I’ve decided to do something a little differently today and write a short story or novella. If you like suspense, estate sales, and the south, you may just like this one!
The Black Box
By: Stephanie L. Robertson
I felt the delicate gold chain slide between my right thumb and my index finger. It felt cool in my palm. Whether it was really gold or not was inconsequential because the pads on my fingers began to tingle.
The shapeless woman who had been standing near the rows of jewelry had moved over to help another woman with a pale blue vase in a far corner of the stale living room. The estate sale worker was overly helpful, and the two women engaged in a friendly conversation about mid-century milk glass. They were loud and haggling over the price.
I felt the gold chain slide into the pocket of my lightweight raincoat.
I hadn’t intended for it to happen again. I thought I’d dealt with it. I thought that my counselor had helped me to deal with it. It had been six months since my last stint with the law. One more infraction, and there would be stiffer consequences to pay.
But the pleasure of the moment… The ease of which I could steal the necklace… The challenge of not getting caught. It was just too much.
All of those pendants were left unguarded by the woman who was helping the milk glass vase lady. I had heard her colleague, a thin-nosed woman with iron gray hair, tell the woman that she was off for a quick lunch break.
I brushed my hand over a box of shimmering vintage brooches. My heartbeat quickened. “Slippery Fingers,” is what my high school friend had called me, ages ago when I would steal a pack of gum after school.
I felt my slippery fingers grasp a handful of the costume jewelry and slide them into my pocket.
“Excuse me! Just what do you think you’re doing!”
My back stiffened.
I had been so intent on my treasure that I neglected to see the other estate sale staffer return through the kitchen doorway, a bag lunch and soda in hand.
But it was an odd thing. Rather than pulling out a phone and tapping out 9-1-1, the woman set her lunch bag down on the counter and whispered, “Come with me!”
I followed the woman up the stairs of the dank Victorian house. At the second-story landing, she pulled out a key and unlocked a bedroom door.
She set her soda can on an old secretary’s desk, regardless of the beaded condensation on the can. She pulled out a sheet of stationery, a pencil, and an envelope. Then she began to write.
“Here!” she said, after sealing the paper in the envelope. She gave me the envelope, but I couldn’t read it because of the foreign characters it was written in. I could, however, read the address: 1156 Darth Way; Bell Buckle, Tennessee.
I had never heard of Bell Buckle, Tennessee.
“You will deliver this to the address written at the top of the page along with that black box setting on the dresser over there. You will deliver it within 12 hours, or face consequences. Do not talk with anyone about the box. Do not open the envelope. Your life could depend on it.”
I pulled the necklace and brooches from my pocket. “Why don’t I just give all of this back to you, and we’ll call it even?”
“Keep it. You’re already in too deep to back out now. When you deliver the box and letter safely, you will be given $5,000 in cash.”
The woman handed me a cell phone. “Use this and call the number taped to the back if you encounter anything…unusual. You will take the back stairway to get out of the house unseen. Remember—do not let anyone know that we’ve talked. Now, go!”
To be continued…
Idea for story came from a free, online Writer’s Digest writing prompt book.
“Your character is caught shoplifting. The shop owner says that she won’t call the police in exchange for a personal favor….”
Tell me what you think of the story, and I’d love for you to try the writing prompt, yourself!