Who Will Miss You, Martin?: Noir Flash Fiction By Karen Harrington
Karen Harrington, author of Will You Miss Me, Martin, has previously published short fiction in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Shotgun Honey. She is the author of three acclaimed novels from Little Brown Books including Sure Signs of Crazy.
You always have a theme. This time it’s the beach. It’s not just the enticing glint off the water. It’s divining locals from visitors at a distance. You see their haunts, their routines. Habits often advertise vulnerability, don’t you know it. The camera is always on, someplace, in some benign street.
Some minor piece of Earth becomes so mind-numbing familiar you let your guard down. You tried to explain this to Cindy to no avail. If she could see you now. Your triple monitors. Cameras on three live feeds. The guy surfing in Newport. Baseball Cap fishing in Galveston. The Folly Beach runner. As with your abduction, the choice must be left to chance. You write each location on paper, toss, draw one.
You’ll call him Martin since you’ve never met a Martin in your life. Always a Dave, a Tim. Single syllable names never work out. You first spotted Martin in January. A cold month even for an island, but there he was, dedicated to his pastime. Two fishing poles, each rammed into the craggy rocks of the jetty. Same red jacket and small cooler. When the air was calm and the camera zoomed in, you could make out his features.
Like Cindy’s husband, Martin may use fishing to escape from some demented housewife who makes jars of marmalade all day.
Someone spent a wad on that setup. Not all of them are clear. Yes, you could see the square of his jaw that day. The widening middle-aged profile. Men don’t age the same way. A point of contention at dinner parties. You noted to Cindy how some men grow portly and remain desirable. She waved it off. Take Russell Crowe as an example, she said. Where others might cite literary greats, Cindy camouflaged her lack of education by celebrity name-dropping.
Like Cindy’s husband, Martin may use fishing to escape from some demented housewife who makes jars of marmalade all day. Oh, the men who take up an obsession to get out of the house. Thoreau said many men go fishing all their lives without knowing it is not the fish they are after. Cindy’s husband fished, but his pond was the gym. He took up cycling and logged twenty-five miles each weekend. You didn’t blame him. Cindy is a grade-A bitch who made him do all the grocery shopping. He doesn’t shop anymore, though. He cycled away, never to return. Those damn devastating routines.
Today, you flip on the triple screens and have your morning cup of coffee with the odd family making the most of a cold morning beach walk and your Martin, dutifully on the jetty. Who will miss you, Martin?
You find yourself amused by the webcam chat. Rose434 lives in town. CapoTheSeas monitors the incoming ships. CamOpRick is obsessed with the weather. Dreadful boring at parties, no doubt.
Rose434: A bit windy for our fisherman.
CamOpRick: I’m so done with these low temps.
CapoTheSeas: He’s determined. Ran into him once at The Spot.
Rose434: They have the best shrimp po boy!
Our fisherman, Rose? You figure her for reporting him missing first. There’s always a “Rose.”
Or, a Cindy.
Today, Rose434 complains to CamOpRick about the March rain. Yes Rose, you don’t like how it keeps Martin cooped up. You hated it when you couldn’t do your five-miles. Those days had no shape, no centerpiece. Anyway, your bag is packed. It’s time. You tingle at this singular feeling.
The small laptop is perfect, and when you ask a waiter at The Spot if you can sit close to the seawall, he ushers you to his favorite table, says he’s writing a novel and that’s the place to sit when it’s dead. You want to be forgettable but friendly, so you ask him when that is, and he says Wednesdays early in the morning or around three in the afternoon. You set up the laptop and order the famous Po Boy, see if Rose434 was right. It’s a two-person sandwich and you have to have a mouth like a crane to eat it. Rose, dear woman, do you eat all this yourself?
You spend a lazy hour watching Martin on the screen and in real life. Now that you’ve gotten this close, you feel reality closing in. It won’t be long now.
You get the half of the Po Boy to go. Ask the seaside novelist to fill your Thermos with coffee. Black. You take out the small bag with the white powder. Just enough. Last time was too much. Into the Thermos it goes. You put your things in the rental car and take the beach bag and Thermos across the wide street, down the seawall, your dress billowing in the breeze, hugging the assets that aid and abet. Mother always said to cover up more. You’ll attract the wrong element. Bless her heart. The woman could be paralyzed by a bare midriff.
There’s a bench not far from the jetty. Martin always begins packing up shortly after sunset. You don’t have to imagine he has a truck, you already know.
This next part is a dark thrill. Getting to see him up close. The taste of impending triumph. That he doesn’t know he is prey or news fodder. There is that millisecond he is you, ten years ago. Innocent. Open. Friendly. But this is you now, your soul fully tortured. In the right climate, anyone can become a monster. Anyone. You don’t ask why there are crimes, you ask why there aren’t more.
You follow him, his fishing gear tucked beneath his arm, his safety tucked beneath his ignorance. “Hello, there. New in town and wondering if you could you help me?” you beckon, with that stupid, but effective, plea.
Rose434: Overcast out today. Anyone seen our fisherman?
CapoTheSeas: Hi, Rose. Haven’t seen him. Maybe he took a vacation?
NewInTown: Hi, all. I heard this is an excellent place for fishing, yeah?
CamOpRick: Howdy! Most days, the weather cooperates.
You should resist. You really should. This is how you could get caught.
If you’ve enjoyed Who Will Miss You, Martin?, you can visit our free digital archive of flash fiction here. Additionally, premium short fiction published by Mystery Tribune on a quarterly basis is available digitally here.