Missing Paint

a short fiction free read

OCT 2014

Suze flung her suitcase onto the bed and plopped down beside it. L.A. traffic sucked. The 405 Freeway was a cesspool of road rage, horn blowers, perpetually stalled traffic, and middle finger givers. She seriously considered giving up her Prius for the bus lanes. Then she shivered. The crowding. The stench. The cussing. For better or worse, she'd stick with her Prius.

The negativity gave Suze goose bumps. Nothing a little green tea couldn't cure. She trudged to her kitchen and set up her Krueg for tea. 

Spiffy little device. It was dependable, reliable, and a great friend. While she waited, she gazed out her window. The sun dipped closer to the horizon, setting the sky ablaze and making the water sparkle - a perfect view to paint.

There was nothing as invigorating than living on Venice Beach with an ocean view. She sold her paintings on the boardwalk and in the local shops. Tourists often bought her masterpieces, keeping her financially set.

The tea finished. She prepared her cup, then went to the balcony. Suze prepped her easel. Time for the paint.

She walked back to her bedroom. All her supplies were in her suitcase. She'd taken a three day cruise to Ensenada, Mexico to recharge her creative batteries. Such vibrant landscapes! Such lush wineries! The paintings she'd done would fetch the next six months rent.

Flipping the latches, something felt 'off.' She opened the case and gasped, horrified. Where were her canvases? Her paints? Her brushes? She couldn't blink. She clutched her chest. Sweat beaded on her brow. Curse the water nymphs!

Dirty clothes were strewn about covered in stains she didn't recognize. A faint odor of fresh fish wafted past her nose. Using her index finger, she picked and poked, hoping to find a precious clue as to who owned this copycat suitcase.

Metal glinted in a descending sunbeam – handcuffs! She bit her lip, anxious. Suze narrowed her eyes as the shock wore off. At least they were clean. A leather belt lined the bottom along with a heavy duty flashlight, bullets neatly stacked into magazines, and a badge. Great. Just great. What if there was a gun? Running into her bathroom, she grabbed her toothbrush and poked around the contents of the mysterious case some more. 

Thankfully, no gun came into view. Suze let out a long breath, and crossed herself even though she wasn't that religious. Still, it didn't hurt to have God on her side.

So who picked up her suitcase? The scum! The vermin! Suze hoped the suitcase held a defining, tell-all clue. Poking around a bit more, she grabbed the badge and stared at it. It was shiny, heavy, and belonged to an LAPD officer. Wonderful. Suze frowned. Who brings handcuffs and bullets on a cruise ship to Mexico? Deflated, Suze flung the badge back into the case. Mr. Police Guy probably ate two donuts a day, drank three cups of coffee, and had bushy eyebrows.

There went her rent payments with those paintings – out to sea with the water nymphs. She'd have to tap into her savings, but at least she could replace her supplies, paints, brushes and canvases. That's the last time she took a cruise to Mexico to get away from the 405.

Suze brought her hand up to her cheek and stewed in unhappiness for at least twenty minutes. Finally motivated to move, she locked the suitcase and dragged it into the hallway near the door. Tomorrow she'd take it to the nearest police station.

A knock sounded on the door.

Suze pursed her lips. That wasn't her mother's knock. Hers was loud and never ending. She placed her eye over the peephole and gasped. A man! A handsome man with chiseled cheeks and thick, dark hair.

"Who is it?" Suze cracked the door leaving the chain on.

"I believe I have some items that belong to you."

Suze opened the door. Be still her heart, her paint was back – and Mr. Policeman looked like he'd never ate a donut in his life.

She gestured for him to come inside. The tide just washed in a treasure chest filled with fresh new colors.