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FFO Flash Fiction: All That Remains by Mick Rose

We love to joke at FFO. But not on this occasion ... as we present a story that's NOT for the faint-of-heart. Some crimes are heinous, and their effects far-reaching. We invite you to reflect on the Title and the Artwork before delving this piece by our colleague Mick Rose.

All That Remains by Mick Rose

Took me three years to track down John Delaney. Snot dribbled from his nose. But those soulless blue eyes still sparkled with defiance.

I'd jacked him head-long over a battered wooden table—and splayed him spread-eagle. Like a cop shoves a hapless perp against the hood of a car. Yeah, I cuffed his hands, cinched them tight behind his back. But I'd also shackled his ankles to the blood-stained concrete floor. And looped a noose around his neck—lashing that demented meathead smack against the tabletop so he could only look left.

I hadn't bothered with a gag. No one could possibly hear him. Besides. I wanted him to talk. I felt my composure slipping ... reckoned this derelict house, a hundred lonely miles from any town or city ...  didn't look much different than the noxious shithole had three ancient years ago. Though the cops involved knew about his appetites? They proved too damn lazy to discover Delaney's lair.

Bile scouring my throat I snagged his matted hair, squatting on my knees so I could glare at him—crazed eyes to crazy eyes.

"I want every detail. Now. You will hold back nothing."

No surprise the asshole spit at me—despite the lug wrench in my hand. But he cringed and closed his eyes: expecting the arcing metal to meet and dent his head.

Instead I dropped the wrenchclattering the concrete instead of his worthy skullrattled both our ears.

I reached inside my trench coat; fished out a pack of photos. Like a stack of preschool flash cards, I held each one before his face ... before slowly oh-so-slowly ... moving to the next.

"She was sweet, so sweet," he crooned, blue eyes suddenly glassy: a jagged guttural moan swelling from his chest.

"Tell me something I don't know, Delaney."

"I fucked her," he said, his face now radiant—merry thoughts meandering down his twisted memory lane.

"Fucked her how?"

He giggled. "Every which way. In her mouth. In her ears. In the cunt. Up the ass.

"That lovely child called me Daddy. Every day and night of that blessed week." 

All the filth Delaney spewed matched ghoulishly tit-for-tat with the scorched images in my head—the charred lines cut deep—like they'd long been etched with acid. I continued to let him babble till finally he proved spent. She'd suffered firsthand. Alone with this monster. Any pain I endured weighed less than a useless farthing.

I tucked the photos in my coat. Staggered to the fireplace ... and that gray round mound of ash.

But the fires Delaney burned couldn’t claim everything. I spied a strip of shattered lathing, barely clinging to the wall frame, and used the splintered wood to gently spread the pile. Shrouded within that dust … three blackened buckles—one from a belt—and two the only remnants of her patent leather shoes. While bits of teeth and bone screamed at me from the ash.

I tugged a bandana from my trench coat. Collected the twisted buckles, as well as the tiny fragments of teeth and shattered bone. Laid them on the cotton cloth. Heaped a handful of ashes atop the sacred mound. Securely tied the bundle. Acid clawed my innards. Vomit threatened to surge.

I turned, and walked away. The bugler in my head mournfully playing Taps to the staccato rhythm of my boot heels echoing off the steps. 

No need to take the fucker's life ... to drink from his abyss. 

Starvation would duly claim him. 

And I'd snatched his greatest treasure—

A golden braided knot of my beloved daughter's hair.

Crime writer Mick Rose pens haiku and prose while wandering the United States in a Quest for the Perfect Pizza. Though his crime fiction can loom dark, and not for the faint-of-heart, he typically tells tall tales involving sexual humor (which sometimes prove explicit).

His work has kindly found good homes at online magazines and in print. He hosts Center Stage With Mick Rose—which frequently shines the spotlight on an international cast of writers, poets and illustrators.

Care to say, “Hello?” You can visit Mick on Facebook, as well as on Goodreads.

The original version of "All That Remains" first appeared at Close To The Bone.