David O Millman, Agent, looks down at the box that has been dumped at his feet. He’s picked up the parcel at a local combination bowling alley, bar and post office that he uses for anonymous deliveries.

He lifts the box and walks out with it. It’s not very heavy, probably mostly digital stuff and not a lot of paper. He loads it onto the back of his folding bicycle and pedals off to the nearest appropriate space to take a look.

That space turns out to be a small square between two buildings, consisting of a circular path and a series of tables with chess boards printed on them. Several of the tables are the sites for current chess games, but the rest are unoccupied. Agent Millman chooses one and has a seat.

He pries the top off the box. It’s as he thought, not a lot of paper and mostly digital drives. He picks one up and looks at the side of it. It’s printed with a logo and the words, “Vertical Industries.”

The few papers that are in the box appear to be documents pertaining to recent experiments, some of which were successful and others which failed. He scans for fatalities but does not see any listed. So this is not a murder or a wrongful death situation, it would appear.

“So, what am I supposed to be investigating?” Millman says to no one. A thin man at a nearby table moves his chess piece as his much rounder friend watches.

Around the corner he hears voices, people yelling. Somebody has abandoned a white van right in the middle of the intersection. There’s yellow dust floating around it, and the guys who are supposed to be driving look to be out cold. Several people get out of their vehicles and begin pushing the van to the side, holding shirts over their faces to keep from getting knocked out by the fumes. The van’s rear doors flop around.

The investigation from EarthAdmin will have to wait until Millman can get back to his apartment, or Mr. Green’s apartment really, to read the digital stuff and find out what Vertical Technologies has to do with anything.



Top 25 was yay, top 10 was the ultimate goal, so then to get an award is happy dance and icing on the cake. Many thanks to the judges, from Flash Fiction Online. Go read all the finalists at Flash! Friday Fiction.

The photo prompt was:

Here’s my story:


I saw you when you brought the baby home.

You laid her in her crib, and if I peeked with one eye I could make out the rounded top of her tiny head. She had skin as alabaster white as the plaster under my fingernails.

I felt the house hum with excitement over your new child. I bet your heart is soaring, the way mine did when I finally saw that first pin prick of light, beaming through the indifferent dark of the walls.

Will she make you proud, your daughter? Will you be kind to her when she breaks your favorite dish?

When she cries, will you quiet her with rocking or with boards and a coat of paint?

I want to sit in a square of sunlight on the rug and play. I want to forget about myself until you call me sweetly to dinner. But I mustn’t be greedy.

Some day, perhaps you will push open the door to her room. She will sit cross-legged, toy trains in her fists.

My hair will be in pigtails and I’ll have my flowered dress pulled down over my knees. I’ll set the last piece of track in place to make a loop around the rug.

Then we will go outside and run in the grass. I will push the swing for your girl.

No, I mustn’t wish for that. Wishing is for weak children who don’t know how to be quiet and careful.

But if I scrape away just a little bit more, maybe I can see her eyes. I wonder what color they are.

I want to reach out and stroke her cheek.

I can hold the dish towel for you, drying each plate and setting it atop the stack on the table. Like I once did for my mother.

I hear you coming up the stairs with light, quick footsteps. You have no hammer and no nails, no plaster and no paint. Only your hands to lift your daughter.

I close my eyes while you sing her to sleep, her breath and my breath rising and falling.


Sam and Rebecca sit opposite each other inside a van. There are no windows at the rear. They can see very little of where they are going through the windshield. Most of the thugs who arrested them have stayed behind for other jobs, two of them sit up front to escort them to… wherever they are going.

“So, private arresting services?” Sam says. “Are there private police and courts and such too? I’ve never seen this.”

“Yeah, it’s made up,” Rebecca answers. “People hire these guys as security, or to rid them of someone they want gone, or to ‘arrest’ people. Except it’s not an arrest. It’s a relocation.”

“I wonder where we are being relocated to,” Sam says.

“It would help if you explained why so many people seem to want to bust you,” Rebecca says. “Someone out there is very convinced that you killed your mother. They are not easily dissuaded.”

“I didn’t kill my mother,” Sam says. “I rescued her. Then a lot of really complicated stuff happened.”

“Really complicated stuff doesn’t constitute an explanation,” Rebecca says. “Look, we’re going to have to talk or fight or hack our way out of wherever we are going. These guys up front, they don’t care. They just get paid for turning us in. If I don’t know what we’re dealing with, I can’t help you. Remember I said, I may have to kick your ass if you’re not straight with me.”

The van comes to a stop in an intersection. They are downtown again. Lights of many colors reflect on the front windows and spill into the van’s interior. The traffic is at a standstill.

A loud bang on the side of the van. A case of road rage?

“What was that?” Sam asks. The thug on the passenger side rolls his window down, probably to have a discussion with whoever is doing the banging.

A cloud of yellow dust shoots in the window, right into the two men’s faces. They immediately slump down, unconscious.

“Crap!” Sam yells. “Cover your face!”

Sam and Rebecca pull their shirts up over their noses, but before they can even breathe any of the dust the back doors of the van fly open. Three people, two men and a woman, stand there in impeccable suits in an identical navy blue color. Casino personnel.

“You will come with us,” the woman says. They step back to allow Sam and Rebecca to disembark.

“That’s what this is? I’m being arrested by the Casino?” Sam asks. “I haven’t done anything… worth arresting me. Or relocating me. Or whatever this is.”

“Please get out, now, or risk breathing very toxic fumes,” the woman says.

Sam and Rebecca climb out and the van is left in the intersection, occupied by a yellow cloud and two unconscious thugs.




“Woa! WOA!” Sam yells. “What the heck is this?”

“Kindly unhand my patron, sir,” Darby says, stepping out from behind the bar. “This establishment is a no-fly zone for aggression. You hear me?”

“You don’t understand,” the enormous man says through his teeth. “This here is a wanted fugitive. And a slippery one at that. Can’t let him go for one second.” Enormous has pinned Sam to the wall, upsetting a collection of beer glasses in the process.

Rebecca presses a gun into the neck of Enormous. “Lay off, mister. This guy isn’t your problem. I am.” Enormous doesn’t budge. With one arm he holds Sam against the wall while he fishes a paper out of his pocket. Sure enough, it’s the same guy. Wanted. On suspicion of murder.

“Take – this – OUT.” Darby says, to the side of Rebecca’s head. They all stand there, looking like a statue, for a good few seconds.

“Fine,” Enormous says, and lets Sam down. He shoves him from the back toward the new saloon doors. Rebecca backs off a little but keeps her gun in her hand.

“You fire that weapon in the vicinity, I’ll give you problems,” Darby says to Rebecca. “We arrest people in our fashion out this way.” Rebecca gives him a look and follows the two men out front. Her gun is still in her hand.

Enormous retains a hold on the neck of Sam’s jacket. “I got good information that you’re worth a nice sum, mister,” he says.

“How about you just walk away, and you get to keep your body parts,” Rebecca says, raising her gun to point it at his ear.

Five more very large people materialize from the crowd, surrounding them.

“Brought some hired help,” Enormous says. “Why don’t you just take your firearm there and put it away.”

“What is this, Sam?” Rebecca asks.

“Not sure,” Sam says. “Could be a number of things, I suppose.”

“That’s not helpful,” Rebecca says.

The group gather around Sam and begin to escort him away with some force.

“You said you’re hired help? Arresting services?” Rebecca asks.

“Yep,” one of them says over his shoulder.

Rebecca walks back into Darby’s.

“Hello sir, you promised arrest for the discharge of a firearm?”

“I did,” Darby replies.

Rebecca points her gun at the ceiling and fires it. Bits of plaster come down.

“Guards!” Darby yells.

One of the hired hands pokes his head over the saloon doors. “You called?”

“Arrest this woman,” Darby says, “for menacing my establishment with her firearm.”

“Right-o,” the man says. Rebecca smiles as the men grab her and head off after Sam.