Short Story Sunday: “Joke” [Part One – 315]

Short Story Sunday: "Joke" [Part One] | Creative Writing | Flash Fiction |

“It was just a joke, I swear. I didn’t think she’d actually do it.”

Detective Dowen cast a side-eye to his partner, Detective Witt. She returned the same look. He wrote something down in his notepad while shaking his head. He always tried to keep a balanced pokerface but it was always difficult for him. His partner often made fun of him for it, but he couldn’t help it. Some people were so ridiculously stupid. He wondered how the human race got this way in the first place.

Their witness cupped his head in his hands and weeped uncontrollably.

Dowen rolled his eyes and pointed to the witness in a heap on the ground, in the middle of the bridge surrounded by yellow caution tape. There was too much going on and other police officers were trying to redirect traffic away from the crime scene. This was not the time for their eye-witness to be in the fetal position on the concrete.

Witt shrugged her shoulders in response to her partner’s exasperated stare. She looked over her shoulder watching the police officers buzz about. She ducked under the caution tape that blocked her way to the edge of the bridge and peered over the guard rail. She gazed into the river down below, not a soul in sight.

Dowen stood beside her and he too looked down into the river. “That’s a 50-foot drop. There’s no way anyone could survive that – even if she missed the rocks at the bottom.”

“Do you really think she jumped because her friend told her to?” Witt asked.

Dowen drew in a breath through his nose and lifted his shoulders into another shrug. “Not to speak ill of the dead or anything, but if she did jump simply because her friend told her to, then they’re both idiots.”

“You don’t know she’s dead yet.”

“Are you kidding me? I just said it’s a 50-foot drop. How can anyone survive that?”

Witt shook her head. “I’m not buying something here. I’m not saying we can’t rule out involuntary manslaughter here, but something’s not right.”

Dowen looked back over at their witness, who still sat on the cold concrete though he didn’t seem to be crying uncontrollably anymore. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and let out a breath of cold air. The freezing temperature as well was another factor. If the victim survived, she was sure to be wandering around somewhere with hypothermia.

Witt stepped forward, ducking back under the caution tape and squatted beside their witness.

“Listen,” she said sternly, “My partner and I are cool to hang out on this bridge for a week if you’d like to take your time talking about what happened. The longer you hold off on saying anything though, the farther away your friend slips from us finding her.”

“You’re allowed to talk with a lawyer present if you wish. In that case, we might as well hop in the squad car and take this down to the station where it’s at least warm,” Dowen added through gritted teeth. He normally didn’t mind the cold but they had been standing out there for two hours now and there were getting absolutely no where.

Their witness stood up, wiping his damp eyes and snot-filled nose with the back of one hand and then the other. He gazed at the ground. “No, it’s okay. I’ll talk. I’ll talk if it means we’ll be closer to finding Alisha.”

“Ah, we have a name.” Witt grinned at Dowen knowingly.

“What’s your name?” Dowen asked ignoring his partner’s smug expression.

“Benjamin. Benjamin Lame. Though a lot people just call me Ben… you can call me Ben.” The witness stammered, his voice drifting softer the more he spoke.

Dowen wrote his name down and mouthed, “Lame?” to his partner. Witt elbowed him before turning her attention back to their witness.

“Alright, Ben. This is a good start. Can you tell us about Alisha? What’s her last name? What does she look like? How tall is she? Can you tell us her eye and hair color? The sooner we know these things, the sooner we can send officers down the river in search of her.”

Of course, they had already sent officers to look for a body down by the river, but Ben didn’t need to know that. They had sent a search party out to check for a body the moment they received the call but when Ben wasn’t cooperating right away, they pretended they couldn’t get any more work done the investigation until he helped out. They didn’t know anything about the victim other than her gender and that was because Ben kept calling her a “she”. Witt had a feeling Ben was too afraid they would arrest him for a homicide. He kept saying it was joke and he didn’t think she’d actually jump. Sure, that counted as involuntary manslaughter if Alisha had killed herself because she was given instruction to. So, Ben was most likely going to get arrested regardless. However, nothing sat right with Witt and she had a feeling there was definitely more to this case than met the naked eye.

“Alisha Thorne,” Ben said quietly. “She’s about a foot taller than me, about five feet. She had brown hair that goes down to her waist and hazel eyes. She was wearing a blue winter coat, it was pretty puffy with a hood that had frills around the rim like an Eskimo. She had gray winter boots that went up to her knees over her black jeans. Is that enough?”

Witt motioned to a few police officers to head down to the river and give an update to the on-going search party. “That’s perfect for now, thank you.”

“Do you think they’re going to find her?” Ben asked sniffling.

Witt looked over her shoulder to her partner, but Dowen was back on the other side of the caution tape and looking down at the river. She sighed and turned back to their witness. “We’ll do our best, Ben. Don’t worry.”

Ben sighed. He sat back down on the concrete. Witt sat down beside him. “You need to tell me what happened though. What were the two of you doing on the bridge? There’s no walking here, it’s only for cars. Also, you need to tell me how everything started. What made you jokingly tell her to jump off the bridge? What happened after?”

Ben burst into tears again. Witt cast another glance to her partner and now Dowen was watching the two of them. He rolled his eyes again and made his way over. He squatted down right in front of Ben and gave him a stern look.

“Crying isn’t going to help the situation right now. There will be plenty of time to do that later. But right now, if you want to help your friend, you need to be brave and work with us.”

Ben sniffled again wiping his face with the back of his coat sleeve yet again. Witt twisted her face in disgust. There wasn’t much that grossed her out but she hated runny noses. There were times where she thought Dowen was too harsh on witnesses, especially depending on how old or young they were. In this case, however, she wasn’t about to stop him from speaking the Ben in such a tone. Dowen was right. It was nerve-wracking and scary, sure, but Ben needed to cooperate if they had any hope in finding Alisha.

Ben drew in a sharp breath and nodded his head. “Alisha and I were just taking a casual walk. We take walks together a lot. We never go this way but for some reason, she wanted to.”
Witt glanced at Dowen who returned the look. She knew there was something more to this case. What made the victim want to come over here and walk across the bridge in the first place? Especially since it was off limits to pedestrians and they supposedly never walked this route to begin with.

“I knew we shouldn’t have, but I listened to her and we walked this way anyway,” Ben continued. “As we avoided cars, we stuck close to the railing. Alisha looked down and said that she would love to dive into the river in the summer sometime. I told her that wouldn’t work because it’s too high up and there are so many rocks at the bottom.” He paused his explanation as he got choked up.

“Keep going, you’re doing fine,” Witt said.

Dowen stood back up and looked down at the witness from his six-foot height.

The tears began to roll down Ben’s cheeks again. “I told her, if it were possible, I’d be more impressed if she jumped in right now with the freezing temperature and ice at the bottom. She said okay and jumped on top of the railing. I tried to get her to come down but she laughed at me and told me she never let a dare go unchallenged. She said she was going to do it. A car drove by and the man got out. He seemed angry wondering what we were doing.”

Witt stiffened. There was another witness? A driver pulled over and spoke to the two of them. She looked up at Dowen and he was busy writing something in his notepad.

“She wouldn’t listen to him either. She laughed at the both of us and told us she would be totally fine. I tried to grab her to bring her back down but she jumped.” Ben burst into tears again.

“Who was the other driver? Where did he go?” Dowen asked.

“He d-drove,” Ben hiccuped, “away after s-she j-umped.”

Dowen growled under his breath. “What was the car like? Did you get a license plate?”

Ben shook his head. “It was silver… that’s all I noticed. I’m sorry.”

Dowen clenched his fists. Witt stood and stepped in between her partner their witness on the ground. “Keep your cool,” she whispered. “He shouldn’t have fled the scene, no, but there are cameras on the bridge. We can narrow it down.”

Dowen nodded and let out a sigh. “You’re right. When this kid is in a better state of mind maybe we can ask what this other witness looked like.”

Witt stared down at Ben, who had his face buried in his knees, his shoulders shaking. “Honestly, I don’t know what adult in their right mind would witness such a thing and then leave both kids behind like that.”

“It’s super weird and he’ll definitely be hearing it from me when we find him,” Dowen said.

Witt rubbed the back of her neck. It seemed as though they weren’t going to get much more out of their star witness at the moment. She didn’t know where they were supposed to go from here. She didn’t know how well Ben’s story would hold up in court if they couldn’t find the other witness and certainly if they couldn’t find Alisha – or worse, if they found her body. It didn’t seem as though Ben had any malicious intent. It seemed as though Alisha had something planned from the beginning, especially since she chose to walk across the bridge when it’s closed. She clearly had some other motive planned other than just taking a walk with her friend. Still, because of what Ben told her, he was going to look guilty of involuntary manslaughter. If it came to that, Witt looked at the sobbing Ben, she hoped he’d have an easy and understanding judge.

She couldn’t think of that right now though. Their next steps were to find this other witness and hear what he had to save and also to find out why he left the moment a minor jumped off a 50-foot bridge. Witt watched as her partner absent-mindedly walked back over to the railing and took a peek downward. She didn’t know why he kept looking over the edge. She didn’t know what he was looking forward or what he expected to see. Unless he just enjoyed watching the police search for some reason.

Witt sighed to herself. Was there any more reason for the two of them to stay on this bridge? Most likely not. She opened her mouth to ask Dowen if he was ready to leave. When she looked at him, she saw a shocked expression on his face.

“Dowen?” she called to him.

“Holy crap,” he said. “They found her!”

I hope you enjoyed the story. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Please feel free to share this post.

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5 thoughts on “Short Story Sunday: “Joke” [Part One – 315]

  1. Nice story Rachel. I love the mystery of what happened to Alisha, and why a witness drove away. Detectives Dowen and Witt play off each other with facial expressions. I dont think Ben will be arrested. His comment about jumping in was more playful than malicious. Im ready for the next installment.

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