by Ellen Denton
Thomas sat in his truck, glad to be out of the cold rain blowing in sheets against his windshield. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, and as he glanced over to the right at the trees and brush, thought he saw a flash of movement. Sitting up now on full alert, he watched carefully through the rivulets of rain pouring down the window. A woman burst out into the clearing and started lurching forward, her arms extended towards him, her expression one of terror.
He threw his truck door open, and as he got out, just for an instant, looked down to where he was stepping. By the time he raised his eyes again to the approaching figure, she was gone.
He thought she must have collapsed into the long grass, until he reached the empty spot where he last saw her.
With the rain pouring in streams down his face, he turned 360 degrees in an effort to catch sight of her. “Ma’am”? He called, loud enough to outshout the wind and rain. It made no sense. His eyes weren’t off her long enough for her to have stumbled off anywhere. It dawned on him then that he probably hadn’t seen anything there at all. It was an illusion caused by the rain blurred windows and ….
He didn’t get to finish the thought because just then, he heard the sound of an approaching car winding its way toward him along the narrow dirt road. His informant, Marco, had arrived as promised.
10:15 that morning
Thomas, sitting at his desk at the 65th precinct, took a swig of coffee and grimaced. It didn’t seem possible the coffee at the 65th could get much worse than it already was, but this cup tasted like it was strained through a dirty sock. He pushed his chair back, grabbed his denim jacket and headed for the door.
At 26, Thomas still looked like he was 19, with a shock of blond hair falling surf-boy style over his eyes. No one would have ever taken him for an undercover cop.
He had a major lead to follow up on this afternoon. The paper trail was showing money changing hands in high places—too high—a federal judge, a state senator, and other big-time players. His investigation now needed to be handled with the greatest confidentiality, though it was not possible to completely hide the fact that he was asking certain questions or to know if people he talked to might be passing on to others the fact that he was asking them. All he could do was be as careful and discrete as possible.
He suspected the money laundering and cover-ups would be confirmed by certain documents, and those, along with the incriminating photos Marco would bring him later today, would cinch the case. It would need to be turned over to the feds then, but it would be a career maker for him. He threw a stack of file folders into the passenger seat of his truck and drove off toward the public records building.
3:40 in the afternoon
Thomas leaned back in his chair and rubbed his eyes. There was no doubt any more about who was involved and why. He spent the better part of the next hour photocopying documents. He now wanted to get to the meeting place he had set up with his informant as soon as possible to do some initial recon on the scene. He looked up at an overcast sky and realized if he didn’t make some tracks, he’d end up in bumper to bumper, rain-slowed, rush-hour traffic. He threw his paperwork into the truck and pulled away from the curb.
By 5:30, Thomas arrived at the prearranged spot and looked around for any signs of someone having been there before him, but with the heavy rains of the past hour, any tell-tale signs had already been wiped out. He turned to get back into the shelter of his truck to await Marco’s arrival.
5:32 and 24 seconds
When Thomas heard his informant’s car coming, he completely forgot about the woman, and didn’t care that he was now soaked to the bone as he waited outside the truck for Marco to pull up.
He glanced at his glow-in-the-dark watch face and was stunned to see it was almost 7:00 pm. In his excitement at pulling off his first major case, he felt like he’d been there practically no time at all. He now just wanted to get the photos, pay his informant for risking his life to bring them, then head back to the city.
Marco stopped his car some distance from where Thomas was parked, killed his headlights, then stepped out of the car with an umbrella. Thomas pulled a penlight from his pocket and flashed it on and off twice in their agreed upon signal. He started walking toward Marco, who was now looking around nervously in all directions. As he approached, he saw Marco turn around 360 degrees looking puzzled, and then scared. He hurriedly got back into his car and started backing up, and Thomas, stunned, now only a few feet away, shouted to him, waving his arms wildly. Marco ignored him completely and a few seconds later was gone.
2:30 in the afternoon the following day
The area swarmed with police and forensic experts, both inside and outside the yellow crime-scene tape. The body had been found earlier that day by two stunned, horrified hikers.
Co-workers had reported seeing Thomas leave the station house the day before carrying files, but no files, or paperwork of any kind were found in the truck.
Thomas lay face down in the mud. The coroner would order the usual forensic tests done to verify time of death, but with Thomas’s shattered, glow-in-the-dark watch stopped at 5:32, he figured he probably already knew the time of death down to the second.
Published in Wicked Words, Robot and Raygun, T. Gene Davis, Another Realm, Body Parts, Insight, a White Cat Publication, Underground Voices, Perihelion Science Fiction, Horror Garage, SpecLit, Transformation, Horror on the Installment Plan, Bards and Sages quarterly, Binnacle, Literary hatchet, Kid’s Ark, Fiction 365, You and Me, Things Japanese, Guardian Angel Publishing, Words about work, Greenprints, Animal Wellness, Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, Country Extra, and Vampires2 magazines; in an April Moon books, Spider Road Press, Third Flat Iron Press, Gothic City Press, Suddenly Lost in Words, JaSunni Productions, Dark Moon books, Spark, Spruce Mountain Press, Publishing Syndicate, Zharmae Publishing Press, See Spot Run, and a Treasures Beyond Measure anthology; Honorable mention in L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contest, 1st place in On the Premises contest, winner of Enchanted Spark contest, editor’s choice award for Amok anthology, 4th place in Echoes of the Right to God essay contest, honorable mention in Reading Writers suspense fiction contest, finalist for Smories story and Scinti story contest, shortlisted finalist for PK Poetry competition.