As I mentioned last week, the flash fiction challenge right now is about continuing other people’s stories. I chose to continue a murder mystery started by CJ, which can be found on her blog here: http://imagination.cjreader.com/ (second story down, as of now)
Here is me trying to advance the story…
Two steps inside the apartment, Mailie already knew something was wrong. The oppressive heat was bad, but expected. The open windows and lived-in feeling of the front room, however, were unexpected. She scanned the room but didn’t see her nosy roommate. Just the open window and an empty couch. An empty couch with a sweaty divot in the middle, and on the table right in front of it, next to Mailie’s cellphone, sat a laptop.
“Dammit, Tina,” Mailie muttered under her breath.
Everything had to go right today, and now Mailie’s worthless roommate was throwing a wrench into the mechane. At this time on a Saturday morning, Tina should still be sleeping. What time had she stumbled in last night? It had to be past 3:00. Mailie had been in her dark room, listening for the telltale signs, then snuck out as soon as her roommate passed out.
Given normal patterns, Mailie should have had a good ten hours to do what needed to get done. Tina would sleep until noon. That would have given Mailie the time she needed to finish her work. She still had the murder weapon. She had the cash, much more cash than she had been led to believe the couple would have on hand. Thank God for Honeymooners. And, of course, the envelope. If the blessed couple hadn’t been trying to smuggle that particular item out of the country, they’d probably be sipping mai-tais right now.
The extra cash and the ring had been the cause of Mailie’s early-morning sojourn. In addition to her normal laundering conduit, she needed to check on the viability of hawking the diamond. But now that the second-hand jeweler had been secured, there was a new wrinkle in her plans.
Mailie had needed to be back, playing the vapid coquette persona she had worked so hard to establish, when her roommate woke up. There would be a half-hour of Tina whining about finding her muse and staring at a blank screen before she packed up and headed to Starbucks for the afternoon, under the guise of distraction-free writing, but really just to chase some of last night’s booze away. All Mailie needed to do was say, “Oh, Emm, Jee, Tina. Pete was such an asshole last night. I might just cry in my room all day. How’s your writing coming? Hey, when you come back from ‘Bucks, can you bring me a white mocha?” but she hadn’t made it back in time.
Mailie went over to the coffee table to pick up her phone grabbed her phone from the table. She had left it here because she damn-well knew the boss used it to track her. He needed to know the job was done. He did not need to know about the bonus cash and jewelry.
When she grabbed the phone, however, that faint instinct that something was amiss grew. The phone was warm, meaning it had been illuminated recently. Had the boss called early? Shit, what time was it?
Mailie’s panic increased as she double-tapped and swiped the phone. The little “missed call” icon was nowhere to be seen. She frantically swiped from the side and the top looking for the call log.
“Why the fuck do they make it so hard to find a missed call?” She said out loud, not realizing her transition from internal monologue to verbalization.
She finally found it and the feeling erupted into a certain knowledge of catastrophe. Seven minutes ago, a call had come in. Unknown Number. Didn’t matter, it was the boss. But it was listed, not as missed but as incoming. The phone had been answered.
She turned to march on her roommate’s room when she noticed the door to her own room. It was open, and her room was clearly visible. She diverted her trajectory until she was standing in her own doorway, trying desperately to assess the damage and run through contingency plans.
But she could not focus. All she could do was move her eyes from problem to problem. The window she had crawled out of in the dark pre-dawn hours was back open. Her dresser drawers were open, her clothes tossed on the ground. The silk scarf she had used to transport and store the murder weapon was unraveled on top of the drawer and lying there, on top of the clothes, the bloody knife proudly announced itself to the world. The manila envelope had fallen to the floor, the file it contained partly spilled out.
Mailie picked the easiest, and most pressing, problem to deal with first, grabbing the envelope and file off the ground. As she went to put the file back in, she noticed how thin, how empty, the manila container was. The ring was not there.
“The bitch stole it!”
Mailie ran to the window, looked out at the alleyway. It was precisely the way she had left it in the dark. She had moved the trashcan in front of the gate. There was no way Tina could have answered the phone that recently and escaped out the window without moving some items. So she was still inside.
She ran back to the front room and spoke in a loud, clear voice. Not a shout, but enough to be heard through the thin walls. No need to alert the entire neighborhood through the open windows.
“Tina, I don’t know what you think you saw, and I don’t know what you’re planning, but you need to listen to me. Some very bad things are going to happen if we don’t-“
Mailie was cut off by the unmistakable brzz, brzz of a phone vibrating on a table. The illuminated screen shone across the living room like a spotlight. Unknown Number.
“I’m sexy and I know it…”