Another contest entry. I was given the genre, mystery; the primary location, a wax museum; and an object that had to be mentioned, a zipper. The story had to be 1000 words maximum, and submitted within 48 hours.
Detective Carson looked at the photos again. He ignored the remains of Brett Tailor. The coroner’s report had those details. He was looking for something he had missed when he examined the room. A worn paperback copy of Serpico was face down on the desk. No notes, no bookmark. Did it mean anything? Carson sighed. After six weeks, there was nothing to indicate Brett’s death was anything other than suicide, but he had no reason to kill himself. Apart from being a hostage in the bank robbery a few years back, his life had been easy path of a bank president’s son. Even in death, he was coddled. His parents had hushed up the suicide and claimed an aneurysm.
Dorothy yelled from the front desk. “Carson – phone. Joe at the museum again. Claims you’re in danger.”
A few minutes later, Carson was driving to Wild West Waxworks, the town’s most popular tourist attraction, after MacDonald’s and Texaco. It was near the Interstate, all the better to catch unwary travellers.
Joe was waiting for him outside. “You need to see this. Same woman, but dressed – whoa – hot. And with you. Come see.”
“Joe, I’ll ask you again. Is this a publicity stunt?”
“No sir. Swear on my departed’s grave. She just appeared overnight, like the others. I told you before, you should be investigating this.”
“I’ll take a look, but there’s never any sign of a forced entry, your alarm doesn’t go off, and nothing is missing. Then Eric runs a story about the mysterious new figure at the museum, and you get free advertising.”
They walked in, through the lobby, and past the display of elderly Everett Cable, watering flowers at the park. A young woman, in a white sundress, stood behind him, her hand on his shoulder.
“This one got you national coverage.”
“Sure did. Somehow it made people feel better.”
“This one just made people angry.” Carson indicated a prom stage, where the king and queen were being crowned. The same woman as the angel, this time in a formal gown, was handing flowers to the queen.
Joe sighed. “Did they ever find Susan?”
“No. We found her car in the river, but she wasn’t in it. Why you get don’t rid of her,” Carson said, indicating the mysterious figure. “Or the whole scene.”
“Susan’s parents like this. It’s a memorial for them. They’re not happy about the mystery lady, but they know I didn’t put her there. I tried removing her, but she came back.”
Joe and Carson stopped in front of a large display. “Everyone loves your scene.”
Carson looked at himself emerging from the burning house, carrying Jimmy Smit. Jimmy’s mother and father looked on, and three firefighters were frozen mid step, running to the house. Only the plastic flames moved, on their track.
“She’s up here.” Both men stepped over the rope, and up the front steps of the false front. Standing behind Carson’s figure was the same woman as in the other displays. Her arms were in front of her, as if she was pushing Carson out of the house. She was wearing a short black leather dress, sleeveless and low cut, with a large brass zipper down the front.
“Well, that’s interesting.”
“That’s nothing,” said Joe. He unzipped the dress.
“Remarkably detailed,” said Carson.
“I know. I can only afford the head and hands for mine. Whoever is doing this is very skilled, or very wealthy. That might be a clue. Odd they didn’t use a Velcro fastener at the back.”
“It’s all odd, but it’s not a priority. What makes you think I’m in danger?” said Carson.
“Each time she appears, someone dies. Everett had his heart attack, though I think he never recovered from getting mugged, and then Susan drowns.”
“She’s missing. Probably a runaway.”
“After losing her legs in the crash last year? I don’t think so. And then there’s Brett.”
“What about Brett?”
“Come see.” Joe walked down the hall, and Carson followed. They stopped in front of a bank interior. Brett Tailor on the ground, face up, as Robbie Condor aimed a gun at him. A few townspeople stood frozen in fear. The mystery woman was standing beside Robbie and aiming a gun at Brett.
Carson’s pulse started to race. “Why didn’t you tell me about this?”
“I left a message that she’d appeared again, but you never returned my call. You see the pattern? I don’t understand it, but if she’s with you, you’re in danger.”
Carson looked back at the display of him rescuing Jimmy from the flames.
“No, not me. Jimmy.” Carson took out his phone as he ran for his car. “Dorothy, this is an emergency. Get everyone to the Smit’s place. Jimmy’s in danger. No, I don’t know what from. But someone is after him. No, I don’t know who or why. I’ve got to drive. I’ll explain at the Smit’s.”
Carson raced to Smit’s house. When he reached their block, he saw police cars stopped in the street. Ricky and Steve were crouched behind their cars. They had their guns out, aimed at a car in the Smit’s driveway. Chief Williams approached Carson.
“Woman in the car. Won’t get out. Won’t even turn around. We phoned the Smit’s and told them to get in the basement. What’s going on?”
Carson got out of his car, and walked over to the car in the driveway. The woman from the museum was sitting in the driver’s seat, starting straight ahead. Carson opened the unlocked door.
“Carson! Wait!” called Chief Williams.
“It’s a dummy. Wax. Stand down.” The dummy was wearing the same leather dress as the one behind him at the museum. Carson saw a paper tucked between the realistic breasts, and pulled down the zipper to retrieve it.
“So predictable. Clockwork. As things should be. Jimmy was supposed to survive the fire. But you weren’t.” Carson turned to run from the car, but the fiery explosion engulfed him.