Pursuit of Truth

Submitted into Contest #168 in response to: Make a train station an important part of your story.... view prompt

44 comments

Contemporary Fantasy Mystery

+371 days

The key to the case was the distraught old man with the cabbie hat and the bouquet of roses – but Detective Ben Rainer didn’t realize it until long after he was no longer a detective.

“Let it go, Ben,” said Laszlo, his onetime partner, over the phone. “It’s been a year. What do you even want out of it?”

Ben cradled his cell against his shoulder and rifled through the papers strewn on his kitchen table until he found one with some free space. He grabbed a pen too.

“I want the truth,” he said. “All I need is a name.” He clicked his pen. Clicked it again. “C’mon, Laz. I know I talked to the guy. I just need something to jog my memory. And if it leads to anything, the case is yours.”

Laszlo chuckled bitterly and coughed. “No thank you. Didn’t spend a year hiding in the cracks just to get roped into this circus now.” He sighed into the phone, as always holding it too close to his mouth. “Fine, Benny. I’ll take a look. But this doesn’t come back to me.”

“Got it.”

Laszlo called back an hour later. “Walter Thompson is your guy.”

***

+35 days

Ben had never seen a room so sardined with press. A month of these conferences and they were just as hard as always.

“I want the truth,” he said into the mic, and the whole room strained with silence. “Regretfully, we don’t have any new leads today.”

And the dam broke. The room flooded with roiling questions, frothing at their peaks and crashing down around him. He could feel the waves sloshing through the room, settling into a rhythm, and gradually circling an insistent, repeating “Isn’t it true?”

The room hushed and gave the lone voice the floor, and so Ben had to do the same. His stomach sank when he saw it was Fiona Dalrymple, a woman he had barely known a month ago, a woman he had grown to intensely dislike since.

“Ms. Dalrymple,” he said, motioning.

“Isn’t it true,” she repeated, with the cold confidence of a lawyer that already knew the answers, “that you actually do have a suspect?”

The crowd murmured, and Ben felt a whole-body tense.

“Isn’t it true, that the driver – a Mr. Bijan Masoumi – is now a person of interest?”

The murmur crescendoed. Ben feared his teeth might crack if his jaw was any tighter. But Fiona wasn’t done.

“Isn’t it true, that the police are now considering this an act of terrorism?”

That set the room off like a bomb. Someone leaked to the press. The other reporters clamoured again for an answer to this revelatory question, and answers were what Ben was all out of.

It was the last time he stepped in front of a camera.

***

+373 days

The house was a beige box in a rusted neighbourhood, nestled in the shadow of the smokestack skyline. Ben let himself into the weed strewn yard. A shattered concrete path led to a door that was more for show than security.

He knocked, and a woman opened the door a crack. Before he could say anything, he saw it. Eyes first narrowed then wide. Recognition.

She thrust the door open. “You son of a bitch.” Her voice trembled, her body shook. “You have some nerve coming around here!”

“Ma’am, please.” He held his palms up, placating.

“How dare you come here?” She thrusted her finger at his face.

“I’m just looking for the truth.”

“Weren’t you fired?” Then she gasped and covered her mouth, and suddenly there were tears. “Oh my god! Did you find her?”

Ben knew this question would come up – it always did – but he still had no idea how to answer it well. Quick and honest was the best he had, and it felt like kicking them when they were down. He shook his head, not meeting her eyes.

***

+38 days

“I don’t give a flying shit!” Chief Tanner said. Then he slammed his palms on his desk. And then again, thrice more. “It wasn’t your fucking call to make!”

“But sir,” Ben said, his tone unraveling, “we don’t have anything on the driver. I’m just looking for the truth–”

“Fuck the truth!” Tanner said, rising. “You’re not paid to find the truth! You’re paid to close cases! And where the hell is the progress on this one?”

Ben locked his lips. He hated this question. He lived this question. “We have a couple leads–”

“You have jack shit!” Tanner ran his hand over his bald pate. “And people are noticing. The mayor’s riding my ass. Feds snooping around. I got a million and one relatives begging for any scrap of god damned anything, and twice as many reporters.” He grew pensive. After a breather, he continued. “So when I tell you to tell them that we think maybe oh maybe the driver’s involved, and that oh me oh my it could be terrorism, you fucking do it. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. We can fix it later when we god damn find something! Meanwhile it gets them talking about something else and we can breathe. But you? This thing where you just shrug and say you got bupkis? You leave us with our asses hanging out the window.”

Ben swallowed hard. After a moment of silence, Tanner let out a hoarse breath. “How the hell do three hundred people just vanish?”

“I don’t know, sir. But I’ll find out.”

Tanner looked at him with what might have been sadness, and shook his head once, curtly. “No, Rainer, you won’t. You’re done.”

And that was it for Ben’s career. Chief Tanner only lasted until +77 days himself, and his replacement only until +281 days.

***

+373 days

“So why come here today?” Rita asked. She invited Ben into her kitchen, because it was the decent thing to do. He didn’t seem as monstrous, as monstrously idiotic, as the press made him out to be. He didn’t want a coffee, but neither did he mind if she smoked.

Ben looked around at the cramped kitchen. Everything was mismatched, from the pots and pans to the floor and walls. His attention settled on a framed portrait photo of the old man, Walter Thompson. He had his arm around a woman with thick glasses. They were both grinning.

“You think you can still figure it out?” she asked. “You think you can find my mom?”

“Gotta try. I want the truth.”

Rita huffed. She didn’t dare hope. Not again, not after a year of being yanked around.

“And you thought Dad could help you?” she asked. Ben nodded. “Why?”

“He said something, back then. We were talking, and he said something about being on the phone with her. Then the press got involved, things moved too quickly and got lost in the shuffle. I’m sorry for your loss.”

Rita puffed on her cigarette and then ashed it. “He didn’t take Mom’s disappearance well. None of us did, of course. But Dad… I think it killed him. The lights went out, and then his heart gave. So, I guess he can’t help you.”

Ben nodded. He was no stranger to missed opportunities, it just hurt in a case where there were so few leads.

“Unless,” she said.

“Unless?”

“Well, I still have his things. I think I still have his phone, too. Would that be… would it help?”

“It’s worth a shot. Thanks, Rita.”

They were mostly quiet for the odd hour or so it took to charge the phone, keeping to small talk. But Rita did once ask the question. The one the whole country, perhaps the whole world, had been asking for over a year.

“How do that many people just vanish?”

Ben shook his head.

“C’mon, you’ve got to have some ideas,” she said. “You’ve probably heard all sorts of theories.”

He chuckled. “Oh yeah, I’ve heard it all. Terrorism was one they tried to push, but nobody ever claimed it. No demands. Aliens is another popular one.”

“Yeah, I heard that one too.”

“You got your fringe groups talking about divine ascension, except, this wasn’t a cult. Everyone was a stranger. Man, we looked at it from every angle. There was no common thread running through them. They couldn’t have been in on it, so that rules out conspiracy too.”

“Mom would have said something,” Rita said. “So what do you believe?”

He raised his brows. “Me? I believe three hundred and twenty two people collectively vanished one day last year, without a trace, and that we still have no idea why or how.”

When the phone was charged, they went through it together. In the call history, Rita confirmed the penultimate call was to her mother’s cell. “And nobody’s ever picked it up since. I used to call her hour after hour. Nothing. I wonder if he recorded it.”

“Recorded? What do you mean?”

“Dad was hard of hearing.” She started digging around on the phone. “He used to record his calls so he could review them afterwards. Oh! Here it is, I think.” She hit play.

“Hi, Laura. Can you hear me? There’s a lot of people here,” said Walter, over a faint din.

“Wally?” Laura said. “I can hear you.”

“I’m already at the platform, love. I hope you had a good trip.”

“Yes, yes, very good! I’ll tell you all about it. Is Rita coming for dinner?”

“She is. We’re on for six. And I have a surprise for you!”

“A surprise?” Laura laughed. “Oh Wally, you–”

And that was it.

“Hmm. It just stops,” said Ben. He played it again, and then one more time, each time the same. When he looked up, he saw Rita’s eyes were wet, and her shoulders trembled.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” he said.

She shook her head, wiped her eyes. Let out a ragged breath. “I haven’t heard their voices in so long. Oh my.” She sniffed. “I remember that dinner. I… well. Does this, does any of this…” She motioned with her hands, dabbed her eyes again. “Does this help?”

Ben looked at the phone, at the time of the call, the length of the message. “Maybe. This call got cut off. Maybe it got cut off when, well, when whatever it was happened on the train.”

“Is that useful?”

“I don’t know, but it’s more than we had before. Three hundred people, and nobody else was caught mid-call. Everybody texts nowadays.” He jotted the times down on his notepad, added the time the train arrived at the platform. Looked up some facts about trains. “If we work backwards, maybe we can find out the exact spot where the signal cut out.”

“Couldn’t it just be a bad connection? The tunnels don’t exactly have great reception.”

“Could be. And it probably is. But we don’t have any other leads.”

“Okay,” Rita said, and nodded to underscore the point. Then she got up and put on a jacket.

“What are you doing?”

“Aren’t you going to find out what’s in the tunnel?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay then. I’m going with you.”

“No.”

“No nothing. You’re not a cop anymore. Let’s go.”

***

+0 days

The station was crowded when Ben arrived. It was rare he ever got called for things other than homicides, and little about this case gave him confidence. For one, the crime scene – if it even was such a thing – had been hopelessly contaminated by hundreds of commuters well before he got there.

The train had come in on time, stopping right at nine-oh-five. People boarded as usual too. Nobody disembarked, but none of them noticed it, save for an old man with a bouquet of roses who couldn’t find his wife. He called the police, but was effectively ignored.

But then the train didn’t depart. Delays cascaded throughout the whole network. Management investigated and found that the driver was AWOL. Nor did he respond to calls. They reviewed the security tapes and by chance noticed that nobody had left the train. The shift manager – who would go on to take his own life at +95 days – had a hunch. He verified that people got on at previous stops. Then he resisted calls to get another crew onboard, instead calling the police.

By the time the case was escalated to Ben, too much time had passed, too many people had seen nothing, and panic was getting out that three hundred and twenty two people vanished into thin air.

“I just want the truth,” he muttered, his head starting to pound.

***

+373 days

Ben returned to the station with an adamant Rita in tow. It was quiet these days, largely abandoned by the public. Lots of stories about curses. Some trains rolled through, few stopped. And the passengers that got off always offered prayers to their gods.

They made their way below, to the platform. Everything was run down, like they gave up on maintenance and cleaning. Only a handful of people were about, waiting on benches, leaning against the walls. A lone busker, strumming the classics on his guitar.

“It’s pretty quiet here,” he said. “I remember vigils, crowds.”

“People forget,” she said. “They grow tired. It’s not personal for most of them.”

He supposed that was true. “We got about half an hour till the next one rolls through. Let’s go.” He made his way to the tunnel.

“I hope the schedule’s right,” Rita muttered, and followed after him.

They made their way along the maintenance path running parallel to the rails. Their footsteps echoed in the claustrophobic tunnel, and soon even the busker’s twang faded. Maybe five minutes in, Ben stopped. He raised his flashlight.

“So, this is it,” he said, “more or less.” He scanned up and down the tunnel, running his light over the rails, the walls, even the ceiling. “Somewhere here, anyway.”

“I don’t see anything.” Nothing on the ground, no doors, no mysterious stains, no graffiti. No cellphone her mother might have dropped. She took out her own phone and turned on the LED flashlight. There weren’t even bugs.

“What if there is nothing?” she asked.

“Hmm?”

“I mean, what if this is it? They just vanished.”

“Impossible. People don’t just vanish, Rita. We’ll find the truth.”

“There’s lots of unsolved missing person’s cases.”

“Yes, but not like this. Not three hundred people disappearing all at once.”

“Maybe we’re not supposed to find them,” she said. “Like, there are things man isn’t meant to know.”

“I don’t buy that.”

“Oh!”

Ben turned to her. “What is it? Found something?”

“Sort of,” she said, tapping her phone. “So, I don’t have a signal. Which means…”

“Which means reception here is crap. A perfectly normal explanation.” He hiked his pants up and turned his light off. “Okay, let’s get. We’re not supposed to be down here, and I don’t have a badge anymore.”

They started walking back. “So what now? Are you closer to the truth?”

“Sort of. It’s one more thing we can rule out. But I’m out of leads again.”

Their chatter was interrupted when they reached the platform. They didn’t hear the busker anymore, and when they looked around, they didn’t see anyone sitting or standing around. As they mounted the steps, they didn’t hear any traffic from above ground, and when they emerged onto street level, they saw… nobody.

Buildings were there. Cars were parked. Leaves and trash blew through the air. But in the middle of the day, not a single engine was on. Not a single pedestrian was out.

His jaw tense, Ben grabbed Rita’s hand, and she held on with all her might as her eyes grew wide. Each could feel the other’s pulse quickening. They stood frozen like that for a long time, not daring to let go of the only other person around, and their calls out to the empty city echoed back hollow.

October 19, 2022 01:56

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44 comments

20:29 Oct 22, 2022

Zelda is 100% correct here. The ending worked for a short story, but there is a LOT here to explore. You have a lot of excellent round characters and enough plot to do 70,000-80,000 words easy. To be honest, this reads like a teaser for a novel. Or a very compelling pitch to a literary agent... The section headings (e.g., +371 days) work very well in helping the read understand the pacing. Dialogue is on point. Your characterization make Ben & Rita worth rooting for. Master class in establishing setting here: "The house was a beige box i...

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Michał Przywara
02:00 Oct 24, 2022

Thanks, Deidra! That means a lot. I've long gotten a lot of mileage out of Spartan prose (after a terrible era of the most voluptuous, velure-clad purple prose) so it's good to hear that experiments into more interesting descriptions pay off. Yeah, I tend to agree, this does sound a bit like a teaser, or maybe the finale of act one in a longer piece. That's probably got to come standard with a cliffhanger ending. I'll put it in the ever growing ideas-to-develop pile. I appreciate your feedback, as always!

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Zelda C. Thorne
17:23 Oct 19, 2022

Hi Michal! I really got stuck into this and I quite liked the ambiguous ending, which imo fit with the whole vibe of the piece. You could easily turn this into a longer story where they go on to explore this version of reality / try to get back by going back in the tunnel / find the other missing people. The drama with Ben's boss just wanting him to close the case and keep the media off their backs rather than getting at the truth is frustrating to say the least (because it's true). Great flow, once I hit about halfway, I raced to the end. T...

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Michał Przywara
21:58 Oct 19, 2022

Thanks! Very glad it was engaging. Yeah, the boss/truth thing is irritating :) Everyone's got their own flavour of truth to push. There's definitely places to take this from here, so yeah, it might need an extension. Thanks for pointing out those spots! I completely missed the terrorism/bomb thing, but that's pretty clearly misleading on re-reading it. I'll see if I can smooth out the intro too. Appreciate it :)

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Sue Hunter
16:12 Oct 19, 2022

Ooo, we have a little mystery here. I'll echo the other reviewers and wonder if Ben and Rita disappeared, or if everything else did. Is the train station a portal to some other universe? Are cell phones connected in some way to the disappearances? This definitely got me interested in the universe this takes place in.

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Michał Przywara
21:20 Oct 19, 2022

Thanks, Sue! I don't normally do mystery, so I'm glad the setup was interesting. That said, 3k words was a very stressful limit to bring this to a close, so the ending is a little open :) I had this vague idea driving things, that their pursuit of the truth took them to literally look behind the curtain, and maybe this lonely place is what's on the other side. There were some horror ideas floating around too. Maybe there's room to expand this. I appreciate the feedback!

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Sue Hunter
22:00 Oct 19, 2022

Like I usually say with your writing, if there was a full-fledged book about this idea, I would definitely pick it up to read it. Definitely makes your reader want to know what happens next!

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Anne Marie Miles
04:43 Oct 19, 2022

Ooohhh, quite the mystery, huh? I really like the time references and divisions using the +days, very cool way to break up the story and show some of the moving parts. I think previously you had said you're off the streaming networks, but this reminds me of a show called Manifest, where a plane of people goes missing. It's an interesting and unexplainable concept. What's unique here is you've brought in a relative who can offer this little piece of "evidence." And then of course, the ending, bringing back that loss of reception to foresh...

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Michał Przywara
21:23 Oct 19, 2022

Thanks, Anne Marie! Yeah, haven't really watched any streaming in a while, but Manifest sounds like a cool, similar idea. People vanish all the time, and that's sad. But a big group of people? That's unnerving. It challenges what we know about the world. As for who disappeared, that's a good question. Probably subjective. From Ben and Rita's POV, it looks like everyone else did, but (assuming they went somewhere/somewhen "else") from people in the actual city's POV, Ben and Rita disappeared. This story was getting too big for 3k, so I ...

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Calm Shark
04:24 Oct 19, 2022

I was really invested into the story right off the bat since I love mystery stories. I love the way you made the train station into a key idea for this story of yours. An interesting story and an ominous ending. Plus, I've always wanted to recommend this book to someone and it's related to trains. It's called the Girl on the Train. To me, this book is very interesting. Just wanted to recommend this to you and other people:)

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Michał Przywara
21:24 Oct 19, 2022

Thanks for the recommendation, Shark! I'm glad you enjoyed this. I like the occasional ominous ending too, and thought I'd try my hand at something a little more mysterious this week.

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Calm Shark
22:18 Oct 19, 2022

No prob Michal.

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Amanda Lieser
20:34 Nov 30, 2022

Hey Michal! Wow! This piece was stellar. It’s totally one of those stories I need to read, then re read, and then read again. I thought you did such a good job of casting your characters and my heart genuinely broke for them. I thought you did justice to the family and to the law enforcement agents just trying to do their job. I think my favorite line was: He shook his head, not meeting her eyes. Because it was placed in such a fast paced section. This line broke my heart. I loved this story. Nice job!

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Michał Przywara
21:38 Nov 30, 2022

Thanks, Amanda! It was a fun one to write - a lot of people chasing long shots. I'm glad that line stood out. I think Ben really cared about the case, and it was driving him nuts. It's hard when people are counting on you, and you got nothing. I appreciate the feedback!

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Sophia Gardenia
19:27 Oct 30, 2022

NOO! I need to know what happens! I'm not much into mystery but this one really pulled me in. I like how you don't reveal the details of the case until the middle; it helps build suspense. I feel like Ben and Rita are believable, authentic characters as well. I hope you continue this story in some form!

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Michał Przywara
20:51 Oct 31, 2022

Thanks, Sophia! I'm pleased you enjoyed it, even if mystery isn't typically your thing :) Very happy to hear the suspense worked. I appreciate the feedback!

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Julie Pruitt
19:41 Oct 29, 2022

Hi Michal -- I enjoyed Pursuit of Truth. We may say that all we want is the truth – until it envelopes us in a very unpleasant way. I like how you used the day count from the crime to move each section. I like the disarray of time sequences. You kept me engaged all the way to the end. The detective in me now wants this mystery solved! I have just a few editorial comments for you to think about in the future. There is no doubt that you are a seasoned writer – so my editorial comments are few. The opening sentence – "The key to the case was...

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Michał Przywara
18:58 Oct 30, 2022

Hi Julie! Thanks for the great feedback! It's very useful. I completely agree with the long/longer word duplication. There are good times and places to deliberately duplicate words, but this wasn't one of them - it just slipped past me. For the old man, I meant that in a roundabout way, that since he was Rita's dad, it brought the two characters together, and they then figured out the next step. I think I might have self-sabotaged here a bit, cramming too much story into 3k. I'll keep an eye out on things like this. For "oh", honestly it...

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Brenda Wilson
17:42 Oct 27, 2022

This made me think of the tv show where people get on an airplane and then land five years later with no memory of being gone. Really engaging story. I would read a novel on this plot. It did feel very rushed as a short story but I think that's because you only had a small amount of words to tie up a whole lot of plot. But well done!

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Michał Przywara
02:34 Oct 28, 2022

Thanks, Brenda! I'm glad you enjoyed it :) Yes, 3k was a hard limit for this. Perhaps too much for such a small format. I appreciate the feedback!

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Brian Stanton
23:13 Oct 26, 2022

I really enjoyed this story. Believable characters. Engaging non-linear story telling technique. The mystery held me through to the end. Great job. I'm surprised this worked so well as a short story. Seriously, it's very good. And I agree with everyone else, these characters could be in a much bigger novel. Here's what I think was strong: The main character, a man who wants nothing more than the truth, was likable and interesting to follow. He was a no nonsense, facts only, kind of man, but not unsympathetic. He wasn't the stereotypical h...

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Brian Stanton
23:27 Oct 26, 2022

Also, please ignore my numerous spelling and grammatical errors, typing on a little screen with fat thumbs, I'm always too scared to fix anything and lose my whole comment. Lol. So many times I've read stories here on Reedsy, and started a long thorough comment, just to accidentally refresh the page and lose it all. Lol.

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Michał Przywara
20:59 Oct 27, 2022

Yeah, no worries! I've done that too - super annoying. Out of an abundance of paranoia, I've taken to writing my comments in a Google doc and copying them over, heh.

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Michał Przywara
20:58 Oct 27, 2022

Thanks, Brian! I'm glad you enjoyed it :) I appreciate your great feedback, particularly about what worked and what didn't. I think you're right about the dam/sardine thing - two ideas that are fine independently, become a little too much together. For the phone recording, perhaps you're right. It is a little convenient, and they didn't have to really fight for it. Maybe an answering machine approach is better. They could still work backwards from that, and there still would be a recorded voice for Rita to be affected by. This incarnat...

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Rama Shaar
15:55 Oct 24, 2022

Woah! That ending makes me want to read more and find out what happened to everyone!

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Michał Przywara
20:54 Oct 25, 2022

Thanks, Rama! I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

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Daniel Allen
14:23 Oct 24, 2022

Really really cool! Great characters and an intriguing plot. As others have said, I'd love for you to develop this idea further.

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Michał Przywara
01:36 Oct 25, 2022

Thanks, Daniel! Yeah, I'll have to give that some serious thought. I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

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Marty B
06:22 Oct 24, 2022

Oh great world building! I have walked on that 'shattered concrete path..' I agree with others that this is was a teaser for a longer novel. IMO -suggest moving the crux of the story to the first or second paragraph- 'He raised his brows. “Me? I believe three hundred and twenty two people collectively vanished one day last year...' I have other thoughts about the order of the story unfolding but less important than when is the full story coming out? I'm excited to read the whole thing!

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Michał Przywara
20:50 Oct 24, 2022

Thanks, Marty! Heh, no idea about a bigger work. It's crazy how a one off story can generate a bigger world. You've got a great point about getting to the crux earlier. I was worried it might be dragged out too long. That's something I'll have to keep in mind for future mysteries.

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Rebecca Miles
05:44 Oct 23, 2022

There are a couple of genres that really aren't my cup of tea and detective stories is one of them. But I'd read a story about investigating disappearing pixies if you wrote it Michal! Fortunately you were setting out to write a mystery over a detective story so all the set pieces I dislike never materialised!I really enjoyed the creative take on the train journey and tunnel; how that edged it into something I hadn't been expecting: dystopia. I found it beautifully eerie and I agree with others that it would be interesting to see what happen...

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Michał Przywara
15:56 Oct 23, 2022

Thanks, Rebecca :) I'm glad it was an enjoyable read, even if police stories aren't your usual bag. Heh, I don't know anywhere near enough about the job to write it realistically, and a week is a bit short for research, so I needed a way around that -- and that led to Ben being fired (characters must hate writers :P). More focus on the mystery that way, as you said. I've also gotten a lot of value from reading outside my genres, on this site. There's so many skilled writers here, and at worst, you've spent ten minutes. Best of luck to you...

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Cindy Strube
20:13 Oct 22, 2022

Nicely unsettling! I really like the +(days) time format - it goes along with the suspenseful vibe. And the loose-ended conclusion really works with this type of story. It brings to mind the “Unsolved Mysteries” series hosted by Robert Stack - I’ve watched a bunch of episodes (great accompaniment to loading the dishwasher! ) They often end with something like, “What do YOU think happened?” Great mental stimulation here. I know I’ve skipped a lot of your recent ones, as I’ve been hit-and-miss on Reedsy lately… so will have to do some catch-...

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Michał Przywara
05:26 Oct 24, 2022

Thanks, Cindy! I always appreciate your feedback - though I totally understand taking a Reedsy break too :) Yeah, this is certainly a bit of an unsolved mystery. I think the story was ultimately too short for 3k, but I also like the almost-Lovecraftian implications of mysteries we cannot solve. I'm glad it was nicely unsettling :)

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Suma Jayachandar
05:07 Oct 22, 2022

Michal, I really like a good whodunit story! And this is a pretty good one! The + format is a smart move. It allows the reader to move back and forth smoothly. Another thing I really liked is the dialogue, ten on ten! The suspense is taut and the ending is unexpected! If Reedsy were to allow another tag, horror would also fit in. Thanks for sharing!

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Michał Przywara
01:15 Oct 23, 2022

Hi Suma! Thanks for the feedback! Actually, when I was writing this I had horror on my mind, so I definitely agree with you if there were another tag. Trains are extremely predictable - they run on tracks, they stick to schedules. There's something deeply unsettling about predictable things misbehaving. At least, I find. With the +days thing, I was actually picturing Ben having a cork board, covered with pins and criss-crossing thread, like full conspiracy style. So the section titles come from the timeline he built for the investigation. ...

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Aeris Walker
04:29 Oct 22, 2022

I’m always impressed when writers can break up their story and tell it non-linearly, and you did that well here. The story pulls you in and reads smoothly, even as we jump around the timeline. You made the boss such an unlikable character with very believable dialogue and motives, and he was such a contrast to the MC who calmly and faithfully seeks the truth. The ending is exciting and mystical and leaves us wanting more! Well done! Another great story.

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Michał Przywara
01:00 Oct 23, 2022

Thanks Aeris! So glad you like it :) Playing with time seemed to lend itself well to mystery, and I think there's more that could be explored there. But yeah, the boss... He had "different priorities" :)

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21:42 Oct 21, 2022

Great story. Perfect tension and pacing. Tense dialogue. This is my favorite one of your recent entries. The going back and forth in time keep me guessing on what he had himself involved in, a coverup or framing someone for a crime they didn't commit. The conflict of showing up at a victim's family's house after he left the police really worked too. Only suggestion is perhaps to end with "...not daring to let go of the only other person around." that sounds stronger than explaining the city is empty again in the last clause perhaps.

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Michał Przywara
17:00 Oct 22, 2022

Thanks, Scott! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Yeah, playing with time is something I'm practicing, as I've seen some stories use it to devastating effect. Looking back on it, I agree with your suggestion, but it's already been approved. On the other hand, it's not been recommended - so it goes. I appreciate the feedback!

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Delbert Griffith
09:58 Oct 21, 2022

This is a very engaging story, Michal. The dialogue is good. Believable. That's difficult to do. I do like the ending, although it was a bit abrupt. The 3k word limit kind of limited you, but you do a great job with that restriction nonetheless. The story structure was great. Man, you can write!

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Michał Przywara
21:10 Oct 21, 2022

Thanks, Delbert! Yes, bringing this to a close was a bit of a struggle. A case of writer-wrote-himself-into-a-hole, which is fun to try to write out of again. Not as much of a resolution as I wanted, but I don't see it happening in 3k. Nevertheless, I'm glad you enjoyed it :) I appreciate the feedback.

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Trebor Mack
09:48 Oct 24, 2022

It appears as though there is a lot of 'you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours' on this site. Regular users swap 'warm and fuzzy' comments on each other's stories. This story for instance gets heaps of 'likes' even though it is riddled with error issues............... such as excessive use of diction (29) and vague and abstract words (60)........Sticky sentences........Passive verbs..........too many adverbs .......... grammar and other issues. It is okay to knock up a good storyline but one should endeavor to improve their writing sty...

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Michał Przywara
20:57 Oct 24, 2022

Thanks for your feedback, Trebor! I'm sorry you didn't seem to like the story, but I appreciate your honest opinion. As I am always endeavouring to improve as a writer, I value constructive criticism, and it seems like you've spotted some issues. Could you please elaborate on your findings? I'm particularly worried about grammar errors, and I would appreciate it if you could highlight the vague and abstract words. Likewise, what do you mean by "excessive use of diction"? Is "diction" not simply the words a writer chooses to use to tell a...

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