BC: Pounding Feet—Part II
It’s a large Burger King bag, lying on its side.
Deep in my gut I know it came from the same car that tossed out the duffel bag. It is just too unusual for this neighborhood.
I draw to a halt and survey the mess. Spilling from the bag is an empty super-size French fries holder, one burger box, a ketchup rectangle, and a large cup. Complete with plastic cover—and a straw.
A chill cleats up my spine. This is the likely “smoking gun.” If the saliva on that straw leads to the same person whose fingerprint is lifted from the wallet . . .
Reason argues. Some kids on a cruise last night—that’s all this is. No missing man, no murder. Clean up the trash like a good citizen.
But I’d be throwing away crucial evi—
Clean up the trash.
I ogle the bag, ambivalence playing tug-of-war within me. Vaguely, I wonder if anyone is watching from a window. He’ll think I’m crazy. Irresponsible, too, if I simply jog away.
I step into the street and force myself toward the items, half repulsed at what I’m about to do. How much harder this deed will render the detectives’ job. How apologetic I will be.
The French fries holder is empty. The ketchup rectangle contains only dregs. I pick them up along with the hamburger box, shove them all into the bag. The cup gives me final pause. I linger over it, then slowly slide it in as well. It sticks halfway out the top, the straw a stubborn radar tower. On the other side of the street sits a stack of recycle bins, waiting for pick-up. None is meant for this mixture of paper and plastic, so I lean the bag against them, hoping some conscientious sanitation employee will sort them accordingly.
I jog away, knowing no worker will take the time. Relieved at the thought. If the bag sits there another day, perhaps it won’t be too late to retrieve it when the missing persons case sputters to life.
My brain spins plot points and twists. Tomorrow I will see the newspaper article. I will call the police with my information, lead them to the Burger King bag.
It will be gone.
The man—a popular P.E. high school coach—will be found dead. Lacking enough evidence to be convicted, the killers will go free. My fault. The town will hate me. The guilt I will face—
No, wait. Through bulldog detective work, the battered bag will be traced to the dump. Inside will be the French fries holder—yielding only one identifiable print. Mine. The straw will not be recovered. Other circumstantial evidence will amazingly point to me. The police will see my story of finding the wallet and bag as a cover-up. Town citizens will cry for a swift breaking of the case, pressuring the D.A., who’s up for reelection. Police will jump to arrest me, newspaper headlines applauding their success. My husband will set out to find the real killer. He and my daughter will fall into mortal danger.
What will I do?
I will cry to my God to protect them. I will shake my fist at the heavens. God, You gave me the conscience that made me pick up that wallet, that trash. Is this my reward? Will He save me from conviction, my family from harm? Or will He let these nightmares, too, swallow me whole?
I turn the final corner onto my street, slow to a walk. The voices of fiction and reality chatter in my head. I reach my door, knowing full well tomorrow’s newspaper will contain no article about a missing referee.
But I will not start my run without checking the headlines.
~ Brandilyn Collins, author of Dead of Night and other “Seatbelt Suspense”