Guilty: A Halloween Short Story

This is a short story that’s been percolating in my head for years, looking for a way to come out.  When  you end up getting known for romantic fiction, it’s kinda strange to toss out a dark fiction piece and expect your romance readers to shift gears.  But this being my blog for all things story and poetry, I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.  

I’ve also compiled it into an ebook containing this and other spooky stories which you can download here if you prefer reading it on your e-reader.  

Les Garguilles and Other Stories

 

Not guilty.

The crowd gathered in the courtroom roared their disapproval.

Not guilty.

The judge shouted, “Silence in the courtroom!”

Not…

Because of a technicality, the judge had ordered the jury to toss out the evidence after it was determined that it had been obtained illegally. From the back of the courtroom, detectives Mike Sabian and Barry Clarke glowered.

Therefore, dried blood recovered in a deep groove between the head of the hammer and the handle—or his fingerprints—could not be used as evidence that he had murdered his wife. It was his hammer, so of course, there’d be fingerprints.

…guilty.

The only possible witness could not give reliable testimony. And holy Moses, but they must have tried everything to find out what they could from his two-year-old son only to come up empty. But what did they expect? A damning testimony from the little turd saying he saw his father beat his mother with a hammer, wrap her up in a now-missing blanket and then load her in the trunk and bury her somewhere on the side of some deserted road? The kid couldn’t even form the simplest words other than Mama, and sweepy. And ever since his mother’s disappearance, he hadn’t spoken a word.

Not guilty of the murder of Philomena “Mina” Parks.

Seymour Parks exhaled, before looking at the jury with a grateful expression on his face. Thank you, guys. All of you. Even that ugly bitch with the permanent smirk on her face. He could have sworn the woman hated him the moment she laid eyes on him and would surely have said yes, he’s guilty, but no. A unanimous vote meant she said yes.

Sure, there could be appeals, but with his late wife’s family living in the Philippines, how were they going to pay the lawyer? In dried fish? Ha! He’d been the one helping send money to them back home for the barest necessities, every text message asking for something, like a dowry paid in monthly installments. A few bucks here for the month’s supply of rice, another few bucks there to fix a leaky roof. Each dollar went far in pesos, Mina had told him though he still had to pitch in because she didn’t make much at the corner store. The minimum wage she made was a pittance, almost like like hobby money to him, though it didn’t make a difference to Mina. All of it went back home, and sometimes she ran short so he had to help out, too. He didn’t really mind it at first, but in the end he did, not when he’d married her and not her damn family. She was bleeding him dry and now, he’d been accused of killing her, allegedly with a blunt instrument, like his hammer. He’d been behind bars ever since, the only suspect in her disappearance and alleged murder, even though they didn’t find her body.

Just the bloody hammer with a speck of blood between the head and the handle, along with his fingerprints that the detectives discovered during what Seymour’s lawyer declared was an illegal search. They had no warrant. Ha! Served them right to hear the judge throw the only piece of evidence that could have sent him to death row. No soup for you, Sabian and Clarke!

Seymour gave the jury one more look of appreciation before turning to face his lawyer and thank him. He heard the judge say something about custody of his now three-year-old son who’d been in foster care ever since his mother’s murder, though this time, Seymour barely heard the judge’s words, his attention focused on the young woman sitting a few pews behind him. Damn, but that girl was hot. No bar fine needed here. There was certainly something to be said about women who liked men behind bars. They liked them dangerous.

“Congratulations, Mr. Parks. They’ll be sending your son over this afternoon,” his lawyer said, grinning from ear to ear. Doherty was one of those court-appointed lawyers one got when they couldn’t afford one, and damn if the kid just won his first big case.

“Great,” Seymour nodded. “How am I supposed to take care of him by myself?”

“I’m sure Child Services will help you there, Mr. Parks,” Doheny replied, before his brow furrowed and he continued. “Did you say you were going to fly him back home to the Philippines to be with his mother’s family? Do you think that’s a good idea?”

Seymour shrugged. “Why not? She had a big family, and there’s only me here. And I’ve got to find work eventually. Who’s gonna keep an eye on him then? You?”

The kid was Mina’s idea, not his. She thought little Seymour (she even gave him his name) would guarantee her safety from the beatings. Boy, was she so wrong. Too bad she thought she could file for divorce, thinking she could be just like the American women he’d grown to detest. He’d seen the online searches she’d done in the browser history. How to file for divorce. What is domestic abuse? Who gets custody of a minor?

But I sure showed her, Seymour thought as he watched Doheny gather the folders from the desk and slip them into his briefcase.

Let her family back home take care of him now. The moment that judge’s gavel sounded and the words came out from the jury foreman’s lips, Seymour Parks was a free man in every sense of the word. And as the woman in the third row cast him a look that assured him that all her visits in jail weren’t for nothing, there were also other, more important things to deal with.

Seymour Parks needed to get laid.

* * *

The flight back to the Philippines took sixteen hours. One stopover in Japan and then to Manila. An hour after landing at Manila International Airport greeted by stifling heat and humidity, and then escorted to a more secure area of the airport to avoid the media, Seymour and his son boarded a smaller plane to the island of Alegria.

Four years ago, there weren’t any flights to the island southwest of Manila, but after a tourism boom, apparently they’d built a small airport to accommodate those who didn’t like having to get on those charter boats like everyone else. Seymour and his son sat among the many other foreign tourists in the small plane, none of them paying him and Junior any mind. News about the murder case didn’t concern them, not when most of them were there to get laid with the hundreds of desperate women eager to be with them. You couldn’t get a better deal for eighteen bucks, US. One girl every different night, if you wanted. And boy, would you want a different girl every night. Mina had been girl #5. Too bad he fancied himself in love with her after five days of San Miguel beer and sisig, a dish of pork simmered in spices. One month later, he found himself filling out the papers to get her to the US and then eight months later, she was there, his mail order bride all ready to give him everything he wanted. Everything.

Unfortunately, she fancied herself suddenly an American woman, unwilling to do anything for him. She wanted to work, and even go to school so she could learn how to speak flawless English, words beyond “yes, Seymour,” or “How may I serve you, Seymour?” Then she got pregnant even though he’d done his best to make sure she wouldn’t. But damn it, she did. The last thing he wanted was a child to put a damper on his kinky lifestyle, but the child arrived anyway, healthy and screaming its head off every chance it got.

And now here he sat next to Seymour Jr., his three-year-old mute son. Seymour had to promise the boy’s doctors that he’d find similar therapists back in the Philippines to help with the boy’s trauma – whatever trauma that was, Seymour scoffed. The kid didn’t do crap! He just stared at Seymour with those big brown eyes of his and it drove Seymour crazy. Of course, therapy wasn’t going to happen, not when every eligible speech therapist and psychologist had left the small island to work elsewhere, like Manila or even better, if they could swing the cost of relocation and job placement, the US. But Seymour couldn’t care less. He needed to wash his hands of the boy. He didn’t need him, and the boy surely didn’t need his father, not after what he’d seen Seymour do. Being mute certainly had its advantages.

Mina’s family greeted them at the airport with signs welcoming them home. It was embarrassing. But at least, no one said anything about a murder or even a legal case, even if he’d been found innocent by a jury of his peers. Her family couldn’t have cared less. He was free and that’s all that mattered. They still got their monthly stipend, no matter what. And besides, the less anyone else said about the damn case, the better. His plan was simple: he’d simply unload the luggage filled with all kinds of sweets he picked up at the warehouse store the moment they’d get home, and everyone would love him even more. Mina used to send similarly-packed boxes home, filled with chocolates, candies, and warehouse-size multivitamins that her family would then sell piece by piece from their corner store. One tablet for a few pesos. It was crazy, but that’s how they did things. Even eggs could be sold one by one, as were cigarettes—one stick at a time.

“Jun, go say hello to your Lola and Lolo,” Seymour said, nudging his son forward. Within seconds, Junior disappeared amid wide open arms and teary faces. Seymour couldn’t understand what they were saying, but he didn’t care. He’d only made arrangements to stay for two days before he’d head up to Manila and get his fill of San Miguel beer and bar girls. After a year behind bars awaiting his court case, he needed to make up for lost time.

But first, he had to play the grieving and wrongfully-accused husband. The family showered him with their sympathies, plying him with delicious food and beer. He must be tired, they told him. The flight must have been so long, they said, and so he should rest. And in the morning, they’d visit Mina’s grave.

“What grave? They couldn’t find her body,” Seymour said, perplexed. What was there to bury? For all they knew, Mina had run off with some boyfriend and was living somewhere in Milwaukee. Well, that was his reasoning anyway. For why else would she simply disappear like that?

“It’s just a pormality,” replied one of the cousins, a woman named Alma. Just like Mina before she started taking English classes behind his back, none of them could pronounce “f” without replacing it with “p” and “v” replaced with a “b.”

“That way we hab a place to go and lib plowers,” continued Mina’s mother, whom everyone called Nanay. “And we lib plowers ebryday.”

Seymour exhaled, wiping the sweat that gathered on his brow with his handkerchief. For a minute there, he thought he’d gone crazy. Pormality. He liked that. “Oh, I see. So it’s just an empty plot then.”

“Not really empty. Why don’t you come and see?” Asked Alma. She was older than Mina by a few years, and Seymour remembered how the women used to write letters to each other until he put a stop to it. All they did was ask for money anyway like they did whenever Mina called home.

They decided to visit the cemetery right after the mid-afternoon snack, even when most everyone else complained that it was too hot to go outside. But Seymour figured he might as well do it now. Besides, what game were they playing with him? Not empty, my ass. Did that mean there was someone else in there?

The cemetery was only a short walk away, and for a small town where most of their young residents had left in search for greener pastures, most of the people buried there were of the previous generation, although some were babies. As they walked alongside the tiny markers, Alma told him that some were probably born premature but with medical intervention coming too late. After all, the nearest hospital was a boat ride away.

A warm wind rustled the leaves around them, and Seymour wiped his brow with his handkerchief again. Maybe he should have waited until tomorrow to visit his wife’s fake grave. Fake. It almost made him laugh for he knew exactly where her grave was, and it was half a world away.

But he needed to get this over with. He hadn’t told them he was leaving in two days. The original plan was for him to stay for two weeks to help his son get acclimated to his new home, and set up the therapy sessions with whoever he found in town. At this rate, he’d leave it up to them to set that up. Besides, he couldn’t stop thinking about this grave. Learning they’d ‘buried’ Mina in some mock burial creeped him out. Who the hell did that?

They stopped in front of a marble grave marker that bore his late wife’s name although it was too high up on the plaque to just be for herself. There was room for at least two more names and dates.

“Mina paid por the plaque apter she went to de States.” Nanay wiped fresh tears from her face, her other hand reaching out to touch the engraved letters.

One of the cousins explained that family members often shared the same plot, one buried on top of the other. It was how they did things on the island since there wasn’t much land left that hadn’t already been sold to greedy developers who’d run out of beachfront properties to buy. So now they were making their way inland, snatching up whatever they could find and calling them hilltop residences. Thankfully, Mina’s hometown was too far inland for the developers to build anything profitable.

“So who is buried here?” Seymour asked, frowning. Why would they go through something like that when there was no body to bury in the first place? And why was it so infernally warm all of a sudden? He could feel sweat slide down the middle of his back.

Alma shrugged. “Nobody. We just bury an empty copin in der. Maybe when dey pind her, den we can do da ceremony.” Her English was breaking down as she spoke, and Seymour wondered if she was just too tired to think of the words or too flustered. She looked up at him. “She was happy with you, no?”

Seymour glanced at his son staring at the plaque in front of him. “Yes, she was. I still cannot believe she’s gone.”

“It must hab been hard, being in jail when you were innocent,” Alma continued.

He nodded, feeling beads of perspiration drip down the sides of his face. “Yes, it was. I loved her, but to be accused of her disappearance…her alleged murder…it was too much sometimes.”

Alma lifted Junior in her arms. “Tank you por bringing Jun home. We wait a long time, you know.”

“I think it’s going to rain,” one of the cousins muttered. “Can we just return home already?”

As they all agreed that it was time to say goodbye to Mina, Seymour couldn’t stop looking back at the grave. Creepy, he thought. Why would they hold some mock burial for a body that would never end up there?

Seymour had almost opted to stay at one of the beach front resorts, and if he had, he’d have had a woman sharing his bed by now. Twenty bucks, US… or maybe twenty-five, accounting for inflation. He could still do it, grab a tricycle cab and have it drop him off at the resort. He’d come back to spend time with Junior in the morning. But they convinced him to stay at the house, looking affronted at the mere mention of him needing to stay somewhere else when he’d paid to have that house built.

It poured as soon as they all returned home. And it was even more humid, a curse of the monsoon season. As Seymour settled into his room on the second floor, he could hear the women still talking downstairs, their voices interrupted by Junior’s grunts. What was the little turd trying to say now?

Seymour yawned and stripped off his shirt. He needed to hop in the shower even though the water pressure sucked in the second-floor bathroom. But he didn’t want to use the downstairs bathroom that everyone was using. He quite liked the master bedroom of the house that Mina built with all the money she – and he – sent home every month for five years. It was really a small price to pay, her being his personal punching bag when things weren’t going so well with his business, but she knew that before marrying him. It had been part of his kink. And before she discovered all the opportunities available to her in the US, she’d been fine with it.

Until one day, she wasn’t fine with it anymore, claiming later on that it was domestic abuse. Seymour still remembered how it all started, how she suddenly came home with a huge chip on her shoulder.

I will divorce you, you cruel man.

He’d laughed then because she still couldn’t pronounce her V’s very well, so divorce came out as diborce. But he couldn’t dwell on that anymore. She had tried to leave him, carrying little Junior in her arms and making her way to the garage where the car was parked. She was going to stay at the women’s shelter. The hell she was, he had thought then. And then what? She’d extort money from him to support the little turd for the next sixteen years?

Seymour shut his eyes and rubbed his temples. Man, but this humidity was doing a number on his nerves. Why was he thinking of her all of a sudden?

He stepped into the bathroom, determined to take his shower and then take a nap like everyone else in the house was going to do. He could also feel jet lag coming on, his eyes already feeling like lead. As Seymour stepped under the weak water spray, he could hear them downstairs talking and laughing, and little Junior grunting.

Yup, that was his Junior. Grunt, grunt, grunt, like a little pig.

And ever since Seymour got out of jail, that’s all he heard – the damn grunting. I’m hungry (grunt). I’m tired (grunt). Always the damn grunting, although, before the murder, the turd had just started talking. Mama. Baba. Sweepy. Never Dada, and as much as Seymour didn’t much care for the kid, it still hurt. Well, a little.

But now the turd was home where he belonged, and soon, he, Seymour Parks, would be where he belonged, too, between a woman’s legs, taking everything he could every single one of them.

* * *

Damn, it’s cold.

A deep chill seeped deep into his bones, and he wished he had something thicker than the thin cotton sheet he had over his body. What on earth was going on? One minute it was hot as hell and the next, it was cold. Freezing, even.

Maybe he was still dreaming, he thought, but that didn’t account for the freezing air… and small hands touching his face. The last thing he remembered before nodding off to sleep as jet lag hit him was saying goodnight to Junior. It was for show, of course, but he kissed the boy on the forehead and told him to be a good boy and listen to his Tita Alma because she’d be in charge of him from now on. Then Seymour had gone into his room to watch some porn on his phone before drifting off to sleep.

He heard a grunt. Junior?

Seymour sat up and rubbed his eyes, blinking as he tried to focus in the semi-darkness. He tapped his phone display. 3:30 A.M. It meant that it was about 5:30 P.M., Pacific Standard Time the day before. His time, or at least, his normal time if he weren’t in fucking Philippines.

He also had a few messages from Doheny. Not just a few—there were five of them. What did the lawyer want now? It had been a two months since he was acquitted—a year since he got charged with murder—and he hadn’t heard from his lawyer since, except to settle some expenses. At least, he got to collect some insurance money which was a consolation although Mina had been smart enough to give the bulk of it to Junior.  And to add insult to injury, she didn’t name him as the custodian even though he could easily fight it, but her cousin, Alma.

Junior grunted, tugging on Seymour’s shirt. Seymour ignored him. He tapped on the first text message from Doheny.

Where are you? They found a body off Highway 71. Please tell me you didn’t do it.

The next one read, On second thought, don’t tell me.

Outside the window, the moon was partly hidden in the thick clouds. Still, it gave him enough light to see that Junior was wearing his Captain America PJs.

“What’s up, kid? You should be asleep.”

Junior grunted, then pointed to the door where a woman was silhouetted by the dim light of the hallway. Seymour squinted. “That’s your Tita Alma. Why don’t you go with her, and let your Dad get some sleep?”

“Mama,” the boy whispered, still pointing at Alma.  .

Seymour grabbed his glasses and put them on.  His kid must be playing tricks on him.  Mama was long dead.  “What did you say?”

“Mama.”  Then Junior was off, running towards the woman standing by the door. Only she was no longer there. No one was there.

Seymour leaped out of bed, his heart hammering inside his chest as Junior ran towards the stairs, turned and disappeared around the corner.  But there had been someone there. It was Alma!  He was sure of it.  And it certainly hadn’t been Mina, not when she was buried far from a hiking trail off 71.

Seymour cursed out loud, stubbing his toe as he under the bed with his feet for his rubber slippers. Then he heard the front door open and close, Junior crying out Mama, Mama in the darkness outside. Shit! Forget the damn slippers, man!  Get your kid!

Barefoot, Seymour ran down the stairs, wondering where the hell everyone was for the house was deathly quiet. With all the money he and Mina sent home, the family had been able to build a big house that just about accommodated everyone in the family, all twenty of them from the cousins to the cousins’ cousins.  It was crazy.  There should be two or three people asleep in the living room, the servants sleeping comfortably on their floor mats.  But the living room was empty, the doors to the bedrooms shut.

They were probably all asleep then, he thought, while he and Junior were simply going through the effects of jet lag. Or maybe this was a dream. Whatever. Dream or no dream, he still needed to go after his son.

The front door was ajar by the time Seymour made it downstairs, but he kept running, the faint outline of his son visible in the distance. How’d Junior manage to move fast like that? But of course, kids were always fast, and Seymour knew he wasn’t getting any younger. He stumbled once, tripping over an exposed root but he got up and kept running. For Junior was still going like a rocket, and straight ahead, someone—or something—was leading him.

“Jun! Come back!”

A dog howled in the distance. A bird flapped its wings nearby, the cool damp air caressing Seymour’s cheek like a kiss. A light fog drifted above the ground, just up to his knees as he kept running, ignoring the gravel cutting into the bottoms of his feet.

“Mama!” His son cried out again, his voice growing faint.

“Jun! Stop where you are!” Seymour shouted again, but he knew it was useless. This had to be a dream. Had to be.

Around him the fog lifted, reaching above his head before it dissipated, settling like a whisper against his bare skin. He realized then that he was only wearing a thin shirt and a pair of boxer shorts. Shit. No one better see him like this, running half-naked out in the middle of nowhere. He was Seymour Parks, for crying out loud. Women couldn’t get enough of him, and men loved to hang out with him. It didn’t matter if they did it only because of the money. At least, they did it for something.

He stopped when he spotted the gate leading to the cemetery, and beyond it, Junior. Seymour took a deep breath and pushed the gate forward.

“Jun, you’re in deep trouble, kid. Don’t you ever run like that, alright?”

The fog swirled around him, swallowing up the boy’s small form but Seymour was determined to make it to him. He stopped only when something tugged at his boxers. Seymour looked down.

“There you are,” he muttered as Junior stood next to him, the boy pointing at something in front of them. This time, Seymour felt the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. His skin prickled. Wait! Where the hell were they? He followed the little boy’s finger, pointing at something about his same height.

Ah, shit.

“Mama,” Junior said, pointing to the marble grave marker.

Seymour frowned, before glancing down. “Jun, you’re talking.”

Junior’s hand moved downward, pointing towards the ground though there was no ground to see, not right away. Seymour felt his mouth go dry. He tried to move, to run away as far as he could, but he couldn’t move. His feet felt rooted in place, frozen in the soft ground. Of course, it was soft, so soft that Seymour could feel himself sinking. It had rained hard enough to soften the damn ground.

But that wasn’t what made Seymour’s heart race. No, it was worse. Someone had dug up the grave, revealing an empty casket, its lid flipped open as if for a personal viewing.

Whose viewing?

“Dada,” Junior said again, his pudgy finger pointing at the casket.

This was a dream, had to be. For how else could Junior be talking when all this damn time, all he did was grunt? Seymour felt something wet on his cheeks. He brought his hand up to his face. Tears. He was crying.

“Jun, I didn’t mean to kill her,“ Seymour whispered as his son continued to hold his hand. ”It was an accident. You know it was.”

Seymour didn’t know why he was babbling like an idiot, but it was the only thing he could do, his feet still rooted on the same spot even though all his senses told him to run.

Even beg.

“Please, Jun. I didn’t mean to. Please.” That last word emerged as a whisper.

Junior tugged at Seymour’s fingers, the boy’s other hand pointing to the empty coffin. “Dada. Sweep… now.”

Suddenly Seymour felt himself falling. He landed into the open casket, face-first onto the cushioned liner although there was nothing soft about it. It felt hard. It smelled musty. Half-cursing and half-screaming, Seymour rolled onto his back, struggling to find leverage just as the lower part of the split lid slammed shut, trapping his lower torso inside.

Seymour squirmed to free himself and pull open the lower lid, but it wouldn’t budge. He grabbed hold of the other part of the split lid, only to feel it swing downwards, closing in on him with its viewing glass panel. But he was wide awake now, and fast. Seymour pushed it back up, leaving it open.

“I’ll get you, you son of a bitch!” he shouted although he laughed, too, for the term was too perfect beyond words. The kid was the son a bitch, that’s for sure.

Seymour forced himself to calm down, telling himself this had to be some cruel joke. He could do this. He could get out of this mess. Even if it were just a dream, he could still do it. He’d live and find his way to Manila, and to the bar girls waiting for him. Hell, he wouldn’t even do that. He’d fly straight home, and he’d stay there this time.

The glass lid covering the top portion of the casket came down then, hitting Seymour on the nose and he yelped, his head landing back on the satin pillow as he heard the latch lock into place. No! He pounded his fists against the glass, staring up at his son still standing where Seymour had last seen him.

But this time Junior wasn’t alone.

None of them talked. No one laughed or cracked a joke. They just watched him in silence. Nanay was the first to grab a handful of earth and throw it over the casket. It landed on the lower part of the lower lid with a dull thud. The cousin who said it was going to rain followed, brown earth hitting the viewing glass as Seymour shut his eyes.

When he opened them again, more soil came down on him by the handfuls as each one took their turn. Each one of them not saying anything. Seymour could pound on the glass and demand that all this was no longer funny, that this was a joke gone too far. But something told him this was no joke. Just as something told him that this wasn’t a dream.

This was real.

One by one, they tossed handfuls of earth into the grave as an eerie calm filled him. A resignation. Alma was one of the last ones, his view of them now obscured by the handful of earth she tossed over his casket. Then she stepped back to make room for the last one, and Seymour didn’t need to know who it would be. He could only watch helplessly as little Seymour, Jr. gathered the soil in his two little hands before the words finally emerged from Seymour’s lips.

Guilty.

Mina had caught him hitting Junior during breakfast. He’d lost his temper over something, though he couldn’t even remember what it was now.

Guilty.

She said she’d stay at the women’s shelter until Seymour finished an anger management course. But he said no and tried to stop her from getting into the car. He’d show her what happened to bad little girls.

Guilty.

Somehow he grabbed a hammer that had been sitting on his workbench. He’d forgotten to put it away, and he just happened to pick it up. He hadn’t meant to. He’d only held it up to scare her. Mina had just buckled a crying Junior into his car seat and was turning to face him, begging him to get help.

Guilty.

Somehow, hammer met skull then. And that’s all it took. She went down, blood caught in the hammer. Even bits of hair and scalp but he’d washed all that away. Then he wrapped her in a sheet, loaded her into the trunk of the car, and he buried her while their son watched.

Guilty.

Above him, Seymour heard the dull thud of earth landing over the casket. Someone was filling the grave by the shovelful now.

So this is how it feels like to die, he thought as the glass above him began to crack from the soil weighing upon it. Tears streamed down his face as he wondered if this must be how Mina felt then, too.  For if Doheny was right—that they did find her body hours ago—then they’d certainly find out something else in the autopsy.

Maybe soil in her lungs as she struggled to breathe, still wrapped in that sheet as she gained consciousness too late.  By then, Seymour had already started something he couldn’t stop.

Guilty.

The glass broke then, heavy damp soil filling the casket and covering his face and mouth, smothering him like a soft and unforgiving blanket as he screamed—or tried to.

Guilty. 


Copyright 2016 © Liz Durano

Reunion – Law & Order Fan Fiction

I found this on an old external drive today, and it’s dated June 2, 2002.  It was a challenge from a Law & Order fan fiction website called Apocrypha, and it’s a story that I DID NOT submit since I ended up submitting something else which was included in their challenge issue.  

Apocrypha was this venerable Law & Order Fan Fiction website that disappeared after a few years but I’ve just discovered that it’s been archived so three of my works are available on there (which I don’t even have copies of at all – so what a surprise it was tonight to find my stories on there still!). 

I submitted stories from 1999 – 2002 and it’s amazing to me, after reading this story for the first time in more than ten years, how my writing has changed.  I have to admit, I was actually much better back then because now I totally suck because I describe everything TOO DARN MUCH and lose out on the action.

If you’re unfamiliar with the original Law & Order series, its original stars included Christopher Noth as Mike Logan and he was my favorite character to write about, the perfect foil for my writing fantasies.  His partner in this story is Lennie Briscoe, played by the amazing Jerry Orbach, his third partner in the series.  I always loved the original and still have the DVD’s.  It was grittier and because it was so new for its genre, truly original.   Those were the days…

Anyway, hope you enjoy this one!  


I hadn’t seen him in ages, and I wondered if he’d even remember me.  He hadn’t shown up at the recent reunion held at the Bayside Club in Manhattan, and even the other women wondered what had happened to him.  Somehow, speaking to Yvette, Colleen, and Natasha, I had a feeling that they all had slept with him.

After all, said Colleen, it wasn’t easy to say no to those Irish eyes.

And, oh, that wicked smile, Natasha added.  Unfortunately I had nothing to add to their sexual updates.  I found myself playing observer, just as I always did for work.

“I know he’s a detective in Manhattan,” said Yvette coyly.  If David hadn’t gotten her pregnant straight out of college, she said she would have gone after him herself.

“Difficult to do now when you’ve got three children running all over the house,” she added wistfully.  And an alcoholic for a husband, I wanted to add.  But there was no point twisting the knife any more than was necessary.

Colleen made a face.  “Heck, for all we know, he’s probably some loser cop walking the beat, the midnight shift or something.”

“With a pot belly, too.”  Natasha piped in, dipping her face into her martini, still trying to be cool with her totally seventies helmet hair.  She turned to face me, catching me staring at her.  I could have sworn I smelled hair spray.  Didn’t that go out in the eighties?

“So, what about you?  What do you do now?”

I shrugged.  “I work for KABC in Los Angeles, doing the news.  Day to day stories, stuff like that.”

Colleen’s eyes widened.  “You mean, like talking on TV?”

I shook my head.  “No, I do journalistic reporting.  In fact, the reason why I’m here is because I’m going to do a story on how detectives crack the case.”

“No, you’re not,” shrieked Yvette.  “Are you going to be seeing him?  Oh make sure you tell me how he is!  Maybe he’s still single?  Divorced?”

“Sleeping around?”  Natasha cooed.

I laughed.  It must really be such a bore being married, I thought.  “No, that never crossed my mind.”

Yet on a cold day in November, after a brief rainstorm that left the sidewalks of Manhattan glistening in the sun, I left the camera crew to film background shots at Precinct 13, by Greenwich Village, and walked the five blocks that I knew would lead me to a glimpse of my past.  The camera crew had wanted me to stay and join them for dinner at Little Italy.  I told them I’d join them later.  I still had something to do.

I had lied back at the reunion.  It had crossed my mind to see him, old Mikey, and see how he was doing, pot belly and all.  I ducked into the entrance, as if afraid that one of those women would see me.  More than once, it had crossed my mind.

A detective chomping on a stale doughnut pointed him out for me, a knowing gleam in his eye as he walked away.  The place was abuzz with activity, yet it was easy to spot him.  He hadn’t really changed much, except that he probably had a few lines around his eyes, but that boyish look still dominated his face.  And there was no pot belly, I discovered, with a sense of relief.

I found him with a phone wedged between his ear and shoulder, scribbling notes on a small notepad with a pencil.

Around him people were going about their work, walking to and from one room to another, talking on phones, and typing up reports.  In the far end of the room, I could see a black woman inside a glass-lined office, talking to two people standing in front of her desk.  She seemed to be in charge, I thought, from the way she sat behind her desk, listening to two men sitting across from her.  At least, she was in one of the few offices I could clearly see from where I stood.

It was just like the news desk in Los Angeles, I thought wryly.  Except that we were equipped with more technology than Precinct 27.  I could see ancient IBM machines on some of the desks.  We had news feeds every hour beamed straight to our desks.

He was wearing a white shirt and plaid tie that seemed to have been salvaged from a decade earlier.  His hair was cropped short, yet a wayward curl had placed itself in the middle of his forehead, giving him that boyish look I had always remembered about him.

“Uh-huh,” he mumbled, listening intently to the other person on the phone.  “Yeah, I got that.”

The man in front of him was doing some finger pecking on a typewriter that seemed as old as he was.  His hair was slicked back with cheap pomade, his forehead high and glistening.  It was humid.

“Hey, Lenny,” Mike Logan said as he placed the phone on the cradle.  “You gotta tell your girlfriend to lay off calling me.”

The man named Lenny chuckled, then cursed as his finger hit the wrong key.  “What can I say, Mikey?  She thinks you’re cute.  You should just ask her out.”

Mike shook his head.  “What is she?  Twelve?”

“Twenty three, Mike.  Jesus, what?  Losing your touch already?”  Lenny was furiously erasing a mistyped letter on the paper, blowing on it afterwards.  Reminded me so much of my father.  I began walking towards the desk, but they still hadn’t noticed me.

“I don’t care.  I don’t date twelve year old girls.”  Mike said, picking up the phone to dial another number.

“You dated me.”  I suddenly said, catching them by surprise.  I couldn’t have been given the perfect cue for a segue.

Mike looked up, and for a moment, he frowned, trying to figure out who I was.  I didn’t think I had changed much.  But then, twelve years can change anyone.

Suddenly his eyes widened, and his smile grew.  I smiled, seeing the teenager I used to know.  He jumped from his chair and rushed towards me, then stopped as if to survey me a little bit more closely.

“I can’t believe my eyes,” he said, gathering me in his arms in a bear hug.  I could smell the scent of aftershave.  “It’s been, what?  Twelve years?”

I nodded.  “Give or take.  Mikey, it’s so nice to see you.”

“Ainsley,” Mike breathed.  For a few moments, he simply stared at me.  “Lenny, I want you to meet Ainsley.  She used to live next door to me when I was a kid.  Ains, this is Lenny Briscoe, my partner.”

I took Lenny’s hand and shook it.  “Nice to meet you, Lenny. ”

Lenny smiled.  “Gee, you certainly don’t look twelve to me.”

“When I turned twelve, I asked Mikey what it was like to date.” I said, and for a moment I thought I saw Mike blush.  “He was fifteen then.”

“And did he fill you in with all the gory details?”  Lenny asked.

I laughed.  “I had to pay him to date me, just so the girls in the neighborhood would get jealous, and stop calling me a tomboy.”

“You certainly don’t look like a tomboy to me now,” Mike said, his voice lowering.  As if on cue, Lenny excused himself to return to the form he was typing up.

Mike took me by the elbow gently, steering me towards the break room.  He offered me some coffee, which I accepted.  There were other people in the break room, but one by one, they left to return to their work.  The man I had spoken to earlier was still there though, digging his hand into a pink box filled with doughnuts.

“Hey, Profaci,” Mike called and Profaci looked up just in time to see Mike tilt his head towards the door.

Profaci smiled that same knowing smile again as he walked towards the door.  “Sure, Mike,” he said.  Then to me:  “Glad to see you found him.”

I sat down.  “So does everyone do as you say around here?”

“Nah,” Mike replied, asking me if I wanted cream or sugar.  “Only when I bring a beautiful girl in.”  He winked.

“I went to the reunion last Saturday,” I said, accepting the cup of coffee from him.  “I was expecting to see you.”

“I had a date Saturday.  Sorry to disappoint you, Ains.”

“Not me, Mike.  Just Natasha, Colleen, and Yvette,” I replied.

He laughed and I could see that he still had that killer smile I had fallen for when I was a teen-ager.

“I hear you’re doing news in Los Angeles,” said Mike.  “Saw you last when I graduated from college, and by then, you were just about entering your junior year in journalism.”  Then he added softly, “I’m really proud of you, Ains.  You really did go for it after all.  Even with all the stuff you had to go through growing up.”

“As did you, Detective Mike Logan.”

There was a moment of silence between us as two detectives, a man and a woman, came in to get some coffee.  Then they left the room, leaving Mike and I alone again.

All the stuff you had to go through growing up.  And boy, did we ever go through stuff.  Our parents were either child abusers or alcoholics, leaving both of us to fend for ourselves most days, but somehow we had both made it through.  I looked at Mike, realizing that although he had grown older, he didn’t seem to have changed too much.  He seemed to move the same, talk the same as he did when I last saw him.  He was still cocky.  And he had somehow acquired a taste for the most awful checkered ties.

“So are you here for work?  Or vacation?”  He asked, breaking the silence between us.

I nodded.  “Both, actually.  I’m here doing a piece on one-three, in the Village.  And then I need some serious rest and relaxation.  Maybe even do the carriage ride around Central Park, you know?”

“Why should you?” Mike scoffed.  “You’re practically a native.  That stuff’s for tourists willing to part with eighty bucks and change.  Hey, you got something in your eye.”

Mike leaned forward, bringing his finger towards my face and brushing something off my eye.  I flinched unexpectedly and for a brief moment, his finger froze a few centimeters from my face.  “It’s just your mascara,” he said softly.  “Man, they do pile on that make up, don’t they?”

I smiled, nodding, suddenly feeling self-conscious as his gaze never left my face.  He was staring.

“Yes, they do.  It’s what makes me presentable on TV.”

“You don’t need all that make-up, Ains.  Really, you don’t.  But I guess that’s how it’s like in your business,” he said.  Then he added as he looked closely at my face, the detective back at work.  “Or if you’re trying to hide something that has no business being there in the first place.”

I suddenly wanted to leave, feeling uncomfortable beneath his gaze.  You couldn’t get anything past Mike Logan.  “It’s so nice to see you, Mike.  I hope I’m not taking you away from your work.”

“I really am glad you stopped by.  Look, Ains, if you need anything, anything at all, you call me, okay?”

I smiled, nodding.  I had tried to dial his number so many times through the years, but never had I allowed myself to complete the call.  Maybe it was pride.  Or maybe it was the shame.

He sipped his coffee, finishing the cup and crumpling it.  We could hear the phone ringing, and Lenny answering the call.

“So where are you staying?”  He asked.

“I’m at the Plaza.  Room 467.”

“Whoa,” he exclaimed.  “And your network is paying for this?”

I shook my head.  “No, he is.”

Mike pushed his chair back and stood up.  His eyes alighted on my hands, his gaze resting on the large diamond nestled on my finger.  “That’s more than what I make in a year, Ains.”  He tossed the cup into the trash can and stood there with his back facing me.  I got up, the chair scraping the floor loudly.   “You’re too good for him, Ains.  You know that.”

I wanted to say, I know, Mike, but I let the moment pass.  Mike knew me too well.  That’s what happens when you grow up with someone, experience all the growing pains together, the highs and the lows.  And then one day, you grow up and you go your separate ways.  For Mike, it was making sure justice was served, while for me, it was getting out of poverty, no matter the cost.

“Ains-“

Lenny poked his head through the door.  “Hey, sorry to interrupt this reunion.  Mikey, time to go.”

Mike seemed lost, unable to decide what to do.

“Go, Mikey.  Do your job.”  I said, gathering my purse and slinging it over my shoulder.  “It was great to see you again.”

He walked towards me, and hugged me tightly one last time before turning to leave.  I watched him gather his coat, a flag pin upon a lapel, and put it on.  Then with one last look towards my direction, he left, rushing out the door behind Lenny.

“Hey, you’re that journalist who’s doing the feature on one-three,” said the dark skinned woman entering the break room.  “The Lieutenant cued me in.  How’s that working out?”

That night, it rained hard, and I watched from my window as the lights glistened in the park across the street from the hotel.  Thanksgiving was fast approaching and already, the Christmas lights had been put up.  The white transoms that had taken couples around the park were now gone, the horses safe from the pouring rain.

I found myself smiling at what Mike said.  He was right.  Native New Yorkers didn’t need to ride those carriages around Central Park for eighty bucks.  Just because I had moved to the west coast didn’t make me any less a New Yorker.

There was a knock on the door and I gathered my robe closer about me, suddenly feeling cold.  I had ordered some room service and I was famished.  As I reached for the door knob, I glanced at the ring on my finger and felt a pang of guilt.  He wasn’t due to come in till tomorrow night, leaving me tonight free to do as I pleased.  I smiled at the thought, my other hand touching my cheek where Mike’s trained eye had spotted the bruise beneath all that make-up as I opened the door.  Maybe I was too good for him, just as Mikey said earlier.

The attendant wheeled the tray in, uncovering each entrée as he introduced it to me.  For a meal close to a hundred bucks, he better tell me what each one was, I thought wryly.  Then he uncorked the wine, and poured a little into the glass, swirling it for me.  Shiraz.

After he left, I slipped off the ring and placed it on the nightstand, next to the clock.  It was only eight thirty, and outside, the rain came down harder.  Just for tonight, I wanted to feel free.

Midway through the meal, I realized that the waiter had forgotten to include the crème brulee I had ordered for dessert.  I was reaching for the phone to call Room Service when there was a knock on my door.

“About time,” I yelled as I got up from the chair.  At least they remembered, I thought, licking some of the raspberry sauce from my fingers as I opened the door wide.

Mike was leaning against the door frame, his hair slightly drenched from the rain.  I found myself wetting my lips nervously, forgetting to invite him in.  He still wore the same suit beneath his coat, but he’d removed that horrible tie and his shirt was unbuttoned.

“I was hoping you’d be alone.”  He murmured as I stepped aside to let him in.

I never did get the crème brulee.

 

The Accidental Christmas

A few more days before Christmas and I’ll be running around tomorrow doing last minute stuff like mailing holiday cards and a book that someone won in a Goodreads giveaway!

Thank goodness for blogs where we can wish everyone Happy Holidays and the message goes worldwide – or to whomever still visits this blog!

Photo Dec 20, 9 16 21 AM

In the meantime, being a romance writer, I wrote a holiday short story for you all.  It’s basically a book that you can add to your ebook library, or you can read it on Wattpad.  It’s also free to download from most major retailers and you can find the links here.

The Accidental Christmas: A Short Story

Edited to add: I just realized I misspelt “foregoing” when it shouldn’t have an “e” but that’s life, eh?

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Morrighansmuse is the poetic alter-ego of Liz Madrid, who writes women’s fiction and romance.  

 

Hook, Line and Twitter

Me and contests should really be banned, because somehow I just can’t stop myself from joining.  Well, some of them.

You see, Wattpad_Romance is holding this writing contest called Hook, Line and Twitter and the rules are to write a really good hook for a romance story using under 140 characters.  You’re really using less than 140 characters because you also have to include @wattpad_romance and #loveshot to qualify – yes, I actually thought about that really hard and went, how the hell can I write a hook in under 124 characters?

So of course, what do I do?  I came up with a hook and tweeted it.  It didn’t even matter that I had no idea what to make of the hook to begin with.  But it sounded pretty cool…

That was the first step of the contest.  Now if your tweet gets favorited by @Wattpad_Romance, then you move on to the next step, which is to write your story – romance – with the theme, Those Blue Eyes.  Limit is 4,000 words.

So of course I write  a story to match the hook I had just come up with and now I’ve got a 3900-word short story called Her Soul Place.  Whether I stuck to the theme of Those Blue Eyes is up for huge debate – I didn’t – but it doesn’t matter. I wrote 4K words and that’s not too shabby.  Deadline for the short story to be published on Wattpad is March 10, but the story’s already up.

SOULPLACE_final2

If you’d like to read it, you can click this link or the cover above.  If you’re a Wattpad member, please vote or comment. And if you’re not, what are you waiting for? 🙂  I’d love to hear what you think of it.

Winners get to be included in a collection of winning stories, and I’ve already decided that if I don’t win (I didn’t really stick to the theme of “those blue eyes”, so there’s that), it ends up expanded into a novella, at least.   I’m just so excited to see two new muses come up for me – and I love how they often crop up from prompts and challenges.

 

Reflection (500-Word Story)

Stumbled upon a weekend writing prompt to write a 500-word story and went to town with this.  Since I’m totally failing to post my Poem-A-Day resolution  on time, here’s a story for now:


 

As usual, Cirillo is late.  He’s probably fallen asleep again, Mila thinks as she walks to the empty apartment unit alone.  The old handyman’s lived with her family for over fifty years.  Now that’s loyalty for you, Mila chuckles. But where the hell is he?  He’s supposed to help her inspect the empty unit.

They need to make sure the apartment’s spotless, or the tenants don’t get their full deposit back.  No one ever did, for  Mila always found a way to charge them for something.  A torn shower curtain: $20.  A cracked mirror: $75.  One missing key: $100 – though she simply replaces the interchangeable core and pockets the rest.  What are they going to do?  Report her?  She’s got receipts to prove every replacement.

Mila checks everything downstairs.  It’s spotless and she feels a slight pang of disappointment begin to settle.  She has no plans to give them back their deposit, so she knows she’s got to keep looking for a reason to keep it all.

With the kitchen cabinets still smelling of Lysol, she makes her way up the stairs and goes through the bedrooms. Her son should really be doing these inspections with her, or by himself.  Instead he does nothing.  Like her, he waits for the rent payments to come in each month and considers himself paid for his trouble.

The first bedroom is immaculate. How did these people get the place cleaned up so well so fast?  It didn’t look like they even lived in it!  They’d stayed two months and by the third month, they were gone.  They’d found another place a few blocks away, they told her, one with a pool, though when Mila checked it out, there was no pool.

Mila forces herself to stop bitching. She has to inspect one more room and she’s done.  Maybe she’ll have to crack a mirror and tell them it had to be replaced. She’d take a picture of the mirror first as proof. She doesn’t really want to give back their deposit. Not if she can help it.

Except for Cirillo’s tool belt lying on the floor, the second room is spotless.  And cold.  Mila hugs her arms about her, standing in the center of the room.  She remembers the stories the tenants told her, how the room was always freezing, how they’d wake up to someone touching their arm, cold fingers around ankles or wrists.  Someone calling their name.

Kids these days, she scoffs.  Smoked too much pot their brains have become addled.  As she opens the door to the closet, she’s startled to see her reflection on a mirror hanging just beyond the door.  Ha! She smiles.  Mirror left behind in closet:  $50 for disposal.

She turns away, but her reflection reaches for her, startling her.  With sightless eyes, its mouth gapes open in a silent scream as cold fingers wrap around her wrists before Mila realizes what she’s seeing.

There is no mirror.

So…This Happened

Remember that story I wrote about First Love? No?  –>

I honestly gave up on the voting thing and stopped asking people to vote for the piece because, hey, I’m just not good in that department, yada yada yada – but anyway, this happened this morning:

Screen Shot 2014-10-10 at 1.45.20 PMI’m one of the 11 finalists, chosen for this little ditty about love that I submitted!

Honestly, I’m just happy I made the cut and seriously don’t think I’d win the big kahuna thingy.  There are some amazing stories on this list actually (the ones with * are my personal favorites), and if you haven’t been to Wattpad to check it out – definitely worth a look.  All stories are under 1500 words (I think it’s 1500, or was it 2000?), so it’ll only take a little bit of your time to check out.

The other winning entries below.

His Hands* – My personal favorite

Beautiful Scars*-  Another personal favorite

No Names*  – Another young love favorite

Keeping the Sky

Post Marked

Promise Ring

Room 405

A Taste of Ava

Stretching the Hood

Remember Our October