Friday Fiction: A Helping Hand
Sorry I haven’t posted in a little while. I’ve been off enjoying the Mediterranean instead, lols. Now I’m back, watch this space! 🙂
Over on Story Empire today, Craig Boyack has come up with an awesome fiction prompt … check it out HERE.
This really fuelled my Fiction Rocket, and here is what I came up with based on the prompt of an advert reading: “Free fill dirt from my basement remodel project. Yours to haul away. Call XXX-XXXX.”
A Helping Hand
Gill rubbed at her bruised elbow while she reread the advertisement in the local paper. This looked like just what she and Mike needed to finish the landscaping in their garden. Hmm, bit of a grand term for it, really. It amounted to little more than a postage stamp. Slowly, she read the advert again. Ideas formed. Being in her mid-forties had its benefits, such as holding the old style of driver’s licence, which allowed her to drive up to a seven-and-a-half tonne truck without needing further training or licensing. For a moment, she felt sorry for the youngsters, whose licenses limited them severely when it came to vehicle hire and size options.
With a determined set to her jaw, she picked up her iPhone from next to the paper and pulled up her keypad. A mobile number, which gave her no clue as to the guy’s location. Gill felt certain that her recent run of bad luck would dictate that he lived well outside any reasonable travel range. The line rang. And rang. And rang again. A gruff male voice said, ‘Hello?’
Gill cleared her throat, ‘Um, yes, hi. I’m calling about your advert.’
‘Yes. Um, where abouts are you?’
After a slight pause, the man said, ‘Near Fowey. Just on the other side of the river. You interested?’
Gill smiled. The location couldn’t have turned out much better. Mike and she lived just over the other side of the estuary. ‘Yes. Yes, that would be great. Um, I’ll need to sort hiring a van.’
His reply came at once, ‘Where’re you to? Might be I could bring it.’
Her luck must have turned, at last. ‘I’m just up the road from Bodinnick. Up at Highway.’
Perfect, just down the road aways from her. ‘Great. When can I come and have a look at how much you have?’
A slight pause ensued, and then he said, ‘Ah, I thought I might just bring it, like.’
Gill shook her head, cringing at the thought of Mike coming home to all their hard work buried beneath a vast pile of earth. ‘I’d best come and check.’
This time, the silence stretched so long that she thought they’d gotten disconnected. In their area that sort of thing happened all too often. ‘Hello? Are you there, um, Mr?’
A soft sigh reached her ears. ‘Yup. Still ‘ere. All right, you can stop by now if you’ve a mind.’
Gill thought fast. If she went right now, she felt sure she could have herself and the dirt all sorted before Mike returned from work. She reached her decision. ‘Yes. Thank you. If it’s just at Lerryn, I can be there in ten minutes.’
The guy said, ‘Right. I’ve got your number. I’ll text you the address and directions. I’m right off the lane; you can’t miss it.’
Gill thanked him and hung up. A minute later, his promised text arrived. Nervous for all sorts of reasons, she grabbed her keys and dashed out to the car, phone in hand. The small-holding proved easy enough to find, and in no time at all, she stood knocking on the old and worn wooden door. While she waited, Gill studied the exterior of the house. With it in this rundown state, why would the guy have started by remodelling the basement? The whole place looked as if it could do with a major make-over. The door opened with a squeal of hinges and thumped back onto the wall. In the shadows of the hallway stood a tall and muscled man. Gill peered up at him, ‘Hi, I rang a minute ago, about the dirt …’
Brusque, he stepped back and waved her in. ‘Come on, then. It’s just back here.’
Gill’s eyes widened. Hadn’t he moved it outside yet? Surely he didn’t have it in the basement still. Oh well, she was here now. Resolute, she followed the gruff guy into the dim depths of the building. Indeed, he led her down into the cellar, and the aromatic dust of freshly dug earth sifted into her nostrils and down her throat. She coughed. Gradually, her eyes adjusted to the dimness in there. Only a single bare bulb, barely glowing, provided the meagre light in the large space. Wooden sloped doors opened onto what looked like overgrown meadow. She supposed that the man intended to haul out the dirt that way. He stood and watched her, arms folded over his chest, as she cast her eyes around. Beyond the doors, mounds of dirt covered the grass. Her gaze came back into the basement. Gill nodded, ‘This is great. It’s just what we ne–‘ Her brain, focussed solely on the visual input now, interrupted her tongue. Stopped her thoughts as well as her breath. The man stiffened. Took a step toward her, arms now loose and ready at his sides. Gill processed at the speed of light. Had he left the body partially exposed deliberately? She held up a hand, ‘Wait. We can help one another.’ The white hand seemed to beckon to her from its shallow grave. It gave her a whole other set of possibilities. Miraculously, he paused and waited to hear her out. Everything in her body had expected the man to attack and ask questions later. Gill knew who the body belonged to–or had a fair idea, anyway–as news of the woman who had gone missing two weeks ago, from the Fowey area, had filled the papers.
‘My husband beats me. Other stuff too.’
The man shifted and held out a hand. ‘Pete. Pleased to meet you.’
Gill relaxed. ‘Gill. Nice to meet you too. Um, I don’t have a lot of money. I–I could pay you in other ways.’
He shook his head. ‘Just some company would be enough. I’ve seen you around, maid. Spotted your bruises and that haunted look in those beautiful eyes of yours. I reckon I can help.’
A few minutes later, the details were settled, and Gill returned home in the cab of Pete’s battered Toyota Hilux. When Mike got in some fifty minutes later, he got the shock of his life. Or, perhaps I should say, the shock of his death. I wish I could tell you that Gill and Pete lived happily ever after, but you know, secrets have a way of weighing you down … of burying you alive.