bunny in sumi style

Wonderland: Part 2


Following up with last week’s prompt response, I have another part of that story, which now has a title. This one is going to be a bit darker and grittier than my usual. 

Part 2

“What’s the matter, Shelb?” John’s plopped the file down on her desk. “You know, for a paperless office, we sure use a lot of paper.” Shelby pulled the file towards her, glancing at the label. 

“Winter blues.” She answered his first question.

“Yeah, you lost that nice tan you came back from vacation with. Might be time for another one.” He turned like he was starting to walk away.

“Hey!” Shelby called after him. “What did you drop this on my desk for?” She thumped the file.

“A review of dead cases.” He turned around and pointed. “I could use fresh eyeballs, on this one. The one where you saw the white rabbit.”

“It’s open cases, not dead cases, Johns. And it’s February, this happened in November. I thought you said it was going to be an easy one.” Shelby flipped open the file and looked down at the top sheet.

“Yeah, well, I was wrong.” John slouched back towards her desk. “went through a crap ton of dark video footage, best I can tell is what hit him was vaguely SUV shaped, and a dark color. Funny thing though…” Shelby looked up at him. Johns was staring at the wall, a distant look in his eyes.

“If you tell me there was a rabbit…” She started.

 “Hah!” His grin flashed out. He focused on her. “That was all you, Carroll. Now, he wasn’t jogging… He was… looked like he was running for his life.” 

“So it wasn’t a hit-and-run. Someone ran him down on purpose.” Shelby pressed her hand flat on the papers. That was why Johns had given it to her to read. He wanted fresh eyes because he had a hunch.

“I can’t prove it.” Johns’ tone had turned solemn. “I can’t prove anything, he never regained consciousness, died in the hospital after three days. We never even got an ID on the guy.”

“I’ll take a look at it, Johns.” Shelby assured him.. “But I’m no miracle worker.” 

His easy smile came back to his face, “what, you can’t just pull a rabbit out of your hat?” He strutted out of her office, leaving Shelby smiling at his back.


Her personal phone rang. Shelby sighed and looked at the screen. Caller ID said it was her mother. 

She let it ring one more time then picked it up. If she didn’t answer, her mother would just keep calling until she did. 

“Mom, I’m at work…” Shelby didn’t get anything else out.

“Shelby Louise Carroll,” her mother started.

“Yes, Mom, I have a last name and two firsts. In that order. That hasn’t been funny since I was like 7.” Shelby put her face in her hand. She knew what was coming. 

Her mother sputtered, but refused to be sidetracked. “Do you know what your brother is up to?” 

“No.” Shelby sighed and sat up, “Nor do I really want to know.” 

“You need to go see him.” Her mother’s voice was shrill. “And tell him..” 

“Mom. No. He is a grown man. I will go see him, but I am telling him nothing. Now, I’m going to hang up, because I am at work.” 

Shelby pulled the phone away from her ear. She could still hear her mother’s voice, tinny and distant, but couldn’t make out what she was saying. She pressed the button and the call ended. 

Shelby did a quick read through of the file to get an overall idea of it. Johns had been right, there wasn’t a lot of information to go on. The email he had sent with the highlights of the video wasn’t a lot of help either; the section of road where the hit-and-run had occurred was not well lit. She saw that Johns had appended a note that the city was aware of the broken lights, that there were many complaints about street lights out in this particular residential area. A handwritten scrawl at the bottom of the page indicated that they had been fixed within days of the accident. 

Only, after watching the video, Shelby realized he’d been right. This was no accident. Even though you couldn’t make out details on the video the body language screamed fear. Shelby didn’t think the vehicle had deliberately swerved to hit the runner, but it was hard to tell the angle of the impact. It occurred slightly off from whichever videocamera had been watching that part of the street. Perspective was difficult. 

Shelby leaned back from her desk and rubbed her temples with both hands. Everyone had been asleep. She was willing to believe, unlike the city out here in the suburbs, even the rundown one where the accident had taken place, people were asleep at that hour. It was unusual to see any foot traffic about that late, although a few hours later there were usually some people out walking for exercise. And some people walking to work. 

She turned back through the pages, looking to see if any kind of bag or backpack had been found with the body. There was nothing like that recorded, and no wallet in his pocket. Something struck Shelby as she was reading through the list of effects. He hadn’t been wearing a jacket. Just a hoodie.

It was at the very end of the file that Shelby found what she was sort of looking for. The report on the gun that she’d found and pulled out of the storm drain. The serial number had been obliterated, no surprise, that was common among street guns. It had been old enough to be from her grandfather’s era, which likely meant that it was stolen goods that had passed through hands until it wound up where she’d found it. She looked for the lab report on the serial number itself, and found nothing indicating they had attempted to retrieve it. There was a report that indicated insufficient evidence to say if the gun had been fired recently. Given where she’d found it, wasn’t surprised by that either. The gun wasn’t linked to the hit-and-run, nor was it linked to anything else. Shelby reached for her notepad. She scrawled a note to remind herself to find out if there was a way to recover the lost serial number. 

She knew that sometimes scraping it down wasn’t enough, and there were some techniques that could be used. She’d have to run it by her boss. She wasn’t sure if it was in the budget to do that extra lab work, although with this case in a death involved he’d likely permit it.

Shelby put the report on the gun back in the file, and tipped her chair back as far as it would go, stretching and rolling her neck. She stayed there, staring at the ceiling when she was done. There had been no witnesses. No, there might have been witnesses; there was no way of telling if more than one person had been in that SUV. For that matter… she sat back up again. 

What if the SUV had not hit the man on purpose? What if they hadn’t seen him? She went back to the highlight reel. It wasn’t possible to tell from this angle, and with this lighting, if the guy had been running down the sidewalk, and suddenly stepped out onto the street and he’d come in at a shallow angle, he might’ve been on the road as the SUV pulled up. He was dressed all in black, his visibility from to the vehicle might not have been good. Maybe she was grasping at straws. 

She checked the time. If she was going to meet up with Alan she needed to kill another hour or two. That shouldn’t be a problem, there was always paperwork to do.

Shelby walked in Alan’s place and stopped dead. She looked around, and suddenly her mother’s excitement seemed more understandable. Marchand, Allen’s big bouncer, had his back to her. He was wiping down the table. Without turning around he growled. “Joint’s not open yet.”

Shelby grinned to herself. “I’m not here for a drink.” She growled back.

Now he turned and looked at her and then he cupped his hands and shouted, “Boss man. Sister’s here.”

In a more normal tone of voice, he said to Shelby, “you know I’ll make you a drink anytime, honey.”

“Only if it’s a Shirley Temple, March.” She walked towards the bar, the bouncer following her. “What the hell is he doing in here?”

“It’s Dead Love, baby!” Alan popped out of the doorway that led into his office behind the bar. “Don’t you like it? Don’t you associate all the black with Valentine’s Day? All the graves of lost loves…” He waved his arms around in a grandiose gesture, and somehow managed to be more comical than anything else.


Shelby felt the laughter bubbling up inside of her. “All the Halloween shit was on sale wasn’t it, Alan?” Beside her, she heard Marchand giggle, always a surprising noise from such a big man, and one she always loved to hear him make.

She always thought of something else. “Where are Tweedledee and Tweedledum?”

Alan looked around like he had just noticed the absence of his other two employees and then looked at Marchand.

 “March, honey, make like a bunny and go find the girls?” Allen’s eyes dropped to Shelby. “Now, I know you’re not here to critique my decor.”

Shelby slid up on one of the battered barstools. “Well, as much as this is genius marketing for Valentine’s Day, Alan. I’m here because mom called me, panicking, for some goddamn reason.” She swung around to put her elbows on the bar. “Hit me with a Shirley Temple. I was trying to figure out a call from Mama and it was simpler to come down.” 

He came around the bar and reached underneath the front, coming back up with a warm can of Coke. 

“You don’t get the fancy drinks unless you pay for them.” He plopped it down in front of her. “Also, because I’m mad that you’re coming to yell at me, instead of Mom coming herself.”

There was a small, sleepy noise from behind the bar and Alan looked down. Shelby couldn’t  see who was back there, but she could see Alan reach out gently with his foot and stirred the sleeper. Shelby hiked herself up to look over the bar. 

Curled up on the floor, covered in a leather trenchcoat Shelby recognized as Marchand’s, was a young girl. 

“Now, who is this?” Shelby inquired, settling back into her seat and opening the offered soda.

“You know I collect strays…” Allen was still looking down at the girl. There was a faint smile on his face.

“Yes, I do, but I don’t normally see them asleep on the bar floor.” Shelby was beginning to understand what was behind her mother’s panicked call.

“Since I can tell you’re off duty, sister, by the lack of bulk over the boobage.” Alan made a gesture over his chest, indicating Shelby with a flourish. “You won’t  harass me about there being an underage child in an establishment, and a little later, you won’t harass me about that same underage child serving drinks.”

“Excuse me? If I knew there was an underage child in this establishment Alan Carroll I would have it shut down so fast…” 

From behind her a high-pitched female voice interrupted her. “Shut down! Miss Shelby…” 

Shelby spun around on the stool to smile at the blonde girl who stood there with her hands on her hips.

“I’m not going to shut down my brother’s bar, Carita.” Shelby shook her head at the girl. She knew better than to try and use sarcasm on Alan’s waitstaff. Neither of them understood any kind of nuance. Cute, but nothing upstairs. Shelby turned and looked around. “Where is Cherie?”


Shelby dropped her hands on her hips and tossed her head, “she’s in the bathroom, cleaning,” that last added with emphasis. As though Shelby might accuse her of doing something else.

We’ve established you are not going to shut me down, “Alan spoke from behind her. “Would you like to meet the newest member of my staff?” Shelby turned around and looked into the sleepy big brown eyes of the young woman who’d been lying on the floor.

“In this state,” Shelby intoned in her best cop voice. “The legal age for serving alcohol is no less than 18. Are you less than 18, young lady?” 

She had to give the girl this –  there was a momentary flicker of befuddlement, but even from her sleepy state, the girl answered promptly, “I’m 18.”

There were no extraneous protestations, no declarations of innocence, and those big brown eyes met Shelby’s steadily.

“Since I’m not on duty, and I don’t have the authority to ask you for ID, I’m not going to. I will comment that my brother’s idiocy, with an underage server, would shut this joint down. Which will upset your mother. Because she’s constantly worried about Alan squandering his Uncle Davey’s inheritance.”

The girl did look confused, and she flicked a glance upward at Alan. Alan unhelpfully just smirked Shelby shook her head and took another sip of Coke.

 “Nice to meet you, my name’s Shelby. We’ll leave off the detective part for right now.” She put one hand out across the bar and the other girl reached out her own and shook Shelby’s.

“I’m Mai Au.” She said, releasing Shelby’s hand.

Shelby blinked, sure she had misheard. “I beg your pardon?” 

Alan chuckled. “Congratulations, Meow, you just brought out her southern.” Both girls gave him an annoyed glare. Alan didn’t even flinch. “It’s Vietnamese, Shelby.”

“Alan, if I come back here later, and find that you are making her wear cat ears…”

Behind her. Shelby got the satisfaction of hearing Marchand giggle again. She spun around in the barstool and saw that both waitresses and the bouncer had come back into the room, all of them busy with readying the room for the night’s patrons.

 “Y’all are crazy, you know that?” Shelby scooted off the stool. Over her shoulder, she announced. “Alan, I’ll text Mom that you are perfectly sane, the marketing idea is genius. And I won’t mention the cat girl.”

My prompt for this week came from Fiona Grey, with “Choose a holiday and a color not normally associated with that holiday for your inspiration.” 
I prompted Nother Mike with “Far under the sea, like snowflakes drifting downward into the perpetual dark, was…” 
You can find out more about the Odd Prompts challenge, and read other responses from the last 42 weeks! over at More Odds Than Ends. Join us! The writing’s fine! 


4 responses to “Wonderland: Part 2”

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard Avatar
    Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard


    Oh, I still wonder just how big the non-human skull was (in the first part). 😉

  2. Mark O'Malley Avatar
    Mark O’Malley

    Easy to tellyou’ve been reading Spillane. It’s Hammer-esque.

    1. The funny thing is, I had finished writing this part before I was reading the Hammer book. But I have read a lot of Spillane in the past years.

  3. […] challenge to be inspired by an unusual color and holiday combination went to Cedar Sanderson, who did not […]