It’s time for chapter 8 of my youth mystery novel, What Was Lost. If you are wondering why I am suddenly writing youth fiction, please read the explanation by clicking here.
Chapter 8 – A Wild Goose Chase?
“Ahem,” came a voice from behind Milton. He jerked his head out of the bin and whirled around. There, standing at the gate, was his dad, holding a bag of trash in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. Through the white trash bag Milton could just make out the shape and color of the Walmart bag he had seen in his trash when he threw away the mysterious paper just the day before.
Without a thought, Milton snatched the trash bag from his dad’s hand and said, “Oh thank you, thank you, thank you!”
As Milton greedily tore into the bag, Mr. Maxwell surveyed the scene curiously then replied, “Gladly. Feel free the take the trash out whenever you like, since you seem to like it so much. Just try to keep it in the bags next time.”
“Yeah, sure dad,” replied Milton absent-mindedly as he anxiously searched for the paper.
“Ah-HA, I found it.” Milton said, holding up his prized receipt, still crumpled up.
“And what, may I ask, is ‘it’?” Said his dad, taking a sip of coffee.
“Um, it’s just a piece of paper for something I was telling Hannah about,” Said Milton.
His dad raised his eyebrows, nodded slowly, and took a sip of coffee, “Oh yes, Hannah. That’s interesting.”
“Dad, it’s not like that,” Milton said defensively, “It’s not about Hannah. Can I go back upstairs now?”
“Sure,” said Mr. Maxwell, stepping back with a swooping gesture of his arm.
In a few minutes Hannah was scouring pictures of the mysterious note Milton had texted her. Milton continued to text her, but she was ignoring him for the moment. She had noticed a different clue that sounded familiar.
“Furniture Row Distribution Center, E. 19th Ave,” she read out loud, then furrowed her eyebrows. Pulling up Google maps, she searched the location. It was a short drive down Colfax, just 10 minutes from her house. It was on the outskirts of Aurora on the east side of Denver, a fairly secluded location. Then she noticed, just on the other side of the tollway E-470, something else. “Amazon Den2,” she whispered to herself. “Of course, it’s an Amazon distribution center. And it’s right across the highway from the furniture distribution center.” All the clues seemed to be piling up, and it had to be more than coincidence. She looked at the clock—6:30 pm. Her parents had gone out on a date and wouldn’t be back for another hour and a half. She could take the other car, do some quick investigating, then get back before they got home. She grabbed her phone and her keys, then headed for the door.
What Hannah had not considered was the fact that the sun was setting. The shadows lengthened on the desolate open spaces around her as she drove down Colfax towards the isolated industrial park. Ahead on her left she saw several lights, freshly illuminated, casting a glow on a long row of semi-trucks backed up to the building, ready to be loaded or unloaded. Her heart felt like it would jump out of her chest as she rounded the exit and pulled onto East 19th Avenue. The building loomed ahead, looking larger than ever. What was she even doing here? What if it was a wild goose chase? What if it wasn’t? She didn’t want to think of that.
Hannah pulled straight into the distribution center. She had noticed one section, away from the employee parking, that was sparsely populated with trailers. She drove down as far as she could, to a dead end, parked, and turned off the car. Night had completely fallen, but at least the parking lot was well lit. Then the light directly above her flickered and blew out with a pop, causing Hannah to jump in her seat. She took a deep breath, bowed her head onto the steering wheel, and said, quietly, “Dear God, I don’t even know if I should be doing this, but please protect me. If it is just a foolish idea, help me to be wise.”
She was about to get out when the headlights of a truck glimmered on the far side of the building. It had just come in the same entrance she used. It turned left, however, the opposite of her, and drove in the direction where most of the other trailers were docked.
Quickly but quietly, Hannah hopped out of her car and ran across the parking lot to the nearest loading dock. It was dark inside. She hoisted herself up into the entrance, slipped inside, and knelt down in the shadows, allowing her eyes to adjust to the dark. She started to make out long rows of pallets, stacked almost to the ceiling. Some seemed to be shapes of shrink-wrapped furniture, but she couldn’t tell for certain. She noticed that the inside of the building was actually separated by tall, metal walls. While her area was dark and isolated, on the far end of the room she could see three or four doors with windows. Light was shining through them, and she could faintly hear what sounded like an occasional whirring of a forklift, the shouting of distant voices. She plucked up the courage to start walking, carefully, down the nearest aisle framed by pallets, towards the light. Maybe she could peek through a window and see what was going on inside.
She had almost made it about halfway down the row when she heard the sound of keys in the door directly opposite of her; a shadow filled the window. Someone was coming! To her horror, she suddenly realized she had gone too far down the aisle to run back for cover. Looking around desperately, she noticed a gap in the pallets just a few yards ahead of her. She made a break for it, but as she rounded the corner, she ran into a wall, or something like it, and fell to the floor. She could hear the door opening now, light streamed down the aisle just a few inches from her feet. Stunned, she tried her best to crawl up to the wall and hide behind the pallets.
As she crawled forward, she groped for the wall, hoping not to repeat her first mistake. But she could not find the wall. She crawled farther in—still no wall. Relieved, but bewildered, Hannah carefully continued her slow, blinded crawl. Trembling, she kept one hand outstretched in front of her. Her lip was numb; she could feel blood trickling down her chin.
Suddenly light flooded the room; she heard footsteps coming down the aisle she had just escaped. Dazed and squinting in the flood of light, Hannah looked back behind her to see where she was. To her great surprise, she had been crawling, not through a tunnel, but under the entire length of a semi-trailer. She looked up and, almost as if it were staring back at her in large, bold letters, were the words “Amazon Prime,” with the unmistakable smiling swoop of its logo beneath. She reached up and touched the license plate, running her fingers over cold, raised characters. “PDL – 663,” it read. Her heart skipped a beat; she should have stayed at home.