Interview with a Police Chief

First, please allow me to apologize to any readers who are feeling neglected these days. I’m working extra hard these days and have been short on time and energy. Thanks for coming along to read and comment. I appreciate you, and I promise I’ll be back mingling soon.

Now, it is time for Friday Fictioneers, and most of you know the drill. Write a 100-word story based on the photo prompt. Then join the rest of us by reading and sharing your thoughts. This week’s photo comes from the inimitable Jennifer Pendergast of Elmo Writes.

Copyright Jennifer Pendergast

Copyright Jennifer Pendergast

Author’s note: It’s been a while since we’ve caught up with Lauren Shrecklich, and today she’s meeting another of my characters for the first time. I think you can enjoy this story on it’s own merit, but feel free to follow the links to read related stories.

 Interview with a Police Chief

Darkness enveloped the small Missouri town as Lauren turned south on Railroad St. She pulled up to the trailer home, and her cell phone rang.

“You found the place.”

“Yes.”

“Ben is not your mark.”

“But isn’t he . . .”

“A vampire? Yes, but he’s working with us. He’s been successful in eliminating several sexual predators, and I have reason to believe he has other insights to share.”

Lauren disconnected the call.

The trailer door opened before she knocked.

Agent Schrecklich.”

Lauren gasped, recognizing the face of Maryville’s former police chief—the one recently killed in the line of duty.

Encounters of the Second Kind

I’m dreadfully late in posting my response to this week’s Friday Fictioneers prompt, and it’s been several weeks since life has allowed me to participate. However, I’m back with a story from the Lauren Shrecklich saga, this time from someone else’s POV.

Every week, people from around the globe participate in the Friday Fictioneers challenge. This week, my photo is featured as the prompt, and many writers have already submitted their 100-word stories. Play along with us if you like. The more the merrier. My story this week weighs in at 113 words (making up for all the words that have been missing over the past month).

20140926 Marie Gail Stratford

Cheri hadn’t stopped thinking about Lauren since she met the petite FBI agent on a flight to BWI. As she slipped into the South End pizza parlor to meet with her writers group, Cheri did a double take. There stood Lauren. Cheri occasionally ran into passengers near her Boston home, but this stroke of luck surprised her.

Throughout the evening, Lauren remained aloof, avoiding Cheri’s gaze. At the meeting’s end, she finally made eye contact. “You should find a new writers group,” Lauren snapped.

Cheri swallowed the fury rising in her throat, turned, and fled the restaurant. She blinked, trying to see past the tears into a dream that had become a nightmare.

Pigeon Holed

This is my response to the Friday Fictioneers prompt for August 15. The challenge is to write a 100-word story inspired by the photo prompt. Play along by writing your own, reading others and/or commenting on the flashes we fictioneers create. My piece this week is just slightly overweight at 111 words. I trust Rochelle’s henchmen will allow me to keep all of my remaining fingers this week, however, since a few of my previous flashes have come in under weight.

2014 08 15

Copyright Jan Wayne Fields

Pigeon Holed

Director Lukke hoped the news would devastate Morales. The agent’s services would now be rendered from behind a desk.

Ever since he and Peters had investigated the case that landed Lauren Schrecklich in Mass General, Morales had been uncontrollable—jetting off to take care of white collar crime on location rather than putting in the usual hours of research.

The director chalked it up to some juvenile infatuation. Still, Morales had managed to get Schrecklich a position with the agency. “Let’s see how he takes to being her handler,” Lukke muttered to himself. The orders came from above, but the director hoped this would give Morales enough rope to hang himself.

Joining the Bureau

This is my response to the Friday Fictioneers prompt for July 25. The challenge is to write a 100-word story inspired by the photo prompt. Play along by writing your own, reading others and/or commenting on the flashes we fictioneers create. My piece this week weighs in at 99 words.

Copyright 2014, Marie Gail Stratford

Copyright 2014, Marie Gail Stratford

 

Joining the Bureau

Michael slathered his pad Thai in Sriracha, picked up a pair of chopsticks and dug in.

“How can you do that?” Lauren burst out.

“Some like it hot.” Michael shrugged.

“That’s not what I mean. It’s—well, the color. Besides, isn’t it ironic for you to be eating with a pair of wooden stakes?”

“Lighten up, officer.”

“I can’t think of anything funny about vampires, Michael, not after one got drunk on my carotid.”

“There isn’t anything particularly funny about them, Lauren. But if you don’t look on the sunny side, a career fighting the undead gets rather grave.”

 

Two author’s notes:

1. The photo prompt chosen this week by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, queen of the fictioneers, is one I took in response to a story written by David Stewart in response to another fictioneers prompt. The story, definitely worth the read, is titled “Nobbly Chopsticks,” and if you haven’t followed David already, I strongly recommend it.

2. It is my hope that each of my Friday Fictioneers stories stands on its own. Regular readers, however, will recognize my two characters from other flashes. I’m not posting these or composing them in chronological order. This one takes place the winter following Lauren’s hospitalization, which I explore in my post “And So It Began.” To read more, check out all blog posts with the tag “Lauren Shrecklich.”

And So It Began . . .

This week’s prompt for a weekly contest on LinkedIn has led to the creation of a prequel to my stories about Federal Agent Lauren Schrecklich and the vampires she battles against. Enjoy!

Gold_medal_of_St._Michael

 

Lauren Schrecklich fingered the St. Michael medal on her rosary—a gift from her father on the day she graduated the police academy. As she lay in her hospital bed, the words to the familiar prayer from her childhood rose unbidden to her lips, “St. Michael, archangel, defend us . . .” Her thoughts migrated to the events that had landed her in Massachusetts General.

 

St. Patrick’s Day topped Lauren’s list of least favorite days. This year, she was scheduled to patrol the city streets on the day, which was named for a saint but reserved for participation in every imaginable vice. Although, like most every Irish saint, Patrick was famous for having turned water into wine, that seemed a poor reason to turn his feast day into a bacchanalia.

 

Late that evening, as Lauren and her partner patrolled the emptying streets, they heard a woman scream. Immediately, she and Arden took off down the alleyway toward the sound. Arriving at the scene, they discovered a man attacking a young woman. Both officers drew their firearms, and Arden commanded the man to release his victim. The attacker, using the victim’s body as a shield, reached a long arm toward Arden and wrested the gun away from him.

 

Well-trained in hand-to-hand combat, Lauren jumped into the fray. Later, all she could remember was the thud of Arden’s body hitting a brick wall, the feeling of panic as the attacker held her against the ground, the sensation of life draining from her as he bit down on her carotid, and a brief moment of surprise as her attacker suddenly backed away just before she passed out.

 

Days later, she had awakened in the hospital, surrounded by tubes and monitors and two g-men that kept wandering in to ask her questions until the charge nurse shooed them away.

 

The agents’ questions disturbed Lauren. “How did you know to confront the attacker with your rosary crucifix?” They kept asking this. She answered truthfully. Still, they kept probing.

 

“I hoped to be able to strangle him with the chain of beads,” Lauren would reply each time Agent Peters posed the question. Agent Morales, who had told her to call him by his first name, Michael, had sensibly stopped asking that particular question.

 

As Lauren caressed her rosary, the agents arrived for another inquisition. She hastily dropped the beads and slid them under a piece of paper on her bedside tray.

 

“How are we feeling this morning, Officer Schrecklich?”

 

Lauren gave a non-committal shrug. She loathed the unsmiling senior agent.

 

“We have just a few more questions for you, Lauren. Then we’re leaving town, so you can rest without us pestering you.” Michael flashed his boyish grin.

 

“Officer,” Peters jumped into inquisition mode immediately. “Can you tell us what caused you to use the crucifix on your rosary against your attacker?”

 

Lauren rolled her eyes. “Look, I’ve told you. I was hoping to get the chain around his neck. Don’t know if it would have been strong enough to strangle him, but with my gun out of reach, it was my only chance.”

 

“Do you regularly carry a rosary?”

 

Exasperated, Lauren sighed. “Only since my dad died. I’ve told you I don’t believe in magic. I miss my dad. I was fighting for my life. That combination seems to have saved me this time around.”

 

“Thanks, Lauren,” Michael smiled. “That’s all we need to know.”

 

Peters didn’t seem convinced but nodded and left the room.

 

Michael hung back. “We’ve run background on you, officer.” His kind eyes sparkled. “I noticed you’ve had an application sitting in our offices for a while.”

 

Lauren’s mouth dropped open.

 

“Your recent encounter might open some doors if you’re still interested.” Michael retrieved the rosary from its hiding place and handed them to her. “Looks like you’re reconsidering your faith. That’s good. Fighting people like your alleyway attacker will introduce you to a new level of vice. You need a way to defend yourself.”

 

Michael slipped out of the room before Lauren had a chance to respond. “A rabbi—just what a lapsed Catholic needs,” she thought, remembering the term used for FBI agents who open doors for people like her. Despite lingering doubt, she grasped the rosary and began to pray, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . . .”

wood rosary

Smooth Operator

By Krzysztof Biegański, Polska, Kbiegan (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Krzysztof Biegański, Polska, Kbiegan (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

“Sorry to be sending you away again so soon, but I need you on a flight to Key Largo tomorrow.”

Lauren stared at the director. The timing wasn’t an issue, but the location was. “Where?”

“Key Largo.”

“For a white collar assignment?” Lauren looked skeptically at Michael. After three years as her director, he knew working for the white collar division of the FBI was merely a cover for her specialization.

“Your subject,” Michael pushed on, sliding a folder toward her across his desk, “is James MacDonald. Or Geoffrey Miles. Kevin Fischer. William Eberstark. Tyler Schwab. Take your pick. In FBI circles, he’s known as the “Smooth Operator.”

“Smooth Operator? Like the Sade song?” Lauren’s eyebrows shot up.

Michael nodded grimly. “He’s been visiting locations from the song for the past 30 years. Showed up in LA in 1985 using an MO we hadn’t seen before, although I’m guessing he was no rookie even then. Ten years ago agents in Chicago were closing in, but he slipped away. We’ve heard rumors of his activity in several northern cities. Then he headed south along the eastern seaboard. We’ve pinpointed his arrival in northern Florida and need a team in place when he gets to the Keys.”

“But—are you sure?”

Michael nodded again. “A cocky move on his part, but don’t let this one fool you. He’s as likely to slip through your fingers there as anywhere else.”

Lauren picked up the folder and flipped through it. “When do I leave?”

“Your flight departs from Andrews at 6:00a.m.”

Again, Lauren looked quizzically at her director. Had he lost his mind? Sending her on a mission in Florida and planning for her to arrive in broad daylight? At least he wasn’t having her fly out of BWI. Her equipment would never make it through airport security.

***

The plane touched down at a private airport in Key Largo. Lauren hired a car and drove to Azul del Mar,  where the Smooth Operator purportedly had made reservations for the coming week.

At the concierge desk, Lauren introduced herself as a federal agent investigating Medicare fraud. The clerk stalled until Lauren produced her badge, then allowed her access to the guest records.

Within a couple of minutes Lauren located the information she needed—a guest planning to check in tonight with specific request for blackout shades on all windows in the suite.

“Looks like I had the wrong intel,” Lauren commented to the rattled clerk.

On her way back to the car, Lauren encountered a groundskeeper. “You should change into your bikini now.”

“The yellow polka dot one?”

The groundskeeper nodded and escorted her back to the rental car. “Drive over to the Marriot. Leave your car with the valet there and check in. Then walk back to Azul del Mar. I’ll have the cabana ready.” He opened the car door and sent her off with a friendly wave.

At sunset, Lauren returned on foot. She had exchanged her workday attire for beach clothing, including a tropical romper custom designed to conceal her weapons. Crossing to the back of the resort, she located a cabana just outside the Caribe suite. A quick assessment of the entry options revealed that the groundskeeper had left the garden door to the suite unlocked. The Smooth Operator wasn’t likely to arrive before 11:00p.m., and his signature crime always took place at midnight. Lauren settled into the cabana to wait.

About 11:15, Lauren heard a car turn up the drive. As its occupants headed up the front walk to check in, she positioned herself just outside the garden door. A few moments later, the couple  entered the suite. The woman was obviously drunk. The man, less inebriated, swatted her bottom playfully. “Slip into something more comfortable, my love.” The woman, a weekender slung over her shoulder, made her unsteady way to the bathroom. The man, his back to the garden door, began flipping through musical selections on the entertainment system. Lauren saw her chance. She slipped into the room, and as the first notes of Sade’s “Smooth Operator” filled the room, the vampire known by the same name succumbed to Lauren’s stake.