At the New England Crime Bake this year, people were invited to write stories featuring words from the titles of my books. The brief: “Write a compelling crime story in 150 words or less, using at least ten” of these title words: Canyon, Chain, China, Club, Collector, Dirty, Jericho, Kill, Lake, Liar, Lullaby, Memory, Mission, Nightmare, Point, Ransom, River, Secrets, Shadow, Thief.
I thought this was very cool. At the conference, the winning stories were read aloud, and I thought that was even more cool. So with Crime Bake’s permission, I’m reprinting them here.
THE RIVER BOAT RIDE
By Margo Carey
When Dillon saw her at the China Club that afternoon, he wanted her. Golden hair framed eyes as blue as Jericho Lake. The little thief had stolen his heart. He made it his mission to charm her and it worked. They went on the river boat that evening.
Anna leaned on the rail and gazed at the dirty water. “The waves sound like a lullaby.”
“Are you sleepy, Anna?” The drug was working. He wanted her pliable but awake.
“I do feel a little funny.”
Standing in the shadows with sounds of music and dancing above, Dillon leaned down to kiss her. He whispered, “I’m a collector. I collect blondes.”
His triumph soured, however, as he began to lose muscular control.
“Oops,” Anna said. “I might have switched drinks.”
Helpless against the rail, he begged, “Don’t kill me.”
“Oh, Dillon, I have to. My sister was one of your blondes.”
A NOVEL CRIME
By Nora Belmore
Jericho Canyon Minimum Security Prison Cell
Conversation overheard between cellmates.
“Whatcha in for?”
“Join the club — me too — big score?”
“Not a bad haul. Can’t live on that for long.”
“Not money — books.”
“What’d you do — hold them for ransom at gunpoint?”
“I’m not a thief! I consider myself a collector.”
“Yeah — me too… I collect money! What’d you do, knock over a library (ha ha)?”
“You calling me a liar? Lot easier stealing from a library than a bank.”
“What a nightmare! My cellmate’s a hardened book criminal.”
“Go ahead laugh, I prefer ‘Bibliophile’.”
“More like ‘bibliomaniac’. (doubling over in laughter) Stop! You’re killing me. Who sold you up the river? A librarian?”
“Stop laughing! It’s not funny. Some of the books are worth thousands of dollars.”
“Okay — when we get out of here give me a call… I’ll drive your next getaway bookmobile.”
THE GERIATRIC LIAR’S CLUB
By Kat Fast
After dinner we wheel outside for a smoke and a story. We’re the Geriatric Liar’s Club because we’re old, we tell stories, and all stories are lies. I record each tale for a crime anthology, but some of them are such nightmares I doubt they’ll ever pass an editor’s desk.
Taking turns, each member delves into the shadowy canyons of his twisted memory ostensibly dredging up secrets about his favorite kill, or how he collected a ransom, drowned his parents in the river, poisoned the wife, raped orphans, whatever. What’s the point? How else can an old thief hauling an oxygen tank get credit for the perfect heist, or a killer who’s chained to a wheelchair relish the details of his crime?
As the night wears on and cigars turn to ash, stories grow more inventive, detailed and horrendous. I suspect a few members are lying about lying.