ALPHABET SOUP STORIES: C is for Cassandra

image

Cassandra Miller had just settled her two girls in front of the TV, giving each a bowl of dry Cheerios to munch on, when there was a knock at the front door.

She looked through the small peephole and saw a man and woman in uniform. The woman was holding a large manila envelope. Taking a deep breath, Cassandra opened the door.

“Mrs. Miller? Cassandra Miller?” asked the male cop.

Cassandra nodded and stepped outside, closing the door quietly behind her. “Yes. What can I do for you?”

“Ma’am, I’m Lieutenant Laura Ridgely and this is Sergeant Frank Rollins. We were hoping we could ask you a few questions,” said the female police officer. “Do you remember Tommy Boyle?”

Cassandra sighed. “Yes… the detective.”

“That’s right, ma’am. He told us you were instrumental in assisting him with the Dickerson case…”

Cassandra closed her eyes. The Dickerson case. Images of the young woman’s bones being dug up from a basement floor swam before her. She swayed slightly.

“Mrs. Miller? Are you alright?” asked Ridgely, touching her forearm.

Cassandra opened her eyes and stared into the woman’s face. It was a good face. Honest. “I’m fine. Detective Boyle sent you to me?”

Ridgely nodded.

“You do much of a business?” asked Rollins, pointing at the sign in the corner of Cassandra’s front window:

PSYCHIC READINGS
$25.00

“Depends. Some weeks are better than others. Would you like to come in?”

“Please,” said Ridgely. “We’d like to show you a few things, let you handle them… We’re hoping you can help us, Mrs. Miller.”

She herded the pair inside, past the kids watching cartoons and into the kitchen. “Would you like a cup of coffee?”

“No, thanks, we just want to ask – ”

Ridgely interrupted her partner. “That would be lovely – thank you. Sergeant Rollins likes his black, but I’d like a little milk in mine.”

Cassandra started the coffee and pulled what was left of a blueberry pie out of the refrigerator. “You’ll have to keep your voices down. I don’t want my kids hearing what you have to say.” She sliced the pie and pushed a plateful toward Rollins. “You look like a man who might be fond of pie, Sergeant.”

Ridgely smiled, noticing her partner’s paunch. Rollins eagerly took the pie.

After pouring the coffee, Cassandra sat down. “Well, I suppose you’re here to ask me to look at some photographs. That’s what Detective Boyle asked me to do last year. You know, I still have dreams about the Dickerson girl.  I swore after helping Boyle that I’d never get involved in another murder case. I don’t think I want to look at any photographs…”

For a moment, Laura Ridgely concentrated on her coffee. She understood how Miller felt. While it was a part of her job, she’d never gotten used to looking at the photographs that crossed her desk daily – photographs of beaten wives, starved children, sociopaths, rapists. If what Boyle said about Miller was right, it had to be ten times worse for her.

She briefly studied the young mother. Her face was pale, drawn, and her eyes had a haunted expression. Did she already sense something? She was tempted to tell Miller to forget it, that they would find another way to solve the case.

But in those few seconds of weakening resolve, she remembered Jenna Hurst’s mother. Jenna was the latest girl to go missing over the past several months. Her mother’s hysterical pleas that the NYPD find Jenna had spurred Ridgely to consider Boyle’s suggestion to contact Miller.

When Boyle had first told her about Miller’s ‘talents,’ she’d been cynical.  Now she was desperate.  They needed a break in this case – and if Miller could help them, she’d put aside her skepticism. I can’t believe I’m actually going to do this; I thought Boyle was full of shit – and now I’m about to try to convince this woman to look at photographs of missing girls in hopes she can come up with something useful.

Coming to a decision, she pushed her coffee cup aside and tapped the envelope she’d placed on the table.

“Mrs. Miller, I know this is a lot to ask, but we need your help. Several young women have been reported missing over the past few months. They seem to have several things in common. We’d like you to take a look at their photos. We… um… well, we have a few of their personal items, things supplied by the families… we’d like you to look at those, too. Give us your impressions.”

Cassandra picked at the cuticle of her thumb, a nervous habit she’d never been able to break. “You think those girls are dead, don’t you?”

Rollins placed his fork on his empty plate. “Yes ma’am, I’m afraid we do. But we can’t seem to figure out the where, the who or the why of it.” He frowned. “We weren’t keen on coming to visit you. If you want to know the truth, I’ve never been one for this hocus pocus baloney.”

“Frank, please,” muttered Ridgely. She looked directly into Cassandra’s eyes. “Boyle told us that you were the one who told him to dig up the basement of Mary Dickerson’s next door neighbor. When they did, they found Mary’s remains beneath the dirt floor.

“How did you know that, Mrs. Miller? Boyle told us you held the photograph of Mary Dickerson in your hands… and you just knew. How did you know?”

The worried cuticle of Cassandra’s thumb began to bleed and she quickly brought it to her mouth, sucking away the little bit of blood. When it stopped bleeding, she sighed. “I don’t think I can explain it except to say I have a gift.”

“A gift?” repeated Rollins.

“Yes sir, that’s what my grandmother called it. She had it, too. It sometimes seems more like a curse. I don’t mind telling you that a lot of the stuff I see, I wish I didn’t… like that poor girl’s bones laying beneath that creep’s floor, just crying out for someone to find them. I sure wish I hadn’t had to see that!”

“I wonder,” said Ridgely, her voice thoughtful, “if your grandmother wasn’t right. In some sense, it is a gift. You brought justice to that girl, and closure to her family. If that isn’t a gift, I don’t know what is.”

“Well, Lieutenant, it’s a mighty expensive one.”

“The best gifts often are.” Ridgely pushed the large envelope across the table toward Cassandra. “Inside this envelope are the photos and personal effects we’d like you to look at.”

“Not now. I can’t look at those now. If I do this, I’d rather wait until my girls’ daddy gets home from work and can keep watch over them. If I start looking at those things and get upset, there won’t be anyone to keep track of my children.” Tears suddenly welled up in Cassandra’s eyes and she rubbed a shaky hand across her forehead.

“Dear God, I thought I was done with you people! I promised my husband I wouldn’t get involved in another case. You don’t know… you can’t… how much this sort of thing takes out of me.”

“But the readings,” said Rollins, “you do readings for people. Is that a gimmick or it is for real?”

“It’s not a gimmick, Sergeant. It’s part close observation and part feeling. I watch the people I’m doing readings for, get a feel for them based on their appearance, their body language… but the rest of it is intuition… the gift.”

“Do readings take much out of you?” he asked.

“Not like what you want! Seeing photos of dead girls, touching their stuff! It sends something cold right down into my soul. I feel the horror those girls felt, their fear… Sometimes, if I’m given a photo of a suspect, I see through his eyes what he’s done.

“The Dickerson case was the last straw for me. I still wake up looking through that boy’s eyes at what he did. I still hear that girl’s cries. I don’t know that I can go through that again!”

Ridgely reached across the table for Cassandra’s hand, hating herself for forcing the issue. “I know how difficult this must be for you.”

“No, you don’t! Not really.”

“Okay, you’re right,” conceded Ridgely, pulling her hand back. “There’s no way I can really know what you’re experiencing. But I’ll tell you what I do know: we need your help. Those girls need your help. Their parents need your help. Please, Mrs. Miller, won’t you help us?”

Ridgely watched Cassandra bring her thumb to her mouth, and again bite at the cuticle surrounding the nail.

“Mama, can we have some more cereal?” asked the towheaded, five-year old, standing in the kitchen doorway, dragging a worn teddy bear.

Cassandra looked at the little girl. “Leah, you get on back into the living room. I’ll bring you some juice and cereal in a minute, baby.”

“Cute kid,” observed Rollins, watching the child’s pajama-clad feet scamper back into the living room.

Ridgely then went for the kill. “You’re a lucky woman, Mrs. Miller, to have a sweet little girl like that. I bet you’d do just about anything to keep her safe.”

“Yes, ma’am, I sure would. My girls mean everything to me.”

Ridgely nodded, pointing to the envelope. “There’s a photo of a girl named Jenna Hurst in that envelope. A few days ago, I had to tell her mother that we haven’t been able to find out anything about her daughter’s whereabouts. That was real hard. You see, Jenna meant everything to her…”

Cassandra smiled bitterly. “You don’t play fair, Lieutenant.”

“No, Mrs. Miller, I don’t. And I suspect that if Jenna Hurst was your daughter, you wouldn’t want me to play fair, either. You’d want me to do anything I could, bully anyone I had to, if it helped find your daughter.”

Cassandra said nothing, staring at the bloody mess that was her thumb’s cuticle.

“Am I wrong, Mrs. Miller?” asked Ridgely, her voice hard.

A moment went by, then Cassandra looked up. She sighed heavily and rose to her feet. She picked up the envelope. “No, you’re not wrong.  I’ll look at your photos.  Damn you…”

©All Rights Reserved Kate Loveton and Odyssey of a Novice Writer

__________________
Note:  This story is written in response to a challenge issued by Esther Newton to write a story with the random line I can’t believe I’m actually going to do this, I thought. I changed the punctuation a bit, but it was Esther’s line that gave me the idea for this next chapter in my Alphabet Soup Stories series. Esther’s funny, informative and interesting blog can be found here.

About Kate Loveton

Aspiring novelist. Avid reader of fiction. Reviewer of books. By day, my undercover identity is that of meek, mild-mannered legal assistant, Kate Loveton, working in the confines of a stuffy corporate law office; by night, however, I'm a super hero: Kate Loveton, Aspiring Novelist and Spinner of Tales. My favorite words are 'Once upon a time... ' Won't you join me on my journey as I attempt to turn a hobby into something more?
This entry was posted in My Fiction and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

58 Responses to ALPHABET SOUP STORIES: C is for Cassandra

  1. Adan Ramie says:

    I agree with a lot of the others — you should definitely expand this story. I can see it turning into a SERIES of novels.

  2. Well, you hooked me, Kate. Are you going to continue the story?

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi, MC! 😀

      I originally wrote the story as a one shot – just a short one in a series of stories I was writing for the Alphabet Soup Stories concept. But when I wrote the first draft, the story was much, much longer… and I went into the character of Ridgely (the female cop) so much that the story was more about her than Cassandra.

      I really like the character of Ridgely. I saw her very clearly when I was writing her. I could see myself going back to that character, doing something more with her.

      • I’m currently listening to “A Thin Dark Line” by Tami Hoag. The lead character is a female cop, and she is so believable. I’m about 1/3 of the way through (it’s pretty long) and I’ve yet to figure out who the killer is. I have a strong suspicion of who it might be, but I’ll probably be wrong.
        I would lay odds that you have plans for a story told from Ridgely’s POV. And I bet it’s gonna be good. 🙂

        • Kate Loveton says:

          I’ve not yet read anything by Hoag. I have one of her books sitting in the backseat of my car. A friend gave it to me to read… it’s been there a year! 😀 I’ll get to it eventually.

          You’re really tempting me to take on Ridgely now!

        • Hoag writes compelling who-done-its, with a bit of intense romance added to the mixture.
          And I would be happy to see Ridgley make another appearance. Oh, the things you could do with her. Cops have interesting lives (at least in books and on TV) , all those rapes, murders, dismembering, and god knows what else they investigate. I can see the blood flowing now…lol

      • Oh…and my friends call me “Cathy”. 😀

  3. Really enjoyed reading this Kate. I was drawn in to Cassandra’s character and that of that Sergeant and Lieutenant.
    ~Carl~

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Carl, forgive me for the late response. I somehow missed your comment when you originally posted it. I’m glad you enjoyed the story, that the characters drew you in. That’s such a compliment! 🙂

  4. This story is ripe for a sequel or two, or perhaps a whole novel!

    You had me gripped all the way through, Kate, and I’m eager to find out if Cassandra can shed any light on the case of the missing girls.

    If I beg you hard enough, can I convince you to write a sequel? ❤

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Maybe you can… once I get through the rest of the Alphabet Soup stories. 😀 Actually, it might be fun to play around with this one in the future. I know I talked about this during Skype, but forgot to mention something. I’ll send you a note.

      Thanks for reading, Heather. I feel like I’ve taken up your entire free day today! ❤

      • What better way to spend the day than with you, Kate! ❤

        I look forward to your note and discovering what other wonderful ideas you have up those very creative sleeves of yours… ❤ ❤

  5. Donna says:

    Wow that was awesome great stories.

  6. meditorlibre says:

    This was so so good, I really enjoyed it. Would love to read more about it.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Thank you! I saw this as a one-shot initially, but now I’m re-thinking it. There’s a strong possibility I may come back to this one. But first I have 23 more letters in the alphabet to contend with! 😀

      I appreciate your reading and leaving a comment.

  7. lovetotrav says:

    Your voice is strong and captivating. It keeps the reader engaged and wanting more. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

  8. Faith Simone says:

    I sense the potential for a wildly popular series here Kate! You could write suspense novels for days with Cassandra and those detectives.

  9. Taylor Eaton says:

    Oooh, well done, Kate!

  10. Cassandra says:

    Kate!!
    How DO you do it? Amazing!
    {{I’m a little sweet on your main’s name too 🙂 }}

    • Kate Loveton says:

      I thought you might like the name of this one! 😀 😀 Glad you enjoyed, my friend. I hope your working on book number two. You know how much I enjoyed Annie Spruce.

  11. Julia Lund says:

    I had to keep reading to find out what Cassandra would do. I don’t know whether to feel sorry for having such a gift, or glad for the people she helps. Both, I guess …

    • Kate Loveton says:

      I think it would be terrible to see things… especially if you couldn’t do anything about what you saw… and especially if no one believed you.

      Julia, I’m going to be shameless and use this opportunity to give you a high five for your book, “Strong as Death: a love to live for.” I am enjoying it immensely and look forward to reviewing in the next few weeks. Well written and very engaging. I love it!

      (And it’s available on Amazon, folks! I’ll make it easy for you – here’s a link for you to check it out!)

      • Julia Lund says:

        Thanks, Kate. So glad you’re enjoying it.

        Reading through the other comments on this thread, I think you’re on to something with this character – loads of potential. Gripping stuff. And I agree, it would be awful to “see” things and not be able to do anything – like being in one of those dreams when you can’t move or speak. Horrible.

  12. What Tess said–twice!

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Thanks, Jacqui. I feel I’m learning a lot about writing from reading the many writing tips on your blog. It’s one of the best blogs around in terms of encouraging new writers and providing pointers for consideration. Seriously good content there.

  13. You have a gift there, Ma’am.

  14. Riveting, Enthralling, Fascinating. This is in inspired. I’m totally invested in this story, Kate. o_O ❤ ❤

  15. noelleg44 says:

    Great story, Kate. This could so easily evolve into a full fledged book – I’d love to see what you would do with it!

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Noelle, I hadn’t envisioned a book when I wrote the story, but I am seriously thinking about it now. While I work on the rest of my Alphabet Soup stories, I may use this story for my Friday night writing sprints and see what I come up with.

      Thanks for the encouragement! You’re a real pal. (Please let me know the next time you are back in my neck of the woods. I would love to meet up for coffee or lunch.)

  16. maspring37 says:

    More, more!! Please.

  17. Good one Kate. Her reluctance brings credibility, and the cuticle, detail

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Thanks, Derick. I had a very strong visual of her nervously shredding the skin around her nail. I can see someone in her position as being very reluctant to look at horrible things, to experience them second-hand. If there really is such a gift, I think those who possess it must be VERY sensitive – and thus it would be even more horrible for them to be exposed to criminal activity than it would be for the ordinary individual. Thank you for reading and for the kind words.

  18. I thought I knew where it was going to go and it didn’t. Great narrative. Great story-telling.

  19. Fine use of dialogue drives the story forward and brings the characters alive and close to our understanding of them.
    Well delivered, Kate.
    i had my doubts about such persons as Cassandra – excellent choice of name, by the way, the woman no one believed – until i began to read about actual cases.

    Thank you, Kate for this fine offering.

    Big Hugs

    john

    • Kate Loveton says:

      John, I knew if anyone would pick up on the name, it would be you! I specifically chose it because of the mythological Cassandra.

      I am rather on the fence about psychics, but this story was inspired by an old memory I have. When I was about 8 or so, I used to read the newspaper from cover to cover, and it was during that time that I read of a case in which a child had been missing for many months and the police were unable to solve the case. She was finally discovered in the basement of a neighbor’s house… a psychic had told the police that the child was dead and her remains were somewhere in the neighborhood in which she lived.

      That fascinated me when I was a child (gruesome little brat, wasn’t I?), and the story has stayed with me all these years. It was the seed for my short story.

      Thank you for reading and for the kind words. I appreciate the support you give my stories, friend. 🙂

  20. Deb says:

    Another great story!

  21. markbialczak says:

    C is for chilling, Kate. Wow. Cold. Calculating.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Gave you the creeps, did I? 😀 Well, I think Ridgely was a bit cold and calculating in forcing Cassandra to use her gift to help find the girls, but she’s a cop and has some cases to solve – as well as some parents to give closure to. I rather like it when she admitted she didn’t play fair. It was rather hard-nosed of her. I became quite fond of Ridgely while writing this. In fact, I liked her better than Cassandra. She became very real to me – a lady with a mission, and one she was determined to accomplish by any means necessary.

      Thanks for reading, Mark!

      • markbialczak says:

        Yes, Ridgely reminded me of Harry Bosch, of Michael Connelly’s mind. LA detective who’s hard-boiled but always fair. If you haven’t read Connelly’s Bosch series, give it a whirl, Kate. Probably a dozen books and 25 years worth now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s