I broke a large icicle from the railing and stepped off the porch onto Claiborne Street. A speeding carriage drenched my boots with freezing slush. February was one of the coldest months in New Orleans, but no one had seen ice like this. Although the year was just beginning, 1899 seemed cursed.
I was investigating the city’s eighth murder in two months. Correction: possible murder. A working girl in the District named Peaches. No one had heard from her for days, and the talk in the brothels hinted she was the tragic victim of a jealous lover. But these girls thrive on fantasy. I needed proof.
The interview at her mother’s house revealed nothing. From what I could understand through the thick Haitian accent, the distraught woman hadn’t seen her daughter in nearly a week. A small altar to Baron Samedi sparkled violet with candles as I left.
I crunched along the six blocks to Cirque House where Peaches had a room. The house had one of the worst reputations in the red light district. Not many men I knew had been inside—only those on the force who derived pleasure from the most brutal aspects of our work. The kind that roughed up the girls we arrested or “accidentally” killed a criminal before trial.
But Peaches was the police chief’s favorite. With skin like creamy café au lait that tasted even sweeter, he would tell us. I promised him I’d find out what happened to her.
When I rang the bell at Cirque House, the madam pulled me inside. “Come out of the cold, honey! We’ve got a warm reception in every bedroom.” I tried to explain I wasn’t a customer. But she hushed my protests and said: “Now relax and tell me what you’re after.”
“I’m looking for Peaches,” I began slowly. “Does she still work here?”
“Why of course! I’ll make sure she’s not occupied.” The madam winked and retreated.
As I lounged on the arm of a velvet settee, a tiny gray maid wandered in. I asked if she had noticed anything unusual at the house. She said she only cooked meals for the working girls and cleaned the bedrooms “you know…after.” When I mentioned Peaches, the maid’s eyes showed white and she scurried off without another word.
The madam returned and led me down a draped hallway to a cold, dark room. Heavy perfume stifled me as I entered. A body was lying on the bed. Horrified, I backed out and grabbed the madam.
“Now don’t fidget,” she purred. “Peaches brought in some of our best customers. She had a visitor booked almost every hour the day it happened, so there’s no telling who killed her. Funny thing is, the gentlemen who visited afterwards never complained. Must have been an irresistible temptation. And who am I to judge a man’s soul if their money’s good?”
She stared hard at me. “So you going to have a turn or aren’t you? Her next guest is waiting.”
FlashFlood is brought to you by National Flash-Fiction Day UK, happening this year on 27th June 2015.
In the build up to the day we have now launched our Micro-Fiction Competition (stories up to 100 words) and also our annual Anthology (stories up to 500 words). So if you have enjoyed FlashFlood, why not send us your stories?
Yes, it's that time again. We're back and we're getting ready to flood the internet with flash-fictions to celebrate National Flash-Fiction Day on Saturday 16th June 2018.
The rules are the same as ever, we are open for submissions for just one week. Stories should be no more than 500 words (not including the title) and should be on whatever theme you fancy. You can submit up to three entries, and there is no cost.
7 editors (one each day) will read your work, and make their decisions, and then the deluge begins at midnight on the 16th.
I’m going to ask her tonight, definitely. Dad said, you’re not even twelve son, what’s next – extra pocket money for johnnies? Mum told him not to be vulgar, then smiled at me; that smile that makes me want to yank her to the knees by the hair: shout, I’m not a baby, Mum.
It’s in the sports hall like always, but this year they’ve got a proper DJ, not just one of the dads. There she is, all curled hair and sprayed-on glitter. I go to tap her shoulder, but James and Jeremy, in the opposite corner, look at me all, why are you going up to a girl? So, before she turns around, I jump on her back: mime a lasso at them one-handed. Dig my knees into her skinny hips and breathe in marshmallows. Then I’m falling forwards. I put out my hands but my landing is broken. I roll off. And her blood’s on my knees. More of it trapped in the grooves of my trainers.
What happened? says Mr Miller, with a face like a father’s instead of a Head’s.
And she looks at me through the bloodied fingers at her nose. …
Something in the way Mavis Mahoney says her name, Sylvia, could send her to join her Mama, above the clouds she loved staring at for hours on a bed her feet dangled over, without looking back. She keeps the echoes of her name playing in her mind while she takes her place center stage, sees the crowd for the first time, eyes hoping to hold her again.
She finds Mavis among the men too tired to fight for a place in a world that never wanted them. Among women worn down from mending or carrying their wounds. Even in all that misery, Mavis smiles, raises her hands and starts clapping until everyone pulls themselves away from drowning in reflections staring back at them through half empty glasses.
She raises the mouthpiece of her clarinet to spit shined lips, lets her breath flow through the barrel and slide down the upper and lower joints while her fingers stroke and press cold, silver keys. Surrendering the vibrations of her breath into woodwind instruments to pocke…