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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Mystery · #1301331
19th Century Mystery-Suspense Short Story
Revised Version
August 5, 2007

    Keeley returned to the general store carrying the filled kerosene lantern. She set the lantern down behind the counter, found a bow, and shot Jackson MacDonald, the owner. He stared at her startled; then bent forward at the waist, slumping against his end of the wooden counter. “Whaaat?” he managed, and then his balding knob hit the counter with a sickening thud. A moment passed; then his slack body slid off and onto the floor. She waited, watching it carefully for further signs of movement, and when she did not see any, she backed away, upending the lantern and spilling out the kerosene from one end of the counter to the other. When it was empty, she tossed the lantern over the counter at his end and heard a satisfying smack as it slammed into his corpse, then a “whoosh” as the kerosene ignited. She backed away hurriedly, turned and ran out through the front door, slamming it shut behind her. As she sped down the pair of steps from the wooden porch to the dirt road in front of the store, she heard the roaring of the flames and was knocked flat by the outrush of air as the window glass exploded outward. Quickly she picked herself up, running at top speed away from the village. She could wait until later, in safety, to pick glass shreds from her abundant red hair. She raised her skirts to her knees and put on a new burst of speed. She no longer knew where she headed, but she knew her life here was over- just as finished as that of her dead employer, incinerating in her wake.

    As she raced toward the whistle of the oncoming steam locomotive far in the distance, she patted the side pocket of her long dress. Yes, all the papers were still there, the set of deeds and certificates for which she had ransacked the store’s small office, while her employer was still in Topeka seeing to his political ambitions. She now possessed the evidence, and MacDonald? Well, he was deceased, and his business would soon be in ruins. No cause would be determined: just a fire of inexplicable origins. And the orphan girl he had “befriended” some months ago? Gone, of course, just like many orphans of that time. Gone off into the sunset, into the West, gone to seek her fortune---or so most would assume. Gone—that is all that would matter. MacDonald dead and his temporary employee-ward disappeared. What could be easier? She ran on, on toward the whistle, knowing she wouldn’t make it to that train, tonight, but realizing there would be other trains, other times, to other destinations; and she, Laughlin Keel MacDonald, would be aboard. Yes, she would seek her fortune, but not in the West: back East, in Boston, she would find her true grandparents, Maeve Melba Keel, shipbuilding heiress, and Maeve’s equally wealthy banker-husband, Gregory Ashton MacDonald.

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