Last weekend I entered a Flash Fiction contest, to write 1000 words in 48 hours. I used that for the FFF challenge too. We were given a genre, location, and object. My group of 15 (?) was given: Mystery, a surveillance vehicle, and a helmet. There are about 125 groups and you are judged in your group based on this and a September challenge. Playoffs in November, Finals in December. Prizes galore, and feedback from judges and your peers. Mine was 997 words. I submitted it around 5 on Sunday With a typo. Oops.
Who Will Be Next?
There was a ‘thump’ as the shuttle docked. He adjusted his glasses and peered out the small window. This was one of three UN surveillance stations orbiting Earth. Bristling with antennas, it was on watch for any signs of protest or insurrection. Three identical satellites, except for the dead body on this one. Violeta Dumort had died three days ago as she was suiting up for some routine outside maintenance. Foul play was not suspected, but UN Security had still asked Belgium to provide a detective to investigate.
The remaining three four crew members were waiting as he stepped through the airlock. Blanche Delgado, from Costa Rica, Indivar Doshi, from India, Ginger Blith, from Britain, and Doctor Gruen, from the European Union.
The detective gave a short bow, then smiled. "Bonjour. I have been sent by the UN to investigate the death of Violeta Lacoss. My name is Detective Herman Parrot. Now, to work. Would someone please show me where she was found?"
The maintenance bay was stark and utilitarian, with suits on racks, cabinets full of tools, and a large airlock door.
Ginger pointed to one of three suits. "This was hers. She was just putting it on when she collapsed. We got to her within minutes, but she was dead. Too bad, as I liked her."
"No you didn’t," said Indivar. "You were jealous of her maybe using her looks to get ahead, just like you do."
"Whatever," said Ginger, tossing her hair back. "Then we cleaned up everything, sorry."
Herman smiled and patted his little moustache. "No matter. The preliminary report said natural causes?"
The doctor nodded. "She was under trained, rushed up here much too fast. We have rules to prevent that, but apparently the French thought better. She was a risk taker too, a hazard to us all up here."
Herman picked up a helmet. "And this is hers?" He looked inside, then grabbed his pocket handkerchief and reached in. "What’s this? Voila!"
He opened the white cloth. "A dead little traveller. A Banana spider I think."
"We got a food shipment a week ago," said Blanche. "On the unmanned cargo ship."She peered into the handkerchief. "Yes, that’s a Banana spider. I’ve seen them back home"
"And you," said the detective," what was your relationship with the deceased?"
"None," said Blanche. "Initially I was attracted to her, and I thought she felt the same way. But when I tried to show my affection she laughed and pushed me away, with disgust. And then told everyone. Stuckup puta."
"Dear me," said Herman. "Indivar, I understand your father was active in many Hindi films?"
"Yes, but I went into politics instead, trying to help my people."
"As a revolutionist?"
Indivar flushed. "I had a private talk about protest methods with Violeta, all hypothetical. But she got upset and had threatened to tell someone. I guess she did."
"Sometimes hypotheses get too real," said Herman. "But I have one about Violeta’s death. Ginger, if you would please see if the station’s replicator can make a strong coffee, then join us all up in the control room. I will explain then."
Herman was impressed with the nerve centre of the satellite. "So many screens. You can truly watch the world." He settled into a chair, ready to reveal the killer. "Are we all here? Ginger, where is Ginger?"
There was a distant ‘clunk’, and a brief alarm bell. Dr. Gruen raised an eyebrow. "That was an airlock cycling. Not on the schedule for today."
Blanche screamed and pointed out the viewing window. "It’s Ginger!" The body floated by, eyes bulging, blood streaming from the back of her head.
"But who killed her? Am I next?"
"Not if I can help it," said Herman. "You’d said the last ship a week ago. Automatic, with not even a pilot?"
"And you all have just three suits to share?"
"No," said Indivar. "There are two other maintenance bays. With suits on charging racks, enough for all of us."
The detective nodded."D’accord. Blanche, you come with me. Doctor, please go with Indivar. We will collect all the suits and bring them back here."
The doctor frowned. "But the rules--"
"Never mind them for now, mon ami. We are dealing with a murderer. Please, we must hurry."
Once the suits were collected, Herman laid them out in a row. "So, we have six suits. None for me, as I used a direct airlock connection. Violeta, the Doctor, Ginger, Blanche, Indivar, and . . . ?" He peered at the last suit. "Who is this Goldie?"
"Oh, him," said Blanche. "He’s a rich American, owns some gold mines in Africa. A little man, with a big ego. He hates the UN, and all us, and was always crying for the days when America ruled the world. An insufferable ass. We all demanded, and got, his expulsion from the roster last month. He cleared his things cleared out, and now couldn’t even buy his way in again."
"Aha," said Herbert. "But perhaps he snuck back on the cargo shuttle.”
Indivar stepped forward. “I have a suggestion. We can seal off this room and gradually reduce the pressure in the rest of the station."
Herman nodded. "And we wait," said Herman. "But you and Dr. Gruen must be ready to grab him when we open the door."
Ten minutes later someone started banging on the door. "Let me in guys, come on, you can’t leave me out here." There was a cough. "Please, I’m begging. I confess."
At the detective’s signal, Blanche operated the door and twisted the air pressure valve.
Their ears popped as the door slid open. A short blond man stumbled through, then collapsed face down.
The Doctor knelt and turned the man over. "He’s unconscious but breathing. Unfortunately. Indivar, pass me those tie wraps, please." He glared at Herman. "We should have left him a bit longer."
"Mais non, we could not do that. We all have rules."