1. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Past Contest Submissions CLOSED for Contest #169 Theme: "Last Card"

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by GingerCoffee, Jan 19, 2015.

    Short Story Contest # 169
    Submissions & Details Thread
    Theme: "Last Card" courtesy of @DarkTesseract.


    Submissions will be open for 2 more weeks.

    IMPORTANT: PLEASE READ, Thanks

    If you wish to enter the contest post the story here directly in the thread. It will show up as an anonymous author.

    This contest is open to all writingforums.org members, newbies and the established alike. At the deadline I will link to this thread from the voting thread. The winning entry will be stickied until the next competition winner. As always, the winner may also PM me to request the theme of the subsequent contest if he/she wishes.

    Entries do not have to follow the themes explicitly, but off-topic entries may not be entered into the voting.

    Word limit: 500-3000 words
    Deadline for entries: Sunday the 1st of February, 2015 1600 (4:00 pm) US Pacific time

    There is a 10% word-limit leniency at both ends of the scale. Please try to stick within the limit. Any piece outside of the suggested limit may not be entered into the voting.

    If we reach 20 entries, the maximum number of stories for any one contest, I will consider splitting the contest into two. Only one entry per contest per contestant is permitted.

    Try to make all your entries complete and have an ending rather than be an extract from a larger one and please try to stick to the topic. Any piece seemingly outside of the topic will be dealt with in a piece by piece basis to decide its legitimacy for the contest.

    A story entered into the contest may not be one that has been posted anywhere on the internet, not just anywhere on this site. A story may not be posted for review until the contest ends, but authors may seek critiques after voting closes for the contest. Members may also not repost a story anywhere, or bring attention to the contest in any way, until the voting has closed.

    Please remember to give your piece a title and give its word count in brackets [xxx words] at the top of your story.

    If there are any questions, please send me a PM (Conversation). After the voting ends, posting in the thread will re-open for comments.

    ***And thanks to even more long hours put in by our very special mod/member @Wreybies, winners are now awarded with olympic style medals displayed under their avatars.

    Thanks, and good luck!

    Be sure to preview your entry before you hit 'reply'.
    Check italics and bolding as sometimes the end code for bold or italics doesn't copy/paste affecting large stretches of text. If you need to fix the formatting, hit 'control a' to 'select all' and clear all bold and italics code. Then re-add it back in using the board's font controls before you hit 'post reply'. Watch those extra line spaces. Delete them directly from the post before hitting 'post reply'.
     
  2. Lancie
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    Lancie Contributing Member

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    The Pact (1100 words)

    Passport!
    Charlie tore another drawer from his desk and shook the contents onto the bed. He hurled it to one side with the rest scattered on the floor.

    Quivering hands dove through old keys, dead batteries, envelopes and bank statements. Passport! His clammy hands clasped the small leather bound document. He let out a loud sigh. Oh, thank God.

    Charlie whirled around to the small bag he'd shoved some clothes into and tucked the passport into a side pocket. He patted his pockets to locate his wallet, then pulled it out to quickly thumb through the cash inside. He'd closed his two accounts earlier that afternoon. Prickly heat started to intensify on the back of his neck. Charlie tugged the zip closed and hurled himself and the bag downstairs into the front door.

    “Where do you suppose you're going, Charles?”

    Charlie felt the heat rise. Sweat began to seep through his linen shirt. He jiggled the handle but the door didn't move. Oh, God.

    “Not God, Charles,” the voice was velvety and deep. Charlie turned slowly. Down the corridor, in his kitchen, he could see a hooded figure sitting at the table. “Come and sit down. We need to talk.”

    Charlie edged slowly into the florescent light of the kitchen, hugging his bag like a shield. The figure lent forward. A hand slid out from the black fabric and perused the bottled of alcohol that lined the wall.

    “You look like you need a drink. Get a couple of glasses.”

    Without taking his eyes off the figure, Charles fumbled in the cupboard and produced two tumblers.

    “Do you...drink?” Charlie croaked. He watched the pale hand select a bottle of whisky.

    “I partake in most vices. And you always have such nice stuff.”

    Charlie sat heavily, pressing the bag tight against his chest to stop himself from shaking but he could feel his heart beat humming against the leather. He watched the long, slim fingers slide over the bottle like tentacles as he poured the whisky. Charlie waited as the figure raised the glass to his hooded face and took a long sip.

    “What do you want?” Charlie blurted. Sweat slid down his back.

    “It's time, Charles. You know it's time. Where were you going?”

    Charlie shrugged. “Anywhere,” he look down at the glass of whisky. His throat was dry, water would have been better. “I thought I had a bit longer.”

    “No such luck. Everyone thinks that though, so don't worry.” The figure raised the drink back up to his darkened face and finished off the drink. “I tell you what. I'm not unreasonable, and you're a gambling man.” Charlie's eyebrows perked up. “If your card is higher than mine, you get another five years. Best of three. How about that?”

    Charlie nodded. “Alright.”

    “Shake,” the voice demanded. His slender hand reached towards Charlie. They shook, and Charlie felt a crackle of heat run down his arm.

    The figure pulled a pack of cards from his pocket and began to flick them between his hands. He laid six cards on the table and flipped over the first card. “Five of clubs.”

    Charlie moved towards his card. His heart sank. “Two of diamonds.”

    “Two left. Both have to be higher.” The figure rested his fingers on the second card. “Tell me again what her name was.”
    Sudden cold passed over Charlie's body. “Alice,” he whispered. The name tasted sour on his lips.

    “Most people wish for endless riches or power. You surprised me, Charles.” Charlie couldn't see his face, but he sensed he was smiling. The thought made his stomach churn. “You wished for Alice.” The figure flipped his card open. “Seven of diamonds.”

    Charlie tapped his fingers against the bag. He took a deep breath and turned his second card. “Nine of hearts.”

    “Interesting,” the figures low voice growled. “How long did you stay with Alice before you got bored?”

    Anger rumbled in Charlie's stomach, but was quickly swallowed up by his doubt. “Eighteen months.” He swallowed the sickly lump forming in his throat. "I didn't get bored. She wasn't right."

    "She was what you wished for," the figure reminded him coolly.

    He tried to remember the real Alice; the cool, dark haired girl with shining eyes. The girl who made his heart skip uncontrollably whenever she was near. She was laughter and life, but she was going abroad for a year, following her adventurous spirit. Leaving him. He didn't know for how long.

    Not the Alice the figure gave him. The jealous, besotted, creepy shell that made him fear for his life, that crept around after him in the shadows like a ghoul. He should have known, and it sickened him.

    The figure turned his final card. “Six of spades. One more, Charles.”

    Charlie struggled to grip the last card with sweating, trembling fingers. A red Queen gazed at him. His stomach flipped. Oh, God.

    He drew a long, uneven breath and pressed his head against the bad still clinging to his sticky chest.

    “Fair enough,” the figure said. “I'll see you in five years.”

    “Wait,” Charles said suddenly. “Can you put her back to normal? Can you...erase me? What I've done to her? Properly and fairly. No more of this craziness. No more tricks. Just restore the old, happy Alice.”

    The figure lingered a moment, then eventually nodded.

    “Alright. One last card. If it's higher, you put it right and I'll come with you. If it's lower, I'll come with you anyway. It's win-win, isn't it?”

    The figure started to chuckle. “Fine. I'm in a good mood. Last card. I'll even let you deal.”

    Charlie took the cards and shuffled. He tried to picture the time he saw Alice. She'd been thin. Her finger nails were bitten down to the bone, she scratched at her arm and bounced rapidly on her heels. Eyes, dull and unfocused, darted back and forth as she mumbled incoherently. Just a greasy wraith of a woman.

    Charlie put down two cards. “You first,” he said as confidently as he could.

    The figure turned the card. “Nine of hearts. Your turn.”

    With flushed cheeks and his hair slicked to his forehead Charlie turned his last card. He smiled weakly. “Ten of diamonds.” He reached over and picked up the glass of whisky still sat on the table. Lifting it to his lips, he downed it. The sour warmth ran down his throat. “I mean it. No tricks.”

    The figure waved his hand. “It is done. Ready?” he stood, a giant wall of black fabric.

    Charlie nodded. “Let's go.”

    Heat swallowed them up.
     
  3. Fronzizzle
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    Fronzizzle Member

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    A Complete Set [2,661 words]

    Billy stood, staring at his car. It was underneath the carport that came with his six hundred square foot, seven hundred dollar a month apartment. He remembered the brochure with big, bold yellow letters that screamed “Includes Covered Parking!” across the front. With gigantic holes and rotten lumber, it certainly stretched the definition of covered. Billy longed for the day that the remaining wood gave out and it came crashing down, as long as his car wasn't underneath. He liked having a reserved parking spot, but the few boards that were left acted as a funnel when it was raining, dumping water right on his driver side door.

    He slid behind the wheel and shut the door, but didn't bother starting the car; he had no destination yet. As he had done countless times over the last few months, he removed the card from his pocket and examined both the front and the back. Someone was out there – someone special – that deserved it, but who? The question ate at him for months.

    As he posed the question to himself again and again, he started mindlessly flicking the card back and forth across the steering wheel. Subconsciously, he increased the speed, trying to duplicate the sound from his youth when he'd stick a baseball card in his bicycle spokes and cruise around the neighborhood.

    Billy never gave much thought to his fascination with his early childhood. If he had, he would have realized that it was the last time in his life he was truly happy. There were no girlfriends to break your heart, no family members to stab you in the back or bosses to blame their incompetence on you, no overdue bills to pay or hard decisions to make. Things were much simpler, the only concern he had was making it home before the streetlights came on.

    The card in his hand was a 1985 Fleer #5 of Marty Castillo. In the summer of 1984, Billy's dad took him to his first Tiger game. Castillo was a rookie on that team, a once high draft pick that had struggled in previous stints in the majors. Castillo was struggling, getting only a few at-bats a week as a backup but he had the game of his life that night; his third hit of the contest was a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning that won the game.

    Billy became obsessed with the Tigers and Castillo after that, attending as many games as his father would allow and catching the rest on the television or radio. When the season ended with the Tigers crushing the San Diego Padres to win the World Series, Billy and his dad were sitting in left field; the series-clinching out was caught just in front of them.

    Normally too active to concern himself with collecting, Billy went out of his way to gather as many Tiger cards as he could the following spring. His favorite set was the 1985 Fleer; it was the only one he got all the Tigers for, from #1 Doug Bair to #25 Milt Wilcox.

    Now, thirty years later, the only one left was Castillo.

    The other twenty-four had been left with his murder victims.

    Even though he had viewed the card a thousand times, he paused to look at the picture again. Castillo's thick black hair was covering his ears underneath his baseball cap with the old English D on it, the word “Detroit” stretched across his chest. In his batting-glove clad hands was a towel that Castillo was intently focused on, like it held some great secret. Sometimes, Billy wondered if he was looking down to avoid looking him in the eye. If so, who couldn't blame him?

    Despite the near ninety degree temperature, all of the windows remained up. His twenty-five year old Escort – the first and only car Billy ever bought – didn't have air conditioning, and driving with the windows down was too noisy; he was used to being behind the wheel in stifling heat. Besides, the rising temperature and lack of air contributed to his already sour mood, upping his anger and frustration in the process. Billy was okay with this, he could use it as fuel to help him accomplish what needed to be done. Assuming he could think of the right person, of course.

    Billy started drumming the card against the steering wheel again, then stopped and looked at the picture once more. Who was the Marty Castillo in his life? Who was he going to kill and leave this with?

    He felt he did a pretty good job with the previous cards, matching player with victim. His eighty-nine year old grandmother got Darrell Evans, the elder statesmen of that 1984 Tiger team.

    For an ex-coworker he barely knew, Sid Monge, an obscure pitcher that only appeared in nineteen games during his Tiger career.

    The professor that ended his college career? Lance Parrish, the Tigers All-Star catcher that was considered a great game-caller and one of the smartest players on the team.

    Gina, the girl that cheated on him in tenth grade was gifted Kirk Gibson, who jilted the entire Tiger fan base when he left as a free agent after the 1987 season.

    Aurelio Lopez was left with the only random person Billy had ever killed, a rather round Hispanic man that he ran into outside of a strip club.

    On and on it went, a total of twenty-four times.

    But Castillo was different. No matter how Billy looked at it – appearance, statistics, role on team – he couldn't find the right person to relate him to.

    Billy flipped the card over and looked over Castillo's numbers again. Despite hitting only .234 with four home runs, 1984 was a career year for Castillo; he was out of baseball by the end of the 1985 season with a career average of only .190.

    Billy once again ran over the details. Castillo was a man without a position (he split his time among catcher, first base and third base) that did nothing on the field exceptionally well; his fielding and throwing was completely average, his bat even less. And, he was among the slowest runners in the game. Failing to live up to his hype, he couldn't even prove his worth as a bench player. Despite hitting only .234 with four home runs, 1984 was a career year for Castillo. He struggled mightily in 1985 and was finished by the end of the year, out of baseball at a time when most players were just reaching their prime...

    Suddenly, it smacked Billy in the face. How had he missed it? It was so obvious...maybe too obvious, he thought. Smiling, he finally started the car, put it in gear and headed toward his destination.

    * * *

    Once again, Billy sat in his car, looking out the window. This time, though, he was in a nice neighborhood, parked along the curb of a tree-lined street. The Marty Castillo card was sitting on the passenger seat, next to his loaded Ruger 9mm.

    The person he came to visit wasn't home yet, giving Billy time to reflect on his twenty years of killing. From the beginning, he had been meticulous, quick and clever. Not only in his kills but in how he left the baseball card. He wasn't just trying to avoid bringing suspicion on himself, but also keep anyone from realizing that the cards were part of the murder, part of the story. At least until he completed the set, then he didn't care.

    On the first point, Billy knew he was fine. Twenty-four deaths over twenty years and he hadn't as much as been brought in for questioning. Some of it was just plain luck, he knew; if a detective dug deep enough, looked hard enough, he would find that all of the victims had one thing in common: Billy. But Billy was smart, too. He never acted like a suspect, making a point to never raise his voice, never show anger, never make threats. He carried out his kills in diverse ways and at varied locations, making sure not to establish any sort of pattern. Perhaps most importantly, he showed patience; he often waited years to carry out his revenge.

    His most recent victim – in 2014 – was Seth Chambers, a bully that had picked on him and humiliated him in seventh grade. Just under thirty years later, he met his end by the blade of a knife while leaving a bar where he was celebrating a promotion. The police would later find Chambers' briefcase and contents spread out behind a dumpster and chalked up his death to a mugging gone bad. Among the items mixed in with Chambers' was a 1985 Fleer #12 Howard Johnson card.

    Billy was only slightly less confident that the authorities hadn't tied the cards to the murders. How many had they found? Locked up in desk drawers, put in glove boxes in the middle of an owner's manual or hidden in the pages of a book among hundreds on a shelf, the cards were never just left out in the open or sitting on the body. When he had killed the unknown Hispanic man, he took the time to crease and fold the card to artificially age it, then put it in the man's wallet. It was most likely cataloged with his ID, credit cards and family pictures and then forgotten about.

    In many instances, there were no traces of the card left to find. Darrell Evens was ground up and added to his grandmother's last meal, along with some medicine that stopped her heart. Kirk Gibson was crumpled up and shoved in his ex-girlfriend's mouth, then removed after she died and flushed down the toilet. And Jack Morris was burned to ashes, just like the ex-neighbor that had called the police on Billy for playing music too loudly.

    Sometimes, Billy's curiosity would get the best of him and he'd debate ways to try and figure out if the police had connected any of the murders. His self-control would wain and he'd debate contacting the local papers or making an anonymous call to the police department, but he always managed to avoid the temptation; this was how you got caught. And while Billy figured he'd eventually get caught – counted on it, actually – the time wasn't right. Again, not until he completed the set.

    This time – the final time – would be different. No trickery, no deceit. No hiding the card or covering his tracks. It was Marty Castillo, after all, and the last and most important card in the set.

    Billy was shaken from his reverie by the sound of an approaching car. It was a new white Ford Taurus SHO, the car he was waiting for. He slid down in the sit and was unnoticed as the car passed him and turned into a driveway a couple of houses down. After two deep breaths, he counted to ten, tucked the gun and card in his pocket and exited the car.

    He approached the house slowly, making sure to leave enough time for the driver to get inside. Sure enough, as he cleared some tall hedges he glanced to his right just in time to see the garage door close with the Taurus inside.

    Taking another deep breath, he turned and walked up the driveway. When he reached the front door, he paused, brushed his hand through his hair and used the back of his hand to wipe away the sweat from his forehead. It was now or never; one more deep breath, and then he rang the doorbell.

    He heard some footsteps inside, starting from the back of the house and advancing toward the front, then a voice called out. “Just one second, please.”

    Shortly after, he heard the lock turn and the door opened.

    “Billy? Wow. How are you? It's been...awhile,” the man said.

    “Hi Martin,” he replied, a slight smile playing on his lips. After a short pause, he asked, “Well? Aren't you going to invite your brother in?

    * * *

    Martin led Billy to the kitchen and pointed to some stools situated around the large island. “Have a seat, Billy. Can I get you anything to eat or drink?”

    Billy ignored him. “Are Catherine or the girls home?” he asked, hoping he got the right answer. He was a murderer, yes, but not a monster; Martin's wife and kids didn't need to be here for this.

    “No. Catherine is coaching their basketball team,” Martin responded, looking at his watch. “They won't be home for a couple of hours.”

    That was all Billy needed to hear. As Martin opened the refrigerator to get some bottled waters, Billy took the gun out of his pocket, released the safety and racked a bullet into the chamber. The noise startled Martin, who spun and looked at the gun that was pointed at him.

    “What the hell Billy?”

    A sad smile played across Billy's lips. “Why don't you sit down,” he said, motioning to the seats with the gun. “I assume you have one of those fancy iPhones that everyone has nowadays? Can you take a voice recording with it?”

    “What? Yeah. It's not an iPhone, though...what's this all about?”

    “Sit. And listen.”

    * * *

    For the next forty-five minutes, Billy ran down the complete list of his victims, sparing no detail. Who he had killed and how, why, what the person's sin against Billy was. And, of course, what card the person got and why.

    Through it all, Martin just sat and stared at Billy, turning alternating shades of green and white.

    When he finished, Billy told Martin to quit recording. Martin hit stop and put the phone on the island.

    “My god Billy...why?”

    “What do you mean why? Haven't you been listening? These people didn't deserve to live,” he replied.

    “But Billy...grandma?” Martin asked. “And your boss from McConnell's? The guy outside of the Landing Strip, you didn't even know him...”

    “Grandma was an old, senile woman that cut me out of her will. My boss from McConnell's not only fired me, but pressed charges. And the guy outside the strip club was bad news, I could tell.”

    “Billy...you stole from McConnell's. Over a thousand dollars. What did you expect him to do?” It was all Martin could think to say. “You need help, Billy.”

    “Its too late for help. After today, I'm done...its all done. I brought the last card with me,” Billy said while removing the Marty Castillo card from his pocket.

    Still sitting, Martin stiffened in his chair, pressed his back up against the island and raised his hands in a defensive posture. “Why me, Billy? What have I done to wrong you?”

    “For the longest time – I mean, the longest time – I haven't been able to figure out who Marty Castillo is. Then today, all of a sudden, it hit me. Castillo was my guy, I shouldn't be looking for someone who wronged me, he deserves better than that.”

    “Don't kill me, Billy. Think about Catherine and the kids...” Martin choked up and tears formed in his eyes.

    Billy studied the card again, turning it over and over in his hand. “But just because it doesn't have to go to an enemy doesn't mean it shouldn't relate somehow. A young man, full of wasted potential. Somewhat of a vagabond, a man without a position. Peaked early in life, straight downhill after that. It fits pretty well, don't you think?”

    “Please Billy, don't...”

    Billy smiled again, this time a genuine one. He gave the card one last look and slowly slid it into his pants pocket.

    “Don't worry. Castillo isn't for you.” He put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
     
  4. DeadMoon
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    DeadMoon Contributing Member Contributor

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    The Canary and the bad men (537 words)


    “Sing me a song Caesar, that’s a good bird.” The kind old lady loved to hear her canary sing every time she finished reading a story to him. His name was Caesar and he was a very smart canary indeed. They lived together in a small cabin in the Willows Peak mountains range nearby the mining town where the bad men lived.

    The bad men want to take Caesar away from the kind lady and into the mining cave to detect any poisonous gas. They didn’t care if he died in the process, as long as they lived, but the kind lady wouldn’t sell Caesar, not for anything. This mad the bad men angry, they vowed to get him at any cost.

    A few days later the kind lady was getting ready to read Caesar a story when there was a knock on the door. Before she could answer the door, the bad men broke it down. They said if they couldn’t have the canary then she couldn’t either. One of the bad men moved toward Caesar to scare to the lady. The kind ladies heart couldn’t take the stress, she passed away trying to save her friend.

    The bad men thought nothing of the lady's death, only of their greed and the money they will make safely mining the coal. Without another thought, the bad men grab his cage and leave the cabin and the only home Caesar knew.

    The bad men took Caesar deep into the cave. It was dark, dirty and scared Caesar very much. The bad men poked him and shook his cage laughing at the frighten bird before returning to work mining the caves.

    After a few days of sitting in the mine, Caesar started to feel dizzy. He knew it must be from poison gas building up in the cave. Memories of the kind lady filled his heart, Caesar didn’t want the bad men to get away with what they did to her.

    Caesar remembered a story the kind lady once read to him. In the story, a group of men were playing cards. After winning a big hand one of the men said. “When you're down to your last card, ya gotta bluff.” The man in the book was able to trick the others by tricking them into believing something that wasn’t true. Caesar thought he could come up with a bluff of his own...

    He would trick them into thinking that the air was clean in the cave. With all the determination he could muster, he would push past the effect the poison that was having on his small frame and he would sing.

    He sang high and he sang low. He sang songs he knew and songs he made up. He sang as the poison worked it’s way into his lungs and made it hard to take every breath. As determined as Caesar was, the poison was to much for his tiny lungs to bear. His eyes closed to the sight of the bad men laying unmoving on the cave floor. The final thing he heard was his friend soothing him to his final sleep. “Sing for me Caesar, That’s a good bird.”
     
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