A Different Type Of Torture: A Challenge By Frank Atanacio; The Burning Season

The serial arsonist is the most difficult to apprehend because the evidence is burned up. (Joseph Wambaugh)
The serial arsonist is the most difficult to apprehend because the evidence is burned up. (Joseph Wambaugh) | Source
Source

To Earthward

By Robert Frost

Love at the lips was touch As sweet as I could bear;

And once that seemed too much;

I lived on air


That crossed me from sweet things,

The flow of--was it musk

From hidden grapevine springs

Downhill at dusk?


I had the swirl and ache

From sprays of honeysuckle

That when they’re gathered shake

Dew on the knuckle.


I craved strong sweets, but those

Seemed strong when I was young;

The petal of the rose

It was that stung.


Now no joy but lacks salt,

That is not dashed with pain

And weariness and fault;

I crave the stain


Of tears, the aftermark

Of almost too much love,

The sweet of bitter bark

And burning clove.


When stiff and sore and scarred

I take away my hand

From leaning on it hard

In grass and sand,


The hurt is not enough:

I long for weight and strength

To feel the earth as rough

To all my length.


Between Darkness and Light the Fire burns

Little Laura Kimber was afraid of the dark, when the light went out, her over-active imagination took flight. She would open her eyes as wide as she could, but saw nothing. Yet, she knew he was there, watching, waiting, and that scared her.

Laura recalled the vague warning from a strange woman she encountered on her way home from school at the age of eight. “You will walk the razor's edge between light and darkness.” The old woman whispered in her ear. “Never lose sight of the light my child.”

The old woman was right.

Detective Laura Kimber would look right into the heart of darkness, as she sieved through the abominations that can only be conceived in the convoluted recesses of the twisted human mind.

Kimber felt soiled, she needed to cleanse herself of the ugliness that clung to her like a bad smell, she wanted beauty in her life, she decided to accept the offer to join a few like minded people in a poetry reading group.

Kimber's motives for joining the group, was twofold, perhaps the time was now right to share the secret poetry she began writing as a young girl, but joining the group would also give her an excuse to see more of the handsome strange she had met a few weeks ago.

The man was an enigma, when she needed him the most, he appeared, only to disappear just as mysteriously. He showered her with flowers and sent her the most romantic love poems, beautifully written on fine vellum monogrammed paper.

Frank Santoro was a dream, attractive and expensively dressed, to Laura, the slightly cynical smile was like rain clouds hovering over the desert. He was tall with a thick mane of salt and pepper hair, the steely grey eyes followed her as she entered the room, piercing into her like laser beams.

The latest handiwork of the arsonist had left Kimber sickened to the core, but in this job, joviality was the coping mechanism of choice, she learned early not to show her feelings. Laura dreaded going home to an empty house, she decided to take a detour and stopped at a local bar. The distraction should temporarily stop the horror movie that was relentlessly playing in her head, she needed alcohol, one drink, possible two might do the trick.

She walked into the Watering Hole, pulled up a stool and sat down. “Scotch on the rocks” she replied, in answer to the barman's raised eyebrow, she turned around to find grey eyes boring into hers, the man had claimed the stool next to her, she did not protest, she was ready for the promise of human warmth, she needed to lose herself in the hurricane that were raging in those eyes.

In his arms later that night, the police detective felt more alive than she had in a long time.

Although Kimber did not tell Frank what she did for a living, she had hinted that her work was stressful and that she would often unwind by writing poetry. She was pleasantly surprised when he began to recite one of her best loved poems, “ To Earthward” by Robert Frost. Laura knew then, that she was in love.

Frank had convinced Laura to read her poems to a selected audience at a friend's home, reluctantly, she agreed.

She arrived at the house, but Frank was not there. She walked up to the lectern, summing up the courage to begin the recital, she though “how ridiculous, she was a detective, she have despatched vicious killers back to hell, so why was she shaking like a school girl... why is it so darn hard to read this stuff in public?

Smiling nervously, rubbing her left hand against her neck. A red tide of embarrassment crept slowly from her neck to her face, she glanced at the door, still no Frank. She took a deep breath and began.

"My world was empty before you came...” Frank slipped into the room as the phone in Laura's pocket began to vibrate, “oh shit....sorry, I er..I must take this...sorry.” She apologised as she hurried to the door, making brief eye contact with the man now sitting at the back of the room.

"Yeah..Kimber....Oh dear God no... not again."

On the other end of the line was Lead Detective Nathan Chambers, Kimber sensed the anger and desperation in the man's voice as he uttered three simple words. “He struck again.” Kimber didn't need to ask, she knew to whom Chambers was referring, the sadistic arsonist.

The acrid smell of burnt flesh was overwhelming as Kimber approached the chaotic seen, making her way to the back of the Bridgeport shipyard. The blackened mass of twisted metal were still smouldering, all that remained of the shipping container and a family of four. It soon became evident that planks of wood from old broken shipping crates was thrown into the container to help fuel the fire.

In a corner at the back of the container was what appeared at first, to be a pile of charred rubbish, but the awful stench of burnt flesh, told a different story. It was in fact, the cremated remains of two young children, a man and a woman.

The small family had clung together as ferocious flames licked mercilessly at their tender flesh, only the killer heard the desperate screams as the family who had recently arrived in the country hoping for asylum met their end. They had handed over all that they owned, to escape their country's tyrannical despot.

They were migrants seeking a better life in Connecticut, USA. Instead, they found their worst nightmare. The arsonist had changed the game and the modus operandi.

Kimber sniffed the air around her, there was another smell. “Accelerant?” she inquired. “gasoline” said the fireman next to her, “The bastard made sure they knew what was coming, he made an opening at the top of the container and dropped enough stuff in there to cause an inferno.” I don't suppose he left anything behind, did he?” “Actually,” Nathan Chambers appeared from behind Laura, he was holding out a note. "The sadistic piece of shit left this....the cocky bastard is taunting us, look... he is gloating."

Kimber took the hand written note from Chambers and glanced at it, cold sweat washed over her entire body, the world began to spin, she threw the expensive monogrammed vellum from her hand as if it were on fire.

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41 comments

Abluesfornina profile image

Abluesfornina 2 years ago

The sentiments are mutual tobusiness. My pleasure.


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K Author

Abluesfornina, thanks for reading this one, so glad you enjoyed it. The challenge was fun to do.

Nice seeing you, best wishes. :)


Abluesfornina profile image

Abluesfornina 2 years ago

Excellent write and a pleasure read. Gave me everything I could ask for in a New York minute :).


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K Author

Hi Phyllis, so nice to see you! Thanks for reading this, I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

Laura is an interesting character, one can't help but wonder what makes her tick, what's beneath the tough exterior. Frank's challenges are always fun to do, I was determined to pass on this one, but I'm glad I didn't.

Best wishes to you I hope all is well.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

Jo, this is awesome. The way you went back into Laura's life and her need for love and creativity - just awesome and so meaningful to the psyche of the woman we have come to know as a hard as nails detective. Great and very creative part of the story. I love it.


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K Author

Michelle, glad you liked the story, once I decided to do it, I quite enjoyed the challenge.

Thank you for taking a look, much appreciated. My best to you.


midget38 profile image

midget38 2 years ago from Singapore

Great flow and characterisation, Jo! A great response to the challenge!


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K Author

Hi Mike, thanks for taking a look and for the encouraging comment, much appreciated! I'm so glad you enjoyed the read.

My best to you.


Mike Jones 2 years ago

I love how you played this out, tobusiness you are a story writer I enjoyed this piece very much


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K Author

Good morning Flourish, nice to see you. I appreciate the visit and wonderfully positive comment, so thank you. I'm planning to start writing a set of short stories, if they're good, I'll try to get them published. I haven't really considered this style of writing before but it does make sense. Take care and my best to you.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

Excellent. You have a real flair for flash fiction and really should do more. I loved it.


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K Author

Hello Audrey, I may just do that. Lovely to see you, I hope all is well.

Thanks for the kind words and for taking a look at this, I'm so glad you liked it.

Best wishes.

..


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

This was wonderful Jo--you should write more fiction!


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K Author

Faith, I'm sorry this took so long. I saw your wonderful comment last night at work during my tea-break, but before I could post a reply, we got so busy, I had to abandon my break and return to my patient, he kept me pretty busy, my feet barely touched the ground. By the time my shift had ended, my few remaining brain cells had gone on strike.:)

I'm so glad you like what I did with Laura. You're such a generous lady, thank you so much for the encouragement, and all the sharing. I have noticed that you were not around much in the last few days, I hope all is well with you and the family.

Take care and my best to you always.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

Brilliant, Jo! I was truly enthralled in reading your thrilling submission to Frank's challenge. Loved the inclusion of the background about Kimber, which added much to the storyline here. You are a natural Flash Fiction writer.

I have been away from HP for four days and so I have much to catch up on here.

I hate that I am unable to see any photos right now for some reason. My own profile pic does not show up in commenting. I hope it is fixed soon, and when it is, I will return to see your imagery to go along with your excellent words.

Voted up +++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

Blessings always


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K Author

MsDora, thank you for the lovely comment, I'm really glad you enjoyed the story.

The challenge was pretty daunting at first, but I enjoyed it. I hope you're keeping well, take care and my very best to you.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

I like the introduction of Little Laura. Great story-telling all the way through to Detective Laura's meltdown. Good job!


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K Author

Genna, thank you for this valuable insightful comment, you've given me the impetus I needed to take the writing to the next level. It's always a pleasure to see you, I hope all is well, my best always.


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K Author

Genna, thank you again. Have a lovely Sunday.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

I meant to add that I liked the emotional investment you brought in with your characters (Laura) while keeping the serial at a distance. It makes this story that much more compelling!


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

The vellum monogrammed paper. This man is evil and sadistic to the core; and to use Laura in such a way, those “grey eyes boring into hers.” He is the quintessential serial killer you portrayed so well!

“The serial killer must be sadistic.. and Detective Laura Kimber must be the main character. You can introduce your own character.. The serial killer is an arsonist and he loves having his victims watch their own death. The city is Bridgeport, Connecticut.”

You have met Frank’s challenge, and taken us beyond. This is so well done, Jo! Bravo.


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K Author

Devika, thanks for the wonderful comment, I'm so glad you enjoyed the read.

Have a great weekend and my best always.


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

You are so good at what you do! Avery thoughtful hub. You gave it all and more of your greatness with a fantastic ending! I simply loved it.


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K Author

Good morning Jackie, glad you enjoyed the story, it was fun to do.

Frank's work lends itself well to this kind of challenges. Have a terrific weekend, my best to you.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

Ah; such a terrific ending! Great stuff!


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K Author

Cat on a soapbox, how lovely to see you, I hope you've been keeping well. Thanks for reading and commenting, I really appreciate you taking the time. So glad you enjoyed the read. My very best to you.


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K Author

Phew..that's a relief.:) Frank, I'm so glad you enjoy the read. Your challenges are always great fun to do, I hope more writers will come aboard. I appreciate the nudge, my poor PC gets such a battering, some of the letters have worn away, e r and t have completely disappeared, I was most probably swearing and sweating at the time. :)

Thank you for the wonderful comment, It means a lot. Take care and my best always.


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 2 years ago from Los Angeles

What a compelling read! I loved your descriptive character development and the perfect pace. Great job of story-telling, Jo- certainly among your best!

Cheers!

Cat:)


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

This was amazing .. I think you meant cold sweat not cold swear.. tobusiness thank you so much for doing the story with flair.. I wanted to read more and more voted awesome!!!!!


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K Author

John, thank you for the reminder, I'd forgotten to add the source. This one just jumped out at me. :)

Hope you're having an enjoyable day, it's raining over here at the moment.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

Forgot to say, I absolutely love your main image. Very powerful.


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K Author

G'day John, I've always wondered about Laura when I read Frank's stories. I wanted to know what made her tick. :) Guess I'll have to read his book to find out if he sees her in the same way. You're right about the monogram, I was searching for FS but couldn't find what I wanted, so went for F. Thank you for reading this, much appreciated. Have a lovely day and my best to you.


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K Author

Ruby, I'm so glad you enjoyed the read.

Frank have written a lot about Laura Kimber, the detective, I wanted to find out more about the woman. I hope he'll approve of where I took the story.

Thank you for taking a look, it's always a pleasure to see you. My best..


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

This is terrific Jo. It really drew me in the way you started wit Laura's childhood , then had her joining the poetry reading group (including the Robert Frost poem). I wondered where it was going but you soon made that clear. Even had a love interest thrown in..and the monogram on the vellum.. Bet it was FS. Voted up up up. Frank will love it.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

Wow Jo, this is so good. Sadistic to the core! I like the way you took us back to Laura's ghildhood. This was so much fun, everyone going in different directions. Loved it..Well done!


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K Author

Thank you Bill, from you....well I don't need to say it.

Thank you my friend for the encouragement and bless your generous heart. I hope you're keeping well.


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K Author

Ann, bless you for that! I'll send the check in the post. :)


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

The first thing I always look at in a story is does it flow smoothly. Yes, this one does. The next thing is does the dialogue aid rather than stunt the story. This dialogue definitely aids.

In other words, Jo, you have a winner here. :)

bill


annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England

You gave me the impression you'd done this sort of thing before. Certainly nothing like Mills & Boon! Much better!


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K Author

Ann, I'm so glad you liked it! I'm less crime horror, more mills and boon. :) But I had to give it a go. Thank you for the generous comment. My best to you.


annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England

This is a superb ending for the story in this challenge. I love it! Chilling and full of atmosphere. Like the way you've developed her character through her childhood too. Well done!

Ann

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