Word prompt inspires
noir short story

This Creative Writing Prompt requires the use of specific words -- in this instance, ten -- which are highlighted within the text.

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Watermelon Noir

By Mo Conlan

“Poor Nina." Detective Ace Spade stared down at the body of a lush blonde. Once, Nina had been the golden girl. Now her golden skin was going blue.

Instead of the blend of something lemony and sex he remembered, Nina’s body emanated the odors of death. She had been strangled. Though Ace was a veteran of crime scenes, a nauseating echo of sour scotch rose to his throat.

Ace remembered a long-ago beach party. Nina walked up and, without preamble, kissed him. Her lips were delicious as watermelon.

She was only 14, already a sexy woman. He was an awkward 15-year-old boy. Still, that kiss awakened a wild longing. He wanted to keep her, to have her, to be the one she kissed – always.

But there was no keeping Nina. She danced and roamed — a whirling force of nature.

Nina’s world was large and littered with broken hearts. Vivacious was too tame a word for her high wattage. The way she sashayed into a room. The smile that invited you in. Men and women lapped up her warmth with gratitude.

She always moved on, and on. Kissing, dancing, leaving. Ace wondered what moral dwarf could have ended her dance prematurely.

He had no quick epiphany about who might be her killer. This would be no slam dunk.

He put on latex gloves and began searching the pricey hotel room which had been the scene of a terrible party. Sheets, towels, bottles and glasses littered the carpet and the room stank of booze and death.

On a glass near Nina’s body, he discerned a faint thumbprint. He felt a jolt of adrenalin.

Ace had a talent for catching killers. Obsessive, he could go forty-eight hours on a hot trail before crashing for four, then up and back at it for another forty-eight.

He had that uncanny Irish intuition he’d inherited from his dad, a cop whose solve rate was legendary. This deep reading of people and situations gave him an edge.

Lately, though, Ace felt his intuition beginning to falter. Trying to hold onto it, he began drinking more. Chunks of his mind and memory broke off like ice floes in a black sea.

Ace bagged the glass with the thumbprint. The methodical examination busied his mind, helped him stay just ahead of the darkness.

Still, his sadness and anger grew. Rage at a god who permitted the innocent to suffer and guilt that he could not save them. This melancholy was the reason he was alone. That and the bouts of drinking and blackouts.

He looked again at the body of the woman who had been so filled with life. “Nothing could be worse,” he thought and struggled to hold back tears, unable to find that protective raft that cops and doctors learn to step onto.

For the time being, he kept at bay a tiny voice trying to break through: “Nothing could be worse except one thing.”

Author’s note: The word prompt is a magic wand to get writing juices flowing. Inside this net of words the writer can play, happy as a child making mudpies. This is just play, so the critic inside doesn’t raise its Hydra head. The words provide wings to fly through vast realms of story bits rolling around chaotically in a writer’s head -- and tethers. A writer may find a story lying just under his or her consciousness. The prompt can spark a piece of writing far afield from the usual. I had fun with the crime noir short short story in the above example. After you’ve got your first draft, it is OK to prudently excise one or two prompt words. The prompt words have done their job. -- Maureen Conlan (my writing friends call me Mo.)

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