This is a short story that Amanda at Amanda Joy Writes and I wrote together, going back and forth every few paragraphs. After editing, etc., we decided to put it on our blogs.
Now, without further ado:
Crime Doesn’t Pay
I tripped over my long skirt. Bothersome thing! I thought, though I didn’t dare say it out loud. Who might be lurking in those dark shadows? What creature could be hidden in those alleys? I stopped in front of a door and compared the numbers on the wall to those on the slip of paper I held. 17475. Yes, it was the right door.
There, in bold, capital letters were the words, ‘CRIME DOESN’T PAY’. I lifted my hand and knocked. A sound of footsteps approached and the knob turned. The door opened silently.
A man stepped into my field of vision. His hair was very dark, almost black, and he towered over me. I gulped. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. What was I thinking, coming into an alleyway?!? But when his eyes captured mine, I had less of an urge to run. His eyes were a stormy blue, but they held a gentleness in their depths.
“What do you want?” his voice rumbled in his chest.
“I came to ask for some help.” I said, my voice barely above a whisper. “I received this note yesterday…” I handed him an envelope.
He opened it and pulled out the letter. After looking it over for a few moments, he returned it to the envelope. “So your friend was kidnapped?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“I can’t help you.” He said, starting to close the door.
“Please–” I put my hand out to stop the door. “I need help. Even with the inheritance I just received I don’t have enough to pay this.”
“I’m not an official detective. I’ve never had any training–”
“Which is exactly why I need you. I don’t trust official detectives.”
“I can’t help you.” He pushed on the door.
This time I pushed my way inside the house, determined to get his help.
“Hey, who do you think you are?!” He sputtered. “You cannot just barge into someone’s house! I don’t even know you!”
I ignored his words and I strode across the hard floor. I ran my hands across a smooth wooden table in the middle of the room. I have to find Lauren. I won’t give up. I felt his eyes on me. “I’m a friend.”
He laughed from his spot by the door, “Oh really? Well then, how come I’ve never seen you before?”
“David Willis sent me.” I looked back at him.
He seemed to really look at me now. His eyes narrowed, “You know David?”
“David’s my brother.” He looked shocked now.
I knew I had one chance to hit home. “He said you were the only one who could help me; he said you would.”
“I don’t even know your name.”
“Nor I yours.” I replied.
“Serena.” I stuck out my hand.
He shook it. “Very well, Serena. I will help you.”
I breathed a sigh of relief.
He looked at the paper – the ransom note – that he still held in his hand and gave a barely perceptible sigh.“Yes, I will help you.”
I sat down at the kitchen table. It was a like a weight had slid off my shoulders. I’m not in this alone. But where do we start? How are we going to find Lauren? I voiced my troubling thoughts, “Where do we start?”
Daniel retraced his steps and closed the front door, setting a secure bar in place. He sat across from me and placed the ransom note in front of him. His dark eyebrows arched on his forehead. “Do you recognize the handwriting? Could the kidnapper be someone you know?”
I leaned forward as he slid the paper closer to me. Might as well have another look. But as I scrutinized the note for what seemed like the hundredth time, nothing rang a bell. I shook my head, “No. The handwriting isn’t familiar. It can’t be someone I know.”
He rubbed his chin. “Now did your friend….um….what’s her name?”
Daniel continued, “Did this Lauren girl, have any enemies? Would someone want to hurt her?”
Now that was a hard question. “Well-” I closed my mouth. How do I go about explaining this?
“It isn’t really about her. It’s about me. My grandmother died about a month ago, leaving me a large fortune. That’s what the kidnappers-” I nodded at the paper “-are after. I knew a guy a while back who tried to court Lauren. She didn’t want anything to do with him, and he got really frustrated, but I don’t think he’d kidnap her. Or ask for a ransom from me. I really think this is about me, not Lauren.”
He nodded. “It would make sense.” He said, “Tell me, when was the last place you saw her?”
My thoughts filed backwards, to when I had seen her last. “I saw her about five days ago, during one of our weekly visits. Everything was normal-we had tea, we talked and laughed. There didn’t seem to be anything amiss. There was nothing in her demeanor to cause me to be concerned or anything.” I glanced down. “But if only I could have…”
“You couldn’t have done anything to stop what happened.” Daniel’s face was filled with assuredness.
I winced, “But-”
He interrupted me again, “Whomever took Lauren would have just taken you too. Who knows what kind of men or even women we are dealing with.”
“Yeah, I suppose.” But it doesn’t make me feel any better.
Daniel shifted in his seat. “Now what about Lauren’s family?” he asked. “Aren’t they concerned about her welfare? Why haven’t they gone to the police concerning this matter?”
I frowned. “She doesn’t have any family. She was orphaned. When she turned sixteen she left the foster home, got a job, and rented an apartment.”
“Does this have to do with her job?”
“No,” I said again, exasperated, “You just read what they want in the note. It’s about me and my money. That’s what they’re after. I just need to find her. Then I’ll leave you alone.”
“I’m trying to help you with that.” He said, “I believe I have a few ideas…maybe a lead. But I need more time to think about it. Do you need help getting home?”
“No.” I replied, rising from my seat.
“Then I shall see you tomorrow, Serena.”
I adjusted my dress as I sat on a park bench that was hidden behind bushes and large trees. I glanced to my right, but there was no sign of Daniel. I sighed. If he doesn’t hurry up, I’m going to hunt him down myself! He apparently had some “news”, and I was anxious to hear about it.
I heard footsteps nearby. Daniel. I looked up with a ready smile.
But it wasn’t Daniel. A sandy haired man had rounded the bend and tipped his brown tailored hat towards me. He picked a flower from a nearby bush and looked around, occasionally glancing at me.
Who is this man? People don’t walk back here often. I should know.
But the man never said a word. He just enjoyed the scenery for a time, then stalked off in the opposite direction he had come.
Footsteps reached my ears once again, but I didn’t look up. My brows furrowed. I was vaguely aware of someone sitting beside me.
“Good, you’re here.” Daniels voice said, “I have important news.”
I stared at the ground, then looked at him on the bench. “The oddest man was just here.”
“What?” He asked.
“Did you see that man?”
“The man that was just here… you should have seen him.”
“But I didn’t.”
“He was acting really weird, picking a flower, then often times glancing at me. As if it’s the most normal occurrence in the world! Very strange behavior.”
Daniel looked around, apprehension rising in his face. “I think we should get out of here. I don’t like the idea of someone standing behind one of these trees listening to what we’re saying.”
“You go first,” He nodded in the direction of his house, “I’ll start in a different direction. Meet up at my house.”
I started off. But as I walked, I thought I saw a blur of color in the distance- the shape of a man. My heart beat fast. I struggled to control my breathing as I quickened my pace.
The blurry man took a right, away from Daniels house. I exhaled. There is no need to be on edge; I’m fine, Daniels fine, we’re all fine. Well except for Lauren…this is not making me feel better! I pushed away my thoughts.
I was just a few feet from ‘Daniels alleyway’ when I heard footsteps behind me. My fear quickly returned. What if the man who had kidnapped Lauren was right behind me? Or that strange man from the park? I hastened even faster.
The footsteps sounded closer.
Dear Lord, keep me safe!
I turned left and looked over my shoulder at the same time. I couldn’t help it!
But there was no one there, not a soul. That’s strange, I thought…
A strong grip took ahold of my elbow.
I screamed, trying to pull away from whomever had grabbed me.
A brown hand covered my mouth. “Are you trying to get me arrested?” said a voice sounding both reproachful and humorous at the same time. “I didn’t mean to frighten you, Serana.”
It was my brother, David. I stopped struggling, and David retracted his hand.
His brown eyes seemed to be laughing at me, although he didn’t say a word.
I punched his shoulder. “You scared me half to death! Why did you do that?!?”
“Ow,” he rubbed his shoulder, and laughed. “Do what? I didn’t do anything wrong…”
Any objection on my lips was snatched from me, as another voice came upon the scene.
“Yes, you did.”
I spun around.
There stood Daniel, his hands on his hips. “You two are being far too loud. Now get inside before someone hears you.”
I clapped my hand over my mouth to restrain a giggle.
We entered the house.
“So, David, what are you doing here?”
I waited for him to answer. He seemed to be taking a long time to respond. Collecting his thoughts, I supposed.
“I wanted to see how things were-”
I jumped at the sound of a loud pounding from the door….. Shouting followed.
Daniels face turned grave. He and David leaned up against the door.
“Daniel, who in the world do you think would be pounding on your door?” David asked. “You have no enemies the last time I checked.”
“They’ve come for me,” I whispered. “They’ve come for me.”
Daniel glanced back at me. His lips were set in a grim line. “Serena, I want you to go in the guest bedroom-”
Daniel shook his head, “I want you go hide behind the bed and stay there until one of us comes and gets you.”
“No arguing, just do it.” he growled. “Down the hallway, first door to the right.”
“Ok.” Just because I’m not a man… I closed the guest bedroom door behind me and sighed. “If a ruckus starts up out there, I’m coming out.”
I rested a hand upon my chin, while I sat against the wall. An eternity seemed to have passed and I wasn’t staying in here any longer. I straightened to a standing position and strode out the door. Is there anyone here?
David sat at the kitchen table, seeming to be twiddling his thumbs.
“What happened to the person who had been at the door, shouting?” I sat on the chair opposite him.
David’s face lost it’s pleasant look. “Well, um…” he scratched his head.
“David,” I said with warning.
He sighed. “Well, while you were hiding we decided to go ahead an open the door. Our first mistake. There was an angry man on the other side. Daniel asked what the man wanted, but all he did was mutter something in a different language and hand Daniel a note.”
“Yeah. I didn’t understand what it said, it too was written in a different language. However, Daniel understood.” He looked at me with fear in his eyes. “I never saw Daniel look so startled, he’s such a calm person.”
I leapt from my chair. This can’t be good. “Where’s Daniel?”
David shook his head, “I don’t know. He wouldn’t tell me what he was doing or where he was going. Although, I did ask.”
“We have to leave. Daniels in trouble.”
“How do you know?” He rubbed the back of his neck.
“Wherever he was going, he didn’t want us to follow. He must be in trouble. Now let’s go.”
David held up his hand. “Wait, we can’t go. Daniel told me to make sure you stayed here and that he would be back soon.”
I rolled my eyes. “I think I can fend for myself.”
“None of that. I’m going whether you come with me or not. Your choice.” I slid on my coat.
He looked apprehensive, but nodded. “Okay. I’m in.”
My heart pounded harder with every noise. The creak of the doorknob as David turned it, the sound of our footsteps descending the three stairs to the street. The sound of a rat scurrying into an alley.
“Here’s where I last saw him.” David whispered.
“Stop!” David whispered, blocking my path.
I strained to see around him. Two men stood beneath a street-light, talking.
“It’s Daniel!” I exclaimed.
David held a finger to his lips.
“Are they still convinced?”
“Yes.” That was Daniel. “They trust me completely.” He let out a sigh, “I still don’t like it, Jacob. Fooling Serena and David like this just for the sake of Serena’s fortune….”
“It’ll be worth it. We won’t hurt them, and she can do without the money. She did before.”
David motioned with his head. We crept away from the street, back to Daniels house.
“So Daniel has been lying to us this whole time.” My temper began to flare, “And we trusted him.”
“He might be playing double–getting together with that man so that we can get Lauren back…” He didn’t seem convinced.
“I don’t think so.” I replied. My mouth dropped open. “OH, maybe we should leave. This isn’t the safest place to be right now.”
The door creaked open. We stood. I saw David’s hand go to his side where he kept his gun.
“Daniel,” David’s voice was quiet with an edge of apprehension.
Daniel glanced at me, then David, then back again. He raised one eyebrow, “Is something wrong?
“Are you double-crossing us?!” Anger was evident in my voice.
He frowned. “What?”
“Exactly what I said. We heard you talking beneath that streetlamp to ‘Jacob’.”
“Who are you really working for?” David demanded.
“Fine.” Daniel sunk into a chair, “I confess. I am working with the men who kidnapped Lauren.”
I crossed my arms, and glowered at him. “So, this whole time you were leading us on? Pretending?”
I raised my eyebrows.
He winced, “Yes.” I huge sigh escaped his lips and he clenched his hands in his lap. “It’s complicated.”
“We’ve been friends for two years and I had trusted you.” David stated in a husky voice
Daniel’s face lowered in shame.
“And now, when I place my sisters life in your hands, you…” he fought for control, “you go against me and our friendship?”
The room went dead silent.
David’s eyes rested on the seemingly broken man and he continued. “Why did you take so long to show your true colors?” he asked, his voice laced with bitterness. “For money?”
I placed a hand on my brothers shoulder, shaking my head.
Daniel looked up. “David, I never lied to you. Our friendship has been real and true.”
“Then what happened?!” David’s face was as red as a tomato.
Daniel closed his eyes. “My…my mom had cancer.” His face went into his hands. “We needed money for her treatment…so when I was contacted about receiving a huge sum, if I gathered information about Serena Willis, I accepted the offer.”
“Wait, is that why you refused to help me at first?” I whispered. “Because you were working for the enemy?”
“When was your mom diagnosed?” David asked soberly, the color fading from his cheeks.
My gaze went to his face. He’s always the one to be compassionate and concerned for others.
“Three years ago.” Daniel bit his lip, “Then she died last month. But I had to keep going with this ruse anyway. I was committed.”
“Wait, but what about the “news” you had to tell me?”
He waved his hand, “No, no. It was a scam. I was going to send you off on a wild goose chase.”
Then, what about the man at the park? Why were you so wary of him?”
“I thought it might have been Jacob, trying to meddle in my part of the bargain. I didn’t want to risk him capturing you then and there-”
“I can’t believe this,” I muttered.
David shook his head.
“I just made an arrangement with that man. I’m supposed to hand you over to them.”
I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. I blinked. “You…you won’t give us over to-”
“No.” Daniel rose from his chair.
“What do we do?!” I asked.
“You go. I’ll stay here and handle them.”
“Daniel–no! It’s dangerous.” David argued.
“I won’t see you again. But I’ll make sure they don’t get either of you.”
A knock sounded at the door.
“Go out the back door. May God keep you safe.”
David extended his hand. Daniel shook it with a determined nod.
We turned and started for the back door.
Can we just leave Daniel here to die?
My heart gave a jolt as David soundlessly closed the back door. A weird feeling washed over me, as if by the closing of that door, everything would change. David turned away, but I yanked on his shirt.
“We can’t just leave him, David.”
“Shhh.” He continued walking down the dim alleyway.
He looked at me with such sternness, that it silenced any complaints on my lips. He motioned with his head and I followed him around the corner.
What is he doing?
I peered over his shoulder. To my surprise I saw David’s brown, wooden door right across from us. There wasn’t anyone outside.
The man must be inside. Shivers climbed up my spine. Daniel.
David faced me with a troubled expression. “I want you to go home.”
I shook my head. “I’m not going anywhere. Besides, do you think home is the safest place right now?”
He grasped my forearms. “But it’s not safe for you HERE.” His eyes were filled with worry, and he glanced backwards.
“Is anywhere really safe?”
The second those words left my mouth, a loud gunshot shattered the silence. There was no doubt it came from Daniels’s house.
All breath seemed to leave my lungs. “Daniel!” I rushed forward.
“Serena!” David grabbed my arm and yanked me backwards.
“We can’t leave him.” I sobbed, “We can’t!”
“Serena, you’re the one they’re after. You have to get out of here.” David spoke with firm resolution.
I let him lead me away from the terrible place. My whole heart screamed, and my mind echoed the words David had just said, ‘you’re the one they’re after’. He might as well have said, ‘It’s all your fault’. After all, it was my fault Daniel was in danger, hurt–perhaps even dead. David brought me up the steps to my house. I took the key from my pocket and handed it to him.
He unlocked the door and stepped inside. I followed, feeling numb.
“You’d better go get some rest. I’ll get together something to eat and come get you later.”
When I woke up the sun was streaming in. I looked at the clock. Ten o’clock AM.
Memories from the night before flooded back. I got dressed and slipped downstairs.
David lay on the couch, sound asleep.
I retrieved my jacket and went outside. I found myself in the street where Daniel lived. I climbed the steps and opened the door. The front room was empty. I went farther. In the middle of the floor was something dark. I knelt down to examine it. “Blood.” I whispered.
No! My heart screamed. Tears rolled down my cheeks. He was dead, all because of me. It’s my fault. If I hadn’t come here in the first place it never would have happened.
I hurried home.
David sat up, rubbing his eyes as I opened the door.
“Serena, what’s wrong?”
“I…went to Daniel’s house.”
“You did what?” he exclaimed, jumping to his feet.
I burst into tears, relating between sobs what I’d seen.
“Serena, calm down.” He said, “I have a plan. I had found a paper at Daniels house with an address on it. It’s a long shot, but maybe it will lead us the the criminals house.”
I leaned my ear against the door, attempting to hear what was being said inside the enemies house. The address on the note had led us the enemies layer, as David had suspected. Now we surrounded the house, with the needed assistance of law enforcement, due to the desperate circumstances.
All the men had wanted me to stay behind, but I had refused. I wasn’t going anywhere with Lauren and hopefully Daniel in there.
I peered through a crack in the shabby door, and spotted Lauren sitting, with her hands behind her back. A man was pacing up and down the room.
Someone tapped my shoulder. I glanced up to see David. He nodded at me.
They’re going in.
I stepped back from the door and scurried down the porch steps. I disappeared behind a green bush. I had readily consented to staying out of sight, while they caught the crooks. I just hoped Lauren wouldn’t be harmed in the midst of it.
My heart pounded in my chest as the ordeal played out. Shouting and loud slamming noises, like the tipping of furniture, met my ears.
I restrained myself from barging into the house, having promised David to stay outside because of my own safety. Please let Lauren stay safe!
In an instant everything was utterly quiet. Too quiet.
I held my breath at the sound of the front door groaning open. I almost fell over as a feeble voice spoke.
“Serena?? Serena, where are you? They told me you were out here.”
“Oh Lauren!” I burst out from my hiding place and hugged her tight. She was crying as she rested her head against my shoulder. I tried to smooth her disheveled hair.
We stood like like this for a couple moments.
Then I leaned away from her.
She was trembling and her face was very white. Her eyes were void of their normal sparkle.
My vision became blurry. “Did…did they hurt you?”
Lauren shook her head. “I…I was locked away in a room most of the time. The only visits I received was when I was getting food, but sometimes I never got any.” Her voice broke off.
“I tried to be brave,” she continued, “but I couldn’t. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me.” She started sobbing on my shoulder.
I closed my eyes. “I’m so sorry, Lauren.” I mustered. “It was all my fault.”
“Your fault?” She gasped between sobs.
“I don’t understand. How?” she whispered.
A loud creak interrupted my answer. David stood beside us, looking drained.
Daniel? I looked into his watery eyes.
He shook his head.
I hid my face on Laurens shoulder and cried. This is all my fault.
Two Months Later
We had long ago given up the idea of ever seeing Daniel again. My heart rebelled at the thought, but what was I supposed to do? Should I have kept searching, though the authorities had found no trace of him? The criminals hadn’t been of any help either. One had escaped, yet to be found, and the other had died in the crossfire. Thus, no one could have given testimony to where Daniel might have been. My hope was lost.
It was evening, the sun had set, and I went on a walk to get the mail. I opened the box and found a bright orange note card on the inside.
I opened it and read, “‘You need to meet me at Fairway park, at 7:30 tomorrow evening. There will be dire consequences if you don’t.'” I froze. What am I supposed to do?
I ran back inside and grabbed the phone to call David.
My fingers trembled as I dialed. Is someone still after me? I pursed my lips as the phone rang on the other end.
“Hello, this is David.”
I cradled the phone against my ear. “David, it’s Serena. I just received a note.”
“What kind of note?” came the weary reply.
“A ‘meet me here, at this time tomorrow, or you will suffer dire consequences’ kind of note.”
“Do you recognize the handwriting?”
I scrutinized the note. “No.” I squinted. “Well, it looks a little familiar but I can’t place it…”
David sighed, “Tell me Serena, why does trouble seem to follow you everywhere?”
My face turned red and tears formed in my eyes. “This isn’t my fault David. I didn’t-”
“I’m just teasing, Serena. Don’t be so touchy.”
I sniffed. “Well, I’m sorry. But this hasn’t been the easiest last couple of months.”
There was a pause.
“How do you feel about it? About Daniel that is.”
I wiped my cheeks and exhaled. “Truthfully…still numb. I know that I didn’t know him for that long, but-” I cleared my throat, “he was a very noble man.”
“Did you have feelings for him?” he asked softly.
My gaze swept to the front window and rested upon the flowers outside. “I knew him for but a second. So, of course, I’m not sure. But I believe I could have liked him very much.” Very much. I stared down at my slippered feet and shrugged. “Doesn’t matter now.”
“I’m sorry.” David sounded like he felt my pain.
I wiped my nose. “Well, enough of this. We have more important matters to worry about. What do you think we should do?”
“Let’s meet this guy. He could be one of the criminals. But we’ll go ahead and contact the policy too, for extra protection”
“Ok, talk to you later. Bye.”
I hung up the phone and rubbed my shoulders. We’ll see how this goes.
I glanced down at my pocket watch. 7:25pm. Whomever this is, should be here soon. I straightened my dress, while I sat on the park bench.
David was hidden nearby, but close enough to come to my aid at a moment’s’ notice.
I couldn’t help checking my watch again. 7: 28!
I heard the sound of a twig snapping. Footsteps followed and a figure rounded the corner. I froze in my seat as a man, looking exactly like Daniel, approached me! It can’t be.
He slowed his pace at the sight me of and tried to smile. He had scars on his face.
“Daniel!?!” I gasped, jumping up.
“Serena,” He replied, humor evident in his voice. “I’m glad you decided to come.”
“Why – what – how?”
David stepped out from behind a tree. “DANIEL??!?”
“Hello David,” He extended a hand. David just stared at it. “I’m not a ghost. Aren’t you going to shake my hand?”
“I…” David stammered. He reached out and took Daniel’s hand, probably more out of habit than anything else.
“We thought you were dead!” Tears ran down my cheeks.
“So did I.” He replied, a twinkle in his eyes. “But I’m glad you, Lauren, and David are safe. And your fortune, Serena.” Daniels eyes filled with grief. “Serena, I’m sorry that I ever agreed to such a job.”
I nodded at him. “All is forgiven, Daniel.”
His face seemed to brighten as he smiled at me.
It was a smile of hope and something else…perhaps affection? I grinned back at him and my heart rejoiced.
“Hey, but how did you escape?” David gasped, breaking the moment.
Daniels eyes turned upon David. They were twinkling once again. “Now that’s quite a story, but for another time.” Daniel offered me his arm and I took it.
Then, we strolled off, content in the sunshine.
But David glanced at me once and I new what he was thinking…what’s Daniel’s story?
To be continued if one desires to hear Daniel’s story…
Whoa, that got long!
If you do want to hear Daniel’s story let me know in the comments! 🙂
‘Til next time,