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The Finest in Crime and Suspense Short Fiction

Mysterious Photograph

Each issue features a Mysterious Photograph. Readers are invited to submit a 250-word (or less) flash fiction story based on the photo. The person who invents the best mystery story receives a prize of $25, and the story is published in a future issue.

The Story That Won the May/June 2023 contest:

Art by

by Dave Lignell

Temple Theater, Detroit, 1901. Sir William “Banana Man” Smith had just finished one of his sets when he stopped me backstage.

“Hey, lad, where might I procure a whiskey?” he said. Sir William came over from England. He played a stuffy aristocrat whose act included slipping on a banana peel.

“I have some whiskey,” I said.

He grinned, showing a gap between his upper teeth.

The prince and I got along well enough. I became his errand boy while he performed. He had whiskey by day and laudanum by night. Before long, he offered me a spot on the tour with him. I would play a “bumpkin” character and he would compensate me, at a lesser rate, as he mentored me.

“You’ll be my second banana,” he said.

Our act played so well in Peoria we became the headliner in every town since.

Then one day Sir William sat me down.

“Lad, I’ve been invited to perform at the Palace in New York,” he said.

“That’s the big time!”

“As a solo act,” he added.

My smile froze. We had been on the road for several weeks. I did the chores; he managed the earnings. Now he was dumping me. Still, I knew where he kept our cash.

“Let’s celebrate,” I said. I filled his tumbler from the whiskey on the nightstand. Next to the bottle stood his laudanum flask. He was yammering on as I added a generous pour of the opiate unnoticed.

Second banana? I don’t think so.

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