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I sit in the dark of my cheap Manhattan hotel room, peeking through the curtains. Downstairs and across the street is a police cruiser parked outside Private Eyes. That’s not a detective agency. It’s a strip club.
Zen Madman's Flash Fiction Folio is a collection of 25 works of my short fiction. In an eclectic mix of genres, I lean towards mystery, suspense, and horror. The stories are flash fiction, which means they squeeze setting, character, and action into fewer than 1,000 words. Despite the brevity, each story has a beginning, a middle, and an end, even if it’s sometimes just one scene. While the stories are separate entities, there are some common themes throughout. To read an example, check out The Target, excerpted above and continued below.
My Kickstarter project is to finish the collection, design the cover and interior of the book, and produce both PDF and physical copies. I've already written many of the stories, but room remains for a few more. I'm excited to work on the design of the book, as I feel the look of the words on the page is sometimes as important as the words themselves.
When I reach my pledge goal, funds will be used to pay for design work, production of the physical books, ISBNs, and shipping of rewards. Extra money will go towards producing the book in Kindle and EPUB formats. (Anyone who orders the PDF will receive additional electronic formats as I produce them.) My funding goal is fairly modest, but if I'm fortunate enough to double it, I'll be launching a new fiction project shortly after this one.
I've been writing stories off and on since I was a kid, but this will be my first published book of fiction. I've had two poker books published, which was very exciting, but this will be special to me in a different way. There's something unique about pulling an idea from the ether and sharing it with others.
Thanks for taking the time to check out my project, leave a comment, or tell your friends, and extra thanks to everyone who pledges. Even the most solitary art can be a collaborative process.
It’s 4:20 in the morning, and right on cue out walks a trio of girls. Even from the second floor I can see their overdone makeup and chronic fatigue. End of a long night for them, but it’s still early for me. And none of them are the girl I’m looking for.
The bouncer and the police watch them leave, but none of them know what they’re looking for. I know exactly what they’re looking for.
Out she walks. Tall. Blonde. Sexy. All legs. She must be a rookie, because she’s still wearing those stripper shoes. No one told her to bring a comfortable pair of shoes for the walk back home. She lives alone. Fresh off the boat from Russia.
It’s cold here like Russia today. At least she has a warm coat, with one of those crazy fur hats. God I hate those things.
I wait a beat then begin my pursuit. She’s halfway down the block, headed towards Ninth Avenue. I exit the hotel and turn towards Eighth. If I turn to follow her directly I’ll be spotted by even the laziest cop. I can walk at least twice as fast as she can in those heels.
It’s a short block to 44th Street and a long block back to Ninth Avenue. Longer still without the target in sight. I’m twenty meters from the corner when her stupid hat comes into view.
She crosses the street and turns in to Westway Diner. She’s called ahead and they have her order prepared. Breakfast of champions ready to go in a large white paper bag. It beats cooking at five in the morning. I don’t wait outside as she pays, I keep “following” her from out in front this time. It should take her about 90 seconds to pay and exit the diner.
I look over my shoulder at her reflection in the storefront window of American Apparel. She’s back on track now, presumably headed to her apartment.
I turn towards Tenth Avenue. She follows. I keep on towards Eleventh. Her pace has slowed. Is she on to me? She can’t know what I’m planning, but she has reason to be scared. Four other strippers murdered this month. All blondes.
The image of their lifeblood spiraling down their shower drains is etched in my mind. The thought of it must be etched in hers. Can she know that she’s the fifth target?
No matter. She trucks on in those heels. I’ve come to her apartment building in the bowels of Hell’s Kitchen, just past the abandoned train tracks. I keep walking. She has her keys in hand and quickly lets herself in.
She’s out of sight, and I turn to an alley between the buildings. Garbage gets dumped here. It smells of overripe bananas and spoiled milk. I climb up on a rusted garbage can lid and reach for the bottom of the fire escape of the adjacent building. My gloved hand slides over the bottom rung and I ease it down. It makes more sound than I’d like. Hopefully the neighbors are heavy sleepers.
Her lights go on before I reach the third floor. Will she stop to eat first, or jump right in the shower, eager to clean off the stink of men and perfume. Her bathroom light goes on, informing me of the latter. It won’t be long now. The cheap Venetian blinds are down but not closed all the way.
I draw my .50 Desert Eagle and check the clip.
To read the conclusion of The Target, visit Free Association.
- (28 days)