Sunday, December 19, 2010
I hope you enjoy reading this opening sequence to my short story, "Missing Impossible," available in my short story collection, The Chronicles of Marr-nia, Short Stories Starring Barbara Marr.
We were on a stakeout. The very air around us was electric with the excitement of potential danger. On the edge of my seat with anticipation, my mind was ablaze with rich and vivid imaginings of what wild adventure might lay ahead.
Right. In the movies maybe.
Here, not so much.
We were on a stakeout alright, but it wasn’t exciting. It wasn’t even mildly interesting. I had hoped for more. I had hoped for sparking electric air. I had dreamed of anticipation and the need to calculate some necessary mission-oriented action at a moment’s notice. Instead, what I got was a cold cup of coffee in a stinky Buick while I sat shivering as the thermostat on the bank across the street read thirty-eight degrees. That was in the sun. We were in the shade. Damn!
“What’s that awful smell?”
“Dunno,” answered Colt. “Something in the trash, I guess.”
“In the trunk,” he said matter-of-factly, as if I would understand.
I didn’t understand. This required further inquiry.
“Why is there trash in the trunk of your car?” I asked, trying to disguise my disgust.
“Part of the routine, Curly,” Colt mumbled while simultaneously chewing a Boston cream donut. “Always check their trash. Once they put it on the street, its public property. I grabbed hers on the way over to pick you up – put it in the trunk. We’ll go through it later.” He sipped from his cup and swallowed down the last of his donut. I wondered if his coffee had turned to slushy ice like mine had.
Colt Baron. He’s a private investigator. To know him is to love him. All women do. My daughters love him, my friends love him, my mother loves him – although that wasn’t always the case – and of course, I love him. Problem is, I have a husband. If that weren’t complicated enough, Colt and my husband, Howard, were currently roommates in a two-bedroom condo across town. Long story. I could write a book on that one.
My name is Barbara Marr. Most people just call me Barb, except for Colt, who calls me Curly. To state the obvious – because I have curly hair. The hair was once a sad mousy brown, but now belies my age as more and more dismal gray strands creep their evil way into the fray. On a good hair day with some wash-in color, I can look a tad like Sara Jessica Parker. On a bad hair day I look like Don King’s long lost white sister. But I’m forty-five years old and have birthed three children. Who cares about a little messy hair? Let’s face it – after a woman has presented herself panting and prostrate on a table with her legs in stirrups, with half the hospital staff viewing her wares every five minutes, a bad hair day is a walk in the park.
Back to the stinky Buick.
So there we were, Colt looking as handsome as ever with his yellow, wispy, want-to-run-your-fingers-through-it hair (nary a gray strand in sight), and me – old, cold, and grumpy – contemplating the idea of rifling through putrid bags of trash. So much for excitement. Unless we found an unclaimed winning twenty-million dollar lotto ticket stuck to that messy (ahem) feminine product, the prospect seemed way less than attractive.
“We’re going to go digging through someone’s trash?” I moaned, unable to hide the disgust any longer. “This isn’t exactly what I thought investigating would be like. Why did you drag me into this?”
“Drag you?” Colt glared me down. “You begged me, remember?”
“Well, ‘beg’ is a strong word.” Pouting now, I slumped further down in my seat, working my coat around me as closely as I could to stave off the inevitable hypothermia.
“Wanna donut?” Colt said, shoving a Donut King bag in front of my frowny face. I was too cold to eat – the act itself would require me to expose my hands to the frigid air and possible frost bite. I shook my head and shoved the bag away with my elbow.
“Boy, you’re Miss Personality today,” he said. “You want me to take you home?”
“No. I asked to be a part of this. I’ll stick it through. Just thought it would be a little more . . . interesting.”
“I told you it wasn’t exciting or glamorous work, remember? No Magnum. No guns. No red Ferrari. No car chases. This is it, Curly. Sitting, sometimes for hours on end, waiting for some woman’s lover to show up – or not – snap a few pictures if we’re lucky, cash a check. If the check doesn’t bounce, we celebrate with a Corona until the next client comes along.”
“Yeah, but you didn’t say anything about trash.”
“True. Sorry ’bout that.”
I looked at my watch and then out through the windshield at the two story garden apartment building we’d been surveilling. An hour and twenty minutes. She’d gone into that apartment an hour and twenty minutes ago. No one else had followed. I sighed and watched as my breath turned visible. In the arctic-like air, an hour and twenty minutes felt like a year and twenty days.
“What’s this chick’s name again?” I asked.
“Paula. Paula Duffy.”
“Her picture looks so familiar, but that name just doesn’t ring a bell. Why does her husband think she’s cheating?”
“This apartment we’re watching. She’s been renting it for over year. He only found out about it – accidentally – three weeks ago. She doesn’t know he knows.”
Now THAT was juicy info. Who can turn down a story like a woman gone bad?
“Cool,” I said. “You think her stud is in there right now or you think he’ll be along soon?”
“Bingo! Take a look for yourself, Curly – here comes stud-boy now.” Colt was pointing at the apartment while positioning his telephoto lens at the ready. Unraveling myself from my coat cocoon, I grabbed the binoculars from the floor to get a better look.
A taut, squat Asian man was knocking on the door. The frame was familiar, but I didn’t have a full view of his face. If only he’d turn around a little bit more . . .
“Colt! I know that man!”
“Give me that picture! Let me see her face again.”
Still snapping the shutter furiously, Colt threw the glossy colored photo my way. I looked at it, and immediately remembered who she was.
“Parra. From Tae Kwon Do. That man knocking on her door is Master Kyo. He owns the place. And she’s Parra – his shining star student. Parra is having an affair with Master Kyo! How fun is that?” I was beginning to warm up nicely. This investigation stuff was invigorating after all.
The door opened and Master Kyo stepped in. Unfortunately, it was impossible, even with the binoculars, to see who had opened the door.
“Curly, her name is Paula – not Parra.”
It took me a minute to understand what he meant, but then it all became crystal clear, and boy, did I feel stupid. Certainly, it sounded like Parra when Master Kyo spoke, but then again, when he yelled at me, it sounded like he was telling Bob, not Barb, to do twenty push-ups. I thought back over the many times I had called her Parra to her face. “Hi, Parra, how are you?” “Hey, Parra, great kick!” “Ow! Parra, that hurts – don’t kick so hard!” My face went red when reflecting upon my many Parra faux pas. And yet, she had never corrected me.
The door had closed, leaving us with nothing but the view of a dingy apartment once again. A few silent minutes ticked by.
“Did you get any good, incriminating pictures?” I asked finally.
“Dunno. We’ll stick it out here and wait for one or the both of them to leave . . .”
I didn’t hear the rest of Colt’s sentence, if he finished it, because at that very moment a virtual fireball tore through Paula’s apartment, sending her front door flying through the air.
Did you like this little excerpt from "Missing Impossible?" If so, you can read the whole story and five others in:
Posted by Karen Cantwell at 10:31 AM