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It seemed like a small detail. From my vantage point on the city bus, I saw a petite, brown-haired woman go through a decrepit green door in Chinatown. She looked around anxiously and scurried in like a frightened mouse, her long red skirt catching in the door. She opened it quickly and yanked the skirt in, but not before looking around furtively once again. Then she was gone.
, I surmised.
I continued writing in my journal, jotting down the observation, as is my habit to do on my daily ride. It used to be to work, but now it’s a round trip to wherever in the city my fancy suits me. Instead of reading a book, or fiddling on my laptop, I write down the people, places and things I see and the smells that shape my perceptions. A habit my mom calls quirky; my publisher calls it profitable. From it, I glean a world of rich detail. I drive a Porsche 911 now, but I can’t imagine giving up this treasure trek of the senses.
As the bus slowly pulled away from the stop, another figure caught my eye: a man, medium height and build, blonde hair, intense eyes. He looked to the left and the right of the green door, as if to see if he was being watched. He quickly opened it and rushed through. The hair on the back of my neck bristled; it didn’t feel right.
I looked at the button that stops the bus, and then back to the door as the bus rolled away. I started to reach for it but I was uncertain;
should I press it
Then it hit me; I’d seen this before. Rather, I’d written something similar in my first novel. I chuckled and sat back down.
I guess it’s come to this. Mom said my wild imagination would be my ruin one day.
The ride ended and I went back home. But I couldn’t shake the feeling I’d left something important undone, even after I went to bed. It was what my dad called a tosser; a night that left my bed sheets twisted in knots. I awoke sporadically, writing down the snippets of dreams that assailed me. Bits and pieces of random craziness, interspersed with the woman going through the door over and over again and the blonde man following close behind. Throughout the dreams, I ran haphazard interference, or tried to, but was never able to change the sequence.
In the morning, stubbled and grumpy, I couldn’t purge the “I left something on the stove” sensation. Tired, I skipped the bus ride and switched on the morning news while I ate my Cracker Jacks and drank black coffee;
that’s right, breakfast of champions.
After a story on the invasion of Crimea, a picture of a woman came on the screen. It was a selfie taken on a smart phone; beautiful brown eyes peered through a fringe of brown bangs. Pieces of Jacks got lodged in my throat.
It was the woman. No doubt. The newscaster reported that her name was Leisal Stanton. She’d been found dead in her Chinatown walk up the day before; one single knife wound to the heart. Nothing was stolen or missing. The neighbors heard no screams or scuffles.
I stood so quickly that my chair fell back and made me lose my balance. Grabbing for the table too late, I crashed back onto the chair as it hit the floor. Bam! I would have done the girly scream, as my sister used to call it, but with a full mouth all I could manage was a loud groan. I struggled to get upright, holding onto the edge of the table and rubbing my backside.
Once I’d swallowed the bits of Jacks that remained in my throat and quickly determined that my tailbone wasn’t broken, I half stumbled out to my penthouse balcony that overlooked the city. Distant sirens; kids playing soccer in the park; cabbies honking - all the normal sounds of the city that echoed behind the statement going over and over in my head…
All I did was write it down.
My mystery novels; my royalty checks; accolades from fellow writers and fans; all collided with one thought. It was one detail that really mattered and I’d treated it like an insignificant character sketch; a detail to store away for a future writing project. Worse, an amusing anecdote.
I knew what I had to do…
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