Welcome to Flash Fiction Month. This will be my final short story posting for this month. I hope you have all enjoyed the varied stories by my guest bloggers. Today’s story is one that I wrote for a Mystery short story contest for PNWA. Enjoy!
by Sonya Rhen
It was dark when Connie heard the knock on the door. Her neighbor stood, flashlight in hand, bundled against the wind in an overfilled brown coat. Her hair blended into the hood, except for the grey roots.
“Connie, I came to see if you were all right.”
Connie hadn’t remembered the woman’s name. After living across the street from her for a year, she was too embarrassed to ask, “I guess the power’s out everywhere.”
The street was dark. The wind whipped into the house. It must have woken Harley. She was at the door howling, a recently chewed shoe lying at her feet.
“No, bad dog!” Connie shook her finger at the little black dog. “She likes leather. I can’t get her to stop chewing on it.”
“I should get a dog. There’s no one else to look after me,” the neighbor replied. She leaned in, “I always lock my doors and windows. Someone has been trying to break into my house. They tried several times last week.”
Connie smiled politely and picked up the wiggling Harley, “Dogs make good pets.”
“Lock your doors and keep warm,” the neighbor turned to go back across the street.
“Hopefully, the power will be back on soon.”
Sometime during the night the power came back on. Connie got up and turned the lights off. Back in bed Chaz was snoring loudly and Harley was curled up by his feet.
The next day Connie baked up a batch of chocolate chip guilt cookies. She would be neighborly. She leashed up Harley, grabbed her keys and cell phone. It would be good to go for a walk before Chaz got home.
The ground was littered with branches, fir needles, leaves and pinecones. All was quiet. Connie’s drive was empty. Chaz normally rode his bike to work, but with the stormy weather he took the car.
Except for her neighbor across the street the rest of the neighbors worked. A strange van was parked between the two houses across the street. The neighbor’s car was in the drive.
She knocked on the door, but there was no answer. She knocked louder. Harley sat next to her on the doorstep chewing the slack leash. Connie felt uneasy. Her hand hovered above the door handle for a second. She grasped the handle and turned, surprised to find that it wasn’t locked.
“Hello?” Connie was about to step into the house when her progress was halted, “Oh!”
A tall thin man blocked the doorway. His face partially obscured by the door. “What do you want?” his voice gravelly from years of cigarette smoking.
“I brought these for…,” Connie held up the cookies, but was at a loss. She should really make more of an effort to learn her neighbor’s name. “I brought cookies.”
“Thanks,” the man said quickly reaching out a grimy hand he had been wiping on a towel. He seemed to hesitate, “Mom will love them.”
The cookie exchange completed, the man closed the door. Connie felt jolted, her nose just inches from it.
“Well, Harley, let’s walk.”
They walked down the street, the small black dog stopping every few feet to pick up a new branch or pine cone. By the end of the block Connie’s mind was racing. She didn’t believe that he was her neighbor’s son. Surely, the talkative woman would have mentioned it.
Connie looked down. “Good potty,” she cooed, “what a good girl!”
She looked at her phone and punched in a few numbers. With her hand in her pocket she walked back down to the end of the street and marched up to the door. She knocked again. This time the man opened the door himself.
“Who did you say you were?”
“I’m the son.”
“I didn’t catch your name?”
“I didn’t think she had a son.”
“Well, um, I’m her step-son,” he fidgeted with the door knob.
“Okay,” she let the leash go slack in her hand and she gave Harley an imperceptible nudge. The dog scampered into the house easily slipping between the man’s legs. Connie pushed past the man, “So sorry.”
There was no sign of the neighbor anywhere. She caught sight of Harley with her nose buried under the recliner. What she saw caused her to press the “Send” button and she took her hand nervously out of her pocket. She scooped up the dog and practically buried her in the folds of her coat.
Connie hurried across the street, slammed her front door and bolted it. “Bad dog,” Connie took the knife out of the dog’s mouth. The blade was caked in dried blood with small teeth marks in the leather handle. She could hear the faint sound of sirens getting closer, “Why can’t you stop chewing on leather?”