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Tuesday, November 27

Celiac's Are People, Too

"Celiac's Are People, Too"
(A Bo Fexler Short Story)
Short fiction - Mystery/Crime
by Clair Dickson

"Wait-- she was ill on and off for weeks before she died?"

"Well, yeah, but she was a celiac. She must've eaten something that made her sick." Wendy explained.

"Over and over?"

"Sometimes that happens. Things get cross-contaminated. And the thing with cross-contamination is that one bag might be contaminated, but the next one may not be. Makes it hard to tell."

"How long was she a celiac?"

"She was diagnosed maybe two or three years ago."

"It's gluten she had to avoid, right?" I recalled my earlier research.

"Yeah."

"And how long was she gluten-free?"

"Pretty much right after she was diagnosed. Took a little while at first because gluten hides in so many products!"

"So, she pretty well knew what she was doing."

"Oh, yeah. I mean, she ate well! She could cook all sorts of meals, and you never even knew they were gluten-free. I mean, they were just good meals."

"So, she lived a full life, in spite of her disorder?"

"Yeah. I mean, she was happily married. Never had kids, but celiac can do that."

"How did her husband take it?"

"The celiac diagnoses?"

"Yeah. And the not having kids."

"Oh, fine, I guess. She told me that he never complained."

"You get along pretty well with her husband?"

"Yeah."

"He didn't want an autopsy, did he?"

"He was opposed to cutting her up. They'd discussed cremation before."

"That's what he did?"

"Oh yeah. That's what she wanted."

"The M.E. called it natural causes, based on her condition."

She touched a finger to the side of her dry eye and swallowed. "Yeah."

"And she was cremated, destroying all evidence."

"Evidence of what?"

"You left your job as a dental hygienist about six months ago. Until I talked to them, they didn't put together that the missing mercury-- from the amalgams-- had anything to do with you. Or with you leaving."

"What-- I don't know what you're talking about." She licked her lips, then no sooner was her tongue back in her mouth, her lips were dry again.

"Oh, you were smart. No doubt about that. And it was only a freak thing that her parents called me and asked me to look into this. See, they were going through some of Jill's things, and they found a letter. A love letter. Dave surely didn't know that she had that letter. Wanna guess who it was from?"

She didn't guess.

"Which, there's your motive. Get this sick woman out of the way-- quietly-- so you and Dave can do… well, each other. Without fear of getting caught. And he can have the wife and family he wanted to have. Only, I was hired."

She swallowed. "So I noticed."

"You were so confident in your scheme-- I am impressed. You really kept your cool when I started asking questions. That's how sure you were that you would be able to pull this off. But you didn't think I'd check back to your previous employer. You probably didn't even think anyone would connect you to the stolen mercury. After all, it was such a small amount that you took. Mercury so highly toxic. It took a little bit, just a little. A couple mornings a week. In her orange juice? Or maybe on her gluten-free frozen waffles. But a celiac can be poisoned just the same as anyone else."

"The letter wasn't signed and it was typed. How did you know it was me?"

"Because you picked this funky font. It's not a standard font-- I checked. But it's on this website of free font downloads. You emailed Jill a link, once. You didn't count on me getting her computer, did you? Apparently you both liked fun fonts. You also both liked Dave. Maybe you and Dave can write to each other from your respective prisons. Only, I don't think you'll be allowed to download any funky fonts. By the way-- never ask how someone knew it was you!" I laughed, shaking my head.

"She was sick--" she tried feebly.

"She had a disorder. She was very much alive. She was just a regular woman with a cheating husband and back-stabbing best friend."

Clair Dickson writes when she's not teaching alternative high school. Or when she's not ill from something she ate or breathed. She's had more than 30 Bo Fexler short stories published so far. Visit www.bofexler.blogspot.com for links and more.

Saturday, November 17

Slip's Big Case

"Slip’s Big Case"
Short fiction - Crime
by Rod Drake

“Think you’re pretty darn clever, don’t you, gumshoe?”

“Clever enough to track you down, which in truth, a child could have done.” Private Eye Miller “Slip” Stream was known for his snappy, wise-cracking style. That and the fact that he was continually down-on-his-luck, usually getting stiffed by clients and always picking the wrong cases. And getting into fixes like this one.

“Yeah, well, who’s the one tied up and who’s the one holding the gun?” Biff Axelrod was big and dumb, the perfect stooge. No one ever confused Biff for being the boss, who was the thoroughly crooked Assemblyman Algernon “Big Al” Reinhardt. One slippery customer.

“Don’t tell me, let me guess. The handsome one is tied up, the monkey-faced moron has the gun--what do I win?” Slip shifted in the chair he was tied to, but the ropes held tight.

“Why, I oughta--" Biff raised his revolver to hit Slip.

“That will be enough, Biff. The gun is to keep him in line, not bludgeon him. At least, not yet.” Big Al walked into the old warehouse, with Slip’s girl Friday, Rainey, as prisoner it seemed. “I found her skulking about outside, looking for Slip here, I imagine.” Al shoved her down into a worn chair next to Slip.

“Hey doll, did you bring me some coffee? Or maybe a sharp penknife?” Slip was grace under pressure; he was unflappable.

“I will miss these witticisms, Mr. Stream, but let’s get down to it- who hired you to watch me?” As incentive, Al toyed with a strand of Rainey’s hair.

“FDR,” Slip cracked, a topical reference in the fall of 1942.

Al smiled, withdrawing a sleek knife from an inside jacket pocket, and placed it under Rainey’s chin, grazing her throat. “Shall we try that again without the comedy?”

The situation seemed hopeless, but that was when Slip was at his best. “Let the lady go, and we’ll talk. You know, man-to-man, even though we’ll be one man short.”

Biff tried to defend his boss’ honor, “Hey!”

“Sorry, Biffy. And one ugly gorilla.”

Biff lunged at Slip, but Al held him back. That left Rainey free to act. She flipped up her skirt, which stunned Biff, transfixed by that lovely view of her slender, silk-hosed leg, from which she drew a small pistol from a thigh holster.

“Drop the gun, or I’ll drop you,” she said, standing up and trying to untie Slip with her free hand.

“That little pop-gun don’t scare me,” Biff snarled, stepping forward to grab the pistol from Rainey.

Then several things happened all at once. Rainey fired her revolver, hitting Biff right between the eyes; however, his head was so hard, and the bullet’s caliber was so small, that it didn’t penetrate the skin, just flattened itself there. But the force was powerful enough to knock Biff out, and he toppled backwards onto Al on as he collapsed. Al’s right leg shot out as he fell, catching Slip’s chair, knocking it over, which bumped into Rainey, whose arm flew up, resulting in her squeezing the trigger and shooting wildly into the air. The shot hit a lamp overhead, which fell, smacking Al on the head as he struggled to get back up.

The door to the warehouse burst open then and federal agents stormed in waving machine guns, taking control of the situation. A situation pretty much over now.

FBI agent-in-charge Connor Pangborn helped Rainey untie Slip. “Well, you led us right to the stuff. And it looks like quite a haul.” Behind them in the warehouse was a wall of Nazi weapons, spying devices and sophisticated explosives.

Rubbing circulation back into his wrists, Slip commented, “Yeah, Big Al is a fifth columnist, just like you guys at the bureau thought. I knew ruffling his feather and dogging him and his goons would eventually lead me to the goods.”

“And me to rescue you,” Rainey added.

As he was led out in handcuffs, Al moaned, “You told the truth; you really were working for FDR.”

Slip turned to Connor, “Now about my fee.”

“What fee? This was your patriotic duty, and your government thanks you for your service.”

Wednesday, November 7

Dog Attack

"Dog Attack "
Flash Fiction
by John Sheirer

This morning when Dustin was out walking his cocker spaniel Princess, the darned little thing started to talk bad about Dustin's wife. One minute she was tugging on the leash and rooting in the dirt and pooping on the sidewalk like a normal dog, and the next she turned around and glared up at him and started ranting.

"I've got something to say, and you just better listen, mister," she growled in her throaty dog voice. "Just yesterday she neglected to give me a treat when I did that retarded trick she's always begging for. And she hasn't taken me for a walk in weeks. Can she get off her big butt and cut the web surfing down to five hours a day? And I'm not even going to mention the blanket in my crate. Pee-yew! Doesn't she know how the washing machine works? I gotta tell you, man, how you put up with her, I have no idea."

"Hey, that's not fair, and you know it!" Dustin shouted, caught off guard by this tirade.

But by then Princess was pretending to be fascinated by a squirrel scampering up a nearby tree. A young couple pushing a baby carriage gave Dustin a strange look and hurried by, keeping as much of the sidewalk between themselves and Dusting as they could.

Dustin yanked the leash, pulling Princess away from the squirrel, and they resumed walking, but the walk was no longer fun for either of them. A great deal of unspoken tension hung in the air all the way home.

When they arrived at the back door, they could hear Dustin's wife moving around in the living room. As Dustin unhooked the leash from Princess's collar, he bent close to Princess's big stupid floppy ears and whispered with as much dignity as he could project, "We'll discuss this later."