Cara Michaels’ Picture Choice: 2
Title: Miss Me, -Kait
My doorbell rang at the unwelcome hour of three-thirty in the morning, rousing me from a rare, dreamless sleep. Gun in hand and dressed enough to greet an unwanted guest, I checked the peephole before opening the door.
Six lean feet and a couple inches, messy brown hair, and sleepy blue eyes, wearing a tee and ratty jeans. Despite the casual attire, I recognized the very not-casual visitor.
The police only came to me when they truly had nothing. In part, they didn’t believe I could help. They also didn’t want the press getting wind of their investigative Hail Mary pass. The press never took news of a psychic kindly. The ridicule didn’t bother me anymore. Sometimes I could help the cops and sometimes I couldn’t. Just like sometimes they solved the case.
“Detective Murray,” I said. “To what do I owe the dubious pleasure of your company?”
Adam Murray favored me with a rare smile. One of the few badges who believed in me, every now and again in our acquaintance, I thought he might actually like me. As in man to my woman sort of like. Then he’d revert to cop mode and erase such foolish notions.
At least until he smiled again.
“Riley,” he said, and I really knew something was up.
“My first name, Murray?” I smiled slyly to cover my nerves. “Breaking out the big guns early, aren’t you?”
“I need your talented hands.” He held out a photo.
A different sort of woman might have been offended by the flirtatious words. I knew better and squelched the bloom of regret that he wasn’t flirting. It would have made a nice change of pace.
“Whatever happened to foreplay?” I pouted sarcastically and held out my hand.
The picture had been placed inside an evidence bag, which would minimize any unwanted impressions left behind. In the yellow light of the front porch I couldn’t make out much more than a young face. Careful not to touch Murray, I took the snapshot and waved the detective inside. I headed for the bright light of the kitchen and studied the teenaged girl.
“Pretty,” I said. Brunette, soft brown eyes. Average looking build. She had a killer smile, though. “She’s missing?”
“Parents reported it tonight,” Murray said. “She went to a weekend party out near Lake Apopka. She should have been home yesterday afternoon.”
“So she’s been missing twelve hours and they’ve got you on it already?”
“Friends from the party say she didn’t stay past Friday night. Parents found that part out when they started calling around.” He nodded to the photo. “You get anything from that? Friends took it just before she disappeared.”
“Who the hell still has a Polaroid camera?”
I took the instant photo from the bag and shifted my focus to things I didn’t always want to see, feeling Murray’s shiver before the girl’s world replaced mine.
Kait—smile, girl! It’s a party, remember?
One person—a girl—handed the Polaroid photo to another. Also a girl, but this one not even a little bit happy. Flashes of unease, distrust, and darker emotions tainted what should have been a fun time for the girl.
I’m really not into it. I’m sorry. Go have fun. I’ll be here.
“Got some stuff here. Her name is Kait?” I asked Murray. “Not the usual spelling. K-A-I-T, right?”
Murray drew a hissing breath. “Yeah, that’s her.”
“She definitely wasn’t in a party mood,” I said.
“I need more than that, Riley.”
“Shut up a minute.”
Listen. Why don’t you head home, okay? I’ll catch a ride with one of the others.
I don’t want to leave you here.
But you want to leave. Amusement. Exasperation. Worry. Kait, I’ll be fine. What about you?
I’m good. Pure fear knifed along my connection to the moment. Just the usual drama.
Yeah, yeah. I’ll text you Sunday.
We’ll go get something fattening and catch up?
I felt the ghost of Kait’s smile as the picture changed hands again. The unnamed girl seemed genuinely happy, not even irritated that Kait’s issues would have her looking for a ride home. She brushed aside her concern for Kait in a mix of ideas. Hormones. Boys. Parents. School. Boys.
I looked deeper, beneath the surface clog of emotions and thoughts. The voices faded and I saw the scene clearly now. Placid blue green water, too still to be a lake. A pool, maybe. An abandoned Coca-Cola cup sitting all alone at the edge of the water. I saw my reflection in the water. Another face appeared next to mine—Kait.
“Not here,” she whispered.
I jerked my gaze to my left where she should be, but found nothing. The same for the water where she’d been, where she’d talked to me.
The water faded and I stared at a two lane road heading west. Florida’s summer greenery loomed on either side of the highway, so I almost didn’t see the car. The orange flag of a passing cop or state trooper waved from the antenna, catching my attention.
I turned, expecting to see her somewhere. But no, no Kait. Just the car.
Cara Michaels is the author of the Gaea’s Chosen sci-fi romance series and host of the #MenageMonday flash fiction challenge.