Fiction Thriller Mystery

“Would you look at that one?” Clara said shaking her head as she sipped her coffee. “You know she stole all kinds of money from her momma and took off to a different state without saying a word? Had her fretting over her day and night. I heard she was with child and had to leave to get rid of the baby. Terrible thing she did to her family. Just a shame to put that kind a mark on your family’s name. And now she’s back like nothing even happened. Disgraceful.” She adjusted her glasses on her nose and looked at Gracie. Her friend sat next to her just nodding her head in agreement. Clara has been in this town her entire life, and she was getting ready to turn 64 years old soon. She was considered well off in the area making a small fortune off of the coal mines just outside of town. She always dressed so that everything had to match, and she put on too much make up for her age. She had one of the biggest and nicest houses in town up on a big hill, so she seemed to look down on everyone thinking she was the standard they had to measure up to. It was also one of those towns where everybody knew everybody. Clara prided herself in knowing everyone’s business in town and had no problem filling others in on the downfalls or the sins of the people in town. Gracie, a woman of few words, had know Clara since they were kids and just followed along behind her listening and believing everything she said. They’re local hangout was Suzie’s Diner. It was a busy little place being the only restaurant in a 30-mile radius. It still had that old fashion diner appeal, complete with the bell that rang every time the door opened or closed. People would sit up at the little counter ordering homemade pie and coffee at all hours of the day and night. There, Clara and Grace would sit every morning between 7:00 and 9:00 talking about their evening before, the weather, the government, and their community. Clara let out a little grumble when she heard the bell by the door and looked up. It was Curtis Slye. Curtis had lived there his whole life too, he was just 20 or so years younger than Clara. “I can’t believe he chose to show his face in here. Should be ashamed of what his daddy, Tom did back in 1983. Do you remember that, Gracie? What an awful day that was. Thought he was so smart setting that store on fire. His daddy was nothing but a drunk in this town. No one even knew why he did it, other than being blind drunk out of his mind. Someone said he had a thing with the woman that died in that fire and that the child that died with her was his. Burning that store down was his way of hiding it, I guess. Did you know, I saw him do it Gracie? Saw him pour that gasoline on the back end and set it ablaze. Like it was just another day.” She tried to keep her voice as low as possible to not draw attention, but everyone in town knew what she did every morning in that diner. The constant glances at people in between sentences gave it away, as well. Gracie just huffed and shook her head in disgust. “I was glad to see him go to prison for that. He deserved more than just his comfy stay in that place, and he surely got it didn’t he Gracie? That boy inside had the right idea. Tom didn’t deserve to live after killing that child. I’m glad the boy did it. Beat him within an inch of his life, and the last inch was done with him just lying there bleeding out. Good riddance, is what I say. That there is his oldest boy, Curtis. I think Tom had about five kids with his wife Missy. The rest of the family moved away after it happened, but Curtis stuck around here for whatever reason.” Curtis glanced over in their direction, and both Clara and Gracie just put their heads down pretending not to see him. 


It was a hot one that day. The town had been going through a drought for the last two months. Jenkins Hardware had been in town since the 60’s. It was pretty much an all wooden building. A beautiful old place. Even the floor was still the original hardwood floor. Starla had to run to get a few things for her husband that was working on their home. Most of what she needed would be downstairs in the basement area of the store. Kate, her 4-year-old daughter came out with her today to run errands. Jeff Jenkins was behind the counter. “Morning Starla and little miss Kate. Hot one today, girls.” Starla smiled as Kate hid behind her legs. “Hey there Jeff. Boy, it is a hot one today. Thank goodness you have all these big fans in here moving this air around a bit. Going to head downstairs with Kate to grab a few things off the shelf for Dan if you don’t mind.” She held tight to Kate’s little hand. “Sure, no problem. Watch your step going down there.” Starla smiled and the two headed to the stairs. She noticed some of the lights flickering overhead and thought she would tell Jeff once she got back up. She got to an aisle with the different sizes of nuts and bolts and got lost in the hunt for what she needed. She started to hear a popping sound in the corner. She looked up for a second and went back to hunting for what she needed. The smell of smoke started to fill the air, and she looked around panicked noticing that Kate was gone. “Kate, you better get over here now. I told you not to run off. Where are you?” She could hear a faint little cough in the back corner and when she headed that direction, one of the lights above her was on fire. It is an electrical fire, she thought. It was happening so quickly, and the smoke got thicker and thicker. Her eyes started to burn, and she couldn’t see. “Kate! Kate! Where are you baby? Please, come to mommy!” She yelled and started to cough. 

Between how dry the season had been and the wood of the building, the fire caught hold pretty fast. Smoke was rolling out from the back of the building, and it started to draw a crowd out in the front. Someone across the street called the fire department, and everyone just stood and waited for them to get there. Once they arrived, the top floor of the building had already started to collapse. Jeff was outside talking to one of the firemen, and it suddenly hit him. Starla and Kate were in the basement. He looked at the fireman horrified. “Oh my god! Starla and Kate Tremore are in the basement! My god! They were down there getting supplies! Help them! Help them! Oh my god!” He had tears rolling down his cheeks and had to be held back as he attempted to run inside. About that time, the whole building collapsed in on itself. 

Clara & Tom

Clara was one of the first people at the store. She stood there in awe as the flames took over the wood and the dry air just fed the fire faster. When she heard Jeff scream something out about Starla Tremore, her imagination went wild. She had saw Starla and Tom Slye talking to each other several times, a little too friendly for her liking for the past four years. She just knew that little girl was Tom’s and not Dan’s. She ran up to one of the other women watching the fire. “You know, Josie I saw ole Tom Slye behind that building with some gasoline just a short time before it went up in flames. I bet my bottom dollar he had something to do with that fire. Trying to hide his tracks after fathering that little girl after all these years.” Josie looked at her startled and immediately started to talk to a couple others in the crowd and Clara did the same. 

By the time the fire was out and the panic had settled down a bit, the police were already talking to people for witness statements. The story that Clara had spun was the story the police were hearing from everyone. And since the building was completely destroyed, for whatever reason that is the story they stuck with. Within one hour of the police questioning, the police were pulling into the driveway of Tom Slye. Tom was in the back yard with his kids playing in the sprinkler he had set up for them on the hot day. He was completely caught off guard. “Hands in the air!” One of the policemen had said upon exiting his car. Tom did what he was told, but had a bewildered look on his face. He was read his rights, cuffed and put into the back seat of the car right there in front of his children and his wife. 

Months later, while behind bars, Tom Slye was severely beaten by another inmate that was upset about the fire, and who they later found out was related to Starla on her daddy’s side. He was beaten nearly to death, and he died shortly after lying there on the ground. He was an innocent man. Tom Slye’s wife and his five children moved out of the area after that to avoid the cruel things people were saying and doing to them. 

The Wall

Clara made it home around 10:00 after leaving the diner. She walked up the steps to her door and noticed it was open halfway. She started to worry because she would never leave her door unlocked for any reason. When she got inside she went to her landline and called the police. “Yes, I believe someone was in my house while I was gone. Please send someone.” She hung up the phone and went to sit on the porch to wait for them to arrive. The police did a walk through of the entire house, top to bottom and they found nothing. They advised Clara to change her locks if she were concerned and she told them she would first thing. She went to grab her purse and noticed that a picture of her that was on the mantel was shattered but sitting upright just as it should. She found that quite odd, but couldn’t dwell on it. She needed new locks. 

She arrived back home and had called a locksmith there in town to come and change the locks for her. While she waited for him to arrive, she walked through the house to see if she noticed anything else out of the ordinary. She started up the stairs, and when she made it to the top she kept hearing a thumping sound coming from the wall. It startled her enough to make her jump, and she looked around frantically to see if the noise came from somewhere around her. It happened again, right in front of her, in the wall. She walked quickly down the stairs and waited for the locksmith outside. “There is someone or something in my house, young man.” She said no sooner than the locksmith had gotten out of his van. He looked at her concerned. “Someone in your house? Did you call the police?” She shook her head. “Yes, they checked everywhere in there and they didn’t find anything at all. I am worried though, I am hearing noises and one of my pictures was broke. I won’t tolerate someone being in my home. I may be old, but I know how to use my gun.” The guy kind of chuckled and made his way towards the house. “I’m sure all is well, ma’am. If the cops didn’t find anything of concern, I wouldn’t be concerned either. Probably just squirrels in the attic or something.” She looked at him intensely, “squirrels would not have broken my picture, young man.” While he was working on the locks, she called Gracie in quite a state. “Gracie, I am telling you there is someone inside my house. No, I am not foolin. He’s here now changing the locks on the doors. I will. I will be okay. Once the locks are changed, no one will get in. Okay. I’ll call you tomorrow. Okay. Bye to you too dear.” Clare thanked the locksmith once he was done and got the new sets of keys from him. She locked up for the for the night and double checked every door. 

She was making herself some tea before bed when she started to hear the thumping in the walls again. This time downstairs in the kitchen. She listened closely and started to hear someone whistling. Someone whistling in the wall. She started hearing a humming sound, as if someone where singing a tune. The color left her face and she slowly went to the phone to call the police. When she picked up, the line was dead. Smoke started to roll out of the light socket next to the phone and she started to smell gasoline very strongly all around her. The lights in parts of the house started to flicker, and some blew out. The smoke was getting thicker now and coming from all parts of the house. She started to cough and gag on the fumes mixed with the smoke. She collapsed in the hallway on the floor. As she was gasping for air, she saw a part of the wall move and then crack. Then she saw the crack get bigger and bigger until the drywall burst open. A leg started to come out of the wall. It was a man of about 6’3” with work boots and jeans on. She could see the shirt he had on was green and he had a small gas mask on his face. His hair was brown covered in a ball cap, and he had a longish beard. He got down on one knee by Clare and smiled getting close enough that she could see him. She noticed the name badge on his shirt Curtis. His voice was a bit muffled by the mask, “My daddy says to tell you hi, Ms. Clare. Well, he would’ve if he were still around. It’s been a long time comin, ain’t it? You should have kept your gossipin mouth shut all those years ago, and he would still be alive. He was an innocent man, Ms. Clare. He was just playin with his kids that day you started all those rumors about him and Ms. Starla.” Clare was coughing and gasping more at this point and her breathing was labored. “Guess I took care of it for him though, after all these years. Goodbye Ms. Clare.” She turned her head to the side, took a few more gasps of air, and let out her last garbled breath lying there on the floor.

Two explosions went off in the house after Curtis had made it down the hill. One in the basement and one on the top floor. Within mere minutes the house was almost completely engulfed in flames with little more than rubble and burning wood left behind. Black smoke was rolling off the hill. The people in town heard the loud noises, and headed outside to see what was going on. Gracie was one of the first ones outside, and she walked over to a woman across the street. “You know I heard Clara thought someone was in her house. She didn’t have as many friends as she thought she did, I guess. Especially after that mess in 1983. She really thought people believed everything she said after that. I certainly didn’t. I just let her talk. Sometimes the past comes back for what is due, I suppose. Disgraceful.” The woman looked at Gracie and nodded her head. Curtis Slye was never seen in town again.

May 31, 2023 15:59

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Wally Schmidt
03:39 Jun 08, 2023

Nothing like a good ol' revenge story. You have written Clara's voice so clearly, I can almost hear it. An while Clara may have initiated the original gossip so that it took flight and destroyed a man and his family, she was certainly aided and abetted by a town of gossipers who were only too willing to help spread the rumor. I found all of the settings you used really descriptive , adding to the story as if they were a character in their own right-the diner, Clara's house, the shop basement. That is some good writing! One suggestion I woul...


Shannon C.
14:04 Jun 08, 2023

Thank you so much for the feedback and the kind words. I really appreciate any advice I can get on writing and structuring a better story. Great tip on the paragraph spacing, as well. I will keep that in mind when editing. 😊


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03:36 Jun 05, 2023

So dark! This was a very suspenseful story. Given the theme, one could guess at the end but I could not predict it and each detail included was great. This woman and her friend too, are awful people. The way you crafted the image of the town gossiper was so visceral and spot on that I could liken these descriptors to people I've met that embody them. Funny how the friend ends up being a bit of a gossiper too. She did kind of help spread the lies that resulted in the undue and unfair treat of that poor man, and oh, it was quite sad about the ...


Shannon C.
13:21 Jun 05, 2023

Oh, thank you so much! I had a fun time jotting this one down. I really appreciate your insight and kind words!


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