Short Story Sunday: “Production” [322]

Short Story Sunday: "Production" | Flash Fiction | RachelPoli.com

Meredith pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration. They had done this so many times and yet, something always seemed to go wrong. She had turned on the computer and the recording software, but that needed to update. Whenever the program had updates, it usually took a good chunk of time. It was about halfway done and it had already been thirty minutes. She had taken the microphone out of the closet and set that up, but hadn’t plugged into the computer just yet. The program didn’t like to have everything plugged in right away when it first opened. It was fickle like that.

However, when you’re first starting out and you decide to do an expensive hobby such as film making with your friends, you start off with the cheapest equipment you can find – as long as it works. Theirs worked, it always took its time though.

Isaac stood on the other side of the room setting up the camera on the tripod facing the green screen. Well, it wasn’t exactly a green screen. They had bought a bunch of green poster boards and stuck them together to make a green screen. It was on their list to buy, they were saving up for an actual green screen. Again, the cheaper route was the best route for now and the green posters worked just fine. At least, they couldn’t tell through the footage while editing. (Hopefully their viewers didn’t notice either.)

“How’s it going over there?” Isaac broke the silence.

Meredith shrugged even though her friend’s back was to her. “The program is still updating. I think we’re going to be a bit behind schedule today.”

“No worries, we were going to be behind anyway,” Isaac replied.

“Why?”

He took out the battery from the camera. “We forgot to charge this last time we filmed.”

Meredith groaned. She buried her face in her hands.

“Hey, it’s no big deal. It only takes an hour or so charge. It may take that long for the recording studio to finish updating anyway.”

Meredith looked back at her computer screen. “True. Still, this is quite annoying.”

“It happens. You have to roll with the punches. We’ll get to the episode today, don’t worry. Besides, Gabriel isn’t even here yet.” Isaac looked at his wrist watch.

Meredith stood making her way to the window. She looked at the street seeing her car in the driveway and Isaac’s parked on the street. Two cars drove by, but neither of them were Gabriel. “Did he say he’d be late?”

Isaac shook his head. “Not to me. I have no idea where he is. I guess I could text him. If he’s on his way, he’s not going to reply though.”

“Well, I guess we can take that a good sign then, right?” Meredith walked back to the couch picking up her cell phone. She silently decided to reach out to their other friend despite Isaac volunteering to do it. Meredith typed something in the group chat between the three of them. She hit “send” and tossed her phone down onto the cushion.

“We should have stuck with live streaming,” she said.

Isaac snickered. “Live streaming is just as difficult. And we’re live so if any tech issues happen, we have to deal with it in front of an audience.”

“I know, I know… but I feel like sometimes setting up to record not live is more difficult.”

“This will be good in the long run. We try to live stream quite often and that requires all three of us to be on at once all the time. If we create a video series with different features and stuff, we can cut back on the live streaming,” Isaac explained. “I think it’ll be good for the channel because we’ll be able to have more freedom behind the camera if we record rather than being live. Plus, if we can’t live stream for some reason, we can upload a video so there’s still consistent content on the channel.”

Meredith nodded. She knew all that. They had a team meeting a few weeks ago and while it was Isaac’s idea, they mutually agreed it would be a great addition to the channel and help it grow further.

They were a gaming channel and they live streamed about three to four days a week. It was tiring and time consuming, but they had a lot of fun with it. They alternated someone being behind the computer and camera while the other two hosted the show and played a game.

They had decided they could do more with recorded videos. They could start a podcast-like show, maybe schedule guests on now and then, and they’d be able to have more gaming content other than them just playing games.

Would the viewers like it? They weren’t sure. The trio of friends wanted to create a decent backlog of videos before going live with the news. They were each busy with their own lives and it wouldn’t look good for any of them if they uploaded a video and then couldn’t find the time to get together to record the next video.

While they didn’t want to stop live streaming, they hoped to cut it back a little. College started in a month for all three of them and they knew they weren’t going to be able to live stream three to four days a week. They’d be happy if they were able to live stream just two days a week. They had already told their audience the schedule was changing soon and the live streams would get cut back a tad. However, the videos will be a nice surprise and will be uploaded on the other two days they normally live streamed but didn’t have the time to do anymore.

It would add a bit to the channel without taking anything away. Isaac especially hoped they’d be able to eventually upload a video daily and continue to live stream at least twice a week. Gabriel had agreed and while Meredith thought that would be a fun idea as well, she wasn’t so sure how realistic that’d be – at least, not anytime soon.

Meredith looked at her phone. Gabriel hadn’t replied yet. The recording studio on her computer still hadn’t updated, though it seemed as though it was almost done. Isaac had left the room to do something for the camera. She stood and looked outside the window again.

There was still no sign of Gabriel but that was alright. They clearly weren’t ready to begin anyway. She was nervous to begin school in a month. She and her friends had been live streaming for about a year now and they had a decent sized audience. They all enjoyed it and were happy to continue on with it through college and beyond. They had convinced themselves their internet video channel would kick off and they’d be rich and famous in no time. All of their parents, on the other hand, were all in agreement that their children should go to college for a backup plan. They were supportive with the videos and live streaming, yes, but they were afraid of the “what ifs” of life for their kids.

So, Meredith and her friends worked it out so college would work in their favor. They all got into the same school and scheduled their classes around one another as best they could. This way they could still maintain a steady recording and live streaming schedule.

Gabriel was attending college for business. He was a math whiz and academically the smartest out of the three of them. Knowing their channel may take off and pay for itself within a few years, Gabriel was the one who knew it would turn into a business. There would be budgeting, ad revenue for the channel, getting game review codes from developers, possibly merch down the road… he was ready to take on the challenge of being the business manager for their channel and Meredith and Isaac were both okay with that.

Isaac was attending college for marketing. He was always the best at social media and had no problem hyping the channel up to strangers on the street, family and friends in real life, or just shouting it into the void of the internet. He always did research on various social media platforms and had always looked for bigger and better ways to spread the word about their channel in the gaming industry. So, marketing seemed like the way to go for him. He’d learn new skills for it in college.

Meredith, on the other hand, was attending college for film making. She was the one who was the most tech savvy out of the three of them. She often got frustrated with the various tech issues they always had, but she knew that’s what happens when you have to buy cheaper equipment. Of course, they just needed something that worked and honestly, all their equipment worked great. It had been a year and (so far) nothing had blown up on them.

She wanted to learn more about film recording and video editing. She’d love to see what kind of equipment other people had and what her professors would recommend.

Thinking about college was nerve wracking for her. Meredith felt a bit better knowing that Isaac and Gabriel were in the same boat as her. She wanted to learn these new skills, despite doing a great job at teaching herself this past year. However, she wasn’t looking forward to the homework and the projects. She certainly didn’t want to sit in during a lecture either.

However, all their parents were nice enough to let them all take a year off after high school. None of them knew what they wanted to do and instead of wasting money on possibly useless classes, they took a year off to explore their options in the real world. Gabriel was the only one out of the three of them who had a job and when he came home from work one day, Meredith and Isaac had roped him into recording a video with them. From there, they decided to live stream and somehow, it kicked off and became a thing they did. It became their purpose.

Now it was going to become more than their purpose. It was to become their jobs.

Isaac had already sent out messages to their followers and subscribers as well as on social media that a new addition to the channel was coming, especially since their live streams were being cut back. They had a great audience. They were all kind to one another (yes, they were still pretty small) and they were supportive of the three of them going to college to hone their skills in the film industry. In fact, some people even donated money to them for the college. Meredith and the boys split the donations, as small as it was, evenly and put it toward their textbooks for their first semester.

Gabriel walked through the door breaking Meredith out of her thoughts. He let out a groan. “Sorry, I’m late. There was an issue at work and I couldn’t leave.”

Meredith smiled. “No worries, everything’s going downhill anyway. We can’t do anything. The recording studio is still updating and none of us thought to charge the camera from last time.”

Gabriel stared at her shocked for a brief moment and then let out a chuckle. “Ah, okay. So it’s going to be one of those days, I see… work was already annoying, so let’s get down to business with this thing.”

He took off his jacket, tossing it to the side, and sitting down on the couch beside Meredith. Isaac entered the room and gave a small wave to Gabriel. He leaned against the wall on the other side of the room and the three of them stared at each other for a moment.

“Do you think college will recommend any new programs for us to get so this doesn’t have to update all the time?” Meredith chuckled.

Gabriel grinned. “Well, my classes should teach me how to budget and stuff for a business so we can certainly start saving for a new program.”

“I’ll be able to market a fundraiser.” Isaac winked.

The three of them laughed.

Meredith didn’t want to go to school, no. She was nervous, yes. But there was a little part of her that was actually looking forward to it. She only hoped it will be as good as she thought it would be.

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Short Story Sunday: “Sausage” [321]

Short Story Sunday: "Sausage" | Flash Fiction | RachelPoli.com

It was the first barbecue Amber’s parents threw in their neighborhood. They had moved so many times for her father’s job and now they were here to stay for quite some time. Not only was Amber feeling a bit down because she never had any steady friends, but her mother felt the same way as well. She never thought they had a house to call home.

Now they lived in a quite neighborhood where they were guaranteed to stay for the next few years – at least, until Amber graduated high school and that was at least four years away.

They were officially moved in and (mostly) unpacked from the move across country. Amber’s mom was so excited to meet the neighbors and make some new friends that she had decided to host a block party, much to Amber’s father’s dismay. He didn’t think it was a bad idea, but he thought it was too soon. They had only been living in the neighborhood for two weeks.

On the other hand, Amber’s mother thought it was the perfect time for them to mingle with other adults and Amber could meet kids since freshman year of high school began the following week. Also, her mother said the house was clean because they had just decorated and put their stuff away. It would never be this clean again. It was now or never.

This wasn’t a bad idea in the beginning. However, Amber’s parents had also bought her a puppy when they arrived at their new house. While they were staying there for a few years, Amber’s dad was still nervous his boss wouldn’t keep his word. They decided to buy Amber a dog so she had a steady friend and also hoped it would help ease her into yet another new transition through a new home, new neighborhood, new school, and new friends.

Amber thought this was the greatest present she had ever received. The only problem was that she had no idea what to do with a dog. Her father signed them all up for puppy training classes, but the class hadn’t started yet. In the meantime, they were winging the training.

So, you can imagine Amber’s surprise during the block party when she suddenly couldn’t find Cooper. She panicked, but didn’t say anything to her mother or father. She didn’t want to worry them. She had brought Cooper outside to show a kid in the neighborhood. Their yard was fenced in but there were so many people coming and going, someone was bound to leave the gate open. She knew she should have put Cooper on his leash, but… well, she didn’t think.

The kids she showed Cooper to didn’t seem to notice. Maybe they assumed she had brought him back inside the house. She thought herself he might have gone back inside as well. Maybe the party was too overwhelming for him.

Amber checked the entire house, including her bedroom since that was where Cooper enjoyed spending the most of his time. But she couldn’t find him anywhere.

There was some commotion outside and when she made it back into the yard, her mother and father looked panicked by the grill.

“What’s wrong?” she asked them.

Her mother smiled at her. “Oh, don’t worry about it, honey. It’s nothing.”

Amber raised an brow. Did they find Cooper? He got out and was hit by a car, wasn’t he…? Her eyes filled up as she assumed the worst.

“Oh, Amber,” her father sighed. “It’s no big deal, really. Your mother has more sausages inside. They’re just frozen.”

Amber sniffled. “What?”

“We had a lot of sausage links sitting out here ready to grill but they’ve gone missing,” Her mother explained.

Amber’s eyes grew wide. Uh, oh.

“What’s the matter?” her mother asked. “Are you not having a good time?”

Her father narrowed his eyes in confusion and then a realization suddenly hit him. He let out another groan. “Cooper got out, didn’t he…?”

Amber nodded. Her mother gasped.

Lucky for them, at that exact moment, Amber looked over her shoulder and noticed some sausage links walking away to the other side of the house. She pointed to it and her parents and her ran over to the meat. Her father went around the house in the opposite direction in case the pup decided to run.

When Amber and her mother turned the corner, they found Cooper happily munching away on a sausage – at least, he tried to. It was thawed out for the grill but it was still rough on his teeth.

Amber and her mother laughed, taking the food away from Cooper. Amber took Cooper by the collar and lead him back around to the other side of the house bringing him inside. She got him a treat and lured him upstairs to her bedroom where she closed the door.

He hopped up on the bed and Amber stroked the top of his head. “I’d love for you to stay outside and mingle with us, but you can’t be trusted yet.”

Cooper panted happily before lying down and closing his eyes. Amber snickered and left her bedroom, closing the door behind her. Hopefully, he slept for the rest of the afternoon. She didn’t know what her bedroom would look like after a while of him being stuck in there all afternoon.

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Short Story Sunday: “Retain” [Final – 320]

Short Story Sunday: "Retain" | Creative Writing | Flash Fiction | RachelPoli.com

Read the Previous Part Here

It was a lot of information to retain. Dowen and Witt had their fair share of hard crimes in the past but this particular case was hard to wrap their heads around. The two detectives found themselves sitting in a coffee shop late at night. Normally they wouldn’t discuss cases in public but the shop was nearing its closing time and there weren’t many people around. The two partners sat in a booth in the back of the cafe, both with a cup of coffee in hand.

“Let’s do a recap,” Dowen suggested. “Alisha and Ben decided to take a walk on the bridge early this morning. Alisha discussed jumping off it, Ben jokingly dared her to do it. She did.”

Witt held up two fingers. “Right before she jumped, a stranger – male – arrived on the scene. He tried to talk Alisha down off the ledge. She jumped anyway. He got back into the car and drove away never to be seen again.”

“This man never showed his face to the camera on the bridge, Ben didn’t recognize him, and the car was stolen from Eli Thomas, who happens to be one of Ben’s and Alisha’s teachers,” Dowen continued.

“We need to figure out the identity of this man and track him down.”

“On the other hand, we need to report back to Eli and ask why he never actually reported his car stolen. Does he know this man somehow and let him borrow the car? Did he know what happened and tried to cover up what he knew because either he doesn’t want to get involved or he’s guilty of something?”

“He’s guilty of lying to us about the car, that much is for sure.” Witt casually took a sip of her coffee.

“To keep it going,” Dowen continued, “We found a young girl lost in the woods with amnesia. It turned out to be Elizabeth, missing for two months. We had yet to find any remnants from Alisha. No body. What are the odds of us finding a missing girl from two months ago but not finding the girl who disappeared just this morning?”

Witt shrugged. “Alisha’s body was most likely swept away in the river. I’m sorry to say it, but she must be gone by now. I don’t think there’s anything else we can do for her now.”

“Police are still searching though.”

“I know. We won’t stop until it’s been a full 24 hours.”

Dowen sighed. “Which is nearly 12 hours away.”

“It’s not just Alisha though,” Witt added, “we can’t even find her parents.”

Dowen shook his head and groaned. They had sent a few police officers over to the house and neither of the parents were home. The officers were staking out the house, waiting, but no one had arrived.

“I wonder if they’re away for the weekend?” Witt guessed.

“They wouldn’t try to check in with their daughter?” Dowen replied.

“Maybe they have. They can’t get a hold of her and they’re freaking out just like we are.”

He shook his head. “I don’t think so. We have her cell phone now and all the messages are from an unknown number. I’d assume she had her parents in her contacts. There should have been a couple messages and missed calls from them.”

Witt remained silent. Her partner had a point, she hadn’t thought about it like that. She was trying to be optimistic but at this point, it was hard to feel that way with the progress that was being made in this case. It seemed as though once they figured out one thing, it only brought upon them more questions than answers.

“So,” she said, “we need to find Alisha’s parents, Alisha’s body, figure out who is contacting her on her cell phone, figure out who that man on the bridge was, and have another chat with Eli Thomas.”

“Our work is cut out for us. Maybe we can talk to Elizabeth and her parents again,” Dowen said.

“What for?”

“I don’t know… I find it strange we stumbled upon her instead of Alisha. I feel like it’s too much of a coincidence.”

“You know how this line of work goes though. You can’t just feel like something is connected. There has to be a reason behind it or some sort of proof. No one is going to want to look more into Elizabeth and what happened to her while they’re searching for Alisha’s body. Elizabeth’s story will be a different case entirely, one we might not even be assigned.”

Dowen nodded. “I know, I know… do you know what I mean though?”

“I do,” Witt sighed. “Unfortunately, we need to focus on Alisha and put together more pieces of what’s going on. Whether we find her or not, something is fishy around here.”

“We’ll head to Eli’s first thing in the morning. Tomorrow’s Sunday so I assume he’ll be home. He’s a teacher, so he’ll have the day off.”

Witt hummed in agreement. Hopefully, the teacher would be able to shed more light on the situation. If they could figure out why he didn’t report his car stolen, then they might be able to figure out what sort of involvement he has in this case and who actually took the car. It was easy to assume Eli knew who took the car and was covering for them, which was why he never reported it in the first place.

Dowen put some cash on the table and nodded his head to the door. “Let’s go.”

*

They met at the station first thing the following morning. A new set of police officers continued their search at the bridge for Alisha, though hope was diminishing. Their search would end soon enough. They weren’t able to spend all their resources on this one search.

They didn’t enter the station at all. Witt hopped from her car to Dowen’s car and they immediately went on their way to Eli’s house. It was early, seven o’clock in the morning. If Eli wasn’t awake, they were going to wake him up. They needed answers and they needed them fast. Time was running out.

Lucky for them, when they arrived at the house, they saw Eli through the kitchen window. He saw them too and didn’t look happy to see them.

“Notice his car isn’t in the driveway,” Witt said quietly as the two waited by the front door.

Dowen looked at the driveway. “Maybe his wife came home late last night?”

The conversation came to a halt as Eli opened the front door. He greeted them with a small smile encouraging the detectives to enter. “Good morning. I have to admit, I didn’t think you guys would be back, especially not so soon.”

“Let’s get right into it,” Dowen said. He walked into the living room and Witt followed as Eli closed the front door.

“Did your wife come home?” Dowen asked.

Eli shook his head. “Why do you ask?”

“We noticed your car was gone from the driveway and yet, here you are,” Witt explained.

Eli bit his lower lip. He finally shrugged and smirked at them. “Okay, well you got me. I assume you know I didn’t actually call it in to report it was stolen yesterday, huh?”

Witt nodded. “That’s why we’re here.”

Dowen glared at him. “You better have a good reason for lying. Were you in fact the man who drove to the bridge and watched Alisha jump?”

Eli’s eyes bugged out of his head. He held his hands up in surrender. “No, I swear! The only thing I lied about was not reporting my car. I knew who took my car and I was afraid he had done something stupid so… I got nervous and lied. I didn’t want to get in trouble and I didn’t want him to get into trouble.”

“Who are you talking about?” Dowen said with a low growl.

“My younger brother,” Eli said. “He… uh, he lost his license. Too many infractions on his record. Whenever my wife goes on a business trip, he comes by and borrows the car. She doesn’t like it so he does it behind her back. I don’t like it either – I don’t want him to ruin my car and I also want him to stay safe. But I feel bad saying no.”

Witt sighed. “You realize he’s breaking the law regardless, right? We’re going to have to report this.”

Eli shrugged. “I know.”

“What’s his name and what does he look like? Do you have reason to believe he was at the bridge yesterday morning?” Dowen asked.

“His name is Andrew. I honestly don’t know about the bridge,” Eli pointed to the window. “He’s pulling in now. You’re lucky you’re not in a police car. Otherwise he’d be running with my car right now.”

Dowen rolled his eyes. “Great, this should be fun.”

Eli held up a finger as he walked out of the living room. “He normally leaves right away. Let me tell him to come in.”

The two detectives waited in silence in the living room. They heard Eli call to his brother asking him to come in for a cup of coffee. Andrew replied with a cheerful tone.

Eli pointed to the living room once Andrew was in the house. Andrew pointed to the two detectives and looked back at his brother.

“Detective Dowen and this is my partner, Detective Witt,” Dowen said, flashing his badge.

Andrew groaned. He leaned against the wall sulking. It was easy to see he knew he was caught.

“Your brother told us he lets you borrow his car,” Witt said.

Andrew looked up at her and nodded.

“Did you drive across the bridge yesterday morning?” Dowen asked.

Andrew stiffened. He looked back at Eli and then the detectives. “You’re wondering about that girl who jumped, right? Is she okay?”

Witt shook her head. “We haven’t found her.”

Andrew frowned gazing at the ground. “I drove by, yeah. I saw two kids and thought it was odd they were there in the first place. I thought they might have been lost or maybe their car had broken down. I was going to pull over and ask if they needed help – I’m actually pretty good with cars but I could have at least let them borrow my cell phone if they needed it.

“Anyway,” he cleared his throat, “as I drove up the girl jumped on top of the railing. I stopped, panicking. I probably didn’t sound nice at all when I told her to get down, but I didn’t know what to do. The boy panicked as well. It didn’t matter though. She barely waited for us to talk. She just jumped!”

“Then what did you do?” Dowen asked. He wrote everything down in his notepad.

Andrew shook his head, not looking them in the eye. “I ran away… I didn’t know what else to do.”

“You didn’t think to call and report it right away? You didn’t think to stay with the boy?” Witt suggested.

“I did, yeah,” Andrew nodded looking back up at the two detectives. “I know this is going to make me sound like a jerk but I was afraid if I was there and the cops saw me driving… I knew they were going to talk to me, ask me my name… it’s not my car.”

“You don’t have your license either,” Dowen said flatly.

Andrew looked back at Eli. “You told them…?”

Eli shrugged.

“We’ll talk about that later,” Dowen said sternly. “Where did you drive off to after the girl jumped?”

“I came back here.” Andrew pointed behind him to his brother. “I had a feel the cops could be around at any minute and I didn’t want to be driving on the road when they swarmed around. I still had errands to run but I came right back here, dropped the car off, and ran back to my house pretending I never went out in the first place.”

“Do you know there are cameras on the bridge?” Witt asked. Normally she didn’t like to come right out and ask such a question.

This made it easier for him to lie and feign ignorance. However, there was no other way around it. They needed to know why he did what he did and if he was going to lie, there was proof at the station.

Andrew nodded. “Is that how you knew about the car?”

“It wasn’t easy. You parked the car in a specific way,” Witt explained.

“You pulled over on the wrong side of the road and when you got in and out of the car, the driver’s side was off-camera and you walked backwards so the camera wouldn’t catch your face,” Dowen stated.

Andrew looked at the two detectives. “I’m not entirely sure what you’re asking from me, but yeah. I did that because of the camera. Everyone knows it’s there and I didn’t want you guys to come tracking me down if you recognized me. So, I tried to hide from the camera as best as I could.”

“That was the only reason? You just wanted to hide from us because of your license?” Witt asked.

Andrew nodded. He cracked a nervous smile. “You guys seem disappointed…”

“Did you know either of the kids that were on the bridge?” Dowen asked.

Andrew shook his head. Then he froze. “Wait… you guys don’t think I had anything to do with this… right?” he looked back at Eli who kept a pokerface, and then turned back to the two detectives in a panic.

Witt let out a sigh. “No. Not anymore.”

*

When the two detectives made it back to the station, Witt sat at her desk with Dowen sitting across from it in silence. They didn’t know where else to go from here. They had checked the cameras from the bridge and spoke to Ben, Eli, and Andrew. They solved the mystery of the car. They checked out Alisha’s cell phone and that turned out to be a dead end. The burner phone messages didn’t even have information about the bridge at all. It seemed as though she was only getting homework and test answers which was not as serious as some of the other things she could talk to strangers about. They had found another missing girl from two months ago. She had amnesia, but she was out of the hospital and now back home safe and sound with her parents.

It seemed as though they solved a few mysteries and yet, they solved nothing.

They never found Alisha or her body. The search ceased about an hour ago, not too long after Witt and Dowen had spoken to Andrew and Eli again. After 24 hours, it was safe to assume Alisha was swept away in the icy current.

They had finally gotten a hold of Alisha’s parents to finally tell them the news. In fact, it was Ben’s parents who got in contact with them. Apparently, Alisha had been getting into some trouble lately so when the police called, Alisha’s parents avoided it. They were both in the interrogation room for running from the police and neglecting to check in with their daughter. According to them, they tried but Alisha never answered her phone and the GPS always led to Ben’s house so they assumed she was okay. Of course, Ben had taken the cell phone from the crime scene in an attempt to conduct his own investigation. He should have gotten into trouble for that one, but Dowen and Witt – after everything that had happened within the past 24 hours – they had decided to let that one slide.

“Where do we go from here?” Witt asked, breaking the heavy silence.

Dowen widened his tired eyes and shook his head. “I think we’re done with this one. Andrew will be processed for what he did. Eli got off with a warning for lying to police. Alisha’s parents will be seeing some consequences. Ben, I believe, will get off just fine. He withheld evidence, but I don’t think we need to blame him for anything. He’ll get off with a warning. We reunited one family but we still lost another kid.”

Witt chuckled in disbelief. “Imagine, all these little crimes within one day and none of them had anything to do with the major crime at hand.”

“It’s amazing what people will do to take care of themselves, but not for others,” Dowen agreed.

“Unless you’re Ben.”

“Yeah, unless you’re Ben.”

The chief had tried to give the two detectives the rest of the day off after working so much the previous day. However, both of them needed to take their mind off of the case that they nearly begged for a new one. The chief obliged handing them a murder case that had been called in just moments before.

Dowen and Witt grabbed their coats and headed out of the station for a brand new day, a brand new case.

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Short Story Sunday: “Password” [Part Five – 319]

Short Story Sunday: "Password" | Creative Writing | Short Story | RachelPoli.com

Read Part Four Here

The two partners sat in Detective Dowen’s car in silence. The car was turned on with the heat on full blast, but the two remained in the parking lot at the hospital.

“I’m glad we reunited Elizabeth with her parents.” Witt broke the silence. “She has amnesia so there’s no way of ever knowing what happened to her.”

“Some mysteries weren’t meant to be solved.” Dowen shook his head.

“We can cross a missing person off that list, which is great. However, now we have a body to find.”
Dowen sighed. He shifted gears in the car and pulled out of his parking spot. “We’re not turning in for the night until Alisha is found.”

Witt nodded in agreement. Sure, their shift had ended two hours ago. But they weren’t going to rest until Alisha was found. Even if it was her body.

“Where are we going?” she asked. “Are we going to talk to Ben again or Eli? Or are we going straight back to the bridge?”

Dowen hesitated to reply. “Honestly, I wasn’t sure. I was just driving. Maybe we should talk to Ben though. There’s nothing we can do at the bridge. The police will notified us immediately if they find anything. Ben might have some information on Eli so I don’t want to go breaking the news to him just yet that we know he never reported his car stolen.”

“We’ll go visit Ben then,” Witt confirmed.

It didn’t take too long for them to make it to Ben’s house. When they did, Ben’s parents let the two detectives in immediately and called Ben down from his bedroom. His mother made the detective’s coffee while his father sat in the living room with them talking about how awful it was that Alisha had done what she did. They were happy she was found though.

“Well, we hate to say it, but the girl we found was not actually Alisha. She’s a missing person who just happens to resemble Alisha quite a bit,” Witt explained.

Ben’s father, Owen, sank into his chair. “Oh, no… poor Alisha… I suppose there’s no hope for her now?”

“Bite your tongue!” Ben’s mother, Louise, came back into the room with a tray filled with coffee mugs, cream, and sugar. “Don’t say that, especially when Ben comes down. There’s always hope.”

“I’m sorry.” Owen shook his head. “I can’t imagine this though… Alisha would never do something like this.”

Louise sighed. She looked at the detectives with a sad gaze. “Ben told us what happened and how he encouraged her. Will that reflect on him somehow? I don’t mean to make the situation all about Ben, but…”

Dowen shook his head. “You’re asking a valid question. It’s only right that you should be worried for your own son in this situation. As of right now, it’s hard to say. He was walking on the bridge when they shouldn’t have to begin with, so he’s going to get in trouble for that at the very least. Until we have a better handle on this case, though, I don’t want to say too much else.”

Witt leaned forward and poured herself a cup of coffee in an attempt to busy herself. She knew Dowen avoided telling them that Ben could be charged with involuntary manslaughter. She poured some cream into her coffee and then leaned back against the couch.

“Have you gotten in touch with Alisha’s parents at all?”

Owen shook his head. “We called a couple of times but they never picked up. We figured we’d go over there tomorrow with a fruit basket or something and let them know we’re here for them if there’s anything we can do.”

“A fruit basket?” Louise lightly whacked him on the arm. “I’m going to make them a macaroni and cheese or something. They’re not going to want to cook and they can’t survive on fruit.”

Owen shrugged. “Excuse me, no fruit. A warm, home cooked meal.”

“Thank you.” Louise poured herself a cup of coffee.

Witt looked at Dowen concerned. He returned the gaze. The police still were unable to get in touch with Alisha’s parents as well. If no one could get a hold of them, then something was clearly wrong. Dowen stood excusing himself. Witt assumed he stepped out to send a patrol car to Alisha’s house. Why they hadn’t done that earlier, she didn’t know.

Ben came down from the stairs as if on cue. He sheepishly looked at Detective Witt and held out a cell phone. “I’m so sorry I took this without telling you guys.”

Witt stared at him in confusion. She put her mug down on the coffee table in front of her and asked what it was. As soon as Ben explained it was Alisha’s cell phone, Witt put on a pair of gloves.

“Benjamin! Why on earth would you take that from the crime scene?” his mother scolded.

Ben sighed. “I know, I know… I’m sorry. I thought I’d be able to conduct my own investigation and figure out why Alisha wanted to… well, you know…”

“Where did you even get this?” Witt asked.

“On the ground. I noticed it after she splashed into the river. It must have fallen out of her winter coat pocket when she jumped off the bridge.”

“Her parents can track her cell phone, right?” Owen said. Ben nodded. “Maybe she dropped it on purpose then. She didn’t want to be found?”

Witt didn’t confirm or deny this. It was certainly a possibility Alisha didn’t want to be found. However, anyone who jumped off that bridge didn’t need to worry about not being found. They were as soon as dead and the moment the cell phone hit the icy water the GPS certainly wouldn’t work on it anymore.

The detective tapped the screen and it lit up. A message appeared saying the phone was locked out for another minute and seven seconds. She held it up to Ben.

“I assume you’ve been trying to get into her phone?”

He nodded. “I don’t know her password and keep locking myself out.”

Dowen entered the room again. “What did I miss?”

Witt held the phone up to Dowen who took it. “Ben found Alisha’s phone on the ground after she jumped. It has a password and Ben doesn’t know what it is so we’re locked out of it at the moment.”

“Maybe one of the tech guys at the station can get into it,” Dowen said, staring at the phone.

“Ben,” Witt said, “why are you trying to get into Alisha’s phone? Do you think there might be something on there that explains what happened today?”

“She keeps getting text messages from the same phone number,” Ben explained. “There’s no name on the message, just the number, which means this isn’t someone who’s a contact in her phone. I don’t know if she was in some sort of trouble or what.”

Louise gasped and Owen put a hand on her shoulder.

“Has Alisha been acting strangely at all within the past few days, weeks, or even months?” Dowen asked. He put the cell phone in a plastic bag and pocketed it.

“Honestly, no. I didn’t notice anything strange about her. We were hanging out as usual. She was going to school and getting her homework done. I don’t know what came over her,” Ben replied.

Witt nodded her head. It seemed safe to say that Ben wasn’t lying. She didn’t think he had any part in whatever sort of plan Alisha had cooked up. He was merely used as a witness and that was it. The question was why. Why did Alisha jump off that bridge and why did she need a witness?

“Speaking of school,” Dowen spoke again. “You have Elijah Thomas as a teacher, right?”

Ben nodded. “Yeah, he’s a great teacher. Both Alisha and I really like him.”

“Was he at the scene of the crime today?”

Ben furrowed his brows. “Uh, not that I know of? Maybe he drove by on the bridge, but I never saw him.”

“The man who got out of that silver car to talk Alisha down before she jumped,” Witt said, “that wasn’t him?”

“No.” Ben shook his head. “I know I was freaking out and in shock, but I would have recognized him. I would have asked him for more help then what he did. In fact, he probably would have stayed to help Alisha and then me after she had jumped.”

Owen growled under his breath. “Who would someone do something like that? Watch a child jump off a bridge, her friend left in a panic, and then they just get back into their car and leave?”

“Some people are so sick,” Louise whispered.

“Do you know what your teacher’s car looks like?” Witt asked.

“Wait a minute,” Owen stood up, “You’re not suggesting Mr. Thomas had something to do with Alisha jumping, do you?”

Ben answered before the detectives could answer his father. He shook his head. “I have no idea what car Mr. Thomas has.”

“Okay, fair enough,” Dowen said. He turned his attention to Owen. “We need to rule him out as a suspect. The car that man was driving when he pulled over on the bridge to talk Alisha down, that was Mr. Thomas’s car, but he wasn’t the one driving it.”

Ben looked over at his parents and then back to the two detectives. “I don’t get it.”

“Unfortunately, neither do we. We spoke with Mr. Thomas this afternoon and he claimed his car was stolen from his driveway for approximately two hours. He said he called the police and reported it but when we checked, no such call came into the station at all today or yesterday,” Witt explained.

Louise covered a hand over her mouth. “Do you think Mr. Thomas is covering for someone?”

Witt shrugged her shoulders. “It’s a possibility. We don’t know why anyone would encourage Alisha to jump off that bridge.”

Ben gasped. “The phone! I need the cell phone.” He reached out his hands to Detective Dowen, who took a step back.

“No way, this is evidence and you already withheld it from us once before.”

“Do you remember the password?” Witt asked standing from the couch.

Ben nodded to her. He looked at Dowen. “Please, I’ll give it right back. Or you can put the code in yourself. Try one-two-three-one.”

Dowen took the phone out of his jacket pocket. He stared at Ben skeptically but did as he suggested. His eyes popped open.

“Wow, that actually worked.” He took out his notepad and wrote the password down to ensure no one would forget it.

“What’s the significance to that string of numbers?” Owen asked.

Ben shrugged. “It’s today’s date. December 31st.”

Witt and Dowen stared at each other. Maybe it was only a coincidence, but it didn’t seem likely. The two detectives wondered now more than ever that this was planned ahead of time. Alisha must have used it as her password to remind herself but also because there’s no way no one else would possibly guess that.

“Good for you, Ben.” Witt smiled at him. “We’ll figure this out, don’t you worry.”

Dowen scrolled through some of the contents on the phone. He turned it off and put it back in his pocket. “This is excellent information. We’ll have to bring this back to the station and go through it. We’ll keep you posted as best we can about the situation.”

“Thank you so much and if we can be of any further assistance, please let us know,” Owen said. His wife nodded in agreement beside him.

Witt pulled her card out of her pocket and handed it to Ben. “If any of you think of something new, please call me right away. Also, if you hear from Alisha’s parents, please call me right away.”

“Of course,” Louise answered.

Without another word, Witt and Dowen saw themselves out. They had more investigating to do. They needed to look over Alisha’s text messages, figure out who’s number those messages belonged to, talk to Eli about his car, and do their best to get a hold of Alisha’s parents.

If they could find any remnants of Alisha in the process, that was a bonus.

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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Short Story Sunday: “Thick” [Part Four – 318]

Short Story Sunday: "Thick" | Creative Writing | Short Story | RachelPoli.com

Read Part Three Here

Witt followed Dowen through the hallways of the hospital. They entered the ICU area. They showed their badges to the receptionist at the front desk and she pointed them in the right direction. It wasn’t hard to spot which room Alisha was in. There were two police officers posted outside. The two detectives asked for a quick update, but there was nothing big to tell. The girl was okay, as far as they could tell. Some tests were being run but they wouldn’t have the results on those for another day or two.

Alisha seemed to have no memory of what had happened on the bridge. She didn’t even seem to remember who she was. They had called Alisha’s parents to come down and confirm their daughter’s identity – or at least her whereabouts. However, they still weren’t able to get in touch with her parents.

“Something weird is definitely going on,” Dowen whispered to Witt.

“You don’t think her parents have anything to do with this, do you?” Witt asked shocked.

Dowen shook his head. “No, but it’s strange to me how their daughter went out early this morning, it’s now the afternoon and, assuming this is Alisha, they haven’t seen or heard from their daughter. Wouldn’t they be looking? Wouldn’t they have gotten in touch with Ben if they’re such good friends and he would have explained it all to them?”

Witt hummed to herself. “You’ve got a point. I know I would be worried sick if I couldn’t find my kid.”

Dowen let out a disgruntled sigh. “Well, let’s head into the room and get this over with. I hope you’re in this for the long haul because I have a feeling this case is going to run us in circles.”

Witt entered the room before her partner. Alisha had a room all to herself with the police officers outside the door and there were no nurses or doctors in sight. She laid down in her bed with her eyes lightly closed. Witt looked at Dowen and pointed to the girl and he rolled his eyes. His partner couldn’t help but crack a smile. Yes, Alisha was awake and ready to talk about twenty minutes ago, but she had a rough day. It was entirely possible she had fallen back to sleep.

Dowen sat down on the left side of the bed and Witt joined him. She remained standing. The two stared at Alisha in silence for a brief moment. Then Dowen broke the silence with a whisper.

“I’m sure the hospital cleaned her up nice, but there’s not even a scratch on her.”

“I know,” Witt said in agreement. “She looks pretty good from falling 50-feet.”

“How can she look like this after what happened to her? There are no bandages or anything.”

“Maybe most of her scars are under the blankets.”

Dowen shook his head. Witt knew he didn’t believe that. She didn’t believe it either but she didn’t have any other answers. Unless this girl was not in fact Alisha like they had noticed when she was first found.

“Do you think we made a mistake?” Witt whispered.

“What that?” Dowen looked up at her in confusion.

“We halted the search the moment we found this girl. Now that I see her lying in this bed, alive and unscathed… I wonder if the real Alisha is still out there somewhere. If she is, she has to be dead by now.”

“Yes, then we have to go with the involuntary manslaughter angle again but we’ll also have another mystery on our hands,” Dowen said.

Witt looked at her partner.

“Who is this girl, where did she come from, and what was she doing there?” Dowen continued staring at the girl in the bed.

Before Witt could answer, the girl blinked her eyes open. She immediately turned her head to look at the two detectives. She gave them a small smile.

“Hi,” she said, her voice raspy.

“Alisha?” Dowen asked softly.

The girl frowned. “I don’t know, but maybe. Everyone else seems to think that’s who I am.”

“How are you feeling?” Witt asked.

“Tired, but okay,” she replied.

“Well, I’m Detective Witt and this is my partner, Detective Dowen. We’re going to ask you a couple of questions but we won’t take up too much of your time. We know you need to rest.”

The girl lifted her head slightly and scooted herself up higher on the pillows with her arms. Once she sat up, she smiled again at the detectives. “Of course, please ask what you need to. I don’t know if I’ll remember anything, but I heard there was an accident.”

“An accident that involved you,” Dowen explained. “You jumped off the bridge falling fifty feet into the icy river below. It’s a miracle you’re alive and not as hurt as you should be.”

“I must be lucky. Someone must have been watching over me.”

“Sure,” Dowen said exasperated.

Witt took a couple of photos out of her pocket. She had printed them out back at the station when they were searching for the car’s license plate number. The first picture was of Ben and Alisha standing on the bridge talking. It was a screen shot from the camera footage. “Do you recognize these people?”

The girl leaned forward a little. She squinted her eyes at the black and white image but finally shook her head before leaning her head back against the pillow. “No, I don’t. I’m sorry.”

“This is Benjamin Lame and you right before you jumped off the bridge,” Witt said pointing to the people in the photo.

The girl gasped. “Really? How strange… I know I have no memory of the incident, but I would like to think I’d recognize at least myself.”

“Do you recognize the place?”

She shook her head. “I assume it’s the bridge you mentioned but I have no memory of the place, let alone going there.”

Witt sighed. She turned to Dowen with a look expressing her concern that they might be wasting their time. They couldn’t make any conclusions from the victim if they couldn’t explain anything that had happened to them.

Dowen returned the look and Witt sighed knowing the exact face he was making. He wasn’t entirely sure this girl couldn’t remember anything. Judging from the state the victim was in and how quickly she seemed to recover from the incident, Witt wondered the same thing. Was this all an act? Was Eli in on this act as well?

“I think we may be done here.” Dowen stood making the executive decision. Witt had no objections.

“That was quick. I’m sorry I couldn’t be more help to you,” The girl said.

“It’s okay, you focus on getting better. I’m sure we’ll be in touch again,” Dowen said.

Witt didn’t have anything else to say. Normally she was more sympathetic than Dowen but she was far too confused to say anything else to this… victim? Witness? Suspect? She wasn’t so sure.

The two detectives made it back out into the hall. They said their goodbyes to the officers and made their way back to the front desk to check out and give back their visitor’s passes. They were just about to leave when Witt turned back to the receptionist.

“Excuse me,” she said, “may we request to look at the medical records for the patient in room 203?”

The receptionist hesitated to comply.

“She’s the Jane Doe, but may be Alisha Davis. She’s a victim or possible suspect in another crime.” Dowen stepped in.

The young girl behind the counter nodded. “Would you like to see it now or shall I make copies? I can’t let you leave with it since she’s still a patient.”

“Copies would be great, thank you.” Witt smiled. As soon as the girl walked away, she turned to Dowen. “I’m curious about what the doctors think about her condition. I don’t think she’s Alisha at all. I think she’s playing us along with… well, either Eli or Ben. My money is on Eli though.”

“He had the getaway car.” Dowen nodded. “We’ll take these files back to the station and check on the stolen car report. If he never called and reported it, then I think we have means to pay him another visit.”

*

Witt tossed the copy of the medical records on Dowen’s desk. She had combed through them thoroughly while Dowen checked on the stolen car report. Before she could explain her side of the findings, Dowen leaned back in his chair shaking his head.
“It was never reported which means either Eli was the one driving the car or he let someone borrow it.”

Witt grinned. “Excellent, we’re getting closer. And all this girl has is amnesia. No concussion, no broken bones, nothing. The doctors are calling it a miracle.”

Dowen sat up and took the file folder in his hands. He opened and thumbed through the pages. “You’re kidding me, right? So this girl is not Alisha Davis. She can’t be.”

“I think we need to do a DNA test on this girl. She’s either lying to cover up for Alisha or Eli or whatever is going on here. Or she could very well be a missing person with amnesia who we just happened to stumble upon during our search for Alisha.”

Dowen shook his head. “That can’t be possible though, right? This Jane Doe looks exactly Alisha Davis. Although it would explain the change of outfit.” He put the folder down and began to type on his computer. “I’m going to look up all the missing persons that have been reported within the past year.”

Witt walked around to the other side of his desk and peered over his shoulder. “If we see this Jane Doe in this list, then we have a serious problem. That means Alisha is still out there somewhere.”

“It means her body is out there somewhere, though I’m sure it was washed away with the river at this point.”

“This case is laying it on thick for us, huh?” Witt sighed.

Dowen scrolled through all the missing persons – males and females. Finally, he stopped at a certain young girl. “Oh, man… that’s her. That’s the Jane Doe we just left at the hospital! Elizabeth Hammond.” He wrote down the name.

Witt shook her head in disbelief. “The resemblance to Alisha is uncanny. This can’t be a coincidence, can it?”

“I don’t know, but we definitely need to do a DNA test. We may need to call the parents of this Elizabeth girl. She’s even the same age as Alisha,” Dowen said. He reached for the phone.

“Wait,” Witt put a hand on his shoulder. “Shouldn’t we wait to contact Elizabeth’s parents? We should make sure it’s actually her before we get their hopes up.”

Dowen shook his head. “This can’t wait. I’ll explain everything to them over the phone and make sure they understand that they may not in fact be her. I’m pretty sure it is her though…”

“How long has she been missing?”

“Two months.”

“We’ve had such a harsh winter these past two months. It’s no wonder she’s lost her memory. I wonder what happened to her.”

Dowen seemed as though he were about to reply, but then he spoke into the phone. Witt walked away from his desk to give him some space. She made it back to her work station and looked at all they had figured out throughout the day. The case kept getting weirder and weirder. They might have solved the case of the missing girl but that meant they hadn’t solved the case of the girl who jumped off the bridge. Not to mention that seemed to be more than just her simply jumping off the bridge. Another man, possibly Eli, was involved. There was some plan that Witt and her partner were missing. She didn’t know if Ben had anything to do it or if he was just a pawn to be used as a witness. Some stories weren’t adding up and someone was lying about something. Witt put her head in her hands. It had been a long day and she couldn’t quite figure out what exactly was going on.

Detective Dowen stood beside her desk. He tapped her on the shoulder and she looked up at him. He put on his winter coat. “Elizabeth’s parents are on their way to the hospital. We’re going to meet them there. In the meantime, I ordered a team of officers to go back to the bridge to start the search over for Alisha – just in case. I told them to expand the perimeter down the river as well. If she’s there, she’s bound to be washed up ashore somewhere.”

Witt stood grabbing her coat. She nodded to her partner and followed him out of the station. They were in for a long night.

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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