The Complex

“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.


32 thoughts on “The Complex

  1. Nina, this was awesome! First, what a strange phenomenon, this ‘act’ of becoming lost mere blocks from one’s home. I’d never heard of it before reading your story, and yet by the time I was finished, I realized, hey, this might’ve happened to me, too!

    What struck me about your story is how perfectly you painted your characters as the events unfolded – I felt as though I was driving round and round with them inside the squad car. In fact, I probably would have had a similar meltdown as Charlie (okay, worse lol)

    You did a great job going outside the box of what you normally write – fantastic read, Nina! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Joe! This piece is all about characterization – the story itself takes a backseat to the dynamic between the two characters and their reactions to the situation, though still plays an important role in setting the stage for Samantha and Charlie. It may be outside the box for Pen as far as my writing goes, but I’ve written plenty of pieces like this; I love playing with character dialogue. Thanks again, and I’m happy you enjoyed it! 🙂


  2. I love this! I really enjoy when the laws of physics break down in a story. It’s one of the most terrifying situations I can imagine. The idea of these characters being lost to the unknown is fascinating!

    Charlie’s denial was finely crafted and I like how the characters’ personalities clashed. One open minded and logical, the other refusing to believe what he sees and fearful of it.

    Wonderful story, Nina!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Lee! Being a student of science, physics in particular, this style of pseudo sci-fi tale always sucks me in too. The dynamic between Sammy and Chuck (basically female and male) is a bit typical, but it was fun to play with. I seldom write dialogue pieces for Pen of the Damned, but this one just felt right; and it was inspired by something that happened to a friend just a few weeks before I scribbled it.

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! 🙂


    1. LOL – it’s a Bermuda Condo Complex!! I’m happy to know that you enjoyed my little tale, Tom. It was fun to write (and ran much longer than our flash style of writing on Pen of the Damned before I chopped it back). 😉


    1. Hi Adele! No, I don’t watch Missing in Alaska, but I imagine all the ‘white’ would have the same sort of disorienting effect. This one is intended as a paranormal phenomenon, though could easily be dismissed as a coincidence of too many familiar/identical structures bemusing the characters. Maybe I’ll post the full piece one day where Charlie gets out of the car and ends up … well, no spoilers, right? 😉

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, hun. And thank you for reblogging my little ramble! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I really enjoyed this one. The ‘switch’ at the beginning where Chuck is talking about his wife’s complex and Sam has to bring his attention back to The Complex. Getting lost is one of the worst feelings one can have and leaving it a mystery as to why people get lost/disappear in the complex is wonderful. It reads like a classic episode of the Twilight Zone. Great job Nina!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jon! I’m a HUGE TZ fan, so thanks for that compliment in particular. When I read this to my husband, he chuckled at the beginning dialogue, and I could see his face growing more serious as the piece went on. So apparently I hit on the right notes. Leaving it open ended (this open end) was a matter of word count; but the fully evolved story is still open ended, just with a stranger twist than this one. BTW – this is a phenomenon that fascinates me greatly, and (with different circumstances) recently happened to a friend of mine, though he found his way out…

      I’m really happy you enjoyed it, RM!!! ;-D


  4. I had so much fun with this one! Reading this story was a treat because it took me back to younger days when I would let my mind go while watching The Twilight Zone and get carried away!

    Seriously, it was so much damned fun!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ahh, Zack – you hit on why this piece was so much fun for me. It’s the kind of story that while telling its own tale, also lets the reader impose their own imagination on what is really happening, or going to happen around the next bend. I’m happy to take you back to childhood memories of one of my favorite series, Twilight Zone. I’m a huge Rod Serling fan, and I hope this piece did his legacy justice.

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, TE! 😀


  5. This…this was one of my favorites, Nina. Well crafted in the style of greats. This tale brings be back to my early days of horror… Tales from the Crypt and Twilight Zone. Once again, I am sucked in to the vortex of the story and didn’t want to leave – or maybe I got lost in The Complex 😉 Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s awesome – sucked into the vortex! In that case, I did my job and tripped your switches perfectly. It’s a loop story, and I love loop stories – the ouroboros of writing. Way too much fun to write, and even more so to read. I’n stoked you enjoyed it, Maestro!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Bravo that lady! Not mean to want steal mr liccardi’s words , but this defo one of my favs! Well written (as always!) , believable characters , and it actually made me feel a little panicked when they got stuck! I think we have all had a ‘hang on I am meant be here not here’ moment at some point, so that is something I can really relate too! I(I have so many times gone to take Nancy the staffie for a walk and the roads have changed and I’m outside Baxter the poodles house) . Frenchie looked confused , but that maybe due to the fact I have mAde him right our guest list, asked about churches and told him (as firmly as I can) that just cos I’m Irish , he is not wearing a kilt to our wedding! But great work and a thumbs up!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Angel! I’m very happy you liked it, and more so that you could relate to it. Much like you, I’ve had moments where I’ve know I’m not where I should be, and it’s intriguing and disconcerting at the same time. I really happy to know you enjoyed it so much, and that Frenchie could certainly relate also!! 😀


      1. Hahaha! I have brain burps all the time! The girls loved this one too, but it being the summer holidays we are all soooo busy! Well apart from me , who is sat planning how to murder whoever invented pintucks!

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Got the little buggers! Have informed (yeah right) the Frenchman to stop buy shirts with them or to stop wearing them😉 did yoga with the girls and dogs , ate take out curry and drank wine😊

            Liked by 1 person

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