Welcome to Sucky Story Sunday, where my goal is to prove Ray Bradbury wrong and write 52 bad stories.
A serial killer
Loses a bet
The Magic 8 Ball
Cari Mertze knew three things: 1. The Astros really should have won that game, 2. Jerry Thornton was a jerk, and 3. She hated losing bets.
The worst part was that there was coffee for everyone in the newsroom riding on this bet, so now she was walking down the street to Arturo’s Casa del Java with 16 coffee orders and no clue how she would carry it all back.
Cari was wondering how sixteen coffee cups would fit in a box when she felt something hard in her ribs.
“Hey, you’re that reporter covering the serial killer, aren’t you?”
“Maybe?” She reached into her pocket and found her phone. She double-tapped the back, hoping the recorder would turn on. What did this guy want?
He grabbed her upper arm and pushed her toward the curb, where an old Chevy was parked.
“Hey, watch it, that hurts,” Cari tried to get her arm free, but he held on tighter. She could feel her fingers start to tingle. Wasn’t she supposed to get some kind of superstrength from adrenaline? She sure could use it now.
He opened the door and pushed Cari in. “Slide over, you’re driving.” He pulled out a gun and held it toward her head.
Cari got behind the wheel. Her heart was racing. Her birthday was next week, was she not going to see 34? And no chance to say goodbye to her family, her friends, and even damn Jerry?
“Start the car, and go five blocks. We’re going to the Starlight Motel, know where it is?”
His voice was raspy, but also oddly soothing. Cari hoped her phone was recording all this. “Who are you and where are you taking me?”
“Are you stupid? I just told you, the Starlight.” He sighed dramatically. “I can’t believe how stupid you reporters are these days.”
Cari nodded and tried to concentrate on breathing. In, out, in, out. “What makes you say that?”
“Back in the day, reporters gave people like me real names, like the Zodiac Killer and the Son of Sam. You’ve been writing about me for six months and nothing.”
It was surreal. She was in the car with a serial killer that has murdered 8 women, and he was pissed because she hadn’t given him a slick nickname? “I’m sorry you feel that way,” she tried to sound polite and obliging. “We hadn’t found a theme yet.”
She pulled the car into the Starlight Motel parking lot. He pointed with the gun. “Park over there. I already have the room.”
Once in the room, he pushed her down on the bed. “Now, are you really telling me you don’t know my theme?” He went to a drawer and pulled out a Magic 8 ball.
Cari thought about making a run for it, but he seemed really concerned about his nickname. Maybe she could make a deal, stay alive and win a Pulitzer?
He handed her the round orb. “Here, ask it if I should kill you now?”
Cari took the ball, hands shaking. She shook it, and turned it upside down.
“You’re doing it wrong. Idiot! You ask it the question out loud, while you shake it.”
Cari nodded. “Sorry, I haven’t played with one of these since I was six.”
“Play? You think we are playing here?” He waved the gun around.
“No, no, I am taking you very seriously.” She turned the ball over and shook it. “Should, um, should the Magic 8 Ball killer kill me now?” She looked at him.
He smiled. “That’s better. What’s it say?”
“My sources say no.”
He nodded. “Okay, you are good for a while.”
Cari took a deep breath. “So what now?”
“We wait and ask it again. Eventually it will say yes. It always does.” He sat on the chair and aimed the gun at Cari.
“Won’t someone hear if you shoot me here?” Cari looked around the hotel room. Her hands were still shaking.
“Nah, only losers and drug dealers stay here. They all have the same issues.” He looked at the gun.
“The police haven’t found the Magic 8 balls with the bodies. Where are you leaving them?”
“Leave them? These damn things are expensive!” He stood up and started to pace.
“But how will we know you are the Magic 8 Ball killer? I mean, I know now, and if you let me go, I can go write about it, but otherwise no one will know.” Cari held her breath. Maybe he would let her go?
“Are you kidding me? You know way too much.” He stopped pacing. “You’ll call me the Magic 8 Ball Killer?”
“Yes, of course, now that I know the truth.”
“But how will police know it’s me? I can’t afford to buy one for every woman.” He started pacing again.
“What about a normal 8 ball, like from a pool table? Maybe those are cheaper?” Cari could only think about getting out of there and writing the story. She turned the ball in her hands. Will I get out alive? Without a Doubt. Will someone die tonight? As I see it, yes. Cari shuddered.
He paced some more. “You’re right. I need to leave them a clue or they’ll think you just made stuff up.”
“I’m going to get a new motel room. So you don’t lead the cops to me here.” He looked out the window. “You should go now.”
“Can I call an Uber?” She was pushing her luck, but it was a long walk back to the newsroom.
“Not from her. Get out of here, before I change my mind.”
Cari got back to the newsroom, sixteen coffee cups in an old copy paper box. Jerry was the first one to reach her.
“Hey, while you were on vacation at the coffee shop, they caught the serial killer.”
Cari took a step back. What? How? She hadn’t written the story yet. She had just listened to her recording while waiting for the drinks.
Jerry rubbed his hands together. “Yeah, some guy heard a recording of the guy talking to his next victim. He called the cops. And, coincidentally, the cops also got a call from the pool hall. This dude was in there putting 8 balls in his pockets. Stealing them.”
Cari put the box down. “Damn, that was my recording.”
“No worries there, kid, you can still write the story. Maybe it can be the sidebar to my interview with the cop who arrested him.” Jerry smirked.
Cari walked back to her desk. Damn Damn Damn. There went her Pulitzer.
The City Editor walked into the newsroom. “Don’t get all excited about the Magic 8 Ball killer. They got that one, but the Jerry Killer has struck again.”
Jerry spun toward the editor. “The who?”
“Yeah, latest crackpot. He’s killed his third and the detectives just figured it out. Only kills guys named Jerry.” He shook his head and left the room.
Jerry’s face paled, and he scuttled back to his computer.
Cari tried not to giggle. She glanced down at the scar on her finger. She told people that it was from chopping onions. They were not ready for the truth. It was from cleaning the blood off of her father’s old hunting knife. She was much more careful now. She even had doubles of all her clothes, so no one would notice she changed before getting the coffee.