By Edele Winnie
Ellen cursed and tried to start the school bus again. The morning was cold and it was starting to rain. The motor coughed and choked but did not catch. The last of the other school buses had just left the muddy lot. She pounded the steering wheel angrily while the rain began to drum on the roof.
All the grade school kids would be waiting in the storm. She had no way of contacting anyone at this point. Ellen considered giving up, but shook it off. She just wasn’t made that way. She was a fighter. She found herself staring at number 13, the bus at the back of the lot that was never used.
It had begun to pour. The dull grey sky dumped a slurry of rain onto the bus lot. With her coat over her head, Ellen hurried to the little building- they called it the key shack- where things were stored. The keys, all gone now, had labelled hooks. The hook labelled thirteen was empty. It had always been empty.
There was no phone in the shack and Ellen had forgotten her cell phone. She could drive somewhere, she thought, and phone her boss. By then all the kids would be wet and late for school. Thunder cracked overhead and startled her. The rain was pounding down and she did not want to rush out. There were cupboards in the shack and she began to look through them. She found the keys in the old table with the battered drawer. The key fob read thirteen. There were two keys, one was obviously for the ignition and the other appeared to be for a padlock. There was a raincoat by the door and Ellen pulled it on quickly. If she was going to get those kids to school on time she had to leave now. She opened the door and ventured out into the storm to number thirteen.
She did not look long because she was hurrying in the rain but the bus looked fine. The tires looked good and there was less rust than on her usual number 42 bus. The door was padlocked. Ellen fiddled with the keys and popped the lock off and climbed the steps. The bus did not smell like feet, or lunches, or little girl nail polish. It smelled a little musty. Outside the storm hammered on the bus roof, lighting punched the sky and thunder howled. Ellen was safe inside. Continue reading
Ben Van Dongen
The elevator doors opened onto a dim city street. Streetlights were on to compensate for the deep shadows and setting sun, which was almost gone over the horizon. Groups and couples walked down the sidewalks or hailed cabs. Thomas took a moment to look for a cab without a group of people standing around it, trying to make their claim, but they were all taken, leaving dozens of people waiting. He turn and ran, dodging pedestrians and excusing himself.
At the first intersection, he went right then darted across the street through a gap in the traffic. Horns honked at him, but he ducked left into an alley, leaving them behind.
Coming out at another street, he followed it to the next intersection, ran left through traffic again
Thomas ran along the street, next to parked cars, but he was tiring and slowed. Plodding down the sidewalk as quickly as he could, he ran into a woman who walked out of a store without looking. Continue reading
Ben Van Dongen
The office was quiet. It was usually quiet, but after his first case, Thomas could feel it. He sat at his desk, thinking over the events at the school, looking for what he did wrong. Letting his target get away was eating at him, but not as much as Diaz not caring.
A knock at his inner office door made him jump. He saw the shadow of Rachel in the window before she walked in.
“I brought you a cup of coffee.” Rachel walked over to the desk and gingerly put down a brimming mug.
“Do I look that pathetic?”
She put her hands on her hips. “I just trying to do something nice.”
Thomas rubbed his chin. “Sorry. It’s that phone call. I can’t shake it.” He picked up the mug and sipped. “The only thing I can come up with is Diaz knew more than he was telling me.”
“Don’t tell me you’re shocked by that?”
He waved her off. “No. They’re a big company, bound to protect their interests. But if they already knew, why did they need me?” Continue reading
By Ben Van Dongen
The door closed behind the fleeing woman and Thomas slammed into it in pursuit. He lunged forward, running right into the back of the waiting officer, pushing him. The tall man turned on Thomas, red faced and furious. He tried to get hold of Thomas, but momentum was against him. Thomas spun, ducking the reaching arms, and sprinted in the direction the guard had been looking.
At the next junction, he paused, listening for the principal’s clacking footsteps. Hearing the sound, Thomas ran after it, further into the building, back towards the records room. He had to force the smile from his face as he ran.
The woman was fast and far enough ahead that he hadn’t caught a glimpse of her. He was determined though, and manage to follow the footsteps echoing down the empty hallways. He heard the click and slam of a door closing and traced it to a stairwell. He pulled open the door and chased the principal up the stairs. Continue reading
While walking back to the train station, Thomas called Rachel. The day was wearing into the afternoon and he figured she would be at work by then.
She answered on the third ring. “Thomas Holliday Private Investigations; how may I direct your call?”
“It’s me.” Thomas smiled hearing her nasally voice.
“Oh, well you better not have messed this case up already. You haven’t had one in months.”
“I need a warrant to access the student records.” He stopped walking, bursting with excitement. “She was actually going to throw me out!”
“I’ve already applied for the warrant, it should be in the records by now. I’ll upload it to your file and send one to the school.”
“You’re the best.”
“Don’t forget it come bonus time.” She hung up on him. Continue reading
Ben Van Dongen
Thomas rested his eyes. He pulled the authentic fedora down and put his feet up on his real wood desk. He hadn’t had a case in months, not that he expected any, but he was getting desperate. He didn’t need the money, the buyout he got when his tech start up was acquired gave him more than he could spend if he tried. His detective business was a dream that the extreme money and young retirement allowed him to fulfill. Thomas’ skills were with genetic programming, but his passion was detective novels.
The collection of folded and faded paperbacks was considered and eccentricity that kept other literary zealots away, but the genera fascinated Thomas. Using his time and wealth to recreate the office of his favourite detective and actually opening for business made him a kook, but he had the money to not care. Thomas even sprung for a human secretary. Big shots, like the CEO of Fresh Choppers, the top conglomerate in the world, didn’t hire humans, and Thomas’ did accents. He had insisted on having a woman, just like the books, but the old Bronx dialect was a bonus. He smiled thinking about it.
The afternoon quietly napped with Thomas. He considered heading down to the local watering hole to get the word on the street. The friendly neighbourhood bartender, paid by Thomas to play the part, kept his ear to the ground. The robotic ones never talked. He contentedly listened to the whir of the fan and the sound of his secretary randomly hitting keys on the typing machine. He swore it was called a typewriter, but she insisted it was a typerator.
Thomas decided to skip the trip to the bar and ride out the rest of the afternoon in the office. At five his secretary would come in and complain about how slow it was and about not getting paid. Thomas would assure her he would come up with the cash, though her fee was promptly transferred to her account weekly. The guys would be at his place for poker by the time he got there, then he would end the night by chronicling his adventure in his own detective novel.
With a stretch, Thomas sighed. It was in the slow afternoons that building and selling his company paid off.
“Mr. Holliday? Rachel, his secretary, called over the antique intercom. Her voice sounded tinny and hollow over the speaker, but the high-pitched nasal quality was all hers. Continue reading