Trifecta 94 – Looking For Mr Right


I’d been glancing her way for a couple of weeks. Just over there: in the seat underneath the scrolling screen. Her black hair, hazel eyes – mouth and nose covered by the pink surgical mask. Her small, delicate frame made her look like a child. Those eyes told a different story.

Think she might have noticed me. I was so clumsy at this sort of thing. She probably thought I was a stalker. However, my mind was made up. I had to speak to her.

“…Next stop Otemachi…” flashed the sign.

This is where she always got off. It was a stop early for me, but that didn’t matter.

Out of the train, up the escalators. I kept pace. I’d no idea what I was doing. What if she stopped? What was I going to say? Hadn’t really thought it through properly. Typical, but it was too late.

The station concourse was heaving. We somehow ended up at the waiting room near Starbucks. Together. Alone. She stood there. She knew I’d been following her. I approached slowly – still no idea what to say. A single delicate finger against her masked lips said no words were required. She moved in close. She was only a tiny thing. So tiny. So pale. Stroking my arm, reaching up to my face. Touching. Sensing. She gently lifted her mask and began to smell. Everywhere. All over.

‘No,’ she whispered.

The door flew open as a mother and a child crashed in screaming insults at each other. I only looked away for a moment, but she was gone.

As I ride the subway this morning the headlines tell of a man found castrated and garroted at Otemachi station.  Reports were already linking him with the murder of a tiny, hazel eyed girl two weeks ago. They’d found her pathetic, crumpled body in the waiting room near Starbucks

Her name was Mayuko.

As I look up, the seat underneath the sign is empty.

Mayuko had found her man.


These 333 words, based on the third definition of the wordmask , form my entry into the Trifecta 94 writing challenge.

This piece became my third effort to get into the Trifecta winner’s circle, achieving a second place. As ever I am flattered that the judges saw something in my work. 

41 thoughts on “Trifecta 94 – Looking For Mr Right

  1. Jo-Anne Teal (@jtvancouver)

    Such a mystery! A most unusual tale told very well, Paul! I read it several times because, despite the dire ending, I enjoyed it most thoroughly :)) Loved the little details – that the mask was pink, the sniffing, under the rolling sign. Excellent!!

    1. paulmclem Post author

      Perhaps I tried to fit too much in. Seem to have lost one or two which is always disappointing – I try not to let that happen. Something to work on.

      For info story was simply about a dead girl riding the subway looking for her killer – our man is a suspect but he doesn’t smell right. She get’s ‘Mr Right’ soon afterwards. Thanks anyway for commenting.

      1. Quickstepp

        Sorry, my comment wasn’t clear. I actually enjoyed it. It left me wondering about the other events surrounding her death, etc.
        It may have been ambitious for so few words, but I think the story definitely came through!

      2. paulmclem Post author

        Cheers Mel. I wasn’t offended, honest – no need to apologise! Glad you followed the story. In general though it is a tricky balance. I think this idea might be a good 1500-2000 short story. Squeezing it into 333 was ambitious but a good challenge…and I’m always up for one of those. Thanks again for commenting.

    1. paulmclem Post author

      I set the story in Tokyo (perhaps not that obvious I admit unless you’re a whiz on subway stations!) because of the mask prompt i.e. seems to be a common thing in Japan to wear surgical masks to keep out germs, pollution etc. Shows the way my mind currently works that I had the chance to write anything about Japan and came up with dead ghosts on the hunt! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment Kymm.

  2. margitsage

    Nice story. I didn’t get that she was a ghost until reading the comments. (I thought from context that the paragraph starting “As I ride the subway this morning…” must have been 2 weeks later, because I wasn’t expecting a ghost, and I was left wondering who killed the woman after she killed the man. Just, so you know how/where you lost me.) I enjoyed the setting, the sniffing, the pink mask, and I liked the story even more when I discovered she was a ghost. 🙂

    1. paulmclem Post author

      Really appreciate you taking the time to comment. Yeh, the vibe was that he had only seen this woman (Mayuko) for the last two weeks i.e. since she was dead (he’d never seen her alive). The “As I ride the subway this morning” is where the story switches from past tense narrative to the present time i.e. up until that point had been him telling the story of first seeing and eventually meeting the ghost of the murdered girl. In the present time he is then reading about Mayuko’s revenge which happened the day before.

      As I said to someone else it was quite a lot to fit in and get across, and I can fully understand it not clicking first time with some readers. However, that’s not a problem – it’s all part of the learning process. Once again thanks for your comments. Look forward to you returning in future weeks and reading more of my scribbles. Cheers!

  3. atrm61

    Loved this idea of revenge by a dead person:-)Really terrifying and at the same time relieving to find out later why someone had been sniffing at you and why you were “abandoned” so suddenly-a great piece Paul!

  4. Christine

    I think you did a great job. I love the tone of the whole piece. I really liked the detail of the mother and child crashing into the tense, quiet space. Actually, there was an eerie kind of stillness to the whole thing, like it happened between breaths. Fantastic.

    1. paulmclem Post author

      Thanks a zillion Trifecta peeps. As I eluded to in the Trifextra 85 comments section it means a lot that such a revered collective would ever pick my effort as one of the best entries. Still very new at this but I feel my work gets better, bit by bit, each week (not just on the Trifecta), and in large part this is due to the challenges you have set. Thanks again!


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