The Trim Reaper

Author’s note: This is my flash fiction for March’s entry of the 2020 Flash Fiction Challenge. Each month of 2020, on the first Monday, I’ll draw cards to determine the genre, setting, and an object that has to appear in the short story. Participants will have until the following Monday to link their stories to the blog post I put out each month. Then I’ll do a follow-up post and share the stories that have come in (before the deadline). It’s only for fun and non-competitive.

March’s draw results: (Genre) mystery, (setting) an open field, and (object) a beard trimmer. Here’s my entry: The Trim Reaper

ID: A sunset on an open field, all dark browns, ambers, and ochres. Text reads: The Trim Reaper, A Mystery Flash Fiction, Cait Gordon

The fog had lifted…somewhat. It still hovered a few feet over the body, as if the mist itself possessed an awareness to stay at the scene of the crime until someone said otherwise. The ground cover on the field consisted of not much more than sodden grass and leaves, and a mouldy scent of rotting flora combined with soiled human remains permeated the air. Fortunately, the nostrils of the detectives on site were well-used to inhaling such odors.

The older man with dark hair and olive skin was in his mid-forties, dressed in a comfortably tailored grey suit. He bent down to inspect things more closely, revealing the multi-coloured socks that were his trademark. After taking a good look at the bluish tint of what appeared to be a handsome face with perfectly groomed stubble, he shook his head.

“I dunno, Mikey,” said the detective. “Fifteen years on the Force, and I’ve never seen one strangled with his own beard trimmer.”

Mike Ratherwood, the detective’s new partner, scratched his scraggly ginger beard.

“That’s the new Brawny BT-75, too. I’d just hinted to the wife to get it for me as a stocking stuffer this Christmas. Thought I’d tame this thing for a change.”

“Good call, Grizzly Adams. And good choice. I think that’s the trimmer you can use on chest hair, too.”

“Really? Hm.”

“Not that I’d care for this feature myself. My Frank loves me as the Bear that I am!”

Mike snorted. Detective Trevor MacKenzie would definitely not feel any chill from the November dampness, not with his body hair. The man made Robin Williams bare-chested. But it never seemed to bother MacKenzie, even when the guys teased him in the locker room. Of course, Mac was a legend. A hero, really, and had come through over a dozen times on complex cases.

“Well, time to get down to it,” said Mike.

“DUNH-DUNH!” sang MacKenzie.

“What the heck was that?”

“I just wanted to make that Law & Order sound. Felt appropriate.”

“Uh…yeaaah.”

The detective stood up and smacked his partner on the back. “Levity, Ratherwood. That’s the ticket. Relaxes the nerves and sharpens the mind!”

“Whatever you say, dude.”

“That’s Detective Dude to you,” said MacKenzie with a chuckle.

Mike decided it was his turn for a closeup and bent down to inspect the body. After a few seconds, he cocked his head, then looked off to the right.

“Something niggling?” asked MacKenzie.

Mike turned his attention back to the blueish-grey face of the victim. “Call me kooky, but I swear this man looks familiar.”

“Okay, Kooky, care to expand on that?”

The younger detective smirked. “Well, it’s just that he reminds me a lot of this new guy who moved up the road from us.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah, well, newish. Been living there for the past three months. The wife said he’s very nice. Eillie’s the social one of us, though. I tend to live for my man cave.”

“I feel like there’s a dirty joke in there somewhere, but I’ll refrain for the time being.”

Mike peered up with a distinctly unimpressed expression. MacKenzie put on clear gloves and knelt down on the other side of the body.

“Okay, Mikey, film this.”

“Right.” He pulled out his cell and pressed the red button on his video app.

“This is Detective MacKenzie, along with Detective Ratherwood. Say, hi, Mikey!”

“Hi, Mikey!”

“Atta boy. You catch on quick. Okay, so we have a deceased male, Caucasian, appears to have died by asphyxiation due to strangulation with the chord of a—hey, Mikey, what model is this thing again?”

“I’m guessing the Brawny BT-75.” He paused. “At least I think that was it. You know what? Let me just text the wife.”

“No, that’s fine, we’ll just continue—”

“Won’t take a second.” Detective Ratherwood’s thumbs asked the question, then pressed Send.”

“Stickler for detail, eh, kid?” said MacKenzie. “Right, so camera back on me and—”

There was a beep. Like a cellphone notification.

Mike frowned. “That was you, right?”

MacKenzie lifted his phone from the inside pocket of his suit jacket. He shook his head. “Nope, not me. It was you.”

“It couldn’t have been me because I’m holding my phone and got nothing.”

They both simultaneously gazed at the body. Detective MacKenzie gently felt down the front pocket of the deceased, the one nearest to him. He motioned for Mike to resume filming as he reached inside. 

“Just removing the contents of front left pocket to see if there’s an active mobility device.”

He only found a wallet.

“Try the other one,” said Mike. It looks like there’s a phone in there.”

When MacKenzie reached for the right side, the phone went off again. Both men jumped out of their skin.

“Holy crap, there goes ten years off my life!”

“Yeah, same here,” said Mike. “At least that makes me only 41. Makes you older than agriculture!”

MacKenzie faced the camera. “Making a note that Detective Ratherwood is playing with fire. Might have to arrest him for arson if he keeps this up.”

Mike laughed. Once again, Trevor reached inside the pocket of the deceased.

The phone face lit up as it was moved.

“Uh oh.”

“What is it?” asked Mike.

“Listen, Mikey…” MacKenzie stared down at the display, not sure how to word things.

“What?”

“Let’s take this one step at a time, okay? We can’t jump to any conclusions just yet.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

Detective MacKenzie turned the phone around. There were three text messages.

Hi, it’s Mom. Where are you? I thought we were having lunch today.
—Sent 1 min ago

Hey, babe, what’s the model of that beard trimmer I keep nagging you about
—Sent 2 mins ago

And the last one read:

don’t give a fuck if you’re shopping. sick of you stringing me along. get over here or I’m telling your husband about us
—Sent yesterday, 7:03 p.m.

“Oh, shit,” said Mike.


The Trimmer Reaper © 2020 Cait Gordon. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles and reviews. For more information, contact Cait Gordon. (Mock book cover image provided by canva.com)


Cait Gordon, in a black and white digital sketch

Cait Gordon is a disability advocate and the author of Life in the ’Cosm and The Stealth Lovers. When she’s not writing, Cait’s editing manuscripts and running The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors manage disabilities and/or chronic conditions. She also teamed up with Kohenet Talia C. Johnson to co-edit the Nothing Without Us anthology in an attempt to take over the world. Narf.

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