Short and Sinister: Five-sentence Mysteries and Thrillers
"It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important," Sherlock Holmes says in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.
And it's true that sometimes the small things that can sneak up on you. That's definitely the case with the stories below. We asked some of the most interesting authors in the genre to write us an original story that could be about any thing at all, with just one catch— they only had five sentences to tell their tale. Let's just say these terribly dark (very) short stories had us hooked. Intrigued? Be sure to add their new books to your Want to Read shelf.
Sisterly Love by B.A. Paris
She was everything that I was not—beautiful, intelligent, with an unsullied mind, the apple of our father's eye, and while she was around I knew I would never be happy.
So I decided to kill her, but in such a way that it would look like suicide, because she had recently split up with her boyfriend and so, was depressed. I waited until she was in the bath, up to her neck in bubbles and foam, and walked in wearing top-to-toe black with only slits for my eyes, holding a huge kitchen knife, the one she was scared of, and a cupful of pills.
The knife, held inches from her terrified face, did the trick, and with tears spilling from her eyes she gulped down the pills, then, as sleep overtook her, slid slowly into the water and drowned. I replaced the knife, went up to my room, put my school uniform back on, wrote the essay Father had set me on Sisterly Love, and waited for someone to tell me she was dead.
The three of them woke up in a subterranean room with no windows and a solid, metal door, not just locked but bolted three times from inside. There was a dead woman lying on the floor between them with the rope that had strangled her still around her neck. They noticed a message that had been spray-painted very recently onto the brickwork, the bright red letters still damp and tacky. It read: THE KILLER IS IN THIS ROOM. The three of them looked at each other.
"Annie was an excellent host," I wrote, "and in many ways the perfect Airbnb-er. Not only did she greet me on arrival with a glass of chilled Puligny-Montrachet, she had also filled my room with fresh flowers. Unfortunately, I am not a fan of lilies—I find their fragrance cloying and sweet, like decaying matter. I left some strewn across her naked corpse before I departed. Had they been something more cheerful, such as daffodils, I would have had little hesitation in awarding her five stars."
In the shed there was a man, and in the man there was a knife, its handle sticking from his back as he lay face-down on the musty earth floor. She didn't know the man, but she knew the knife, the swirling detail of the silver handle. She had in fact last seen the knife in her brother's room the night before, where he carved angry notches into the surface of his desk. At least, this is the story she tells the police to explain why she has the murder weapon in her hand as she darts from the scene of the crime.
She walks inside her empty house as the police lead her brother away, and she thinks she finally understands the saying Two birds, one stone.
Runaway by Edan Lepucki
The woman making her way through the trees had a black eye and a dead dog draped over her back, its tongue dripping out of its mouth, flies already circling its eyes. I thought I had imagined her until the detective showed up at my door, asking about the woman down the block, said she and her dog had gone missing, that the husband was looking for them. I played dumb and stayed there until nightfall when I found myself by my car with nowhere to go but far from my empty house, and I noticed the trunk wasn't closed all the way. I pushed it open and there was the dog, slumped inside, stiff and stinking of rot, and I imagined the woman, who would be free once her eye healed. I buried the animal before sunrise.
The Missing Husband by Michelle Campbell
When the storm cleared, the beach house had been severely damaged, and David was missing. The police questioned Hailey several times in the weeks that followed, and they weren't treating her like the grieving widow. They wanted to know about her relationship with Brandon, and about the money that had gone in and out of her bank account. She told them the truth, and whether or not they believed her, they couldn't prove anything different. Nobody could, until years later, when David was pulled over for a DUI under another name, in another state, where he'd been living with his other family in fine style on the money he'd stolen from his clients.
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