Racetrack’s a funny place. People says they come here for entertainment, but there ain’t nothing they take more serious. It’s the gambling. They see themselves hitting the big one and taking it all home in a big bag. Course, that never happens, but it seems some always had that idea. Mind, there’s a few can come here and just spend a few dollars and leave, and it don’t bite them. But others, well, they get hooked the first time they’re here. I think it’s got something to do with the horses. Maybe they think they’re not really gambling cause it’s live animals.
I been here near forty year, ever since about 1955. Started out as a groom, then got a lucky break to start as a sulky driver in the races. Even got to travel around the state for a while. But then I got hurt in a bad pile-up and the boss offered me this job. I’m sort of a security guard now. It’s okay, but I sure do miss the horses. I’m not so close to them no more.
I remember this one young feller, back about thirty year ago. His daddy knew somebody and got him into the barns as a groom. That’s the starting point, where you learn everything. He wanted to be a driver and could have made it, too. He had a good touch with horses and was showing some real promise on the practice track. But then I start seeing him in the stands, and at the window, and I thought—well there goes another one. He’d caught the gambling bug. There’s a certain look they get in their eye when that happens, a kind of intense focus when they watch the horses or read the program. There’s despair when they lose, but it ain’t long before they’re looking at the next race. Continue reading
Ben Van Dongen
The elevator doors opened onto a dim city street. Streetlights were on to compensate for the deep shadows and setting sun, which was almost gone over the horizon. Groups and couples walked down the sidewalks or hailed cabs. Thomas took a moment to look for a cab without a group of people standing around it, trying to make their claim, but they were all taken, leaving dozens of people waiting. He turn and ran, dodging pedestrians and excusing himself.
At the first intersection, he went right then darted across the street through a gap in the traffic. Horns honked at him, but he ducked left into an alley, leaving them behind.
Coming out at another street, he followed it to the next intersection, ran left through traffic again
Thomas ran along the street, next to parked cars, but he was tiring and slowed. Plodding down the sidewalk as quickly as he could, he ran into a woman who walked out of a store without looking. Continue reading
Ben Van Dongen
The office was quiet. It was usually quiet, but after his first case, Thomas could feel it. He sat at his desk, thinking over the events at the school, looking for what he did wrong. Letting his target get away was eating at him, but not as much as Diaz not caring.
A knock at his inner office door made him jump. He saw the shadow of Rachel in the window before she walked in.
“I brought you a cup of coffee.” Rachel walked over to the desk and gingerly put down a brimming mug.
“Do I look that pathetic?”
She put her hands on her hips. “I just trying to do something nice.”
Thomas rubbed his chin. “Sorry. It’s that phone call. I can’t shake it.” He picked up the mug and sipped. “The only thing I can come up with is Diaz knew more than he was telling me.”
“Don’t tell me you’re shocked by that?”
He waved her off. “No. They’re a big company, bound to protect their interests. But if they already knew, why did they need me?” Continue reading
By Ben Van Dongen
The door closed behind the fleeing woman and Thomas slammed into it in pursuit. He lunged forward, running right into the back of the waiting officer, pushing him. The tall man turned on Thomas, red faced and furious. He tried to get hold of Thomas, but momentum was against him. Thomas spun, ducking the reaching arms, and sprinted in the direction the guard had been looking.
At the next junction, he paused, listening for the principal’s clacking footsteps. Hearing the sound, Thomas ran after it, further into the building, back towards the records room. He had to force the smile from his face as he ran.
The woman was fast and far enough ahead that he hadn’t caught a glimpse of her. He was determined though, and manage to follow the footsteps echoing down the empty hallways. He heard the click and slam of a door closing and traced it to a stairwell. He pulled open the door and chased the principal up the stairs. Continue reading
While walking back to the train station, Thomas called Rachel. The day was wearing into the afternoon and he figured she would be at work by then.
She answered on the third ring. “Thomas Holliday Private Investigations; how may I direct your call?”
“It’s me.” Thomas smiled hearing her nasally voice.
“Oh, well you better not have messed this case up already. You haven’t had one in months.”
“I need a warrant to access the student records.” He stopped walking, bursting with excitement. “She was actually going to throw me out!”
“I’ve already applied for the warrant, it should be in the records by now. I’ll upload it to your file and send one to the school.”
“You’re the best.”
“Don’t forget it come bonus time.” She hung up on him. Continue reading
Ben Van Dongen
Thomas rested his eyes. He pulled the authentic fedora down and put his feet up on his real wood desk. He hadn’t had a case in months, not that he expected any, but he was getting desperate. He didn’t need the money, the buyout he got when his tech start up was acquired gave him more than he could spend if he tried. His detective business was a dream that the extreme money and young retirement allowed him to fulfill. Thomas’ skills were with genetic programming, but his passion was detective novels.
The collection of folded and faded paperbacks was considered and eccentricity that kept other literary zealots away, but the genera fascinated Thomas. Using his time and wealth to recreate the office of his favourite detective and actually opening for business made him a kook, but he had the money to not care. Thomas even sprung for a human secretary. Big shots, like the CEO of Fresh Choppers, the top conglomerate in the world, didn’t hire humans, and Thomas’ did accents. He had insisted on having a woman, just like the books, but the old Bronx dialect was a bonus. He smiled thinking about it.
The afternoon quietly napped with Thomas. He considered heading down to the local watering hole to get the word on the street. The friendly neighbourhood bartender, paid by Thomas to play the part, kept his ear to the ground. The robotic ones never talked. He contentedly listened to the whir of the fan and the sound of his secretary randomly hitting keys on the typing machine. He swore it was called a typewriter, but she insisted it was a typerator.
Thomas decided to skip the trip to the bar and ride out the rest of the afternoon in the office. At five his secretary would come in and complain about how slow it was and about not getting paid. Thomas would assure her he would come up with the cash, though her fee was promptly transferred to her account weekly. The guys would be at his place for poker by the time he got there, then he would end the night by chronicling his adventure in his own detective novel.
With a stretch, Thomas sighed. It was in the slow afternoons that building and selling his company paid off.
“Mr. Holliday? Rachel, his secretary, called over the antique intercom. Her voice sounded tinny and hollow over the speaker, but the high-pitched nasal quality was all hers. Continue reading
Davis followed protocol as he walked the streets. The flashlight told him he didn’t have to be so uptight. It claimed that it could sense any disturbance, dimensional or not, but Davis felt more relaxed when he was doing his job.
They made another turn down a street lined with long low buildings. Some of them had bars and Asian restaurants and others housed book stores and pawnshops. They had all been deserted since the shift. With the first attack, people left behind everything they couldn’t carry. The zone was closed off as quickly as the military and corporations could manage. Dust, time, and the first creatures had their way with everything in the zones, but that didn’t stop people from trying to get in and scavenge. Davis pointed the flashlight at the broken windows and occasional holes in the walls of the stores, happy it still served its purpose. The crunch of Davis’ boots on the scattered debris was the only sound. Continue reading
By Ben V
A red light mounted on the wall flashed as an announcement warned the guards that the door would be opening in fifteen minutes. It reminded them to double check their gear before the nightly orientation.
The room was simple. A large door took up an entire wall and separated the bureau, and the outside world, from zone five. Two rows of benches lined up facing the door where the guards sat and waited for their shift to start. A single door led off to the locker rooms. It was the only way into the staging area and the huge blast door was the only way into the fifth zone. The afternoon shift was ending and the night guards were preparing to take over, some of them for the first time. Six guards sat quietly waiting for the trainer to give the final announcement. Continue reading