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Short Story

Ghost Bike

Peter Gerrard

It takes half a lifetime to get a pour-over at Premiere Coffee, and that’s on a good day.

I swear the baristas have been trained to stare in wonder at each drop of water — from when it leaves the lip of the decanter before its date with the carefully-ground beans, to when it emerges at the end of the filter­, posing dramatically in an interminable pause, as if daring gravity to intervene. Or a little nudge of encouragement from the barista. Being an all-natural establishment, the process won’t be hurried. My fingers drummed impatiently on the polished wood countertop.

Why am I so antsy?  I’m not meeting my interviewee for the lame story I’ve been assigned for another twenty minutes. I hope she doesn’t want a coffee. I buy a bottle of water in case she wants something, and water is so neutral it’s a safe bet. Who doesn’t like water?

The on-line-only newspaper I freelance for is just a hair’s breadth away from the investors pulling the plug, and the site going “404 Not Found.” I don’t think many people will notice if it disappears into the ether. As a business, it’s apparently failing to monetize the content…that being the creative output of a ragtag collection of writers, some good, some pretty bad, but all with the illusion that seeing your name on the byline is a badge of success. Yeah, I fall for it, too, but I tell myself it’s just a reason to write and not overanalyze the situation.

My beat is “Cycling in Orange County” and I usually come up with my own bicycling-related stories, but out of the blue I got an assignment. "Halloween's coming," Lester, the faceless e-mailing editor I’ve never met or even seen, says. "Find a story about cycling and paranormal happenings." I think he really hates me.

A week of talking to bike club officers and trolling coffee shops finally netted a few contacts. The stories are out there, and there are more duds than dandies. All whispered as if the narrators weren’t quite sure of what they’d experienced. But not one was willing to sit down and talk on the record. Once I pulled out my notepad or recorder they’d pale and excuse themselves.

Except for Lenore.

She reached me by email, said she’d gotten my card from a friend. “I have a story for you,” the text read. It was signed, “Lenore.” No last name, no phone number. I sent a three-word reply: “Sure. Where? When?”

Lenore wrote back that evening and suggested meeting the next afternoon at SOCO, a trendy mall full of artisanal start-ups that tend to appear and disappear weekly. There’s lots of anonymity in a hipster environment. All you need to fit in are skinny jeans with cuffs that end just above your socks.

My coffee finally dripped, I found a table for two in a dimly lit and quiet corner on the periphery of the mall, abutting a designer olive oil bar and a cupcake store suffused with pink sparkling pastries in chrome and glass displays. From my backpack I took an old cycling cap, bright yellow emblazoned with “delTongo” in blue on either side. In my email I told her she could find me by finding the cap. I tossed it to the center of the table, next to my notepad and pen. Damned if I would wear it.

I was swirling the last of my coffee, watching it eddy around the heavy ceramic mug, wondering if she was going to show up when I felt a presence. I hadn’t heard anyone, but when I looked past the rim of the cup a woman was standing across the table.

“Nice hat,” she said.


I nodded, half rose, and motioned for her to have a seat across from me. She didn’t move at first, and the heavy hood of her dark coat hid her eyes, like in a depiction of a Medieval penitent where you mostly see the chin, mouth and tip of the nose. What I could see of her skin was pale, and her thin lips a flash of scarlet, and the band of a red choker encircled her neck. The rest of her clothing was as black as her coat, the shade of black that seems to suck in light and not reflect it at all.


We exchanged vague pleasantries, me sitting, she still standing. I expected it would take some time to get her comfortable. But she suddenly tossed back the hood. Her eyes were a Thai jewel scarab’s glistening green. They were framed by thin black eyebrows, highly defined cheekbones, and shoulder-length ebony hair with razor-straight bangs almost tickling the brows.


I couldn’t read if she suddenly trusted me or was in a hurry. But I sensed she had too much emotion welling up inside her to sit still, or maybe she was just tired of trying to contain it.


“What do you know about ghost bikes?”


I gave her what I suspected she didn’t want: “They’re bikes painted white, tires, wheels, saddle, the whole shebang, marking where a cyclist was killed. It’s basically a roadside memorial and a wake-up call to drivers.”


“That’s not even the half of it,” she said.


“The facts of it.”


“Then you need to find the nuances, the meanings and emotions that emanate from the pictures, notes, photographs and floral tributes that appear and wither away. You need to grasp how the whole tableau touches people.” Her voice was steely now, no sarcasm, and she seemed very certain and set about this.


“You need to find out why.”


“I wouldn’t begin to argue with you,” I replied, “But that’s another assignment. It’s a good one, and thanks for the editorial direction.” It sounded as snarky as I’d intended, but Lenore didn’t seem visibly bothered.


“I’m on a wild goose chase to find paranormal stories,” I continued. “Eerie stories. Ghost stories, not ghost bike stories.” I said this with as much calmness and patience I could summon, the overpriced coffee setting me more on edge than I wanted it to, and I could hear it in my tone.


If what I’d said offended her, she brushed it off.


“Let me tell you a story,” she said, “and you decide what to do with it.”


“No guarantees.”


“None expected,” she almost sighed. Lenore didn’t sit down. I had the feeling I was about to be lectured, or was the audience for a performance, as she looked down at me. I held out the water, hoping she might accept it as a sign of trust.

“I don’t drink,” she said. I put it down next to the hat. I picked up my pen and pad. This didn’t bother her.


“Let me start at the beginning. Maybe not the beginning for all concerned, but a point where I can corral all the connections into some semblance of a narrative.

“So, to disembody myself from the main character, here’s a point of origin. My point of origin.” She looked at me, as if needing a prompt to continue.


I nodded. 


“A cyclist is hit and run and left to die in a neighborhood where this sort of unrefined activity isn’t supposed to happen.”


She paused. I had the feeling she wanted me to say something.


“You’re talking about a specific incident or in general terms?”


“What do you think?”


“Specific.” Not a hard guess on my part.


“Yeah. Let me flesh it out for you. No one saw what happened. It’s an odd place, out in the open, away from homes and property, and all the security cameras are pointed inwards towards things worth protecting.


“My narrative gets its first voice in the form of a 911 call from someone out walking her dog, just after daybreak. She says there’s been a terrible accident. She tells the dispatcher where and she’s told to wait, emergency crews are en route.


“When the police arrive, she’s sitting on the curb, wringing her hands. She points to a dark shape in the road’s center, a few feet past the remains of a bicycle. They are quick to isolate the scene. An ambulance noses in, and the EMTs are back in it almost as fast as they scramble out. There’s no life to save.


“The woman is interviewed, of course. She tells the investigator she heard a car coming up behind her quickly. It accelerated and sped by her so closely she had to jump sideways and yank the dog out of the way by its leash. She wondered if it had aimed at her. The car — “Silver, I think, but I can’t be sure.”  — whipped past and arced around the bend where you can see the Pacific from the road. She thought she heard a thump — “Two thumps, like the sound a car makes going over a speed bump.” Then the noise of car doors opening, followed seconds later by the slamming shut of a trunk and doors. Then the sound of a car leaving. Then a horrible quiet.


“She says she walked towards the corner, the dog pulling her back a little, as if he sensed something unsettling. But she had to look. She tells the cops she felt compelled to.


“There was a blinking red light in the middle of the street, and as she got closer, she could see it was coming from a bike, twisted as if someone or something had tried to wrench it into pieces. The dog was making low guttural noises now, and she didn’t have to use the leash to keep it from going towards the pool of blood — “It glistened like liquid metal,” she related —oozing towards her. Her eyes followed its path past the bike, past the still-spinning front wheel, past the single white cycling shoe laying on its side, the toe pointing towards a shapeless mass that she knew had been a living thing. She couldn’t bring herself to check.”


Lenore took a breath. I remembered a report that was so perfunctory as to be a simple cold series of words. I didn’t recall any follow up.


“I saw a report, ‘Cyclist Killed in Pelican Hill Hit -and-Run,’ I think,” I said.


“That was pretty much it.” She took a breath.


“I’ll bet you didn’t see any mention about the state of the rider’s remains.”


My skin began to crawl at what she was suggesting.


“How do you know all of this?” 


“I just do,” she said. “There’s more, but you need to find it yourself.”


Suddenly she was in motion, raising her hood while pivoting on her heels to leave. Lenore was halfway to the mall’s exit before I could react. I didn’t think she heard me call out to her, but she stopped and turned towards me. I saw those green, glowing eyes from the shadows of the hood. Then she was gone.


I went home and tried to research Lenore’s story. It wasn’t difficult. But there wasn’t much.


A month earlier a rider had been killed in the hills of Newport Coast, a hit-and-run. The rider, a woman named Emilie Parkwood, “…had died on impact.”


The rider was identified through an ID bracelet on what was left of her left arm and a print from the one finger that wasn’t mangled. It seemed she didn’t have any family, so her remains were on a slab in a cold locker at the county coroner’s facility.


According to the reports the only lead the police had come from a license plate, gleaned from a traffic cam at an intersection down the road from the “incident.” The cam’s time stamp was consistent with the 911 call log. The car was silver, but the plate came back to an abandoned vehicle, up on blocks a county away.


A ghost bike had been placed at the scene.  The only photo I found was a wide shot in one of the local papers, showing the white ghost bike and a collection of flowers and votive candles placed around it. There seemed to be a picture attached to the bike’s frame, but even enlarged, it was only a blurry collection of pixels. All I could find about Emilie was that she was female and rode with one of the local cycling clubs. I looked up the club, and on its website I noted there was a ride from a local park the next day.


I showed up and didn’t get much more than I already knew. The riders I spoke with were mostly concerned that the police hadn’t made any progress. And while many people had met or ridden with Emilie, they had surprisingly little to say about her.


“She was really kind, had a wonderful smile, but was very private,“ one person ventured, and this summed up the consensus of all the observations. “She was training for a bike trip to the Alps, so she was always looking to ride hills,“ volunteered another. “You know, I think she had a sister who died, too.” “Once she told me she moved back here to try and find the truth of it,” said another, “but she didn’t ever elaborate.” I’d have to dig into that, I knew. “We will miss her…but honestly no one really knew Emilie.”


The next morning, early, I rode my bike up to Pelican Hill to visit Emilie’s ghost bike. It didn’t seem right to drive up there. I needed to feel the gravity of the situation — being on the bike would give me time for my thoughts to percolate, and possibly my sense of awareness regarding what had transpired would be stronger.


I followed the route I imagined she’d taken, the long way up, starting from where San Joaquin Hills Road starts (or ends) at the Back Bay estuary and cresting at Newport Coast. In the diffused early morning light the sky was as gray as the roadway.


It’s not a particularly difficult ascent, but it is more than five miles long. And if you’re not in decent shape, it’s work. I hadn’t been cycling much and, two miles in, my legs were barking and my lungs as equally aggrieved.


At the top the cloud cover broke as Newport Coast Road settles into a short rolling section before starting downhill towards the ocean. As I surmised Emilie did, I made the right on Pelican Hill, which climbs until the road bends left and you drop toward the ridge above PCH, the highway that threads its way along the California coast, the one where I knew the Ghost Bike was waiting. A motorcycle cop half-hiding in a side street pointed a radar gun at me. I was flying, my eyes streaming tears, from the wind, mostly.


Just past that street there’s a narrow grassy area where you can see from Dana Point to Palos Verdes and Catalina if it’s a really clear day. It was one of those days.


The ghost bike was right along the concrete curb, a shimmering white thing leaning on a light pole a few feet past where a small hedge ended. 


I braked and came to stop. Someone had put up a sign on the bike, “We love you, Emilie.”  Intermixed with the remnants of the glass votive candles I’d seen in the news story were a few flower bouquets. They were well past their glory, but they still accented and added color to the overbearing starkness of the bicycle: tires, rims, spokes, bars and saddle, all white.  Lifeless, bloodless.


A color photograph of a woman was centered in the triangle of the bike’s frame. She was turned slightly away from the photographer, as if she’d looked back right when the picture was taken. She had jet black hair, and hard-edged bangs. The metallic green of her eyes startled me. I’d seen the same eyes a few days before, at the hipster mall.


I couldn’t look at the memorial for long, but I couldn’t leave yet. There was a small space between the hedge and the edge of the drop, with enough room behind it to sit and not see the white bike. Or be seen. I rolled my bicycle over and laid it down.


I smoothed the dirt with my shoe and sat, cross-legged. I was lost in my thoughts. A light breeze murmured in the surrounding brush, the flower bouquets trembling and whispering. I imagined I could hear the surf and smell the saltwater's brininess.


The quiet ended with a car pulling up, rudely and noisily. Doors slammed; From behind me I heard footsteps. I figured it was her friends. I couldn’t see a random car stopping, even out of curiosity. People who live on Newport Coast don’t have time for curiosity unless money is involved.


Then there was laughter, harsh and grating. I was stunned, and I stood to look. There were two men standing in front of the bike, finding some perverse humor in the scene. They were well dressed, in what to me looked like expensive clothing carefully designed and tailored to give a casual vibe. The shorter of them kicked over a vase with roses, breaking the glass and scattering the flowers. They turned and noticed me.  The tall one smiled, a cruel leer, really. I saw the flash of what I’m sure was a Rolex as he raised his arm. Not to hit me, but to curl his hand up and gesture, one finger extended ahead, thumb up. He raised it higher, to his eye, and squinted. He was letting me know he was aiming at me. His friend chuckled.

“One rider down. Want to be next?”


They knew I couldn’t do anything. And that was enough, I guess. They went back to the car. As it pulled away, I saw a deep and long scratch on the right front fender’s silver paint.


It got quiet again. I was angry at them, at myself, for Emilie, and at everything that in my mind conspired to allow things like this to happen. I should have called the cops. But it ended up that I didn’t have to.


I heard a motorcycle approaching. It was the cop I’d seen earlier. I didn’t rush to him. He stopped and looked at me for a few moments, turned off the bike, eased himself off the saddle and came over to me.


“Sir, are you alright?”


His tone was soft, and more caring than the just-the-facts ma’am officious attitude I was expecting. Aside from his voice, he was everything you expect in a motor cop. Husky, tall riding boots. Leathers, a blue stripe on the pants. A glossy helmet, and soulless mirrored aviator glasses. He wore a Newport Beach Police shield on one shirt pocket, and “Sgt. Dunsel” engraved on a name badge pinned to the other.  


I found myself rattling off what had happened, more factually than emotionally, but even I could hear the catch in my voice. When I finished, he said, “Wait here.” He walked back to the motorcycle, started it, and took off.


I waited. I had no reason not to.


After a while I noticed the wail and whine of sirens, I figured they were from the Fire Station at the top of Newport Coast. There were more sirens. I peered over the embankment and saw an engine followed by a paramedic unit racing toward Newport Coast from Corona del Mar. It got quiet again.


About a half-hour passed, I think. I heard the purr of a motorcycle coming back up Pelican Hill. It was Sergeant Dunsel. He pulled over to the curb, idling, but didn’t shut down the bike. I walked over to him, close enough to touch him. But I didn’t. The engine rumbled softly.


He reached to me and rested his gloved left hand on my arm. “It’s over,” he said. “Don’t worry about a thing.”  I nodded. He kicked his motorcycle into gear and rode back up Pelican Hill. I watched him until he disappeared around the bend.


 I saw a story in the paper the next day about two guys dying in a car crash on Newport Coast. They went over the edge and into the ravine between the two places that Pelican Hill Road loops into Newport Coast Road. The car hit a light pole which cut it in half just behind the front doors. The front flipped and exploded. The back section rolled to a stop a few feet away. The EMTs couldn’t do a thing except watch them burn.


According to the report, the only witness was a guy they’d passed. He said they came up behind him going really fast.  As they went by, he said he could see the driver’s face, and he looked terrified, like he was being chased by a demon. The witness said he thought they were being chased by a motorcycle. The police, as they say, were investigating.


I needed more. I wanted closure.


I know an officer who works with the Newport Beach Police Department, in Public Affairs.  I called him. I said I was working on a story. He said he’d talk to me at the station if I came in, but probably couldn’t tell me much on the record. I said that was fine. I went there the next day.


I didn’t tell him everything, just that I’d seen the two guys and what they’d said. He took lots of notes. Then he went and got the incident report, but he wouldn’t let me read it.


I prodded him, and he opened up a little. “There are traffic and security cameras at the intersection and at the resort across from the end of Pelican Hill,” he told me while scanning the report.  “There’s footage of the car, making a left and heading up Newport Coast Road, at a normal clip at first, and then suddenly burning rubber and running the next light, going around the witness’ vehicle, still accelerating as it began to fishtail, spin, and hit the light pole. It disappears from the camera’s view just as it flips and drops out of view. There’s the lick of flames and some smoke. That’s it.”  He said the investigation was pretty well over and closed the folder.


I asked him about the motorcycle the witness thought was chasing the car. He said that there was no motorcycle on any of the footage and that the guy imagined it.


So I told him about Sergeant Dunsel, mostly with the idea that he’d pass along my thanks for his kindness. My friend got a funny look on his face, and said, “Who?”


I described the officer, and his bike, and how I saw him, everything I could remember. He was really listening. But he didn’t write anything down.


When I finished, he picked up his desk phone and made a call, making sure I couldn’t listen to what he was saying. He nodded to whoever he was conversing with, as if he was being given an order. He pulled the phone away from his mouth and asked me if I’d mind talking with one of his investigators who’d be available in a few minutes. I said I didn’t mind. “Yes,” he said, and hung up.


We stared at each other, until he finally got a call. “Okay, we’ll be right there,” he said to whoever was on the other end of the line.


I followed him down two flights of stairs to a basement-level interrogation room. My friend led me in.


There was a rectangular table with chairs on either side, like you see in the old movies. Walls blank, except for an old round clock that may have been an afterthought. It was working, as far as I could tell. A guy was sitting on one of the chairs, in plainclothes. Middle aged, thin, short-cropped gray hair with matching steely eyes, his hands resting on the almost empty tabletop, which had no folders, no papers, no pens, Just a small manila envelope, centered in front of him. The size a dentist uses to give you back a tooth or broken crown. He motioned me to sit. “Please call me Jim.” He looked at my friend and said, “You can leave now.”


There was a camera on a tripod pointing at me from behind me, and its record light was on. He got up and stopped it.


“Tell me your story,” he said. I repeated what I’d reported upstairs to my friend. It was all I had.


“We think we know so much,” he muttered to himself after I’d finished. Then he looked straight at me. You know what he said---there was no Sergeant Dunsel on the Newport Beach Police Department. Not now, or ever. He paused. I knew he had more to tell me.


“Here’s the rub, then,” he said. “We did have a Sergeant Rogers. He was a motor cop. He raised two daughters on his own after his wife died of cancer. Twins. One of them was killed crossing the street near their house, a hit-and- run. A woman who happened to look out her window when she heard the impact caught most of the license plate. It traced back to a rental car company, and the car it belonged to was missing a plate.  We never arrested a suspect.


“Rogers was devastated. When our detectives put it in the cold case file he tried investigating on his own. Naturally, we stopped him. We let him keep working, but made him take a desk job.


“He wanted his old job back. Said he felt worthless working in the office. He started calling himself “Sergeant Dunsel.” Someone finally figured out it was an obscure Star Trek reference, about a person who had a title but served no useful purpose anymore. I never figured him for a Trekkie. Who knew?”


“Rogers took early retirement as soon as we could offer it to him, and I think a few rules may have bent to help it along. We hoped he’d leave and start a new life. But he stayed in the area. A few of his old motor buddies kept in touch for a while, but he wanted no part of it. I heard he kept investigating his daughter’s death.”

Jim paused, and appeared lost in thought.  


The silence unnerved me, so I asked, “You mentioned two daughters?”


“The surviving one was estranged by this point. I heard she was never the same after her sister died. Maybe she suffered whatever it is that connects twins, in ways that aren’t easily explained.  Our shrink thought so, anyway.  He said twins often report feeling each other’s pain, even when they’re not in the same location, and sometimes scars will manifest themselves on the one who wasn’t actually harmed. Rogers told us she was bitter at him for not finding who killed her sister. Even changed her name and moved back East. I think she came back for his funeral and may have stayed.”


It got quiet again. Jim looked at the wall clock, as if it could give him direction, or permission to finish his story. I examined it, too. I imagined I could hear the seconds ticking by. When I gazed back to Jim he was staring at the desk, and maybe at the small envelope. Then he looked up to me and continued.


“Our chaplain knew a pastor at the church Rogers used to attend, and he got a call last year that Rogers was in a bad way and in a hospice. On a whim he visited Rogers. Surprisingly, they actually had a good conversation. “I know I’m going to die,’ he told the chaplain, ‘But I know in my heart I’ll never be at peace until I’ve finished my job.’ We saw his obit in The Daily Pilot two days later.”


I looked at Jim, and said, “So that’s it?” He folded his hands together and didn’t say anything. I got up to leave, and as I turned away, he said, “There’s something else.”


I sat back down.


Jim unfolded his hands and stared at me intently. “You’re not the first person to report running into a Sergeant Dunsel. Without exception it always is connected to a hit-and-run. I can’t explain it, and we’ll never acknowledge it officially.”


What about unofficially. I wondered. But Jim continued before I could ask.


“I did some checking after I was told about your story, the part about meeting Dunsel, before you came down here. Our logs are really good, and every patrol car and bike has continual GPS communications for confirmation. It just takes a second to query the database.”

“Let me guess,” I commented. “You got nothing.”

 “We didn’t have any motor officers assigned to Pelican Hill Road that day. The GPS tracking confirms that not one unit even drove through there within four hours of when you had your run-in.”


“And the investigation into the crash?”

“I know our guys went through the accident scene with a fine-toothed comb, and I’m satisfied that we retrieved every bit of evidence related to that car losing control and the fatalities.”


“But you still haven’t identified the men in the car,” I said. “Is this still an open case?”


“They were burned beyond recognition, and their skins essentially melted off. The nickname is ‘Crispy Critters.’ It’s an awful term, but it lets the investigators and EMTs get some distance from the horror. Gallows humor, I guess. We did get some DNA, but it’ll be months or more before we get any hits. If we ever do.”


Something in his tone told me there wasn’t going to be much effort in identifying and sensationalizing these men. They would always be John Does One and Two.


“What about the car?”


“This stays here,” he said. “Agreed?”


I nodded my assent.


“Like you know, it was cut in half. But only the front section burned.” He stopped, as if lost in a bad thought. I wasn’t sure he’d want to continue. But he pushed on.


“The rear was strangely undamaged, except for the trunk lid. We couldn’t get it open. We loaded it on a flatbed and brought it into our lab.


“The techs had to drill out the lock, and a second one hidden behind the license plate. Incidentally, the plate matched the one reported in Emilie’s incident.


“Inside the trunk were a dozen sealed plastic bags, each containing a license plate and other items. One traced back to the death of Roger’s daughter, Lenore.”


“Lenore.” A chill ran down my spine. I told Jim about my meeting. His brow furrowed, and his shoulders sagged, as if an invisible weight had dropped on them.  


I asked, “Was there anything else?”


“There were trophies, I guess you’d call them. Odd shoes, hats, items reported missing from hit-and-run cases, things we never found. Clippings from newspapers about the deaths in each bag, neatly folded.


“There was also an ice chest, full of dry ice.” He stopped and let my imagination run wild into darkness.


“We never reported that Emilie Parkwood’s corpse wasn’t intact. Beneath the first layer of ice was a plastic bag.”


Jim slid back from the desk and opened the top drawer. He pulled out a folder and slid it across the table to me. It was labeled, “Parkwood,” with a case number below it.


I picked it up. Inside was a typed report, and color photos from the accident scene and the lab. The last ones were from the ice chest, showing it intact and being carefully examined.


On top of the first layer of ice was a sealed bag with newspaper articles. Below that was what looked like a cantaloupe, tightly wrapped in plastic.


I stopped looking after the photograph showing it peeled open, revealing those scarab green eyes. Like Lenore’s. Jim’s offhand remark about twins and shared experiences made me wonder what the choker around Lenore’s neck had been hiding.


“I think I read you ID’d her from a fingerprint?”


“Yeah. The print matched a California Driver’s License issued to any Emilie Parkwood. That satisfied the protocols. But I had a sense that that wasn’t everything.”


“Let me guess, I said. “Parkwood wasn’t her name.”


“Yes and no. She’d legally changed it from Rogers.”


Jim sat quietly for a moment. His hands were clasped together, almost in prayer.


“The day after the crash,” he continued, “after that discovery, I went back to the scene to walk it. To try to look at it from a different perspective. I had some weird feeling. I started at the bottom of the hill, where all the cameras are. I hiked the half-mile to where the car flipped and burned. I didn’t find anything.”


He wasn’t really looking at me, more looking past, as if what he was telling me was something he needed to keep out of focus for the sake of his own sanity.


“When I got back to my car and started the engine, I saw a warning light indicating the fuel door was ajar. I don’t know how it got open; it latches when you lock the doors. I’d had to unlock the car before I got in. It’s not just a warning light, there’s a voice you can’t turn off that keeps nagging at you to close it. So, I got out and went to shut the fuel door. It wouldn’t close. I looked inside and saw the hinge was blocked.”


Jim pushed the small envelope over to me. I picked it up.


I undid the metal clasp, opened it, and shook the contents onto the table.  Two items fell out, dropping onto the wooden desk with a soft metallic clink.


One was a Newport Beach Police badge. The second one was a small rectangular piece of plastic. It had landed upside-down, showing a pin clasp like one you might use to attach a name tag to a uniform.


I flipped it over, to the side that read, “Sgt. Dunsel.”


Peter Gerrard grew up in Southern California, and ended up “Behind the Orange Curtain,” specifically Irvine. While he attended UCI for graduate school (which he never finished), his wife Kim and two sons are Anteaters with degrees. He likes to ski, and ride bikes that are embarrassingly expensive but at least environmentally justifiable. Classes and seminars at IVC and Chapman keep his interest in writing fresh.

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