Two Stories for the Price of One

(photo courtesy of WildOne @

I have so little time to post on this site currently, and I feel bad about that, so periodically, I take a nostalgic trip through my short story archives and pull something out to share again. I’ve acquired so many new followers over the past 5 or 6 years, and most of those people don’t go back years into my posts to read anything from that time period. That being the case, I feel okay about reposting some of the stories that haven’t seen an audience for several years. The two stories below are from the archives, and both deal with the theme of crime. They were originally written in response to a particular kind of writing challenge, but there’s no need to go into the details for this post. I hope any new readers will enjoy them– and maybe even a few old readers who have forgotten all about reading them almost 6 years ago.  🙂


Detective Becker pressed his left hand against his temple. It was tender from the pain where a migraine was threatening, but he had to go over this list of people who had received threats in the past month. The letters had all been made out in the same way: typed words that had been cut and pasted – one word at a time – onto a black sheet of paper and mailed in red envelopes.

He’d sworn he’d figure out the nexus they shared that had made them victims of such a hateful attack, but time wasn’t on his side any longer, because the first two people on the list had already been killed.

His buzzer sounded, and his secretary reported that he had a call waiting on line one: his superior, Detective Holmes. “Yes sir,” Becker spoke into the phone. “What can I do for you?”

“The press has gotten wind of the fact that eight other people have received threatening letters. They’re pushing for a story, but, of course, we can’t tell them anything that could disrupt the investigation. I just wanted you to be forewarned that they’ll be waiting outside the front door when you leave the office.”

“Thanks for the warning. I slip out the basement entrance.”

“Have you figured out any connection yet between the two who are dead and the other eight?”

“I think I may have, Sir. All of these people served on a jury together about fifteen years ago. The decision of that jury was unanimous and resulted in the death sentence for the man on trial.”


“Malcom Leiberman.”

Dead silence on the other end of the line caused Becker to stay quiet and wait. He could hear that the wind outside had started blowing harder, and he knew the storm that had been predicted was almost upon them. Finally, Holmes responded: “You know, of course, that Leiberman was convicted of perpetrating a series of murders after sending out threatening letters to his victims.”

Becker sucked in his breath. “No sir … no, I haven’t had time to research the case yet. But that’s too weird.”

“Yes,” replied Holmes. “And now I think I know who we’re looking for. His brother swore he’d get revenge. But then he got sick with some disease that the doctors said was incurable, and he was hospitalized for years. I guess everybody forgot about his threats. I know I did. But we need to find out if he’s still alive, and if so …”

“I’m on it, Sir,” Becker said. “I’ll call you back as soon as I have the information.”

Two hours later, Becker walked into Holmes’ office with a medical report. “He’s alive all right,” he said, laying the report on his superior’s desk. “And living right here in the city.”

“You’ve got an address?”

Becker nodded.

Holmes rose from his chair and strapped on his gun. “Let’s go get him and save eight people’s lives.”




When Inspector McGregor arrived at the scene, he found the car, empty, with the driver’s door standing open, exactly as the caller had described.  Refusing to give his name, the caller had simply reported what looked like an abandoned car sitting on an abandoned street, across from the printing plant.

The plant was shut down for the night, but security lights were on in the front, and evidently someone was still working in two of the offices upstairs. Inspector McGregor looked at his watch. They were certainly keeping strange hours. It was 3:30 in the morning. Even the bars across the street and in the next block had been closed for an hour and a half.

McGregor stood looking toward the plant, thinking, when suddenly he saw a face in one of the dark first-floor windows. The outside security light, with its eery blue cast, threw enough light on the window that even the split-second appearance of the face was clear enough to tell it had a fragile look about. It almost had to be a woman or a child.

Time to call for backup, McGregor decided, and radioed the station to pass on the information he had, get two more units on the way, and get a phone number for the printing plant office. “Look up Peter Hampton’s home number as well,” he said into the phone.  “Whoever’s in the office now may not answer the phone, and I want him down here with a key immediately.”

When he signed off, he punched in the printing office number first. The street was so quiet he could actually hear the office phone ringing, but after five rings, the answering machine picked up. He hung up and immediately called Hampton’s house.

The machine picked up at the house as well, but before the message played through, Hampton had picked up the phone. “Yeah, Hampton here,” he said, his voice thick with sleep.

“Mr. Hampton,” this is Inspector Alan McGregor with the metropolitan police department.”

“Police!  What’s going on? What’s wrong?”

“I don’t want to alarm you, sir, but we have an unusual situation going on at your plant right now, and I need you to get down here and open up the door so we can get in and take a look around.”

“What do you mean unusual situation?  And how do I know this is really the police?”

McGregor gritted his teeth, but at the same time, part of him was glad that Hampton didn’t just take off running in response to a call from someone without positive identification.

“I’m going to hang up, Mr. Hampton. And I want you to look up the number of the 7th precinct and call it. Ask them if they have an Inspector McGregor working on a case that involves your plant. They’ll verify everything I’ve told you, and then you get yourself down here. Understand?”

“Yes … yes … I can do that.”

“Don’t waste time, Hampton. I need you here now.”

“Yes … alright. I’m looking up the number now. I’ll hang up.”

“Fine,” McGregor answered.  “And thank you.”

By the time he’d ended the call the other two patrol cars had joined him. He had requested no sirens, but their lights were flashing. Whoever was inside looking out had to know they were about to get a visit from the police.  “Any ideas at all about who or what, Alan?” one of the other officers asked him.

“Well, I’d bet a month’s salary the face I saw belongs to a woman or a child. She could be in there with a couple others, and they could be in the middle of a burglary. Or she could have run inside for protection from something else.  This car door standing wide open tells me the second possibility is more likely.”

“Sounds reasonable. But why would somebody running for safety park on this side of the street if they were going into that building?”

McGregor shook his head, deep in thought, and just then Peter Hampton drove up, slammed on his brakes, and jumped out of the car. McGregor met him at the front door of the building, and Hampton unlocked the door, all the time emphasizing that the lights upstairs should not be on. “No one is supposed to be here at all, Inspector,” he insisted.

“Okay, it helps to know that. Now, you go back to your car, Mr. Hampton. We’ll take it from here. We don’t want you in the middle of anything that could be a threat to you.”

Hampton gladly obeyed, and McGregor and two of the officers eased through the front doorway. The other two officers had gone around the back to make sure no one left from that direction.

McGregor flipped on the overhead lights in the front reception area. “Police!” he shouted. “You need to come out into the open and identify yourself. The building’s surrounded. Come out where we can see you now!”

“Please! Please don’t shoot,” a thin shaky voice answered. “It’s only me, Carla Watson,” the voice continued, and slowly a young woman rose up from behind a desk on the right side of the room. She held her hands up as if in surrender, and she was shaking with fright. “Please, I was only hiding from some men who were chasing me. Honest. I didn’t mean to break in.” Her voice broke then and she began to sob.

McGregor told the other two officers to check out the rest of the building, and he walked closer to the girl. “Are you here alone?” McGregor asked.

“Yes,” she answered, trying to stifle her sobs. “Could I please get a tissue out of my pocket?” She asked, looking at him pitifully.

“Sure. You can put your hands down and come out here and sit down.”

She obediently moved from behind the desk and walked to a chair in the waiting area, at the same time digging into her sweater pocket for her tissues. When she had blown her nose and managed to get control of the tears to some extent, McGregor propped himself on the corner of a desk and asked her for her story.

“I was coming out of the Family Savings store and three men were standing out in the parking lot. They started to make suggestive comments to me and when I just hurried on to my car, they started following me. I jumped in  and locked my door and got my car started, but they were right beside my door, banging on the window. I managed to take off though, but they jumped into their car and followed me.

“It was awful, I tried to go fast enough to lose them, but they kept up with me. Finally, I came to a red light and just ran through it. I should have known they would do the same thing. There was almost no other traffic on those streets, and I kept turning abruptly, trying to lose them.  Finally, when a truck came across the road between me and them, they had to come to a stop, and I managed to turn two more corners and found myself on this street.

“A friend of mine works at the printing plant, and I remembered her saying that sometimes the ink odor is so strong they often open one of the windows on the back side of the building — one on the alley. I saw the lights on upstairs, and I just hoped that maybe I could find a window open. I pulled the car up on the other side of the street, hoping that if the men found the car, they’d think I had run in that direction and would start looking for me there. That would give me more time to get away.  I ran faster than I’ve ever run to get to the alley, and I prayed the whole way that the window would be open. It was. I crawled in and closed and locked it behind me.”

“But you didn’t go upstairs to get help?”

“Well, after I’d gotten in and walked toward the front of the building, I realized I didn’t hear anything upstairs that sounded like people moving around or talking. I figured someone had just left the lights on by mistake, so I decided to stay down here — at least until I could glance out the window a time or two and make sure I wasn’t followed.”

“And did they follow you?”

She nodded her head and then shivered. McGregor stepped over to her and patted her shoulder. “You’re safe now, Carla. Just tell me everything you can about them.”

She nodded. I glanced out once and saw that they were getting out of their car and heading down the street the other direction as I had hoped they would. I didn’t think they’d try to get into any buildings that were locked, so I thought I was probably safe in here. But I did try to glance out another time or two to see what was happening. They finally came back and got into their car. But while they were gone from it, I managed to look at it long enough to get the license number.”

“Good girl!” McGregor said now, patting her shoulder again. Then he pulled out a pen and pad and took down the number she gave him. She also gave him a fairly good description of two of the men.

McGregor nodded his head as he wrote down what she said. “Yes, I think I many know one of these guys already. And if it’s who I think it is, he’s out of prison on parole, and this is going to go down hard on him.”

By that time all four of the other officers had scouted out the entire building and reported that no one else was on the premises. McGregor sent one man out to get Peter Hampton, and when he had checked out the situation himself, he came to the conclusion that the janitor had evidently left a couple lights on.

“He’s new and, frankly, I’m not sure how reliable he is.” He thought for a moment. “Well, evidently, from what I see now, he’s pretty unreliable. I’ll have a serious talk with him tomorrow. But I don’t see anything out of place – and nothing seems to be missing – so I’d say he’s probably the one who left the lights ——”  He stopped abruptly and looked at Carla. “Hey, how did you get in here anyway!”

She explained about the open window in back and then added. “I’m just so grateful it was open, and so glad the lights were on,” said Carla. “I don’t think I would have thought about trying to get in here if they hadn’t been. So … please … Mr. Hampton, don’t be too hard on your janitor.”

Hampton couldn’t help but grin. “Well, Missy, I guess if his leaving those lights on and the window open saved you from some serious harm, I’ll have to give him another chance to prove he’s dependable.”

McGregor chuckled, as did a couple of the other officers. Then he turned to Carla. “Is there someone at your home so that you won’t have to be there alone for right now?”

“Yes, my sister lives with me there,” she said. “And, as a matter of fact,” she added, looking at her watch, “I bet she’s starting to worry about me right now. My cell phone was dead, or I would have called her and told her to send help. I picked up one of the office phones here, but I couldn’t get it to give me an outside line. I couldn’t figure out all the buttons in the dark.”

“Well, I’m going to follow you home right now, and I’ll go in with you and talk with your sister. Then tomorrow, I’ll get in touch with you and let you know how we’re doing at making sure those men don’t get it into their heads to pull the same stunt with some other young lady. We may need you to identify a couple of them if we can bring them in. Are you willing to do that?”

“Can I do it without them seeing me?”


Carla nodded her head. “Then I’ll be glad to.”

“Good,” McGregor said, taking her arm gently. “Now let’s get you home.” They started for the door, and McGregor looked back at Peter Hampton. “Thanks for all your help Mr. Hampton. I hope you can still get a little sleep before you start your work day.”

Peter Hampton chuckled. “I don’t know, Inspector. When I get home, I’m going to have to fill my wife in on all that’s happened. And she’s not one to be satisfied with a summary. Like any good woman, she wants all the little details, and she wants them in chronological order. I figure I’m up for the day, but, all in all, I feel good knowing I could be a little help in keeping crime off the streets of our fair city. “


During the Lecture


The lecture finally came to an end about 9:20 p.m.  That was almost an hour longer than it should have lasted. I hadn’t realized that there would be so much time in which to carry out my plan, or I would have gone about things much more leisurely.

Professor Thomas Crenshaw was known for being windy, of course, but I didn’t want to count on that fact, so after I’d slipped unobtrusively from my seat on the last row and exited the lecture hall, I literally ran to my car and changed into my disguise.

Black is so non-committal, isn’t it? Especially at night. One can sneak between parked cars and through alleys and even private yards without being noticed.

I didn’t have to drive, since Farnesley lived just a block off campus. I slipped into the alley that ran behind his house, making my way silently. I guess I wasn’t completely silent — or else my human scent caused an alarm — because a dog sent up some noisy yapping as I passed one residence, but as soon as I was twenty feet way, he want back to his normal nightly business.

I was feeling pretty proud of myself for executing this little maneuver so well. I’d even played the good neighbor and offered to bring over my WD40 and oil his back gate that squeaked. When I’d been there for the staff barbecue last week and realized how it squeaked, I knew I’d have to take care of that little problem before I could carry out my plan successfully. But a few little squirts, and problem solved. I have to laugh now when I think how profusely Smith thanked me for being so thoughtful.

And, of course, he thanked me profusely again when I presented him with that expensive bottle of burgundy today as a birthday gift. That’s the thing about old Farnesley. He did everything rather profusely — even his drinking. And that’s what I was counting on. The old sot! How anyone could believe he was fit to be made the Chair of our department was beyond me. The choices had come down to him and me, and I was positive I’d be their pick. But when the university President told me that the board was swinging heavily toward Farnesley instead, it was all I could do not to unload a torrent of curses right there in the hallway of the administration building.

No matter. My little maneuver tonight took care of everything. As I approached the back door, I was fully confident that the bottle of burgundy was empty and Smith snoring like the pig that he is — well — that he was. I’d been right, of course. I’m surprised his own snoring didn’t wake him up. The man was a disgrace to our university, and it was past time someone did something about it. One little jab of a needle, and the quick-acting poison I’d chosen took care of old Smith for good. And I quietly and sedately slipped back into my seat in the lecture hall in plenty of time to hear the last thirty minutes of Thomas’ mind-numbing lecture.

Now, as I sit here at my own desk, listening to the digital recorder I had left in my lecture seat — along with the reserved sign so no one else would sit there — I’m diligently making notes on the lecture. When the authorities question me — as they undoubtedly will — I’ll have my name on the sign-in sheet and the sign-out sheet for the lecture. And I’ll have the notes I’ve taken, proving that I heard every single word Professor Crenshaw spoke from 7:30 to 9:20 p.m.



Daily Post Prompt: Lecture




‘Man With A Gun’ — Writing Challenge — Week 1

GUN - BLUEAt some point in my past, I read that Raymond Carver once offered advice to writers about what to do if their stories seemed to lag or hit a boring place. His suggestion was to have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.

That idea intrigued me – much more than I expected – and, as a result, I decided to set myself a challenge — as follows: I am committing to write one story for every Saturday in August, in which – at some point in time – whether fitting or not – a man or woman does walk through a door with a gun.

During this exercise, I am going to do very little editing of my stories. Rather I will simply begin writing with whatever idea comes to mind and continue until the gunman appears on the scene. After that point, whatever happens ….

I’m hoping my readers will enjoy this experiment with me, but I also thought that some of you out there would like to participate and do your own “man-with-a-gun” stories.

If you do, please post the links to your stories in the “Comments” section of my story for that week. I’m posting a story today. If you write a story any day this week before next Saturday, please post your link in the “Comments” of my story that is dated today. If you want to wait and post only on Saturdays, I will try to have mine up each of the next four Saturdays by 12:01 a.m. – U.S. Central Daylight Savings time. That way, hopefully, many of my readers in other countries will be able to post at the start of their day if they choose.

I’m not setting any word limit, but if we try to keep them to 1500 words or less, I think we will have an easier time visiting each other’s blogs and reading everyone’s stories – that is if anyone else takes part. I hope you do.

Feel free to start this exercise at any time, or to write only one or two stories if you don’t have time for five. Frankly, I have no idea if I will meet the challenge or not, but I’m at least taking the plunge. And please remember that my blog does not post “R” or “X” rated material.

My first story is below:


ENGAGEMENT RING CLIP ARTTony couldn’t wait to get to work and tell his colleagues about the lottery ticket. He had never won anything in his life, but yesterday his bad luck had turned to good. Granted, he had won a small game – the prize was just $300.00 dollars – but to Tony, who always seemed to be on the losing end of everything he took part in, this win had him sailing along ten feet above the ground.

As he opened the door of the book store, he saw that Marie, the secretary/accountant was already at work. “Hey, Marie,” he called from the door and then skidded up to her desk, “guess what happened to me last night.”

“Hmmm,” she answered, only half paying attention as she pulled up the program she needed on her computer. “Let’s see … . Oh, I know … you won the lottery.”

She swung around and glanced at Tony when she said it, and noticed that he looked somewhat crestfallen. “That’s a lousy thing to guess,” he complained.


“Because that’s exactly what I did, and I was just sure you’d all be astounded.”

By that time the other two employees had arrived and were standing beside Marie’s desk. “You mean you really did win the lottery?” Randall asked.

“Well, not the biggy, but —” he grinned at each one of them individually. “But I did win $300.00.”

“Hey, congratulations,” Peter said, punching him lightly on the shoulder. “Way to go. Does that mean you’re treating us all to lunch?”

Tony hung his head for a second and then looked up at them sheepishly. “Well, to tell you the truth, I have it earmarked for something else already.”

“I know!” said Marie, her eyes alight. “You’re going to buy Sarah an engagement ring.”

Tony looked at her in astonishment. “For heaven’s sake, Marie, what are you – a mind reader?”

Marie shrugged her shoulders. “Don’t blame me if I’m just super smart.” Then she grinned conspiratorially. “Want me to help pick it out?”

Tony lifted his head in what he wanted to pass for a look of sophistication, but which really made him look more like a schoolboy with a pout. “ I already have it picked out, thank you. It’s a little more than the $300.00, but I have a small amount in a savings account.”

Randall spoke up then. “So, when are you going to give it to her?

“I think I’ll take her to dinner this Saturday and ask her to marry me while we’re at the restaurant.”

“Sounds good. Where are you going?”

“I’ll book a reservation at The Coral Reef – a table by the window so we can watch the sun set over the beach. I want all the romance I can get going for me because I’m not positive Sarah has marriage in her plans. She likes her independence.”

“Well, that’s the perfect place.” said Marie, just as the bell rang over the front door. “Oops, time to get to work.”

But this customer wasn’t a regular. He had a large scarf tied triangularly over his nose and mouth, and he carried a gun.

All four of the employees froze, and without being told to do so, lifted their hands in the air.

“That’s it. Nice and easy, and nobody gets hurt,” said the gunman. He looked at Marie. “Now, girlie, you just walk over to that cash register – nice and slow – and take out all the money and put it in this here bag,” he said, as he tossed an old cloth drawstring bag onto the counter beside the register. Then lay your purse down right beside the bag. And the rest of you,” he added, pointing the gun more robustly toward the three men, “start taking out your wallets; empty your pockets, and put it all in the bag.”

Tony sucked in his breath. He had cashed in the lottery ticket and had the $300.00 in his wallet. He couldn’t let this man steal the money for Sarah’s ring. “Now, wait just a minute!” he said, dropping his hands to his sides. The gunman jumped forward and pushed the gun to within two feet of Tony’s nose.

“No funny business. Empty all those pockets!”

“I will not! I have something important to do with my money, and you can’t have it.”

The gunman stepped even closer. “Look, Buddy, don’t be a fool. Empty those pockets before I get tired of waiting.”

“You have no right to my money or anyone else’s!” Tony said, throwing his left arm toward the man on an angle – just enough to throw the gunman off balance and cause an involuntary reaction in his hand. His hold on the gun was broken for only a couple seconds, but it was enough for Tony to grab the gun and turn it on the thief. His friends dropped their hands, and Tony asked Marie to call the police.

The robber’s eyes were huge with fear, and before anyone could even guess what he was going to do, he had turned and made for the door. Tony shot into the air, hoping to frighten him into stopping. It worked, but only momentarily. The man didn’t look back. His intuition told him that if Tony had been going to shoot him, he would have done it the first time he pulled the trigger, so the man snatched the door open and hurled himself through it, falling onto the sidewalk and rolling several feet. But he jumped up and started running before the others could collect their wits enough to try to stop him.

“Whew!” Randall said, and he knew he spoke for all of them, as they wiped sweat from their brows and upper lips and tried to get their stomachs to relax and their hands to stop shaking. Marie went back to her desk and slumped into the chair. Fifteen minutes later, the police arrived and took their statements – as well as the gun.

When the police had left, and the store was quiet once more, Marie looked at Tony. “You are the most romantic man I’ve ever known,” she said.

He looked dumbfounded. “I don’t think I understand.”

“Why, you risked your life to keep from giving up the money to buy an engagement ring for the woman you love. You really are a gallant knight.”

Tony grinned. “Maybe I’ll be sure and tell Sarah the whole story before I propose. She surely couldn’t turn down a man who was willing to risk his life to give her an engagement ring.” He sighed. “And just think: I may owe my success with this proposal to that guy with the gun. I’m kind of glad I didn’t kill him.”

~ ~ ~