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Where the Chips May Fall

by M.R. Cameo about a year ago in Short Story · updated 11 months ago
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A Clean Cut is Always Best

Drips of condensation streamed down the glass of bourbon as he swirled it around, observing it as if it were crystal ball revealing forbidden knowledge. Cora coyly watched him from behind the bar, intrigued with the unusual man who had come in for the second night in a row. It was rare to see a new face in the quaint town this time of the year. Snow, blizzards, and monotony encompassing the small waterfront community that only came to life in with hordes of tourists in the summer. As of now Lake Winnisquam, normally the focal piece of the place, was just a mass of shimmering frozen ice.

“Can I get another one?” The gentleman pushed his empty lowball glass towards her continuing to look down towards his coaster.

Cora grabbed a fresh glass, scooping a few cubes of ice into it. “So, are you just visiting Belmont, or are you from around here?”

“Who’s asking?”

She chuckled as she poured the liquid over the ice. He watched her with little curiosity, eagerly grabbing the finished drink and taking a sip. As she walked away with the old glass, he examined her out the corner of his eye. Disheveled light brown hair that flowed past her shoulders, a pair of black jeans, and burgundy top that hung off one shoulder. He noticed several bruises on her arms and a modest wedding ring on her finger. She walked with a feigned confidence, insecurities and nervousness veiled beneath.

“Do you know anything about this?” He pulled out a dark purple poker chip that had a finch engraved upon it.

A look of familiarity momentarily crossed her face. “Who’s asking?”

“I am.” He reached into his jacket pocket before flipping open his I.D. badge. F.B.I. Special Agent Acton Whitby.

“Well, no I’ve never seen that before.”

“Heard any rumors of illegal gambling going on?”

“No.”

“Well, where exactly do you think something like that would happen, if it were to happen in this town?”

She shook her head. “I’m sorry. I don’t know.”

“This place?” He raised an eyebrow.

“No.” She laughed awkwardly.

“And your name is?”

“Cora.”

“Alright.” He gulped down the rest of his drink and placed a few bills on the counter before hopping off his barstool.

“Hey watch it!” Rocco, a regular patron shouted as he pushed Agent Acton back.

“Excuse me?” He straightened his coat, daring Rocco on.

“Excuse this!” Rocco flung a punch, Acton barely ducking in time to dodge it. Acton kicked him in the groin, causing him to growl and kneel over. From that position his rage pushed him forward and he grabbed Acton’s legs, sweeping them from underneath him. Acton twisted and kicked him squarely in the head, before pulling out his pistol and whipping him across the forehead with it. There were a few howls and roars from other patrons, some of them nearing as if they might join in to defend Rocco. Acton darted up flashing his badge, “F.B.I.” he exclaimed. The crowd backed off as he strode through the establishment and right out the door.

“Tawny do you think you could cover for me the rest of the night?” Cora bit her lip readily desiring to leave.

“Sure, there’s only about an hour left. Is everything okay?”

“Oh yeah, just something that came up.” She rushed out the door just in time to see Acton opening the door to an obsidian 1971 Dodge Charger, it’s sleek body sparkling in the moonlight. She hurried over to the vehicle, ineptly slipping on a patch of black ice.

“You okay?” Acton popped back out of the vehicle.

“Yeah, just slipped on some ice.” He walked over and helped her to her feet. “Thank you. You sure you should you be driving?”

“Should you be walking?”

“Are you offering to give me a ride?”

He cocked his head looking at her inquisitively. “Sure? Why not?” He gestured towards the vehicle; his manner demure. The exquisite engine roared to life, causing both of their hearts to skip a beat. They were soon cruising down a narrow wood, magnificent pine and maple trees encasing them on both sides.

“I’ve never seen an F.B.I. agent around here.”

“Well, that’s not a bad thing.”

“Can you tell me what you’re investigating?”

“Murders.”

“Really? I haven’t heard of any murders around this area.”

"Oh, turn right on the next road. You can just park right here.” She clarified as he rounded the corner. “Thanks for the ride. I really appreciate it. Do you have a card?”

“Nope.”

“Okay. Have a goodnight.” She shut the car door before threading carefully down the snowy path to her home two houses down. If her husband found out she’d gotten a ride home with a man he would be livid and she would bare the consequences. The grumble of the Charger reverberated through the silent night as it disappeared into the darkness.

*

The next day Cora showed up to work with heavy eyes and aching bones. She’d become an expert at applying makeup to coverup blackeyes and bloody lips, but they were still discernable to the trained eye. For some reason her heart felt heavy when Acton never showed up that night, even though she couldn’t make any sense of it. After her shift she stepped into the frigid air wrapping her scarf and jacket as tightly as possible as she began her walk home. She’d only made it a few minutes down the road when she heard the familiar rumble beside her. Acton motioned for her to get in, before hitting the gas, propelling them through winding roads.

“Where are we going?”

The Big Trout Inn.” He reached down near her seat, causing her to flinch, before extracting a stashed flask. He took a quick drink, without taking his eyes off the road. “Want some?”

“No… Why are we going to a hotel?”

“I’ve got a room there. All my evidence from this case… I’d like your feedback.”

They sat silently until they pulled up to the quiet motel, only one other vehicle in the snow laden parking lot. Acton’s room looked well lived in, clippings strung upon all the walls, a shambolic stack of books on the floor, pizza boxes stacked by the miniscule trashcan.

“So, these girls.” He pointed to a picture of a teenage smiling blonde and another of a middle-aged Asian woman. “They were kidnapped from their homes in the middle of the night, brutally assaulted, then left to die in the woods. One from exposure, the other mauled to death by a bear.”

“That’s horrible.”

“These crimes were committed in Maine, but everything has led me to believe that the man responsible lives in this town. This…” He pulled out the poker chip, “was left behind at one of the crime scenes. It is believed to have fallen from his pocket. We also found receipts from this town at nearby motels after both crimes. One was booked under the name Darby, the other Pete. Yet I am certain it is the same man.” He filled a glass with bourbon. “Bartenders hear things, sometimes they are like the fly on the wall. Especially in small towns like these. You know?”

“I mean, I have heard some crazy stuff, but certainly not about anyone doing anything so awful.”

“What if I told you, I know who the guy is and I plan on killing him tonight.”

“I think you’ve probably had too much to drink.”

“Bourbon is the amber that brings resolve to my soul.” He smirked.

“Spoken like someone who definitely needs to put down the bottle.” She neared the door. “I need to get going.”

“What if I told you that I am no longer an F.B.I. Agent?”

She stopped. “What do you mean?”

“This case is that important, that I am risking serious time for the way I am undertaking it. I said my badge had been lost so I could still use that resource. I need to avenge these women.” He eyes seemed to glimmer with madness in the dim motel lights.

“So, you were fired? Or you quit?” Cora eyed the door uneasily.

He shrugged. “Depends who you ask I suppose. They wanted me to do something that was against my principles, and no job is worth that to me. I have been on this case for a long time. Stopping this guy is something I have to do. Just help me, Cora. I know last night wasn’t the first time you saw this chip. He will do it again. There will be more victims. Please help me.”

She bit her lip as she considered. “It’s complicated.”

“Why is it complicated? You can tell me.”

“Are you really just investigating these murders? If other illegal activity was going on, but these people had nothing to do with the murders, then what then?”

“Nothing would happen to them.” He shook his head. “I am solely looking for the monster responsible for these tragedies. What could I do anyways? I am just a civilian now.”

*

Cora sat in the car as she watched him drop the bludgeoned body into the frozen lake. The ice shattering, soon to refreeze over, trapping the man beneath for no one to discover until months later.

“So where are we going?” Acton asked as he slid back into the car.

“Well, I guess I better get home.”

“Why?”

“Excuse me?” A look of confusion overcame her face.

“What’s the point? You know what will happen if you go home this late.” He brushed the side of her bruised eye.

“I…” She blushed in embarrassment.

“I got this money.” He nudged his head towards the back seat where a sleek silver suitcase laid. He had amassed it from Eddie’s house, the culprit of the crimes he had sought to avenge. He had found masses of evidence in the house too; he’d had many victims throughout the years. “We got this money.”

She shook her head and chuckled. “No, it’s yours.”

“I couldn’t have done this without your help. Why go back home when you know what awaits you? Why not run away to Florida or Hawaii?”

She shrugged. “I have to. I am married, my family is here, my job.”

“But you are unhappy. You only have one life. One chance.” He placed his hand on hers. “My brother was great, he ate healthy, never broke the law, worked hard, was truly a good person. One night his wife slit his throat. Like that, his life was over.”

“I am sorry.”

“Don’t be, that’s life. But it’s also why I can never understand why someone would stick around in an abusive situation. There is so much to been seen, to be had in life. Regret, guilt, they’re useless. Just think of yourself, your happiness. Come with me.” He smiled. “Never look back.”

“You’re crazy.”

“Am I?”

“Yes.” She grinned unable to resist the beaming face staring back at her. “If you are serious…”

“I am.”

“Okay, let’s leave this place in the dust. Clean cut, fresh start.”

“Hell yeah.” He exclaimed; the engine roaring as he accelerated. Where do you want to go?”"

“Surprise me.” She looked out the window into the darkness, her own reflection looking back at her. Staggered by her decision, at what her life would hold next, but never more thrilled than she was in that moment.

Short Story

About the author

M.R. Cameo

M.R. Cameo generally writes horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and nonfiction, yet enjoys dabbling in different genres. She is currently doing freelance work as a writer, ghostwriter, copywriter, editor, and proofreader for various publications.

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