Click here to read part two.
Remember to vote in comments, at the end of this post, to guide part four!
She backed out of her parking spot at an angle and shifted to D to finally leave when it occurred to her to grab the glove. She looked far in every direction but saw no sign of the tall man. Where did he go? How did he disappear so quickly? She checked her backseat. Illogical, but still. She rolled her window down and leaned out to see exactly where the glove was. Just a few steps away. She shifted back to P.
Window still down, engine still running, she opened the door wide and tip toed across the short distance to grab her glove. Slowly and softly, as if making unnecessary noise would draw him back.
She rushed back to the safety of her car, rolled her window up, and hit the lock key twice before speeding out of the parking lot, flooded with adrenaline. An unusual odor filled the car, something earthy and almost like incense. It was her glove. It wasn’t a bad odor, but the unfamiliarity of it was alarming.
The bank parking lot was barely two blocks down the road. She was thrilled to see a patrol car sitting in its usual spot, facing out, the officer inside staring at his laptop. Just seeing him there soothed her nerves, and she considered leaving. This is ridiculous, she berated herself again but parked her car anyway. Before getting out, she called her husband’s cell, which was a rare thing to do during work hours. It rang twice and went to voice mail. She let out a long breath. A minute later he texted.
babe sorry I missed you. In a rough meeting. You ok?
Yeah I’m fine! Just checking in. Weird day.
She decided in that instant to not make a big deal out of this.
love you, I am so hungry for dinner!
No need to make him worry about nothing while he’s dealing with work. She put her phone down and closed her eyes. More deep breathing.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK Quick, polite raps on her driver’s side window elicited a little yelp this time. She sat straight up and stiff.
“Are you ok, maam?” The police officer was standing an arm’s length away and slightly to the side, leaving plenty of space near the door. Her decision a moment ago to not make a big deal out of this was forgotten. In brand new instant she was ready to ask for help. She opened the door slowly, greeted him, and stood up in the cold open air.
“I’m fine, sorry, thank you for checking. This is ridiculous but I actually came over here to tell you about something. I just came from the park.” Her hands were shaking.
“Are you ok, did something happen?”
“It’s probably nothing. I feel super silly. But there was this man, and he had my glove, and…” She displayed the glove as a visual aide but lost the thread of her story.
“Why don’t you take a deep breath and tell me what happened.”
“Honestly not much actually happened, but I don’t know him. I know everyone here, I think, but not him, and still he acted like he knew me and was kind of aggressive a minute ago. And there was this long, rectangular hole in the woods. Like a small grave? Have you seen it? Has anyone else reported it? I just came from there.”
The officer studied her and was trying to reassemble the fragments of her story into something that made sense. Kind and patient, he nodded and waited. Allowed her to catch another breath before asking a question. “Did you see which way he walked?”
“Yes. He walked toward here actually, toward that maintenance building, but he disappeared so quickly I didn’t see exactly where he ended up.” She waved at the nearby building, gave as good a physical description of the man as she could, and found herself shaking less. She was thankful he was asking a few questions but doubtful that he shared her concern. A crisp breeze reinvigorated the new fragrance coming from her glove. “Do you smell that? It’s not from me. It’s not on my other glove.” He leaned in slightly to smell the glove, and a look of recognition clouded his otherwise calm expression. They locked eyes for a split second before he cleared his throat and looked away.
“You said he found your glove and brought it to you? From where again?” The officer definitely smelled what she smelled. Not quite patchouli, not quite pinion wood, but something earthy like that and almost like incense. Sweet and woodsy and new. He was resisting some new thought; she could see that in his eyes. But he was still asking questions, so she followed his lead and told him more about the rectangular hole in the woods, about where it was, how it did not have sharp edges as if cut away by the bulldozer. All the while he nodded and listened. She pulled her phone out to show him the photo and watched his face closely for more glints that might tell her what he was thinking. He swallowed, cleared his throat again, and shifted his weight from one foot to the other.
“Hhmm,” he said, nodding thoughtfully. “Let me go check something real quick. Sit tight. You ok? Can I have that?”
“I’m okay.” He gestured for the glove, and she handed it over happily, thrilled that he was taking this seriously. Maybe it was nothing. Maybe she was being ridiculous. But hearing so from a police officer would help her let it go. He walked to his patrol car. She sat down in the driver’s seat of her yellow car, just absorbing these tiny developments. As she waited for the officer to return, she gazed forward and just breathed. A school bus passed the bank. Then a minivan followed by a Jeep full of highschoolers. Then her breath stopped on an exhale. It was the pickup truck normally parked behind the maintenance building, which she has always assumed was permanently out of order. Behind the steering wheel was the man from the park. He stared at her, glanced to the cop and back to her, then was gone.
By the time the officer returned to her car, she was shaking again. He looked troubled, too, but not because he had seen the man in the truck.
A. Does the officer have information for her?
B. Or does the officer tell her there’s nothing to worry about, but maybe she should not go to the woods alone?