24 May 2010
LIFE WAS PRETTY GOOD. I was eighteen months into my parole, and staying out of trouble. I had a job. Heck, I had my own company and the money that came with it. Not a lot at first, but it was finally starting to pick up. Who knew an ex-con could make money selling recovered police evidence and property? I had a girlfriend now, too, who accepted me with all the baggage that comes with a convicted felon. It almost couldn’t get better. Then I saw her.
It was odd that I even found her. Usually the departments I got stuff from were consistent about erasing files and such. I hardly ever double-checked them, just because they had gotten so consistent.
Even stranger was that there was a case number attached to her. That’s only about the third time it’d happened since I started Graybar Auctions. One department up in upstate New York had let some stuff slip through, but it was their first time shipping stuff to me. I’d been working with Westwood PD in Alabama, the department that sent this shipment to me, almost since the beginning. They’d helped me work out my rules, so they knew the drill. I shook my head.
I looked at the seventeen images on my screen for almost fifteen minutes. I think it was her eyes that sent me over the edge. Even Maria, my office assistant, commented on it.
“You know, I think that’s who that guy had in mind when he sang that line, ‘restless and reckless and lost.’”
She was pretty and young. Long blonde hair framed a small face in six photos. It was pulled back into pigtails in three, and in a single ponytail or braid in the rest. She wore three different outfits. The locations were unremarkable. Most were inside. Some showed her on a couch, and one showed her cooking. The outside shots looked posed, and could’ve passed for high school graduation photos, if she’d been old enough to graduate. She looked happy outside.
There was something haunting about her. The look in her eyes was distant and maybe a little bit sad. Maria’s comment about “Out of the Frying Pan” by Meat Loaf cued up the song in my head and I let it play mentally as I stared. “Restless and reckless and lost” fit her all too well. So did “the walking wounded and the living dead.” The resolution on the pictures was good enough that I could see she’d been crying in the last two.
I finally shook off the willies creeping up my spine, and checked out the forty other memory cards in the box. Took me an hour. I didn’t find anything else weird, which calmed me down. A little. There were two cameras, the cards, and some jewelry in the shipment. I stuffed everything into the safe in the backroom and got back to work.
The rest of the day seemed to fly in a blur. I saw all the outbound boxes piled by the backdoor waiting for UPS to pick them up, but I couldn’t tell you anything about any of the auctions. Usually something stuck in my head about each batch of stuff I sent out. I could tell you where a shipment was going, or something about my contact at one of the departments. Today, though, I was still stuck on The Sad Girl. Maria had named her that, and it fit.
-The Sad Girl by Bob Mueller
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