The Missing Key by Nancy Roe

Sirens startled Katie out of a recurring dream about a masked man chasing her through a forest. At first she wasn’t sure if the sirens were from her dream or if they were real. Katie extended her index finger and lifted the bedroom blind enough to see out the window of the rented one bedroom house. Parked across the street were two police cars.

The cold air coming through the cracked window frame made her shiver. Katie grabbed the plush pink robe on the edge of the twin bed and put it on. She turned and looked at the silver alarm clock on her nightstand. It was four in the morning.

Katie started down the dark hallway to make sure she had locked the back door. Before she could turn the corner to enter the kitchen she saw a beam of light.

Someone was in the house. Katie abruptly stopped in the middle of the hallway, her heart pounding. She instinctively reached in her pocket, but quickly realized she’d left her cell phone in her purse on the kitchen counter. Stupid, stupid, she thought. Her body trembled as she took two steps backward, entered the bathroom, and hid behind the door. She pulled her hands over her mouth to quiet her breathing, then closed her eyes and listened. How could have he found me?

A voice shouted, “The package isn’t here. I thought Renee told you it was in the kitchen drawer by the refrigerator.”

“I don’t know what to say. We’ve looked in every drawer. I can’t believe Renee lied to me,” a second voice replied. “We need to get outta here before the cops find us.”

Katie heard the kitchen door slam shut. Relieved that he hadn’t found her, she exhaled and started to cry as she slowly slid down the wall to the floor. Why had I impulsively decided to rent this house?

After a good cry, Katie shook her head, wiped away the tears, and got up off the bathroom floor. Entering the kitchen she noticed the microwave clock read four-sixteen. Upon turning on the overhead light, Katie saw that all the drawers were open. As she reached for the tissue box on the counter, her robe caught a pencil cup and pens scattered across the floor. What else can go wrong, Katie thought as she bent down to pick up the pens. Forgetting the drawers were open, she hit her head getting up. Turning her head as if to yell at the drawer for being open, that’s when she saw the manila envelope taped to the bottom of the drawer.

Katie carefully removed the envelope, opened the flap, and pulled out a handwritten letter. After reading the letter explaining a bank robbery in detail, she knew the police needed to see it.

Katie turned on the porch light and opened the front door. She screamed and dropped the envelope at the sight of a man standing on the porch steps.

“Didn’t mean to startle you,” Officer Robbins said.

“It’s been a rough week,” Katie said as she put her hand over her beating heart. “I was about to walk across the street to talk to you. I have something you need to read.”

Katie picked up the envelope and handed the handwritten letter to Officer Robbins.

“I hope that letter puts Tom and Kurt in jail for a very long time,” Katie said.

“The names correspond to the two men we picked up running out of your home. They’re not the brightest young men.” Officer Robbins said. “Are you okay?”

“Just a little shaken up. If you don’t mind me asking, what happened across the street?”

“Ms. Baker reported a break-in. The only thing missing was a key to this house.”

The next day at the police station, Katie stood behind a two-way mirror, identifying the man who had attacked her and stolen her purse in the mall parking lot earlier in the week, and later ransacked her apartment.

“That’s him. Number three,” Katie said with conviction. She turned to face Officer Robbins. “I thought he’d found me at the rental house.”

“You’ve had quite a run of bad luck,” Officer Robbins said.

“Whatever happened to the two men you caught last night? Why were they in my house?”

“Both men confessed to the bank robbery, thanks to the letter Renee wrote. She was the former tenant, but four months ago ended up in the hospital after a horrific car accident. Ms. Baker said Tom and Renee had a tumultuous relationship. After Renee’s death, Tom said he received a note in the mail about the handwritten letter that Renee kept as an insurance policy, and that the Baker’s had an extra key. Renee wrote that in the end she didn’t want Tom to get in trouble. Guess that didn’t work out too well for him.”

“Thank you, officer, for solving both cases. I’m on my way home to get the locks changed.”

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