Flash fiction and short stories are quickly regaining popularity with reading audiences. Whether it’s a response to our collective shortened attention spans or new e-reading devices that make it easy to gobble up stories during daily work commutes, lunch breaks, or even before bed, these stories provide ample entertainment at a fraction of the time needed to devote to a novel.
Many short story markets, online and in print, accept experimental forms of fiction. There are also many contests for writers of short fiction, one of which is the Fifth Annual Bartleby Snopes Writing Contest: Dialogue Only, that had a September 15 deadline. The rules of this particular contest were simple: compose a short story under 2000 words entirely of dialogue using as many characters as the author would like without using narration or tag lines.
In honor of this contest, which Indie Spirit Press author Amber Turner has entered, our writers will be posting free, dialogue only flash/short fiction over the next week. The first story, “A Stiletto to the Heart” by Amber Turner, author of Preppy Little Liars, is a mystery that deals with the murder of the proprietor of a dominatrix den.
We hope you enjoy the story and if you do, please leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you. Happy reading 🙂
A Stiletto to the Heart
Who found her?
And she was alone?
Of course. I told you she doesn’t let anyone in her office.
How’d you get in?
The door was slightly open. I thought it was strange ‘cause she never keeps it open so I went in to see if she was okay.
So she was in her office when you found her?
I just said that. What do we do?
Nothing. Call the cops. Let them handle it.
Deacon, you know we can’t do that.
Because it’s a brothel?
We’re not a brothel.
Brothel, dominatrix den – same difference.
Your flippancy aside, you know the police won’t make the distinction. The cops come here and we’re fucked.
You’re fucked regardless. You have a dead body in the building – what are you gonna do, stuff her in a closet and hope none of your clients notice?
I’m really considering it right now.
She’ll start to smell.
Jesus. I can’t believe I’m standing here having this conversation.
You have a bigger problem.
If she was alone and no one is allowed in her office, who killed her?
Could it have been one of your clients?
No. No way. There was no one here.
How do you know? Did you check?
We close at midnight. She had to have died after that because I saw her go in her office when I showed out my last appointment.
What about the other Doms? Did they have appointments tonight?
Yes. And they all left before midnight. At least I think they did. I’m not sure.
So if it wasn’t a client who did it…
…It was someone who works here.
No. Absolutely not!
How can you be sure when you just said you weren’t sure if everyone had left?
I just don’t see it.
Well, either someone here is the murderer or the place is haunted and a spirit offed her.
Very funny. Any second I’m bound to laugh.
I’m trying, but I don’t know what you want from me. You won’t consider the possibility that one of your coworkers killed your boss so what other option is there?
Maybe it was suicide?
She stabbed herself in the heart with a shoe?
…She could have fallen on it.
On the heel?
Okay, maybe not.
Look, Raven – I don’t know what you want me to do. I’m a reporter, not a lawyer, which is what you need right now.
Why would I need a lawyer?
Because you were the last person to see Adele Goodman alive and now she’s dead. You found her body and you didn’t immediately call the police. It’s going to look bad for you when the police are finally called in.
But I didn’t do anything wrong….Why are you looking at me like that?
Did you kill her?
Hey, I had to ask. You did find the body…that looks suspect.
I can’t believe you. I’m your sister – not a murderer. You should know me better than that.
I never said you were a murderer. I just had to know if you knew more than you were saying, that’s all.
Well I don’t. So are you going to help me or not?
Do I really have a choice? If I don’t and you get clinked, it’s gonna make for a very awkward Thanksgiving dinner with mom and dad.
…So where do we start?
We interview your colleagues. Has everyone gone home for the night?
Then we need to make some house calls. Get everybody back here.
I don’t like this, Deac.
You don’t have to like it, but it needs to be done. One of them killed your boss. If we don’t find out who did it before morning, you’re dead.
Sorry. Poor choice of words.
Why are we here, Raven?
Good question – I was in the middle of a soak in my hot tub.
And I was a seconds from sleep. You know I’ve got insomnia, girl. This better be good or I’m gonna be pissed in the morning.
Relax everybody. I’m going to explain why you’re all here in a minute, but first, I need to introduce you to my brother. This is Deacon. He’s a reporter for The Enquirer.
That’s nice. What’s that gotta do with us?
My sister found your boss in her office. Dead.
How is this possible?
Is this a joke?
I knew I shouldn’t have got out my tub.
Thank you. Now, as I was saying. My sister found your boss dead and we called you all here because we believe-
Actually, my brother believes – I said I couldn’t see it being any of you.
Thanks for the clarification, Ray. Maybe you want to take over here?
Then please – let me do my job without undercutting me.
I wasn’t undercutting you, I was just making a point.
Yeah, in front of the people you asked me to investigate.
Wait – we’re being investigated?
But you just said we were. So either we are or we ain’t.
Do I need to call a lawyer?
You see what you just did?
Everybody, please calm down and listen.
This is not an official police investigation. I merely have a hunch and I’m examining it from every angle. It could be that this is a huge misunderstanding, a freak accident that can be easily explained once the cops get here and sift through the evidence. I just want to talk to all of you before this situation escalates – that’s all.
How’d she die?
You said Adele’s dead. How’d she die?
Geneva. My real name’s Geneva.
Well, Geneva, it looks like…it appears as though someone stabbed her with one of those heels you all wear.
A stiletto? How do you stab someone with a stiletto?
We don’t know, Gene. Deac’s going to look into that soon though, right?
Right. Though I want to stress that I’m not a detective – just a writer.
So Mr. Writer – are you gonna question us separately or is this gonna be a group trial?
I think it’s best to do individual sit downs.
So who’s first?
And your name is? For the record.
Hello, Shonda. Apologies again for pulling you out of your hot tub.
So I guess I’ll start by asking when your last client left tonight. Or, last night rather.
I don’t know. I guess around eleven-fifteen. Maybe quarter after.
And did you go home immediately after your client left or did you stick around for a while?
I stayed to pack up my things and change out of my outfit. I’m not walking to my car in the middle of the night dressed like Tina Turner in Beyond Thunderdome, you know what I’m saying?
Yeah, that might be dangerous. So what time do you think it was when you left?
Probably about five minutes to midnight.
And did you see Adele at all between the time your client left and when you left?
Yeah, I check in with her every night after a client’s gone just to give her the rundown of what was up.
Is that standard with all employees or that just something you do?
Some of us do it. It’s not mandatory or nothing.
Is my sister one of the ones who stays behind to see Adele?
Not really, but she had a late one I think so that could be why she was still here.
You don’t think she did it, do you?
Raven. Do you think she killed Adele?
I can’t really say.
Why not? She’s your sister. If her own brother thinks she’s a killer, that’s fucked up you know.
I don’t have an opinion one way or the other. I need to get all my facts straight first, then, I’ll be able to put the story together.
Do you know if Adele had enemies either externally or internally?
Did she have enemies? Of course she had enemies. She was a successful woman in a male-dominated trade. Most of the businesses around these parts that do business like ours are run by men. She didn’t take shit from any of ‘em and she certainly never had a problem telling people what was what.
She pissed off a lot of people?
All the time. But that’s what happens when a female tries to assert herself in the world. People are always looking to shut her down.
What about here? Did anyone who worked for her hate her?
I don’t know. I keep to myself for the most part; I don’t get into other people’s beefs. They handle they business and I handle mine.
I see. One last question – what size shoe do you wear?
…Eight and a half.
Thank you. You’ve been a lot of help.
Hi. What’s your name for the record?
Real or handle?
Do you want my real name or the name I use with my clients?
Oh – your real name’s fine.
So Idina, what time did your last appointment leave and when did you leave?
Do you mean what physical time we left?
Uh…is there another kind of time?
Yes. The metaphysical.
Then I meant, the um, original physical.
And are you asking if we left together or whether we left individually and at what physical, individual times we left the den?
I…think I was asking the latter.
Haha! Okay, that makes sense since I believe he and I both left here last night on a wholly different spiritual plane at different times. For him, it’s usually right before he climaxes, but for me, it’s usually when he’s at the height of his pain.
…Right. So, what time was this again?
The spiritual departure or the regular one?
Thanks, Idina. You’ve been…interesting.
Well, thank you. Hm.
You don’t look like Raven. Are you sure you’re related?
That’s the story mom’s been sticking to the last thirty years.
Nice personality, too. You know, I know a guy who’d pay top dollar to get his hands on a man like you.
Oh, well, I prefer to be hands free these days.
He can do that, too.
Uh…let’s talk about your boss, shall we? I heard she had enemies – did you know any of these people and, in your opinion, would any of them hurt her?
Probably. But I’m guessing you think one of us did it, otherwise you wouldn’t have called us here in the middle of the night so what you’re really asking is, would any one of us hurt her? Maybe. If given the right circumstances.
And what would be the right circumstances to murder someone?
If they were stealing from you or blackmailing you for instance. If they were sleeping with your spouse or hurt your kid…some people would consider those murderable offenses.
Was Adele stealing from anyone or blackmailing them?
Maybe. I don’t know all the details, but I’ve heard some things.
Things like what?
That she was manipulating a few of the Doms here. To what end, I’m not sure – it wasn’t happening to me so I didn’t worry about it.
If you had to guess which one of you killed Adele, hypothetically speaking of course-
But if you had to guess who did it, who would be your killer?
She said me? That bitch. She only said it because I’ve been pulling more clients lately and she’s a jealous, sour-faced hag trying to get me out of the way. Devious gash.
I didn’t say Pam accused you of murder exactly-
No, she just “hypothetically” threw me under the bus. I feel much better knowing that I just might be going to “hypothetical” prison. Bitch.
No one’s called the cops yet and there’s no evidence linking you to the crime yet, either.
Oh, but you think there will be? I thought you were supposed to be impartial while investigating.
I am impartial.
Please. I can see the accusations swirling in your beady little eyes.
My eyes aren’t beady.
Whatever helps you get through the day.
Anyway – back to the dead body in the building.
Ugh, don’t even remind me. You said Raven found her in her office on the floor?
That’s a damn shame. You know she had this brand new Persian rug put in about three weeks ago? Blood is a bitch to get out of carpet.
Yeah, that’s the worst part of somebody being murdered in cold blood – ruining the carpet.
Nelson, are you the only man who works here?
Yes sir I am.
And you’re a Dom, too?
Yes, for our female subs and the men of a certain…persuasion.
You mean gays?
No, I mean cyclists. Of course I mean gays. Honey, I’m gay if you hadn’t noticed.
I try not to prejudge.
Well, you’d be the first.
How much do you weigh?
What the hell kind of question is that? You can’t be asking about my weight!
Because it’s inappropriate.
Everything’s appropriate to ask in a murder investigation. And if you don’t answer now, I’ll just find out anyway when they cart you off to jail and I sneak a peek at your driver’s license.
You have no decency. Fine. I’m about one ninety, give or take a few extra pounds.
Good. And how tall are you?
Okay, I’m about six feet even.
What size shoe do you wear?
An eleven, twelve. Depends on the make of the shoe.
Did you have any issues with Adele Goodman?
Sometimes, but she was a pain in the ass to a lot of people. That doesn’t mean I killed her.
Yeah, I know. Why was she a pain in the ass?
Do you have five hours?
Give me the Spark Notes version of events, please.
Sure. She and I occasionally sniped at one another because she was a bitch and game recognizes game, Deacon. Don’t ever forget that.
I wrote it down in my notebook.
Adele had the type of mouth that could get you in trouble if you ran it off to the wrong person. I didn’t hold grudges against her, we said our peace and moved on from our little tiffs, but some of the others couldn’t let shit go.
Who were the others?
Uh-uh. I know what you’re trying to get me to do, but unlike Pam, I’m a classy bitch – I don’t sell other bitches out.
Right. What about Pam’s other claim? That Adele was manipulating some of the girls? Can you talk about that?
Not too much because I don’t know all the ins and outs of it, but a couple months back she started taking big cuts from some of the girls’ side business.
Yeah. See, the thing about us is, we used to be a club that was sex free for the most part. When I got here, it was purely power play that was happening. Sex was something other dens were doing, but it was a big no-no here.
When’d you start working here?
Five or six years ago. About three years into it, some of the girls decided to up the ante so to speak to compete with the other businesses that provide our kind of entertainment with a lot less regulation. Adele turned a blind eye to it at first – we had a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when the money started coming in – but when she saw how lucrative the side stuff was becoming, she wanted a cut. So she took a small percentage of fees for the use of her den and that was that. Everybody was happy. But then a couple months ago, someone was shaking her down for cash, I don’t know why, and she started demanding seventy percent of the revenue from the side shows.
That’s a lot of money.
Who are you telling? A lot of people were not pleased with that and Adele just wouldn’t budge. She said they either paid their cut or she’d cut ‘em loose.
So, uh…who all was getting money taken?
Don’t worry – I don’t think Raven was one of ‘em. She seems old school to me – purely into the power play stuff, nothing extra.
Out of all the disturbing things I’ve heard and seen tonight, that was most comforting, thanks.
I like to be of service…You have wonderful bone structure. Have you ever considered “gay for pay?”
Thanks, Nelson. Send in Geneva, please.
This is so surreal.
I guess it would be. I’m sorry for your loss.
Thank you. I still can’t believe she’s dead. Are you sure?
Did you see the body?
Not yet, but my sister did and I doubt she’d drag me here on a lark.
Maybe Raven did it? She did find the body after all.
Maybe. I talked to her before everyone got here.
And did she say she was innocent?
Yeah, but so did everyone else. And I bet you’re going to say the same thing.
Yes, because it’s true. I loved Del, she was like a mother to me.
In what way?
She took care of me – all of us – but we had a bond that was deeper than that. I trusted her and she trusted me.
I see. What about enemies? Do you know if any of the other Doms had reason to want Adele dead? Besides my sister, of course.
Geneva, what is it?
I don’t want to say anything, but I can’t not speak up if I know something that might help catch Del’s killer right?
Okay. Well, yesterday I heard her and Nelson arguing about money. I only heard snatches of the conversation so I couldn’t tell you what it was about, but I know Pam’s name was brought up…I think she may have complained about him to Del and Del called him on the complaint.
Did Nelson argue with Adele a lot?
Oh yeah. Those two were constantly going at it. They’re both really strong personalities.
Nelson doesn’t back down when he thinks he’s right and neither does she.
So in your opinion, was Adele difficult enough to want to kill?
No. She wasn’t the most pleasant person and she did things that weren’t always decent, but you’d have to be a pretty twisted person to think that was a reason to kill someone.
What size shoe do you wear, Geneva?
A seven. Have you checked the size of the murder weapon? Is that why you asked?
Not yet, but I was going to. You’re very observant.
Not really, I’ve just seen a lot of Law & Order reruns so I kind of know how interrogations go.
This wasn’t an interrogation. It was just two people talking.
Oh, I know. I’m only saying that the circumstances are similar, that’s all.
Do you think you know who did it yet?
No, I’m sorry. I saw you reading your notebook just now and I thought maybe you were piecing together the mystery and had a name.
Oh. I have a theory, but it may be way off base. Won’t know for sure until I see the body.
Have you called the cops?
Not yet, but I will once I get an idea of who did it. It’ll have to be a discreet call to my friend Tom.
Is your friend a cop?
Yeah, he works the Vice beat.
Vice? You can’t call in Vice.
Relax – he’s not on duty tonight. He’d come, but he’d only bring one other cop to back him up so it doesn’t turn into a circus out here.
And he would do this for you just because you’re friends?
We’ve known each other since high school. He knows Raven – he wouldn’t do anything to hurt her and getting her workplace raided would fall into the hurting her category.
I see. Well, that sounds like a pretty good idea then.
Yeah, don’t worry, Geneva. I’ve got everything under control.
So who did it, Deac?
What? You can’t be in here. Get out.
Why? I found her, remember?
Yeah, but you’re also a suspect, or at least you’re supposed to be, and how’s it gonna look to everyone else you being in here with the dead body talking to the guy who’s supposed to be impartially questioning them about the murder?
Who cares what they think? One of them’s a murderer and I don’t want to be left alone to get killed with another shoe.
I don’t think the shoe did it.
What do you mean?
I mean, I don’t think it’s the real murder weapon. Come here.
What am I looking at?
This. It’s a hole in the chest bigger than the size of the heel.
So, whoever killed her shot her first and then put the shoe in the hole to make it look like that’s what killed her. See?
I’m not touching that stiletto.
Did you hear a gunshot after your client left?
No, but our changing rooms are down in the basement and Adele’s office is soundproof. She wanted pure quiet when she was doing the numbers.
Did she keep a gun in the office?
I think so. But she never used it, it was mainly to scare off some of our more disturbed clientele that couldn’t tell the difference between reality and fantasy and wouldn’t leave. I never thought it was loaded.
Where would she keep it, in her desk you think?
Maybe. You can look.
It’s not here.
This is bad.
No, this is very bad. Look – this stiletto is a size twelve. Nelson wears a size twelve.
Oh my God, I recognize it now. Nelson killed her?
That’s what it looks like, but I don’t think so.
Then who did?…Who are you calling?
My friend from Vice is on his way here with backup.
You called Vice? Have you lost your mind?
Calm down, Shonda. He’s a good friend. He’ll get the coroner over here to pick up the body and he’ll discreetly arrest the killer of Adele Goodman.
So you think it was one of us?
I know it was.
Who was it?
The stiletto found in Adele’s chest belonged to Nelson.
I knew he did it.
Oh my God.
I never liked him.
I knew I shouldn’t’ve answered my phone.
The shoe was Nelson’s, but it wasn’t what killed Adele. And I don’t think he put it there.
So then what the hell happened? Don’t keep us in suspense, fool. We got a murderer up in here!
Thank you, Shonda, I wasn’t aware of that fact. Anyway, whoever really killed Adele wanted it to look like Nelson did it to throw anyone off their scent. But when going over all of the interviews, something stood out to me. You were the only one with familiarity to the victim.
Excuse me? That’s absurd.
No, Geneva, it’s not. See, when I got here and asked Raven where she found the body, she said she found Adele in Adele’s office and that your boss never let anyone into the office. The door was ajar so either someone busted it open or Adele let the murderer in. And since the door-jamb wasn’t broken and the lock wasn’t picked or locked I might add, that cemented my theory that the murderer was someone Adele trusted. You said it yourself, Geneva – you and “Del” as you called her had a deep relationship. She trusted you and you trusted her. The fact that you were the only one to call her by a nickname also lends credence to your assertion that your relationship with her was much deeper than her relationship with anyone else’s. But how deep exactly?
I don’t have to listen to this.
Yeah, you kind of do. Nelson?
What are you doing?! Get out of my way!
You took my shoe and put it in somebody’s chest? You ain’t going nowhere but to jail and if I find out it was one of my Bottega’s you stole, we just might have another dead body on our hands, y’all.
I know that’s right.
Don’t encourage him, Shonda.
Hey, settle down! There will be no more murders here tonight. My friend’s on his way – please don’t make him have to call in more police.
Why’d you do it, Geneva?
Don’t ask questions you already know the answers to, Raven.
But I don’t.
I trusted her. She promised me when I got here that she would take care of me. I gave her everything I had…everything. And she used me; played me for a fool. I wasn’t bringing in any of the side business money so she had no more use for me. She said she was dumping all of us who weren’t involved in bringing extra revenue to the den.
What? She said that?
She didn’t tell you? Well, she was a liar to the end I guess. She said you already knew that she was dumping us. I tried to reason with her, to get her to see that this club is all I have, that she was all I had, but she wouldn’t listen. She tried to throw me out. She pulled that gun out on me that she kept in her desk. I couldn’t believe it. It’s one thing to tell me to leave, but to treat me like I was just some stranger on the street that she didn’t give a shit about? After everything we’d been through…I snapped. We struggled for a minute and I don’t know how it happened, but I heard the gun go off. She hit the floor. I panicked so I took the gun and ran out of the room. I was going to leave, but I saw Raven’s car outside and I couldn’t leave her alone with the body. It was an accident. I didn’t want you to get blamed for it.
But you were going to let me take the fall?
Well, yes – no one really likes you so it made the most sense.
I snuck into the basement and Nelson’s cubby was the first one there. I grabbed his shoe, the pink one with the rhinestones on the heel-
The Louboutins?! Oh, you need to go under the jail!
I took it back to her office and stuck it in her. I knew if the cops were called, they would notice the difference in size between the wound and the shoe heel. I just didn’t think you would.
But you thought I’d see the shoe, know that it was Nelson’s because I was asking about sizes, and just assume it was him?
Why’d you come back here? If you went to all that trouble to frame someone else for Adele’s murder, why come when I called you?
Because if she didn’t, then it would have been obvious that she was the real killer. She couldn’t risk being exposed so soon. Am I right?
Hey, the door was open. Deacon, what’s going on? You said there’s a dead body here and murderer?
Yeah, Tom – in the back office. My sister’s boss. She was shot. And that’s the killer.
…Her? Is this a joke?
Lover’s quarrel gone wrong. You can take her.
Jesus. Okay, let’s go. Chris, go to the office and check the damage.
So, what do we do now?
I don’t know, Ray. I guess I’ll go write a story about this, changing names and vaguing up some of the details so you guys don’t get busted, and you’ll go find a new job and hope your next boss doesn’t get murdered.
…Sometimes I can’t even believe we’re related.