Oct 30, 2018

Short Fiction: Recaptured Charm

It's a story of anguish, judgement and chance – Molly comes in contact with someone from her past in unexpected circumstances.  She must uncover his motives of re-entering her life. She battles with the truth and deciding whether to trust her instincts or believe it may have been a crime against her.

Inside the Writer’s Corner ~ 
When I first started writing this story it was going to lean on the creepy horror side with a Halloween theme in mind. I only had a few paragraphs written when I got stuck and my imagination developed a wrinkle. Writing something sinister or gruesome was not my thing. I soon realized I’m no Stephen King - there’s a reason he’s an accomplished horror and suspense author.  Writing horror stretches the imagination further than I felt capable of doing.

After a day or two of thinking about where to take the story next, I realized I had to soften the story while still incorporating some emotional darkness and twists along the way. My plot, as always, is generally overruled by hope and promise. 

Writing is a journey and I’m happy to share it. 

Story is approximately a 20 minute read. No time? Bookmark for later and come back when you have some down time to engage in the story. 

Hope you “feel” this story and the characters come to life for you. ~Laurie

Recaptured Charm

By: Laurie Oien

The excruciating pain awakened him from his unconscious slump and spit stretched thin from his lip as he tried to forge through the weeds of his last memory. It hovered like dark clouds in his head. 

Pain was tormenting his left arm and, instinctively, he reached with his right hand to soothe the wound, only to have it stopped short. Something constrained and pinched his wrist leaving him helpless and immobile. A bundle of thoughts cinched at his brain and it was unmistakable. He was caught in the crosshairs of hell again.  It seared evident like this morning’s fried bacon. 

Anger, fear and misery spilled over his aching body right down to the cold hard concrete slab he sat on. The corners of his eyes had collected dried droplets that clung like crusted toast crumbs to his lashes. He mustered to open his eyes and survey his surroundings. 

Adjusting to the dimness of the room, he noticed a squeak of light from the bottom of the closed door. The faint light streaming in was enough to see his right arm handcuffed to an iron pipe and his left arm, probably broken, was unable to move with little promise of breaking free. 

Wanting to scream out for help, he stifled his reaction.  He needed to get a grip from the bolting ache in his head, so he could figure out how he ended up in this miserable spot. The dim room offered little clues except that it seemed to be a dingy laundry room.  A whiff of floral smelling soap hung over him like a veil and, by all appearances, it was coming from the laundry sink he was hitched to.  Masking the easing aroma of lavender was the overlapping traces of mildew, which seemed to be permeating from the cinder block walls surrounding him. 

Like waves smashing onto boulders, the vision poured into his minds-eye frame by frame in slow motion recalling the swinging motion that came crashing against his left side. Remembering the incident caused him to clench his jaw in grief.

Pain and trauma was not unfamiliar to him. A flashback of episodes blew in like a willow tree sweeping in the dysfunction and abuse from his past. It was such a long time ago.  Years he struggled to erase the scars from another time in his life, but right now he’d give anything to go back and start over to do things differently.  His plan was supposed to free his own hurting heart and escape the prison walls he had built in his mind.  

If he had had just one more minute, he would have gotten out the door unscathed and undetected. It was too late to think of the what-ifs, he had to focus on his current situation. From the upstairs level, he heard scuffling of heavy boots pacing back and forth to borage of muffled voices. As if he were a hungry chained-up wolf, he shook his arm violently in hopes to release his shackles. 

He heard the march-like formation of boots getting louder and closer as they paraded down the stairs like army soldiers about to meet their enemies. The door swung open and the light flipped on drowning his sight to a slivered squint. 

The woman’s body standing over him was ample, but sculpted.  Her spiked blonde hair balanced her downturned chin as if it were pointing at him with contempt. The unflinching man standing next to her was tall and equally strapping. His close-trimmed beard, rugged jaw line and fearless pose made him look like a lion tamer about to crack his whip. 

“There he is...there’s the asshole that broke in my house,” she said. 

She continued her rant. “It’s a good thing I keep my night stick near the door. I was able to strike him pretty good and lucky for me, he did the rest on his own.  The stupid-ass lost his footing then tumbled down the basement stairs knocking him out cold.”

“You brought him in here and locked him up?” The lion tamer-like man asked. 

“Yeah I drug his skinny ass in here and handcuffed him to that pipe in case he woke up and tried to get away.”

“Molly, why didn’t you call the station and report it?” He said, evaluating the scene.

“Christ’s sake Joe, I called you! You’re my partner, of course I’d call you first,” she reacted.

Joe looked at him as if he smelled a rotten piece of meat. “Pretty stupid breaking into a cop’s house. Do you have a death wish or somethin’?”

“I had my reasons.” 

Molly roared, “What reasons, why did you break into my house?”

Molly was never one to get pushed around; she had her fill of it growing up with a narcissistic and self-absorbed father.  It was probably one of the reasons she decided to become a police officer. She identified and drove out the bad people and protected the naïve and helpless people.

“Do you know this guy?” Joe asked. 

“No I haven’t seen him before.”  Peering at her assailant, “Do I know you – what’s your beef with me?” Molly questioned. 

Trying to power through the throbbing in his arm, “I know Frank.”

Wrinkling her nose and lips pressed Molly answered, “Yeah what about him?”

Joe relaxing his staunchly command, “Who’s Frank?”

Molly’s face twisted in disgust, “Frank is my older brother. He’s in prison and I haven't seen or talked to him in years.” 

The lessons Molly learned from her childhood was to use her defensive shield to guard and protect.  Her brother, Frank, on the other hand, grew up doing the opposite. He used his defensive shield to beat and damage anyone that got close to him.

Molly’s claw-like approach wouldn’t recede an inch, “How do you know Frank, what is this about?”

Feeling like he was about to pass out, he grimaced a response. “Will you please uncuff me and I’ll tell you.” 

Molly’s voice firm, “Here’s the deal, I’m not taking off the handcuffs until you tell me your connection to Frank. You just broke into my house for Christ’s sake.”

Molly moved in closer and eyed him up and down like she was sizing him up for the electric chair.

“Wait a minute!” she announced.  Examining his slight-build, angular shape of his face and the way the skin bunched around his eyes avoiding eye contact, gave a striking familiarity.  “Shit, you look like my brother, Frank, but younger,” she said. “Is it you Jimmy...are you little Jimmy?”

Joe completely confused, “Who is Jimmy?”

“I believe this is my nephew. I haven’t seen him in like 10 years,” Molly stunned.  

James looked at Molly with pity in his eyes, “Will you take the handcuffs off now?”

“Wait just a damn minute. Why did you break in...what do you want from me?”

James thought once she realized who he was, she’d go easy on him. But, of course why would she. Why should she trust him, she doesn’t know his reasons for intruding. His shoulders curled inward and his agonizing distress was making him weak and weary.

Joe inspecting the situation said, “Molly, did he have anything in his possession when you confronted him at the door?”

“Actually no. I’m not sure if he had just entered or if he was on his way out. I came in the front door and heard movement by the back door, that’s when I snuck to the back and discovered him standing there.

Joe checked James’ pockets and they came up empty. 

Freaked out by this whole scene, she couldn’t imagine why he was lurking around her home unannounced. Why would he even break in? Sure, they haven’t talked in years, but this was her nephew...little Jimmy. It was all too weird. 

Their eyes locked on each other like a staring contest to see who would blink first. Molly’s lips curled and her interrogating cop instincts kicked in to probe for answers.

“What the hell, Jimmy, what are you after?”

“Listen, I don’t want any more trouble. Just take the cuffs off and I’ll never bother you again. I promise.” 

“That’s not gonna fly with me Jimmy.”

“It’s James,” he corrected.

“Whatever, James, you’re not leaving until you tell me what this is all about.” 

James wincing with pain wondered if it was a good idea to spill the truth. Considering his agony and stuck in this horror trap, he felt he had no other choice. 

James with resistance said, “I saw you at the pawn shop with it...with the necklace.” 

“Jesus...you’ve been stalking me?”

“Not stalking. I work there and recognized you when you were talking with my co-worker about the charm necklace. Why did you want to get rid of it? James inquired.

Molly clearly shaken by his question, “I didn’t. I don’t know. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it. I wasn’t in a good place that day, but I changed my mind.” 

James knew what the necklace meant to her. He was surprised to see her at the pawn shop with it. Often he thought about coming to her after the accident. That’s what they called it…the accident. He figured he’d just be an unwanted reminder of that terrible day. Looking at him would be like looking at Frank. 

In fact, it was the reason he took off and ran away at age 16. He thought it would be better to disappear from the chaos. His mom was already gone and his dad was going to prison. So he left for good. 

After the accident, he could’ve lived with Molly, but it wouldn’t have worked. He’d only be a reminder of the daughter she lost. Why had the accident not taken him instead of Ellie? Living with Molly would’ve been uncomfortable and awkward. Ellie was the one with the bright future. His mother had left and his dad was going to jail...again. What chance did he have in life? 

Molly angry and confused preached out, “So now you thought you’d break in my home to steal it from me! Why...for money? The cuffs stay on until you give me the truth James!”

James feeling weaker whimpered, “I…need…a doctor…so dizzy…pleaaase.”

Molly looked at her nephew with disbelief and realized she was the one who had afflicted his wounds and chained him like a malicious dog. She felt remorse for doing this to her own nephew. 

On the other hand, she was suspicious of his motives. She didn’t know who he was anymore, or what his life had been like for all these years. Her last memory of James was a younger little Jimmy taking refuge with her and Ellie after every ‘Frank incident.’

She remembered many evenings they’d sit at her kitchen table eating pizza and playing Scrabble, his favorite game. Jimmy had a knack for making up funny words getting her and Ellie laughing until their bellies hurt.

That was the young innocent Jimmy she remembered, not this rough around the edges peculiar acting Jimmy.  The distrustful and suspicious side of her wouldn’t just roll over without some explanation. She’d seen desperate and lying criminals all too often. James didn’t appear dangerous or ruthless, but he was Frank’s son, after all.  Maybe the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

Molly yielding her guard said, “Joe, would you call medic to assist, please.” 

She lingered over his wilting body and remarked, “I’ll be going with you to the hospital.” 

“Thank you, Molly” James mumbled. 

Later, James found himself lying back on the cool stiffness of a hospital bed while the doctor fixated on casting his arm.  He wondered if he had fallen back into poor choices. He knew he had a habit of misjudging and reacting before thinking things through.

This certainly wasn’t his plan.  He couldn’t stop thinking of Molly sitting in the hospital waiting room ready to pounce on his intentions like a cougar to a rabbit.

James was glad Molly hadn’t pawned the necklace. It seemed like a twist of fate when she showed up at the pawn shop that day. It reminded him how much he missed his cousin. Hanging out with Molly and Ellie at their house was a deterrent from the problems he had at home. Frank never made it easy. His long list of offenses over the years usually meant going to his Aunt Molly’s to stay. Ellie was like his sister. He always looked out for her. They were close and they shared the same family drama. 

Ellie wore the charm necklace every day and each one had special meaning identifying her interests or fun personality. She had a charm for dancing, cheerleading, fairy princesses, little animals and a tiny book, because she was always reading fantasy stories.

Molly enjoyed surprising her with special charms to add to her collection. It was their unique mother-daughter connection.

After giving it some thought, he realized the day Molly came into the pawn shop it had been exactly 10 years since she lost Ellie to the accident; 10 years Frank had been in prison for vehicular manslaughter. James had survived the accident, but it had left unresolved emotional wounds. He hadn’t seen his dad since and didn’t want to.

Much time had passed and Molly was still waiting patiently for a doctor’s report when she became skeptical of the situation. That instant, she saw the doctor in charge and asked about his status. The doctor look confused to learn they hadn’t already taken James into custody. Molly and Joe alarmed, they took off running to the exam room.  No one there, it was empty. They scoured the surrounding area and James was nowhere to be found. Her eyes pierced like daggers in Joe’s direction.

“Oh for Christ’s sake Joe, we’re like a couple of keystone cops. How did James sneak out?  He did it right from under our noses!”

Kneading her face, forehead puckered with worry; she flopped down in a nearby chair.

Joe irritated, “Well, we’d better call it in.”

“No, wait on that Joe.  He’s my nephew.  I have a gut feeling he won’t be a threat,” Molly said.  “In fact, I didn’t plan on pressing charges any way.”

“Really, what do you want to do then?” Joe questioned. “I think we should get out there and round him up.”

Molly felt torn.  Her thoughts kept returning to their conversation of Ellie’s charm necklace.  He seemed concerned she was going to pawn it off. Had she been too hard on him and judged to harshly before knowing more about his situation. Sometimes she found herself mistrusting people’s motives when she was actually covering her own insecurities.

Now, he’s run off and she may never know if she set a thief free into the world or if she owed him an apology.

“Take me home, Joe. I just really want to go home – it’s been a long night.”

At first, life on the streets wasn’t easy for James, but he was lucky. He had good people come into his life and in the last 10 years he was able to get his GED, a job and a place of his own. But, when backed up against the wall he knew all the tricks of living on the run and how to flee from any predicament.

The situation called for action, so when James was left alone in the exam room, he swiftly peeked out into the hallway and saw no one around.  Neither Molly nor lion-tamer Joe were anywhere in sight. His mission had been completed and Molly will soon discover it and hopefully understand. 

He could have handled things differently, but when he discovered he still had Molly’s house key from all those times he stayed at her house is when he justified it really wasn’t breaking in.  He only hoped Molly could forgive him.

It was supposed to be a simple plan. Getting the charm returned to Molly would give her a sense of peace and closure. The charm helped him when he needed it most in his darkest times.  Ellie would have wanted it.

When Molly got home the first thing she did was go to her bedroom to change and remove the day’s commotion from her body. Approaching her nightstand, she noticed things looked out of place.  She saw the note by Ellie’s necklace.  Without realizing it, she held in a subtle breath.  Her hands were shaky with anticipation, but hesitant to see the words. Posture tensing, she sat on the bed picked up the note and began to read it. 

Dear Aunt Molly,
I’m returning your key and along with it I want to replace the charm I think you may have been missing.  Ellie gave it to me one night a long time ago after a blow out with Frank. It was her way of letting me know I was being watched over and protected.  That was our sweet Ellie.

I understand if you don’t want to see me or contact me, but I really felt you needed this charm as a reminder that Ellie will always be watching over you too.

I work at the pawn shop you visited.  I saw you there and I was uncertain if you would want to see me. But, if you do, I’ll be there if you want to contact me. 


Molly’s breath collapsed from her gut as she turned over the note. Taped to the back was the tiny silver angel charm.  Molly felt a flood of emotions rain over her. She had given Ellie the angel charm the day Ellie’s father died. It had been missing from its place on the charm necklace and she always wondered its whereabouts.  Now, it was back where it belonged.

Tears rolled down her face and their saltiness stung over her lips. She picked up the key with a wavering feeling of disbelief. He wasn’t here to steal. He was here to bring back the charm. Guilt infused her thoughts. What had she done?  After what she put him through tonight and then not being there for him years ago – could James ever forgive her?

With the angel charm tucked tight in her hand she had an idea. Molly walked towards the closed door down the hall. It had been a little over a year when she last entered the room. She reached to turn the doorknob; her hand quivering to open the door to Ellie’s bedroom. The darkness in the room felt different this time. She made her way to the closet like a woman on a mission. Scanning the shelves, it didn’t take long to find it and a smile grew across her face.

Tugging through the stack of boxes, she pulled out the Scrabble game.  She embraced the fond memories from those nights at the kitchen table. This would be her gesture of forgiveness. It was time to recapture her joy; time to recapture her charm for life.

Tomorrow she will find him. Ellie would have wanted it. 

After thoughts ~ to build a reading community, it's always appreciated to get feedback.  I would really love your comments and any special feelings you may have had for the story.  

Comment below or feel free to go to my Facebook Page at A Square of Chocolate - A Blog by Laurie Oien and leave a review or comment right on the page itself.  Did the suspense draw you in?  Were you surprised by the characters and the plot twist? Did the ending leave you satisfied?  Did you want more or maybe less?

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  1. Maybe it's time to write a mystery novel? Novella???
    I definitely see improvement!! Way to go cous!

    1. Novel...not likely...I'll stick with shorts for now - even that had its brutal moments. However, writing mystery/suspense was an interesting challenge for me. Still searching for my niche. Who knows where I'll land. Brenda, I do appreciate your comments and taking the time to read. Thank you for the inspiring words. :)


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