Wanda McLaughlin, author of Five-Inch Heels, has previously published fiction in Modern Romance and The Society of Southwest Authors Anthology. Her novel, Murder Most Fowl won Best Fiction – Cozy Mystery at the Southern California Writer’s Conference February 2019.
“I was attacked.” The call from my best friend, Susan, came around midnight. I knew she’d been crying from the tremble in her voice.
“Where are you?” I sat on the edge of the bed and draped a sheet around my nude body.
“In my car outside the Skylight Bar downtown.” She blew her nose.
“Are you hurt?”
“Just bruised and my knees are scraped.”
“Have you called the cops?”
She said she did — me.
“I’ll call it in. You stay where you are. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
Sliding out of the warm bed where I’d been sleeping after a bout of athletic love-making, wasn’t easy. When I kissed Ben’s cheek, he brushed me away and turned onto his back. His snores rumbled through the bedroom. We went back to his place to spend the night.
I grabbed my clothes and hurried to get dressed. Ben and I had gone to dinner and the theater last night, so I’d worn my sexiest outfit and shoes. No time to go home and change. Wasn’t how I’d planned on spending Sunday morning, but Susan needed my help.
After the cops arrived, they took Susan’s statement and description of her assailant. I drove her home and made sure she was okay. Then I went back to the Skylight and parked my car, determined to find the brute who’d hurt my friend. But, after four hours of walking sidewalks and peering down alleys, I gave up.
Limping along, my swollen feet encased in five-inch heels, I needed to sit down. The sidewalk was littered with everything but a bench. My car was a mile in the other direction. I considered easing out of my shoes when I spied blue neon in the middle of the block. The bright script spelled espresso above a cut-out of a wooden cup.
Limping along, my swollen feet encased in five-inch heels, I needed to sit down.
Ignoring my pain, I hitched the strap of my black leather bag higher on my shoulder. I reached the shop’s door as the sun rose, casting shadows from nearby buildings.
The shop was open, with the usual setup: counter and cash register in front of me, baked goods to my left, espresso machine in back.
A half-dozen tables sat around the small room. Each had four orange plastic chairs pushed in except for one. Tucked against the back wall, a middle-aged man sat, his hand gripping a cardboard coffee container. He wore dark blue sweats and a two-day growth of beard.
We were the only two in the room. His eyes glittered as they swept across my face, then wandered away.
“Hello?” I tottered over to the counter and peered around the cash register. There was an oversized espresso machine with an assortment of cups, saucers, and cardboard to-go cups stacked on the counter beside it.
A door opened in the wall and a young woman in a black knit shirt and black pants hurried through.
“Sorry, getting more coffee,” she said, holding up a stack of foil squares.
“Just what I need.” I pointed to a frosted cinnamon roll that called my name and ordered a large black coffee. I handed over a ten, got two ones and change back. I threw the change in the tip jar and stuffed the bills in my bag.
I pulled out a chair and collapsed, kicking off my shoes. My feet ached, but I resisted the urge to rub them. Instead, I flexed my toes and rotated my ankles for relief. When the hot roll and coffee arrived, I dug in. Breaking off a curl, I took a bite of sweet bread mixed with cinnamon and vanilla frosting. Yum. After a couple gulps of hot coffee, I felt almost human.
I pulled my phone from the bag, made a quick call, then finished the sweet roll and brew.
Stubble-Face, as I’d labeled the man at the other table, sipped his coffee, his eyes traveling around the shop, resting on the front door. After five minutes of this, he jumped up from his seat, knocking his coffee to the floor.
I turned and saw two policemen outside. My head swiveled back to the man, who walked furtively toward the back exit.
“Stop,” I ordered, pulling a gun and leather badge holder out of my bag. “Police.” I stood and gripped the gun in both hands, aiming at his chest.
The barista whimpered and ran out from behind the counter.
“Go outside,” I yelled. “Tell the cops what’s happening. Go, go.” I didn’t take my eyes off Stubble-Face, but he stopped, frozen in fear.
As the two cops led Stubble-Face away, I stood outside in my bare feet talking to the detective who’d arrived at the scene.
“Maddie, how did’ya know to call us?” asked Detective Frank Camarilla. He’d been my partner about five years ago when I worked homicide. Now I was his lieutenant. He gave my fancy outfit more than a cursory glance. “Late night?”
I ignored his comment, grabbed my bag and threw my shoes inside. No way I’d put those ankle twisters back on again.
“I joined the search for the guy who assaulted a woman outside the Skylight bar last night. I saw the suspect and he fit the description of the assailant. Thought your officers might want to have a chat with him. When he jumped up and spilled his coffee at the sight of those patrolmen, I figured it was him.”
“Stroke of luck you came in here.”
“Coincidence, maybe. But I believe it was those five-inch heels that did the trick.” I shifted the bag higher on my shoulder. “Give me a ride back to my car?”
If you’ve enjoyed Five-Inch Heels by Wanda McLaughlin, you can visit our free digital archive of flash fiction here. Additionally, premium short fiction published by Mystery Tribune on a quarterly basis is available digitally here.