Authors: Jonathan Sturak
Tags: #Mystery, #Suspense, #Thriller
A SMUDGE OF GRAY
by Jonathan Sturak
Copyright © 2012 by Jonathan Sturak. All
Published in the United States of America by Pendan
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters,
organizations, places, events, and incidents are used fictitiously and/or are
products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living
or dead, events, or locales is purely coincidental.
The Library of Congress has catalogued the paperback
edition as follows:
A Smudge of Gray : A Novel / by Jonathan Sturak
A subway station bustled, infected with morning
commuters. Some walked; some ran; some stood; some slept. Trains zipped by in
every direction, screeching from the forced steel-on-steel contact. Chaos
engulfed the dwelling, yet everyone seemed to have a plan. Burgundy tiles lined
the floor, abused by the soles of humans. Overflowing blue trash barrels
littered the walkways next to benches. Red digits from clocks stabbed the
stuffy, sweat-soaked air. It was five minutes after seven o’clock in the
A particular train slowed. It was not
unlike the others as its stainless steel exterior displayed its share of graffiti.
As the train’s speed diminished, its moan echoed off the concrete walls and
entered the ear canals of the thousands of busy animals. The sound from the
train was just as ear-piercing as the others in the fleet of speeding metal, but
there was something different about this particular train—something not about the
way it looked, but rather the occupant it held. The train finally stopped. The
doors burst open and the crowd waiting to embark fought those struggling to
Just as it seemed the deck had
shuffled, a pair of charcoal gray shoes stepped from the train. They were made
of calf leather with a hand-sewn Goodyear construction for exceptional
durability, comfort, and support. Synthetic shoelaces were snaked through five
holes with a small piece of white leather sewn into their faces, which accented
the reflecting shoes as they coolly clumped on the tile. A pair of black dress
slacks swished on top of the polished leather. The pants were made of 100%
virgin wool that virgin hands had carefully stitched. They were 34 inches in
the waist and had an inseam of 34 inches as well. They had one-inch cuffs, a
traditional inflection, and were pressed with a hint of starch to keep the
crease prominent, no matter where the wearer took them. The bottom of a black
trench coat rested just below the knee, enough to keep it from hindering the
movement of its occupant. A stout black briefcase hung from the right side of
the man as one of his black leather gloves gripped its steel-hinged handle. The
trench coat was open and allowed others to see a black suit coat, size 42 long.
A black and white tie hung proudly and covered the six ivory buttons of the
man’s fitted white dress shirt. The clothes that cloaked the man ended at his
face, or rather, the man who cloaked the clothes began there. He was tall,
standing at six feet two inches, and had a cunning face ripened to the age of forty-three.
His hair was black and styled like a Wall Street millionaire, perfectly parted
to the left. He had the power to tickle any woman’s libido and the stature to
make any man envious of his style. The dapper gentleman who walked through the
crowd had something about him, something nonchalant, something that begged
further inspection. His name was Trevor Malloy.
Trevor took a seat on a bench next to an
elderly woman. Above them, a flat-screen television provided the commuters with
a weather forecaster highlighting the day ahead—sunny with high temperatures reaching
fifty degrees, above average. Trevor eyed the woman and smirked, just enough to
show his dimples, but this female wanted nothing to do with him, even if he
looked like a leading man in a romantic comedy. She scrunched her face slightly,
wrinkling her brow in disgust. The elderly woman stood up to catch her train.
The suave man sat alone on the
bench. He glanced at his Rolex watch. It was a silver Explorer model with a black
dial, and it ticked six minutes after seven. Trevor looked as if he were waiting
for something or someone. He grabbed his train ticket receipt and played with
it in his hands. He looked at the flurry of activity around him, the disorder
of humans traveling to perform their work. Trevor, enjoying the activity in
front of him, sat with his legs crossed. He noticed a beggar offering a change
cup to the ignorant crowd. Walking at the slowest pace, a custodial worker in a
red uniform lugged a trash bag. Trevor thought it was ironic that all of these
people scurried to work, but once they were there, like the custodial worker,
their scurry turned into a shuffle. The worker passed the bum on the ground,
and for a moment, they locked eyes.
What the bum needs is a red uniform, not
Across the tracks, a group of kids
played hide-and-seek through the legs of the travelers. Trevor chuckled as he
watched a dark-haired girl chasing after a younger boy.
“Is this seat taken?” a soft voice
reached Trevor’s ears.
“No. Please take a seat.”
Before he even turned to look at his
visitor, he knew it was a young woman. He also knew she was beautiful, and her
natural scent invading his nose added even more to the image of her in his mind.
He looked up and saw the breathtaking woman with her blonde hair draped over
her white designer coat. A devilish smile emerged on Trevor’s face as she took
a seat on the bench, a smile that was more than a movement of facial muscles.
“It’s good to take a seat and reflect,”
“I know. It’s exhausting dealing with
all this madness at the start of the day,” the woman sighed.
“Everyone in the world always seems to
be in a hurry,” Trevor said as he scanned the action around him.
The woman dropped her train ticket stub.
The air blew it toward the turmoil, but then Trevor stepped on the stub with
his shoe, saving it. The woman noticed the shine on his shoes as he picked up
“Thank you so much.” She smiled warmly
as he handed her the stub and offered his hand.
“My name is Trevor.”
“April. Nice to meet you, Trevor.”
“The pleasure’s all mine. I like your
scarf. Very classy.”
“Oh, well, thank you,” April responded
as she grasped her expensive garment.
It was something she had picked up a
month ago on a weekend shopping trip. Even though she had worn it every day
during her morning commute with probably five thousand people eyeing it, this
was the first time that someone actually commented on it—someone who piqued her
interest the moment she had seen him.
“You have great taste,” Trevor replied
as he opened his trench coat.
At first, April just took the compliment
at face value, but then she saw the added meaning. The same Burberry pattern lined
his coat. April raised an eyebrow as she tapped his arm.
“Ha! How ironic! Well, real men wear
Burberry.” She slid a bit closer to him.
April felt something different
about this man, something about the way he was sitting and watching the
confusion around him without an apparent care in the world—something about the
space next to him, drawing her in like the aroma of fresh-cooked bacon in the
morning—and something about the seemingly random coincidence of designer
clothing that even a dating couple had a hard time coordinating.
“So what brings you here, Trevor? Where
do you work?”
“I work for myself actually. I’m in the
“Like a corporate consultant?” she asked
as she glanced at his briefcase.
“Something like that. You can call me a jack-of-all-trades.
I help people who are in need of help.”
“Sounds very mysterious,
“Do you like mystery, April?” Trevor
A sudden shriek erupted. Everyone turned
toward it. The beggar was harassing a woman who had knocked over his change
cup. Two men in suits intervened. The bum sat back down, and then the people
“So, where are you headed, April?”
“I’m heading north for work. Just
another typical day in paradise.”
Trevor looked at his left hand still
holding his paper ticket stub.
“I’m actually heading north also,” he
lied as he covered the word “Southbound” with his left ring finger.
April peeked at Trevor’s shoes again and
studied their rich gleam. They were classy and well maintained and she wondered
how he had kept them so flawless. She looked at her black heels and noticed a
scuff mark on the face of the left one.
“So, April, don’t you think it’s kind of
serendipitous that out of all these people here, there must be a thousand, we
had the pleasure of meeting?”
April took a moment to compute his
reflection, to energize her synapses with thoughts. Her eyes shifted from his
shoes to his left hand holding the receipt. It wasn’t the paper that she was
interested in; it was whether he was wearing a wedding ring. The bulge on his
gloved finger left uncertainty for April, uncertainty that made her desire to
find out. Whatever the situation, she thought, all that mattered was the way he
was seducing her with his presence.
“Well Trevor, you do have a way with
words. There’s something different about you. I can’t yet place it,” April
replied with coyness to her tone.
A sudden screech jolted the couple’s
attention. A train slowed marked “Northbound” in red letters.
“Here’s our train,” Trevor said.
He stood up and grabbed his briefcase,
crumbling the receipt. Trevor offered his hand to the woman who had occupied
April hesitated, curious about how
perfectly everything seemed to have fallen into place with this man of mystery.
Just three minutes ago, she was alone, isolated in an un-isolated crowd. She
wondered why she had never bumped into Trevor before. It was as if this man had
been somehow waiting for her. His matching style, quick wit, and same travel
location all seemed to crystallize too seamlessly. April knew this meeting had happened
for a reason, a reason that flowed over her, and stimulated her. Although she
was normally hesitant with meeting a stranger, she knew that she was in a
relatively safe place. As she dithered staring at his extended hand, April
decided to succumb to any feeling of doubt and to follow fate. She yearned to
change her connection with this man from a stranger on a bench to something
“Thank you,” April responded as she
accepted his hand and followed his lead.
Trevor guided her through the crowd, as
a path seemed to clear, allowing the couple to enter the train car. April felt
protected in Trevor’s presence and she hoped the train ride would allow her to
see the real man.
The train doors shut. Through the
scuffed window, Trevor and April sitting next to each other looked like a
couple traveling together. Without warning, the car propelled on the track, and
just like that, chaos ensued.
The bench that had housed the outwardly
random meeting between Trevor and April was now empty. Commuters flowed past it
leaving its wood to cool. The television above the bench now displayed the
newscast as the time filled the bottom corner—7:09. The African-American
newscaster turned to the camera; the words “Breaking News” flashed in the
corner of the screen. The volume was turned up, but the chatter of humans
dwarfed the television’s 20-watt speakers. However, the closed captions were
enabled as the man’s words crawled across the screen. Still, no one seemed
interested in the story.
“…we’re getting this from the newswire.
Police are on the lookout for this man,” the newscaster started.
Suddenly, a picture filled the screen’s
pixels, transforming them in such a way as to reveal a man, a handsome man with
a devious smirk, the man who had sat under the television only moments before.
“…forty-three-year-old Trevor Malloy. He
is a suspect in the brutal murder of at least three individuals. Police ask
that if you see this man, please use extreme caution as he is considered armed