These are short stories put up each Friday that you can read for free. By the next Friday the post will be taken down and a new one will go up. Enjoy!
“Yo, Sanders!” a voice yelled, banging on the bathroom door. “Hurry your ass up – we gotta get rolling.”
Sanders wiped the cocaine residue from the top of the toilet paper dispenser and smeared it on his upper gums. He flushed the toilet for good measure then ran the tap for a second while sniffling. A moment later he opened the door.
“Can’t you do that shit at home?”
Sanders looked at Donny and frowned. “Shit ain’t there then.”
Donny frowned further and turned around. “C’mon…and don’t forget your badge.”
Sanders frowned this time and pulled out his San Diego Police Department badge, affixing it firmly on his left breast.
“C’mon,” Donny said again, turning back to look over his shoulder, “there’s been another lightning strike, this one just a few minutes ago.”
They were walking down the hall and out the door a minute later.
“What do you make of it?” Donny asked, staring down at the charred and blacked body of one Mrs. Sheila Henrickson, an elderly lady that’d by all accounts been doing nothing more than watering her prize-winning tulips…so far at least.
“She was struck by lightning,” Sanders said with a sniffle.
Donny looked up at him, his brow furrowed. “You still got that fucking cold?”
Sanders sniffled again and wiped at his nose. “Won’t go away, sarge.”
“Yeah,” Donny said as he looked back down at the charred corpse, “your eyes are all fucked up too.”
Sanders raised a brow to that, but said nothing, instead turning around to survey the scene. They were in Linda Vista on Osler Street, near the Tecolote Canyon Natural Park. It was a pretty nice neighborhood, but otherwise there was nothing special about it. The houses all had manicured lawns and long driveways and the migrant workers that usually would’ve been tending the grounds of the neighborhood were suddenly nowhere to be seen.
There were four squad cars and a meat wagon and…fuck!
“Captain Meyers,” Sanders said, looking down at Donny.
Donny looked up from where he’d been poking at the charred remains of Mrs. Henrickson with his pen and frowned more than he did for Sanders.
“Fuck,” he said quietly under his breath as the captain approached, his lap dog Lawrence close on his heels.
“What’s the story here, Sanders,” Captain Meyers said when he was close enough to be heard.
“Looks like another lighting strike, captain,” Donny said a moment later, after Sanders had done nothing more than pretend he hadn’t heard.
“Is that right,” Captain Meyers said, walking up to Sanders and giving him a smile. “Is it?”
Sanders looked out of the corner of his eye at Donny, who was now frowning furiously and muttering silently. It was no surprise to anyone that Captain Meyers was the most racist and chauvinistic prick on the force, and that any black officers like Donny weren’t even worth his contempt.
“Well?” Captain Meyers said again.
Donny shrugged. “Looks like it was lighting, sir…same as yesterday at the beach in LA.”
“Good…good,” Captain Meyers said, then turned back to his deputy, Lawrence. “I’ll want a full report on this later, the cause, the circumstances, the motive…everything, you got that?”
Captain Meyers may have been looking off at nothing but he was speaking so Lawrence would record and Sanders would understand. What was known to everyone, however, is that it would be Donny writing that report, which would then be recorded on Captain Meyers’ calendar as to-be received on a certain date or immediate termination proceedings would begin, with the officer on unpaid leave of course. It’d been a tactic the captain had used before and used well, and it’d resulted in the San Diego Police Department going from about 50/50 white and black to more like 80/20. Donny was just one officer in that 20% that Captain Meyer meant to get rid of, and bullshit reports were one way of doing it. It was no surprise Highway Patrol applications were up 400% this year.
“Got that all…Sanders?” Lawrence hissed in his typically venomous way, as Sanders expected a snake at a county fair would after it hadn’t been fed in a few weeks.
Sanders sniffled and nodded and looked at his feet, the surest way he’d found out yet for higher-ranking officers to leave him the hell alone. Once again it worked wonders.
“Fuck,” Donny said when the captain and his crony had gotten back into their car and started to pull away.
Sanders shrugged again. He wasn’t much in the mood for anything, other then heading down to the West End and getting his drink on and a lot of other things as well.
“Get your fucking head out of the clouds, Sanders,” Donny said, breaking Sanders from his reverie, “we’ve got a full night ahead of us and I want you here with me, got it?”
Sanders sniffled and nodded, and Donny frowned.
Off San Diego’s Point Loma Don Harper and Leon Stand were reeling in a large net of Yellowtail.
“Get that side there,” Don called out.
“Tighten over there,” Leon called out a moment later.
The two went about their work, manning the small single-mast fishing boat by themselves. It was a lot of work for two men that should’ve hit retirement a decade ago, but with Don running the twin-diesel engines and Leon spotting the catch they made it work, and kept just above the poverty line in the process.
“Hurry it up, Leon…we’ve got a storm coming in.”
Leon took his hand from the hoist and looked at the horizon. Sure enough, there were some dark clouds rolling in.
“They’re a good thirty minutes off yet,” he said while starting on the net again, which must have contained a load, so heavy was it.
Don shrugged and started helping once again. He just drove the boat and didn’t know a whole lot about fishing other than it was boring but paid the bills.
Lighting flashed in the distance, but neither man noticed. A few moments later a huge peal of thunder burst and rolled across the water, seeming to nearly tip the boat over with its magnitude of sound.
“Holy hell!” Don shouted, holding onto his hat as if the sound alone would’ve blown it away.
“Where the hell did that come from?’ Leon asked, his hands once again off the net-hoist as he now started to look around.
Lighting flashed on the horizon behind them.
“I don’t know, but–”
Both men spun around at the sound, which had come from behind, yet been so clear it was eerie. No sooner had they jumped, however, than a flash came behind them again.
The two men jumped again, and again a crash of thunder came….and again…and again.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
The men spun around in fear as lighting flashed all around them and thunder beat overhead, deafening in its roar. A moment later the hair on the back of their necks began to stand up, then on their arms…on their heads.
“Oh, Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” Leon called out in a trembling voice.
As if in answer from God himself a bolt of lightning struck down right atop the hoist that kept the large fishing net secured to the mast, shattering it and dropping the catch back into the sea.
“No!” Leon shouted. “No, damn it, no!”
He rushed forth with open arms, as if he could somehow embrace the fishing net full of Yellowtail that was now sinking fast below the turbulent waters around them.
“Leon, no!” Don shouted, but it was too late.
A bolt of lighting came down and struck Leon clear on the top of the head and drove down with such force that the bolt split him clean in half. Don recoiled in horror at the cleanly-cauterized wounds caused by the lightning, and the strange look on the split-in-two face of his dear friend. He screamed and ran back toward the safety of the cabin.
Thunder broke, louder this time than any of the previous bouts, so loud it shattered the windows. Don put his hands up to his ears and yelled in pain. Ahead of him a bolt of lightning struck the door he’d been heading to, charring and melting the knob completely.
Don’s eyes went wide as he took his hands from his ears and looked down at them. They were covered in blood and he realized that he could no longer hear. He also realized he wasn’t going to live through this.
He screamed just as he felt that tingly sensation once again and his hair began to stand on end. He jumped from the boat just as a bolt the size of a giant’s arm slammed down into the craft and broke it into kindling. Overhead the sky roiled as if in delight.
“You give me that money by Friday, Sanders, or I’m gonna get my lawyer to come to that shithole you call an apartment and put your balls in a vice and squeeze until they look like tomato puree, got that?”
Sanders instinctively took his ear away from the receiver, expecting the phone on the opposite end to slam down hard, undoubtedly causing a ringing in his ear that would last for an hour or more. He knew this from years of experience dealing with his ex-wife, but he still hadn’t quite gotten used to cell phones and the ‘end’ button. That little technological innovation had saved his hearing, he was sure of it, and thankful for that much. There wasn’t much else to be thankful for.
“How’d it go?” Donny asked a few moments later, returning to their desks in the Gaines Street Station, a greasy and smelly sandwich already beginning to stain his fresh dress shirt.
“She wants the money by Friday.”
“What’re you gonna do?”
Sanders sighed and threw up his arms before leaning back in his chair. “What can I do? And why does it matter anyway?”
“Because she’s got Billy and Suzy and you want to see them and if you don’t pay her that child support you won’t.”
Sanders frowned. The truth was the last thing he wanted to hear.
“I’ll tell you want,” Donny said, rising up once again now that he was on the last bite of his sandwich, “why don’t I–”
Both men turned about to see Lawrence standing at the end of the station floor.
“Get your ass into Meyers’ office right away.”
Both men looked at one another before looking back to Lawrence. “What the hell’s going on?”
“Just go!” Lawrence said, then vanished down the hall.
“Take a look at this video,” Captain Meyers said as soon as Sanders and Donny and a few other officers were in the cramped office. Captain Meyers nodded at Lawrence, who hit the play button on the video email.
There was immediately shouting and screaming and sirens and all manner of god-awful sounds. The video, however, was much worse.
“Is that shit for real?” Detective Solomon asked, his face screwed up in disgust.
“Sure is,” Captain Meyers said before turning to his deputy. “You tell ‘em, Lawrence.”
“It happened just this afternoon at Palomar Mountain State Park just north of Escondido and–”
“We know where in the cotton-pickin’ hell north Escondido is Lawrence, now get your shit together and get to the point,” Captain Meyers butted-in quickly.
Lawrence cleared his throat. “Yes, well…it was a day trip…from one of the area nursing homes, a chance for the seniors to get out and hear some live music for a change. Instead it turned into…well, this.”
Lawrence motioned at the screen again, which showed blackened and charred bodies everywhere, still-smoking walkers, and instruments with black burn marks on the brass.
“What the hell happened?” Detective Fletcher said with revulsion at the sight.
“And what the hell were they doing playing music up there, and in forest fire season?” his partner Sergeant Buckner added.
Captain Meyers scoffed and shook his head. “Damn ‘Echoes in the Park’ or some queer-ass shit…do it every year I guess. Anyways, they were up there and it’s in our jurisdiction and we’ve got to deal with it.”
“Why the hell isn’t Escondido dealing with it,” Sanders asked. His sniffles were gone and he meant to rectify that soon.
“It’s their jurisdiction, captain,” Donny said.
Captain Meyers gave Donny a sharp look. Not only had he spoken but he’d questioned his authority, two serious infractions. Donny was only saved from being written up or reprimanded right there on the spot when Lawrence began explaining what happened.
“As far as we can tell storm clouds rushed in, faster than anyone can believe, although there were several eyewitnesses that claim these clouds were miles away and over another mountain range one minute and then just over the tree line a minute after that.
“Baloney – clouds can’t move that fast.”
“That’s what I say, Sanders,” Captain Meyers said, “but even if they can’t and those folks were mistaken, it’s clear this is the largest lighting strike we’ve seen in some time…if ever.”
He looked around and nodded at everyone in the room, even Donny, looking for confirmation. Lawrence nodded back.
“It sure the hell makes the one person killed up on Los Angeles yesterday look like nothing,” Captain Mitchell said, an old veteran of the force that despised Captain Meyers, though never openly since they’d been partners in their younger days, “but it sure the hell don’t look like lighting could have caused all that.” He turned to Lawrence. “You’re telling me that there were up to 200 lightning strikes that took out a whole nursing home of seniors as well as a community brass band? I’m sorry, son, but I don’t buy that for one second. This was a gas main explosion, plain and simple.”
“We’ve already got an all-clear from Pacific Gas and Electric,” Captain Meyers said. “Their lines are all intact, as are everyone else’s in the area.”
“Besides,” Lawrence added, “there’s nothing of that sort up in that park…we checked with the Forest Service and National Parks.”
“Well…shit, it just don’t make no sense!” Mitchell said in exasperation.
“I hear you there, Stan, I hear you there,” Captain Meyers said.
A quiet descended as the last few seconds or so of the video played out. Sanders was about to raise his voice and ask to be excused so he could go to the bathroom again when the door to the office opened behind them.
“Captain?” a young officer said as he nervously dipped his head in the door.
“What is it, son, what the hell is it? Can’t you see we’re having a meeting here?”
“I know sir, I’m sorry, it’s just that…”
“Well spit it out, son!” Captain Meyers nearly shouted.
“There’s been another lighting strike, sir.”
“Well, that’s the thing sir, they’re…everywhere.”
“Everywhere, what the hell…”
Captain Meyers trailed off as he felt a tingling sensation, and then the hair on the back of his neck begin to rise.
“Outside,” Donny said, pointing at the window with the blinds drawn.
Captain Meyers nodded at him, something that was completely out of character and just showed how flummoxed he really was.
He slowly walked to the window and grabbed the thin cloth cord, turning once to look back at the others for reassurance before pulling with all his might.
The blinds rushed up and showed a dreadful sight. Outside were the blackest clouds any had ever seen, their darkness crowding out the light of day. And from them sprang bolts of lighting, stark yellow and white shafts that came down and struck the earth second after second after second. And they were getting closer, a lot closer.