Authors: Sara M. Barton
Tags: #connecticut, #jersey shore, #jewelry heist, #new jersey state police, #hurricane sandy, #bay head nj
Miz Scarlet and the Vanishing Visitor:
A Scarlet Wilson Mystery
By Sara M. Barton
Published by Sara M. Barton at Smashwords
Copyright Sara M. Barton 2013
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Chapter One --
A flash of red. A thud as hands hit the outside of
the passenger side window. Bloody hands. Suddenly there were
terrified eyes and a gaping black hole of a mouth coming at me. A
young girl screamed, a sound that pierced the night, slicing
through the calm backdrop of ocean waves and seagulls like a
discordant song, and I felt my soul shiver with foreboding.
“Help me!” A balled-up fist pounded on the glass,
leaving a smeared red hand print on my nice, clean window. “Help
me! He’s going to kill me!”
One minute, I was lost in a
daydream, wandering through the memory of my lovely weekend with
Kenny at the Jersey Shore, and the next, a writhing body clung to
my silver hatchback, clutching my open moon roof for dear life,
even as I lifted my foot from the brake and rolled forward past the
red, red stop sign. I should have stopped. Why didn’t I stop? The
shock of seeing that unexpected apparition stunned me, and I
automatically put my foot on the accelerator, suddenly feeling that
Flee! Get the hell out of
Even as I instinctively gave the Ford Focus some gas,
the desperate girl threw her legs onto the hood of the car, still
not relinquishing her Vulcan death grip.
“What are you doing?” I hollered, all too aware that
she was at risk of rolling off the slippery front fender, towards
the wheels. I jammed on the brakes, trying not to shake her off my
car even as I frantically tried to shake off my fear. And that’s
when I turned and looked beyond her, in time to see hell’s fury
across the road, heading this way. Hands raised, he seemed to
summon a wild maelstrom of invisible energy from the sea as he
crossed the pavement, drawing it to him like a supernatural force
of malevolent anger. As he bellowed, I thought I saw its raw power
find outlet through his hands, deadly hands. He was dressed in
black, tattooed skin covered in a patchwork of ink drawings. What
was that shiny thing he was gripping as he strode towards the
“Please!” she cried, more of a sob than anything
else. In that one moment, I had to make a decision. Did I pop the
lock, let her in, and drive away from the maniac pursuing her, or
did I leave her here, to face her assailant in a death match of
“Survival of the Fittest”? This wasn’t reality TV. She barely
weighed a hundred pounds, judging from the black tank top and blue
shorts that clung to her shivering stick-like limbs, interrupted
only by a fanny pack. He had a good hundred pounds on her, biceps
that looked like they could easily squeeze the life out of her, and
a face so contorted by rage that he seemed like a Maori warrior
doing a Haka war dance.
You might think it’s an easy choice -- after all,
don’t I have a moral obligation to rescue the tiny girl from a huge
man wielding the rather large knife in his right hand? As he
rapidly closed the distance between us, I considered my dilemma.
Calculating the seconds it would take her to grab the door handle,
open it, and get into the passenger seat, I realized there wasn’t
enough time. He would surely kill her before she was in my car, and
then he might decide to kill me, too. And that’s when I knew what I
had to do. As she jumped off the hood and flipped her agile self
around the side of the car in the hopes of gaining entry, I gave
her enough time to clear it, and when I was certain that her feet
were out of the path of the tires, I put the pedal to the metal.
Time to see if the vehicle really could do zero to sixty in 8.7
“No! Don’t leave me! Please!” she wailed as I gunned
the engine and the Ford Focus took off.
I had no intention of leaving the girl behind.
Instead, I did the only thing I could think of to stop her
murderous pursuer. I steered right into him, heard the horrible
sound of flesh against bumper as they connected, and cringed. The
look of shock upon his face said it all. I threw the transmission
into reverse, even as he flew into the air and skidded across the
pavement onto the sidewalk twenty feet away. Backing up ten feet, I
slammed on the brakes, popped the lock, reached over and opened the
door, waiting for the beleaguered teen to scurry in. Her fanny hit
the seat with a thump, and even as she pulled the door closed and I
locked it, he was back on his feet and rushing us. The rage in
those cold eyes chilled me to the bone. There was no mistaking his
intent. And now I was on his naughty list for Christmas.
Before you ask, the answer is no. I didn’t ram him
again. I’m not a cold-blooded crazy person. My only desire was to
get the girl away from him, so I backed up. Even as I grasped the
steering wheel with my left hand and looked over my right shoulder,
aiming for the middle of Barnegat Lane, I fed the engine the fuel
it needed. The car wobbled across the pavement like a drunken
seagull as my hand shook and I prayed for a clear road, with no
summer tourists suddenly entering the lane. I managed to maneuver a
good fifty feet before I did a rather sloppy V-turn across the
breadth of the pavement, shifted into forward, and tore away. Even
as I risked a glance in the rear view mirror, I could see the
limping man still giving chase. That was one determined
At Bergen Avenue, I turned left and cut over to Ocean
Avenue. I had every intention of following Route 35 back to Bridge
Avenue. There I knew I would find the Bay Head Police Station. I
had seen it earlier in the day, when I stopped at Mueller’s Bakery
for blueberry scones, banana nut muffins, and jelly donuts.
Breakfast. That seemed forever and a day ago. I had wandered
through town on foot, enjoying the chance to explore. How I wish I
had paid better attention to my surroundings. I was still too
enamored of Kenny, and the feel of his hands on my skin was still
imprinted on my brain, displacing common sense. How far was I from
the police station?
“Oh, my God!” said the quivering figure in the bucket
seat. “He’s after us!”
“That’s him, in the pickup truck!”
“Are you sure?” I know it was an idiotic thing to
say, but I was hoping she was overreacting.
“Yes, yes! I’m positive! What are we going to do? If
he catches me, he’s going to kill me!” Her voice rose up an octave,
emphasizing her conviction of his lethal intent.
Twilight. Dark enough to need
headlights. Light enough to still see the road without them.
Think, Miz Scarlet. He’s gaining on you. What do
“Red light!” the teen screamed at
me, as a white Volvo station wagon scooted into the intersection at
Johnson Street, followed by a green Hyundai that seemed to form the
head of a rather long conga line of traffic. No time to waste. It
was now or never. No guts, no glory.
that or no brains.
Instinctively, I did the
math and made my split-second decision.
“Screw it!” I growled, accelerating.
I had barely enough room to squeeze through the two cars before the
gap closed, cutting off the pickup. I heard the first squeal of
brakes as a chain reaction of metal-to-metal took place.
Thump! Thump-thump-thump! Bam!
“Oh, my God! You just ran a red light!” That was
really the least of my problems. Judging from the calamitous scene
in my rearview mirror, there were at least three bumpers locked
into a twisted Alexander Calder sculpture in the middle of Bergen
“I’m pretty sure the cops won’t care as long as I
deliver you in one piece.”
“Yes, police. That’s where I’m taking you. You need
“I...I do need help.” That tiny voice faded away as
the seriousness of her predicament hit her. “I’m in deep
Was that a confession...an admission of guilt...or
just the uttered plea of a terrified teenager covered in sticky red
liquid? “Are you injured? Did he cut you?”
I risked a quick look at my passenger. She seemed
nervous, but I didn’t see blood gushing from a main artery.
“No. No. He killed Mozzie, though.” Water poured out
of her eyes, splashing down those unlined cheeks.
“What? Who’s Mozzie?
“He killed your dog?” I’m a dog person. With
Huckleberry and January, I’ve probably hiked close to a hundred
miles in the last six months alone. Anybody tried to harm either of
them, I’d probably use my bare hands to tear the miscreant from
limb to limb. “Bastard! Why?”
“Um....” Long pause. Hesitation.
Oh, crap! What did she do to make
the guy so angry?
Call me suspicious. I am.
After teaching for a couple of decades, you get to the point where
you realize teenagers sometimes exercise really bad
“I took his laptop.”
“You stole his computer?” I was now waiting in a
six-car line for the light to change on Bridge Street, and as I
glanced sideways at the girl, I could see a furtive look come over
“I had to! Richie wouldn’t give me my money!”
“You stole his computer because he stole your
“No, he wouldn’t pay me!”
“He owed you money?” I flipped my blinker on and
eased forward, stuck behind a Town and Country van loaded with a
family from Pennsylvania. Boogie boards on the top, bikes on the
back. A video was playing on the miniscule screen. It looked like
Let me clue you in, in case you don’t speak teen. Any
time someone under the age of twenty-one gives you grunts, groans,
mumbles, or moans, pay attention. You’re either being jerked around
or you’re about to get dragged through hormone-laced hell.
“Spit it out!” I commanded in my best teacher voice.
“Why did he owe you money? What did you do for him?”
“I delivered the package to him. Paolo said when I
got to Point Pleasant, Richie would pay me. But he didn’t.”
“What did you do with the laptop?”
“I threw it in the bushes outside the house.”
I slowed as I came up on the turn for the Bay Head
Police Department. Even as I waited for the chance to turn in, I
could hear the sound of sirens in the distance. My eye caught sight
of a sign and my frazzled brain commanded me to pay attention.
That’s when I read the words printed there.
“The police department is temporarily located in
Point Pleasant? You have got to be kidding me!”
Hurricane Sandy washed out the local constabulary.
What a time to find this out. Where was 704 Howe Street? And how
was I going to find it at this time of night, when my mind was
racing a mile a minute? I could use my Tom-Tom, but how would I
explain all this to the cops?
“I have to call Kenny,” I said out loud, even as I
made up my mind. I knew he was on his way back to Princeton, back
to his own home, the one he shared with his late wife.
“Who’s Kenny?” the waif next to me asked.
“My boyfriend.” Those words still sounded strange to
me. Boyfriend...at my age? I pulled off the road to make the call,
but even as I did, it occurred to me that maybe Richie wasn’t a guy
to leave well enough alone. If he got himself out of that tangled
mess of fenders, he could be trolling the main drag in search of
us. I took a right at West Lake Avenue, and then a right onto
Willow Drive. Passing Holly Avenue, I continued on until I found a
quiet spot to pull over and found his number in my contacts
“Hey, babe. What’s up? You missed me already?”
“Kenny!” Relief flooded over me as I heard that
strong, comforting voice. “I have a problem!”
Exactly four minutes later, Kenny was explaining to
me in great detail why my problem was a hell of a lot bigger than I
“What was in the package you delivered,” he demanded
of my passenger, via speaker phone.
“I don’t know,” she insisted. “Paolo just asked me to
bring it to Richie. And he said he’d give me a hundred bucks if I
got it there before five today.”
“Where did you meet Paolo?” I wanted to know.