Benjamin Little and Bogart’s Opera (short story and opportunity)

A new order came across my phone’s notifications, excited I clicked through to the Fiverr app. Ready to kill a new victim, fictionally of course. To my surprise, the victim was going to be longtime friend (since high school), Benjamin Little.

If you’re new to reading one of these short stories, here’s a quick rundown. People pay me $5 on Fiverr to kill them in a short story or flash fiction piece. From the moment they place the order, I have 7 days to submit to them the finished product–their demise in fictional form. You can learn more and sign up here:

You can download the files (PDF, epub, mobi) to this story at this link. Read it, for free, anywhere and on any device you want. Or keep scrolling and read it below.


The real Benjamin Little, a photo I took of him during a music video project we did together a few years ago.

As I would expect from Mr. Little, he chose crime and science fiction for genres. And because he is a forensic worker for the St. Louis Metro PD, I was able to work with that in the story. But for those who have been reading since the first story (Kat Folland’s Early Retirement), you’re in for a treat because his story crosses over with that one. I can’t tell you how much fun it was crossing some of these stories over. And getting back to work in a science fiction world I’ve been building for some years now.

As a little tribute, mostly for our sake as we have been grieving the loss of a mutual high school friend. He took his life almost exactly a year ago. We had recently been speaking about that, and I was able to reference a fictional character we had written in a series of skits for him during high school. Back then, the character was known as Uncle Vinny, and was a mob boss. In this story, he’s still a mob boss character, but is known as Vinny Bogart. I worked hard to be tasteful, and the reference is small. But for our sake, I felt like it was a way to nod a hat to Benedict.

But enough upfront stuff, let’s read the story. Lemme know what you think.

Benjamin Little and Bogart’s Opera

District 37 was a good place to be forgotten or lost. It was also a good place to kill someone, or be killed.

The United Nations had divided the entire globe into Districts by 2037, China being the last to come over unwillingly to the global government model. With the years that followed, the world became one giant slab of buildings and efficiency. No matter where you went, it was all about everything being the same. At least, that was the theory. But of course it didn’t turn out that way.

Blocks, huge compartmentalized living structures, covered the entirety of Earth’s surface. Elevators gave the ability to travel up and down between Levels, and monorails took you from District to District. It was crude, and with time, the sweetest commodity was sunlight. The higher up you lived, closer to the sun’s rays, the more expensive the cost of living got. This lead to a clear cut segregation between the lower and middle classes, with the lower classes living in the lowest Levels of the Blocks. Closest to Earth, but furthest from light.

The United Nations adopted a crude universal police system named The Order, which was originally a United States federal police force that slowly overtook local law enforcement. Order and Serve was their motto. Protection was optional. Out of the need for more law and order, bounty hunters became a necessary evil. The Order often called upon them for assistance on a contract-by-contract basis. Justice was scarce, revenge was typical.


Benjamin Little was eating noodles in his tiny, one-bedroom apartment when the call came in on the radio. It was a double murder in District 37. The bodies were found inside the elevator system. It was a bloody mess from the sound of it. He shoved one more bite of noodles into his mouth, and then got up and threw his overcoat and fedora on. He grabbed his standard issue Order tablet and burst out the door.

District 37 had been a hell hole of crime for years, and most everyone had given up on trying to police it. This left the criminals to run rampant and make their own rules. And it left it open for people to just disappear into, if there was a warrant out for their arrest.

Benjamin hopped onto the monorail and sat down. He pulled out his tablet and checked the location of the reported crime. He knew he didn’t have much time to get on location and wrap up some forensic evidence before local Order officers arrived and dismantled the crime scene. No one was interested in investigating crimes in District 37. It just wasn’t worth the effort, nor was it as lucrative as being paid off by the perpetrators.

The monorail sped from his home, District 39, and headed southwest into the belly of the beast.


Benjamin found several officers on scene when he arrived at the elevator. He could tell they were eager to wrap it up, but were waiting for a detective to give them the go-ahead. He pushed through a crowd of onlookers. A rookie officer stepped in front of him and grabbed him by the shoulder.

“Whoa, this is a crime scene, bud.” The young officer said to him.

“I know,” Benjamin feigned authority, though he had none in District 37. “I’m Forensics. I need to process this scene.”

“Forensics?” The rookie questioned, confused. He looked about for help, but he wasn’t going to get any. “I don’t know anything about that.”

“It’ll take five minutes.” Benjamin told him.

“OK,” the rookie said, “But you get three.”

“Right.” Benjamin was satisfied. He knew he could have what he needed in two minutes or less.

He stood between the pried open elevator doors. There were two bodies. One male, one female. There was an apparent struggle. It was a bloody mess indeed. But he could tell there was a piece of the puzzle missing. Someone else had been there. He noted also bloody footprints that led out of the elevator and a few feet away. They appeared to stop, and then vanish. Likely the killer took her boots off at this point, to stop trailing blood behind her. He figured a woman, not many men could get around in stiletto heels.

He reached into his overcoat and pulled out what was commonly known in his circles as a Blue Pill. He sat the small, pill-shaped device in what appeared to be the center of the crime scene. He stepped back out of the elevator and connected to the Blue Pill using his tablet. It lit up blue and fired a blue haze upward into the air. It slowly drizzled down and covered the crime scene from wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor. Anything of interest illuminated in blue. Fingerprints, strands of hair, and liquids—such as blood and saliva. His main area of expertise was fingerprints, and it would be the quickest and simplest data to look up without being noticed.

The elevator was covered in finger and palm prints, most of which wouldn’t be relevant. He decided to focus his attention on finding out who the victims were and if anyone had touched them, possibly the killer.

After the allotted thirty seconds had passed, he stepped back into the elevator and used the scanner on the back of his tablet to scan the illuminated hands of the victims. He saved their palm, hand, and finger prints. He found a palm print from the male victim on the forearm of the female victim. But based on its positioning, it appeared he was grabbing her arm, while she was behind him, and with plenty of force. This was likely part of the struggle. He noticed that the male victim had a scarf tight about his neck. It was tied from behind. He loosened it and saw the red markings of a strangling. He shook his head. He looked inside the palms of the female victim and confirmed burns from the scarf while she strangled him. But it wasn’t the scarf that killed him. Someone had a knife. And it was neither of these two victims. The lady who got away.

The female victim appeared to have died from a single gunshot wound to the chest. In one corner of the elevator was a pistol, but it was too large of a caliber for the small wound she had sustained. There was a partial palm print on the left shoulder of the female victim. He scanned it. It was different from the male and female victims’ prints. It was possible this was the killer.

Benjamin glanced at the clock on his tablet. His time was almost up. He peeked out of the elevator before stepping out. The detective had arrived, he was talking with the rookie. Benjamin heard the word “forensics” and knew he was about to get in trouble. But then he noticed someone in the crowd low-key waving to him. It was an old schoolmate, someone from the Academy. He swooped out of the elevator and headed straight for his old classmate. He nodded and spoke up to him. He casually slid into the crowd and joined him.

“Hey, Vince,” Benjamin said. “I’m glad to see you. How have you been?”

“Not so hot.” Vince said quietly.

Benjamin watched as the detective and rookie headed for the elevator. He knew once they found he was gone, they’d turn to look for him. “Come with me, Vince.” He said, and turned around to leave. He took his overcoat off and tucked it over his arm. He took his fedora off as well. They walked away, and he glanced back just before they went around the corner. He saw the detective and rookie harassing a man in a fedora on the other side of the crowd.

“I gotta problem, Ben,” Vince told him. His eyes were darting about in paranoia.

“Have you tried going to the police?” Benjamin asked as they walked further from the crime scene.

“You are the police.” Vince replied.

“Not the right kind of police,” Benjamin said.

“I need someone I can trust.” Vince said. “I need someone that isn’t going to throw me under the monorail at first chance, or sell me to the highest bidder.”

“Can you give me an hour?” Benjamin asked. “I know that sounds harsh, but this evidence locks up if I don’t perform searches on it within the hour. It’s law.”

“That’s good,” Vince said, “I don’t wanna talk here anyway. Too open. Meet me at the Munger Moss Motel, you know it?”

“Yeah, I know it.” Benjamin cringed at the thought of it.

“I’m in room 12.” Vince said and walked away without another word.


Benjamin rode an elevator to a sleazy diner. He found a corner booth and sipped on water while he ran the crime scene prints. The female victim was a bounty hunter, Kat Folland, and listed as online. That meant she was on a job and had not reported in. Her employer didn’t know she was dead on the job yet. The male victim was her bounty, Rancor Wilkes, and complete trash. Nobody was missing Rancor Wilkes. The real mystery was the smeared palm print on Ms. Folland’s shoulder, as it likely belonged to the killer. He either didn’t have enough to work with to find a match, or, in some rare cases, there are Off-Worlders who aren’t in the databases. Rancor was an Off-Worlder, but he had committed crimes on Earth in the past and was all over the databases. The lady who got away was out of his reach. He had nothing to go on. There was no way he could gain access back to the crime scene to hopefully gather more evidence, and even if he could, they’d likely contaminated and cleaned it up.

He sat back in the booth and rested the tablet on the table. Another dead end. District 37 was full of dead ends. He couldn’t stand it. He was about to get a refill on his water, but then remembered Vince. He checked the clock and he was late. He grabbed the tablet and got on the nearest monorail. It took him further into District 37, where a thunderstorm had picked up and was trickling down through the Blocks.

He took an elevator down to Level 1. He stepped off and saw the Munger Moss Motel. It was glowing in neon pink light with a vacancy light in blue. He slipped and caught himself when his feet touched the wet ground. He hadn’t felt earth under his feet in a few months, maybe a year, he couldn’t even remember how long it had been. He slowly walked through the mud, across the monorail tracks, and into the Munger Moss Motel.

He wiped his feet on the rug and shook the rain from his fedora and put it back on. The manager behind the counter spoke out to him, and he just shook his head at him and headed down the single hallway. There were doors to rooms on either side of the hallway. The ceiling was lined with neon pink lights and the doors were white so that they reflected pink. He found room 12 and reached to knock, but then noticed the doorknob was broken off and laying on the floor. Next to the knob was a Do Not Disturb sign. He pulled his pistol from its holster and gripped it within both of his hands. He pushed the door open with his shoulder and found a room in shambles.

He moved around the room, gun drawn, and cleared the little room and bathroom. Not even a bathtub or shower. Just a toilet. He looked over the mess. The bed was well slept in. There was an open suitcase on the table, a makeshift dresser. Clothes were strung about it and inside. But there were signs of a struggle too. A lamp broken on the floor. Broken glass from the TV which had been struck with something blunt, likely a bat or crowbar. And then he noticed a face print in blood on the sheets. They had thrown Vince face down on the bed, his face cut up or bludgeoned from the violence. They likely overpowered him and tied and gagged him before moving him. On the floor below the bloody face he saw a shoe, likely one Vince was wearing. Near the foot of the table was a cigarette butt smashed into the carpet. He touched it, it was still fresh. He’d just missed them.

That’s when he saw the little matchbook with a half moon and the words Bogart’s Opera. He picked it up and looked inside, no matches, but the number 12 was scribbled on the inside flap. Whoever came for Vince took their orders from Bogart’s Opera. Likely from Mr. Bogart himself. Benjamin began to question the wisdom in barging into Bogart’s Opera. It was a hotbed of murderers, rapists, and mobsters. The owner, Vinny Bogart, was a notorious and ruthless mob lord that ruled most of Level 1 in District 37—not an easy task. Whatever mess Vince had gotten himself into, it was not going to be easy getting him out of it.

He wanted to call it off and just toss Vince up for dead. But then he remembered what Vince had done for him back at the academy. He owed him. It was time to pay back the gesture.


Benjamin entered Bogart’s Opera and was met with strobing pink, blue, purple and yellow lights. Loud thumping music created vibrations in the dance floor beneath him. He could feel the beat of the song under his feet as he walked to the bar. On a stage was a group of musicians, rappers, and backup singers. The rappers were alien Off-Worlders and their language was unfamiliar to him. But no one seemed to mind on the dance floor, the music did the talking. He stepped up to the bar and waved the bartender over to him. He had to yell over the music to speak to him.

“I need to speak with Vinny Bogart.” He said to the bartender.

The bartender looked him over as he wiped a glass with a towel. “The boss doesn’t talk to strangers.”

Benjamin pulled out his tablet, used the fingerprint scanner to unlock it and tapped a little badge icon. It pulled up his identification badge and credentials. He showed it to the bartender. “I just need to talk.”

The bartender chuckled. “The boss doesn’t talk to cops who aren’t on his payroll. Scram.”

“You tell your boss that I know he has Vince Cartwright in his custody,” Benjamin said, “And I would like to arrange his release.”

The bartender looked him over again. “You’re really dumb, ain’t ya?”

“Yeah.” Benjamin said. “Just do it.”

The bartender waved a security guard over and whispered into his ear. The security guard looked Benjamin over. He nodded to the bartender and waved Benjamin behind the bar. They went through a door into the kitchen. Once the door closed, the security guard grabbed Benjamin and tossed him against a freezer door.

“You not so bright,” the security guard said in broken English. “Into freezer.” Benjamin stepped into the freezer and took a quick look around. On top of an open box there was a razor someone had used to open it. The security guard closed the door behind them. “We dance now.”

Benjamin spun around and took one quick slice across the guard’s neck and it was enough. He felt the resistance of the flesh against the razor. The guard fell to the floor, grabbing at his neck. In a matter of seconds the guard had passed out.

He walked back into the kitchen, he headed further into the back where he saw a long hallway. He grabbed a young cook by her arm, she nearly dropped a bowl of salad on the floor.

“They brought a man in here, against his will,” Benjamin started, “Where did they take him?”

“They bring a lot of people in here,” the cook said, “I don’t pay attention.”

“This one had a bloody face,” Benjamin said.

“I saw him.” She said.

“Take me to him.”

He followed the cook down the hallway passed a lot of doors of varying shapes and sizes, he couldn’t help but wonder what was going on behind all of them. But he had to stay focused, there was one task at hand. They’d be lucky to get out alive. She took him to a large, metal door. She pointed to it.

“He’s here?” He asked.


“OK, thanks,” he said, “You may go.”

She ran off back down the hallway.

He was still holding the razor, but he didn’t know what he’d be up against behind the door. His gun only held eight rounds, so he’d need to conserve just in case. He grabbed the cold handle and threw open the door. There was a group of men standing around a bloodied Vince, who was chained down to a chair. He was missing a shoe.

“What is this?” One of the men asked.

Benjamin lunged and sliced his neck without an answer, the other men charged. The man fell over onto the ground, choking on his own blood. The other two men tackled him and he lost his grip on the razor. He lost sight of it as it flew across the room. He tried to keep his balance, and not fall to the floor. He pushed one off of him and wrestled with the other one. The guy was thicker than he was in the middle, but it was mostly fat that he had little control over. The man kept throwing punches into Benjamin’s side, as he continued to push against him while bent over. Benjamin thrust a hard elbow into his back, the man lost his embrace and stood up. Benjamin quickly gave the man a few quick hits to his torso, to slow him down. The man was breathing hard and heavy. The other man came running from across the room, Benjamin drew his pistol and got two shots off at him. The first one caught his left shoulder, the second hit his chest. The man fell over dead. He took aim on the man breathing heavy and gave him one to the head. He collapsed, limp.

Benjamin knew there was a slight chance that the music would drown out his gunshots, or that the club was used to the sounds of gunshots. If not, they’d be going up against the Bogart brigade.

He approached Vince and checked his wounds. “You look a little out of sorts.”

“Thanks,” Vince said. “I didn’t expect—”

“I owe you, remember.” Benjamin interrupted.

Vince simply nodded in understanding. They both knew it was true.

Benjamin took the chains from him and laid them on the ground, he took a towel from a nearby table and wiped some of the blood from his face. “Can you stand and move around?”

“Yeah.” Vince said.

“Can you run, if need be?”

“I can gimp along with the best of them, probably.” Vince said.

“When we get out of here, you owe me a backstory.” Benjamin said as he picked Vince up from the chair. “Let’s go.”


Back on the dance floor, the bass was thumping hard and Vince lost his balance. Benjamin caught him with his shoulder and propped him back up. There were a lot more guards than when he had first come through. And they were all looking for something, or someone. He took quick stock of the situation—his gun had eight rounds, but he’d used three already, so he was down to five bullets. The guards were all carrying pistols or semi-automatics. Whatever was going to happen had to happen fast.

“There they are!” The bartender yelled, as he pointed them out.

Benjamin shoved Vince to the floor behind the bar, and took two shots into a nearby guard. His semi-automatic hit the floor, and landed near him. It was pure chance. He tossed his gun to Vince, who caught it. He slid across the floor to the semi-automatic and picked it up. He cocked it and took out two more guards. One behind a table, another directly above him in a balcony. He got up to his feet and went back to the bar for cover.

Bullets were now flying everywhere. Patrons of the bar were stampeding themselves on the way out of the bar. Screaming, chaos, and a lot of moving people gave them a moment. But the guards kept shooting. Customers were expendable.

Bottles of various concoctions were exploding above them and raining down on their feet. Benjamin looked over to Vince and saw the bartender was crouched behind the bar with them for protection.

“Give me that.” Benjamin took his gun back and promptly shot the bartender. “Sorry,” he said as he dropped the gun in Vince’s lap. “You only have three rounds left.”

“Well, thanks,” Vince said, “You just couldn’t let that go, huh?”

“He mad me mad.” Benjamin said. “More than once.”

“That makes it alright, then.”

Benjamin peeked around the corner of the bar and saw the guards were closing in on them. In a balcony above, there were at least three shooters. They were pinned down. He turned  back to Vince. “I’m gonna go to the other end and try to draw their fire. You make for the door.”

“And leave you?” Vince said.

“I remember your combat skills from the academy.” Benjamin scoffed. “I’ll take my chances. Besides, it might split them up, some might chase you out. Be sure to watch your back.”

“Where shall I go?”

“As far from 37 as you can get, Vince.” Benjamin said. “But find me after its blown over, you owe me an explanation for this.”


Benjamin moved to the other end of the bar and positioned himself at the edge. He made eye contact with a guard, but picked him off first. He looked around the bar and saw some had started to turn his way. He popped out just far enough to take a few shots at one of them and fell back into cover as wood from the bar was spraying his face from the bullets hitting it. He looked over at Vince who was grasping the gun between his hands with a rosary and praying.

“I’m gonna give you cover on this next one,” Benjamin said. “Get ready to run.”

“Right.” Vince said. He was panicking.

“Hey, just take a few deep breaths and get ready to run.” Benjamin said.

Vince started taking slow and steady breaths. “Alright.” He turned and got ready to run from his spot behind the bar.

“On three,” Benjamin said. He turned around and checked to see who he would be targeting next. He would take a few shots across them all, to provide cover. Most of the guards on the floor had changed direction to him and were coming his way. That was going to help Vince. “One, two—”

The thunderous sound of a shotgun rang in his ears and its buckshot knocked him out of his cover. He fell on his back, guards rushed him. A rifle shot from the balcony caught him in the right shoulder before he could crawl back into cover. He saw Vince was wrestling to get a sawed-off shotgun away from the bartender. He finally snatched it away and turned it on the bartender. Vince scrambled over to Benjamin.

“You OK, Ben?”

“Do I look OK?” Benjamin said.

“Shut up.”

“Same plan,” Benjamin said. “On two this time, though, I’m not sure I trust three anymore.”

Vince tried to argue with Benjamin, but he wasn’t having any of it. The bartender had managed to spray his left side and chest with the shotgun blast. Benjamin knew he wasn’t going to make it without medical aide immediately, which wasn’t going to happen in District 37—especially not in Bogart’s Opera. He made Vince prop him against the bar so he could just roll out from it to provide cover. Vince turned to head back to the other end of the bar, but Benjamin grabbed ahold of him.

“Hey,” Benjamin said and Vince turned back to him. “We’re even.”

Vince nodded in agreement.




#crime, #crimefiction, #ebook, #sciencefiction, #scifi, #short-story, #writing

Polly Scott-Showalter and the Engineer’s Method (short story and opportunity)

That’s right. I’m back. As always the payment is $5 and the product is the same… your death. In a short story or flash fiction, of course! I’m not some kind of mild mannered person by day and serial killer by night, stalking his victims via Fiverr. No!

Or am I?

The next submission in the I Will Kill You for $5 project is a former colleague of mine, Polly Scott-Showalter. I actually can’t recall if I ever worked directly with Polly in all those nine years I was at Missouri University of Science and Technology. But my memory is pretty bad. What I do remember is she was a regular in our online program and well-loved by our staff who did work with her regularly.

For the submission, she poured a lot of info onto me, but the keys I took away had to do with her engineering background, her fashion sense, and the fact she wanted a mystery. Being as I was in the mood for something a little old fashioned, I went with a bit of an Agatha Christie inspired short story. A dinner theatre mystery without the dinner.  I hope you enjoy it.

But enough is enough…

Here is that sweet, sweet Dropbox link.

At the Dropbox link you’ll find all the orders, but Polly is Order 8. Inside her folder you’ll find three file formats, choose the one that best suits your device. The available files are epub and mobi (common eBook formats) and PDF. All the files are free for download for all stories.

You can also read her story, here, right below the line. Enjoy!

Polly Scott-Showalter and the Engineer’s Method

Polly Scott-Showalter crumpled the invitation in her gloved hand and tossed it out the window of the carriage. It sputtered around in the wind and rain, lightning struck nearby and she heard the ripping of a tree somewhere from the bolt. The horses spooked, but the driver quickly corrected and calmed their nerves. They were back on their course.

One more job.

That was what she had told her. Just one more job. She recalled how Ethel Lancaster had not taken the news well, and was quick to remind her of her place in the organization.

“An Engineer will never tell me how to run things,” Ethel had spouted at her and tossed her bouncy hair out of her face. Her ridiculous locks always went their own way during her diva fits. Polly was thankful she stuck with a short cut. “I say no. And that’s all there is to that. Now get out of my face.”

But six months later, and here Polly was on her way to a dinner party at the Lancaster Mansion. She wasn’t sure what to expect. It wasn’t like Ethel to invite any of the engineers to her fancy get togethers. It smelt of a double-cross.

The carriage pulled to a stop outside the entrance to the godawful Lancaster Mansion. A warm, orange glow emanated from the torches outside the doors. She stared into the orange glow and considered some options. Run, and she will always be running. Enter, she may die. None of the options sounded too appealing.

“Out!” The driver shouted to her from his seat. That was signal enough.

She pulled her overcoat tight and fastened the buttons. She pulled her scarf over her hair and wrapped it tight about her neck. She stepped out into the rain and quickly made her way up stairs and into the doors. A servant nodded and welcomed her.

The glow turned to warmth inside. It was too much, as was customary anywhere Ethel abided. She always kept it hot enough to appease Lucifer.

“Coat and scarf, ma’am,” an elderly butler said to her with his arm extended.

Polly took off her drenched overcoat and laid it across the butler’s arm. “The scarf stays.” She said. She took it down from her head, and wrapped it around her neck.

“As you wish, ma’am.”

A young woman showed her down a long hallway to the dining hall. She opened the door and let her enter. The young woman closed the door gently and vanished. Polly looked around and while it appeared the first course had been served, no one was eating it. Most were standing about and whispering to each other. Another stood by a large fireplace, his eyes darting to-and-fro. She noticed a group of women looking her up-and-down.

A large man in a white suit, despite it being past Labor Day, came over and took the cigar from his mouth and unkempt mustache. His hair was balding and greasy. He raised an eyebrow and spit as he talked. “Who might you be, then?”

“Polly Scott-Showalter.”

“You’re late, aren’t ya now?” He asked.

“You know I am.” She replied. “What’s going on?”

“You tell me, yeah?” He said and stuck his cigar back into his mouth violently, he took two puffs into her face. He grinned a yellow smile.

“I just arrived, I wouldn’t know.” She said.

“Convenient.” He said. “Come here, yeah.” He motioned to her with his cigar as he turned and took her over to the fireplace. Near it was an entrance into an office, elaborate in decor. She had seen it a few times, when Ethel had called her out for a meeting. Inside the office were a host of police officers in uniform. Some were bent over examining evidence on the rug, others were in a corner speculating.

“Personal, I say,” one officer argued, “What with all the blood.”

“You always say that,” the other said.

The large man took her to Ethel’s mahogany desk. She was sitting behind it, her head rested on it in a pool of blood that was still dripping over the sides of the desk. Polly spotted a fresh bullet wound in the back of her head. Her lush hair had lost all of its life against the blood and violence. She noticed a bullet entry in the top of the desk, blood poured into it from all sides. It was an indication she was shot from behind, likely while sitting in her current chair, based on the angle of entry in her head and the desk. An assassination. Professional.

Of all the scenarios she imagined since she had received the invitation from Ethel, this was not one of them.

“See what we’re dealing with tonight?” The large man said. He extended his hand, “I’m Detective McCully. And we got a murder investigation goings on here, yeah. Hate to rain on your party and all.” He took two puffs of the cigar, ash sprinkled in his mustache. “Where’s were you about an hour ago?”

“In the carriage, obviously.” She said.

“Not necessarily,” he chided. “You could’ve arrived early, put a slug through your host, left and rode in late to make it looks like you wasn’t here, yeah?”

“I suppose so,” she said, “If I was the murderer.”

“Ain’t ya?” He asked.

“No.” She said. “But I could use the bathroom, it’s been a long ride.”

McCully looked annoyed. He shook his head and said, “Walk with me.”

He took her out a back entrance to the office, likely the one the killer would have used to get a jump on Ethel. They walked a long and dark hallway, it was colder than the rest of the house she’d been in.

“How do you know the late Ethel Lancaster?” He asked her.

“I’m an Engineer.” She said.

“Ah, work for her company, do ya?” He said. “And what does she do exactly, again?”

“I don’t know what she does,” Polly said. “I’m just an Engineer. I’ve worked on several of her projects about the city.”

“Yeah?” McCully said. “They put in a riggedy little bridge by my place a few months back, off Killsworth and Manchester, was that one of your projects?”

“No.” Polly said. She was trying to play the possible scenarios that could have led to the murder of Ethel, but McCully’s nonstop dialogue was unbearable.

“Here, the loo.” He said and gestured mockingly with his arm as a servant might, cigar wiggling in hand. “Hurry it up, or I’ll think you’ve flown the coop. And nobody leaves until I gives the say-so, yeah?”

She sat atop a marble countertop, next to the sink. She just needed some time alone to try and think. She also needed something. Something sharp, or blunt. She crossed her feet, and looked around the bathroom. Immaculate. But most of it was set in place, or too big to be of use for her needs.

A golden toilet.

She shook her head. But then, she got down from the countertop and examined it. The handle was also made of gold. She took her scarf and wrapped it up, to help dampen the sound. She flushed it, and then tore the handle off. She looked back at the door, half expecting McCully to burst in with gun drawn had he heard something.


She set the handle in the center of her scarf, and then wrapped it back around her neck. She could feel the presence of the handle in the back of her neck. She washed her hands and stepped out to find McCully leaning against the wall, he had started a new cigar.

“That was quick.” He said.

“Isn’t that what you wanted?” Polly reminded him.

“Sure, sure.” He said and gestured with the cigar. Ashes fell all over the floor and he didn’t bat an eye. He just turned and headed back down the hallway. “I’ve been trying to put it all together, see, like she’s rich. She’s obviously sitting on a fortune with the family business. But she has no heir apparent, so who gains by her death, yeah? Like maybe the shareholders chop it all up and roll in it, yeah? What do you think?”

“I’m just an Engineer.” Polly said.

McCully put out his arm and stopped her. Candlelight was glowing from an open door to the left of the hallway. “Nobody is supposed to be back here,” he whispered. He shushed her with his cigar between his fingers. “Not a peep, yeah?”

She wanted to hit him over the head.

They slowly crept down the hallway, the candlelight continued to bounce around. Someone was moving about frantically. Just outside the door, he peeked in. She slipped around him and to the other side of the doorway. He gave her a dirty look. She rolled her eyes at him. She looked inside and there was someone with a candle rummaging through some files. On the floor beside the intruder was the lifeless body of the young servant who had shown her to the dining room.

Poor thing. Wrong place, wrong time.

She looked over at McCully who drew a small revolver from within his jacket. He gave her a look that told her he was about to do something stupid. Before she could stop him, he abruptly stepped into the room.

“Alright, hands up with you now. Come on.” He said.

Polly turned out into the hallway, hiding her presence. She took her scarf off. She wrapped it up tight as a rope and placed the toilet handle in it. It was her one shot at getting an upper-hand. A makeshift slingshot. It would have to do.

She listened as McCully continued to give commands to the intruder. But somewhere in the noise she heard a single shot from a gun, dampened likely by a muzzle. She heard the large thud of McCully’s body hit the floor. She glanced up the hallway to the back entrance of the office, none of the officers had heard a thing. They were likely still arguing over motive and nitpicking over an old coffee stain on the rug. She was on her own. A slingshot against a gun.

She swung her scarf in a round motion and spun around into the room, she made quick stock of the intruder’s new position and let the golden toilet handle fly. It struck the intruder on the left temple and ricochet across the room. The intruder doubled backwards with gun in hand. Polly charged, and with one foot on McCully’s stomach, took a leap and tackled the intruder to the ground in front of a file cabinet.

A single shot was fired in the commotion.

Polly felt the bullet’s sting in her ribs. She knew she was the recipient of the gunshot.

The intruder rolled her off onto the floor. The intruder stood up and looked down at her. She pulled back a hood and revealed herself to be none other than Ethel Lancaster.

Her hair wasn’t lush.

Polly shook her head. “I should have known.”

“It was the hair, wasn’t it?” Ethel asked.


“It wasn’t lush.” They both said unanimously.

“Everything else was spot on,” Ethel explained, “But we never could get her hair lush.”

“What’s going on here?” McCully said from across the room. He had picked himself up enough to lean against a chair. “I thought you were dead, Miss Lancaster?”

“Oh please,” Ethel said.

“And you,” McCully pointed to Polly, “I thought you were just an engineer?”

“An engineer in the mechanic sense, idiot.” Ethel scolded his ignorance.

“What?” McCully said, still confused.

“Did you ever watch ‘The Mechanic’ movie?” Ethel said.

“With Jason Statham?” McCully said. He looked around for his cigar on the floor.

“You do know there was an original movie of that with Charles Bronson, right? Uncultured swine.” Ethel said to him. She loved to ridicule people who didn’t know all the same trivia she did.

“I don’t see what that’s got to do with…” it took a moment, but it finally sunk in for McCully. “She’s a hitman? Um, I mean, hitwoman?”

“You are slow.” Ethel said and gave him one shot to the head to finish what she had started. McCully slumped over dead onto the floor. “And as for you, Polly, this is where we say our goodbyes.” She rubbed blood from her eye and forehead. “What did you hit me with?”

“Your toilet seat handle.” Polly said and smiled.

Ethel’s eyes got big. “You broke my golden handle on my golden toilet? Do you know how much… nevermind, it doesn’t matter.” She knelt down to Polly and held the barrel of the gun aimed at her face.

Polly was bleeding out fast, and she began to shiver. She knew she didn’t have long before death set in. She could feel something digging into her back, and she thought for a moment what it could be causing her such discomfort with a bullet in the front.

That wretched toilet handle, no doubt.

But then she remembered McCully’s little revolver. She thought about the shape and size of the object gouging her in the back. It could be the gun. She made a show of a cough and positioned herself as if to get comfortable, and slid her hand around her back and gripped the object.

The revolver!

“You see, Polly,” Ethel started, “I couldn’t let you retire, because I had already begun my plans for retirement and they involved you killing me at a dinner party. But, here’s the thing, you weren’t supposed to walk in on me like this while I was making my escape. You’ve really put a damper in my plot.” She sighed and rolled her eyes as she thought about the situation. “I guess we’ll just have to tell a different story, though only slightly.” Ethel stood up and walked over to McCully’s body. “You did kill me, but this lowly detective found you out, and you panicked. You fired and he fired. And well, you both died. He’ll be regarded as a hero; pity, since he seemed like a moron the few seconds I knew him. But at least, I still get my retirement from The Organization. What do you think? Is it a good ending, Polly?”

“I got a better idea.”

Finally, some peace and quiet.


Click here to read all the sweet, sweet deaths.

#crime, #ebook, #mystery, #short-story

Mercedes has a new home, and she’s wrapped in Cellophane

I told you I had a big update on Mercedes coming, and it’s huge. Big. Bigger. Enormous. Gigantuous. Okay, that’s enough of that. It’s just some really cool news. But I’m also wrapping this big update in Cellophane, which will make sense later down the read.

She has a new home.

What do I mean by this? Well, she’s moved over to Emerald Dragon Tales. Why? Because after some hard consideration, I’ve decided to publish her through my publishing brand Emerald Dragon. Emerald Dragon is the same brand we used to publish the collaborative novel Fatal Flaws, and will be using to publish the second String-Along GUN soon.

What does this mean for Mercedes? It means you’ll be finding a lot more about Mercedes over at the Emerald Dragon Tales website. So head over there and snatch the blog RSS feed for your Feedly or however you follow blogs. Also, sign up for the email newsletter to stay up-to-date. And check out her own page. There you’ll find a list of future working titles in the series of novellas I plan to do with our frustrated hero, Mercedes Masterson.

Where are things at?

I have a first draft complete of the first novella in the series, and am halfway through editing draft 2. When the second draft is complete, I’m gonna have some beta readers give it the once over. After that, I may make some more changes. And after that, I’ll need a professional to edit it, and then after all the butchering–publishing! And reading!

I can’t say for sure when the first book will land, but I would like to see it land before the end of this year or at the start of the next. GUN is currently slated to unveil this year, so that is taking priority publishing-wise.

Mercedes is wrapped in Cellophane.

Way back in the day, 2005 to be precise, I wrote a screenplay for a short film and introduced Mercedes for the first time. It was primarily a character written for the purpose of giving a friend a role in the film. We were 4-5 actors wanting to make a movie and as I began work on the screenplay of choice from the group, I realized I didn’t have enough characters in the original concept to fill the cast with all of us. So, I thought for a bit and asked myself what was missing from the little film noir homage I was working on. The cops. A murder took place almost immediately at the start of the script, and yet I didn’t appear to have any investigation taking place around it. While the investigation of that murder was unimportant to the plot, and more importantly the character development, I still needed to show that there were consequences in this story.

My solution? I created a female homicide detective strictly for that purpose and for giving my friend, Heather, a character to play.


Heather Jackson-Chirban, the real Mercedes Masterson.

I can remember sitting at the PC, with huge (read thick) monitor by today’s standards, trying to come up with a name before I could write the first line of her dialogue. I wanted a very traditional, noirish sounding detective name. I settled on Masterson. I also wanted a very distinct, equally fantastic first name, one that would roll right into that Masterson name well. I chose Mercedes, an homage to the character of the same name in Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. A French connection, which I liked, and felt there could always be more to that. I had it: Detective Mercedes Masterson.

When we went to film the first scene with Heather as Mercedes, something felt really right. Not only did she nail a lot of what I had in my head, she went beyond. She brought a lot of things to the table, some things I had only scratched the surface a little on in my head, others I had not even thought about. She was seeing the character on a higher level. And that brought it to my attention in a way, I had not even intended it when starting out. Remember, she was originally only a plot device.

When it came time to write the second screenplay (yes, it was planned as a trilogy), I had so much more to work with Mercedes and Heather. I knew this was a big character, and one I wanted to really develop. She became a much more prominent character in the second script, and Heather and I shared many conversations about the development of the character. That’s when she shared with me a song she listened to while getting into character for the first film, a little ditty called Cellophane by Amanda Ghost. I had never heard it. But I listened to it, and liked it. It felt appropriate to the character.

I always try to keep the song Cellophane around when I’m working on Mercedes. But I hadn’t really listened to it, I mean really listen, for several years. Until a few weeks ago. I set it on repeat and just listened to it over and over, each phrase of the lyrics. Really breaking it down with regards to the character. And I picked up on a lot.

Cellophane by Amanda Ghost.

A lot of this character is in this song. And so, I’d like to break down some of the ways I can I hear Mercedes in Cellophane by Amanda Ghost.

Firstly, I’d like to give credit to the songwriters: Lukas Burton, Ian Dench, Amanda Goseine (Ghost), and Sasha Skarbek. They have written a beautiful song with incredible lyrics that are very relateable.

You can listen along here:

Nobody moves me…
Right off the bat, this one grabs me. First line of the song. And truly, it would seem that nobody moves Mercedes. She has gone through a lot of relationships in her life, and from her point of view all relationships end poorly. And so the notion that nobody moves her, sounds about right to her view of the world around her and those in it.

I’ve been through this life
With no place that I can call my own…
Again. Relationships. This time on a much bigger scale. Through all of her life to date, she still can’t feel comfortable calling any place home. She’s lived in Babylon her whole life, grew up there. But it doesn’t feel like home. There’s no neighborhood she can call home, no house. No family she can call home.

I never seem to find anybody that can feel like home
And I try and I try and I try…
Carrying on with that theme, it strikes home more apparent. Despite all her trying, all the relationships she’s been through. She can’t seem to find anyone that feels like home. Someone she can call family. Someone that will always be there, through thick and thin. She tries and she tries and she tries, but all relationships end.

Funny how it feels
When there’s nothing to say…
Now we’re into the chorus, out of the first verse. This little piece speaks to me about her overall social anxiety. This is only something I’ve been able to understand more accurately in recent years, as my own social anxieties have kicked in. A lot of her social anxieties are wrapped around her general distrust of people, because of previous relationships and experiences. Another reason is because of her ideals…

Trapped with my ideals
I can’t contain…
If you’ve read or watched anything with Mercedes yet, you probably get this line. If not, you probably will. I always liken her as a good cop who occasionally goes vigilante when the justice system fails or is corrupt. She would burn the whole system down, if she determined it was the best possible outcome. And she surely can’t contain her ideals, as she has no problem speaking her mind in no uncertain terms.

And just to make sure there’s no confusion here, I’m not considering “ideals” with the most obvious definition. But rather as “a standard of perfection; a principle to be aimed at:” (Oxford Dictionary). She has her ideal of what justice is and anything that falls short of her definition, that standard or principle of justice, she can’t contain herself.

Nobody told me
Obsessive needs were always following me around…
I think in many ways this just speaks volumes to her overall character, and I like the idea that she’s blaming someone else. Nobody told her. Classic. But it also could be a reference to her “evil conscience” as I often refer to it. She has an identical twin so to speak, a figment of her imagination who follows her around. Occasionally appearing at the worst possible times, to give her the worst possible advice. To nag her about her obsessive needs.

And you can’t ignore me…
Word that. You can’t ignore Mercedes. You can try, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Look at my face and then tell me my place in town…
This one grips me, because it says something but I’m not even 100% certain what it all means. I feel like this line has tapped something I haven’t even tapped into yet with Mercedes. Her trying to find her place in Babylon. I don’t think this is something I’ve even addressed in the slightest, despite having written so much about her. Having meditated so much on her and discussed her so much with Heather. I feel like there is a conversation that needs to take place around this single line. We need to look her in the face and tell her what her place is in Babylon.

And he’s in and she’s in and he’s in and she’s in…
This one speaks to me again about her many failed relationships. He’s in, she’s in, he’s in, she’s in. They’re constantly coming and going. She can never maintain a single relationship indefinitely. And that’s not to say it’s always her fault when a relationship ends, because it’s not.


This has been a tremendously fun journey going through Cellophane’s lyrics with you all. It has given me a chance to think back a lot on Mercedes. She’s come a long way. A long, long way. Long, long. Really long way. And it’s always a pleasure for me to write any story with her in it. Heather and I have tried to bring so much to this character, so much. And I’m always happy to share more of her with you all. In many ways, she’s the person we always wished we were while at the same time being someone we can relate to through the pain. She’s a beast of a character. And I hope I never tire of her.

One last bit of trivia about her conception. My original thought on the character was to create a femme fatale who was also a protagonist. I think that still applies.

#anxiety, #book, #crime, #music, #novella, #writing

Sweet Sixteen Killer – Prologue

I’m  super proud to unveil an early version of the prologue of my novella Sweet Sixteen Killer. The first in my Masterson series. Here is the link to the prologue at Emerald Dragon Tales’ website. I hope you enjoy it, and be sure to drop a comment over there for me.

#crime, #excerpt, #mystery, #novella, #reading, #writing

You kick the hive, you answer to the queen.

You kick the hive, you answer to the queen.

A pretty good summation of my femme detective, as I think I’ll start calling her. I’ve been working on this character for years. Since 2005 to be precise. Last year I wrote and began editing on the first in a series of short, noir books that will feature this character at the helm.

Meet Mercedes Masterson, private eye.

#amwriting #noir #hardboil #crime #crimefiction

Oh lately it’s so quiet (excerpts from upcoming novella)

I’ve been pretty quiet on my blog as of late. But I’ve been hard at work in my writing. Last year I wrote a novella, Jessica Wright’s Double Vision, and I’m currently working on two for this year. And guess what? They’re all part of the same series.

I made a commitment this year to write 2 novellas in a Mercedes Masterson, Private Eye series. The Double Vision novella will likely end up being book 2 or book 3 of the series. I’m currently waist deep in the first novella, which is due June 1.

Unfortunately, I’ve fallen behind, after being ahead of schedule up until February where I hit a brick wall (despite having most of it outlined in front of me). I only recently got my groove back, this week actually. Gonna fight hard to beat June 1 or come close. I am roughly 10k words from the end, so close. Super close.

If you like old hardboil, crime, noir, detective, private eye style stuff–you’ll probably like Mercedes and this series of novellas I’m working on. It’s got strong female characters, which I love to write. I hope everyone will be as excited about these stories as I am, especially since Mercedes is my favorite character I’ve ever written and I’ve been writing her off and on since 2005. I’ll write again soon with a description and title of the first book.

Here are some snapshots/excerpts of what’s to come, hope you enjoy: 

#crime, #crimefiction, #mystery, #novella, #writing

Jessica Wright’s Double Vision (short story and opportunity)

Jessica Wright is victim #7 in my morbid project I Will Kill You for $5. And she didn’t go down easy. I offered to write this story for her as payback for her boyfriend, Josef, recording my standup comedy gig last October. And thus began the longest, longest, longest short story I’ve ever written. Not even sure it qualifies anymore as such. Continue reading

#crime, #crimefiction, #ebook, #mystery, #noir-2, #short-story, #shortstory