Pursuing a new hobby or sport can be exhilarating, especially when it leads to a shocking discovery. This short story follows a new photographer who gets caught up into a missing person case.
“It turned out that sometimes it’s enough to start doing things differently now.”
― Laini Taylor, Muse of Nightmares
Title - Then She Was Gone
Author - Lisa Jewel
From the New York Times bestselling author of Invisible Girl and The Truth About Melody Browne comes a “riveting” (PopSugar) and “acutely observed family drama” (People) that delves into the lingering aftermath of a young girl’s disappearance.
Write of a new hobby that didn't go quite as you expected.
The best responses will be featured in a future post.
Check back tomorrow for details of the book giveaway for February.
The Girl In The Window - Short Story
I thought pursuing photography as a hobby this year would improve my creativity as an artist and reduce my stress. The opposite happened, though, and I am glad. She wouldn’t be still alive…
Jan 08, 2021
Can’t wait to catch up! Here is the link:
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 753 0698 2418
Likewise! Should be on in a few.
“Hey Chica,” Paislee smiled when she popped in the zoom chat. “How’s 2021 treating ya?”
“Alright so far. Can’t complain,” I answered. “How about you? How’re the kiddos?”
“Girl, my resolution is to drink less and smile more,” she said. “But those damn gremlins of mine are forever causing me to fail. Jojo thinks it’s funny to decorate the walls with his poopy diapers.”
Paislee’s short, curly auburn hair bounced off her narrow shoulders as she threw her freckled hands in the air.
“Oh Damn. Bless you. At least they are cuddly cute like Gizzo,” I laughed.
“Uh, huh! Cheers to that,” Paislee picked up her wineglass and took a sip. “What about you? What’s your resolution?”
“I have pursued my interest in photography.”
“Oh, awesome,” she replied. “So you bought that Canon PowerShot you were eyeing?”
“Yup. the latest version. I take a walk around different parts of my neighborhood each morning after my first cup of coffee,” I answered. “I take various shots of houses or anything else appealing, and I edit them on my Mac in the evening after work.”
“Oooh that’s a great way to get fit and creative,” Paisley raised her trimmed eyebrow. “I bet it has been quite a mood booster.”
“Oh definitely,” I half-smiled. “It has been quite an experience.”
Paislee raised her eyebrow and put her glass aside.
“I know that look. Something happened,” she said. “Didn’t it?”
I pressed my lips together as I decided if I should tell her or not. I took a sip of my own wine and exhaled.
“Well, I can’t stop thinking about what I captured while visiting the old Gilmore house ...”
“What did ya see,” Paislee asked as she slapped her palms on her computer desk. “Spill it, Boo!”
“While taking close-ups of the wrap-around porch and the dark shutters,” I said. “I noticed somebody peeking out of the upstairs window. I think it was the missing girl from Springfield…”
“No fucking way!”
“I mean, it could have been, but I don’t sure. Lemme show you,” I clicked the share my screen button and pulled up two photos of the upstairs window.
“Okay, Miss Nancy Drew. Hit me with it,” Paislee giggled and leaned in closer.
“From the medium-wide shot, it seems to be an average size blonde in a dark robe,” I said as I placed the photos side by side. “In this close-up, you can clearly see a dark blemish on the left side of her face.”
I put exited out of the photos and click on my browser to display news story, stating :
Springfield, LA — Police have issued an Amber Alert for a missing Springfield girl.
Shannon Cobbs, 16, is white, with platinum blond hair and green eyes. She is 5’6” tall and weighs 130 lbs.
She was last seen on Tuesday, Jan. 05, wearing a green military-style jacket, light blue jeans, and white sneakers.
We urge anyone with any information on the whereabouts of Shannon Cobbs to contact the Springfield Police Department at 225-297-3306.
“See what I see?” I zoomed in on the photo of Shannon in her navy blue school uniform, smiling on top of the page.
With her platinum blond hair behind her ears, a small crescent moon-shaped birthmark on her left cheek was visible.
“Oh my God! It’s the same mark,” Paislee gasped. “It is her! You gotta go show the police!”
Jan 09, 2021
“Well, Ma’am,” Detective McCoy said as he examined the photos. ‘Looks like this might be the lead we have been looking for.”
“I just hope Shannon is okay,” I replied. ‘I can’t even imagine…”
“The more we know, the more of the chance she will be alive,” he replied. “Did you see any vehicles or anything when you were there?”
“No. No tracks or anything. I know the house has been empty for years,” I shook my head. “But, I have stopped by at night. There are lights in the windows and silhouettes moving behind the curtains.”
Detective McCoy took notes and put the photos in the front pocket of the folder. He folded his arms as he looked at me straight in the eye.
“Mhm. I understand the purpose of capturing the uniqueness of old houses.. but why go back to an abandoned house alone at night?”
“Seriously? I wanted to make sure I was not imagining things,’ I huffed as I pointed at the face in the photos. “This young female might be in terrible danger. Why are you wasting time doubting my intentions? I’m no peeping tom. I’m only a concerned citizen.”
Detective McCoy stood up and grabbed his folder.
“Of course. But you know, you can’t be too careful these days,” he winked. ‘We will go check it out, and I will let you know. You stay safe out there.”
Detective McCoy and Officer Vargas visited the house the next day. There were no vehicles on the lot. No one was in the window when they looked up.
“Do you think she is just pulling your leg? Just look at this shit hole.”
Officer Vargas’s foot through the floorboard as soon as he stepped onto the porch.
“Probably,” Detective McCoy chuckled. “But, you know we have to clear every possible lead.”
He helped Officer Vargas get his foot out and carefully walked to the front door.
“Springfield Police Department,” he said as he knocked twice.
There was no response. They heard nothing but the swaying of trees. Office Vargas just shrugged his broad shoulders and wiggled the doorknob. The door creaked as it opened. They both looked in with their hands on their guns.
“Springfield Police Department,” Detective McCoy shouted, stepping inside and flipping the light switch. “If anybody is in here, please announce yourself.”
No lights turned on, so he pulled out his flashlight and stood still a few minutes to detect any movement before he signaled Officer Vargas to proceed.
“You don’t have to hide. We are just checking on things,” he stated loudly. “Better come out while you have the chance…”
Dead silence was the response. He gave Officer Vargas the signal. Vargas flipped on his flashlight as he stepped in.
“Why would she say she saw lights on when there is no power? There is just dust, spiderwebs…” he jumped when a rat ran away from the bright light. “and rodents.”
Detective McCoy rolled his grayish-blue eyes and checked the kitchen.
“Maybe she caught a homeless person or drug addict seeking shelter..” he replied. “Come on. I’ll go cover the upstairs while you cover the rest.”
“Yes, sir,” Officer Vargas groaned as he walked towards the living room.
Detective McCoy stepped softly as he climbed the stairs and checked each bedroom.
“Atchoo! Aaaa...atchoooo” he sneezed every time he checked under each rusted, rotten bed frame. “Damn dust bunnies.”
As he walked out of the hallway, he heard a noise above his head.
Detective McCoy shined his light on the ceiling as he searched for the attic door. When he found it, he pulled the ladder down and climbed up with his flashlight in his mouth. He turned towards where the noise came from and flashed the light.
“If anybody’s up here, please announce yourself,” he said.
His own shadow was all he saw, and the creaking of the ladder was all he heard.
“Mmm what a pedicular item…” Detective McCoy thought aloud as he spotted an old tall wooden cabinet with a key lock in the corner.
He climbed over and carefully walked to the cabinet.
“Something’s in there, but what?” he wondered as he knocked on it to detect hollowness.
“If you move again, your brains will be all over this dresser,” A budgie, greasy man whispered in Shannon’s ear, pointing a black 357 Magnum pistol at her head. His thumb stayed on the trigger. Shannon swallowed hard as she nodded.
“Oh God, please let this cop find me,” Shannon prayed silently. “Please save me!”
The lock of the cabinet doors didn’t budge when Detective McCoy used a paperclip.
“There must be a key…” He flashed his flashlight all around the area.
The man in the cabinet snickered silently as he held the key in his palms.
Meanwhile, Office Vargas investigated a noise coming from the bathroom. He tiptoed towards the door with his hand on his gun.
He turned the doorknob and drew his gun.
“Goddammit,” He exhaled and put his gun up.
A smelly, starved raccoon with a half eating roach was hissing at a squeaky rat who fell into the toilet. Then the raccoon hissed at him.
“Go on! Get,” Officer Vargas stomped his foot at the raccoon.
Vargas’s shouting alerted McCoy, so he went to check the commotion out. Shannon’s hope went with him.
“Vargas,” Detective McCoy shouted out. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah, just walked into a nasty fight between two nasty creatures.,” Officer Vargas answered. “Found anything?”
“Cleared all the rooms. A noise came from the attic, but couldn’t identify where or what it was,” McCoy said as he scribbled in his mini notebook pad. “A locked cabinet is up there…”
“Oh, do you think…”
“I spoke out and tried to open it,” McCoy shrugged. ‘I’d have heard her if she was, or she’d have heard me…”
“Yeah…” Vargas agreed. “I personally think she is a runaway.”
“Teenagers are the most unpredictable…” McCoy exhaled as they walked out.
Several hours later…
“I promise I’d tell nobody,” Shannon pleaded. “Just let me go.”
Her abductor let out a croaky laugh and pushed her down on her knees.
“Not a chance, Babydoll,” he replied as he unzipped. “I gonna play with ya until there’s nothing left of you.”
A few days later, Jan. 13, 2021
Still nothing from the police?
Nunna. I mean, it would be on the news by now...
Have you gone back to the house?
Yes. I went a couple of days ago. I heard screaming as I was walking up.
It’s driving me crazy. I wanna know what they found.
Then call. Do a follow-up.
I don’t want to seem suspicious or anything, though.
Do it for your sanity and for mine!
Geez, alright. Calling right now.
I exhaled and dialed the number.
“Hello. Yes, my name is Ellie Rodgers. May I speak with Detective McCoy?”
“He’s out of the office. Would you like to leave a message?”
“Of course he would be...ugh!” I thought.
“Actually, I was wondering if I could get an update on my tip I shared about the Cobbs case,” I answered. “Can I talk to another officer that is working the case?”
There was a brief pause before the lady with an adenoidal voice answered.
“Officer Vargas is in, and he said he’d help. I’ll transfer you.”
A minute later, A man with a deep voice picked up.
“Hello. Ms. Rodgers. I’m Officer Vargas. How may I help you today?”
“I came in about a week ago and talked to Detective McCoy about what I saw at the old Gilmore house,” I responded. “He said he was going to call me once they checked it out... I’m just calling to…”
“Ah yes, it was a dead-end,” he answered before I could finish.
“Oh… There was no blonde female? Anything?” I replied. “I swear I saw movement in the house..”
“Yep. we searched the house, and there was no one there. Just nasty rodents.”
“But what about the lights?”
“It must’ve been a homeless woman or a drug addict because the house is surely vacant,” he replied.
“Mmk. May I ask when you went to the house?” I asked as my eyebrows knitted. “Because I heard screaming when I walked by a couple of days ago.”
“We went as soon as the next day,” he answered. “Like I said, a homeless junkie might take shelter there.”
“What about Shannon? Have y’all found her?”
‘Unfortunately, no. With lack of evidence, it is very likely that she is a runaway.”
“Y’all are just giving up too quickly,” I thought as I exhaled.
“Bless the Cobbs. Well, Thanks for the update.”
“Mhm. Have a good evening, Mrs. Rodgers.”
It doesn’t matter what I did. I couldn’t stop thinking about the girl in the window or the screaming.
I can’t take it anymore. I am going into the house myself.
No, Ellie. It’s too dangerous.
Just arrived. If I don’t contact you within an hour. Call the police.
You’re going to get yourself killed!
The light was coming through the upstairs windows. I put my phone away and tiptoed around the house. I studied the photos of the house hours before and found out the laundry room has a half-broken window seal.
“There’s no backing out now,” I reminded myself as I ripped the seal off and climbed through.
“I will let the fucking rats eat you alive if you ever disrespect me again,” a male voice echoed from upstairs.
As I made my way up quietly, I pulled out my heavy-duty stun gun that is in the shape of a pink with LED tactical flashlight.
“I’d not care! My life is already over,” a female replied. “Fuck you!”
I held my breath as I stood by the door, peeking through the open crack.
“Oh my God,” I thought. “My gut was right. It’s Shannon.”
“That’s it,” the man shouted as he started reaching for his gun. “Since your life is over..”
“Please,” Shannon begged. “I promise I’ll listen.’
As she scooched away from him, she caught me sliding into the door frame. I put my finger over my lips and spurt towards him with the stun gun buzzing in my hand. Once the man stopped shaking and flapping like a fish out of water, I held him down with my knee.
“Oh thank God,” Shannon cried as she stood up. “You came at the right time…”
“Here. Call the police and tell them who you are,” I said as I tossed her my phone.
Shannon nodded and dialed 911.
Several minutes later…
“Seems like your new hobby turned out to be more than a hobby,” Detective McCoy commented as we watched the EMTs check Shannon out.
“Yep,” I smiled.
I hoped you enjoyed that piece.
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About The Blogger
Brooke Smith is from Louisiana. She graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University with a bachelor's degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. She has a blog called Creative Works by Brooke Settoon Smith, which presents her most recent short stories and poems. She is an author on the mobile app called Texties. She is also a contributing writer for Coffee House Writers and Unwritten. Her favorite genres are crime mysteries and sci-fi.
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