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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 September/October 2022 contest:

Art by © santypan/

by Niko Hilgerdt

The last word from Bryan had arrived in the mail seven days after he was killed in prison. It was surreal, seeing his third-grade handwriting addressing her in ballpoint pen from the grave: Phoebe McCully. It was strangely official, not like Bryan at all. He never used her name, and he sure as hell had never sent her a letter.

“Honey,” the note began. “It’s all gonna be OK.” Aside from “Love, Bryan” at the bottom of the page, that was it. A whole 8.5 x 10 college-ruled piece of paper and no clue about the heist! Phoebe crumpled the letter and threw it at the garbage can.

It wasn’t until the middle of the night that Phoebe shot up in bed. “Honey?” she said to herself. “He never called me Honey”. It had always been “Culkin”, a pun on her last name. After that actor from Bryan’s favorite movie, Home Alone.

Phoebe may have been dumb, but she was not impatient. Change was geologic in mining towns. She waited three months before she bought a bee suit and went to Bryan’s gran’s house outside of town. She was trembling when she approached the beehives and started taking out the racks. It wasn’t until the third one when she saw it: a glint in the crack of the frame. It was all gonna be okay, after all. Phoebe smiled. It turned out Bryan was a better provider in death than in life. Diamonds were a girl’s best friend.

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