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by Caleb Coy

About the Author: Caleb Coy is a freelance writer and editor with a Masters in English from Virginia Tech. He lives in Virginia with his wife and two sons. His work has appeared in Harpur Palate, Flyway, Mystery Tribune, and The Common. In 2015 he self-published his first novel, An Authentic Derivative.


The word “stakeout,” despite being a very concrete and kinetic word, has an etymology that quite fluidly and, at times, rather abstractly traces through several stakes in history—if by “stakes” we are referring to posts laid along a line to mark a specific location in space, or in the case of this example, locations in time.

At the front desk of the Red Drape Inn, Mahira Patel gazed out the window at the two men sitting in a car.

“See those two guys over there? I think they’re doing a stakeout.”

“What gives you that idea?” said the stranger sitting in the chair across from her.

“They’ve been sitting in that car for over an hour. And when they pulled in, two other guys who were there for hours just pulled out. And the guy in room 16 keeps poking through the blinds every ten minutes. Definitely a police stakeout.”

“That’s an astute observation,” said the stranger. He was wearing a black wool coat and sitting with his legs crossed. He had entered and began asking several questions about the kind of guests her parents usually had, but had not asked for a room. At first he made Mahira nervous, but then she found him entertaining. She chewed bubble gum to offset the nervousness and fiddled on her phone while he rattled off questions. Mahira was sixteen and could already run the place if she wanted to, but her parents would make her go to college first. If they were there and not at home, they would have scolded her for chewing gum at the front desk.

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