"Come with us,” two burly men in gray suits say, grabbing me by the arm and handcuffing me. “You know what you did.” 

I have no idea at all what I’ve done, believe me. I don’t even know any burly men except for the ones I’ve seen in B movies. And I’ve certainly never been handcuffed. Any of my little missteps as a child were completely innocent and none would ever classify as crimes.

Of course I have no idea. I’m going to repeat that in case you missed it the first time. I have not done anything wrong. I am the typical Goody Two-Shoes. You know what that means. I am too nice, too cowardly, too lacking in any and everything that would get me into trouble. That especially means the type of trouble that would make big thugs in gray suits slap handcuffs on me. At least I assume they are thugs. 

Here I am, minding my own business and they approach me after pulling over to the curb and getting out of a long, shiny, black car. Probably a Mercedes, except I am really lousy at identifying makes of cars. I’m thinking gangsters or mobsters, which is probably the same thing, right? I mean, what the hell do I know? They are certainly a lot bigger and bulkier than I am. My instinct is to be frightened, because I am five foot two eyes of blue, don’t you know? I’m the girl who sat in the middle row, in the very front seat, all through elementary school, just to be close to the board and the teacher. 

Well, not quite. I needed to be close to the board so I could see the pictures we had to copy for our so-called art classes. It wasn’t to get attention, like they thought. That was the last thing on my mind. I was already near-sighted and needed glasses. I hated third grade. I hated Miss Shove. She was mean and sent that note home to my parents accusing me of something that wasn’t my fault. 

I was a very good girl who just had weak eyes. I never forgot that. We all know at least one adult who has done us serious harm when we are small, don’t we? Often the effect is indelible, it marks us for life. A simple little note can be a child’s ruin. All I ever wanted to do was be a good girl and make my parents proud. I do hate it when things aren’t fair.

Now here I am, handcuffed and surely this is a mistake. I would try to run, as fast as I can, then hide. That wouldn’t be so hard, because as I’ve said, I’m not all that tall and I’m kind of a skinny little thing. However, that is out of the question, because these cuffs have no key and I’ve been attached somehow to a tree in the middle of nowhere. Are they going to come back for me or am I being left to die here?

“You know what you’ve done and you’ll have to pay.”

I can hear a gruff, gravel-strewn voice and smell the stink of unfiltered cigarettes. I know the smell well and can detect it a mile away, because that’s what my father used to smoke before his heart attack. I bet you can’t even get the unfiltered kind nowadays, unless you roll your own. It was the only thing I couldn’t stand about my father - that rancid stench of dirty tobacco. I hated it even more after smoking it killed him. It makes me furious to think how people have been enticed for so long to do things like that to their bodies. At least my mother never smoked. I never will, either. It’s just wrong to punish your body like that.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” 

My voice is a whimpering whisper, barely audible. I am terrified of making the two men any angrier than they already are. 

“Don’t lie to us! You’ll just dig a deeper hole for yourself than you’re already in. You know you’re going to have to pay!”

It finally dawns on me that they might be referring to a situation I found myself in purely by coincidence, but that situation had nothing to do with me. I’ll try to describe it for you…

My friend and I were walking in a dark alley, which was a very bad idea now that I look back on it. Nobody needs to walk through dark streets, especially when they are the alley sort, but we knew it was going to start raining really hard, and we thought it would be all right to take a shortcut. My friend was in the lead, because she’s not the Cowardly Lion that I am. Then it all exploded.

Up ahead, at the alley’s cul-de-sac, two figures were finishing what appeared to be a drug deal. I mean, that’s what it looked like. I, of course, know nothing about such deals and so have no clue what you do in a real one. I don’t even do drugs. At that moment, one of the people engaged in the deal saw us heading in their direction and pulled out a weapon. I was too far back to identify what it was, but it never got used, because my friend pulled a hand gun of some sort out of the bag slung over her shoulder and fired it.

I didn’t know Joanie had a permit to carry. I didn’t even know she could shoot. She was good, though. The figure dropped to the ground in a second. The other figure hightailed it out of there, rushing past us so roughly that I was knocked down and scraped my knee really bad. Joanie and I looked at other and did the same thing. We ran. I ran, even though my knee was in bad shape.

That was the only incident I could think of that had even been a brush with lowlife sorts. Our only mistake had been trying to take a shortcut home so we could avoid the threatening downpour. Joanie had ended up killing somebody, which was probably nobody’s loss because that person was a druggie. (We never got a chance to see whether it was a man or a woman, or any other details. Things just went down too fast.)

My best guess now is that my friend took off quickly, and so she avoided being seen. I kind of thought that was wrong, because she had abandoned me in the dark alley, but I was too focused on my own escape to notice her much. We didn’t have the chance to talk and I too was soon out of that place, hell bent for election. Or like a bat out of hell, some might say. 

You get my gist - I found where another narrow street turned off the little alley and scooted around the corner for a moment, so as to catch my breath. I saw a figure there, and really got scared, because I knew my face had been visible under the streetlight, dim and dirty as it was.

Joanie got home safely, I found out later. Of course she did. Like me, she wasn’t very tall and was slender. She could run even faster than I could. I imagined her arriving home, her short hair mussed up, standing on end as it often did when she ran her fingers through it. Her hair was real blond, though. Mine isn’t. Her mother might have been waiting up for her, because she’s the worrying sort. Joanie might be my friend, but I don’t envy her life, taking care of an elderly parent like that who is going downhill fast.

“You’ve made a mistake. I haven’t done anything!” I whimper, and tears trickle down my cheeks. Of course I look pitiful, which is exactly what I want. I want to look pitiful, so they’ll realize their mistake, these gray-suited thugs. I am obviously innocent. Look at me - a slight, softly-built woman with a kind face. A woman who wouldn’t hurt a fly.

The gray men don’t believe me, I can tell. 

“You killed our brother!”

Now I understand. They knew somebody had shot their brother, and whether he was a real brother or a brother in crime, in drug sales, was irrelevant. He was dead. The third figure, keeping watch around the corner in the next alley, had seen my face and identified me. I am innocent, but will probably never convince them otherwise.

“No! You’re wrong! I don’t own a gun. It was Joanie. She looks a lot like me and she’s the one who did it. I can prove it.” I denied everything.

The two gray monkeys look at each other, neither with much intelligence showing in his eyes, then stare back at me. Then it’s my turn.

Carefully, as best I can since after all, I’m chained to this tree, start to remove my clothes. (One of my hands has been freed so I can accomplish the task.) Underneath I have another set of clothing, so don’t get the idea I was stripping down to nothing. That is something a Goody Two-Shoes never does. I’ve been wearing the same outfit I had on that fateful day in the alley, but now I emerge dressed quite differently. 

The next thing I do is to remove my wig, the one with short, blond, kind of spiky hair. My shoulder-length black hair falls out all tousled and the men gasp. They see they’ve handcuffed the wrong person. The woman who was spotted running away from the shooting wasn’t me. It had been my friend. She was the one who had killed their brother. They realize their error, I see.

Then I tell them Joanie’s address. What I am not telling them is that on the night in question Joanie and I had been dressed up as twins. We liked to do that, because when we were little we played dress-up in her attic, like the March sisters in Little Women. We always loved that, writing plays like those sisters and pretending we were characters in a book by Louisa May Alcott. We have kept up the custom occasionally because we had so much fun as girls.

The big guns look at each other and one takes out the tiny key to the metal contraption that still has me chained to the tree. They must only have one, or now I am unimportant because I’ve fingered the real killer: my friend Joanie. They even manage to thank me before they start off in the direction I’ve told them to go. I shake my head to help my black hair fall into place better and cross my fingers that Joanie will be all right. Maybe I shouldn’t have ratted her out?

Suddenly the suits are back and the looks on their faces are grimmer than ever. They stare at me and their eyes are daggers with black pupils. I know something is coming down.

“We know what happened and we know it wasn’t your friend because we know you were alone that night. You might have been disguised as her, but we know it was you. We know your face. You have blue eyes and your friend’s eyes are brown. You wear contacts; your friend doesn’t. You still have a slight limp, like you did in the alley. Plus, your eyebrows are too dark for someone with natural blond hair.”

They go on, telling me my disguise had been completely ineffective. They are obviously skilled at what they do and, as they say in crime novels, they have made me for the murder of their brother. They have not believed my story of Joanie and her gun, not for a minute. They are also looking at me with utmost scorn, because I have ratted out my good friend. Even lowlife thugs have a sense of morals, and I have sunk to the lowest level of immorality in their eyes. I have betrayed a sister, even if she was only my sister in our attic games. What’s worse, she wasn’t even there that night.

I try to look contrite, hanging my head and putting the weight of my fear on my shoulders. All that is left for me now is to play on their mercy, try to convince them that I only pulled the gun because a weapon of some sort had been flashed at me in the darkened alley. What was I supposed to have done?

I see nothing but gray walls now, because the two men are gradually moving closer to me. Of course it had been wrong to finger a friend for a crime I’d committed. Except I hadn’t committed a crime. I had witnessed an illegal exchange of substances that ruined lives. I have already said how I hate tobacco and how it hastened my father’s death. How can I not despise other things that ruin lives?

It looks as though I have no way out. You may think I deserve this in a way, because I was willing to sacrifice my good friend in order to save my own skin. You might be right, too.

That is, you might be right if you believe everything I’ve told you, if you think I’m a reliable narrator - you know, one who tells the truth. However, you might not realize what good practice those attic sessions Joanie and I had throughout our childhood. You also don’t know what Joanie and I do for a living and how smart we are. I’m not bragging, honestly , but if we weren’t halfway intelligent, we would have been dead by now. Long ago we figured out that you shouldn’t judge books by their covers, nor narrators by their words.

“Hands up! Now, down on the ground!” 

Joanie barks, catching my would-be aggressors off guard. Surprise is often the key to survival. The thugs fling themselves on the ground and the handcuffs clatter onto the nearby gravel. Joanie tosses me a better set, stronger ones, and I know what to do with them. I slip the metal circles around one wrist of each goon and twirl the key in the lock. The gray suits aren’t going anywhere.

My friend and I breathe sighs of relief.

“I was worried you wouldn’t see them in time,” I gasped.

“No way. I was ready,” my friend replied. “We knew they’d come after the blond wig. We knew they knew it wasn’t your real hair. These gangsters are too observant to miss that. They may be stupid, but they’re observant.”

I agreed. Both Joanie and I knew the gangster duo had seen me shoot the drug dealer and that it had been after Joanie had left for her house. They had only seen me. They knew who I was, no matter what disguise I used. Plus, I was still limping.

What they didn’t know is that Joanie and I work for the vice squad in the local police department. They didn’t know how well we apparent Goody Two-Shoes can conjure up roles of all sorts, how in sync we think, just as if we were the March sisters. 

They don’t know even now that we are both excellent shots and that whether I had been the shooter or Joanie had been the shooter, we can both stop any target, in the dark, at a distance. They do know, now, that I had been the bait to lure the thugs out of the alley (yes, we had known there were two other figures lurking nearby to keep watch over the drug deal) and Joanie had come to rescue me. If they had handcuffed her instead, I would have been the one to rescue her.

We work as a team. You can’t always tell if we’re telling the truth, but one thing you need to know, and believe, is that we are as loyal to one another as if we were sisters.


July 29, 2020 17:34

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09:33 Aug 03, 2020

Great job! Love the wonderful plot-twist and reversal! Mine wasn't even half as good! Hope to see more of you!


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Arya Preston
14:55 Jul 30, 2020

What an interesting story, Kathleen! I enjoyed the narrative flow here and your choice of words.


Kathleen March
00:10 Aug 01, 2020

Thank. I do try to work on that.


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09:12 Jul 30, 2020

good read:)


Kathleen March
12:12 Jul 30, 2020

Thank you very much for reading.


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Psuedonymous H
09:02 Jul 30, 2020

I really liked the plot twist in this. It's a good story and it was really fun to read. I would appreciate any feedback on my short story "Eleanor".


Kathleen March
00:10 Aug 01, 2020

Comment appreciated. I will look at your story.


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Orenda .
18:31 Jul 29, 2020

Wowwooww....really enjoyed it. Such an intriguing plot. Great job, Kathleen :)) p.s. would you mind checking out my new story? thanks a lot!!


Kathleen March
18:44 Jul 29, 2020

Thanks. It was a horrible prompt for me, but I still tried. Thugs are kind of hard characters... Will check out your story.


Orenda .
18:49 Jul 29, 2020

Thugs are definitely hard to talk about and it's everyone who's facing difficulty with this week's prompts, but it's challenging, ya know and thanksss


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