“Six people died in an avoidable accident caused by an out of control delivery truck. A man on the run from the police stole the delivery truck after robbing a convenience store. He ran a red light and smashed into two other vehicles killing the drivers and their passengers after hitting the vehicles at a very high speed.” The news reporter showed the aftermath of the accident, or at least some of it, behind her on the screen. It had piqued Lucy Morgen’s curiosity when the reporter stated that the robber had mysteriously disappeared.
Things had not gone well at the convenience store for him or the unfortunate few patrons of the place. He had entered the store to buy some ibuprofen to take the edge off a splitting headache. He brought the box of ibuprofen and a bottle of water to the register only to discover that he was short on cash. Rather than pay for the two items, he pocketed the ibuprofen and started to walk toward the door with the water when the cashier protested.
“You have to pay for those. I’ll call the cops if you don’t.”
Angered by the challenge, the robber returned to the register and brandished a gun. “Don’t tell me what to do. I tell you what to do. Empty the register into a paper bag. Now! Or else…” The robber waggled the gun in the clerk’s face.
The clerk opened the register and began to stuff the contents into a small plastic bag. “I’m sorry, sir. We don’t have any paper bags. Will plastic do?”
One of the patrons, feeling brave because he was carrying a gun, tried to shoot the robber. He missed. But another patron, suspecting that he was another robber, took it upon himself to topple a row of shelves onto the shooter. While the shooter was falling to the ground, he fired off another round. The bullet shattered the glass of a nearby refrigeration unit and wounded a delivery driver who had just come in the back door to get a signature from a worker hiding in the stock room.
By the time the police had arrived, the robber had left with the cash from the register and several bottles of scotch that he had grabbed on his way out the back door. He commandeered the delivery van sitting by the dock and took off down a back alley. A neighboring apartment dweller had heard the shots and called the police. He had stayed on the line while waiting for them to arrive at the scene. When he saw the van take off from the store, he informed the person on the other end of the line.
The police pursuit of the van had caused some narrow escapes for both the van and the police prior to the fatal accident. The robber honestly thought that he would clear the opening in the lanes ahead before the next cars entered the intersection. He was wrong as evidenced by the resulting collision between the delivery van and two cars. It was a spectacular accident with all three vehicles spinning and rolling around in the intersection. The robber who stole the van disappeared into the crowd of onlookers as soon as the van stopped spinning on the avenue.
Only three people from inside the vehicles died in the crash. The other three fatalities were pedestrians struck by the rolling vehicles. There were many injured people as a result of the ensuing panic the accident caused. Many of the people who had run away came back to view the aftermath and hopefully to get their faces on camera.
The ‘he’ who robbed the convenience store was actually a ‘she’ named Iris Spinch. As she worked her way through the crowd of onlookers, she realized that she had lost her bottle of water in the crash. She still had the bag of cash and the ibuprofen in her coat pockets. She fished them out and transferred the items to her shoulder bag and tossed the coat into a nearby refuse bin along with the baseball cap she was wearing. She shook out her long blond hair and walked to the nearest tram stop.
The police issued a bulletin for people to be on the lookout for a man wearing a gray hooded jacket and a black baseball cap based on descriptions obtained from eyewitnesses to the robbery and the camera footage from the store. This announcement came several minutes after a blond woman wearing a pink floral tank top and carrying a purple shoulder bag boarded a southbound tram.
Several stops later, a black woman with curly red hair left the tram and entered a corner store to buy a bottle of water. A few minutes later she was walking toward an apartment building. She walked into the courtyard and took a seat by the pool. She opened the box of ibuprofen and took out four tablets. After throwing the tablets to the back of her throat, she downed the contents of the bottle of water.
Dumping the loose cash into her bag, she wrapped the empty box and plastic bottle in the plastic bag and shoved them into a nearby trash can. A few minutes later, a young black man emerged from the apartment complex looking like a reject from the nineteen sixties. He walked a few blocks before cutting down an alley. Inside the alley, he exchanged his shirt and jeans for a dress and his walking shoes for a pair of heels. The person who emerged at the other end of the alley was a young Asian female sporting a yellow nylon backpack emblazoned with a large red and white ball surrounded by some Asian characters.
Iris Spinch knew how to outsmart ordinary surveillance methods and facial recognition systems. The police would never be able to catch her. But she had attracted the attention of the one person who could track her and was hot on her trail. Lucy Morgen had bypassed the mini-mart and gone straight to the accident scene. She followed Iris through the crowd, watched her board the tram, and kept pace with her every move. She watched as Iris’ afterimages morphed, smiling at each change of face.
Lucy arrived at Iris’ apartment just as she was dumping out the contents of her bag. She had just gathered together all the cash from the robbery when Lucy knocked on her door. “Just a minute.” She covered the pile of cash with her backpack, then ran to answer the door. She peeked through the peephole at the woman standing outside her apartment. Lucy knocked again, smiling and staring straight at the peephole. Iris jerked her head away from the door. “Who are you?”
“Either your new best friend or your worst nightmare. It all depends on how I come through this door.”
Iris paused to consider the alternatives. She let out a deep sigh and unlocked the door. The woman who walked through the door didn’t sound like a cop, but she did seem dangerous. And Iris had experienced enough danger in the last twenty-four hours to last a lifetime.
Lucy took a good hard look at Iris. She wanted to be sure that she was seeing the real Iris Spinch. The woman offering her a seat had short ginger hair and green eyes. Dark brown freckles peppered her skin. She still wore the yellow sailor dress and heels that she had donned in the last alley that she had cut through. “My name is Lucy.” She held out her hand.
Iris hesitated. She could sense danger, but she also sensed no ill will. Gingerly, she took the stranger’s hand and clasped it gently. “Iris. It’s nice to meet you.” She wondered if it indeed was nice to meet Lucy, but she remained hopeful.
Lucy stared deep into Iris’ soul. Iris hadn’t set out to get anyone hurt. Iris just wanted to get rid of the damned headache that she had. Lucy wished that she could do something to change what had happened. She understood what it was like to be a loose cannon. Lucy sighed. “Mister Smith, I need you.”
Iris furrowed her brow. “Who’s Mr. Smith?” John Smith appeared in the room seconds later. “Oh, hello.”
John smiled wanly at the woman who greeted him, then turned to face Lucy. “What’s going on?”
“I need a recently deceased, but not yet discovered male body to be placed near the scene of a fatal accident that occurred downtown in the last hour.”
“Any thoughts on where I might find one?”
“I haven’t a clue. Isn’t finding things your department?”
“Put this hoodie and ball cap on the body. The cash from the register is in the left pocket. Drop this empty box nearby. It won’t matter if they find the bottle. They’ll figure that he was opening the box when the accident occurred.” John took the items that Lucy held out for him and vanished.
“I needed that money to pay the rent.” Iris pouted.
“Is the rent overdue?”
“No, but if I want to keep the apartment, I have to pay for next month.”
“Pack up what you own. You’re moving.”
“Someplace a lot nicer than jail.”