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Van Outside (short story) - ebook

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Life in the suburbs can be a dangerous game of cat and mouse as teenager Dan Pham discovers when his neighbor suddenly goes missing. 

When a strange van appears in his neighborhood and no one seems to notice, Dan suspects something sinister and violent may be at play.

Join Dan as he attempts to uncover the truth in this tense suburban mystery short. If you enjoyed Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, you'll love this suburban suspense thriller. Buy now before the price changes!

Note: this story is also collected in How to Make Friends with Teenage Anarchists.


While Dan Pham and Vanessa Sanchez were walking home from school, he noticed the van in front of his house. Both tenth graders always carried heavy, shoulder-shifting backpacks filled with school books and trekked the half-mile through the late Fall afternoon. Unless it was raining or snowing. Then they took the bus.

They lived in a suburban development called The Swaying Breeze filled with colorful two-level houses, driveways, and battling green lawns. Dan and Vanessa had no idea what the name meant. They assumed the developers thought it sounded relaxing and safe from the major New Jersey cities and New York, a good lure for families. In the last few years, the breeze had been less than swaying. More like shoving.

The van was parked in front of Mr. Muir’s pea-green house, next door to the Pham’s. Mr. Muir was eighty-five and a widower. His wife died many years ago and his children lived out of state. When they visited, they always came in cars, the biggest being an SUV so the grandchildren could fit. Could they have gotten a van? A scratched, black van with tinted windows on the side? As they stopped at the bottom of the driveway at Dan’s house, he glanced at the clear front windshield. Two empty seats. Maybe it was abandoned.

“Earth to Dan,” Vanessa said. “Come in, Dan.”

He pulled his attention away from it and smiled at her. A pretty Chicana girl with a round face and bright brown eyes. Her long, straight dark hair was pulled back into a tail. Today she wore a green, knee-length skirt that showed off her slim tan legs. Dan appreciated it but the kids at school gave her a hard time. Being the only one of Mexican descent in a mostly white school that liked to chant “Build the Wall” was not easy for her. Hell, it was not easy for Dan, either. The kids told him to go back to China. Why China when his grandparents were from Viet Nam?

“Sorry,” he said. “Just thinking about stupid white people.”

She sighed and nodded.

“Yeah,” she said. “They take up my mind, too.”

Today in the Biology class where they shared a lab table, Jake Lynch, sitting at a neighboring table, whispered to Vanessa:

“Are you a two peso whore, little pepper belly?”

She remained face forward, stiff. Mr. Mascato kept on using the whiteboard to teach his lesson. He either ignored the comment or didn’t hear it at all. Vanessa heard it. She bent her pen, straining the plastic and threatening to break it and stain her pretty blue top with ink.

“Fuck them,” Dan said.

“Eiw,” she laughed. “You fuck them.”

Dan laughed.

“Not with a ten-foot dick.”

“You wish it was ten feet.”

Dan wanted to tell her to go find out but pressed his lips together.

He had known her since the second grade when her family moved in down the street. If they didn’t have dark skin and waved a Mexican flag with an American one on the same lawn pole, they would have fit right in. Professional parents, two kids, bland clothes, and accent-free voices. But right away the neighbors didn’t take to them. Dan’s parents did, though. Mom dragged him over to introduce themselves. Since then the Sanchez and Pham families had been friendly, inviting each other over for special occasions. Dan quickly took to Vanessa and her brother Rob who was seven years older than them. He’s in college now. At NYU where he lived on campus to study physics.

It was only in the last few years that Dan had been thinking of her as more than a friend. Sexy fantasies filled his head all day and night. It drove his mind and body insane. So if he mentioned anything about his penis size to her it might break down that wall of friendship. What if she asked him to prove the ten feet? Or say something more subtle?

“I better get going,” Dan said, backing up onto the asphalt. “We still gonna play tonight?”

Vanessa, smiling, sensing his discomfort, said:

“Of course. Seven PM. And don’t keep me waiting.”

She walked off. Dan stole a glance at her butt and strolled to the front door. Before he entered the house, he peeked one last time at the van.

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Van Outside (short story) - ebook

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