Disarming The Phantom

If you are new to Darlene’s Story, here’s the gist:  Darlene Whitman always heard that you can pick your friends but not your family.  She realizes the lie in this statement when nosy eighty-two-year-old neighbor, Myrtle Crawford, insists on helping unravel the mystery behind the disappearances of her husband and father.  Darlene discovers her father’s involvement in illegal cancer drug testing, which is also linked to her husband’s courier business.  Her ties to Myrtle are more complicated than she thought, and now, she must piece together the truth before it’s too late to save either of them.

The last segment left off with Darlene talking to Jeff, Darlene’s pseudo uncle, and her father’s former business partner. 

And now, for the next segment in the story:

~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

Darlene had stayed up most the night reading.  Myrtle’s notes corroborated much of what he’d claimed.  She’d told Jeff to meet her at the Albuquerque Indian Cultural Center at 8am.

Plans changed.  She glanced at the dashboard clock- 6:21.  She took another swig of her tar-like convenience store coffee and bumped the cruise control up a couple notches.  She’d be in Phoenix by eight.  Questions swirled in her mind and the only way to find peace was to ask the only man with answers.

She pulled into the West Phoenix apartment complex that Jeff said her father had been renting for the last year.  The stucco needed paint; patches of gray peeked through the terra cotta hue.  The roof tiles had faded under the unforgiving summer sun.

After climbing three flights of stairs, she stood in front of the weathered door labeled “312C.”  She almost lost her nerve.  She raised her hand to rap on the door just as it flung open.  Darlene and her father gasped at the same time.

“Darlene.”  A tight smile followed.

“Can we talk?”

He stepped aside and she entered the sparsely furnished one-bedroom.  As he bolted the three locks, she put Jeff’s gun to the back of his head.

“Here’s how it’s going to work.  I ask questions, you tell the truth.  You lie, it’s over.”

He turned.  “Darlene.  This isn’t you.”

“I don’t know anymore.”  She took a deep breath, prepared to expose the phantom of security urging silence to preserve her past.  “Were you involved with mom’s death?”

Anger flickered in his eyes.  “Jeff.  I knew that bastard wasn’t dead.”

“Answer!”

“Indirectly.”

“Did you inject Myrtle with cancer?”

“Possibly.”

“Are you involved in illegal cancer research?”

His jaw clenched.

Darlene leveled the gun.

“The laws are archaic.”

“Did you embezzle federal grant money?”

“Can’t be proven.”

“You tried to kill me in the cabin fire.”

“It was for your own good.”

“So is this…” She flashed the digital recorder.  “You’ll be front page.”

~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

Scroll down if you want to read the final piece of Darlene’s Story.  The ending is a little vague but will be filled in in the longer version of the story.  Thanks to everyone who has followed this story at any time since I began writing it- in January!

TrifectaPicture11-1This is my response to the Trifecta weekly challenge, which is to write a 33 to 333-word response (mine is 331) using the following word/definition:  PHANTOM: (noun) – 3a representation of something abstract, ideal, or incorporeal <she was a phantom of delight — William Wordsworth>

If you want to read other responses, or try the challenge yourself, click here to view Trifecta’s site.  Happy writing (and reading!)

~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

Darlene tucked the recorder back in her pocket.  “No need trying to stop me.  Our conversation has already been transmitted.”

Her father’s face went ashen.  She undid the three locks and glanced back at her father, who’d collapsed into the only chair in the room- an armchair covered in a worn floral pattern, obviously not his taste.  She felt a flicker of guilt, but slipped out the door anyway.

She sprinted to the rented Camry and pulled onto Thomas Road, heading east.  She called her best friend, Jen.

“Well, how did it go?”

“I got some answers, mostly excuses.  I think he bought it, anyway.”

“So what now?”

“I wait, I guess.”

After a couple beats of silence, Jen said, “Okay, don’t be mad, but I called my old friend, Melanie Sorensen.  She works in sales at the Republic now and she talked to Alex Curtis.  He wants to break this story.”  She took a breath.  “He wants to meet with you.”

Darlene felt light-headed.  She hadn’t considered taking this anywhere.  It was supposed to be a bluff; pulling the trigger without actually pulling the trigger.

“Helloooo?”

“Uh, I don’t know…”

“You want justice for your mom, and Myrtle, right?”

“Of course.  But when my father is dead, that will happen.”

“What if your meeting this morning just spooked him enough to run?  There’s no closure in that.”

Darlene sighed.  “He’s a coward.  He will kill himself before he lets his reputation get dragged through the mud.”

“It may take seeing the first specks of dirt to push him to that point,” Jen said.  “You’ve gone through too much to let it go at this.”

Silence.

Jen continued, “I’m sure there are others.  What about their families?  MEG is a big corporation… they will go on with or without your father.”

“Okay.”

“Okay, what?”

“I’ll meet with Alex.”

“Good.  He’ll be at Cooperstown at one.”

Darlene ended the call and dropped the phone into her purse.  She pulled into a QuikTrip station.  She retrieved a duffel bag containing “Evie’s” clothes from the trunk and headed for the bathrooms.  Four hours would be enough time to transform herself into Myrtle’s niece and visit her old neighbor again.

Time weighed heavily on Darlene.  She had to tell Myrtle she’d read all her papers.  She had to tell her she knew everything- before it was too late.

~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

Click here for Darlene’s Story page to read the entire piece.

***

This post is already too long, but I didn’t want to close out without a proper “Thank You!” to everyone who read, commented, and voted on my Trifecta challenge response last week.  Love Song ended up first place in the community-voted challenge.  As an added surprise, I received a $33 Barnes and Noble gift card from the editors.

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64 thoughts on “Disarming The Phantom

  1. anmol(alias HA) October 21, 2013 / 10:48 AM

    Oh! That is interesting. Nice game plan by Darlene. 🙂
    -HA

    • jannatwrites October 21, 2013 / 9:34 PM

      Thanks for reading, Anmol. Maybe her plan will work!

  2. philosophermouseofthehedge October 21, 2013 / 1:22 PM

    YEA! YEA! Congrats!
    And “her tar-like convenience store coffee” such a detail -everyone can identify with it.
    “Time weighed heavily on Darlene.” Oh, no this along with the last sentence makes me worry!

    • jannatwrites October 21, 2013 / 9:37 PM

      I’m not a coffee drinker, but I’ve smelled some convenience store coffee that was pretty nasty! The last part alludes to more that will be in the longer version. She does get to see Myrtle, so that’s a good thing. Thanks for following along with this story, Phil. It turned into much more than I’d planned when I wrote that first post in January!

      • philosophermouseofthehedge October 22, 2013 / 6:27 AM

        It’s been a great read – appreciate your efforts (and that “coffee” on the road?…only the desperate…stuff of urban legends and Halloween…)

        • jannatwrites October 22, 2013 / 7:55 PM

          Hahaha! Funny about the coffee, Phil 🙂

  3. Lance October 21, 2013 / 3:55 PM

    YES!

    I like her assertiveness. I love how you used the bullet-like dialogue. In conveyed the tautness and immediateness of the scene

    MORE!

    • jannatwrites October 21, 2013 / 9:39 PM

      I appreciate your support, Lance! I had to keep the dialogue down- I was running out of words 🙂 I’m glad it worked, though.

  4. suzicate October 21, 2013 / 4:12 PM

    I love the way you’ve woven this story together.

    • jannatwrites October 21, 2013 / 9:40 PM

      Thanks, SuziCate! It’s been a long process (I’ve posted over 30 segments, which gets a bit unwieldy to follow.)

  5. Valerie October 21, 2013 / 4:17 PM

    Janna, Once again, I’ll be waiting it out until the next installment! And congrats on your win-so well done-and so well deserved!!

    • jannatwrites October 21, 2013 / 9:42 PM

      Thanks for taking time to read it, Valerie! This is the last segment of Darlene’s Story. Have to see what I come up with next. Last week’s win was a wonderful surprise- thank you 🙂

  6. Christine October 21, 2013 / 4:41 PM

    Fantastic! Janna, your pacing is always so perfect, and your dialog is always both natural and surprising. I loved your use of “phantom.” And this particular exchange was perfectly placed: “You tried to kill me in the cabin fire.” “It was for your own good.” Wonderful writing!

    • jannatwrites October 21, 2013 / 9:43 PM

      Thanks so much, Christine! I’m glad you liked the finale to Darlene’s Story. He didn’t deny his involvement in trying to kill her, so that pretty much told her what she needed to know.

      • Christine October 21, 2013 / 9:45 PM

        Are you really stopping there?? I was hoping I misread that.

        • jannatwrites October 21, 2013 / 9:49 PM

          I added the ‘bonus’ segment after the Trifecta challenge info to wrap it up a little better, but I can’t figure out where to go with it without giving away a couple of ‘surprises’ that I wanted to keep for the longer story. It’s not the most elegant way to end the story, but I hope it’s good enough 🙂

        • Christine October 21, 2013 / 9:51 PM

          It certainly ensures that we will read the full story!

        • jannatwrites October 21, 2013 / 10:05 PM

          I hope so, Christine 🙂

  7. Debbie October 21, 2013 / 5:14 PM

    Such suspenseful dialog, Janna! And I like how you’ve included “the rest of the story,” even if it’s not really the full ending. Has it really been since January that you started Darlene’s story? Time flies when you’re so well entertained! P.S. Congrats on the win — you deserve it!

    • jannatwrites October 21, 2013 / 9:46 PM

      I didn’t really want to do such a long post, but I decided I’d rather do that than add another week with a prompt that may or may not work with where I was going with this.

      The first post was January 28th. I couldn’t believe it’s been that long, either! Thanks for keeping up with the story and sharing your comments with each part, Debbie!

    • jannatwrites October 21, 2013 / 9:49 PM

      Thanks, Windandlaughter. I appreciate you reading it!

  8. nrhatch October 21, 2013 / 6:14 PM

    Woo Hoo! She got the dirt on her dad. Your decision to end the story surprised me . . . as did the fact you’ve been writing it since January. Doesn’t seem that long since we met Darlene for the first time.

    I’d really like to see a “postscript” . . . with a discussion between her and Jeff, as well as the planned meeting with Myrtle.

    • jannatwrites October 21, 2013 / 9:54 PM

      Well, I wanted to have a better ending that tied up some loose ends, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it without giving away some things I wanted to keep for the longer story. Rather than go in circles, I figured it would be best to stop now. As for the post script…I’ll have to think on that to see if there’s a way to work that in 🙂

      Thanks for following along with the story and sharing your reactions and comments along the way, Nancy. I appreciate it!

  9. Eric Alagan October 21, 2013 / 6:41 PM

    Yes, the end is somewhat vague —- but as you say, a longer version awaits.

    Thank you for sharing your storyline thus far,
    Eric

    • jannatwrites October 21, 2013 / 9:55 PM

      I appreciate you reading it each week, Eric! Now to keep myself motivated to finish out the story 🙂

  10. knotrune October 22, 2013 / 2:32 AM

    This ending doesn’t feel at all final, but just about enough closure for the purpose. I’m sure the full version will be a lot more satisfying, but I’ll miss the instalments 🙂 You do realise that now you HAVE to write it and publish it, your public are hooked 😀

    • jannatwrites October 22, 2013 / 7:55 PM

      Thank you so much for your kind words and support, Knotrune! When I get it completed, I’ll definitely write about it here 🙂

  11. Catherine Johnson October 22, 2013 / 6:50 AM

    Very cleverly woven together, great job, Janna!

    • jannatwrites October 22, 2013 / 7:55 PM

      Thanks, Catherine – appreciate you reading it 🙂

  12. Michael October 22, 2013 / 7:13 AM

    Oh, I love that moment in stories like this where the bad guy makes an incriminating statement and then realizes he’s on tape. Boom. Go Darlene. And I agree with knotrune, you do need to write it out and publish it. This was a great story. Sad that it’s ending, but I’m looking forward to see what you do next! 🙂

    • jannatwrites October 22, 2013 / 7:57 PM

      Thanks for following the story, Michael! I’m glad you enjoyed reading it.

  13. Quickstepp October 22, 2013 / 2:20 PM

    I came into the story a bit late, but have enjoyed it (as I have your other writing) ever since. Looking forward to reading it in it’s entirety! And congrats on the win!

    • jannatwrites October 22, 2013 / 7:59 PM

      Thanks, Quickstepp! I appreciate you jumping in to read it- sometimes it’s hard to follow if you pick it up in the middle.

  14. steph October 22, 2013 / 4:24 PM

    You tried to kill me… It was for your own good… wow, that is some father. Great dialog in the first section. And I’m sorry the story is ending for us. It’s a great story, very timely with the pharmaceutical, cancer drug angle. I look forward to the book whether e-version or paper. I’m in.

    • jannatwrites October 22, 2013 / 8:00 PM

      Yeah, he’s a winner all right 🙂 Thanks so much for your support and reading it, Steph.

  15. Elizabeth Jenike October 23, 2013 / 6:11 AM

    Love the snappy dialogue. You kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time — very tense!!

    • jannatwrites October 23, 2013 / 9:25 PM

      Thanks, Elizabeth – I appreciate you stopping by!

  16. Ye Pirate October 23, 2013 / 12:20 PM

    Amazing run! All the way since January….yes, very good finish, with the tension between them to say the least, and attention to detail, such as coffee etc. Really an impressive feat that you kept this going, kept the quality high. Well done!

    • jannatwrites October 23, 2013 / 9:42 PM

      Thanks for reading, and for your kind words, Ye Pirate! I’m looking forward to completing the longer version…so much to fill in 🙂

  17. KymmInBarcelona October 23, 2013 / 4:51 PM

    Ha! I didn’t think ole Darlene had it in her! You go, girl!
    Fun run with the story, Janna! Great job, and congrats on the #99 win!

    • jannatwrites October 23, 2013 / 9:43 PM

      Fear and frustration have a way of bolstering her bravado 🙂 Thanks for reading the story each week, Kymm. (and for the congrats on last week’s win!)

  18. trifectawriting October 23, 2013 / 5:14 PM

    You’re such a talented writer, Janna. I love your dialogue and your descriptions. They’re both just sparse enough to leave us wanting more, but full enough to fill in the blanks. I really liked the “the laws are archaic” line. How many people do we know who break the rules and then say they pretty much had to? Nice write, Janna.

    • jannatwrites October 23, 2013 / 10:22 PM

      He’s all about excuses- doesn’t really take ownership of any of his actions- I’m glad you picked up on that. I struggled with the word count limit, so I’m glad that everything still came through “enough.” Thanks for the support!

  19. Anne Chia October 24, 2013 / 2:51 AM

    Nicely done. I enjoyed reading it, I like that you added that extra bit for the curious like myself 🙂

    • jannatwrites October 25, 2013 / 12:11 AM

      I’m glad you liked the extra part…I figured it’s be better to just add it now rather than take my chances on what could be a very much Halloween prompt next week!

    • jannatwrites October 25, 2013 / 12:14 AM

      Oh, no way can I inflict NaNoWriMo on myself! I am working on the longer version though. Working through how I want to handle Myrtle right now. Thanks for reading each week, Bjorn!

  20. Glynis October 24, 2013 / 8:36 PM

    I haven’t followed this story all the way through and sad that I hadn’t because this was wonderfully done. I must return to finish up.

    • jannatwrites October 25, 2013 / 12:16 AM

      I hope you do have a chance to read the entire story, Glynis. I’ll keep Darlene’s Story tab up for a while. Thanks for stopping by!

  21. atrm61 October 24, 2013 / 9:54 PM

    What can I say Janna except that this is terrific-and so happy that you decided to give us a glimpse of the end of your story without really telling it all :-)Love the way you write-those phrases -patches of gray peeked through the terra cotta hue,unforgiving summer sun,expose the phantom of security urging silence to preserve her past.Wow!I am sure when your novel gets published,your readers will love it as much as we did & who knows someday in future your book may be the gift some winning Trifectan gets as a reward 😀 Congrats on another win last week ❤

    • jannatwrites October 25, 2013 / 12:18 AM

      You are always so kind and supportive, Atreyee – thank you! A book given out as an award would be such a trip…nice dream that made me smile 🙂

      Thanks for taking time to point out descriptions that stood out for you…it actually helps to know what works.

  22. BCIJo (aka Joanne Edith) October 25, 2013 / 3:20 AM

    This is great, as usual! Wonderful writing and gripping plot line. She has hers answers. I hope she does the right thing.

    • jannatwrites October 25, 2013 / 6:26 AM

      Thanks so much for reading, Joanne! I think she will do the right thing. I contemplated her shooting him, but that doesn’t feel like something she would do, even knowing the ugly truth. I’m excited to work on the longer version!

  23. pattisj October 27, 2013 / 12:53 PM

    Lots of action in this segment. Congrats on the win!

  24. Sandra October 30, 2013 / 7:33 AM

    Oh, I’m sad to see Darlene’s story end! I like the revelation in the scene with her dad and all those twists and turns of the plot. I just can’t believe it’s over (for now) since you’ve started back in January. How exciting that you will have a longer version of this! And even better that there will be more surprises in them! Does that mean a novel to-be-published? (YAY!) I saw your win with ‘Love Song’ on Trifecta. I LOVED IT! 🙂

    • jannatwrites October 30, 2013 / 9:25 PM

      Haha, I do hope to have a novel one of these days (if life cooperates!) Thanks so much for taking to read the story, Sandra. It ended up having a longer run that I ever imagined it would. I’m glad you liked “Love Song” – that was me being silly and I’m tickled that others enjoyed it as well 🙂

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