Great Openings Contest Fiction Equal 3rd Place: Mute Witness by S.E. Clancy

Chapter 1

I first meet the man in the well over a cup of coffee, twenty years after he died.

“Jake, you want anything from the sandwich place?” Sergeant Brian Boyles leans into my office doorway, his silver hair cut with military precision. His cartoon tie dangles over the straining buttons of his shirt.

“Nah. I have leftover spaghetti in the fridge.”

“I don’t know how you stay so skinny with the way your husband cooks.”

My husband, Cohen, owns a restaurant in the next town over, and perfects his new dishes at home. I’m his guinea pig, and the envy of the Acacia Police Department.

Boyles sniffs the air, eying the banged-up box on my desk. “Whew. That’s almost enough to kill my appetite.” He backs out of the office and disappears. Staying thin was never in Boyles’ wheelhouse, and if he doesn’t get a meal every three hours, our shifts together tend to resemble me working with my 13-year-old daughter—drama.

But he’s right about the evidence box sitting dead center on my desk. It reeks of dust and age, and the lid is decorated with half-circle coffee stains from 1999.

“And thanks for being a smoker, Detective Spencer,” I mumble as I lift off the box lid. He’s probably retired, up in some mountain community, giving “when I was a detective” stories over his weekly coffee with other retired self-important guys.

I wrestle the first manila folder from the box. Its hand-written label is faded blue ink: “Case #99-0724 – Spencer.” And it smells exactly like a pile of wet cigarettes.

There’s a knock at my office doorframe. “Detective Sabrina Jake?” A teenager hovers in the doorway, her reddish hair as wild as her eyes, which are glued to the box on my desk.

Note from Inspire Christian Writers: This piece has been reformatted for the Web.

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