Another Fun Ride Murder - Flash Fiction

"Open the gate. " The tall man in the disheveled tweed suit flipped open a badge and ID: Detective Robert Semones, Jackson, NJ Police. A nervous park attendant peered at the badge through the gate, then released the latch.  Semones ushered in his partner, Detective Grant Ambrose, and followed behind.  Ambrose touched his fedora and nodded to the attendant, who looked miserable. She latched the gate after them.

"Which way, ma'am?" Ambrose asked.  The attendant waved a limp hand down a path already populated by police and Six Flags staff. Her eyes teared up; she made a croaking sound. 

"Snake ride...follow them. Oh, gawd!" she wailed into her hands. Ambrose fumbled through his pocket for a handkerchief.  Semones slapped his arm. 

"C'mon, Grant." Semones ambled up the path. Ambrose gave up chivalry and shuffled into step beside him.

Camera bulbs flashed against the rosy sky of dawn like earth-bound images of the stars that were fading into the sunrise. Semones pulled a cigarette from a rumpled soft-pack and propped it in the corner of his mouth. Ambrose declined, so Semones stuffed the pack back into his inner suit-pocket.  He addressed the nearest uniformed officer.

“Whaddaya got here?” The officer gave a blank stare in reply. Semones flipped the badge again.

“Ah, King Cobra Ride, very popular here, water ride. Dead girl.” The officer ruffled through pages in his notepad. “She’s been, um, tentatively IDed as one Margie Summers, soda fountain attendant.”

“At the park here?” Semones looked around for a refreshment stand. Ambrose slid off in the direction of the camera-flashes and the body. The officer ruffled pages, and responded.

“No – pharmacy in town. We’re trying to, ah, determine if she came in yesterday as a patron of the park.” 

“Any witnesses?” Semones adjusted the cigarette in his mouth but still did not light it. 

“Nope. First on the scene was, uh, landscaping crew this morning. That guy found her.” The officer pointed toward a huddle of policemen. “Called the manager.  He’s calling in all the staff who worked last night. Couple of them have arrived, but nobody remembers seeing her last night. One of’em knows her, she says. ‘Swhere we got the ID. Sent a car to the parents’ house to confirm.” 

Ambrose had eased his way to the edge of the King Cobra’s hood. When the ride was in play, water shot down from the cobra’s fangs. Riders rushed out of the snake’s belly and exited where young Margie lay sprawled. 

Her eyes were open, brown, vacant. Her neck was twisted like she was trying to see up into the snake’s mouth. Her legs were angled like math symbols. One arm hung off the edge of the ride. Her short skirt was pushed up, her white panties just visible. Ambrose leaned over and looked closely at the dark stains on her cardigan but touched nothing.  He noticed her feet were bare.

“Where are her shoes?” Ambrose asked the back of the nearest person.  He got no response. He reached out and touched an arm. The man turned, camera in hand. “Did you see the shoes?” Ambrose repeated. 

“One of them’s under there.” The photographer nodded toward the edge of the ride. “Haven’t found the other one. You see her hand? I got it.” He lifted his camera slightly to indicate he’d taken pictures of the hand. Ambrose turned slowly. He pulled up his pant legs slightly and crouched to investigate. A pink fuzzy band graced her ring finger.

“Whaddaya got there, Grant?” Semones appeared behind him.

“Looks to be…a pipe cleaner, Bob.  Hey, can we get a bag? Hey, you, you say you got pictures of this?” Ambrose asked the first question to the crowd in general, the second to the photographer, who nodded and walked off. “You find out anything, Bob?”

“Yeah, Grant. Got a name, and some of the staff from last night are coming in. When they get here I guess some of these jokers standing around will interview. You say pipe cleaner?” 

“I do, Bob. Like a ring, a home-made ring. Are we clear to collect evidence?” 

“Lemme get a look at that.” Ambrose stepped aside. “Somebody get me a bag!

As the sun and the summer heat rose into the late morning, the early crowd of amusement park fans began to gather at the gate. Small children dipped and wove between strangers while their parents milled about, checking watches. A petulant father stopped a police officer who was ushering in park attendants. There was some quiet discussion, and the father turned to first his wife and then the crowd.

“They aren’t opening. Hey, the park is closed today!” Attendants on the inside of the gate backed away as the crowd started buzzing angrily. Kids continued to run in circles while moms tried to round them up.

“Gosh, I’m sorry, Roxy. Looks like we won’t be riding the Ferris wheel after all,” said the young man with gleaming hair. He wrapped his arm tighter around his girl. “I wanted today to be our special day.” Roxanne snuggled up closer to him, and then pulled away playfully. She spun in a circle, flaring out her tartan skirt.

“I don’t care. I’m so happy, Kevin!” She stopped spinning and shuddered as if all the joy in her heart were about to explode. “This is already our special day. I love you, and I love this ring. I don’t care if you ever replace it with a diamond.  You made it. I love this one, forever.” She stared lovingly at the fuzzy blue band on her ring finger. 

Thanks to Margie Summers and Bob Grant for the prompts and names, and John Borlik for the title. 


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