Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Chapter 1

Beep. Beep. Beep.

The steady ringing of the alarm was silenced as a meaty hand slammed down on the sleep button. Dashiell Aldridge opened his eyes slowly, squinting against the light streaming in through his south-facing window. He grunted sourly. He’d never been a fan of Thursdays.

He breathed in deeply, stretching his hands over his head, and decided he’d better get up. If he were late into the office again, his boss would give him hell. He sat up and carefully got out of bed, being sure to place his right foot on the floor first. He stood up and crossed to the bathroom where he took care of his usual morning business.

After a shower, he was feeling almost human again. He dressed quickly, grabbing the first thing he saw when he opened his dresser drawers. He paused in putting on his shoes, making sure to put the right shoe on first, then the left. He reached into the top drawer and grabbed a clean, white handkerchief. He unfolded it, grabbed the opposite corners, and very deliberately tied a knot in the middle. He examined it, nodded to himself, satisfied, then shoved it in his right front pocket. Then he reached for a necklace on the dresser top. It was a simple leather cord with a blue bead hanging off it. He tied the cord around his neck and dropped the bead down the front of his shirt.

He headed out his front door, which was painted a friendly blue, and smelled the fresh scent of rosemary from the planter boxes on either side. Spring was coming early this year. He looked toward the large oak tree in his front yard and spotted a squirrel that was out for a morning snack. He strode quickly toward it, his long stride quickly eating up ground. The squirrel, startled, ran up the trunk of the tree. Dashiell bent and picked up the acorn it had dropped.

“Thanks,” he said, with a nod of his head. The squirrel chittered angrily, deprived of its breakfast, as Dashiell put the acorn in his front left pocket. He headed toward the sidewalk, turned left and started walking down the street.

He came to Braddock and made a left, heading for the Metro Station. He grabbed a copy of the Express from Henry, the guy who passed them out every morning, nodding a hello before pulling out his wallet, passing it over the SmarTrip spot and sliding through the automated gateway. He heard the soft roar of an arriving Metro as he replaced his wallet, and hurried up the escalator, staying to the left to get around the standing passengers.

The Yellow Line train toward Fort Totten was just pulling in as he reached the top of the escalator, and he stepped up to the flashing lights of the platform, waiting for the doors to open. When they did, he made his way toward the center of the car, as the feminine voice suggested, grabbing a seat. His stop was close enough to the end of the line that a seat was still available. Towards the center of town, it got to be like a cattle car, the human flesh squeezed together.

He settled into the seat, trying to ignore the greasy smear on the window where some earlier commuter had rested his or her head. These were the things you got used to using public transportation in and around the District. He turned his attention to his paper. There were the typical stories from around D.C. and the world. They were considering raising Metro fares again to compensate for increased costs, and there was talk of extending a spur off the Orange line out to Dulles. There’d been a pretty bad accident on the access road the night before, something this new line might help avoid.

He had just finished reading through “This Day in History” as the train pulled into the China Town/Gallery Place station. He rose from his seat, squeezing toward the doors at the end of the car. He headed up the escalator toward the side marked Shady Grove, to catch the Red Line. The platform was crowded and he had no hope of finding a seat on this train, which meant he wouldn’t be able to do the Sudoku. So he people watched instead. You always got such an interesting mix here in the nation’s capital. There were uniformed soldiers going about their business, men and women in suits heading into work and the inevitable tourists, looking like lost sheep, dressed in garish outfits, even in the middle of winter.

It was three short stops to Dupont Circle, where he sliced through the crowd in the car and squeezed through the double doors before the dreaded “ding ding” which indicated they’d be closing on you, whether you were fully out or not. He headed toward the Q street exit.

The cold hit him as the escalator emerged into the winter air. At the top, he turned right, heading up Connecticut to R. He made a left and followed R to 21st. He let himself in the door of the converted three story townhouse, climbing to the second floor. There was a broom leaning against the wall next to the frosted glass door, which bore the following legend:

Dashiell G. Aldridge

Private Investigator

Specializing in

Occult Investigations

He opened the door and let himself in.


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5 comments:

Gavin said...

A good beginning. Everything leading up to the door seemed almost ordinary (though the right foot first, the handkerchief and the acorn got my attention) but then the door makes you fully realize something is up.

p.s. Thanks for putting my book in your blogroll, I'm honoured.

Allan T Michaels said...

Thanks for reading Gavin! It's nice to know someone other than me is taking it in. :)

ktmarie518 said...

Interesting...My immediate assumption with the right foot first is that it's a superstitious thing, but I have no idea what's up with the knotted handkerchief or the acorn.
My only gripe about this chapter is the excess of run-on sentences. They're a pet peeve of mine. -shrug-

Allan T Michaels said...

kt,

Thanks for reading. That's a pretty good guess. The rest will be revealed in time.

I think the run-ons get better in the future. Feel free to point out if they don't.

Allan T Michaels said...

I just want to say a quick hello to new readers who are dropping by as a result of advertising.

I really appreciate you taking the time to give my work a read and would appreciate any comments you'd care to leave.

Thanks again,
ATM