Category Archives: Sudden Fiction

Justice: Part 3, The Finale


Justice: Part 3

by Fay Moore (c) 2012

Good god, man,” says the Chief. A pause, then, “Call me later with the rest of the findings.”

The Chief of Police is silent. Six pairs of eyes focus on him, trained to read the faces of men to reveal what is in the heart.  At the moment, the face of the Chief is tabula rasa. Under the circumstances, the eyes stay riveted to the chief’s face, mining data from each subtle nostril flare, each bat of an eyelid, each pupil dilation.

Standing, the Chief hands off the cell phone to an assistant, straightens his uniform coat, then locks eyes with his audience.

There’s been a fire at the GS Global Investments building. All the senior executive offices burned. Once the blaze was controlled, firemen made a cursory search through the suite, to be sure all flames were extinguished. In the executive bathroom, they found a pair of severed hands on a plate, covered in blood, under a glass dome. The coroner said the hands appear to have been removed from a cadaver. You know, one of the pickled bodies used for training in medical schools. Thank God for that. I was afraid the hands belonged to another investment banker.”

One of the detectives in the room chuckled. “Blood on your hands.”

What?” asked the Chief.

Blood on your hands. The perpetrator is sending a message. The investment banking community has blood on their hands.”

If you count the kills in Asia, Europe and here, we have eleven dead bankers in forty-eight hours. I’d say you’re right that whoever is behind these hits is sending a message, a very lethal message.”

Did they find anything else?”

Yes. Under the glass plate holding the hands, there was a copy of an article from a San Francisco newspaper, written by a Bill, Phil, or Will somebody and called “Unrepentant and Unreformed Bankers.”

Another voice responds, “I saw that article on the Internet. It has gone viral on the free video channels. That crowd sees our perpetrator–or perpetrators–as a kind of Robin Hood. You know, delivering justice where the regulators and courts won’t.”

The Chief growls in reply, “Let me remind you that we deliver justice, not some vigilante. You can’t have people taking the law into their own hands. Remember that! Now show me the article. You said it’s on-line?”

The detective uses the Chief’s computer to find it. The search returns several references to the article, as it has been printed not only in the San Francisco newspaper, but also in the Huffington Post and on various Internet web sites.

The Chief scans the article as the detectives peer over his shoulder.

Money laundering. Price Fixing. Bid rigging. Securities fraud. Talking about the mob? No, unfortunately. Wall Street,” a detective reads aloud. There’s a laugh around the room. “Old Phil Angelides knows how to start an article off with a bang. You know, Chief, he’s got a point.”

A glare from the Chief silences the speaker. “We have crimes to solve. Now get to work.”

It takes weeks of coordinating investigative efforts with global law enforcement and intelligence organizations to turn up bumpkus. The police entities can’t identify who is behind the mayhem. The killings have stopped: the spree is short-lived and focused. Nowhere is there sympathy for the victims.

Over and over, excerpts from the Angelides article appear on television. In coffee shops, barbershops, taxicabs and airports, the buzz is the same: the banks and their leaders have faced no real political, economic or legal consequences for their wrongdoing. The banks are cozy with the regulators and with legislators. Wall Street is solipsism, a world of utter madness that, till now, others could not affect.

——-

Somewhere in Hong Kong, an octogenarian is on his deathbed. He is thinking about the Year of the Dragon; it is a year of bravery, of passion, a time to eliminate negative chi from the past. He considers his life. He has been favored in business and industry. His personal fortune exceeds the total economy of many individual countries. Before he dies, he wishes to leave a gift to his children and grandchildren. He believes he has done it. He believes he has made their world better.

How does he know?

He is watching the news. The broadcaster describes a global reordering of the financial world. In the aftermath of the multiple murders, fear seizes those who ran the old order, and they flee to hide in their hidden bunkers. Systems that have been in place for decades are being disassembled. The central banking system breaks up into small localized units. Fiat currencies are replaced with asset-backed money. Sovereign debts are forgiven. Taxpayers are off the hook. Governments cut size and balance budgets. International banking criminals are arrested and prosecuted vigorously.

Optimism and hope are in the air. Economies will be rebuilt. He can die in peace.

Justice, Part Two


Asklotta requested I write Part 2 to 8/23/2012’s short story “Justice.” Your wish, Asklotta, is my command.

I went hunting for inspiration and found it on www.zerohedge.com in Tyler Durden’s 8/23/2012 post titled “JPM’s London Whale May Face Jail Time for Mismarking Billions in CDS.” I hope you enjoy another installment of “Justice.”

Justice: Part Two

by Fay Moore © 2012

 On the 20th floor, night’s blackness is arriving without a sound. Reds, purples and oranges chase the sun out of sight beyond J.R.’s office window.

Late nights are de rigueur at the Wall Street firm, so an analyst knows where to find J. R. when the after-hours news comes across the wire. J. R. is in his office, as expected. Unexpectedly, J. R. is in front of his desk when the subordinate knocks on the jamb of the open office door. The boss is striding back and forth atop a broad gilded stripe on the carpet, as if the line is a runway and his feet, the plane flown by a pilot practicing incessant touch-and-go landings.

The underling centers himself inside the door frame, lowers his eyes and waits politely. J. R. makes two more passes in front of the desk before acknowledging the interruption.

Can’t you see I’m busy?”

You asked me to let you know if anything hit the alternative news wires. Something is up on ZeroHedge.”

The boss swears under his breath and heads for his desk. He grabs the arm of the executive desk chair forcefully, rolling it backwards, and jumps into the leather seat, driving the rolling chair forward. The ricochet reminds the subordinate of the lethal motion of a pistol slide.

The Internet article says J. R., as chief executive officer, and his firm are in trouble: in addition to the uncomfortable news of the firm’s suffering massive losses for the quarter, now comes an accusation that players in the firm engage in criminal mismarking of credit default swaps to boost reported profits with the intent to defraud shareholders and investors.

J. R. knows that regulators are three years behind in following up allegations of wrong-doing. A bigger threat, in the form of bad press, comes from self-appointed enforcers outside the establishment. Envious or angry insiders leak damaging information into the alternative news channels. Internet-based sleuths are busy lifting carpet corners, shining light on hidden filth missed by lazy, stupid or blind regulators. Going from trickles to torrents,  the news leaks push J. R. to make admissions about the bad behavior of the London-based trading office, and name names of guilty parties. To cover his own ass, he denies foreknowledge of the crimes. Then there’s the LIBOR scandal, to which J. R.’s firm is a party–if not directly, then by association.

J. R. belongs to the You-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours Boy’s Club where men help each other evade the law, at least, and commit horrific crimes, at most.

The executive admits to himself that the media snowball is rolling downhill and growing out of control. The bad news, that came in monthly dribs and drabs of disjointed factoids in the beginning,  is coming faster and faster now; from monthly leaks to weekly to daily to hourly ones.  At first, J. R.’s smooth spin paints the Internet newsmongers as “nutters” chasing phantoms. J. R. is a master at disconnecting the dots. His executive board loves him for that quality. But now the fouling of the firm is overwhelming. The big question at the top is who is going down?

J. R. is waiting for a call from his criminal defense lawyer. That’s why he was pacing when the associate showed up in his office doorway. He needs the legal firm’s resources to manufacture an escape route that will keep him alive and functioning. He is trying to keep his neck out of the noose.

The television mounted on his office wall—the one that is always on and tuned to the financial news network with the prettiest broadcasters–sounds a bell. For some odd reason, J. R. mistakes the sound for the peal of the early warning system. He looks up at the screen. The announcer speaks. The news rattles him. The former head of a competing firm is dead, shot today by an unidentified gunman while he and his wife are vacationing in the south of France.

In the middle of a sentence, the broadcaster stops speaking, pressing his finger against the device in his ear.

After a pause, the reporter says, “We have breaking news. The shooting appears to be an assassination. A source inside French law enforcement says the shooting has all the hallmarks of a professional hit. We’ll bring you the details as soon as we know more.”

A professional hit? By whom?” the underling asks his boss.

I don’t know,” he answers, his voice quieter than normal. “Look, I have a call to make. Thanks for telling me about the ZeroHedge thing. That’s all for now.” J. R. walks the man toward the door, shutting the door behind him.

He calls his lawyer again and gets the receptionist.

He identifies himself to her, then says, “This is urgent. I need my attorney now.”

The barrister’s paralegal comes on the line. He recognizes the investment banker’s voice. J. R. gets to the point.

I don’t know if you’ve heard the latest. I fear someone is targeting investment bankers.”

Yes, I heard the French news.”

“Then you understand. I need protection, and I need it tonight. I don’t know who is behind the threat, but. . . .”

A bullet breaks through the office window glass, striking J. R. in the back of the head and blowing a gaping hole in his frontal lobe as the projectile exits the skull. As J. R. falls, a tinny voice calls through the small speaker of the phone.

Hello? Hello?”

In a moment, the line goes dead.

Sudden Fiction: Justice


The concept of justice is the theme of the song prompt “Beer for my Horses.” The songwriter romanticizes the style of justice made famous in the Old West–the noose. My story explores another form: vigilante justice. I decided to set the story in the context of this week’s news to give it a contemporary flavor. I found the perfect villain that everyone loves to hate. His own bad behavior and cavalier attitude toward his victims makes him perfect for the villain character in the  story. The old man character takes matters into his own hands to set things right.

This little shortie is less than 400 words. The names have been changed to protect the guilty, and to cover my ass.

JUSTICE

by Fay Moore (c) 2012

The old man shuts the top on his notebook computer. He removes his glasses and sets them on the lamp table next to his easy chair. The glasses rest atop a pile of account statements and letters. He leans his head against the chair back and closes his eyes. The words he  just read are re-playing in his head.

Internet columnist Ben Protess reports, “After 10 months of stitching together evidence on the demise of MF Global, investigators conclude that chaos and porous risk controls at the firm, rather than fraud, allowed the money to disappear.”

The octogenarian pinches the bridge at the top of his nose, eyes still shut.

More words echo:

“A criminal investigation into the collapse of the brokerage firm MF Global regarding the disappearance of $1.6 billion in customer money is entering the final stages. No charges are expected to be filed against any top executives.”

The paper statements on the lamp stand show the accounting of deposits made by the old man into an MF Global investment account. The letters mixed in with the statements describe the loss of the man’s money because his brokerage firm gambled on Greek debt instruments with customers’ money. The firm’s actions wiped out the old man’s account. Another letter promises to repay a portion of the loss at pennies on the dollar. However, repayment is contingent on court approval. The case is tied up in bankruptcy court and may be for months or years to come.

But worse to the old man than his loss, worse than Johann Corsini and his cronies skating on criminal charges, are the last words the man reads before taking off his glasses. The words say to the old man that there will be more victims. A leopard can’t change his spots.

“Mr. Corsini, in a bid to rebuild his image and engage his passion for trading, is weighing whether to start a hedge fund, according to people with knowledge of his plans.”

These are the words that prompt the man to place a call. He listens to the ringing before someone picks up on the other end.

“Hello.”

“Do it,” says the old man.

“When?”

“Now. I want to see it on tonight’s news.”

He ends the call and leans back in his chair again, eyes closed. He is imagining the news broadcaster’s announcement:

“Johann Corsini is dead, shot today by an unidentified gunman while he and his wife were vacationing in France.”

Response to “If I Die Young”


Sorry, gang. The story I wrote for this prompt got removed after posting. I was choking on a gag response, the story was so bad. Better to draw a blank and have no story, I decided, than to post one that was forced and contrived. Hence, I used the delete function.

Why Are You So Mean?


Here’s my response to the song prompt “Mean” sung by Taylor Swift. I hope you enjoy it — well, given the subject matter, perhaps “enjoy” isn’t the correct word to use.

Mean

by Fay Moore (c) 2012

 

“You didn’t do it right.”

 

“Sorry, sir. I thought you said . . .”

 

“I don’t pay you to think. I pay you to do what I tell you to do.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

“Now go out there and do it over. This time do it the right way.”

 

“I’m not sure how you want it . . .”

 

“You figure it out. I told you once already. Use your head. That’s why it’s there on your shoulders. Quit acting like an imbecile.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

“And none of that silly singing. Who told you you could sing anyway? With a voice like that you should get a job scaring away crows. Your voice reminds me of those damnable noisemakers the city put in the trees to scare off birds. You hurt my ears. No singing.”

 

“Yes.” There’s a pause followed by, “sir.”

 

“Well, don’t just stand there. Get to it. Are you going to make me stand here all day supervising you? You lazy dog. Get to work.”

 

No one could hear the reply muttered under the kid’s breath.

 

“Mean bastard.”

Response to Song Prompt “Give Me One Reason”


Finally, I finished the story prompted by Tracy Chapman’s song “Give Me One Reason.” I hope you like it.

One Reason

by Fay Moore © 2012

Stacy swirled a circle on the steamy mirror with her hand. The skin on the back of it caught her attention, and she stopped moving the extremity mid-circle to push her palm flat to the glass. She studied the way the skin wrinkled in fine lines, sagging a bit. Veins bulged like mountain ranges across a plain. Her eyes shifted from her hand to the face in the mirror. She leaned in to look closer. The marks on her face were more pronounced. Her forehead was furrowed. Using her fingertips, she traced crow’s-feet at the corners of her eyes and  creases across the bridge of her nose. Moving lower, her fingertips rested on her mouth, where she noted for the first time that lines radiated from her lips like sunbeams.

Stacy straightened, realizing her posture was slightly slumped. She pulled her shoulders and head back, forcing the top of her head toward the ceiling. She was shocked that she gained another inch or two in height. Aging was coming on hard.

Still naked from her shower, she shuddered at the thought of continuing the examination. Nevertheless, she wiped away more steam from the glass, then stood to assess herself.

Her breasts, though small, sagged. The skin around her navel frowned at her, the weight of her tummy pulling the edges down. She turned sideways. Instead of the once straight arrow-like body she remembered, she saw a series of S-curves. Dimples pock-marked her hips and thighs. She’d seen enough. She turned away from the mirror and wrapped herself in a terry cloth robe, her hair in a towel.

She moved to her closet, pulling out what she planned to wear. She thought about the work day ahead. She had a full docket of criminal cases. Back to back, she would defend people she disliked–and disregarded in the world outside the courtroom. She hated her job, but it provided her with a good living.

Stacy lived alone. She’d been married once.  The marriage ended in divorce. Finding companions was tricky. All the men she admired were married or gay. That left her with a choice: being alone or sleeping with married men. At present she was in an on-again-off-again illicit affair with a married journalist. She liked him. She wanted him more than he wanted her. That hurt.

It was time to go. Stacy got into her car and turned the key. She thought about her lover as she drove, and she wished her cell phone would ring. She could call him. She had his number. He had hers.

But long ago, she promised herself she would not sell out completely to loneliness. She wanted to salvage a shred of dignity. The rules of her game were that he needed to call her. She wished he’d give her one reason to turn the car around. She’d call in sick.

She wished and wished.

55 Words Microfiction: Lightning Crashes


Thanks to you and your advice, my brain was jogged loose from being stuck.

You know what’s funny? The idea that first came to me evaporated when I began to write. My brain took over. It decided that the story generated from the song prompt needed to be a 55-word flash fiction piece. Like lightning, it is quick and brilliantly illuminating.

The story is a study in contrasts, as is the song which prompted it. I hope you enjoy it. It was hard coming, but like childbirth, when it finally happened, it poured out in an instant.

Lightning Crashes

by Fay Moore © 2012

She misses the thunderhead building until a flash illuminates his actions.

When she asks him the first pointed question, she opens a door and looses a tornado in the room. The argument is at hurricane force, words hurling back and forth, slicing through heart tissue, wounding fatally.

From love to hate, it happens so fast.

Response to C. J. Gorden’s KAPOW


Self-described struggling writer C. J. Gorden uses a “Kick Ass Prompt of the Week,” a.k.a. KAPOW, to help writers produce. On July 30, the KAPOW  was to write a first person piece in the voice of a child. My response is below.

Brat

by Fay Moore © 2012

See that girl standing under the tree? That’s my spoiled brat sister. Our housekeeper always says my sister’s the baby.

“You can’t expect her to do this or do that. She’s the baby.”

I get so sick of hearing it. If my sister takes my softball and leaves it in the rain, I’m not supposed to get mad at her because she’s the baby. If she comes in my room without permission, I’m supposed to be happy about it because she’s the baby. If she follows me and my friends to the ball field, I’m supposed to watch over her because she’s the baby.

Baby, schmaby. She’s a brat. Why can’t she play with that curly-haired girl next door? Why is she always following me around? She always wants to go where I go. Me and my friends don’t want her following us.

If she’s along, we can’t sneak up on my teacher Miss Marple’s house and peek at Miss Marple in her bathing suit. The wood fence around her swimming pool has four knot holes close together that are just the right height for us boys to press our eyeballs to and watch Miss Marple rub suntan oil on her legs and stuff. Miss Marple can’t see me, but I can sure see her. If that brat sister of mine is along, I can’t sneak a peek because she would tell on me, sure enough. Mom would ground me for a week.

And I can’t throw eggs at cars either. Or rub limburger cheese on door knobs. Man, that’s fun.

We boys rub limburger on old Mrs. Lender’s door knob. We know she gets home from work around four o’clock, so we hide in the tree fort across the street and wait. You should’ve seen her face the first time we did it. When her hand hit that slimy stuff, she jerked back like she was snake bit. Then she put her fingers to her nose and smelled them. Whew. Her expression was priceless. No way we could get away with cheesing anybody with my sister around.

Dad would take me by the shirt and walk me over to Mrs. Lender and make me apologize. Then he’d make me clean her door knob and wash down the door. Next I’d get stuck cutting her grass for a month, for free.

And it would all be because of my stupid sister. Yeah, she’s a brat.

C.J. Gorden’s blog can be found here: http://cjgorden.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/mondays-kick-ass-prompt-of-the-week-kapow-7/#comment-101

Response to Song Prompt “The Good Life”


I picked the song prompt “The Good Life” by Three Days Grace a couple of weeks ago and scheduled the post for the future. Afterward, I heard about a man who was traveling through Cumberland, Maryland, on whose true tale this short story is based. The person who told me about him is the cook character in the piece.

It is amazing how well this story fits the sentiment of the prompt song.  It was serendipitous I was told about this story just as the prompt song posted.

Enjoy!

The Good Life

by Fay Moore © 2012

The stranger sidled up to the lunch counter and took a seat.

The cook, who also served as waiter at the rescue mission, didn’t recognize the man as having been there before. No matter. More and more, the faces were new, coming in for a meal or two before disappearing, not to be seen again. Yet something about this man piqued the cook’s curiosity.

Would you like a bowl of soup?” the cook asked.

Yes. Thank you,” said the stranger.

He dropped his knapsack on the floor beside the counter stool, took a seat, then swiveled around to survey the room. A half-dozen wizened-faced men peppered the room, sitting at tables in dark corners. Like fly specks on an otherwise clean kitchen counter top, they were an uncomfortable reminder that something unlikable was present in this city.

I don’t think I’ve seen you here before,” remarked the cook.

No. I’m only here for a day or two.”

Where are you staying?”

At the hobo camp by the railroad yard.” The man showed no embarrassment or shame.

Hobo. Until recently, it was an archaic word that conjured the depression era men who traveled with a bindle, riding in box cars, looking for the next place that promised a chance at a job.

Hobo. Here at the mission, modern hobos arrived daily, attracted to the hobo camp near the railroad hub, where trains converged  for a re-shuffling of the cars into new configurations based on each car’s destination. Men traveling from southern or eastern cities came here to catch a western- or northern-bound train. And vice versa, depending on the season or the work available. Some were disheveled from countless days between using a bath or laundry facility.

The cook noticed this stranger was clean and cleanly dressed.

Hobo. A lifestyle of survival and of necessity exacerbated by bad economic times. Unlike bums, hobos traveled looking for work. A job yielded a good life. Modern hobos might or might not be penniless. The common characteristic hobos shared was using the railroads to travel – for free.

Are you riding the train?” the cook asked.

Hope to. I’m heading for Canada.”

Why Canada?”

For vacation,” came the reply.

You’re kidding me,” the cook gasped.

No. I guess I should explain. I used to be a hobo, always traveling from place to place by rail, trying to find work. Finally, I was lucky and landed a good job. Someone took me under his wing to guide me. I went to law school. Now I am a lawyer. But every year, I take a vacation and ride the rails. For old time’s sake, I guess.”

The cook looked incredulous.

It’s true. I have a hand written book given to me by an old man a long time ago that outlines every rail line, every yard, where the junctions are to change course, which yards to avoid because the bulls are mean sons of bitches. That kind of stuff. He collected it all by writing it down. Before he died, he gave it to me.”

Have you ever been thrown off a train by a bull?” The cook was wide-eyed.

Yes. It’s worse in the deep south. I got roughed up down there and taken to jail. But I paid my fine, and I went on my way.”

The cook shook his head. The man finished his soup and slapped a twenty dollar bill on the counter.

The lunch is free,” said the cook. “The boss says to feed whoever walks through the door.”

I know. This is a donation. It’s what I do now that I can. When I eat, I pay for myself,” he said, panning his arm across the room, “and for my friends. Thanks for being here to feed us. There was a time that without soup kitchens like this one, I would not have had a meal for days while I hunted work. It’s my way to give back.”

The stranger picked up his backpack, shouldered it, and walked out through the same door he entered earlier, without looking back. In his head, he thought about the cook. He thought each of them had found a little of the good life.

Kokomo Moonlight


Okay, so the setting of my short story inspired by the Beach Boy’s song “Kokomo” isn’t in the Florida Keys or in the Caribbean. Instead it is set in south Florida’s seaport Fort Lauderdale. It is a common overnight stop for boaters traveling on the Intercoastal Waterway. I hope you enjoy it.

Moonlight

by Fay Moore © 2012

The sailboat glides through a small channel from the Intercoastal  Waterway into Lake Sylvia. The gunkhole is a perfect overnight anchorage for the weary sailors aboard the small sailboat. It is quiet and protected from the winds.

The moon rises as the anchor drops off the bow into the water. The anchor light twinkles at the top of the mast, looking no brighter than a distant star. A small galley lamp lights the inside of the tiny cabin, but ebony blackness inhabits the deck.

On the shoreline are a few waterfront homes of some of Fort Lauderdale’s prosperous residents. Nightfall cloaks the mansions in darkness; the houses are merely silhouettes dappled by intermittent patches of moonlight filtering through palm fronds.

An occasional house window is illuminated. If the fatigued sailors wished it, they could peer into the lighted rectangles from afar and pry into the doings that transpire inside the glass. Instead they focus on chores.

The woman comments that she wants to clean herself from the salt spray accumulated during the day’s sail. She grabs a bucket and fills it with tepid water from the faucet. With a sloshing bucket, soap and wash cloth in hand, she calls to her partner that she is going up to bathe on deck under the starlight.

Once at the bow, where her movement is unencumbered by the boat’s contraptions, she sets down the bucket and begins to remove her clothing. It is a sultry night, so she works slowly at her task, peeling off one piece of clothing at a time. She makes a neat little pile that she sets atop a hatch cover several paces away from the bucket.

Her clothing secure from a soaking, she turns and dances toward the bowsprit. Standing in the pulpit, she slowly raises her arms toward the full moon and throws her head back, her long hair tickling its way down her spine. A messenger line is tied to the rail. She takes hold of it for balance as she leans back, lifting one toe above the rail and pointing it skyward, in a nymph ballet with her partner the moon. The heat makes her glisten, her moist skin reflecting moonlight.  If light were hands, then the moon holds her everywhere at once, highlighting her curves.

She starts bathing, making sponging a part of her dance routine. She is alone on her stage, watched by an adoring universe of stars.  And by one dirty old man with a pair of binoculars.