In today's story, Nefarious, Kelsey waits in the shadows for a mysterious stranger
Suggestions for writing prompts are always welcome! Today's prompt came from my friend Stacy Foster, who has been a solid supporter of my writing and a top patron on my Patreon page. Thanks, Stacy!
More about Susan Quilty
Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society. Susan's short stories for Freely Written are created during quick writing breaks and shared as a way to practice her narration skills before she dives into recording audio versions of her novels.
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Below is the transcript for Season 1, Episode 51 of Freely Written, a podcast by author Susan Quilty:
Welcome to Freely Written where a simple prompt leads to a little unplanned fiction.
[Light piano music]
Hi, friends! I’m Susan Quilty and today’s prompt is Nefarious
Quick reminder, here’s how this podcast works: I sit down with a simple prompt and start writing, with no planning and very little editing, then I share the story with you.
Today’s prompt is from my friend Stacy Foster, who has been an amazing supporter of my writing, always reading my books, coming to my signings, being a top patron on Patreon, and so on. I’m really grateful for her continued support and for the suggested prompt! Making up my own prompts can get tiring, and it’s more fun to be challenged with a prompt from somebody else.
Challenge is a good word for this prompt because—despite thinking that nefarious is a fabulous word—I really wasn’t sure how to come at it. But since the point of this podcast is freewriting, I tried to set aside any thought of a plan and just start writing whatever scene came to mind when I thought of the word.
Let’s see how that went:
Shadows gathered as the sun set over the old brick apartment building. Kelsey knew she was supposed to be home by dark and was risking punishment with every minute she lingered, but she couldn’t miss this meeting. Not after the trouble she’d taken to make it happen.
A skittering crunch made Kelsey nearly jump out of her skin, but it was only the neighbor’s cat rustling through some trash that had blown up against the stoop.
“Hey, Mr. Peepers,” Kelsey called softly, more to settle her own nerves than to soothe the cat. But Mr. Peepers had no interest in her attention. He was pawing at something under a crumped chip bag, and Kelsey hoped it wasn’t something alive.
“You’re out late.”
Kelsey jumped again, this time spinning to see Jerrod shrugging a backpack higher up on his shoulder. Jerrod lived two floors up and was in her English class at school.
“It’s not so late,” she countered, hoping he’d move on quickly.
“Nah, but it’s getting dark. You coming in?”
He nodded toward the steps, and Kelsey shoved her hands deep in her coat pockets, glancing around furtively. In the distance, she saw a tall figure in a hoodie walking their way.
“Uh, not yet. I’m just, uh, hanging out here a bit.”
Jerrod raised an eyebrow but didn’t ask. As he swung toward the steps, he laughed, “Hope he’s worth the grounding.”
Kelsey’s face flushed, realizing that he’s seen the approaching teen and come to the wrong conclusion. But she didn’t say a word to set him straight.
Jerrod disappeared through the apartment door and Kelsey pulled closer to the stoop, hiding her fear in the shadows close to the building. The teen in the hoodie walked by, and Kelsey held her breath, wondering if she’d misjudged him. But just before reaching the streetlight, he swung back and sauntered her way.
Kelsey’s mouth went dry, and her palms became damp. Nefarious, she thought, remembering all the times she’d been warned to come in early because nefarious forces came out at night. She’d rolled her eyes every time, amused by her dad’s dramatic flair, but here she was, standing in the shadows with a nefarious stranger closing in.
“You, Kelsey?” He asked with a tight nod, his eyes never leaving her face.
“Yeah. I mean, yes. I’m Kelsey. And you’re Danny?”
He pulled back, just a fraction, and his eyes narrowed, which did nothing to calm the trembling of Kelsey’s stomach.
“I thought we said no names.” He sounded skittish, though his solid stance didn’t show it.
“Right, yeah,” Kelsey assured quickly. “No names in the paper, just for now, to know I have the right person. The right source.”
“Source,” Danny sniffed with a hint of amusement. “Yeah, I guess, I’m that.”
“So, you’ll talk to me then?” Kelsey confirmed, pulling out a notepad and pen. “Anonymously.”
“What’s that?” Danny asked, frowning at her choice of writing tools. “You don’t have a phone? Going all old school on me?”
“Oh, well… I didn’t think you’d want me to record this… but if you…”
“Nah, this is cool,” Danny nodded. “You take your notes like a good reporter, and I’ll give you what you want.”
“Uh, okay, yeah, cool. I mean, thanks.” Kelsey fumbled with the notepad, feeling the flush spread across her hot cheeks.
“You’re kinda cute when you blush like that,” Danny told her. “What are you, a freshman?”
“Sophomore,” Kelsey correctly tightly, trying to regain control of the situation.
“Big story for you,” Danny acknowledged, rocking on his heels. “Gonna crack this case wide open!” He laughed.
“Uh, yeah,” Kelsey frowned. “You know, if you’d rather not talk to me, I can easily find somebody else.”
She heard the clipped words come out of her mouth and froze in horror. She didn’t have anyone else. It had taken two days of dropping hints, feeling out students, and eventually finding her way to one single witness who was willing to talk to her.
For a tense moment, Danny studied her frozen face. He glanced up toward the sky, which was now decidedly dark and then looked back at Kelsey with a grin.
“Nah, I’ll talk to you,” he agreed, stuffing his hands deeper in his pockets against the chill of night air. “I guess you want to know where we got the roosters,” he ventured.
“Yeah, that’s a good place to start,” Kelsey agreed, ready to write his answer in the dim glow of the distant streetlight.
“I can’t tell you that,” Danny shrugged. “Could be incriminating.”
“Oh, well, you don’t have to say where exactly…” Kelsey considered. “Did someone have a farm connection? Were they bought or stolen?”
“Stolen?” Danny laughed. “You think I’m going to say we stole something?”
“Borrowed?” Kelsey tried again, biting her lip when she noticed a curtain in her apartment shift to one side. Her dad was looking for her and would come outside soon.
“Nice try,” Danny shook his head. “Let’s just say there’s lots of rooftop coops around the city, and it’s easy enough to buy roosters. Most people don’t want more than one around, if any.”
“Okay…” Kelsey scribbled a quick note. “But the sweaters…?”
“Yeah, the sweaters were dope,” Danny agreed.
“Did you make them?” Kelsey asked, quickly adding, “Or get an FCS class to make them?”
She knew the Family and Consumer Science kids all learned basic knitting and sewing but hadn’t gotten any of them to confess.
“Etsy,” Danny said, referencing the site for homemade arts and crafts. “You can get anything on Etsy.”
“Oh,” Kelsey nodded, slightly let down by that answer. She’d hoped it was a group effort with some crafty students or maybe some grandparents were recruited to help.
“Okay, then,” she looked up from her notes. “How did you get the roosters into the school?”
“Oh, come on,” Danny laughed. “Do you think it’s hard to get into the school at night? Unlock a few windows during the day, there will be at least a few left open.”
“Really?” Kelsey studied him sharply. “What about the rumors that there are keys to the school that are passed down from year to year?”
“Oh, well,” Danny looked at the ground and shuffled his feet before flashing her a smirk. “I wouldn’t know about that.”
“You wouldn’t?” Kelsey didn’t believe him for a moment.
“I’ve heard the rumor,” Danny conceded, “but I can neither confirm nor deny that it’s true.”
“Fair enough,” Kelsey sighed, seeing another twitch of the curtain in her living room.
“Okay, so the big question,” she went on, leveling him with her steadiest gaze.
“There was no second rooster,” he answered before she could ask the question. Kelsey peered at him in the gloom.
“So, the rooster’s sweaters were each knitted with the numbers one, three, four, and five, but only four roosters were released in the school? There was no rooster with a number two sweater?”
“Right,” Danny confirmed. “There was a thing online about a prank with pigs and we thought, why not roosters?”
“Right. Why not roosters?”
Suddenly, the front door of the building was jerked open, and Kelsey’s father stepped out onto the stoop. Danny hunched his shoulders and tugged his hoodie lower over his face.
“See ya,” he muttered before striding away.
“Kelsey Ann Miller!” her father bellowed as Kelsey stepped from the shadows. “What are you doing out here in the dark? Who was that delinquent? Do you know how dangerous it is out here?”
“Yeah, yeah, nefarious forces,” Kelsey agreed, smiling as she remembered the sight of roosters running through the halls on their first day back from winter break.
She hurried up the steps, ready to take the consequences of being out late. It wasn’t easy being a school reporter, but she’d gotten her story.
Thanks for listening! If you enjoyed this story, please share it with your friends or connect with me through the Freely Written Facebook page. You can also learn about my novels and other projects on my website, SusanQuilty.com or support my writing through Patreon.com/SusanQuilty.
Until next time, try a little free writing of your own. Let go of any planning and see where your imagination takes you.
[Light piano music]