge this week is to write a three sentence scary story. Here’s my lame attempt:

Open Window

She awoke from a dead sleep because she had to pee and stumbled into the bathroom. Heavy breathing drew her attention to the open window where his face had replaced the screen. Before she could scream, his hand was around her throat and her last thought was, “How did he find me?”


So, did it scare you? Feel free to write your own three sentence story in the comments.

Have a great weekend and don’t forget – it’s almost NaNo time!


A real life story for Chuck


Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge this week is to write not fiction but a story. A real one from my (your) own life. This one was hard.

Everything was off that day. And I found myself looking around, as though I could spot a clue or explanation for it — out there in the world around me. But everything looked normal.

I couldn’t make sense of that niggling burn in my stomach – the team of butterflies gnawing at my insides. The specter over my shoulder that made me cast backward glances.

And the foreboding stayed with me for the rest of the day.
I went to work. Everything went wrong. Customers complained. Food orders didn’t come out right. And the cooks were more surly than usual. But who could blame them? A quivering, red-eyed, sad-faced waitress just doesn’t say, “At your service,” does it?

Things went so badly that by the end of my shift the manager pulled me aside and asked if I was having emotional issues. She asked in mock sympathy if I needed medical leave. She inferred that if we had a repeat performance on the next shift I’d be looking for another job.

When I finally got out of there, it was an hour past the end of my shift and it was pouring. I ran across the street to my car, getting soaked to the skin. And as soon as I closed the door, I broke down and sobbed. Still utterly baffled by my feelings of dread and despair.

The drive home was surreal. The physical world mirrored my mood — dark, lonely with only a sliver of light to lead me home. The only thing that kept me driving was the promise of a large glass of red wine.

But when I walked inside my little house and saw the flashing message light on my answering machine I forgot about the wine. I stared at it. I knew that flashing light and whatever message it foretold would explain the day. The dread. The tears that started again.

I sat on the floor in front of the machine and listened to the rain tapping on the window, urging me to press PLAY. I couldn’t. I knew I didn’t want to know. I knew it was bad, so bad that if I pressed it, my life would never be the same.

I lit a cigarette and stared at the little flashing light some more. I ached for that glass of wine but couldn’t move from that spot.. And when I finally couldn’t stand the anticipation any more, I pressed PLAY.

It was my stepmother. “Hi Anita, it’s Leona. Well honey, your dad passed away today. I’m sorry.” Her voice cracked. “We love you.”

Note: Even though this happened over 20 years ago, I still can only write about it from a distance. As though it’s a hot stove I’m afraid to touch.

Chuck Wants a Title

book untitled

So Chuck is at it again. His flash fiction challenge is to come up with a title which  will be used in a future flash fiction challenge.

The problem is I can’t just come up with one. No, I can come up with titles all day, all night, all the time. Which is not to say that any of them are any good. Still, it’s a fun game. Here is a smattering of the titles I’ve come up with:

  1. Knock on Any Door
  2. Negative Space
  3. Aces Wild: The case of the missing poker king
  4. A Tale of Two Murders
  5. Banjo and the Worm Hole
  6. Murder by Moonlight
  7. Dance of the Mystery Underpants
  8. Between the Lies
  9. Magnolias at Midnight
  10. Secret of the Magic Crypt

And so on…

My favorite is Banjo and the Worm Hole.


If you don’t like any of these, maybe you should think of your own and go on over to Chuck’s to post it/them.




Playground – Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge

Chuck Wendig at Terrible Minds made this challenge: This week’s challenge is not one of subject, theme, or other detail — the challenge is simply one of length. Because normally? You get 1000 words. Today? You get only 100. (I think this is technically called a “drabble.” You can call it “Bobo” for all I like.) So: Go to your online space. Post 100 words (no more!) of fiction. Link back here so we can all see it. Due by next Friday, 3/27. That’s it. I double dog dare you to do it.

Following is my answer to the challenge:

fat bobby

I cried, “Stop!” My whimper only inspired jeers and fat Bobby’s knee to dig deeper into my back.

His peanut butter breath spoke of the sandwich he swiped from me and I tried to get back. Why I was face down in the dirt, with half my hair wrapped about his filthy hand. “Say you’re sorry.”

“Let go of her.”

Suddenly he tumbled off me – cursing.

“You gonna lay in the dirt all day?”

I raised my aching head to a dirty-faced girl with skinned knuckles and a crazy ponytail studying me. “Who are you?”

“Zelda. Your new best friend.”

Writer Chick

copyright 2015