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The synopsis read:

Mystery Writers of America Flash Fiction Contest,  Are you a budding writer? Mystery Writers of America gives you one line – and you write a story of 500 words of less, which you will read for a supportive audience of fellow writers and mystery fans. International bestselling author Sara Paretsky and MWA Midwest President Clare O’Donohue will award prizes to the top storytellers.

Yes, I entered. I came in second.  It was an all girl field and I was the oldest. My prize is an Edgar Allan Poet Magnetic poetry kit, a book by Raymond Benson and the approval of Sara Peretsky, Clare O’Donohue, Lori Rader-Day plus a tent full of mystery fans!

Here’s the story that I crafted in one hour.   The prompt was – the body was surrounded by seventy red stones.

“This is what we get for trying to have lunch in the park?” moaned Tony.

The body was surrounded by seventy red stones.

“Okay Rachael,” asked Tony as he knelt outside the crimson octagon, “Are you familiar with ritual killings.”

Blinking against the bright sun, she replied”They don’t cover this in the CPD academy, but anthropology class touched on it.  This could be Comanche or Arapaho, definitely not Illini or Iroquois.”  As she stooped down, “Or it could be gang related.  The victim is in black and red with really expensive Air Jordans.”

“I vote gang,”  said Tony.

“Good, I second,” said Rachael as Tony pulled up the man’s arm, revealing a battered face and a large red stain where his heart should have been.

Several links of brass chain from an antique window sash was falling from his mouth.

“What’ch think this means?”  asked Tony

“That he talked too much, his mouth is stuffed with it.” noted Rachael.

“Informant or Traitor?”

“Both.  Or back door man.  He’s only got one shot, in the heart, so he was probably saddling up to the wrong lady and got caught.”  sniffed Rachael.

“This is the middle of the lily pond garden where the lovers go and they took the rocks from over there – nice of the park district to provide them.”

Tony reached in a pants pocket but found nothing.  Rachael hit the jackpot on the other side of the body.  Opening the wallet she whistled.

“Big Bad Bobby Malone, Tony!”

“The drug lord?  Seriously?”

“The one and only.”

In the high flowers came a rattle.  Tony moved fast, catching a young girl by the arm.

“Hey, what you doing, honey?”

“He sold that shit to my brother.  Now he’s got what he deserves.”  she said defiantly.

“You did this?” asked Rachael.

“Yeah.”  she proudly produced a .45 auto.

“How old are you?” Tony asked, looking at her.

“14 going on 15.”

“Go home.”  said Tony.

“But I did it!”

“Go home,”  said Rachael as she wiped the gun,  “Go Now.”

She ran through the bushes fast.  Tony and Rachael looked at one another, knowing that one more cold case didn’t mean a hill of red stones on the west side of Chicago.

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