Spookymilk Survivor X — Challenge #9: Cliffhanger

The Spookymilk Survivor writer’s challenge for this week was fairly straightforward — cliffhanger! In 500 words or less, set up a story that ends in a tense cliffhanger.

I have no idea where the seed for my writing started, but with some careful mental direction, I was able to bring it to a head under the 500 word limit, allowing me to flesh it out a bit more.  After some added details and the usual spit-and-polish, this is what emerged:

Detective Robertson fidgeted at the back of the open warehouse. When Three Precincts had their monthly police auction, the auction house is contracted to handle everything, but some late-coming information had the boys on alert, and Robertson was assigned to blend in and keep an eye open. So far, besides a slightly larger crowd than normal, Robertson didn’t see any unusual activity, and his interest was waning. But as the bidding started on the current lot and almost a dozen numbered paddles were raised, his instincts pulled him to attention.

The typical police auction included drug seizure items, unclaimed stolen material, and even some surplus police equipment. As Robertson checked the page he was handed when he had entered the door, his eyes wandered down to the item up for bid, Lot #17: Four Hummel Figurines.

“Who will bid $400?” Cherilynn Lei raised her paddle, as did several others. An experienced collector of porcelains, she quietly hoped that the bidding died down soon, although she was prepared to go higher. One of the figurines caught her eye as being uncommon enough that she did not have its name off the top of her head, but she knew it would fetch a tidy sum on the Hummel boards.

“$650?” Ella Stimssen quietly sobbed into her handkerchief as her son Jens dutifully lifted his number. She appreciated that he had taken the morning off from his work to help her, but seeing many other bidders also raise their paddles, she knew that her limit would be reached far before the bidding was finished. The thought of her daughter selling her family’s keepsakes for drugs and now of those treasures being lost forever to strangers started another round of tears.

“$950? Do I hear $950?” Dieter Kraus noted that there were still a handful of bidders who continued to bid on this lot. A drop of sweat tracked down the side of his face; not because he was nervous, but because in spite of the warmth of the auction crowd, he was still wearing his coat — a field jacket that hid the bulge of the snub-nosed Mauser HSc strapped to his side. If anything, he was excited, because another of the lost “Hitler Hummels” had been found. No, Dieter was not nervous. If the bidding went above what he was authorized to spend, he and his sidearm “Klaus” would have a little “Herz zu Herz” with the winning bidder after the auction.

Robertson watched the bidders attentively as the bidding rose above $1500, and four of them were still going strong. As he was easing his way into the crowd, the sound of the gavel jolted him, and he began edging towards the location where the auctioneer was pointing, keenly aware of the service revolver tucked under his belt at the small of his back under his loose Hawaiian shirt.

“Lot #17 sold, for $2250 to #34!” A commotion was breaking out just as Detective Robertson got there and found himself standing near the winning bidder.

One aspect of David Lynch films that I like is that he imbues every character with some interesting quirk, and although I didn’t have the word limit to do this well, but I still enjoy introducing characters into a story. And while I initially was just focusing the cliffhanger on “who will win the auction?”, I liked the Ronin-like guns-in-crowds direction that I folded in. And the winning bidder was #34: we still miss you, Kirby.

Anyway, RESULTS. And how about that — high score, way to go team SPOILER ALERT! Sadly, another non-submission as well, at least on one of the other teams this time. Judges’ takes:

K: Wow, another winner. Cut and paste my notes from the last one. Though it isn’t an action scene, everything else is the same; our characters and their stories are interesting, and we’re heading for something big. 5

DK: This is another one that I think has a strong effort to set up multiple pieces that could pay off in multiple ways, and I think the characters here are a little more defined. Or I just got a huge kick out of the German joke. 5

Many thanks to Mo & K for their input and encouragement.

One response to “Spookymilk Survivor X — Challenge #9: Cliffhanger

  1. I figured that was a nod to Puckett.

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