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Latest Stories

March 18, 2019
Mystery Stories JD Plummer

Pseudonyms

“Gelb wants you to call him.” I looked at Frankie, opened my mouth, began to slowly shake my head. My reply delayed by the image of Gelb, monocle in eye, brow raised, lips tight, grimacing. I cringed at the thought. “I ain’t calling that prick,” I finally…
March 18, 2019
Fantasy Stories Lucia Balbuena

A Different Story

Her breathing was deep and steady when she run through the dense forest holding her grandmother’s kitchen knife in her hand. Her red cape was torn up, also her legs, hands and her face were cut by the tree brunches. Stop you are the victim, said the forest…
March 17, 2019
Crime Stories Wally Smith

Coda

Luigi Andante’s small apartment sat on the fourth floor of a block in the West Bronx at the corner of 18th and Davidson. It was adequate as a living space, but Luigi craved more than this. “A penthouse overlooking Central Park would suit me just fine”, he had…
March 17, 2019
Crime Stories Walter Giersbach

Fifty Ways to Leave Your Loser

Lorraine Vanderzanden had the thankless task being Lindstrom’s police chief. Her husband didn’t appreciate the risks she took. Her brother didn’t thank her for using her degree for something useful instead of helping on the family farm. Heck, she thought,…
March 17, 2019
Mystery Stories Jenny Webster

"Communicate with me, please."

I have been blind for so long, I didn’t even attempt to imagine what it would be like if I could see. I don’t know any different, all I know is darkness, and I base everything that I can experience mostly through sound. You see, I can’t walk either. I’m not…
March 16, 2019
Flash Fiction Michael Fredrick

Secondhand Santa

The late model sedan sputtered, coughed and dutifully careened forward on a cold December evening. Fred hit the gas pedal & ruminated as he always did, wondering again why life had dealt him this hand? Christmas Eve, foraging for returnable bottles to make…
March 16, 2019
General Stories Darrell Case

Trig's Smokin' Wheels

There were a lot of things Trig Nelson could do, many he wanted to do, and more things he couldn’t do. Trig couldn’t run, he’d never climb stairs or hills or mountains. He couldn’t play football or basketball. Being stuck in a wheelchair that would always be…
March 16, 2019
Romance Stories R. Scott Venegas

A Monument to Perfect Moments

His soul was bid, the beginning was near. Brice Connelly had a dilemma, appointment and summon conflicted. He relocated, the sensation tapered, his fervor intensified. Reversing direction he tried to reacquire the target. Heavens light struck him with a…
March 16, 2019
Fantasy Stories Peter J. Barbour

A Man Called Happiness

In the forest, the trees were so tall, they seemed to reach the clouds. The dark, damp, misty quiet around them gave the forest an eerie feeling. There were animals in the forest; deer, elk, squirrels, and chipmunks, and in the evening a rabbit might cross…
December 09, 2018
Mystery Stories Wally Smith

Body of Evidence

Crime Scene Tours Ltd. had built their business, some would say, on the basis of appealing to people’s morbid curiosity for grisly acts of murder, and Liz and Colin Stevenson therefore had no qualms at all about conducting tours around the scenes of the most…
December 02, 2018
General Stories John L. Yelavich

Aesthetic Shock

Allie is delicate and gentle, waif-like in her presence. Her luminescent smile frames an image that seems so lighthearted. A sense of reality cannot disguise my enamored, whimsical feelings. I rhapsodize her essence in my affectionate mind excursions. She…
December 02, 2018
Fantasy Stories Vidal Martinez

The Purpose of Life

The front door slowly creaks open just as I reach to touch it with my cold, stiff hand. I stand still, hesitant, wanting to walk away, but finally I peek into the house, and through the darkness of the old Victorian home is a shadow of a flickering light from…

 

 

Just recently I had dinner with my old friend, Margaret Hanson, a retired psychiatrist in whose guesthouse I had lived during my two post graduate years at Stanford University. Although nearly 80 years old, she still had it together and always proved delightful company. I made a reservation at Le Pot Au Feu in Menlo Park, one of her favorite restaurants, now in its third incarnation: mother to son to grandson.

I picked Margaret up at 7:00 p.m., and fifteen minutes later I gave my car keys to the parking valet. As we entered the restaurant, a handsome young man took Margaret’s hand and kissed it.

“Good evening Mrs. Hanson. Grandmother sends her greetings.”

“Good evening Charles.”

The young man immediately seated us at the celebrity table, next to a door-sized window overlooking the beautiful, lighted back garden, a position that Margaret and her husband, Hans, had gradually earned over their almost 30 years of patronage prior to his death.

The restaurant still served classic French cuisine, steadfastly refusing to adopt the current, California healthy/French style of preparation that used reduced butter and cream.

I ordered a 20 year old, single malt scotch and Margaret, no longer able to tolerate the tequila shots of her youth or the double strength martinis of ripe middle age, ordered a white wine spritzer.

As we sipped our drinks, Margaret waived away the server.

“Have you noticed this double white orchid pinned to my dress?”

“I daresay, everyone in this room has noticed it.”

“Don’t be too fast to mock,” she said with the composed smile of someone about to reveal something confidential. “There is a story that goes with this orchid. Just sit back, enjoy your drink and listen.”

“As soon as I reached 65, I prepared to retire. I located other doctors for patients still in my treatment. To protect the privacy of my previous patients, I destroyed all their records, had a certificate of destruction and affidavit notarized re same and put the original copy on file with the San Mateo Court in Redwood City. I did this because I knew that many other retired psychiatrists had been served with subpoenas seeking former patent records based on some special circumstance allowing the release of records for review by the police or FBI. Neither entity ever proved capable of sufficient tact or judgment to keep such sensitive information confidential, and frequently caused unnecessary grief and embarrassment to the patients and their relatives.

One day, about three weeks ago, I answered my doorbell to be greeted by some well scrubbed young man, bearing a deep tan and sun bleached blonde hair like some surfer dude Hans and I might have seen on the boardwalk in Santa Cruz. The dude introduced himself as an assistant district attorney from the DOJ’s office and announced that he was seeking records from one of my former patients for an important case under investigation.

 

I apprised him of the destruction, showed him a copy I kept of the notarized affidavit re same and advised him to confirm the fact by looking at the original on file with the court.

He flashed a crocodile smile and told me, that to his personal knowledge, many treaters made the same claim, but still kept a "secret stash of records”.

“How rude,” I said.

“He then asked me, taking a step forward, raising an eyebrow and lowering his  voice, if I had such a stash.”

“What a scoundrel.”

“Yes, I was scandalized. I then repeated my original reply and said good-by to him, and smiling sweetly, closed my front door.”

Soon thereafter, I received a succession of letters from him, at first asking me to turn over the records of such and such patient, then imploring me, "for the safety of some unknown persons”, and finally threatening to serve me with a subpoena and take me to court unless I surrendered the records to the San Mateo district Attorney's Office.

I finally called an old friend, a retired judge and asked him for help: “Dickey, my dear, it’s Maggie. I need your help.”

I remembered that Dickey had maintained quite a few connections among law enforcement and the judiciary, and then sotto voce added, “And still knew where a few skeletons were buried.”

This time it was I who smiled with admiration. “Sounds like something out of a John O’Hara novel.”

“A mostly forgotten and underrated writer,” Margaret noted.

Two days ago I answered my doorbell again. A messenger delivered a letter and a silver colored box. I sat down and opened the letter, handwritten on the Department of Justice stationery, in a handsome, cursive style that would make any grade school teacher proud.

Dear Dr. Hanson,

Please, allow me to apologize for my presumptuous, adolescent attempts to obtain information concerning one of your former patients because I refused to believe you. I hope you will forgive me.

 

It was signed Michael A. Donavan, Assistant District Attorney, Department of Justice, and then, on a sticker beneath his signature: temporarily on special assignment at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) at Ray Brook, located in upstate New York.

I opened the silver box to find this double white Phalaenopsis orchid. You can buy it from a standard grocery store, or if you happen to live near an Asian market, you can find truck-loads of the white or purplish-pink variety delivered several times a week. But it was thoughtful of him. And I suppose an assistant district attorney works for a meager salary, especially if the sequester has reduced it.”

Margaret leaned her head back slightly and produced the kind of laughter that only arrived at last, and was traditionally valued as best. Then she signaled to the server to approach.

Looking at me, she said, “Now, let’s order. I’ve worked up an appetite!”

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