The Short Stories
The short stories of Judah Lamey,
as well as the Stories of Quillville.
as well as the Stories of Quillville.
Bad Luck in the Morning
by K. Daniels
The morning should have started off like any other morning for K Daniels.
But it didn’t.
K opened their front door to the sight of a dead black rabbit laying across their doormat.
K froze looking down at the poor creature. Sweat beaded up on K’s hands as they took in the glassy eyes. Air seemed to get trapped in their lungs the longer they stared down at the open mouth - a silent scream.
One thought consumed K: They've been found.
“K? Everything alright?” J’s voice echoed from the kitchen, forcing K back into action.
“Yeah babe, just taking in the view,” K lied, taking a quick peek to make sure J stayed in the kitchen. K didn’t want J to see the dead bunny. “Are you going to stop by the shop today?”
“Maybe,” J sighed, coming out of the kitchen. K subtly closed the door a fraction to keep the tragedy out of sight. “I was going to stop by the community center or something to see if they had job postings. Or you can ask Mayor Lombard if she stops in for coffee!”
“Perhaps, but she’s a bit of a night owl and she’s a very busy woman.”
“C’mon sweetheart, I would love to be the city historian! Or what about a history teacher! I would be a good teacher!”
A real smile was brought to K’s lips, “Yes, you’d be an excellent teacher. But the shop is doing well! You could actually start that alternative history novel you’ve been wanting to write…”
“Perhaps,” J mimicked in a playful tone.
“Think about it, and stop by later if you can. I love you.” With their goodbye out of the way, K backed out of the door to hide the macabre scene outside.
When the door was firmly shut, K silently swore as adrenaline started up again. K had to get rid of the rabbit and J must never know about it. J would think it was their fault and then try to fix the situation. But that’s how they ended up in Quillville.
K stooped down to pick up the animal but the sight of a red ribbon tied around it’s throat made them stop.
There were familiar symbols written on it.
K swore again.
Looking around, K saw the shovel from the garden leaning against the garage. Swiftly, K grabbed the shovel and tried to scooped up the rabbit. But, when the metal of the shovel came into contact with the fur, it sparked. The charge caused a buzzing heat to travel through the handle into K’s hands.
“You can’t be serious!” K growled, the shock made K drop the shovel and the rabbit into the grass. More angry than scared now, K jogged into the garage and grabbed rubber gloves from the messy work table.
Before attempting to pick up the shovel or the rabbit again, K put the gloves on. This time, K didn't feel the sharp shock when they picked up the shovel handle. A crackling sound still emitted from the rabbit as K moved quickly to the truck bed. Unceremoniously, K dumped the rabbit into the back of the truck and covered it with a moving blanket.
K peeled off the gloves as they hopped into the cab of the truck and backed out of the driveway.
K and J only moved to Quillville a couple of months ago but didn't waste time. In their first week, they set up The Good Ideas Bookstore and The Bad Decisions Coffee Bar. Both were surprised how well it was received by the community, but K couldn’t have been happier with the shop.
Half of the shop was a bookstore. They stocked the shelves with books written by the local and Indie authors. The other half of the shop was primarily a coffee bar. But they did serve a small menu of food items.
In the back of the shop was a small fenced in patio that was more like a jungle. It held private seating areas along the fence line - some of which were hammocks. In the center was a small round stage for readings, open mic nights, and live music. J found a clever way to hang fairy lights around and above the patio for a whimsical ambience. Both K and J were excited to see how it would look in the fast approaching fall.
But K couldn’t think about their wonderful little shop at the moment.
They had a dead, cursed, black rabbit in the back of their truck to worry about.
K’s drive into the city was a quick one. To save valuable parking spaces for coffee-loving and book-worshiping patrons, K parked the truck in the alley behind the patio.
After digging the keys out of their pocket, K unlocked the patio door, half hidden by ivy.
Many of the citizens were surprised by how well things grew around the shop and would ask
K what their secret was. K would always shrug and say “I have good plant juju.”
K made their way through the patio flora and unlocked the back door to the shop.
On any other morning, K would turn on the machines and lights and the stove as they walked through the shop. But this morning, K walked straight to the old school rotary phone hanging behind the counter. K pulled out the Quillville phone directory and found the number they needed.
K dialed the numbers slowing. With each round of numbers, the ancient phone emitted a heavy ticking sound. K would normally find that sound comforting. But the sound only delivered a growing sense of dream with each tick.
The phone rang twice before a gruff voice answered, “Glint,”
“Glint, it’s K from the Choices Shop, you know, Good Ideas Bookstore -”
“Bad Decisions Coffee, yeah K. Why are you calling? Shouldn’t you be open by now?” His voice was even, but didn’t quite hide the curiosity in it.
“Yeah, I’m opening in a moment. I was running late because a present was left on my doorstep this morning.”
“Doesn’t sound like a good present.”
“It wasn’t,” K pinched the bridge of their nose with a sudden exhaustion. “Could you stop by the shop this morning? Feel free to bring Monty.”
“I’ll see you soon, K.”
“Thanks Glint,” K hung up the phone.
K turned and looked around the shop, still dark. A new ticking caught their attention. K's eyes floated up to the giant clock across from the counter. It read 5:45.
K swore for a third time that day.
Like a whirlwind, K set to work getting the shop ready to open. First turning on all the coffee machines, espresso maker, the steamers, the stove. Then taking chairs down off tables and making sure the napkin dispensers were filled. It took some coaxing to get the computer and cash register awake. The last thing K did was say good morning to all the books.
When K flipped the sign on the glass door to open, there was a small line waiting - the 6am Writers Club. The writers tried to convince K to open the shop at 5am so they could be the 5am Writers Club. Yet, to everyone's surprise, K was not a morning person. J was the only reason K made it to work on time. J was the morning person in their relationship.
“Running late this morning?” they jested as they joined some of the tables together for their group.
K politely laughed, “Yeah, J made me breakfast in bed,” K gave them a hardy wink that sent them into giggles. “Do y’all want the usual? A kettle of green tea, two black coffees, and an Irish Coffee made with the good stuff.”
Irish Coffee was a lovely older woman with twinkly brown eyes, “Yes dear, that would be lovely.”
K nodded and set to work on their orders.
It was when K was filling up a tea strainer with a custom blend of green tea, did the chimes on the door rang their alert. K glanced up. A tall figure casually glided through the shop with a confidence you'd see in a Noir film.
“Good Morning, Deputy Mayor Glint,” K faked the brightness in their voice. “I’ll be right with you.”
"You don't need to call me by my title, K." Glint said as he strode the length of the counter and perched at one of the far bar stools.
K waved of the comment as they completed the orders and called the writers to enjoy their drinks.
Before going over to Glint, who was also a Private Investigator, K went to the rail display of alcohol. After a moment, K grabbed the same whiskey used for Irish Coffee's order.
What could K say? The woman had good taste.
Bottle in hand, K moved back to the other end of the counter where Glint waited. Along the way, K picked up two handmade mugs, a small espresso cup, and three small spice jars.
K placed one of the mugs and the espresso cup in front of Glint.
Uncorking the whiskey, K gestured to the cup in front of him.
Glint waved a declining hand.
"Don't mind if I do, then," K muttered and splashed a healthy pour of whiskey into the second mug.
K held up a finger before turning around to the wall of jars filled with various coffee beans. K settled on a strong but seasonal one. They scooped the beans into the grinder. Before hitting the blend button, K added a pinch from each of the spice jars: cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Satisfied with the custom blend, K hit the button.
With the noise as a cover up, K leaned over to Glint and quickly said, “I need your help. Someone left a dead rabbit on our doorstep this morning and the red ribbon around its neck has a curse on it.”
The grinder stopped and Glint stared at K. Unsure if he was in shock or completely unfazed by the situation, K went back to the grinder, put the grounds into a coffee maker, and jabbed the brew button. When K turned back to the PI, he said in a low voice, “Why don’t you start from the beginning,”
K nodded towards the 6am Writers Club.
Glint glanced over and saw that Black Coffee #2 and Kettle of Green tea were watching them.
"Follow my lead unless you want this conversation to be story fuel," K whispered.
Glint sat back and K took that as acceptance.
K called out to the writing group, “My lovely writers, can you man the fort for me? Just for a quick minute? Deputy Mayor Glint here wants to check out the patio. He’s thinking of renting
it out for a party.”
Black Coffee #1 saluted K. “Aye Aye Captain!”
“Thanks, it’ll just be a minute!”
K walked out from behind the bar and Glint followed.
When they were both in the safety of the patio, Glint coughed, “Nice lie,”
“Well you could rent the patio for a night,”
Glint ignored the statement. “So why would someone leave a dead rabbit on your doorstep?”
“How much do you know about J and I?”
K watched the gears turn behind Glint’s eyes. “Honestly not much. You two bought that quaint fixer upper on the edge of the city, opened this joint up fast, and you make a great cup of coffee. You have a good book selection too.”
K nodded and felt the frown deepening into their features. “Well to make a long story short, we had to leave our old town.”
“And why did you have to leave,” the tone of his voice indicated he didn’t like where this was going.
“We uncovered some shady business with a coven of witches while I was helping J research the town history. They didn’t like that we knew what they were up to and were afraid we’d publish our findings.”
“So you ducked out of town?”
“Pretty much, we left everything behind - our house, our jobs, our lives, even our names…”
Glint raised an eyebrow.
“Names have power,” K shrugged.
“So that’s why you go by K and J goes by J.”
“Yeah,” K nodded, “We made a deal with a powerful wizard to erase our names from history.”
“So the rabbit this morning…”
“A message from the coven. They found us and I don’t know how. I kept it from J, I didn’t want them to worry.” K paused and looked at the back gate, “It’s in the back of my truck bed if you want to check it out for yourself. Just don’t touch it, it’ll shock you.”
“Shock me because it’s so eviscerated?”
“No, it will actually shock you with an electrical charge. I do have rubber gloves in the cab if you want to pick it up. Do you think Blue over at the science museum would know who how discharge a rabbit?”
“I have to say K, this is one hell of a thing to drop on me this early in the morning.”
K twisted the simple silver band on their ring finger. They didn’t want to leave town again, they were building a home here, a future here. K looked up at Glint, determined. “I know, but I don't need much. If you could put me in contact with anyone that could help, the Red Quill or even a friendly werewolf, that would be fine. I know you are busy, especially with the
Animal Crackers suspect.”
"Right, I'll need more coffee for this. Also are we talking about, taking care of them." Glint gave a slow wink. "Or actually taking care of the situation and coming to some peaceful outcome? I'm down for both, just working out the bill in my head."
K managed a bark-like laugh. “Honestly I don’t know how I want this to end. But I know I want it to end and I will do whatever is necessary to protect my family and the life we are building here.”
“Whatever is necessary? You sure you want to go down that road?”
“C’mon Glint, let’s get you that coffee,” K turned and walked back into the shop.
Fire with Fire is a Serialized story by Judah Lamey, set in his world of Aleta.
It is not part of Quillville.
You can find Fire with Fire Part:1 Here
Fire With Fire Part 2:
Daniel Rickman had been very careful in laying out his plans to catch his thief. It was like trapping a sparrow with your bare hands, it took time and patience, and it was impossible unless you found a way to lure them to you. Stopping in front of a small window that displayed a chaotic pile of fabrics, Daniel did one last mental check and ran over his pitch. He doubted that there could be two thieves in Midura that would fit his need, he had to make this work.
Stepping into the shop, Daniel made small adjustments to his bearing to make himself more intimidating. A trick he had perfected over years. Winding his way around tables piled high with rolls of fabric he made his way to the back where an older, but far from frail man stood behind a wooden table smoothed and polished from years of use. A chip of chalk stuck out from behind the man’s ear, and he fingered a pair of long sheers. This was not the best part of town, and more than likely he would have had more than one chance to use those sheers to scare off street vultures looking for an easy coin.
“What can I do for you good sir?”
Daniel dropped his voice as he answered, “I pulled you aside the other night and asked you a few questions. Asked you to keep your eye out for a friend of mine. Just wanted to see if you had any luck with that.”
The shopkeep’s eyes flashed in recognition, but his tone was calm, “Didn’t recognize you in the light of day without your hood up.”
Daniel resisted the urge to smile, he liked people who had the guts to mock a threat. Instead he glared and waited.
Seeing he was not going to get any reaction from that, the old man leaned forward across the table and smiled, “Haven’t seen or heard a whisper from ‘em.” That smile did not touch his defiant eyes.
Cracking his knuckles Daniel leaned forward as well, “I suggest for your health, that you keep a sharper eye, old man.” A bland and vague threat would be expected. Now to throw him off a little. “This, is so you remember me next time.” Daniel laid down a pair of coins on the table that would match what this shop could make in a week. Then he turned on his heels and left behind a very confused shop keeper.
Daniel hated threatening people. If he ever caught any of his guards pulling what he had just done they would never set foot in the city again. They would be lucky to get out of the city unscathed. However, today it was his only choice. He had been asking after his thief around the city and they had to know he was looking for them. Until now however, no one he had asked could have recognized him. He had just plucked a strand of a spiders web, it wouldn’t be long now.
Walking slowly down the street, he made no effort in the least to hide. To that end the store was barely out of sight when he noticed that he was being followed. A pair of gutter children, doing a surprisingly good job of it too. Maybe he should make room on his Shadow Hunters for a few of those. They went everywhere, and were overlooked by most. There was, of course, the glaring down side of them being able to be bought off with a few hot meals. Two more blocks, and he heard the sound of small feet pattering across the street, now abandoning all stealth.
Had he mis-judged his thief? Where one of those children sent to stab him in the back? Suddenly a swarm of thoughts sprang into his head, filling him with doubts. What if instead of sending word to the thief that the man looking for him was about, the shopkeeper had given the coins to a pair of gutter snipes if they knifed him in the street. Spinning, he put his hands out, he would not draw his blades on a child. It was a young girl that ran at him, her hair tied back with a scarf and wearing rolled up pants. She held no weapon, but her face was intent. What was she doing? Daniel stepped up snapping his hands out to catch her arms. The girl slid around his grasp like smoke, leaping to the side she kicked off the wheel of a cart and launched herself back at him, Daniel tried to spin, but she was already in the air behind him her elbow connecting with his ear.
Curses and profanities did their best to escape his lips as Daniel spun around again, one eye squinting as he fought back the pain. She disappeared down an ally, and Daniel gave chase ignoring both the pain, and laughter of the few that had seen his embarrassment. The homes and buildings in this part of town had been built and expanded in erratic styles and fashion, and the alleyway twisted and turned twice in twenty running paces. However the second turn showed him a dead end. There had been no off shoots, where had he missed the girl? Some bolt hole to slide into? It wouldn’t have been hard he hadn’t seen her again after she disappeared into the alley. If he caught that little wisp of a thing, he would…Well he wasn’t sure what he would do, shake her till her teeth rattled, or offer her a job, it really could go ether way.
Her disappearing however was a moot point, because this dead end was a sprung trap. Thus it was also exactly where he wanted to be, but it still irked him that he had lost the girl so quickly. Walking to the dead end he turned to look back the way he had come.
Standing between him and the way out was a masked figure. Its clothes were black, and held tight to its skin with cloth wrappings. The tattered ends of which blew in the wind. The thief was so thin as to look like a corpse wrapped in a black shroud for its burial. Thin, yes, but Daniel had experience in sizing up opponents, and there was a lean muscular build under that skeletal appearance. Completing the disconcerting appertain was the mask. It was smooth and black, removing all form or detail from the face, all but a jagged white painted smile. Long black hair blew out around the mask in the wind.
Without a word the figured reached behind its back and brought out a black rod two handspans long with a wicked hook on one end and a large ring on the other. Then the figure started forward, Daniel had hoped this confrontation would not start with a fight, but he had figured it might. One did not ask questions and threaten people in the criminal underworld long without repercussions.
Reaching under his cloak he went for his two knives. Except, they were not there. A laugh burst from him. That little gutter rat.
“I guess that gives a new definition to a bump and lift.” Daniel rubbed at his ear. The masked figure hesitated, and Daniel continued, “I might still have it in me to beat you bare handed, but if it’s all the same to you I would rather not find out. I am truly sorry about threatening that friend of yours. I left him enough coin to compensate the fright. You see, I’ve been trying to find you, and this was the only way I could think of. This part of town is surprisingly loyal to you.”
The figure didn’t advance or relax. It stood as silent and steady as a statue, only it’s hair and the tattered ends of its wrappings rustled about it.
“My name is Daniel Rickman, I am the captain of the City Guard.”
With a whistle the figure jerked its head toward the mouth of the ally and the young girl darted into sight and then back down the ally, carrying Daniel’s knives.
“You’re Grin.” With a wry smile Daniel added, “I can’t imagine where that came from.”
Grin tilted their head slightly.
“I am here to recruit you. I have looked into you, going over every scrap of information that this city has. There were a lot of pieces to put together, and it took me quite awhile.” He lowered his voice, “I know who you are Jack.”
At that, Grin jerked back as if burned, his head whipping around to look and see if anyone had been close enough to hear.
Daniel continued, “More than that, I know why it is that you do what you do, and how you pick your targets.” Grin reached up with his free hand and pulled off his mask. His face was beaded with sweat, apparently that mask was not the coolest of attire. “This city needs you, I won’t threaten you I am not bribing or blackmailing you. This can only work if you come to it willingly. There are too many that think themselves gods in this city, that think of themselves as untouchable. You are among them, but not one of them, and for that I need you. The City Guard does nothing but walk the streets and put on a show, I am the first to admit it. We need the ability to look into crimes, to hunt those responsible. We need to bring justice, not just say we stand for it. We need to do what you wanted us to do all those years ago when you came to us. You asked us for help and we said no. For that I am sorry. I am putting together a new guard, one that will give the evil in this city no place to hide.”
Grin looked him in the eye for a long, silent moment. “You can do this?”
Daniel nodded, “With you and few others help I can.”
Then Grin flicked his hand forward and Daniel heard a clink by his boot, he looked down and saw a small black stone, reaching down and picking it up, he turned it to see that on the other side was painted into a likeness of Grin’s mask. Unsurprisingly the thief was gone when he looked back up.
Slowly a genuine, joy filled smile started to spread across his face. He had his thief, and his new guard was officially begun. Now for the hardest of the three, to recruit an honorable murderer.
The Red Quill
Clutching the scrap of paper in hand, I watched the raven vanish from sight as clouds obscured the half-moon. One note was still attached to the bird’s leg; a message for M. Damon Baker, most likely. Glint likes to keep things on the up and up with the law. Unfortunately for this Lockjaw character, I got the message first. But I’m sure the arm of the law will shed no tears over this case.
“Looks like the other crazies in this town will have to wait, Loki.” I dug a eucalyptus leaf out of my pocket and held it up to the grey ball of fur on my shoulder. Grazing my fingertips with his nails, the koala took it, munching quietly in my ear. Normally, I prefer to work alone, but when a koala turned up on my doorsteps two weeks ago, I couldn’t resist taking him in.
“Alright.” I struck a match and watched the message burn. “We’ve got a thief to catch.”
I cracked my knuckles and we made our way across the rooftops toward Glint’s office. It’s safer this way. Night and day people are up in Quillville. But, writers are always looking down at their laptops or notebooks. They rarely catch a glimpse of me.
Loud talking and the sound of music drifted up from that new comedy club that just opened about two weeks ago. I forget the guy’s name; Lucius? Luminous? It doesn’t really matter. Incidentally, that was about the same time Loki showed up.
A long line crowded the entrance, making me hurry away. Too many people. That and the smell of burnt hamburgers and eucalyptus; worst combination ever. As the clouds clear, moonlight lit the streets below and I finally caught sight of the guy. Of course he was heading for the dark alley leading into the horror district. That’s where all the real trouble has been coming from. I just can’t prove it yet.
No matter. I cracked my knuckles and noiselessly creep down the ladder. “Here, Loki,” I whispered, transferred him to the ladder. “This won’t take long.”
Loki clung to the ladder with one paw, munching away and looking unbothered by the whole scenario. I left him there, running down the cobblestones into darkness.
Lockjaw looked fifty shades of ridiculous as he waddled at top speed, trying to make it to the secret entrance—a manhole at the end of the alley. It would have been fun to watch him try to squeeze into it, but my time was running out.
“Well, well. What do we have here?”
Lockjaw froze and whirled around, sweat streaking down his face and soaking his shirt. “You’re the…” That’s all he got out.
“The Red Quill? And you were expecting the peace keeper.” I held up my hands, shrugging in mock apology. “Sorry. You must be Lockjaw. Although, I doubt that’s your real name. A little too on the lines of Taser Face, isn’t it?”
Lockjaw didn’t answer this time, but took a step back.
“Ah-ah.” I whipped out my secret weapon; a red, feather pen gifted to me by an old friend. “Tell me what I want to know and things might go easier for you.”
Lockjaw’s mouth formed a hard line and I began to think maybe this is where he got his name. His hand moved astonishingly quickly for someone his size. But not quick enough. I ducked and the knife sailed over my head, falling with a clatter on the stones behind me.
“Not smart.” I shook my head and began writing on the ground. Red ink spilled from the pen’s tip, glowing as the words flowed in neat, cursive coils across the stone. I glared up at him. “I’m afraid your story ends here, Lockjaw. I’m writing you out of Quillville. So how’s it going to be? Long and painful, quick and neat…or creative?”
His face twisted in horror as I tapped the pen on my lips pretending to think it over. “I think I’ll go with creative. It’s my personal favorite.”
Before the scream escaped his lips, I had already written what I needed. Lockjaw vanished and with him all evidence of his less than courageous encounter with an agitated kangaroo. The only thing that remained were two blotchy words for the police to find; The End.
I sighed, somewhat disappointed as I tucked my pen away and went back to find Loki. “So much for finding out who is behind the villain infestation.”
I was sure someone was watching me and glanced back down the alley. Nothing. There never was. Whoever was letting nasty things loose in the city was clever and always kept in the shadows. But they would trip up one day and I would be waiting.
Loki tilted his head, looking hungry. I scooped him up, placed him on my shoulder and gave him another handful of eucalyptus leaves. “I guess my work is done for the night,” I mumbled. I doubted anyone would look too closely into what happened to that guy. I climbed back on the roof and started home, curbing my disappointment by thinking of Lockjaw attempting to spar with a beefed-up kangaroo. My chuckle was a little on the villainous side, I admit. But the guy was trying to pass off someone else’s work as his own. A thief of words should never have come to Quillville.
About the Author:
If you liked this story by Anna Bowman (@AEBowman3) her debut novel Black Recluse is out now. Check it out HERE
Here you will find a growing collection of my Short Stories. From pieces I wrote for competitions, to some of my world building stories. Some of the longer ones, will be broken down and released as Chapters.