His name was Jeff Skimmer. He claimed his little girl had been murdered. He was very calm and cold for someone who had just lost a child. Jeff wasn’t easy to understand. The first thing he did once he got into my office was offer observations of it. “Why don’t you have any plaks of your accomplishments or your qualifications?” That was the first thing he said. My office was very plain with just a desk, a chair for me at my desk and two chairs at the front of the desk, one of them broken and a dresser to the left of the door to my office which remained opened. The walls were as he implied empty. I had no credentials. I did this work in my spare time. My real job was teaching speech class at a local high school. “A very boring office….but hey….whatever works for people….I guess they have to go with it.” He came over without shutting the door and sat down in the broken chair. “I want you to find the ones who killed my daughter. Her name was Melissa Skimmer. I am her father, Jeff Skimmer. I will pay any price.”
“Well I don’t charge, sir….”
“Here is two thousand dollars upfront. If you need more before we start…just let me know.”
He pulled out a roll of bills. They looked to be that of one hundreds.
“Look, I don’t want your money….I will find them….I just need a little bit more information.”
“Just find them.”
“No….just give me some information as to where I can reach you…..I don’t need any money…” I picked up the bills and handed them back to him. He got out a piece of paper, a pen and wrote down his address and about three numbers where he could be reached. He put back down the money, then got up and walked out without shutting the door.
After he left, I had to take a few minutes for I was crying. I had known Melissa Skimmer. I had seen her just two hours before. She was a student of mine. Sweet child. I couldn’t believe it. I asked myself why. It was hard holding down my urges to seek bloodthristy vengeance. I held firm, though. I was going to bring the perputrators in legally. This was not what I wanted for my first assignment as a freelance and no fee detective nor was I sure I could handle this one.
I had never met her father once. She never talked about him though she and I only talked in class but I always developed a close, personal relationship with my students. Things about the murder were so odd. Her father was so cold about the whole thing, very businesslike actually and I couldn’t understand why he gave me such little information. I turned on my computer. I was going to look up as much information about him and his daughter as possible but before I had a chance to even get started a man in a t-shirt, torn shorts and hiking boots burst into the room also without knocking. He sat down in the good chair.
“A Jeff Skimmer just came in here.”
“I am not at liberty to say.”
“I know he came in here. I have a proposition to offer you.”
“I am not interested.”
“I am willing to offer you a million dollars if you refuse to take the case of Melissa Skimmer.”
“I said I am not interested.”
“I’d think about it….from the looks of your office…you have financial troubles.”
“Leave my office…and don’t come back.”
“Patience is the essence my friend.”
He walked out without shutting the door. What was the deal with people? They didn’t knock before coming in nor shut the door after leaving. What was the world coming to? What kind of a person would want to let a little girl's murder just be pushed under the rug? That man made me cold. I left the office right after. I was just out of the building when I heard an explosion. I pulled out my gun and fell to the ground. I kept my head down for a few seconds and then slowly looked up. I saw smoke coming from a few feet away. My car was destroyed. Car bomb probably. I was sure the man who had just left my office had something to do with it. Just too much of a coincidence. He leaves, car explodes. You put the pieces together. The million dollar question was why they wanted me off the case? Or least you would think. I didn’t care. I also knew it was unwise to head home and go to my teaching job the next day. I went to a hotel far from my home watching my back as I walked the streets. I saw no one. I was rotating and walking at the same time, looking kind of a like a human planet rotating around the sun. I know I looked as if I was paranoid. I didn’t care I didn’t want to take any chances. I called the school from the motel early in the morning to let them know the situation. They understood. I called up Mr. Skimmer a few minutes later.
“Hello, Bob the plummer.”
“Hello, Bob, is there a Mr. Skimmer there?”
“No, I am sorry you have the wrong number.”
“I am sorry, goodbye.”
“No problem, sir. I am the best in town, you need my services don’t hesitate.
I will match anyone's price.”
“Thank you, I will definitely keep you in mind when my plumbing goes bad.
Good day sir.”
“Thank you, good day to you too sir.”
I tried the next two numbers but they were disconnected. I called up the school again. “Hello, Central High.”
“Hello, Mary, it’s me again.”
“Look, I was wondering is there a way you could check to see if one of my students showed up for class today?....umm Melissa Skimmer?”
“Sure hold on….”
She was back in a second. The school got their money’s worth with her.
“Yes, she is in class right now.
“All right, thank you, Mary.”
My insurance for my car surprisingly did their job and provided me with a decent rental car. I left the hotel always looking around me and went to a nearby bench or I think it was a bus stop and started to cry. I was too happy to know she was still all right or at least that she was alive. I asked myself another million dollar question and it was of course, what was going on? A potential client gives me a bum phone number, someone comes in offering me money to give up his case, then my car explodes as I am leaving my office and then Melissa is alive and well. One thing did seem to make sense among what seemed to be abstract chaos. The man who claimed to be the father of Melissa was not her father and he was working with the man who offered me money though it seemed too obvious. They both probably had conspired to kill me as well. Now I just had to prove it, bring them to justice along with whomever else they were working with. I still couldn’t go back to work at the school just yet. These two men
both knew who Melissa was. This meant to me that her life was in danger. I still had to go to the school but not for work, to find out something else. I almost got into a wreck because I kept watching behind me and all around me but I made it to the school intact.I decided to go to the school to see who went to pick her up. I parked in a space near the front of the entrance and kept my head down but not so to where I couldn’t see who was getting out of the building. She came out a few minutes after I got there and stopped at the end of the curb infront of the entrance. I saw a car pull up next to her on at the curb. A man slowly got out
and walked up to Melissa. He put his arm around her and she slowly got into his car.
It was the man who offered me the money to drop the case. I drove up behind his car
and stopped just a foot away from his back bumper. He drove slowly out of the parking lot. I waited a few minutes before I took up the chase keeping a distance of ten feet. I had no idea if he had seen me or if he knew I was following him. He was not trying to lose me so I guessed he had not suspected anything. I didn’t know what would happen once we drove
through an area where no one was around. They went to Melissa’s house.
They got out of the car, he put his arm around her and they walked together to her
house. I was a few feet away. He still didn’t seem to suspect anything. The
man who claimed to be her father came out of the house to greet them and they all went
inside. Melissa didn’t seem too happy when I saw her come out of the school to meet one
of the men. Infact, she seemed scared. I came to the conclusion that these men
had kidnapped her. Nothing else matter at this point. I had to find out for sure
if Melissa was in danger while watching my back. I went back to my
office immediately. As I entered the hallway to my office, I saw a woman.
She looked to be in her early 30s, long brunette hair, torn jeans, black t shirt
and black sneakers. She looked right at me as I approached.
“Hello, my name is Charles Fante. How may I help you?”
“I know. Can we go inside your office?”
I walked past her slowly, unlocked the door and gestured for her to go in first.
“No, you go ahead, it is your office.”
“Okay, thank you.”
She walked in and stood near the desk. I walked past her, pulled out my chair
and sat down. She remained standing.
“You may sit down if you like.”
She sat down slowly in the good chair. She sat quietly with her arms to her side
and she was gently holding onto the sides of the chair. The woman was
looking around the room slowly. She seemed a little nervous.
“How may I help you?”
“My name is Michelle Skimmer.”
I didn’t know what to say. I kept my cool as best I could but I was a little
shaky inside. I let her continue.
“I have a daughter.
“Her name is Melissa.”
Michelle was shocked. Her eyes wide and she became tense.
“Yes. How did you know?”
She started to fiddle with her fingers nervously.
“Someone claiming to be her father, Mr. Jeff Skimmer came into my office
yesterday and asked me to find his daughter. He offered me two thousand
The woman suddenly looked down with a sad face. “I am sorry I don’t have that kind of money. I guess I will be leaving.” She slowly got up. I went over and gently grabbed her shoulder and placed her back down in the chair. I went back to my desk slowly and sat back down in my chair.
“I didn’t take the money.”
She looked up at me and smiled weakly.
“No. I do this kind of work for free.”
She smiled and continued to look at me. The woman suddenly was overtaken by a great relief.
“How may I help you?”
“Melissa has been kidnappened.”
“Yes, by the men who came into my office yesterday.”
She was very surprised to hear this.
“Yes, how did you know?”
"I waited near the school for Melissa to come out. She got into the car with a man I saw yesterday. He came into my office and offered me a million dollars to drop your husbands case. Jeff Skimmer is your husband?"
She looked down sadly. “He was.”
This surprised me.
“My husband died two years ago.”
“Oh I am sorry.”
“It is okay. Please…..I don’t have time to go into any further details. Is there anything you can do to get my daughter back from those men?”
“I need some information first.”
“Do you have legal custody of that child?”
“Have you notified the police?”
“Because technically they have not kidnapped her.” I have not ever heard that term before used. I am not sure if there was anyone in this circle except Melissa I could trust to be straight with me about anything.
“What do you mean? You said she was in your custody…..”
She interrupted, got up and slowly walked closer to the desk. She quickly reached into the back of her pants and pulled out a pistol. I didn’t recognize the type.
“The car bomb should have killed you last night. Those men are such amateurs.”
I was frightened as I had never been before but I kept my cool best I could. “And you’re going to show them how it’s done right.”
“No. I only request that you drop the case entirely.”
“There is no case.”
“Yes there is. I almost can tell what you are thinking….if it is what I think it is….you are correct. However…I am giving you a warning and a chance to save yourself. Let go of this case.”
She slowly backed out of the room and left quickly. I got up from my desk and walked over slowly to the window. I looked out through the blinds, they were open but you couldn’t see through from outside the building and my office was on the tenth floor. I saw her leave slowly without looking up at me and got into her car. I looked around her to see if anyone else had been nearby. I saw no one. I closed the blinds, closed the curtains and sat back down at my desk. I turned on the computer, signed on to the internet and searched for Melissa Skimmer. I got nothing. I searched again and again until I ran out of sites for information. There was nothing on Melissa Skimmer. I didn’t want to but I decided to go the police. I was hoping to do this myself but I couldn’t do this all by myself.
Nothing happened as I left the office and walked out to the lot where my rental car was parked. It was strange but I was relieved. I still looked all around me but saw nothing. I didn’t stop until I was in the car. It was too much inactivity. I decided not to start the car and walked to the nearest station. My instincts were getting better. I must have been about 20 feet and the rental car exploded. This means that I was screwed concerning the insurance company. It was just my luck that shortly after a police car drove by….they drove by. Strangely they didn’t stop to investigate or ask me questions. They had to have seen me on the ground, the debris of what was left of my car and the smoke? It seemed so surreal. Then another cop car came by and this one stopped. I got up, brushed myself off and went up to the car. The police man turned off his car, slowly got out and walked over to meet me.
“I charge five hundred dollars.”
“What are you talking about?”
“If you want me to keep quiet about this….I charge five hundred dollars.”
“I don’t want you to keep silent about it….I want you to investigate…. It concerns a little girl….”
“It doesn’t concern me unless you have money.”
“I am not going to pay you to do your job.”
“You all ready do through taxes, what is the difference with this?’
“It take a lifetime to explain it to you.”
The cop punched me in the mouth, my lip was split and I fell back a bit. I wiped off the blood from my lip. “Some advice, kid, mind your business.” He got back into the car and drove off. I suspected the obvious. He wasn’t a real cop. He did a good job disguising himself though. I couldn’t tell his iniform from any other I had seen.
It took me about an hour to get to the nearest police station. It was a relief that nothing happened and a surprise for I had slacked bit on my lookout. Luckily also it wasn’t too hot. I went towards the police station. I was stopped right before I made it to the entrance by the would be cop who had punched me.
“I told you, son, mind your business.”
“I want to see the chief of police. I know you’re not a real cop.”
“Yes I am.”
He made a swing at me but this time I was ready. I ducked it. He tried again and I backed away. He pulled out his stick, made a few swings and missed. We circled each other slowly. He made a few swings again at me with the stick missing each time. Then he pulled out his gun and what looked to be the police chief came outside.
“All right, you two, break it up now.”
We both stopped and turned to look at him. The would be cop put his stick back in its holster. The would be chief came up to both of us. He addressed me first.
“What is your business here, sir?”
“I want to report a possible kidnapping, Melissa Skimmer.”
The would be chief and the would be cop looked at each other for a minute, then the would be chief whispered something to the would be cop. The would be cop went back into the station.
“I believe he told you to mind your business, son.”
“That cop punched me in the lip, then I went here, he attempted to hit me again and then pulled out his stick and then his gun….”
”You don’t hear very well, do you, son? He said mind your business. I am now telling you, mind your business. This will be your last warning.”
He turned and walked back inside the police station. I looked around me for a bit, then left the station and went to the rental car place. They refused to give me another car. I got stuck walking and riding the bus. I went back to the hotel. It was destroyed when I got there. The whole thing lay in ashes and when I went to head for my office once I got there I found that building destroyed. It occurred to me suddenly to check on the school and I did. It was destroyed also. It was the most traumatic. I saw them pulling out dead children and adults. I had only one priority, to get Melissa and take her out of this town. No decent person was safe here. The cops and the people I was up against were working together. It was anarchy. I went to the nearest car, bust the driver’s side front window, unlocked the door and got in. I hot wired it easily and headed for the house where I last saw Melissa. I hope to my own lord she had not been anywhere near the school when they blew it up. I still looked around for anyone. I saw nothing.
It took me only a few minutes to get to the house. I parked a few feet away near a shady area with huge trees, grass and a park bench. I got out of the car slowly, headed for the house and surveyed it. I saw no cars in the driveway or in the garage of which the door was left open oddly. It looked as if no one was home but maybe Melissa and if she was not home I would wait. I kept looking around me as I approached the house but there was nothing still. I went up to the door slowly. There was no doorbell. I knocked on the door but after a few minutes no one came. I slowly went to my car, got in and waited. I saw no one still anywhere in the neighborhood or around the house. I waited. They came within the next hour with Melissa Skimmer. It was the man who claimed to be the father of Melissa, the man who offered me the money, the woman who threatened me and Melissa. None of the cops. No one but the five of us. The three got of out of the car, the woman took ahold of Melissa and they started for the house. I grabbed my gun from the glove compartment, opened the door and pointed my gun at them.
“Hey….freeze all of you or I will shoot.”
They froze like the ice berg that sunk the titanic. I moved in closer with the gun pointed at them. Then the woman reached quickly and pulled out her gun. I took aim quickly and shot her in the hand. I aimed and fired again and got her other hand. The gun dropped to the ground but luckily it didn’t go off. She screamed and fell to the ground. Melissa felt over with her. The other two men pulled out their guns but I was took quick for them. I shot their hands, their guns dropped and they too screamed and fell on the ground. I looked around quickly to see if anyone was around and but nothing. I then aimed and shot all three in one of their legs. I ran up to where they were and gently picked up Melissa and took her to my car looking around checking for anything. Nothing. She didn’t fight me to my surpise. I am glad she didn’t. I didn’t want to hurt those people. They gave me no choice. I only wanted Melissa. I felt like I was kidnapping her from the kidnappers but what choice did she and I have?
We managed to make it out of town okay. I kept checking behind us but nothing at least for the time being. I didn’t know where we could go but I kept going as far away as possible from that town. I looked over at Melissa to see how she was doing. She seemed okay. I then stopped the car. We both jerked a little bit. Melissa had pulled out a gun. She shot me in the stomach. I gasped, spit up blood and just looked at her without any expression. There was too much pain. I held my stomach. The blood flowed slowly. Now it was just a matter of time. Melissa has left and now it is just me. No one, nothing, nowhere. I know I will be dead soon.
© Randall W. Pretzer