Flash Fiction Challenge: Burnished

I think I can speak for the whole crew when I say that was the most exciting fire we ever fought.

It wasn’t the fire itself, but all the gold bars we found in the wreckage of the crashed plane that started the fire.

There were nine of us to divvy up over six hundred pounds of gold. We thought we had it made.

We didn’t think far enough ahead. It seems the gold was a payout for an illegal shipment of some sort.

The fellows who were supposed to get the gold came looking for it. That’s when the trouble started.

In 250 words or less, tell us a story incorporating the elements in the picture. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

Please keep language and subject matter to a PG-13 level.

Use the comment section below to submit your entry. Entries will be accepted until 5:00 PM Pacific Time on Tuesday, March 19th, 2013.

On Wednesday morning, we will open voting to the public with an online poll for the best writing entry accompanying the photo. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday.

On Friday morning, the winner will be recognized as we post the winning entry along with the picture as a feature. Best of luck to you all in your writing!

Entries only in the comment section. Other comments will be deleted. See HERE for additional information and terms.

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9 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Burnished”

  1. Title: ‘Too Hot to Handle’

    We were all getting comfortable with our new Humvees. They were part of the luxury we earned for risking our lives containing forest fires…well, not exactly. The solid gold plaque on my dashboard is also a reminder.

    These recent purchases were the reward for risking our lives. Not for fighting a new fire, but for ducking assault-rifle bullets.

    It all started when our team of nine was sent in to fight a new fire. Once on the scene, we realized a very small plane had crashed. When we could get close enough to the remnants, we realized there was nothing we could do for what was left of two very large occupants. However, our hoses quickly revealed gold bars strewn about the crash site.

    That is when, a lifted truck came crashing through the scorched underbrush, guns blazing. We have learned to move quickly fighting fires; those bullets certainly increased our speed.

    From a distance, we watched the three shooters run to collect the gold bars. They were not the brightest vermin, but they learned quickly; not because the gold weighed 600 pounds, and not because that very small plane could ever carry all that weight over the mountain range. No, they learned because they were rushed to the hospital with third-degree burns.

    Yup, that gold plaque is a constant reminder—‘If you play with fire, you will get burned…unless you know what you’re doing.’

  2. Little did my fellow firefighters know that I was not only part of our smuggling team, but I also planned on keeping all the gold for myself. We had put together a master plan where we had Mexican associates who robbed a drug cartel in Mexico (who had stolen the gold from a bank and took their fair share) and hired a couple of ‘goofs’ to fly the gold to Canada. We had made sure there would be a mechanical problem and these two witnesses would crash and burn.
    My problems were twofold though 1) if the authorities found the plane first, our gold would be lost and 2) there was the matter of the other firefighters.
    This is where I had an epiphany early on. I would get the help of the firefighters to move the gold and hide it in the truck, then I would lure them back to the plane with my feminine charms. There, they would blow up by an exploding gas tank (caused by me) with no one the wiser. I would cry, be in shock, and the police would never figure it out. After all, I deserved the gold for all my hard years of service and sexual innuendo within my fire department.
    I am telling this story from my quaint beachfront property in Argentina. I have discovered that gold worth about $950,000 is worth much less on the black market. I only managed to sell it for $200,000 and now I’m a fugitive. The worst thing about my story is…I discovered Karma is real.

  3. Two days later, the excitement still hadn’t worn off. The news that the gold was worth about $600 an ounce just heightened our rush. This meant we had nearly six million dollars stashed. The best thing was, we weren’t going to split it. We were all going to pack up and head to Belize, buy up beach front, and live comfortably the rest of our lives.
    It was the only thing that made sense. This way, no one could go on a spending spree around town and raise suspicion. No one could get in trouble partying or overextending himself. And best of all, no one would be tempted to rat out or double-cross the rest of us. Safety in numbers, just like in fighting fires.
    It was going to take a couple of weeks to get everything in order. Until then, we agreed to keep a low profile, just going to work and then home. We had the gold hidden in a very safe place. It was all together – that made it much more difficult for someone to be tempted to run off with it. One guy couldn’t possibly carry off 600 pounds in one fell swoop.
    We checked in with each other every few hours, and noted the GPS locations of the others on our smart phones. We’d all agreed to these checks and balances. So far, so good.
    Until Devin missed his call-in. I checked with the rest of the guys and they hadn’t heard from him either. We raced to his apartment. I was the first one there. The door was ajar. The room was dark. My eyes hadn’t adjusted and my foot caught on something as I moved forward. I tumbled to the ground. It was a dead guy. But it wasn’t Devin.

  4. If the nine firefighters had foreseen the firestorm they were igniting by taking the gold

    from the wreckage of the small plane, they would have left it.

    Nearly 3,500 miles away in Bogota, Columbia, that firestorm had a name. And it was

    Antonio Caicedo Velandia. Velandia was the head of a Colombian drug cartel. He was missing

    over 10 million dollars in gold. And he wanted it back.

    Of the nine firefighters, John Chapman was, without doubt, the team’s leader. Chapman, a former

    Marine, and combat veteran, made it abundantly clear that they would “set” on the gold until they

    knew it was safe to unload.

    Nearly six months passed, and not a word in the news about any missing gold. Six months. All the time

    Chapman needed to devise a plan for the safe transference of the gold bars into currency.

    But it was also all the time that Velandia needed to track his gold. A track that led him to

    Riverside, California. A track that led him to John Chapman’s back door.

    On the 11th. of December, Chapman received a frantic phone call from Toby Harris, one of his team.

    Six members of the crew, had just been shot to death outside a club downtown. Chapman’s mind was racing.

    Six of his friends had been murdered. Someone knew about the gold! But who?

    Chapman went to his gun safe, reached in and took out a SIG 716 tactical rifle. There was another firestorm
    that had reached it’s flash-point.

  5. “Burn baby burn,” Teddy chanted. He was part of a bunch of volunteer firefighters sent to save Big Thompson that had been burning for days. Some dang fool had set off a mortar and pine cones being what they are turned into snappy little grenades. One learned early, don’t take those little poppers for granted.

    Teddy chased cones that led him deeper into the ponderosa. He sang a tune like he was on a Sunday picnic, and carried on with his task. The acrid smell of burning flesh
    assailed his senses, “Jeez H, what the hell is that?” Dead is dead; whoever was in the crashed Cessna beyond were crispy. His jaw drooped open while Pete hauled up from the rear. He’d know what to do. One more little popper tried its best to elude him as he gripped his hot shovel flipping dirt to entomb it. Glitter snuck through the dirt teasing him, at first he didn’t realize what he discovered and then, “Oh God it will melt, Pete!” His buddy wiped the sweat from his brow, “Gold won’t melt with oxygen, it needs gas to do that.”

    “ How much you think is there? This could get us all off the mountain. No one has to know Pete.”

    “We can tell the boys later, get moving Teddy we got to get it to the ridge.”

    Twenty feet from Buffalo ridge where the gold was ready for a free-fall, sounds of weapons set to engage assaulted their ears.

  6. The knock at the door pounded in my head. I clicked the intercom button on.

    “Who is it?” I asked of my visitors.

    I didn’t need to ask. I knew exactly who they were. More importantly, I knew exactly why they were here. The gold had been worth a fortune, even after we split it all up. Just over a cool million, nearly ten times that altogether.

    A silent static was all I received in response to my query. Not that that surprised me.


    The first round slid into the chamber.

    This wasn’t something I could call PD for. Troy and Danny were dead. Brock, Jimmy, Charlie, they had all high tailed it, left for some godforsaken isolation. Ricky and Dean were missing. Jared was late. He was supposed to be here with me. Too late to worry about that now, though.

    These men were smart, smarter than most of the guys had thought. But the real mistake for these men was arrogance. They thought they were hunting civil servants, guys who maybe went to the range for fun once in awhile.

    I checked the straps on my vest, strapped my sidearm to the velcro on my chest, still loaded and ready. I stood, slowly, and drew up my rifle. An M4A1 packs a punch. All that stood between them was an inch-thick wood door. The first kick on that small protection shattered it inward, the men outside intent on meeting their next victim.

    Boy were they wrong.


  7. Seeing all the gold just laying there for the taking was too good to be true. Like most things which seem to good to be true, the truth is something else altogether. The truth was that we were surrounded by armed men. There were nine of us, only six of them. But the weapons they held changed that math and not in a good way.

    I was sure that they wouldn’t just take the gold and leave us alive to talk about it, but I had to wonder why they hadn’t killed us already. That puzzle seemed to solve itself when they ordered us to load up the gold bars into packs. They were going to use us as mules before trading some lead for the gold we were carrying.

    As I stuffed gold bars into my pack, one of my captors moved in close to supervise. Too close. I spun and grabbed the barrel of his M16 and pulled hard. In his surprise, he jerked the trigger putting three in the back of one of his compatriots. A quick elbow sent him sprawling and I was armed. One click and the weapon was in shake n’ bake. I cut their advantage considerably within ten seconds and in other ten we had turned the tables. Leaving them out there alive would be a problem so after we tied them up I clicked my radio on, gave the coordinates, and reported we would be setting a backfire before mopping up.

  8. The trouble started not just for us. It was one of them whose chest was crushed by a hurtling, head-sized rock. His assault rifle dropped to the ground. He dropped to the ground.


    Our attackers shot Henry from ambush. Then came the stone.

    I slipped behind a boulder. That stone had been propelled at baseball speed.

    I didn’t see the destruction. Using the boulder I’d hidden behind as cover, I fled down the mountainside. Your life is not worth any amount of gold. The rest of the crew obviously felt the same way.

    When we reached base camp, we struggled with whether to tell the authorities or take a chance on finding some gold left hidden.

    “You won’t get me back up there,” said George. “Not for all the gold in the world!”

    “Those guys won’t hang around once they have the gold,” said Johnny.

    “But they night come huntin’ fer us. As witnesses,” suggested Malcolm.

    “Not them,” said George. “Th’ hairy thing what throwed them rocks.”

    George described the rock hurler.

    “Th’ fire must’ve woken ’im up and made ’im angry.”

    “Why didn’t he attack us?”

    “He saw us put th’ fire out.”

    “Or her.”

    Everyone spoke at once.

    We decided to see if the gold was still there. Six dead gunmen were there. But no weapons. And no gold.

    “You can go lookin’ for that gold,” I said. “If she wants it, let her keep it.”

    “Or he,” someone said.

    We trudged back to base camp.

    The world is full of nastiness mama warned. Benny already knew that. He watched the fire fighters push back flames taller than the highest evergreens to save their neighborhood. A futile battle; there were no homes left. Blackness everywhere he did not want to see but opened his eyes to look up for guidance. Like blinds against fierce sun glare, Mama’s eyes were shut fast too.

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