The Blood on His Sleeves (Flash Fiction)

I wasn’t expecting to meet him like that. When I’d received the call from a Keeper that my intended was at the station I wasn’t sure what to do. Ideally my father should have taken the call, but he was off at the train station, where he was to pick my intended up. How had he ended up in a Keeper’s custody?

I pulled on my sensible navy wool driving coat over my practical lavender day dress, checked to make sure my driving goggles were still in my reticule, and summoned our driver to take me to the station. Belatedly I cursed my foolishness and had the butler send for a public car. It would not do for me to arrive at the station in a hackney cab.

He was sitting in the chair with a Keeper standing at his back.

“You must be Mr. Garrison.”

“John.” He inclined his head with no trace of a smile. If I stared at his whiskerless cheeks, I could ignore the drying blood on his shirtsleeves. He looked at ease sitting under the watchful gaze of the Keeper.

“What is going on here? I thought my father was to meet you at the train station?” My gaze flicked between my intended and the Keeper and then back down to John’s shirtsleeves.

“Your father is dead, Miss Thornbridge.” They were the first words I ever heard my intended say. An ill omen for our future union.

“Dead? But that cannot be. He left for the train station but an hour ago.”

“How did he die?”


“I do not find this amusing, Sir.”  I prided myself on not rising to his bait.

“Mr. Garrison speaks too hastily, miss. It has not been conclusively determined that he was murdered.”

“My father did not have enemies. Who would murder him?” My eyes narrowed as I caught the Keeper’s gaze dart down to my intended before returning to mine. “Surely you cannot think to blame Mr.—John—for this?”

“Judgment will be withheld until all evidence is furnished.”

“Innocent until proven guilty.” John Garrison rose from his chair. “I believe you said I was free to go once Miss Thornbridge arrived?”

“Don’t leave town. I’m sure we’ll have more questions.” The Keeper sounded reluctant to let him leave.

“Shall we go become better acquainted, Miss Thornbridge?” John held his blood splattered arm out to me.

I reflexively took a step back. “I should say my respects to father.”

“Of course, Miss Thornbridge.” John settled back down on the chair.

The coroner’s office in the basement of the station was kept uncomfortably cool and I wrapped my arms tightly about myself. I dismissed the Keeper. I could not face my father with an audience. He was the only body in the room, laid out on the table with a sheet draped over him.

I straightened my spine, clenched my jaw, and inhaled deeply through my nose. It took six agonizing steps for me to reach his side. Slowly, I pulled back the sheet and stared down at a face I knew better than my own. Even bloody and mangled, it was familiar. I choked down a sob.


The sheet slipped through my fingers. I stumbled back and fell to my knees.

Who would kill my father?

The door creaked open. “I asked to be left alone!” My voice cracked and sounded shrill in my ears. Were those tears spilling down my cheeks?

“Your driver is here, Miss Thornbridge.”

I struggled to my feet, my eyes squeezed shut—as if that would protect me from the truth. When my back was to my father I asked. “What was… how did he die?”

“He fell in front of the train, miss.”

“Fell? Or was he pushed?”

“You said it yourself, miss, your father did not have any enemies.”

* * *

I smiled politely at the driver as John assisted me into the automobile. As soon as we were settled, the engine purred to life and we rolled away from the station. “How did you manage to bloody your sleeves, sir?”

I could feel his hand hot on mine. “Do you expect me to admit to murder, Miss Thornbridge? If so, you will be waiting a long while.”

“You are convinced that he was murdered, though?”

“I am convinced that the Keepers believe me responsible.”

“I am not. If they believed you a murderer, they would have kept you in a holding cell.”

“If you turn up dead on the morrow, Miss Thornbridge, they will know to arrest me.”

“And if I do not?”

He quirked his lips, “Then perhaps they will begin searching for his true murderer.”

I looked about, not recognizing the dark streets. “Driver, you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere.”

“Four years in your father’s employ and still you call me driver.” The man spat, turning to reveal a pistol in his hand. “Out of the car.”

“Do you plan to strand me here?” I demanded.

“Don’t be stupid.”

My blood ran cold and for a brief moment I considered disobeying him.

“Keep your eyes closed, Miss Thornbridge,” John murmured as he assisted me from the car. I stumbled as I stepped blindly into the alley. A shot rang out behind me. Just one.

I opened my eyes and turned around. If my father’s driver was going to kill me, I wanted to face him head on.

John stood there with a gun in his hand, smoke still wafting from the barrel. The driver slumped over the back of the seat.


He lowered the gun and turned slowly. “I apologize for the deception, Miss Thornbridge, it was necessary that you remain leery of me so that your father’s murderer could be discovered.”

“Who are you?”

“Keeper John C. Garrison, Miss Thornbridge.”

A Keeper.

Luckily, there was a tried and true response to such situations, handed down from woman to woman for generations on end. I fainted.

At the age of six, Eliza was certain of two things. The first was that she had stories to tell. The second was that she had no talent for illustrating them herself. Talent or no, she still wrote and illustrated her first book, one that should be located and locked away if only to prevent her parents from embarrassing her terribly by showing it off alongside baby pictures. Now she spends her days writing stories that she isn't embarrassed to show off after a little bit of polishing.


  • Nancy Cayton Myers says:

    Great job, Amanda!

  • Muriel says:

    I’ve been thinking about this story ever since I read it on the day it came out. The two things that stuck with me are the use of slang without needing to explain it (i.e.Keeper) and the descriptions of things in opposites that go together (like the practical lavender dress.) Love it. Thanks for making a good story and sharing it.

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