I see no reason to not run my story as a “serial”. Enjoy this week’s installment of “The Woman” wherein we get to know a little more about Detective Tongal.
The Woman-part 2
Detective Tongal stopped on the way back to the station for a cup of real coffee; that watered down stuff at the station was just unbearable. As he got out of his unmarked car, he checked his just thinning, just graying hair, straightened his woolen suit jacket, and hoped his favorite waitress was on shift. She had started at the café not long after he had started on the force, but still worked a rotating schedule, and on call shifts. He couldn’t tell how old she was, if attitude said anything she was too young for him. He sighed, locked up and went in. “Hi Ron”, waved Eileen, “Have a seat. I’ve been watching the news all morning…brewed you a special pot.” He looked around, it was quiet and only Eileen was on shift.
He wandered over to his usual corner, pulled out his notepad, and began, not writing but sketching out the clues he had encountered. As Eileen brought over his coffee (not just a fresh cup, but a thermos so that he could think undisturbed), he realized there really wasn’t much. The most tangible thing being that darned silver link. “Sandy coming in today?” he asked.
“Nope, she stopped by last night said she’d had some kind of emergency out of town and couldn’t come in for a couple of weeks. You know how it is when you have relatives far away”. Eileen reached into her apron, pulled out a handful of receipts and said, “She left this for you”, and handed him the small envelope. It was the kind that comes from the florist, but this had a business card in it. The card inside contained no message, just “Charlotte” and an out of area telephone number. Tongal looked at the number, thought about the cute, pleasant and intelligent Sandy, smiled to himself and carefully placed the card in his wallet.
“Thanks, Eileen. Coffee is great, good looking out.” He put his ten bucks under the sugar and focused on his work. The coffee wasn’t that much, but he appreciated the special effort the staff made to keep him happy, and that no matter how long he sat, once he had his coffee, he was left in silence. Well, unless Sandy was working, then he stayed longer, talked more. He sketched what he remembered of the Casino’s back lot: the door, the wheelchair ramp, a couple of cars. He sketched the girls face as best he could, putting himself back at the scene, searching his memory for anything he might have missed. He remembered he still had the link in his pocket. As he pulled the small baggy from his pocket, he imagined the metal felt warm. He fondled it through the plastic, marveling at how it seemed to twist much like a mobius strip. It was about an inch long, a quarter inch wide, but thin, impossibly thin. He decided he must seek an expert opinion on both the working and the symbols. The more he looked, the less convinced he was that these were maker’s marks. Too much detail involved, to fine a work to be a stamp. After a couple hours of drawing, thinking, and drinking coffee, Tongal was as done as he could be. No closer to an answer, he stood up and strode out the door, got in his car and headed off to the station.
He didn’t stay long, just dropped the link off in the evidence room, checked for messages, and headed off. Even as tired as he was, he felt compelled to stop at the hospital on his way home and check on their anonymous patient. This morning she had looked so fragile, so perfect. Now she was average, plain even. The hospital staff had removed her make up, tied her hair back in a ponytail, and removed the fingernail polish in the process of preparing her for a series of tests to help isolate her condition. Where earlier her still image had brought about memories of Snow White or some other sleeping Princess, tonight, she appeared merely peaceful; a sleeping woman, too old to be called a girl, but beyond that her age was hard to determine. She had been x-rayed, poked, prodded, had her fingerprints taken and a sample of her blood given to the police in the hopes that her DNA was in the system somewhere. The doctors were no closer to understanding what was wrong with her; the police no closer to understanding who she was, whether she had family anywhere, or whether she was just ill or had been harmed somehow. Sighing, Detective Tongal left the hospital, and began the drive home to the old farmhouse he called home.
Ron didn’t much like the old farmhouse. It was too big, too far outside of town, and constantly needed some kind of repair, but he could see the sky here, and think without much risk of his thoughts being interrupted. The main reason he stayed though, was the memories. His grandfather had been raised in the house, when it only had one level. When Ron’s father was born they had to add a couple of rooms, and when Ron was quite young, his father had jacked the old house up, set a modern foundation, and added the top floor. More than anything, he loved the wood stove; maintaining the chimney was always at the top of his “to do” list, and he spent most of his time in the living room near it. Even in the heat of summer, he would sometimes stay up until the late hours, just so he could have a couple of hours of fire. For whatever reason, it helped him unwind, to think. It being December, he didn’t wait but lit the old cast iron stove on his way to the kitchen-the second most visited room in the house. He only ever used one of the two bathrooms and hadn’t been upstairs in probably a year-and that just to inspect the rafters and upper structure.
His sister’s room looked just like it had when she left home at 17, never to be heard from again, his parent’s room hadn’t changed in the ten years since their passing, only his brother’s room ever saw any use; a few times a year, Chuck still came to visit. Like his brother, Chuck had never married, never even taken the risk of what many would call a “real relationship”. Their long time friends didn’t ask any questions; neither brother was ever fond of talking about family and both shunned the idea of settling down. Ron realized as he made his dinner, that Chuck’s visit was next week. He’d come, they would take a day to go to town where Ron would show Chuck the growth, the changes in their old stomping grounds. They would regale in stories of their childhood. Ron would tell Chuck the gossip of old friends: who had moved away, who got married, or divorced or had kids. They would talk of who had died, what businesses had closed. Over the course of the day they would become sentimental and spend their evening over by the river at the clubs frequented by young hipsters for the last three generations. (Well, once there had only been one bar here, but that’s Grandpa Tongal’s story). By the time they were done, a cab would be called; they’d head back to the house, have a couple more drinks, and usually pass out in front of that old wood stove. After a hangover cure breakfast tradition (bacon, sausage, eggs, toast, and a bloody mary), the brothers would go (weather permitting) for a walk out by the dilapidated barn, down to what was left of the creek, and around the property, then Chuck get in his little sports car and drive off for another few months.
Ron pulled his steak off the stove, carefully pulled the potato out of the fire, and sighed. As he ate, his mind wandered back the riddle at hand. He didn’t even know for sure if the link belonged to the woman, but somehow from somewhere deep inside, he knew the key to everything was in that little piece of silver; it ate at his mind almost as ravenously as he ate his steak. Suddenly, he thought of Sandy. Sweet, bubbly little Sandy-one of the few people whose company he genuinely enjoyed these days. He pulled the calling card out of his wallet, and really examined it for the first time. The paper was thick-even for a card, and soft to the touch, and smooth. Her name and number, while in plain font, were embossed not printed. Overall it was high quality, completely simple, and yet somehow elegant. He found it quite suited to his favorite little waitress. He picked up the phone next to his recliner-looked at the number, looked at his watch, decided it was too late to call, and put the handset back in the cradle. Or at least he thought, it might be too late to call, where is this number anyway? He pulled out the phone book (at least here they still print a good one, he thought) and tried to look up the area code-it wasn’t there. He gave up and looked up the names of some antique shops and some jewelers. He fell asleep in the chair, as he often did, with the phone book open on his lap, his empty plate on the table to his left, and a yearning he didn’t quite understand, and therefore couldn’t name in his heart.