I actually wrote this almost five years ago, but I still like it.
This story was inspired by the Steve Perry, Neal Schon, and Jonathan Cain song of the same title performed by Journey on the album Escape. The lyrics about a small-town girl and a city boy from Detroit, the loneliness of the smoky room have always created vivid images in my mind. When I finally decided to do something about the stuff rolling around in my head, this story came to mind.
Here’s the first chapter. There’s a lot more of it done – over 14,000 words right now. I probably won’t post any more for a while, but this should give you a taste.
I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, trying to pry them open to comprehend the scene around me, yet trying to block the sunlight streaming through my bedroom window. I really needed to remember to close that curtain at night. The phone trilled again in my ear.
“Scotty, it’s Mike. Are you awake?”
I considered several possible responses to the question, none of which would leave me in good standing with my pastor if he heard them. “Yeah. Basically. What’s up?”
“What’s the name of that girl you’ve been seeing?”
“You mean Samantha? Why?”
“Have you talked to her lately?”
I paused for a moment, still rubbing smoke from my eyes. “Uh, no, not really. Why do you ask?”
“Is her last name Taylor?”
This was going to annoy me at this rate. It was early in the morning, I had been up too late last night, and Mike wasn’t answering my questions. “Yeah. Look, Mike, it’s not even seven yet. I was up late covering a fire last night, and I’ve gotten all of about two hours of sleep. Unless you’ve got a Pulitzer-grade story for me to chase down, I’m going back to bed.” That wasn’t exactly the truth. In reality, I hadn’t gotten out of bed, so I couldn’t really go back to bed, but Mike didn’t need to know that.
“CPD arrested a Samantha Taylor for murder last night, on that guy they found by Cooper Stadium, the stabbing. I’m reading the Dispatch now.”
Suddenly cold, I punched the “Off” button, tossing the phone on the bed as I scurried over to my laptop and opened the Dispatch web page. “Ex-Prostitute Charged In Brutal Stabbing” was the lead story. I scanned the article quickly at first, then went back for a longer look, trying without much success to avoid looking at the photos accompanying the article. The crime scene was familiar to me since I had covered it as a stringer for the paper. The girl listed as an ex-prostitute and ex-stripper who was accused of the murder was also familiar to me, or at least I thought she was. Samantha had apparently skipped a couple parts of her resume on our late afternoon dates.
The article didn’t tell me all that much about the murder. About three days ago, some guy named Victor James had been found next to his car behind Cooper Stadium, with his throat slashed. Not much was known about Mr. James yet, although they had apparently found his next of kin, since they were identifying him. The cops weren’t saying what led them to Samantha, but they did say they had pretty conclusive evidence tying her to the crime scene.
The information about Sam was much more enlightening. She had a record, having been arrested about eight years ago for soliciting. She was also an ex-stripper, and according to the story, had a string of adult businesses in Columbus and surrounding counties. It looked like she owned a couple of clubs, and about half a dozen bookstores. Well, that would certainly explain why she was never free during the evenings, now wouldn’t it?
Automat came from a writing class. The instructor had us choose a photo postcard from a face-down pile, then gave us ten minutes to crank out a descriptive passage. The image I ended up with was Edward Hopper’s Automat.