Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"A Saving Grace", by Patricia Abbott

From: The Thrilling Detective.

Jim could have taken the Interstate to get to work every day, but instead he liked driving the back roads, seeing the farms, the little roadside stores here and there, just taking it easy instead of racing along with his foot on the gas.

He'd taken that same route in his career, trading in the stressful life of a police detective and then a private investigator for the simplicity of life as a mechanic. After a while he settled into a peaceful routine, his existence taking a winding path that never varied.

That's how he'd met Louise. He had seen her standing by the mailbox at the edge of the road on four Tuesdays in a row, until he'd finally asked her if she needed a ride. Jim wasn't attracted to her, and she was already married with a pair of kids, but he needed some human contact, some companionship.

Jim couldn't shut off the sixth sense he'd had as a detective, and over time he noticed things - bruises, finger marks, little cuts - but when he saw these injuries on Louise's little daughter, he decided to take action.

This moody little short story moves along with great economy. All the characters are sketched in with the briefest of descriptions, but their words and actions ring true, which makes the twist at the end more surprising.

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