Flash Fiction Friday: A Matter of Conscience

This piece won honorable mention at Two Letter Press for their Flash Card Fiction contest. Writers had to use a prompt provided by them within their story.  You’ll find it in italics below.  Enjoy.

I flipped open my billfold and extracted a new, crisp dollar bill from within.  My eyes danced across the picture of my beloved and a warmth flooded my heart the way it did whenever I thought of her.  When I met Constance I just knew she was THE one.  Dark brown hair, smoldering eyes, beautifully shaped deep rosy lips, she was a natural beauty and completely captured my heart the moment she responded to a small joke I made on the back of another’s conversation.  She tipped her head backward, her long thick hair falling playfully off her shoulders and cascading down her back, and opened her mouth to emit a throaty laugh that echoed for what seemed like minutes in my soul.

I watched as the school across the park let out.  Hundreds of children weaving their way down the huge stone steps, their voices tinkling in the distance like a moist finger rubbed along the rim of a crystal glass.  I smiled.  Constance and I had been dating now for the better part of two years and I had a feeling that it was time to pop the proverbial question before she lost interest.  The problem was, Constance didn’t know the real me.  There had been several times over the years when I could have told her.  There had been over fifty instances when she could have found out.  But providence was my friend and had kept my deepest secret, and greatest fear, hidden from my one true love.

Buses rolled up and swept children away, parents had cars lined up collecting their kids, and some now were walking home.  Mostly in clusters of two or three, but not mine.  Mine walked nonchalantly across the park as if she was making a beeline right for my bench.  My clandestine life plagued me – day in and day out.  Actually, every other week, because that was pretty much my schedule.  But I did have a conscience and certainly couldn’t ask her to marry me without telling her the whole story.  I didn’t want to continue to keep this from her, but I was anxious and when I thought of it my stomach would tie up in knots.  Would she still love me?  Could she continue to utter that beautiful deep laugh at the lamest of my jokes if she knew the truth?  Would she still be able to lay beside me in the dark and throw her arm over my chest, whispering her tender affections to me, fastening my heart ever more deeply to hers?

I sat on the park bench awaiting her arrival.  Knowing she would walk right past me as she had so many times before.  My thoughts drifted back to Constance.  Would she leave me?  I looked up into the sky as if I expected an answer from heaven.  I laughed to no one in particular; God definitely wouldn’t be talking to me.  My laugh startled the girl as she drew closer and her head whipped up looking cautiously at me.

“Didn’t you just see my puppy at your feet?” I called out, still smiling.

“Puppy?” the girl said, her face brightening and then laughing she looked around her feet.  “Where?” she said, her voice questioning.

I was already standing and moving toward her, “There,” I pointed off above her head toward some bushes and slipping the dollar into my pocket, picked up my pace, “He’s getting away, come on!”  I heard a dog yipping in the distance, giving credence to my story.

She followed me as I knew she would.  They always do.  I don’t know if it’s the way I look or the way I sound.  Kids seem to instantly trust me.  I dropped to my knees half in the bushes and half out.  “There he is.” I cried with mock excitement.  “Oh!” I exclaimed, “He seems to be stuck.”

I looked back at the girl who was straining to see into the dense foliage.  I held back some of the branches, “Look!  You’re small enough.  Can you go in and get him?”

“Ummm … “ the girl wavered.

“He won’t hurt you,” I cooed.  “I’m just too big to get in there.”

She dropped her book bag and got down on her hands and knees peering into the darkness within.  I moved to hold the branches aside for her and as she started in, my knife slipped out of my sleeve and was onto and across her neck in seconds.  I shoved her body into the bush and threw her bag in after her.  I sighed.  That was not the way I wanted it to go down.  I sat down, dejected, with my back to the bushes and surveyed the park.  Was anyone paying attention?  Did anything seem out of order?  The whole thing was my fault because I’d laughed out loud thinking God was going to answer me and messed up the plan.  I didn’t get my usual relief but I did save a dollar.  I knew I’d have to leave soon.  By early evening the place would be crawling with cops.  I got up and walked slowly back to the car.  My mind awash in emotion.  The girl … a moment in time lost.  My girl … if she doesn’t understand … will be lost.

By the time I got back to the city I knew I still had the better part of the day before Constance would be home.  Wednesdays were her school nights and kept her out until 9:30 or 10.  Still 20 miles from home I circled a park and seeing some promising options decided to stop, even though I usually didn’t do too good on the fly.

There were only a few times my careful set up didn’t occur as planned and it always messed with my head.  I learned to keep a bottle of ether in the trunk for emergencies; hidden away in a secondary wheel well I’d concocted after I watched a program about smuggling.  It was perfect and had held many of my tools over the years.  Suddenly I heard a young voice calling to his friends, “See ya tomorrow guys.”  I spied a lone kid walking in my direction and knew he would be mine.

I quickly pulled out a rag and splashed some ether into its fibers, careful to stay upwind.  I stuffed the rag into my jacket pocket and slammed the trunk lid down.  I always got jumpy when I acted impulsively.  I turned and started walking toward the boy intent on intercepting him before he got to the street.  I smiled to myself.  This was going to be easy.  The boy had a slight build and stood about four feet tall.  I figured him to be about 11 or 12.  I was on him before he knew what was happening and wrapping my left arm around his shoulders I shoved the rag into his face, breaking his glasses in my enthusiasm.  He went limp within seconds and I dropped the rag and grabbed him into my arms.

“Hey are you okay?”  A lady with a stroller had appeared seemingly out of nowhere.

“Oh yeah,” I stammered, my mind reeling.  “My son just got stung by a bee and I’ve got to get him to the hospital.”  I picked the boy up and began loping back to my car.

“I’ll call 911.” The retched hag shouted.

“No thanks,” I yelled back, “I’ll take him.”

I broke into a run afraid that the screeching woman had alerted others.  Sliding him into the passenger seat I jumped behind the wheel and peeled out of there as fast as I could.  By the time I got home my heart was pounding.  I sat in the parking lot and looked at the boy still passed out on the front seat.  What was I thinking bringing him home?  I spied the large green dumpster at the far end of the lot and looked at my watch – 4:46pm.  People would be coming home soon, I’d better act fast.

Driving my car to the end of the lot I pulled the kid out and propped him up against the dumpster.  I rested my knife at the base of his right ear and tried to get the relief I needed to fill the emptiness deep inside.  No dice.  I slipped the knife deep into the kid’s throat and started to slice him open when suddenly I heard a footstep behind me.  I froze.  And then I smelled her perfume.  Gasping, I turned.  She stood there in front of me, waiting for an answer. She managed to maintain her composure, but her eyes told me exactly what she wanted to hear. In that moment, I wondered if I had the strength to tell her the entire truth.

“It is you.” She breathed, the scent of her perfume mixed with the smell of the kid’s blood was making my head swim.

“Constance,” I gulped. “I can explain.”

“It’s Detective Barlow.” Constance said in an even tone.  “Drop the knife.”  Suddenly the woman I loved was pointing a gun at me.

My world went dark.

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