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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 November/December 2023 contest:

Art by Zatu

by Teresa Marie Black

“On the Winter Solstice, the Okla burial mounds line up with the setting sun’s light,” curator Jennifer Harjo said to the last tour of the day.

“This little hill was on the news,” she said. “We didn’t know anything was here until a sinkhole opened up revealing pottery shards. Archeologists are coming in January to see if this mound is on top of the Okla subterraneous caverns. It could be full of tribal artifacts.”

“Are artifacts valuable?” A boy asked.

“They’re sacred to my tribe. Looters took everything from these mounds in the 1930’s.”

“Mother and I are going back,” a silver-haired man said. “We’re tuckered out.”

Assured they could make it back, Harjo led her tour into dwindling December twilight.

Quickly, the men shed wigs and bifocals.

“Looks like they’re off to other mounds,” chuckled “Mother”—a k a Tiny Peterson. As they climbed the hill, he pulled folding shovels from a tote.

“A cavern full of Indian artifacts!” His brother Shank said. “Museums around the world will fight for them.”

The moon rose as they rammed shovels in the sinkhole’s base.

“Look—that crock may be worth a fortune.”

Carefully brushing away dirt, Shank pulled until the earthenware popped from the ground like a cork from a bottle.

Rumbling earth and rocks dropped far below.

On January 2, archeologists found sunlight streaming into a huge cave under the Okla mounds on its new occupants, Shank and Tiny Peterson, recently on unscheduled leave from the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.

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