(Author’s Notes: This is a copy of the original draft of “No Escape”. Sometimes I knock a story down to 100 words but there’s still more to be told. The first paragraph focuses on Steve’s anger but in its entirety, the story is more about friendship. I remember going back and forth on this one, trying to decide which one to post. In this case, you get both!)
Chin’s explanation hung in the silence between them. Disbelief lasted only several seconds. Then every emotion Steve thought he’d laid to rest years ago swelled to the surface. His chest grew tight with grief. His hands curled into clenched fists. His head began to spin with anger. A teenager’s anger, directed at the world for its lack of fairness, was replaced by an adult’s focused fury. Whoever killed his mother was going to die. Steve didn’t know when or where. He didn’t know how. He just knew he’d make it happen. Then his parents’ murderers could burn in hell together.
Without replying, he fled the confines of the small office. His retreat didn’t stop there. Long strides carried him through the common area, straight out the main doors, and down the stairs. ‘Fight or flight’ had taken over. Instinct told him placing distance between himself and problem was the best offense. His head hadn’t cleared enough to realize the obvious. His feelings would go with him wherever he went.
The occupants of his own office were too engrossed in their own reconciliation to notice his departure. Danny however had witnessed Steve’s escape. He poked his head in through Chin’s door.
“Hey. You know what’s up with him?”
Chin glanced up from his notes but couldn’t find it in himself to answer.
Danny didn’t need an answer. Chin’s expression said it all. He took off after his partner a second later.
Coming down the front steps of the palace, his gaze swept the parking lot. The car wasn’t where he’d left it but it was still there, parked thirty feet away with the engine running. He jogged over and glanced in through the window. Steve was sitting in the driver’s seat. Both hands gripped the steering wheel. Unfocused eyes stared out through the windshield.
Danny didn’t bother to wrap his knuckles on the glass. He just opened the passenger side door, dropped in, and closed it behind himself. Several minutes passed with only the sound of the idling engine to fill the cabin. In all that time, Steve continued to stare. Despite his partner’s presence, he was alone with his pain. Danny reached over slowly and turned the key in the ignition. The engine fell silent.
It was only then that Steve reacted. His grip loosened and he leaned forward to plant his head on the steering wheel.
Danny sat with him until he was ready to talk.