Short Story Sunday: “Virtue” [310]

Short Story Sunday 310: "Virtue" | Creative Writing | Flash Fiction | RachelPoli.com

The words stared back at her. She flipped her pen over the knuckles of her right hand, though it kept falling onto the paper where the words were listed. She had seen people fiddle with a pen in their hand – weaving it in and out of their fingers, though she was never able to master it. (Sure, she had mostly seen people do it in the movies, but it must have been a little possible, right?)

Noelle pressed her lips together not sure how she was going to get through this assignment. She had just finished her homework for school and now had to worry about this task. Was it legal for a therapist to give their patient homework? If it was, it definitely should have been illegal.

She had only been seeing her therapist once a week for about a month. They were slowly getting to know each other but Noelle wasn’t sure how this list of words would help her. She still wasn’t going to feel confidant in anything she did – her soccer team, homework, any creative work she’d done. There were still going to be days when Noelle wasn’t going to want to get out of bed and go to school, see or talk to people, and not want to do anything at all.

A knock came at her bedroom door and when Noelle looked over her shoulder she noticed her friend in the doorway. She must have left her door open which was a mistake. Noelle had no intention of seeing anyone or talking to anyone tonight.

He walked into the door and stood over her at her desk. “Hey, you were missed at school today.”

“Okay,” Noelle said. How else was she supposed to reply to that? She wasn’t sorry she missed school. Besides, it wasn’t her fault she missed school anyway. Her brain didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. She was lucky she wasn’t back in bed right now.

Also, she certainly wasn’t going to go back to school because people missed her. Who missed her anyway? The teachers? Of course they were going to say that. She knew her classmates didn’t miss her. Aside from Alexander, she had no friends.

Noelle let out a sigh. She turned around in her desk chair and placed a tick mark on a sheet of paper in the corner of her desk. It was one tick mark of many covering the page.

“What’s that for?” Alexander asked.

“My therapist told me to mark whenever I begin to over think. I think she wants to gauge just how much I do it,” Noelle explained.

“Ah, okay. Did you want to talk about it? You don’t have to, but I’m here if you want.”

Noelle gave him a small smile. “I appreciate that. I always knew you were here even though I don’t act it at times.”

“I know.” Alexander placed a gently hand on her shoulder. “What’s that list there?”

Noelle rolled her eyes. “It’s a list of virtues. My therapist wants me to circle five to ten words that describe me.”

“Oh, well that’s easy.”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “They’re a list of virtues. You know, positive words. How am I supposed to circle five of these things? I told her I might be able to get one but she said I needed at least five. She wasn’t going to accept any less than that. Do you know how stressful this is?”

Alexander frowned.

Noelle continued. “She said it gently, of course. I like my therapist, I really do. But I don’t think it’s fair that I have to really think on this when it stresses me out. Virtues aren’t exactly something I have too many of. How am I supposed to pick a couple out that explain who I am? Not to mention I’m going to totally sound arrogant if I do circle a couple of these words. Who likes arrogant people? No one.” She paused. She wrote another tick mark on the other sheet of paper.

“Okay, I hear you. But let’s just take a look at this list,” Alexander replied reaching over his friend. “There are a lot of words here and I bet there are way more than five that describe you.”

Noelle snorted.

“Hear me out.” Alexander stared at the sheet. “I can easily point out some words that describe you.”

“Of course you can. My parents could too but you guys are just being nice,” Noelle said gently. “Besides, my therapist told me I need to pick the words out on my own without any influence from anyone else.”

“That’s fair.” Alexander nodded.

Noelle turned back to the list and grumbled under her breath about it staring at the words.

“Why don’t we talk about something else and take your mind off of that list?” Alexander suggested.

“I’m seeing my therapist tomorrow afternoon though. I really should get this done. I’ve honestly lost sleep over this,” Noelle replied.

“Be sure to tell your therapist that,” Alexander said. “But let’s just talk for a little while. I won’t stay long. I don’t want to distract you too much but it seems as though you need a break.”

Noelle sighed. She turned away from the list of words once more. She didn’t know why her mother had allowed Alexander to come up to her room in the first place. She loved him, they were best friends, but she wasn’t in the mood to see or talk to anyone. Alexander was just about to use up the last bit of strength she had for the day and once he left, she wasn’t going to want to think about the list anymore. Though she couldn’t argue with him – she really did want to do something other than think of that list.

“What do you want to talk about?” she asked.

Alexander sat down at the end of her bed and grinned. “Do you remember how we met?”

Noelle furrowed her brows in confusion. “Of course I remember. Why do you want to talk about that?”

He chuckled. “You tell me. How did we meet?”

“One of our classmates outed you before you were ready. You were pretty embarrassed and upset,” Noelle recounted.

“And who punched that classmate in the face and got suspended for it?”

Noelle paused a moment before throwing her head back and laughing. “I forgot about that… I must have blocked it out of my memory. My parents were so mad at me.”

“I wasn’t mad at you though. We became fast friends after that despite not really talking to one another before that day.”

“Yeah, that was a good time. I mean, I’m sorry you went through that though.”

Alexander shrugged. “Hey, my job was done for me even if I wasn’t ready to tell people yet. And I made a new friend that day, so how can I look back at such a day with a sour face?”

Noelle nodded in agreement with a grin still on her face. That was a good day despite Alexander being upset and her getting in her first (and last) fight in school. Also, her first (and last) time being suspended.

“Hey, aren’t some of those words on your list?” Alexander asked.

Noelle frowned. He had to bring that up now? They were just having a good conversation.

“I mean,” Alexander amended his statement, “are there any words on that list you can find that remind you of us meeting?”

Ah, she saw where he was going with this. She picked up her pen and scanned the list of many words that faced her. Two jumped out at her.

“Acceptance, I accept you for who you are.” She circled the first word on the list. “Friendliness? We became friends that day.”

“I would say you’re friendly. You’ve always tried to make sure someone had somebody to sit with at lunch, for example,” Alexander agreed.

Noelle circled the word. Then she chuckled to herself and crossed out the word, “peace”.

“You’re a peaceful person,” Alexander argued.

“I punch people in the face.”

He laughed. “Okay, but that was one time.”

She looked at the list again. “What about creativity? I was creative in sticking up for you.”

Alexander narrowed his eyes. “I wouldn’t exactly call that creativity… I’m not so sure your therapist would like to hear you talking about how punching people in the face is a creative way to get them to stop doing whatever they’re doing. I would say you’re creative in other ways though.”

“What do you mean?”

“You think of new ways to do things or to fix things. Remember we worked together on a science project freshman year? We worked so hard on it and had many late nights and spent our weekends on it.”

“Well, yeah. That was our final project, right? It was easier than a test and, if I recall, we were both doing pretty lousy in that class,” Noelle added.

“We didn’t have the best science teacher that year though. I wouldn’t go so far as to blame us for our lousy grades,” Alexander corrected.

“That’s what all dumb people say.”

“We’re not dumb, we just talked a lot in class. Do you remember the project? The solar system?”

Noelle nodded. “I remember we thought it was weird to be learning about the solar system in high school when that was something we went over in elementary school.”

“I agree, but you remember the actual project?” Alexander egged on.

“You mean the food?”

“We didn’t make it out of food at first. It was all Styrofoam pieces and we had tried to think of other materials. But we took the easy way out and painted Styrofoam and attached them to Popsicle sticks. But then my dog got to it?”

“Oh, yeah…” Noelle said trying not to laugh. “That was an interesting day. The project was due the following day and for once we didn’t procrastinate.”

“So, what did you do?”

“We went to the grocery store and we bought a bunch of baking supplies and ended up remaking the solar system using cake and cookie dough.”

“That was all your idea and it was the most fun we’ve ever had. I’d say that’s pretty creative,” Alexander stated.

Noelle looked back at her list and circled, “creativity”. She read the other words and circled another. “Determination? We could have given up the whole project but we didn’t.”

“That makes sense to me.”

“Flexibility?”

“Why?”

“I didn’t get angry that you left the project on the table where the dog could easily get to it. I saw an opportunity to improve upon on our project. Despite our hard work the first time around, we were both flexible in just doing the whole thing over again,” Noelle explained.

Alexander smiled and gave her a nod. “I think that makes sense.”

Noelle circled the word and squealed with excitement. “Hey, that’s five!”

“See? I knew you could do it. There are many other words on there that describe you too. But you have your bare minimum for your therapist. Maybe you can get some good sleep tonight.” Alexander stood up from the bed and leaned over his friend’s shoulder.

Noelle looked back at the list and circled two more words. “Loyalty and thankfulness,” she said. “I am thankful for your company and friendship, especially since I’m having a hard time lately.”

Alexander put his hands on her shoulders. He gave them a gentle squeeze before massaging them.

“Loyal because I believe we’ll be friends forever no matter what. I know that sounds corny but we’ve both been through hell and only came back because the other got us out.”

“So you do believe you’ll make it out of this rough time?”

Noelle hesitated to reply but she nodded. “I do. I know it’ll take time, but I understand my parents, my therapist, and you are all here no matter what.”

“Exactly. That’s what we’ve been trying to tell you all along. I’m glad you see it for yourself. However, if you lose sight of it again, we’ll point out these words and have a chat,” Alexander explained.

Noelle chuckled. “Who knew this exercise would actually be helpful? Honestly, I can’t wait for therapy tomorrow.”

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Short Story Sunday: “Format” [309]

Short Story Sunday 309: "Format" | Flash Fiction | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

Mae had seen a lot of things in her many years of teaching. She had students put in more effort than what was expected from them. She had also seen some children put in way less effort than they should have. Some kids had a good excuse for why they did this or that and others… well, they lied through their teeth. There was one student who almost didn’t get caught at all. Mae was impressed by their elaborate lie with full eye-contact and serious tone of voice. However, they were caught in the end and Mae had to pretend she wasn’t impressed at all and was, in fact, upset with her student.

There were some students on the other hand who seemed to take everything literal or they didn’t understand the directions no matter how clear Mae thought she was. She would ask a question in class and some of the kids would overthink it, thus coming to the totally wrong conclusion.

This was how some of her rubrics went when she assigned essays to her classes.

Mae had always been particular with a certain format for her essays. It was a creative writing class, yes, but there were some essays that needed to be written when it came to the “rules” for writing. These essays weren’t necessarily formal content in the case that the essay topic had a right or wrong answer. She was always curious where each one of her students was when it came to various pieces of writing advice.

With that said, there had always been a generic format for when it came to submitting your work of writing to a publisher, agent, or magazine. Mae knew a lot of her students had already begun submitting some of their short stories and poetry to different websites, magazines, and contests. She wanted to help them through that process by showing them how to submit each piece in the proper, professional manner.

Most submissions were wanted in a certain font such as Courier New. The font size should be around nine to 12-points with double line spacing. There were never any cover or title pages. The first page was the same page the story begun, but not until halfway down.

At the top left corner of that page was the student’s name and contact information. Of course, for the sake of the class, Mae always had the students write their name, which class day and time they were part of (she taught five creative writing classes and each semester got more difficult to tell them all a part), and the date as well as their school email. At the top right corner they needed to write the exact word count of their piece, excluding the heading and the title of the piece. Halfway down the page, centered, was the title of the piece. Then the story began.

Mae always thought she was pretty clear about those instructions. She wrote it all out in the rubric and she even included an example with her own information on it. It was the first page to an actual short story she had submitted long ago for publication.

Now she was at a loss. Mae had always looked forward to reading the various works of all her students. They wrote such an array of pieces and genres. She had a few poets, some who wrote in different genres such as different areas of fantasy, mystery, drama, general fiction, and more. She enjoyed every bit of it and she certainly loved seeing the various levels of creativity come from her students. Mae always got a smile whenever she noticed an improvement from one piece to the next from some feedback she had given her students.

Of course, feedback was always taken with a grain of salt. That was something Mae had always drilled into her students’ heads. Feedback was helpful and needed, yes, but in the end, it’s their story. They should listen to the feedback but the final decision for what’s right for the story is always up to the author.

So now Mae was reading some of the stories her students had submitted to her. This was their final project for the semester. They had been working on these particular stories since the beginning of the semester with smaller projects here and there as well as working on draft after draft of their longer story, their final project. Peer editing and self-editing have all been part of the process as homework and group projects for grades. She was eager to finally read these pieces since she had yet to look at their longer works. She always wanted to save these until the end so she could read the final works as not just a teacher but also a reader and truly be surprised about what was to happen at the end of whatever her students came up with.

The format for one particular student, however, stuck out to her like a sore thumb. Not only was this their final project as a huge grade for the class from the whole semester, but Mae had drilled the format into their heads and… well, now she wasn’t so sure if this was a mistake or if one of her students had given up after a semester of working hard.

The example Mae had given the class was her own information for a short story she had submitted a long time ago. She had students in the past input her information instead of their own believing they were meant to do so. Mae didn’t understand why some of them thought a magazine would want their teacher’s information rather than the actual author’s, but that was an entirely different conversation.

This student did not do that. No, they forgot to plug in all their information. Instead of their name, they had written, “[Name]” on their paper. They didn’t even fill in the day and time of which creative writing class they were a part of. (Now Mae needed to do some trial and error. She had to save this piece of work for last and figure out which student hadn’t been corrected yet so she could give it a proper read knowing which student wrote it.)

Mae had been teaching college level creative writing classes for quite a few years. In all her many years of teaching, she had never seen a student pass in a short story with a format such as this one. Surely, the student knew their own name and their class day and time so there was no need to put placement text. She didn’t understand the logic behind it.

She moved the story to the side not wanting to read it quite yet. She’d move onto the next story and, when she figured out which student forgot to input their own information, she’d roll their story up and bonk them on the head with it.

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Short Story Sunday: “Settlement” [308]

Short Story Sunday 308: "Settlement" | Creative Writing | Flash Fiction | RachelPoli.com

As much as Marin was nervous for this meeting, she was going to do her best to remain positive about how it would turn out. She didn’t want to admit defeat before anything started and she certainly didn’t want everyone in the room to think she was afraid.
So, she walked through the parking as though she were on top of the world. Well, she stood tall at least. If anything she might have looked like a snob with her nose stuck up in the air but that didn’t matter. Marin only cared about how one person felt about her and it wasn’t any of the strangers she passed in the parking lot or who drove her.

She entered the office with her head held high. She passed the lobby without needing to talk to the receptionist – she knew exactly where she was going. Unfortunately, she had been there one too many times already.

Marin didn’t know how her life got to this point and she wished it hadn’t. However, now that it had come down to this, she needed to stick up for herself. She had lost everything because she didn’t have much of a backbone. She felt bad for the situation so she didn’t care if she was left with anything at all. However, now she actually had nothing because she gave it all away. There was no way he was going to take the apartment as well.

She couldn’t be homeless with nothing to her name. That wasn’t fair to her at all. She was done playing nice.

When Marin made it to the third floor where the divorce attorney offices were, she drew in a sharp breath. She was fine, she could do this. She was going to walk in there and demand that she get to keep the apartment because she had given him everything else – even the things she bought with her own money. He took back one of the gifts he had given her because even though he never cooked, he knew he would for sure use an air fryer now that he was a bachelor again.

Marin seethed in the hall. She needed to calm herself down before she entered the office. She was a few minutes early. She didn’t think it’d be an issue if she paced outside the door for a moment or two to gather her bearings.

It wouldn’t be a big deal if she had asked for the apartment, right? Both of their names were on the lease and she knew they’d have to pay a fee for one of them moving out (a fee she didn’t mind taking care of if that meant he was gone). The bottom line was that it didn’t make sense for both of them to move out and have to find a new apartment. Marin knew what he was going to say. He was given everything else from the marriage so it didn’t make sense for him to have to pack everything up and leave the apartment. It would be easier (for him) if Marin just packed up what little stuff she had left and moved out of the apartment. Plus, the apartment was originally his. He lived there before Marin had even me him. They dated for six months before eloping. Marin moved in with him and now… Now she regretted just about all the choices she had ever made in her lifetime.

With that logic and reasoning between herself and the voices in her head, Marin barged into the office and stood in the doorway. Everyone in the room – her lawyer, his lawyer, and him – stared at her. Marin immediately regretted walking in at that moment.

“Thanks for joining us,” her lawyer said. “We’ve actually been talking about you.”

Marin felt her blood pressure rise. How could they start the meeting without her?

Her ex-husband stood from the table. “I already signed the settlement. We just need your signature and then we’re all set.”

Marin opened her mouth to retaliate. How dare they decide on something without her present!

Her lawyer raised a hand. “Hear him out.”

Marin was about to snap at him when her ex spoke up again.

“I realized none of this has been fair for you. We rushed into a marriage and it was fun while it lasted. I wish I could say I hope we keep in touch, but honestly…” he chuckled. “Anyway, I’m giving you everything. All the stuff you told me I could take, I’m giving to you. I mean, aside from the stuff I owned before we were married. The furniture, TV, the air fryer, other gifts I gave to you… it’s all yours. So is the apartment.”

Marin remained in the doorway with her mouth gaped open. She had to be dreaming, right? Maybe she had married the evil twin and the good twin was here to make things right?

“I talked to my brother and he said I can stay in his guest bedroom until I find a new place,” he continued. “I realize a lot of our problems from the marriage were my fault and I want to make sure you’re comfortable and taken care of. So, if that’s all okay with you, then please. Go ahead and sign.”

Marin felt tears form in her eyes and willed her emotions to stay in check. This was reason she had fallen in love with him in the first place. He could be a self-centered jerk, but he always came to his senses at the end. Even divorced, it seemed as though he cared and he still wanted to make sure things were not his fault. For once, he was taking responsibility.

She walked over to the table and picked up the pen. She glanced at her lawyer who nodded. Yet, she couldn’t find herself to sign it.

“I feel like this isn’t right. You should have something,” she said.

She cursed herself for saying anything at all. She knew she was too nice for her own good at times, but… how could she let things end like this?

Her ex shook his head. “Please? We’re already losing a friendship because we rushed into things. I’d rather just get this over with and be happy knowing that you’re taken care of.”

*

Marin got back to their – well, her – apartment. She had signed the papers. Everything was going to be processed and approved in a few months. The apartment was dull and quiet when it was just her there. She couldn’t tell if he truly did care or if he just didn’t want to deal with being in the apartment alone. Still, this was his apartment for about ten years. Marin couldn’t imagine him being able to give this up so easily.

After lying in bed that night and going through the following day as normal as she could, she realized something else. Her ex didn’t give up the apartment because he wanted to make sure she was taken care of, as he claimed. There was another reason.
Everywhere Marin looked, something was his. The apartment smelled like him. The apartment held a number of memories of the two of them – some good and some bad. Everywhere she looked, she was reminded of him and her heart broke all over again.

That was the reason he didn’t want to stay.

They hated each other, but they hated this situation more. Marin couldn’t help but smile. Well, it seemed as though he did like her a little bit.

She picked up her purse and headed out of the apartment. Without a second thought, she’d tell the leasing office she was moving out.

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Short Story Sunday: “Coversation” [307]

Short Story Sunday 307: "Conversation" | Creative Writing | Flash Fiction | RachelPoli.com

“What do you think they’re talking about?” Lyla asked. She picked up her hot coffee and drew it to her lips without taking a sip. It was still piping hot, the steam rising from the small slit in the cover.

Victor, sipping his coffee across the table, stared at her. He put the paper cup down on the table. “What do I think who are talking about?”

“Them,” Lyla said, turning her attention back to her friend, jerking her head to her left.

Victor looked to his right scanning the cafe. There was an empty table beside them but next to that one was another man and woman sitting together. They seemed to be deep in conversation, not taking their eyes off one another. The man sat back with one arm casually on the back of his chair and his other hand holding his hot beverage. The woman hunched forward with both hands cupping her hot drink.

“Why are you curious about what they’re talking about?” Victor asked turning his attention back to Lyla.

Lyla stared at the couple once more. “I can’t get a read on them.”

“Why do you need to get a read on them?”

“Why do you have to question everything I do?”

“Because I think you’re crazy.”

Lyla snorted through a smile. It wasn’t the first time someone called her crazy and she knew it wouldn’t be the last. In fact, she knew she was a bit crazy. She was too nosy for her own good, but these were strangers. There was no harm in wondering what they’re lives were like today. Lyla brought her drink back up to her mouth and took the tiniest of sips. It was still hot but at least she didn’t burn her tongue this time.

“Okay, let me ask you this,” Victor said, “What do you think they’re talking about?”

Lyla shrugged. “That’s why I asked you.”

“You’re the nosiest person I know and you eavesdrop all the time. I’m sure you’ve heard bits and pieces here and there in their conversation,” Victor stated.

Lyla frowned. “I tried, but it’s too loud in here and they’re two tables away.”

Victor laughed. He took another sip of his drink and looked back over at the couple two tables over. They hadn’t moved their positions, but they were still talking, staring deeply into one another’s eyes.

“It seems to me,” Victor began, “the woman is trying to have a serious conversation and the man doesn’t seem to care.”

“That’s what you get out of that?” Lyla asked in surprise.

“Body language says a lot.”

“But you make it sound like the man isn’t serious at all. The woman is trying to convince him of something and he’s brushing her off,” Lyla countered.

Victor shook his head. “I didn’t say the man was never serious. I meant this particular conversation isn’t interesting to him. Or maybe the woman is making a big deal out of nothing and that’s why she’s stressed out and he’s not.”

Lyla pressed her lips together in a smirk.

Victor narrowed his eyes. “What?”

“You’re just as nosy as I am.”

“I am not.”

“You are,” Lyla said with a chuckle. “You have this all thought out. You thought of two scenarios.”

Victor waved her off. “Oh, forget it.” He took another sip.

There was a moment of silence as the two old friends sipped on their own coffee. Lyla and Victor met up once a week at the cafe to catch up with one another and have a relaxing time after a long week. They had been doing this for years, ever since they graduated high school and they went to different colleges. They wanted to keep in touch and going to a cafe for about an hour a week was the only time they were able to make. Even when college was over and they both had full-time jobs this was the only time they could make. Life was always so hectic and on-the-go. Lyla enjoyed that they were able to take this time out of their week and keep in touch with each other.

“Why do you care so much?” Victor broke the silence.

“About what?”

“About what those people are talking about. You ask me that just about every time we come here.”

Lyla shrugged. “I’m curious about what’s going on in other people’s lives. I think it’s cool that other people live like we do.”

Victor raised an eyebrow. He wasn’t too sure how to respond to that one. Of course other people had lives. Everyone went to school or work, they hung out with friends. Everyone had feelings and their own worries and doubts about things. Someone somewhere was receiving good news while another person somewhere was receiving bad news. It was the way life worked.

“I mean, I know other people have lives, of course.” Lyla attempted to defend herself. “But it’s interesting to know how similar or different strangers are to us. We get so wrapped up in living our own lives, thinking, and worrying, and all that jazz that we forget there are other people around us possibly going through the same thing.”

Victor nodded his head. She made sense. He had some interesting customers at his work all the time and he often pretended they were having a bad day so Victor tried to remain as calm and nice as he possibly could.

“It’s true,” he said, adding his two cents. “Everyone is fighting a battle that we know nothing about. I still don’t see why you need to eavesdrop on conversations in the cafe though.” He smirked.

Lyla laughed. “This place is filled with interesting people. It’s the perfect place to people watch.”

Victor smiled and raised his cup. “I can’t argue with that.”

*

“You don’t need to keep whispering. They can’t hear us.” The man two tables over took a lazy sip from his drink.

The woman, still hunched over the table, stared at him. “I know, but I don’t want them to see that we’ve been looking over at them.”

“Then don’t look at them. I don’t know why you always feel the need to know what other people are talking about whenever we step foot inside a busy public place.”

“You’re not the least bit curious about what’s going on in their lives?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’m not crazy.”

*

Victor nodded his head to two tables over and Lyla casually gazed over acting as though she was looking at something else.

“What about them?” she asked.

“I changed my mind,” he said. “I think they’re arguing.”

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 306: Hostility

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

Detective Elliot stared at the suspect through the one-way mirror. The man sat in the other room, leaning back against the metal chair looking bored. The detective didn’t know what to do with this guy. He didn’t seem to care about the situation he was in right now. On the other hand, the suspect wasn’t talking too much. Elliot couldn’t tell if he just didn’t understand what was going on or if he was too crafty and knew exactly what he was doing. The suspect had refused a lawyer so Elliot was given the go-ahead to question him. So far, he hasn’t made a dent.

Judging from the way the suspect acted, Elliot and his partner, Detective Grace, assumed Elliot would have it all under control. Grace had decided to get a head start on the paperwork while Elliot finished up with the suspect. Now he waited for his partner in the back room so they could interrogation the suspect together. Elliot didn’t make any headway so maybe between the two of them, Grace would be able to get something out of this guy.

Grace entered the back room with a deadpan expression. “I thought we’d actually get off shift on time for once.”

Elliot sighed. “I’m sorry, but this man isn’t budging. I thought maybe if we gang up on him he’ll talk.”

“Does he want a lawyer?”

“Still doesn’t want a lawyer,” Elliot said, shaking his head.

Grace let out a frustrated sighed. “Well, it doesn’t seem as though this guy wants to make anything easy for us.”

“Why would they?” Elliot smirked. “I got all I could out of him. He kept giving me one-word answers. It got to the point he kept answering yes or no for all my questions even when I didn’t ask a yes or no question.”

“Oh, one of those?” Grace commented with a grunted. “Do you think he’s in a daze from all the events from today? Or do you think he’s faking trying to play us?”

Elliot reached over Grace and grabbed the manila folder on the shelf by the mirror. He opened it up and took a look at the case file that was quickly made up before they began their questioning.

“According to the woman in the apartment next door, she heard a man scream and she checked the hallway. The apartment to her left – the suspect’s apartment – was opened ajar. She took a peek to make sure everything was already and she found our victim dead on the floor in a pool of blood with a knife sticking out of his chest. Then she saw our suspect walking calmly out of the next room wiping his hands of, what she assumed, to be blood,” Elliot said, reading from the folder. “We of course, brought him in for questioning under the suspicion he murdered his roommate, but he has never once flinched. Didn’t resist arrest, doesn’t even seem to realize a homicide has taken place.”

Grace watched the suspect through the mirror with furrowed brows. He leaned back in his chair making the legs click on the floor. He began to hum along with the tune in a happy manner. “I feel like he doesn’t know what’s going on… either that or he’s a really good actor.”

“My guess is a good actor,” Elliot replied. “He refused a lawyer and said he didn’t mind talking to us about what happened. My guess is this is all an act in an attempt to fool us into thinking he’s crazy. If a lawyer was here, they’d see right through him.”

“That doesn’t matter. A lawyer would still try to protect him, that’s their job. We see right through it though and we don’t have to protect him,” Grace stated.

Elliot didn’t reply for a moment. While his partner was right, he still thought there was something off about the whole situation. Would a person really go through these lengths to cover up the fact that he murdered his roommate? People did crazy things when they were in crazy situations and were scared. Elliot had thought he’d seen it all but he knew he’d jinx himself for the next case if he said it out loud.

Either this suspect had planned to kill his roommate but didn’t expect the next door neighbor to hear – which Elliot thought was ridiculous in the first place. The apartment had thin walls that he was sure a lot of people in the building would have heard the struggle. Or, the suspect got too heated in the moment and didn’t mean to kill his roommate. Of course, you can’t accidentally stab a knife through someone’s chest, but Elliot has heard and seen a lot of crazy things throughout his years being a detective.

On the other hand, this suspect could have actually been innocent and the next door neighbor was too afraid and only thought what she was was actually what she witnessed. Maybe the suspect wasn’t talking because he was afraid. Why he didn’t want a lawyer was beyond Elliot. Maybe he knew he wouldn’t be able to afford one or maybe he was too confident that he’d be found innocent that he didn’t think he needed one.

Elliot watched him carefully through the glass. The suspect was too calm. It truly was hard to say if he was innocent and confident he’d be found so – despite the evidence and testimonies against him – or he was crazy and didn’t care at all about the situation he was in.

“Any ideas how to pursue this one?” Grace asked.

Elliot shook his head. “Do you want to go in alone and see if he’ll talk to you or tag-team this one?”

Grace shrugged. “I’ll see if he’ll be inclined to answer any of my questions.”

Elliot watched as his partner left the room. There were quite a few suspects who usually submitted to Grace’s questioning. Elliot had been doing this for years and he wasn’t sure if he was becoming less intimidating. Grace, on the other hand, had only been doing this for a handful of years but she was more intimidating to most suspects than Elliot was. He didn’t understand what he was about her, but she often scared people into talking. However, she was never out of line.

He watched as Grace opened the door to the interrogation room. Before she could take a step into the room, the suspect stood, let out an ear-splitting scream as he picked up his chair, and chucked it toward the detective before rushing toward the door.
Elliot jumped out of the back room and was just about to help his partner when he entered the interrogation room. When he made it to the doorway, Grace had the suspect pinned on the ground under the chair. Elliot tried not to crack a smile. “Did you catch the chair?”

“Of course I caught the chair, I’m no rookie,” Grace said as though she were offended he asked. “Go get backup, will you? I think he needs some more time in the holding cell.”

Elliot did as suggested and as a few police officers cuffed the suspect and brought him back to a holding cell, Elliot and Grace watched from the hall. He had the case folder in his hand and let out a sigh.

“You know,” he began, “I know nothing is ever easy. But for once, I would like a case that’s on the easier side. He was totally calm with me, I don’t know what you did.”

Grace shrugged. “My face scares people, as it should.”

Elliot chuckled.

Grace then sighed. “Great, now I have to add this in the report. More paperwork.”

Elliot didn’t answer his partner. Yes, she was right. They were going to have to add that into the case file, but there was certainly something that wasn’t right. “I think we should go back to the apartment and check it out again. I feel like there isn’t something right with that guy.”

“Ya think?”

“I want to go back to the apartment.”

“Alright, we’ll go back to the apartment.” Grace shrugged. “You can drive.”

*

The two detectives ducked under the caution tape that sprawled across the door frame to apartment 205. The remained in the doorway on the other side of the tape staring at the still-life apartment before them.

“Died right away from a stab wound to the heart,” Detective Grace said shaking her head. “What a way to go.”

“We’ve seen worse,” Elliot added.

“We have, but it still never gets less creepy. What are we looking for here?”

“Honestly, I’m not sure,” Elliot replied softly. “I thought something would jump out of me once we got here. I know that sounds a bit too easy, but… I have this feeling that we have the wrong guy.”

“The crazy guy is the wrong guy?” Grace said with a deadpanned tone.

Elliot nodded. “Maybe? I’m not sure.”

“He threw a chair at me.”

“That doesn’t mean he’s a murderer.”

“A metal chair.”

“Right, but-”

“And then he tried to run out the door. If he were innocent, would he try to run? What does he had to hide?” Grace continued.

“I can’t imagine being accused of murder when you’re actually innocent. I bet he’s afraid trying to put on a cool act.” Elliot explained.

“I get that, but I still find it completely odd. Something must be off about him. Regardless, he attacked a detective so he’ll be in trouble for something,” Grace stated. She watched as Elliot entered further into the apartment. “What are you doing?”

“Looking for clues.”

“I’m pretty sure we got everything.”

Elliot wasn’t convinced. He looked under tables and chairs but nothing seemed to be jumping out at him. He stared at the blood stains on the carpet in the middle of the living room.

“Do you think,” he began, “it’s possible our suspect came home and found his roommate dead? He might have tried to revive him with CPR or something and that’s how he got the blood on his hands. That’s what the neighbor witnessed.”

Grace walked further into the apartment and looked down at her partner who was squatting on the ground. “It’s possible, yes. Anyone who would walk home to see that would try to revive them with CPR despite a stab wound to the hear. Panic and grief sets in. But what about the scream?”

“It was our suspect. He came home and was shocked to find his roommate dead.” Detective Elliot stood up. “How would our witness be able to tell the two screams apart? They’re both male and I’m sure they don’t scream so often that their neighbor has been able to tell them apart.”

“Well, I hate to admit it, but you do have a point. Our witness didn’t actually witness the murder, she saw the aftermath,” Grace agreed.

*

The two detectives made it back to the station. They immediately walked down to the holding cells and found their suspect. He sat in a lonely corner of the cell weeping.

“I don’t think he did it at all,” Elliot whispered. Seeing him in this state confirmed any thoughts he had. He walked over to the cell and knocked on the bars to get his attention.

The suspect looked up, his face wet and eyes blood-shot from crying. He stood, walking to the bars. He looked confused but Elliot could tell he was trying to act tough.

“We went back to the apartment,” Elliot began. “You didn’t kill your roommate, did you?”

The suspect’s mouth gaped open. He looked back and forth between the two detectives before settling his gaze back onto Detective Elliot. His gaze softened as he smiled with relief. He shook his head.

“Then why wouldn’t you talk to us before?” Grace asked, glaring at the suspect. Elliot put a hand up signaling her to simmer down. Though he couldn’t blame her. He’d be annoyed if a chair was thrown at him too.

The suspect shrugged. “I’m sorry. I thought I was done for. I panicked.”

“You need to tell us what happened. No more staying silent if you want your roommate’s killer to be caught,” Elliot said sternly.

The suspect nodded. He looked Detective Elliot in the eye. “I think I know who killed him.”

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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