This is the first place entry from the February Aspiring Writers Flash Fiction contest on LinkedIn. The challenge was genre: fantasy, theme: paranormal encounter at a ski resort, highlight: a cell phone. Length: 600-715 words.
X-file #227: Last Words
“Mulder, what are you doing? We’re going to miss our flight.”
“Aw, come on Scully,” the FBI agent said over his shoulder, while pointing out his selection to the clerk, “are you telling me you can walk through this cloud of cinnamon aroma and not buy at least one bun to eat on the plane?”
“It’s called self-control, Mulder,” the redhead snapped, before stalking off to the gate.
She was still fuming when he dropped down in the seat next to her on the plane. She sat, with tight lips, while he savored the coiled bun, licking his fingers to get the last traces of the warm icing.
“Can we discuss the case now?” she asked, “Starting with the reason we are flying to Salt Lake City.”
“Okay, it’s a case of communication with the dearly departed.”
“Talking to the dead? You’ve got to be kidding,” Scully said, “Why is that a case for the FBI?”
“Two reasons,” Mulder said, “the messages are recommending actions that are affecting a big real estate deal that is important to the local economy. So the mayor called his senator, who called in a favor from the director.” Scully rolled her eyes. “The communication is coming as text messages, received in an area that has no cell coverage.”
“That’s it? That’s why we’re flying to Utah? What a waste of time.”
Scully was still complaining as Mulder drove their rental car up the mountain. They were to meet someone from the mayor’s office at the abandoned ski lodge. The black town car was there waiting for them, a man emerged as they parked.
“John Osmond,” he said, offering his hand, “no relation”.
“Special Agent Fox Mulder, and this is Special Agent Dana Scully,” Mulder replied, “can we get out of this wind while you fill us in?”
Osmond produced keys and led them inside the lobby. “This is where it happened. Merilee Osmond–no relation–claims she got text messages from her dead father right in this lobby. Merilee is the daughter and heir of Winchester Osmond, who built this lodge. It was the first one up here, and really launched Salt Lake City’s winter tourism business. As you can see, it’s now pretty run down, and the city had plans to tear it down. We planned a winter sports complex to help our bid for the Olympics. Winchester was reluctant at first, because of his sentimental attachment to the old lodge, but he finally agreed.”
“So, what’s the problem?” Scully asked.
“Winchester died before signing the contract. In his will, he requested that Merilee scatter his ashes atop the mountain on his birthday, June 22. He requested that she carry his old cell phone with her and bring it here in the lobby afterwards. When she got back from the tram ride to the mountaintop and came here, the phone started vibrating. There was a text message saying ‘Don’t sell my home–Daddy’–Merilee freaked, and now she won’t sign the papers.”
“Couldn’t this have been some sort of prank?” Scully asked, “Anyone could send that type of message.”
“Ah, that’s where it gets interesting,” Mulder said, “the message came from an account that was created by Winchester Osmond, and the account has not been compromised.”
“One more thing,” Osmond said, “there is no cell signal up here, never has been.” He pulled out his own cell, “check for yourself.” Mulder and Scully pulled out their own cells and verified that there were zero bars.
“Here’s the phone itself,” Osmond handed them a sealed plastic bag. “No one has touched it since Merilee got the message. Please find an explanation for this, so we can get Merilee to approve the sale.”
Back at the hotel, Scully did some research online, while Mulder examined the phone.
“I’ve got it!” Scully said triumphantly, “There’s a company called Last Words that will contract to send emails or texts after your death. Winchester’s accounts show a payment to them. That’s got to be the source of the text.”
“What about the lack of signal?” Mulder asked.
“On June 22, magnetic waves from a solar flare reached earth and boosted signals for that one day. No mystery, case solved.”
“Except for one thing,” Mulder said, “there’s no battery in this phone.”