Scalded

An upmarket restaurant played host to the hero of the city that evening. Troy Terrific sat at the premier table with the best view from the skyscraper restaurant, a chilled glass of white wine at his right and a selection of artisan bread sticks to his left. Big band jazz came from the stage, setting his foot tapping and his fingers snapping to the beat.

From the double doors through to the kitchen the waiter came bearing a trolley with his beef consommé, his started of choice. An excellent use of shin meat and delivered piping hot.

Troy Terrific had a good head on his broad shoulder, his square jaw setting with resolve as he felt the situation around him change. In the reflection of his wine glass he could see a figure approach, head shaved and hand in their pocket. A quick glance to the window gave him a slightly better picture of the approaching threat. While their clothes were fine, their soul was stained. Troy bided his time, looking to all the world like a man looking over the booming beauty of Los Estrella, The Star of the West Coast.

The consommé arrived just in time. As the waiter lifted it from the tray, Troy Terrific’s toned hand sent the bowl and its contents lashing out with a single blow. Beefy broth struck true, the man clutching at his face. The jeweled dagger he drew from his pocket clattered to the floor as he collapsed, rolling about in agony.

“That man meant me harm.” Troy’s voice cut through the silence of the room, the rich and masculine timbre resonating through the hearts of those around him.

“I will summon the police immediately, Mister Terrific.” The waiter spoke quickly. “And order you another starter.”

All charm, Troy lifted his wine glass up in toast. “Cheers.”

 

Lorenzo Vano crumbled the newspaper in his hands and hurled the offending article into the open log fire. “Send word back to the old country!” He called out to the lineup of men stood in smart suits behind him. “I need the best of the best to deal with this threat to our organization.”

As Lorenzo’s seconds filed out of the room, Lorenzo poured himself a drink. “Soup won’t save you next time, Troy.” He muttered darkly before taking a slow sip to calm his nerves.

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Fleets of Flies

The alleyway was full of the sickly-sweet miasma of rotting garbage. Try as he might to avoid the black bags and strewn trash on the floor, every so often his foot would nudge against a sack. It would take a brief moment before fleets of flies took skywards, swirling about in the alley at being disturbed from feasting and fornicating.

Pressing the back of his hand to his nose dulled the stench a little, replacing it with the clinical odor of powdered nitrile gloves.

It took a bit of a trek down the alley to get into the clearing between buildings where the white tent had already been set up, along with barricades of police tape separating the rest of the world from the crime scene. Dipping into his pockets, he pulled out the blue bags to slip over his shoes.

“Carl.” One of the forensics officers called, carefully stepping around the little numbered plates to meet him. Jenny Ming was relatively new to the job, and her face had a pale cast to it.

“Jenny.” Special Detective Inspector Carl North nodded in return. His face was careworn, his short cut of dark hair greying at the temples. “May I?” He gestured past the tape.

With a nod, she helped lift it a little for him to slip under, a slight groan coming from the detective. “Back troubles?” She asked with a smile of commiseration.

“Age troubles.” He replied, carefully stretching a little as he straightened. “How bad is it?” He pointed to the tent. Carl could feel the unnatural taint in the air causing his skin to goose pimple. She didn’t speak, she just motioned him over to the door through. A quick glance was all he needed before he turned from the scene with a shiver. “You were right to call.”

The body behind him was straight out of a modern horror film, a skeleton that attempted to escape its confines of flesh. Pushing his senses out, he could feel the stain of dark magic on the corpse. It had a peculiar quality, an abruptness to it. At a guess, someone had tried to work a spell above their level and broke it off before the strain killed them. Had it completed there would have just been a pile of skin behind them and a risen horror somewhere else, ready to do their master’s bidding.

Process

“I don’t mean to criticize you,” his superior spoke in a voice that indicated he -was- meaning to, “but couldn’t you hurry that up? We need a lead.”

Pinching his brow as he bit off his planned retort, he sucked in a deep breath before responding with all the patience he could muster. “It’s not a simple task. I am working as fast as I can, and I could work faster if I did not keep having to explain this.”

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Investigation

The roll-neck top she had pulled up over her nose did little to stifle the sickly-sweet smell of rotting garbage in June. With hands clad in blue nitrile, she sifted through the alleyway while breathing as shallowly as possible. “On TV, detective work isn’t nearly as glamorous as this.” She joked between breaths, before scampering back as hard-shelled roaches scurried out to fight over the remains of a gyro she’d unearthed.

“Yeah,” her partner responded, hauling a refuse sack out of a dumpster to start pouring over, “It’s all the boring stuff. Pitched gun battles, car chases, hot sex and cool champagne. They leave out the trash duty, the desk work, the endless coffee runs. That’s where the action is.”

“I wish we could wrap up everything in forty-two and a half minutes. We’ve spent that long here already.”

“Maybe there’s extra long advert breaks?” A grin crossed his face as he shook an empty box of condoms. “Holster your piece with Magnum, sponsors of Two Detectives and a Dumpster.”

Her laughter soon became spluttering retches as an unpleasant whiff struck her nose through her top’s light fabric. “Is that what our show is called? I was hoping for something more catchy. Kovalski and Renault, but instead of and, it’s one of those squiggly…”

“Ampersand?” Renault supplied.

“That’s it.” Kovalksi nodded, carefully climbing to her feet. “Why don’t we have uniforms on this task, anyway?”

“More imperative duties. The President’s in town after all, so the gruntwork is all ours.” Wiping his brow on his forearm, he gestured at the pile of trash he’d unleashed. “Not a sign of anything vaguely relating to murder, unless you count some awful Kung Pao chicken and a copy of Diane Taylor’s ‘Fit Fast’ work out DVD.”

Peeling her gloves off, Kovalski tucked one into the other. “Pretty sure that gave someone a heart attack. Not so sure it resulted in someone being choked with a bike tyre’s inner tube.”

Renault sighed. “How annoying is that? Our murder weapon currently has more traction than our investigation.”

Author’s Note: That was a fair absence, wasn’t it? My apologies for the vacation. This week’s 3 Word Wednesday words were: Garbage, Traction, Imperative.

Glass Eye

Digitized vision bore witness to the beatdown the woman was getting. Boots collided with ribs; soles trampled on limbs.

She laid helpless on the ground. The cameras were mute, content just to watch and record and to then send that data to the national database.

No one who saw that footage would care for her plight. The glass eyes were vigilant, dedicated to protecting the population and helping to enforce law and order.

She was just a dissident.

Author’s Note: Today’s Three Word Wednesday words are helpless, trample, vigilant.

Cat’s Eye

With the family having left on vacation she was free to hack her way past the exterior defences. With the gate timer spoofed and the camera feeds dubbed, she walked into the compound like she owned the place. Her destination? The mansion she once worked in as an assistant.

Her little bag of thief’s tools gained her entry to the family home, using cloned NFC biometric signals to trick the entry system. A handy little backdoor she had planted during her service to the family worked to confound the time-location security systems that might have rumbled her plan.

Once inside, it was easy to begin loading her sports bag with jewellery and other valuables that had been scouted out while employed. Having lined the bottom and sides of the bag with her clothing, she kept some spare to cover it over ready to muffle the sound of her loot and conceal it from prying eyes.

At least the cats were still fond of her, rubbing their bodies around her leg and staring up at her to meow, expecting her to feed them. With her glove covered hands, she stroked their backs and scratched behind her ears, smiling at how much she was going to walk away with in this perfect crime.

She never knew about the cybernetic enhancements of the cats, their vision linked to a small encoding computer in the base of their skull that fed the data to flash chips in their collars. As she left the property so sure of her brilliance and cunning the cats peered through the window at her. The proof of her crimes filed away in their vibrant, customized neckwear.

Author’s Note: Inspired by the April 4th 2013 episode of James May’s Man Lab, on BBC 2.

Rotten

Note from the Author: Read Leftovers first before reading this one!

I dare not throw it out. Not the shrivelled chicken and its mouldy coating. Not the hardened fries, or the rotten beans. I cannot throw out the black mess that was once a slice of lemon meringue pie. He’ll come back if I do. I just know it.

He said he’d be back. He said he was coming back for his leftovers. The second I get rid of them? That day will be the day of his return. He’ll find me and see that I don’t have his last meal any more, and he’ll punish me. He was in there for unspeakable crimes.

We argued. She said I was going mad, believing in paranoid fantasies that I’d be haunted by a dead prisoner. I returned home one day to find the lock had been changed. My belongings were in bags on the porch. And in the trash can at the end of the driveway…

I put my suitcases in the pick-up. I left the old key by the door. And from the trash can I dug out his last meal, bundled it up in a carrier bag, and stuck it in the back of the truck.

Even dead, he continues to leave victims. Even dead, he destroys lives. Even dead, he torments me.

I only brought him what he asked.

So why does he do this to me?

Leftovers

He set his utensils down with a satisfied sigh, finishing off the last of his ginger ale with a slurp. Leaning back in the chair, he gave a smile to the polite young man in uniform as he came to collect the plate.

“You didn’t eat all your main course.” The man said gently, his hand hovering near the plate. “Are you sure you don’t want to finish it up?” There was still plenty of fries and fried chicken on the plate, as well as a side of green beans that were barely touched.

“I’m all right, thanks. Save the leftovers.” He replied with an easygoing wave of his hand.

“And what about your dessert?” Came the next question, pointing to the tasty looking slice of lemon meringue pie sitting on a separate plate.

All he could do was chuckle. “Save it for later, for me.” He winked, watching the now pale-faced man leave before two more in uniform came in.

“It’s time.”

Nodding, he pushed back his chair and rose up, the chains around his wrists and ankles jangling, even as the ankle chains dragged on the floor. Each guard took one of his arms, leading him out of the cell.

“Dead man walking!” One of his guards called out, his voice echoing down the corridor and through the other cells.  “Dead man walking, here.”

He turned his head to the jailer who had served him his last meal, grinning as he fixed him with a long, intense stare. “Make sure you save my food, man. Gonna be -real- hungry in a bit.”

Clock

Tick was preceded, and followed, by tock. It went vice versa, too. A constant coming from the simple white wall clock hanging on the wall. Unrelenting, unfaltering. Well, except for an exciting time when the battery died and needed changing. That was a rare occurrence though.

It wasn’t just the sound that filled his ears, but the movement of the hands on the clock. A red second hand, a blue minute hand, and a black hour hand, making their way around the dial in a constant circle with a steady pace.

There used to be other sounds. A steady up and down hush, a fairly constant beep, the sounds of footsteps on a hard surface. They probably still were there in the background, but the clock had come to obsess him. Perhaps that was the wrong term. He was always obsessed with them. Maybe it had consumed his sanity.

He had been a young boy when he discovered his ability to alter the shift of time by concentrating on the surface of a clock or watch. Childish pranks turned to self-serving actions, which led to crime in his later life. Hiding between the seconds, he’d stolen millions in cash and items. And now he was paying for his misuse, the overuse even, of his ability. Laying catatonic in a hospital bed, staring at the clock he could no longer stop.

Filcher of the Modern Age

Unassuming. Usual. Ordinary. He sat in one corner of the coffee chain’s store, sipping from one of their cups as he tapped away on a battered old laptop, set apart in age and condition from the sleek, modern, trendy models being totted in by students from the nearby university.

On his screen sat some half-finished essays, procrastinating in his work over two-for-one muffins and a ‘artisan’ coffee with an enigmatic name. It was merely a front however, for the program working in the background. Through the wi-fi connection he’d toyed with, he harvested information. The foolish on their fresh out of the box products broadcast a smorgasbord of information, poor or no encryption allowing the harvest of user names, passwords, e-mail addresses. With the free wi-fi policy and the table space for studying, and those tapped in to the wireless on their cellphones, it would take a while to sift through the chaff to find the nuggets of digital gold.

Each piece was a key to a life. With enough keys, he could unlock the information to allow him full access. Unsafe passwords and poorly thought out security questions coupled with a wealth of knowledge on social media gave him access all areas to so many things. It made him chuckle a little to think of all the time wasted filching and pickpocketing out on the streets. A wallet here, a cellphone there, while that all added up, with his current set up?

He was reaping the rewards.