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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

Former Detective Jade struggles through the roughest patch of his life while horrendous things happen. His ex-girlfriend is being stalked and he's lost his position on the force.

I clutched her close to my chest, using my jacket to shield her from the cold. Fat, wet flakes of snow fell around me. A lump caught in my throat, an unmovable one caused by bottled up emotions. “I can’t take care of a little girl. I can’t even take care of myself. What was I thinking?”

She fussed, pressed up against my chest. I could feel her shifting her little feet in protest. “I know baby. I don’t want to be out here either.”

The bottle of pills rattled as I pulled them from my pocket balancing the baby with one arm. I shook a couple into my mouth, hoping they’d drown the pain. Her brown eyes looked up at me. If she could speak, I wondered what she’d say. She wouldn’t have been proud of me, walking her through a snowstorm. We would have had words about the cold and soggy pampers.

It didn’t seem real, standing in front of the house that I’d been thinking of for days. It felt wrong, like it had happened too fast. Part of me wanted to walk around the block a few more times because I wasn’t ready. Deep down, I knew I’d never be ready.

My hands shook and I fought back tears. “You deserve better,” I whispered as I laid her down on the doorstep. “She’s a good woman and she’s going to take care of you.” I kissed the top of her head.

Letting go of baby Jane Doe felt impossible. I didn’t think I could walk away. Even up until I rang the bell, I’d had second thoughts. A voice inside said they were coming, and I hid behind the nearest car.

My chest heaved as I sat there, leaning against the door. Tears streamed down my face. I had to keep a hand pressed over my mouth to keep from whimpering. Pathetic. My father’s voice came into mind, telling me to man up.

“Oh dear,” the woman said. “What is this?” Baby Jane Doe’s crying intensified as the woman lifted her. “Where did you come from?” she asked.

The cold metal door pressed against my back. Warm tears trickled down my cheek as I thought about the life we could have had. With my face buried in the crook of my arm, I listened to the woman take Jane and mumble to her. I didn’t dare look over my shoulder at them.

The soft, angelic voice asked, “Where are your parents?”

More than anything I wanted to get up off the ground and take her back. Clenching my jaw, biting into the tip of my tongue, I waited. Saying something could have been the worst decision of both of our lives. I’d thought I could care for her, but I’d been wrong. “You’re better off without me,” I whispered.

The snow beat down on me for a while, wind whipped at my flesh. Pain rippled through me and I wanted to escape. With tears nearly freezing to my skin, I walked down the street. The jaunty lights of a pawn shop and a gun store glittered in the distance.

Across the street I saw a Miller light sign, flashing. The faint sound of music drifted with the wind. I couldn’t recognize the tune, but it sounded inviting enough. Hell, they could have been playing the sounds of tortured children and I probably still would have walked inside.  

Lankey’s pub, a ridiculous name, but I stumbled inside anyway, stomping my boots on the mat. The strong scent of French fries met me at the door, as did the gentle tones of the juke. If I had to guess, I’d say Kenny Chesney, but who’s to know for sure? Most country musicians sound the same now.

The carpet leading to the bar squished below my feet. A couple of women drank off in the corner. They were talking, but much too low for me to hear. I saddled a barstool next to an older man who seemed to be staring at the bartender. At any moment I expected him to turn to me and say something profound like “I could motorboat those tits until the sun came up.” But he didn’t.

Flopping down on the other side, sliding his briefcase under the stool, sat another man. He wore a suit and had gray whiskers on his cheeks. He ordered a drink, to which the bartender started pouring immediately.  

He looked me over, grunted before taking his pint to his lips. “You look like you just crawled straight out of hell,” he said. He tipped back the pint, draining it. “Madison, this fellas drink is on me.”

She gave me a staunch look. “What’ll it be Jade?”

For a beat I looked over her face, trying to place where we’d know each other from, but came up with nothing. “Do we know each other?” I asked.

“Yeah, we know each other. You helped me out of a pickle with an ex-boyfriend once or twice and I must have called you a cab out of here at least twice.” She tossed the rag over her shoulder, gave me a grin. “What’ll it be? Or should I ask, how bad do you plan on doing yourself in tonight?”

In one hand she held a pint glass and in the other a tumbler. Without much thought, I pointed to the tumbler and hung my head. She brought over whiskey, which reassured me we’d done this dance before.

I looked over her pale face and thin features trying to strike up a conversation we might have had, or an image of the boyfriend she mentioned, but nothing came forth. It bothered me because I’d prided myself on remembering folks, but lately I’d stumbled into every watering hole this town had to offer.

The glass clacked against the bar. “One of those days, huh?” she asked.

“You want to tell us your woes?” the man in the suit asked.

Deep inside I didn’t want to tell him anything. I wanted to drown my sorrows as I’d done many times before, but I knew they’d be right there waiting when I sobered up. Uncomfortable, I shuffled on the stool for a second, foot bumping against his case.

The man looked down at my feet. “Careful with that,” he said, sliding the briefcase further under.  

The first sip of whiskey ripped down my throat. The familiar burn came over me, the safety blanket I’d been carrying around for almost twenty years. The whiskey sang lullabies in my head and I slammed the glass down. The image of Jane sitting on that step clung to my mind.

Even before I started speaking, I regretted it. “It all started with a call to a department store. A simple homicide case, pregnant woman murdered in a dressing room.”

As the drinks came, I unraveled the story, telling it like I had a dozen times. This time, I didn’t leave anything out. I was too drunk to care if they believed me. I told them about the little girl without a name being special and my twin brother who’d stolen her. Even nurse Jackie made a brief appearance in the story along with my old pal Bull.

“I miss Bull,” I said, sloshing my drink. “I miss the force.”

“What happened?” the stranger asked.


That wasn’t the truth. I’d failed a drug test which resulted in insubordination. My captain didn’t take too kindly to me and I think he’d been on to me for a long time. At its worst, I had been popping pills and drinking on the clock. I hadn’t gone in straight for a long time and wasn’t all that surprised when it all caught up to me.

Telling the story about Jane reduced me to tears. The version I told involved an adoption agency, not a single woman I’d dated and left because she wanted to have kids. The emptiness came back to me. The feeling I couldn’t escape. Even the firewater wouldn’t take the pain away.

“It sounds to me like you did the right thing.” The man in the suit shuffled something out of his pocket while the bartender wasn’t looking. “Take this, put it in your pocket,” he whispered.

“What is it?”

“It’s DMT. It will give you a little perspective.”

It felt bold to give a former cop drugs, but he didn’t even blush. His words struck the right chord with me. It will give you a little perspective. That’s exactly what I needed. I’d read about Dimethyltryptamine but never encountered on the force. It wasn’t a popular street drug like crack or heroin.  

The drinks had gotten me pretty sloshed. I placed down a fifty dollar bill, looked at my watch like it said something important and stumbled off. The bartender called after me, asking if I needed a cab, but I waved her off. The walk would sober me up.

The snow had gotten deeper and the weather worse. My coat flapped in the breeze as I exited the pub and started down the street, thankful I hadn’t driven. If there had been a car involved, I felt certain I would have either crashed or gotten a DUI. I didn’t think my beat up Chevy could have traversed the snowstorm with the tires as bald as they were.

Somewhere in my memory Jane cried. I’d taken a snapshot of her little face in my mind, something to hold onto. The thought of giving her a better home came over me, slowing but not stopping an ugly sob.

Drunk to the point of crying and stumbling, I made my way into the hall of my building, stopping only long enough to water Mrs. Potter’s plants. While my pants were down, I stared at her front door and lifted the single finger salute. The strong, acidic scent of urine filled the hall. I’d missed one of the pots and watered the welcome mat instead.  

It took several attempts to get my key to fit because the first door wasn’t mine. The second one took a few tries too. I’d jabbed the frame a few times, adding to the collection of scratches around the keyhole.

The door swung open, encapsulating my shit hole apartment in the light from the hall. When I hit the switch, the light flickered to life. Dirty dishes hung around the sink, encouraging flies. Empty fast food bags hung around the couch and empty bottles littered the floor. I need a maid, I thought, not for the first time.

The pipe I used to smoke pot sat on the coffee table and I couldn’t wait to dive into the DMT. I’d never tried it, but always wondered. The couch creaked as I lowered myself. The bag unraveled in my hand and I looked it over carefully. “It could be drain cleaner for all I know,” I said to nobody at all. “Maybe it is,” I added before shoveling it into the pipe. “Nobody would miss me if it were,” I whispered.

More than anything, I wanted to chase the absence of Jane from my mind. I wanted it gone, far, far away. In the corner of my living room, I could see her crib. Tight, I clenched my eyes shut, trying not to look. There were a couple of toys on the floor too. I’d wished I had called a cleaning service, or a demolition team.

Leaning over the coffee table I noticed my reflection in the glass. “One last chance to back out,” I said, before sparking the lighter and inhaling deeply. In the back of my mind, my father spoke again. “Yeah, run away. That’s what you’re good at.”

First my chest got tight, as it did when I smoked anything. Then the world wobbled in and out of focus like a tv with poor reception. For a moment I heard the baby crying. Instinctively I leaned forward to get off the couch, looking down I saw my reflection in the glass table. My ears had grown and come to a point. My face had shriveled. “You douche,” my reflection said. I blinked hard trying to shake it.

What happened after that I can only describe as an altered state. The elvish version of me proceeded to call me a douche and tell me about what I’d done wrong with my life. He also had some assistance from my dad, who didn’t sound none to pleased to be a part of my trip. “Great, you’re fucked up, again.”

I awoke in the darkness of my living room with a jolt. I got up, searched the darkness for the baby and realized she wasn’t there. The pain bore a hole through my chest and I wanted to lie down on a set of train tracks.  

The Jim Beam sloshed into a cup. The first drink felt wonderful, as did the second and third. By the time normal people would have been eating lunch, I couldn’t stand up. The tv played, but I wasn’t watching it. I couldn’t suffer through another Vincent Terrance Tito movie.

When I awoke from my drunken stupor, I found the bottle and did it again. This continued for some time. I lost track of days and stopped bathing. I drank until I couldn’t anymore and then I slept. Missed calls piled up on my phone, as did texts and mail in the hallway. People came and went, knocking on the door. I didn’t answer. The lights are on, but nobody is home, I thought. It worked as the perfect analogy for my sanity.

After the liquor ran out, I decided to smoke more DMT. It took me awhile to find the pipe, which had slid between the cushions. It felt mandatory to scurry away from the pain, to run at all costs. I pressed the pipe to my lips and held the lighter up. That’s when my phone rang. The pipe clacked against the table.

“Hello?” I asked.

“Jade, it’s me Dawn.”

“Yeah, what do you want?” If there were a list of people I didn’t want to talk to, she’d be in the top ten.

“Someone has been following me,” she said.

A pregnant pause fell between us. I wanted to tell her I didn’t give a damn, but I bit my tongue and took the higher road. “I’m not a cop anymore. If you think you’re in danger call the police.”

“I don’t know if I can do that,” she muttered. “Look, can we just talk?”

A lot of things crossed my mind after she said that. One of those thoughts was all the things I’d rather do than talk to her. I’d rather push bamboo shoots under my fingernails than talk to you, I thought.

It didn’t take long before there came a knock at the door. “What?” I shouted.

“It’s me, Dawn. Let me in Jade. I’m worried,” she said with that touch of British accent I loved.

I hadn’t expected her to be right outside my door and felt stupid for still holding the phone to my ear.

The door flung open and she walked through it, heels clacking. “You don’t look well.” Her eyes darted around the apartment. “You haven’t been sleeping have you?”

“I don’t have time for your shit,” I replied.

She looked around my place, eyes taking in everything and a look of disappointment crossed her face. “I’m here for a reason Jade. Someone has been following me.”

“Great, maybe you can barge into their house and annoy them.”

“You’re a cop. Isn’t it your job to protect and serve?” She gave me a look I couldn’t quite pin down, something angry and seductive.

“Not anymore.”

“Hmm, no surprise. I never thought you were cut out to be a cop,” she said, walking deeper into the apartment. “I see you’ve taken up some extracurricular activities,” she said, pointing down at the pipe.

“If I wanted a lecture from a drama queen, I’d call my mother.” After I said it, it seemed like a miserable thing to say considering she’d been dead for three years.

She smirked. “Are you going to help me or not?”

I flopped down on the couch, staring up at the ceiling. “Isn’t there anyone else?”

“I can’t go to the police because my visa expired, and I haven’t renewed it. If they find out I’m here illegally they’ll send me home.”

She sat down on the couch and gave me a strange look. “Someone has been stalking me. I don’t know his name, only that he’s a bald man. I’ve seen him a few times, at the supermarket or parked outside my house. I’m afraid Jade. Please help.”

Even though her story was compelling, I couldn’t get out of my own way. “Damsels in distress aren’t really my thing, save that bullshit for the fairytales.”

“I’m not a damsel in distress asshole. I’m a person and I need your help.”

After a deep inhale, I considered all my options. It seemed possible that I could do what all failed detectives do. Well, the ones who don’t bite the bullet after duty. I could work as a private investigator and stick it right to that bitch, hit her right in the wallet. The idea intrigued me.

“Give me the rundown,” I said, tossing the bowl onto the glass table. They clanked together horrifically. “What did he look like?”

She went on a diatribe about a man who’d been lurking in the shadows. He didn’t have hair, drove a minivan and looked like every other middle aged man on the planet.  

“I will look into it,” I said reluctantly.

She looked back at me as if she had something to say but turned away instead. I remembered why I’d fallen in love with her in the first place. We’d been good to each other and the sex had been mind-blowing.

The door slammed behind her and I had to admit I didn’t hate seeing her leave. I didn’t mind watching her walk out either, if you know what I mean.

After she left, I researched the private investigator thing on the internet and found out it wouldn’t be that difficult. I’ll get around to it, I thought. Visions of opening my own practice passed through my head. I’d always wanted to work for myself. Nobody telling me what to do. Nobody always on my case, just me. Yes-sir-e.

Later that night I parked outside Dawn’s apartment complex. The street looked clear, only two cars ahead of me and neither had occupants. With a twist of the knob, the music came down in volume. I reclined the seat, pretending to rest and staying just out of sight.  

I sat there in the darkness of the car, watching, waiting. I didn’t know what would happen if the guy turned up. I wasn’t really sure what I could do, citizens arrest maybe? One thing I did know, I wasn’t going to play defense the entire time. Once I figured out who he was, I had to do something. All I had to do was be patient. He’d come to me like a bug to a zapper.

The first stakeout had been unsuccessful. Nothing happened except a couple of hookers had taken up residency nearby and I’d been tempted to pull up and see if they had a two for one special. Like a sale at any retail outlet, I wanted their clothes half off.

The next day I filed my paperwork for my license to practice as an investigator. Dawn called several times for updates, to which I let her go to voicemail. I wasted the day dabbling on the internet, a mild combination of pornography and solitaire. I hadn’t figured out all the aspects of the computer, but I knew the essentials.

The day dragged on and on, but the little orange bottle in my pocket lulled me into the dream-like state I’d grown accustom to. It helped keep the pain at bay, both physically and mentally. When the drugs were in my system, I thought about the baby a lot less.

I climbed inside my car and drove into the setting sun, listening to the music play. Another stakeout, another greasy sandwich and a large coffee. Debatably the best part of being an investigator thus far.

From the rearview, I watched the sun go down behind her building. The coffee had long gone cold and there wasn’t a single thing to listen to on the radio aside from commercials. The baseball game had ended, leaving the Yankees at a loss. Ha-ha, take that dad.

A car pulled up and I watched her get out. Dawn had presumably gotten home from work. She looked right at the car and saw me, but she didn’t come over. Instead she kept her eyes straight, acting like she hadn’t seen me and waltzed up to her apartment where she pulled all the shades.  

“Smart girl,” I said.

The music played softly over the speakers and I’d nearly fallen asleep when a gray minivan rolled into sight. It pulled up, stopped and parked. She’d told me what to look for, and I knew I had my guy. I removed my camera from my pocket and snapped pictures. From my position, I couldn’t see the driver. I could however see the plates, which I wrote down in the notes.

“I got you, you son of a bitch,” I whispered.

The car stayed there, waiting. I wanted to get out and get closer, to see what the guy looked like, but I didn’t want to blow my cover. I waited in the car, watching him. After what felt like a tense thirty minutes, he pulled off the side of the road and disappeared as quickly as he’d arrived.

My connection at the DMV ran the plates in exchange for a “favor.” She’d said his name was Jeremy and I’d taken it to google where I found a collection of books written by the suspect. They had scandalous titles, some implying stalker behavior.

When I got home, I texted her to make sure she’d locked her doors and closed all her shades. I wanted her to be safe, whatever that meant. I’d insisted if she heard anything unusual that she called the police. The real police.

Dinner consisted of frozen pizza and whiskey. The ESPN recaps proved to be nothing more than a snooze. I nodded off in my recliner with the pint of gold label lying on my chest.

The following morning, I awoke with the sun, birds chirping. The morning coffee gurgled as it poured into the cup. My phone didn’t have any action. The paper sat on the front step, where it did most days and I grabbed it, bringing it up to my place to have with my coffee. I checked the scores on all the games, noted there wasn’t anything good. I’d lost a handful of money on hockey, but I’d never been a good gambler.

The strong urge to drink the gold label in my coffee woke with me, a demon I hadn’t learned to tame yet. Instead, I tossed the pint, or what remained of it anyway, in the freezer. It wouldn’t freeze, but I was less likely to drink it if I couldn’t see it.

After drinking my cup of coffee, I called Dawn to ask if the car had come back. She didn’t answer. By the third time I called, I had already slipped out of the apartment and headed for my car. The feeling sunk in. I should have moved when I had the chance.

It never fails, when you’re in a hurry, you catch all the red lights. The drive to Dawns house felt like the longest twenty minutes of my life. I didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t lose her too, not like I’d lost baby Jane Doe. I pushed the thought from my mind in an instant.

Crossing the grass lawn, my heart raised into my throat. Even before I got to the doorstep, I saw the splintered wood hanging from the hinges. He’d kicked it in. Immediately I got on the phone with 911. Her car sat in the driveway, which indicated she hadn’t ran.

“Dawn,” I called into the house, hoping to get a response. “Dawn, are you in there?” My hand went to the spot where my weapon had sat for many years, but I touched an empty belt. I had a personal gun, but I’d left it at my apartment. Fuck.

As I stepped into the kitchen, I noticed signs of a struggle. My heart sank. On the floor near the kitchen table laid a red stain. As I got closer, I sighed a touch of relief to notice the broken wine glass beside it. “It’s not blood, thank God.”

The operator on 911 asked me a million questions, to which I had to focus on answering rather than being a cop. I told them to hurry, but for whatever reason I didn’t announce myself as a former cop. 

On the kitchen table, upside down, sat a book. As I got closer, I noticed the name on the spine “Love from afar” and my stomach knotted. He can’t be that stupid, I thought. He wouldn’t leave his own book at the scene. I turned the book over and out fell a slip of paper with his license plate number. He hadn’t put it there, Dawn had. I recognized the scrawl of her handwriting, neat, beautiful. She’d been doing her own detective work.

Waiting for the police, I took the book out to my car and tossed it on the passenger’s seat. It wasn’t legal, what I’d done, but it had to be done. I left them the slip of paper with the license plate number, which would help. I pulled my jacket off, tossed it on top of the book and walked back to the porch where I waited.

The cruiser pulled up and I watched as two cops filed out, recognizing one as my former partner.

“Detective Jade, I’ll be a son of a bitch,” Bull said. He didn’t look as thrilled as he sounded. His partner didn’t either.

“I haven’t got time to bust balls. This is important, Bull. Dawn is a friend of mine.”

Bull and his new partner walked into the house together.

“I found a slip of paper on the table, looks important.”

Bull and his female partner both drew their guns and walked inside. They followed the handbook, clearing the scene. When they were sure there wasn’t anyone inside, they met back at the kitchen.

Bull stopped me with his hands on my chest. “You can’t be here, Jade.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Don’t make this difficult. This is an active crime scene, and you’re not a cop anymore. Take off Jade. I will call you if anything comes up.” Judging by the look on his face, it had been just as hard to say as it had been to hear.

Bull’s words hit me right in the ego. After all the things we’d done together. After all the hours we’d logged in unison, he wasn’t going to play ball. He wouldn’t bend a couple of rules for me. I wondered if it had something to do with his new partner. She looked like a straight arrow, right out of the academy, no wiggle room yet.

Driving home felt like the wrong thing to do, but without a direction to go, I would only be wasting gas. The kitchen scenario played through my head, walking step by step through my encounter with Bull again, making me bitter.

Sitting at my kitchen table, I flipped through the book and it was exactly what I expected. The protagonist stalked a woman who sounded scarcely like Dawn. He talked about wanting to paint, write and preserve her forever. Creepy. It took a couple of hours for me to determine he’d been living vicariously through the character. I couldn’t finish reading it because it made me ill.

The book made a deep thump as it landed in the trashcan. I couldn’t read another word and I certainly didn’t want it sitting around my house for someone else to see, not that I had many visitors.

My phone chirped with a text.

Brianna: Sorry I didn’t give you the address with the name. I forgot.

As soon as she’d sent me the street name, I barreled down my stairs and ran to my car. My heart galloped in my chest as I sprinted through the parking lot, kicking up dirt and spinning the tires too.

Instead of parking right in front of his house, I opted to park a couple of blocks away. I vaguely knew the neighborhood. As I stepped out of my car, cold wind whipping at the nape of my neck, I thought about Bull. He couldn’t be far behind.

No car sat in the driveway, which begged the question where had they gone?

Looking over my shoulder, I walked the front steps, traversed the stone path, observed all the décor on the front lawn. Bird baths and other neat things sat on the well maintained lawn. When I got to the front door, I wasn’t surprised to find it locked. With a rock from a nearby garden, I broke the small glass window and stretched to unlock the door.

I was surprised at how well kept the interior looked and wondered if he had a staff. As quick as I could, I walked through the kitchen, looking at anything that might help me find Dawn. Nothing. Then I walked into the living room, this time I’d been smart enough to bring my gun.

Door by door, I searched, hoping to find anything. Everything looked clear except when I got to his bedroom. There were drawers flung open and clothes askew. Some of his belongings were sprawled out on the bed, perhaps he’d gotten his shit together in a hurry.

“C’mon, c’mon tell me you left me something. Where are you going?”

The bedroom didn’t have much. He’d taken clothes and toiletries. On the floor of his closet sat a safe with the door open. A few papers, deeds and other documents that didn’t prove to be helpful.

The screeching of a cars breaks broke my investigation. I walked over, crouched in front of the window, careful not to move the curtains and saw Bull and his partner moving up the path.


From his bedroom I moved to the next room, which I determined was a study. Hanging on a nearby corkboard were pictures of Dawn. They varied between her jogging and coming out of the grocery store. Staring at the collection of photographs made me sick, reminding me of the last conversation I’d had with her. Shaking my head, I moved further, weary of the sound of my feet.

On the desk I found not only the workings of another novel, but tons and tons of letters all written to Dawn, scribbled in nearly illegible handwriting. Some were cringy, what I gathered from a quick glance. As I investigated, I pulled out my cell and started snapping pictures. The police would have similar photos soon.

One of the things I’d learned on the force was to always check the trashcan. He had a wicker basket he kept by his desk and that’s where I found a crumpled up post it note. It had the name of a storage place outside of town and a series of numbers. It was the only lead I had, for now.

Instead of taking the note with me, I flattened it out and dropped it on the keyboard. Giving Bull a hint felt right, felt like old times. Even though I didn’t work for the department anymore, I was still helping him solve cases. I could have just as easily crumpled it up and taken it with me. That might have bought me a little more time.

White paint crusted over the window, crackled as it opened. Footsteps drew closer and I forced myself out. Standing on the edge of the roof, staring down I felt a wave of vertigo. Heights had never been friendly to me.

My eyes clutched tight together as I launched off the roof and landed on the ground. Sparks of pain erupted in my legs, shooting all the way up my sides. The soles of my feet burned. I stood there for a second, feeling the hot tendrils of pain. That’s when I saw her. Bull’s partner had made eye contact with me through a downstairs window.

“Oh shit,” I shouted.

Every movement shot shards of pain like glass up and down my calves. It felt like walking on hot coals, or something worse. One of my legs didn’t want to cooperate as I crossed the lawn, staring over my shoulder. The front door banged open behind me.

“Jade, you son of a bitch, get back here.”

The few steps of a head start were enough to get me across the lawn and down the street. The clunk of her sneakers on the pavement behind me were enough to cause concern, but I got behind the wheel with enough time to blow a raspberry at her.

The engine hummed as I moved into the city, trying to keep ahead of them. I wasn’t sure if she’d hopped in the car or not, probably not. She could have called out an APB on me and had them looking for my car. That seemed possible. Hell, that seemed likely.

A chain gate blocked the entrance to the storage facility. The thought of busting through the gate with the hood of my car crossed my mind, but I decided against that for the sake of my bank account. I didn’t doubt by the time I’d gotten Dawn back; they’d have me in handcuffs. I couldn’t afford bail, gate and a new car.

Instead of busting through, I drove the length of the fence. As I drove to the back of the storage facility, I kept my eyes open inside. I didn’t want to draw suspicion. As soon as the car was out of sight, I parked close to the fence and killed the engine.

The car jostled under my feet as I used it to scale the fence. My feet ached as I landed on the far side. I’m getting too old for this shit, I thought as I limped down the rows of storage units.  

There weren’t any cars inside, and it felt like I might have been chasing a hunch, but I ran across that lot, got to the unit and realized the lock. “Fuck,” I said. Lock picking had never been my specialty and I didn’t have a pair of bolt cutters. “Well, if the police weren’t on their way before, they will be now,” I said, drawing my pistol.

The crack of the gun rang my ears. The two chunks of lock felt hot in my hands as I pried them out of their place and tossed them. The door rattled as it came up.

Lying against the metal wall of the unit, sat Dawn. A gag covered her mouth. Tears had streamed through her mascara and she looked mortified in the darkness of the unit. I pulled the gag from her mouth with a rip.  

“Are you ok?” I asked.

“He’s coming back,” she said.

My heart freefell in my chest. Of course, he is. My hands shuffled at the knots bonding her hands and feet. I tried to remember what I’d learned about knots from the cub scouts, but those memories seemed a million miles away. I hadn’t even broken a single knot when crunching gravel sounded behind me.

“What’re you doing?” the voice broke the silence, followed by the slam of a door. My hand dropped for my pistol. “If you touch that gun, she dies.”

When I looked at Jeremy, I noticed the gun wasn’t pointed at me. He looked much younger than I expected. I’d been expecting an older man, perhaps in his sixties. He looked to be in his forties. He had a perplexed look on his face.

“I thought this might happen.” He stepped closer, pointing the gun at her face. “Drop your weapon on the ground and slide it to me.”

Pain thrusted itself inside my heart and my mind. As annoying as I found Dawn to be, I couldn’t imagine a world without her. I couldn’t bare a life where she no longer existed. The pain of losing Jane Doe came back to me and I couldn’t live with myself if I had to do it again.

I swallowed. “Point it at me. You love her. You don’t want to hurt her.”

My foot slid across the concrete, leading me right in front of the pistol. I showed him my hands and slowly reached for my sidearm. As I placed the pistol on the floor, I realized something. I still loved her. Oh lord.

Again, I raised my hands, showing him, I had no tricks up my sleeve. That much was true. I didn’t have any tricks. Bull on the other hand, had something in mind. I could see him over Jeremy’s shoulder, working his way down the row of storage units. He had his gun drawn and he moved silently closer.

The tension rose like a shaken bottle of champagne. Jeremy lifted the gun. “I don’t want to hurt her.” His hand shook.

“You don’t have to hurt her. It’s not too late to let us go.”

He did something then, that I don’t understand. He started rocking back and forth. His eyes scurried about looking side to side like he was searching for something as he rocked. “You don’t understand,” he said, voice shrill.

I took a decisive step closer, looking over my head at the strap that would close the door. “You’re right, I don’t understand. Explain it to me.”

He stopped rocking back and forth and looked me dead in the eyes. “It’s a cold world out there. She could get hurt. She could get taken. She could get killed.” Darkness shaded his eyes as he pointed the gun at me. “You’re one of the dangers in her life.”

Bull’s foot must have scuffed a rock or something because Jeremy whirled around. When he did, I grabbed the strap and yanked the door down. It came rolling like thunder and clashed against the pavement. Through the darkness, I dove toward Dawn.

A couple of blasts broke the silence outside. A single bullet punctured the door to the storage unit. Light cast through the hole, illuminating a single spot on the far wall. The silence stuck, holding us in a depth of suspense.

A booming voice called through the metal. “It’s safe to come out now.” I recognized the voice immediately. Bull.

When I slid up the door, I looked down and saw Jeremy, lying on his back with a police uniform coat covering his head. I knew exactly what that meant. Instead of questioning my former partner, I turned back and untied Dawn.

Her arms came easily, but her feet didn’t. I did eventually wrangle them out with some help of Bull’s pocketknife. Before she could say anything, I wrapped my arms around her and held her tight. I held her like a strong gust of wind my take her away. The scent of her shampoo lingered in my nostrils.

In her ear, I whispered, “I’m sorry about everything.”

Three days past before I saw her again. She’d cut her hair short, worn loose fitting clothing and done a metric ton of crying. That’s a guess. She walked through my apartment door and sat on the couch beside me.

“I’ve done a lot of thinking Jade. We need to give this thing a second chance.”

“You’re right.”

When I thought she would take my hand, or when I thought she would kiss me, instead she lifted a finger and pointed to the crib in the corner of the room. “What’s that?”

It wasn’t easy to explain to her about the baby I’d come across and how I’d tried to take care of her. It took a long time to get it all out without crying. “I haven’t taken it down yet, been meaning to.”

“Let’s not rush on that,” she said and snapped me a wink.

Submitted: January 01, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Clarence Carter. All rights reserved.

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