You’ll need to go HERE to read Chapter 1 first.
Campus Crimes Series: Book 1 – Featuring Darcy Knight, Coed Detective
The professor was in the chair behind his desk, but he wasn’t sitting there the way he normally did. He looked more like he had fallen down into the chair, and it was rolled far enough back that his head, which had dropped backwards, was actually touching the whiteboard behind him.
But that wasn’t what made my stomach revolt. It was the massive amount of blood pouring from his chest and soaking his blue tie and light blue shirt. I don’t know for sure how long I stood there with my mouth open, not able to move a muscle or even make a sound. I hope is wasn’t more than a couple seconds. I couldn’t bear to think that perhaps my lack of quicker action might have made a difference in his outcome.
But, finally, I came back to life and screamed – something. I think it was, “Noooooo!” But then I turned and stuck my head back out the door and yelled, “Help! Someone Help! A man’s been shot! … Help!”
At least it was words to that effect. I didn’t hear any response, so I ran a few feet out into the hallway and tried again. In a few seconds, I heard pounding footsteps coming down the hallway on the main floor, and then a voice. “I’m coming! I’m coming!”
Then feet pounded up the steps, and suddenly the janitor loomed in the hallway, struggling to run as fast as his overweight body would carry him. I pointed to Professor Sommer’s office and said, “The Professor – he’s – he’s –” I just kept pointing frantically toward the office, and the janitor finally got even with me and looked into the doorway.
“Good God!” he cried and hurried over to the desk. “Call 911! Quick!” he instructed me, and whipping out my phone, I started punching numbers. My hands were shaking so badly I punched the ‘9’ three times and had to start a second time. By that time the janitor had checked for any signs of breathing or a pulse.
“I think he’s dead,” he was just saying when the 911 operator answered. I relayed everything to her the best I could, but it was all a jumbled mess. I guess she was used to those kind of messes, because she seemed to stay pretty calm and collected. But then she wasn’t staring at a dead body with blood pouring out if it.
I’ve already told you about my conversation with her, but, finally, after what seemed like an hour — but I’m sure it wasn’t more than ten minutes — I heard what sounded like a hoard of people coming through the front door of the building, and a voice shouted, “Police. Stay where you are.”
Yep, that sounded like the cops all right, but who were they yelling at? They’d either captured some other unsuspecting student who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or the killer had sneaked back in to get rid of me too. Well, either way, I was really glad they’d arrived.
I stepped out into the hallway just as the first two officers were making the top of the stairs. “In here, officers,” I said, trying to sound in control, but with my voice still vibrating from shock.
I recognized both of the men. Sergeant Harris has been on the force at least a couple decades. When we see him off-duty, he’s always friendly and interactive with the people in town. But on duty, he is all police sergeant, and no letting down on the protocol. The younger man with him, Lucas Duran, is newer to the force. And he is a hunk. I know that doesn’t say much about his police procedure, but the simple truth is that several of the girls on campus have admitted that it makes their hearts pick up speed and sends signals to all the appropriate places in their bodies when Lucas comes on the scene.
His dad is Hispanic, and that heritage is evident in his dark skin and his luscious black, curly hair. He has to keep it short for police work, but it’s gorgeous all the same. He’s tall and has shoulders that could move a boulder with one good shove. Now, you’re probably assuming that I have a ‘thing’ for Lucas myself, but you’d be wrong. I do freely admit that he’s an eyeful and a prime catch in our county, but it’s my friend Nadia who is really stuck on him. And evidently, he likes her pretty well too, because he asked her to go with him to the charity dance our police force sponsors every year to raise money for a local orphanage. When she talks to me about him she calls him Lucas, of course, and I guess that’s why I think of him that way instead of as ‘Officer Duran.’
Well, I’m off topic again, so back to the murder scene: Both officers entered the room, and Sergeant Harris went immediately to the Professor’s body to check that out. Officer Duran started for the window to see what evidence he might find there, and by that time, the paramedics were coming through the door of the room as well. It didn’t take long to decide that the Professor was beyond help, but nothing could be done about taking him out of the room until the coroner, Mason Wells, had done his job and pronounced his findings.
One of the paramedics asked about the coroner, and Sergeant Harris answered: “He’s on his way, but he was at a restaurant in Hanover County, so he’ll still be a little while. Just stand by while we question the two witnesses, and as soon as Mason gets here, we’ll get back to your procedure.” With that statement, he turned his attention to me and the janitor.
To be continued …
Deanna Forbes sat straight in the uncomfortable wooden chair. She kept her shoulders back and her right leg crossed over her left knee, making sure to hold her foot perfectly still. That effort, along with the pleasant expression on her face, cost her considerable energy, but she was a strong-willed woman and had had a lot of practice at maintaining proper demeanor.
Her ash blond hair, blunt cut to just below her jawline, was shiny smooth and added to her cool, collected composure. Only her gray eyes darted from place to place, taking in all the details of her surroundings and keeping up with her rapidly shifting thoughts.
“Now, Ms Forbes,” Detective Simon Stone addressed her from the opposite side of the table where they sat in the interrogation room. Her eyes focused totally on him as he continued. “I have here your earlier statement that you were with friends at a private party the evening Peter Crandell was shot, but so far, our office hasn’t been able to make contact with any of these – uh – friends.” As he said the last word, his left eyebrow lifted in a question, and his blue eyes pinned her.
The implication that real friendship was somewhat lacking here wasn’t lost on Deanna, but she couldn’t seem to keep herself from focusing on those eyes – well – on his whole appearance, which was commandingly attractive: dark complexion, black, wavy hair, and strong brows – all accented by the most brilliantly blue eyes she’d ever seen on a man. This meeting was the second time she’d sat with Simon Stone for questioning, and both times his extravagant good looks and his virile, no-nonsense manner, coupled with a surprisingly melodious voice, had interfered with her efforts to concentrate. That wasn’t good — not good at all. She needed all her wits about her for this one.
“Well, Detective Stone, as I explained in my original statement, it was a bon voyage party, and two of the couples were sailing that night. The other two couples live in Montrose, some 100 miles from here, so God only knows where they may be by this week. Besides – as I also said previously – you won’t find anyone who honestly thinks I had a motive for killing Peter Crandell. Why on earth would I want poor Peter dead?”
“I don’t know that you did want him dead, Ms Forbes. But right now we can’t rule out anyone who knew him, and an alibi for your whereabouts at the time of death is crucial.” There was a knock at the door of the interrogation room, and Stone got up to answer it. After the briefest whispered conversation, he turned to Deanna. “Excuse me a moment, Ms Forbes. I’ll be right back with you.” He then stepped out into the hall to continue the conversation.
After a good five minutes, he returned with a smile on his face. “Well, good news: “ he said, closing the door and returning to his seat at the table, “our men have finally made contact with one of the couples from the bon voyage party. They have corroborated your alibi completely, so it looks as though you’re free to go. I’m sorry we had to detain you so long.”
Deanna smiled widely. “That is good news, Detective. And I’m glad to know you think so too. I’d hate to have you believe I was guilty of such a terrible act as shooting someone.”
“Just because we question a person doesn’t necessarily mean we believe they committed the crime, Ms Forbes. But in cases like this, there are usually a number of people who are possible suspects until we can find good reason to eliminate them from the list.”
“I understand, Detective Stone. But I want to make sure I have the facts right: You are saying that your department no longer consider me a suspect in the shooting of Peter Crandell. Is that correct?”
Stone smiled. “You are correct, Ms Forbes,” he said and rose from his chair.
Deanna rose as well, and on a sudden impulse, she said, “Well … now that we’ve got all that matter cleared up, I wonder if you might consider having dinner with me tomorrow evening, Detective Stone. I feel I’d like to get to know you better.”
Stone’s first response was one of surprise, but it registered only momentarily. His easy smile replaced it, a smile that reached his eyes, and Deanna suddenly realized that it was that smile that came from deep inside of him that made him particularly attractive.
“I should be free tomorrow evening ─ barring some unexpected homicide, that is,” he said with a grin. “Do you have a particular place in mind?”
“I like dining at The Captain’s Table in the restored lighthouse a little south of the city. Do you know it?”
“Yes, I’m familiar with it. I enjoy it myself. Shall I pick you up?”
“It’s probably better if I meet you there. Say 7:00?”
“Fine. I’ll look forward to it, Ms Forbes.”
Deanna smiled widely again. “Why don’t you just call me Dee? All my friends do, and I think we could become friends now that this nasty murder business is behind us.”
“Well, then, Dee,” he said moving to the door and holding it open for her, “I’ll see you at The Captain’s Table at 7:00 tomorrow evening.”
“Good bye Detective Stone.” She smiled again and gave him a questioning look. “Perhaps you’ll give me permission to call you Simon when we meet for dinner.”
“Perhaps I shall,” he answered with a teasing grin. Deanna turned and walked out of the office and exited the police station without looking back. Keeping her back straight and her head up was second nature to her; smiling at everyone she passed didn’t come quite so naturally. However, she was determined not to let that smile slip until she was well out of sight of any law enforcement officers.
Simon Stone returned to his own desk and filled out his report on the interrogation – but he didn’t sign off on it. Instead, he entered Deanna Forbes’ name into a data base he used only when the normal sites failed to give him satisfactory information. He waited, holding his breath.
In the meantime, Deanna Forbes sat behind the wheel of her Lexus. Driving back to her home, she questioned her own sanity. Why on earth had she invited Simon Stone to dinner? Well, she knew the answer on the surface, of course: he was stunning, sexy, and captivating. He was also dangerous, but she had lived with danger most of her life.
Having been raised by a drunken father who came home to beat up on his wife and two kids on a regular basis ─ and then living with a grandmother who ran a gambling casino, with all the attending crime element casinos attracted ─ she was no stranger to dealing with danger and its threats to her own peace and security. In fact, sometimes she wondered if she had become too comfortable with danger. Maybe that’s why she’d never stuck with any relationships in the past that didn’t carry with them any kind of threat.
She shrugged her shoulders now. Oh well, her die was cast. She was having dinner with a man who, up until an hour ago, had considered her a possible murderer. Come to think of it, he hadn’t told her which couple had corroborated her alibi for that night. Of course, all six of the other guests had been so drunk that they couldn’t have been sure about who was there and who wasn’t.
One thing about most of her friends: they were so irresponsible in their own lives that they didn’t think twice about checking up on anyone else to make sure they weren’t doing something they shouldn’t be doing. It would never occur to them that one of their guests might have slipped away from the group long enough to put old Peter away and slipped right back into the crowd as if nothing had transpired except a trip to the bathroom.
The mystery continues in book #1 of the Simon Stone Detective Series.
Read all of INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. Available in paperback and digital at Amazon.
Well, naturally, I can’t pass up an opportunity like this. Today’s Daily Post Prompt is the word “sail.” And it just so happens that the main character in my mystery novella Innocent Until Proven Guilty — Homicide Detective Simon Stone — loves to sail. And even though he suspects Deanna Forbes of murder, he can’t deny his deep attraction to her, so he invites her to go sailing with him on his boat, the Blue Swan.
As their relationship grows, Simon finds himself torn. One part of him wants to love and trust this woman who is the first to ever capture his heart. But another part of him fears that somewhere deep inside Deanna beats the heart of a possible killer. Can he solve the crime before he falls too deeply into the ocean of love? That’s the question that keeps readers turning the page.
Innocent Until Proven Guilty is Book 1 in the Simon Stone Detective Series: On target, quick-read novellas for the busy reader who still wants to enjoy stories of mystery and romance. Available on Amazon in Paperback right now, but coming in digital this week!
Book 1 is a story that I originally wrote right here on this blog: INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY
Here’s a peek at what it’s about:
Deanna Forbes is a suspect in a murder investigation, but that fact doesn’t interfere with her desires. And, as a woman, she finds herself attracted to Detective Simon Stone, who conducts the two interviews with her before she is taken off the suspect list. She surprises Stone, and herself, when she invites him to have dinner with her so she can get to know him better.
Simon is a detective with a heart, and, so far, that heart has never been broken. So falling in love with a woman he suspects of murder doesn’t seem like a smart thing to do. But sometimes the heart has a mind of its own. He may be the sharpest detective on the force, but love is not a subject covered in the standard law enforcement manuals.
Okay, all you folks out there who — like me — want to read a “real” book instead of a digital device, I have good news. The wait is over. Amazon now has my newest inspirational novel, SLATE, in paperback. I do a lot of reading online for hours every day. But when I want to relax and forget the whole rest of the world, I like to curl up in a comfortable place and hold an honest-to-goodness “book” in my hands while I read. Most all of my books come out in paperback and digital both, but until this past year, the paperbacks were not available on Amazon. Now all of them will be available there very soon.
If you didn’t see my promo for SLATE (the e-book) several months ago, you probably want to know what the book’s about. So I’ll give you a short trailer here to whet your appetite. Then you can find the book in paperback at this link. And don’t forget: if you do read it and like it, please leave me a review on the Amazon page. And if you don’t like it — just don’t say anything, okay? Thank you.
In response to today’s Daily Post Prompt (Sound), I’ve offered the first few pages of a story in progress. Just a little sci-fi to flavor your day.
THE APPROACHING SILENCE
“In other news today, Dr. Leopold Barnes, director of the U. S. Atmospheric and Meteorological Testing Center located inside the Arctic Circle, issued reports of unusual occurrences of silence in a fifty-mile radius surrounding their base. ‘For a period of eight or nine hours, there was no sound of any kind,’ said Barnes. ‘It was the strangest phenomena I’ve ever experienced,’ he added, ‘and all of my co-workers here agree. We could hear nothing, even when we spoke or pounded on a door.’ Barnes went on to say that the experience lasted only for that time period, and then things returned to normal. Scientists from the AMTC are doing further investigations, and Dr. Ruben Perez, director of the center’s headquarters in Leadville, Colorado, has declined comment until those investigations are finished.”
Ruben switched off the small TV in his office, his thoughts whirling, his adrenalin building. He walked to his desk in the next room and pulled a file from his drawer. It contained hard copy of a report that had been e-mailed to him yesterday from the British-manned testing base at the South Pole. The e-mail had been sent to seven scientists on a pre-approved list, and he’d been unable to get the words off his mind all night. “… total and absolute silence for a period of 7 hours,” it had said.
He picked up the sheet he’d printed out earlier. “Not one machine noise could be heard. We spoke to each other, but could hear nothing and, in fact, had to rely on reading lips and sign language even to do the work necessary to run some tests and figure out what was happening. So far, we just don’t know. But at the end of the 7 hours — can’t be more precise since it took several minutes to even realize that the situation existed all over the base – but at the end of that time, all sound returned and hasn’t fluctuated at all in these past 3 hours.”
That report had come in at almost midnight last night, and now this similar experience involving their own people up by the North Pole today was too much of a coincidence to be coincidence. Based on his experience – which covered the first twenty years of the new millennium – it was one for the books. He picked up the phone, punching in numbers memorized long ago. “Hello, John.” He spoke briskly, but the warmth in his voice denoted his long friendship with the listener.
“Ruben, my boy. Good to hear from you.”
“Same here, John, but I’m going to get right down to business this morning. You’ve, no doubt, been apprised of the report coming out of Barnes’ Arctic base this morning.”
“Yes, I read it this afternoon.” He paused, and Ruben waited. After the slight hesitation, John continued. “Boy, I’ve experienced some odd phenomena in my forty years of research, but this one beats the best of them in my book.”
“Right. I agree, but there’s more. Have you received any word about the e-mailed report from McGregor at the South Pole?”
“McGreggor? No, is he experiencing something similar?”
Ruben picked up the printed report again to read it to his colleague. “Well, I’m on the list of seven men who are kept updated on the work there, and let me read you my e-mail from last night.” He read the whole text and waited.
A long, low whistle sounded through the line. “Man!” Another pause as both men processed the facts they’d encountered. They couldn’t refute them, but they certainly didn’t want to believe them. Finally Ruben broke the silence.
“No thoughts on it?”
“Hmmm. Well … I have to say I’m stymied. No … more than that. … I guess I’d have to admit I’m a little troubled.”
Ruben sighed. “That’s not like you, John. You’re generally the last one to consider something alarming. What’s the difference here?”
John Cartwright sighed heavily. “I think it’s time for me to share some things that I’ve been keeping an eye on – privately – for the past few months. But, Ruben, this information has to be kept confidential until I decide how far to spread it. I’m sure I can trust you – and Soren Petroff. Does anyone else come to your mind who would be the soul of discretion in the face of some evidence that could – just possibly – be world-shaking?”
“Whoa! You mean you’ve been looking into something connected with this loss of sound for several months?”
“Let’s just say that I’ve been checking out a couple of minor – very minor – events that I’ve encountered and wondered about. Now … in the face of these two larger events … I don’t think I want to keep it to myself any longer. But I can’t begin to impress on you how vital secrecy is at this point, Ruben. I’m sure you can appreciate that fact.”
Ruben nodded, even though he knew his friend could not see him. “I do understand. I’m not arguing that point. I guess … well, I guess I’m just still in some degree of shock where all of it’s concerned. But, as far as a good man with a closed mouth is concerned, I do have a suggestion – although it’s not exactly a good man.”
Ruben couldn’t resist a chuckle. “I’m talking about Dr. Lenora Coleman, John. She’s worked with me here in this center for three years now, and I’ve rarely worked with anyone more intelligent – or wise. She not only has what it takes in the brains department, but she seems to have a kind of sixth sense about how to use the knowledge she has to the best advantage for all parties concerned. That’s a rare quality in our work.”
“Well, if you have such high regard for her, I’m willing to let her in on the meeting. But, Ruben, it will have to take place at my home in Denver. I’m not taking any chances of being overheard by anyone else at this point. This whole situation may be one short, aberrant period of atmospheric distress and may have no meaning for the future at all. So I don’t want anyone overhearing bits and pieces and running wild with them. I don’t think we can afford not to be careful with our discussions at this point.”
John’s words were reverberating through Ruben’s mind even as he answered. “Agreed. When should we set the meeting?”
“I’d like to suggest tomorrow morning if you and Lenora can make it that soon. Say 10:00. I’ll give everyone lunch.”
“I’ll check with Nora and get right back to you.”
“Good. I’ll do the same with Soren, but I’m pretty positive he’ll drop anything else when I tell him the details.”
“Thanks, John. I’ll call back soon.”
“I’ll be waiting.”
Ruben couldn’t sit still. He got up and paced his office, hearing John’s words over and over: “… may be just one short aberrant period … may have no meaning for the future …” Ruben rubbed the back of his neck, trying to erase the tension that had grabbed him with those words. Before that statement, he’d felt they were dealing with a weird, but interesting phenomenon of nature that would prove to be one for the text books but little else. With those few words – coming from one of the nation’s most eminent scientists, whose hunches Ruben had learned long ago to trust implicitly – he could feel something else creeping in. He refused to acknowledge it as fear. He tore his thoughts away from the repetition of words and started down the hall to Nora’s office.
The following morning four puzzled scientists convened in the dining room of Dr. John Cartwright. The three men knew each other well since they had worked on several projects together over the years. Ruben introduced Dr. Coleman to his friends and explained that he had briefed her on all that he had discussed with John the previous day.
“Nora told me during our drive here that she spent two years working with Dr. Armond Newman in Germany.”
Soren looked up sharply. “The physicist who received so much notoriety for his work in acoustics?”
“Yes,” Nora said. “He discovered some interesting fluctuations in how sound waves traveled through air and through several other substances when there was a change in the magnetic field around the immediate area in which the sounds were being emitted.”
“But tell them about the experiments he did even after his article was published,” said Ruben.
“I was fascinated by some of the work he was doing and kept asking so many questions that he finally confided in me about some private experiments he was conducting and eventually allowed me to observe them and take part in them. He manipulated the magnetic fields in these experiments until he was able to strike a metal gong with a metal hammer, but not one sound came from it. Or, at least that’s what seemed to be the case. But when he checked the instruments that measured the sound waves themselves, he discovered that sound had been emitted, but was not picked up by our ears.”
“Fascinating,” John said, scooting his chair closer to the table and leaning his elbows on it, allowing him to come closer to Nora as she spoke.
“Yes,” she said. “I was totally fascinated – in fact I was captivated by all of it. “He then called in his dog and had him sit with us as he repeated the striking of the gong. Again we heard nothing, but his dog did. And, as I’m sure all of you know, dogs are capable of hearing a much higher pitch than humans, but are deaf to sound pitches below 40 hertz. His dog heard the gong, but in a later experiment, where Dr. Newman tried several different materials which would produce sound at much lower hertz than the gong, his dog heard only one of those experiments, and he and I still heard nothing.”
“And you say it was the change in the magnetic field? Nothing else?” asked John.
“That was the most fascinating part of the experiments. Absolutely everything remained the same in every experiment except the magnetic field around the instrument emitting the sound and its immediate area. With every significant change in that magnetic field, the ability to hear the sounds changed as well.”
“But physics doesn’t lead us to believe that the magnetic field plays that large a part in the emission and transmission of sound waves,” said Soren.
Ruben spoke for the first time then. “Well, up to this point in time, science hasn’t proven a connection, but you know as well as I, Soren, that one of the things we pride ourselves on as scientist is that we are learning more about the universe and its vagaries all the time.”
John spoke again. “Ruben, you have a degree in geomagnetics. Was there anything – anything at all – in your studies that hinted at a possibility of connection?”
“I did come across one interesting theory, proposed during the early 1940’s.” ………………
©2014 Sandra Conner
This week on “Prompt Nights” Sanaa has challenged us to get our inspiration from Edgar Allen Poe. I’m super pressed with my regular teaching this week, so I don’t have time to write a brand new piece, but Sanaa assures us that previously written work is welcome. So since the theme immediately brought to mind a story I wrote some time ago — and since it’s a story I think even Ol’ Edgar himself would appreciate — I’ll share it this week. (Those of you who have read it previously have my permission to skip it this time.)
The fog’s especially heavy tonight. I can’t see three feet past the door, so I guess it’s a good time to stay inside and write this letter. The lighthouse on the island has sounded the foghorn every two minutes for hours now.
I haven’t been back to the island since that night. In some ways, I wish I had moved away when you did. I’m sure it’s a lot easier on you not having to look out across the water and see that island every day. I know the spot is overgrown now, but I can still pick it out as clearly as if we’d left a marker. And hearing that blasted horn blow every time the fog moves in really gets on my nerves.
Tonight it’s as thick out there as it was the night we buried him. I often wonder what would have happened if the fog had lifted in time for someone to see us digging the grave. But, of course, that wasn’t likely to happen. Once the dratted stuff moves in, it clings to us like a shroud for the whole night.
I wish you were sitting here with me, sharing a bottle of our favorite whiskey. I hate being alone with my thoughts. I’m always chilled and shaky when there’s fog. And it feels as if something’s choking me. I wonder if that’s how he felt as we tightened that rope around his neck until he stopped breathing.
I sure wish you were here with me. I hate fog.
I admit I actually wrote this story last year, but it fits today’s prompt so perfectly that I’m using it anyway.
THE CASE OF THE COPY-CAT CRIMES
Detective Becker pressed his left hand against his temple. It was tender from the pain where a migraine was threatening, but he had to go over this list of people who had received threats in the past month. The letters had all been made out in the same way: typed words that had been cut and pasted – one word at a time – onto a black sheet of paper and mailed in red envelopes. He’d sworn he’d figure out the nexus they shared that had made them victims of such a hateful attack, but time wasn’t on his side any longer, because the first two people on the list had already been killed.
His buzzer sounded, and his secretary reported that he had a call waiting on line one: his superior, Detective Wagner. “Yes sir,” Becker spoke into the phone. “What can I do for you?”
“The press has gotten wind of the fact that eight other people have received threatening letters. They’re pushing for a story, but, of course, we can’t tell them anything that could disrupt the investigation. I just wanted you to be forewarned that they’ll be waiting outside the front door when you leave the office.”
“Thanks for the warning. I slip out the basement entrance.”
“Have you figured out any connection yet between the two who are dead and the other eight?”
“I think I may have, Sir. All of these people served on a jury together about fifteen years ago. The decision of that jury was unanimous and resulted in the death sentence for the man on trial.”
Dead silence on the other end of the line caused Becker to stay quiet and wait. He could hear that the wind outside had started blowing harder, and he knew the storm that had been predicted was almost upon them. Finally, Wagner responded: “You know, of course, that Leiberman was convicted of perpetrating a series of murders after sending out threatening letters to his victims.”
Becker sucked in his breath. “No sir … no, I haven’t had time to research the case yet. But that’s too weird.”
“Yes,” replied Wagner. “And now I think I know who we’re looking for. His brother swore he’d get revenge. But then he got sick with some disease that the doctors said was incurable, and he was hospitalized for years. I guess everybody forgot about his threats. I know I did. But we need to find out if he’s still alive, and if so …”
“I’m on it, Sir,” Becker said. “I’ll call you back as soon as I have the information.”
Two hours later, Becker walked into Wagner’s office with a medical report. “He’s alive all right,” he said, laying the report on his superior’s desk. “And living right here in the city.”
“You’ve got an address?”
Wagner rose from his chair and strapped on his gun. “Let’s go get him and save eight people’s lives.”
Kindergarten was a lot of fun. I made several friends there. I can’t say that I learned a whole lot because my parents had taught me to read books far beyond my age level and to add, subtract, and count by 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s long before I walked into the classroom at Harvard elementary school. But the joy of that initial year of getting together five days a week with twenty-five other kids my own age and sharing our thoughts and imaginations — not to mention our lunches — was an experience I still treasure.
That’s why, when Sabrina McKluckey called me last Monday evening and told me she had searched for me on Google and tracked me down because she wanted to reconnect after all these years, I was more than happy to arrange a meeting. Sabrina had been my best friend in kindergarten – from day one – but she and I actually had more in common that that. We had gone through all six grades of elementary together in the same classrooms. By junior high, though, my family had moved to a new town, and I lost track of Sabrina.
In fact, I lost track of all my early classmates. My family moved again before I had finished high school, and that broke some more relationships for me, not to mention affecting my grades during my junior year. When I got to college, I finally stayed in one place four whole years, so I did manage to make a couple close friends who are still close today. But when I picked up the phone and found Sabrina on the other end of the line, she started talking about things that we had done in school together, and, suddenly, years just sort of slipped away, and I was transported to a happier time and place.
Now, it’s not that I don’t have a good life. I guess I’d call it a basically “happy” life — depending on how one defines happiness. But once we get to the age of responsibility — college days are gone, and we’re struggling to make good on that first job so that the landlord won’t kick us out of our first apartment, and so relatives who come to visit will find more than a carton of milk and a can of sardines in the frig — things just aren’t as much fun. And for me, now well past the first job and four years into my alternate vocation (having nixed the nine-to-five high finance job I’d landed right out of grad school), life was a passel of everyday bills and aggravations, occasionally relieved by an evening with friends or a week-end holiday.
So, back to Sabrina: She said she now lived about three hours from me, so we arranged to meet at a restaurant about half way between our homes and catch up on each other’s lives over a long lunch. When I arrived, she was already at the table. I figured I wouldn’t recognize her, but to my surprise, she really did look the same: Long dark brown hair, perky nose with a sprinkling of freckles, and a sunny smile. She was slender and prettier in a mature sort of way, but definitely still looked like the Sabrina of my memory.
My hair was still the ebony color it had always been, but I had worn it quite long in those school years, and now I had a slick, short cut that lay close to my head. My blue eyes were still the same, of course, and I was moderate weight for my size, so I was pretty sure she’d consider that I was still recognizable.
And sure enough, when I was within six feet of the table, she turned her head and saw me, and jumped up to greet me, calling out my nickname. “Tessy!” She held out her arms and hugged me as I got to the table. I was glad there weren’t a lot of other people close to our table, but I did hug her back very briefly and dropped into a chair as soon as I could. “Oh, you look good!” she said. “And you really haven’t changed much except for your hairstyle.”
“I recognized you right away too,” I answered, and at that moment our waitress approached to give us menus.
Over lunch, we reminisced, but during the conversation, I felt Sabrina was a nervous and unsure of herself somehow. I couldn’t think why she should be, so I didn’t ask right away. But by the time we were to dessert and coffee, I was sure there must be something troubling on her mind, so I decided to just be honest.
“Sabrina, correct me if I’m out of line, but I keep getting the feeling that you’re agitated or nervous about something, and I’m just wondering if you wanted to talk to me about something besides our past. Is there anything else on your mind that you’re hesitant to bring up?”
She looked at me earnestly, nibbled on her lip, looked away, took a sip of water, and then heaved a sigh and looked me right in the eye. “Yes there is, Tess. I wasn’t sure if I would bring it up or not, and after we sat down together, I thought that I’d been foolish to even think about involving you in this … situation, I guess you’d call it … but since I’ve gotten you here and you can obviously see that there’s a problem, I might as well go ahead.”
“If something’s going on that I can help with, please tell me,” I said, not really sure I was all that eager to get involved in someone else’s problems, but feeling more or less obligated to at least act as if I were willing.
She picked up her fork and sort of rolled it around in her fingers as she concentrated on her thoughts and then started to talk. “When I said I had Googled you, it was actually for a little more than just wanting to reconnect and talk over old times. I had heard from some of the other people in town who had kept in touch with your parents that you are a private detective now. And … well —” She paused and looked me right in the eye again.
“Yes, that’s correct,” I said. “Are you saying you need a private detective?”
She glanced down at the fork she was still twisting in her hands and then back up at me. “Yes,” she said in a rush of breath. “Yes. I want to hire you.” Then she leaned closer and whispered. “I need to find out who’s ……………..”
Please go down to the “Comments” section and tell me how YOU think this last sentence should end. I’ve thought about going two or three different directions with this story, but I cant make up my mind. I’d like to know what readers think. What direction would you like this story to go? In your own imagination, what is Sabrina’s problem? Maybe your suggestion will give me the next paragraph — and the next chapter.
Sebastian had said, “Follow the alley until it curves right. Stop at the blue door in the wall. Knock four times.”
Okay, here was the turn. Yes … the blue door. Four short raps. She held her breath. … No answer. … She waited. … Still no answer.
Drat the man! Why all this mystery? Couldn’t they just meet at a cafe?
Lying on the floor inside, Sebastian stretched his arm to reach the door handle. But the knife in his back had done its work. He lost consciousness as the girl turned in frustration and left the alley.
I’ve wondered round this earth for years,
And known my share of joys and tears.
I’ve laughed with love and cried for loss,
And broken dreams like rubbish tossed.
I’ve seen sights soaked in splendid sun
And bathed by moon when day was done.
But ’til today I’d not seen such
A sight that stirred my heart this much:
A giant, handsome, stately tree
Bedecked with ribbons midst the leaves.
Such gorgeous bows of silk, blood-red,
Tied as if on maiden’s head.
I stood and pondered what it meant:
This work of art to nature lent.
Who ties these bows, and why, I asked.
Who set himself this tedious task?
Some lover dreaming of soul-mate,
Who joyous love anticipates?
But there was none who, passing by,
Could tell me who, or how, or why.
And though I stood ’till set of sun
I found no answer; no, not one.
So on I trudged my weary way,
To reach my post by end of day.
But as I went, I sang a song:
Though much in this old world is wrong,
Still someone with a heart of love,
Took time and, with care, beauty wove –
Amidst the branches of old tree –
A gift of ribbons for all to see:
To lift the heart and light’n the load
Of each soul passing ‘long that road.
THE NEXT PAGE
He turned the crusty pages of the 100-year-old biography he’d found in his great-great grandfather’s library – his touch gentle – reverent even – and his eyes anxious. The title – The Exceptional Life of Benjamin Stonewheeler – had grabbed his attention immediately because that name was also his. He had first assumed the book must be the biography of his grandfather, who had been Benjamin Stonewheeler the First, but none of the events in the story were descriptive of his grandfather’s life.
Instead, they described every major aspect of his own life through this current year – his 50th – but as the story continued, he was already another twenty-seven years into the future, living through experiences that he felt he should remember, but, of course, did not. This 15th chapter was recounting one particularly fateful day in that future – a day that found his life literally hanging in the balance – and with only two chapters remaining until the end of the book, he held his breath as he turned to the next page.
I’m a couple hours past the deadline – on my own challenge – can you believe it? But, be that as it may, I have finally finished my story, so I’m ignoring the deadline. If anyone else out there still wants to write for this challenge, please feel free to do so any time this week as well – and be sure and post your link on the original challenge page.
LOVE WILL FIND A WAY
“Gabriel Bay Lighthouse: Antiques and Unique Gifts – Martee Somersby, Owner.” Those words were music to the ears of Gabriel Bay’s newest entrepreneur. And this business, in the renovated lighthouse, was a life-long dream come true.
The grand opening had been a huge hit, and business had been brisk ever since. She even sold fresh fruit and vegetables from local farmers, and that drew even more customers. In fact everything had gone exactly as Martee had dreamed until about three months ago, when she’d walked into the store and found the huge wooden Indian maiden gone.
The sheriff and his deputies had searched the whole store and every inch of the property. Nothing else was missing, and there had been no sign of forced entry – but not another living soul had a key.
“Why?” she asked the sheriff. “Why would anyone want to take just the wooden Indian? It wasn’t even worth much money, but I bought it because it was such a lovely piece and meant something to me.”
“Well, beats me. But I guarantee you we won’t stop until we have the thief, Miss Somersby.” He stopped and cleared his throat. “I understand you keep a gun on the premises.”
“Yes, I do.
“Well, m’am, I don’t think I have to tell you to be careful with it, but if you have any more trouble, I’d sure like to think you’d call on us instead of trying to handle things yourself with a gun – if at all possible.”
“You can count on it, Sheriff,” she’d told him. “I have no desire to become some kind of heroine.”
Weeks passed, and she’d pretty well given up the hope of recovering her property. Her real sorrow wasn’t so much the money involved, but the fact that she felt particularly attached to that one item. She’d loved wooden Indians since she was a child and had seen her first one outside a modern trading post in Arizona. She’d been amazed by it, and her Grandfather had told her the history of the life-size carving.
A couple years later, while listening to the radio, she’d heard the song “Kaw-liga” — the story of a wooden Indian in front of a store who fell in love with a wooden Indian maiden in front of a neighboring. But he never declared his love — even when she was sold. Martee’s childish heart had imagined an entire story about Kaw-liga and his Indian princess, and from that day on, every place she traveled, she made it a point to look for and visit every wooden Indian statue she could find. When she’d discovered this particular carving of an Indian princess, she’d bought it without hesitation.
More weeks passed, and still the crime was not solved. Martee missed her Indian princess so much that she got out her copy of “Kaw-liga” and played it over and over. In fact, she often played music in the store and included that song in the mix. People from the area sympathized with her and stopped by periodically to mull over the possibilities of what could have happened.
Today old Benny Briggs sat with her. Benny was something of a legend in his own right, known throughout the county as a “mighty-fine storyteller.” He often told of the old Indian tribes who had inhabited the region and shared many of their legends – updated a little in Benny’s own style. He sat, drinking coffee with Martee on this particular day and listening to her tell the story she’d made up in her own mind as a child about Ol’ Kaw-liga.
Finally, he said, “Well, Miss, did you ever think that maybe this here Indian maiden you had was the one Ol’ Kaw-liga was sweet on?”
“What do you mean, Benny?”
“Well,” he said, rising from his chair and putting on his hat, “I been thinkin’ about it a lot. Woudn’t surprise me none to learn that Ol’ Kaw-liga finally got tired of livin’ a life without love and came lookin’ for his maiden. Once he had his courage up, when he found her, he’d have just whisked her away.”
“You know what, Benny: no matter how many times I imagined that story, I never could end it until Kaw-liga had married his Indian maiden.”
“Well, Miss,” Benny said, opening the door and then turning back to give her a wink, “I’d say maybe you managed to believe your story enough that it came true.”
Below, you will find a video of the song “Kaw-liga.” Hope you enjoy it.