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Novel By: Alan Dale Dalby
Literary fiction

Darwin Phelps is on the verge of turning thirty and his life seems to be frozen. His job is going nowhere, the bills are stacking up, and there is a serial killer on the loose. After discovering the identity of the killer Darwin comes up with a plan to solve all of his financial woes. Will ransoming off an axe murderer to the highest bidder save his marriage, or will his scheme backfire horribly? No matter what the outcome, it's going to make for one hell of a Christmas. View table of contents...


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Submitted:Jul 6, 2010    Reads: 113    Comments: 3    Likes: 1   


Flynn's Pizzeria sat on the industrial outskirts downtown, far away from Alfred Packer Park; the ironically named center of commerce in Colorado Springs. The old mom and pop shop had seen barely ten customers in a month. On this quiet December night Eugene and Peggy Flynn made a final decision regarding the fate of Flynn's Pizzeria.

"We just can't survive in a Papa Smiley's world Peggy." Eugene Flynn said to his wife. He was a defeated old man who spoke in a tired voice. Peggy stood behind the counter and watched her husband leaning against the glass door at the front of the shop. She took in the peace of the moment, a snapshot for her memories. Her beloved Eugene pressed against the glass that she had been repeatedly cleaning for months now, mainly to cure her boredom. Outside the white world stood still. Only the falling flakes gave any signs that time was still moving along.

"It's been a long and wonderful run Eugene." Peggy assured her husband.

"I won't argue with you there. I just suppose I imagined a more glorious end to it, if I ever imagined an end at all." Eugene turned away from the windows and faced his wife. Her features had gained wrinkles and her hair was no longer the lush red it had been when he had first laid eyes upon her as a young man but she was still just as beautiful as ever to him. The one thing about a woman, Eugene had noticed, is no matter what else changed as she got on in years her eyes remained unchanged. They were as Eugene understood it the windows to the soul, so he figured it made sense that they did not age. Peggy had magnificent eyes. They sparkled as she smiled at him from behind the counter. The warmth of that smile could have melted every inch of snow had she stepped outside thought Eugene. Peggy stepped out from behind the counter and into the front lobby. She passed by the upside-down chairs stacked up on the four small tables that furnished the modest dining area and found herself in her husband's embrace.

"This isn't an ending my dear man." Peggy said. "This is a new beginning. You can have the rest of the night to mope about if you like, but tomorrow we start to celebrate our retirement."

"Oh there's that word again. It makes us sound so old Peggy."

"We are old." Peggy said as she looked into Eugene's face, her eyes still sparkling with the special magic only they possessed. "But that doesn't mean we are ready to give up on life." They both smiled now and leaned in for a loving kiss. Eugene and Peggy had no family to speak of. Peggy had one living brother whom she had never really gotten along with. As for children, they simply had never brought any into the world. There were no ties holding them down outside of their little restaurant. They both thought on this fact and simultaneously realized how free they truly were. Their eyes met and they exchanged smiles. The peace of the moment was abruptly interrupted from an outside source.

A bright set of headlights filled the small pizzeria as a van pulled up to the front windows. They were blinding. The driver must have had his high-beams on thought Eugene. It made a bit of sense on account of the weather. The roads were terrible and the sky was completely clouded over allowing only for very limited night vision.

"It looks like somebody is either very hungry or very lost." Eugene said with a raised eyebrow. He and Peggy stepped out of their embrace and looked out the window, squinting.

"Maybe we'd better lock up for the night." Peggy sounded a little uneasy. When the neighborhood had started to go downhill she had made a vow to herself never to give in to living her life in fear. She had been strong in keeping to this promise but the fear was always there tickling the back of her mind. Eugene started for the front door, but he looked as if he were going to open it. Peggy grabbed his arm. "What are you doing?"

"I'm going to see what is going on out there."

"Just flip the sign around and lock the door." Peggy referred to the small sign hanging on the inside of the front door that was currently announcing to the world that they were 'open'. "Whoever it is will probably just go away." The bright blinding headlights were still blaring through the front windows. Too much time seemed to pass by with no signs of life from the van.

"I suppose you're right." Eugene said. He finally seemed to share in Peggy's concern. He grabbed the sign hanging on the door and flipped it so that it read 'closed'. He fished his keys out of his pocket and locked the front door. The van still did not turn its lights off, or even down. It didn't move either. Eugene took Peggy by the hand and led her away from the windows.

"What do you suppose we ought to do?" Peggy asked.

"Well now let's not sound the alarm prematurely." Eugene said.

"How long are we going to just stand around and wait for something to happen?" Peggy's voice was in a loud whisper now. Eugene squinted at the glow from the front windows and reached for the phone. As he did, the van began to back away very slowly. Eugene listened as the phone began to scream at him that it was off the hook. He waited and watched the van as it slowly returned to the snow-packed street. Peggy was completely still as the vehicle paused there. After what seemed like an eternity to Peggy it started to drive away. Peggy let out a relieved sigh. Eugene hung the phone back on the cradle and put his arm around her.

"Retirement is beginning to sound like a great idea." He said. The neighborhood had not been so rough when the Flynn's had opened up their little pizzeria, but time had changed all of that. The crowds had followed the migration of most of the major businesses toward the center of the downtown area as the years had passed. Flynn's Pizzeria clung to every last customer as hard as the little shop could but the crime and the number of homeless living around them had soon made Eugene and Peggy's restaurant part of an industrial ghost town.

"Let's go home Eugene." Peggy said. "I could use a nice cup of hot cider."

"That sounds good to me." Eugene kissed Peggy on the forehead. A very loud sound suddenly came from the back door. Peggy and Eugene both shot glances toward it. Peggy wrapped her arms around her husband as tightly as she could manage.

"I'm phoning the police." She said. She let go of Eugene. He started back through the kitchen towards the source of the sound. "Eugene!" Peggy's loud whisper beckoned. "Get back here right now!" Peggy looked around the corner to see if she could spot Eugene but he had disappeared. She was breathing heavily as she grabbed the phone and dialed, but she realized something was wrong when she didn't hear a dial tone. She slammed the phone down and picked it back up. There was nothing but dead silence coming from the receiver. Peggy dropped the phone as she heard another noise from the back where they stored the dry supplies, boxes and soda. The thud sounded like a bag of flour hitting the floor.

"Oh Eugene…" She whispered quietly to herself. The small building was silent for a while longer. Shaking uncontrollably, Peggy started to slowly walk toward the storage area in the back of the pizzeria. She grabbed a large sturdy knife as she passed through the kitchen. She rounded the corner and saw Eugene's legs. He was laying face-down on the floor. Tears began to pool up in Peggy's eyes, those eyes that had just been glimmering with hope minutes before this nightmare. Something was horribly wrong. She clutched the knife tightly in her fist and held it so the blade was facing out. As Eugene came into full view, Peggy nearly passed out.

Her husband of forty-seven years would have been laying face-down. That is to say that his body was on its stomach on the floor near the soda bottles. Peggy could not hold back her screams, or hold onto her knife as she saw the aftermath of the attack Eugene had suffered. Her breathing accelerated along with her heartbeat. Tears began to pour down her cheeks and her knees buckled. Her weakened body fell to the floor next to her husband.

"Eugene? Oh please God no!" She was screaming as she put her trembling palms onto his back. His shirt was soaked with something. She noticed that her hands were becoming stained with it. She realized what it was. It was blood. It was all over the soda bottles and the wall as well. It was pooling around Eugene's body now; his lifeless, headless body. The shock sent Peggy completely out of her senses. She was so caught up in the horror of the scene and the sudden loss of her beloved husband that she did not notice the figure standing behind her. One single line of blood shot across Peggy's cheek from the blade of the killer's axe as he swung it over his sturdy shoulders and took aim.

Peggy's screams were suddenly silenced. The calm of the winter night returned to the pizzeria. All was quiet once more. Outside the unmarked brown van sat idling in the alley behind the pizzeria. A figure stepped out into the snowy night. His large gloved hand shut off the van's engine and lights. The figure paced around for a moment, his heavy-duty work boots crunched down deep into the untouched snow. He finally returned to the storage room where Eugene and Peggy had met their ends and closed the back door. All of the lights went out and the building faded into the darkness. This was not the way Eugene and Peggy had planned on it happening, but Flynn's Pizzeria was now officially closed for good.

As the world went to sleep unaware of the violence that had just been unleashed upon it, the snow gently floated down to decorate this silent wonderland of winter. Peace had been restored for the night, but it would not remain for long.


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