Working Title - Parking Lot Story
UNFINISHED Started in 2020
The moon shined down upon the figure on the opposite side of the parking lot to reveal that it was holding a knife. It was obviously a man that was bent over messing with something on the ground. Aubrey could tell he was facing away from her. She froze and opened her mouth attempting to control the volume of her panicked breath. The sweat from the warm Texas night beaded just above her lip, vibrating with every inhalation. Noticing the shine of the moon was blocked by the steel building she just exited from she dared to lift a foot and try to retreat slowly, quietly.
Each crackling pop of the asphalt below her shoes was a firecracker demanding attention. Her right foot slipped as the heel broke from her pump. The sounds amplified in her head as she considered making a run for the door of the dance studio. But having left the lesson so late, she knew in her heart that Mark, the instructor, had already said his goodbye, locked the door behind her and most likely was in the back of the building. Her veins pounded in her arms and neck. Her long auburn hair dangled in front of her eyes blocking her view of the expected assailant. She was terrified. But, if it wasn’t late at night, if she wasn’t alone, if the studio wasn’t on a country road with no streetlights…
She leaned on the pickup next to her afraid she may stumble from the fear weakening her knees. Her dark green dress hid well against the black of the truck. Every horror movie she had seen suddenly came rushing into her head and she was the slender attractive woman that dies in the introduction. Her inner dialogue told her, ‘Don’t be stupid. Everyone in horror movies die because of stupid mistakes.’ The thought triggered her to kneel and remove her high heels. But as she slipped off the second shoe the man on the other side of the parking lot stood up and swiftly spun about face.
As the man began making his way towards her in her crouched down position on the side of the truck, she did not notice his black work boots, his thick coat, or his EMT overalls. She only saw the glint of the knife as he quickly made his way towards her. Her time had run out, she could not make it to her car without crossing his path. She got to her feet and pressed against the truck beside her hoping that he may not see her.
As he came within a couple feet of Aubrey, she stood ready in a position where she prepared her right leg to kick as hard as she could into the man’s crotch, but he passed her. She remained frozen for a few seconds before she quickly and as quietly as she could she gathered her shoes and scampered over to where the man was originally standing and pressed her thumb against the handle to unlock her car. As she pulled the door open, she looked over at the man and chuckled to herself when she saw his uniform.
Aubrey pulled on her seatbelt and took a couple slow breaths to calm herself. She rolled her eyes and shook her head as she pressed the button to start her car, mumbling her opinion of her thoughts as she pulled out of the parking lot and onto the dirt road.
The tires moving the rocks of the road startled the man in the EMT uniform, but when he turned to look the woman was already on the road and he assumed it was a late-night passerby. He shrugged it off as he focused on his mission and pulled the black mask down over his face.
The six-mile drive back to town did little for her nerves, but as she turned into her driveway again under the safety of the streetlights, she saw her husband sprawled out on the couch in their garage. The sight of him enjoying himself in his mancave did usually bother her, but she usually was not so shaken. As she opened the door to the car, she started in on her half-inebriated husband, Charlie.
“Starting next week you are taking these damn dancing lessons too!” Her voice echoed into the neighborhood as well as the garage, overpowering the television and startling the man that was drifting away to slumber as he watched an old football game on ESPN Classics.
He dropped his can of old warm beer as he jumped to his feet to welcome his wife back home. “Honey, whoa, slow down. Where is this coming from? I thought you were enjoying some you time?” He uttered back wishing he had never bought the electric car as it allowed her to constantly sneak up on him when she came home.
“Well, that was before I was almost raped and murdered!” She stood with her hands in the air, one shoe dangling from each.
“What? Oh my God, are you ok? Who the f…?” He had snapped back to complete sobriety at this revelation and was reaching for his own keys in a dramatic response to go find the man responsible.
She changed her demeanor as she did not expect this reaction. “Calm down. There was just a guy in the parking lot when I left.” She avoided looking at her husband with her head down, now somewhat embarassed by the whole ordeal. “And it turned out to be an EMT.”
Charlie dropped his head and shoulder and let out a deep sigh as the adrenaline slowly dissipated and the alcohol began to return to its normal effects. “Thank god.” He slowly walked towards her with both arms out to embrace his partner as they both let laughter curb their thoughts because after all neither of them were interested in his taking dance lessons.
The two stood in their driveway hugging for a few seconds. Charlie moved his hands to his wife’s lower back and leaned back hoping his wife would see him as the protector and lover always wished to be. “I’m glad you are safe, because I didn’t want to have to go start taking those lessons with…” He trailed off as he noticed that one of her ballroom shoes was no longer a heel. He dropped his arms to his sides and quietly scolded his wife. “Do you realize how much money those damn shoes cost?”
Aubrey looked to the sky shaking her head as the two let go of one another, “Real nice. I have a terrifying moment and you only care about money.” She began walking to the kitchen door but turned back to her husband before she went inside. “It is things like this that are driving us apart.”
“One of us has to think about money! We can’t both not work and just spend all the time.” These words were met with a flying shoe that Charlie managed to block with his arm. She slammed the door as she fled his words. He leaned down and picked up the sparkling green shoe sans its diamond studded heel. He looked at the two-hundred-dollar shoe, shed a couple tears realizing that something so unimportant may destroy the most important relationship in his life.
He closed the garage door and laid down on the couch preparing for another night away from his wife relieved that the events of the night had concluded.
Every day has meaning. Once in a while that day means something to nearly everyone, but most of the time specific days are only truly meaningful to a few. The following day was an important day for Aubrey.
As usual, she woke up and her husband had gone to work. The brief fight from the night before still lingered in her thoughts, but it was just another one to add to the mound of disfunction their marriage had become. Her head did not put a lot of effort into those thoughts anymore, they just drifted around as she went about her life. She knew that Charlie would be back home at lunchtime because it was Thursday and he worked from his local suburb office on Thursdays. Monday through Wednesday were her free days. Those were the days that Charlie drove the hour and a half into Dallas where his job as an orthodontist paid off.
She did not want to see Charlie at lunch. She considered going to the dance studio and spending time with Mark, but she could not do that. The chance that Charlie may come looking for her and find her with Mark would be catastrophic. She had spent the last three months being so careful to not let him know about her affair. She had done everything she could think of to keep Mark as nothing more than a dance instructor in her husband’s eyes. The late-night lessons on Wednesdays, when no one else is on the books for that time slot. The Monday morning Ubers to the market in the next town over where it just so happens that Mark lives and is free to spend time with Aubrey since the studio has no classes on Monday. And the fictitious Tuesday erotic book club that could explain any slips of the tongue that she makes around Charlie, ‘it’s from a book I read’.
She would suck it up and prepare for the four day stretch where she wished she had built a better life for herself. Mark was on her mind constantly with his suave demeanor, smooth dancing, fit body, and their amazing chemistry. All she could do on Thursdays was ask why she had chosen an older man who was so controlling and self-obsessed. She spent most of her days alone, childless, and guilt ridden for wasting money. She felt that her youth and looks were slipping, her twenties were not going to stick around much longer.
She went about her day, ate breakfast, cleaned the dishes, sweated out with some yoga. Around 11:30 she started to pull out the lunch meat and cheese preparing for Charlie to walk in any moment to do the normal Thursday ritual.
Loud and quick knocks came from the front door. Aubrey absentmindedly closed the fridge and went to the door. Peeking through the small patterned window in the door she could see that it was their neighbor James in his full sheriff uniform. His big tan cowboy hat hid his receding grey hairline and shadowed his slightly portly figure. She swung the door wide open and greeted him with an overly southern voice, “Howdy there officer, what can I do fer you?” She had a huge grin across her face.
James had his head down looking at the doormat with its big red rooster. “Aubrey.” The sheriff started, “I’m sorry, but I need you to come with me.”
Aubrey, assuming this was a prank of some sort, presented her wrists and said, “Oh, but what have I done?” still speaking like a southern belle.
He reached around the back of his waist, “Not a joke. You are a suspect in the murder of Mark Haskins.” He proceeded to read her Miranda Rights.
The world went silent in Aubrey’s ears as the warm steel cuffs shackled her hands together. She did not speak, she did not hear, she did not react to anything except for involuntary trek to the squad car parked at her curb.
Charlie pulled up to the house just as James was closing the back door with Aubrey inside. He put both hands on his badge as he looked to the sky and waited for Charlie to get out of his car. The police officer searched for the words, he hated pretending like Aubrey was faithful to Charlie, but could not be the person to lay it out for him.
Charlie slammed the door of his Lamborghini Urus and jogged over to the cop car. “Hey, James. What is going on?”
The officer looked at James without flinching and spoke, “I need to ask Aubrey some questions.” He paused waiting for Charlie to respond, but he just turned his head a bit in an inquisitive look. “Mark Haskins was killed last night.”
The blank stare that police are so used to seeing hit his neighbor. Charlie quietly asked, “Her dance instructor?”
“Yes Charlie, her…” He paused a bit too long, maybe subconsciously trying to reveal something to the man, “dance instructor.”
Sitting in the sterile room waiting for an interrogation Aubrey found herself comparing her experience to scenes from television shows of cops and perps shouting at each other in the same bland room that she now sat in. The white walls with a large mirror on the wall. A single window opposite the single door. She sat at the table in the single chair on her side with her wrists stiff handcuffed in front of her. Even the air she pushed through her lungs felt the hollow sterility of the room.
Sheriff James came in through the door biting his upper lip pushing his thick grey mustache down over the bottom one. He sat down in the chair opposite Aubrey, his tan uniform contrasting dramatically with the white room. He stared off into the tabletop as he began to speak in a hushed voice, “Aubrey, I don’t want to…” He trailed off looking for the words. “This is my job and I can’t be your…” He looked her in the eyes and mouthed, “I’m sorry.”
His demeanor quickly changed as if someone had yelled action. Aubrey watched as the muscles in his face that had pushed back his tears relaxed and there was no sympathy left in his eyes. The transformation ripped at her heart as she realized that she would have no friends for a while.
James loudly began, “Where were you last night at eleven PM?”
She felt the room spin as she instinctively responded. “By eleven I’m usually home, but my lesson ran pretty long last night. I may have been leaving at that time. Charlie might know what time I came home.”
“So you are going to claim that you were having a dance lesson with Mr. Haskins? Is that what you are going to call what you two do?” James’ booming interruption echoed in the small room.
The acknowledgement of her affair was a punch to her ego. In her head it was justified and a necessity, but to hear someone other than Mark or herself mention it was painful. “I mean, Mark and I were,” she broke with sobs from the mention of his name. The vocalization of his name was a reminder of why she was where she was and what had apparently happened.
“You do admit that you were with Mark Haskins last night?” James was very deliberate in his words as he looked over to the two-way mirror with a nod.
Aubrey looked up seeing a surrealistic first-person crime drama when the next line of the movie came to her head. She had been taken into custody, her lover was dead, and her friend was no longer acting as such. She said what she should have remembered from the moment James came in the room. “I would like to speak with a lawyer.”
James demeanor returned to the caring fun neighbor she knew. He let a small smirk drift over his lips. “Ok Aubrey. Do you need one assigned?”
Tears still pouring from her eyes she sniffed between every syllable, “I… don’t… know... I… need… to… call… Charlie…” The words hit her savagely as she realized the one person she was hurting in her affair is who she needed to turn to. Her white t-shirt was starting to become translucent over her belly where the mass of tears had fallen.
In the weeks following the arrest Aubrey found herself utterly alone. Her husband had contacted their lawyer, but when he realized that she was accused of murdering her secret lover he stopped coming to the meetings with the lawyer.
They did not have the funds to post her million dollar bond and she was not sure that Charlie truly wanted her to be home. The daily meetings with the lawyer started with simple things. What did she know, what had happened, was anything out of place, what was her routine… By the third visit it moved onto her psyche and what her thoughts were and of course her affair.
The first time Charlie was in the room when the lawyer asked her to explain her relationship with Mark let her in on the secret that, her affair was far from secret. The question hung in the air for a few seconds before she dared give it the necessary recognition, but Charlie’s defeated grimace as he looked over to his wife almost begging her to lie pushed her to tell the truth.
She had come out and said he was her paramour, not to hurt Charlie or defy his pleading eyes, but because she could see the pain of the knowledge was already there. Her best bet at proving her innocence was to be as truthful as possible. Charlie took it as good as one could expect. He shed some tears in private later, he continued to talk to the lawyer about what he knew and the story of the man his wife thought would murder her, but he had begun to cut his ties from his wife
His removing himself from her and the situation was little to do with the affair. He was aware of what had been happening for months, but it felt self-defeating to acknowledge it in what was becoming a more and more public fashion. So, he tried to be the husband and stand up for his wife, but still remove himself from the situation. Life in the small town also started to creep in on the privacy he hoped he would hold onto. Word spread quickly that Aubrey had been arrested and that Mark had been murdered. The worst part was as it became public knowledge it became more acceptable to talk about the affair that was shaming Charlie.
He started to cancel his Thursdays and Fridays to focus on his Dallas clientele, a much more anonymous existence than the small town provided.