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Published by Kelley Townley
This very short, short story was a prize winner in the Bath Literature Festival Short Story Competition 2001.

It's heavy on lyrical prose and light on seriousness!
This very short, short story was a prize winner in the Bath Literature Festival Short Story Competition 2001.

It's heavy on lyrical prose and light on seriousness!

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Published by: Kelley Townley on Jul 17, 2009
Copyright:Attribution No Derivatives


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© Kelley Townley


The densely smoke filled room would make even the strongest eyes water but he dared not blink. Blinking was a sign of weakness. The atmosphere was so solid every lungful felt like swallowing a brick. The pressure had produced beads of sweat on them all, bar one. He stared at her calm demeanour. She sat, crossed legged with a goblet of red wine, the throbbing vein in her throat the only sign of the intense heat; together with her tight scarlet dress, shinning through the blue grey smoke like a beacon on a stormy coast, she was a lethal mixture. It was getting harder and harder to keep his mind focused. Time was ticking by. How many more hours till one of them folded? He wouldn’t be the first, would he? His bets were on baldy, he’d begun dabbing his forehead five minutes in and now his handkerchief was so sodden he had stopped bothering, he was even developing a sickly green colour about him. To his right, the ‘Professor’, if that was what he really was, coughed and raised his glass to his thin lying lips. Cunning, he thought, cunning. I was nearly on to something but the thought had gone now, lost to oblivion... He eyed the surrounding faces slowly, each one seemly engaged elsewhere but all secretly wishing him to make a fatal error. He would rather die than give them the satisfaction. He knew something they didn’t. He needed just one more piece of information and he’d have it. He’d have everything. The lady uncrossed her legs, then crossed them again. She was fidgeting, nervous perhaps? Was she worried he was getting too close to the truth? She should be. He was so close he could smell its foul stench. He was probably the only truly moral person around the table. They all looked guilty, maybe not for this crime but certainly they all had that haunted ‘I’ve been bad’ look about them. Even the thin guy who kept bringing them drinks, but he wouldn’t play ball. Everyone had insisted at first but this guy had the power to push buttons and no one was gonna mess with him.

The ‘Professor’ spoke. He didn’t listen. The old man, flushed purple with drink, had spouted nothing but questions since his arrival. It was really annoying how he would make a suggestion, converse in secrecy with another, and then nod knowingly at the answer like it made perfect sense. Thinking about it, they’d all made suggestions at one point or another, and seemed satisfied with their answers. Where was he going wrong? No, wait, he wasn’t going wrong, they were just bluffing. It might not be obvious to most, hell, even he had almost missed it. But not now. Now he knew what was going on. A fresh drink appeared at his elbow, courtesy of the thin guy. The ice glistened merrily in the swirling brown liquid. Come to think of it, maybe the thin guy was in on it! Yes, that was it! They were all in on it together. She’d been placed immediately in front of him to direct his gaze away from the table top. Baldy was there to reduce his working space with his various sodden hankies. The ‘Professor’ was there to ask those infernal questions to distract his highly-tuned mind from the task at hand. And the thin guy, yes, the guy who hovered about constantly, topping up his drink as soon as he took a sip, was plying him with something. It was all clear now, if only he had seen it earlier, he wouldn’t have drunken so much. But it was so damned hot, his throat burned constantly for moisture. He must focus. Ignore the pheromones the human lighthouse gave off, the lack of space Baldy gave him and the ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ level questions the ‘Professor’ asked. Ignore them and concentrate. Concentrate. He could do it. Just got to block it all out. See only the things that were important, the clues he had painstakingly gathered, the rational deductions he had made and knot them together in a logical net that would catch the killer. Wait a minute! There it was, the answer staring him right in the face. He had them now, he had them all! “It was Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick,” he roared with triumph. “Oh, for God's sake, Brian,” sighed Denise. “You’ve got Colonel Mustard right in front of you.”

~ End ~

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