Smith is an eccentric genius when it comes to solving crime. Early draft.
Cory Smith is an enigma. Just pretend you never heard his first name. He hates it, saying it’s a weak name.
My husband a renaissance man who decided that, when he wasn’t learning all he could about the world around him, he would help the local police department solve crimes. He’d sometimes take on other cases, but really, his greatest joy came from seeing violent criminals hauled away, especially if Smith was able to put up a good fight in the process.
Smith’s moral compass drove him to seek justice, something I found ironic since not all of my husband’s methods were completely legal. He said it came from being bullied as a child, watching his antagonizers walk away with a slap on the wrist at most. My husband found ways to stick up for himself, but he found that too many kids were left at the mercy of their tormentors until they either snapped or gave up. Smith may not have shown his concern in the standard ways, like education, but he would always fight for good, one of the many things I loved about him.
Another part of my husband I loved was his intellect. I’ve never asked Smith what his IQ is, though I’m pretty sure he must be aware of it due to having completed his first bachelor’s degree at eighteen. When I met him in college, a year later, he had begun working on two more, both to alleviate boredom and to further his knowledge of biochemistry and physics.
With his genius came eccentricity and quirks that, fourteen years later, I have yet to fully comprehend. Moody at times, I’ve come to wonder if he suffers from some form of depression, but then I don’t know if he simply withdraws into himself to think his way through solving a case. For as little as I know about his inner workings, I am the person who knows him best. Scary since we’ve been married nearly eight years. Life with Smith has been an adventure, and while it has been terrifying at times, I found out early on that I love never knowing what will come.
We met in college, and even that story shows just how unique Smith is. Grant once asked about it after Smith had mentioned in passing that we met over a bomb. For the record, we didn’t meet over a bomb; we met during a bomb threat.
It all began when the chatter of the police radio caught my attention, and soon after the scream of police sirens shattered the silence within the liberal arts building. I didn’t have to wait for the evacuation notice to sweep through the building to know it was another bomb threat.
Many students were overjoyed to be released from class, while others were annoyed by the third disruption that month. I saw it as an opportunity to write the story that would land me a top journalism award. Maybe I could rescue the newspaper from its reputation for typos and gossip.
Dreaming about the accolades that most assuredly would be coming my way, I scooped up a notebook and a pen, determined to hide until I could catch the investigation in action and get my story. I ducked into the dark room, waiting in the pitch until the hubbub had died down. The last two bomb threats had been called into a computer lab in the basement, and I lay odds on that being the location yet again.
As silence descended upon the third floor, where I hid, I stepped out into the hall. Head cocked, I tried to listen for any signs of where the bomb squad might be, but I heard nothing.
The only quiet route down to the basement was also the most visible since it was the building’s main stairwell. If I took the elevator, my arrival would be announced with a space-age whoosh and sharp ding, while the stairwells on each wing were cut off by large metal doors that reverberated throughout the building when used.
I was stumped on where to go next, so I turned to look down the hall behind me. Expecting no one else on the floor, I could only yelp when I found myself face to face with a man about my age. He anticipated my fright, placing his hand over my mouth while shushing me in a low hiss. Unfortunately, he did not anticipate my knees giving out.
The wave of fear that washed over me caused my knees to buckle. I didn’t faint, but the world wobbled as I began to sink. Seeing that I was going down, the man wrapped his arms around my body, pulling me back up. I gasped due to the strength hidden in his grasp. Only a few inches taller and just a bit more filled out than I, it surprised me to find his body so muscular.
The man leaned me up against the wall, loosening his grip but not letting go entirely in the event that I tried falling once more. But the concern that flashed in his eyes as my knees gave out fell victim to suspicion. In a voice so low I thought I had imagined it, he asked, “What are you doing?”
Holding up my notebook and pen as though the answer was obvious, I replied, “Writing an article. What are you doing?”
His eyes, dark as the extra-strong coffee brewed in the newsroom when we were on deadline, changed once more, this time with an excited gleam. “If there really is a bomb, I’m going to deactivate it. Follow me.”
The statement was so absurd, no way could he be serious. He wore his hair in a ragged mop, behind which those dark eyes shone. His clothes were wrinkled and didn’t quite fit, a little too long in some places and baggy in others. Really, he looked like any other college male, and though he wasn’t talking about sex, he seemed to be just as full of their macho bravado, bragging about feats that everyone knew weren’t true.
But as much as I doubted his claim, I knew it couldn’t hurt to do as he said. He snuck up behind me without a sound and could probably get us downstairs with just as much stealth. “Okay,” I whispered.
Had I not said those words, I would not have formally met Smith. Of course, I wouldn’t have gotten arrested either.
I followed my new acquaintance as he tip-toed to the stairwell on the eastern wing, the one furthest from the computer lab. Using a near supernatural ability, he opened the door without a sound. After waving me through the gap, he closed the door just as quietly.
My partner crept down the stairs, and I followed behind, thankful I had worn tennis shoes. At each landing, he paused, listening for any sounds of emergency personnel. Once he was certain we were alone, he crept forward.
At the base of the stairwell, the man stopped once more, this time turning to face me. “Wait here while I check to make sure it’s clear,” he whispered in my ear.
I found my stomach fluttering as his breath tickled my ear. It was a feeling I hadn’t experienced since my short-lived high school boyfriend asked me out to the movies. Fortunately, my new friend turned away and didn’t see the confusion that I felt. Going forward, I would try my hardest not to let this guy affect me. After I got my story, I probably wouldn’t see him again anyway.
With the same ninja-like stealth, he opened the door and peered into the hallway. Then froze. Had I not been so enrapt by my new friend, I probably would have heard the voice commanding him to freeze. It took a moment, but I soon noticed a gun pointed at him. And though I wasn’t told to stay still, I did, as fear had rendered me useless.
Never before had I been placed in handcuffs, but my partner in crime and I both wore them as we were hauled out of the building’s service entrance to a waiting squad car. The officer was kind enough to crack the windows before marching back inside the school.
My companion slouched in the seat, his body turned toward me. He looked as though he was about to speak, but I started. “What just happened?” I asked, my voice a blade slicing through the quiet of the car.
“I failed to account for the cameras in the stairwell.” His face twisted as though he had forgotten an umbrella before stepping out into a spring shower, not that he had been arrested. The situation was a mere inconvenience to him.
Whacking my head against the glass behind me, I turned away from my companion and looked outside. No gawkers were on this side of the building. Instead, they had been cordoned off around the front of the building; so fortunately, no one had seen us taken into custody. The information would get out soon enough, though, especially if I had to call my parents to arrange bail. Oh God!
I didn’t realize I had spoken until the man asked, “What?”
Turning back, I met those wells of molten coffee that bore into my thoughts. Burning tears welled up in my own eyes, threatening to spill over. “I can’t go to jail!”
My wail landed on confused ears. Leaning forward, he squared his vision with my own. “You’re not going to jail. They’ll question us, yell at us, and then let us go.”
“How do you know? People are wrongfully accused all the time!”
Scorn oozed out of his pores, and a derisive laugh slipped past his lips. “We’ll be free before dinner time, I promise.”
At that point, I didn’t know his words were sincere, no matter how they were delivered. However, I was pretty naïve, so trust came easily. “You promise?”
Nodding, I relaxed, soaking into the seat in the same manner as the man. It struck me then that I was locked in a car with someone whose name I didn’t know. “I’m Katharine Connolly,” I said, sticking out my hand.
For just a moment, he eyed the proffered hand as though it contained teeth, but then he stretched out his own, wrapping mine in its strength. “I’m Smith.”
I waited for him to finish introducing himself. When he didn’t, I asked, “Just Smith?”
“I prefer it,” he said, eyes hardening with the proclamation.
“Okay, Smith, so you can disarm a bomb?”
The steel in his eyes melted, and a bright excitement rushed in to take its place. For the next half an hour, Smith shared his knowledge and what he would have done had we found one. A five year old discovering a tame dinosaur couldn’t have been more excited than my companion. I would have glazed over, but it was his zest for the topic that kept my attention. He wasn’t delusional; he knew as much about bombs as I did about inverted pyramid writing – no, probably even more so. But his story was cut short as the officer returned to the car and sped us off to the police station.
______ ______ ______
Just before six p.m., I emerged from the police station a broken shell. My legs wobbled with lingering fear while my body trembled with hunger. I was certain my eyes were two swollen orbs from sobbing, and broken glass was embedded in my throat from begging and pleading my case.
The detective, a man weary to be in retirement’s embrace, had finally let me go, saying he wished brazen stupidity was a crime with which he could charge me. He wore his hatred of journalists on his sleeve, and her verbal tongue lashings destroyed my desire to become an investigative reporter. As a result, I never wanted to practice hard journalism again.
Outside of the police station, a buffet of delicious smells met my nose, bringing me back to the present. The strongest emanated from a diner down the road, and I allowed my stomach to lead me there. Others had followed their own stomachs, and I was shown to the last open booth.
I had no sooner cracked open the menu when a figure slid across the table from me. Smith sat there, a large grin dividing his face, which I had to admit was quite handsome. “I love their cheeseburgers,” he said. “Best in the city.”
His optimism fit in with the diner’s shiny, nostalgic décor but not with my own battered mood. I wanted to ask how he could be so cheerful, but I knew he’d respond with a line similar to earlier when he told me we’d be okay. He was right, but how could he not be terrified by the ordeal? It never occurred to me that he had been arrested before (he hadn’t). He was just so frustratingly matter of fact that I had to give in.
“You were right. We’re out before dinner.”
The grin expanded more than I thought possible. “Of course.”
Silence settled upon our conversation until after the server took our order and toddled off to place it. “What are you going to write about now?”
“What?” I looked up from the napkin-wrapped bundle of silverware I had been spinning in circles.
“What are you going to write about? You didn’t get your bomb story.”
“I don’t think I’m going to write anything for a long time.”
“Won’t that affect your grade?”
“Honestly, I don’t care. I was doing this on my own like a good news reporter, and it’s left a rather nasty taste in my mouth. Not unless you let me write about you.”
Smith leaned over the table and looked at me. I wanted to pull back from that probing gaze, but I remained still. Biting his lip, those eyes darted about as he thought, but they pulled back onto me when he spoke. “Okay, but on one condition: help me.”
The statement gave me pause. “What do you mean?”
“I’m going to catch the person calling in the bomb threats, and I want you to help me.”
Just as he had been about the bomb, I knew he was serious. I didn’t really fit in with my roommate and her gaggle of friends, so I had quite a few lonely nights. The newspaper gave me something to do, but it didn’t satisfy me. With nothing better to do and a morbid sense of curiosity, I nodded my head. “Sure.”
And thus my partnership with Smith was born.