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Fiction #479
(published March 25, 2010)
Bloody Mystery
by Michael Pelc
Fred Murphy stared at his hand wondering if it really belonged to him. It was covered in blood, dried caked-on blood. Judging from the deep, brownish color and the way it split apart and cracked when he moved his fingers, it looked as though it had been there for days, maybe longer.

Murphy was no stranger to blood. He knew blood. The sight of it. The feel of it. The smell of it. He even knew the taste of it. Truth was, Murphy reveled in blood. It had been the central theme in both his novels. But what Murphy didn't know—and what bothered him—was how it had gotten on his hand. Or when. Or whose blood it was.

His first thought was to wash it off. To cleanse himself, to rid his body of its substance and its damnation, just like Jessica, the protagonist in his first novel, Blood On Rye. Ah, but that had been her downfall, her Achilles heel; the fatal flaw that had led to her capture by Inspector Morgan. No, the blood would remain.

Better to behave like Carpenter, the amoral psychopath in Murphy's second novel, Bloodrock. For Carpenter would never wash off a little spot or two of blood. No, not Carpenter. He would wear it proudly, letting it function like a warning sign, keeping friend and foe alike at a respectable distance lest they get too close to the man or his psyche. Yes, that would be Carpenter all right. Strong to the end. Though, in the end, it was precisely his bravado that did him in.

No, Murphy needed a new hero, a different role model. Someone more powerful than Carpenter and yet more cunning than Jessica. Given his situation—a hand covered in blood for no apparent reason that he could remember—it was the only way out. The only way . . . the only way . . . the only way . . .

"Freddy, time for dinner." The shrill, high-pitched voice coming from the kitchen below assaulted his ears, grating on his nerves and interrupting his train of thought.

"Did it help?" she asked as he entered the kitchen.

"Huh? Did what help?"

"The blood," she said, pointing to his hand. "The blood from the butcher."

"Oh, that. No, not really."

"Still blocked, huh?"

"Yeah, 'fraid so."

"Not to worry, dear. Tomorrow we'll try some calves' brains. That ought to get things flowing again, don't you think?"

"I sure hope so. You know, I've never had writer's block before."

Michael Pelc lives in Florida.

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