Bait and Switch [Free Short Fiction]

Here’s Part 7 of ParaDice Point.

The prompt: A woman dives into the ocean and hears a voice.

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“It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.” 
― Albert Camus

Bait and Switch

It all happened so suddenly, Farrah was out of the water holding the toddler before her thoughts caught up to her. One moment she was staking out the ticket booth, and the next, she was watching the barrels go over the side of the pier and splash into the salty spray below. The boy was lucky she saw his shock of black, curly hair caught in the lid of his would-be coffin.

Farrah coughed hard to clear her lungs, then leaned down to listen to his breathing. It was faint. She felt for a pulse and found it, though it was just as weak. Moments later, she was releasing the child to a paramedic standing by and getting onto her feet. The child was no longer her concern; the remaining barrels were much more important.

She went back into the water and, using the barrels themselves to buoy herself, peeled the lids off of each of six more. Each was empty.

Back on the pier, people gathered in a semi-circle to watch her climb back up onto the pier.

“How did you know there would be a child in that barrel?” asked a woman standing with her arms wrapped around the shoulders of a boy who looked just like her.

Farrah shook her head. “I didn’t. I saw something and went for it.” She didn’t add, “because I had seen something like it happen before, and I didn’t want to let another kid die.”

A photographer snapped her picture before she could stop him.

“Can I get your name for the paper?” he asked.

“Consider me an anonymous good Samaritan,” she answered, then scanned the crowd for faces that looked less astonished than angry at her heroic feat. None stuck out, but she wasn’t surprised. Whoever left this child to die a slow death on the ocean would be long gone.

She pushed through the throng just in time to be accosted by the clown-faced ticketmaster from the booth. She tried to shove him off, but he grabbed her arm tightly and, smiling for the photographer, dragged her away from the crowd.

“What the hell is going on?” he hissed into her ear when they were out of the major part of the crowd.

“If those kids in their grandfather’s car drowned, this was exactly how it happened,” Farrah said, pointing at the side of the pier with two fingers. “Someone made it happen.”

“Who?” he asked, his face crestfallen.

“A cog in a large operation.”

“What does that mean?”

Farrah set her gaze on him. “It means big city trouble just came to your little town, and you’ve all had your heads buried in the sand.”

The unspoken question between them stood on its own. If they didn’t know who had tried to kill the child, how would they know how to stop it from happening again?

How will Farrah catch the kidnappers? Find out next week in the big showdown!

13 Stories


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