AN ALTERNATE CHAPTER 13

 

From our guest writer:  Malena Eljumaily

(Here’s what happens when we let readers imagine how a scene will play out.

You can still see the regular Chapter 13 by clicking here.)

By MALENA ELJUMAILY

Sandra picked a piece of pepperoni off her slice and put it into her mouth. Why was she eating pizza of all things? Her stomach was a churning caldron of acid and anxiety without this added insult.

She’d walked out of the PD feeling too anxious to just hop in her car and head home. Instead, she’d continued walking around downtown Santa Rosa for a good half hour and finally ended up at the mall. The food court was a good place for people watching: kids hanging out and trying to be cool, mothers with strollers piled high with purchases, older people looking for some color in their otherwise dreary lives. And Sandra.

Her cell phone’s ringing interrupted the next bite. She quickly wiped her hands on the paper napkin and answered.

“Sausage or pepperoni?”

“What?”

“That nice slice of pie you’ve been picking at for the last ten minutes.”

He’s here. She swallowed hard, looked around for anyone else on a cell phone. There were too many people to pick out a single man.

“You’re following me,” she said, hoping to keep any hint of desperation out of her voice. “Why are you following me?” There was ambient music wafting through the food court. She listened for it on his end of the call, but could hear nothing.

“Is this your idea of a professional interview, Sandra?”

“Interview?” There was noise in the background, street noise, maybe.

“On second thought, I’m getting a little bored with this. But don’t worry, I’ll keep in touch.” He ended the call.

Sandra breathed out several expletives, and punched in Detective Brown’s number with trembling hands.

“Brown.”

“He’s here!” she managed to rasp out. “He’s in the mall, downtown, the Plaza. Right now. He called me again. Knew what I was eating, for God’s sake!”

“Sandra, slow down.”

She finally calmed down enough to relate the conversation she’d just had with the killer.

“If he’s following you, we might be able to use that.”

“What?! You want me to be bait for you?”

“Get in your car and drive. I’ll send a couple of unmarked cars over toMendocino Avenue. Turn right out of the parking lot and then head for traffic. If he’s following you, that’ll slow him down, make it easier for us to find him or track him when he calls back.”

“I can’t do this,” she said.

“Yes you can, Sandra.”

She was driving west on Third Street when the call came in.

“Hello, Sandra. All done with your dinner?”

“I’m supposed to be asking you the questions.”

“Okay, ask me something.” She couldn’t hear any background sounds, no cars, no music. Was he in a car behind her, right next to her?

“What’s your name?”

He laughed a genuine and hearty laugh. “How about I tell you my address while I’m at it?”

“Okay, dumb question. But I’ve got to call you something.” She turned onto Highway 12 from Dutton. There was sure to be some rush hour traffic heading toward Sebastopol.

“You can call me Al,” he chuckled.

“Okay, Al.” She rattled off a series of questions which he summarily evaded in his usual manner. It was frustrating for her, as a reporter, but she was keeping him on the line. And the traffic was slow. Crawling, in fact. The combination of his evasiveness and this stop and go stress was more than she could take.

“Look,” she almost exploded. “Why are we talking if you aren’t going to answer any of my questions?”

“Aren’t your friends at the police station tracking this call? Don’t you want me to stay on the line?”

“I want you to answer my questions.”

“Okay, what do you really want to know? One more question and it had better be a good one.”

Sandra hesitated. She looked out across a ribbon of red brake lights all down the highway. What she really wanted to know was, Why me? Do I know you? But that was a little too selfish.

“Where will your next killing be?” she asked.

“Good question. What’s your opinion on that?”

God, more of his infuriating nonsense. She wanted to end the call. They’d been talking for a good ten minutes, enough time for the police to trace his cell signal.

“Come on, Sandra, take a guess,” he urged her.

“Okay, Petaluma.”

“Good guess, but wrong.”

Sh–.”Do I get a second chance?” No response. “Are you still there?”

He wasn’t. She quickly phoned Brown. ”Did you get it? Do you know where he is?”

***

The Windsor Town Green was alive with music. On stage at the moment was a Steve Miller tribute band called The Jokers. Detective Brown glanced over the crowd for any trace of the killer. The man was an escape artist to rival Houdini.

They’d traced his cell phone activity from Santa Rosa as it moved into Sebastopol and couldn’t figure out how he’d done it. The westbound highway was a solid line of cars owing to a crash near Llano Road. And yet he’d managed to fly past all the traffic. Finally Maddocks mentioned the Prince Memorial Greenway and they realized that the killer must have been on a bicycle. A bicycle!

At least Sandra was safe. Her information that his next victim would not be killed in Petaluma helped him decide to send extra officers to patrol this event in Windsor.

He estimated there to be at least 500 people here. Could he keep them all safe? With any luck the enhanced police presence would prevent the killer from acting that night. All they could do now was wait.

Congratulations to Malena, one of two readers whose versions were selected to be highlighted as worthy alternates for Chapter 13.

Malena Eljumaily lives in Santa Rosa and is an avid mystery fan.  Her short play, “Special Delivery,” will be performed at the 6th Street Playhouse in June as part of the Redwood Writers 10-Minute Play Festival.

 

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Edited by ROBERT DIGITALE

A PROJECT OF SONOMA WRITERS

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