By Design

Time to add another layer to the trouble brewing in the Kinter house. If you haven’t read the first three installments of this series, be sure to check them out here before diving into this one. (The link will display them with the most recent story at the top. Scroll to the bottom and read them in the order they were posted.)

I’m not sure where all this is headed yet. This is the first time I’ve written a larger story in short flash fiction pieces and it’s a lot of fun. Each week I come back to the story with a vague idea of the next installment, but then I have to conform my rough ideas so that they accommodate a current prompt, and I refuse to let myself cheat on that. The prompt invariably pushes a few elements of the story in directions I wouldn’t have guessed, but that extra challenge also opens all kinds of doors. For example, I didn’t even know what a kukri was before writing this, but I needed James to have a curved blade so that I could use the word “curve”. Live and learn.

The prompt is from Flash Fiction Friday once again:

Prompt: Write a 1000 word story about someone who has no self awareness, or, alternatively, someone who has far too much. Include the following words: curve, substitution, relief, sacrifice, strikeout.

Word Limit: 1000

Feel free to let me know what you think of this post or of the series in the comments.

by design

James Kinter fervently believed that acute self awareness was his personal curse. Most people simply don’t know themselves well enough to know what their purpose is, but not him. Other people are slaves to their desires, not their design. He was no slave at all. He’d had the good fortune to discover early in life that his design and desire ran in parallel to one another. Harnessing such knowledge, what could he do but act on it?

His life to that point had been an elaborate series of choices, sacrifice intermingled with precise intention. Never substitution. He had hidden Jessica from the world because he knew they would not accept her. He laid out the foundation of a forgettable but solid reputation. He had been frugal with money, careful with his art and, above all else, very deliberate about his subjects. Until today.

He looked down at the boy now slumped on his couch and cursed himself. What had he been thinking? It was rash. Foolishly rash. He should have simply shooed the little bastard out of the yard, not hauled him inside, but he was caught up in the moment. His adrenaline was already peaked thinking about Mr. Baker down in the basement. Instead of simply telling the boy to leave he had whispered threats fueled by his enthusiasm. What’s worse, the tracks in the mud outside the window suggested that the young spy had not been alone.

Idly, his hand slipped under his leather apron. His thumb ran along the sharp curve of his kukri. It was tempting, but he could control the urge.

Slowly, a plan formulated, and with it a sense of relief. He recognized the boy as one from the neighborhood. He knew the rumors going around about him. He could wait until the lad woke and offer to call his parents, pretending that the boy’s memory of their initial encounter was simply the figment of a child’s overactive imagination. If he called the boy’s parents and was kind to him until they arrived, no one could accuse him of any wrong doing. With luck, the incident might actually quell fears instead of shining a spotlight on his true intentions.

He turned from the boy and retreated to the kitchen. Slipping off the apron, he trotted down the stairs. When he reached the bottom he put a finger to his lips to let Jessica know that the time had not yet come to reveal herself. She looked to him with doe eyes, all wonder and submission, and he smiled. She was a kind soul, his twin sister. So accommodating. So willing to accept her role as his silent helper. So very pretty. He’d seen to that years ago.

He hung the leather apron on a hook jutting from the wall and took off his utility belt. It held the kukri along with several other useful small tools–a pair of needle nose pliers, a tack hammer, so effective on knuckles, two ice picks and a taser, just in case. He bought the taser after the Peterson boy bit him. In the future, such insolence would be rewarded with 400 volts delivered to the neck.

Jessica watched him set his tools to the side with a curious frown. He dosed a cloth with chloroform and placed it over Mr. Baker’s mouth and nose. When he was sure his guest was sleeping, he turned to Jessica. “There’s been a small complication, love. A neighborhood boy and his friends were spying on the house. The boy is upstairs in the living room, passed out. I’ll need to contact his parents and play the role of a concerned neighbor for a while. It could take some time. I need you to remain here, in the basement with our guest. We’ll have to wait to begin until I can sort this mess out.”

“We can’t make him pretty now?” she asked. “Just a little?”

James smiled. Sweet child. “No, we’ll have to wait. But waiting will make it that much better, my darling.”

She pouted but he knew she would do as told. He crossed the room to her and placed a single kiss gently on her forehead. “He should remain asleep for a while. If he stirs, don’t say anything. Just use the chloroform like I did and put him back out. Do not make him pretty.

“Yes, James,” she said.

He caressed her face. “Soon,” he said, and turned to ascend the stairs.

Upstairs, he put on a pot of coffee. In the living room, he turned on the TV. “…and with that strikeout the Rangers are one step closer to a win. Two away, bottom of the ninth…” James found sports boring, but who could think him a monster if he were sipping coffee and enjoying America’s past time on a Sunday afternoon?

He was a stickler for detail, so he took the stairs to the second floor and went to his bedroom where he changed into a black shirt and trousers. Granted, it made him look like some kind of unholy priest, but the boy and his friends would swear he had been wearing a black apron. Black clothes would make this detail seem imagined. He was just tying the laces on his shoes when he heard a noise downstairs. Glass. Breaking.

He held his breath for a moment, wondering if Jessica had disobeyed and gone to the kitchen. Two seconds later he got his answer.

“He’s in here!” he heard a hushed voice exclaim. “On the couch!” A girl. The boy’s friends. Damn it.

He shook his head, anger and excitement rising in him. His arms felt on fire with adrenaline. He made for the stairs with all haste, having already forgotten the lie he had been preparing to tell.