Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Phrase Creates Stories

This is a rerun from 2006, when I first got interested in blogging (Thank you, LaDawn!) Since I’ve had neither time nor inspiration lately and Shelby is tired of me not posting new stuff, I thought I’d put up a few reruns, especially for those of you who didn’t join me until later in my Life as a Blogospherian.

I and my kids, Jack, Em, are all writers. We used to do an exercise where one of us would challenge the others with a phrase on Saturday and the rest of us had to come up with a story before the following Friday. Here are a couple of winners:

Sometimes the Dragon Wins
By Jack Carson.

There’s a story out there, no one really knows who told it first, but it’s been around for long time. Anyway, it goes a little like this. There’s this village, a quaint little anywhere place, that just so happens to be in the vicinity of a ferocious dragon. As you can imagine, being terrorized by a dragon on a regular basis is not very pleasant.
So along comes this knight. Resplendent in his armor, astride his white stallion, his sword sharp, his lance long, his head empty. Anyway, this knight goes to slay the dragon. Cinch, right? Well, the knight doesn’t return for about a week, and finally the villagers send somebody to see if he’s completed his task. All this guy finds are the bones of his horse and a fused lump of melted metal, with all that’s left of the knight rattling around inside as crumbled bits of charcoal.
The guy goes back to the village and all he has to say is, “Sometimes the Dragon Wins.”

Sometimes the Dragon Wins
by Emily Carson
He sits poring over the police report, the crime scene photographs, the coroner’s reports, and the tentative timeline. His name is Don Glasser and he is a profiler for the FBI. It is his job to analyze crime scenes and provide a profile of a possible suspect. As he has so many times before, he allows himself to imagine the crime as it happened.
Sarah Breckner tucks her four year old son, Stevie, in for the night. It’s a little chilly, so she shuts the window above his bed. Or tries to; it sticks and she can’t quite get it all the way down. She settles for shutting the blinds and giving Stevie an extra blanket. Sarah goes downstairs. She has trouble getting to sleep most nights; as is her habit, she turns on the television and lays down on the couch. It isn’t long before the droning noise has lulled her into a doze.
Outside, an intruder cuts through the screen of a living room window. He uses a hammer and a screwdriver to break the lock. Sarah stirs in her sleep, but it’s been a long day. She doesn’t awaken.
Quietly, the intruder climbs inside the house. He leaves footprints in the mud beneath the window, as well as a track on the floor. No fingerprints; he’s wearing gloves. He approaches Sarah, quietly, so quietly. She mutters in her sleep. Quickly he bends over her and clamps his hand over her mouth. She awakens, struggles, bites her lip, drawing blood.
Don takes a sip of coffee and grimaces. It’s from the bottom of the pot, thick as mud and bitter as death. This is the part that frightens him most; it’s easier to figure out what happened at the crime scene than it is to read the mind of the criminal. Yet that is what he is expected to do, it’s what he’s been trained for, to analyze the behavior of a suspect and provide a personality. What was this assailant thinking?
He jumps on Sarah, straddling her, pinning her down. Sarah is a strong woman; she runs nearly every day and swims three times a week. Fear makes her stronger, fear for her child and herself. She fights him, scratching his face. He hits her, sending the back of her head against a lamp. Her nightgown twists around her body as she struggles, leaving chafe marks on her neck and armpits. She backhands him, leaving bruises on her knuckles. Her struggle enrages him; he hits her again and again, breaking her nose, blacking an eye.
The assailant brings out his knife. It’s a hunting knife, made to dress deer and other game. He stabs Sarah through the right forearm, the knife going between the radius and ulna bones. Sarah screams. The noise finally wakes Stevie. He runs to the top of the stairs but doesn’t go down.
The assailant stabs Sarah four more times, two mortally. One punctures a lung, the other slashes the aorta.
“Mommy!” The intruder looks up. He didn’t expect a child. He runs out.
Sarah gets up. As her life is ebbing away, she knows she has to call for help. She staggers toward the kitchen and the telephone. It’s so far and she is so weak. So much blood . . .
Stevie runs down the stairs. He is crying hard now, and he wants his mother to be OK. He clings to her leg as she tries to get to the kitchen. Her blood drips down on his hair and inside his pajama top.
She’s almost there. “Please,” she gasps, not sure who she is entreating. She can feel the strength leaving her legs. Her knees buckle as she grasps the phone. She collapses on the floor, spent. Stevie huddles beside her, still crying as his mother breathes her last . . .
Don rubs his temples. One of his migraines is coming on, making his left eye water and left hand feel weak. He shuffles the papers in front of him, trying to piece the suspect together. From the footprints, he was about 6’4’’, weighing between 260 and 300 lbs. Sarah had his DNA under her fingernails, but this is either a first offense, or the perp has been careful till now, because they haven’t got a match from criminal records. Don thinks it’s more likely that the UNSUB, or unidentified subject, has been careful. Most criminals don’t start out breaking in and attacking. If the UNSUB had any record, it would be for window peeping or breaking and entering.
Since the man ran after he saw Stevie, Don doesn’t think he was stalking Sarah. A stalker would’ve expected the child. Sarah was well-off and attractive. It’s possible the man only had robbery on his mind, but got other ideas when he saw Sarah asleep on the couch. Entering, the UNSUB was organized. He had the knife and the tools. When he couldn’t control Sarah, he became disorganized. He left the tools under the window and the knife on the living room floor. This tells Don that he hasn’t attacked anyone before; any further crimes will begin blitz-style, with the UNSUB using maximum force to subdue his victims. He’ll have learned from this failure.
No fingerprints, no composite sketch. One witness, a traumatized four-year-old. Don writes his profile, but isn’t hopeful. Unless this man attacks again, or is arrested on an unrelated charge, it’s not likely he’ll be found. Stranger crimes, ones with no connection between the victim and the perp, are among the hardest to solve. By all accounts, no one who knew Sarah Breckner wished her ill. It appears she was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Don lets out a frustrated growl, shoving some of the paperwork off his desk. He makes a promise then, one to Stevie and his mother, that he will not give up. He will keep fighting and looking for clues. Despite this, something one of his mentors at Quantico once said runs through his head: “Sometimes the dragon wins.”

And Janell’s “Sometimes the Dragon Wins” story? I’m ashamed to say, it was started, but never finished.

Maybe next time…

Do you have one to share? Remember, “Sometimes, the Dragon Wins…”


Jamie Dawn said...

Both stories are really good. The poor feller got burned up by that mean dragon, and the woman got killed and died in front of her little son.
Talented writers in your household!

Janell said...

Hey, JD! Don't you have a story that ends with "Sometimes the drageon wins?"

Myrnagj said...

Great stories. Emily seems to have a dark side. I love Jack's sense of humor. OK Janell time to finish yours.
How about this starting line: I'm going to join the fertilizer advisory board...

Joe B said...

Jack and Emily are great writers, I agree with Myrnagi. Emily definitely has a dark side, I almost forgot that it was going to end with the catch phrase.

I wish I was as creative!

Marla said...

Those are both really good stories. I am not that talented.

Janell said...

Myrna & Joe; Emily doesn't really have a dark side. She is, however, fascinated with criminology (sp?).

Myrna; The Fertilizer Advisory Board...? We'll see what that brings out.

Joe; You're a good journalist, as in "one who journals." I love the posts and pictures you share about your travels.

Marla; don't sell yourself short. You are a great storyteller!