THE PROMISE • by Warren C. Easley

Momma always said I slept like a nervous bird. When I heard the front door click open that night, I got up and peeked down the hall. It was Momma’s new boyfriend, Duane, and he was just closing the door behind him.

He looked real surprised to see me. “Oh, hi, Sprout. Just havin’ a smoke outside.”

I hated it when he called me Sprout. My name’s Kat. “You must have smoked a pack, ‘cause I heard you go out a long time ago.”

He laughed, but his eyes got kind of small and hard. “One cigarette. You were dreaming.”

Early the next morning I heard Momma’s cell ring. Momma rushed into my room. “Kat, get up. Something’s happened to Pop Pop.” We drove over to my grandfather’s house. There were lots of police cars and flashing lights. Momma told me to stay in the car. I knew something awful had happened, and my heart sort of shriveled up in my chest.

I started thinking about the day before. I was at Pop Pop’s house, teaching him how to use his new cell phone —

“Punch the number in first, then press the little green light. That sends the call.”

He chuckled the way he always does, specially when he’s laughing at himself. “I’m an old dog, Kat. It’s hard to teach me new tricks.”

He was gray and bent with big hands rough as tree bark, but his eyes had a kindness in them that shined like a light. “You’re not old,” I told him, “least not to me.”

Before I left, he hugged me and gave me a serious look. “How are things at home?”

I dropped my eyes. “All right.”

“That new fella, Duane, he’s treating you okay?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“You guess?”

My face got a little hot. I didn’t like Duane, but couldn’t say why. “He’s okay.”

“Are they using?”

“I don’t know, Pop Pop. I keep to my room, mostly.”

He hugged me again. “Listen, now that you’ve taught me to use this phone, you can call me anytime, Kat. I promise I’ll ans — ”

I jumped when Momma opened the car door. She was all in tears. “Pop Pop got robbed last night,” she said.

“Is he okay?”

“No, Kat. He’s not. Pop Pop’s dead. The burglar killed him.”

Momma held me for a long time. When I stopped crying, she said, “Kat, the police want to talk to you. Listen, honey, they don’t like Duane ‘cause he’s got a record. Don’t say nothin’ bad about him, okay?”

“Momma, he went out last night. I heard him.”

She gripped my shoulders so hard it hurt. “No, he didn’t, Kat. He was with me. Don’t say that to the police. Please, honey. Duane’s a good man.”

I talked to a nice police lady and didn’t say anything bad about Duane or Momma. Another policeman came in and the nice lady excused herself and joined him across the room. I looked down at the hole in the toe of my sneaker like I wasn’t listening, but I was. “The murder weapon’s missing,” he said in a low tone. “Something heavy, like a hammer.” She told the man about Pop Pop’s cell phone. The man nodded and said, “That’s missing, too, along with his wallet and cash.”

When everything in the apartment got quiet that night, I snuck out of my room. Duane kept his tools on a shelf next to the washer. I pulled a chair up and looked for his hammer. I’d used it just the other day and knew it had red paint on the handle. The hammer was gone.

“Whatcha lookin’ for, Sprout?” I jerked around and there was Duane. A cigarette dangled from the side of his mouth, and his eyes were all hard again, like little stones.

A pack of spiders crawled down my back. “Uh, a screw driver,” I answered, pulling one out of the tool box and adding real fast, “You’re not supposed to smoke in the apartment.”

He blew smoke from his nose and smiled like a snake. “Things are gonna change around here, Sprout. We’re gonna move out of this dump into your granddad’s house.”

I lay in bed with my door locked, trying to think what to do. When I finally dozed off, I dreamed about Pop Pop. He smiled down at me, held up his cell phone and said, “You can call me anytime , Kat. I promise I’ll answer.”

I woke up and snuck Momma’s cell phone from the hall table. When I tapped in Pop Pop’s number, it rang several times before going to voice mail — “Hi, this is Claude. Leave a message.” He did answer me! When I heard his voice, I knew what I needed to do.

I slipped out the front door and ran down 4th Avenue till I got to the alley that cut through to Pop Pop’s street. The alley was the fastest way back from his house to our apartment. There were a few lights along the narrow path, but it was mostly dark and scary in there.

I started down the alley, dialing Pop Pop’s number again and again. My legs were shaking, but the sound of his voice kept me going. Halfway in I heard it — the ring tone I’d put on his phone. It came from a humongous trash can under a dim light. I took the lid off and pulled hard on the lip of the can, tipping it over with a crash. Dogs started barking up and down the alley. I didn’t care.

I sifted through the smelly garbage till I found a plastic bag that buzzed with Pop Pop’s ring tone. The bag was tied shut, but a wooden handle with red paint on it had punched through the side. I put the lighted face of my phone up to the handle and saw a clear fingerprint in blood.

I dialed 911 and sat down to wait.

Warren C. Easley lives in Oregon, where he writes fiction and tutors GED students. He’s the author of the Cal Claxton Mystery Series: learn more at

Rate this story:
 average 0 stars • 0 reader(s) rated this
  • An excellent read. Well done!

  • Helen Francesca

    Thank God for the happy ending !
    Well-constructed , let’s hear it for the kid !

  • Phew! What an exciting roller-coaster ride. Well constructed, well-written, great ending!

  • Johanna Miklos

    Thanks to TV, kids know exactly what to do to solve a crime.

  • A great story. Very well paced. It had me hooked from the start and a very satisfying ending. 5 stars.

  • Wow! Swell story, Warren. Amazing how you created believable characters, suspense and a satisfying ending in under a thousand words.

  • Poor Pop-Pop.

  • Oh, what a good story. The pace was superb, didn’t bog down at all. Plus I was emotionally invested. Thanks for a fine read.

  • Warren Easley

    Thanks all for the kind comments. I loved writing this story. There are a lot of brave kids out there…

  • I like it more. Because is the same type of stories I write. Kids as protags, a little mystery, some drug abuse, and at least one murder. Perfect cocktail.

  • Joe Gurvis

    A good effort. Doesn’t really ring true. Much longer than it needs to be.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Wonderful. Five star story.

  • Gretchen Bassier

    Great voice. Brave, smart kid. Well done.

  • PaisleyGreen

    Awesome from beginning to end. Great pacing and tone.

  • Kim

    Loved it! Strong voice, great pacing, very sympathetic MC. And all in under 1,000 words. Nicely done.

  • Jennifer Ripley

    Nice. Simple, straightforward story with lots of nice details woven in and some excellent prose to polish it off. Great job.

  • Gery Blackburn

    Very enjoyable. Can’t wait for your next one

  • Phil Atkisson

    Warren, as good or perhaps even better than “to Catch a Wolf”.

  • Mary c Whitton

    I really enjoyed your story…very well done…I really felt the intensity of the characters!

  • JenM

    I really liked this one. A murder mystery without a lot of horror elements, this would be perfect for young kids to read as well as being interesting for adults.

  • Excellent piece. My kind of story.

  • Edith

    What a fine story…Kat is a neat kid!

  • Ali

    Wonderful story! You nailed the voice and I love the way you give us full characters in such a short piece. Well done.

  • Carol

    Kudos Cousin,
    Hope it’s fun to create a believable story with a challenge of brevity. Keep up the great job. Carol

  • Jeanette Arnett

    Warren: How exciting. I feel so sorry for the kid, want to hear more! Jeanette

  • Janice Maxson

    Good ending, nice tension, the story all came together really well. I liked the kid and also Pop Pop, even though he was off scene, he was a presence.

  • Sonia Easley

    I had to read it again! Great job.

  • Shelley Hallman

    Warren, really enjoyed this story. Glad Sonia posted the link on fb. It is the 2nd one I’ve read, am thinking I will have to check out your series.
    PS.. I am a “shirt-tail relative” My Mother-in-law is an Easley grandchild out of Berry County Missouri, Julia Easley Williams was her Grandmother, daughter of Edward and Mary Elizabeth Easley. Her father is one of the children raised by the Grandparents after Julia’s death. Their farm is under water now due to the dam of Roaring River.

  • Nikki

    Wonderful story. I can’t wait to read more from you.

  • Pingback: Interview: Warren C. Easley Has EDF’s Top Story for September 2012 « Flash Fiction Chronicles()