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American Contemporary Crime

From the perspective of where one witness sat at the arena that night, this was all she could offer to the police about the incident: “I saw nothing. I was in the restroom when it happened.”


Then, from another one: “I was taking notes on what Mr. Jeffers was saying, so, when it all happened I was looking down at my notebook. Yeah, I guess I saw nothing.”


After interviewing nearly two hundred attendees at the traumatically truncated event, after hearing an oddly similar account from those situated in various locations around the sprawling stadium that should’ve provided varying views from different perspectives, and after hearing this from witness #101: “The guy in front of me just stood up. I heard what sounded like a gunshot. But I saw nothing,” the cops concluded that further interrogation would fail to advance their investigation.


My name is Jacobs. Sgt. Mike Jacobs. What follows is what really happened that night...


“Well, hot holy monkey love, what was that? ? Can you all hear me up there in the nosebleed section of seats in this stadium? You can? Good… Because what I’m about to tell you next is in of itself the reason you paid such a large chunk of your hard-earned sweet cash just to be here listening to me speak tonight. Am I right?”


A deafening chorus of “yeah!!!!” filled and resounded within the domed structure. As the enthusiastic crowd subsided, there came a thunderous crack of a high-powered rifle being fired from inside the packed to capacity arena. Multi-billionaire and philanthropist Ralston Jeffers’ head pretty much exploded as the bullet ripped through the front of his scalp, skull, brain and tore through the back of his head; taking a portion of hair, brain, and skull along as it exited. Swaying a bit from side to side, before sinking to his knees in slow motion, Jeffers sunk down to sow a face-plant on the elevated stage’s surface. At the exact moment when what was left of his face met the floor, a very peculiar thing happened. As the blood from his shattered cranium pooled around the still twitching corpse, and before it had a chance to spill off from the edge of the stage, all the scoreboards positioned around the stadium mysteriously, and in synchronization, began to repeatedly flash four words: EVERYTHING IS A GIFT!


No one had come running from the wings, nor had the curtain been lowered to hide the grizzly scene from view; only a shocked silence that muffled all sounds from the still stunned audience. After a time that seemed to some to last an eternity, the stage lights darkened to near blackness as a voice from the megawatt P. A. system announced, “Please, everyone, please remain seated. Stay in your seats!” Some of the police officers who had been stationed as security throughout the coliseum-like structure now darted in the direction where Ralston lay, while the remainder of the cops fanned out into the crowd searching for where the single shot had been fired and for the shooter who had pulled the trigger.


Earlier on that evening, everything went on pretty much as what was considered to be normal at a Ralston Jeffers event. Prior to taking the stage, he had met with several members of the press by appointment, and Jeffers met anyone outside his tight-knit entourage by appointment only and had fielded a few questions from them regarding what he planned to announce tonight during his appearance. Usually, he shared this type of information freely since he believed that all publicity was good publicity, but one or two of the reporters remarked later that he was being unusually tightlipped tonight on the subject. Toward the end of the final interview Emmett Wiley, his tour manager, had stuck his head in the doorway to advise, “Five minutes to show time, buddy,” and as a professionally polite way to let the newsperson know to wrap things up.


Ralston was already attired in the clothes he normally favored for these events; white silk Hugo Boss suit (the spotlights worked well with these suits and the light reflected from it achieved the illusion that he was shroud in a bright white aura), an Italian handmade lilac white silk dress shirt with a button-down collar with optional buttoned or cuff linked sleeve cuffs, white cotton socks (he’s worn silk ones several times in the past but found the fabric did not breathe well and ended up making his feet uncomfortably sweaty), some special order white Gucci Zola Plain Toe Oxford dress shoes, a Stefano Ricci Solid Silk Satin necktie, and the pièce de résistance, a stickpin that his third ex-wife had made for him early in their marriage and before they divorced. 


The stickpin he used to keep his tie in place as he’d move around frenziedly while lecturing, measured 4.75 inches in length from tip to top. Once Jeffers was fully decked out in his preferred outfit of shoes and clothes, and his neckwear had been fastidiously tied into a four-in-hand knot, he’d remove the stainless steel pin back from its sharp tip, push the needlepoint of the pin through both the middle section shell side fabric into the tail section beneath the middle shell then weave it between the buttons of the placket part of his Italian silk shirt, then reroute it through the cloth of those same clothing items until the sharp tip reemerged to be recapped anew with the stainless steel pin back. Once these tasks were completed, only the plastic onyx, fake ivory, rhinestone-studded crown, and capped tip of it were visible. Admittedly, it was a process, but one that RJ considered well worth achieving the desired look he always went for at these rallies. Especially the way the rhinestones caught the stage lighting and cast it back into the attentive crowd that sat in the darkened stadiums where he shared his sought-after message.  


“Alright, Emmett,” he acknowledged and then shook the hand of the reporter before his tour manager escorted the member of the Fifth Estate from his dressing room. After about one minute Wiley returned to walk Jeffers to the wing of the stage from where he was to emerge making first contact with the now restless, waiting crowd.


“You ready, boss?”


“Hot holy monkey love—it’s showtime!


As Ralston Jeffers trotted out toward center stage all the stage lights and spotlights went up at once to their brightest level as the many thousands who were seated in the stadium erupted in earsplitting cheers    and frenetic applause. Once he’d reached the area where the wireless microphone was perched atop a mic-stand, the mic that with one fell swoop was now in his hand, he waited for the masses in front of him to calm ahead of leading off with the same first sentence he used at every event.


“Even as a child I realized I had a gift,” and again the speaker received a long and noisy ovation.


Continuing once they had quieted down some, “And that gift was the ability to control all that happens to me simply by how I perceived those events. It was Friedrich Nietzsche, the nineteenth-century philosopher, who purported that what doesn’t kill us—only makes us stronger. Sadly, Nietzsche knew only half the truth, my children. The other half of the truth is that how we perceive that which doesn’t kill us is equally important. Depending upon what we do with what happens to us, and we do have the power to take control of our perception of events, will determine the degree that each event may strengthen us. But as long as you are able to learn from, to take away something, anything, you then have the ability to then alter the way you perceive what has already happened. And that, my friends—is the power, and the power is the gift!


“Never abandon a book unread that you’ve begun; a show you’re watching fully viewed; a piece of music not completely heard; an idea totally thought out. Once you start something—see it through to the end—and no matter how good or bad something is, damn it, be sure to take the lesson offered from the experience and learn from it. Look at everything that happens to you in this life as a…”


It was right about then that the astrodome sound system emitted several loud crackles and a few dips in overall volume level followed by a couple of banshee-like shrieks of feedback until the audio tech had it under control once more and the orator could continue.


“Well, hot holy monkey love, what was that? Can you all hear me up there in the nosebleed section of seats in this stadium? You can? Good… Because what I’m about to tell you next is in of itself you reason you paid such a large chunk of your hard-earned cash to be here listening to me speak tonight. Am I right?”


Then seconds later there was the roar of the spectators, the crack of a rifle shot, the destruction of a human body, the slow-motion sinking of that body to the dais floor, the witnessing of the life quickly bleeding out of someone in the final throes of death, and then the eerie flashing in synchronization of the arena’s scoreboard’s, four-word message: EVERYTHING IS A GIFT!


The next day most of the local newspapers shared the same headline: EVERYTHING IS A GIFT! Below the headline was an acceptable-for-all-ages edited G-rated version of the photo of Ralston Jeffers dead on the stage but was from a perspective that neither the torn, destroyed flesh nor the many pints of blood that had bled out from it were visible. All one could kind of make out in the picture was Jeffers’ crumpled corpse. Only one tabloid, in order to peddle more papers, sunk low enough to run with this headline banner: HOT HOLY MONKEY LOVE!


What the publications did unanimously agree upon was local police had not a clue as to the identity of the shooter or a motive for the public execution. When Emmett Wiley finally came out from under the cloud of the sedatives he was given after enduring the massive shock of watching his friend and boss die before his eyes, and had recovered enough to be interviewed by both police and press, was that he had no idea of what the message was that RJ almost shared with the world. Nor did he know who had taken control of the facility’s huge electronic message boards.


During those repeated interviews Mr. Wiley consistently claimed that with the exception of the first sentence Mr. Jeffers spoke to the audience on the last night of his life, he was unsure of what his employer was talking about, much less than where it was leading. The tour manager swore that in past appearances Ralston had never used the phrase, “Everything is a gift.” And still to this very day what happened that night remains a mystery—and those who heard about the incident still remain mystified.


So, go ahead, go ahead and just ask any cop on the force and they’ll tell you; from our perspective, it’s just is what it is until it ain’t anymore…



July 31, 2021 14:26

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38 comments

Francis Daisy
11:42 Aug 03, 2021

Well, hot holy monkey love! What a great story! Great suspense! Well done!

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Stevie B
11:50 Aug 03, 2021

Amy, thank you so much!

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Miriam Ngatia
23:50 Aug 14, 2021

The problem with good stories, is you can't stop thinking about them! This was so good!

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Stevie B
23:52 Aug 14, 2021

Thanks Miriam. Comments like yours' make writing easier.

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Tanisha Kumar
05:28 Aug 14, 2021

The story was so gripping and the flow was so smooth! Thoroughly enjoyed reading it!

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Stevie B
10:48 Aug 14, 2021

Thank you Tanisha for taking time time to read it and sharing your kind comment with me.

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Rhi Parry
13:01 Aug 13, 2021

Amazing story!

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Stevie B
13:17 Aug 13, 2021

Rhi, thank you very, very much!

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Michelle Gregory
18:20 Aug 12, 2021

Well done! Descriptions and characters were "oof" that's all I got, lol.

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Stevie B
18:47 Aug 12, 2021

Thank you ,Michelle, and what you've got is more than enough to get me through another day of writing!

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Eve Y
23:37 Aug 11, 2021

This was such a thrilling story with such vivid descriptions! It was very well written. I especially like this paragraph: "Ralston was already attired in the clothes he normally favored for these events; white silk Hugo Boss suit....a stickpin that his third ex-wife had made for him early in their marriage and before they divorced." I could really picture Ralston and his attire in my mind given your vivid descriptions. Great job!

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Stevie B
23:56 Aug 11, 2021

Thank you, Eve. It's a pleasure to not only know what I've written is being read, but appreciated.

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Eve Y
00:33 Aug 12, 2021

Of course! I'm always happy to leave feedback! If you're ever looking for a story to read, I'd love it if you could take a look at my stories too. :) Thanks!

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Stevie B
10:47 Aug 12, 2021

Eve, will do.

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Emma Taylor
08:33 Aug 11, 2021

Excellent just excellent!! Loved it.

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Stevie B
10:13 Aug 11, 2021

Emma, thank you for you excellent comment. Your kind words are much appreciated.

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Tinu Baby
05:13 Aug 10, 2021

Oh my gosh this is amazing i loved it so much. The suspense was my god amazing.

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Stevie B
11:35 Aug 10, 2021

Tinu, thank you for your kind words of encouragement.

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Connor Smith
11:36 Aug 09, 2021

Really interesting story, also I really like how detailed and suspenseful this was. Really enjoyed reading this beautiful story!!

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Stevie B
11:40 Aug 09, 2021

Thank you for reading, voting, and commenting, Connor!

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03:14 Aug 09, 2021

My favorite part of the story was when the scoreboards flashed "Everything is a gift"--it was so unexpected and strange; it gripped my attention. I usually like my mysteries solved, but you built up the suspense so well that I can't imagine being satisfied with any other ending. Great story!

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Stevie B
11:21 Aug 09, 2021

Phoenix, thank you for your feedback,

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Ruth Porritt
04:29 Aug 07, 2021

Hello Stevie, I saw that you had written a new tale, and I went (internally) ooh, goody! :) Lol, seriously, part of me is from the '50's, I think. Stand-outs in this excellent tale: I really loved the pacing of the following paragraph and the way the words sound when read aloud: (or as an internal monologue) "The next day most of the local newspapers shared the same headline: EVERYTHING IS A GIFT! Below the headline was an acceptable-for-all-ages edited G-rated version of the photo of Ralston Jeffers dead on the stage but was from a pers...

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Stevie B
13:26 Aug 08, 2021

Ruth, Always wonderful to hear from you and thanks for your kind words. As a character good old RJ was an amusing one, albeit, short-lived. This story was mostly complete and one that I had laying around for awhile now, and in it's original form only offered two main characters: Jeffers and Wiley. I'm usually working on a half-dozen or more writing projects at a time so if I get temporarily stuck on one I can work on any of the other ones, and then hopefully return to the impasse with new ideas and perspectives. Upon seeing what was request...

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Ruth Porritt
06:29 Aug 22, 2021

Hey Stevie, Apologies for the length of time that my reply has taken. (I am back to my day job full-time, and am writing part-time, now.) Cool! I also start writing projects and then save them so I can go back to them at another point in time. (I have about 6 different ones on my desktop, now, and probably have some others in random files.) I also use stuff I've already mostly completed, and then I tweak it a bit. (to fit a Reedsy prompt) I've gotta watch 'The Great Lebowski'. I always adore Jeff Bridges' acting, and I have heard a lot a...

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Stevie B
12:39 Aug 22, 2021

Dear Ruth, No apologies necessary. Life must always comes first. In fact, I sometimes feel my life often gets in the way of my drinking... Having lived through the 60s - 70s (and of course all the decades since) I truly can attest they certainly were lots of fun, but thankfully, these days I feel there's nothing more fun then the present. As to knowing the how a story turns out and ends, I think it would be analogous to knowing how you die; you'd go through life dying instead of living. And personally, I love living! But to hop off that ph...

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Annalisa D.
17:42 Aug 04, 2021

This was a really neat idea and interesting mystery to try to piece together. I like reading open endings sometimes because there really are a lot of things that go unanswered and it works well for this story.

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Stevie B
19:12 Aug 04, 2021

Thank you Annalisa for your comment. You're right; in reality not all of our mysteries end with an answer.

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07:44 Aug 01, 2021

What an array of varied views about a single incident witnessed by thousands. I liked the narrative flow and the POV switchover. Good effort, Stevie.

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Stevie B
11:07 Aug 01, 2021

Neel, thank you for taking the time to read it and to share your supportive and kind words with me.

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Keya J.
07:10 Aug 01, 2021

It's quite interesting Stevie. I loved the way you described the motion of the bullet through Ralston's head and the consequences followed by. At few points, I felt the prompt's topic weaken but the rest is just great. I liked your way of writing and choice of words.

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Stevie B
11:10 Aug 01, 2021

Thank you, Keya, your words mean the world to me!

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Stevie B
18:53 Jul 31, 2021

AUTHOR'S NOTE: While I wasn't quite comfortable with this week's Prompt categories I feel that artistic discomfort can be a healthy incentive to stretch and strengthen our writing skills. Not quite sure if I adequately measured up to the task, but nonetheless I enjoyed trying. Thank you once again Laura (Reedsy) for making these wonderful weekly opportunities available for all of us scribbling children here to participate and interact with one another. You're a credit to the craft!

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Keya J.
12:15 Aug 01, 2021

totally agreed!

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Stevie B
13:54 Aug 01, 2021

Well, then thank you for being agreeable!

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Dhwani Jain
16:12 Aug 06, 2021

New Story! Reviews are appreciated!!!

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Stevie B
16:13 Aug 06, 2021

Will check it out.

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Dhwani Jain
16:17 Aug 06, 2021

Thanks!

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