The Business of Murder

Daily Deviation
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By J2571   |   
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"Well, now that we're through with the pleasantries, Mr. Daniels, I must ask: Why is it that you want to die?"

Joseph Daniels sighed and slumped down in his seat, the picture of unkemptness. His face looked tired, with large bags underneath his eyes and at least three days' worth of stubble. His hair was a mess, his clothes were disheveled. He seemed to exude an aura of despair.

He surveyed the room he was in, which was quite his opposite: neat, orderly, unremarkable. Blank, white walls, some filing cabinents, three windows looking out on downtown. He was sitting in a plain, wooden chair in front of a plain, wooden desk with merely a fake houseplant and laptop on top.

The woman behind the desk, typing notes on the laptop, was similarly forgettable. She was dressed in a black pantsuit, her dark brown hair in a bun. Her eyes were blue, but otherwise ordinary. She wore little makeup on her plain face. She was as unremarkable as the room, which was how she liked it.

She had introduced herself only as Jane.

Finally, Daniels met her inquisitive gaze and spoke.

"Well...I suppose it boils down to the economy. I've been laid off five times, I can't get a decent job since I didn't go to college...I don't know. I have a wife and three kids, but more and more I think they'd just be better off without me.

Jane noted this all on the laptop, then turned back to Daniels.

"Generally, a family does not do well without a father, Mr. Daniels. Why are you so sure that your death would be a boon?"

"I've still got life insurance from my last job. If I were gone, they'd get some money, be able to get by. Maybe Mary...my wife...could get hitched with one of her old high school boyfriends who are always dropping by. They seem pretty well off."

"Why not just run away? Disappear and start somewhere fresh?"

"The guilt...listen, I didn't want all these questions. I want to die."

Jane nodded.

"Very well. I was only curious. Now, would you like your death painless or..."

"Painless," Daniels blurted out, wincing.

Jane nodded again.

"That is the most popular option. We won't judge you for it. Now, let's see here..."

She looked intently at the laptop.

"It looks like we could arrange your death around...next Thursday."

This startled Daniels.

"You...You're telling me when I'll die?"

Jane laughed.

"Oh dear, no Mr. Daniels. Just giving you a window. We wouldn't want you overly stressed, after all, and a definite date might make you act...strangely. You won't see it coming, but rest assured: we never miss an appointment."

Daniels relaxed, but not entirely.

"So, is there anything else?" he asked.

"No, I think we have everything we need here. Thank you for your business Mr. Daniels. You are free to leave."


Back on the street, Daniels entered a cab.

"1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Please."

The cab driver turned around.

"We both know you don't live there, Joe."

Daniels laughed, a smile crossed his face.

"Yeah, but it makes for a good code phrase, don't you think?"

They laughed for a few more seconds.

"You know Frank, that was the damn scariest thing I've ever done. I know journalists are supposed to take risks, but...damn..."

Frank put his arm on Daniels' shoulder.

"Don't worry man, the worst of it is over. Once we break this story on the death clinic, we'll all be able sleep easier, eh?"

Daniels nodded.

"Yeah, I suppose you're right."


The front page next Wednesday read:

"Journalist killed in car bombing."

The story reported that Joseph Daniels, reporter for The Times, was killed at 8:00 a.m. the previous day when he turned the ignition in his car and set off a bomb hidden inside. At his funeral, fellow Times reporter Frank Weatherby gave a eulogy, and revealed that Daniels had been on the verge of releasing a story on an organization called Planned Homicide, which was supposedly responsible for the recent deaths of local figures.

The story was posted alongside Daniels' obituary, and police immediately looked into the matter. All personnel in the building were arrested, though the believed leader of the shadowy business, a woman only known as Jane, was not found.


Three months later, an unmarked black van pulled into the driveway of 300 Elm Street, the former residence of the late Joseph Daniels. The time was 4:00 a.m. A man in a trench coat and fedora got out of the van, which then pulled away. The man walked to the door, took out a set of keys, then unlocked the deadbolt and entered the home. He slowly crept through the dark house, stopping in the kitchen, where he removed his hat.

Suddenly, the lights came on.

"Don't move!" yelled Mary, the widow of Daniels. She was in a pink bathrobe, her hair an unruly mess. Her eyes were red from the tears she shed over her husband each night. A gun was held in her quivering hands.

The man had his back to the gun. Slowly, he turned around, his hands raised in surrender.

"Honey...it's me."

Joseph Daniels was back from the dead.


He sat on the porch with his wife in his arms, watching his children play on the lawn as the sun set. She had been angry at first, understandably, but her wrath soon passed.

Just then, Daniels' cell rang.

With an apologetic look at his wife, he answered the call.


"Joseph Daniels?" asked a female voice on the other end.


"We never miss an appointment."
© 2011 - 2020 J2571
Ooh, I was excited for this one. At 937 words, it's just a bit under the limit. Thankfully, I was able to fit everything I wanted in. If I hadn't been able to do that, I would've kept the longer version and submitted something else for FFM.

Critique kthxbai.
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J2571's avatar
J2571Hobbyist Writer

Hey thanks! That means a lot :)

Haywire3's avatar
Write a sequel. Good ending, like a old time radio play i.e. Suspense.
J2571's avatar
J2571Hobbyist Writer
Hey thanks! I haven't thought much about this one since I wrote it all those years ago, but maybe I'll start to!
J2571's avatar
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sampea's avatar
Not bad.
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J2571Hobbyist Writer
Irishfury97's avatar
Wha..I can't...this is..is there a way to describe the perfection I just read? Does proper praise exist? I am literally speechless.
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J2571Hobbyist Writer
I am literally speechless at the fact that you managed to stumble across this two years after it was submitted. Thank you for reading and for your kind words!
monstroooo's avatar
monstrooooProfessional Writer
Good piece, great ending. I think it suffers a little from being so short - it feels rushed, particularly in the final section. I assume from your comments that you're writing to a word limit and so this isn't your fault. Nevertheless, the story would be given better treatment with a little more breathing room :)

My favourite bit is:

"That is the most popular option. We won't judge you for it."

I love how judgemental this is. Deliciously ironic :clap: I might try to argue that the opening scene should be much shorter, so that you have a little more space for the later (and, plotwise, more important) scenes. But as it turns out, this opening conversation is probably the highlight of the piece overall :)

I saw two typos - "Joeseph" crops up once, and you misspelled "apologetic" as "apoligetic". I'd also argue that "the widow of Daniels" in "yelled Mary, the widow of Daneils", is not only unneccessary, but harmfully unsubtle. Other than that, it's very well written.

An excellent piece, overall! Congrats on the DD.


PS: re-reading this comment, it looks a lot more critical than it's really supposed to be - I thought this was a brilliant piece of writing!
J2571's avatar
J2571Hobbyist Writer
Well! I've been away for some time, but it warms my heart that people still care about this (or, cared, seeing as how you commented on this over two years ago).

Thank you very much for your interest and for your corrections. If you're still interested, I actually did rewrite the piece with more "breathing room" (about 7,500 words worth of breathing room, actually). You can find it here (j2571.deviantart.com/art/The-B….

Again, thank you, and have a marvelous week!
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callerofcrowsHobbyist Writer
OH. MY GOSH. This made my jaw *drop.* Stunning, stunning piece. I think I've read through it three times now and the ending *still* gets me. Wow. A very, very well deserved DD.
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J2571Hobbyist Writer
Thanks for the feedback, and the fave! If you like this, stay tuned: more is coming very, very soon.
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callerofcrowsHobbyist Writer
You're very welcome! And yes, I definitely will. :aww:
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To celebrate your Daily Deviation we've featured your piece in a news article here: [link] Please be sure to :+favlove: the article and read the other works featured as well. Congratulations on your DD!
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FatooomeHobbyist Photographer
This is genius!
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J2571Hobbyist Writer
Thank you!
ARTabstraction's avatar
ARTabstractionStudent Digital Artist
That's awesome!!!!!
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J2571Hobbyist Writer
Serenity279's avatar
Serenity279Hobbyist General Artist
my heart nearly stopped. As an avid reader, the surprise caught me off guard ;)
did very well
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J2571Hobbyist Writer
Thank you!
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TehKatieMonsterHobbyist Writer
DAMN! Lol. I think I shit myself.
xD This is good, man.
J2571's avatar
J2571Hobbyist Writer
Thank you!
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