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News & Features » April 2016 » “Dormant” by Molly Ertel

“Dormant” by Molly Ertel

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, Molly Ertel takes us to a corrections center in Washington.

Molly ErtelDormant
by Molly Ertel
Airway Heights, Washington

February is like Tuesday: second best, like me. January at least has the distinction of being first and has that New Year’s resolution hype going for it, and Mondays are loved for being hated. But February is just dirty snow with sky to match, and Tuesday is Monday’s everlasting yawn. So it seemed like a good sign that it would happen on what would be thought of as a Monday night, even though it would really be a Tuesday morning in February.

Lon had decided he was going to run this drill in the middle of the night. They always did it that way, but this one was going to be grisly.  The premise is this. Some inmates had banded together claiming to be ISIS sympathizers and made a shank from metal scraps stolen from Correctional Industries. They planned to use a stolen cell phone to film a correctional officer being beheaded and send it to a local TV station. Lonny and company were all excited about their creepy little drill.

I was at the meeting when the first shift sergeant proposed it to Lon. Lon nodded yes ceremoniously, as if his head weighed a lot. I guess that happens when you get to be the superintendent of a major correctional facility. I rolled my eyes without actually moving them and nodded my head in turn—lightly, I might add, since I hadn’t gotten the job, though it should have been mine.

On the night in question, I’d have my little Glock. I named her Magda, after my mother, sweet bitches both. We weren’t allowed to carry at work, but I was the associate superintendent and no correctional officer would ask to see the contents of my purse or pat-search me.

It was pushing midnight, Monday night, and the drill was scheduled for 2:00 a.m. Tuesday, if you want to be technical about it. I took one last look around my one-bedroom apartment in a new complex built for St. Nobody. I thought about writing a rent check for next month since it was near the end of the month, then realized . . . Oh, fuck it.

On the short drive to Airway Heights Corrections Center, I started practicing out loud the reason I changed my mind and decided to be part of the drill. I hated that, even in the privacy of my own car, my voice shook. A minute before I turned into the parking lot, I found that if I deepened my voice a little, it didn’t shake so much.

I pulled into the far corner of the parking lot and glanced up at Lon’s office. He was standing by the window, talking on his cell phone. I kept my eyes on the crusty snow as I walked toward the administration building and could feel his eyes following me. I was the only thing that moved through the boneyard of parked cars and snow berms.

Moments later I knocked on the door of Lon’s office and entered before he opened it. I flashed him my brightest, best-rehearsed smile. “I decided it was important I show you my support for this exercise.  You know, let bygones be bygones.”

The minute his questioning gaze softened, I pulled my Glock out of my right jacket pocket and pointed it at him.

“Problem is, I can’t. You took Tanya from me. Yuck, horrible name—I guess you can have her.  Then you got the superintendent’s job that was rightfully mine due to my superior intellect and education and, of course, status as a woman.”

My voice sounded loud and harsh and ugly but, thankfully, not shaky.

“So, I’ve decided to settle matters my way.” I tossed the gun at him, and he fumbled so badly when he caught it, as if it were a hand grenade, it was all I could do not to laugh.  By the time he pointed at me, I had yanked a black plastic gun out of my left pocket and aimed it at him.

He fired at me and I could see his horrified expression as he realized I was aiming a toy at him. His shot hit my left temple, searing its way through my brain. In the instant before final darkness I saw my eleven-year-old self watching my staggering drunk mother shoot her boyfriend who’d stolen my childhood from me. I smiled.


MOLLY ERTEL graduated from Eastern Washington University and currently resides and works in Spokane, Washington. Having previously lived in Cuernavaca, Mexico, for many years, she went to work as the Spanish translator for the Washington State Department of Corrections at Airway Heights Corrections Center. She additionally served for several years as the prison’s photojournalist, writing staff profiles for agency and state publications. She is currently working on a short story collection, Circling the Satellite, from scribbled ideas collected on state agency issued paper towels, Post-it notes, and the occasional cocktail napkin.


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: Apr 4, 2016

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