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Bets and Blades

From the New York City Midnight Madness 48-hour International Flash Challenge. Category: RomCom; object: a blade; location: an attic; word limit: 1K. This story landed in the finals of the competition.

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“Bugger bugger bugger bugger buggerBUGGERBUGGER!” Gwen slashed the butcher knife down hard with each word, soaking the tiled kitchen backsplash. The dog was barking frantically. Gwen rounded on a sudden noise, knife dripping red.

“Gwen?” her roommate Lisa paused next to the kitchen door, two wine glasses and a bottle in hand. “Why are you home already, and what’s with the tomato slaughter?”

Lisa’s eyes met a cold-blooded stare.

“Oh. Didn’t go so well, then?”

“If you ever… If you EVER set me up on a blind date again, I’ll splatter you all over this kitchen.”

“I thought you Brits were the icy ones. Come on, Shakespeare, tell me the tale before Richard gets here.”  Gwen, still in a fury, was only half paying attention to her. Lisa cautiously entered the kitchen, poured them a glass of wine each and pulled a tall chair over to the counter, just out of arm’s reach. 

“Your friend’s brother. Turned up. Soused.”

“Swassed?”

Gwen resumed the vegetable massacre without touching the glass. “Drunk. He showed up completely – ” she leaped at the sound of the doorbell.  “Oh, do let me get it. If he’s followed me home, I can photograph the before-and-after crime scene.”

“Um,” protested Lisa. Gwen darted over to the door, banging it open against the foyer wall, and raising the knife in gory salutation. 

“Good evening, Ma’am. I’m Richard, and I’ll be your investigating officer this evening. Want to put down the weapon and call off your dog?”

“Oh, come bloody in.” Gwen ignored the badge her colleague presented and stalked back into the kitchen, the dog trotting happily along as Richard scratched him behind the ears. 

Richard surveyed the mess with a raised eyebrow. “Some backsplatter. Who started it? Hey, Lisa – what’s the difference between a backsplash and a backsplatter? A crime scene.”

“That’s in dreadful taste. Tell me you don’t need me or my camera right now,” Gwen resumed her attack on the tomatoes.

“Well, we have a situation and Tim could use some of your expertise. Maybe you’d like to change? And you,” Richard swiped a kiss on Lisa’s lips, as Gwen marched into her bedroom, “don’t ever change. I came over as soon as you called. Tim’s setting up in the attic now.”

“Lucky her date called me to ask where she disappeared to. Maybe you won’t have enough time. Maybe Tim will be so nervous he’ll blow it. Maybe you’re completely wrong about her crush. Maybe your bet isn’t safe yet, honey. Hah, I should let her take that knife with her.”

Richard leaned on the kitchen counter and grinned, “Maybe you know you’ll lose this bet - it’s just a day earlier than we planned it. And I see you’ve already decided to cook me dinner. What are you serving me?”

Gwen reappeared, cool and lovely, with the slightest touch of makeup and perfume and her hair elegantly tousled.

“Dog food.”  Lisa watched her roommate breeze out the door with her camera gear.

“Wish me luck!” Richard grinned, “I’ll be back for dinner in an hour.”

The mood on the drive to the incident was cool, and Richard suspected Gwen was composing herself. There were bets going all over the office over who would get her out for dinner, and they were lining up just to be shot down in plain public view. She did it so well. But Tim, another crime scene photographer, had unwittingly cracked her surface, and everybody knew it. But although Gwen had been completely civil to Tim, he’d never asked her out and she had no idea where he lived.

They pulled up to a large Victorian house, dimly lit behind massive trees.

“Richard …?” Gwen glared at him intently, “What’s going on here?”

Richard took a deep breath, knowing she could have his badge if this didn’t go well. “It’s upstairs.”

“Where are the cars? The lights? The tape?”

Richard mumbled something about “no time,” running ahead of Gwen, through the unlocked door and up the darkened stairs.

“If you’re lying to me, so help me – ”

“I’m not! I swear it!”

There was soft lighting in the attic. “She’s here,” Richard announced, as Gwen stepped into the doorway and took in the scene, expressionless. Candles lit the gabled room. Against one of the cushioned window seats stood a beautifully set table, and Baroque music gently filled the cozy space.

Tim was on his knees, camera next to him, placing white outline tape around a soft red object. The look on his face, of utter embarrassed innocence, was priceless.

Gwen took a step forward and gazed at the scarlet cushion in the center of the tape outline; Tim reddened.

“It’s my heart,” he stammered.

Richard took one look at Gwen’s softening face, realizing he’d hit his mark fair and true, and called out “My work here is done! I’ll get the door,” as he leaped down the stairs and secured the lock. He broke a couple of traffic laws getting back to the apartment.

“I won, I won!” he cheered in delight, sweeping Lisa up and kissing her properly.

“I know, I know,” she grinned, indicating the dinner table, with the promise of a juicy steak at her setting and a crystal bowl full of dog food at his. “Listen, Mr. Policeman, that was criminal, what you just did to Gwen and Tim.”

“Wasn’t it?” Richard grinned wickedly. “Well, at least I didn’t lie.”  

“I wouldn’t count on that to save you.” Lisa removed the crackling hot steaks from the oven and placed them on a cutting board. “Just in case you get smug,” she lifted the freshly washed butcher knife from its customary place, smiled sweetly, “How does she say it?” and brought the knife down on Richard’s steak, “Bugger, bugger buggerbuggerbugger!”

“Sore loser,” Richard surveyed the carnage on the cutting board.

“What if she’s back in the next few minutes?”

Richard looked up and chuckled.  “Wanna bet?”