I’ve Heard That Sound Before
The thunder bellowed in the distance as the dark clouds rolled over the blue, obliterating the sun. "Caw, caw, caw," the crows screeched from the large maple tree on the front lawn. A dog's bark could be heard from a neighbouring farm. As the wind wailed a mournful refrain, a sudden explosion of wings erupted from the maple tree and the birds took flight. Ivy Rose looked up from the novel she was writing on her iPad and thought to herself, "A storm is coming." She sat on her front porch a while longer, hoping it might blow over.
As the thunder roared with increasing urgency, Ivy felt a few drops splatter on her screen and decided to head indoors. She entered the front door of her small bungalow and felt the wind suddenly become more violent as she pulled the door closed behind her. Making her way slowly to the couch, Ivy sat down and looked across through the front bow window to see her hanging baskets dance back and forth above the porch rail. Then the sky mysteriously brightened as the rain began to come down in earnest. The sun started to shine once again and Ivy noticed the drops glistening like diamonds on the blades of tall grass on the front lawn.
Then just as suddenly, the sky grew dark again. A weather warning flashed across Ivy's iPad screen: Weather Alert - Richtown - Severe thunderstorm warning. She clicked on the warning and saw that there was a potential for heavy hail and possible tornadoes in the area. It reminded her of the tornado that went through town in July, and of the nightmare that her life had become when she found herself involved in a murder last summer. Ivy opened the front door and poked her head outside. She felt the sudden change in the humidity level and noted how still everything
had become. That was when she heard it. It was a sound Ivy recognized immediately. She had heard that sound before.
Another followed the first. Then one more. Pop. Pop. Pop. The sounds were loud, crisp, and clearly the sounds of a gun being fired.
Ivy closed and locked the door and picked up her cell phone off the entrance table. There were only four people listed under favourites in her contact list. One of them was Alex Reed. He picked up on the second ring.
“Ivy,” he said. “How are you?”
“I’m fine, thanks.” Ivy skipped the pleasantries and got right to the point. “I’m calling because I just heard gunshots. I was watching the approaching storm and then it got really quiet, and the next thing I heard was the shots -- three of them. I didn’t know whether to report it to the local police or to call you…”
“Hold on a minute, Ivy. Are you sure that’s what you heard?” Alex asked.
“Yes, they were definitely gunshots. I’m not sure which direction they came from. It could have been from the lake area or the woods or maybe the farm. I don’t imagine it was from in town. But you never know…” Ivy trailed off and waited for Alex’s response.
“There’s probably a simpler explanation for what you heard,” Alex assured her. “You said you were watching the storm. Maybe you’re confusing the sound of thunder with gunshots.”
“No, no…it wasn’t the thunder. It was a loud popping sound -- the sound of a gun being fired,” Ivy insisted.
“You know, fireworks sound a lot like a gunshot, Ivy. With it being the Labour Day weekend, someone may just be testing out their fireworks. Or maybe someone is hunting in the woods next
to the farm. Why don’t you check with your neighbours? See if they heard it and if they know what caused the noise,” Alex suggested, trying to calm her down. He knew Ivy suffered from anxiety and was always on edge, ever alert, looking over her shoulder for possible dangers.
“It’s not fireworks. And it’s not the sound of a hunting rifle. That’s not what I heard. This was different. I know what a handgun sounds like.”
Alex doubted she did. What middle-aged retired school teacher is familiar with handguns? Then again, thought Alex, this is Ivy Rose, not your typical matronly fifty-something retiree who sits at home and knits. Alex had met Ivy a couple of months ago during a murder investigation on a beachfront property near the lakeside town of Richtown. She had been the prime suspect. Alex Reed had been called in from the nearby city where he worked as a homicide detective to assist the local police. From the first time he met Ivy, Alex suspected there was more to her than meets the eye.
They had met again a few weeks ago when Ivy came to the local police station where Alex had once more been assigned to assist with a missing persons case. She had offered evidence that had been crucial to the solving of the case, which turned out to be a murder on the beach. It seemed that dead bodies near bodies of water seemed to turn up fairly frequently around Ivy.
Since the latest murder on the beach incident, Alex had been seeing Ivy personally, meeting for coffee or lunch fairly frequently. Although Alex wanted more from their relationship, Ivy made it clear that she wasn’t ready for anything beyond friendship. She was currently going through an identity crisis and needed time to herself, time to immerse herself in her writing, she had told him. Ivy’s writing seemed to revolve around murder. She was the author of a new series of mystery novels. Alex wondered about Ivy’s affinity for murder, both in her fictional life and in
her real life. It seemed to follow her. Alex wondered whether she found murder or murder found her. She had told him once that she used events from her own life in her writing. He knew for a fact that she had already been involved in several suspicious deaths. Coincidence? Bad luck? Or something more deliberate?
Based on his past experiences with Ivy, Alex decided to take her concerns about the possible gunshots seriously. “Let me talk to Meg and Dan at the station. I’ll notify them that there have been gunshots reported in your area and ask them to be on the alert for any suspicious activity,” he told Ivy, hoping to allay her fears. “I’ll tell them to get in touch with me if anyone reports anything even remotely out of the ordinary.”
“Okay, thanks, Alex. I appreciate it,” Ivy said. She hesitated a moment, then said, “I know I worry too much, but really, well… you just can’t be too careful, especially with…”
“I know, Ivy, I know,” Alex responded understandingly. “I’ll look into it and give you a call later. But you can’t be on the lookout for death around every corner just because you’ve had a few bad experiences in life. You need to get on with living.”
After hanging up the phone, Ivy considered her options. She could take her car and drive down to the beach herself and have a look around. There wouldn’t likely be many people down there with this rain and wind, not to mention the ominous-looking sky. If there was something strange going on at the lake, Ivy thought she might be able to spot the clues. Maybe she could don her raincoat and walk through the neighbouring wooded area. Or she could… Ivy suddenly stopped her train of thought when she realized whoever had fired the shots could still be a danger. She had put herself in dangerous situations before and lived to tell the story. It made her a better writer. It also made her a nervous wreck, afraid to live in the real world.
No, Ivy thought, I need to let this go. The police can handle it, if there is anything there to handle, that is. Maybe I have just let my imagination get the best of me.
Ivy decided to settle down on the sofa with a good book while the storm outside raged. She was just into the second chapter when she noticed a movement out of the corner of her eye. Looking up and glancing at the window, Ivy saw a black SUV slowly move down the street, make the turn on her deadend street, and drive back past her house. Normally, she wouldn’t think anything of it. People often came down past her house, parked across from it at the park overlooking the lake, and got out to enjoy the view from the cliff. In the last few hours, though, Ivy hadn’t seen many vehicles on her backstreet. The weather wasn’t conducive to viewing the lake or having a picnic. The SUV continued slowly past her house and off towards the main section of town.
A sudden blast of wind blew into the house as the back door flung open. Ivy jumped to her feet and headed towards the door to secure it, then stopped in her tracks. Standing just inside the back entrance was a bearded man, probably in his forties. He was dressed casually in jeans and a t-shirt. His right hand was clenched over his bloodied shoulder. When he turned to close and lock the door behind him, Ivy noticed the gun bulging out of his back pocket. She screamed.
“It’s okay. I’m not going to hurt you,” he stammered. “I need help.”
Ivy backed away cautiously. “What do you want?”
“I’ve been shot,” he answered, nodding his head towards his shoulder.
“I’ll call an ambulance,” Ivy offered, trying to disguise her fear of the man.
“No!” he shouted. Then he spoke quietly, “I just need my wound cleaned and bandaged, and a place to rest for a while. Then I’ll be on my way.”
Ivy backed away some more and told him she was going to get the first aid kit. The man looked towards the basement stairs at the back entrance and said, “Okay. I’m coming with you. Then we’ll head downstairs.”
Ivy had no intention of heading downstairs with this wounded stranger with a gun in his back pocket. “The first aid kit is in the bathroom,” she said as she slowly walked backwards, with the man following her. His shoes left a trail of mud and water down the hall.
“What happened to you?” she ventured.
“No questions,” he barked. “Just patch me up.”
Ivy took the first aid kit out of the medicine cabinet and removed a towel from the bathroom cupboard. She told the man to sit on the edge of the bathtub and hold his arm over the tub while she cleaned up the wound with soap and water. He flinched when she poured some antiseptic on it.
“I’m not a doctor,” she said. “You need medical attention.”
“I need you to stop the bleeding,” he retorted.
Ivy applied pressure with the washcloth and taped several layers of gauze over the wound. “That’s the best I can do.” When he asked for some pain killers, she took a bottle out of the medicine cupboard and poured water into a plastic tumbler, handing him several pills.
“How did you get shot?” Ivy tried once again to find out what had happened.
“I said no questions!”
“Is there someone after you?” Ivy continued, wondering why he wanted to hide out in the basement. “Are you in trouble?”
He just glared at her.
Ivy took that as a good sign. He wasn’t shouting at her and he wasn’t reaching for his gun. She thought that if she could get him talking, he would forget about the gun and the basement.
“I’ve never had a man with a bullet wound in my house before,” she started. “I thought I heard shots a while ago, but I never imagined this would happen. Why my house?”
The man kept looking at her, but didn’t answer. Ivy was less afraid of him as time passed. He had made no attempt to grab his gun out of his pocket. Ivy considered whether she would be able to defend herself against him if he did turn violent. He was about a decade younger than she was, she figured, and had an average build. Not bad looking, but no Brad Pitt. She wondered how he viewed her. Probably as a middle aged, average looking, slightly overweight woman who could be easily overpowered without a gun, regardless of the shoulder wound. People often underestimated her.
She kept talking. “You don’t seem like a bad guy. How did you get yourself in this mess? What are you going to do?”
He kept staring at Ivy as she spoke and began to tell him about her mystery writing. “Actually though, it’s amazing how real life is so much stranger than fiction.”
About ten minutes later, his eyes began to close, and his tongue began to loosen.
After speaking with Ivy, Alex called the Richtown station and reported the possible gunshot sounds. Meghan, an officer that Alex had worked with on his previous cases in Richtown, confirmed that there had been two other calls from Ivy Rose’s neighbourhood reporting shots fired. Also, a woman had called in saying she had seen a man being forcibly led away by two other men from a boat that was anchored at the harbour. Dan, the other officer Alex had worked with, was out patrolling the lake area, and another officer was checking out the streets in Ivy’s neighbourhood, on the cliff above the lake.
Alex grabbed his wallet, keys, his handcuffs, and gun, along with his phone and drove as quickly as the weather allowed towards Richtown, towards Ivy Rose’s house. He had a bad feeling about this. Somehow, Ivy always seemed to end up at the centre of murder investigations. He just hoped he got there in time, before she found herself in danger.
It was less than an hour’s drive in good weather, but with the hail that had begun to hammer the windshield, Alex lowered his speed. Keeping his eyes on the road, he concentrated on getting to his destination. If Ivy heard actual gunshots fired, there was a good chance she would go out looking for the source of the shots. He knew she couldn’t resist -- her inquisitive nature wouldn’t allow her to leave this to the police. She had helped to solve his last two murder cases because of her nosiness. He hoped she wasn’t getting herself involved in something dangerous once again.
As he travelled down the highway away from the city and towards the lake, Alex considered whether there might be a connection between this current situation and a case he had been working on over the last couple of months. In July, the body of a boat captain had been found on
the beach of Ivy’s friend’s country estate, just out of town. At the time, his death had been attributed to the tornado. Later, new evidence showed his boat had been blown up, not simply overturned in the wake of the storm.
Alex called Meghan. “Can you get a hold of Donald Brewster’s partner for me?” Donald was the captain whose body had turned up on the beach two months ago.
Twenty minutes later, Meghan called back. “David Williamson, Donald’s brother-in-law, isn’t available right now, according to his wife. She hasn’t spoken to him since this morning. He’s not answering her texts or her calls. His cargo boat is docked at the harbour, but Dan says there’s no sign of him.”
David Williamson was feeling downright mellow, lying back in somebody else’s bathtub, listening to some woman telling him all about her murders. Or her murder stories, as she called them. She asked him about his story, about how he had gotten himself shot. David didn’t see the harm in talking about it. She seemed harmless enough, rather kind actually. And for some reason, he was getting to be more and more relaxed with her.
“It was just the one time. I didn’t think they’d notice,” he drawled.
“Notice what?” she prompted.
“The missing diamonds,” he whispered, as though it were a secret.
“We were helping them to bring in coloured diamonds from Brazil.”
“Some guys. Turns out they were bad guys. Worked for some Serbian mafia dude,” David giggled, feeling giddy. Probably from the blood loss, he thought.
David explained how he and his brother-in-law had been hired to smuggle diamonds into the country. They were brought from Brazil to Michigan, then boarded onto their small cargo boat and shipped across Blue Water Lake into the port of Richtown.
“How did they get them past customs?” the woman asked him.
“They were in the false bottoms of cases carrying drill bits for the salt mine in Richtown. The drill bits came from a manufacturing plant in Michigan. The diamonds came from Brazil. You need drill bits to get the diamonds.” He thought that was funny, but suppressed another giggle.
He continued to tell the woman about how his brother-in-law had stolen some of the diamonds. His boat had capsized during the tornado. The insurance money paid for a new boat for David. The smuggling had continued.
“But I made a mistake. I needed the money. So I took some diamonds.”
“And they found out?” the woman prodded.
“They found out. They found out and tried to fucking kill me. But I got away. Fired a couple of shots at them, too. I guess they weren’t expecting me to be carrying a gun,” he laughed.
“And they’re after you now?” the woman asked.
“Driving around looking. Won’t find me in this here bathtub, though,” he snickered.
“Have some more water,” the woman said. David took the tumbler she offered and drank it down. He felt so peaceful.
Alex had been trying for the last half hour to call Ivy to warn her that there could be a killer on the loose. She wasn’t answering. By the time Alex arrived outside Ivy’s door, he was convinced something terrible had happened to her. He tried the front door, but it was locked. He knocked and rang the doorbell, but there was no answer. Then he went around to the back door. Although it was almost dark now, Alex used the flashlight app on his phone to guide his way. He saw muddy footprints on the back patio, leading up to the back door. After finding the back door locked, Alex fired his gun and broke through the door. He followed the trail of footprints down the hall into the bathroom.
Cautiously opening the door with one hand and holding his gun drawn with the other, Alex entered the room and saw Ivy sitting on the bathroom counter, with a gun in her hand. Her gaze was fixed on the bathtub.
“Ivy!” he called out. Sprawled out in the bathtub was a bearded man with a bandaged shoulder. He was snoring contentedly.
“Are you okay?” Alex asked Ivy, removing the gun from her hand. “What happened?”
Ivy collapsed into Alex’s arms and started to cry. “It’s him. I know it’s him.”
“Who? What’s going on, Ivy?”
Then Ivy told Alex about the smuggled diamonds and the Serbian mafia. Ivy had dealings in the past with a Serbian mafia family. It brought back bad memories for her, Alex was sure of that.
“No, Ivy. He’s dead. It’s not him. It’ll be his associates,” Alex assured her.. “How did you get David to tell you about it?”
“He needed pain pills. I gave him a handful of my anti-anxiety meds. We had a nice chat once he relaxed a bit. Then I gave him a glass of water with crushed sleeping pills so he could get some rest. He looked like he needed it.”
Alex shook his head in disbelief, then took Ivy back in his arms and hugged her close. “I’m just glad you’re safe,” he said, as he hit the call button, connecting with the local police station.
“I’m fine. And I think I have an idea for my next novel,” Ivy smiled.
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