The Case Notes of P.I. James: The Scene

by John Steckley

read it in the correct order


It is dark with many stars and little moon.  A large white van pulls up in a parking lot close to the lone box car. Five men get out of the back of the van.  One of the two in the cab joins them.  Three men have guns raised.  Two guys knock three times on the box car door. Two armed men slide the door open and come out.

They co-ordinate their plans for their prisoners.  A lit bottle with gin and a few quite flammable and unstable substances added is tossed out of the bushes.  It explodes,  bursting into flame as it crashes not far from the men.  Some of them hit the ground; all of them are in shock. 

Unseen in the bushes, James calls the police.  Then he makes a call to someone parked behind a nearby building.

The van driver gets out, worried by the explosion.  In less than a minute, two shots are fired at the tires.  The aim of the shooter, made accurate by many recent hours in a shooting gallery, hits the intended targets.  The tires blow up.  The driver rolls to the ground, readying himself for further shots.  He gets his own gun out.

At the other side of the box car men are firing at the now empty bushes. The gun-less  are making themselves difficult targets.  

In a crouched position unfriendly to his back, James circles the box car far enough away to be invisible to the traffickers.  He is soon at Ruthie’s side.

The van driver stands and fires at them.  He nearly hits Ruthie, who dodges the shots well, like she has practiced.  James, who had neglected to load his gun (Ruthie’s job), picks up a fist-sized rock, and throws it with a high, basketball player’s arch.  It comes down directly onto the van driver’s chest, briefly knocking the wind out of him.  But after a few minutes he returns to his feet ready to fire.  Ruthie beats him to it, hitting his gun-bearing arm.

“We’re even” said James.

“I didn’t know we were keeping score.” replied Ruthie.

“Men always keep score,” joked James in return

She hit him lightly in the shoulder.  He faked a cringe, and said, “Careful.  That’s my throwing arm.  She smiled.

Then sirens are heard.  Two vehicles with flashing lights come screeching into the parking lot.  The police were arriving. He explains the situation to them.  There had been rumours of human traffickers in the area. They had received pressure from high up to produce results.  They act quickly and efficiently.  The men are rounded up, those with guns drop them to the ground.  The police open the sliding door. 

James and Ruthie stand nearby.  They see a group 15 to 20 huddled figures on the other side of the box car.  All are quite young.  None appear to speak much English.  As they are led outside, one remains, crouched in a corner.  James and Ruthie see her.  Ruthie steps into the box car, bends down and extends a hand to the young girl.  After some hesitation, the hand is taken.  The girl comes close to smiling.  Then Ruthie speaks.

“Someone should…we should adopt her.”

“You have to be a married couple to do that.”

“Are you proposing to me?”

“Believe I am.”

“Believe I am…saying yes.”




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