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Crime Mystery Urban Fantasy

“Here you go, sir,” the teenager said, handing Danny his envelope of developed film. Danny walked home as the store closed behind him.

The next morning, Danny was standing in his dusty office. He took Wednesdays to relax. The dust motes floated to the ground as the sun took its time to light up the city. Danny had moved to a small town to avoid the gaze of his enemy, and had been monitoring the sleepy streets below to ensure that he was safe. He had not been idle, though.

He opened the kodak envelope and looked at his old photographs from college. The first photo was of a banana floating in midair in an abandoned motel shower and the second of a statue of a headless angel. Danny shivered and immediately threw them into the fireplace in the hopes of forgetting them, but the third photo caught him by surprise. He held the picture, poured himself some beer, and sat in his old leather couch - the morning light casting a weird orange light on the old photo. 

It was a surreptitious photo of Brian Koldrake, Professor of History at Varunkirk University, waving gregariously at a friend as he loaded his hatchback with bags. Danny had already dealt with Varunkirk U. enough for a lifetime, but he had found quite a few memories of the place.  

Danny - a journalism major with eccentric interests - had unknowingly taken the last known photograph of Professor Koldrake, who disappeared into the New Jersey Pine Barrens on or about June first, 1990. 

The official story was that Dr. Koldrake had simply... got lost and died. But the body was never found, and Brian was an experienced woodsman. Certainly there was speculation of foul play but there were no solid leads.

Danny took a sip of beer as the sun peeked over the buildings. He looked at the picture and flicked it over and over again.

“Where did you go, Brian?” He asked the photograph. “Did ‘Methuselah’ get you, too?”

Danny looked over his notes. The faculty of Varunkirk had always been involved in each other’s work. He had a few copies of theses delivered to his door and looked for overlaps between Koldrake and Danny’s nemesis. He also looked for a thesis? that investigated the pine barrens.

That’s when he heard a knock at his door. He immediately sat up. The silhouette at the door was strange: elongated ears, slim - generally a feminine figure. Danny didn’t move: he had made the elevators inoperable and had closed the stairs. He slowly reached for his revolver near the trash can. Eventually, the figure huffed and plodded down the hallway.

...To the side where there was no exit. 

Damn - he’d have to spend the night again, at least until the figure left the building.

Danny took another swig. Money was tight, but the landlord owed him a favor. He hated working for ‘the man’ but he had no choice. Danny took another look at the photo and saw something interesting. A shadowy figure in the passenger side.

Quickly, he flipped through the rest of the roll - no clue as to the shadowy figure, but he saw it multiple times. Long ears...

He grabbed his revolver and tip-toed to the door. He gulped and opened it, then flashed his gun up and down the empty hallway.

The windows at both ends were open, wind blowing through - curtains dancing, dust motes floating, orange light from the sun. Slowly, he moved to the abandoned apartment next door, gulped again, and slowly tried the door handle. To his horror, it was open.

He saw the familiar, 19th century dresser in its usual place. The six-foot-tall antique was next to the old window, doors still closed. There were lots of forest animals depicted in its baroque wooden frame: foxes and hares jumping and cavorting. The sun hit it just so... He looked from room to room - gun drawn - but saw nothing of interest other than that creepy full-length mirror in the bedroom. Was it always this big of an apartment? Quietly he made his way back to the front door.

Danny locked the apartment’s door from the inside, stepped into the hallway, and closed the door. The curtains were dancing to a wind that was blowing through the little town. He went back to his office, closed the curtain to his main door, locked the deadbolt, and went back to his photographs.

There was definitely someone in the car with him. Studying the other photographs closely, Danny noticed that, as the car was pulling away, Dr. Koldrake was... laughing... his head turned to the silhouette.

“But who was the passenger? Why does everyone say you went alone, Brian?”  

*THUMP THUMP THUMP* from the abandoned apartment next door. Danny looked at his wall - the picture of him and famous investigative journalist Amber Zazueta had been knocked cockeyed.

Danny gulped, holding his revolver close. He waited for any other sound, but didn’t hear it. The sun was still rising. Shaking, he looked at the photographs again.

It was a lead that no one - not even the papers - had discovered. Someone else was in the car. He ran drunkenly to his casefiles, pulling out and carefully replacing manilla folders with various names. That’s when he stumbled to his phone and paused.

Who would still remember things and still talk to him? Who wasn’t dead or insane? Who took a class with Dr. Koldrake and Danny? It took Danny a second, but he pulled out a business card and hesitantly dialed.

Danny took in a breath or two as the quiet *brrr* of the ring echoed in Danny’s ear: a sign that a phone somewhere was ringing in a quiet office. Danny ran his fingers through his hair when suddenly, *CLUNK*

“Office of Ludimyer and Tuns, Attorneys at Law, how may I direct your call?”

Danny gulped. “Thomas Ludimyer, please?”

“And who may I ask is calling?”

“Danny from Varunkirk, a classmate of his.”

There was a pause.

“One moment, please.”

The transfer sound was similar to the phone ring noise, but faster and higher-pitched. At least it wasn’t the weather channel music. Danny looked at his photograph as it hung askance, hoping no other noise would happen.

“Danny!” 

“Tim!” Danny said, relaxing in his chair for the first time in a while. He recalled Tim’s strong jaw and bright brown eyes. “I’m calling you about - ahem - Dr. Koldrake.”

There was a pause, then a sigh. “I figured you’d be the one to talk about him eight years after my last contact with the police.”

*thump thump thump*... more noises from the abandoned apartment next door. Danny stood, his revolver close at hand. “Listen Tim, was Brian a friend of any bestial?”

“A bestial?” 

“You know, one of the animal people?” 

“Oh, well, I-I mean, I had some drinks at his cabin up North a couple times.” - near the Virginia border. “He was a vegetarian, strictly anti-hunter. I remember some weird noises coming from the woods at night when I went to sleep there.”

Danny slowly grabbed his revolver as Tim continued.

“He was a great teacher. History was a good choice for pre-law, Danny. I think you would have been amazing, and I actually have some work for you on this upcoming case...”

Danny wanted to hang up, but without money he would starve - so he let his friend continue.

“...This jury is tricky. We need to know the personal lives of each one... jury selection’s in a couple months.”

“Okay... should I call you at this number?” Danny whispered, watching the walls.

This time, Tim was the one whispering. “I’ll have my paralegal give you a... better number to call.”

“Thank you, Tim,” Danny whispered, slowly putting the receiver back on its holder.

The sun barely broke over the quiet buildings outside. The wind in the hallway was blowing from window to window, rattling the glass on Danny’s office door.

May 01, 2022 19:30

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1 comment

M B
19:31 May 01, 2022

I enjoyed helping you with this story!

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