The Writing Prompt
roof. A flight below us, Jackson followed. He had a gun in his hand. His footfalls echoed ours as he chased us. The clang of the metal steps deafened me until Burt burst through the roof door at the top of the stairs. The heavy door banged shut behind us.
We were trapped. In a few seconds, an armed man would come through that door. I looked around to find a weapon or a place to hide.
“We wouldn’t be in this mess if you weren’t too nosy for your own good.”
Was Burt out of his mind? “This isn’t the time for recriminations,” I said, and scanned the nooks and crannies in the deteriorating brick I planned to restore for a rooftop oasis.
“You can’t leave well enough alone. You think you’re smarter than the cops.”
The door opened. The tip of a gun poked out like a periscope.
E. B. Davis
“No Burt, I don’t think I’m smarter than the cops.” I pulled my gun from my jacket pocket and aimed it at Burt. I took out my badge. “Because, I am a cop. Special Agent Renee Carter. Jackson here is my partner.”
Burt looked confused. “But you’re my neighbor. You’re a jeweler and an amateur sleuth.”
“I was undercover. We’ve been tracking your illegal activities now for over a year.” Jackson cuffed Burt and read his rights. I heaved a sigh of relief. Having to play sleuth with him had been trying. I bet he laughed after our investigative adventures. He’d thrown red herrings at me, trying to lead me away from his activities. But the herring I could deal with. It was the anchovies on his pizza I hoped never to smell again.
“I am smarter than the cops. Get down.” I picked up a brick, measuring its heft in my right hand, and grabbed a small broken piece with my left. Burt lay on his stomach, out of Jackson’s line-of-sight. I tossed the small piece underhand to land to the left of the door, which swung wide at the sound. As soon as the back of Jackson’s bald head came into view, I threw a fastball – or fastbrick – right on target. He fell with a loud thud, the gun skittering from his hand.
I retrieved the gun and handed it to Officer Burt. “You stay on meter maid duty, Burty Boy. Mom and I will take care of the real crime.” Breathless, she smiled at me from the open doorway, her cane pressed into the back of our assailant. This wasn’t the first mystery we’d solved together, and it surely wouldn’t be our last. Unless our publisher gets bought, of course.
I waved my arms at Jackson as he peered through the narrow opening. “Okay, Jackson, we’ve had enough. Your invitation to a murder mystery dinner sounded like fun, but this has gotten a little out of hand.”
“I told you we shouldn’t have come,” Burt muttered.
A shot rang out and bits of stone exploded on the wall beside my head.
“Yikes, duck,” Burt shouted, pulling me down beside him near the floor. “I don’t think we are playing anymore.”
That realization struck home just as the bullet had landed. Now what could we do? We were unarmed and this was no longer playacting. Just then I caught sight of a long-forgotten television antenna that lay on the floor. I grabbed hold of it.
“Distract him while I come at him from the other side.”
“How in the hell am I going to do that?” Burt’s eyes were wide and frantic.
“I don’t know. You’re the mystery writer here. Think of something.” Spotting a brick nearby, I grabbed it and thrust it into his hands. “When I say now, toss this at him as he comes through the door.”
With that, I snuck around the roof skylight that was just high enough to cover me.
Jackson pushed open the door, stepped out, and fired another shot.
Burt tossed the brick at Jackson. It didn’t land anywhere near him, but it was enough to distract him. Coming up from behind him, I swung the rusty antenna at him, hoping to knock him over and then we could pounce on him.
The antenna hit him with just enough force to cause him to lose his balance. He wavered, and
before he could stand erect, he plummeted over the side of the building.
Burt looked stunned. “How are we going to explain this to the police, especially since you threatened him during dinner?”
“I was only following the script he gave us.”
Burt and I collided at the door trying to get through it at the same. With any luck, the script I left on the dining room table was still there and no one had taken it.
Those people who think locked room mysteries are impossible puzzles should try meeting a gun-toting madman on a roof. I raced for the edge. My head spun as I looked to the street below. Down had been much closer the last time I was up here. Only one thing to do.
“Follow me, Burt.” I hooked a foot into a gap in the bricks and came down hard on my chin. The bricks were my salvation. Ignoring the pain from my bleeding lip, I grabbed a brick and hurled it in the direction of the stairwell. The clink of brick connecting with metal and the sound of a shot exploded in my ears. The gun, knocked from Jackson’s hand clattered to the pebble rooftop.
Burt’s laughter rang in my ears. He stooped to pick up the fallen weapon. A double-barreled shot-gun now pointed directly at my chest. “Maybe I should have said you wouldn’t be in this mess if you weren’t too nosy for your own good.” His finger tightened on the trigger. “You’ll never bother me again.”
I grabbed the edge of the door and gave it a mighty heave.
Jackson stumbled forward, his arms flailing wildly as he tried to regain his balance.
I zipped around behind him, dashing through the door as it clanged shut behind me. I threaded the sturdy padlock through the hasps and slammed it home.
Jackson wasn’t getting through that any time soon.
As I started down the stairs, I heard a single shot.
And I probably wouldn’t have to worry about that jerk Burt giving me a hard time any more.
rammed his shoulder against the door. Jackson cursed. He dropped the gun when
the door slammed against his hand. The door swung open wide. I dived at
the weapon. As if it had a mind of its own, the gun bounced back through the
opening. I heard it hit the metal steps as it careened down to the bottom.
Jackson was injured and unarmed. Great. But he was enraged. He burst through the doorway, growling like an animal.
“I can toss you both off the roof with one hand,” he said. “It’ll look like an accident. I’ll be long gone before the police arrive.”
if we cooperate," I said, throwing a brick at his head. I missed, but it
When he lunged at me, Burt hit him in the back of the head with a piece of masonry. Jackson whirled so he didn't see the chunk of brick I threw that hit Jackson in the back. We kept it up and Jackson kept turning and lunging uselessly until he heard the police sirens. Then he dragged his wounded body back to the stairs. He started down much slower than he had mounted the stairs.
We watched the police arrest him and retrieve his gun.
"Okay, maybe you were smart to get him to chase us to where we could defend ourselves and keep him occupied long enough for the cops to get him. I bet that was the murder weapon and his fingerprints will be all over it," said Burt.
I smiled and said nothing. I had fled in panic. Burt saved us by ramming the door, but I was never going to admit it.
“Oh, ye of little faith.” I reached into the pocket of my cocktail dress – how I love a dress with pockets! - and pressed the button on a micro transmitter. The blades of a police chopper thumped in the distance. I sighed. It wouldn’t be here in time.
I hefted two bricks, one in each hand. I hurled one at Jackson’s hand, knocking the gun to the ground. As he bent to retrieve it, I hurled the other, hitting him square in his hipster glasses. As Jackson sagged to the asphalt, I grabbed his gun.
The chopper pulled even with the rooftop. Burt gasped, his face pale in the police helicopter’s spotlight. “What just happened?”
The chopper hovered, the down draft swirling as SWAT officers leapt to the rooftop and secured Jackson. I pulled Burt close. He was cute, but a little slow on the uptake.
“I’m not smarter than the police,” I said in his ear. “I am the police.”
James M. Jackson
Which was really bad technique since if I had been standing there, I could have grabbed the Sig Sauer P365 and twisted it from Jackson’s hand and broken a finger. But I wasn’t, so I picked up a brick. I didn’t bother pointing out to Burt that since I was the one who figured out Jackson was the killer, I was smarter than the cops (and that it was Burt who had taken the front stairs up, not the back stairs down).
All 5’2” ninety-eight pounds of Jackson slipped through the doorway following his P365, which was the thing I stared at.
Jackson directed the gun at my chest. “You got prayers to say, now’s the time to say them.”
I looked up at chimney swifts chittering overhead. “Thank you, Lord for the safety you have provided me.” I rifled the brick at Jackson’s knee.
The fight was over in five seconds. I had Jackson pinned beneath me and his P365 secured in my pocket.
“You’re crazy,” Burt said. “He could have shot you.”
“He tried,” I said, “But he forgot to release the manual safety.
Margaret S. Hamilton
Little did Burt know. I had a plan. I padded in my sheepskin boots to the other side of the roof and whistled.
Herschel poked his big black head outside his rooftop kennel. Alert, poised for action, awaiting my command.
“Hershey, come!” I slapped my thighs. “Time for fetch!”
All hundred pounds of Cane Corso coiled muscle, topped with a massive head and heavy jaw, sprang to attention, crossed the roof, and made the four foot leap between buildings to join me, a wooden rolling pin clamped in his huge jaw.
Herschel dropped the rolling pin at my feet and woofed, tail wagging. I slipped him a treat from my stash behind a loose brick in the wall.
I picked up the rolling pin, but instead of throwing it, I screamed “Get the gun!” and added “Burt, out of the way.”
Herschel charged across the roof and leaped for Jackson’s gun, clamping Jackson’s lower arm in his mighty jaws. Jackson screamed and dropped his gun, Herschel still holding his arm.
I raced across the roof, snatched the gun, and handed it to Burt. “Make yourself useful while I call the police.”
I fed Herschel a handful of treats, and spent the next thirty minutes throwing the rolling pin for him. Herschel periodically stood on Jackson’s prone body, making sure his prey hadn’t gotten away.
Burt said, “I thought you spent time up here working on renovations, not playing with a guard dog.”
I rubbed Herschel’s short, coarse, coat. “You never know
when you might need a Cane Corso.