Welcome to the Call Me MAYbe Flash Fiction Challenge!!
All stories begin with "The phone rang" and are no more than 1,000 words.
The PawnThe phone rang. I jumped and my heart began to pound. I stared at the device as if it were a weapon of mass destruction.
"Is this Corinne Montague?"
My back straightened as I heard the unfamiliar voice. No one ever called me Corinne, I'd been Carrie since I could remember.
"Who is this?" My voice was harsh, the words clipped.
"That doesn't matter, Corinne. You will meet me at the abandoned theater down on Old Mill Road in exactly 30 minutes. Failure to do so will result in consequences you will not like. Bring the package."
"Wait, who is this? What do you want from me?"
It was no use, he had hung up.
I jumped to my feet and began to pace, twisting my fingers through the long blonde curls that danced over my shoulders. This was bad, this was really bad. I had had a feeling that Joel wasn't being entirely straightforward with me. This was proof. At least, it must be about Joel. I mean, what else could it be? My life was beyond dull. I was a supermarket cashier. I drove an old VW Rabbit. I volunteered at the library twice a week. My two sisters were happy homemakers. Nothing exciting ever happened in King's Mill. That is, nothing except for Joel.
From the first time I'd seen him, I knew he was different. It was obvious to everyone that he wasn't from around here. There he was, though, tall, dark, and handsome, with a devil-may-care smile, a cowlick pushing his hair up and off his forehead. Dressed in a tight t-shirt and even tighter jeans, his swagger accentuated the well honed muscles of his rear. When he arrived in town, there was more than one female with her tongue drooping, a bit of drool dripping down her chin.
The day he struck up a conversation with me is etched in my memory. He was in the store, buying, of all things, food. Don't ask me why I thought this was astounding, perhaps I didn't think Gods needed to eat. He waited until I was off work, then took me across the street to get an ice cream sundae at the Five and Dime.
We'd been going out for about three months when one night he bounded up the stairs to my boarding house and began pounding on the door.
"Carrie! Let me in, come on come on, open up! Hurry!"
I opened the door and he nearly bowled me over. He slammed the door and locked it with all three locks, then rushed to the windows and drew the drapes.
"Joel? What's going on?"
The wild look on his face was indescribable. It was a combination of determination and fear. I could smell the sweat that was pouring off of him.
"I don't have much time. Listen, I can't explain right now, but I need you to keep this for me. Give it to no one unless I'm dead. In that case, go to the FBI in Charlotte. Don't go to the locals, you can't trust them."
He thrust a small box into my hand.
"Whatever you do, do not open it. Promise me you won't open it!"
"I... Joel... what is going on?"
"I can't tell you right now, there's no time! I'll call you when I can. I love you, Carrie, don't ever forget that."
With those final words, he opened the window and slipped out.
It had been two months and I hadn't heard a word. I feared he was dead. I feared he told me he loved me to get me to do what he wanted. Now, I feared what was coming.
I grabbed the box and my jacket and headed out to the car. My fingers trembled as I tried to shove the keys into the ignition. It cranked once and then died. I tried again, it coughed and sputtered and died again.
"Come on!" I screamed at the dilapidated vehicle. I never screamed at my car, I loved my car, it was nearly my best friend. I cringed and apologized.
"I'm sorry, Pilar, I didn't mean to yell at you. Please, just start one more time, that's all I ask."
Sure enough, I turned the key, the engine caught and purred, and I exhaled a sigh of relief. I put it in gear and headed toward the main road, trying to think of what to do. What would Joel want? Was he in more trouble? Was he dead? Who was he anyway?
The shaking of my hands got worse as I neared my destination. I still had no idea what to do. I grabbed a canister of mace out of my glove box. Everyone in Kings Mill had one, although the worst crime that ever happened here was jaywalking.
I pulled up to the theater. It had closed 15 years before, and no one had done anything with it. No one did anything with this part of town and it showed. Trash littered the sidewalks, rats scurried to and fro, very few street lamps remained lit. I shuddered as I stepped out of my car.
A large man stepped out of the shadows. Multiple scars crisscrossed his face, and it was obvious that his nose had been broken many times.
"Give me the package." The words came out as more of a growl than a statement.
"Who are you?"
He crossed the distance between us in two strides, moving so quickly I didn't have time to react. His hand, the size of a side of beef, wrapped around my neck and began to squeeze. Stars danced before my eyes. I couldn't see, I couldn't speak. I knew it was the end. I could hear sirens, but I knew they'd never rescue me in time.
I opened my eyes to the sight of my beloved Joel cradling my head.
"Shhhhhh my love, it's over. You just helped save the world. Rest, baby, rest. I'm here now."