Iain Bates Has Been Murdered. Again.

Sandman’s Writing Challenge #6-Iain Bates has been murdered. Again. 

Iain Bates has been murdered.


Some people collect coins, other people collect art,  back in the day my Grandma used to collect recipes that she clipped from magazines and kept in a pink hat box with flowers artfully embossed on its sides. I think there were cupids flying around the lid. I honestly don’t remember.

Let me tell you about the oddest- not the strangest- but the oddest collector I have ever known.

His name is Iain Bates.

Iain Bates collects death the way a few people kill and mount butterflies.  but Iain Bates is for the most part the nice guy who will let you walk through the doorway first even if he has to stand out in the rain with no umbrella and you are carrying one which means he has to stand there getting soaking wet while you put your stuff away.  He is the kind of guy you could trust to feed your cat when you go on vacation-  Iain would never collect anyone else’s death.

That would be bad manners, so  Iain collects his own deaths.

Among his many murders, Iain has been shot by a three year old who found a gun under the seat of his parent’s car as Iain was walking by with his dog,  Scooter. He has been eaten by the notorious cannibal / serial killer Julian Frick and once he was shoved in front of a train by persons unknown.

With each of his murders, with each of his deaths Iain Bates always ends up at the same funeral home, he is always put back together by the same funeral director and he is always buried by the same grave diggers.

I know all of this because I am the receptionist and  Leaning Birches Funeral Home and Cemetery and nothing goes on here without my knowing about it.

Yesterday Sunny Longyear, whose family owns the Home,  was at her desk that faces a blank pale beige wall.  All she had to stare at was her phone and she  trying to pretend she wasn’t staring at her phone when I looked over at her.

” It’s about that time, isn’t it?” I said.

” For what Mavis?” Sunny asked.

I’ll have to hand it to her. She’s pretty good at throwing on the ‘ huh what are you talking about face’ on cue. On the other hand, she’s been a Funeral Director for over half of her life so mastering the art of facial expressions comes natural to her.

” For our appointment with Mr Bates. ”

” You mean my appointment with Mr. Bates.” She said darkly.

” Why don’t you pass him off to that  our new Apprentice who is it, oh yes. Your cousin Hamish. Or maybe your Aunt will take care of him.”

” I went through the roster last time. All eight of them said no. No. They all said they’d rather eat rat poison sprinkled  over  a sautéed batch of Destroying Angels nestled on top of a steak riddled with mad cow disease  then work with Mr. Bates. They mean it too. They would. And they told me I’d be all alone at Christmas eating a frozen turkey meal for one that  you microwave and the stuffing always dries out around the edges no matter how carefully you stand there and watch it.”

” Wow. They’re serious. ”

Sunny poked at her phone with her finger. ” Go on. Ring.  Yeah. I can’t believe they’d curse me with a rotten microwave meal at Christmas.”

” That is pretty low.”

Sunny sighed.

” Do you ever wonder how he does it? ” I asked Sunny.

” Don’t care.” she said

She had pushed her chair back from her desk and began twirling herself in slow circles. ” I mean, would you want to know how to get murdered and come back over and over again? What kind of messed up photo gallery does he have on his phone? It’s probably full of pictures before of him at the beach with his dog before  got run over by that woman who thought he was her husband, or there’s probably some of him at a birthday party  before Mr. Cranfield  killed him for his eyes. And think about it.  Can you ever get rid of the taste of embalming fluid out of your mouth?”

” I suppose I hadn’t thought of that but I do wonder about one thing. You’re there with him after he’s died. So  what does it look like. That thing he collects. His death.”

Sunny stopped twirling. She pushed herself over to my desk and looked around the room to make sure no one else was around. ” You know those prizes that you get in Cracker Jack Boxes from the old days? Those little plastic toys?”

I wanted to nod but I couldn’t.

” They look like that, only not as well made.”

” So, when  you die your death turns out to look like a cheap toy from a box of mummified caramel corn?”

I was stunned. I don’t do stunned. Ever.

” Mr, Bates made a deal with heaven knows what so each time he is murdered, he gets a little plastic toy. His favorite one is a little dog with a compass stuck to it’s side. But he thinks they’re  all great. He keeps them in a Tupperware containers.

” He goes through so much for so little.” I said with more regret in my voice then I intended to express.

Sunny who is probably the only one of us to see Iain Bates Tupperware container full of plastic charms and toys- and has not only seen, but touched what he’s  gone through to get them did not agree with me.

The phone rang, Sunny slid herself to her desk and she went to work.





RDP Friday – Viral

Violet didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the end of the world; it was  imagining what happened after it was all over that would keep Violet awake at nights.

She’d would be laying there in the dark picturing a dead and lifeless world with a small yellow sun rising in front of a blood red moon while all around her room on tables and in the windows and on their own special tables were dead and dying plants in overpriced planters.

There were no starter plants with tiny little roots floating around in plastic fast food drinking cups in this room. Violet figured it was the least she could do for some poor plant that was bound to die once she got her hands on it.

What she did to plants was nothing compared to what she did to those colorful fish you kept in wine glasses with the half marbles scattered at the bottom glass.

Violet had come in from work one day and found all that was left of her fish were blue and red scales and brown goo sloshing around in the inside of the little glasses.
It was on that day she saw those little corpses floating in the cloudy water she decided it would probably be better if she avoided the live animal route all together.

It wasn’t like she didn’t know any better.

There was the puppy got when she was eight

Santa had brought the puppy in the basket with the red bow tied to the handle and left it by Violet’s bed.

Violet had dragged the cold ‘sleeping puppy’ out to the living room stuck it in front of the Christmas Tree bright and early on Christmas morning and said to her parents, ” It coughed all night, I don’t think it feels well. Can we exchange it? ”

There was the kitten four years later that started to bleed from it’s ears and not to long  after that there was her  baby brother that turned from pink to dark red right in front of Violet’s eyes.

Then she grew up and moved out and started with the plants.

It was like having a bad tooth…your tongue just wants to go to it and poke around. That’s the way Violet was with plants; she just kept buying them or planting seeds and they just kept dying on her.

And Violet kept watching.

So it’s not really a shock that she couldn’t sleep at nights.

And then it got be too much.

One evening Violet’s dying and decomposing plants couldn’t keep her mind off of the little things that nibbled away at her mind during the day so she reached for her TV remote control and when she pushed the ‘on’ button the little black and silver box hummed in her hand and she knew the battery was dead.

She reached over and turned her bedroom light on and then she popped the back panel off of the remote.

Along with plant murders she had rotten luck with batteries too. She had guessed that if she bought batteries from someplace other than ” Dollar Bonanza” (where all the stock was a dollar or less) they might last a bit longer.

She reached into her nightstand drawer for some new batteries when she saw that the battery in the remote control had split at the seam and the acid had started to ooze out and then before it ran off the side of the battery it had hardened and turned to dust.

She dropped the remote on the floor and reached for the little ivy plant that was dying in the planter shaped liked an elephant. She touched one of the leaves and felt it turn to power between her fingers.

Now that was a new one.

Violet reached over and turned off her lamp but she didn’t sleep.

It wasn’t soon after that she stopped sleeping all together.

So instead of sleeping Violet did a lot of thinking; she thought about her dead and dying plants, her puppy and kitten and little brother. She thought about the way no one ever sat next to her on the bus.

Even if her seat was the last open seat and they had to stand.

She remembered the way her own Mother would wipe her hand against her hip after helping Violet brush her hair and the way her Father would hold his hands out to stop Violet from rushing into his arms the way all little kids do.

It was strange, those little gestures that people used to keep Violet away. They were the same gestures Violet saw when someone had a coughing or sneezing fit and the person standing next to them would turn their head or pull in a long deep breath and try not to exhale until they were safely away.

That’s exactly the way people acted when they got to close to Violet.

One morning Violet brushed her teeth and combed her hair and put on a bright yellow t-shirt. Yellow was her favorite color and today she wanted to do something nice for herself.

She walked down to the Lake and watched birds fall from the sky and bees drop from flowers. The trees put up more of a fight. She could hear them creak and groan and she could hear the leaves whither and then curl and crumble right on the branches.

When she got to the lake she put her hand into the water and she watched it thicken and could smell it go bad and then the fish all rose to the surface and tried to jump to land and before they were airborne for more then a second they fell dead back into the water.

Violet got up and walked to a little hill and when she got to the top she sat on a bench and she could see the route she had walked because it was a dead route now and unless you were looking you probably wouldn’t notice the narrow trail of death; but Violet did.

That was it for Violet, this was all she would ever do-she would infect anything unlucky enough to get to close to her and then it would die.

Violet looked at the trail she had walked and saw the dead trees and plants she had passed could see the trees and grass and plants further away start to turn brown and curl and she could smell them turn to dust.

Violet Delaflote was spreading.

Violet walked to the lookout spot next to the Lake she had infected (there was no other way for her to think of it) and she figured she could just walk out and keep walking until the water covered her head.

She couldn’t swim, she had never learned how…not after watching her swimming instructor drown all those years ago. ” She had some kind of Virus, ” her Dad told her ” and when she dove into the water she got sick and couldn’t breathe and she drowned.”
Violet passed the picnic table and walked into the water and she was surprised at how easy this was turning out to be…but what was the alternative?

She was a serial plant killer and she lived alone.

That was Violet’s life.

She kept walking and by the time the water was up to her chest she realized what she was doing…she spun around went under and fought her way back to shore.
When she turned around and looked back at the lake…she covered her face with her hands and screamed until her throat felt raw.

Then she ran.

She ran and ran until she came to the Shopping Mall and she collapsed on a bench outside of the food court.

People were eating and laughing and scowling and living…and when it came down to it Violet decided she wanted to live too. She wanted to eat soft pretzels and drink strawberry lemonade and she wanted to shop and be rude to salespeople…just like everybody else.

That was what Violet wanted, she covered her face with her hands and she cried for the life she would never have.

When it came right down to it Violet decided she might only be a Virus that had somehow disguised itself as a short woman with okay skin and dry hair but she still wanted to live just like anyone else.

She knew though she couldn’t do that like everyone else and Violet knew that was alright.

So she took her hand away from her mouth and nose….
And she sneezed.

The Caller

Fandango’s February Expressions #26:
Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t

If he knocks, does she have to open the door?

Does she have to let him in, offer him tea and a seat near the living room window

next to the fireplace?

That’s her favorite place to sit, there are Jade plants in the window and the radio is in the corner. The radio has an eye on the center of it’s face. It closes when the radio signal is weak.

It hasn’t worked for ages, she wasn’t even sure people used radios anymore.

Focus she told herself. Focus!

She needed to decide and she needed to decide now because she was sure he was

going to knock on her door and that he was going to ask to come in and of course the

polite thing to do would be to offer him something warm to drink, it was so cold outside.

She went to the door, she flicked the light switch and the pale warm lights from the ceiling winked off and her wall papered walls ( faded gold birds flying towards the ceiling, sad they would never make it she thought when she looked at it )  and her furniture and paintings of lakes and flowers painted by long gone hands winked out too.

Of course she didn’t have to let him in, she doesn’t have to offer him something to drink

to take the chill out of his bones. She isn’t responsible for his comfort, for what he wants or feels.

She put her hand on the door, it was cool to the touch- or maybe it was just her. She was always cold. She was always worried about not doing the right thing. Her hand slid to the door knob and she turned it just as she heard the beginning of the knock that she dreaded would come.

Thump. Thu-

She turned the knob, she pulled open the door and the empty Night stood at her door politely, waiting to be invited in and offered tea and a seat next to the window with her Jade plants and the radio with the eye in the center of it’s face.

” Why do you always come here, why do  you always come to me? ” Death asked the night.

The Night didn’t answer- it never did but she let it in like she always does and probably always will because sometimes when you are faced with darkness or you are darkness itself it’s better to choose to face it with someone you know then to face it with someone you don’t know at all.

Eternity is such a long time.



Hamish and His Big New Years Eve Resolution


Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Me and my best friend Kit were doing what we always like to do best on Friday nights.

We sit on our favorite bench in our favorite park and watch the lanterns flicker on just as the Sun sets.

The lanterns are old and I think they use those new bulbs that are supposed to last for a year but they still buzz and click before the lights pop on.

” Are you going to give it a try tonight?” Kit asked me.

” I dunno.”

” Well. It was your New Years Resolution. It was your only resolution. Are you seriously going to not even try?”

The lanterns buzzed and clicked and like magic the lamp posts glowed to life.

I stood up. Squared my shoulders. l lifted up my chin and closed my eyes.

” Oh for Pete’s sake what is the point?” I  asked. ” It’s not going to make me taller or  cute or thinner or sexier or smarter. ”

” It’s all about follow through Hamish. Go on. Give it a try.”

” This is stupid. ”

” Yes. But you swore on your Mother’s grave you’d do this. So get to it.”


We were talking about my Mother now and she was pretty damn great as far as Moms went.

When Mr. Finch and his two sons tried to put a bullet between my eyes because I was different and  touch on the emotional side when I heard Mozart and I was and still am fond of wearing pastels and getting mani-pedis,   it was  my Mom  who took matters into own hands and wiped the deck with all of them.

” I’d do it again Pumpkin ” she said as Doc Frances set her broken arm and taped her cracked ribs. ” Now, go on downstairs and see about dinner, would you? Doc helped me bring it in- on top of everything else he’s done for us  tonight.”

” I could eat a horse. ” Doc Frances said. ” Patching you up is hard work Domino.” he told my Mom.

Before anyone could say another word I turned tail and raced downstairs to the kitchen. I was determined to make the best dinner ever for my Mom- my beautiful brave Mom- and I did.


” Okay. For Mom. ” I squared up, closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

My first one ever since I turned in a Werewolf over 60 years ago, like everyone in  our family does when they turn 10 years old.

” How’s it feel?” Kit asked. He stood up on his hind legs and pushed his paws against my chest. He nuzzled at my chin the way cats do.

I exhaled a small jet of air from my lungs into his face.

” God.” Kit flinched and sneezed and gagged. ” What is that. I mean it Hamish. Did something crawl in their and die?”

” I don’t think so. I think it was something I ate.”

We looked into the bushes  behind our bench.

I shrugged, Kit flicked his tail.

” Well. Be that as it may, you kept your New Years Resolution,  you took your first breath in sixty years. Congratulations Hamish.”

” Happy New Year to you  Kit. Now let’s go see about dessert, shall we?”

The real life Hamish and his BFF “Kit ” Micey.
Photo A.M. Moscoso


That’s How It Started

Writer’s Write January Prompt

#1 Beginning

The idea  came  to her on a drive when her car hit a patch of ice and she nearly skidded off the road and into a line of trees- dark monstrous  trees, their limbs coated with snow and ice.

She imagined the trees reaching down with their twisted arms and tearing their way into the driver’s compartment through the roof, smashing their way through the windshield- gouging out her eyes  and smashing the delicate bones of her face to a paste of blood and flesh.

Maybe with a bit of doing they’d take her head and fling it up into the sky and it would fall back down and land with a soft thud and maybe it would roll a little before it stopped- face up she guessed.

It was just a lonely and lost idea hiding in the dark, hiding in the cold all alone in the world , that crawled into her head that night on the road, many years ago.

Now when it dreams of bone an ice and dark roads and the trips and dark deeds they’ve brought into the world since that split second when they first met -they laugh.








The House In The Field

RDP Tuesday: vacant

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My train passes by that house- that one lonely house in a field full of rusting metal  and pools of fetid water every single day 16 times a day whether I am on the train or not.

The house used to be light blue and there are still curtains in the windows frames but the glass has been gone for a long time,  and I’m sure if you tried to open the door you would find it locked.

There is a porch on the side of the house and it was there I saw the dog for the first time.

The dog  was black and it was wearing an orange collar and it was obviously a very big dog because it looked huge from a distance.

At first I wasn’t sure it was a real dog- it didn’t flinch when the train roared by, it’s longish fur never moved out of place from the wind that flew up to where it sat across from the tracks.

The Dog was watching for something and nothing- not even a train screaming in it’s face could persuade it to look away for even a second.

No, it didn’t act like a dog- it didn’t even act like it was alive.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com


Last winter- the winter that turned into Summer in the blink of an eye- my train, with me on it sped up to the house and I saw that the front door was open and that the dog was not on the side porch.

He was at the edge of the yard and it was stunning  how big he really was. I could see his face and his eyes- they weren’t dark brown or red or orange- they were bright, they were so bright they were blinding.

I didn’t  look away from that light  because when I heard the Black Dog  growl it felt like my heart had stopped.  I couldn’t turn my head, I couldn’t shut my eyes I couldn’t have moved even if  I had wanted to.

It never really registered- I couldn’t move but I flew all the same.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

That dog  was the last thing I saw and heard  until I woke months later,  minus a leg and my right eye and most of the fingers on my right hand.

There was a signal error that caused our train to crash with the freight train I was told probably a million times.  But the head injuries I suffered were extensive and it was quite awhile before anything I was told made any sense to my poor damaged brain,

When I  was able to tell  people about the last thing I remember- the house in the field with the dog that chased us  and caught us I suppose, people would pat my arm and smile and gently explain that there wasn’t a house in that field and there probably was never a dog there either.

It was just my mind blotting out a horrific experience with images I could understand, images that were not as terrifying as the reality of what we all went through.

But I am sure of one thing- my life after I saw that dog was a patchwork and weeks of my life went by without me being able to remember them. My short term memory still isn’t all it should be.

But I remember everything from before I saw that dog chase us-

and I am certain of this

Something was in that house behind the locked door and one day it came out and it sent it’s dog after us and I am positive as I said earlier that it caught us.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Look for it. It’s a blue house, there are curtains in the window frames and the front door is shut and probably locked, there is a black dog on the porch steps.

If you see it, go away from it- whatever it takes- don’t go anywhere near it-don’t let it catch you.

Orson and Jules Go Trick Or Treating

Ten year old twins Orson and Jules are ready for Halloween.

They are fully costumed ( Vampire and Mummy respectively ) they have decorated two white pillow cases with bones made from felt and they have written their names in drippy red lettering near the openings of their bags.

Grandma has insisted on making their costumes every year since they were old enough to reach a door bell and they didn’t argue because she is handy with a needle  and thread and lucky them, their  Mom is a whiz at makeup.

” All those years of sitting through my Mom’s Avon demos really paid off, didn’t it boys? ” Mom would say as she stepped back to admire her handiwork.

Orson and Jules had no idea what ” Avon ” was, but nobody could turn you into a corpse or the shade of a dead man better then Mom and the big picture here was getting out the door and into the night for candy, all the candy they could get into their bags so Mom throwing around words with no meaning wasn’t really important.

Not tonight because it’s Halloween


Grandma roared up their driveway just before dusk, like she did every year, in her Jeep.  She’d hit the garbage cans like she did every year and Dad would say that joke played itself out a long time ago and he was ready to hide those damn things in the attic at this point.

” Go ahead Malcolm”  she’d say, ” I’m up for the challenge.”

” Hey you two!” she called out her window to her Grandsons  who were waiting for her on the porch.” Happy Halloween. Are we ready to go out and raise  Caine and get some candy?”

” We are!” they  cheer back in stereo.

” Hop in and let’s get to it then.”

Neither boy called  shotgun- they loved their Nan, but not enough to sit in the Death Seat. Nan seemed to feel that things like speed limits and traffic laws in general were more suggestion then rules.

So they flew down the street, and as they did the Sun set lower in the sky and the street lights started to pop on.

” Nan, ” Orson asked ” do you think we can start at Hidden Hills first? Then to Harvest Ridge?”

” I don’t see why not. But first things first. I have to swing by the Stop- N- Go ”

” Couldn’t you have stopped there first Nan? Look! The Sun is down!” said Jules  who was probably the only person in the world who could scold Nan and get away with it.

” Nope. ” Nan swooped into the Stop -N-Go and she nearly missed the gas pumps ( as usual). The few people in the lot looked surprised and even a little scared but not Jules and Orson. They were more concerned with their empty treat bags then they were with their brush with death.

” You can do this fast, right Nan?” Orson reminded her in the form of an ask.

” Sure. Back in a jiff.”

Orson and Jules were pretty sure that a Jiff equaled 15 minutes in real time but they didn’t say anything. They were counting on the fact that Nan would make up for their lost time with her driving.

Nan tore out of the driveway and after a few minutes of roaring through the dark she remembered  to turn her lights on, but did that matter to anyone in the Jeep? No it did not because they were on their way.

Between  Hidden Hills and Harvest Ridge- two of Orson and Jules favorite trick or treating spots where the houses were decked out in their finest Halloween regalia and the  yards were stuffed with graveyards and inflatable monsters and even crime scenes complete with giant plastic rats and corpses under sheets-  is  Sparrows  Ease.

Sparrows Ease in a small cemetery that outdates the towns that sprung up to the north and south of it by almost 100 years.  Unlike the new cemeteries, Sparrows Ease has a tall wrought iron fence, and a locked gate- the lock is new and you need a key card and a passcode to open it.

Nan zips up to the gate, kills the engine and grabs the bag on the seat next to her.

A candle rolls out and she shoves it back in and reaches for the glove compartment. She pulls out the Keycard, a scalpel and a roll of  bandages. ” Ok. I’m going to raise your Cousin Caine and then we’re off! ”

Jules reaches into his bag and pulls out a treat bag with their cousin’s name written on it and Orson pulls an eye patch and a pirate’s hat out of his and both boys sit back as Nan pops out of the car and they watch, with as much patience as they can muster, the  cemetery gates swing open after she taps her card to the key pad and punches in her code.

” Why does she use a key?” Jules asks.

Orson doesn’t answer because tonight it’s Halloween and the boring details of day to day life don’t matter right now.

Darkness has fallen over Sparrows Ease and the stars are out.

It’s  Halloween and tonight is full of magic.