Fear, focus, and the future. Here, C.M. Humphries writes about whatever.
Here's the third installment of "Lucky Shot," another story from the lost files. I wrote this awhile back, and to catch you up to speed, this is the tale of Chance Black, his family, and a mad man.
Chance is a photographer for the Long Brooke Sync, a tabloid publication famous all around and outside of Chase County. His day starts as usual: he's late for a conference and a perfect shot at the C.E.O. of a corporation.
Luckily, Chance is able to take the picture the Sync paid him for, but his photograph contains a bit more than anyone expected. This unanticipated photograph is of great value to a man who is desperate to make sure it's never published.
That's all I'll spoil for now. If you need to catch up, here are the previous two installments:
Chance knew then that it was no longer a joke. If it was, it wouldn’t have been so cruel. His car was really destroyed and his family could have really been at stake. Nobody that he could name would ever have such horrendous intentions; therefore, whoever was leaving the notes was certainly not a close friend.
I have your family. Wait for the call.
Is this person serious? Chance wondered. He hoped not.
Days of old, pictures known as memories, played forth in Chance’s head. He visualized his wife and son. At this time, Tony was only five years old. From the kitchen window, Linda was able to watch the two play a game of catch - father-to-son - during the time it took to prepare chopped meat for hamburgers. Tony, transfixed with the joy of a simple pleasure, ran backwards for a long throw. Absentmindedness. Tony caught his leg on a thorn bush. His focal point was the ball in flight, so he paid little attention to the plant and tugged as hard as he could to break free from its hold. He tripped after applying too much force and lost sight of the ball just before it connected viciously with his head.
Chance threw off his glove and ran after his son. Tony lied on the ground motionless. After a few failed attempts to bring Tony back to consciousness, Chance immediately rushed his son to the hospital. Luckily, if he could consider it lucky, Chance learned that his son was only knocked out, with a minor concussion. Chance remembered how worried he was that day. For a moment he thought he had lost his son.
Now, some prick, for lack of a better word but not that Chance cared to call him anything different, had his son captive with his wife. Chance didn't want to envision what could be possibly happening to his family. His stomach turned before he even had a chance to tell himself not to think about it. Nonetheless, when he would find the one responsible for all the notes and phone calls, he would choke the last precious breath out of him or her. He swore it.
Chance had an almost uncontainable urge to act. But, would that have been wise of him? He was told to wait for the call. Did that literally mean wait?
Any more time spent in the parking lot seemed like time wasted to him. One hypothesis that he made was that in the time he waited for the next call, the man holding his family hostage would be able to leave Chance’s house and head towards wherever he was taking them, if anywhere. Having Chance wait was an opportunity to grab the wife and kid and go without any disturbance in the process.
Because and only because Chance was worried for the well-being of his family, he decided not to send the police to his house. He had read all the books, seen all the movies, and read all the newspapers. Though police work was often the most sensible way to get help, it was not always right. By tipping off the police, Chance could have been putting his family in greater peril.
All things taken into account, Chance took the Post-It note seriously and waited.
Chance’s cell phone rang. He thought about not answering it, but a rush of anxiety urged him to step away from procrastination and answer the call. Chance looked down at his screen, expecting to see his house number. Instead, it was a list of one and eleven digits that he did not recognize. Nevertheless, he flipped the cell phone open.
“Tell me where my family is!” Chance screamed into the phone.
“Just calm down,” the caller said. “They’re perfectly fine, I assure you that. However, I can not guarantee just how long they will remain that way. I’m thinking… four hours. I believe that’s when your newspaper goes out for sale the next day, correct?”
“Right. What do you want with my newspaper?”
“It’s not so much the newspaper I want. It’s something you have.”
“You’ve already told me this. What do you want?” There was no reply for a moment, causing Chance to grow worried. “What is that you want?” he repeated.
“Earlier today you went to see the C.E.O.,” the caller informed.
“Yes, but it was just to get a few shots for the news—the photograph?”
“Exactly. Now you know what I want.”
“What do you want with my photograph of the C.E.O.—?”
“Take a good look at it and you will know. You have four hours to retrieve the photograph and bring it to me. The paper must not go out with that photo. Four hours.”
“Where do I find you?” Chance asked, but the called ended before he got an answer.
Chance looked into his received calls list on his phone and found the number the man had called him from. He selected the number and tried to call him back.
The phone kept ringing and ringing without anyone to pick it up. Then, after he looked at the number when he gave up, Chance started to wonder if the man could have possibly called him from a payphone. No, he almost knew that a pay phone had to be the answer.
Chance sprinted towards the front entrance of the newsroom. Hand on the push bar, Chance threw his weight into the door until it would open. Regrettably, it stayed closed.
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Fear, focus, and the future. C.M. Humphries talks about writing, horror, and whatever.