Below is the “short story” I wrote in response to the Crime prompt I received back in April and read badly on the most recent podcast. It really is more like the beginning of something than all of something, but I still liked it enough to make it seem worth sharing.
Cloudy with a Chance of MURDER
“Chip” Chapman opened his bleary eyes at the sound of the maid’s shrieks and—after several seconds too many—got around to realizing that he was wet.
The splash as he bolted upright informed him that he was more than just wet, in fact: until a second ago, Chip had been submerged up to his shoulders sound asleep in the hot tub of the Marriott Courtyard hotel. As his temples throbbed with hot agony and the maid continued trying to give him a heart attack, his eyes darted haphazardly around the courtyard and he struggled desperately to pinpoint the last thing he remembered.
It had all started in the hotel bar. Chip and his cameraman, Bill, had met downstairs for a few badly needed drinks after trying to cover the Overland Park Tornado for News Channel 7 and barely escaping with their lives. Going into meteorology, Chip had always seen himself spending his days staring at radar readings in a cushy office chair and spending his nights standing in front of a green screen, telling Kansas City whether it would be wise to bring a sweater to work. He’d never factored in those early years of his career, the years when he’d be the low man on the local news totem pole. He had a master’s degree in atmospheric physics, but until the chief weatherman got a better gig or retired, he would be the storm chasing shlub whose job was to take a camera out in the blizzard so people would know it was snowing outside. That night, this glamorous job had nearly gotten him impaled by a “No Parking” sign on live TV. This had rattled Bill a bit and rattled Chip a whole hell of a lot. “A few drinks” quickly became “quite a few drinks,” which became “telling the bartender to leave the bottle,” which apparently became “blacking out in a tepid hot tub.”
The chill of the air conditioning informed Chip that he was naked. His suit, tie, and telegenic yellow rain slicker were folded neatly on a lounge chair by the pool. At least he’d had that much sense.
Chip looked down. The opaque water was the color of rust. Across from him in the water sat Bill, his tongue bulging from his bloated, plum-colored face. Bill’s shocked, bug-eyed expression was no doubt due in large part to the red, studded dog collar buckled tightly around his windpipe.
This was an awful lot to take in all at once. Chip hurtled out of the water like it had been electrified.
“Wait wait wait! Hang on! It’s okay, it’s okay!” he called after the poor middle-aged maid, who had promptly abandoned her cart and bolted down the corridor upon taking in Chip’s nude, apparently bloodstained body. He meant his words to be reassuring, but they came out more like frantic screams.
He was starting to remember some kind of tussle after the bartender cut them off. Had they fought? Had they not fought? Had they actually started getting along very well indeed? And where the hell did Bill get a dog collar in the middle of a tornado? Was that just something he had on him at all times? Just in case?
One clear thought penetrated Chip’s mental fog: once the maid ran into someone or remembered she had a cell phone, his life would be coming to a spectacular end.
His eyes dashed from Bill to the lounge chair and back again, and he made a snap decision: he had worked too hard to lose his freedom and reputation over something he didn’t even remember doing. If he even did it at all! He was covered in cuts and bruises; for all he knew, that was his blood circulating through the jets.
Chip decided not to think about that for the time being.
He looked up. It was clear from the dark gray skylight that it was not yet dawn. Assuming Bill wasn’t as heavy as he looked, there was still a chance to get him out of there before anyone else happened by and recognized them. He just hoped to God that the keys to the news van were still in Bill’s pocket. Figuring out what had happened could wait until the Marriott was distant in the rearview mirror.
By midday, Chip would be back on Channel 7, only this time they would be filming him on the freeway from a helicopter.