Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Keeping Score

This is my contribution to the standard March Flash Fiction Carnival. The prompt was LETTERS/NUMBERS. And as broad as it is, I found it a tough one. So I decided to play around with a character voice in my head, who stems from my free ebook, Once Bitten, Twice Charmed.


My job is all about numbers. Sure, you occasionally get to shoot someone, or ride them to the ground, or chase them down the highway. But mostly, it comes down to numbers. It’s funny, because I was never good at math, but here I am. I’m not a physicist, or a Wall Street analyst, or a salesman. I’m a detective. Lieutenant Aidan Peter Sloane, Boston PD, Shield 7956.


I never thought much about them before I worked the beat. Except maybe my bank account. My phone messages. Now numbers keep me up at night, tossing and turning and throwing them around in my head. Until I can’t take it anymore, and I just go back to work, back to the number game.

Take this poor bastard, for example. The number of bullet holes in his chest? Four. The number of drinks he consumed at the bar last night? Ten. The number of people who saw him leave with a petite blonde, most likely a working girl? Three. The number of possible suspects? Two. The blonde, and her boyfriend. And then it goes on. What was the time of death? Approximately 00:06 hours this morning. What was the last call he made? Received? Two missed calls at 23:23, and 23:24 from 564-2389.

The number of days before I solve this case? Two, if I can catch some shut-eye. They were sloppy, rushed, unprepared. A crime of passion. The easiest, and the hardest kind. The number of hours I’ll sleep this week? Maybe nine, if I’m lucky.

So, why would I do it, you wonder? My paycheck ain’t much. $1236.92 every other week. Eighteen more years, and I can retire. That’s 4,500 more days on the job. But the truth is, it’s the only thing I’ve ever been good at, so why give it up? I failed math, but the numbers and I get along just fine.

Except for once. There’s one number I’d like to change if I could. Five days ago, on my seventh anniversary on the force, a girl was murdered. She was my eighth case that week. I gave myself six days to find her murderer. He was smart, and knew what he was doing. But now that’s tomorrow, and I have no investigation. Because the day she died, Monique Sylvan’s body disappeared from the city morgue.

She’s dead. Or, she was dead. I know it. I saw her. I felt her body, cold, and still, and lifeless. I closed her goddamn eyes for her. Someone killed her. I know that too, in my gut. And I’m gonna find the bastard. But it’s going to take more than six days. I don’t care if it takes me another 4,500 days – I’ll keep looking. Because he’s out there somewhere. A murderer, who thinks he’s gotten away with it. And if there’s anything I hate more than this cheap-ass watered-down mud they call coffee, it’s being duped.

The number of cases I've left unsolved? One, for now.


---500 Words


A. Catherine Noon said...

My wufs it! I particularly like, "one, for now." Love it! I want the rest of it! :)

Fey said...

Wow, I liked the pace in that! And it was almost like one of those dectective monologue summary things tv detectives give, do you know what I mean? Anyway, it was good really good *huggles*

Kathleen Oxley said...

Excellent, Gwen! Fits very well within the "Once Bitten, Twice Charmed" storyline. It's also an interesting twist on the theme. My only problem with it is the last line. "The number of cases I have still unsolved? Just one, for now." I would imagine a guy on the force for any length of time would have more than one unsolved case (although, this is paranormal romantic fiction - so I can let that go). Also, I would've phrased it differently - "The number of cases I've left unsolved?..." - but that's just pickiness.

Otherwise, really enjoyed it!!

Eaton Bennett said...

Wow, wow and wow!!! I am loving this, I hope you are planning to take this whole story further. I thought you said this was a 'tough'
one - you would be dangerous if the prompt had been easy :)
*Hugs* Eaton.

~Liz~ said...

Absolutely fabulous! You've given your character such a distict voice that even with being given any sort of physical description, I can both see him and hear him. I also love the ending. It makes me want to turn a page to read more.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I like this guy's voice. What else are you planning to do with him? Anything?

Gwen Mitchell said...

Thank you muchly! I intentionally left his description out, because I don't know yet. So far all I have is the voice in my head, and the wisp of a plot brewing. But I'm thrilled you could picture him without that. The TV monologue was the style I was going for, so yay!!

Anonymous said...

Good effort at a hardboiled style; the clipped delivery and professional detachment was very Joe Friday. I can't speak for how it fits into a larger storyline, but it stands well enough on its own.

bunnygirl said...

Great job, Gwen! I've run across a lot of pieces that try to do something like this and they don't work. This one does, and wonderfully so!

What I found interesting was the way the voice and pacing kept me reading, even though the story was really mostly backstory and setup. You created a sense that something good was coming up, just wait for it, be patient...and then the dead girl, body gone, case unsolved. Oddly satisfying because it's the payoff that's been hinted at all along as reward for keeping on reading.

I'd love to get to know this character better!

D.T. Kelly said...

Fantastic piece! I really do love how you kept the numbers theme going throughout.