The shoe just sat there in the middle of the platform, taunting Joanne. A slight wearing of the laces through the eyelets and a long black scuff mark to the left of the toe, the only signs that it didn’t just arrive there by some act of God. Whoever had owned the shoe hadn’t owned it for very long.
Joanne wondered if he or she was limping down a road somewhere or if the shoe’s partner was lying somewhere nearby, alone or perhaps still connected to a dormant leg.
Inserting a pencil into the shoe like she’d seen done on TV a thousand times, Joanne held the shoe in the light to get a closer look.
A sneaker. ASICs. White with blue stripes. Size 9½. The wear pattern uneven, more pronounced to the outer edge. The owner pronated. Or was it supernated? Joanne would look it up later.
“What do you think?”
William always asked the obvious questions.
Joanne did her best to replace the shoe exactly as she’d found it, before turning to face William.
At four foot two, William wasn’t very imposing, and the green baseball cap didn’t help, skewed slightly to the left on his head.
What William lacked as a brother, he more than made up for as an investigative assistant. Today was no exception as his pen sat poised above a tiny flip pad.
Joanne was the brains of the operation, while William provided the…penmanship. Brawn was still a few years into the future.
William wasn’t stupid. He played dumb way too well to be considered stupid. But he was frugal with his intelligence, saving it for answers shouted full volume at Alex Trebek. He had yet to get an answer right, but you had to admire his tenacity.
Joanne scrutinized William as she formulated her response.
“We’re looking for a man wearing one shoe,” she said slowly, giving William time to write. “A white ASICs with a blue stripe. New. If he’s not dead, he’ll walk with a limp.”
“How do you know it’s a man?” William asked, as he finished his notes.
“Because the shoe is too big for a boy,” Joanne responded with an unspoken “gawd”.
William wrote this down too. You never knew what would be important later.
“I meant, what if it—“
“I know what you meant,” Joanne snapped.
That was good enough for William.
“The shoe points East,” she added. It did. “Meaning he was waiting for a Westbound train.”
But whether he was travelling west or awaiting the arrival of someone from the east, she could not tell.
“He may also have owned a dog, because I detect the faintest odor of dog poo,” Joanne noted, wrinkling her nose even as she took another deep whiff.
“That’s probably me,” William offered, lifting his right foot forward to expose rivers of brown slurry coursing through the grooves of the shoe tread.
It was all too much for Joanne.
“You’re contaminating my crime scene,” she bleated. “Mo-o-om, William is contaminating my crime scene.”
“Get over here, both of you,” Mom replied. “The train is coming. And leave that shoe.”
She was right. The train was indeed pulling into the station. It would mean playing the odds, but Joanne was going to bet the man with one shoe was travelling west.
As the train stopped, Mom herded first William and then Joanne onto the train.
“Why do I smell dog dirt?” she asked, sniffing the air.
This must be where William learned that annoying habit.
Joanne ignored the question, immediately scanning the car for anything suspicious.
Typical commuters. Some talking quietly. Others immersed in a book. Still others faking sleep but clearly listening to music through ear buds. And all wearing two shoes, except…
There, at the other end of the car, was a man with only one shoe. A white ASICs with a blue stripe. Joanne couldn’t be sure from her vantage point, but everything screamed it was size 9½.
On the man’s other foot was…nothing.
Not even a foot. Or shin. The man only had one leg. Ingenious.
Joanne swatted at William to get his attention, but caught nothing but air. Mom had apparently taken him to the second level of the train car. Joanne was on her own.
Slowly, she slid into the first available seat that gave her an uninterrupted view of the man with one leg.
How he’d gotten off the earlier train and onto Joanne’s was something she still had to figure out, but clearly this was a cagey customer. She would have to watch him closely.
At least until Port Credit, when she, William and her Mom would get off the train to visit her grandmother.
(Images are property of owners and are used here without permission, but please don’t tell Joanne.)