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Posts Tagged ‘police’

  1. Intrigue at the Laundromat

    February 26, 2017 by Diane

    Laundry machines in public laundromat

    I was at the laundromat on a Friday morning washing the big stuff—comforter, mattress cover—the stuff too big to cram into my landlady’s washer. It was just me and three others: a geeky-looking guy with earbuds reading a book on Communism; a woman covered in tattoos sorting through newspapers; and a blonde in a purple pants-suit standing at the dryers.

    While my stuff spun dry, I sat in my car with a clear shot of the laundromat, feet on the dash, reading a detective novel. Suddenly a cop breezed by my open window, marching a young guy in handcuffs straight through the laundromat, past the blonde who fell back a step, and out the door.

    I roused myself. “That was weird,” I said, checking my lumpy load in the dryer. I added a couple more quarters.

    The blonde looked over with worried eyes.

    “You know him?” I said.

    “He’s my fiancé.”

    “Oh. Gosh.”

    The geek and tattooed lady got real fascinated with their reading.

    The blonde looked out at the police car, at the guy in the back seat, his head turned away. She sighed a lot as she folded her sheets. The cop nosed around an RV parked nearby. I figured it belonged to the blonde and her fiancé; maybe they were on their way through town, decided to catch up on laundry and rip off a nearby liquor store. I wanted to know the story, but didn’t want to pry.

    Then again, maybe she needed to talk.

    “Are you okay?” I said. Stupid question.

    “It depends on what happens,” she said.

    I couldn’t read her; did she want a sympathetic ear, or did she want to be left alone? If I was a stranger in town and my fiancé got arrested, I’d want the sympathetic type to sort out the mess in my head. But not everyone wants a fix. An ear, yes. Not a mouth to go with it. So I kept mine shut, and hovered nearby in case she wanted to talk.

    She went back to sighing, snapping her towels as she folded them, occasionally glaring at her fiancé stuck in the heat. Was the cop making him sweat it out? Thirty minutes later, they drove away.

    By then, I had my feet back on the dash.

    The tattooed lady appeared to be doling out the sympathy, leaning one hand on the counter while the blonde folded clothes, nodding. Over the top of his book, the geek’s eyes darted behind hipster glasses.

    Sometimes, when I’m in a public place, I’ll think: what if a couple of thugs wearing ski masks burst through the doors right now waving their guns, ordered everyone to hit the floor, and then tied us up? We’re all strangers, and suddenly we’re bound together.

    I had that thought as I pondered the three I might be bound to, and zeroed in on the tattooed lady. I’d seen her arrive in a beat up four-door. A man dropped her off, staying just long enough to wrestle the heavy basket of dirty clothes from the trunk. Her husband, I’d assumed, or boyfriend, judging by the peck on her lips before he roared off, no doubt to do manly things involving a six-pack and football while she did the woman’s work. That’s the story I spun. Watching her with the blonde, the way she leaned in with legs firmly planted, then rested back against the giant dryer, arms folded, looking like she’d heard it all before, been there before, had come out wiser—she didn’t look like someone who took the backseat to any man. Shows how wrong you can be, judging people.

    I decided if I was held hostage in the laundromat, I’d want the tattooed lady tied to me.

    The next week, I scoured the papers for any mention of the arrest. Evidently it was so uneventful it didn’t warrant a sentence. I don’t like stories that leave me hanging. Why was the kid hauled away in handcuffs? Did the blonde forgive him? Did she bale him out, or leave him sitting in a jail cell while she drove the RV to the Sierras? Maybe the tattooed lady joined her on some wild Thelma and Louise adventure.

    And what about the hipster reading the communist book? There was something big there, something waiting to be discovered.

    If I was a detective, I might nose around some. But I’m a writer. I’ll leave it to my imagination.

  2. This is How a Writer’s Mind Works

    November 20, 2016 by Diane

    Does this ever happen to you?

    You’re trying on a pair of pants, and the zipper gets stuck. It takes five saleswomen to get you out of the pants. And that’s not the end of it. You have to pretend to want to buy them, but everyone knows you’re too fat, or the pants too small. Whatever. It’s not a match made in heaven. So you browse the racks, and the salespeople watch. You make a selection. A pair of striped socks, and you pay for them. But when you walk out the door, the alarm goes off.

    And that’s not all.

    The security guy eating a hotdog at a wrought iron table outside the store is your nemesis from high school days, the boy who flipped burgers at the joint where you worked the counter. You’d turned him down when he asked you to the movies, so he wrote stuff about you on the wall of the employees’ bathroom, at least you think it was him. Fuck you Holcomb. Stuff like that. Not even a comma between “you” and “Holcomb.” And there he is, stuffing his face with a hot dog, when he hears the alarm go off. He tries swaggering over like a real cop, but he doesn’t have the coordination; he swings one side of his body and then the other until he’s right up in your face. You see him remembering. Or trying to. There’s something about you he recognizes, but he can’t place it.

    Does that ever happen to you?

    Yeah, me neither.

    Only in the fictional world in my mind.

    This is how a writer discovers characters.

    * * *

    At the library, I look around.

    A gaunt man wearing glasses, baseball cap, and blue windbreaker types secret messages into the computer, the cords of his neck prominent. A spy?

    A man with a rusty goatee and toupee scouts around, his eyes flicking from table to chair to corner to shelf. He spins on his heel and dashes off. A detective?

    A woman makes a bee-line for the newspaper rack. Her oversized shoulder bag, hanging diagonally across her body, bumps her thighs. Something heavy in that bag. A severed head?

    This is intrigue at its highest. The stuff of an anxious mind. Or a writer spinning plot ideas.

    * * *

    Crossing the street, I find a dollar bill. And another. And a five. What luck! Nearby, someone’s iPhone. Rats. The money has an owner. It’s an expensive phone, with a red leather case that opens like a book. Tucked inside, the owner’s driver’s license.

    A brunette, she smiles with perfect teeth.

    I’m a hundred yards from the police department. It’s Saturday, but the lobby’s open. The receptionist behind the bullet-proof window jots down my name and number. I try to slide the phone and money under the glass, but she stops me.

    “I’ll send someone out,” she says.

    A compact guy in uniform swings through the door, shakes my hand. He opens the leather case and exhales. “Whoa!” he says, inspecting the license. He uses an index finger to scroll through messages on the iPhone. “Looks like her husband is trying to reach her.”

    “I hope you don’t think I stole anything,” I say. “The money’s all there.”

    He laughs, but shoots a look at the receptionist.

    She nods, her eyes cutting to me. “I have her name and number.”

    He gives a thumbs-up.

    Later, I feel funny about the whole thing. I play what if games in my head.

    What if the cop notifies the husband? What if the husband is abusive, and the woman is on the run, in hiding? Now he knows where to hunt her down. What if the woman is already dead, and someone finds her body in a dumpster? My fingerprints are all over that phone. They’ve got my number. Me, a Good Samaritan, suddenly a prime suspect in a murder case.

    This is how a writer mines for story ideas.

  3. I Had A Visit From A Peeping Tom

    June 2, 2014 by Diane


    Ventriloquists have their dummies. I have my sub-personalities. I engage them, sometimes, to work out issues. When I had a visit from a peeper, I wanted sympathy, maybe some wisdom. What I got were wise-cracks.

    Was this visitor invited? asked my wise-cracking self.

    Of course not. It was a peeping Tom! Or Tammy. It might have been a woman. I never actually saw the person.

    How do you know the peeper was peeping?

    I saw a cell phone. My bathroom window was open a crack, and someone stuck their cell phone in so they could observe me.

    What were you doing?

    Putting on mascara.

    Not very exciting.

    I was half-naked.

    Which half?

    The bottom. No outergarment.

    You weren’t baggy panties, were you?

    Of course I wasn’t wearing…I don’t even own…the point is, someone was taking photos of me with their cell.

    Did you smile?

    No I did not. I screamed some choice words.

    The F word?


    The S word? The H word? The D word?

    No. The P word. “I’m calling the police!” I screamed.

    A heads-up.

    A warning.

    Well…that’s better than hollering, “I’m telling my mother on you!”

    Oh come on. I was in the second grade. I was being hauled off to the principal’s office by that yard duty lady. And for what? Climbing the cyclone fence.

    You were trying to escape.

    It was the second grade!

    You kicked her in the ankle.

    She deserved it. And if I had caught the peeper, I would have kicked him too. Higher up.

    So you called the cops.

    You’re darn right I called the cops. And then I put on some pants.

    Smart thinking.

    And some shoes. Some real shit-kicker shoes.

    Armed for battle.

    And then I waited in the driveway until the cop pulled in. He was an older guy, and when he got out of the car he tried to swagger, but it wasn’t all that impressive. He asked if the peeper was still around, and I said I didn’t think so, and he told me to stay put while he went around behind the cottage to investigate.

    So you followed.

    Darn tootin’. And I spotted an old wire coat hanger in the leaves behind the window—a clue!—but he wasn’t impressed.

    A coat hanger.

    And I said, “I would have heard someone crunching around in these leaves, right?” And he said, “Were you taking a shower?” And he was right…I had been. For a short period of time the peeper might have seen me completely naked when I stepped out of the shower, which is twice as mortifying as seeing me half-naked, and I must have turned crimson just thinking about it because the cop said, “Don’t worry, he didn’t see much.”


    Exactly! No sympathy. Then I followed him inside while he checked out my tiny bathroom, and I could smell the coffee on his breath.

    Any donut crumbs on his uniform?

    I didn’t notice.

    But you noticed the coat hanger.

    ANYway, we reconvened in the driveway. Another police car drove up and a thick Asian guy got out. He didn’t swagger. But he did notice that the front door of my landlady’s house was ajar. “Is that always open?” he asked, and I said “No.” Both cops drew their guns. They nudged the door wide. They crept inside. I few seconds later I heard footsteps pounding down the hall and they reappeared with the construction worker’s helper in tow.

    The who?

    There was this kid doing some remodeling work in the living room. He had dark curly hair and wild eyes and he looked like a ton of adrenaline was jolting through him when they hauled him out.

    Did he have a cell phone?

    You betcha. He shot over to his car to fetch it, and the older cop held it up and asked, “Is this the phone?” and I said, “No. Maybe. I don’t know. It all happened so fast.” He scrolled through it looking for photos, found one of interest and showed it to his partner. They both chuckled.


    Then he said, “There’s none of you,” and tossed the phone back to the kid.

    And you believed him?

    I was assured by my landlady that “nothing ever happens in this neighborhood.” The friendly neighbor two doors down even said so. “The police never even patrol here,” he said, “because nothing ever happens.” If nothing ever happens, wouldn’t a peeping Tom be an occurrence worth noting in the police blotter? But no. When I phoned the officer to see if he had any leads, his greeting was, “oops, you caught me in the shower.” And when I suggested that he feel free to patrol the neighborhood, he said, “Sure. Why don’t you invite me in for coffee.”

    Tell me you didn’t giggle. Or swoon.

    I asked the landlady for a dead-bolt on my door.

    Good girl. 

    The construction worker who installed it said, “Personally, I hope some jackass kicks my door in so I can beat the crap out of him!”

    There’s testosterone for ‘ya.

    Okay, granted, the worst that can come of this is that a half-naked photo of me appears on the front page of Yahoo.

    It would have been funnier if you were wearing baggy panties.

    Maybe. But then I would have had to kill the peeper.

    It was the kid…you know that, right?

    That’s my guess.

    Or the cop.