Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Issue #2: August 2010

by David Cranmer

“Remember, Frank, we have very little oxygen left. So this will have to be the final run-through of your act.” He paused, looking at the magician, “You sure you don’t want me to go down with you again?”

“I love the way you practice your lines, Jay, even when there’s no audience present.” Frank Oliver eyed the brown-haired, muscle-bound assistant with a smirk. “I’ll be fine.”

Jay Wiedlin ignored his boss’s condescension as he wrapped the showman’s feet in chains and snapped the padlock in place. “Sure, whatever, but bear in mind, you don’t want to live up to your stage name.”

Frank cringed at the thought of the paper’s headline if he drowned. Early in his career, an envious fellow conjurer had nicknamed him The Great Whydini as in “why’d he do that?” and the moniker stuck.

The magician looked at the air tank leaning up against the boat’s starboard side. “Nope, you can forget about that one. It’s pretty much spent, and the others are dead. So, for safety, this is the last rehearsal until tomorrow morning when I can get all the tanks refilled. Then we can hit it hard and heavy again.”

“Save your breath, Jay. The Little Whydini never listens and that’s why we will always be third rung,” a voice sang out from behind.

Both men turned to face Angela, Whydini’s wife—and Jay’s lover. At forty-two she was holding admirably onto twenty-nine with her shoulder-length blonde hair and wrinkle-free skin. Her voluptuous, tan physique had graced the current men’s magazines like Wink and Frolic more than once.

She sauntered over in her band aid of a bikini and presented her husband with a key.

“Don’t forget this or you will have one hell of a time.”

Whydini sneered and plucked the key from her hand, their eyes met and held in recognition of the love that was long gone. The beginning of the end had been clear to both—a drunken threesome with Jay after a successful late night show. Jay’s toned body and prowess had tipped the scale until wife and assistant began stealing more meaningful moments alone.

The magician turned back to the matter at hand. The boat floated above twenty feet of water on Cayuga Lake, Whydini’s favorite New York retreat to test new death-defying tricks. He slipped the key in his mouth and rhythmically swallowed it. Jay handcuffed the magician’s wrists together in front of him and then helped lower his boss chained to cinder blocks overboard, letting gravity do the rest.

As Whydini plummeted through the clear blue water, he considered his dilemma with his wife. He had never been a sex hound like Angela—his career had always been his main priority and he knew his wife was a big part of that success. The public lapped up the image of the sexy couple deeply in love with each other. He couldn’t leave her, their image together was too important to his success. And yet he had been unable to keep her happy. They were just too different. As his feet landed on the rocky bottom he realized that for better or worse Angie and he were locked together like the chains that bound his feet.

He checked his water-resistant watch counting down the minutes. Time to retrieve the key to unlock the handcuffs and then the chains securing his feet. During the last practice, the clock had run down to the last available second so he knew he had no time to spare this rehearsal. Right now, breath-control and getting used to the weight and descent were most important.

He cleared his mind and used his throat muscles to regurgitate the key. After several sinuous waves, he felt the metal crown up into his mouth. He passed it between his lips and watched the key drift to the lake bottom.


On deck Angie pulled Jay aside and wrapped her arms around him.

“Not here.” He started to pull away but she embraced harder, grabbing his crotch.

“Yes, here.”

“We need to be watching in case...”

“Oh, c’mon. You have time for a blowjob.”

Jay peered at the stopwatch, the seconds ticking away, and nervously looked around.

“Make it quick.”


Whydini inserted the key in the lock but it wouldn’t turn. He jiggled it back and forth. He tried again. Fuck! He looked up at the boat. Where was Jay? Usually his assistant’s undulating silhouette could be seen draped over the side of the boat.

Dread raced through his body as he looked at the key in his hand and back to the surface. So this was her play. In twenty-two years of marriage, Angie had never made a mistake in their act. But he should have seen the signs especially when she had pushed for an increase in their insurance policy. Just in case, she had assured.


Jay pulled up his trunks and headed to the boat’s edge.

“Wham bam, huh?” Angie said wiping her mouth with her hand.

Jay vaguely made out Whydini fiddling with the lock.

“He’s in trouble!”

He dove overboard and in a few strokes reached the struggling magician. He went for the key but Whydini shook his head that it was no use. Jay jabbed a finger to the surface gesturing that he would be back and ascended. Damn, he thought as he neared the boat, they shouldn’t have tried this without a full tank available. The concrete weights were too heavy to lift and he would have to use the winch and cable.

“What’s wrong?” Angie shouted as Jay scaled the ladder.

“It’s the wrong fucking key!”

“Oh my God!” She scrambled through her handbag. “The right one must be at the cottage on the dining room table.”

Jay turned on the winch and swung the hook over the water. The motor rattled and sputtered until thick dark smoke plumed out.

“Shit!” He thrust a life ring and the remaining tank at Angie. “This one has a few minutes left. Get it to him. You said the key is on the table?”

She nodded, tying off the end of the lengthy rope attached to the orange ring to herself, and then hooking an arm through the oxygen tank strap. She stepped off into the water. Jay angled the motorboat to shore and sped off in the direction of the cottage.


Angie dove down several feet, put the oxygen tube in her mouth and began circling over her husband’s head like a shark. She knew it would take Jay five minutes to reach the shore, five to ten minutes to search for the key that wouldn’t be found followed by something to cut the chain, plus another five back. No one could hold their breath that long.

She watched Whydini yanking on the chain to create some slack to slip a foot through. In all their years of practice, he had never allowed for ‘backdoor’ escapes. He was tied securely to the cinder blocks.

And by now, his lungs were almost out of air. As if on cue, his body arched sharply and then relaxed, adrift, like he was sleeping.

She smiled. Tampering with the winch was child’s play for a woman who had spent decades with endless mechanical devices. She even took a further precaution by hiding any cutting tools in the attic crawlspace. One can never be to sure when murdering one’s spouse she mused.

Angie swam toward the back of her motionless husband, his hands outstretched in a ghostly scene. Everyone would believe she had mistakenly brought the wrong key—after all, they were the romantic couple bar none to the public. Though she would still lay it on thick, maybe even make a suicide attempt look real enough to divert any last suspicions.

She inched closer to his right side about five feet away. His eyes open but lifeless. She swallowed an extra breath in a sigh of relief that now she could live her life in peace without ever having to see another damn card trick or, the hardest part, gaze longingly at her husband while the cameras flashed.

She looked to the surface. The boat wasn’t back yet. Another smirk crossed her face. She would use up the rest of the oxygen meant for her husband in the next few moments, place the tube in his mouth and then retreat to the surface to wait for Jay.


His eyes flicked on with revulsion. Whydini lunged at his wife, grabbing a handful of hair and dragging her to the lake’s floor. He snatched the tube from her mouth and wrapped the slack chain around her neck by spinning in a single crocodile death roll. She kicked and clawed at him.

He was running out of time but it didn’t matter. The extra weeks of practicing breath control had paid off. Angie could only hold her breath for a solid minute under calm conditions and with all her struggling she’d never make it that long.

Still, there was enough time in this final act to relish her body’s convulsions and watch them subside before the lights dimmed.

David Cranmer is part of the team responisble for Beat to a Pulp, an outstanding site that showcases a new story each week by some of the best writers working today.  He also maintains a personal blog, The Education of a Pulp Writer, which is an excellent source for news on any pulp fiction happenings on the Internet and elsewhere.  He is currently putting the finishing touches to Beat to a Pulp's first anthology.




  1. Good one! Guess I'm never going diving with David Cranmer.

  2. That's a cool, full story. You've left yourself a good deal of room for backstory, there. Great stuff, sir. Love the characters.

  3. Good thing I had decaf this morning. A taut piece; the threat of running out of air keeps the tension going until the last line.

  4. Well done David! had me gasping for air.

  5. Naomi, Yes, please stay in the boat!

    Steve, Much appreciated, sir.

    Garnett, Thanks.

    Reb, Glad you liked it.

  6. Diving? Hell, I'm never even going to use the shower at his house!

    Nice work, Mr. Cranmer.

  7. Those last few lines are very haunting. Expertly done, sir.

  8. Chris, That gave a chuckle. And thanks.

    Cathi, I really appreicate you stopping by and leaving a comment.

    Thanks again, Rich.

  9. David, that's a cracking little story. Very well written and a great ending. Ha, no man can ever resist a BJ!

    Very well done, mate.

  10. A great set-up. Deliciously malicious characters. Makes for a winning combination. Great story.

  11. David, Thanks. And you may have something there.

    Glenn, Gracias amigo.

    Larry, I Appreciate you stopping by and thank you.

    Denise, My charmer, thanks for reading the story many, many times. Te amo, corazon.

  12. Cool! Two murderers for the price of one.

  13. Ahh, how romantic. Together till the last....breath.

  14. The writing left me breathless, never mind the outcome. Splendid.

  15. Great story David; full of tension and super writing. Thanks for that I really enjoyed it.

  16. Evan, That's the way to look at it!

    Charles, I'm betting the press will paint a rosy picture. Something like they died together trying to free him.

    Dave and Alan, Thank you, both. I appreciate you giving it a read and taking the time to comment.

  17. This is so rich in atmosphere, David. You really nailed the setting and the story.

  18. What I like best about this story is the unchecked human behavior. It demonstrates that people are exactly on par with all other animals. It's do or die, and no amount of potato chips and "American Idol" (or, in keeping with the times of the story itself, Cracker Jacks and "Ed Sullivan Show"..,) can ever snuff the reality of the brutal struggle life actually is.

    Thanks again for letting us all read and enjoy this story.

  19. Great story, David!! Once I started reading, I couldn't stop and the twist at the end - wonderful!

  20. Patti, Coming from you, that's music to my ears.

    Chris, Gracias, amigo. Next up: NEEDLE.

    AC, Thanks for the very kind words and it's a real privilege to be a part of All Due Respect at the start of what I'm positive will be a long, successful run.

    Sandra, I'm glad you liked it. Much thanks.

  21. Awesome story! Very suspenseful and dramatic with a clever twist. Funny too. I only wished that you hadn't spelled out that he was literally chained to his wife in marriage. Trust the reader to make that connection. I loved the symbolism.

    The submission guidelines made me laugh.

  22. Nice one. Oh how the catfish will feed in that lake.

  23. I suppose one can hide so many tricks up his sleeve, and maybe a few more if you're a magician. Sexy and fun with a killer ending.

  24. Nice, quick and to the point. And different. Great work David, long live the Great Whydini.

  25. Sarah, I was shooting for straightforward storytelling here but like your suggestion and will consider it for the Best Of.

    Travis, Spoken like a true fisherman.

    Jodi/Frank, Thank you, both. Very much appreciated.

  26. Damn fine story, David. Great edge-of-seat pacing. I'm liking it, sir.

  27. Very creepy. And I love the unexpected ending. Good job!

  28. Very good stuff. (And I'm always glad to be reminded, however indirectly, of Steve Martin's great turn as Flydini.)

  29. Barrie, Creepy is a good word for this one. I appreciate you stopping by.

    Bill, Thank you, sir. I'm thrilled Bill Crider read my story. And Steve's Flydini on Carson was genius. I may have to YouTube that because its been awhile.

    Brian, Gracias, amigo.

  30. It's a fantastic idea for a murder plot. I really enjoy the men's innocence and Angie is a femme fatale of the first order. I love the way you've planted ideas all the way through - we know from the key being handed over that she's given him the wrong one, we know the BJ is a distraction, we hope to hell he's going to grab her and take her with him (that was where the pace and tension increased) and feel a whole heap of satisfaction when he finally winds the chain around her neck. Nicely done. Thanks.

  31. Sick.

    And I mean that in a very good way.

    Definitely feeds into ones paranoia about being dependent on someone in a time of extreme need.

  32. Nigel, Thank you for the kind words, and I might add I'm looking forward to reading your latest in NEEDLE.

    Thanks, G.

  33. Great story. Fantastic ending.. Revenge is a dish best served in cold water.

    sharon p

  34. Thanks, Sharon. I appreciate you stopping by and your comment made me chuckle.

  35. this is great. reminded me of a noir mr saturday night

  36. Glad you liked it, Paul. Thanks for taking the time.

  37. David, first piece of yours that I have read...certainly won't be the last. A fantastic tale, well told!

  38. Ha! That's one helluva ending. Great surprise there, really enjoyed this one as well, David.

  39. Great twist of the murderous spouse!