The Citizen (thecitizen) wrote in theshortstory,
The Citizen
thecitizen
theshortstory

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Assignment 1

Crappy crap crap story. That's what it is. It has potential, but it needs a solid reworking from front to back, a good ending, and at least 3 more pages. And some character work.

Guh. Oh well. It's 6 pages and my teacher only asked for a 2 page scene.


Johnny Black’s mother knew he was destined for a strange existence from the day he came into the world, hollering bloody murder at the injustice of being dragged from his mother’s womb. His fingers, wide-spread and shaking with rage, numbered eleven. Elisabeth ignored the doctor’s stare and wouldn’t allow him to remove the extra digit. It was a sign from above, a sign that her son was special, and she knew better than to argue with the Almighty.

She changed her mind, however, when he came home from second grade with a black eye and bloody nose, swearing revenge on those 10-fingered boys. Johnny was hauled off to the doctor, and came home with a new scar on his left hand and the finger in a sealed glass jar. His mother took it away from him, despite his protests, and he never saw it again.

"Happy birthday, freak boy, and happy halloween,” Thomas said as he came in Johnny’s office, bearing a load of papers. “The ancient spirits are restless, ghouls are on the loose, the candy companies are rolling in the profits, and the missing persons file is bigger than ever. I can’t even remember the last case you finished, can you?”
Johnny laughed, rising from his desk to help his partner with the files. “It was only two weeks ago,” he corrected. “The estranged wife business. And I got a nice commission off of that, don’t you forget.” He dropped the papers on his desk, and took the first folder off the top, perusing through it absently.
“Well, you haven’t been getting rid of the work as fast as it’s coming in,” replied Thomas, sitting on the windowsill. “We’re doing to put the police department out of business, the rate we’re going. Anyway, what you’re looking at there is the newest case. A couple from Richmond have gone and lost their only child – 21 year old college girl, going to Virginia Tech. The cops are on it, too, but they’re pretty sure it’s just a runaway. The Snows disagree, and that’s why we’re on it. They think it’s a kidnaping. The girl’s kind of a funny lookin’ kid. She’s a whatchamacallit... an albino.”
“Have they received any threats?”
“None yet.”
“Got enough money for a nice ransom?”
“More than enough.”
“Hm. Well, I’ll get on it, soon as I get organized.”
“Good boy, Johnny, I knew I could count on you,” Thomas said, grinning cheekily. He got up and walked back across the room to the door. “Do good on this case and I’ll think about hiring you a pretty assistant.”
“If you can arrange both smart and pretty, I’d be grateful,” commented Johnny, leaning back in his chair and leafing through a few pages. “The dumb pretty ones are nothing but more work. Haven’t you figured that out yet?”
“You need to lighten up, you know that?” Thomas laughed. “Catch you at lunch, detective.” The door latched softly behind him.
Johnny stretched and settled down to work, spreading the papers of the file out on his desk. He wrote his ideas carefully down on a notepad as they came to him, and before long he had a concise list of people he needed to interview before continuing the investigation. As he reached for the telephone in order to start making calls, it rang.
He jumped, and then answered it. “Hello?”
“John Simon Black?”
“Speaking. Who’s this?”
“This is Captain Barnabas, from the Middlesex police department. I’m afraid I have some bad news to report to you, son.” The man’s voice grew weary.
Johnny straightened up in his seat, pressing the telephone closer to his ear. “What is it?”
“Your mother’s dead, Mr. Black,” said the captain, getting straight to the point. “One of the neighbors noticed a break-in, and she must’ve surprised the intruders. I’m sorry.”
There was a long pause while Johnny slumped in his seat, looking up at the ceiling.
“Hello? Hey, are you alright?”
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll be fine. Look, I’ll take the afternoon off and just run down there ... try not to move too much stuff until I do, okay?”
“I can’t promise anything, but I’ll try,” replied Captain Barnabas. “Sorry again.”
“Bye.” Johnny hung up the phone without waiting for a reply, and then sat limply in his seat for a moment, his fingers running over the old scar on his left hand. He felt like he should be crying, he owed at least that much to his mother. Instead, he just felt blank, like he was struggling to wake up in the morning and couldn’t quite figure out whether he was still dreaming or not. He tried to remember the last thing he said to his mom, whether he had remembered to say “I love you” when they last parted. He didn’t think so.
He could remember what she said, though. Take care. She always said that when he left, ever since he could remember. The world’s a dangerous place, Johnny, don’t you dare get careless. You’ll come to a bad end, and you’ll only have yourself to blame. Take care.
Johnny was startled out of his reverie when Thomas came in the door, singing a terribly tuneless rendition of “Happy Birthday” while carrying in a cake. He stopped midway through the verse when he noticed Johnny’s expression. “What’s up?” he asked.
“Oh. I just got a telephone call,” Johnny gestured at the phone absently. “From the cops...”
“They buggin’ you about the Johnson case already?” Thomas interrupted, setting the cake down on an empty corner of the desk. “Bastards. We’ve gone through all the red tape, we can’t help if they’ve fouled up the case by tripping over their own two feet every three seconds.”
“It isn’t that. Something else. There was a break-in at my mom’s house... I know I’m behind in my work, Thomas, and I’m not keeping up my end of the business, but I’ve really got to take the rest of the day off. Put a slice of the cake in the fridge for me, I’ll be back tomorrow.”
Thomas looked concerned. “You’ve been keeping up fine, Johnny, don’t worry about it. I’ll take on some of your work until you get this all settled. Is your mom alright?”
“No, she’s dead,” Johnny answered, trying to inject some emotion into his voice. It came off rather flat. He stood up from his desk and shrugged on suit coat, patting the pocket to make sure his keys were still there. “See you later.”
“Take care, Johnny.”


The cops had done a neat job of it, at least. The house was cordoned off, and it didn’t look like much of the original crime scene had been disturbed. Johnny ducked under the yellow tape and walked through the open door of his childhood home. It was a mess. Windows were broken, furniture tipped over. The closet doors were all open, their contents spilling out into the hallway.
He pushed his hands into his pockets, and walked down the hallway into the kitchen. There was the outline of where his mother fell, though her body had already been removed to a morgue. Rusty blood spattered the floor. She must have been cooking when the intruder came in, as there was a pot of potatoes on the stove, boiled dry.
“It’s not pretty, is it?”
Johnny turned around to see a stocky man in a dark blue uniform with salt-and-pepper hair. He nodded. “Yeah.”
“We’ve got some prints, I just sent a guy to run them through the lab, see if we’ve got the perp on file.”
“Are you Captain Barnabas?”
“That’s me,” agreed the cop, sticking his thumbs through his belt loops and looking around at the scene. “We thought at first it was a robbery, but nothing seems to have been taken. Your mother’s jewelry, the silver, the electronics – all untouched. Maybe the killer was looking for something specific. Do you have any idea what it might be?”
“No, we don’t have anything especially interesting,” Johnny said, shaking his head. “No enemies that I can think of, no REASON for this.” He walked out of the kitchen slowly, looking around the living room again. “It’s so strange.”
“We’ll find something, I’m sure,” Captain Barnabas said. “People just don’t break into houses and kill old ladies for no reason. Something will come up in the next few days, just you wait and see.”
“Yeah,” Johnny said, though he wasn’t really listening. We was walking over to the closet at the end of the hall. His mom had kept it locked his entire life, but now it was hanging open, the door frame splintered by violence.
Inside was the usual array of treasures that mothers would keep away from their sons: old boxes of photos, delicate china, love letters, and a number of items that Johnny remembered being confiscated from him when he was small. He frowned thoughtfully and stood on his toes to look over the top shelf.
He had been half-expecting it, but it was still jarring to discover. Something was missing. In the dust of the shelf was imprinted a small circle. “My finger’s gone,” he murmured.
“What?”
He’d forgotten Captain Barnabas was there. “My finger,” he repeated, more loudly. “It’s gone.”
The cop’s gaze flashed to Johnny’s hand, eyebrows gathered in confusion. “What?”
“I was born with six fingers,” explained Johnny, bringing his left hand forward to show the slight scar just to the left of his pinky. “It was removed when I was seven, my mom had caught me getting into fights about it. We got to keep it, of course, the way kids keep their appendixes after they’re removed, but my mom put it up in this closet so I couldn’t get to it. And it’s gone.”
“You sure?” Captain Barnabas asked in disbelief, stepping forward to examine the closet. “Damn. That’s weird. It’s got to be the only thing that’s gone.”
“Yeah,” Johnny answered vaguely, running his hand over the top of his nappy black hair. He needed to get it cut again, before Thomas started bugging him about wearing an Afro. “Well, you guys look like you’re doing a good job... tell me if you get any good leads. I’d better go start getting funeral arrangements and stuff ready.”
“See you later.”
Johnny drove around town for a little while, reluctant to go back to his apartment and even more unwilling to stop by the office. He found, after a while, that he had been going around the same neighborhood for at least half an hour, looping around and around the same block. His thoughts were like that, too. He tried to think about other things, but his attention kept coming back to that finger. Who might have taken it? And why? Not many people even knew about his extra digit, except for those who had known him before second grade, and his close friends and confidants. All he found were dead ends, everywhere he looked. He decided to go back to work, to see if working on a case could get his mind off of it for a while.
Thomas was out doing some investigation of his own, so nobody bothered him when he came in. The Snow file was still on the desk where he had left it, untouched. He picked up the picture of the girl. Mary Margaret Snow was her full name, though a note mentioned that she went by Maggie. Thomas had been right, she did look odd. Pretty, in her own fragile sort of way, but still odd, with long white hair and skin so pale and translucent he could see the veins that crawled across her forehead. He set the picture to the side and flipped through the other papers of the file one more time.
His eye caught something, and he abruptly stopped, pulling the page out of the bottom of the file and examining it more closely. It was a copy of a page from her medical records, noting that she’d been born clubfooted and had returned to the hospital a few weeks after birth to receive corrective surgery. The hospital had been the same one where he received the surgery to remove his extra finger. Moreover, she had been there the same week that he was.
It was an odd coincidence, almost too strange to ignore. The same staff probably helped them, the same knives might’ve even been used in their surgeries. Johnny leaned his chin into the palm of his hand, and examined the page closer. She also had the same pediatrician as he. On impulse, he picked up the telephone and called the doctor’s number, though he didn’t know what he would ask or what he wanted to hear.
He waited through six rings before the answering machine picked up, and hung up without leaving a message. That was strange, too. Why would there be nobody in a doctor’s office in the middle of the day? Somebody ought to have picked up.. He tapped his fingers thoughtfully on the desk, and then tried again. This time it rang only twice before her heard the sound of somebody picking up the phone and forcefully hanging it back up.
Annoyed, Johnny dialed once more. This time the line was dead. He left a scribbled note on the desk to Thomas, and then grabbed his jacket and left.

Dr. Grey’s office was a little out of the way, and the trees cast long shadows by the time Johnny parked his car and stepped out, hunching his shoulders against the October wind that stirred the fallen leaves. The doctor’s car was still there, as one or two others he didn’t recognize. The lights in the small building were out, however.
Johnny knocked cautiously on the door, and then leaned in to listen. He heard a distinct crash, and then silence. He waited impatiently for a few seconds, and then set his hand to the doorknob. He cautiously turned it, and the door opened on squeaking hinges.
“Hello?” he called out, giving his eyes a moment to adjust to the dimmer light inside. None of the overhead lights were on. He reached for a light switch and flicked it up and down a few times. Nothing happened. He took a few cautious steps inward. “Anybody here?”
“You weren’t supposed to come yet!” A voice, low and grating, cried out from the darkness. “I was going to bring you here when the time was right.”
“Who is that?” Johnny asked, squinting and stepping further into the office. He took an involuntary step back when he saw what was there, on the office floor. Dr. Grey was slumped in the corner of the waiting room, his white jacket stained with his own blood. The receptionist was in a similar state, limp in her chair behind the desk. In the furthest corner was a pale figure, white hair falling like a curtain over her face.
Johnny’s gaze traveled slowly up, until he saw a man standing silhouetted in the light from the room’s only window. Both of his hands clasped a gun, which was pointed directly at Johnny.
“Who are you?” Johnny asked, eyeing the gun and holding perfectly still.
“Don’t move, or I’ll shoot,” threatened the gunman.
“I’m not moving.”
“Well, don’t even think about moving.”
“Look, just put down the gun, and..”
“No!”
“Calm down.”
“I won’t! I’m too close!” The gunman shook the weapon threateningly, his eyes darting over the small room. “You weren’t supposed to come until later, I was going to bring you here, Black.”
“How do you know..” Johnny began, but he trailed off when he caught sight of something on the windowsill. It was a small glass jar, sealed tight, full of pickled brine and one bit of dark flesh and bone, much like it had been when it was torn from his hand.
“Oh, I know you, Johnny,” the man said, stepping forward, both his hands gripping his gun so tightly that his knuckles showed white. At last Johnny was close enough to see that the man was dressed in the dark blue uniform of a janitorial worker, a name tag fastened to his shoulder. “Mark Legion”, it read. “I’ve known you for so long. I’ve been watching you.”
“Why?” Johnny craned his neck, trying to see around the man to get a better look at the room.
“Don’t move, demon!” Mark shouted. “I’ve waited twenty-one years to get rid of you and the other one, and I’m going to do it right.” A strange calm overtook the man, and his hands stopped shaking around the gun. “You’re already damned, it’s just a matter of time.”
“You’ve killed at least three innocent people, and you think I’m going to be damned?” Johnny asked, unbelieving. He was still struggling to grasp the situation, it was just too much. Too strange. “What have I done?”
“The Lord will forgive me,” Legion said with unshaken calm. “Theirs was a necessary sacrifice to rid the world of you and her. You can have the sign removed, but you cannot cleanse the mark from your soul! I was in the hospital. I watched the patients suffer as you walked by their rooms, I watched them die while you went into surgery and had it removed. I was going to kill you then, Johnny, but you’ve been such a lucky boy. Found a four-leaf clover walking home from school on the first day back from surgery. Never walked down a dark alley, always had friends with you at all the right times. I could never get you. Mary was easy, but I had to wait until the right time, until I could get both of you at once. I have to do it right. Otherwise you’ll just come back to steal more souls.”
How do you answer a statement like that? Why wasn’t this man put in an insane asylum long ago? How much ammunition was left in that gun? Questions whirled endlessly through Johnny’s head, and he expected that any moment he’d wake up from the weirdest dream he’d ever had.
He had to do something, though. Legion seemed to get calmer and more sure of himself by the moment, and he doubted he could expect any help from outside sources. Johnny ran forward, lowering his shoulder as he prepared to tackle the gunman.
A shot rang through the air, and blinding pain shot through Johnny’s arm. He tripped and stumbled, hitting the ground just short of his target.
“Didn’t I just tell you to hold still, nigger?” Legion demanded, stepping forward to stand over Johnny, a dark sneer on his face. “You aren’t going to ruin my plans. It’s too bad you came early, it would’ve been so much easier for all of us if you’d waited for my call.”
Johnny winced, clasping his left hand over the wound in his arm. If this were the movies, he thought, he’d get up right now and kick the crap out of Legion’s sorry ass. But he wasn’t good-looking enough to be in a movie, and it hurt like hell. He was dizzy, and sick to his stomach, and his limbs felt like lead.
“I knew you’d understand,” Legion smirked, keeping the gun level to Johnny’s face. “And try not to bleed to death before midnight.
“Go to hell,” answered Johnny, hoarsely.
Legion laughed.


If you people give me comments within the next hour and a half or so, I'll be able to edit it before turning it in. I'd still like comments, though, even after that.
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