This is the third and final flash fiction story in a series by Burton Voss, Roy Voss & Laurie Voss Barthlow. They’ve been having lots of fun practicing their writing skills by taking turns beginning a short story, sending it on to the next person to add to it and finally the third person to wrap it up! We’ve enjoyed their stories and thank them for sharing with us! We wish them happy writing and much success in the future!
The Dark & Stormy Night
It was a dark and stormy night, apropos of the storybook cliché, and I was working later than my usual late hour in the small-town law firm where I am the junior partner. I hate working by myself—especially at night—but I had city lawyers on the phone, relentlessly re-working a closing agreement for a big-box store to be built at the edge of town. As I banged out multiple revisions for our client’s side of the deal, Mother Nature finally intervened and the power went out.
I was spooked and quickly gathered my things by the light of my cell phone before plunging into the downpour. I only took a moment to shiver in my seat before my vintage Mustang sputtered out of the empty parking lot. The power was apparently out throughout town, but I could see flashing red lights out on the main highway, and I could hear sirens. Assuming there had been a wreck, I decided to drive home to my cats through the old neighborhood.
Unlike many of my classmates, I came back to my hometown after college and chose to stay. I make a decent living here, where I was raised, and now, approaching middle age, I’m no longer embarrassed to admit I love it. I enjoy driving past the houses where I lived over the years, particularly the one in the quaint little neighborhood where I grew up.
On this night, however, there wasn’t much to see as I drove slowly through the flooded streets in the pitch black, but my headlights landed on a vehicle parked in front of my childhood home. I pulled up behind it and idled as I stared at the license plate on the 1967 Impala. Before my mind could reconcile my parents’ old car sitting in front of their former house, I was startled by a rap on my driver’s window. I inched the window down and said, “Hello?”
A man’s voice asked, “Are you going to come in?”
“No, I’m just passing through,” I answered with a stammer, before nervously blabbering, “I used to live here, and sometimes I drive home this way.”
“Have you been drinking?”
I felt relieved as it occurred to me perhaps the man was a police officer, so I inched the window down further; still could not clearly see him even though it was no longer raining. “No sir! I just left my office. It looked like there was a wreck on the highway, so I decided to take the back-way home.”
The porch light flared on, brightly illuminating the house and yard. My ears roared as my heart pounded, and I felt completely disoriented. The place looked just as it did when I was growing up. The front door opened, and a young woman stepped out. She was my mother, but my mother as she appeared when I was a teenager. The man outside my window spoke again, “She’s been worried sick.” I looked up at the face I could now clearly recognize. I stared in disbelief at the decades-earlier version of my father who curtly said, “Please park the car and come in the house.”
My mind was a blur of confusion as I sat frozen, unable to move—unable to speak. Was this some kind of a prank? Am I dreaming?
“You better get in the house, son. Your mother needs to talk to you.”
Slowly, my body regained a small amount of control, but now I didn’t know if I should comply with this person’s wish or just flee. I have always been the curious type, so I chose the former. “Yes sir,” I murmured while wondering if someone was videoing all this. What the heck. I’d play along.
My dad went through the gate and onto the porch where my mother, wringing her hands, stood waiting. Dad put his arm around her. They watched in silence as I approached. Nailed next to the door was the family name I had burned into a plaque for an eighth-grade woodshop project: The Barrows.
When I stepped up on the porch, my mother rushed and nearly smothered me in a long, hard hug. She kissed my cheek as she released me. If this was a dream, it came with sensations of touch and smell. The unmistaken aroma of her White Shoulders Eau De Cologne spurred a flurry of memories which made me dizzy.
She held my shoulders and looked into my eyes. This is real, I thought. There was no mistaking her beautiful green eyes with the little black birth mark that resembled a map of California in the right sclera.
“Oh, thank God. You’re safe.”
I made another quick look around. Nothing seemed amiss, but how could this be? She gave me another quick hug and said, “Come in. I’ll make some hot chocolate.”
Safe? Safe from what?
“I’ll check the Mustang and move it behind the house,” my dad said.
I followed my mother into the kitchen. Nothing had changed. There was a calendar on the wall, but I couldn’t make out the year from my place at the table, and I felt it might seem rude or at least strange if I asked. I decided to let it play out. Whatever was going on here had to be significant, and now my intrigue had me locked in to whatever was coming.
I had a cup of steaming chocolate in my hand by the time Dad came in the back door. He was chewing his bottom lip like he did when he was concentrating on whittling out my pinewood derby car for Cub Scouts. Mom kept wiping her hands on her apron. They got to me.
“What’s going on?”
They exchanged glances and Dad gulped. “Clyde, I hope you won’t judge us too harshly, but we gave in to temptation in a moment of weakness.”
This was going to be rich. My parents were as dull and predictable as a stop light. What did he do, try to eat two marshmallows at once?
“While cleaning over the last several months, your mom realized a couple of tellers were going to rob the bank. She kept on working later and later, snooping around until she found out their entire plan.”
“Mom did? Come on!”
Mom hung her head, bunching her apron and ironing it flat with her hands.
“She found out all about it and we initially planned on alerting the police.”
It was Dad’s turn to stare at his toes.
“You mean you didn’t? What did you do?” I was home again, but Mom and Dad sounded like real people, not infallible parents.
Dad’s shoulders dropped. “We let ‘em steal it.” He sighed. “Your mom knew where they were going to hide the money. We know how much you want to go to law school, and to tell you the truth, we couldn’t afford it.”
He straightened up and faced me. “We stole it from their hiding place, but by then the cops were looking high and low for the crooks. They broke the tellers, and it turns out they stole it because one of them owes a lot of money to a mean loan shark.”
Mom’s hands were almost a blur and she whimpered a little.
Dad continued, “We think we’re safe. The tellers have now gone to jail and our name never came up.”
Dad rocked from one foot to the other. “It was a lot of money, Clyde. We were scared and had to dispose of almost all of it in order to avoid suspicion. We bought a huge tract of land outside of city limits through an out-of-town realtor and under a phony corporation name.”
Mom spoke into the confession. “It’ll be years, if ever, before the town grows large enough that anyone’ll be interested in that area. Of course, when they do, we’ll be legitimately rich.” She tried to laugh, but cried instead.
I focused my eyes over the dash of the Mustang from my parking space outside the office. Street lights were shining again and the building was well lit, cozy and inviting. Okay then, I’ll return to my desk and make those big city lawyers back down. No one was going to take advantage of my clients, The Barr Corporation, now that I had an inkling of who owned them.
Laurie is a native Arizonan and Kingmanite. She is a proud UA alum, and is presently working her 20th year as area manager for Chicago Title in Mohave and La Paz Counties. She has started writing for fun, and aspires to be as renowned as the Voss Bros! Laurie has two hooligan daughters, Allie and Katie, and all three live in Kingman, AZ. You may reach Laurie at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find her on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/laurie.vossbarthlow
Burton Voss is a retiree in Sun City West, AZ. This publisher has grown found of him and refers to his as, “the wise man of the mountain!” He is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers & Christian Writers of the West. Hones his writing craft through a critique group sponsored by Gifts to Go in Surprise AZ & the writers group sponsored by Sun City West Library. With a historical fiction manuscript waiting for rewrite, he is currently working on a speculative fiction manuscript. Burton blogs @ http://www.burtonvoss.com/ & find him on facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/burton.voss
Burton’s stories published by Little CAB Press: Not My Will… a Christmas Story in Christmas Story Collection Vol I & The Trike Ride in A Time To Blossom
Roy Voss retired from a career of designing & building high pressure pipelines. The work took him to 5 continents and once in a 30 day period, resulted in 2 trips around the world- 1 going east & the other west. What was once an obsession with golf, has morphed into a love of writing. In addition to the self published novel PAYBACK, Roy has completed 6 other novel length manuscripts based on incidents from his travels. He now lives with his wife Bobbi, near his brother Burton in Sun City West! Find Roy @ Happily Retired Roy
Roy’s stories published by Little CAB Press: The Hualapai and The Obit in A Time To Blossom & The Navatec Connection (first three chapters of the novel) in Adventures in Fiction
We hope to hear more from these fun authors soon!
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