Short Story Sunday: “Joke” [Part One – 315]

Short Story Sunday: "Joke" [Part One] | Creative Writing | Flash Fiction | RachelPoli.com

“It was just a joke, I swear. I didn’t think she’d actually do it.”

Detective Dowen cast a side-eye to his partner, Detective Witt. She returned the same look. He wrote something down in his notepad while shaking his head. He always tried to keep a balanced pokerface but it was always difficult for him. His partner often made fun of him for it, but he couldn’t help it. Some people were so ridiculously stupid. He wondered how the human race got this way in the first place.

Their witness cupped his head in his hands and weeped uncontrollably.

Dowen rolled his eyes and pointed to the witness in a heap on the ground, in the middle of the bridge surrounded by yellow caution tape. There was too much going on and other police officers were trying to redirect traffic away from the crime scene. This was not the time for their eye-witness to be in the fetal position on the concrete.

Witt shrugged her shoulders in response to her partner’s exasperated stare. She looked over her shoulder watching the police officers buzz about. She ducked under the caution tape that blocked her way to the edge of the bridge and peered over the guard rail. She gazed into the river down below, not a soul in sight.

Dowen stood beside her and he too looked down into the river. “That’s a 50-foot drop. There’s no way anyone could survive that – even if she missed the rocks at the bottom.”

“Do you really think she jumped because her friend told her to?” Witt asked.

Dowen drew in a breath through his nose and lifted his shoulders into another shrug. “Not to speak ill of the dead or anything, but if she did jump simply because her friend told her to, then they’re both idiots.”

“You don’t know she’s dead yet.”

“Are you kidding me? I just said it’s a 50-foot drop. How can anyone survive that?”

Witt shook her head. “I’m not buying something here. I’m not saying we can’t rule out involuntary manslaughter here, but something’s not right.”

Dowen looked back over at their witness, who still sat on the cold concrete though he didn’t seem to be crying uncontrollably anymore. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and let out a breath of cold air. The freezing temperature as well was another factor. If the victim survived, she was sure to be wandering around somewhere with hypothermia.

Witt stepped forward, ducking back under the caution tape and squatted beside their witness.

“Listen,” she said sternly, “My partner and I are cool to hang out on this bridge for a week if you’d like to take your time talking about what happened. The longer you hold off on saying anything though, the farther away your friend slips from us finding her.”

“You’re allowed to talk with a lawyer present if you wish. In that case, we might as well hop in the squad car and take this down to the station where it’s at least warm,” Dowen added through gritted teeth. He normally didn’t mind the cold but they had been standing out there for two hours now and there were getting absolutely no where.

Their witness stood up, wiping his damp eyes and snot-filled nose with the back of one hand and then the other. He gazed at the ground. “No, it’s okay. I’ll talk. I’ll talk if it means we’ll be closer to finding Alisha.”

“Ah, we have a name.” Witt grinned at Dowen knowingly.

“What’s your name?” Dowen asked ignoring his partner’s smug expression.

“Benjamin. Benjamin Lame. Though a lot people just call me Ben… you can call me Ben.” The witness stammered, his voice drifting softer the more he spoke.

Dowen wrote his name down and mouthed, “Lame?” to his partner. Witt elbowed him before turning her attention back to their witness.

“Alright, Ben. This is a good start. Can you tell us about Alisha? What’s her last name? What does she look like? How tall is she? Can you tell us her eye and hair color? The sooner we know these things, the sooner we can send officers down the river in search of her.”

Of course, they had already sent officers to look for a body down by the river, but Ben didn’t need to know that. They had sent a search party out to check for a body the moment they received the call but when Ben wasn’t cooperating right away, they pretended they couldn’t get any more work done the investigation until he helped out. They didn’t know anything about the victim other than her gender and that was because Ben kept calling her a “she”. Witt had a feeling Ben was too afraid they would arrest him for a homicide. He kept saying it was joke and he didn’t think she’d actually jump. Sure, that counted as involuntary manslaughter if Alisha had killed herself because she was given instruction to. So, Ben was most likely going to get arrested regardless. However, nothing sat right with Witt and she had a feeling there was definitely more to this case than met the naked eye.

“Alisha Thorne,” Ben said quietly. “She’s about a foot taller than me, about five feet. She had brown hair that goes down to her waist and hazel eyes. She was wearing a blue winter coat, it was pretty puffy with a hood that had frills around the rim like an Eskimo. She had gray winter boots that went up to her knees over her black jeans. Is that enough?”

Witt motioned to a few police officers to head down to the river and give an update to the on-going search party. “That’s perfect for now, thank you.”

“Do you think they’re going to find her?” Ben asked sniffling.

Witt looked over her shoulder to her partner, but Dowen was back on the other side of the caution tape and looking down at the river. She sighed and turned back to their witness. “We’ll do our best, Ben. Don’t worry.”

Ben sighed. He sat back down on the concrete. Witt sat down beside him. “You need to tell me what happened though. What were the two of you doing on the bridge? There’s no walking here, it’s only for cars. Also, you need to tell me how everything started. What made you jokingly tell her to jump off the bridge? What happened after?”

Ben burst into tears again. Witt cast another glance to her partner and now Dowen was watching the two of them. He rolled his eyes again and made his way over. He squatted down right in front of Ben and gave him a stern look.

“Crying isn’t going to help the situation right now. There will be plenty of time to do that later. But right now, if you want to help your friend, you need to be brave and work with us.”

Ben sniffled again wiping his face with the back of his coat sleeve yet again. Witt twisted her face in disgust. There wasn’t much that grossed her out but she hated runny noses. There were times where she thought Dowen was too harsh on witnesses, especially depending on how old or young they were. In this case, however, she wasn’t about to stop him from speaking the Ben in such a tone. Dowen was right. It was nerve-wracking and scary, sure, but Ben needed to cooperate if they had any hope in finding Alisha.

Ben drew in a sharp breath and nodded his head. “Alisha and I were just taking a casual walk. We take walks together a lot. We never go this way but for some reason, she wanted to.”
Witt glanced at Dowen who returned the look. She knew there was something more to this case. What made the victim want to come over here and walk across the bridge in the first place? Especially since it was off limits to pedestrians and they supposedly never walked this route to begin with.

“I knew we shouldn’t have, but I listened to her and we walked this way anyway,” Ben continued. “As we avoided cars, we stuck close to the railing. Alisha looked down and said that she would love to dive into the river in the summer sometime. I told her that wouldn’t work because it’s too high up and there are so many rocks at the bottom.” He paused his explanation as he got choked up.

“Keep going, you’re doing fine,” Witt said.

Dowen stood back up and looked down at the witness from his six-foot height.

The tears began to roll down Ben’s cheeks again. “I told her, if it were possible, I’d be more impressed if she jumped in right now with the freezing temperature and ice at the bottom. She said okay and jumped on top of the railing. I tried to get her to come down but she laughed at me and told me she never let a dare go unchallenged. She said she was going to do it. A car drove by and the man got out. He seemed angry wondering what we were doing.”

Witt stiffened. There was another witness? A driver pulled over and spoke to the two of them. She looked up at Dowen and he was busy writing something in his notepad.

“She wouldn’t listen to him either. She laughed at the both of us and told us she would be totally fine. I tried to grab her to bring her back down but she jumped.” Ben burst into tears again.

“Who was the other driver? Where did he go?” Dowen asked.

“He d-drove,” Ben hiccuped, “away after s-she j-umped.”

Dowen growled under his breath. “What was the car like? Did you get a license plate?”

Ben shook his head. “It was silver… that’s all I noticed. I’m sorry.”

Dowen clenched his fists. Witt stood and stepped in between her partner their witness on the ground. “Keep your cool,” she whispered. “He shouldn’t have fled the scene, no, but there are cameras on the bridge. We can narrow it down.”

Dowen nodded and let out a sigh. “You’re right. When this kid is in a better state of mind maybe we can ask what this other witness looked like.”

Witt stared down at Ben, who had his face buried in his knees, his shoulders shaking. “Honestly, I don’t know what adult in their right mind would witness such a thing and then leave both kids behind like that.”

“It’s super weird and he’ll definitely be hearing it from me when we find him,” Dowen said.

Witt rubbed the back of her neck. It seemed as though they weren’t going to get much more out of their star witness at the moment. She didn’t know where they were supposed to go from here. She didn’t know how well Ben’s story would hold up in court if they couldn’t find the other witness and certainly if they couldn’t find Alisha – or worse, if they found her body. It didn’t seem as though Ben had any malicious intent. It seemed as though Alisha had something planned from the beginning, especially since she chose to walk across the bridge when it’s closed. She clearly had some other motive planned other than just taking a walk with her friend. Still, because of what Ben told her, he was going to look guilty of involuntary manslaughter. If it came to that, Witt looked at the sobbing Ben, she hoped he’d have an easy and understanding judge.

She couldn’t think of that right now though. Their next steps were to find this other witness and hear what he had to save and also to find out why he left the moment a minor jumped off a 50-foot bridge. Witt watched as her partner absent-mindedly walked back over to the railing and took a peek downward. She didn’t know why he kept looking over the edge. She didn’t know what he was looking forward or what he expected to see. Unless he just enjoyed watching the police search for some reason.

Witt sighed to herself. Was there any more reason for the two of them to stay on this bridge? Most likely not. She opened her mouth to ask Dowen if he was ready to leave. When she looked at him, she saw a shocked expression on his face.

“Dowen?” she called to him.

“Holy crap,” he said. “They found her!”

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Short Story Sunday: “Jail” [314]

Short Story Sunday: "Jail" | Creative Writing | Flash Fiction | RachelPoli.com

When Thomas showed up at the house in the middle of the night Hazel didn’t know what to think. She didn’t think she’d see him again in her lifetime – at least, not for another 15-20 years. At first, she thought she was dreaming. She had woken up to go to the bathroom and when she passed through the living room, Thomas was there. Lying on the couch, fast asleep.

It must have been exhausting for him to escape from jail. Jail itself must have been exhausting.

Hazel didn’t want to imagine what jail was like. She had seen the TV shows. It wasn’t as glamorous as they made the place out to be, she knew that much. She had visited Thomas in jail a couple of times. It was hard for her to go each time and, for some reason, it seemed to get worse each time she went.

Her visits became shorter. Hazel couldn’t stand being in such an atmosphere for too long. She couldn’t imagine what it was like on the other side, especially if you were locked in there for possibly the rest of your life.

Thomas had made a lot of mistakes in his life time. When they were kids, Hazel always got him out of trouble. She always protected him from the wrath of their parents when he got in trouble for doing something stupid. He always deserved the punishments and they were always as simple as lectures or getting a privilege taken away. Yet, Hazel always stood up for him and protected him, whether he was in the right or the wrong.

This carried on through adulthood. Hazel being the big sister she was and Thomas being the younger brother and eventually taking advantage of her and her kindness. However, Thomas had made a big enough mistake that not even his older sister would be able to protect him. In fact, Hazel felt as though jail was the right place for him. He needed to learn his lesson and take a good, long time-out.

Of course, now that he’s escaped, Hazel knew he wasn’t learning his lesson. Now he would go back to jail and be in there for much longer because he couldn’t sit still and carry out his sentence.

Hazel wept silently in the middle of her dark living room. She knew why Thomas was there. Her sister-in-law had filed for a divorce from him once he was arrested. She was tired of his shenanigans as well. Thomas know if there was anyone in the world he could trust, it would be his big sister, Hazel.

Except she knew she couldn’t protect him this time. She knew he was his own worst enemy and she couldn’t protect him from himself. Hazel watched him sleep through blurry eyes.

She couldn’t guarantee any more jail visits. He would be in there for much longer than 15-20 years now that he’s escaped. This would be the last time she’d see him for a long time.

She heard the sirens wail in the distance. Her little brother was in for a rude awakening.

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Short Story Sunday: “Tycoon” [313]

Short Story Sunday: "Tycoon" | Creative Writing | Flash Fiction | RachelPoli.com

He counted the coins displayed upon the surface of his desk. Stacks of shining gold and silver lined up twenty high in three rows of ten. It was so good. Years ago, he never imagined he would be at this point in his life.

He grew up in a poor family, his parents always scraping to get by. He watched his father struggle working ten-plus-hour days to bring home a small paycheck. His mother struggled to make sure the kids had enough food to eat. They fought a lot in case his mother bought too much food at the market and there wasn’t enough money left to buy wood for the fireplace or something else they’d need.

They never fought too much to the point where one of them left the other. No, mother was always home – she had no where else to go even if she did want to leave them. Father always came home at the end of the day from his work. Maybe it was because he was too tired to leave. All he wanted to do was come home, put his feet up, and rest. It was a steady place for him to come back to and if he had left, he’d have to find a new place. It certainly wouldn’t be as warm and cozy as his mother set their house up to be.

There were siblings as well. He had three sisters and one brother. The sisters helped out their mother in the kitchen and with the other house chores. His brother and he sometimes went to work with their father or they went out and did other errands for their mother while they’re father was out of the house.

It was a rough childhood. They always struggled. They always found time to be together as a family though as well. They always had something to laugh about. They couldn’t afford such entertainment as a radio but they made do with what they had. He and siblings made up their own games and had plenty of fun with their parents using their imagination and creativity.

Now here he was, counting his stacks of coins. While there were fond memories of his childhood, he didn’t want his children to grow up in such conditions. His mother had gotten terrible sick and passed away not too long ago. If only he had the money then to take care of her and get her the proper medicine she needed. At least he was able to allow his father to live comfortably in his old age.

Although, with his father had a broken heart from his wife passing away, he wondered if his father was not too far behind.

All three of his sisters had married and moved away. They were long gone. The last he heard was that his youngest sister was going to have a baby. However, they never saw one another and he wasn’t sure how he’d be able to help them with that. Telegrams took quite a while to get where they needed to go.

His brother, on the other hand, had left them long ago as well. He had left the village in search of a better life for himself. He wanted to marry, settle down and have a family of his own. He didn’t know where his brother was. They hadn’t spoken to one another in a long time.

He still lived with his father in his childhood home. No more siblings and no more mother. At least he and his father had each other.

So, the coins on his desk kept stacking higher and higher as he counted. He was considered the richest man in the village. He handed out his money when people truly needed it. He bought the company his father worked for and fired the original owners. They never paid his father enough money and never truly appreciated the hard work he put into his work. Now he owned the company and he gave all the employees raises and lowered the prices on the stocks. Everyone wanted to work there, though there were no more open positions.

Everyone shopped there because it was cheaper. That was how he had gotten some of his money. Not all of it though. He couldn’t become this rich from that one company no matter what he did.

Yes, he had a side business that not even his father knew about. If his father knew about it, he surely would die of a heart attack. Or worse, he’d leave his son all together.

He stacked another set of gold coins, pushing it gently to the corner of his desk. The last person he hired for this particular job wanted quite a bit of coins. Normally he’d fight and be a bit cheaper about it. However, he had hired this man for a pretty big job.

Leaning back in his chair, he looked out the window at the village. On the top of the hill far away lay the castle. It was so far away that it didn’t seem as though there was anyone living there. Of course, the king never seemed to pay too much attention to this village. It was another reason he struggled so much as a child. There were a lot of people who had wronged his father through work and payment and then there were more people still who had wronged his mother when she became ill.

This village was nothing in the eyes of the royalty. Why? He had no idea why. It had been that way ever since he was a child. They only began to pay attention to him when he become the richest man in the village. He was just about the richest man in the kingdom, aside from the royals. The king had wanted him for certain jobs but he always refused.

The royals graciously gave him and his father a bigger home. They offered more to his sibling even though they had already run from the village themselves. He accepted all the kind gestures and gifts from the royals though he never agreed to anything. He knew they were buttering him up. He wasn’t going to work for them. He wasn’t going to sell them anything. He had worked too hard and the royals had worked too little. They didn’t deserve to have his help.

He counted one last stack of gold coins. He counted it slow.

One. Two. Three.

He glanced back out the window at the quiet castle. He had sent his hired help to the castle about five days ago. It was a decent journey to make it to the castle and he knew the task itself would take some time.

Four. Five. Six.

His ears tuned into the music the coins made when they stacked up top one another. His hired help would not get paid until he heard the panic outside.

Seven. Eight. Nine.

As if on cue, there was bustle at the castle. A young woman screamed. A man shouted, “The king is dead!”

He smiled.

Ten.

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Short Story Sunday: “Bell” [312]

Short Story Sunday: "Bell" | Creative Writing | Flash Fiction | RachelPoli.com

Whenever the bell rang, that meant everyone had to go back to their dorm rooms. Wren was in the middle of a training session when the bell rang for the third time that day. She groaned and her instructor gave her a prompt expression as though silently telling her not to argue. It seemed as though the bell system was broken, but Wren didn’t have much of a choice. She put her fists down and headed out of the training arena.

As she left the Combat Room, her friend Allen emerged out of the Defense Room. They greeted each other with silence. When the bell rang, everyone was to go straight to their room, no talking. This was set in place in case there were any emergencies but Wren knew, after so many times the bell had been rung, this was no emergency. Someone was either pulling the alarm or it was busted.

The two made it to the end of the hall. Allen held the door open for Wren to enter the staircase. They weren’t allowed to take the elevator either. Wren knew this made sense but her dorm was on the seventh floor. In case someone else happened to be walking in that same staircase, Allen and Wren remained silent as they walked up the seven flights of stairs. Now that Wren really thought about it, she found it odd they weren’t running into anyone else heading to their rooms. The Academy was huge and had hundreds of students. Surely, she and Allen weren’t the only two out in training?

When they made it to the seventh floor, Wren exited to the left and Allen to the right. Girls and boys were allowed on the same floor, but girls rooms and boys room were in separate hallways. The students were assigned to a room by age so that they could make friends while attending The Academy. Students who attended The Academy were always there for years. Wren had learned the hard way when she first arrived that in order to survive The Academy and stay sane, you needed to a couple of good friends by your side. She had one piece of advice for any newbie who arrived at The Academy: be friends with your roommate. You’ll see them much more often than you think you will.

Wren placed her thumb print on the keypad outside her room. It took about five seconds for it to scan and she heard the door click open. She pushed it forward, entering her bedroom. The door clicked shut and locked behind her.

“What took you so long?” Victoria leaped off her bed and ran to her roommate.

Victoria was a tall girl with skinny legs and dangling arms. The Academy especially worked on strength training for her, but the truth was that Victoria was more of a defense person. She even had a hard time being stealthy. When Victoria stepped away from the hug, she pulled her long hair into a tight, high ponytail. “Where have you been?”

“I was called to training early this morning. I’ve been going back and forth between that to finish my session and here because of that stupid bell.” Wren walked to the other side of the room and sat down on the foot of her bed. “Allen was in the Defense Room while I was in the Combat Room.”

Victoria narrowed her eyes. “I feel like you’ve been in the Combat Room a lot lately.”

“You think?” Wren grunted. She was sick and tired of fighting. It was annoying to perform the same battle techniques each day for hours on end. She didn’t understand why the instructors insisted on her practicing every day. She never noticed any of the other students down there other than Allen who was always in the Defense Room. If anything, the roles should have been swapped because Allen was much stronger than Wren.

Victoria frowned. “They haven’t called me down in a while. I’m afraid I’m going to get kicked out.”

Wren sighed. She was exhausted from training on and off all day – all month, really – she wasn’t in the mood to comfort her friend. “I doubt you’ll get kicked out.”

“They haven’t called me to train in two weeks. All I’ve done is attend class and come straight back here for homework,” Victoria countered.

That reminded Wren she had homework. She hadn’t had time to do it because of training, but that was something else she needed to do before class in… two days? What day was it? With all the training her days have become the same and they were all blurring together.

“I did your homework if that’s what you’re suddenly worried about.”

Wren looked up at Victoria who stared back with a soft smile. Wren let out a sigh of relief. “Thanks, but you know I hate it when you do that.”

“You haven’t had time. You’re going to be run into the ground. I also wanted to make sure you wouldn’t get stuck doing it last minute. When you have to stay up late to finish homework that means I can’t sleep either,” Victoria explained, sitting down on the bed beside her friend.

Wren didn’t know what else to say. Victoria was right. Whenever Wren was called to train so much she’d always lose time to get her work done for her Study classes. Victoria would end up suffering along with her because she couldn’t sleep with Wren typing on the computer or Wren would need help with something – Victoria was smart with all their Study classes. That’s where she truly excelled.

“I don’t think you’re going to get kicked out,” Wren continued. “I think the instructors know your strengths and weaknesses. A big strength of yours are the Study classes. I think that’s why they’ve been making you go there more often.”

“I guess,” Victoria sighed. “But it’s boring and I want to learn more about fighting and stuff. Isn’t that why we’re all here in the first place?”

Wren remained silent. She didn’t know why they were here. When her parents told her she was headed to a boarding school for high school, this was the last thing she imagined. She thought it would be like college, but just high school students. She had never heard of The Academy until her parents sprang it on her a month before school started. Wren cast her gaze outside the window. She wondered how her parents were doing. She had been attending The Academy for four months now and she had yet to receive any word from them. She had written them a few letters, but Wren wasn’t sure if they made it to her parents at all.

Allen appeared at the window and waved. Wren rolled her eyes – he was going to get them all in trouble.

“What’s he doing?” Victoria gasped.

“Being an idiot,” Wren said, walking over to the window. She unlocked it and helped her friend into the room.

“You’re lucky you didn’t get caught scaling the outside walls,” Victoria scolded.

Allen shrugged with a proud grin. “I’ve done it so many times. I know where all the security cameras are.”

“We have security cameras?” Victoria looked at Wren. “I don’t think I ever noticed.”

“They’re not obvious. It’s kind of the point,” Wren replied.

“How do you guys know about this?”

Allen and Wren glanced at one another, almost as though they were silently trying to decide if they should include Victoria in on their secrets about The Academy.

“Why am I out of the loop?” Victoria asked. She glared at the both of them putting her hands on her hips. “I thought we were all friends here?”

“We are,” Wren reassured her. “It’s just that Allen and I have been able to explore a bit more of The Academy than you have so we know some more stuff than you.”

“Why haven’t you told me?”

“We didn’t want to involve you.” Allen piped up. “Things have been weird and suspicious around here. You seem to really enjoy The Academy so we didn’t want to burst your bubble.”

Victoria narrowed her eyes in confusion. She looked at Wren. “Suspicious how? What’s he talking about?”

Wren wasn’t sure if she should say, but there was no turning back now. Besides, it would be great to finally include Victoria in on what they knew. Although, she was rarely ever allowed to leave her dorm room so Wren knew Victoria wouldn’t be much help when it came to investigating.

“You know how our classes and training used to be diverse but now they’ve gotten repetitive? You’re always in Studies, I’m Combat, and Allen is always in Defense training?” Wren began.

Victoria nodded.

Allen stepped forward. “We think the instructors are planning something. Why wouldn’t they be diverse about our training and academics? They’re all mindless and barely have any personality at all and they weren’t like that when I first arrived at The Academy. I know this place pretty well.”

“Scaling walls?” Victoria replied.

“I’ve been here for 18 months,” Allen said.

Victoria held up her hands in defense. “I know, I was just trying to crack a small joke. So, what do you guys think is going on?”

“We don’t know, but here are hundreds of students attending The Academy and we’ve barely seen any of them. Whenever the bell goes off the halls are always packed with students headed back to their dorms,” Allen explained.

Victoria sighed. “So, you guys think something suspicious is happening here and you decided to climb through our window to our bedroom?”

“The windows are the only things that aren’t connected to the security system,” Wren clarified.

“But you said they have security cameras around the place that people can’t see right?” Victoria added. “The Academy is way too smart to not have the windows wired to something, especially when they’re trying to contain a bunch of students. There’s probably a camera by the window.”

“That’s not okay if they put a camera in the window,” Wren said with a harsh tone. She walked over to the window to inspect. The Academy shouldn’t be allowed to look through the dorm rooms at all times.

Victoria shook her head. “Of course not. But they probably have cameras on the outside of the building so they can see into the courtyards but also,” she looked at Allen, “to see if there are any students entering or leaving through windows.”

Allen swallowed a lump in his throat. He looked at Wren. “I have to admit, I never thought about that.”

Wren stared at him horrified. “We got sloppy.”

A knock – more like a loud boom – came at the door.

The three friends froze. Wren looked at Allen. Did he stay and hide somewhere in the room? Did he jump out of the window for a five-second head start before Wren opened the door to let the instructors in?

“Allen, we know you’re in there,” came a stern voice from the hall.

Wren and Victoria gave Allen sympathetic looks. He put his hand out motioning for them to step back and to not panic. He reached for the door and opened it. There were five instructors standing on the other side. Wren didn’t recognize any of them and she assumed they must have all worked with security.

The one in the middle, directly in front of the door, coaxed Allen forward with a silent wag of his finger. Without looking back at his friends, he obeyed walking with the instructors as they promptly slammed the door shut.

Victoria let out a breath as soon as she and Wren were alone. She put a hand on her chest. “I thought for sure we were all in trouble. What do you think is going to happen to Allen? They’re just escorting him back to his dorm room… right?”

Wren shook her head. “I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.” She stepped forward reaching for the door.

“Wren, no!”

She didn’t listen to Victoria though. She opened the door and was startled by five more instructors on the other side. Wren stepped back, leaving the door wide open. The instructors were all different from the ones who took Allen away. Were they there the whole time? Were they guarding the room?

At least, that was what Wren thought until she noticed the one in the middle lower his fist. She assumed he was just about to knock. He glared at her, most likely knowing exactly what she was planning on doing. But he turned his firm gaze to her roommate.

“Victoria,” he said.

All the breath escaped Victoria, but she stepped forward looking brave.

“No!” Wren stood in between the two of them. “Victoria didn’t ask Allen to break the rules and come here. If you’re going to take someone else away, take me.”

The instructor stared at Wren with a gleam in his eyes. He promptly ignored her, looking past her and back at Victoria.

“Victoria,” he said again, this time in a harsh tone.

Victoria put a gentle hand on Wren shoulder for a brief moment as she passed by. “It’s okay,” she whispered.

Wren opened her mouth to say more but, just like Allen, Victoria stepped out into the hall and the door slammed in Wren’s face.

After waiting a moment, she tried to open the door but it was locked from the outside. Wren sighed in annoyance. It was hard to pull a fast one on the instructors. They took Victoria and locked Wren in so that she couldn’t follow. She walked over to her bed and sat down, staring at the door. She assumed they took Allen and Victoria to be punished for breaking the dorm rules. Wren could only assume the same would happen to her and five different instructors would come take her away.

So, she waited.

And waited.

But no one came for her.

*

Wren awoke the following morning to a quiet room. Normally she’d wake up to the sounds of Victoria getting ready for her various Study classes or hearing her wander around the room in attempt to keep herself busy quietly while she waited for Wren to wake up. There was no one in the room this morning. It was just Wren which meant the instructors never brought Victoria back to their dorm. She sat up in her bed wondering if Allen ever made it back to his own dorm.

She stumbled out of her bed and began to get ready for the day. She had fallen asleep in her uniform from the day before. This wasn’t the first time that happened, but the instructors always noticed. It didn’t matter how clean or dirty it was. So, she started to dress herself in a different uniform that looked exactly the same as all the rest. Hopefully, Victoria was in another dorm somewhere at The Academy. Wren couldn’t imagine why the instructors wouldn’t bring her back to this room. All of her things were still in the dorm as well. So, there was no way Victoria had gotten kicked out.

Wren tossed her dirty uniform down the laundry shoot. That was one of the many jobs students could get once they got old enough to have a job as well as keep going with their training at The Academy. Wren often dreamed of having a job – maybe not laundry – but she would have loved to get out of this room for something other than training. That’s all she had been doing lately and she was growing tired of it.

The sun began to rise which meant she needed to be out of her dorm and where ever she needed to be soon. Wren walked over to the door where a small tablet hung on the wall. She tapped it on and looked at her schedule for the day – it changed everyday, though lately the instructors have been making her train all the time after Study class. She sighed, looking at the email.

The instructors didn’t even put Study class on her list. She was supposed to go to the Combat Room five times throughout the day with only a 30-minute break in between.
Was this punishment for last night? What did they do to Victoria and Allen? Wren was so confused. The worst part of it all was that she couldn’t ask. If she went into the Combat Room and asked whichever instructor she had, they’d ignore her. The training area of The Academy was strictly for training, no talking. The only talking that was allowed was from the instructor to correct their form.

She looked at the door. Wren pressed her lips together. They had locked her into the room last night. Would she be able to get to her training? She reached for the door handle and pressed it down, pulling it open slightly.

Okay, so someone had come by, most likely when she was asleep, and unlocked the door. Maybe they unlocked the door and needed Wren for something but noticed she was asleep and left? No, they must have just unlocked the door and that’s it. There was no way they would let her sleep after a long day, especially if they needed her for something. The needs of The Academy always trumped the needs of the students.

When she stepped out into the hall, a few other students were emerging from their dorms. They too were dressed in uniforms, some carrying books, some without. It seemed as though a lot of them were going to training because there were fewer students carrying books for their Study classes. Wren hated sitting in the classroom, but she viewed that as relaxing at this point. She enjoyed training, but she was tired and wanted a break. She didn’t dare ask for one though. The last time a student asked for a break in training (or so Wren heard) the instructors never let that student train again taking it as a sign that the student wasn’t strong enough to carry on with it. The student disappeared about a week later. The instructors told their roommate she was sent back home, but rumors spread quickly and no one truly thought she was sent home because of that. That was about a month after Wren arrived at The Academy and no one still hasn’t seen or heard from that student.

It was nice to see other students coming out of their dorms. The previous day it seemed as though she, Allen, and Victoria were the only students in the entire building. When the bell rang, no one else marched back to their dorms and Wren assumed it was because they were already in their dorms. Why she and Allen were still training, she didn’t know why. It seemed as though things were back to normal though. The students had come alive again and were carrying out their routines and headed to where their assigned schedules told them to go.

Wren stepped into the hall with three other students. She hoped Allen would be in the Defense Room while she was in the Combat Room. She’s at least see him arrive or see him leave once the bell rang later in the day. She wanted confirmation he was alright. She also hoped, if she saw Allen, he would know what happened to Victoria.

She thought about asking one of the three students in the elevator, but when she opened her mouth, she decided against it. There was no talking allowed in the hallways and even though they were in an elevator, someone was bound to hear them. There were cameras everywhere.

Wren noticed all three students carried books and she suppressed a sigh. She was the only one going to the basement for training it seemed.

After dropping off the other students on their respective floors, Wren stood in the middle of the elevator alone until it reached the basement. She was alone with her thoughts still wondering where Allen and Victoria had gone to.

The elevator dropped her off at the basement and she headed down the hall in silence making her way to the Combat Room. She passed the Weapon Room and while she couldn’t see if there was anyone in there due to the lack of windows and metal door, she didn’t hear anything. The Combat Room was before the Defense Room so Wren couldn’t try to tell if Allen was already in his training. At least, she assumed that’s where he’d be. He had been stuck in a training loop just as she had.

She wasn’t allowed to dilly-dally though. If Wren was a fraction later than she was supposed to be for training, then she would be in huge trouble with her instructor. At least, that’s what she heard.

It was hard. Wren had only been at The Academy for four months and she had heard a lot of things about The Academy in general as well as the instructors. She believed most of it, especially from Allen who had been here for almost two years. It was hard not to believe what the other students said about it. She had seen some things as well which made her believe all the rumors, though she hadn’t seen anything as bad as students disappearing. But even she had a funny feeling about the place and could tell that not everything was normal.

Wren didn’t even know what normal was for The Academy.

She entered the Combat Room and her instructor was training another student. Wren froze in the doorway. Had she read her schedule wrong? Was she not supposed to be here yet? Was she needed in another area of training? Whatever the case was, she was already late now. She was in trouble for sure.

She sighed, defeated. Her mind was so focused on what had happened to Victoria and Allen that she must have missed the mark somewhere. But what was Wren to do now? It would take her far too long to make it back up to her dorm to check her schedule again. She was already late to where ever she was supposed to be, so she was going to be in trouble no matter what. She might as well stay there and let the instructor be confused about it with her.

Wren stepped to the side watching the instructor and the other student duke it out with one another. She had never seen this other student before, but he was good. The instructor was barely getting a hit in on this student. She narrowed her eyes at him, but she didn’t think she’d seen him before. He didn’t look familiar at all. He must have been a bit older than she was so his dorm was on another floor.

Something else was off though. Wren and all the other students – it didn’t matter their age or what floor their dorm was on – began and ended their day at the same time. It was odd to her that she and Allen seemed to be the only ones left training when the bell rang last night, but now this student was already in the middle of a heated battle in the Combat Room. He must have started his training at least 20 minutes ago. Training always lasted at least an hour, too. Maybe she was where she was supposed to be and this student had actually been down here for a lot longer.

Wren shook her head to herself. She was officially confused and that was that.

Before she knew it, the two had stopped battling. Both the instructor and student breathed heavily. (Which further confirmed to Wren that not all the instructors were robots. She still had her suspicions though.) The two bowed to each other and then engaged in conversation, which shocked Wren.

While she couldn’t hear what they were saying, the student had begun the conversation. That wasn’t allowed. The students weren’t allowed to speak at all and that included asking questions or responding to feedback or direction. The instructor nodded his head listening to the student intently before replying.

Wren watched closely as the two looked at wrist watches on their arms. She narrowed her eyes again. Watches weren’t allowed. She didn’t know why, but she figured it was because it could get ripped off in training. Or maybe The Academy didn’t want the students to know what time it was all the time. The bell was supposed to be their clock.

She took a step forward. She didn’t want them to know she was there – because it was painfully obvious they hadn’t noticed her yet – but she wanted to hear what they were saying.

Wren knew it was none of her business but there were some weird things going on lately. Both of her friends were taken by the instructors the night before and haven’t been seen or heard from since and now an instructor and a student were engaged in Combat Room earlier than training was supposed to begin and now they were speaking to one another when that wasn’t allowed either. Not to mention the watches. Wren was prepared to admit to herself that the watches had nothing to do with anything, but she didn’t want to be too careful.

There was something going on and she wanted to know what it was and why.

I hope you enjoyed the story. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Please feel free to share this post.

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Short Story Sunday: “Clock” [311]

Short Story Sunday 311: "Clock" | Creative Writing | Flash Fiction | RachelPoli.com

“It’s stuck at 9:03 am. Can we assume that’s the time of death?” Evelyn, with latex gloves on her hands, tapped the face of the wrist watch with the tip of her finger.

“Maybe, though it also could have already stopped working beforehand.” Michael watched as his partner examined the victim’s wrist from the driver’s seat of the car. “Something doesn’t quite add up though. If that’s when the time of death was, then we would have gotten a call much sooner.”

Evelyn stood up. “What time was it called in?”

“About 10:30 am.”

Evelyn brought her hand up to her mouth. “The caller said they had just heard a car crash into the lake across from their house, right?”

Michael nodded. He looked over his shoulder and pointed to a young woman across the way. “That’s her house over there. She’s standing in the front yard speaking to one of our officers.”

“If the watch stopped because it got submerged in water at 9:03 this morning but the neighbor, who lives directly across the street from the lake, didn’t hear anything crash until 10:30 this morning… I’m confused.” Evelyn shook her head.

“You should be because she not only heard the splash but she saw the car drive into the lake,” Michael clarified. “Supposedly she was in the kitchen pouring herself another cup of coffee when she looked out the window – which is above the kitchen sink right next to the coffee pot – and saw the car drive into the lake.” He pointed behind him to a small window a few feet to the left of the woman’s front door.

Evelyn sighed. “It’s early in the morning on a Friday. I’m not sure if my brain can handle this much inconsistency right now. What are you trying to tell me right now? Do you have suspicions?”

Michael raised his shoulders into a shrug. “If the clock stopped because of the water than that means the victim drove into the lake at about 9:03 this morning. But how can that be if they didn’t drive into the lake until 10:30 this morning? Or so our witness claims.”

“Do you think the witness has any involvement in this?”

“Maybe. Or maybe whoever the real culprit is put on a show for the neighbor so as to create a witness with a false lead.”

Evelyn breathed deeply and let out a long sigh. “We need to figure out who our victim is. Maybe we can ask around and figure out where he was headed and what time he left his house or where ever he was coming from. Maybe that will be a clue to as to what time he should have been driving down this road. Still, I think the watch will be our biggest clue to this case.”

“Unless the watch was already busted before he put it on this morning and that, in a way, is a false lead as well.”

Evelyn narrowed her eyes at her partner. “Why would the victim put on a broken watch before leaving the house?”

“Maybe he didn’t realize it was broken. Maybe he had put on the wrong watch. Maybe the battery died while he was driving in the car,” Michael rattled off a few possibilities.

“Maybe,” Evenlyn joined in with a point of her finger, “he knew the watch was busted and was on his way to the watch shop to get it fixed.”

Michael stared at her with a deadpanned expression.

“It’s a joke, Detective,” Evelyn said with a frustrated sigh. “I know the investigation has barely begun, but my head already hurts.”

“Mine too. We had to skip our morning coffee because of this call. We’ll pick something up when we’re done with this scene.”

“That’s not why my head hurts, but alright. I won’t say no to coffee.”

“Let’s make a list.” Michael pulled out a notepad and clicked his pen open. “We need to figure out who the victim is, where he was coming from and where he was going.”

“Who the neighbor is, check out her kitchen to get her perspective of the incident, and figure out what exactly she saw at 10:30 am. Also, what she was doing at 9:03 am,” Evelyn added.

“We have our work cut out for us this time,” Michael said. He clicked his pen closed.

“Also, the watch. When did it stop and why,” Evelyn stated.

“That may not be a priority just yet.”

“I think it should be the number one priority. The time on the clock and the witness’s statement and call-in to the police don’t add up. If she saw the whole thing happen, then she should have called the police right away,” Evelyn said.

“She did,” Michael nodded. “She saw it happen at 10:30 this morning and called it in right away.”

“But the watch stopped at 9:03 this morning. What if the witness saw a fake killing for the purpose of creating a witness?”

“I gave you that idea, remember. I don’t know how plausible that is though.”

“I think,” Evelyn suggested, “we should search this whole lake and look for another car.”

Michael sighed. He clicked his pen open again and wrote that down. “If it would make you feel better. I guess we should cover all our bases. But again, I don’t think we need to. A proper autopsy on the victim will tell us the time of death.”

“It may not be accurate though.”

“It’s something.”

Evelyn squatted down beside the victim again. Her hand hung out of the driver’s side with the car door wide open. With her gloves still on, she took the watch off his wrist.

“What are you doing?” Michael asked.

Evelyn stood, prying the back of the watch open. She smiled, turning the watch around for her partner to see. “No battery.”

Michael groaned. “Great. Now we definitely have a homicide on our hands.”

I hope you enjoyed the story. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Please feel free to share this post.

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