Coming Soon

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

Submitted: November 12, 2019

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Submitted: November 12, 2019

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A A A


Coming Soon

By

Lee Dunning

 

I got the call at exactly 8:05 a.m., and from the knowing smirks of the other detectives, I knew I was about to inherit a problem. Or perhaps this was an initiation. As the new kid in the department, I expected a certain amount of hazing. I’d worked myself up through the ranks, though, so these guys knew me, and liked me. I’d earned my place among them. I didn’t expect any real trouble. “Detective Cain,” I answered.

“Oh, thank God, you’re a woman,” a female voice said. “Maybe you’ll listen to me.” I wondered what my being a woman had to do with anything, and the thought crossed my mind that this might be the prank I’d been expecting. “I’d like to report a murder.” Stress, or perhaps fear, made her words blur into one solid gasp of sound. All I really needed to make out was the word ‘murder’ though, and she had my attention. All thoughts concerning pranks vanished with the utterance of that one word. Around me, the guys saw me go on alert and they exchanged grins. I scowled back and deliberately turned my back to them. “Are you still there?” the voiced asked. “Please don’t hang up.”

“I’m here,” I said. First day jitters were keeping me from thinking straight. Why had she called the detective desk directly? Why hadn’t she called 911? Doubt prickled at me, but I didn’t dare jump to conclusions. Better to look a fool and endure the laughter of the others than blow off a caller because they skipped the middleman.

“Please listen to me,” the caller said, “none of the other detectives believed me.”

That explained a few things. Now I knew why she had bypassed 911, and why my coworkers found the whole situation amusing. Not only had she called before, she’d called a lot, earning herself the label of a crackpot. Now it was my turn to deal with her. “I’m ready to listen,” I assured the woman. “Let’s start with your name and your contact information.”

“I gave the other detectives that information,” she said.

“I know, it’s frustrating, but this is the first time you’ve spoken to me, so let’s start from the beginning. I assume this didn’t just happen, so you’re not in any immediate danger?” She relented, and I entered the name she gave me into the database query. “Lauren Sommers,” I repeated as I typed. A snicker issued from the direction of Mike Reilly’s desk. As I’d feared, they knew her. I grimaced as her file popped up onto my screen. She’d called almost daily for the past two weeks. She’d reported her best friend, Jessica Nance, as missing on the seventh, a Monday. The detectives had verified with Jessica’s employers that she hadn’t shown up for work. She lived alone and when they went to the house they saw it was up for sale. I read the report back to Lauren. “It looks like she decided to pull up stakes and start new somewhere else,” I said. “The economy hit a lot of people hard. It’s not unusual for folks to abandon their houses and walk away from a foreclosure.”

“I know that’s what it looks like.” Weariness and resignation tinged Lauren’s words. I realized now her fear from earlier had more to do with concern I wouldn’t hear her out than actual fright. “I helped her move into that house fourteen years ago, and she had a fifteen-year mortgage on it; it was almost hers. She wasn’t upside down on her payments.”

I scanned through the report. Numerous calls to Jessica’s phone had resulted in nothing aside from a filled-up message box. “What about her family? Have you tried contacting her parents or siblings?”

“She was an only child and her parents died in a car crash when she was nineteen. It’s the main reason why we’re so close. She has no one else. I know you must hear this all the time, but I know her, and she wouldn’t do something like this.”

I knew I’d regret it, but I found myself saying, “I’ll tell you what, I’ll go out to her place and look things over.”

“Thank you,” Lauren said. The tight rasp told me she was trying to hold back tears and failing. “Thank you.”

I stood up just as a suspicious skittering echoed from the center drawer of my desk. I grabbed my purse and fought to keep a grin from spreading across my face. I finally knew what form my initiation had taken. The oldest of the team was pushing sixty and still they behaved like second graders. I took comfort in that since I’d never grown up either. I’d become a cop to help people, but deep down the little girl in me still wanted to play cops and robbers. “That roach had better be out of my desk by the time I get back,” I said, and headed for the door.

A half hour later I pulled up in front of Jessica Nance’s house. I’d dragged Mike Reilly along. He’d rolled his eyes, like some big brother barely tolerating the idiocy of his little sister, but he came anyway, and I gave him gold stars for that. For a change, things were fairly quiet at the precinct, so my boss was writing this off as a practice run. If nothing came of the trip though, I’d get a lecture about learning from the more experienced detectives so that I didn’t waste city resources. I could live with that.

Lauren’s house was a typical tract home, in a typical suburban Phoenix neighborhood--sand colored, sporting a washed-out-red tile roof. Rock landscape, three generic bushes, an ocotillo, and a palo verde tree dropping bright yellow flowers, made up the front yard. A Century 21 sign swayed in the warm Spring breeze with a “Coming Soon” hanger dangling below, presumably to add anticipation to an otherwise ho hum product. Something about the sign struck me as odd. “Mike, if a bank forecloses on a house, do they usually put up signs like this?”

“Not sure,” he said. “I’m not even sure if the place would get listed under a regular realtor.”

“Did anyone call the realtor?” I asked. I tried to remember the report, and I couldn’t recall reading anything about the listing agent. I pulled out my phone and dialed the number displayed on the for-sale sign. Linda Glacier answered her phone right away, and I didn’t waste time with niceties before telling her what I was after.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said in reply to my questions. For the first time a whisper of dread started to work its way through the doubt I’d carried with me since Lauren’s call. “I don’t have a listing at that address.”

“Well, it’s not actually a listing yet, it says it’s coming soon.” I let my eyes wander down the stretch of houses along the street. A lot of them were for sale or rent--this neighborhood had been hit hard when the housing bubble burst. Three houses down another one, this time listed with RE/MAX, had a dangle sign with the words “Coming Soon”.

“Doesn’t matter,” Linda said. “It’s not one of mine. But I’m close by--give me ten minutes. If someone is stealing my signs I want to know about it.”

Mike gave me a “What are we doing here?” look and I just shrugged. With two minutes to spare, a late model Lexus pulled up and a solidly built woman with a blunt cut and perfectly manicured nails erupted from it. She glared at the sign and then at me as if somehow the two of us, human and inanimate object, had joined forces to ruin her day. She marched around the sign shaking her head. “Kids didn’t do this. Someone with a post-hole digger planted this here. What made you come and look at this place?”

“We got a report of a missing person who lived at this address.” I saw no point in being coy. Linda was the closest thing I had to a lead at this point and I needed her help. I eyed the RE/MAX sign again. “Would you mind checking some of these other houses for me? Make sure they’re legit?”

Despite himself, Mike’s curiosity had grown. He joined us as we traipsed down the street, Linda using her tablet to check the MLS listings for the houses with signs in their yards. “These are real,” she said as passed two single-story homes. We paused in front of the RE/MAX house.

“What about his one? Are these teaser properties listed in the MLS?”

“Depending on what the client agrees to, these get handled in various ways,” Linda said, “but I know Martha, so let me give her a call.” Five minutes later Linda turned a puckered frown my way. “She doesn’t know anything about this house.”

Mike’s eyes pinched shut and he bit back a curse. It could still be some kind of prank, but I didn’t think so and neither did he. He pulled out his phone and made the call. I turned and took in the rest of the street. Five more realty signs, and one at the end with a teaser dangle. Coming Soon.


© Copyright 2020 Lee Dunning. All rights reserved.

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