Friday, December 31, 2010

Hot Summer Pavement (a working title)

It was hot. Bent over, eating a popsicle, trying to keep it from running down your arm hot. But apparently, Elizabeth Sparling wasn’t leaning far enough, she could feel the purple juice splashing on her toes. Catching her reflection in a storefront window, she saw that she resembled what her best friend would call “a hot mess.” Her bangs were matted to her forehead, and the rest of her long, dark brown hair was falling out of a sloppy ponytail.

This wasn’t working, she needed to find some relief. Some real relief. Taking her cell phone out of her purse, Elizabeth started dialing. There had to be someone that would want to go to the beach with her. Some ocean breezes and cool salt water were just what she needed.

As Elizabeth rounded the corner toward the parking lot where her car was, she stopped cold in her tracks. Lying on the pavement behind her vehicle was a body. She dropped everything she was holding, and started screaming. She didn’t know how long she screamed for, she felt as though she couldn’t stop.

After what must have been an eternity, someone came up and touched her shoulder from behind. She jumped, turned, and instinctively swung a punch in their direction. But the man had great reflexes. He ducked without missing a beat. When Elizabeth noticed who it was, she saw that it was a police officer. But not just any officer, he happened to also be her ex-boyfriend, James Caffrey.

Elizabeth was stunned into silence when his eyes met hers. Those familiar butterflies started flitting around in her stomach again. It had been more than two years since they had broken up, but all those feelings were still there. She was beginning to get lost in memories when Elizabeth realized why he was probably there.

Elizabeth glanced around and realized that, while she was blindly screaming, a small crowd had formed around the parking lot. In the middle of the crowd were more officers and three people whose jackets told her they were from the Coroner’s office. They were huddled over the body, deep in conversation. Her little Toyota had never seen so much action.

Elizabeth turned back to James, “What’s going on? What happened? Who is that?” The questions spewing out one after the other.

“I guess I’m supposed to ask you the same thing, Lizzie,” he answered.

“What? What are you talking about? I’m confused.” He was the only person that had ever called her Lizzie. Hearing his deep voice say it again made her heart flop.

“Well, when I showed up, you were screaming. Why don’t you tell me what all the screaming was about.”

“Um, I was shocked. All I did was turn the corner around the building, and I saw a body behind my car. The screaming just kind of happened.” Elizabeth put a hand to her forehead, and felt her sweaty bangs. Her mind rushed to how awful she must look, and she became suddenly aware of her toes starting to stick together in her sandals.

She winced, and of course, James saw it. An amused look flashed across his eyes before he started questioning her again.

“Okay, do you know who that is behind your car?” he asked her.

“Honestly, I couldn’t tell you,” Elizabeth answered. “I didn’t really get a good look. I mean, there was a person laying behind my vehicle. In the middle of the parking lot. I just remember seeing hair and limbs. Limbs bent in all sorts of unnatural directions.” She shuddered at the memory. “I remember it was a woman?” Elizabeth offered.

“Yes, it is a woman. Now, do you remember seeing anything else as you were coming around the corner?”

“No,” she told him, “I was actually pulling my cell phone out to make a call. I was getting ready to go to the beach, and was looking for someone to go with me. I didn’t see anything unusual. Is that bad?”

“No, it’s not bad,” James said, “but it doesn’t really help us, either. How about people? Did you see anyone that looked out of place? Did you see anyone at all?” He ran a hand through his short, dark hair in frustration.

“James, I’m really sorry. I must be the worst witness. I was completely involved in my phone. Even if I had seen someone, I wasn’t paying any attention to them.” Being questioned by her ex was starting to unnerve Elizabeth. The stickiness from her popsicle was starting to get irritating, too. She leaned to one side, and attempted to wiggle her toes apart.

James spied what Elizabeth was doing, and the amused look returned to his eyes. She started to blush, as a smile spread across his face.

“Lizzie, what are you doing?” There was that name again. The butterflies started to flutter.

“I’d rather not say,” She said, turning bright red now. “But, um, actually, I was eating a popsicle earlier. It’s really hot out, and, well, it started to drip, and now my toes are extremely sticky. And uncomfortable.”

James grabbed his stomach, and burst out laughing. “Only you, Elizabeth Sparling, would dribble sticky juice on your feet, and then happen upon a body in a parking lot. Let me guess, was it purple?”

“Wow, you remember?” Elizabeth was pleasantly surprised.

“I remember a lot, Lizzie,” he answered, his voice suddenly lower and huskier. His bedroom voice. The day just got about a hundred degrees hotter.

One of the other officers chose that moment to come and update them on what they had discovered about the body.

“Hey Caffrey,” the officer began, “this is what we know so far. The victim’s name is Genevieve Anderson. She’s got an apartment a few blocks down from here. Coroner says from internal body temp that she’s been dead at least eight hours. And from the lack of blood on the scene, this isn’t our initial crime scene. She was dumped here.”

A lump had formed in Elizabeth’s throat. “Did you say her name was Genevieve? Is it really Genni? Oh God!” Her knees suddenly felt like rubber. Elizabeth was having trouble standing. James sensed it, and caught her before she could fall.

Genevieve and Elizabeth had been friends since grade school. She was actually who Elizabeth was getting ready to call and invite to the beach. They had spent weekends and summers together. Had graduated high school together, and had even attended the same university. Genevieve Anderson was her dearest, closest friend.

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