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Low Budget Mystery Story
About the Author: Eric Cline's stories have been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Mystery Weekly, Analog, Galaxy's Edge, and other publications.

If this was a movie, it would be very low budget.  One INTERIOR MAIN ROOM, in a dilapidated hunting cabin-slash-hideout. 

One character, MALE IN MID-30S, sitting in a wooden chair, clutching his stomach in one hand, his shirt soaked in blood, his other hand shakily grasping an iPhone. 

Two dead bodies lie on the floor, clutching guns.  (Non-speaking corpses are paid less.)  Our protagonist’s own weapon is discarded on the floor as well.

No need for voiceovers by the recipients of the phone calls.  (A V.O. would be paid less than the bleeding guy, but more than the corpses.)  

You just need to hear his side of it to understand what’s going on. 

“Bobby, I’m in a bind.  No don’t pleasegoddammitdont hang up!  It’s not money it’s much much worse.” 

A little squawk, almost inaudible, as Bobby asks a quick question.  And then a long pause as our boy goes silent, looking back and forth, blood seeping between fingers as he presses into his stomach.   

He is able to talk.  Just doesn’t want to. 

Then another squawk on the phone.  Its tone comes through as urgent question, urgently repeated. 

Our boy: “If I tell you—”  

Angry squawk.  A demand. 

“It’s—I’ve been shot.  I got shot.  I shot myself.” 

Now the conversation flows smoothly, with each of his responses interleaved with a squawk.  We’ll edit out the squawk to avoid monotony, shall we? 

“I don’t want to tell you.  Ahh!”  (That last part in pain.) 

“In the guts.” 

“I’m not coughing up blood.  I’m not bleeding like a geyser or anything.” 

“Please I can’t tell you!” 

“I got in with a bad crowd.  Did a stupid stupid thing that I never would have thought of.  They pushed me into it.” 

“No.  No one from Jefferson High.  This is a crowd you never knew.  It’s my bad that I ran with them.” 

He moans in pain. 

“I need help, Bobby.” 

“No!  I can’t.  Hospitals have to report all gunshot wounds to the cops.” 

“There is a choice.  I just need to get to someone who can look me over, off the books.  A retired doctor or something.  To sew me up.  Give me antibiotics.  I need to find that.  And I need to be driven there.” 

“Bobby.  Do it for The Days, man.  The Old Days.  Pick me up, Bobby.” 

“Your family won’t get hurt.  There’s no legal jeopardy.  I think this Aiding And Abetting shit was just made up for TV I think.  No one will know.  I’ll never rat on you, Bobby.” 

“Well can you at least for god’s sake find somebody?  A nurse in your apartment building, something like that?” 

“Then can you look?  Google people in your neighborhood.  Get an address.  But I can’t drive, I know it.  I may faint soon.  No taxi driver or ride share guy is gonna let me get in their back seat looking like this!” 

“C’mon, Bobby!  A veterinarian, a dentist, someone who will patch me up for money off the books.” 


“Yeah, it does hurt.  That’s why I need your help.  For The Days, man.  For the old streets, Bobby!” 

“I can call 911 myself!  I just don’t want to.” 

“I just can’t.  I can’t give myself up to the cops.  It’s not my way.” 

“Damn it!  You—” 

“Bobby?  Hello?” 

Our boy blues the air with his curses.  These may need to be toned down if we’re going to do this for broadcast or basic cable. 

Then he scrolls through his contact list looking for another number. 

This story appears in our MAR 2018 Issue
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