dropping a dime

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

Dropping a Dime


Daylight lowered itself through the windows of Grand Central Station as commuters made their way towards departing trains. Gladys Portman, a petite, bucked-toothed, bespeckled 15-year-old from Queens, squinted through the beams of light and looked around the station nervously. It seemed that there were at least half a dozen tall, dark-haired men in fedoras walking down the corridor. She tentatively approached a gentleman in a cheap grey suit who seemed to be walking at an unusually slow pace. She asked if she could borrow his pen. The man smiled with relief, winked, and told her she could keep it. He walked away into the crowd.


She went into the ladies’ room, disassembled the writing tool, and found a small slip of paper resembling a fortune cookie message inside. 


“412 Graham Street, third floor,” it said.


She boarded a subway train and rode to the address, twisting the tiny white slip of paper around her finger. She glanced furtively at the other passengers. There were no other kids on the train and she was afraid she’d get arrested for truancy. 


She arrived at the Graham Street address and climbed the steps to the front door. She lifted and released the heavy lion knocker. A skeevy man wearing a tattered undershirt and khakis with suspenders answered the door. He looked Gladys up and down with cold-eyed disapproval.


“Hi, Uncle Fred,” Gladys stated.


“Come in,” the man said.”


He pointed to a chair. She perched herself at the end of the seat and waited as the man headed for another room.


“Hey, she’s here. No way, she’s a bucktoothed string bean. Cliff found her at Penn Station …runaway, needs the lettuce.”


Gladys fought back tears. The scrawny man returned carrying a small suitcase.


“Here,” he said handing her the bag.  “126 Garth in Scarsdale. Its a couple of c-notes if you get back here by tonight, reform school if you screw up, and your old-lady gets censored if you dime. capisce?”




“If anyone asks, you’re on your way to your aunties’ in Scarsdale.”




Gladys went back to Manhattan and boarded the Scarsdale train. She thought of her father leaving for Japan just three weeks before. The phone call from Fort Bliss had been short and to the point. His voice was shaky underneath his comforting words.


Gladys thought of the day she’d come home early from school and the look on her mother’s face as Mr. Ababathy leaped off of her. Gladys remembered the clumsy way he got into his pants and ran out the door. 


When she arrived at the station she went into the bathroom, locked herself in a stall, and peaked in the bag. Underneath a pair of pajamas and a fresh change of clothing, there were about 200 photographs of children doing what they shouldn’t. She closed the bag and headed for the police station. Neither her mother or the wannabe thug who gave her the bag warranted the price of a phone call.


Submitted: May 01, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Eliza H. Gale. All rights reserved.

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Short Story / Mystery and Crime