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Suspense Thriller Mystery

Jeremy didn’t know the first thing about real estate, other than what he might have learned on those fixer-upper flip shows. He actually hated those shows. They were always the same. Some overly attractive couple, with a more than modest income, relocating or looking for their first home, in which to start their 2.5 kid-rearing family. They weren’t real, anyone could tell that. People didn’t look like that, nor talk like that. Plus those couples had about as much chemistry as a beacon full of Fiji water and motor oil. And who had that kind of disposable income? No one these days. Also why did they get 4 out 5 of their asks? Within 5 miles of my job, near the water, easy commute, spare bedroom, good school close by. It was bullshit! Jeremy knew in the real world, you’d be lucky to find two of those things on a strapped budget, if any at all. If these people could fake it so could he. 

It’s hard to tell, at what point, his hobby of an obsession turned into a malicious, methodically planned ruse. Maybe he himself didn’t even quite know, but it was crystal clear by this point that he was putting all his efforts into the farce. 

The pimply 19 year old at the Kinko's, gave him a sideways glance as he handed Jeremy the proofs for his signs. 

“Is that suit photoshopped on?”, the kid asked. It clearly was, and not very well at that.

The shiny poster board had a gloss finish, much like many of those campaign and voting ones people endlessly decorated their yards with in November. And why? Do you really think a cardboard sign would make me vote for you? Well, perhaps it was this exact gullibility that Jeremy was hoping to cash in on. 

The sign displayed Jeremy, in a badly cropped suit and tie, and said, JOHNNY BLEVINS for all your new home needs. THANK HEAVENS FOR JOHNNY BLEVINS! There was a prepaid burner phone number listed, that Johnny had picked up at his local gargantuan box store. His years of being a cinephile taught him that cartels and mobsters used these, and then smashed them to bits when any misdeeds were concluded. If Hollywood has signed off on it, it must be accurate.

Johnny, er… Jeremy, paid the lad, and quickly moved into phase two of his dastardly plan.

He had spent years as a temporary worker on construction jobs doing the occasional odd job. That meant that the temp agency took 25% of his paycheck, but it also meant he was technically gainfully employed, something his probation officer had always liked. It also that he could work when he wanted to. None of the is 9 to 5 bull crap. Even when some of the companies had offered to hire him full time, he had refused. That just wasn’t his style. Besides, he was saving up that one good slip-and-fall so he could milk the disability for half a lifetime. Maybe a roofing job would come in just before winter. But maybe his plan now was a more viable option, without risking severe injury. He was beginning to like this idea, the more and more he though about it.

The strategy was simple. He knew where all the partially constructed houses were in a twenty mile radius. He had been on the fringe of the business long enough to know where all these places were. What’s more, many were popping up in unfinished suburbs or in place of previously abandoned lots. That meant they were pay-as-you-go builds with no police, or sellers, really paying much attention to them. These usually popped up when some wealthy hedge funders wanted to spread their portfolios out over several investment opportunities, or when unscrupulous types wanted to launder some of their excess cash. The main point, was no one really cared if, and when, these properties sold at all, and furthermore they were often left unattended. Jeremy would drive around town putting up his signs near all these unattended properties. Just in case the law was watching, he would put it on the public side of the sidewalk, near the street. That way he could claim he wasn’t really repping the house, per se, only offering consultation advice to prospective buyers. If people inferred that he was a realtor, due to his used car salesman suit and smile, that was on them. He also went online and took a few basic free realty courses, just so he could throw around some of the lingo. Once this was all completed, he would just sit back and wait for the phone calls to come in.

Business was slow at first. Maybe a newly-wedded couple, or a college kid, with Daddy’s money, looking to move out of the dorms, would give him a ring. But Jeremy found that the longer the signs stayed up, unabashed, the more they became legitimized in time. People, including the local police, just got used to seeing them around, and paid no attention to them. It was only a matter of time until some serious buyer, the wealthy-types, would give him a call.

Then one Sunday he got a call from a Madam LeFleur. She meet him at a recently remodeled Victorian about 2.5 miles off the freeway. The closest thing around was an Arby’s frequented by truck drivers over a mile away. It was just he and her. She pulled up driving a robin-egg-blue Jaguar; Everything about her smelled like a million bucks. Her French accent made Johnny Blevins stumble over his words more than once. Luckily she was more than forgiving, especially since Johnny had let her light up a cigarette out of her pack of Gauloise smokes. A habit that had followed her from Paris, but most realtors would not allow her to partake of, particularly in the newly renovated homes. Little did she know, he had no interest in the property; She could have burned it down, for all he cared. 

God was she beautiful. Her long flowing black locks and meaty calves tapered down into her leather stilettos. Her revealing blouse and pouty lips made his heart skip a few beats, quite a few times. She wore a sexy Parisian beret and elbow-length white satin gloves, like some sort of cartoon character. He didn’t care. Even it was some half-baked cosplay, she looked damned good in it.

“Mind if I use the ladies room?”, she asked him in her seductive French inflection.  

Johnny hadn’t even consider this a possibility; Something an actual realtor would never have overlooked. Was the plumbing even turned on in this unit? All he knew was, that he certainly was. What did it matter anyway. Take a shit for all I care!, he thought, but didn’t say out loud. That would have been way to an American of a move. 

“Of course.”, was all he could whimper in his current state of imagined seduction. 

LeFleur pushed the still lit cigarette from her mouth with her tongue. One end burnt embers as hot as Johnny’s fantasies, the other tip was still moist with her saliva and the full imprint of her painted lips. She did not hesitate putting it right in his mouth. He couldn’t tell if that was an overtly sexual move, or some sort of cultural oversight of just the French being French. Either way, it excited him, and he adjusted himself as he felt a rush of blood stir his groin. 

When she was talking a bit longer than he originally had expected, he took the liberty of spying on her through an adjacent room. She had left the bathroom door slightly ajar. Was this an invitation, or some sort of European thing? He still couldn’t tell. She sat on the toilet already puffing away from her second cancer stick. Her mind was seemingly adrift; not a care in the world. Her panties were around her ankles, just above the patent leather strap of her shoe, and although he couldn’t see anything other than the side of her ample buttocks, she was clearly naked from the waist down. 

He felt that familiar sensation again, but decided to get ahold of himself. If he were to pull off what he had come to do, a fling with a sexy damsel was not going to cut it. He was here for business after all, pleasure could wait. Jeremy, once again composed himself as Johnny Blevins, and went to wait for her back in the open-air living room. 

When she arrived back, there was not one single iota of cigarette smoke on her, even though he had witnessed her smoking it with his own eyes. Was French perfume that strong, or French cigarettes that weak? It was a conundrum he would have to solve some other time.

“I don’t think your toilet’s working,”, she said with a wink and a smile.

 “It’s ok, we have people for that.” His response came quick and smoothly, so much so that he even surprised himself. That was exactly the kind of little white lie a professional realtor would have said. “Would you like to continue the tour?  You haven’t seen the upstairs yet. Would you like to see the main bedroom?” That certainly was something a professional would not have said, but he didn’t care. On the off-chance some leading flirtation got him laid, then great. If not, getting her alone in the upstairs is exactly where he would need to be to pull off his heist. He had been eyeballing the, at-least 6 carat platinum diamond ring on her hand, for a full hour. That newer model Jaguar was worth at least 60K, and he was sure a woman like that carried a lot of cash and at least a half a dozen credit cards. By his calculation he could be on the lamb for a year, maybe two, before he would need to set up the same scam in some other little shit hole town, far way in another state. He had taken the public bus most of the way, and walked the rest, specifically hoping this was exactly how the scenario would play out. 

“I’ve been in the market for a while now. The bedroom sounds nice.”, came her unadulterated reply. There was absolutely no doubt in his mind, they were both referring to sexual intercourse now. His eyebrows shot nearly up to his temples now. There was no way, even the master of disguise Johnny Blevins, himself, could hide his excitement now. 

Johnny watched her perfect backside sashay up the, thankfully long, staircase, as he pointed her towards the main suite. God what a lucky day! He couldn’t wait to have his way with her, and put the proverbial cherry on top by robbing her off everything she owned, whether that be dignity or material goods.

The house had been modestly furnished, but there was still a four poster bed in the main room. Although it had no sheets or pillows, it was soft enough to reach instant gratification. She neared the edge of the bed, and gave a one last look around. She stood behind him; His back was to her. Then she leaned in to whisper in his ear. 

“So how much did you say this place ran for again?”, she asked.

A very flustered Johnny started to run calculations in his head. Maybe he had misread this whole thing, Perhaps he had made the whole thing up in his mind. Shit! Well, it was too late to back out now. He started to think of a round number that may have been what a house of this size would have went for in this area, but before he could form the syllable of the first word with his mouth, he heard the cock of the hammer of her 9mm as it reverberated near the base of his skull.

He started to turn on his heel, but she was way too close and clamped her fingers on the pressure point near his funny bone. "Slowly, Jeremy”, was all she said, her French accent had suddenly disappeared. 

Jeremy’s face turned a whiter shade of pale, as he slowly turned into her. For some reason his Homo Erectus mind thought she looked smoking hot, even in this reversal of a power play. “How do you know my name?”

“You’re not as slick as you think you are. You know all those burner phones use the same prefixes, right? It’s how cops know they’re burners.”

“Are you a cop?”

This got a full grown woman -sized belly laugh from her. “No, hardly.”, she mustered. 

“A real estate agent would never use a burner. Also you didn’t list a real estate license number. And these signs started popping up randomly, and conveniently in uncrowded areas. I knew it was a scam from day one. Then I just watched you putting up signs and tracked you back home.”

“So you are a cop, then.”, he said as hot air escaped his mouth.

“I’m not a fucking cop!…. You made this too easy, Slick. You set the meet-up place. Which meant you’d have to scout it ahead of time. And how many buses do you think run out this way? It wasn’t that hard?”

“What do you want from me?” It had come to that point in the conversation where there was a clear tidal shift, and unfortunately for Jeremy, it wasn’t in his favor. He could taste some metal in the roof of his mouth, that now was exceedingly dry. 

“What do you want from me, Johnny Blevins?" she mimicked mockingly. "Were you planning on raping me? Robbing me? Killing me?! No, definitely not that, you’re way too cowardly for that.”

He remained speechless.

“I know scammers like you, Jeremy, and I despise them. But you see, I have my demented little hobbies too… just like you, Johnny.”

Outside, a murder of crows ascended into the sky, as they felt the reverberation of muffled gunshot from nearly half a mile away. They had been the only ones. 

It would be four long months later, before anyone would find Jeremy’s body. What with the heavy Detroit snow that fell that year, no one would be house-hunting until late Spring. It was written off as probably some sort of homeless squatter, or drug dealer, run in. Nothing much to alarm the general public, as to any real harm done. 

A robin-egg-blue Jaguar made it’s way silently down highway 75. A stack of placards in its trunk read “THANK HEAVENS FOR JOHNNY BELVINS!”

August 16, 2021 13:27

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8 comments

Michael Martin
12:22 Aug 26, 2021

Nicely done, nicely written. While I still have a bit of trouble making it through the longer paragraphs, that may just be my ADHD kicking in. As far as the story itself, I truly enjoy your writing style, you have a great way of giving us character details without explicitly giving us character details. The nuances of Johnny/Jeremy's wily, scheming character are given out through various anecdotes (little things like refusing to accept full time work, waiting for a good workplace accident, did a great job of establishing his character). ...

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Jude S. Walko
23:37 Aug 26, 2021

Michael thanks so much for the thoughtful feedback. I’m honored that you enjoyed the story and took the time to read it. You’re assessment about some things are right on. The story ending often comes sooner than I would love it it too and I realize I have to “turn off the spigot” sort of speak and wrap it up. That being said I probably am guilty of making some paragraphs too long. I know the feeling about attention span, especially in today’s day and age with quick social media sound bites replacing thoughtful discussion. So I can totally re...

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Michael Martin
01:18 Aug 27, 2021

I can definitely understand the "turning off the spigot" comment... when I get into "stream of consciousness" mode, and the ideas/imagery/dialogue just starts to flow out of my brain, I tend to keep going until I realize that, damnit, I'm already over the word limit. Cutting back is probably the hardest thing for me... I want the reader to see what I see in my mind, so I give too much at times. Still, the quick end isn't actually a bad thing here - there's something to be said about Jeremy/Johnny building up to his big heist only to have i...

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Ruth Porritt
06:53 Aug 22, 2021

This is a cool story, and I enjoyed reading it. I am guessing you were inspired by the character of Sawyer (James LeFleur) in 'Lost'? (He was my favorite character in the series, as he thought carefully before he acted, and didn't react to problems by madly running off into the jungle...like Jack.) Nice to meet you, and catch you later, Ruth P.

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Jude S. Walko
06:42 Aug 24, 2021

Thanks Ruth. I actually never saw 'LOST", but it has been on my list forever. Pleasure to meet you as well. I'm going to check out some of your stories. Jude

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Ruth Porritt
00:11 Aug 27, 2021

Hello Jude, Wow! Our universe is full of incredible (and wonderful) coincidences. The Sawyer Character (he eventually becomes known as LeFleur) gets some of the best lines in 'LOST'. 'LOST' contains some of the most inventive and creative writing I've seen on t.v., for about the first three seasons. Thanks for your support, and have a great one, Ruth

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Jon Casper
20:02 Aug 16, 2021

Great read! Loved the reversal.

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Jude S. Walko
00:01 Aug 17, 2021

Thanks so much Jon!

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