Flash Fiction Challenge: They Fight Crime

Relevant Chuck Wendig Blog (clicky)

So, the mighty Stephen Blackmoore (whose book Dead Things is so good it’ll make you poop rainbows) suggested a challenge last week, and I’m inclined to try it out.

Have you ever been to THEY FIGHT CRIME?

Well, go there now.

You can refresh it all you’d like.

It’ll keep giving you new partnerships of the absurd and amazing.

And it always ends with, “they fight crime.”

Click until you find one you like.

That will be the basis of your story this week.

As always, 1000 words to you.

(authors notes appear at the end)

The Scarecrow and Mrs. King (not)

By J N Keir

The gutters outside Hjammerson Transcontinental Capital were a regular Lake Michigan for the local cigarette-butt-regatta. Arnar Hjammerson stood in the lee of his megacorporate raider headquarters entirely unmindful of the rain, which beaded off him as though he were safely cocooned. He wouldn’t normally notice cigarette butts, but Esmeralda ‘Esme’ Malloy had him on edge. She was the kind of girl who could find trouble in an angel-hatchery on the sunny side of Paradise: a vagabond with two PhDs, fluent in five languages, a stack of non-disclosures thicker than President Ford’s policy on inflation, and a big problem with boredom. Her professional wanderlust had landed her on the research and development team for a new micro-motor at that company that makes micro-motors. Yeah, THAT company; the one Arnar was trying to buy out from under itself. Then she quit.

A month ago Esme had given her notice. Two weeks ago the prototype DLX disappeared, the digital versions of the production notes and drawings disappeared, and even the slag from the casting and machining had vanished. Of course, that stuff all fits in a coat pocket. Esme was under scrutiny as a result. She didn’t do it, she said, but proving a negative never worked out.

Arnar was standing outside his own multinational investment capital and acquisition firm staring at cigarette butts and gritting his teeth. Esme had charmed her way right under his skin in a big hurry, then launched the bomb about ATI’s interest in the prototype. Auslanderen Thulekult Inkorporiert was almost certainly behind the theft, and their CEO – popularly known as Oma Thule – was Arnar’s favorite person to burn in effigy. Esme had dropped this new knowledge in his lap after an investor’s conference in Belgium last week. How she’d known Arnar, or that he’d be interested, was still a mystery. Their conversation that night had implicated ATI in a scheme to reverse-engineer the prototype and be first to market with a new miniaturized vacuum motor that really sucked.

The conversation ended with, “I will pick you up outside Transcontinental’s Chicago office next Thursday at 6pm sharp.”

As if cued by his reminiscing, a dark-colored private car pulled up to the curb, wipers double-timing against the downpour. A rear passenger window dropped to half, and Esme’s inscrutable eyes blinked at him.

“Well, get in,” she said.

“You never said how you know me.”

“You’re a seven-hundred-year-old necromancer, and we’re related. Now get in already.”

Arnar crushed a cigarette flotilla as he heeled it around the car.

He said, “You’re lying-”

Esme cut him off, “Your brother died during the English Reformation in 1536, after interference from Oma Thule. I told you in Belgium, Arnar, I know you.”

Arnar was stunned. The strange young girl did know some things, but her facts were muddled by a deliberate falsification he’d engineered centuries ago. Something in the way Esme looked and spoke reminded Arnar of someone else. Lightning flashed outside the car, flickering her reflection in the window glass. It played in her eyes.

Yes, he thought, and I think I know you, Esme Malloy. He swallowed his venom for now. The implication of Oma Thule in the Reformation slaying, on top of ATI’s interest in the DLX prototype was almost too pat. Until he knew what she was up to, he couldn’t steer the situation.

“So what’s your plan? You’re going to hurl me, under threat of exposure, at ATI to clear your name? That seems a little, well, absurd. For one thing no one would believe you.”

“Oma Thule would,” she said.

“Now you’re starting to… You don’t know what you’re dealing with-”

“Come off it,” she interrupted again, “you already know even if I’m only half right that you have to make a move. I’m not trying to pull your strings – just point you in a direction. Your intended acquisition is rubbing up against ATI’s interests and a little back alley action now could solve some of your problems. She’s been a step ahead of you for too long, Arnar, and you can start to set things right.”

“You’re sticking your nose in where it doesn’t belong,” he chided.

“That’s my curse, I guess. I always find myself in the middle of it.”

The rain was even worse outside of downtown. The docks district was bleak, soggy, and unpleasant in general. Warehouses here were windowless below twenty feet, and above that there were precious few otherwise. Their car parked under one such lighted pane.

“Go, Arnar, and let me in through that side door,” Esme said.

She stopped his protest with a gentle finger over his lips.

“Don’t bother. I know you can.”

Annoyed, Arnar exited the car, but before closing the door he said, “it doesn’t work nearly so well when the walls are wet.”

“You’ll be fine; it’s only twenty feet!”

Arnar watched her car pull down the length of the warehouse and stop a hundred feet away, beside a small door. The running lights went dark.

He whispered ancient words into his cupped hands, then pulled himself up the featureless steel siding, implacable as an ant, irritable as a hornet. In a moment he was through the window.

The warehouse office was abandoned. Arnar had to climb down a scaffold stair to reach the ground floor, and bite through a chain lock in order to allow Esme in.

“Well, here we are, an empty warehouse. Well done, that,” he said to her silhouette in the doorway

“Don’t act smug, Arnar, it doesn’t suit you-” She stopped when he cocked his head and turned.

In a flash Arnar was off into the semi-darkness. Sounds of scuffle echoed in the emptiness, then Arnar returned, his suit in shambles.

He was unhurt but empty-handed, “Oma Thule is just a convenient pseudonym; her real name is Aishwarya Bhatnagar. You, Esme, are her daughter,” Arnar paused.

“And your mother is a world class bitch.”

Author’s Notes:

He’s a hate-fuelled pirate sorcerer possessed of the uncanny powers of an insect. She’s a cosmopolitan gypsy research scientist with a knack for trouble. They fight crime!

I’m not altogether thrilled with this outcome; I think it is very raw and unfinished – I’ll beg mercy that its been a crap week and…  /excuses.


Anyway, there you have it. Very fun to play with the generator and think about the implications of what we get. Enjoyed the characters and the making!

2 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: They Fight Crime

  1. ascrisp says:

    I really enjoyed this. Very noir. Reminds me of a cross between Raymond Chandler and Tom Robbins. I think you should go on with it. I was left curious.

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