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HELP! This is something I started w-a-a-y back when, and it never went any further. I’m open to suggestions. After 25 or 30 years, I don’t really think I’m going to do anything more with it for myself. Here goes:

Except for the body in it, the room was unremarkable. The curtains were faded and trimmed with dark stains where they brushed the grimy windowsills; light that filtered through was sullen and gray despite the sunshine outside.  Dust motes hung undisturbed in the still air and the muffled sound of a newscast emanating from an unattended radio in another part of the house seemed strangely out of place.  Tyler Ball had been dead for eight days.

In its day the house had been comfortable but never elegant.  Ball moved into it with a new bride and a heavy mortgage when he was in his early twenties and now, thirty years later, both the wife and the mortgage were gone and decrepitude had settled on the building as on his life.  Where there had once been a charming fireplace with comfortable paisley printed chairs and a profusion of magazines on a low table, now a heavy dark chest sat by itself, covered with junk mail and crumpled cigarette packages.  The fireplace had been boarded up years earlier, to eliminate drafts. .  An ancient sofa stood against the east wall, its contours softened by a loose blanket carelessly tossed across the back and the table at its end held an ugly ashtray with evidence of many smoke-filled hours.

Tyler Ball sat on the faded carpet, propped against the chest and supported on his left side by a tall unsteady stack of books stuck haphazardly under the arm.


“I’m probably just being silly,” Mrs. Talbot told the deputy who answered the phone, “and I suppose it’s none of my business anyway, but it really isn’t like him to go off and leave his car in the way of the street sweeper.  They charge you, you know.  Leave a ticket on the window and everything.”

“Yes, I understand, Mrs. Talbot.  And you haven’t seen Mr…er…Ball since Wednesday night?”

“Not yesterday, you know, but the Wednesday before that.”

Deputy Nora Tuttle agreed, “The 14th.  Right.  Well, you’ve given us the address and the license number of his car, and I think that’s all we need for right now.  We’ll send someone out to check on it today.”  She added a polite dismissal and hung up the receiver with a resigned sigh.

“They think we have nothing better to do with our time,” she complained to the room at large.   Nora was not usually an unreasonable person, but the day had been hot and muggy and the complaining telephone calls had increased in number as they always did in the uncomfortable weather.

Charlie Huggins, watching her from the other side of the room, wiped his forehead with the handiest thing, which happened to be a slightly used paper towel, and looked again with disgust at the thermostat on the wall.  “Well, at least the car is air-conditioned.  There’s no telling when they’ll get around to fixing the air in here.  Let’s check out with the desk and take a leisurely drive over there.  Where was it again, Cedar Drive?  That ought to be good for at least fifteen minutes. With any luck the missing character will be sitting in a nice cool house and just too damn smart to go out in the heat to move his car.”  With a practiced flip he tossed the paper towel toward the wastepaper basket and grimaced when it caught the edge, teetered a moment, then fell outside on the floor among a collection of other less-than-perfect rim shots.

Okay, let’s see whatcha got!