“Jump” part 6

Blog, Life, short story, Uncategorized, writing

-CASSIDY-
It seems to me the only way I can find out what that book is about is by playing detective. The only other person who might know about that book and about Torres is Lionel’s friend, Ashley. Lionel was suspicious when he saw Ashley hauling Torres’ suitcases into a trunk. I get the feeling Ashley is the right person to talk to.
I wait an hour after Lionel leaves. After feeding my mother some bogus excuse about meeting up with a friend at the movies, I slip out the front door and down the street to wait for the bus. On the bus I pick a seat near the back, beside the window. I brought along the photo with the message from the book as evidence that should prove to Ashley that I’m serious.
A half hour later, I hop off the bus and walk two blocks.
Taking a deep breath, I enter the hotel, the automatic doors making a swishing sound as they open. The lobby is sort of dingy with brown tiled flooring and sad yellow walls. I look around, searching for an employee as I walk to the front desk. After a moment, I ring the little bell. “Hello?”
A guy emerges from a door behind the desk labeled Manger’s office. He has dark hair with purple that obscures a large portion of the left side of his face. He cracks a smile when he sees me.
“Welcome to the Clairvine Hotel. Can I check you in?”
“I’m not a guest. I was actually looking for someone who works here, his name is Ashley.”
“I’m Ashley.”
“Hi, I’m Cass. I’m a friend of Lionel’s.”
Ashley looks me over, his eyes softening. “Well it appears he has good taste in friends.”
I refrain from laughing and act slightly flustered. “I, uh, I was wondering if I could ask you a couple of questions.”
“Sure,” Ashley says. “Let’s go somewhere a little more private.”
I nod and follow him to the breakfast area across the lobby. We sit at a table tucked in the far corner.
“So, how can I help you?”
“Have you known Lionel long?”
Ashley chuckles. “We go way back.”
I consider this. “Okay, well I’m just going to cut to the chase.” I glance around quickly before continuing. “You were the one who told Lionel where Torres was staying.”
“Yes.”
“So you know what Lionel was going to do, right?”
Ashley cocks his head. “Yes and no. I knew he was going to steal something that he thought should belong to him. I don’t know what it was though.” He leans forward, crossing his arms on the table. “How do you know about that? I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t spill incriminating stuff like that to just anyone.”
“Well—“ I stammer, caught off guard.
Ashley’s eyes narrow. “You went with him, didn’t you?”
“I… that’s beside the point,” I say, my cheeks beginning to blush. This wasn’t part of the plan. “Look, he found what he was looking for but then he lost it…”
“Did you know you could be considered an accessory to murder in addition to breaking and entering?” Ashley says, his tone cool as he disregards what I just said.
“I didn’t!”
“Do you like him?”
“Lionel? No!” I exclaim, my cheeks burning now. “Okay, shut up and just focus okay? And just so you know, you could be considered an accessory as well. You are the one who leaked Lionel information.”
“Touché,” Ashley says, grinning. He leans back in his chair. “What did you want to know?”
“Do you know anything about this?” I pull the photo from my pocket and slide it across the table. Ashley snatches it up and inspects it, flipping it over and reading the message. He grins.
“Good ol’ Dal Torres. Always had a sense of humour.”
“This was in the book Lionel stole. The book was a fake, it had blank pages.”
“A book?” Ashley’s eyes slide to the side.
“Do you have any idea why Torres would go to the trouble of creating a fake book?”
“Did Lionel tell you what the real book contains?”
I bite my lip, trying to come up with something that’s not as lame as the truth, but Ashley beats me to the punch.
“Ah,” he says, his face a mix of interest and dark intent. “That’s what you’re really here about, isn’t it.”
This isn’t going how I thought it would at all. I need to get out of here, before I give away too much, plus this guy is starting to creep me out with his mind reading B.S. I stand from the table. “You know what, I shouldn’t have bothered you, you clearly don’t know anything.”
Ashley grabs my wrist as I pass. “Why don’t you ask Lionel about all the sporting events he accompanied Torres to. That might answer your question.” He lets go and I walk quickly away. “See you around, Cass,” he calls after me, sending a chill up my spine.
-Collins

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“Jump” part 5

Blog, Life, short story, Uncategorized, writing

-LIONEL-
I hold the book in my hands as I leave Cassidy’s house. She wasn’t happy about my sudden departure after lunch, and even less happy about my asking to take the book with me. After I explained she wasn’t going to be able to do anything with a fake book anyway, she let me go, though not before casting me yet another clouded glare.
I left her the photo with the message though, it’s of no use to me anyway.
I can’t shake my suspicions of Ashley, no matter how much I try. He’s up to something, but I can’t figure out his connection to Torres. Maybe if I pay him a visit, show him the book, and gage his reaction, I might make some headway.
With the idea in mind, I walk faster, heading towards the nearest bus stop. Then something occurs to me. If I show up at the hotel hours after I just told him I lost what I stole, that would look weird. I should wait a day or two.
What an annoying word. Wait.
I let out a huff and take a seat on the bench at the bus stop as the wind picks up, blowing leaves and garbage around in a little circle on the sidewalk. I guess the only place I can go is home for now.
-Collins

“Jump” part 4

Blog, Life, short story, Uncategorized, writing

-CASSIDY-
After lunch my mother finally lets me go up to my room. It was agony trying to eat at a normal pace while I could feel the book pressing against my skin beneath my jacket. I close the door and pull the book from my jeans, holding it with both hands as I cross the room to my bed.
I wonder what it could hold. Maybe government secrets? Details about a drug smuggling operation? Incriminating photos?
My heart races as I crack open the cover. The first page is blank. I flip to the next page. Same thing. In frustration I thumb through the entire book. Every single page is blank. What the hell? I hold the book upside down and shake it. Something flutters out and lands on my covers. Picking it up, I realize it’s a photo of Dal Torres holding up a middle finger to the camera. I turn the photo over and there’s a message scrawled in sloppy writing that reads: “To the idiot who thinks it’s easy to steal from Dal Torres, think again.”
Huh.
“Why do you have the book?”
I look up startled to find Lionel standing in my doorway. “What are you doing here?” I sputter.
“I came to check on you, I felt bad about what you saw last night,” he says, striding into the room, “But that’s beside the point. Why do you have the book?”
“I found it when we were searching for it. I wanted to know what the big secret was. Surprise, it’s a whole lot of nothing.” I hold up the photo and Lionel snatches it from my hand.
He studies the picture, then flips it over, reading the message. His faces blanches and he tosses the photo down and picks the book up off the bed, flipping through the pages.
“See?”
“I don’t understand,” Lionel whispers.
“What’s not to understand? You thought you were smart, but Torres was smarter.”
Lionel closes the book, staring down at me. “But if this was just a fake, why did Torres act so upset when he saw us in his room? Why wouldn’t he just let us get away, why start a fight when he saw I had a knife? It doesn’t make any sense.”
I draw my knees up. “I don’t know.”
Lionel sits down beside me, his eyes far away as he contemplates. “Is it possible Ashley was involved…?”
“You keep mentioning Ashley. Why would he want to screw you over? Aren’t you friends?”
“I thought so.” Lionel leans back, resting on his elbows. “If I tell you about Ashley and Dal Torres, will you promise not to freak out? I mean, you’re already involved, more than you should be.”
“You’re regretting bringing me along in the first place, aren’t you?” I guess.
Lionel grimaces. “A little. Why did you agree to come along? I mean, you don’t really seem like the kind of girl who enjoys breaking and entering.”
I laugh. “I’m not. I just needed to do something exciting.”
“That’s it?”
“Yeah. You thought it would be some elaborate explanation?” I smile, gathering my hair over one shoulder and finger combing the knots out. “Plus my friend needed some help. Anyway, before we get any more sidetracked, you were going to tell me about Ashley and Torres. Spill.”
Lionel casts me a dubious look before staring up at the ceiling. “You are one strange girl, Cass. Okay, where do I start?”
“The beginning.”
“Right, well—“
“Cassidy?” my mother asks, popping her head inside my room. “I was wondering if Lionel would like some to eat. There’s still some leftover souvlaki from lunch.”
Lionel perps up, his eyes smiling of their own accord. “I’d love some. I’m starving.”
I give Lionel a dark look. He’s clearly thankful for the interruption. He really doesn’t want to tell me what’s in that book. But I’ll find out one way or another. I smile at my mother. “That’d be great. Thanks, Mom.”
We get up and follow my mother downstairs. I whisper to Lionel on the stairs. “We aren’t done talking about the book.”
Lionel offers me a small grimace and averts his eyes.
-Collins

“Jump” part 3

Blog, short story, Uncategorized, writing


– LIONEL-

The lobby is a moderately sized space, with a tiled floor and small breakfast area to the left. Ashley stands behind the front desk in his beige polo with the hotel’s logo on the front. He looks up from his computer as I approach, his black hair, streaked with purple, falling lazily over one eye. His lips quirk up at the corner.
“Hey.”
I cross my arms over the raised counter and play it cool. I don’t want to let him know I suspect him of anything. “Ash.”
He looks around quickly before lowering his voice. “How did things go last night?”
I laugh. “How do you think it went? Torres is dead.”
A couple descends the stairs nearby, talking loudly to each other. They come to a stop at the desk a foot away from me. Tourists have no sense of personal space.
“Yeah, can I get a city map?” The balding man says.
Ashley flashes them his best customer service smile. “Sure thing. Can I get you a popular sites pamphlet as well?”
“Didn’t you hear him?” The wife asks in a nasally voice. “Just get a map.”
“Right away.” Ashley pulls a folded map from a drawer and hands it to the husband. “Have a great day.”
The wife rolls her eyes as the husband grabs the pamphlet and they head out the automatic doors. I wait until the doors close before speaking again.
“Things went badly.”
“Did you at least get what you were looking for?”
I frown. “Well yeah, but then I sort of lost it…”
“You lost something that was important enough to kill for?” Ashley laughs incredulously. “Jesus.”
“Were you working last night?”
Ashley sobers. “I had a morning shift yesterday.”
“So you weren’t here when the cops showed up?”
“No, why?”
“Just wondering, in case you had heard anything they said. If they had any leads or anything.”
“Oh,” Ashley nods. “Sorry. But this might help you out.” He reaches under the desk and pulls out my pocket knife, handing it over the counter.
I snatch it from his hand. “Where did you find this?”
“Behind the hotel earlier when I was taking out the trash. I recognized the handle and thought I better get it back to you before someone else found it and put two and two together.”
“Thanks.”
“So what are you going to do about the lost thing you stole from Torres?” Ashley asks.
“Honestly? I have no idea, but I’ll figure it out.”
“Let me know how it goes.”
“Sure. I’m going to get going though. I don’t want to be seen around here for a few days.”
“I understand. Best of luck.” Ashley dips his chin and grins as I cross the lobby and exit the hotel.
Outside, I flip the knife over and over again in my hands, staring down at the snakeskin pattern printed on the handle. I hadn’t even noticed I’d dropped it. I suppose I should be grateful to Ashley for returning it, but I still can’t shake the feeling he’s crooked. What was he doing loading up Torres’ suitcases? Why didn’t the police collect them as evidence?
But what about Cassidy? I’ve been so caught up in finding that book that I’ve completely forgotten Cass’ feelings. She wasn’t prepared for me killing someone and I haven’t even talked to her about it. She’s got to be freaking out. I should drop by her house and talk to her. That’s what a friend would do.
I tuck the knife into my back pocket and catch the next bus at the stop down the street.
-Collins

Emergency

author, Blog, book, death, excerpt, Life, sad, short story, Uncategorized

Out of hibernation, I am. I also now have a working computer! Yay. Here is the first thing I’ve written in quite awhile. Enjoy. – Turner.

 

The steady drip, drip, drip of the tap is the only noise in the house.
No laughing children, no explosions from video games on the TV, no microwave signaling ready popcorn.
The room is the same, the couch has the same print from where he always sat, the air freshener still puffs out the same familiar scent…but nothing is truly the same anymore.
It will never be the same again.
I glance over at the clock ticking away on the wall, I’d usually be in the midst of making dinner right now. Juggling the children and the hot pans as they played around my ankles. Not today…there isn’t anyone to cook for. There’s just me in the empty house that was once my home.
“It’s time, Jill. We need to go…you need to move past this.” A voice comes from behind me, a familiar, yet unwelcome voice. How can she walk in here and act like she knows what it is that I need? She was never a true friend before and her apperance now only irritates me further.
“How would you know what I need?” I hiss at my facade of a friend. Her face pulls into a shocked expression. The wrinkles around her dark eyes becoming prominent. I stand, the anger surging through my blood. All the words that have eaten at me for years, the things I let fester while putting on my smiling face for this woman…they spew out of me. I can’t control them and I no longer want to.
“Get the fuck out, Hailey. Now. I don’t want your nose in my damn buisness anymore.”
Her face turns beet red. “You’re hurt…so I’m going to ignore what you just said, but you need to calm it down, Jillian.”
A manical laugh escapes me as tears press at my lids, I refuse to let them fall. “My whole family is dead. DEAD. The last thing I need is one more minute with you and your fake friendship. You’re nothing but a user, a leech who latches onto happy people until there is nothing left. You need to get out of my life, that’s what I need. Now get. The fuck. Out of my house.” I’m panting after all that. A weight lifts off my shoulders, the part of myself that knows I was out of line lays dormant, which I’m grateful for.
I know she wants to have the last word, but my expression obviously stops her. With one last dagger thrown at me, she turns on her cheap heels and leaves. I collapse back to the couch. The tears finally break.
There’s no one left, I’m all alone. I have no idea what I’m going to do with my life now. How does one come back from this? I let the darkness take me, curling my legs into my body and hugging them as tight as I can, praying for his arms once more.
I must doze off, because a light breeze wakes me. It washes across my face, like a caress.
“Jamie…” I whisper into the nothingness. The sun has long since set, the house is cast in darkness.
I squeeze my eyes shut, just as another gust of warm wind crosses my lips. Like a kiss. Like his kiss.
I must be dreaming, the fingers lightly tapping up my arms can’t be real. I don’t want to open my eyes lest they disappear. This is the closest I’ve felt to him since it happened, since the man who couldn’t control his addiction ran into my husbands car as he was driving our children to swimming practice.
“Please…Jamie. I can’t do this without you.” I cry to the wind. “I need you. I’m so alone…so alone I could just die. Why didn’t they take me too? My heart is broken, the pieces so jagged they stab and dig at me everytime I take a breath. I can’t breathe.” I shatter, the tears stinging as they fall.
A piece of hair falls over my eyes and I swear I can feel it move across my forehead, like he used to do.
Then…two words. Two words in his deep baritone break through the void that seperates us. “Forever, always.”
I know then that that is his goodbye.
My eyes spring open, staring at the framed photos on the mantle..and for the first time in months, I smile at them.

Story excerpt from “Canaries Don’t Sing”

short story, writing

 

They never believe you when you say you’re innocent. In many cases, they would be right, but in this case, they’re wrong. I’ve done quite a few questionable things in my life, but that’s only due to my line of work you see. In this instant though, I didn’t do it. I didn’t murder anybody. I’d been framed. Unfortunately for me the judge lays down the verdict and pounds his gavel. I bet he gets a rise out of doing that.

I sit reflectively as spectators mill out the courtroom doors and into the mid-day heat. The bailiff that waddles over resembles a sausage stuffed into a casing. He roughly pulls me up and slaps the cuffs on. I’m sure they expect women to make a scene or a fuss, lord knows many do, but I’m not one of them. I’ve been trained to be calm cool and level-headed. My partner tips his hat as I pass, a remorseful look crossing his face.

“I’ll get you out of the pen as soon as I can.”

Good old Murray. I nod and let the bailiff lead me away through the door adjacent to the judge’s chair. I have time to mull over the events of just three days prior as I’m searched, stripped, and fingerprinted.

The date was April 29th, 1942. My partner, Murray, and I were assigned to obtain vital information about trafficking of rare gems in and out of the country. The target, Mr. William Tucker, was suspected as a trafficker. It was my mission to seduce him during one of his parties and trick him into confessing. All was going well, I had Tucker wound around my finger. He had a thing for blondes, which worked in my favor. Anyway, I had him in a room upstairs spilling his guts. Murray was downstairs in the party keeping watch. When I’m done with Tucker, I turn to go but he has other ideas. He grabbed me and started kissing me, I resisted and when he became more violent, I snatched a vase from a nearby table and broke it over his head. I checked to make sure he was still breathing, which he was. This wasn’t part of the plan, but nothing I haven’t dealt with before. I went back downstairs and melted into the crowd. Joining Murray, we quickly excited the estate.

The following morning the newspapers declared William Tucker had been murdered. Witnesses saw me go upstairs with him and I came down alone. Immediately I had the fuzz at my door. I cursed myself for not being more discreet. I stuck with the story that I had gone up and he had become physical, which is why I had shattered the vase over him. They asked me to explain how there was a gun with my fingerprints on it at the scene. I said there was no gun. They had said there was and they matched the prints from the vase to the gun. I was promptly arrested. Fortunately I had given the information to Murray so he could relay it to our superiors.

I just have to sit down and shut up and soon Murray will have me sprung. After all, agencies don’t generally want their spies locked up in prison. It’s bad for business.

The bailiff guides me to a cell, pulls the door open and shoves me inside. “You’ll settle in nicely Pearl,” he laughs as he slams the door.

-Collins

Story excerpt from Riptide novella

short story, writing

Here’s a little peek at our novella project tiled Riptide.

 

 
                “Are you dead?”
                I open my eyes and see a little girl in a red and white striped bathing suit standing over me. Her curly hair is pulled into two pigtails and there’s still baby fat visible around her face. I groan and blink the sunlight from my eyes.
                “No.”
                She lifts a Popsicle to her lips and licks it. The sight of food clenches my stomach into knots. I haven’t eaten in almost two days. I shove up from the suitcase and stretch my arms over my head, hearing popping sounds as my joints pull apart. The drooping fronds obscure us from prying eyes on the beach. She must have wandered off.
                “You know you’re not supposed to talk to strangers, right?”
                The girl smiles and rocks on her heels. “I’m Poppy. What’s your name?”
                “Stella.”
                “Now we’re not strangers,” she giggles. Catching me eyeing her Popsicle, she holds it out to me. “Do you want it?”
                I feel stupid taking food from a little girl, but the rock of hunger sitting in my gut couldn’t care less. I gingerly take the Popsicle and take a bite off the top. The taste of strawberries melts over my tongue, erasing the sandpaper feeling.
                “Thank you.”
                Poppy waddles forward and touches my head, patting my hair. “Where’s your mommy and daddy?” Her eyes are large and all-encompassing as she waits for an answer.
                I chew on the Popsicle slowly. For a kid who couldn’t be more than five, she sure asks a lot of questions. “I ran away.”
                She frowns. “Why?”
                I lean back, sinking a hand into the warm sand. “Because they didn’t love me.”
                “Parents always love their kids. That’s what my mommy says.”
                I chuckle at her ignorance as I lick the Popsicle stick clean. “Well it’s a nice thought.”

-Collins 

My short story titled “Weakness”

short story, writing

I was listening to Jaymes Young’s song Moondust this evening and it conjured a scene in my mind I just had to share with all of you. It’s a sad reality for some, that it seems like there are some things that have a pull stronger than love.

 

“What are you trying to say?”
She paused at the door, turning slightly so that the early morning light that seeped through the window fell across her face. I watched her mouth open, then close. She tapped a nail against the wood of the door and let out a sigh. “What I’m trying to say is…”
“Just spit it out, won’t you? Break my heart,” I shouted, pushing my palms against my eyes to keep the tears from coming. “Break it into a million little pieces.”
I felt a touch like the tickling of a feather against my knuckles and dropped my hands to my sides. Defeated, I looked up into her eyes, at the emerald pools that shimmered there. It felt like years since I had seen them so clearly, so precisely that I could make out the minute changes in color, like stones below the surface, glinting in the sun. I longed to stare into her eyes a little longer but she lowered her gaze, resting in on the floor.
“It wasn’t my intention to break your heart,” she said. “I’m doing this to protect your heart from all the pain I’m doomed to cause it. Please believe me.”
She wasn’t making sense to me. She was saying one thing, but her tone implied something else. I glanced at her in confusion. “Don’t leave me. You’ll only hurt me by leaving.”
“You know that’s not true. I’ve been slipping for a while. I can’t keep it together. I’m not that strong.”
“You’re doing great. You’ve been trying—“
“Dianna.” She pulled up the sleeve of her frayed sweater above the crook of her elbow. A dozen ugly purple marks contrasted harshly against her pale skin. She looked up at me hesitantly like I might hit her.
My voice was a whisper. “Mom…”
She backed away from me as if she were afraid her very presence might wound me.
“You were doing so well,” I croaked. “I just got you back.”
“I told you. I’m not strong.” She shoved her sleeve back down and pulled her pack from the floor, slinging it over her shoulder. She looked like some wayward traveller, already tired from nights of sleeping in bus shelters against cold concrete.
I stepped toward her, the image slipping from my mind, replaced by some frantic need to keep her here. If I could keep her here, I could keep her safe. “Dad. We can tell dad together. He’ll help you. Yeah, he’ll help you find a treatment center that’ll…” I trailed off as her expression changed, falling into shallow peaks and valleys. “If you won’t stay for me, what about Mercy, hmm?” I made my voice hard. “What about your other daughter. She’s only five, she needs you.”
“Di—“
I cut her off before she could piece together another flimsy excuse. My resolve slipped from my chest like sand through my fingers. “Get clean! I know you can do it,” I pleaded.
Mom rubbed her arms slowly in little circles. “I can’t.”
“Just admit it. You love the drugs more than us. More than your own children.” My words sounded hollow, like hearing a church bell echoing from miles away. The truth lingered heavy between us, hovering like some thick fog. Neither one of us had had the courage to say it before. We both thought it before, many times. But to actually say it was something different. It had a strange finality to it, like it was the start of terrible ending.
“Maybe I do,” she whispered so low that I thought I’d misheard her, but when she reached for the door knob, I knew I hadn’t.
This was it. This is how it was going to end. She was going to walk out of our lives, with Mercy sleeping soundly in her bed and dad away overnight on business. A trembling began in my knees and made its way up my torso to my shoulders. I felt like I needed to grasp onto her, to her arm, her leg, to keep her here by shear force, but that was absurd. I couldn’t make her stay. My love wasn’t enough to change her mind.
She drew open the door and stood silently, silhouetted against the street lights for a moment. Desperately I tried to memorize her features. My eyes traced over her cheeks, her lips, her brows. They were so familiar but I felt they might slip from memory the next time I thought of her and then she’d seem more like the ghost of some distant aunt I’d met once when I was eleven.
“You’ll be better off without me,” she said. “Mercy won’t have to grow up going through what I put you through.” Her voice broke and she choked back something like a sob before continuing. “I… I love you.”
I stood frozen as she shut the door quietly and disappeared out of my life. It felt cold in the room suddenly and I sat on the floor, curling my knees to my chest. I hated her, but I loved her all the more, and that was what made me hate her the most.
“I love you too, Mom.”

-Collins

Story Excerpt 

short story, writing

Here’s a new snippet from The Collected. Why does it always seem like my favorite characters are the villians?

 

I take the stairs two at a time, but Dach still manages to stay ahead of me. “Dach, wait!” He doesn’t turn or waiver, just rounds the corner and barrels through the common room and down the hallway. “Wait!”
He stops in his tracks outside the body’s room. I nearly run into him at full speed. I grab his arm with both hands and pull, hard. “Don’t go in there,” I plead.
He takes a step forward, into the doorway, towing me along with him. I peek timidly over his shoulder and catch sight of the body. It sits on its bed, legs stretched out and crossed at the ankle. It almost looks… normal, with one hand propped behind its head, the other balancing a book on its stomach. Strands of its hair fall into one of its eyes and it blows at the strands in annoyance.
I realized since the body had been here, I’d never once gone near its room. That’s probably because I avoid it like the plague. The room looks plain, I’d expected a pentagram drawn in goat’s blood on the wall, or a black magic spell book strewn on the desk. For something as evil as it, the normality of the room in which it resides is more disturbing than the goat’s blood and spell book would have been.
“You.” The word leaves Dach’s mouth in a growl, full of heavy implications.
The body quirks an eyebrow over its book and I grasp Dach’s arm tighter. “Can’t you see I’m reading?”

-Collins 

The Paul Series pt. 2

short story, writing

Here’s what Paul sees after Jacob’s conversation with Angel…

 I missed the last quarter of the game. So that was great. My wife also burnt the meatloaf, so I spent dinner scrapping the blackest bits off and crunching on the less black bits. My son refused to talk about anything other than macro- something or rather or whatever the hell he’s learning in that fancy collage we spend twelve grand a year on.

I don’t know this Jacob kid, but I hate him. I watch him from around the corner, behind a giant shrub. He’s bugging that girl he’s sick for. They talk for a minute, and she stands inside, hidden behind the door the whole time. He’s itching to come inside, I can tell by the way he leans forward, shoulders hunching. He must say something the girl doesn’t like, because the door slams shut, leaving him frozen on the porch.

He just stands there for a good two minutes before he slowly turns and descends the steps. He stops at the sidewalk, glancing both ways, his hands balled in the pockets of his denim vest. His face is screwed into pain but shifts quickly into a smooth plain of nothingness. He starts quickly down the street, heading downtown.

Man this kid couldn’t tell rejection from an invitation to a dinner party. Either he’s stupid, or just a gluten for punishment. That girl looks way out of his league anyway, all blonde and beautiful.

I follow him discreetly for six blocks before he enters a coffee shop. Some fancy place where they serve you your drink in a ceramic mug instead of a Styrofoam cup and put root extracts from Mongolia or some shit in it.

How hard is it to sell straight black coffee?

I shake my head in disappointment and pull at the tie I’m wearing. It’s tight around my neck and choking me. My wife gave me this god-awful tie two years ago for Christmas and I have to pull it out of the closet every few months to make her happy.

The door rings a little bell when I push it open and one of the baristas smiles at me, a young girl with shiny eyes. It’s crowded in here, everywhere expresso drinking hippies with their laptops and barets sit in upholstered chairs. Jacob stands at the counter, ordering. I slip in line, three people behind him, and manage to catch the last bit of the conversation.

“I’m sorry sir, we just ran out of that brew twenty minutes ago,” the barrister says. He’s a young guy with glasses and zits who probably spends his weekends studying instead of getting laid.

Jacob’s hands curl into fits on the counter. “That’s the only brew I like. Go find some in the back and make me some.”

“Again, I’m sorry,” Glasses says. “Our shipment of that brew was delayed, so we don’t have any in store after we run out.” He laughs nervously. “Which we just did. Could I interest you in our featured brew?”

Jacob’s jaw clenches and he lashes out, knocking a container of straws off the counter. Glasses’ eyes go wide and he starts to look a little nervous. Jacob grabs his head and shakes it. Damn, that girl’s got him riled up.

“I’m sorry about that,” Jacob says, struggling to calm his tone. “Fine, I’ll just get a large of whatever that featured brew is.” He tosses a five dollar bill down on the counter. “Keep the change.”

Without another word, Glasses grabs the money and pours Jacob’s drink in record time. His hand shakes as he hands it over, liquid spilling over the edge of the mug. Jacob frowns, but takes the drink and heads over to a table in the corner.

The line disappears and I order a bagel, a whole wheat one with butter instead of cream cheese. I’m trying to lose a few pounds. “Does that guy come here often?” I ask Glasses.

He glances over to Jacob’s table for a second, his face getting a little red. “Yeah, he’s a regular.”

“Is he usually that pissy?”

Glasses hands me my bagel. “No, he’s usually pretty nice. But he does say weird stuff sometimes.”

My interest peaks. “Weird stuff? What kind of weird stuff?”

“I don’t know. He once asked me if I had a sister. My co-worker over heard him talking to himself about his ‘angel.’ Weird stuff like that.” He leans over the counter a little. “I think he’s crazy.”

“Thanks.”

With that, I take a seat at the long bar along the window. I watch Jacob out of the corner of my eye. So really all I still know about this kid is that he’s love sick and unstable. Creepy, even. But I still can’t how he could be capable of murdering anyone. I shove the bagel into my mouth, ripping it in half in one bite and chewing roughly. This is such a waste of my time. What am I supposed to tell the Chief when I get into work on Monday? He’s going to chalk up my lack of evidence to lack of conviction for this fucking job.

Jacob shifts in his chair, leaning forward so that his elbows rest on the table. He spins the half empty mug idly with his fingers, his attention on something else, or someone else. I follow his gaze to a middle-aged man across the shop. He sits alone at a table, eyeing a group of teenage girls. They laugh obnoxiously and toss their hair. Most likely going to grow up to be a bunch of little teases. They get up to leave, tossing their garbage in the trash. As soon as they leave, the man gets up, leaving his garbage behind. Jacob gets up a second later and crosses the shop quickly.

I abandon my half eaten bagel and follow after him. The man ghosts behind the girls, getting closer and closer. He’s about to clap one of the girls on the shoulder when Jacob grabs his shoulder and whispers something to him. The man turns his head, his eyes shoot open, the blood vessels in them popping out.

Then, midsentence Jacob stops speaking and turns around suddenly. The man doesn’t wait around and flees across the street. Jacob narrows his eyes at me. “Why are you following me?”

“I’m not. I’m a little turned around here and I can’t find a cab. I was gunna ask that guy if he knew where I could get one, but you scared him away.” I hook a thumb through my belt loop and try to look relaxed. I haven’t had to act undercover in years, but I think I’m pulling it off.

Jacob’s face is plain again, no trace of agitation or suspicion. His lips taught across his face into something resembling a snarl. “Cab’s that way, now piss off,” he says gesturing lamely down the street.

I watch him slide silently out of sight around the corner of the coffee shop. Rude little bastard.

I think back to the pattern of what the disappearances had in common. That guy was going after those girls obviously. Now, whether that was to ogle them, or to try and rape them is the question. If Jacob thought the latter, was he trying to exact his own kind of justice? Suddenly I’m not so sure this kid is what he seems.

-Collins