“Snakes” by Bruce Harris
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, Bruce Harris takes us into the sinister world of porta potties.
by Bruce Harris
Chase Field, Phoenix, AZ
“It’s not funny. It’s theft. Someone took a porta potty!”
Officer Byrne covered the phone’s mouthpiece and howled again. A decade on the force. It never ceased to amaze him the things people would steal. “Yes, Mr. Strickland this is a serious matter,” he choked. “We treat all reported theft professionally.” He waived a couple of other cops over and put the call on speaker. Perry Strickland was CEO of Perry’s Porta Potty. Their motto: Our porta potties are number one . . . and number two.
“I can send a photo of the missing porta potty, if that’ll help,” replied Strickland.
Byrne muted the phone. “Shithouse photographs. My day is made!” He took the phone off mute. “Sure, that will help, although I don’t think we’ll have too tough a time locating it. You said the portable crapper . . . um . . . item was taken from Chase Field?”
“That’s right. Yesterday. We placed a dozen of our units near the ballpark’s front gates during the Diamondbacks’ recent home stand. When my men went there first thing this morning, eleven remained.”
Byrne had a field day with this. “You mean to say that someone stole a dirty porta john, one that had been used all day before, during, and after the game? Jesus, and it was over a hundred degrees out there yesterday.”
After a moments silence, Strickland continued. “That’s right. My men were picking them up to bring to our sanitizing station. The stolen porta potty is in dire need of cleaning.”
“Don’t those things have GPS units or something so you can track them?”
Strickland responded, “Yes, but whoever did this must have disabled it. I don’t know. That’s why I’m calling you.”
“Who in hell would want to steal a filthy porta potty . . .”
. . . Victor Santorini examined the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball schedule. They had just left town for a short road trip, but would return to Chase Field for a weekend series against the Chicago Cubs. Despite the oppressive Arizona heat, he wore his signature three-piece suit with a white carnation in the lapel. With perfectly manicured fingers he tapped two final nails into the reeking porta potty door securing a sign that read, Office – Smokey’s Plumbing. Santorini put scissors to a, “Meet an Arizona Diamondback in Person” advertising sign. He cut off the portion containing a smiling infielder’s photo. Satisfied, he fastened the sign to the inside of the porta potty. The stench caused him to dry heave a couple of times before instructing one of his men to place a live diamondback snake inside the portable john. He then turned his attention to the portable bathroom’s hard plastic door and double-checked the padlock. Satisfied, he adjusted gold cuff links. “I can’t wait until that sonofabitch . . .”
. . . Steve “Smokey” Barnes, Smokey’s Plumbing owner, was impressed with himself for the ease in which he had bilked the residents of several neighborhoods comprised exclusively of senior citizens. His bank account, head, and waistline simultaneously swelled. He’d gain access into people’s homes by posing as a city inspector. Barnes played to their fears, warning the seniors of the dangers of older toilets and their potential impact on buried, unseen septic tanks. Professionally snaking their toilets was the only way in which to avoid costly septic tank repairs he’d explain to his naïve victims. His stories of backed-up and collapsed septic tanks spewing poisonous gasses were effective. Despite the fact that over ninety-nine percent of his customers’ toilets didn’t require any repair work, Barnes had fleeced them to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The worst part, most of these senior citizens were on fixed incomes and could barely afford to pay Barnes’s exorbitant invoices. His most recent customer, Antoniette Santorini, mother of Victor had agreed to and paid for Smokey’s ultimate long-term protection plan. With business so good, Barnes had bragged about his desire to move his plumbing business into fancier offices. “To better serve my customers,” he’d say with a smile. He had his eye on a new downtown office complex. Instead . . .
. . . Steve “Smokey” Barnes moved unexpectedly and unwillingly into his new compact, portable space alongside the outfield gates at Chase Field. His slithering office mate was hungry and angry. The next Arizona Diamondbacks baseball home game was three days away.
BRUCE HARRIS is the author of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson: About Type.
Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Accepted submissions are typically published 6–8 months after their notification date and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to [email protected]. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Apr 17, 2017
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