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News & Features » February 2020 » “The Good and the Bad” by Kristen Petry

“The Good and the Bad” by Kristen Petry

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, two contractors encounter a fatal project . . .

The Good and the Bad
by Kristen Petry
Naples, Florida

January 2009

Melanie and Matt drove past their potential client’s house, a white stucco tear-down on a lesser street in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the country. Matt braked, put their Volvo wagon into reverse, and sped back. From his body language she could tell he planned to park at the curb.

“No. Go in the driveway. And take a bottle of water if they offer.”

“What driveway?” he said, though he went in, following the shape of the old one. “And this motherfucker’s on a hill ’cause it’s sitting on a mangrove dump.”

Melanie squeezed his hand until their skin turned pink and willed her tears back. With the economy in free-fall, construction in Naples was paralyzed, nobody could afford landscape architecture, and everybody was scrabbling. They needed this project whether they liked it or not.

Out of the car, they went to the mahogany-stained front door and rang the bell. Nobody came and after a beat they did it again. Melanie smoothed her long ponytail and examined the point of her red suede shoe. The door swung open and a woman stood there, probably sixtyish, wearing workout spandex, with cheeks that looked hard and round with too much injected collagen.

“Come in,” she said, gesturing to an indeterminate point inside. “This is my husband.”

A man with silver hair parted over one eye, thin, tall, and probably somewhat older than his wife, held out his hand. Melanie and Matt shook it.

“Most couples can’t work together,” he said.

“We’re doing okay so far,” Melanie said.

“Everybody’s in cahoots here. It’s price rigging, God bless us, so we had to fire everybody. That’s why the outside isn’t done. And we had to sit through the holidays with no driveway. We need you chop-chop,” the wife said.

These people had a terrible reputation. Their place should have been finished eighteen months ago and the delay wasn’t anybody else’s fault. The wife kept changing her mind and firing people. In better times Melanie and Matt wouldn’t have considered it.

“We’ll write up a proposal before we get started on your plans. It’s very straight-forward. That way if you have any questions about cost we can work it out,” Melanie said.

“It’s just a lotttt,” the wife answered, the word hissing out between her tongue and teeth like a snake.

“Excuse me?” Melanie said.

“It’s just a house and a lotttt. Not an estate.” After that she went on to describe a terraced pool deck which required complex engineering. “But you’re young. Kind of. Maybe you can think outside the box.”

“Yes,” Melanie said, ignoring the first part.

“And get some decent clothes.”

That was it. She’d rather have health insurance.

“Shut up,” Melanie said, her tone even.

She turned to leave, but the wife grabbed her wrist, gripping it and bruising her skin.

“Beggars can’t be choosers,” the woman cackled and that’s when Melanie lost it.

Her mind blanked and she lunged, grabbing for a white marble Ibis statue. Roaring, she swung it like a bat, and when the sweet spot connected the woman’s head popped off her neck and landed on the wet bar, splitting into two even halves like a cut Key lime. Blood spewed and her body fell to the floor squirming on its belly, appendages akimbo, as the earth roared and cracked open. The furniture, rugs, and artwork whooshed into a massive hole and a tangle of muck and mangrove rose from it, suctioning the woman and her husband away with strangling tentacles.

Panicking and perched on a ledge as the walls collapsed around them, Matt and Melanie, falling over each other, managed to get away, little understanding how they did it. When they were safely across the street in front of a neighbor’s place, they watched the steaming black sink hole from which they’d escaped let out a gigantic belch and go silent.

2019

Melanie and Matt’s potential clients were never seen again. Their property was condemned and can never be sold or re-used. After extensive study the surrounding area was deemed safe, confounding scientists because there are usually concentric areas of instability around sink holes. Even Melanie and Matt’s Volvo, parked so close, had been unscathed.

A headstone planted in front of the site by an unknown reads: Sometimes, People Who Deserve to Go to Hell Do.

Melanie has written a book about their experience which is being made into a movie.

***

KRISTEN PETRY is a transplanted writer from New Jersey living in Naples, Florida. This is her third piece for the Mondays are Murder series. Her work can also be found in Mangrove Review, Everyday Fiction and the Naples Herald.

***

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 info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Feb 3, 2020

Category: Original Fiction, Mondays Are Murder, Original Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,



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