This week I again entered the short story contest hosted by my local newspaper, and again did not win. I’m not too distraught, though, because though I think my entry was good, it was not as good as my effort on the previous entry. The entry that was picked to start off the story can be found here. In short, our hero Chance meets his student Karen and they eventually travel to a parking garage where Karen is to meet Mitch, where she is to give Mitch a mysterious. Once there, Karen finds that Mitch is dead (or at least unresponsive).
That introduction aside, here is my entry. I hope you enjoy. Constructive comments welcome as always.
Chance walked over to the body, checking for signs of life. Chance glanced over to Karen, who was standing several feet away, arms tightly crossed, looking as if she was about to go into shock. Removing his jacket, Chance walked over to her and draped it around her shoulders, keeping his arm around his student a few extra moments to make sure she stayed upright.
“Is he?” said Karen.
“I’m afraid so,” replied Chance. Not only was the man dead, but he had been so for some time.
Chance felt Karen’s knees buckle then straighten as if her body wanted to collapse, but her mind wouldn’t let her. His young pupil was stronger than he gave her credit.
“Am I going to be in trouble?” said Karen, sitting wearily on the curb.
“No,” said Chance. “Everything’s going to be fine. I know just who to call.”
It wasn’t that Chance didn’t fully trust the State College police force. In fact, Stephen had taught several of the officers in his Forensics class. However, in a situation like this there was one person on the force he should call, Stephen Cromwell.
Stephen and Chance first met Bellefonte High School, where they both played on the baseball team. After graduation, Stephen studied Criminology at IUP and Chance attended Penn State studying Chemistry. The friends kept in touch during college, always looking forward to holiday and spring breaks where they were able to relive old times. Most weeks their one chance to see each other is in the church softball league, in which both play for the St. Paul’s Saints.
Chance rang his friend and started,” Stephen? Chance. I need your help…”
No more than ten minutes later, a police cruiser arrived at the scene and out strode Stephen, a tall, muscular man with a face that at once put one at ease.
“’Evening Detective,” said Chance, extending his right hand.
“Causing trouble again, I see,” said Stephen, smiling as he shook his friend’s hand. “Can’t I ever take my eye off you?”
“You know me,” replied Chance, “always living on the edge.”
After talking with both Chance and Karen, trying to piece together the night’s events, Stephen called for backup and canvassed the scene looking for anything that might clue him into what had happened. Other than the vial and the body, the area was pretty clean.
“Why don’t you take the girl to the station?” said Stephen. “I’ll see what else I can find here. Either way, looks like another night of paperwork for me.”
The following morning Chance woke up at his usual 5:30, grabbed a coffee and bagel at The Hub, and went straight to his office. There were papers to grade, a lecture to prepare, and research to do. The previous day’s events were merely a blip on his already full radar screen.
Returning from lunch at The Corner Room, Chance noticed a package in his inbox from Stephen. In the envelope was a tiny plastic bag containing fine, brown powder and inscribed with the following:
“Hey buddy. I’m having the guys in the lab run some tests on that powder we found last night, but I I’d like to hear what you come up with, too. Enclosed is a small sample. You’re the best.
Chance carefully did some tests on the strange powder and came to the conclusion that it was in fact coffee. Laughing, Chance picked up the phone and called Stephen, but oddly his line was unavailable.
Burnt out from the late night and early morning, Chance decided this would be a perfect excuse to get out of the office. He could swing by Stephen’s place and maybe even scare his friend, who was probably still asleep. “That’ll teach him to give me a key,” Chance thought to himself.
As he neared Stephen’s block, Chance could tell something was not right. Chance could smell the stench of smoldering wood even with his windows up. Arriving at the spot where Stephen’s house used to be, all he saw was a pile of smoking ash. The first thought that came to Chance’s mind was this: “He’s gone.”