Writing Photo Prompt and Contest – June / July 2015
Read the Entries - Click the Story Bars Below
You know that store that’s always closed? The one you pass every day and wonder how it can possibly stay open when the doors never are? This store was one of those. It never seemed to be open, but I did catch it one Saturday.
I had seen the owner once or twice as he closed up. He would glower at me, the usual scowl on his face. He reminded me of a bulldog, with a jutting lower lip and drooping eyes. I would always smile and wave as I passed and he would clear his throat, his version of a weak hello.
But that Saturday, the store was open, the door flung wide to the world. I hesitated and then stepped inside. It was an interesting store, filled with knick-knacks and relics of days gone by and he relayed the history of each. In his domain, the owner seemed to be happy. He was friendly that day, smiling, with the look of new beginnings in his eyes.
I was scanning the racks, hands shoved in my pockets, when his wife came in. The way she confronted him, pulling out the till and then berating him for the lack of money in the coffers, bothered me. I slunk out the door, unnoticed, and went my own way.
The next morning, the sign was once more in the window.
He had planned it well. She was on the floor behind the desk.
It was months before her body was found.
“Captain was right. They pawned the tuba.”
Detective Watkins nudged his partner. “We don’t know it’s the tuba, Sellars.”
“Of course it is.”
This wasn’t merely a stolen instrument case. The two entered the shop. Watkins, who had played brass through college, hefted the heavy antique. After some effort, he blew a window-rattling squonk.
“Yup,” said Mandy Sellars. “Hear it?”
Watkins blasted another note, and paper in the tuba’s bell vibrated a mad zither over the bass.
“You didn’t fingerprint?” demanded their captain back at the station.
“No sir,” mumbled Watkins. “You told us…”
Sellars cleared her throat. “Sir, could you explain why you think the thief went past the electronics and targeted your grandfather’s instrument.”
“I know why,” said the captain. “But she didn’t, or she wouldn’t have left the paper in when she pawned it.”
“I’m not following,” said Watkins.
“Let me show you,” the captain finally said. He threw down the tuba.
“Sir! That must be worth…”
“Shut up, Watkins.” In a series of crashing blows, he severed the bell from the body, and the detectives understood.
“That’s got to be…”
“A year’s salary, Sellars,” said the captain. “In large bills. Untouched.” The captain suddenly laughed. “My ex-wife left the money in the tuba, and I wish I could have seen her face when she opened the empty safe she cut out of the wall behind it.”
Roger died, leaving his antique shop to his grandson Phillip.
Phillip received a letter with specific instructions, concerning the shop. The storefront sign is to always remain on: ‘CLOSED’. Unlock the doors at sundown and leave it unmanned until sunrise. Empty the tip jar before locking up in the morning.
He was sure that merchandise would be stolen overnight, but nothing ever was. Oddly, the tip jar was never empty in the morning. In one month’s time, there was enough money to cover rent for the shop and extra for leisure. Who was leaving the tips? And why? Phillip had an overwhelming need to find out.
One night, Phillip decided to unlock the doors and hide inside the shop. He waited for hours and eventually fell asleep on the floor. A tap on his shoulder woke him. He jumped to his feet, gasping in fright, “Grandpa? But how? You’re dead.”
“Yes, we are all dead,” nodded Roger.
Phillip glanced over his grandfather’s shoulder and saw strangers standing behind him. They were all scowling at Phillip.
“The dead come here,” said Roger. “They borrow their piece of life. Sometimes, it’s the only peace they find in death. And you’re taking that from them just by being here. The musicians were hoping to play tonight. That’s where most of the tip money comes from.”
“I’m sorry. I’ll make it right,” said Phillip, exiting the shop. He passed the storefront window and watched as the tuba and the case with the saxophone disappeared.
Eugene juggled the keys in his hand after locking the door for the last time. He was tempted to look back as he sauntered down the street, but what was the point? What’s done is done, he told himself.
The antiques store had been in the family for three generations, counting Eugene’s. He had struggled to keep it going, but couldn’t compete with online auction sites and virtual storefronts where a person in Peoria could buy something from Ventura without leaving the living room. Browsing had a completely different meaning these days. The items in the shop window—the remnants of his dwindling inventory—were relics of a bygone era. The kinds of things a crazed dad might mail-order in a Christmas movie.
He checked his watch. He couldn’t afford to dawdle. The store was mortgaged to the hilt—as was his home. His wife had stayed by his side through the persistent lean times, and ultimately encouraged him to bring the legacy to a close. Not admit defeat, just move on to something else.
Once he reached the corner, Eugene did turn and look over his shoulder. It was getting dark and the street was quiet. No pedestrians. No window shoppers. Of course not. Who did that anymore? He took a deep breath and steeled his nerves for what came next. He never could have done any of this without Mabel.
She was the one who’d bought the explosives to put in the suitcase, after all.
Every issue of Killer Nashville Magazine will have a Photo Prompt Contest. The rules:
1. Use the inspiration of visual content to draft a short story (250 word maximum).
2. Submit your short story by the end of the month.
3. Killer Nashville will post all submitted stories (in alphabetical order by author’s last name).
4. We will provide an online poll. Vote for the best story.
5. By submitting a story, the entrant attests the story is original and that Killer Nashville has the irrevocable non-exclusive right to use it in any media format with credit given to you.
6. The writer who collects the most votes by the end of the month will be our winner and their story will be published in the next month’s magazine. Good luck!