Sometimes the parent controls the child, sometimes the child controls the parent. My first published flash, http://www.everydayfiction.com/the-dad-by-amanda-capper/
Small word of advice. Keep in touch with your mom. My second published flash, http://www.everydayfiction.com/a-message-by-amanda-j-capper/
For those who would rather listen than read, Folly Blaine created a podcast of my story, A Message. Does a darn good job of it, in my opinion.
Not all heroes wear capes and spandex. Sometimes they have to work with what they have. Like fur and fangs. My latest piece of flash was published by With Painted Words, a U.K. site.
Opening pages of the first chapter of my début novel, A Bother of Bodies. Feel free to comment, make suggestions, heap praise. It’s now available (Oct. 2014) from Divertir Publishing, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the Book Depository.
Check out what the authors at Kill Zone have to say about it; http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.ca/2013/06/first-page-critique-bother-of-bodies.html#.Uek7khtzZLN
I stepped on the bathroom scale, gun in hand, and waited for a number to register. The screen seemed reluctant to settle, hovering between two digits, neither of which made me happy. Aiming the Glock between my feet, I closed one eye and was a twitch away from firing when my cell phone buzzed. Refocused, putting the phone in my sights, and squeezed the trigger. The empty chamber clicked, the phone continued its annoying buzz, and the scale finally settled on my least favourite number.
This was going to be a bad day. Kicking the scale under the bed, I scooped the phone off the night stand and checked the screen. It was my brother, Dean—or half-brother. We’re not entirely sure which.
“Mabel, you better come out to the barn. Fast.”
“Mabel? It’s important. It’s beyond important. You’ve got to get out here.”
I headed to the back door when he called me Mabel. He rarely called me by name. Preferred Maybe instead, as in “maybe I’ll keep it, maybe I won’t”, a popular phrase our mother, Della, used during the seven months she carried me. Dean was three at the time.
“I’m on my way. What’s happened?” I stopped on the porch long enough to stick my feet into an old pair of Dean’s rubber boots.
“A corpse happened.”
That stopped me cold. “You’ve killed someone.” I knew this day would come. It’s always the quiet ones.
Silence. Okay, it was a stupid thing to say. If anyone was going to guess who put a corpse in a barn, they’d pick me. Dean was a big believer in turning cheeks. I was big on smacking them.
“Don’t touch him. Or her. Or anything else,” I told him. “Have you called the cops?”
I heard him sigh. Of course he hadn’t. People whose mothers were convicted con-artists never do.
I manoeuvred the dew-slick stairs, one hand on the railing, the other still clutching the phone. “Never mind, I’m on my way.” Stuffing the phone into my bathrobe pocket, I stopped to survey the scenery. Not a barn in sight.
Dean bought this forty acre farm three months ago while I was in Toronto doing some fieldwork for the small, semi-legitimate security system outfit that employs me. We’d moved to Sylvandale five months ago, renting a small house on the main drag of town. Or village. Or whatever you’d call a place with a population of twelve people and fourteen million cows. After two weeks I was bored but stuck it out for another six weeks because it was obvious Dean loved the people and the cows. Then Security International called, as it does whenever something needs testing. I couldn’t pack fast enough.
So last night, around 11 p.m., I pulled into our new old driveway that leads to our new old house, eager for my first glimpse of what we bought. It was dark, not a street light for miles, so I didn’t see much beyond the house. And it was quiet. Quiet concerned me.
I was an urban kind of girl. For me, if there were less than twenty people in a room, I figured we should get on the phone and invite a few more over. But Dean and I were chalk and cheese. He liked quiet, privacy, space, and trees. And barns.
Where the hell was the barn?
In the distance I saw a building but it was long and low. A path led from that building toward an arbour stuck in the midst of a row of Christmassy-looking trees. I started toward the arbour. The barn had to be back there.
The long and low turned out to be a dog kennel. Yapping and howling started well before I got close and continued as I passed. Picking up my pace until I was damn near running, I sprinted through the arbour, and stopped dead.
There was a whole little city back here. To my right was a large garage with two overhead doors, one of them open to display an old red tractor. Beside it was an empty chicken coop, and straight ahead, two windowless buildings that looked like storage units.
To my left was a coliseum. Seriously, this building was huge. Two stories of weathered-gray boards nestled up against the green edge of a healthy forest. Looked like a scene in those calendars tourists buy with twelve pictures of rural Northern Ontario landscapes.
And we owned all this, Dean and I. Lost in amazement at how far we’d come in the years since we escaped our mother, I momentarily forgot the dead body. Then the upper half of my brother appeared over the bottom half of a split door and the look on his face reminded me. He was worried. More than I’ve ever seen him, and I’ve seen him worried plenty of times.
I followed him to a large sandy area inside the barn.
“It’s an indoor riding ring,” Dean explained to me, and pointed to the body centered in the middle of the expanse of sand. We squatted, not too close but close enough to see it was a he, splayed on his back, with eyes wide open and clad in a gray tee-shirt and jeans. Looked to be around seventy. He wasn’t bleeding but wasn’t breathing either and there were no obvious bruises or wounds.
For some reason I whispered. “You know him?”
“Kind of a relief.”
Sure was. “He’s been smothered. Blood vessels in his eyeballs are broken. No sign of what was used so I doubt it was done here.”
Dean pointed to a far wall. “That rake wasn’t there when I locked up last night. Whoever did this used the rake to cover their trail.” Dean turned to look back at me. “But, Maybe, it doesn’t really matter how he died. What matters is, why here? And what are we going to do about him?”
None of those was the question going through my head. My big one was, Why now? I’m on the property less than twelve hours and there’s a dead body? Dean was looking at me like I’d have all the answers.
Understandable why he’d expect me to take charge, since I had the most experience in matters of a criminal nature. I had that in common with Della, as well as my looks: dark reddish hair, blue eyes, pale skin. Difference between mother and daughter was I had a heart, and sometimes, even a conscience
“We’re going to take pictures.” I fished in my pockets for my phone. “What else is in here?”
“Well, I’d give you a tour but we’ve got a more pressing problem, don’t you think?”
I shrugged. It wasn’t my first dead body. “I’m open for suggestions but let’s walk around while we think of some. Are you expecting anybody?”
Dean shook his head but I wasn’t sure if it was a “no” or his usual exasperation with me.
“Are you expecting anybody?” I repeated. “This is my area of expertise, Dean. It’s been awhile but this is where I take the reins.” I elbowed him. “Get it? Reins? Horses? Barns? Fitting, don’t you think?”
He forced a smile. “No, I’m not expecting anybody for a while. Come on, I’ll show you around.”
But he didn’t move. I looked into his brown eyes and they were so sad I felt like shaking him. Instead, I gave him a gentle shove and we walked around our barn.
The tour didn’t take long. Stairs at the far end of the riding ring led to a loft being converted into an office for Dean’s fledgling veterinary practice. Further on was an examination room with storage, and then down a second set of stairs which took us back onto the main floor. Stalls lined the walls leading to the riding ring. They held a few crates with rabbits and cats and some kind of weasel-looking critter but by this time I wasn’t really paying attention. My main concern was whether anyone else was still in the barn. Windows surrounding the riding ring were screened and could only be reached by a ladder. The stalls were shuttered and the large doors at each end were padlocked. Dean used his key for the one man door this morning when he came to open up.
“I locked up last night around eight p.m., but there’s a spare key right here.” Dean stuck his finger into a crack in the cement block foundation of the barn.
“Who all knows about that key?”
“Berk, myself, and now you.”
Berkley Gullevin was a neighbouring teenager. Dean told me over the phone he was going to hire him to help out with the dogs and renovations. I headed for the house.
“Maybe? What are you doing? Where are you going? What about the guy, the dead guy?”
I turned and walked backwards. Not easy in over-sized rubber boots. “There’s no sign of a break-in, Dean. Whoever put dead guy in our barn knew how to get him in here. I’m going to find Berk.”
“He’s just a kid, Mabel. Be easy on him.”
I waved a hand over my shoulder as I walked away. I’d be whatever I needed to be.