The Outsider

When i first used to write stories and hide them away in my desk…i used to think that no one had ever been so lonely as i was and i used to write about people all alone. . . . i thought i was insane and i would write about how the only sane people are the ones who are condemned as mad and how the whole world is cruel and foolish and afraid of people who are different.

– Shirley Jackson

All writers have their influences. Mine is Shirley Jackson. Best known for her short story The Lottery, Jackson’s works of every day horror are a major influence on my writing. I love how she took the mundane and made it terrifying.

Imagine a pristine white room. Jackson is the one who sees the tiniest black smudge on a far baseboard and knows that it is not a smudge, but is, in fact, a portal to a dimension of monsters so foul they would frighten Lovecraft.

If you haven’t read her, fix that and pick up one of her books now. I recommend The Haunting of Hill House. So does Stephen King in his Danse Macabre. I also recommend We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

FYI: Don’t read them at night.

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Constant

pexels-photo-355097.jpeg“I’M OUT OF tea,” Jane’s mother called out as Jane slipped on her coat. “Pick some up for me.”

Jane sighed. Her mother was always out of something. “What kind?”

“Constant Comment.” Her mother came out of the kitchen and leaned against the door frame. “You look nice today.”

“Thanks, mom.” Jane waved and was out the door before her mother could say anything else. If she waited any longer, she’d be late for work.

Daily Prompts - Constant

The Trial

“STATE YOUR NAME for the record.”

“Charnes. Detective Liz Charnes.” I kept my face neutral and my voice confident. After a while, trials don’t get to you. Especially this trial. We had caught the defendant, Jay Pressincarla, red handed. It didn’t get any easier then this.

The prosecutor felt the same way. “Detective Charnes, can you tell us the events surrounding the morning of the 19th?”

I waited a beat; it wasn’t good to sound rushed. Juries didn’t like it when people sounded rushed. Made them think people were lying. “We got the call around 7 in the morning. A disturbance around the Back Room…you know, the storage area, down by the docks?” I paused for a moment. “My partner and I went down there to check things out, and that’s when we found her. Jay Pressincarla. Laying on the ground. And a Sam Edelman leopard skin flat in between her paws.” My voice dripped with contempt. “We caught her just before it got – ”

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“Objection. Speculation.” The defense attorney was a real pit bull, and a greyhound lover to boot.  I gave him the stink eye. Speculation, my ass. We’d caught her, fair and square.

“Sustained.” The judge frowned. “Keep the commentaries to yourself, Detective.”

“I apologize, your honor,” I said, even though I didn’t mean it. “As I was saying, we found the greyhound with the shoe. We made the arrest.”

“Would you identify Jay Pressincarla for the court?” the prosecutor asked.

I pointed at the red fawn glamour puss laying on her orthopedic dog bed. “There. That’s Jay Pressincarla.”

“Thank you, Detective.” The prosecutor returned to his seat. “Your witness.”

The defense attorney stood up and sauntered over, a smug look on his face. “You’ve taken these shoe incidents very personally, haven’t you, Detective?”

Keep it cool. Everyone knows how I feel about shoes. “It’s hard not too. You see a gorgeous specimen of a shoe ripped to shreds, it cuts your soul.”

“Uh huh.” The defense attorney leaned on the witness stand. “Cut your soul so deep you had to go to therapy, right?”

There was murmuring in the gallery. I felt my face heat up. “You can’t imagine what it was like – ”

“Like a sale on Jimmy Choos during Christmas?” The defense attorney leaned over, close enough that I could smell the eggs he had for breakfast on his breath. “When you were supposed to be buying presents for other people, but you bought yourself hundreds of dollars of shoes – ”

“They were 50% off!” I shouted. “How could anyone in their right mind pass that kind of sale?’

A smile played around the edges of the defense attorney’s mouth. “So you see a shoe get torn up, you see my client, sweet little Carla, and you immediately leap to conclusions without even pausing to consider that there was another suspect – ”

“Objection,” the prosecutor interrupted. “Defense counsel is testifying.”

“Overruled,” the judge stated. “I’ll hear it, counselor, but be succinct.”

“Yes, ma’am.” The defense attorney turned to me. “Carla is a retired racer, isn’t she?”

I nodded. “So?”

“Raced for three years, with a time of 31 miles per hour,” the defense attorney continued. “Don’t you think somebody that can run 31 miles per hour would be too fast to ever get caught?”

“Yeah, she’s fast, but so what? I hear she sleeps twenty hours a day, too.” I crossed, then uncrossed my legs. “What’s your point, counselor?”

The defense attorney’s eyes narrowed. “My point is, she’s not the only one. Isn’t it right that your partner thinks the Westie could be involved?”

Mackie

“He’s too old,” I scoffed. “Too old and fat.”

“Is he?” The defense attorney smirked, a knowing gleam in his eye. “Isn’t it possible that your emotions are too compromised?”

“My emotions are not compromised!” I stood up and waved frantically at the picture the prosecutor had placed on an easel. “Look at that picture! We caught her! We. Caught. Her.” Anger made my voice shake. I lowered my hand and sat down, my eyes fixed on the banister in front of me. I shouldn’t have done that.

“Objection,” the prosecution shouted. “Defense is badgering the witness.”

“Sustained. I’m not letting you go down this rabbit hole.” The judge banged his gavel. “Five minute recess.”

I sat in the witness seat, unable to move. We’d caught her. We had caught her.

Had we caught her?

Chapter One: The Shoe