behind the closet door snippits

“What’s behind the closet door? A shriek, a moan, a bit of gore. Only this and nothing more.”

As she climbed the wood-plank ramp to the boardwalk, deep in her thoughts of what she might find on her desk, the aromas of caramel popcorn and sautéed onions and peppers were already reaching her through the warm sea-salt air. The ocean breeze lightly dazzled her face as she crossed the boardwalk; morning bicyclers whizzed by giving her figure a second look; a fat seagull swooped by low, letting out a shrill laugh. As she got closer to the beach, she noted that even at this early hour the heavy scent of suntan oil mingled with the essence of fresh baking pizza and Boardwalk Fries filled the air.

Wildwood in the summer.

Heather made her way to the office building, a vintage plywood structure disguised as a row of fairytale houses adjacent to the Whack Shack. It was a small building with gift shops and a target range at ground level, and three offices on top. Her office was the smallest, but had an incredible view north of the beach, ocean, and boardwalk. From her desk she could watch the thousands of tourists walking by, taking the tram car, stopping for lemonade and Boardwalk Fries, playing impossible to win games of ‘chance’ and overpaying for t-shirts, snacks, and souvenirs in the zillions of glittering shops and eateries. Arcade games beeped and rang, Ferris wheels spun, children laughed and screamed, sexy young women strolled the sand in string bikinis, goofy young men with long hair and gangly bodies followed them like hyenas. This was Wildwood, this was the beach and boards in all its glory.

From her window she could see vintage cars beginning to line up diagonally on the boardwalk, getting in place for the second day of the 4th of July Classic Car Show and Parade. She wondered if Dan’s truck would ever look shiny and new like the cars lining up…a bright yellow Corvette, a teal-blue ’50s Chevy, some kind of old Hot Rod in glossy metallic green with big wide tires and chrome wheels…she could almost see his whatever-it-was truck sitting there next to them, Dan standing by, bragging about the engine and the velour Cadillac seat and how he fixed the big hole rusted in the floor with a tin cracker box and duct tape.

Then she realized that she was putting off the inevitable; she had been in her office five full minutes and hadn’t looked at the folded note on her desk.
With a heavy sigh, she opened it.


Vicky came home from the diner just in time to help with the crates.
“Hey, baby…how’s the packing going?” she asked, catching up to Heather at the top of the stairs.
“All done, huf, all packed, woof,” Heather managed to answer as she took a breath of the cold, damp air, “Just…wheeze…just have to get these crates loaded.” She was winded. Those records weighed a ton.
“Why don’t you wait for Dan to help you tomorrow?”
“Because I want to get it done tonight. That’s why I’m borrowing Jimmy’s truck instead of waiting for Dan’s. You gonna help me or what?”

She didn’t really want to help of course, not after working six to six at the Wildwood diner just to make a lousy twelve bucks in tips all day. After all, it was off-season. “Sure sweetie, I’ll help. Just let me put this stuff down and go to the powder room.” Heather shook her head; she always thought it was silly how Vicky called the lavatory the “powder room.” Of course, Vicky thought it was silly how Heather called it a “lavatory.” Karen just called it the John.
In a few minutes, they were both puffing and wheezing in the icy ocean air. “Goddammit it’s friggin’ cold as a witch’s tit out here!” was Vicky’s colorful way of putting it.
“Yea, they said on the radio it was 14 degrees at six o’clock. They said with the breeze it feels more like 10 below.”
“Ten below! Christ! Jesus! It ain’t been like this in neigh-on 40 years!”
Heather looked at her with her usual Vicky look. “It was like this last year too, remember? And in ’75. I remember, I was stuck in it both times with a bad battery in the Nova.”
“Well,” said Vicky, “I don’t give a rat’s ass how many years in a row it gets like this, I Goddamn hate it. I hate it! Weather like this belongs up in the friggin’ Yukon with that bastard Y-Yukon Jack and his frrriggin’ sleddd dogs. Frig!” She was stamping her feet and shivering from top to bottom. Vicky was a big woman, too, 5’10” and 38-28-36…when she shivered, buildings shook with her.


He stared at the postcard in his hand as if were Jack Slate’s maggoty, rotten skull itself being held. The writing on the card burned deep into his mind, searing his brain with writing that was penned 70 years before by a hand that was long since dead; a sincere note to an innocent child by his loving and caring father who had missed him dearly…and who would (somehow, Dan knew) never see him again.

Dan was sweating now, visibly shaking. His blood was being throttled through his veins with the force of a March storm, pushed on by a sickened heart that felt as if it had only seconds of life remaining. His mind was a racing torrent of thoughts and images, finally landing on the memory of the wispy mist in the library. Was that Jack Slate? Was that eerie specter floating above the dusty ledgers trying to communicate his story to Dan? Is it possible a ghost physically moved these postcards and papers to where Dan would find them, trying to right a wrong from beyond the grave?

Dan could feel his soul straining against his fear. His body was hot, yet his skin felt like a pincushion filled with icy needles. His mouth went dry and his legs weakened. A shock ran through his spine and into his skull, and he had to grab the back of the chair to steady himself, to keep from again collapsing to the floor.

Dan knew this feeling: he was scared as hell.


‘Mother of Pearls’ was the name painted across the back of the antique wooden trawler moored behind the century-old fishing shack. The outside may have looked gray and dingy, but the inside was pristine. Jimmy turned his attention back to the roof of the shack and sighed.
“Well, Cap, I think we need to get some more tin, and wood and roofing nails. This wood you have here is all rotted.”
“Aw, hell! That just figures. Sonny, I don’t have a pot to piss in just now. It’s winter’s all, and I ain’t been able to get out clammin’ or fishin’ or nothin’. Well, screw it. I think old man Madison across the way has some lumber and tin that needs to be appropriated. After all, he won’t be back ’til the springtime. Sure as hell forget about it by then, an’ if he ain’t, hell I’ll give him a bushel ’a crabs or somethin’. Well, c’mon, Sonny, I can’t get it all myself.” Jimmy loved listening to this man talk, with his old-style accent something of a cross between an Irishman and a pirate.

He decided to go along with the plan, although stealing wasn’t his preferred method of obtaining materials.
“It ain’t stealin’, boy…looky, he has it just tossed about his yard…I’m thinkin’ we’re doing the old man a favor, cleaning’ the place up real nice for 'eem.”
By three o’clock, as the lazy winter sun began it’s descent, Jimmy hammered the last rusty nail into the tin roof. Cap got a fire going in the front room of the two-room, 16 foot by 18 foot shack, and invited Jimmy in for a cup of hot coffee and some pound cake. Jimmy gladly accepted, and when Cap asked him what he needed to pay Jimmy, he simply said, “Another piece of pound cake will be more than enough.”
“Sonny, I don’t know where you come from, but I’m awfully glad you’re here. Listen, you come back and see me in the season. I’ll cook you up a fresh catch like you ain’t never tasted before. Only then will we be square.”
“I’ll take you up on that, Cap. I sure will."


It was as wretched and lousy a morning as it could possibly get for Detective Bill Riggins. He coughed and choked and wheezed with alcohol-stinking gasps as he smashed the ringing alarm clock down hard on the bare wood floor. The air was thin and cold and heavy with icy stabs of bone-chilling dampness and the sky was a dead slate of rank gray mud, a typical November day in the asshole of the world, Camden, New Jersey.

Clouds shielded the sun like a musty army blanket on the Delaware River, casting a dull, dank dread over the gray-black stripped-down trees and mangled remains of crabgrass and trash. The vacant lot across from his room seemed littered with even more garbage and bums than usual, and the old Dodge Dart that lived (or died) there was now missing all its wheels, all its trim, and all its glass.


Rocco stepped into the doorway. He started to shiver immediately from the intense cold, but tried to just ignore it long enough to catch a glimpse of the alleged horrors waiting in the basement. Riggins stepped in behind him with the spotlight over his shoulder shining down the steps. There were only six steps leading down, but the staircase turned and the last four were out of sight, making it a perfect place for a predator to hide. Riggins kept this in mind, and loosened the strap in his shoulder rig…his Colt was now in his hand, held close to his body.
Rocco took the steps easy and slow. They creaked and cracked under his weight, but he continued down in spite of their objections. As he turned the corner to make the last of the steps, the basement started to come into view.
Riggins didn’t need the spot. There was plenty of light to see by down there.
Rocco stood on the fifth step, frozen, his eyes fixed on the scene below. Riggins came up close behind him, lowering the light as it only made dull shadows in the green brightness. He felt his heart pound in his chest again, and his breathing became labored and heavy. He wondered if he should see a doctor about that, now that he was in his 50’s, that is if he made it out of Hell House alive.
The green glow grew more intense. Rocco remained frozen. Riggins looked around, realized where the light was coming from, and returned his gaze to the floorshow.
The light was coming from the floor. It was the floor, and it radiated up over the walls and around the ceiling like a fog.
Below it, covering the floor of the basement from one end of the other, were dieing animals of every kind. There were dogs and squirrels, cats, bats, birds and rabbits, a few foxes, and lots of rats. They were all squirming around on top of each other, clamoring over the bones and carcasses of previous prey, trying desperately to get to the windows, but they were being held down by a force…a being…something…that had drawn them there for its own malevolent purpose.
In the center of it all was an entity, a misty black mass in the vague shape of a man.

But it was no man.


Please direct comments to Chris@StarDustMysteries.com

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"Murder Behind The Closet Door" is written in seven parts, with each part having its own distinctive 'feel' while maintaining the overall cohesiveness of style that intertwines with and compliments the story.

Although the story is told in third person, it is told by the point of view of each character as they reflect on the events in their own voice. This made the story a lot of fun to write, and to read. Through this style the reader encounters many unexpected and interesting changes in the form in which the story unfolds, often gaining insight into the characters' secret inner thoughts that ultimately motivate them toward the story's climax.

As a playwright, my main focus was on creating realistic yet interesting characters with motivation to forward the plot. I applied that experience to the characters in "Behind the Closet Door" to bring each of them a high level of individuality. i've drawn on real life experiences with people I've known over the years to create believable people to propagate the story. Through the use of speech style, accents, and thought processes, each character comes to life as a real thinking and acting person. At no point do my characters make contrived decisions in order to conveniently 'fit into' the plot...As I wrote, my characters made decisions based on the action taking place, and those decisions dictated the progression of the plot, adding to the spontaneity and charm of the book.




If you like what you see, you can pick up a copy at Murder Behind The Closet Door

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Christopher Pinto's Star Dust Mysteries • All content ©2009