Updated: Sep 15
In the spirit of this new chapter for Writers Espresso, I have decided to not repost my older blogs, but instead to start fresh. If you would like to see older and new blog posts and other short stories, you can read and enjoy them on www.pt-publishing.com where I also make my work available to the public.
In the spirit of starting new, my first post is going to be a short story on the topic of the week:
The Man In The Dark Green Trench Coat.
The phone rings and Rachel’s handshakes. She aches to pick it up, but dread seeps into her stomach. Should she pick it up? What if it was bad news? What if it wasn’t? Inhaling the mingling smells of the old transit bus, she taps the answer button and braces herself.
“Yes, this is officer Tipmen. Is Ms. Ingle available?”
Anxiety begins to build at the serious tone. This was a formal call. Could something else have happened? Scenarios run unfiltered through her mind and she remembers she didn’t reply.
“Ye-”, she clears her throat, “Yes. This is Ms. Ingle.”
Sweat begins to coat her inner palms and her headaches. Her anxiety always causes her to have physical symptoms and it is only amplifying because she is in a public place. People surrounding her as they all crowd into the compact space. She knew she should have gotten a car but she just didn’t see the reason for the extra expense. Moments like this reminded her with vigor.
“Hello, Ms. Ingle. I am-”
“You can call me Rachel.” She clarifies.
Officer Tipmen makes an odd noise. “Oh. OK. Rachel.”
Rachel’s mouth tips at the corner slightly at the awkward tone of his voice. At least she wasn’t the only one uncomfortable in this conversation.
“Now, as I was saying, I am the officer covering your missing persons' report. Do you have a moment to come down to the station to go over somethings with me?”
The reminder of the reason for his call has her head pounding. Pinching the bridge of her nose with her free hand, she leans forward and closes her eyes. Not now. Not now.
“Officer Tipmen,” she says as low as she can, not to draw attention to herself, “I already did the report. Everything I know was in that report. It was several pages long with my additions.”
“I know. I read the report and your statements. Your father was a military vet?”
“Right. I read there was a concern for his mental state. I wanted to go over that with you further in detail and some other specifics if you have time.” He coughs slightly and the sound reverberates in her skull making her let out a small moan. “Are you ok?”
Great he noticed.
“Yes,” she replies. “I have a slight headache that I hope will go away.”
“Oh. OK.” Concern laces his voice. “Have you taken anything?”
The smile she adorns was quickly replaced by a grimace as the bus squeals to a stop. Pain making her heart race more.
“Not yet. I am on the bus on the way to work.”
He clears his throat. His voice coming out a bit softer this time making him sound huskier. “I am sorry to catch you at a bad time. Maybe when you get off work you can stop by? I want to go over somethings and clarify some more information so we know how to look into this.”
“Yes. I get off at three today. I can be by after.”
“Perfect. I will see you then."
Focusing all day after that phone call was a useless goal. Unable to complete one task today, her supervisor decided to relieve her from work early today. His advice? “Get whatever is bothering you off your mind and come back focused.” Of course, the way he said it only fueled her already frazzled emotional state. She knew if he didn’t rely on her normally precise skills, she would have already been replaced. The financial industry was no place for daydreaming or slacking off.
Looking up at the four-story grey building, she had to mentally motivate herself to go in. The fact that she was early, oddly enough, was helping because she wondered if the officer wouldn’t be available and she could just go home. Her body and mind were already spent and she didn’t know if it could handle anymore.
With that in mind, she pushed through the front doors and walked past all the uniforms walking around to the desk in the center of the room. The officer placed the phone back down on the cradle before turning her golden-brown eyes to meet hers.
Rachel always loved eyes. You could tell so much from a person just by looking them in the eye. To her, it was where soul, emotion, consciousness, and a person’s being was stored. The eyes staring back at hers right now looked worn out but the woman had a smile plastered to her face to fool people otherwise.
“Hi. May I help you?” The phone rang again on the desk and she hit a button. The device silenced once again.
“Yes. My name is Rachel Ingle. I am here to meet with officer Tipmen.”
She nods and asks me to hold for a moment. Reaching over for the phone she dials an extension and asks for the officer. She frowns before hanging up the receiver.
“I am sorry but officer Tipmen got called out to a scene. I can take your name and number and let him know you came by.”
Relief at not having to talk overwhelmed her that she swayed a little. The officer behind the desk stood, her chair scraping backward. Rachel steadied herself and lifted a hand, stopping the woman.
“Are you ok? Can I get you anything?” Obvious worry overlapping her need to help.
Rachel lays her hands on the desk and blinks a few times before standing up straight again.
“I am fine. Sorry about that. I have had a headache for most of the day and I think it is catching up to me.”
The woman frowns. “Do you want to have a seat or a drink of water?” The officer leaning away from the desk. Accepting the reply Rachel gave.
“No. No. I should be fine.” Rachel stops blinking and looks the woman in the eyes, hoping the smile she gives off is reassuring. “I am going to go home and rest. Can you just let Officer Tipmen know I was in? He has my number.”
She nods and sits. “I certainly will. Drink plenty of fluids too when you get home. You might be dehydrated.”
Turning, on unsteady feet, Rachel walks back out of the precinct. Not having to sit in front of a room full of officers, or even just one, to go over her missing fathers’ case again, was relieving. The tension draining so quickly is what had her swaying. Knowing she needed to collect herself, she made her way down to the bus stop.
The ride home began normally. She was cramped into a space with other individuals. Some she knew to be regulars, others were complete strangers to her. All of them, familiar or not, made her feel like her space was invaded. Anxiety was an odd beast to her. You want the familiar. It is calming, but at the same time, it can also be another trigger. Knowing the people on the bus may give her a sense of familiarity, her typical days of going back and forth, but having people surrounding her was not comfortable in the least.
Suddenly, the bus comes to a stop.
“Sorry folks, but it looks like we may be a while.”
The sounds of fire trucks and flashing police lights rising above the sea of vehicles. The typical groans fill the cabin of the bus and at least half the people start to complain. The bus driver, without pause, looks into the rear view mirror at the passengers.
“Nothing else I can do when the road is blocked off. Sorry, but you are welcome to walk if you need to get somewhere sooner. I am unsure how long we will be waiting.”
Rachel knew it was out of the bus drivers’ hands. She was so spent from her body’s inner turmoil, that she didn’t have the energy to even groan. Relinquishing to the fact that she could either sit on this bus or she could walk the three blocks back to her place made her choice simple. She stood.
A few other people were already exiting the bus and she waited a few seconds before they all passed her seat. Her anxiety at having people around her, so close to her, had to be pushed to the back of her mind.
Walking past the rows of complaining passengers, she made her way off of the bus. The door creaking closed indicated she was the last departure from the vehicle. The normal smells of the city were clouded over by the heavy smell of smoke. A cloudy haze increased as she walked closer towards her home and the emergency personnel.
Police officers motioned for people to stand back and steer clear of the scene they were working on. Sounds of crackling and fire licking buildings were almost as loud as the water hose being worked from the fire engine.
“Tipmen.” She heard come across the officer’s radio just as she was making her way past all the onlookers. It stopped her.
“This is Tipmen. Go for Tipmen.”
“How soon till the ambulance gets here? We have a man carrying three children and coming out of the wreckage.” Some static came through the radio before a reply was heard. Rachel turned to face the officer, who had turned to look over his shoulder, no longer paying attention to the crowd.
A man yelled something in the distance. A bellow of “No!” was heard. The officer’s arms dropped to his sides and he turned to talk into his radio.
“What is going on over there?” He called into his radio. No answer.
The racing of her heart was almost distracting her until another shout came over the crowd.
“Get out of there!”
Men running around in uniforms, firemen racing back and forth with policemen containing the scene as best as they could, was unnerving for Rachel. She may not be apart of what was going on but she had this urge to pay attention. The hair on her arms stood up and she heard a creak ring out.
The heat from the flames licking at her face. Pressure seemed to fuel the atmosphere. Everyone stood there without speaking. They all just watched the events going on as if it was a movie.
Smoke billowed out into the sunlight, thick and black just as the building waned once again and collapsed. The sound had the crowd and her ducking down. A few screams were heard over the noise of the building and Rachel shut her eyes to stem off the burning the heat and ash were creating.
She heard a few people cough and she also found it slightly irritating to breathe. Opening her eyes, she blinked back the tears a few times and stood. A thick haze of smog covered the area and she saw the outlines of people still moving around. Some of the crowd had dispersed but those that remained were glued to what was going on.
Rachel felt a bit awkward standing around, waiting on information about people she knew nothing about. A few seconds passed of the officer talking into his radio and other onlookers giving up and leaving, that she felt the need to go home even more.
Sighing, she wiped at her eyes again and decided to make her way home. If officer Tipmen was involved, she could always find out what happened later when he reached out to her.
A man wheezed, catching her attention. She squinted at the direction the noise came from. An ambulance could be heard in the distance. Another wheeze and a cough. The smoke cleared enough where she could make out motion. Rubbing at her eyes, Rachel blinked to clear her vision and looked again.
She saw an officer and a man in a green trench coat helping a woman out from the destroyed remains of the building. The woman looked to be unconscious. Both men had one of her arms over their shoulders to walk her towards one of the fire trucks.
Small children came rushing over to them as they walk over to a pad that a fireman laid out onto the road. The men eased the woman's still form onto the pad. The fireman began checking the woman’s vitals while another officer came over to aid the distraught children.
The green trench coat swayed as the man walked over to a police car with the officer he was accompanying with the woman. The hood was up, shielding his face and his legs were covered by blue camouflage pants. It reminded her of the ones her father wore when he was in the service.
The memories had unwanted hope filling her chest and she found it hard to breathe once again. The man in the trench coat seemed to be frailer than her father, his frame much thinner, and he walked with a slight limp. Rachel dismissed her hope and shrugged.
“Come on. Bed is calling.” She said to herself as she rubbed her eyes again. Surely she would be a mess when she finally did look at herself in a mirror, but at this point, she couldn’t give it any more thought. She moved to walk away. Taking a few steps, she paused once again, this time because of another voice.
“I…” a harsh hack and slight wheeze, “I was sitting outside when the flames started.”
The raspy voice, although off a bit, was still as deep and firm as she recalled. Could it be?
“Tell me what happened as best as you can.”
The officer said and she knew she had heard that voice before but couldn’t place it. Rachel turned and listened again. Wanting to verify her ears weren’t playing tricks on her.
“The building lit up like a Christmas tree. I stood and heard some people screaming. A child yelled. That was when I knew I had to help them.” A slight cough again. “I saw people running out but those kids yelling for their mama had me needing to get to them.”
Tears streamed down Rachel’s face. She ignored the officer who yelled for her to get back. Her feet had a mind of their own. The need to go to her father so intensely that she yelled as soon as she got to him and fiercely engulfed the man in the green trench coat into her arms.
The officers questioning the man stood there surprised. The man she held, in shock at the sudden embrace. The officer that was calling for her abruptly stopped and silence filled the space. Rachel buried her face into the awful smelling green material. She didn’t care who was there or what smells invaded her senses.
Her father was alive.