For this I had 48 hours to write a story in the mystery genre, set in a post office, and it had to include the object 'A child's drawing', with a word limit of 1000 words. I ended up coming 9th in my group for this round, which is the first time I have placed in the top 15, so I was very happy with the result. Most of the feedback I received about improvements was related to genre things that I wasn't really familiar with anyway O_o (Can't say I've read a lot of mysteries, lol). My other half really helped me spitball the plot ideas for this one, bless his algorithmic/procedural mind.
Atticus noticed a smudge on the glass at the front of the post office and without thinking reached under the counter for the cleaner. He was about to make his way across the store and remove the imperfection when a woman with a young child went rushing by on the footpath, distracting him. He wondered what their bother could be. And then not a moment later, a man came lumbering along behind them, turning his curiosity to concern—but only for a fraction of a second.
It took Atticus a moment to process everything. There was a man running across the front of the post office—but he was gone. Now a truck was in front of him. Where his customers should be. Where the glass was. Where he was about to go and clean it. He blinked.
The truck was empty—no driver. And then he looked down and found the man outside his store.
His concern for the woman and child dissipated. He noticed a child’s drawing next to the body and felt an uneasiness wash over him. Why was he chasing those people? Why was he hit by a driverless truck? He stumbled around to the other side of the counter and slumped down, phone in hand, and called the police. His eyes locked on that picture, wondering what it could mean.
Two police officers accompanied a forensics team to the destroyed post office.
“Not the sort of delivery you were expecting today, I gather?” The first officer said to Atticus, chuckling to himself, as he led the group through a gap in the glass and into the post officer proper.
Atticus just looked up at him blankly and pointed to the body.
“Unfortunate.” The officer shook his head, sounded almost sincere.
“There’s a drawing, next to him,” Atticus said in a monotone. “Could be important, he was chasing a mum and kid, before—”
The officer watched Atticus, as if waiting for him to finish. “Before?” But then it must have clicked. “Oh. Right.”
The second officer put on a glove and reached down to pick up the drawing. “Cute.” He held it up for everyone to see. Some sort of demonic cow chasing a weird looking bunny-dog through a glowing forest. Interesting. He handed the picture to the first officer then searched the man for identification.
“No ID.” He glanced at the first officer. “We could run the drawing through our database, see if it leads to known associates.”
“Good idea, Lambert.” He stroked his chin, staring at the truck that had become a main feature of the post office. “Has anyone run the plates yet?” He yelled, to no one in particular.
A lady from the forensics team called back, “rental.”
“Someone who doesn’t exist, apparently.”
The first officer took a deep sigh. “Fan-tastic.”
“Whoa! Check this out!” A call from outside the post office, at the back of the truck. Someone must have looked inside.
The first officer handed the drawing back to Lambert, who sealed it in a clear evidence bag. He clutched it in his hand as if it was the most valuable possession they’d found at the scene. Atticus and Lambert followed the first officer to the back of the truck to see what all the fuss was about.
One of the forensics guys was investigating. “This is a gold mine—of stolen goods. Either the person who did this wanted to make sure someone goes down for this, or this was a catastrophic mistake.”
Lambert chimed in, “well, considering we’ve found evidence of possible child exploitation and no ID on the man, I’m leaning toward option A.”
“Did they figure out how the truck cleaned up the guy without a driver?”
“A strategic lack of handbrake, it seems,” Lambert replied.
The first officer makes a weird sound, like an auditory response to the cogs in his brain grinding. Atticus just looked at the goods dumbfounded. How did his mundane post office become the location of such scandal? His workplace was ruined.
The three men stood outside the truck, watching the forensics team work from within the police tape, but on the footpath, just outside the post office. Despite now being closed for business, Atticus couldn’t leave until they were finished for the day.
They turned to find a boy standing there, waving at them, trying to get their attention.
“What is it, lad?” The first officer called.
“That’s my drawing!” The boy called back, pointing at the evidence in Lambert’s hand.
“This?” Lambert held out the drawing now in the clear evidence bag.
The boy nodded enthusiastically.
They walked over to the boy, who was with his mother, who apologised profusely for the rudeness of her son. The first officer knelt to be eye level with the boy and said, “might I ask how your drawing came to be at the centre of a crime scene, young man?”
The colour drained from the poor boy’s face. “What do you mean?”
“We found this picture next to a dead man.”
The boy looked up at his mum, distraught. “Mummy?”
Atticus couldn’t figure out why the police officer was tormenting the boy. It was obvious he didn’t know what happened in the post office today. He just wanted his picture back.
“I’m sorry, officer. We were rushing past here earlier to try and get to the shops before they closed, and Evan must have dropped his drawing along the footpath somewhere near here. The dead man must have picked it up off the footpath. We have nothing to do with what happened here.”
So that was why he was running, to try and give back the picture. Atticus glanced at the body with a newfound sympathy.
Lambert reluctantly handed the drawing back to the boy. “So, I guess it’s looking like option B. And no leads for identifying the body.”
“Get back to work, Lambert.” The first officer sighed.