Camera Obscura

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Chapter Two

The slowly turning image on the screen seemed to follow Larry as he scrambled around it toward the exit that was only a faint outline in the dark. For a brief moment, he had stood gaping at the surreal image on the screen, not at all sure that what he had seen was real. Then without conscious thought, his legs started moving and he found himself thrust into the twilight outside.

He frantically scanned the cliff searching for the spot where he had seen the two. He sprinted for the stairs to the upper level, to look in the direction they had gone.

“Hey! Watch it!” a female voice cried.

Larry felt himself collide with something solid, and yet surprisingly soft. He threw his arms around the young woman he had run into to keep her from falling. He looked down into startled grey eyes that quickly became annoyed. He dropped his arms and again scanned the cliff above.

“Did you see them?”

“Why don’t you look where you’re going?” the irritated female voice asked.

“Did you?” Larry repeated as he grabbed one of her arms and pointed toward the road. “Up there?”

The woman, now fully angry, struggled to free her arm. “Let go of me!”

Completely unaware of her fury, Larry released her and ran to the edge of the terrace where he first looked up at the rock wall that ran along the edge of the cliff and then down into the water boiling fifty feet below. He looked back at the woman who was staring at him.

“I’m sorry, Miss. I’m sure you think I’m crazy,” he began as he walked quickly back to her. “But did you see anything? It’s very important.”

She looked skeptical and more than a little wary. What she saw was a tallish man in his mid-thirties, slender, yet well built, with thick brown hair and a look of great alarm on his face.

She backed away from him and stammered, “No. I’m sorry. I didn’t.”

He turned and rushed to the bottom of the stairs and looked up. He hesitated, then turned back to her.

“Look, I know you don’t know me, but. . .”

“Are you on something?” she asked, interrupting him. She turned away with some distaste.

“Wait. Please don’t go. A man dragged a woman into a car. He threw her bag over the wall. If we could get it back, we might be able to find out who she was. . .is.”

“What? You are crazy!” she said over her shoulder.

“Please, Miss. A woman was taken. I saw it! Somebody’s got to help her! I’ve got to get up there and see if there’s anything. I was just going to ask if you would look at the water over there.” He pointed to the spot by the terrace wall where he had looked over the edge. “Just see if you see anything. Please.”

She turned and looked at him for a long moment.

“I guess it won’t hurt to look,” she said with a wary nod and began to edge toward the wall.

Larry nodded and raced up the stairs two at a time, calling over his shoulder, “I’ll be back in a minute. Please wait.”

When he reached the top, he scanned the area right and left. Nothing, or rather no one, seemed out of place. He ran to the place by the wall where he thought the two had stood. Peering over, he saw the young woman looking at the water as he had asked. She looked up at him, raised her hands in a question and shook her head. Then she turned again to look at the water.

Larry also looked at the water and saw nothing except the foam formed by waves breaking against the rocks. He looked up and down the road again hoping to see anything out of the ordinary, but nothing was unusual, just a few people strolling along the road, talking, pointing at Seal Rock, a couple who kissed and then giggled like teenagers, diners entering and leaving Cliff House.

He calmed himself before approaching a couple that were standing nearby.

“Excuse me. Did you see a couple here a few minutes ago?” he asked, trying to keep his voice level. “Having an argument?”

They looked at him curiously but shook their heads and moved on.

Discouraged, Larry returned to the stairs and descended to the lower level. He approached the young woman as she turned toward him.

“Is everything all right?” she asked.

Larry put his hands in his pockets, took a deep breath, letting it out slowly while he looked at nothing, then he shook his head. “They were gone, whoever they were. Did you see anything at all?”

She shook her head. “You said they threw something over the wall. What did you say it was?”

“I don’t know, a big purse or maybe a briefcase. He yanked it out of her hand and threw it over the edge. I think I should call the police.”

“The police? Why? Whatever it was will be swept out to sea in no time, even if it’s heavy.” She paused and watched as he began to pace uncertainly back and forth, “They were probably a husband and wife.”

He stopped pacing and turned to her. He looked around at the people, some of whom had begun watching them. He dropped his voice and spoke through clenched teeth, “He hit her and forced her into the car. Someone helped him. I saw another pair of hands pull her in.”

She gasped, “Are you sure?”

“I’m sure,” he answered. “She looked dazed after he hit her. Then someone in the car reached out and pulled her in. That thing in there,” Larry jabbed his finger at the Camera Obscura building, “was turning around. Nothing seemed real, you know? I thought it was just a film or something, until I recognized some kids that were out here. I’m telling you, if she is his wife, she’s being abused.” As his agitation grew, his voice once again rose until the few people that were left on the terrace were staring at him. “And she didn’t want to go with him.”

“Are you all right?” she asked, touching his arm with concern.

“What do you think? I just saw a woman kidnapped. I am definitely not all right! I’ve got to find a phone.”

Before she could respond, he rushed to the gift shop, leaving her with a strained look on her face. Through the window she could see him speak to a clerk, who pointed to a pay phone on the wall in the back of the room. He nodded his thanks, went to the phone, dialed a number, spoke animatedly for a minute, paused, and then spoke again. After hanging up the receiver, he nodded at the clerk and left the gift shop.

Larry seemed surprised to see her still standing where he left her. He really looked at her for the first time. Medium height, probably athletic from her build, blond, pretty enough, and she had helped him. However, the look on her face told him that she might believe he saw something, but she wasn’t comfortable with his explanation.

“Don’t you have a cell phone? You could have used mine,” she said, holding a small phone out to him.

“Look. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bother you. You did me a favor and I appreciate it. Thanks.”

“Well. . .” she seemed uncertain about what to do.

“You don’t have to stay,” Larry said. “The police will be here in a minute.”

“What are you going to tell them?”

“The truth. What else?”

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