Flash Fiction Challenge: Acts Of Rebellion

Lieutenant Crouch blew hard on his old patrolman’s whistle, a ritual that did not endear him to his squad. To be fair, not much else would have cut through the jabber and jive in the small briefing room. And endearment held a particularly low priority on his case list.

“Lissen up, people.

“O’Reilly—that means you too. Unless someone made you a fucking captain this morning. We’ve all heard your shitty joke a hundred times.”

O’Reilly shut up, a relief to me, because I really had heard that joke too many times. For an Irishman, he was oddly shy on material. I suspected a German somewhere in his ancestry.

“All right, people. Unless you spent the last week heads down in a whorehouse—yeah, I mean you, O’Rourke—you know what the deal is today. Same as yesterday. Same as last week.

“You’re on protest detail. All of you.”

My stomach lurched. A chorus of grumbles and groans.

A guy in front spoke up. “But Lieutenant, the crack business is booming, all those liquor store heists, and we’re staring down grannies out in the bush. We—“

“Not your call, Klaus. You’re the hammer, not the brains. Chief says grannies are my problem, then grannies are your problem. Unless you have a line on a job at Gino’s Pizza. They have some pretty slick uniforms. Nicer than ours. I’ll put in a word, right?”

“I’m good, Lieutenant. I’m good.” Klaus shrugged. He’s a decent guy. Worries too much. Like me.

“Pleased to hear that. Last thing I want is you making pizzas. I’ve tasted your coffee.”

A knowing chuckle from the room. Klaus reddened.

“OK. Pick up full riot gear. Shields, helmets, flak jackets, rubber bullets. And remember—dead grannies make terrible press, so try not to aim for the heads, right? In fact, if you don’t even shoot a single one of them, it won’t go against your records. Got me?”

A round of nods and assents.

“Don’t get me wrong. These people are the enemy. They aren’t all grannies. They’re organized trouble-makers. Hired pros, and good at it. They are breaking the law. They deserve to be hauled in and arraigned. But we’re in touchy times. The DA and the commissioner are up for election. The press is looking for just one of you guys to look sideways at a protester, and we’re front page bad news. So act like professionals yourselves. I know you can all fake it.”

He gathered up his papers, straightened them against the desktop.

I stood. “Lieutenant?”

“Speak, Crandall. This better be important. Not your usual griping.”

I hesitated, bit my tongue. Besides, words were just air. I was past talking; I needed to act. “It’ll keep.”

That got an eye-roll. “Perfect.”

He looked around the room. “Be strong, people. Above all, be safe. Now get to work!”

We got our gear from stores and broke into teams for the ride to the warzone.

We piled into the police crummy and headed out. I felt sick to my stomach. My partner Jimmy noticed I was off.

He whispered, “Jesus, Cranny. You look green. Want me to bang on the window and get Marco to stop? Don’t want you puking in here.”

“Nah. I’m OK. Touch of the flu. I’ll make it. Gimme that water bottle.”

A long swallow, and I had the jitters under control.

We filed out of the truck at the protest site and assembled as ordered. A mob of people stood and sat in the mud between us and the worksite, big orange and yellow hulks of heavy equipment poised paralyzed in mid-stride behind them, as if the operators had suddenly been beamed up to a starship. Which they had, in one way of looking at it. The company and authorities didn’t want violent confrontation, so they had shut down work. They knew the courts would remove the protesters soon, and they could carry on with the planned devastation. They were being paid by contract no matter what, so they weren’t too concerned.

So there we were, in our full black riot gear, impervious to assault. But for God’s sake, the most powerful weapon the other side had was a guitar. Some dreadlocked kid was playing it and about a dozen people were singing, mostly out of tune. Beautiful, in a painful way. About as threatening as a summer shower, and here we were dressed for a hurricane. Deployed in riot formation, I felt ridiculous, even oppressive. Yes, I knew these people were in the wrong from where we stood. I’d been in these situations before, and I knew they’d end up paying for it.

We stood in our battle lines for two hours. Sergeant Bannon ordered the gathering to disperse over the bullhorn. He’d done that daily for two weeks; it was a formality. Photographers and reporters milled around. We ignored them; the protesters played to them. Eventually Bannon came over and addressed us.

“Time’s up for this crap,” he said. “Finally. The DA says we can go in and take them out. Stiffen your line. When I give the word, you advance and make arrests. Start with that asshole with the guitar, and then that loudmouth harpy over there.” He nodded towards a dignified grey-haired woman I’d seen on the news several times. She had spoken well.

He smiled. “Then take your pick. Watch each other’s backs. I don’t want any injuries.”

We lined up.

I didn’t wait for Bannon’s signal. I laid my plexiglass shield on the ground, took off my helmet, rested it on the shield. Shrugged out of my flak jacket and tossed it on the helmet. Threw down my badge. I cleared my riot gun, pocketed the rounds, and laid it beside the pile.

Jimmy looked at me, disbelieving. “The fuck you doing?” he asked.

“What I have to, Jimmy.“

I slowly walked across the ground between the police line and the protesters, leaving my friends and my career far behind me.


A Case of Stolen Identity

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Dead Body

I’m a wordpress blog newbie. Please excuse the paper plates and lack of furniture. I’ve just moved in. Things will change shortly.

I’m also a terribleminds newbie. Been reading blogs and standing in the corner watching the dancers. So I thought I’d step out on to the floor and shake it. This is my first contribution to one of Chuck’s contests.

This piece is bang on 1000 words, plus the asterisk scene breaks and the title, which I hope are free. I don’t want to start by breaking the rules. Time enough for that later. I hope you enjoy it, or at least get through it. C’mon, it’s only a thousand words.

*    *    *

I’m Detective Wray Zell – LAPD-Homicide, in case you’re the type of fixated asshole individual has to know everything. Whether shit-faced at The Prosaic Pig—cops’ booze-hole, networking the supermarket—”nunyerdambizness why I have 50 boxes of KD”, or sweating the kid’s PTA meetings—when the ex remembers I exist, all my stories start with a corpse. And end with a corpse-maker.

First glance, this one’s no different. But don’t look if you’re one of those weak-stomached pansies. Neighbor heard a gunshot, called the cops. When I showed, the place was already crawling with CSI white-suits. Plus one guy on the couch in a really messy suit with a gun in his hand—and his brains on the wall. The investigator shooting the stiff nodded.

“Luis. Another case of had-enough-of-this-shit, huh? See anything out of order? Robbery? Dope?”

He waved at the skeevy one-room dive. “Fuck could ya tell? Fuckin’ dump. Looks open and shut. Except for this.” He turned the dead hand palm-up. The fingertips were burnt black. Minutes ago by the juice on them.

I sniffed. “Christ, that’s what smells like fucking BBQ here. Figure he was tortured—plugged—and posed?”

“Dunno. No signs of struggle.”

True—no sign of violence, unless you consider a 6-inch hole in a guy’s head violent. If the filthy hotplate on the counter was the torture device, no way to tell human grease from rancid bacon. I nosed around, didn’t touch nothin’. I’m good at my job. But I didn’t have Clue One this time.

“Rope it off. Bag everything. I’ll check with the lab later. Tell the igors we need results yesterday. Got a creepy feeling about this one.”


Four days later I’m in the lab grinding the geeks.

“No patho on the body yet. But we have the scene DNA.” He stops.

“Waddya want, a kiss?”

“No—a confession. You roll around naked in there? You’re all we see. Everywhere.”

“Fuck I am. I didn’t even breathe in there.”

“Whatever. The scene’s junk. Now we wait for the cadaver.”

That made my day. What it didn’t make was any sense.


Life got busy—PTA, KD, little bourbon, murders, little Scotch. I stowed the case, until the CO called me in. We get along fine. Even finer the less we see of each other.

“Siddown, Wray,” he says. Wray, huh? Shit.

Soski’s there too, the lab’s head frankenstein. I figure I’m up for demotion again, over the DNA mess.

“Cap, I touched nothing. I swear.”

“I know that.”

“Then why—”

“Leo, tell him.”

“We ran the body DNA twice—didn’t like what we found. You won’t either.” He ran his hand over his bald head. “Zell—the dead man is you.”

Shit? Go blind? Pick one. I couldn’t. Soski says DNA doesn’t lie. I say it had its fingers crossed. Fingers—yeah! Oh. Shit. No fingertips, no fingerprints.

Soski says, “You got a twin?”

“Leah—lives out Monterey way. Beautician. Why?”

“Well—that corpse is your identical twin brother or everything we know about DNA is wrong.”

“No brothers. A month of us and Ma told the old man to visit the vet or get used to doing for himself.”


Ma was in the Palms by then. Calls me ‘Leah’ when I visit—dead end there. My show debuted at Saint Anne’s, so that’s where I went. No, it’s not a fucking museum.

The chart read:
  May-21-1958: Zell, Zelda.
  02:13:45: Boy1
  02:19:32: Boy2Girl1

Fuck’s with that? Either Leah has a dick or the nurse failed anatomy.

  02:19:58 – post-partum hemorrhage: Dr Oswald, RN O’Connell to Room 403; RN Whitcomb attending Mrs Zell.

Whitcomb—the signature on the chart—the nurse who didn’t know a dick from a—. I tracked her down, next room to Ma’s in the Palms. Isn’t life serendipitous?

Unlike Ma, she was all there. When I said I was a cop, she started shaking. “I knew this day would come. Book me, Danno.”

A Five-O groupie. Maybe she wasn’t quite all there after all. “Ma’am?”

“Who ratted? Never mind. It’s time I came clean.”

May as well make her day—my hunch was piss-poor as Bud Light anyway. I played along, took out my notebook. Didn’t bother with a pencil. “Just the facts, ma’am.”

“We stole that baby.”

Now where was that fucking pencil?

She burst into tears. “What did it matter? Poor kid bled out right after her girl was born. She was all alone, father was some deadbeat junkie.”

I sighed, put down the pencil. One girl, one dead mother. Meant squat to me.

“But those rich people would only take a boy, not a girl. We’d just delivered identical twin boys minutes before. Mother was still doped up, hadn’t even seen them. So we swapped. Susie snuck the better-looking boy out the back way in a pillowcase, Doc faked up a stillborn death certificate, I fudged the birth record, and we were clear with the cash. The new mom had her twins—except they weren’t. Who was ever gonna know?”

I shook now. “You remember the twins’ mother’s name?”

“An odd one. Imelda Mell, Velda Labelle, something like that. Beautiful gal. I wish I could explain to her now. My nephew had cancer, needed an operation. That money saved his life.”

“Zelda Zell? May 21, 1958?” I asked.

“Good guess, son.”

“It’s my birthday.”


Never found out why my brother ended up dead in a flophouse with no fingertips. Maybe he discovered the truth, hunted me down, tried to take me with him—his last joke on a cruel world. Never even found out his name. Nobody in his building knew him. Probably for the best. RIP, bro. Damn good try.

Cap got my charges dropped—after we had a good laugh over a couple dozen high-res pics of the mayor and the DA with their pants down.

Leah never found out she was some stolen junkie’s kid. Good thing—I like her.

But Ma did get to meet Nurse Whitcomb again—calls her ‘Wray’.