Readers Gazette Short Stories


BAD BAD BLACK SHEEP by Robin Murphy Crime Mystery Thriller short story

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Amanda Stetson ran as fast as she could but couldn’t catch up with the ghostly figure. Every time she reached out the man ran further away. If she could just speak with him and tell him she was sorry. The figure stopped, turned around and smiled. Amanda reached out to touch him and the figure’s face turned to rotting flesh and bone.

Amanda screamed and sat straight up in bed barely able to breathe. She was sweating as her heart thumped in her chest. “It’s only a dream,” she whispered. “Oh Allen, please forgive me.”

Jim Stetson looked up when Amanda walked into the office. “You look awful,” he said. “Bad night?”

Amanda poured herself a third cup of coffee. “Yeah, I had the dream.”

Jim walked over and put his arm around her shoulders. “I’m sorry Amanda. I’m so sorry this is haunting you. But you need to let it go. It wasn’t your fault. He was a troubled child.”

Amanda smiled and noticed the dark circles under his eyes. “I know Dad, I’ll be okay. Let’s get busy with this blasted case.”

She picked up the case file. “The only thing I can figure is it’s either someone on the inside or someone who has a score to settle with us. They know our tactics and thoughts, which quite frankly is a little unsettling.”

Betty Thomas came to them eight months ago and asked them to find out who murdered her husband Mack. Betty was devastated by the way Mack was tortured before he died. The search landed Amanda and her father in a federal investigation when they realized they were being tailed on one of their stake-outs by the FBI. Eight months into the case and they weren’t any closer to finding out who killed Mack, even with the FBI’s interference.

They heard a knock on the door and in stepped Josh Rawlings, an FBI agent assigned to the case. He smiled at Amanda and plopped himself in her chair.

Amanda glared back at him. “Can we help you?”

Josh rolled a pencil through his fingers. “Hi Jim…Amanda. It looks as though we have a lead. The team wanted me to come over and fill you in.” He leaned back in the chair and propped his feet on Amanda’s desk.

Amanda walked over and shoved his feet off the desk and laughed at him nearly falling off the chair. “Are you going to tell us, or do we wait in suspense?”

Josh composed himself and began to tell them they had a witness who admitted there was a storage unit down on the docks that might be involved with the diamond heist. They were heading on their way to the unit and remembered to include Jim and Amanda.

Amanda grabbed her coat. “What are we waiting for? It was so nice of you to bring us up-to-speed.”

Josh got up and leaned in toward her. “When are we going to finish our date? I would love to continue our discussion over some wine.”

Amanda brushed past him and turned back with a coy smile. “Oh Josh, when will you ever learn?”

Jim drove while Amanda fumed and stared out the window. “Who do they think they are?” she said. “They thought they’d come by and include us? They’re supposed to. Besides, we’ve had more leads and witnesses then they’ve had.”

Jim smiled. “Amanda, I think we both know that Josh gets under your skin. But you let him. How many men have you gone through on this case?”

“Dad, that’s personal.” She thought for a minute. “I don’t know, but they’re all idiots. They think they can control me. I’m not going to fall all over them every time they walk into the room. I don’t play that game.”

Jim looked over at his daughter. He realized how she resembled her mother. She had the same small nose and big brown eyes. Her chin jutted out when she was angry and her wispy brown hair flitted around when she turned her head. He knew men stared at her when she entered a room. Unfortunately, his daughter never noticed. She was too wrapped up in the cases they were investigating. She was always trying to prove herself. At the Police Academy she was second in her class. She could take anyone in any situation and could outshoot any man on the force. She was an amazing detective, but lousy in relationships. It broke his heart.

Jim kept his eyes on the road and said, “Amanda, you will never find a solid relationship until you release yourself of this guilt. You can’t blame yourself for Allen leaving the way he did. He was a difficult child early on.”

Amanda glanced over. “I know Dad. For some reason it still haunts me for the way he blamed me for mother’s death. He hated the fact that he was adopted first and I came along as your biological child. He always made that perfectly clear. He thought you loved me more after that.

Jim sighed, “But you continued to love him. He was forever getting into trouble and you would inherently take the blame. You would tell me he was your big brother and that’s what little sister’s do.”

Amanda smiled at the memory. “Well, it seems like a hundred years ago. I’ve been through three therapists who have told me to move on. I guess I need some sort of proof that he really was troubled.”

They arrived at the storage warehouse and waited for the subpoena to be delivered before they could break the lock. A foul odor wafted from the unit. Once inside they saw explosives, huge crates filled with cheesy figurines from China, and enough artillery to take on the whole country. But in the corner propped up against the crates was a dead male enveloped in shrink wrap.

The team immediately marked the unit a crime scene and contacted CSI. Once the scene had been taped off, Amanda walked over to the owner. “Who rented this storage unit?”

The short, bald man said, “It’s a company out of Mexico. I don’t know anything else.”

Amanda looked over at him. “You do realize this is a federal offense to be storing this much artillery? Not to mention the dead body. I think you need to come up with a better story.”

The owner’s eye twitched as he shifted his feet, and finally said, “A Mr. Smith contacted me about a year ago and gave me a year’s rent up front. It was three times the asking amount. He told me not to ask any questions or worry about the contents.”

Amanda smiled. “Well, why don’t you go on ahead with Detective Jones so he can write up your statement? Maybe between here and the agency you’ll remember something else.”

Jim approached Amanda. “It looks as though the body has been in here about three weeks. I guess they thought the shrink wrap would contain the odor. Amanda, his hands and feet were cut off. Just like Mack Thomas. Oh and there was a diamond lodged up each nostril. It looks like the same M.O.”

Amanda stared out into the water. “Dad, I don’t have a good feeling about this case. We keep turning up dead bodies. It’s obvious they enjoy torturing their victims. The diamonds shoved up the nostrils are just a slap in the face. It’s like their laughing at us. It feels as though they’re playing a game. Any leads on Mr. Smith?”

Jim took out a cigarette and lit it. “No, but Smitty is running it through the database. They paid in cash and wiped everything clean. They’re smart. But they’ll slip up. And we’ll be right there when they do.”

Amanda smiled and noticed her father’s hair was grayer. She thought he was a handsome man. He was over six feet tall and had a nice build. Unfortunately he smoked too much. That habit developed shortly after her mother’s death. She wished he would meet someone, but he told her nobody could match her mother.

Josh walked over to them and put on his sunglasses. “We got a lead. There’s an import/export company in Mexico that has been fined for contraband. It’s not much of a lead, except our infamous Mr. Smith was the payee of the fines. I think we need to head down and check it out. Any takers?”

Amanda looked at her father. “I guess we’re taking a trip to Mexico. I’ll meet you at my apartment.” She looked back at Josh. “Josh, check to see if there are any flights out this afternoon and get us on one. Dad, can you stop by our office and pick up the case files? I want to stop by the agency and have another talk with the owner of this unit. I have a feeling he’ll have more information on our Mr. Smith.”

When Amanda arrived at her apartment she was giddy with the information she’d dragged out of the owner of the storage unit. She couldn’t wait to tell her father. She only had an hour to pack and find her passport.

While unlocking her apartment door a hand grabbed her by the neck and threw her onto the floor. She immediately hopped up and kicked the big goon square in the crotch. She made a run for the door and then felt the pain surge through her head as the vase busted to the floor. Seconds later she blacked out.

Amanda tried to scream but the tape around her mouth kept her from creating any sound. She had kicked so hard and long that the sweat ran off her chin and onto her neck. Her hope faded as the car made a sharp turn, throwing her onto her right side. How in the world was she going to get out of this? She knew her father would be doing everything humanly possible to find her. She hoped the busted vase on her apartment floor would show him a struggle had taken place.

The car came to a sudden stop and she heard footsteps coming around to the trunk. The trunk lid opened and the sun burned her eyes. She immediately closed them. Still infuriated, Amanda struggled as her assailants dragged her from the trunk. They bound her hands so tightly her fingers tingled as the circulation was cut off.

“Stop wriggling around. You’re starting to tick me off,” said the very large goon with thick black hair. “I’m just beginning to feel my crotch again.”

Amanda smiled in spite of the tape over her mouth. She remembered getting that kick in just before they knocked her out. Just like father taught her, always put up a fight. She learned karate at age six and received her first black belt when she turned twelve. It came in handy for her many times. Especially when someone thought they could muscle her around.

The two men took her toward a run down brick warehouse with most of the windows boarded up and dragged her into one of the end rooms. She noticed a man standing with his back to them looking out one of the few open windows. He was strangely familiar to her and when he turned around, he smiled, and Amanda’s eyes grew very large.

“Amanda, how are you? Please have a seat. If we remove the tape can we trust you to keep yourself quiet?”

Amanda sat in the chair they offered her and nodded. The big goon ripped off the tape and she let out a yell that echoed through the room. Her eyes watered and she glared up at the goon. She gave her attention back to the man she couldn’t believe would do this to her.

The man continued, “It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? I wasn’t expecting to run into you so soon. I didn’t give you enough credit for getting this close, but I suppose that is an annoying trait you picked up from your father.”

Amanda stared back at him. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? Do you really expect to get away with two million in diamonds? By the way, he’s your father too.”

Allen laughed. “Oh Amanda, you are so intelligent, yet still so naïve. No, he’s not my father, not my biological father any way. I will always be the black sheep of the family. It’s a pity, because I always felt like we had a sort of bond between us. Don’t you agree?”

Amanda narrowed her eyes. “I used to think we did, but I can see how very wrong I was. Allen, how do you expect to get away?”

Allen turned his back to her. “You see Amanda, that’s where you come in. Father is already hot on your trail, so my planned distraction will help me smuggle the diamonds into Mexico. Of course, I suppose any kind of explosion would create a nice diversion.”

Amanda quickly turned around and saw the C-4 lined along the walls. She realized he planned on killing her and their father. She wanted to warn her father but her cell phone had fallen out in the trunk of the car. She tried to get her bearings and noticed a hall at the other side of the room where she heard the sound of slamming doors.

She tried to figure a way of breaking free when shots rang out. She ducked and rolled to the ground and crawled toward the hall. Shouts came from everywhere as she made it to the hall and over to an open window. She climbed out and dropped to the ground. As she started to run an explosion hurled her ten feet onto her back. She covered her head and lay there hoping she was far enough away. When the explosions had stopped she lifted her head and through the smoke she saw her father running toward her.

Amanda sat up and smiled at him. “I knew you’d find me. Although, I have to admit I wasn’t expecting the grand explosions.”

Her father knelt down and hugged her. “Why do I always find you in the middle of some huge mess?”

Amanda kept her head on his shoulder while he untied her hands. “Because I’m your daughter. Dad, it was Allen. He’s Mr. Smith. He was in the building.”

Jim pulled away with tears in his eyes. “I know. It couldn’t be helped. It looks like we solved this case. It’s a shame it took this to see him after twenty years. Come on, let me help you up and get you examined. We’re going to have a lot of paperwork to fill out.”

Amanda wrapped her arms around him as they walked back to the car. Yes, it was a shame it took twenty years to see her brother again. But a strange thought suddenly occurred to her. She no longer felt the guilt over her brother. It was obvious he would have left their family at fifteen anyway. There was nothing she could do to change fate because just as he said, he was the black sheep of the family.
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Short Story written by Robin Murphy

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Amanda Stetson ran as fast as she could but couldn’t catch up with the ghostly figure. Every time she reached out the man ran further away. If she could just speak with him and tell him she was sorry. The figure...

Secret of the Big Easy (Marie Bartek and the SIPS Team Book 2) by Robin Murphy

Dr. Marie Bartek, a veterinarian from Sullivan's Island, SC, is learning to deal with the fact that she can see spirits. Along with some of her friends, Marie created Sullivan's Island Paranormal Society, SIPS, to investigate haunted places. While in New Orleans for a veterinarian conference, she and her friends decide to stay an additional week to do some sightseeing and investigate a few haunted places.
Their vacation quickly turns into something else when Marie has a vision of a woman...

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