The following is a short piece inspired by Chuck Wendig’s challenge over on his blog: Terrible Minds. The task was simple – write a piece of flash fiction centred on two things that were to be randomly chosen from Chuck’s prompt.
The two things I had to include in the piece were:
1) A mysterious – perhaps even magical – photo
2) Two Detectives.
And so I give you….
Those Killer Kodak Moments
The camera never lies.
At least it hasn’t yet.
The two cops stare at the polaroid of the young woman, then at each other, soft focus shifting in their eyes.
They don’t speak; there are no words.
Detective Alberts picks up his phone and dials the number for the fifth time.
He wishes it was anyone but her.
The phone rings in his ear, 2000 miles away from Indianapolis. Fresno’s hand falls on Alberts’ shoulder, a dead weight pressing him down. Not even the hand of the almighty would help right now.
“Sweetie, it’s daddy,” Alberts says.
“Jeez, Dad, it’s six in the morning here–”
“Thank God you answered.”
“Is everything okay? You sound kind of….”
Scared? If that was the adjective she was searching for then she was on the button.
“Listen, honey.” Alberts says. “I need you to be quiet and listen to me.”
“Dad, what is it?”
He hears the two dull thuds in the background.
“Jeez,” Michaela says, “I got someone at the door now.”
“Wait,” Alberts yells. “Don’t answer it. There’s a police car on its…”
He’s too late. Her footsteps pad away on the ceramic floor. He prays it’s the police but Fresno only just put out the call to Ventura County. He listens. There’s a slight fuzz to the line but nothing else.
Fresno watches, a blank look on his face, hands tucked up into his armpits.
“We’re too late, Harry,” Alberts says. His head dips and he rubs his temples, trying to stop the room from spinning.
Fresno picks up his phone. “I’ll get an open line to the Sheriff’s office in Ventura.”
“No. We wait for their call. We can’t do anything from here.”
Alberts lets the handset rest on his desk and trudges over to the board to pin the picture of his daughter beside the others. He writes “deceased” beneath it in red ink.
“Hey, we don’t know that yet, Marty,” Fresno protests.
Alberts looks at him. “Yeah we do, Harry. Twenty years of chasing this guy means we do. He hasn’t missed one yet.”
“The local PD are on their way.”
“And this is how they’ll find her…” he jabbed Michaela’s picture with his finger. “Exactly how she is on the polaroid – just like the others – and we still don’t have a fucking clue how he’s doing it, how he’s sending us pictures of the crime scene before it’s even happened.”
“Maybe this time we get him,” says Fresno.
Alberts shakes his head. “He’s never killed outside of Indiana before – I thought my daughter was safe in LA. He’s sending a message. Hell, I’m beginning to doubt we’re even dealing with anything human.”
Fresno struggles to swallow. There are beads of sweat on his brow. He fiddles with his tie and stares at the phone. He has a daughter of his own.
Alberts can read his thoughts.
“Where is she, Harry?”
Fresno hesitates, as though he’d misheard the question. “Italian Alps,” he says at last. “Skiing.”
“You need to call her. Warn her.”
Alberts picks up the handset again. They’re still connected. He hears the fuzz, and amongst it some other noises – footsteps – but they’re not Michaela’s.
Someone picks the receiver up on the other end. Slow, heavy breaths fill Alberts’ hearing, then there’s a sound unmistakable to him – the sound of an instant camera. A polaroid.
Alberts hangs up. He feels numb, feels like he’s looking down on himself and Fresno working a case, until all of a sudden he wretches and heaves into the waste bin. Fresno rushes over, grabs Alberts shoulders to steady him.
Alberts shrugs him off.
“We don’t know anything yet, Marty,” Fresno says. “We don’t know.”
One of the other detectives walks in holding an envelope, which she hands to Fresno. “I don’t know how we missed this,” she says. “Looks like it could be from the Kodak Killer.
Fresno examines the envelope and looks at Alberts. “It’s his handwriting.”
“Open it,” Alberts says.
Fresno puts it down on his desk. “I can’t.”
“It’s postmarked from Italy.”