Wednesday, April 1, 2009
"The Fellas" (This is the first chapter of a project I'm currently working on)
No one saw them.
A pair of shadowy forms, ghostlike against the darkened backdrop of an expiring twilight. They appeared from behind an aging Dumpster along the edge of the church parking lot. Careful not to bump against it’s steadily decaying welds, the metal having long since fallen victim to corrosion from Ohio’s often inclement weather, they crept along behind the steel deterrent, patiently awaiting nightfall’s obscure embrace.
From the church standing twenty feet off to their left, the rising and falling sounds of the choir could be heard through the stained-glass windows, the panes having been opened to allow an evening’s breeze to grace everyone’s presence.
Sunday evening church services had long become common practice for the more faithful parishioners. The classic style, one-story A-frame, having recently undergone a fresh wrapping of pearl-shaded vinyl siding, was entering it’s second generation of providing a shelter for it’s dedicated members in faith. To the many who entered it’s doors both on Sunday mornings, and for the evening services, Pleasant View Fellowship had become a way of life for many Holmes County residents living in and among the hills and valleys gently surrounded by an Amish community rich in tradition.
For the stealthy pair adorned in black from head to toe and crouched behind the Dumpster however, it was opportunity.
As night’s embrace at last cloaked their shaded presence, and the sounds of chirping crickets from the nearby pasture began mixing with the choir’s harmonious melody, the two slipped out of hiding and proceeded toward the vehicles scattered randomly across the church’s dimly lit pavement.
Hustling along silently on rubber soles, they appeared to glide across the parking lot, suddenly branching off in opposite directions as they each advanced toward the far reaches of the lot. To anyone passing by on nearby Route 62, they would’ve resembled the darkened forms of a pair of meaningless shadows belonging to anyone. A peculiar presence spotted through one’s peripheral vision during a drive-by, and then gone without any thought of foul play other than an untimely blanket of goose pimples rising upon one’s arms.
Almost simultaneously, gloved hands reached out from the darkness and gently engaged the door handles of a pair of late model sedans, each one resting at an opposite corner of the parking lot. The many cricket’s festive chirping suddenly halted as the familiar sounds of a human presence, the clicking of a latch, the steady whine of a door hinge, whispered an eery secret to the warm breeze sifting across the cracked pavement.
A pair of interior lights flickered on and off as two unlocked car doors admitted the uninvited guests. Glove compartments were opened. Many various papers and vehicle registrations rifled through. Visors were lowered. Cup holders scooped of their remnants. A crumpled up dollar bill left discarded on the floor mat. A handful of quarters piling up in the ashtray. An envelope displaying the handwritten word, "Emergency" on it’s front fold, and housing a pair of crisp new twenties inside. A pair of brand new sunglasses tossed precariously on the dashboard. Anything of value, pocketed. Gone in an instant.
Then it was on to the next car, and the next. Every door had been left unlocked. For this was Holmes County. A place where neighbors could be trusted. Where crime was read about on the front page of The Plain Dealer, but left on the streets of Cleveland, far to the north. A place where foul play of any kind simply never happened. Never...
Minutes sped by. Vehicles were ransacked of any and all worthy possessions. The loot piled up. The crickets had grown accustomed to their shadowy guests and began spreading the news of the crime in progress to fellow insects across the valley with their melodic chirping.
From inside the church, sitting along the far end of one of the wooden pews with her husband, Laura Weaver felt an inviting waft of warm air brush against her cheek from the nearby window. A thin smile spread across her face, for she dearly loved Ohio during the summer months. While it never lasted very long, those humid evenings in July and August always reminded her of visiting her long retired parents in Sarasota every Thanksgiving.
As her preacher continued on with the sermon, his take on the Egyptian Empire during the times of Moses’s childhood, Laura glanced toward the stained-glass window standing several feet to her left, hoping for a second gust of fresh air to help ease the stagnance swirling throughout the muggy auditorium.
The flicker of an interior light belonging to one of the cars in the parking lot caught her eye. On and off in a blink, like the far off beacon flashing atop a distant lighthouse. Laura lowered her eyebrows, unsure of what she had actually seen. A firefly perhaps? They were in peak season this time of year.
She moved her eyes across the rest of the parking lot, deciding that the flash of an insect must’ve been what she’d seen, and was about to turn back and rejoin her pastor’s ongoing address, when the same light flashed a second time. It was no firefly.
Laura strained her eyes, trying to see someone stepping away from the car. Maybe one of her fellow parishioners had forgotten something in their car and had run back out to retrieve it. But other than what might’ve been the blur of a shadow, or her mind playing tricks on her, she saw nothing.
A moment later another interior light flickered. This one coming from directly beside the vehicle she had first spotted. And just as quickly as it had appeared, the light was doused once again. A second person needing something from their car? And ironically right next to the original car who’s interior light she had first spotted? Something wasn’t right.
Laura glanced toward her husband. He had fallen asleep again. She glared at him. He was too young to be dozing off in church. She looked at her ten year old daughter reclined next to him, her eyes drifting lazily toward the rafters. Clumsily smacking her jaw to the piece of bubble gum Laura had asked her to get rid of before entering the church. She tossed an angry expression her way as well, frustrated at how tedious the act of going to the Sunday evening service had become for her family. Jesus could return at any moment and here they were, dozing off and daydreaming during a time of worship.
As Laura turned back to the window, yet a third flicker of light caught her eye. This one had come from several rows behind the original lights she had seen.
Growing more troubled by the moment, Laura placed her Bible next to her sleeping husband and slowly rose to her feet. Remaining as quiet as possible so as not to disturb the ongoing service, she made her way toward the exit at the front of the church. Her pastor’s steady monotone continued on without interruption as she placed her hands upon the thick, wooden door and gently eased it open. The door quietly closed behind her as she inhaled a deep breath of fresh air.
She turned her head toward the parking lot, and spotted another flash belonging to the interior light of yet another vehicle. An eery chill began making it’s way up her spine. For a brief moment Laura considered re-entering the church. Then she shook her head, silently scolding herself for dreaming up such crazy thoughts while standing on hallowed ground. She turned and began descending the half dozen, concrete steps leading to the church’s parking area.
As she entered the first row of parked vehicles, the latching sound of a car door entered her ears. Laura quickened her pace. Zig-zagging between rows, she made her way toward where she thought the source of the sound had come from.
Six rows into the parking lot, she suddenly stopped, listening. The whisper of another humid breeze, mixed with the steady pounding in her ears from her racing heart left her unable to hear anything other than the sound of crickets calling out to one another in the nearby field. She unconsciously crossed her arms.
"Hello? Who’s out here?" she asked. The chirping from the field stopped. The parking lot grew impossibly silent.
From where she was standing, Laura glanced down at the car next to her. The driver’s side door had not been closed all the way. She leaned in and noticed through the window that the glove compartment had been left open. A collection of papers, no doubt the vehicle’s registration or the owner’s manual, were scattered across the passenger seat.
"What in the world?" she mumbled, placing her hand upon the door handle.
At that moment the sharp ping of something metallic glanced off the roof of the car, missing her face by mere inches.
Laura jumped and instinctively lowered her body down to the height of the car’s roof. Shaking, she turned around, scanning the parking lot.
The overhead lighting of the lot was so dim she could barely make out the first row of cars in front of her, much less someone sneaking around, watching her from a distance. A gathering of cloud cover forming over the moon’s glowing sheen only added to her murky surroundings.
Laura waited, frozen, trying in vain to control her breathing. A dark form from across the parking lot suddenly caught her eye. She turned, glimpsed something metal coming directly at her, but failed to duck in time. It hit her along the side of her head and bounced to the pavement where it rolled onto it’s side.
Laura yelped in surprise, clutching her hand to her temple as she glanced to her feet in search of what had struck her. She bent over and picked up a coin. A nickle, practically shimmering under the throes of night.
Her eyes still focused upon the pavement, Laura spotted a dark form, nearly hidden from view behind the tire of the car next to her. It looked like a cloth satchel of some kind. A dark-colored pillow case? It was bulging, obviously full of something. She bent down a second time, her fingers outstretched, reaching for it.
A shower of coins rained in from all around her, pummeling her from both sides, but mostly connecting with the back of her head. Before Laura had a chance to react, a second handful dropped from the sky, pelting her head, stinging her exposed face.
Forgetting about the pillowcase, Laura screamed and began running for the church. She stumbled once, falling awkwardly onto the pavement, her head narrowly missing contact with the bumper of a nearby pickup. As she struggled to rise back to her feet, more coins began pelting her backside from the far away reaches of the parking lot. She could feel them landing against the back of her neck, like cold bee stings from some alien hive which she had unknowingly disturbed.
She managed to turn her gaze back toward the parking lot for a brief moment, catching just a glimpse of a dark form standing among the many vehicles belonging to the members of her church. The shape ducked, vanished as she spotted more coins being flung her way from somewhere out of the dark. Again Laura screamed. As another round of pennies, dimes and nickels bounced upon the pavement around her, she staggered back up the steps and through the front doors of the church, her frantic cries bringing everyone inside to their feet.
And as the church parishioners halted the service and rushed to Laura’s side, from under the car where she had been standing, a gloved hand reached out, snatched a firm hold of the heavy pillowcase filled to near capacity with assorted valuables, and dragged it out of sight.
...it's still a work in progress, so let me know what you think so far!
Thanks for reading...Elliot.