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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Oops (01/14/10)

TITLE: Dead Duke
By Laury Hubrich


My first mistake of the day: I picked up line one.


I rolled my eyes. My co-worker sighed in relief that she didn’t answer.

Janice’s raspy voice pierced my eardrum. “Can you come over? I have cookies for the guys.” Click…

Talk about a crummy deal. “Jessie, wanna go over to Janice’s?” I knew it wouldn’t work but had to try.

She ignored me and absorbed herself in an intriguing invoice problem. Guess that answered that.

I opened the door and watched a line of concrete trucks pass. The spin of the drums always had a hypnotic affect on me. I waved at Jerry, our dispatcher, and pointed down the street. He knew where I was headed. He laughed and went back inside. We’ve all had our turns at that woman’s house, trust me.

I watched my step down the steep walk. I dreaded that rental house. Janice got cheap rent because of the concrete noises and dust in the air. Since she hardly ever left her house – she had a win-win situation. Lucky us to have found her. Ha ha.

Much too soon I reached the end of the block. I knocked and went on in.
Cigarette smoke assaulted my senses. I followed the murky swirl into the kitchen and there sat Janice, the object of all of our affection.

Her wheelchair sunk a little in the middle from her overly-plump body. She wore bright red lipstick, her usual, and her eyes were done up in a perky-purple, I guess because it was Tuesday, I didn’t care enough to ask why. She covered her trach-tube with her right hand so she could greet me and her lit cigarette graced the left.

She started to hand me the plate of cookies that I wouldn’t dare share with a dog and then she laid them down. “While you’re here, Ann, can you go down to my basement and get the blue blanket?”

I’ve been asked to go down there before but I always got out of it. Scariness, indeed. “A blue blanket?” I repeated.

She enunciated both words so I wouldn’t forget my task. She made it sound so strange.

Then my mind wandered. She has a boyfriend. I know, weird to think. This old woman in a wheelchair, decked out in her colorful face, had a boyfriend. Duke could be down there. What if the two of them had this elaborate plan about attacking me? I felt trapped. I wouldn’t be able to leave until I traipsed down that scary, web-infested staircase to get some ratty old blanket.

She again told me what to look for. I prayed as I took each step. Thankfully, it caught my eye right off and without even looking around; I grabbed that blanket and tripped back up the steps. Relief stirred my soul.

I handed it to her and she lifted the plate of cookies but stopped mid-air.


“Can you put my clothes in the dryer, Honey? My caregiver quit on me again. You know how they always get mad and stop coming.”

Boy did I. Wonder why? Creepiness.

Weirded out big-time now, my thoughts took a different turn. What if, somehow, Janice killed her boyfriend and hid him in the basement? But why would she want me to find him? No way did I want to go down there again….ever.

“I have to get back to work.” I grabbed what almost passed as cookies and ran back to the office.

Safely inside, I caught my breath before I spoke. “Jessie, have a cookie.”

“I’ll pass.” She pointed to the trash.

I threw them in the pail, plate and all. “Ummm… Jessie? Something’s seriously wrong down there.”


I described the details of the blue blanket fiasco then boldly declared, “I think she killed Duke. I bet he’s hidden down there.”

Jessie laughed. She reminded me that Janice was lonely then headed to the back. Alone, fear clouded my usually good reasoning. I had to do something. My hands shook as I dialed 9-1-1.

The man had the nerve to giggle as I told him my suspicions and I’m sure he spit out his coffee. He did promise to have it checked out, though. Janice’s antics were well-known by all.

I almost forgot about the whole thing until a policeman walked in an hour later.

“No dead Duke, Ma’am, only a plate of very scary cookies.” He scowled at me.

Redness clouded my face and a word escaped my lips, “Oops.”

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This article has been read 696 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sheri Gordon01/22/10
Yeah, I've made one or two of those overly-active-imagination phone calls myself. Big oops.

I would have liked to know a little more about the eccentric old woman--I felt sympathy for her.
Rachel Phelps01/24/10
Your opening is awesome - great attention grabber! I agree that I wanted to know more about Janice. I felt a little thrown by the 911 call, it just seemed a little far-fetched considering the eccentricities of Janice. Wonderful voice in this piece.
Barbara Lynn Culler01/25/10
Interesting story- kept my attention.

I am wondering why she left work to go to this woman's home for cookies.

I would also like to know what made the mc think anyone was dead. Why not just ask where the boyfriend was?
Noel Mitaxa 01/26/10
Never blame a mistake when a good conspiracy may be lurking. An intriguing fun read. Well done.