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Out of the Woods and Into the Oven

Short story By: Indiana Fischer
Mystery and crime

This piece stemmed from an assignment I was given--I was supposed to take a classic folk or fairy tale and create a new version of it. I landed first on Hansel and Gretel, then decided it's ripe for a hard boiled detective narrative. This is what came out of it.

Submitted:Oct 4, 2009    Reads: 119    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   

It was just before I was closing up shop for the night when the guy walked into my office. My secretary lingered in the door, throwing me a look that said, "Do I have to stay?" Not tonight, doll. She knows I mean "not tonight" because I shake my head and that I called her "doll" because I have a cocky grin on my face. This fella is definitely the small village type. Big beard, pretty stocky. Probably hasn't been to the big city too much. I wonder if he got lost trying to find my office in this zoo of a town. "I need your help." He says imploringly. I strike up a match and light my cigarette. "Yeah? With what?" He stares down at his feet. Almost like the answer to my question is written on those beat up work boots he's wearing. "My children are missing." I furrow my brow and frown. I've never had a case where somebody asks me about kids. It's always about catching a cheating husband, you see. Always. Or so I thought. I sit there in silence waiting for him to go on. He finally picks up on this. "Well, I'm a poor man. I'll say that up front. I don't have much but what I do I'll use to pay you." I take my feet of the desk and sit normally. "Go on." And he rushes into it. His wife is an evil woman who wanted to get rid of the kids. Two less mouths to feed. Her idea was to drop them in the woods, tell them to get fire. And then just leave them there. Let the animals get to 'em. Pretty twisted stuff. Apparently one of these kids, Hansel, is a pretty smart cookie. The first time mom tried to pull this shit, he left a trail of pebbles to their place. How about that? The other one is Gretel. Good kid, apparently. But not as smart as Hansel. So mom tries again. But this time, knowing this Hansel kid made a trail with the pebbles, locks the front door so he can't go get more. Ah ha, but Hansel outsmarts her. Or so he thinks. He uses the one piece of bread mom and dad give him for food and crumbles it, using that a trail. Here's what Hansel seems to forget though. Birds love that bread just as much as they do. Maybe even more. So when the little pipsqueaks sleep, these birds see this trail as more of a snack. Trail lost.
And that brings us to this point. It's been almost four days since the kids were left out in the woods. Dad's worried. I listen to him, but think the whole time why in the hell did he go along with the wife's idea in the first place? I'm not a parent and I'm not sure I want to be, but that one seems pretty obvious. Still, I take the job. I could use the money. Even if it's not much.
The animals in this forest always talk. For a price. I talk to some old friends first though. A few deer, a bear who's one of my biggest confidants in these parts. They all point me to the snowy white bird. Like any pretty boy, he's full of himself. He's not helping at all so I finally ask him his price. He says maybe he saw two kids. Maybe he led them to a house. He says that was the last time he saw them. I tell him to lead me to the same house. He asks for more money. Instead I pull out the shiny piece I keep tucked inside my jacket. I tell him he takes me or he doesn't get to sing even more goddamn pretty song ever again. This works. In my line of work I find you have to threaten the one people hold on to the most. Some people would call that dirty. I call it necessary.
The house is like something out of a fat kid's wet dream. Sugar windows. Chocolate windowsills. Wafer cookie chimney. I could go on. I light a cigarette and start to set off to check out the place. I don't get far, though. The shrill sound of an old woman comes from inside the house. "Go start the damn fire! It's time for your brother to made into something delicious!" A little girl of maybe 9 or 10 walks out. Seeing me she almost screams but I hold my finger up to my lips and she gets it. I motion for her to keep moving and mouth just act normal. I stake out a place behind a tree and wait. The girl walks over to some strange gigantic outdoor oven. It's a little bit taller than her. I know what this old crazy bitch is planning to do and it makes me feel sick. Where's the other kid though? The one who made the trails? Suddenly I hear his voice calling to his sister and I realize he's in the barn near the stove, but I can't see him.
"What the hell is taking so long?!" The woman asks. She's stepped outside. God, she's hideous. I can't even look at her. The girl doesn't reply, only whimpers like a small dog. The woman walks towards the oven and shoves her long, mangled finger into the little girl. "Get in there, make sure the temperature's right!" The girl merely stands for a minute and finally says "But…I don't know how." She glances at me at the end of saying this. And I know what I gotta do. I take back what I said earlier. This girl is just as smart as her brother. Maybe even smarter. "Goddammit you little brat, step back, let me show you how it's done." She takes a step towards the door and I take my shot. She gets a slug in the middle of the back and lets out some horrible shriek. In all my years in this job I've never heard something that horrendous. Green liquid splatters out of the wound. Green? It doesn't really matter though, she doesn't bleed to death. Instead she falls straight into the fiery hell that is the oven. "Close the door!" I yell to the girl. She does so quickly, probably not wanting to look at that monster anymore. Me either.
The kids are shaken but OK. Tough kids, really. Since none of us know where their place is from here, we walk until I find Tony the bear, my confidant. He leads us back. Upon hearing what their mother did to them, he also scares her straight. Tony's a good guy to have around. Case closed.


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