See the bibliography for a list of fiction and articles published elsewhere.

Unphotogenic Man

by Fred on 12-29-2008 Category: Fiction

Welcome back, true believers! When we last left our hero, he had just foiled a dastardly mugging after the culprit fainted at the sight of his driver's license. In today's episode, Unphotogenic Man becomes... The Man Who Blew to Mulch!

Darren Deaver expelled a long, jagged rope of phlegm at 3:54 PM. His stomach fluttered for another two blocks, but he felt normal again when he reached his modest townhouse on Oakland Way.

Toby started shouting before Deaver closed the front door. "Come to the command center, quick!"

Darren walked into the study, where he found Toby fiddling with the scanner's knobs. "There's been a bank robbery," Toby said. "I got the call on the hotline."

"Really? We're still paying for that thing?"

"Cops responded to the silent alarm ten minutes ago. The Commissioner passed the dispatch along to us as soon as he got it."

"Why us? I mean, why so soon?"

"The bank that got hit is only half a mile from HQ." Toby patted the gray metal desktop. "Third National on Riverside Road."

"Woah." Darren set his shopping bag on the floor and sat across from Toby. "I must have been a block away when it happened."

Toby translated the squawking on the police scanner. "They swarmed a car as it was leaving the plaza, but it turned out to be the wrong guy. Another car was found abandoned with the engine running next to the curb. They think the perpetrator panicked and ran east." He looked at Darren anxiously. "That would have put him right in your path! Did you notice anything unusual on your way back from the candle store?"

"I was too busy thinking about the baptism to pay attention."

"Wait, they have a description of the perp." Toby's ear hovered next to the scanner. "White male, mid-thirties, wearing a purple Road Runner sweatshirt. Sound familiar?"

Darren shook his head. "Right then the Kentucky Bluegrass exhibit was closing at the Lawn Museum. I wouldn't have noticed him in a crowd like that."

"Come on, man, think! Anything at all."

"Let's see. I remember thinking I must be developing an allergy to mulch, because... wait a minute." Darren's eyes shone. "Just as I reached the corner, I had the most violent sneeze of my entire life. Wet, pulpy... my face must have contorted like melting wax. You know what that means, right?"

Toby's back stiffened with the realization. "Someone was taking a picture."

Ten minutes later they found the photojournalist from the Libbyville Weekly Shopper across the street from the Lawn Museum, snapping photographs for the next issue's front page.

"Sure, I got some pictures of the crowd," the perplexed photographer said. "How'd you know?"

"We need to see those pictures," Darren said. "There might be a bank robber among them!"

They scrolled through the images on the digital camera. "Wait," Darren said. "There I am, mid-sneeze."

Toby paled. "Good God almighty. Did you sneeze a tonsil out?"

"He might have tried to blend into the crowd, but he'd have approached it from the opposite direction."

"You should have checked that plumb bob of mucus for lung tissue. Jesus, it looks like someone hung a tetherball from your septum."

"The alley behind me leads back to Riverside Road."

"And look how dainty your hand is. Why are you holding the bag all fruity and shit?"

"There he is!" Darren pointed at a figure emerging from the alley. "A white guy in a purple Road Runner shirt!"

"Good, good." Toby swallowed and averted his eyes. "Let's get this to the lab and see if we can zoom in on his face."

The following weekend's headline told the whole story: "TIMELY PHOTO NABS CROOK."

Darren frowned at the article. "I wish they had published the picture of me shaking the Mayor's hand."

"Don't let it get to you." Toby raised his camera. "Here, I'll capture the moment for my blog. Let's get the headline in it."

Darren held the newspaper next to his face and squinted at the flash. Toby's smile vaporized when he checked the camera's screen.


Join us next month for another thrilling episode. Unphotogenic Man: he closes his eyes and licks his lips at all the wrong moments... for justice!