This is Chapter 1 of my novel, Foreign. Each Friday I publish another chapter.
“Good news, sir.”
“I believe we have our candidates.”
“This is good news. Take immediate action. These odds appear unbeatable.”
“I want frequent updates on this.”
- From the office of the Secadoma
Mark Heggenberger was especially excited about finishing work tonight. After rubbing his tired hazel eyes, he glanced over at the clock on the wood-paneled wall. The Star Wars clock read 11:55, almost straight up at the storm trooper. How could it only be 11:55? I’ve restocked almost all of the Drama section and dusted the shelves since the last time I looked at that horrid clock, and that was only seventeen minutes ago!Time was not moving quickly enough.
Only five more minutes, then it will really be Friday night.
Big plans were in store for him later this evening. He had been dreaming of this night for months. However, it would not appear to be this way. With the abundance of forethought he had put into this evening, he had neglected to inform his grouch of a boss that he needed tonight off. He knew that even the thought of leaving Movie Zone early on a Friday would be enough to make Mitchell have a meltdown. Fridays were the best night for business, and the the struggling movie rental store needed all the business it could get to stay afloat. Everything was under control, though. He was not going to let Movie Zone steal another good mood right before a Friday night. The night was still young. College students never go to bed before three am on Friday nights, anyway.
Finally, the moment had arrived – midnight. Movie Zone was officially closed. Now, just a few minutes to rapidly count his till and he would be off. Mark planned to hurry home after closing up the store and that’s when he was gonna go for it. He was going to make his move with Tammy. Again.
To say that his last attempt ended disastrously would be an understatement. After totally botching the way he asked her out, he ended up being the third wheel on a first date with Justin and Heidi. As if the night couldn’t have gone any worse, they were attacked by a man while they were coming down from Buck Mountain. In self defense, both Justin and Heidi stabbed the man repeatedly.
Mark shivered just thinking about it. There were still so many unanswered questions. Why was the man there? Why was he so angry? Why hadn’t anybody noticed his absence yet? Were they really in the clear?
I’ll have to ask Justin again whether anybody has noticed where we hid the knife. But not tonight. I’ve got to get over to Tammy’s party before she meets some random drunk guy trying to get in her pants.
With the register closed out, Mark turned off the TV’s and went over to the radio to turn it off. As 94.5, the local top 40 station, was beginning their hourly news report, he stopped to listen. They always did a great job reporting local news. He could tell the news was a recording, though, because it was the voice of one of their morning DJ’s, Liz.
“The Lane County Sheriff’s Department is investigating leads concerning what appears to be a missing person case. Barry Stine, age 46, has been missing for almost six weeks now. Officials have found an empty shotgun shell with traces of blood nearby, outside the radio tower utility shed on Buck Mountain, off of Mt. Tom Road. They are considering the possibility of a homicide.”
Mark went rigid. We’ve got to get out of here, now! I’ve got to find Justin and Heidi!
After fumbling with his keys, he finally found the correct one and locked the front door of Movie Zone. The brisk air felt good in his lungs as he drew a few breaths of it, not realizing how worked up he had already become after hearing the news. He could see his breath in the air as he exhaled. Autumn had swept over the town of Eugene, and evenings were starting to drastically cool off. Zipping up his coat and thrusting his already chilled hands into his pockets, he set out on his trip of thirteen blocks down Eleventh Avenue toward his apartment complex.
I’ve got to act naturally. They could be out looking for us even right now. He tried his best to walk in a way that wouldn’t draw unwanted attention to himself. While walking, he pulled out his phone and called Justin.
Voicemail. Next, he tried Heidi, assuming Justin would be with her.
Voicemail after two rings.
Shit. They better not be making out!
Continuing to walk home, he texted both of them. “Call me ASAP.”
Nineteen minutes later, Mark arrived at the front of his apartment complex. Scattered about the block were seven coffee colored buildings, the paint on the wood panels peeling off. Each had two stories with four units on every floor. He entered the complex through the closest opening of the loop that wound its way around the buildings. As he walked past the landlord, Thomas’, apartment, he heard drunken laughter from the wild freshmen who lived in one of the units on the second floor of building seven. Almost every night Thomas told them to quiet down, but they never listened.
Nobody in the entire complex had any respect for Thomas. Why would they? The apartments were over thirty years old and greatly in need of many repairs, and everybody knew that he didn’t really care about the place. Fortunately, Mark’s apartment was on the other end of the complex. As a senior, he actually had work to do in college. He learned the hard way that partying all the time and graduation didn’t mix. He failed his introductory English class during the first semester of his freshman year.
Most importantly, Mark didn’t see any police cars anywhere in the complex. Quickening his pace toward his apartment, he hoped against hope that those idiot freshmen wouldn’t make Thomas call the cops tonight. Man… How are we going to get out of this? If they know that guy was murdered, it’s only a matter of time before they find us. I’ve got to figure something out with Justin!
Past Thomas’ house was the swimming pool that hadn’t been used since August and the main parking lot. Once he crossed the parking lot, he arrived at the path that led to his apartment in building three. The path to his building split and led up to building four as well. His eyes longingly followed the pathway up to the second floor. Tammy’s apartment looked like it was packed with people. That’s where he was supposed to go tonight. She had actually invited him to her party, and she looked genuinely excited about it. But everything changed twenty minutes earlier.
His feet touched the first step in the stairwell, and then the second. Before he knew it, he was up the cement staircase, looking over to the run down porch. At the end of it, was their well-used propane barbeque majestically sitting next to a few plastic folding lawn chairs, all of it a birthday present from his parents from the year before. Aside from all of this was the door to apartment 321.
Walking past the peeling wood on the wall that enclosed the main room of his apartment, he came up to the black grated door. He didn’t hear anything too loud coming from inside, he hoped a sign that nothing was terribly wrong. With his trembling hand clutching the doorknob, he turned around one last time and looked back at Tammy’s apartment. It was his perfect chance, what he’d been waiting for since last spring when he met her in his Abnormal Psych class. He wondered what would happen to his chances with her now that he was certain the cops knew about the murder.
Mark rotated the knob. The door opened, he walked through, and closed it behind him. His chances with Tamara were gone forever.