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The Color of Charcoal

Updated on February 4, 2017



The car windows were darkened to the color of charcoal, and the alley grew hushed. It was so quiet, not even the rodents made a sound. Dead quiet. It was almost like fear and hope were fighting for supremacy.

The two detectives who were the first to arrive at the scene checked the car’s interior. They were searching the upholstery and carpeting for odd stains, hairs or fibers.

The paranoid shopkeepers that lined the front side of the alley decided that they didn’t want to be part of any investigation. The detectives noticed that they had already begun to trundle their wares into safety. Pottery, fruits, clothes, it didn’t matter what they sold. The store owners weren’t taking chances.

The State Streets alley ways; the name was as dark as its corridors. The lead detective actually found himself seeking the light. The alley way reminded him of how bad the city could be. He had lost too many years of his life on these very same streets. He had spent too much time staring at the sadness, dreaming of escape.

In Late July, the Otis Henry case had just entered its third week. The detectives on all shifts would band together to help locate the eight year old boy who only recently arrived from Haiti to live with his aunt before he was abducted.

The lead detective knew that in a world with more missing children than detectives, time would not give him a break. Not even for eight year old Otis Henry. The color of charcoal would best describe the situation; Grey and dreary.

He worked homicide for almost twenty years and it made him bitter, made him wiser, made him more careful. None of that made it any easier when it came to the abduction of children. Nothing could prepare him for what he would find when a missing child’s case comes to a finalization.

The other detective finished checking the back seat. Then both of the men walked around to the trunk. The lead detective turned the key they found still in the ignition, but hesitated before opening it up. A clang from the far end of the alley caught his attention. One of the garbage can lids fell over and a cat jumped out, glanced from side to side and shot off. It was almost as if the cat was preparing the detectives for something hideous.

Before the lead detective opened that trunk, he felt weird. He also smelled the stench of fear and death. That stench of death was so thick he could have touched it. The strange feeling was impossible to hide, and his partner knew it. They did not need a warrant for the car, but the lead detective wished that he had to get one. He closed his eyes briefly as he listened for any signs of life.

Hesitation still kicked in.

“Maybe the boy’s body is not in the trunk,” his partner said, but didn’t even believe that himself.

The lead detective nodded.

It was a shit brown Lincoln Continental, about twenty years old. The car ditched in the alley way matched the depressing décor. The only thing that seemed wrong to the lead detective was the heat. By rights, the alley way should have been as cold as its walls, but it wasn’t. The heat was thick and nearly unbearable. The heat also accentuated the smells; the garbage, the piss stench, the unwashed bodies of the homeless, and that smell of death wafting out from the car trunk.

“There he is,” said the lead detective, his voice flat with disappointment.

His partner exhaled slowly, suddenly the smell was overpowering and they had to turn away.

“Don’t worry, we’ll find the son of a bitch who did this,” said the other detective. “He’ll go down.”

The eight year old boy didn’t even look menacing or combative. He appeared to be frail and there was no way that he could put up a fight. His young face was leathery and his death expression was motionless.

“Did you hear me?” The detective continued. “We will catch him and make him pay.”

The lead detective was washed in fatigue and in doubt as he just said nothing…





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© 2013 Frank Atanacio

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    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

      Cam thank you for stopping by :) Frank

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Frank, this story was very easy to continue reading as each sentence painted a picture and otherwise caused me to experience the scene. Thoroughly enjoyed.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

      thank you so much for such a comment Jodah, bless you bro :)

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      hi Frank. this ticked all the boxes for me, your writing is crisp and punchy, and your descriptions and use of the senses superb. The story made you feel what detectives must go through, the frustration at crimes unsloved, and perpetrators unpunished.......but they will get them, at least do everything they can. Your writing have shades of ...Raymond Chandler, and other names spring to my mind...Mickey Spillane, Mike Hammer.....though now when I read crime fiction, I think I'll compare it to Frank Atanacio. Well done.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

      thank you Audrey bless you

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Another great and gritty write Frank! Love these!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
      Author

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      thanks sweetie1 for popping on by :)

    • sweetie1 profile image

      sweetie1 4 years ago from India

      Frank this is very common problem here too that people just do not want to be part of any investigation and police many a time can not do anything without witness , yet no eye witness comes forward.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
      Author

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      yea I was thinking about it.. LOL thanks for stopping by MOMS

    • Moms-Secret profile image

      Lissette 4 years ago from Central Florida

      Good morning Frank. Thank you for wrapping me up in the leads hopelessness. Had to visit your main page for this. I can't rely on my feed. :)

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      Epi thanks for the compliment..LOL you have a happy easter as well my friend :) bless you

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 4 years ago

      Well Frank I always take this opportunity to say that you're one of my all time favorite hub writers and I love this stunning title - actually it's a title to die for - are you familiar with the songwriting of Tom Waits?

      I believe the two of you must be kindred spirits in the way you both write.

      And I also think of Harry Morgan in Dragnet - when I read your work with the line -"Just the facts ma'am."

      Sending you happy Easter wishes to you and your family on this sunday morning from lake erie time ontario canada 10:18am

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
      Author

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      thanks again Vin...:)

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

      Frank,

      the title is very attractive. It lures the readers to read it once.

      And your story never fails to deliver the entertainment.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
      Author

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      thank you b malin :)

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 4 years ago

      The tension was very intense Frank. Even though the ending was sadly obvious, you were able to build the hope, mixed in with the fear, followed by the reality.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
      Author

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      thank you so much Audrey bless you :)

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Such a vivid write Frank! Loved this!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
      Author

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      thanks Faith :)

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

      Very clever and intense write. I hope they catch they . . . creep too!

      Voted up +++ and sharing

      God bless, Faith Reaper

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
      Author

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      thanks so much Sueswan and Marlene :) bless you both

    • profile image

      lovedoctor926 4 years ago

      Awesome story Frank. I like the imagery you used to describe the smells. I hope they catch the SOB too. Have a sunny day!

    • profile image

      Sueswan 4 years ago

      Great writing as always Frank. I hope they catch the S.O.B.

      Voted up and awesome

      Have a good day. :)

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      thank you Poetvix LOL

    • poetvix profile image

      poetvix 4 years ago from Gone from Texas but still in the south. Surrounded by God's country.

      I had to hit beautiful for it was, but in the most sadly tragic way imaginable. The way you used color for symbolism was stellar by the way.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
      Author

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      thanks so much msdora :)

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Another good story. Although I knew that the body was in the car, I was still anxious to "see" it. You pulled me in. good job!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
      Author

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      thanks as always Valleypoet :) thank you too Jackie and Mhatter :) bless you all

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Good story. All I can add is keep going. Thank you

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I use to read these stories almost exclusively years ago. Your writing is as good or better. A real talent.

    • profile image

      Valleypoet 4 years ago

      An emotive, harrowing scene brought to a dreaded conclusion...described in your usual brilliant way...thank you Frank:-))

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      you are too kind gmwilliams..bless you :)

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 4 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Crisp story, aptly and succinctly describes the underbelly of society. Highly descriptive and keeps the reader interested. You are indeed an excellent fiction writer. You should start writing books, really.