How did we get to week seventeen already? A blink, and hours pass like nanoseconds. So let’s get on with it – time’s a-wasting.
Don’t forget to send in your prompts! Email email@example.com, and if you’re not up for a trade, put “spare” in the subject line. Add one, take one, trade one – or choose at random, and give it a whirl.
|AC Young||The bright red hummingbird drank nectar from a blue flower.||nother Mike|
|nother Mike||The envelope had a yellow polka dot bikini in it…||AC Young|
|Fiona Grey||“What land o’ Faerie have we here?”||Leigh Kimmel|
|Becky Jones||The space station was always bustling this time of year.||Fiona Grey|
|Leigh Kimmel||The long gray double ribbon of highway stretches out before you — and ties itself into a knot||Cedar Sanderson|
|Cedar Sanderson||The brassy alarm shook him||Becky Jones|
|Spare||Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the wisest of them all?|
|Spare||Sweet dreams are made of cheese…|
|Spare||At tunnel’s end came unexpected surprises.|
|Spare||If when, and where, and which – then we’d see there, and find, and fix. Oh! To be between, and ne’er to see the difference.|
|Spare||“How can we be a ‘lost colony’?” she exclaimed. “We’re right here!”|
Come back and see what happens as responses trickle in. Will our writers make it before the week’s countdown clock stops? Find out next week as the challenge continues!
(Just kidding. No penalty for late responses. Unless you want to buy the next round, in which case, that’s totally the penalty.)
Header image by Fiona Grey, Cactus Tree.
I looked at the picture, and the little karaoke shack in the back of my head sang, “Cactus tree very pretty, and the cactus fruit is sweet, but the thorns of the poor cactus are as sharp as they can be, so be careful what you touch…”
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This week nother Mike and I had a prompt exchange. I received: The envelope had a yellow polka dot bikini in it…
An envelope with those contents is rather unusual. So I set up a situation where it was unusual.
We last saw Annabelle Kowal back in Week 16, 2021. She’s now a DC and investigating a murder.
DI Curtly Morgan and DC Annabelle Kowal made their way through the front door of the terraced house. (It was an end-terrace – an alley ran between the house and its neighbour to the left.) In front of them, slightly to their left, was the staircase to the first floor. Through the first door on their right was originally the front room – the room where hospitality was shown to visitors in a more formal age – but now it seemed to be a sort of office.
Opposite the door were a row of bookcases, full of hardback books. On the right of the room, in front of the bow window, was a desk with chair. Further to the right, against the internal wall, was a sofa. The room was much busier than usual, for the dead body of a woman was lying on the floor in front of the sofa, head towards the desk, facing up at the ceiling. To the left of the body, from the perspective of the police officers in the doorway, was a tray and the remains of what looked to be a couple of mugs of tea or coffee, the liquid having stained the carpet.
The house belonged to Henry and Anne Smith, and the body had been identified as Anne by her husband. He had discovered the body upon returning home from a work trip to Edinburgh, where he had been staying for the past two nights.
The pathologist, Dr Alexandra Cavendish, was already there, and was looking over the body.
“What’s the mute witness telling you, Doc?” said Curtly.
Dr Cavendish shook her head, although Annabelle thought she caught the glimpse of a smile, swiftly hidden. Looking up at Annabelle she commented “I suggest you find another partner before this fellow teaches you to bowl beamers instead of yorkers.”
Curtly chuckled, but Annabelle didn’t join in. The reference had gone over her head. Fortunately, Curtly noticed and helped her out. “It’s a cricket metaphor. A yorker is a fast-bowling delivery that has a decent chance of taking a wicket. A beamer is an illegal ball that can seriously injure the batsman.” It didn’t really clear things up for Annabelle, but she appreciated the attempt. She merely nodded to the pathologist as a signal for her to continue.
“First impressions are that she received a knock on her head, probably from the edge of the desk given the mark on the edge there.” She pointed to the relevant section of desk. “The cause of death appears to strangulation, with something shoved hard into her throat, possibly a forearm from the pattern of the damage.”
“And the time of death?”
“About 24 to 36 hours ago. I might be able to give you a better idea after the autopsy.”
Curtly nodded, and turned to the uniform PC in the room. “Anything unusual?”
“Only this, Sir. It was on the desk.” The PC held up a brown paper envelope.
Annabelle and Curtly put on latex gloves before Annabelle took the envelope and looked it over. It was addressed to Anne Smith, and was franked as if it had been delivered by a delivery company. It had already been opened, so she looked inside. She pulled out a yellow polka dot bikini, and a receipt from an online clothing store. “This doesn’t go with the décor of the room, Sir.”
“Something to ask the husband about, I think. Which room is he in?” The latter question was asked of the PC.
“In the living room, Sir. The room behind this one.”
“Thankyou.” The detectives headed back out the room and turned right down the corridor. At the end was an open door that appeared to lead into a small kitchen. To its right was another open doorway, aligned at right angles to the former. This led into the living room.
In the far-right corner of the room was a small dining table with two chairs. To its left in the next corner was a TV on its stand. To the left of the doorway was a sofa, with another sofa on the left-hand wall in front of the window, through which the back garden could be seen.
Sitting in one of the chairs at the table was Henry Smith.
“DI Morgan and DC Kowal, Birmingham and Black Country Constabulary. I understand you found your wife’s body?”
“Yes. I unlocked the front door and called out a greeting. She didn’t reply, which was unusual, and I glanced into her study, and saw…” He broke off.
“I’m sorry, but we do have to ask a few questions. It looked as if your wife had a guest in the office? Was that normal for her?”
“Yes. During the day she would always entertain visitors in her office. It allowed her to work at the same time as conversing.”
“If a parcel was delivered, would she normally take it into the office?”
“If it was during the day, yes she would. She’d sort it out properly in the evening.”
“I’m sorry to ask this, but do you know of anyone who’d want to harm your wife? Or perhaps hurt her to hurt you?”
“No, I don’t think she had any enemies.”
“Thankyou. We may need to speak with you again. We apologise for the inconvenience in advance.”
The detectives headed back out into the hallway. Once they were out of hearing of the husband DI Morgan turned to his colleague. “We need to find out as much information as we can about the visitors to this house yesterday. You go right, I’ll go left and we’ll see what the neighbours can tell us.”
Annabelle acquiesced – the request was more of an order in practice – and the pair headed out the front door. Once they were out of the house Curtly turned left and Annabelle turned right. She passed the little alley between the two houses, and rang the bell for the next house along.
It was only a few seconds before she heard sounds from within, and not long after that the front door opened to reveal a woman who looked slightly younger than the victim next-door.
“Good afternoon. DC Kowal, Birmingham and Black Country Constabulary. May I ask you some questions about the events of yesterday?”
“Of course. Come in. Perhaps through here?”
Annabelle was directed into the front room, furnished in this case as a living room with a sofa and armchair. There was a TV in the corner, a coffee table between the sofa and armchair, and shelving along one wall containing what looked like paperbacks and DVDs.
“Do you want a tea or coffee?”
Normally Annabelle would have said yes, but under the circumstances (the victim appearing to have been murdered while getting a visitor tea or coffee) felt that declining was the better option.
Annabelle sat down on the sofa, her host sitting down in the armchair.
“I’m sorry, you are? …”
“My apologies. I’m Beth Yewberry.”
“Thankyou. How well do you know your neighbours?”
“The Smiths?” Annabelle nodded. “I know them quite well. We’re reasonably friendly, and either I’ll pop around theirs or they’ll come here about once a week.”
“Did you visit Mrs Smith yesterday?”
“Yes. About two I think?”
“Could you fill in the details please?”
“Oh! Yes. I’d finished my lunch, and washed up. I left the house and locked the front door behind me. Anne had just received a delivery – she had a large envelope in her hand and was saying goodbye to the delivery bloke.
“We said hello, and she invited me in. We had tea, and chatted for a while, then I headed back out. I called my goodbye at the front door and closed it behind me.”
“Mrs Smith didn’t accompany you to the door?”
“No, she never does when she’s working. I call goodbye back into the house. She calls goodbye back. Then I close the door behind me – once it’s shut you need the key to open it from the outside.”
“Did anyone else visit Mrs Smith after you left?”
“I spent a lot of yesterday afternoon in the back garden. So I wouldn’t have seen any later visitors.”
“I think that’s enough for now. We may need to speak to you later for clarification of a point or two.”
The two ladies said their goodbyes and Annabelle headed back next-door. There she filled in DI Morgan on the information from her interview.
“That fits with what Mr Severn observed. He spent yesterday afternoon in the front room listening to string music on the stereo and reading with the windows wide open.
“He heard the discussion between Mrs Smith and the delivery man at about two, followed by Miss Yewberry’s greeting. She’s a regular visitor by his account too, and her voice is familiar to him.
“At about half-past two he heard Miss Yewberry call out her usual goodbye, and didn’t hear anyone else calling the rest of the afternoon. He was most apologetic about not being able to give me any information on the murderer.”
Annabelle though about the evidence they had gathered. Something didn’t quite feel right. If Mr Severn was correct in assuming that he’d missed the murderer then the investigation was temporary at a bit of a dead end. But what if he was wrong? That would mean…
“Sir, did Mr Severn hear Mrs Smith say goodbye yesterday? Would he normally do so?”
“What are you thinking?”
“Mr Severn is assuming that Mrs Smith had another visitor after Miss Yewberry. It fits with the evidence of Miss Yewberry. But what if he’s wrong?”
“You have a very devious mind, DC Kowal.”
“Until we’ve deduced the impossible, anything that is possible might be the truth.”
“That sounds like a bit of Sherlockian wisdom.”
“He’d be an arrogant pain-in-the-backside if we were in a modern police force, but that doesn’t mean his ideas on deduction are wrong.”
DI Morgan chuckled, but headed out to ask the questions of the neighbour.
On his return he commented, “You may be on to something. Mr Severn normally hears some sort of mumble as Mrs Smith says goodbye to Miss Yewberry, but he didn’t yesterday. Shall we ask Mr Smith about his next-door neighbour?”
The detectives passed back into the living room and found Mr Smith sitting exactly where they had left him, with a new mug of tea in front of him.
“May we ask you what your relationship is with Miss Yewberry?”
“What’s Beth got to do with this?”
“Could you please answer the question, Sir?” Curtly was quietly insistent.
“We’ve known her for a couple of years, ever since we moved in. She’s a good friend of Anne – was a good friend I should say.”
“And your relationship with her?” Annabelle had noticed the lack of information.
“She’s a good friend too.”
Was there a trace of embarrassment in his voice? “Only a good friend?” Annabelle gambled.
“Yes, of course only…” Something caused him to stop and reconsider. “Oh, alright, since you seem to have guessed it, we’re having an affair.”
Annabelle hadn’t put two and two together, and from his body language neither had Curtly. She’d only noticed that there was something he wasn’t saying.
“How long has this been going on for?” asked DI Morgan.
“Fifteen months? Eighteen months? Something of that duration.”
“Could your wife have found out?” asked Annabelle.
“Not from me or my actions. I always visited Beth when Anne was going to be out for a long time. I always headed out the back door, and through the gate into the alley. Her back garden has a similar gate, so my visits went unnoticed by the rest of the street.”
“Could Miss Yewberry have said anything?”
“I don’t think so. She understood that secrecy was the only way all our relationships could be maintained.”
The detectives headed back out into the hallway.
“We’re going to need to have a further conversation with Miss Yewberry,” commented DI Morgan.
This time Beth Yewberry had the dubious pleasure of inviting both detectives into her front room. As before it was DC Kowal who asked the questions.
“We understand that you’ve been having an affair with Mr Smith.”
“Yes, I have been. I suppose it can come out into the open now,” she mused.
“He says that his wife didn’t know. Was this the case as far as you know?”
“She didn’t say anything to me. She shouldn’t have found out. We were really very careful. He was desperate for it to stay our secret.”
“And if she had found out, how would she have acted?” Annabelle was fishing, but she didn’t want to play an ace before she could be sure it couldn’t be trumped.
“I’m not sure, but it was only a matter of time.”
“You said you were very careful?”
“Yes, but I’m pregnant.” Her face suddenly spasmed with shock as she realised what she’d revealed.
“Only me. And I’ve already decided to keep it.”
“How long have you known?”
“Only a few days.”
“So yesterday was your first visit next-door after you’d found out?” Annabelle was fishing again. She thought that she could see through the fog the solution to the mystery, but proving it without a confession might be tricky.
“Yes. I couldn’t not go, I always pop around when Henry’s away. She’d be asking questions about why not if I didn’t.”
“And had your attitude towards her changed with the news?”
“She had everything I wanted!” Again Beth Yewberry’s face spasmed in shock. She took a deep breath and continued before Annabelle could ask the obvious next question. “I hadn’t minded that she got to spend the nights with Henry. But now I need him and she had him instead.”
“So you hated her?” It seemed to Annabelle that the more she got Beth Yewberry to talk on potentially dangerous subjects, the more she gave away.
“No, I don’t think I hated her. But when she came in with the tea I saw an opportunity and couldn’t resist it.”
“What do you mean?” Now Annabelle just wanted the confession.
“I tripped her. She fell and hit her head on the desk. She was dazed. I rolled her on to her front, knelt on her chest to keep her down and crushed her throat until she stopped struggling. Then I waited around until the time I normally left. I made sure that I yelled the same goodbye that I normally do so that the old man on the other side would think that she was still alive.”
The detectives looked at each other, and Curtly gestured for Annabelle to have the honour.
She took out her handcuffs and cuffed Beth Yerberry behind her back. “Beth Yewberry, I am arresting you on suspicion of murdering Anne Smith. You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you fail to mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be used in evidence against you.”
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[let’s put up this splinter, and then see if something else comes up…]
AC Young set up the lines…
The bright red hummingbird drank nectar from a blue flower.
[oh, colors! Wow…]
[first cut, what about someone who couldn’t see?]
The doctors said it was time, and slowly unwrapped the bandages. He wondered what it would be like, to see… well, whatever they had for him to see. After all, years before, his eyes had slowly grown dark, and the world disappeared. He remembered, vaguely, what being able to see had been like, but it vanished so long ago. But now the doctors said they could give him eyes again.
He heard them setting up something in front of him. Then they said it was time to open his eyelids.
He blinked, and there was light and dark. And colors! He looked, and saw…
The bright red hummingbird drank nectar from a blue flower. Behind it, around it, there was a deep green field of grass and leaves.
So many details, so much to see. Oh, it was just a picture in a magazine that someone had picked for his first sight, but it was so wonderful! He had to stop and think about breathing, because he was choking, trying to see every little part of the picture, drinking in the red hummingbird, the blue flower, and all the leaves and blades of grass. The shadow under the hummingbird. The shadows behind each of the leaves, and along each blade of grass!
He closed his eyelids, covering the metallic balls that they had embedded in his face, and sighed.
One of the doctors asked, “Are you all right? Could you see it?”
“Yes! I saw the red hummingbird, the blue flower, and all the green!”
Then he took another deep breath, and yelled.
“I can see again!”
He heard the doctors laughing, too. And he opened his eyes again, and looked around the room…
[oh, that’s not bad!]
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Brings a smile to one’s face.
[…] s snippet from my work-in-progress. I’m not exactly sure where it will go yet. My prompt at More Odds Than Ends this week came courtesy of Cedar Sanderson: The brassy alarm shook him. Fiona Grey was on the receiving end […]
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[…] This week’s prompt about a bustling space station came from Becky Jones. Mine went to Leigh Kimmel, who will explore the land o’ Faerie. Check out MOTE here! […]
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[…] can read all of the prompt responses over at More Odds Than Ends. Join in on the challenge and create with […]
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And it’s short, but I did it! https://www.cedarwrites.com/2022/05/03/odd-prompts-tie-it-in-a-bow/
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Running late because I finished the drive back home after Visioncon, but it’s now up on my LiveJournal at https://starshipcat.livejournal.com/1140596.html. It was fun to write, and fun to remember a long-ago writing dare.
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