This is the first short story I ever wrote. I was sitting with my writing group in a little coffee shop we used to frequent by the Snoqualmie Train Depot.
by Victoria Bastedo
*This is a work of fiction. The characters don’t really exist.
I’m planning on becoming a private investigator, and by that I don’t mean a private investigator in a TV show. I know what you’re thinking, that there aren’t any famous private investigators anymore. Sherlock lived a long time ago. Now all crime solvers are faceless and formless, like some monster from the Rattlesnake lagoon. But I think it’s high time your average Jane got to know a real private investigator. I think the public is ready. If you look around, there aren’t a lot of PI’s hanging their shingles in the Snoqualmie Valley, especially young women like me. I’m pretty sure I’ve got all the savvy I need. Let me explain what I mean.
It was a dark and drizzling night. I know what you’re thinking! Doesn’t it always drizzle around here, and isn’t it usually dark at night? I was just climbing out of my car after a thrilling evening hitting some of the nightspots in North Bend. The breeze brought a wet mist against my skin and mingled the mist with a few more substantial drops. But, as is my habit, I stood silent and studied Mt Si for a long moment anyway.
That’s when I heard the noises, a shriek, and then a bellow. Behind me, there was the sound of scuffling and a woman shouting. I turned around.
Half a block away, barely visible under the edge of a streetlight, a man and a woman were struggling next to an open car door. Then the woman gasped and the man shoved her in the car and slammed the door after her. The car wobbled and bumped and then out she popped from the door on the other side. He ran around the car with a roar, and although it was now harder for me to see, I sensed violence. She was back in the car in seconds. For one quick flash I saw the expression on the man’s face when he turned and slammed behind the wheel.
That’s what decided me to act. I ducked away next to my car as he roared past. And then because my mind works fast I jumped up and memorized his license plate number.
Another reason why I’d be good at this, I have contacts. One of my friends from high-school-days has an older brother. He’s just completed some special training for the police coalition in Snoqualmie. In short, he’s a cop and his sister says he’s always working out. You get the picture. A young cop in his early twenties that’s just been trained was right up my alley. I called my friend and got his personal cell phone number. I dialed and waited impatiently.
“Yo,” he said, a moment later.
“Uh, is this Terrence?” (That was his one downfall. I wasn’t sure how buff you could be if you were named Terrence, but I was in need.)
“Hi,” I said, trying not to sound too bubbly. “This is Tasha Marshall.”
“Oh, yeah,” he grunted. “Friend of Cicely’s.”
Great! He’d heard of me. That made things easier! He could… my mind stopped. I wondered just what he had heard about me. What had Cicely told him? I shook my head and got back to business.
“Right, Cicely’s friend. Well, I need to report a crime. I just saw a man force a woman to get in his car. Twice. I memorized the license plate.”
“How could a woman be forced into a car twice?”
“She popped out the other side, and he put her back in,” I spelled out. A picture appeared in my mind, and I hoped that he didn’t have the same one in his.
“Like a jack-in-the-box.”
Drat! Same picture.
“Look, it doesn’t sound like you’re taking this seriously.”
“Where are you?”
I gave him the address; half hoping that he’d make a note of it for his own personal records. As soon as he agreed to come over to make a report I thanked him and ran inside. My naturally curly hair had a tendency to turn into one tight fuzz-ball during drizzly weather. When he came to the door and knocked, I reminded myself that his name was Terrence as I opened the door. It didn’t do to get too excited.
I was glad to see that not all crime solvers were faceless and formless as I stared at him. I maintained a thoughtful but savvy look on my face while I looked him over. I wanted to keep things professional, so that meant no drooling. Absentmindedly I wondered if all the graduates from the police coalition special training force were issued gray t-shirts that were one-size-too-small and had the word ‘BUFF’ printed on them with their certificates.
“Uh, Ms. Marshall?” he said after several contemplative seconds had passed.
“Tasha,” I said firmly. “Come in.”
Well, I had to hand it to him. He kept things annoyingly professional the whole time he took down my statement.
“Okay, Ms. Marshall…”
“Tasha!” I insisted, again.
“We’ll keep an eye out.”
He was as good as his word. I went through the night and the next day trying to keep my thoughts away from two subjects; one, what’d happened to the woman in the car, and two, were tight t-shirts worn under the dark blue/ almost black uniform of the average Snoqualmie cop? The next evening the phone rang and I answered without looking at the caller ID.
“Tasha!” I cried over the top of him. I’d recognized his voice, and I told you I was a fast thinker. I waited a few breathless seconds.
“Tasha,” he conceded, and it felt good. The man could be trained. Now that we were on a first name basis, my next step would be to snatch his cell when he wasn’t looking and put my number in his personal contacts.
“What can I do for you?” I asked.
“I located the car and driver that you were speaking of last night,” he said. “I questioned the man, but I saw no suspicious evidence in his car and there was no sign of any woman. He said he’d been in an argument with a friend, that she’d drank too much and protested a ride home.”
“Ms.… I mean Tasha?”
“You didn’t see the look on his face,” I growled.
“Ms. Marshall, I can’t arrest someone because of an expression on his face. I just wanted to tell you that everything is fine.”
“Fine,” I snapped, trying to maintain professionalism.
There was an awkward silence, and I admit to a little pleasant anticipation. Awkward silences in a man are a good sign. I was glad that I had primped the night before.
“Uh, Ms. Marshall.”
“Ta-sha. Spell it out. T-A-S-H-A.”
“Tasha. I wanted to…”
“I think I should…”
Go on, go on, ask!
“Just be careful,” he said.
“That man I questioned, he asked about you, and he remembered your street. ‘That frizzy-haired, skinny woman’ he said.”
“You mean you think that he… might come here and confront me?” I asked, professionalism fading to a warble.
“Call me if you have any trouble, any time. You can call my cellphone,” he said.
Well, that was certainly distracting. By morning I was ready to pay the perpetrator to come over and threaten me so that I could have a reason to call Terrence. I got up and went on with my day with less than my usual cheerful banter. That evening I realized I’d forgotten to buy any groceries on my way home from work. I stomped out of the house without thinking about the fact that it was getting dark, or that the streets of Snoqualmie were becoming deserted. A quick trip to the market was the only thing on my mind.
I was just crossing the railroad tracks by the depot when I was snatched; literally. I remember being swept away by a dance instructor when I was in junior high, and learning the difference between being ‘led’ in a dance by a real man, as opposed to a sweaty-handed kid. This was like that. I was taken by arms of steel, swept away behind a dark train so fast that my happy bubble dissolved with no more noise than a gasp. I had to hand it to that woman in the car. She put up more of a fight than I did.
But I still had my savvy and my quick-thinking ways. I dug in my pocket, even while I was being dragged off, and managed to input the proper caller. I may’ve been tempted to call Terrance before and he was at the top of my call log. A moment later I heard a dim but reassuring, “Yo”.
“This is a train station!” I cried. “A lot of tourists come here! Please let me go!”
My voice was definitely warbling now. My captor didn’t like being talked to. He threw me to the ground, and I landed on the tracks. I’m not sure where my phone landed.
“Ow!” came out of my throat, sounding strangled. And then the creep was on top of me, making a lot of noise in slapping my face.
Well, I found my fighting spirit at last. I began squirming away under him, my shoulders slipping off the small hill beside the tracks. My hands tried to cover my face, crossed like an obstacle.
“Somebody help me!” I tried to scream, while I folded over to the side. I actually managed to gain a few inches on him. I tried to get up and run. He leapt to the chase and grabbed me from behind, twisting us both back to the ground. I tried to scratch him but he was too strong, prying my arms apart and clamping my wrists down to the ground by my shoulders. His form moved up like some great shadow, a nemesis looming over me. And then I heard a siren, screaming from the distance and growing ever nearer. I paused to wonder why they had to build the new police station so far away at the very top of the Snoqualmie Ridge?
But the cop car was coming, zooming by the wooden walking bridge, down the long stretch, nearing and passing the big log. The siren was so persistent that finally my assailant heard it. He froze, his head snatched up at attention, subconsciously waiting for the siren to drive by. And I thought fast. I wrenched to the side so hard that he was bumped. I meant to roll over onto my knees and get up, but the cretin grabbed hold of my hair, which was a tight fuzz-ball and provided an excellent handhold. I clamped my hands onto my head and lay there curled up. My captor, evidently not bright, finally realized that the siren was there to visit him, especially once the cop car swerved right around by the tavern on the corner and screeched to a halt with its lights shining and revolving in blue and red rainbow colors.
I peeked and saw Terrence leap out, and he ran up and plucked my attacker right off the top of me. I’m not sure if he stuck to his recent training or not, but I wasn’t picky. I continued to watch as he arrested the man, handcuffed him, and placed him neatly in the back of his police car. Then he came up to me.
“Tasha,” he said, my name slipping with ease out of his lips, “are you all right?”
He gently helped me to my feet. And then I figured I could get away with anything. I threw my arms around him. And even while he disentangled me with concerned but professional fingers, I slipped his phone out of his pocket so that I could put my name in his personal contact list.