a fictional short story by Joshua Coffman
It was yellow snow.
Fuck, he sighed to himself. Another dog had pissed on his pristinely shoveled suburban driveway. He dodged the exhaust hanging low in the cold morning air to grab a shovel and remove the contaminated snow before someone drove by and saw it.
As he heaved the shovel full of piss laden snow into his garbage a car drove by, snow crunching underneath. Today was a sunny day, but the sun was still obscured by the mountains to the east.
He turned around and placed the shovel back under the overhang of the garage and got into his car. The door slammed shut and the moisture that had accumulated on his eyebrows melted instantly in the warm car.
"...and the State department has..."
Off clicked the radio, too much politics lately.
He backed out of the driveway and for a brief moment felt proud of how immaculate the front of his house was. It really was beautiful.
Great white pillars stood out as you viewed the home from the street. The yard was untrampled by man or beast. He kept it this way by religiously using a snowblower and engineering the path of runoff. Large windows looked inside to a stunning fir tree decorated with warm creamy lights and matching boutique candy canes from a shop downtown.
The porch was stately and unornamented as if ready for great parties to be held in the summer. To the left was a garage which nestled itself facing south so as to keep the view from being tarnished.
The great sin of the landscaper had been a small tree to the right of the house which had now grown so large as to begin competing with the austerity of the house itself. There were no children in the house but a swing had been installed into the tree just to bring balance to the nature of the yard. No joyous footprints led through the snow to the porch and back.
It was impossible to park in the garage, even with the annual snowfall being several feet. If he were to park the car in the garage, none of the neighbors would see it.
Anyways... I digress.
From up above, looking down, you could see him putt off down the street in his little SUV from one small street onto a larger artery. And if you flew just high enough to barely see his car, you could watch as he drove from his home in the burbs to a small 3 story building on the south business district.
You could see all the other cars, hurrying to and fro. Traffic jams, red lights, tiny figures walking their dogs, and weird people doing yoga in the cold on their back porches, why the fuck are they doing that?
Anyways, Travis was sitting at his desk, his computer was turning on and he was thumbing through some notes he had left for himself last Friday.
The DoD bid needed to be reviewed for initial submission and there were a few questions he needed answered from Lt Nesser. He logged in to his computer and started flagging the weekend emails. One stood out, it was a reporter from the local FOX station.
The subject line said, "MONDAY HEADSUP" all in capitals.
Nice, a muckraker. At least he had the decency to email us before he came in.
Travis went to the staff meeting, ate a doughnut and talked to Pearce about the Lakers game. When he got back to his office he had completely forgotten about the fucking journalist. He had immersed himself in forwarding some quick mockups to the project lead when a knock on the door frame startled him.
"It's Ben from FOX."
Travis stood up and offered his hand, what is this all about?
"I'm here off-the-record. There was a missing person reported several months ago."
Travis began to sweat, how does this relate to me, how can I help?
Hold on, let's pause here a minute. Zoom out and let's look at the parking lot.
In the middle of the parking lot, there is a row of trees in the meridian, the parking lot is covered in gravel that has been driven over sparsely. There are several businesses in this building and the parking lot is shared with a strip mall to the north. There are two entrances off of the main road and one entrance opposite the strip mall to the left as you exit the building.
Near the dead center of the parking lot, directly facing one of the trees is Traviss' SUV. It stands out from a lot of the cars but there are several SUVs that make it less obnoxious.
Right by the front door, Ben's little white sedan is left running. A FedEx truck pulls up behind his car and the delivery is now being made.
Ben got the confirmation he needed that the anonymous tip was a dud. He apologized for bothering Travis and made his way out of the building. When he got to the bottom of the stairs, his heart started racing, he couldn't see his car. His footsteps quickened and he felt his eyesight sharpen as he pushed through the glass doors into the entry and then exited the building.
The doggie door swung shut behind him as Rebel stumbled back into the house after relieving himself in the freezing cold. He had the house to himself. Mom and dad were both at work and he had a long lazy day ahead of himself.
He wandered back into his favorite room, the garage and contented himself with his favorite pastime, sleeping. Surely later he would get around to chasing birds and biting snowmen. His dreams and reality began to merge and flashes of light blended with cages and police cars and scary moments.
Where was Evan?
He woke up and forgot entirely everything. Evan had just been a dream.
Ben, of course, had planned this all along. Insurance fraud was the name of the game these days and most people left their cars running in the cold. He couldn't afford autostart on a journalist salary.
He called the police, he called a cab, and he called his insurance company.
Ben ducked back inside the entryway for the time being until his cab arrived and watched from his peripheral everything that was going on. The FedEx employee walked back to his truck and headed to the next location. The Little Ceasars owner opened up his restaurant for the day. The guy living in his car on the far side of the parking lot got out to stretch before heading off to whatever minimum wage job paid for his gas expenses.
When the cab arrived, well, hold on, let's zoom out and see where they go.
Interesting, they go to Ben's work. The FOX affiliate studio.
"Thanks for the tip." Ben's mind was curious now.
Apparently, at least according to the cab driver, there was now a rumor spreading that the missing person had been seen, right here in town. At a bar.
Ben had no idea what to do, maybe follow the lead at the bar? Surely the bartender wouldn't have noticed him or say anything if he had. Maybe the man was just laying low, I mean surely many people purposefully leave their friends and family for personal reasons trying not to be found.
Travis was shaken, he knew that Ben was well-meaning, but something about having a reporter show up to his work was so unseating that he could not concentrate.
He phoned into the project lead and then headed out for a few minutes. It was too cold to stay outside long but maybe stretching his legs for a quick walk would help settle his nerves.
Outside, Travis was about to walk away but remembered he had left his computer unlocked. Fuck, the computer is still open. He decided against the walk and instead he'd wait by the front door for a few minutes and just get some fresh air.
At least then he could say he didn't leave the building with his computer open. Fucking opsec. The Little Ceasars owner was locking up as if it was the end of the day. The FedEx truck pulled up and the delivery driver went in without a package. And at the end of the parking lot there was a man putting up some window coverings in the back of his car.
Travis pulled his phone out of his pocket to check the time. 11am. Just like I thought. Must be some sort of freak coincidence.
The FedEx guy came back out carrying a package.
Travis stopped him. Why are you carrying a package OUT?
"I forgot to pick up the package from Hover Eyerwear when I stopped by earlier."
Travis shook his head, sorry I just, anyways... Even from overhead, Travis looked uncomfortable. But there was no doubt about it, he should have been because at the very moment he was interrogating the FedEx man, upstairs in his office, someone was plugging in a USB dongle into his computer.
When he got upstairs, he went to his office and sat down completely relieved to see no one had touched his computer.
Allen poked his head in the door, do you have a minute?
Hey, I transferred all the files over while you were downstairs. They are on that USB drive.
Hunting was illegal in the municipality, of course. But outside the city limits, it was free game. Bears, deer, boars, moose, wolves. Most hunting being done these days was sport like shooting. But some still trapped.
Trappers could use the fur. And supposedly, unicorns have a pristine white fur coat. Now, I'm the narrator and I can see most everything and I've never seen a unicorn so I can't really confirm or deny at this point, but I will say that if someone could trap a unicorn alive, my, that would be the most valuable thing in the world, I mean, other than it's horn.
I knew where Evan and company had been hunting in the rainforests to the south but I couldn't be sure what their exact strategy was. Being a narrator can be a bit of work trying to go back and forth and know what each person is saying, thinking or doing, especially when I'm trying to keep track of the main characters' dog as well.
Ben decided to go against his better judgement and go ask questions to the proprietor of the bar that Evan had been seen at.
Not much use going in the morning though, this was the kind of bar that opened at 8pm. Ben worked through the day and called his SAHM wife to let her know he was going to be working late today. He lived over an hour drive away and the thought of driving back to his house for a 30 minute dine and dash was unbearable, might as well stick around town and get some errands done.
After work, Ben took a cab to the car rental company his insurance provided and sat down at a local pub for dinner and hopefully a convo with someone interesting.
Let's look at who shows up.
Sitting down at the bar, was Ben, the pub was pretty busy but if you zoom out you can see something interesting.
In the pub parking lot is the same truck that nearly ran Evan off the railroad tracks.
Of course, I know who is the driver of said truck but Ben surely has no idea.
Across the bar is sitting a key defendant in the very story Ben is chasing and he has no idea.
Instead, some guy with a political shirt sits next to Ben and drones on and on about politics for the next 40 minutes until Ben finally pays the tab and leaves.
Ben shows up before they open but it's a bar and the door is open so he heads inside. Inside is a dimly lit room with pool tables, a ping-pong table and a bunch of room for drunk ass people to do drunk ass things.
Sorry man we're not open yet, we open in 30 minutes.
Yeah I know, I'm not here for a drink, I was wondering if you knew anything about Evan, the missing person. Someone said he was seen here.
Sorry don't know anything. Come back when we're open if you want to ask around.
Ben, unsurprised at the answer but surprised at the fact he asked the question anyways, walked out of the bar. Maybe he should stick around until they open and ask some of the patrons?
He decided, might as well, I am a journalist anyways, this is what I do.
So he ambled up the street aways, watching as cars drove by and every once in a while he'd adjust his hat, cause it was fucking cold outside.
Rebel was excited, Mom and dad were coming home any minute now!
Travis was sitting, alone, at a dinner table sized for six.
Ben knelt down, something had caught his eye on the sidewalk, it was a ring. It was a simple gold band. No one was around so he pocketed it. Might be valuable, finders keepers.
He walked back to the bar and grabbed a drink, soon enough he would start asking questions.