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Crime Romance Mystery

Boris stared intensely at his lit cigarette, watching smoke trail off its tip. He was supposed to have quit those damn cigs for good, but this last month had hit him like a truck. He needed something to take the edge off.

A month ago he lit his first cig in two years after he received the notice. He had fallen behind on payments for his shop before, but this was different. He was way in over his head.

Boris told himself it was only temporary, that he’d find a way to get out of debt once his store brought in customers again. But the neighborhood kept changing, and his business kept declining.

So when two men came knocking at his door one day and presented an offer that would save his business and keep him out of financial ruin, what choice did he have? All they wanted was to store some of their merchandise in the back of his shop. That was all. That was all it was supposed to be, at least.

What a desperate idiot he was. Of course this was a part of some big underground market. Though even once he began to get curious and suspicious, once he began to get an idea about what was really going on, nothing changed. He could have turned them over to the police. He could have figured out more and sent an anonymous tip about where one of their deals was going down. But no. Boris did nothing.

The cigarette wasn’t taking the edge off tonight. It was only another reminder of his mistakes. Then Boris heard the footsteps.

There was nothing unusual about footsteps, not normally. But these were different. The gait was practiced and methodical. The footfalls of someone with an agenda. One who knew where they wanted to go and needed to be there at a certain time. Someone up to no good.

Boris should have seen the signs. Perhaps he did. It was easier to say he didn’t, less guilt that way. Lord knows he had enough of that. He should have moved away, perhaps. Though he couldn’t even manage that option. Instead, he took another hopeless puff of his cigar, which still failed to ease his pain.

The last thing he saw was the glimmer of a knife held by a black-gloved hand.

Jenkins had been tipped off that the killer would be here tonight.

The restaurant was a quaint, dimly-lit romantic sort of place which offered the right setting for a quiet date without the price tag that went along with most locations of the sort. So many killings were crimes of passion that he supposed it made sense. Still, if there was anything that killed the romantic mood, it was knowing that a murderer lurked amongst the starry-eyed lovers, waiting to strike.

The department knew scarcely little about the suspect. There were a few theories as patterns began to emerge in their victims, but it was only hearsay. The only thing Jenkins knew for sure was that the killer wore a black glove over their left hand.

It took him most of the night, but he had eventually nailed down the suspects to one amongst a couple sitting at the table right next to him. He was able to check the hands of all the other couples except those two.

Neither had lifted their left hand from under the table the entire night.

So Jenkins sat nearby, alone at a couples restaurant, something he knew he would be laughed at for by Sheila when he went back to the station tomorrow. Despite how often he was the butt of Sheila’s jokes, he much preferred listening to her teasing humor than waiting in extended suspense to catch a serial killer.

What Jenkins could gather from what little of the conversation he had been listening to so far was that they appeared to be writers. Or at least one appeared to be a writer, or under the pretense of being one, perhaps. The couple consisted of one male and one female. The male was a handsome man in his mid to late twenties. Fine jawline, easy smile, fit build but not athletic per se. He wore a typical collared shirt to look good for his date with neat blonde hair and caucasian features.

The woman, mid-twenties, wore a light pink-purple dress. If Jenkins had to assign a color to it he’d say lavender. It was light enough that it wouldn’t attract too much attention, just as the man’s colored shirt was rather plain. Both weren’t incredibly confident in their appearance nor did they wish to stand out. From the awkwardness that began their conversation, he guessed that they both hadn’t been on a date in a while. The woman had mid-length brunette hair, a rather small stature, and a shy smile which crept its way onto her face as the conversation continued.

“It’s an escape from reality, especially with all the shit that’s been happening lately. I just need a release.” That was the man, though Jenkins hadn’t caught what he was referring to.

The woman nodded, “I agree wholeheartedly. I think there are ways for those escapes to not just be for us, but to make real change.”

“Oh certainly. Was it hard to reach the level of skill you’ve obtained in your profession?” The man asked.

“It was, but isn’t everything? It just takes planning and practice. The first time I went in blind, gods, what a mess that was.” She chuckled, embarrassment tinging her cheeks.

“For real! I was the same way my first time too. I was so in over my head. Fortunately, I’ve learned a lot since then.”

Jenkins hoped that the tip he received was wrong. That neither of them was the killer, they seemed nice enough. He just hoped they were talking about writing, or perhaps something more amorous that maybe shouldn’t be addressed in a public location. Anything but murder.

The woman spoke again, “Tell me about it. I plan compulsively now. Yes, every once in a while I let whim strike me, but the results are much better when I plan.”

“Do you think that you’ll keep at it for the rest of your life?” The man inquired.

“I hope to be good enough to be a professional one day, but right now it's just a side gig.” She answered.

“I get that. It’s not really about the money for me. Sure it's a nice bonus, but even if there wasn’t any benefit I’d still do it.”

Jenkins wished he felt that way about his work (if that was indeed what they were talking about). There was a time when he did truly love law enforcement. But in this city, every criminal caught didn’t feel like a victory. He knew they would never stop the corruption that was truly destroying the city.

“Do you think you’ll keep at it for the rest of your life?” The woman asked.

The man took a moment to think, “I’m not sure. Honestly, I don’t think I could stop. It fulfills an element of freedom and control that I don’t have in my everyday life. Without it, I’d be a mess. Before I found this outlet my friendships were falling apart, I got laid off work, it was… not something I wish to relive.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. It’s nice to hear that you’re getting back out there. I don’t get out enough myself. This is the first date I’ve had in over two years.”

“Three years for me. I just didn’t know what people would think of me, it's hard to explain to them my passions without them assigning some stereotype. I do get out there and have fun, at least I try. I’m not just some weirdo locked in their room.”

Jenkins glanced downward. He hated this part of the job. It felt so intrusive listening in on other people’s conversations, especially this one where they were confiding in each other. He just hoped they’d show their hands soon so he could confirm it was a false lead.

She met the man’s gaze, giving him a reassuring smile, “Hey… I don’t think that. I think you’re lovely. And your looks don’t hurt either!”

A faint blush tinged the man’s cheeks, “Oh, you flatter me! But yeah, that’s why I haven’t been dating much. I almost didn’t show up tonight, I got so nervous. I was worried what you might think of me.”

“Oh tell me about it. I nearly had a nervous breakdown! I saw your profile picture and knew you were out of my league. I mean, gods, I thought the minute I didn’t live up to your expectations I was through.”

“I’m sorry, I’ll change my profile to something less intimidating. But you should give yourself more credit. You have charming eyes and an easy smile, there are few things more attractive than being genuine.”

“Stop it, you poet! I’m a persistent blusher. Once it starts I’ll be red the whole evening! And no, please don’t change your profile pic. I love it. I really do.”

“Alright, but you can always change your mind.”

She gasped, “Always? You mean?”

“If you’d like to I’d um…” His blush returned, “like to do more things with you.”

She beamed, “Yes! This has been incredibly fun. Thank you for this.”

Jenkins watched closely as the pair finished up. Soon they would leave their seats, and he would have a full view of both their hands at last.

The man smiled, “Though you have to promise to let me watch you work next time, alright?”

The woman glanced downward bashfully, “It’s not as exciting as people think, the results are… a bit all over the place too. But I’ll figure out something, I want us to share our passions.”

“I don’t know, my work isn’t for the faint of heart.”

They began rising from their seats.

“I’ve read Cujo. I can handle it.”

“Read?” asked the man, withdrawing his left hand from under the table, his hand clad in a black glove.

“Yeah, wait, is there a movie version?”

“Uh.. something like that…” The man sighed, looking down at his hand. 

Jenkins cursed under his breath. Why did the tip have to be right?

The woman gave the man a concerned glance, “Everything alright?”

He waved his hand dismissively, “Sorry, lost my train of thought. I don’t know how long this will last, but know that tonight has meant a lot to me, truly. Whatever happens, I promise no harm to you.”

“I get it. You don’t need to hammer on disclaimers. Message received ‘Stephen King,’ your work may cause psychological harm. And, know this night has meant a lot to me too… thank you.”

“That’s not what I… um... never mind. Can I walk you home?”

“I’d thought you’d never ask.” The woman smiled, removing her left hand from within her purse, covered in a black glove.

Jenkin’s eyes widened. A mixture of relief and panic washed over him. Two black gloves? Which one of them was the killer? Could it possibly be both?

He trailed the pair home and was relieved that neither was the victim of the other. Now that he had two suspects, the rest was a problem for another day. Damn. He needed a drink.

Jenkins made his way over to the nearest bar. Though he regretted lingering in the alley nearby when he noticed he was being followed by a figure wearing a black glove.

May 08, 2022 05:43

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8 comments

06:03 May 15, 2022

Come on man, don't hold out on me! Whodunnit? Or, if you're not gonna come right out and say it, at least give us a hint... Well-written though. Seemed like you were going for the 'noir' feel? If so, maybe you wanna ham it up even more? You know: Jenkins' trilby was angled low, hiding his tired and craggy features. He lifted it just a nudge with his forefinger to get a better view of the guy. Just a nice guy who'd donned his driving gloves before reaching his vehicle? Or were those the tools in trade of a killer? He coughed and spa...

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19:40 May 22, 2022

Hi Sean, As requested I am back to do a critique for you - let me start by saying that I find the most useful crit to be that which points out areas for improvement, so that's what I try to do for others. If you disagree with anything I say please feel free to ignore it - if you would like to discuss anything please respond to the comment and I will be happy to have a conversation. Your opening line is interesting and grabs attention: Boris stared intensely at his lit cigarette, watching smoke trail off its tip. It introduces the charact...

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Sean Miller
02:18 May 24, 2022

Thank you so much for your feedback! For the plot issues, I can probably add a blurp saying there had been more killings which is how the cop learned about the glove. As for the hands under the table, I considered that but wasn't sure if it mattered, I'll put more stock in things like that disrupting realism going forward. Perhaps they could be in a park perhaps with their hand in their pocket? I'll have to think about that. The lavender part was sort of a character choice with Jenkins because he really doesn't know much about women's fash...

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18:26 May 24, 2022

Hi Sean, no problem. You mention adding a blurb. I'd generally advise against it for a short story. A prologue in a novel, if that's what you're thinking of, will immediately divide an audience. Some people really hate that. It's not the same problem with a short story exactly, but adding a separate bit of story when you only have a short story seems wrong. Instead you could build in some exposition through dialogue or a thought process of your detective character to show the reader the backstory. As for realistic story, it's really impor...

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Sean Miller
22:11 May 26, 2022

Thanks for the clarification! By parallelism I mean something like "The clouds wept. The children wept." or something along those lines. Essentially what I'm thinking of, whether or not that's the right word for it, is using the same structure for both lines where it could be combined. You could say instead, "The clouds and children wept." It would be more efficient, but stylistically, there might be some cases, where being less word-efficient could have more impact, at least in my mind.

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08:31 May 27, 2022

Hi, yes, I agree. Where you need words for style or effect then you wouldn't cut them. You just need to look out for redundancy more than anything, and in those cases the repeated words would not be redundant.

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15:22 May 22, 2022

Hi, I got this in critique circle - if you would like me to leave a full critique let me know by replying to this comment.

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Sean Miller
18:35 May 22, 2022

If you'd like to I'd definitely appreciate the feedback!

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