Stories

Future Reflections, by Roger A. Price

#crime #detective #dream #thriller

The sun shone through the split in the curtains, a narrow glow radiated across the bedroom, before shining onto Helena’s face. The light gently teased her from her slumbers as she laid in the king size bed alone. As she roused, she broke her dream; Alan and her, back on the sun drenched Cornish peninsula. She stretched out her arm onto Alan’s side of the bed, only feeling the coldness of the empty sheets. The bitter realisation of that emptiness next to her, matched only by the emptiness in her aching heart.

She sat bolt upright, now fully awake, knowing that the beautiful dream was just that. The full sickening horror of the painful memories that daybreak brings, now all too clear in her mind. Alan wasn’t next to her, nor would he be ever again, because Alan was dead.

Every night since the accident, Helena had the same dream. Cornwall was their special place. They holidayed there every year, twice a year. Every morning she awoke the same dreadful way, made even more painful today as she reached out to the man she loved and adored. They had only been together for five years; it should have still been the beginning, not the end.

She dragged herself to the bathroom to clear the tears from her face; then she made her way down the stairs to the large kitchen at the rear of the cottage. She composed herself as best she could and sat down with a cup of tea to contemplate the events of the previous week. The only thing she could not understand about the car crash that robbed her of her husband was what was he doing at those crossroads?

The police had told her that he was about to enter the hospital grounds when a stolen car had raced through the traffic lights on red from the other direction. Alan’s car had been the first to enter the crossroads from his direction. The lights facing him would have been on green, but he hadn’t stood a chance. According to the police accident investigator, the stolen car had been doing nearly 90mph.But still, what was he doing going to the hospital? And at 7.30pm, when he should have been home hours earlier?

The sudden trill of the telephone released her from her thoughts. She dragged herself to the hall table to answer the phone. The rickety old table that Alan had promised to repair, wobbled when she picked up the receiver, she guessed it would never get repaired now; she wouldn’t want it to be, not now. “Hello, who is it?”

“Mrs Helena Smith?” The male caller asked.

“Yes, who is this?

“Mister,” Helena didn’t catch the name – the connection sounded fuzzy in her ear. “From the insurance company,” he continued, “just ringing to let you know how your claim is going on; your insurance pay-out has been fully approved and we are posting you a cheque out today.”

Helena had forgotten all about her mishap on holiday, she thanked him, trying hard not to sound too ungrateful, without the strength to explain why. After the call was over Helena went back into the kitchen to finish her cold cup of tea, she sat back down at the old oak kitchen table and mused over the call from Mr. ‘whatever his name was’. There was something surreal about it. Maybe that’s why she had been dreaming about Cornwall; of happier times. It was on their last visit there only a few weeks ago when her mishap happened. Her memory was still very vague about it all; she remembers going on the jet skis with Alan, they had hired one each; it was a beautiful sunny day, clear blue sky without a breath of wind. Alan had told her to go first and he would follow her, that way she could go at whatever speed she was comfortable with. She remembered looking down through the crystal clear blue waters and marvelling at the marine life swimming all around her, many metres below. And then, ‘bang’, and everything went black after that, she still could not remember any details.

She was feeling tired again so Helena decided to take herself back to bed. She closed the gap in the pretty yellow curtains to keep the sun out, and soon fell back into a deep sleep.

But this was a very different kind of sleep; it was as if she was looking down on herself lying slumbering on the bed, but whose bed? It wasn’t hers. The bedroom wasn’t hers either. Nothing looked familiar, in fact she couldn’t clearly make any of it out, everything was fuzzy, and she knew it wasn’t her bedroom. Was her subconscious mind playing more tricks on her? After all, she had been through such a lot, first the holiday mishap, and then Alan’s accident, was it any wonder.

Helena’s mind drifted back to the question that had been nagging her waking hours, what was Alan doing visiting the hospital? And at 7.30 in the evening? She could almost visualise it all in her dream. The police accident investigator had been very detailed when he’d visited her with the police family liaison officer. She knew the junction well. Infirmary Street was a long straight road maybe a mile long, and just before it led straight into the hospital grounds, there was a crossroads. The junction was controlled by traffic lights, the road that crosses Infirmary Street was a long fast urban dual carriageway, drivers often sped along it, and it was well-known locally as an accident hot spot.

Something very strange started to happen. Not only was Helena still looking down on herself, she was still able to see what dreams were taking place inside her prostrate body, and still able to visualise the notorious crossroads on the entrance to the hospital; but also, it was as if she was watching the scene in real time.

She was still hovering, but instead of looking down on herself dreaming in the unfamiliar bedroom, she was looking down on the crossroads junction. Everything she could see was with clarity now, the fuzziness had gone. As she hovered, she looked down Infirmary Street as it approached the hospital.

She could see a car coming from the distance, only one car. The image of it grew larger as it approached, it looked familiar.

“Oh my God, it’s Alan’s car,” Helena screamed as she sat up in bed, no longer looking down on herself; this was herself. Wide- awake now, she took in her surroundings in an instant. She was in the hospital, sat up in a hospital bed. Not at home, not on holiday, and definitely not dreaming. Somehow she knew this was real, as if to confirm it, a nurse ran towards her shouting at others to get the Doctor.

“Nurse, NURSE,” yelled Helena.

“Don’t worry, Mrs Smith, I’m here, everything is going to be fine now,” the Nurse said.

Suddenly Helena remembered everything, what had gone on and why she was here.

“Please, nurse, what’s the time,” Helena pleaded.

“Don’t worry about that now,” the nurse replied.

“The TIME, you’ve got to tell me the time,” Helena screeched. She knew she had no time to explain, she knew this was real, and happening now.

The bemused nurse answered quickly, “7.27pm, I don’t know why you ask, but you should rest, you’ve been in a coma.”

“No time to explain, just lend me your phone, it’s a matter of life and death, please just do it,” Helena begged.

The nurse looked stunned and can’t have known why Helena wanted her phone; she’d probably never seen a patient waking from a coma act in this way before. But whether it was the urgency and fear in her Helena’s voice, or its sincerity, Helena didn’t know, but she acquiesced to her demands. She handed over her phone, and watched curiously as Helena frantically dialled.

The ring tone sounded in Helena’s ear at what could only have been a few seconds long, but it seemed like an eternity. As it was answered, she instantly recognised the ‘Hello’ on the other end. “ALAN,” she cried.

“Helena, you’re awake! You’ve come round!” His voice trembled with emotion
as he continued, “Save your strength, I’m’ just outside the hospital, I’ll be with you as quick as I can, I’m going to hang up now as the traffic lights are changing to green.”

“NO,” Helena screamed, “Don’t go through those lights, stay still, don’t move.
TRUST ME, ALAN DON’T MOVE, PLEASE GOD MAKE HIM STAY STILL,
ALAN? ALAN? ARE YOU THERE?”

The telephone line was still open, but Helena could only hear silence in the fraction of a second that followed her pleas. Then she heard the sickening sound of car tyres squealing. She pressed the phone ever more tightly to her ear as she screamed into it, “ALAN, ALAN, ARE YOU THERE, WHY DIDN’T YOU LISTEN?”

“I, I did. But, but how could you have known?” His voice stuttered and trembled as he continued, “I stayed stopped, like you said, even though the lights had changed, and then this car came the other way, fast. But how could you have—?”

Helena cut gently across him, “Just park the car and walk the last few yards.” Helena ended the call and handed the phone back to a very startled looking nurse, who took it in her hand, first staring at her phone then staring at Helena.

“What was all that about?”

“Just saving my husband’s life.”

“Sorry? How? What?” The confused nurse stuttered.

“My accident: the coma must have shown me into a place,” she paused before continuing, “A place where dreams and nightmares collide, a place I never want to see again.”

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Stories

Death Dealer, by John Kaniecki

#thriller

“Ace of spades,” cackled the dealer.

“That makes twenty one,” smiled Rupert Jones. “Pay up.”

“But you’ve got the king of clubs along with the ace of spades,” the uniformed worker said in a calm voice. “It’s what we call the Death Hand around these parts.”

“I don’t care what you call it,” hissed Jones, clenching a fist. “I want my money.”

“As you wish,” conceded the dealer. He reached towards his supply of chips.

“Ain’t you got no sense, boy?” called out a voice from down the table.

Rupert Jones gave the man two seats down his evilest stare. His fist still clenched, his agitated brain told him to relieve some tension and have a little fun. He was just about to do so when he noticed a blue anchor tattooed just above the stranger’s collar. Damn if that bag of skin and bones wasn’t a Space Ranger. Toughest bunch of sons of bitches this side of the nebula. Jones’ hard face faded to a smile.

“I thought so,” said the man softly. “You probably drifted in on the last cargo freighter and ain’t got nothing to do with two parsecs worth of wages.”

Rupert Jones listened. The prognosis was accurate, except his time on the ship was a parsec and a half.

“Let me give you a little piece of advice,” the man continued in faint tones. “Here on Fantasia we do things a little different. Go with the flow.”

Rupert Jones saw the dealer smile. His face reminded him of used spaceship salesman making an outrageous deal.

“I want my money,” demanded the gambler.

The dealer looked at the Space Ranger who casually nodded his head. “Let the chips fall where they may,” he said.

On that cue the dealer tossed a solitary red chip. It bounced on the green felt table before smacking into Rupert Jones’ neatly piled stack. The momentum of the collision caused the column to cascade down.

“Time to quit anyway,” grumbled Rupert Jones.

“Ain’t nobody quits on a Death Hand,” insisted the Space Ranger. “It just ain’t done.”

Rupert Jones was planning a cheap shot, hoping to get lucky. But his strategic thoughts were cut off by the grumbling of all the other players on the table.

“Just ain’t done,” quipped an alien bearing a pig face complete with tusks—well over five hundred pounds of muscle.

Rupert Jones caved in. “One more hand, then.”

“Good golly,” declared the Space Ranger. “What a bold choice, considering the size of your winnings.”

“What do you mean?” asked Rupert Jones.

“You just bet everything,” answered the Space Ranger.

Rupert Jones stared blankly at his fellow gambler. “But I got ten parsecs of wages in these chips!”

“Welcome to Fantasia,” grumbled the alien with a snort. “You should have read the rules before you entered the casino.”

Cowardly Rupert Jones pushed his immense collection of red chips forward on the green felt table, privately praying to any god who cared to listen. Who knows—with the luck he was having tonight he just might win.

The dealer flicked the cards out. Nervously Rupert Jones looked on. His first card was a lowly deuce of hearts. The space merchant cursed his foul luck. The second card was a six of diamonds. Well that ain’t too bad, reasoned the gambler. The dealer was showing a nine of spades.

Too nervous to consider the other hands, Rupert Jones focused on the odds of his own situation. He would, of course, take a hit. Anything else was illogical.

“Well,” said the dealer. Rupert Jones was so lost in thought that he failed to realize it was his turn.

“Hit me,” his voice squeaked nervously.

The dealer tossed out an ace of clubs. That made his total nine or nineteen. If the house had a ten in their hidden card, the most probable by odds, it would be a tie. By the rules of Black Jack, house wins on a tie.

“I’ll stand,” Rupert Jones meekly announced.

The dealer flipped over his hidden card to reveal an eight of clubs. The house’s total was seventeen.

“I won,” cried Rupert Jones, ecstatic. “I won, I won, I won,” he repeated, crying ever the louder. Then his face turned red as his hand clutched at his chest. In agony he gasped his last breath as he fell dead upon the green felt of the Black Jack table.

The Space Ranger spoke up. “Didn’t anybody tell that fool that gambling is illegal on Fantasia and this is all for fun?”

Like this story? Check out John’s books!

https://www.createspace.com/5208167

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Amboy, by Tom J. Perrin

#horror #thriller

‘You going to Vegas?’ the pump attendant asked Mike.

‘Yes, sir, I am,’ Mike replied.

‘Fuck the sir, name’s Earl. I know a quicker route to Vegas from here.’

Earl of Earl’s Gas Station wore overalls, had huge hands and arms, teeth that were yellowing and a scarred face.

‘Okay…’

‘Take the 15 as far as Barstow; take the road that runs alongside the 40. Take the 66 until you find the 95 and then Vegas is a straight shot from there.’

Mike was skeptical. ‘Is it quicker than the highway?’

‘As the crow flies, no, but it’ll beat the traffic going to Vegas. …You’re not from round here, are you?’

‘I’m from Colorado originally.’

‘Take my advice, mountain boy; it’ll save you time. Card or cash?’

‘Card.’

‘Call it a round 70 then.’ The display showed $66.94. ‘I round up, you got a problem with that?’

‘Nope.’

He didn’t look like the kind of guy you’d like to have a problem with. Mike was just about to leave when there was a curt rasp on the window. Evidently the clerk had followed him out.

‘Take my advice mountain boy—you’ll be with your mountain friends before you know it.’

‘I will, thanks.’ Mike sped off, glad to be getting away.

Sitting in traffic approaching Barstow, the journey had already quadrupled in time. A banker based in Pasadena, Mike had done well for himself despite a tough upbringing. Losing his parents in a car crash at the age of 7, he had moved to LA to live with his grandparents. 24 years later, they were both dead and Mike was alone in the world. He considered Earl’s advice as he approached Barstow. He saw the road just off the 40, it was empty as far as the eye could see, not surprisingly. It went through the vacant desert for miles and miles. Swerving into the empty exit lane, Mike steered the Expo off the highway, silently cursing the traffic he was leaving behind.

The road ran smoothly alongside the Needles freeway until the sparsely populated town of Ludlow. A veer to the right took Mike away from the comforting lights of the freeway and into the darkness. There was nothing for miles; the vacant desert offered no evident directional signs. Not even tumbleweed offered the comfort of a stereotype. Phone signal was redundant out here, Mike was well and truly alone, trapped inside his Expedition and heading headfirst into a nothingness which quite frankly terrified him. The gas light had started glowing a few miles back, offering a dim bolt of light in the darkness. It seemed to scream YOU’RE FUCKED. He couldn’t believe he was out of gas already—he had had the tank filled at Earl’s, or so he thought. He knew there was something off about that place.

The headlights flashed the sign for Amboy, and for a split second he thought he saw somebody leaning on the sign. Mike pivoted in his seat to try and get a look back. The Expo bumped over something in the road and veered violently, and Mike was shocked into taking evasive action to stop the car from tipping over. Having managed to avoid tipping, Mike screeched beside a pump at Roy’s Motel and Café. Getting out he noticed that his front tyre had been punctured by something and was deflating, as were the other three. He walked back into the road and noticed the spike track lying across the road. Mike was suddenly terrified. There was nothing here but one lone building to offer Mike some home.

Rattling the door to Roy’s cafe, he found that it was padlocked shut. A closed until further notice sign clattered against the dusty front door. The only lights in this desert wasteland came from the headlights from his Expo; Mike was well and truly alone.

It wasn’t more than an hour before there were lights approaching Amboy, from the same direction as Mike. He’d locked himself in his car not long after finding the café locked up. The car—or truck, Mike couldn’t tell—made a perfect approach into the dusty parking lot across from the café. Where were the spikes? Mike thought. A cold shiver traveled down his spine.

Mike approached the car. He noticed the Earl’s Garage decal plastered across the side. The door opened. Earl got out of the driver’s side, smiling his yellow smile.

‘You need some help, mountain boy?’ There was something in his right hand.

It was then that Mike was struck from behind.

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A ’40s Detective Sells His Story to the Movies by Robert King

#action #dark and stormy night #detective #fiction #flashfiction #noir #thriller

Untitled

Meanwhile, on a dark and stormy night that soaked the homicide report I carried, I went for the second time seeking clues in the room of the mysterious murdered heiress. Needless to say she wasn’t home.

Or was she? Her perfume still smelled like trouble. As soon as I closed the door behind me and before I found the light switch, a shapely shadow, dressed in the color of night, emerged from a dark corner and crossed the dim light of the window.

The way everything was flickering, I thought someone had left a projector running, but it was a lady dressed in black doing the running. I couldn’t see her face, but she had to be the most beautiful babe in the world.

“Stick ‘em up!” she commanded. I thought she pulled her piece to shoot me down, but at gunpoint she slammed my raised hands into the bedpost and locked the cuffs. No, my dear reader, you don’t know how it ends.

Getting her kicks, I guess, she forced half a bottle of Kentucky bourbon down my throat, lit a Camel, took a puff, and blew smoke in my face. “Was it good for you?” she purred. Pretty smart cookie.

Whether it was the booze or the smoke, I passed out like technicolor into black and white
as all the power went off in the building, the only light a sputtering bar sign and swords of lightning outside. When I came almost to, all I could see of her was a glowing coal about lip high.

Then I heard Tootsie (as I like to call her) chugging the bottom half of the bottle, opening another―gin this time, I detected, by the smell of pine needles―and pouring it all over me. Cuffed helpless I was no match for her, so she struck her own, lit a new Camel, and threw the burning match down on my booze-soaked chest. The cheap gin wouldn’t burn. It just sneezed a few times, then flamed out. Still, I was so tanked up with 90 proof that I was afraid to breathe.

Confused by the homicide report and the way this story was going, when I cooled down I asked her if she was alive or dead. She said she wasn’t that kind of girl. She never said anything more. During the power outage, the Camel burned down to her classy lips.

Or did it? In the light of day, she had vanished like a bad habit, leaving the .22 caliber pistol with a cigarette stub in the lips of its barrel, the hair on my chest singed, and this case still wide open. Only the scent of her perfume, like a drifting clue to follow, stayed in the room. It smelled like gasoline.

Some dames like it hot.

Robert’s website is http://robertsking.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook!

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