At the End of a Bad Day

(The challenge: Lisa, hero, suspense)

Lisa doesn’t recognize the body lying on the floor of her living room. She crouches next to it. There isn’t much time, she’ll have to call the police, soon. And this isn’t even the worst part of her day. No, that was when her mother called and announced that she’d be coming for a long visit.

The body’s been shot multiple times. First, while it sat in Lisa’s chair, the one with the footrest. There’s a mark on the back, where the head rested. Not even Mom could get that out. There’s also a smear on the armrest as if the body slumped over before it was dragged to the floor. Lisa counts the entry wounds. Eight. More than were strictly necessary to accomplish the assassin’s goal.

Someone was upset.

When Lisa’s working as a pathologist, she always has a pile of latext gloves, but now she makes do with a tissue from the box on her coffee table. With fingers wrapped in tissue, she reaches into the body’s pants pocket and pulls out the victim’s phone. She lifts his hand, still warm. She presses the waxy thumb onto the fingerprint reader. The screen lights up, and she scrolls through recent calls. The last one is a number she recognizes. Lisa can curse in four languages, but she doesn’t have time for that now. She’s got to make up her mind and quickly.

A creak makes her turn around. She’s already checked the apartment, but she drops the phone, unflicks her pocket knife, and does another walk through, switching lights on as she goes down the hallway toward the sound. In her bedroom, she kicks aside the laundry basket to get to the closet. She opens the door carefully, keeping to the side in case someone bursts out. The figure standing beside the shoe rack in the closet blinks at the light.

“Mom!” Lisa says.

Mom blinks some more.

Mom is holding a gun.

Mom says, “What do you think you’re going to do with that little knife? Have I taught you nothing?”

“You promised me you were done!” Lisa says.

“I was done. Except for this one.”

“Mom!”

Her mother says, “He hurt your sister.”

“What do you mean hurt her?”

Lisa’s mother tells the story quickly. When she gets to the end, she asks, “Are you going to call the police?”

Lisa doesn’t reply. Her mother waits, the gun lowered. Lisa shakes her head.

“I’ll get rid of the body,” she says. “But you have to promise me. For real. this is the last time.”

Author: Lilian
Lilian Nattel is the author of Only Sisters, Girl at the Edge of Sky, Web of Angels, The Singing Fire, and The River Midnight. She lives in Toronto, Canada, in a tall narrow house with a chef-master intellectual.

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