Here’s my entry for the July Flash Fiction Draw Challenge (the post for the original July draw is here). In case you didn’t know about this challenge, there’s a video here explaining (and showing the seventh draw), but the quick version: I used a deck of cards (three suits) to randomly put together a genre (in this case: mystery), a location (in this case: a dam) and an object (in this case: a typewriter) and challenged anyone who wanted to play to write something over the next week, with a maximum of 1,000 words.
For most of the week, I waffled. I had no idea. I looked at websites about typewriters. I looked at websites about dams. Finally, in the eleventh hour, something struck me, and this came out.
Gagnon straightened his uniform. He’d never wanted to come back here again.
He turned. White was familiar to Gagnon, of course, but he supposed it shouldn’t have surprised him the detective didn’t remember him. They’d barely met before.
“Sir.” Gagnon nodded.
The dam was louder than the last time they’d been here.
“He asked for you by name. Any idea why?” Cool eyes appraised Gagnon, and unless Gagnon was mistaken, found him wanting.
“I was first on scene, last time,” Gagnon said. That wasn’t all of it, but it was enough of an answer that White nodded.
“You done this before?”
They both knew Gagnon was barely a year in his uniform. Gagnon shook his head.
“Keep him talking,” White said. “We don’t need another body going over the edge.”
“Yes, sir,” Gagnon said.
They walked to the dam together.
Benjamin stood at the edge, on the wrong side of the railing. The roar of the spillway was like thunder.
Gagnon approached, hands out in front of him.
“You came,” Benjamin said.
“He didn’t kill himself. He wouldn’t.”
Gagnon expected this. From the moment he’d arrived at the dam months ago, to the call of the potential suicide, Benjamin had insisted there was no way Logan would jump. They were happy. They ran a Bed & Breakfast together. Before that, Benjamin was a former sous-chef at a high-paced five-star restaurant, and Logan had worked in finance. Now Benjamin made breakfast pastries and Logan wrote mysteries.
Right up until Logan had thrown himself off the dam.
“Benny,” Gagnon said, “I’m here.” He remembered names being important. Use names. Make connections.
Then he saw the typewriter.
Logan wrote mysteries on that thing. Benjamin said he’d learned to love the sound of the keys clicking. It had meant Logan was happy. He’d been making the keys click the very night before been found in the water.
That had been something Benjamin couldn’t convince anyone of, not the least of which the local detectives. Gagnon listened, but he was a uniform, and knew full well his job was “keep him from bothering us while we prove his boyfriend took a dive.”
“You brought the Underwood,” Gagnon said.
“He was writing,” Benjamin said. “He didn’t jump.”
Gagnon took another step. “Benny, you’re scaring me.”
Benjamin blinked, and for the first time turned to look at Gagnon. “No one listens.”
“I’m listening, Benny,” Gagnon said. He took another step. The Underwood was right at his feet now.
“He’d been writing,” Benjamin said. “Weeks. He’d was inspired.”
“Yes, I know,” Gagnon said. Except no work-in-progress had even been found. White took that as a sign of unspoken depression, but Benjamin was adamant: Logan had been writing, non-stop, for two months. Every night.
“It wasn’t a cozy,” Benjamin said then—and now. “It was going to be a thriller.”
“I know, Benny.”
“Where is the goddamn book?” It was a bellow. Gagnon winced. He was finally close enough to see the tears. “He just wouldn’t.”
Gagnon swallowed. “Please, Benny. I’m begging. Can you get closer to the railing? You don’t have to climb back over to this side, but just… away from the edge…”
Benjamin blew out a breath, turning away from him, and looking down at the rushing water. “If I go over, they’ll investigate. Maybe this time…”
“No,” Gagnon said. “Benny.”
Benjamin closed his eyes.
“They won’t,” Gagnon said. Benjamin flinched. “I’m sorry, but they won’t. You’ll be gone, and Logan is gone, and… that’ll be it. No one looking, Benny. Not if you go.”
Benjamin’s shoulders shook. “He. Wouldn’t.”
“I’ll help,” Gagnon said, and wasn’t calling on a half-remembered negotiation class. He meant it. He just didn’t know exactly how.
When Benjamin finally took a step back—away from the edge—Gagnon exhaled.
He carried the typewriter back to his car. Predictably, once Benjamin had come back over the railing and Gagnon had his arms around the distraught man, the rest of the officers and detectives had taken Benjamin away. Gagnon promised he’d follow in his car and be there every step of the way.
It was the only way Benjamin would let go.
Inside his car, Gagnon eyed the typewriter on the passenger seat.
“Should have used a fucking lap-top,” Gagnon said. The tech boys could have found a novel, even a deleted one. But would it help Benjamin to confirm there was no book?
He reached over and tapped a letter, watching the key rise and strike. He sighed.
Then he frowned.
He pulled out his phone. It took him a few minutes to find what he needed, and more for a walkthrough.
Once the ribbon was in his hand, he held it up, careful not to unspool too much. It read backwards, but there were words.
There were words.
He pulled out his notepad. Fifteen minutes later, he had the ending of a letter they’d never found.
It wasn’t a suicide note. It wasn’t a novel, either.
It was an explanation.
And it had White’s name.
“You’re late,” White said, and took no effort to hide his annoyance with Gagnon, and not really noticing the other uniforms with him. “Benjamin’s not willing to go anywhere without you.”
“You’re under arrest,” Gagnon said.
White stared him down for most of the Miranda, but by the time Gagnon was done, the mask had slipped somewhat.
“I found the letter,” Gagnon said, then raised a hand at the detective’s frown. “Not the actual letter, which I’m guessing you destroyed somehow. The typewriter ribbon.”
Gagnon could see White didn’t understand. It didn’t matter. He’d learn about how typewriters worked soon enough.
They led him away.
Gagnon would talk to Benny next. He wasn’t sure there was a way to explain. Logan had only been asking White questions for his book. Research. But he’d figured something out.
And he’d paid for it with his life.
Gagnon took a deep breath.
This was why he read romances.