The Hunt

The Hunt

A Story by Arina Petrova

A strange visitor, a strange phone call and hidden treasure. Madeleine tries to get to the bottom of a string of strange occurrences.


Chapter 1: The Encounter

Madeleine walked up the steps of her apartment complex holding Bonaparte �" a large spotted bunny �" in her arms. It was a beautiful sunny April day, the first after weeks of miserable rain, and occasionally even snow. Bonaparte had been eagerly sitting by the window and patiently waiting to be taken to the park for the better part of the day. Sometimes he would sigh, spotting a dog or cat happily plodding along the sidewalk below. Madeleine, however, was busy writing papers all day. It was the end of term, after all, and exam period was fast approaching. Although she did take Bonaparte for a walk to the park across the street as soon as she was done studying. The walk was expectedly uneventful and somewhat dreary, as cold gusts of wind were beginning to pick up and clouds concealed the pale spring sun.

As Madeleine mounted the last steps leading to her apartment and walked across the landing to the door, Bonaparte began wriggling ferociously. Usually a very unperturbed and sensible creature, Bonaparte rarely got flustered. The only time he ever became noticeably nervous was before a trip to the veterinarian. Madeleine felt her insides tense as she fumbled around in her pocket for the key, balancing Bonaparte in one arm. A sense of foreboding pierced the air around her, made more intense by Bonaparte's obvious unease. Finally locating the key, she inserted it into the lock, only to find that it would not turn. Shifting Bonaparte on her arm, she tried the lock a second time. The lock, however, would still not turn. This could only mean that the lock had suddenly become broken or that the door was already unlocked. The second option was a lot scarier to Madeleine, although much more likely. With clammy hands and clenched jaw, Madeleine put her key away and slowly turned the doorknob. The door swung open, silently and menacingly. Bonaparte tightened himself into a ball in her elbow. Madeleine slowly walked into her apartment and carefully shut the door behind her. Was it possible that she had forgotten to lock the door? Bonaparte �" quivering and shaking �" didn't seem to think so. Quietly inching along the hallway, Madeleine suddenly heard a clatter coming from the end of the hallway, where the kitchen was. In another minute, a silhouette emerged from the kitchen doorway, made inscrutable by the light coming from the kitchen window behind it. Dazed by terror and unable to think, Madeleine clutched Bonaparte to her chest and froze in her tracks. The mysterious figure advanced into the hallway towards her, holding a large water kettle in one hand and reaching for Madeleine with the other.

Chapter 2: The Letter

The figure became more and more defined as it closed the distance between the kitchen doorway and Madeleine. The few seconds that it took for the terrible form to reach the terrified girl felt like a thousand years to Madeleine's petrified mind. Just as she was about to faint from horror, she realized that standing in front of her was a smiling middle aged woman, who was extending her hand and speaking in an apologetic tone:“I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to scare you, but frankly, I didn't realize that there would be anyone here. I beg pardon, of course, but who are you?”

The utter horror that had filled Madeleine barely a second ago ebbed away. Confusion and a vague feeling of irritation was rapidly filling its place. There she was, scared half to death by a stranger in her own home, and being demanded to explain who she was. 

“I live here,” Madeleine said weakly, unable to convey the annoyance she felt inside through her tone of voice. 

The woman seemed puzzled by the assertion. As if looking for proof, she slowly looked around her. “I'm sorry, but I don't quite understand,” she said with a furrowed brow, “I believe that my mother lives here. She always has. I mean, she moved here several years ago. I received a letter from her on Tuesday, asking me to come as she had taken ill.”

Madeleine looked down at Bonaparte, who looked up at her. Not knowing what to say she sat down on the chair by the coat rack, placing the bunny on her lap. Although the desperate feeling of primal horror had left her, the apprehension was still there. Could this be a hoax of some sort? She had heard of things of this sort �" people being tricked into leaving or giving away their property. Besides, both of her parents were away at the moment, making the whole situation especially troubling.

“I live here,” repeated Madeleine, “I have lived here since I was five. And I can guarantee that we never sent you any letter.”

The woman sighed, putting the kettle down on a small table. Leaning her back against the wall, she rubbed her forehead with her hand.“I knew something was off,” she said in a low voice, “I don't know if you believe me, but I haven't had contact with my mother for a long, long time. This was the second letter I received from her in over ten years. All I knew, based on this letter, was that she lived here and desperately needed my help.”

Madeleine was starting to feel vexed. Frankly, she did not care about the strange woman's familial relationships. All she wanted was for her to leave. 

“It's alright,” she told the woman, standing up and moving towards the door, hoping that the distraught figure would pick up the hint, “Confusions happen. Perhaps you read the address wrong?”

“No, no,” said the woman, staying where she was, “This is the right address. I think it was my mother who got confused. She is rather old, you know. I'm sorry. I will go now and get myself a room at a hotel. Tomorrow I will try to figure this out.” With a sigh she turned to go to the living room, “I must collect my bag.” 

In a few minutes the woman was heading out the door, rubbing her hands and uttering profuse apologies. In response to Madeleine's query of how she got in, the woman replied that the door had not been locked. Madeleine made sure to lock and bolt the door after the woman had left, and picking up the kettle that the woman had deposited in the parlour, walked back to the kitchen. In a way, she felt sorry for the woman. She genuinely seemed upset and confused. At the same time, the encounter had left Madeleine perturbed. Could she have actually forgotten to lock the door? It was possible, of course, but unlikely. She vaguely wondered if she should call the police.

Chapter 3: The Phone Call

After pondering over the strange situation for some time, Madeleine decided against calling the police. After all, no crime had occurred. What would she say? That she forgot to lock the door and a confused woman made a mistake? As the day wore on, she began to feel that everything was, after all, fine and that making a fuss would make her look silly and paranoid. Nevertheless, as the sun set and the day came to a close, Madeleine began to feel nervous again. Not so much from her encounter with the woman, but rather from the emotions which had preceded it. Before going to bed, she made sure the door was tightly bolted, and even moved a chair in front of it, which she piled with dishes. If anyone should try to break in, the chair would topple, spilling the dishes and awakening her. After tightly closing all the windows and curtains in the apartment, she put Bonaparte to bed in his basket, which stood at the foot of her bed. Just as she crawled under her covers and closed her eyes, the shrill ringing of the telephone pierced the air. Madeleine startled and glanced at her bedside clock. It was ten minutes to midnight. She jumped out of bed and with shaking hands reached for the light switch. Bonaparte sat up in his basket and looked intently at the bedroom door. Trying to calm her breathing, Madeleine walked into the living room and reached for the phone.

“Hello?” she said quietly. The other end was filled with static and a strange ringing noise.

“Hello,” answered an ecstatic male voice on the other end, “This is Louis. Is it ready? Hello? Sofia? Is that you? Hello?”

“This is not Sofia. I think you have the wrong number," answered Madeleine apprehensively.

With a sharp bang, the static stopped and the line filled with beeps. The man on the other end had slammed the phone down. Madeleine felt her heart sink as she lowered herself onto a chair. Too many strange occurrences for one day. And the reaction of the man startled her. Was it really a simple mistake again? All in all, there was nothing scary about the phone call, but in light of what had happened earlier, it took on a more sinister overtone. She felt that the two events were connected in some way. Was the mysterious woman named Sofia? Or was it the woman's mother? Perhaps the woman's mother had really gotten confused due to old age, and now all her relatives thought that this was where she lived.

Completely awake by this point, Madeleine turned on the television and tried to distract herself. Soon, Bonaparte ambled into the living room and jumped into her arms. Switching between different programs, Madeleine couldn't get her mind off of the disturbing events of the day. Finally, she fell asleep just as the sun was rising.

When Madeleine woke up it was already past noon. Bonaparte had escaped from her arms while she was sleeping and was sitting by the window, looking at the street below. The tv was still on, with some boring show rambling on. Suddenly, the phone rang behind her. Shrill and frighteningly loud, it caused Bonaparte to scurry under a table. Madeleine felt her breath leave her body. Trembling all over, she slowly reached for the receiver, but just as she was about to pick it up, a loud banging shook the apartment door from the other side.  In a fit of panic, Madeleine grabbed the receiver and slammed it back down. Then, grabbing a heavy vase and holding her breath, she quietly tiptoed to the door. By the time she reached it, however, the banging had ceased and a suspicious silence pervaded the air. Nevertheless, her heart beating loudly, Madeleine pressed her face against the heavy oak door and gingerly peeked out of the peephole. To her dismay, right outside her apartment, stood the mysterious woman from yesterday. Smiling ruefully, she was looking straight into the peephole, as if trying to see Madeleine. 

“I'm sorry,” the woman said in a familiar tone, “I hope I'm not bothering you, but I need to make a phone call.” 

With these words, she began wriggling the doorknob on the other end, still smiling through the peephole. Suddenly, the woman's eyes widened and her mouth gaped open, as if she saw something terrifying. She let go of the doorknob and took a step back. An expression of shock and pure terror appeared on her face. Madeleine felt a chill settle in her insides. Instinctively, she turned around, sensing that there was something behind her. With a jolt, she suddenly realized that she was staring up at the ceiling of her living room. Shaking her head confusedly, Madeleine looked around her. She was sitting on the living room couch in front of the television, Bonaparte snuggled deep in her arm. She had had a nightmare. 

Chapter 4: The investigation

Madeleine decided that she could no longer face this alone. After hastily dressing she decided to call her cousin Marie, who lived a block away. In a quarter of an hour both girls were sitting in the living room and Madeleine was animatedly recounting the terrible events of the preceding day. Occasionally shaking her head, Marie listened to her cousin in awe and horror. After Madeleine was finished, silence descended on the room. After several minutes, Marie got up from her seat and walked to the window, carefully peeking down to the street below.

“Technically, nothing serious happened. But it is extremely creepy,” admitted her cousin.

“I think the phone call was definitely connected to that woman. In fact, I think she is Sofia,” said Madeleine.


“You know what I think we should do,” said Marie, who believed in being proactive, “I think we should visit all the major hotels in the city �" there aren't that many �" and see if there is a Sofia actually staying somewhere.”

Madeleine, despite her fear, agreed with Marie. After all, there was no danger involved in what her cousin proposed, and it would be better than sitting here and jumping with every noise. Wearily, she found the phone book and the two cousins began perusing through the pages in search of local hotels.

The first hotel on their list, the one closest to them, was The Nest. A simple but comfortable boarding house, it was run by a kind elderly couple. The Nest was located just ten minutes down the road, and soon enough, Madeleine was standing in the neat lobby and conversing with the elderly Mrs.Giroud. Under the guise of Sofia being a friend of Madeleine's mother, the two girls demanded to know if there was anyone named Sofia staying at the hotel.

“You see,” Madeleine was saying, “She called my mother to let her know that she would be visiting soon, but my mother is away, and Sofia doesn't have our address, so I thought it would be nice if we found her.”

“Certainly,” agreed Mrs.Giroud, “but couldn't your mother just give her your address?”

“Yes,” said Madeleine, nodding her head emphatically, “and she did. But Sofia doesn't know the city very well. We thought we could help.”

Mrs.Giroud, who really had no reason to distrust Madeleine, found the guest book and diligently browsed through the names of all the recent visitors, of which there weren't that many. No one named Sofia had stayed at the place in the last couple of days. Thanking Mrs.Giroud, Madeleine and Marie headed for the next location on their list, The City Hotel. But, alas, no Sofia had stayed there either, and the clerk was a lot less inclined to talk to them than Mrs.Giroud had been.

Their third destination was a small and seedy motel located away from the commercial district. It was surrounded by somewhat derelict apartment complexes and trailer houses on both sides. Right behind it was a swamp, where a small boy had recently drowned. Proudly bearing a sign declaring Motel, the place was incredibly cheap and equally questionable. A small tired-looking man sat behind the desk. He slightly started at the sight of the two visitors.

“Can I help you?” He asked, peering at them with bleary eyes.

“We are looking for someone,” began Marie, “a family friend, who has come to stay in the city, but has unfortunately forgotten to tell us where. Her name is Sofia. Has anyone of that name checked in in the last few days?”

The man picked up the guest book and without asking any questions began leafing through it. On the third page he suddenly stopped and looked up at the visitors.

“What would her last name be?” He asked.

“We're not totally sure,” said Madeleine nervously, “You see, she's a very new family friend.”

The man blinked disinterestedly and said, looking down at his journal, “I have two Sofias here. One is a Gericault and the other is a Bellini.”

Madeleine, who had frankly doubted that the woman she had seen would want to stay here, was astounded. For a few minutes she desperately tried to come up with what to say to this news. 

Marie, who was less personally invested in the case, quickly pulled herself together and asked, “when did they check in?”

“Gericault checked in yesterday at 4:00 in the afternoon and Bellini checked in yesterday at 8:00 in the morning,” answered the man after consulting his journal.

Madeleine felt like her body was buzzing with nerves. They had found her! This was it. One of those Sofias must be the mysterious woman from yesterday.

“Gericualt left already, by the way,” continued the man, “So I doubt that she's the one you're looking for.”

“Could we possibly go up and see Sofia Bellini?” enquired Marie.

“There might be a problem with that. She is out right now, and has been for most of the day.”

“She's probably looking for us,” explained Marie. “We best get going. Maybe we'll bump into her. What room is she staying in?”

“Room 10. If you want I can let her know -- ”

“It's fine,” Madeleine cut in nervously, “We want to surprise her.”

Thanking the man, they hurriedly left the motel before he had a chance to ask any more questions. Marie was almost unable to contain her excitement. As they distanced themselves from the building, she started pulling Madeleine's arm and giggling. When they were sufficiently far from the motel Madeleine stopped walking and turned to her cousin.

“It must be her,” she said, “I wish there was a way to find out for sure.”

“There is,” grinned her cousin, “All of the motel windows give out on the back of the building. And her room is on the bottom floor. I'm sure the place has minimal cameras. Nothing would be easier.” 

“You mean - climb into her room through the window?” Madeleine sounded apprehensive. The last thing she wanted was to get involved in any criminal activity. She was the one looking for possible criminals, after all! And anyway, what if this was the wrong woman? Apart from being illegal, it would just be plain embarrassing. 

“The man at the desk said she has been away all day,” said Marie. “Besides, we could always make something up,” she added.

“Fine,” agreed Madeleine finally. “If we get caught I'm saying that you're my brain-dead kleptomaniac cousin and I'm just looking out for you.”

“Great,” agreed Marie, who had barely heard her cousin. “Now, how should we do this?”

“Smash the window, climb in, look for clues and then climb back out, obviously,” said Madeleine, “and if we get caught, we'll have to take out whoever it is with a bat. Oh, and we'll wear halloween masks, of course. In case there are cameras, you know.”

Marie, who did not appreciate the sarcasm, looked at her cousin with irritation. She knew that she would have to take responsibility for the whole thing, since Madeleine wasn't even willing to come up with a plausible plan. Sighing, she leaned against the brick wall of a barbershop. Madeleine stood patiently by, waiting curiously to hear what her cousin would say.

“I know,” said Marie, and began walking again. “We'll wait until she's back. Then, I will knock on her door �" since she doesn't know me - and ask her to come with me. I'll make something up - an emergency or something. Then, you will sneak into her room and look around. How does that sound?”

“It sounds like it's bound to go wrong,” said Madeleine in an irritated tone. “First, what am I supposed to be looking for anyway? Did you think of that? Second, do you think she will just leave the door open? And third, most importantly, shouldn't I take a look at her first, so we know that this is the right Sofia?”

“You're right,” agreed Marie, her features clouding over again. “Do you, perhaps, have a plan, since you're so smart?”

“It's best to be cautious,” began Madeleine, “I think that first, I should wait outside her window - at the back of the hotel - for her to get back. I'll take a look at her and then we will know for sure if it's her. If it does turn out to be her, we will then come up with step two.”

And so it was decided. Returning to the motel and walking to the back of the building, they counted ten windows from the right (assuming that each room had one window). Then, Madeleine walked a little way back into the bushes surrounding the swamp. From her location she could clearly see into the tenth window, as well as the surrounding windows. Marie took her post at the side of the building, to watch for anyone approaching. Thus, began part one of the great investigation.

Chapter 5: The Body

The first hour passed uneventfully. The day was sunny and rather warm, and, despite the butterflies in her stomach, Madeleine found the wait not unpleasant. The swamp, even though it had recently claimed the life of a little boy, had a calming effect on her mind. Little green leaves were  beginning to poke out of the buds on the branches surrounding her, and early spring flowers could be seen hiding between the various bushes. Even the water in the swamp had a glazed and serene look, as if it were a looking glass. Sometimes birds would fly overhead, some of them landing down amidst the treetops behind the swamp.

The next hour, however, passed less pleasantly. The sun began to set �" as it was bound to happen, sooner or later �" and a chill settled in the air. A cool wind picked up, blowing clouds across the sky. Shadows settled on the surface of the swamp, making it look dark and gloomy and a fog began creeping from the woods behind the swamp. Within minutes it was impossible to see where the water began and where it ended. One step in the wrong direction, and you'd end up in the swamp. This is how that little boy must have drowned, thought Madeleine suddenly. She wondered what he had been doing here. 

Looking back at the motel, Madeleine realized that the window had gone dark due to the setting sun and she could no longer see inside it. The only way she could possibly see anything was if someone turned the light on inside. With a shiver she got up. Uncertain of what to do next, she felt that she couldn't go on sitting there a minute longer. Apart from feeling cold, Madeleine was frankly scared. Hoping that she wouldn't step on anything she would regret (like a snake), she started making her way to the side of the building.

“Marie,” Madeleine whispered into the fog, “are you anywhere near?”

Suddenly, with an almost painful start, she heard something fall heavily in the bushes near her. Freezing in her tracks, she slowly turned towards the sound. With her breath stuck in her throat, and her heart paralysed, Madeleine ventured forward. Carefully creeping forward, she held her arms out, moving various branches out of the way. She thought she heard footsteps, but her heart was beating so loud that she couldn't be sure. Without warning, her foot struck something solid on the ground. Feeling her vision darken, Madeleine slowly bent down, since the fog prevented her from seeing anything farther than her nose. To her relief, she realized that the form on the ground was wearing a yellow windbreaker, which meant that it couldn't be Marie, who was wearing a grey jacket. In the next second, however, her relief vanished. With a distinct feeling of unreality, Madeleine realized that she was looking at the lifeless form of the woman from yesterday. 

Chapter 6: The Discovery

The next several minutes passed in a daze. Afraid to move or make a sound, Madeleine stood by the dead body of Sofia, feeling dumb and terrified. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a flicker of light coming from the motel. Slowly turning her head, she realized that someone had turned on the light in Sofia's room. Like an insect, Madeleine stupidly moved towards it, as if she was being pulled to it against her will. Inside, she could see two men walking purposefully around the room. One of them was hastily opening drawers and ruffling through their contents, while the other appeared to be talking energetically. Finally, the first man seemed to find something of interest, and turning to the other man began talking excitedly. 

With a jolt and a renewal of senses, Madeleine realized that she should alert Marie to what had happened. Jogging along the wall of the motel, she came to the spot where Marie was presumably waiting. To her horror, she realized that her cousin was nowhere to be seen. Still afraid of making a sound, and thus unwilling to speak,  she rapidly walked back and forth a few times, hoping to bump into Marie. But no one was there. 

Afraid of what she might discover, but feeling like it was her duty to find her cousin, Madeleine apprehensively walked to the front of the building. The streetlights shined on the parking lot in front of the motel. A few cars stood forlornly surrounded by  the dark silhouettes of trees swinging their branches at the sides of the road. Marie was nowhere to be seen. 

Not knowing what to do next, Madeleine slowly backed up away from the streetlights, until she was hidden by the shadows. In that instant, the door of the motel swung open, and the two men from Sofia's room walked out onto the parking lot. Approaching a large white pickup truck, the men stopped and exchanged a few words. Then, one of them climbed into the driver's seat, while the other one retreated back into the motel. 

When the man had fully disappeared back inside the building, Madeleine, with a desperate spurt of courage, carefully tiptoed across the parking lot and stopped at the side of the pickup. The man inside the vehicle appeared to be carefully looking at something in his hand. Taking a deep breath, and feeling the blood freeze in her veins, Madeleine swung one leg into the open back of the truck and carefully pulled the rest of her body in. Flattening herself against the bottom of the trunk, she squeezed her eyes shut and prayed that the man in the truck hadn't heard anything. In a couple of minutes, she heard footsteps approaching the vehicle, and then the slamming of a door. The engine came to life with a roar as the vehicle swung out of the parking lot.

Chapter 7: The Treasure

After what seemed like an eternity (but in reality was closer to five minutes) the truck came to a stop. Killing the engine, the two men got out of the truck �" evidenced by the slamming of doors on both sides of the vehicle. After waiting for several minutes to make sure that the two bandits had distanced themselves from the truck, Madeleine cautiously lifted her head and peered out. To her great surprise she came face to face with her own apartment complex. In the distance, she could see the two men opening the great doors of the apartment complex and disappearing inside. Feeling braver �" now that she was on familiar territory �" Madeleine jumped out of the truck and raced towards the building. As she entered the complex, she could just see the vanishing backs of the men as they ascended the stairs. With baited breath and clammy hands, Madeleine quietly followed them, making sure to not make a sound.

Soon enough, her worst fears were confirmed, as the two men stopped climbing once they reached her level. Stopping at a safe distance from them and hiding around the corner, so as not to be seen, Madeleine waited. What she was waiting for, she did not know, but she was terrified of being discovered before she had a chance to see what was happening. Suddenly, she heard the quiet creak of a door sliding open. Madeleine did not have any doubt that it was the door of her own apartment. After waiting a few seconds, she inched around the corner and crept towards the door of her apartment. Reaching out with a shaking hand, she turned the doorknob. Two male voices wafted towards her from within the apartment.

“No one is here,” said one voice, sounding surprised.

“We have to be fast. We don't know when she might get back,” said a second �" suspiciously familiar �" voice. Madeleine realized that it was the same voice that had spoken to her on the phone. She wished that she had something heavy to grab as she quietly shut the door behind her and tiptoed towards the living room. Suddenly, she heard a creak behind her, and just as she was about to turn around, she saw a flash in her eyes and felt a dull pain in her head.

The next thing she knew, Madeleine was sitting on the living room couch, her ankles and hands bound tightly together. Her head throbbed and she felt a pressure behind her eyes. For a moment she feared that she had gone blind, but as her vision cleared, she could make out a man crouched in the corner of the room. He appeared to be carefully removing a floorboard using various tools, which were laid out on the floor beside him. To her great surprise, he was humming a tune. What is he doing, Madeleine wondered as she wriggled her wrists inside the rope. She realized that the two men must be looking for something that was evidently hidden in the apartment. But what could it be? Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a second figure approaching. The second man wondered menacingly into her line of vision. As her eyes focused, she realized that he was holding a large kitchen knife.

“We hoped we wouldn't have to kill you,” he said, smiling slightly. “We've killed too many people as is.”

With these bone-chilling words, he advanced towards Madeleine, raising the knife and bringing it back with a sudden motion. Madeleine tried to scream, but no sound came out. Just as she thought she was going to faint, a loud thud sounded from the direction of the apartment door. The man cursed under his breath and peered out into the hallway just as several armed policemen burst into the living room. The man dropped the knife and took a step back away from it. His friend crouching in the corner slowly got up and raised his hands above his head. Shouting undecipherable commands, the police tackled and handcuffed the two men, leading them from the room, all in a matter of minutes. 

After they were gone, an elderly man dressed in an old suit appeared in the doorway. He slowly looked around the room and locating Madeleine, walked towards her. To her great astonishment, a second figure followed behind him. It was Marie, pale and dishevelled, but alive.  

Chapter 8: The story

Madeleine was sitting in an armchair, holding Bonaparte, whom she had found shaking under the couch, in her arms. Marie and the elderly man, who turned out to be a detective, sat on the couch in front of her.

“Well,” said detective Camille, “we've caught them.”

“And we helped,” said Marie anxiously. “Didn't we?”

“Ye-es,” said the detective reluctantly, “but we would've preferred to catch them without putting anyone in danger.”

Madeleine turned to Marie. She was beginning to feel somewhat betrayed. What did her cousin think, leaving her all alone with a corpse that night!

“She's dead,” Madeleine told her cousin plaintively, “Sofia is dead. I bumped into her. And then I went looking for you, but you were gone.”

“I went to call the police,” explained Marie.

Madeleine blinked. Frowning she asked, “Did you also see the body?” 

“No,” said Marie, “but I saw the motel clerk.”

“What do you mean?” Madeleine was puzzled. After all, she had also seen him, and he looked pretty uninteresting.

“I better explain. You see,” began Marie, “It was getting cold and dark. And I was about to go and tell you that we should quit when I saw a truck stop in front of the motel. Two men got out and went inside. I decided to peek into the motel and see what they were up to, just in case, you know. I wasn't expecting there to be anything wrong. I just didn't want to leave any loose ends, as they say. Well, I didn't see where the two men had gone, but I saw the man behind the desk, and he was dead. Someone had stabbed him. I didn't see a phone anywhere so I ran out to look for one. As you know, it was late, and most places had already closed, and the people in that part of town are rather suspicious. It was a while before I found someone willing to let me make a call.”

“Who were the men?” Madeleine turned to the detective, “And do you know who Sofia was?”

“As far as we know,” began detective Camille, “Sofia was on her way to becoming an amateur robber. Through an acquaintance she learned about jewels that were hidden in your apartment under the floorboards a long time ago. Their owner died shortly after moving into the place and hiding the treasure. Sofia devised a plan. She would uncover the stones and hand them over to the two men, who had ties to the black market and would help Sofia sell the jewels, for a handsome commission obviously. Well, Sofia probably wanted to award them a smaller sum than they expected, so they ended up killing her. Why not, after all, if they could have all the money?

“The fact is that they're all from another city and Sofia Bellini was, of course, not the woman's real name. She learned, through sources we've yet to uncover that this particular apartment would be empty this week. What she didn't take into account, however, is that the people living here had a daughter.” Detective Camille smiled at Madeleine, and continued, “Laura, which is the woman's real name, was probably surprised when, while she was looking for the jewels, she heard someone trying to enter the apartment. So she made up a story about a mother who doesn't know her own address. It was all supposed to be very convenient. Nip in for a day or two using a fake identity, find the jewels in an empty apartment in a busy complex, where many people rent and then leave �" possibly to another country with a huge sum of money.”

“How did they get in here?” Cut in Marie, “Without a key, I mean.”

“You don't need a key to unlock a standard apartment door,” smiled detective Camille.

“Whatever for did they kill the clerk at the motel?

“Because he had seen them,” answered the detective, “And he wasn't supposed to. They weren't supposed to visit Laura at the motel. But after they had killed her, they needed to destroy any incriminating evidence in her room. Even if they hadn't been planning to enter the motel, he had still seen their truck, and there was a dead body on the grounds. They didn't need anything suspicious pointing towards them.”

After detective Camille and Marie had left, Madeleine sat thinking about the events of the past few days. She felt proud of herself for not fainting in the face of threat, and for playing her part in the investigation. She wasn't quite sure what her part had been, and whether it had been fully positive, but detective Camille had thanked her for her time nonetheless. She felt glad that Marie was alright, although she did feel slightly jealous, after all, Marie was the one who called the police, and she didn't have to sit tied up while a man waved a knife. All the same, she was glad that it was all over. One thing she was sure of is that she would never feel the same about telephone calls.

© 2021 Arina Petrova

My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register


You didn’t ask for comment, but you’re obviously working hard on the work you’ve posted, and have missed a critical point. And since it’s one you’ll not see till it’s pointed out, I thought you’d want to know:

Both your posted pieces are a transcription of you telling the story aloud to an audience. That would seem to make sense, and it works perfectly when you read it. But…verbal storytelling is a PERFORMANCE art. How you tell the story—your visual and auditory performance, matters as-much-as-what-you-say.

In a film, the viewer gets the scene’s ambience—the setting, the conditions, the kind of furnishing or scenery, the number of people, the dress, the era and a host of social information—all in an eyeblink’s time, as background information. As the scene progresses they know a great deal about the characters through their movement, expression, gestures, tone of voice, and more—all in addition to what’s said. But on the stage you’re alone, and your performance must substitute for that. So you emote, you gesture, you change expression, timber, cadence, and use all the tricks of the stage performance. But…

What does your reader get of that? Not a trace, and none of the visuals the film viewer would get. They have only the meaning the words suggest to them, based on their background, not your intent. And, they have only the emotion that punctuation suggests. And that’s it, a storyteller’s script that they must perform with not a clue of how you want them to do that, and none of the backstory, character mood, and more that you take for granted, and place into your performance.

I strongly suggest you have your computer’s narrator program read this to you to hear how different what the reader gets is from what you intend. But bear in mind that this particular problem is one that you share with, roughly, half of the other hopeful writers (the other half make a different but related error), so it’s no reflection on how well you write, or your talent.

The real problem, and the reason this caught you, is the result of a huge misunderstanding common to the field: Because we spend more than a decade perfecting a skill our teachers call “writing,” and those teachers never tell us that they teach us only nonfiction writing techniques, as they ready us for the needs of our future employers, we assume that the word “writing” that’s part of the profession, Fiction-Writing, points to that skill. But to doesn’t. Professions, and ours is one they offer degree programs for, are acquired IN ADDITION to the set of general skills we’re given in our school years.

But what really matters—the good news—is that you can fix the problem. The bad is that it’s not a matter of changing a few lines in the story. It means picking up the tricks the pros take for granted. And that’s necessary, because for your entire life, the fiction you’ve chosen was created with those skills. So you expect to see them in use, and will know in a paragraph if they weren’t. More to the point, your reader can tell that, too, when they read your work.

The solution? Simple: add those skills to your tool kit and practice them till they feel as intuitive as the skills you use now. Of course, since the words simple and easy aren’t interchangeable, and given that the skill-set for fiction is as large as for nonfiction, there is a fair amount of study and practice involved. But that’s true of pretty much everything else, so it’s no big deal. And the learning, given that you like to write fiction, will be like going backstage at the theater. And, the practice is writing stories. So what’s not to like?

You can earn a degree in commercial fiction, of course, if you have four years and lots of money to spare. There are also seminars, workshops, conferences, retreats, and books. My suggestion is to begin with the basics, the books, and build on that. The library’s fiction-writing section holds the views of pros in publishing, writing, and teaching.

My personal suggestion is to pick up a copy of the best book I’ve found to date on the nuts-and-bolts issues of creating scenes that sing to your reader, and weaving them into an exciting whole. It’s free at the site address just below this paragraph:

For a kind of preview of the issues covered, and how different they are from reporting and explaining techniques of nonfiction, you might check a few of the articles in my WordPress Writing blog. They’re aimed at the hopeful writer.

So dig in. And while you do, hang in there, and keep on writing.

Jay Greenstein

Posted 3 Months Ago

Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


1 Review
Added on January 13, 2021
Last Updated on January 13, 2021
Tags: crime, detective, investigative, investigation, murder, mystery, whodunit, murder mystery, short story


Arina Petrova
Arina Petrova