Artie and the Red-Headed Woman by Jan Christensen

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It's Christmastime in New York, and with a fresh stash of watches and fine jewelry in his athletic bag, Artie is riding the bus home. A red-headed woman across the aisle catches his attention, particularly since she seems so sad and so familiar. When the bus has engine trouble and the cops arrive, Artie and the woman both have urgent reasons to get away as fast as they can, Artie with his stash and Gina from her father, an old friend of Artie's. All is not what it seems with Gina, and the Christmas season brings more surprises wrapped up in the beautiful red-headed woman than Artie ever expected.

This is the second installment in The Artie Crimes short story series.


The bus bucked and came to a stop in the middle of the street. The woman driver cursed softly, then spoke into the radio attached to her shoulder. From his curbside bench seat along the front, Artie glanced around at the other passengers. His feet tightened against the athletic bag between his legs. It held his stash of watches and fine jewelry, and his first impulse was to dash from the bus and catch a taxi home.

He forced himself to sit still, to relax.

As he looked around, he noticed a young woman a few seats away. She was the only one who wasn’t sharing space with another passenger. Her eyes welled with tears as she stared out the window. Not a great time of year to be crying, Artie thought. The Saturday after Thanksgiving and already Christmas lights twinkled from the stores along the street. Santa stood on the corner, breathing out a white plume of cold air, ringing a bell Artie couldn’t hear. All he wanted to do was get home to Josie, but he forced himself to sit still as he watched the red-headed woman take a tissue from her shoulder bag and dab at her eyes.

When she looked up, their eyes met. Oh, no. He recognized her. Wondered if she realized who he was. He couldn’t get involved in her problems. He pulled his eyes away and tried to catch what the driver was saying to dispatch. Car horns yelped behind them.

“What good will the cops do?” the driver asked. She was stout with crinkly gray hair and a round face. “Send a mechanic.” The radio crackled. “What do you mean none are available?” More crackle. Artie wondered how she could understand what was being said. “I know what day it is, dammit. Again, what can a cop do? Well, send another bus so these folks can get where they’re going.” After listening again, she raised her eyes to heaven and pushed a button on the radio. Then she stood up and faced the passengers.

“Sorry for the inconvenience, folks. You can either get off the bus or wait in warm comfort for another one to arrive to take over the route.”

Before anyone could move, someone banged on the door. The driver glanced at it, then sat back down to lever it open.

A cop stood at the bottom of the stairs. “Move this bus,” he growled. Artie looked around for a hidden camera. Were they part of a reality show? That would be swell.

“Sorry, Officer. The engine quit.”

The cop cursed, then climbed inside. Artie’s gut tightened, and he glanced over at the red-headed woman. Her large blue eyes widened, and looking frightened, she quickly turned her head away.

“Let me try,” the man in blue said.

Giving him a disgusted look, the driver stood up and stepped aside. While the cop settled into her seat, she looked around for a place to sit. Artie stood quickly and offered his spot on the bench, then moved to the only other empty space and sat down next to the red-headed woman, telling himself the whole time he was being a fool. Curiosity gnawed at him.

She looked startled as he put his bag carefully between his feet. Then she turned her head to continue staring out the window. He could see her reflection in the glass. He’d never seen anyone look so sad in all his life.

  • Published by: Untreed Reads

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