Happy Thursday, everybody.
Normally I try to plan these out at least a little bit, but about half of them have been the result of me looking at the clock on a Tuesday or Thursday and going: “…hmm, was I- oh, shit!”
Today’s one of those, but we’re going to put a spin on it. Rather than frantically digging through files to grab a story, quotes, or whatever, we’re going to do a prompt on the fly (sort of).
A couple of weeks ago, friend and fellow blogger over at Writing up a Sanctuary and I traded writing prompts. Since then, I’ve been making empty promises to flesh it out and make something of it.
There’s no way for you to know this besides trusting me, but at the time of writing THIS line, I’m setting a clock for thirty minutes and am just going to try and get this thing out. If time runs out before I’m done, you’ll know because it will just…end. But we’ll see how it goes!
Okay, so, first things first, the prompt: An inmate is found dead in his cell. He’s covered in burns and blisters, but nothing else in the room shows damage from a fire. What happened, who dunnit?
Sweet, now that we’re all caught up, we hit the timer and start seeing what the hell to do with it, starting in…
Oh! And it should be noted I’m not going to edit this. So everything here will be as it was first written down and left like that. So if there are some typos that I sped past…I mean, c’mon.
The Burned Man
“Hey, Jeff. You might wanna see this.”
The prison guard motioned to his coworker and the two stood over the body. Still in his prison orange, the corpse of inmate #2471 (known as “James” to his mom and “Pipe Wrench” to his fellow inmates) lie curled in the middle of his cell like a dead spider. His skin was bright red, peeled, and cracked. Blisters covered his neck, the back of his hands, and other exposed (former) areas of skin.
The thing that both men found strange was that while he looked badly burned, the rest of the room – even the clothes on his body – were untouched. The other thing was, neither guard mourned his loss.
Inmate #2471 Pipe Wrench was kind of a dick.
“You find him like this?”
“You radioed it in yet?”
“Think we should?”
Ninety minutes later, Detective Alvarez was standing at the edge of the cell while the crime scene photos were taken. He was chewing on a toothpick and switched sides of his mouth every time the camera flashed. This one was new: a man covered in burns with no evidence besides.
The guards had given their two cents (each, so not even a nickel in all). Their theory was that he was beaten to death, probably burned with grease from the kitchen where he was often stationed to work as “torture or something”, then dumped back in his cell.
When Alvarez asked why his clothes were perfectly clean and untouched, the two guards just looked at each other then back to Alvarez with blank looks. “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumbass, were better off checking clocks and counting cocks, in the detectives mind, but they might have had something with the relocation aspect of their (stupid) theory.
The camera flashed, and something caught the detective’s eye. He gave the photographer the sign to take a break and stepped over Pipe Wrench’s body to his cot. The thing which had caught his eye was the reflection off the camera’s flash that came from a metallic clip under the inmate’s bed. He held it between his thumb and forefinger. “Suds n’ Buds Laundry” was decoratively engraved on the clip. He walked back to the Tweedles.
“You guys ever seen one of these?”
“Um,” said Tweedle Dee, scratching his chin. “In the laundry room, I think.”
Tweedle Dumbass just nodded in agreement.
Alvarez sighed and rubbed his temples. “Anything else you want to add? Did the inmate ever work in the laundry room?”
Both Tweedles shook their heads.
Detective Alvarez shook his head, pocketed the clip, and headed to the laundry room. As he left, Tweedle Dumbass called out, “Oh wait! He was in the laundry!”
Alvarez spun around with interest.
“He just got his jumpers cleaned. That’s all. But he WAS there.” The guard looked proud of himself.
Alvarez gave a weak spirited thumb’s up and made for the laundry room. Once there, he asked around, made his inquiries, and poked in all the corners. Nothing. He combed through the equipment to look for blood-covered murder weapons, smoking guns, confession notes – anything. Eventually, he came to the detergents and big industrial washers and noticed something off. One of the containers had a blue lid instead of white. He dug it off the shelf, sifted some through his fingers to see if the marked container had hidden contraband or evidence, but found none. He put the detergent back and inspected the washer beneath it.
“Hey,” he called to an inmate working nearby. “Any chance this washer or detergent was used to clean Pipe Wrench’s jumpers?”
“Dunno, man. Pro’ly.”
And like that, Alvarez was out of luck. A mysterious case that had gone cold right as it started. A burned man with no fire damage to his cell. No smell of smoke. No fires on prison grounds around the time of the murder. The only thing he had to go on was motive, but the problem there was that most everyone had motive.
Inmate #2471 was kind of a dick, after all.
As he got back in his car, he reached for the AC. Mid-July in Georgia meant it was hot as hell. Soon, Alvarez started itching at his hand. Then started wiping it with his shirt. It went from itching to burning. Then from burning, to burning bad. He reached for a bottle of water under the passenger seat (his car was cluttered) and poured it on his hand in a panic, but that only made the pain explode. Just shy of screaming, he reached for a bottle of Muscle Milk he’d picked up that morning but hadn’t finished, and dumped it on the sizzling skin. Soon, the insane burning subsided and Alvarez’s eyes went wide.
He knew what happened.
Whoever had laundered Pipe Wrenches jumpsuit had “powdered” it with some kind of dehydrated sulfuric acid after it dried, hidden in a detergent container. After Pipe Wrench put it on and started to sweat, he burned up just like that.
Alvarez ran back into the prison to present his findings and round up a suspect list of inmates working in the laundry room, but those efforts proved fruitless. It seemed that while he knew how the deed got done, who did it- [END TIME]
The Take: Aaaaaah! Right up to the end. But you get it, basically the killer gets away because “Pipe Wrench was a dick,” but overall I think we did okay here. I was going to go for a [SPOILER ALERT TURN BACK NOW IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN ‘MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS’] Murder on the Orient Express take wherein the whole prison was in on it, just with a suuuuper cheesey and dumb motive. The thought process in the beginning went something like this: “Type, just type. Whatever comes to mind, go with it. Fill time while we think on what happened. Fire? Nah. Relocated? Eeeeh, nah. What burns withou- ah! Chemical burns. Cool, cool. Now how’d he get them? Aaah, shit. His clothes are untouched for the mystery, so…detergent? No! Detergent gets SWAPPED! Aha!” so on and so forth until we got the weird thingy here.
So…yeah…that’s “The Burned Man”. Taaaaa-daaaaa.
Haha, I’ll see you guys Tuesday.
PS – I have NEEEEEEWS! Another story of mine, “The Scars of Eliza Gray”, is currently in the works to be featured on the NIGHT LIGHT horror podcast in a few weeks. So stayed tuned, ’cause I’ll be posting updates as I get them and blasting it out there once it’s up! Also keep an eye out and an ear open for the episode where we discuss and give our takes on Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and “Us”! Yaaaaay!