Sunday, September 16, 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 72

Just a quick announcement before my blog begins...

Please consider donating to the Zombies Need Brains Sci-fi/fantasy anthologies Kickstarter! There will be three books! Lots of perks and, if funded, there will be an open submission! If you're a writer, that's a good thing! You can reach the Kickstarter by clicking HERE.

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Everyone likes a little flash fiction, right? Thanks to a photo prompt from Miranda Kate's 72nd Mid-Week Flash challengeyou're going to get some! This is from Miranda's post:

This photo was taken by Flemming Beier, a Danish Photographer. He won't say where exactly this was taken, just that it was in Denmark. He has lots of interesting photos on his page at 500px.

Here is a link to the photo prompt for this week's challenge.

If you want to join in, here's what she's looking for:
General Guidelines:

Story length: Anything up to 750 Words (no minimum).
How enter: Either provide a link in the comments, or post the entire story in the comments.
Deadline: I will post a new one every Wednesday, but if you're inspired by a previous weeks, go ahead and write for it.
Genre/Theme: All/Any - completely open. It doesn't even have to refer to the picture.

I have two stories this time, both a bit dark. They could be considered as parts of one long story or two separate ones. The choice is yours. The first, The New Tenant, has 679 words. The second, The Face of Henri Martel, has 737. They both end with a surprise for the main character, and with the word "now." Let me know if you have a favorite!

The New Tenant

"We won't get into trouble coming here, will we? I don't want to be arrested for trespassing."

"I don't believe that will be a problem. No one comes here anymore, not since the floods. That's why the house was abandoned."

The path to what remained of the wooden cottage wound through a small glade not far off the unpaved road. Once the structure came into full view, Maurice noticed his friend's eyes scanning every rotten eave, broken post, and dangling shutter.

"Why do you do this, Henri, when you have a beautiful woman at home who needs your attention? To me, it hardly seems worthwhile. You work all day making next to nothing, then waste your spare time painting—well, this sort of thing. "

"It's difficult to explain. I know Julia doesn't understand. Most people don't. Burning the candle at both ends has certainly taken a toll on me and my marriage. But I have to. Painting is in my blood, Maurice. I can't help myself. And with the right subject, I know my art will finally begin to sell. Perhaps I'll even become famous. Then I can treat her as she deserves."

Henry paced around the house, carefully stepping on the high spots in the clearing. He held up his hands to frame a scene, then went little farther and repeated his actions. Finally, he backed away to where he could view the house and grounds in its entirety.

"You asked if I knew of an old house, one with character and interesting lines," said Maurice. "Is this what you were looking for?"

"It's absolutely perfect. The house, the light through the trees, everything. I appreciate all you've done to help me, Maurice."

"Not at all, Henri. Not at all."

Both were startled by a sound from within the decaying structure.

"What was that? I heard a noise, but I didn't see anything."

"What was it?" Maurice laughed at Henry's obvious discomfort. "A ghost? The wandering spirit of a past owner? Come now, Henry. You can't possibly believe in such things! Most likely a small animal scurrying about—or a loose roofing tile that fell. Nothing more."

Henri returned a nervous smile then looked back at the house. As he did, he gasped, his eyes opening wide.

A strong hand on Henri's shoulder held him still while a bloody blade was extracted from between his ribs. Still standing, a forceful boot directed his dying body into a deep, stagnant pool. Red ribbons swirled in the water. Chunks of brick and fallen branches were tossed on top of the unfortunate man to secure his place beneath the surface. Eventually, the rising bubbles ceased and the glade was silent.

Maurice was rinsing the knife in a puddle as a car approached, slowly bobbing and dipping over the bumps on the overgrown dirt road that passed one side of the property. It pulled up behind his own vehicle. He heard the engine shut off. He threw the knife as far as he could into the brush. The car door opened. A tall, slender figure got out as he hurried to remove his bloodied shirt.

"Hello, Julia."

"Everything went as planned?"

"Yes. Perfectly."

"I wish I could say the same. I passed the entrance to this stupid road, if you can call it that, three times before I saw it. Your clean clothes are in the trunk. I'll find a place to dispose of those soiled ones. You don't look good in red, anyway."

Maurice stuffed his stained clothing into a bag. "I told you this place would work. No one will ever find him."

She handed him a large business envelope. "This has everything you'll need—your passport and money—until we meet up in Switzerland." She glanced at the house in disgust, the overgrown trees and swamp providing an unpleasant atmosphere in the fading light. "Let's get out of here. This place is ghastly. If ever a house was haunted, this is it."

Maurice looked back at the old cottage and grinned. "You know, that is entirely possible—now."

The Face of Henri Martel

"Monsieur? I am Detective Cloutier. This is Dr. Joubert. She is here to assist in this interview. We would like to discuss your relationship with one Henri Martel."

The man seated across the table gave no reaction, sitting motionless with a blank stare.


For a moment, the man gave no response, then looked directly into the detective's eyes. "I killed him."

"Do you understand you are confessing to the murder of Henri Martel?"

"Without Julia there is nothing left for me. Why shouldn't I confess?"

"To be clear, you are referring to Julia Martel, the wife of the deceased?"

The answer came slowly. "Yes."

"I must warn you that what you tell us may be used as evidence."

The man shrugged. "May I ask what happened—to Julia?"

"Madame Martel had stopped at a trash bin near a factory close to the border. A night watchman at the entrance heard a shriek. When he investigated, he found her holding a bloodied shirt and screaming incoherently. She has nothing intelligible since that time except your name—Maurice. We also found minute traces of blood beneath your fingernails. I am certain we will determine it is that of Henri Martel. Because of these things, I believe the shirt belongs to you."

"I don't understand why a shirt would have that affect, even a bloodied shirt."

"It was not the shirt, per se, monsieur. It was the image on the shirt. An image formed in blood. The blood of Henri Martel. I have with me a photograph of the shirt." The detective pushed the picture across the table and in front of Maurice. "Tell me, monsieur, you knew this man well. Is it a good likeness?"

The color drained from Maurice's face. Staring back at him were another set of eyes, eyes set within a familiar face, the face of Henri Martel. It was a forlorn, pained image, a desperate visage, as if pleading to understand.

Maurice's head bowed. "This is what I have done. No one else is to blame."

"Will you sign a confession to that effect?"

"Yes," Maurice whispered.

"With the evidence and the confession, there is little left for me to do here from a criminal standpoint. Dr. Joubert, however, would like to ask some additional questions to evaluate your condition."

Maurice grinned. "Evaluate my condition? You mean my mental state. She is here to determine if I am mad, a lunatic."

"I'm a doctor, Maurice. Regardless of your involvement is in this matter, I am here to help you."

"What would help me most is Julia. Tell me, doctor, will she recover?"

"Eventually, perhaps, with proper therapy."

"May I see her?"

"I don't think that would be advisable. Not at this time."

Maurice nodded. "I see."

"Can you tell me more about the circumstances during the time when Henri Martel was killed. Was there a fight, an argument? Did passions flair?"

"There was no fight in Henri. He wouldn't hurt a fly." Maurice took a deep breath. "Passion? Yes, there was much passion, but for Henri it was only about his painting. Julia? She was very much different. They were married young, both probably a bit naive. The passion she saw in him as a young artist never transformed into a passion for her. I'm not sure Henri truly knew how to love a person. I believe he thought of Julia more in the way of an admirer than as a lover. As time passed, however, she wanted—needed—more. She grew to hate his indifference to her desires."

"And you stepped in to fill those needs."

Maurice did not respond.

"Did Julia ask you to kill him?"

"It does not matter," he replied, pounding his fist on the table. "I despised him. He had everything I wanted and didn't care. He was easy to kill."

"And what do you make of this?" She pointed to the photograph of the shirt.

"He told me he had painting in his blood. He was right. I didn't understand. This will be his final masterpiece, no? And he will get what he wanted—fame." Maurice sat silently as he stared at the image. "I had no idea he was this good." He looked up at Dr. Joubert. "No, I was not mad when I killed Henri." He pushed the picture aside and laughed. Then he laughed louder, the sound filling the tiny room. "But I am now."

© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved


  1. Definitely two parts of the same story, but could also stand alone. Really enjoyed them - the location in the picture is perfect for dumping a body. Thanks for joining.


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