“It’s the complex.”
“Yeah, I know it’s the complex, but why should I have to foot the bill?”
She glances over at her partner with a baffled expression. “What the hell are you talking about?”
Taken aback, and literally leaning back against the car door, he responds tersely, “She got diagnosed with a complex, my wife. Ain’t you been listening? Some anxiety bullshit that the doc’s say means she don’t have to work no more. And ya know what that means? It means I gotta foot the bill for everything. The house, the god damned private school, fancy label cloths for her and the little princess, days at the spa to calm her nerves. Her nerves, fuck me. And don’t even get me started on the after-school activities…”
“Charlie, I was talking about the complex, the one we’re parked in front of doing our job. You know, ‘The Complex’ – read the friggin sign. And besides, if you didn’t want to deal with her kid, you shouldn’t have married a single mother.”
Glancing up, Charlie responds with his usual enlightening, “Oh.”
Samantha, breathing deeply, does her best to stay calm. Being saddled with Charlie is like having an idiot child of her own to manage. After releasing her death grip on the steering wheel, she tries to reason with him again. “Focus, Chuck. We’ve been sitting here day after day and nothing weird has happened, right?”
“Nothing weird ‘sept that two other people went missing in broad daylight. Speakin’ of broads, you know that bitch had the gall to ask me where we was going on vacation this year?”
Ignoring his personal drama, Sam steers the conversation back to the relevant topic. “That’s my point. There are only two ways in or out of the condominium complex, and we’ve got a car stationed at both 24/7 yet no one has seen anything funny. Not on our shift, not the other shifts, so two more people going missing from in there,” she points at the condos, “is weird. It’s got be the complex.” She chews her nail while working it over in her head.
Charlie slurps from his Big-Gulp. “So what – you think someone’s been draggin’ full size bodies out on foot? That ain’t possible. There’s an eight foot fence surrounds the whole place. It’d never happen. And we already did a sweep of all the homes, ain’t nobody hiding no bodies in there.”
Encouraged, Sam continues. “Right! That’s what I mean. We know they’re not in there, and we know they never exited, so what’s left? Have you ever heard of the phenomenon where someone is a block from home, but just can’t get there?”
“Wha? You mean like they fell and hit their head and wandered off. Come on, Sammy. Don’t tell me you buy into that freakin’ weirdo bullshit about other dimensions and roads that go nowhere crap.”
“So you have heard about it? Why not here, why not now? It would explain what’s going on.”
Shaking his head yet refusing to make eye contact, he scoffs, “Look, I see that shit on the covers of trash rags in the check-out line at the Piggly-Wiggly, it don’t make it real.”
They both spot their relief car rolling to a stop behind them as Charlie finishes. “Look, Sam, you got a lot a years ahead of you in blue yet. Why don’t you leave the detecting to the detectives and keep your nose clean, huh?”
Incredulous, her head swings in his direction; she catches sight of the passenger from the other squad car walking up to theirs, the late afternoon sunlight glints off the metal on his uniform.
Charlie rolls down his window and they exchange pleasantries before he reports that there hasn’t been anything out of the ordinary going on.
Unwilling to be stifled, she tells the other officer they’re going to take a quick cruise through the complex, make sure everything’s quiet inside as well. Both men share a look, the patrolman standing outside the car nods, taps the roof in acknowledgment, then walks back to his own vehicle.
Before Charlie can protest, she swings the Suburban in an arc and pulls up to the gated entry. After clearing the guard station, she tells Charlie to get out his pen and notepad, and to write down the turns they make including the street names. He gives her a bogus salute with his middle finger extended.
She pulls forward on Gateway Drive, makes the first right onto Jackson, a left onto Hamilton, then a right onto Dumont. She pulls over and puts the SUV in park. Turning to her partner, she asks, “You get all that?”
With a dramatic sigh, he nods, “Yup. Right onto Jackson, left onto Hamilton, right onto Dumont. What now, do ya wanna’ rouse the poor folks living at number eleven over here and accuse them of hidin’ bodies?” he mocks as he points over his shoulder with the butt of the pen.
“Humor me on this one, will you?” she says as she makes a three-pointer. “Okay, so heading back out…”
“Yeah, yeah, I got it. Left onto Hamilton, right onto Jackson, left onto Gateway. Let’s get this little show of yours over with.”
She follows the reverse directions to a T as he reads them aloud at each intersection. “Left onto Hamilton… right onto Jackson… left onto – what the fuck? Where the hell did Gateway go? Did you make a wrong turn?”
They were staring down a dead-end street with the same pleasantly gray sided, white trimmed attached homes as every other street in the complex, but this one had no outlet, and no street sign.
Looking confused and a little pissed that she’d tricked him, Charlie grunts, “Fuck this. Bang a U-ey, we’re going back to Dumont and staring over.”
She backtracks to Dumont and stops in front of number eleven. Charlie, scratching his ear, is looking at the directions on his pad. “What was the name of that street we was on when we turned around?”
“It had no sign, we both know it didn’t.” The snark in her voice was enough to set him off.
“Just turn the fucking car around and let’s do this again,” he shouts. “And this time, don’t fuck it up.”
“You got it boss. Call out the directions and I promise you I won’t turn unless you tell me to.”
“Go to the corner, make a left onto Hamilton. Good, now go to the next cross street, make a right onto Jackson. A-huh, okay, now just up ahead, we should be making a left onto Gateway. What the mother-fuck? How the hell did we screw that up again? Wait, let me think. Curb us for a sec.” She does as he asks.
After a few moments of quiet contemplation, he hands her the notebook and says, “You’re the genius here, you tell me what we did wrong.”
She looks down at the pad, “We didn’t do anything wrong, we followed the route back perfectly.”
He explodes, “Then why the fuck are we on this cock-sucking dead-end street again?” After a couple of heaving breaths, he takes the pad back and does another mental run.
“Okay, I think I know where we screwed up. Let’s go back to eleven Dumont and this time we’ll get it right.”
Silently, she retraces their route. As she pulls onto Dumont, she stops at number thirteen.
Fear, disguised as aggravation, shows on his face, “What are you doing? Why didn’t you stop at eleven? We gotta do this exactly the same way,” he emphasizes each syllable by slapping his fist onto the pad.
She quietly whispers, “Look around.”
He twists left and right, seeing all the identical buildings for what they are – identical, except for the numbers. Five, seven, nine, thirteen.
“What the fuck? Where is number eleven? Okay, now I know you’re fuckin’ with me. You got Linsey in on this. He’s out there fuckin’ with the numbers while we’re driving around or somethin’. I knew he looked at you funny when we was on the street. Get out. Go on, get out of the fucking car. I’m driving.”
With an exasperated sigh, she opens her door and steps out. Charlie nearly knocks her over scrambling into the driver’s seat. Before slamming the door, he barks for her to get her ass in the car or he’s leaving without her.
With Charlie driving, they take the same route again, this time the final left puts them onto a long street with a single right hand turn at the end. “Ha!” Charlie croaks. “See, I told ya you was doing somethin’ wrong.”
“Yeah, but Chuck, this isn’t…”
Grinning tensely from ear to ear, he cuts her words off clean. “I don’t give a shit what it isn’t, as long as it ain’t that fucking dead-end again.” He nervously scrubs at his brow. “So we got twisted around somewhere, shit happens. All these places look the same, don’t sweat it.” Charlie makes the right at the end of the street.
“What the fuck? Ain’t no fuckin’ way this is the same dead-end.”
“Hey, you think we should radio in about Sam and Chuck?” Lindsey asks the other officer sitting behind the wheel of their cruiser.
“Nah, I’m sure they’re long gone by now, it’s been hours. They probably ducked out the back when those dip shits assigned to the rear gate were off taking a wiz together. You know how nervous rookies get pulling an all-nighter on a case like this. Relax, have another beer.”
∼ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright 2016 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.