As part of this year’s One Read program, we invited you to take inspiration from “Furious Hours” and tell us a tale of another crime using the line “It began with a bang” as a springboard for — and the first sentence of — a mini mystery of your own. The stories could have been based on a historic crime or completely imagined, we just asked that you tell of a crime or of its aftermath.
Thank you to everyone who entered and shared your mysterious tale.
Our two winners are Claire Dooley and Jana Stephens. Honorable mentions go to Tina M. Hines and Andy Brouder.
We are excited to share these stories with you!
Awry, Claire Dooley
It began with a bang. The sound reverberated through the air erupting into a cacophony of explosions and screams. Silence fell as the ashes from the embers covered the ground in a deceptively gentle grey dust. Nothing remained. All trace of the town vanished and was forgotten to time and ruin.
From its conception, the town was to be a utopia, the groundwork for a civilized, modern world. They rounded up the invisibles, those who would not be missed. Deep under the town’s center, on the cold metal slabs, they worked to create perfection. It would be worth it in the end.
Somewhere along the way, their pursuit of perfection turned disastrous. They could not risk discovery of their experiment gone wrong. The only option was to destroy it all. Once the heinous creatures were rounded up, they set off the detonators. Within moments, the failure was erased. Their mistake buried far from civilization, they moved on to begin again.
Safe and Sorry, Jana Stephens
It began with a bang; to be clear, a shotgun blast. Summer, 1974, I was in the local liquor store when a deafening explosion roared from up front. I scrambled for the alarm-secured side door, glanced toward the register, then stopped short. There lay a body sprawled in still flowing blood; the store’s proprietor, statue-like behind the counter, gazing upon the figure. Head spinning, heart pounding, muscles aquiver, I inched closer, soon in full view of the devastating wound ravaging a teenage boy’s chest. The proprietor, aware of my presence, cried out, “I rigged the shotgun years ago! One nudge from my foot did it! Killed him!” Sirens now approaching, he yelled, “Dear Jesus, how could I have known? All I saw was that gun barrel pointing straight at me!”
For the previous three years, every Friday after work I strolled into that store for a bottle of red wine, placing myself right in front of the shotgun while paying and lingering to exchange pleasantries. I never went back after that nightmare of an afternoon. Two months after the shooting, the store stood abandoned.
My revulsion for red wine began that day, nearly fifty years ago, with a horrific boom. More to the point—after all these decades, I sometimes suddenly can still hear the explosion of a shotgun, and see a teenager, chest demolished, soaking in his wine-red blood, pieces of a shattered black plastic toy pistol near his right hand.
The Rusty Iron Gate, Tina M. Hines
It began with a bang. Rusty old iron gates are supposed to make that sound, aren’t they? It must have been a beautiful entrance once, but the years have worn the ornate gate down to a sad looking bunch of crooked, rusty bars.
The locals who visit this sacred place must know the sound well. It’s difficult to describe and even harder to forget. Is it my imagination or does the echo bounce from stone to stone as the wind carries this most eerie sound away? There must be hundreds of decrypted cemeteries like this so what makes this one different? Relatives of those who now reside here say that no matter the time of day or night, you will see, hear, and feel mysterious things.
Visiting the Iron Gate Cemetery has been on my bucket list for a long time now and I hope to leave with a story to tell. The shadows are making it difficult to navigate but I finally find a path that leads me to a fresh mound of dirt. There’s no question what it is but a more accurate description would be a mound of mud after the recent soaking rains. As I approach the new stoneless grave, I notice the most curious thing – footprints coming from out of the mound of mud but none leading to it. As lean in to look a little closer, I hear the rusty old iron gate bang once more. Was someone leaving or someone returning?
Untitled, Andy Brouder
It began with a bang. Cleet looked up from the brush at Joseph and saw his own expression of perplexity reflected in his brother’s face. The unmistakable sound of two more gunshots rang over the trees of their father’s property. Distant gunshots usually did not evoke concern but these were much too close to go uninvestigated. The two left the pile of dead brush they just collected and decided to inquire about the origin of the mysterious shots before burning the rest of the thicket.
Joseph’s truck rattled and bounced over the dirt road leading to the food plot. When they arrived at the open field, their initial suspicions of poaching were gone. A lifetime of animal husbandry and slaughter could not have prepared the young men for the macabre scene laid before them, a man lying dead in the dirt. With no other road but the one they had taken, the brothers looked to the treeline to see any escaping killer they could make out. When they saw nothing they refocused their unbelieving gazes back to the person dead on the ground. They didn’t have to observe the spent shells on the ground to know the killer used a shotgun; the corpse told that story. The brothers’ lives would become a typhoon of questions and accusations in the following months and they would never fully escape the stain that the blood forever placed on their name.