Every month, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine runs a short-short story contest. In 250 words or less, you have to write a story about a picture they give you, and the story has to involve a crime. I’m a very wordy writer (as you probably already know), and 250 words is nothing, but I gave it a shot anyway and got an Honorable Mention! I was pretty excited.
Anyway, since I didn’t win, my story isn’t getting published, so I’m allowed to post it here for you.
This is not the original photograph–I don’t have the rights to that one–but it gives you the idea.
Ms. Ellis found the headless doll when the children went outside to play.
It was in the far corner of the four-year-olds’ classroom, lying in its bed in a frilly pink nightgown. There was a bouquet of wilted dandelions under the stiff plastic fingers, and all around the bed was a line of the red foam hearts they used for crafts. Ms. Ellis thought that the doll was supposed to be sleeping, until she saw that its head was gone.
For goodness’ sake. One of the boys—or maybe several of them—must have yanked the head off. This was disturbing even for them.
Ms. Ellis went through the door to the playground, looking for James and Mason, the usual troublemakers. But they were racing each other down the slide under the watchful eye of the playground monitor, and there was no sign of the doll’s head.
Puzzled, she glanced around. There was a game of tag on the grass, several children in the sandbox…and little Ava over in the corner by the fence, tamping down a mound of soft dirt with the back of the sandbox shovel.
When Ms. Ellis dug up the mound, the doll’s head was there, right below the surface, lying on a pile of dandelions and foam hearts.
A shiver of horror crept up Ms. Ellis’ spine. “Why, Ava?” she whispered. “Why did you do this?”
“That’s how my Daddy plays with his dollies,” she said.
And that’s how they finally caught the Valentine Killer….