Title to Come, Part 4

[Still not sure what to call this tale I began a little while ago]

Eric glanced over at the source of the noise, and saw the fifty-ish waitress who had served him earlier attempting to rise from the debris of plates, silverware, and food. Coming to her aid was a woman in a business suit, who was soon joined by the young woman who had just asked about Eric’s notebook.

***

The commander shook his head, clearly displeased by Agent Marcel’s report. “Nothing, nothing that happened justified your Injection. You could easily have avoided the entire situation.”

Agent Marcel could no longer hold herself back. “Commander, everyone’s attention in the diner was turned to the waitress. My doing nothing would have been the least conspicuous activity I could have performed.”

“Nobody would have remembered your disinterest.” He placed his hands on the table, and rose slightly from his chair. “But your taking action could have generated any number of possible Temporal Changes. What if a person who would have helped that poor woman, had decided upon seeing you help her, to leave the diner earlier than he’d intended — just in time to be struck by an automobile jumping a curb, leading to his death? And what if that person would have become a doctor, or fire fighter, who would no longer be alive twenty years later to save the life of a person whose impact n history would be felt to this day? You do remember your Temporal Consequences training, agent?”

“Aye, sir.”

“And do you remember at least some of the cases where the seemingly innocent actions of one well-intentioned agent had impacts on the timeline that required one, two, perhaps several additional jumps to undo?”

“But this — ”

“This wasn’t your decision to make, Agent Marcel! The consequences of a timeflux can be catastrophic. We’ve seen what happened when we stopped the 9/11 attacks, or the spread of the Guji Flu — those ‘corrections’ resulted in far worse calamities. Those lessons directly lead to our mission — ” the Commander leaned forward, demanding Agent Marcel’s response.

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Title to Come, Part 3

[If you’ve happened upon this story in progress, you’re invited to review the first and second installments as well]

“Excuse me?” Eric was not aware the young feminine voice had addressed him until he felt a presence hovering over his shoulder. He turned, and saw an inquisitive face staring down at him, eyes sparkling behind round lenses. A slender finger pointed at the table — “Are you a writer?”

Eric glanced in the direction of her finger, and seeing she was pointing at his notebook, turned back towards the young woman. “No.”

“Oh!” She reached a hand towards her mouth. “I’m sorry, it just looked like you were writing in a journal.”

Without looking, Eric picked up the notebook with his thumb and index finger, and smirked. “Sorry to disappoint, but it’s a notebook, not a journal. It’s where I keep my notes, and stuff. Work stuff.”

“Yeah.” The spark of interest in her eyes was extinguishing fast, like an engine running out of fuel. “So… where do you work?”

He laid the notebook down, then pointed to the woman’s left, towards the door of the diner. “At the university, for the moment. On a grant, through the end of the semester.” He pursed his lips — “This isn’t the most comfortable position for a conversation. You want to have a seat?”

“Oh no — really.” Eric felt regret as the friendly stranger began walking away from him. “All — ”

The sound of porcelain crashing onto the linoleum floor of the diner interrupted their conversation.

Title to Come, Part 2

[Still don’t have a title for this story I started the other day. One addition to that first part — it takes place in the year 2036.]

***

Sitting by himself at the next to last booth (his customary booth at the end having been occupied this morning) in the far corner of the Lunt Diner, Eric Thorson retrieved a spiral-bound notebook from his backpack, placed it on the table in front of him, opened to the page where he had left off writing at the library the day before, and, on the far right side of the second line beneath the last line of handwriting, wrote:

November 7, 1990

The grandmotherly waitress walked up to his table. “You want the usual today, Eric?”

He nodded. “Works for me.” She had asked for his name in the spring, after he had been coming here every Wednesday morning for nearly a year. He hadn’t asked for her name, or even bothered to read her name tag; he found comfort in keeping her role in his life anonymous.

Returning attention to his notebook, he wrote in the line under the date:

Interesting thing happened at Tim’s last night — got a job offer. Scott was in town visiting his folks, dropped by the bar. Said he was going to call me later

“Here’s your coffee.” The contents of the white mug sloshed onto the table as the waitress laid it down; she offered to clear the spill, but Eric waved her off, and used his paper napkin to clean the table. He decapitated two thimbles of cream, poured it and a spoonful of sugar into the mug, and after drinking half the mug, resumed writing:

this week. Said his company just obtained a research grant, had room in the budget for three new techs. Also said there were apartments available in his complex. Scott said I’d be a shoo-in, so long as I didn’t blow the interview. Everything went right, I could start in January.

Eric folded the notebook shut, and resumed drinking his coffee.

Title to Come, Part 1

[Today’s as good as any other day to start a new fiction project. Sometime before I’m done, I’ll give it a title.]

Agent Marcel shifted in her seat, not caring to show her unease with the commander’s question. She cleared her throat, and replied.

“Yes, I was aware the incident was not in the client’s report. Nor was any other incident, of any kind. All my client provided was a location, and a range of several months.”

The commander leaned back from his desk, and rubbed his chin. “But you chose this moment for your Injection Opportunity? Potentially drawing the attention of nearly a dozen witnesses?”

Marcel flicked her head back defiantly. “My subject had finished his meal, and I determined the incident would likely cause him to leave. The mission would have failed.”

“You know the protocol, agent. Abort, return, debrief. Let one of our other agents — ”

“Commander, the mission was successful. There’s no reason to go back, jump another agent. We have what the client requested.”

“Yeah.” The commander tapped the tips of his index and middle fingers on the right hand against his thumb, and the holographic image of Agent Marcel’s report shimmered to life again. “But we need more than 43 words, agent. You need to tell me, exactly, what happened during your IO.” With a wave of his left hand, the commander dismissed the report. “You were sitting at the counter?”

Mean

[Today’s word of inspiration from The Daily Post: Mallet]

“Mind handing me that hammer?”

“What hammer?”

“The one in the tool box, to your right.”

“Sorry hon, there’s no — ”

“For crissakes, you blind? I can see it, laying right there!”

“Oh, you mean this tool, with the round head?”

“Yeah, that’s what I mean, the hammer!”

“Actually, what you mean is mallet. And just to be clear, it was lying on top of the toolbox.”

Deplate

[Todays’ prompt for The Daily Post: Deplete]

“I just ran out of gas,” Rex explained. “Didn’t have enough left in me to get those last two touches.”

“So your energy was deplate?” Butch asked.

Depleted,” Annie interjected.

“No, deplate. Past tense of deplete, just like now and late. Everyone knows that.”

Mightier

[Returning to the Writing Prompt Generator on The Story Shack for today’s inspiration]

Anne Droid sighed as the professor handed her the capsule. “After searching, all these years… my creator’s final gift.”

The professor responded in her typically aloof demeanor. “You’ve earned this, Anne. After two centuries of selfless service.”

Anne touched a square button on top of the box, and the locking mechanism recognized her electronic signature. The capsule opened.

The professor looked inside, and chuckled — “A pen?”

Anne lifted the capsule’s sole object. “But robots have been forbidden from writing, since before Dr. Power built me.”

“Maybe she believed, you would need to be mightier than even she had imagined.”

The Prompt

Word count: 100

Genre: Comedy

Character: A superhero

Material: A pen

Sentence: “Who needs friends?” [Well, five out of six ain’t bad]

Bonus: The story takes place two-hundred years from now

Where the Heart Leads, Part 3

“I apologize for being short with you on the phone,” Eddie said in a rasping voice, as if his throat had shriveled in the Arizona heat. “I didn’t know you were working for Clara.”

Micky cleared his throat again. “All she wants, is to know what happened to her husband.”

“Husband?” Eddie laughed wearily. “Well there’s your first problem, detective. Jonas Haart, was never her husband.”

Micky couldn’t help looking surprised, as he suddenly realized he hadn’t checked this basic fact.

“Jonas was a hit man. The electrical company he worked for was owned by the mob, his job an excuse to infiltrate homes and businesses, his ‘marriage’ to Clara a part of his cover.”

“But if Clara knew this — why’d she hire me, to find him?”

“Because she figured out what was going down. Jonas’ identity had been compromised, and the mob needed to relocate him. When he disappeared without a trace, Clara knew the mob didn’t trust her, and she’d eventually be removed. But if she could find him, that knowledge could be used to strike a bargain. You, detective, were her last hope.”

Micky felt his forehead perspiring. “I take it, you’re not going to tell me where Jonas is?”

Eddie waved a dismissive hand. “I called Clara right after I hung up with you, and told her not to worry. She was loyal to Jonas, and generous with me. I told her I’d take care of her — I even told her, ‘I love you.’ Because I do love her, detective. We’ll relocate her, to here. She’ll be my caretaker.”

Micky stood up. “That’s great, Mr. Clague. I think my work here is done, so if you don’t mind — ”

“Oh, I do mind,” said Eddie, as Micky felt a meaty hand slam down on his shoulder, pushing him back down on his chair. “You should have given up on this investigation when the trail grew cold — that would have been the intelligent move. But you couldn’t control your curiosity — you let yourself be led by the heart, not your mind. And that decision has taken you to a place you should never have gone. And can’t ever leave.”

End of “Where the Heart Leads”

Where the Heart Leads, Part 2

[Continuing my flash fiction story from yesterday]

Micky’s call to elderly man was greeted cooly, and when the private investigator mentioned Jonas Haart, his contact ended the call abruptly.

Going to the police was never a consideration — years of working with the authorities gave Micky confidence that it would take more than the sales receipt for a fuel can to re-open the investigation. Neither was dropping the case. Instead, Micky booked the next flight to Phoenix, and upon his arrival contacted Uber for a ride to his contact’s home.

The sedan pulled in to a retirement community, tiny one-floor homes with white paint and red clay stains. Micky’s expectations rose as he saw the interior lights were on at his destination. He rushed to the front door and rang the buzzer; a moment later, feet shuffled towards him, and the door opened.

From behind the screen door, Micky cleared his throat, already dry from the desert heat. “Mister Clague?”

Eyes that had seen enough of this world looked up at him. “You must be that detective.”

“I’m not with the police, sir. I’m just a private investigator, working on behalf of my client — ”

“Clara.” Energy blossomed in his tired eyes. The man pushed the screen door open, and beckoned Micky to enter. “She always treated me well, like she did everyone. She never deserved any of this.”

As soon as he entered the home, Micky blinked as a wave of ammonia fumes came over him. The elderly man shuffled towards a cushioned arm chair, and waved towards a sofa at the far end of the room.

“I don’t want take too much of your time, Mr. Clague — ”

“Eddie, please.” Reaching the arm chair, Eddie turned, and smiled. “If I’m going to tell you this story, we need to be on a first name basis.”

Where the Heart Leads, Part 1

[Something a little different and fun today, using the Writing Prompt Generator from The Story Shack to set the parameters for today’s flash fiction story. I’m going to cheat on the word count — the story is supposed to be no more than 300 words, but I’m going to write this in 300-word installments.]

Jonas Haart kissed his wife Clara, walked into his garage, reversed his car into his subdivision… and had not been seen since that morning three years ago.

A week after Clara notified the police, his car was found in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart 217 miles to the south. The vehicle was undamaged, and a forensic scan only uncovered DNA evidence from Jonas and his wife. There hadn’t been, and would not ever be, charges on any of his credit cards, or withdrawals from his sizable bank or investment accounts.

Frustrated by the police’s seeming disinterest in her husband’s disappearance, Clara hired Micky Waldenburg. The private investigator reviewed hours of security camera videos, and interviewed gas station attendants within a hundred mile radius (the car’s tank was nearly full), but when Micky became as befuddled as the police, he returned Clara’s money along with an apology.

But he never forgot the case.

And two years later, a lead had fallen into his lap.

A violent rainstorm unearthed debris from ditches along the interstate, and among the detritus was a five gallon metal fuel can, with a gallon of stale automobile gas at its bottom. A county worker picked it up and contacted the police, but when they showed no interest he called in a favor from a friend in the forensics lab.

When his lab friend told reported whose fingerprints were found on the can, the worker called his uncle Micky, who nearly dropped his phone when he heard his nephew say, “Jonas Haart.”

Using the can’s manufacturer and model, Micky traced its sale to a Home Depot a few miles from Haart’s home. It had been purchased not by Haart, but rather an elderly man who now lived in Mesa, Arizona.