Checking In After Hours (Part V)

Flash Fiction: Arresting Tess

Topher Brocklin stood there, weary-eyed and unfocused on the serious issue building before him. Had he seen Tess or Daphne earlier at all? Did either of them clock in? He scratched his oily head as if to unearth the answer.

“Well, officer … I — I can’t says I have.”

“You can’t say or you don’t know, Topher. Topher Brocklin? Those are two different things, you know?”

“I mean … I don’t recall. I can’t remember.”

Tamara huffed out an exasperated sigh and just shook her head. The officers stood there, flummoxed by the situation unfolding right before them. And the strange old man cried.

Just as the first tear fell, the shadow reappeared.


Officers Bends and Dibbs direct Topher Brocklin to the motel’s lobby. With what could be Tess’s hair sample bagged and tagged, they needed to know where she lives. Topher shuffles his Oompa Loompa’d body back to the lobby hurriedly. The intensity of what could be a harsh issue for the motel settled in his system unwantedly. Officer Dibbs has the first words since they exited the family’s room.

“We gon’ run this to the lab — have the forensics team flush this out. Run it through the database and see if we get any hits. We need a sample of Tess’s hair — DNA purposes and all.”

Topher searches for his address book and lunges toward the desk phone.

“I think I should be the one to call her . . . I mean — I think . . . this could end up being a lot for her. She ain’t the brightest of the three, but I can’t imagine how torn up something like this would make her.”

Officers Dibbs and Bends stare at each other intently. Both think the same thing, but only one will say it. Bends begins . . .

“Now, Topher, if Tess is the one that’s got herself into this mess, how you reckon us confronting her with the possibility of committing this crime is going to be too much for her? If she’s our gal — I highly doubt that.”

“Tess couldn’t do something like this. Had it been Daphne’s hair, I’d probably lean toward an ‘Oh, I can see that,’ but Tess?! She is quieter than a church mouse — lives with her aunt, Hazel, and their three cats, attends Sunday service religiously — both of’em, and has never missed a day of work. I just . . . this ain’t her.”


Officers Dibbs and Bends get the green light from the lab — Tess Lynne Windermere is in their criminal database — but from fifteen years ago. An arson, second-degree charge from back in her high school days. A sample of Tess’s hair isn’t necessary now — they have their proof. The two officers zip over to Tess’s house to make the arrest.

Tamara and Dale say their goodbyes to Topher and they head up the road to find another place to rest for the duration of the night. It is 3:00 AM, and the children have been asleep in their car for the last two hours. The family has had their fill and wants to be done with this town and the creepiness within it.

Dibbs bangs on the door of Tess’s home. Outside are three squad cars, including theirs, and four other officers. Each of them stands armed and dangerous, yet scared shitless after hearing about the story and the weird shadow.


Tess’s Aunt Hazel is the first to wake up. She slips on her robe, slides her feet into her slippers, and shuffles quickly to the door. Tess isn’t too far behind her.

“Who is it?! This time of mornin’, ain’t nobody out but trouble or the devil or both. Ain’t nothing godly comin’ at my door at this time! Who is it?!”

Officers Dibbs and Bends shout in unison . . .

“This is the Bloomfield Police, ma’am. Open the door! We’re here for Tess Windermere!”

Aunt Hazel turns her head sheepishly toward her impish niece, sucks her teeth, and unbolts the door.

Dibbs flashes a shiny pair of handcuffs before her eyes as soon as the door opens. He fancies himself a wrangler of sorts with the small contraptions and is eager to slap them on Tess’s wrists. Bends announces the Miranda rights to the air as if he’s singing them as a celebration. Officer Dibbs clamps the handcuffs onto Tess’s hands and smiles sinisterly in her direction.

“You are under arrest for the murder of one Magda Kowalski. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”

Tess looks around the room, stares into her aunt’s eyes — sighs heavily — cries into the thick air, “I knew you were comin’. I just didn’t know when.”


Officer Beau Dibbs and Officer Clive Bends escort Tess away from her home, each hanging on to one of her arms, the handcuffs clinging in sync with their footsteps.

The three of them headed toward the arresting officers’ squad car, and the entourage readied themselves to follow behind them.

Bends gently guides Tess into the backseat, checks the handcuffs one more time, and closes the door.

As he turns away from Tess, she winks at the shadow sitting next to her and smiles.


Originally published in Hinged.Press via Medium.

This completes the Checking In After Hours series. Need to catch up? Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.Thank you for reading.

Checking In After Hours (Part IV)

Flash Fiction: Flushed evidence

Photo by Jadon Barnes on Unsplash

“What in the blue haze?! Ask the shadow? What the hell kinda message is this, Dibbs?”

“Your guess is as good as mine, Bends. I’m puzzled by this one. Just puzzled. ‘Ask the shadow.’ What shadow and why would we talk to something that’s not really there?! We’re going to have to call in the calvary for this one, Bends. This is some serious shit.”

Tamara looked at the strange man. He looked curiously at her. The two of them shifted their eyes over to where the “shadow” was and said nothing.


“Bends! Get your hind end over here quickly, my friend. Look what I done found in this here toilet!”

Bends turned slightly toward Tamara and the strange old man, then walked briskly into the bathroom where Office Dibbs had been. He hiccupped, then sneezed, and wiped his nose with the corner of his shirt sleeve.

“Whatchugot, Dibbs?” Something important?”

“ I believe we may have landed ourselves a bit of evidence. Look at this. Dark red clumps of hair. Three of them. Three fine clumps of dark red hair. You thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?”

“I sure am. Someone tried to flush some evidence and looks like it came back to bite them in the ass.”

“Bag it and tag it, Bends!”

“I’m on it, Dibbs! You logged it already on your pad there?”

“I sure as hell did.”


Tamara looked at the strange old man, and he looked back at her. The shadow was nowhere in sight, and the room took on an eerie smell — something in between the depth of loneliness and the reality of divorce. Tamara breathed out a labored sigh and the strange old man folded his short, chubby arms.

“Hey! You, sir? You’re the owner of this place? This your motel?” Dibbs called to the strange old man, finally recognizing him for who he was.

“Name’s Topher. Topher Brocklin. It is my place, yep. Been the owner now for ten years. Place was handed down to me by my uncle Teddy.”

“That’s mighty nice, Topher. Topher Brocklin, you say? Any kin to Macy and Moe Brocklin up there on 55?”

“Yep. My cousins. Distant. But cousins all the same.”

“Okay. Well, it’s nice to meet another Brocklin. Take a look at this, please.” Officer Dibbs held up one clump of hair with his gloved hand and sashayed it in front of Topher Brocklin’s eyes. “Judging by the hair still left on the deceased’s head, this is not hers. Any idea who it belonged to?”

The strange, Oompa Loompa’d man stood back on his heels, tightened his folded chubby arms, and mumbled, “Tess. Tess has dark red hair.”


Tamara looked at the strange old man, then up to Officer Dibbs and Officer Bends, and shook her head in disbelief before saying, “What kind of place are you running here?! Isn’t Tess one of the other maids?!”

Officers Dibbs and Bends were thinking the same thing, but both nodded at the woman’s recollection and noted the disgruntled look on Topher Brocklin’s face after her comment.

“The woman has a point here, Topher. Have you seen Tess at all today? Better yet, have you seen either of the other two maids today?”

Topher Brocklin stood there weary-eyed and unfocused on the serious issue building before him. Had he seen Tess or Daphne earlier at all? Did either of them clock in? He scratched his oily head as if to unearth the answer.

“Well, officer … I — I can’t says I have.”

“You can’t say or you don’t know, Topher. Topher Brocklin? Those are two different things, you know?”

“I mean … I don’t recall. I can’t remember.”

Tamara huffed out an exasperated sigh and just shook her head. The officers stood there, flummoxed by the situation unfolding right before them. And the strange old man cried.

Just as the first tear fell, the shadow reappeared.


Originally published in Hinged.press via Medium.

Part IPart II, and Part III

Checking In After Hours Part III

Flash Fiction: What lingers behind the shadow?

Photo by Rafael Leão on Unsplash

Noting the information given by the motel clerk, the officers gathered their things and headed for Magda’s room. Tamara insisted on following along — she wouldn’t be able to sleep. Not tonight, and definitely not at this motel. On her way out, she noticed the fire extinguisher was on the opposite side of the door.

“Wasn’t that fire extinguisher on the other side when we came in?”

“No, ma’am. Been there the whole time.”

But had it?


Tamara looked at the strange man and rolled her eyes. She followed closely behind Officers Dibbs and Bends as they trotted down the concrete path to Magda’s unit. She left her husband, Dale, alone with the children. He loaded them up in the car’s backseat while they waited for the last of the fiasco to run its course.

The plan was to drive up the road another ten to fifteen miles to where the next motel was, check in, set up for the night, and try to get some much-needed rest.

Tamara didn’t want to say anything — didn’t want to bring any attention to an already peculiar night, but she had noticed one more shadow accompanying hers, the officers, and the strange old man’s. As they got closer to Magda’s unit, the strange Oompa Loompa’d man slithered closer to the front of their line, jingled out his set of keys, and opened the door.

“Here, you go. This is Magda’s unit. Spick and span, just as I’d believe it to be. Magda was serious about these rooms and even more serious about how clean her unit was. She made it such a top priority that Daphne and Tess had been trained under her directly, so they would know exactly how to clean each room, just as she had for years. Go on — give the place a look-see.”

The officers filed in one after the other, Tamara snaking in closely behind them. The shadow was still trailing them — still in place. She looked all around the room — in the closet, in the bathroom, and in the small kitchenette. Nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary, at least not to her.

“Bends, get over here! I think I may have found us a little clue.”

Officer Dibbs slipped on some gloves, pulled a set of tweezers from his pocket, and snipped up what looked like a letter — drenched in what smelled like maple syrup.

“Well, what the hell do you make of this, Dibbs? What’s it say?” Officer Dibbs slid his glasses on with his free hand and began reading.

To whom it may concern:

Magda wanted this. I was simply a willing hand in the process — doing her the favor she requested of me so many years ago. I have no name of importance to you. I have no fingerprints. By the time you find this letter, I will be so far away it’d be useless to search for me. There is no trace — no trail. The deceased cunningly calculated this. If you want to know more, ask the shadow.

Sincerely,
B.

“What in the blue haze?! Ask the shadow? What the hell kinda message is this, Dibbs?”

“Your guess is as good as mine, Bends. I’m puzzled by this one. Just puzzled. ‘Ask the shadow.’ What shadow and why would we talk to something that’s not really there?! We’re going to have to call in the calvary for this one, Bends. This is some serious shit.”


Tamara looked at the strange man. He looked curiously at her. The two of them shifted their eyes over to where the “shadow” was and said nothing.


Originally published in Hinged.press via Medium.

Part I and Part II