Tag Archives: crime

The Loss

Fuck.  How much had he had to drink last night?  Shit, had he passed out on the toilet?  His head rolled from side to side, the room swum; at least he had his boxers on, green and white stripes, no piss stains on the crotch, hooray for small miracles.  He shook his head, drool dripped out his mouth and landed on his knee.  What the hell had happened last night?
+++++He tried to stand up.  Ugh, what was that?  He tried again.  No.  His arms were dead, his legs felt like he had just run a marathon, his head dazed; none of that mattered.  He was tied up.
+++++Rope was tied around his wrists and elbows.  Yellow and bristly it cut his skin but only when he flexed or tried to sit up, there was a little slack there.  His legs were tied tighter, he couldn’t see with what but it was some type of cord, wrapped right under his knee and around his ankles.  He was tied to a chair.
+++++He looked around.  It was dark, not pitch black.  He could already see better than when he first opened his eyes.  In front of him, a bit to the left, the outline of a door, slightly cracked, light pouring thru the corners.  Sunlight.
+++++To the right of the door was metallic and dirty, the garage door.  To the right black plastered to the wall.  Trash bag.  Someone had taped a trash bag over the window.  He turned his head all around, at least as much as he could, dusty red, a car behind him.  He looked back to the window.
+++++Why did the trash bag over the window scare him more than the ropes around his wrists?  Premeditation.  It definitely would take several odd series of events to tie someone up but the fact that this person had a ready-made place to keep him scuttled the spur of the moment kidnapping.
+++++Or did it?  Bags over the windows could be that his captor didn’t want people looking in, or it could mean that the glass had cracks in it and they didn’t want the elements coming in.  He shouldn’t start ascribing malicious intent to everything around him.  Except of course being tied up to a chair, that was malicious.
+++++He grinned, good to keep a sense of humor, situation wasn’t ideal but panicking wasn’t going to help.  He paused, why exactly wasn’t he panicking more?  He was calmly looking around, cracking private jokes, occasionally swearing and that was it.  He was glad he wasn’t screaming or anything but an elevated heart rate would help.
+++++He had been drugged, he felt like he did after he had got his wisdom teeth taken out.  The ropes seemed impossible to break but he was in no position to do anything right now.  At the bar?  Yes, that made the most sense.  Shit, was it still night?  He had no reference for time, had he been out for… stupid.  The sunlight, it was morning, at least.  What did that tell him?
+++++That whoever had done this was serious.  As unlikely as a prank as this was, as it definitely had broken several laws, keeping someone for the night seemed to discount the prank idea.  His chest was cool with sweat but it had no crude slurs written on him in marker.  No mirror so he couldn’t check but he doubted that there was a phallic image drawn on his face.  He sighed, no prank.
+++++He blinked, stuck his tongue out, and licked his lips.  There it was, that moment when the Vicodin or laughing gas wears off, he was back.  Hooray.  He was also in his underwear tied to a chair in a garage.  He lifted his arms up again, at least as much as he could.  Midway between the wrists and elbow he was getting less than an inch, shit, he was getting nothing, though he could feel that the left was slightly weaker.
+++++He tried moving forward.  More movement there, his chest wasn’t tied so he could lean forward.  He did that several times.  He stopped.  That was getting nowhere; all he was getting was a better view of the floor, cracked cement with stains.
+++++Not blood he told himself, not blood.  No, clearly not blood, it was just light discoloration, not the copper tinged splotch blood would have surely left.  He checked his legs again.  There!  His ankles were tight, tighter than the wrists, but his right knee had hope.  He couldn’t move forward for shit but he could lift it up towards his face a bit.  If not for the ankle he might be able to bring it out of the rope.
+++++Rope and cord.  Two different types.  This was the persons first time, they had the foresight to block the windows but not have enough rope on hand.  Or to shut the door completely.  Or to use a basement instead of a garage.  He might be able to talk his way out.
+++++Talk his way out?  That can’t be the plan he thought.  That was stupid, lazy, and cowardly.  Yes, if someone came, the fact he wasn’t dead yet and had been passed out for at least eight hours, he stood somewhat of a chance of talking his way out of it but that couldn’t be plan A.  He needed to get out.
+++++He took a breath, with each passing moment he was feeling stronger.  His limbs still felt a little weird, lack of circulation or drug side effects who cared?  He felt good now, his mouth wasn’t open, his eyes were focused, his limbs, while tied up, were not limp.  This was it.  He flexed his right leg and lifted, he sucked in, moved his arms up… all of one inch.  He exhaled.  The ropes and cords were too tight, wrapped around the chair.
+++++The chair!  That’s what he had to do, break the chair.  It was wooden.  He looked over to the right.  The table with tools was his best bet for getting a weapon to defend himself but there was no saw laying fortuitously off the edge nor a vice grip attached to the edge, nothing to ram his chair against.  Could he even stand though?  He smiled.  He kept on answering his own questions.  He wondered if it was his hobby that made him so analytical, so careful.  Probably.
+++++He looked to the left, looked to the right.  Nothing in his way.  Forwards meant face first and behind was a car.  Go left, to where the table was.  He tilted his head to the right, no point in knocking himself out.  He lifted his left arm up, as much as he could.  Took a deep breath and rocked to the left, a tilt, more, one more, he felt himself falling…
+++++…”Fuck.”  He had hit the ground hard, moving his head to the right hadn’t really helped, his head had just whiplashed to the ground.  He blinked, it hurt but that was it.  His head was the last thing he needed to be worried about.
+++++He had heard a crack, though it could have just been the thud of impact.  He had landed perfectly on his left side, too perfect, he was exactly on his left side.  If there had been any change on the left side of the chairs structure he couldn’t tell, he was stuck, sideways like a turtle on its shell.
+++++He twisted again; he closed his eyes, bam.  Another hit to the head.  Now he was face forward on the ground, ass in the air, chair stuck to his back.  For a brief moment he felt like laughing.  He moved his arm.  He gave into the urge and let out a little laugh.
+++++There!  His right arm.  Movement.  It was the wrist, the elbow was still tight.  He should have gone to the right; his left arm was still as immobile as ever.  He tried moving his legs, it was hard, from this angle he couldn’t try to stand, he could only try to push.  His right leg definitely had more slack now; if he could get right side up he might be able to…. No, his ankle was still stuck, though the left seemed like it had some give to it.
+++++Smile.  A little give here, a little loosening there, he could roll over to the left, roll to the right and continue doing that over and over again until he was free.  His head was on the ground, it didn’t hurt but blood was rushing up there and given the drugs he had taken he needed to be careful, rolling around and knocking himself out wasn’t going to help.  This one he didn’t need to worry about, a shift to the left or right would have his head away from the ground, looking at a sideways prison.  So, left and loosen the ankle more or right and loosen the upper leg and wrist?  Either way would be fine but he needed to…
+++++Slam.  A door.  His first instinct was to shout out, help, come here, anything.  He held his tongue.  The door was really close.  He heard the crunch crunch crunch of leaves being stepped on.  His stomach tightened.  The door opened.  He closed his eyes.

***

A soft kick to his shoulder.  “I know you are awake.”  His eyes remained closed.  Don’t let them know anything.  A sigh, the footsteps walked away, outside?  No, to the bench, they came back.  Cold metal pressed up against his cheek.  He grimaced but kept his eyes shut.
+++++“I heard you, I heard you,” reverberated through his ear and the garage.  “You said fuck and were trying to escape.”
+++++He opened his eyes, not metal but plastic, a walkie talkie pressed up against his ear, his captor spoke into the other one.  The walkie talkie was set down; now something metal was placed against his face.  A knife.
+++++“I’m going to prop you up, if you try anything I’ll cut you, understand?”
+++++“Yes.”
+++++A pause.  “Are the ropes loose?”
+++++“No.”
+++++Tug.  Tug.  His captor checked all, let out a little hmmph.  He struggled not to smile, by checking it loosened his right a little more.  He wasn’t mobile yet nor did he have an arm free but he was closer.  Time, he needed time.
+++++He was grabbed, struggled with, his captor was not strong, a grunt and there, he was upright, no, he almost fell to the left, he jerked out and his captor steadied him.
+++++The husky voice and situation he was in had  clouded his mind.  Husky, but not deep.  He hoped his face didn’t betray his excitement.  His captor was a female.
+++++She grabbed the chair next to the table and sat it in front of him.  She went back to the table and grabbed a small duffel bag and set it by the chair.  She sat down.  Tall and big for a girl, he figured five nine somewhere near two hundred.  Large shoulders for a girl, maybe she played volleyball or basketball in high school but she still had a pear shape and dollars to donuts she hated her ass.
+++++Dark brown hair cropped short and pushed to the side, he hated that look.  Most every girl who had it either regretted it or was a lesbian.  Maybe both.  Her clothes weren’t helping her case, who wore sweaters like that anymore?  Certainly none of the straight girls that frequented the bars he went to.  But weren’t gays supposed to care about their appearance or was that just guys?  Careful here, she might be a chunky girl with a bad haircut but she still had the upper hand.
+++++“So Alex,” she said, leaning forward, “how’s it going?”  Say nothing until you know what kind of game you are playing he reminded himself.  “Heh, stupid question right.  God, I’ve wanted this for so long and I don’t even know what to say to you.  I set up the walkie talkie because I couldn’t stand to be in the same room as you, you horrible little…” She caught her breath, gripped her knees and looked down.  If he had his arm free he could reach out and finish her.  He flexed, a little better, he needed to prolong this conversation.  She had let him know she wasn’t violent but also that she was angry with him.
+++++“Okay, let’s try again.  Alex, I’m using your name, do you know how?”
+++++“Uhh, wallet?”
+++++“Nope, wallet is still in pants.”
+++++“I said it last night?”
+++++“Nope.”
+++++“Don’t know how then.”
+++++“I’ve been following you; have now for the past two weeks.  Been to your apartment, inside in fact.  Yes that’s right; I’m not the only one breaking the law here.”
+++++His breath caught, he offered up what he hoped was a puzzled glance.
+++++“You do know why I’m following you, right?”
+++++“No. I mean, I’m flattered but…”
+++++“Stop, just stop,” she snapped.  “I am not attracted to you, you are scum.  Lying rotten scum, though you put up a good act, I can see how you were able to fool the cops.”
+++++“Oh geeze that, no, you can talk with them, I wasn’t anywhere near the park that night, I mean a block away but so was…”
+++++“But nothing, you raped and killed her.  Along with four other beautiful young women.”
+++++“I was at the bar with her, I don’t know when she left, I went outside for a smoke and I came back in like five minutes.  My waitress remembers that, it’s not like I was gone for thirty minutes or something.”
+++++“No, but you were gone long enough and you did kill her.”
+++++“Look.” He paused, she didn’t give a name, he continued, “I told the cops this, they checked it out and it checked out, there were a lot of other guys at the bar.”
+++++“But only you match the description.”
+++++“You weren’t there, I don’t know what you’ve heard but take it from me, there were several other white guys in their mid-twenties with brown hair and a slight build, whatever that’s supposed to mean” he said with a chuckle.
+++++“You are good.  I wonder if you’ve rehearsed this or are you just playing it by ear?  Not that I’d believe you if you told me.  I know you’re lying, I guess I just wanted to see if you would lie.”  She reached down into the duffel bag and pulled out a necklace.  “She was wearing this the night you killed her.  Heather Robinskie, the fourth girl, I gave this to her.”
+++++“You broke into my apartment and found a necklace that is similar to one you gave your uh, friend and…”
+++++“It’s the same, it’s the goddamn same, there’s a scratch on this that’s just the same as hers, she got it, never mind, I’m not telling you the reason, you took her life, you don’t get to have her history.  Did your ex-girlfriend leave three other pieces of jewelry in a box you keep in your dresser?”
+++++There it was.  She had stalked him, she had gotten evidence, and she had captured him.  All because she knew that slut?  The Calendar Killer done in by some dyke.
+++++“Then call the police, I’m sure they could do a DNA test, fingerprint analysis, something that…”
+++++“And then it gets tossed because I broke in, no, I don’t think so Alex.”
+++++“So…” he asked, regretting it immediately.  The perfect opening for her to cackle about torture or murder.
+++++“I see it on your face; you think I’m going to kill you.  Well, I’m not you, I don’t kill.  I do want you to hurt.  I want to stop you.  Any physical pain you receive is a merely a  byproduct.”
+++++“So, what then” he asked, hoping his question landed him on safer ground.
+++++“We talk.  You about Heather.  And Catherine.  About Kelsey and June.  About why.  And I’ll talk about what it did to me and all her loved ones.”
+++++“You want me to confess.”
+++++“That’s the idea.”

***

He sat in silence.  Let her think it was his reluctance to confess.  He had been dying to tell someone.  The problem was not the tape recorder she had either in her bag or on the table, that was an easily solved problem.  The problem was her.  Was she really not going to hurt him?  He bit his lip, she raised her eyes, he struggled not to laugh.  I’m not grappling with my conscience you dumb bitch, I don’t know if you’re going to hurt me or not he thought.
+++++The way she had said she wasn’t going to kill him was with the same smug superiority vegans announced their lunch plans, the way nonsmokers passed on a cig; the way bitches had refused him.  As if the idea was beneath him.  He breathed in, and twisted a bit.  Arm was still tight, her eyes on him, maybe he wouldn’t even need another fall if the dumb cow wasn’t going take her eyes off of him.  Story time.
+++++“Yes.”
+++++“Yes what?”
+++++“Yes, I killed them, I’m the uh, Calendar Killer.”  He tried to back up; the look on her face was not one of approval, why had he said that?
+++++“Go on, I swear, I am not going to kill you.”  She looked him square in the eye, “to take a life when a life has been lost is revenge, not justice.”
+++++Alex smiled, her look of disgust returned.  It was better than laughing.  That last line had been recited.  He wondered how many arguments had she thought she had won by delivering that line?  He shook his head, he had been captured by an overweight liberal slogan spouting dyke.  He only needed his legs free, he doubted she could even throw a punch, he could just ram her against the wall.  And then later?  No, she was definitely lesbian by choice.  What guy would want her?  You don’t need to rape every girl you kill he told himself, valiantly suppressing a smile.
+++++“Uh yeah, so what do you want to hear?”
+++++“Heather.”
+++++He could see the shake in her shoulders, the hitch in her voice.  Ideals were just that, don’t give her a reason to give them up.  “Uh, last girl, the one by the dumpsters, right?”  She nodded.  Stupid broad, he was already laying the seeds to get out.  “Well uh, I uh saw her walking down the street, I followed her and uh grabbed her and uh killed her I guess.”
+++++“Why do you rape, why do you kill?”  Her voice was small and whining, he was in control.
+++++“Hmm” he paused, wait a couple seconds here.  Important to do that.  He couldn’t sound too eager but how exhilarating was this?  Being able to tell someone finally.  “It started with uh a neighbor at an apartment.  She wanted me to help her move and I uh, after I was done with her sofa, I uh, raped her.”
+++++“What a gentleman.”  She shook her head, “I asked” she muttered to herself, “Go on.”
+++++That you did.  It felt so good to talk about; he couldn’t tell the whole truth of course.  He hadn’t raped the bitch in two twelve.  He had gotten the slut in one eighteen, friends apartment, drunkenly fumbling for her keys.  He was, ha, the gentleman.  “Yeah, well, after that I uhm, let’s see, got worried so next time I killed so there would be no witnesses.”
+++++“Catherine, her name was Catherine.”
+++++“Her, no, she was my second.  My first was this skinny little bitch from across the street, bad dye job and uh…”
+++++“Fuck you.”
+++++Alex didn’t bother hiding the smile now, he was in complete control now, he was talking of killing her friend, of raping other women, insulting her and she was doing nothing.  Christ, she’d probably let him go.  Then the real fun could start.  “Anyway, she was my first kill but I buried the body, didn’t want to get caught but that was no good, took too long.”
+++++“What was her name?”  He shrugged.  “Well do you at least remember where you buried her?”
+++++“Oh sure, ten steps away from the signpost in Nolan Woods, going toward the street, can’t miss it.”  Of course you couldn’t, he played there all the time as a kid.  And there was no dead woman there.  See detective, I was just humoring her.
+++++“Okay.  Why the deal with the dates?”
+++++He had gotten away with it!  The non-existent dead girl.  Could he tell the truth here?  He supposed he could, or at least close to it.  “Uh first two uh, just kinda happened by accident and after that uh, I just rolled with it.”
+++++She glared at him.  “You’re telling me that the dates, how everything just fits, it’s just coincidence?”
+++++Yes!  I had no idea that the first two had birthdays two months apart.  I knew I was killing four months apart but I didn’t think that’d be that strange, seventeen is just a lucky number.  After that I decided to have fun with it.  And the last girl, June?  Only because I couldn’t find a May.  They think I’m some nutjob; I’m just going with what they gave me.  They have numerologists trying to find out my next move.  I can do what I want whenever I want because they think I’m going on some set schedule and whenever I do kill next they’ll make it fit their theory.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m having a blast.  If I could find some twins I’d kill them on the goddamn winter solstice and watch their heads explode.
+++++Alex sighed.  “I don’t know what to tell you, that’s the truth.”
+++++“Okay my turn.  You killed my roommate and best friend, oh fuck you.  She wasn’t a lesbian, she liked me for who I was and I her.  She didn’t have a boyfriend.  There was a guy at work, I didn’t really like him, but it would’ve happened.  You killed her and you took away a four month relationship that she would’ve learned from.  You killed everything that would have ever happened to her, good or bad.”
+++++“We were going to go tubing that weekend.  Going to barbeque with the rest of her friends afterward.  I can’t see watersports without thinking about her.  I can’t see hot dogs and hamburgers without thinking about her.  Or eggplant because Lyssa and Amy were bringing that.  Anything pink, because her mom survived breast cancer and had to bury a daughter.  A raped brutalized daughter.”
+++++“It’s not just birthdays or holidays, it’s every day.  Everything.  A TV show we didn’t like, I remember how we laughed at it.  Frozen dinners, dogs, the color yellow.  It’s not just the stuff she liked, or disliked, it’s what we shared.  And you took that from me.”
+++++And you say you guys weren’t lesbians.  Maybe not her, but you wish you had what I have; a dick.  And you wish that you had used it on your friend.
+++++“Anything, do you have anything to say?”
+++++“Uh, sorry for your loss.”
+++++“The loss that you made.”
+++++“Uh yeah, sorry.”
+++++“I don’t believe you.  Are you turning yourself in?  Seeking help?  Suicide because you can’t live with yourself?”
+++++“No, guess not.”
+++++“You’re just sorry that I caught you.”
+++++“Yeah, so how did you, I mean the newspapers didn’t print my name or anything.”
+++++“Didn’t see me coming did you?  I succeeded where they failed.”  A triumphant grin.  Whatever, keep smiling bitch, he now had space between his arm and the chair.  Ten more minutes, tops.  “No, not a name, but I talked with the victims friends, with witnesses, not just the witnesses that talked with the police but everyone and your face kept popping up.”
+++++“The description is vague.”
+++++“Not your car, and once it came up twice, well pretty easy from there.   I even had help from a, well I guess I shouldn’t say her name, she was sure you were innocent but she didn’t mind me ‘playing Nancy Drew’ as she put it.”
+++++There it was!  A cop or at least someone working in the police department.  Harassment.  He could sue.  Or, threaten to sue because he didn’t want them looking to close into him anymore than they wanted a lawsuit.
+++++“Huh.”
+++++“Pretty much, I think we are done with the interview, I know what I want to know, and that is that you are unrepentant in all aspects, you think only of yourself.”  He nodded.  “Never turn yourself in, never kill yourself, right?”  He nodded.  “You will rape and kill again, you are twenty four, let’s say you go to jail for sixty years, you’ll be eighty four, who knows if you will get it up, but I know you’ll try.”
+++++“Wait a sec, you said you weren’t going to kill me” he cried, backing his chair into the car.  “No please, if you hurt me the tape will be worthless” he cried as she reached into her duffel bag.
+++++She looked up puzzled, “Tape?  If I was recording you it’d be worthless because you’re under duress” she said as she plunged a needle into his leg.  He screamed and shook, she pushed the top and the liquid emptied into him.
+++++“You promised” he said stupidly, head already spinning.

***

Whrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.  He opened his eyes.  Grass.  White door.  Garage door.  He was in the garage again?  He looked around, grass and trees everywhere.  No, he was outside the garage.  Trees to the left, it looked like a forest.  A house was far away to his right.  Go to the forest when you get your legs under you.
+++++Whrrrrrrrrrrr.  He looked up.  There she was, by a woodchipper.  She turned it off.  He  grinned, he wouldn’t need to run.  He looked to the house once more, no one was outside, the windows were dark.  Groggy or not there was no chair, no ropes.  He pushed himself up and fell down.
+++++“Even without thumbs I could get a good grip when I practiced” she said flexing her fingers with her thumbs tucked into her palms.  “When I went like this,  I couldn’t grasp the neck at all, I could still hold a key and a fork, so you’ll be fine on that, not too much power though so I don’t think stabbing is a concern.”  She held her hands up with her thumbs against her palms and the ring finger halfway down; he looked down at his fingers, white gauze covered his stumps.
+++++She grabbed a bag by her feet.  White plastic with a small red lump sagging down.  It looks like the bag dog owners put their crap in he thought.  Except it’s my thumb and finger.  Part of finger.  Partial finger?  This didn’t matter, was it the drugs or shock from blood loss?  He tried to stand again and fell on his ass, sitting like a rapt kid listening to a story she continued.
+++++“Your murdering tools, your digits, I have taken them from you” she said dramatically.  Going from a prepared statement, she’d be prone to a rush.  She might have a weapon but, and he checked once more, no one else was here.  No one was hiding, if she had recruited anyone else they would’ve shown themselves.  He blinked.  Just like before he was coming to.  He’d have a chance, a moment and he’d rush her.  A syringe wouldn’t help her now.  She paused and looked in the bag.  That smug look, did she think that a little disability would save her?  He bit his lip, good he could feel it.  Soon so would she and…
+++++“Testicles, now they provide the sex drive.  I left you those.  I want you to know that you are being punished with what you can’t have anymore.  You’ll be able to look, and touch, just not as well” she laughed twirling her fingers around, “But nothing else.  You took my friend from me, I have returned the favor.”
+++++She continued talking, he didn’t hear.  He stared down.  Still in his boxers, still striped green and white, now with a red crotch.  He reached his mangled hand down.  He tried to scream.  The whrrrrrr of the woodchipper came back on and he watched as white and red confetti sprayed everywhere.

THE END

The Good Fortune of Augusta

Estelle simply hadn’t considered it. Why would she? How could she? While Ike was still alive, her sins still had an enactor, her silenced thoughts a catalyst. But now that Ike is gone?
+++++“When?” she asks.
+++++“Yesterday,” Reginald tells her. The collar of his blue shirt swallows his thin neck, the gold P.D. pins chomping like teeth.
+++++“How?”
+++++“Yea,” he touches the back of his head and the stubble there, “that’s the ironic thing. Well I guess it ain’t ironic but, he was hit by a car. Walking his dog at night. Didn’t wear one of them protective vests. With the reflectors on it? You know the kind.”
+++++To Estelle, it’s the finish line of a marathon she was never qualified to run. Not because Ike is dead, but because neither of them are alive anymore. The injustice somehow felt worse when one was breathing and the other wasn’t. But now, with both men gone, her mind surmounts some opaque obstacle in the path of equilibrium, scales balance; even more so than when Ike was released from prison all those years ago. Prison hadn’t solved anything. She doubts if it ever does for anyone.
+++++“I thank you for coming here to tell me.” She grips the handle on her screen door.
+++++He takes his hat off, rubs it between two fingers.
+++++“Mrs. Kline, I wanted to ask you something else as well.”
+++++She nods, looking somewhere far beyond him.
+++++“I know what this means to you,” he shakes his head. “I don’t mean it to sound like that, like something good or bad. I just mean, my pop was so close to this case. I know so much, about you and Stan and Ike.” He clears his throat. “And my mom of course.”
+++++“You’ve always been a very sweet boy, Reginald.”
+++++He laughs. “I think my mom is the only one who calls me that.”
+++++“I never had children, but I do know your mother.”
+++++He turns to his squad car and his partner sitting there, impatient and whapping his thumb to some invisible beat.
+++++“What is it?”
+++++He doesn’t turn back. “Do you want to see the body? I know it’s morbid, but it’s not like Ike had any family. There ain’t going to be a wake or nothing, not that you’d want to pay respects. I guess,” he faces her and she notices the flat, wrinkle free pallet of his brow, pressed with sincerity but unblemished by time. “If it’d bring you some measure of closer, I can get you in.”
+++++A hand at her mouth, Stan would chide her for the small bite marks on her forefinger when she was nervous.
+++++“Is that normal?” Her voice waivers.
+++++He stiffens, the cop coming through. Despite his age, too many generations of blue pump his heart, too many badges and citations hang in his memories. He’ll make detective like his father, sooner too if he avoids the old man’s Johnny Walker habit. He has better friends, of that they are all certain. “I wouldn’t say it was normal, no. But then, nothing about this situation is normal.”
+++++She agrees and leaves with him, taking only her small handbag and a picture of Stan. Reginald takes her arm as she negotiates the concrete steps. It’s her vertigo, she tells the young man, small in her youth but ballooning in severity along with her age. The world never quite sits still anymore, something’s always moving, always falling away.
+++++The officers drive her to the precinct while the leaden Alabama heat presses on the car’s struggling air conditioner. Reginald tries to talk to her a few times, but she is silent, and after awhile the three of them just watch the southern live oaks scroll past and the children play in sprinklers.
+++++Outside the stone precinct walls, a brown dog lays atop a chain leash, licking his paws. A near empty water bowl rests beside his flopped right ear.
+++++It isn’t Estelle’s first time in a police station. She’s seen the calm flurry of activity before, the measured balance between urgency and boredom. It reminds her of what Stan said about combat, but only reversed; the long uneventful days, the horror filled black nights.
+++++“I’ll take you over to the ME’s office in a bit. It’s just across the lot,” Reginald says.
+++++He is kind and quick. Once at the office he walks her down the steps to the morgue, opening the door and helping her through before waiting in the shadows.
+++++Like stone, Ike’s skin, scaled as though braised, a left arm torn and broken open but with petrified blood. The slab below extends past his head, but his feet hang over. It could be an alter, she thinks, an offering to silence. Or maybe to her husband, to Stan, Ike’s body finally there, finally lifeless. It’s definitely Ike though. She couldn’t forget the cleft eyebrow, the weak chin. She remembers the anger. She remembers the violence.
+++++“It made my dad’s career,” Reginald says from the darkness lurking behind her. “Bringing him in.”
+++++She does not approach Ike, the body. Was he even a he anymore?
+++++“It wasn’t just him,” she tries to find her smile there in the dark.
+++++“Sorry. I know. Stan was there too.”
+++++“Of course he was. They were friends.” She listens to her echoing steps. “Isn’t that right Ike? You and Stan were friends.”
+++++She thinks that may scare the boy, a crazy old lady talking to a corpse. But it doesn’t. She’d forgotten he is a cop. And it doesn’t matter how young, a cop knows death better than all but a soldier.
+++++“Friends don’t do that to each other. Friends don’t kill.” Reginald’s voice joins the hollow sound of her footsteps.
+++++And then her balance fades, a halo forming around the pale light above Ike’s body. Reginald rushes and grabs her elbow, propping her up. It’s this damn vertigo, she tells him again. There’s nothing that can be done for it.
+++++It’s okay, he says, they can leave whenever she wants. He was never sure this was a good idea. He just thought it right to give her the choice.
+++++They walk out together, arms linked like to-be newlyweds without a religion to consecrate them.
+++++“Officer,” an older man calls after them once they’ve passed back through the precinct. His suit is ill-fit around the waist.
+++++Reginald’s partner is still in the car, still tapping his thumb, entertaining a beat she cannot hear. She lowers herself into the backseat while Reginald excuses himself to talk to the man.
+++++The spider-webbed protective screen splinters the officer’s entrapped eyes from the rearview. There are creases there, long fractured wrinkles no man his age should have to endure.
+++++“He’s not allowed to do this ya’ know.”
+++++She adjusts the bag on her lap and twists away from his eyes. Outside her window another squad car pulls up, officers emerge with young black boys in chains.
+++++The partner pauses and they listen to the boys and the officers and the ageless inequity of The South.
+++++“I told him it was a bad idea. Told him he’s asking for disciplinary going to get you.”
+++++“His father and I had history.”
+++++“I know your history.” He adjusted the gun belt on his waist. “Robbing banks ain’t no history. Don’t get you any special treatment far as anyone is concerned.”
+++++“A man can have redemption.”
+++++A struggle, the cops wrangle the boys into the precinct. One boy in particular, he’s thin but strong, arches his back until the low slung pants on his waist fall away and he loses his balance on the tangle of his own fashion.
+++++“Not in my world he can’t.”
+++++“They’ve all paid.” Then, “we’ve all paid something.”
+++++He half-turns his head towards her, still not making eye contact. “Reggie’s dad never paid for shit. Just because your dad’s a judge and you’re a cop shouldn’t mean you get off that easy and it especially shouldn’t mean you get rewarded.” He shakes his head and laughs, bitterly. “You should feel that more than anyone, lady. Your bill was the highest out of all of them. Other than your old man, I mean.”
+++++She doesn’t say anything, watches the police drag the boys across the same steps she had just been helped down. The dog barks and wrestles against his tie, leaping until the chain digs into his throat and stifles his voice to a yelp.
+++++One of the officers notices their car. The partner rolls down the window.
+++++“Whose dog is that?” the officer asks.
+++++“Dead perp,” Reginald’s partner says.
+++++“Looks healthy,” he yells over the barks.
+++++“Whatever. They’re gonna put her down.”
+++++“Shame, that’s a nice looking dog.”
+++++The partner waves and rolls up the window. The dog keeps at it.
+++++“I’ll take her,” she says.
+++++“You’ll take who?”
+++++“The dog. I’ll take the dog.”
+++++Reginald appears from the precinct. He takes his time walking down the steps. He too spends a moment looking at the dog.
+++++“Lady, you ain’t owed shit.”
+++++Reginald joins them.
+++++“Told you you were going to eat shit for this,” the partner says.
+++++“Fuck off.” Reginald turns to Estelle through the gate, “Sorry for the language Mrs. Kline.”
+++++She pulls her bag into her chest. “May I ask you a question?”
+++++“Yea,” he shifts back. “Yea, anything.”
+++++“May I have his dog?”
+++++Reginald startles, as though he only just now hears the dog’s cries.
+++++“It was Ike’s dog.”
+++++“I already told her no,” his partner says.
+++++She slaps the grate and both young men jump. “No sir.” Her voice catapults from her mouth. “You told me I was not owed anything. Which is false. The world is owed to me. It’s owed to everyone. You just have to be willing to take it. And I always take what’s mine.” She addresses Reginald directly. “A dog bears no fault of its owner. I will take her, if you will let me. If money is the issue, I can take care of that too.”
+++++He nods, tells her he’ll see what he can do but it shouldn’t be a problem. They pull away and on the short ride back to her house, he’s already made the call. Reginald drops her off and says he’ll be back to drop the dog off within the day.
+++++A week later, she invites Reginald’s mother, Helen, over for tea. They speak about the weather, and about the president, whom they both think is doing a poor job of running the country. Within the guts of their first long pause, Estelle gets up and lets the dog out into the backyard.
+++++“Reginald told me about that dog,” Helen says.
+++++Estelle closes the screen but leaves the heavy backdoor open. The dog runs to its hole, the one it’s been digging for hours. Of course Ike’s dog would find it. She should’ve assumed that before she even brought her home.
+++++“You’ve raised quite a handsome son, Helen.”
+++++“At times,” Helen tilts her head, wandering in her thoughts, “he reminds me too much of his father. It makes me hate and miss Tom all at the same time.”
+++++The dog circles the hole, sniffs its depths, and then climbs in. She read somewhere that dogs don’t do their business where they sleep. She knew the same wasn’t true for humans. “All sons bear the scars of their father’s inadequacies.”
+++++“Estelle, I wanted to talk to you about Ike.” Helen sips tea Estelle knows has gone cold. “I don’t know how I feel about it so I can’t begin to imagine what you’re thinking.”
+++++“It’s not about thinking.” The dog settles in the hole, rubs the side of her face into the dirt or against what she’s found beneath. Estelle will have to name her at some point, have to make her real. “What we did, Helen, that was all the thinking I could tolerate for a lifetime. Everything since then has just been acting, pretending.”
+++++Helen pulls her pocketbook from the floor, something heavy weighing it down. She uses two hands to place it on the table. She digs through, producing a yellowed photograph and pressing its creases until it’s flat on the floral print tablecloth.
+++++“I want to give you this before I leave. I’ve had it forever, but hadn’t looked at it again until I heard Ike was finally dead. Now that he’s gone, that all three of them are, I wanted to destroy it. But I thought you ought to see it first.”
+++++Estelle leans over to look, catches a glimpse of something metal in the handbag. “The state fair.”
+++++“Of course.” Helen laughs. “We were so young.”
+++++“No we weren’t.” Estelle walks around the table, picks up the picture and stares at the cold yellow eyes of her dead husband and his two best friends. Stan, Ike, and Tom, all three of them smile with high-waist pants and short ties. In the background, a tilting Ferris wheel slumps to one side.
+++++“I know it’s been forever,” Helen says, gathering her things, sensing her time to leave is imminent. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t say I’m sorry.”
+++++“It was the only solution that worked, that kept Stan out of trouble and Tom from sacrificing his career,” Estelle waves the picture in her hand, almost fanning herself. “I may have always done the same thing.”
+++++“No you wouldn’t have.” Helen drapes her bag over her wrist. “We couldn’t have known Ike would’ve done that.”
+++++“Everyone knows a trapped dog will fight for his life.” She walks over to the waste bin and tosses the picture in. “That it’ll kill anyone in its way to escape. We knew.”
+++++“It was the money. If Ike had only told us where the money was, we could have all made it work.” Helen says with her own cold yellow eyes staring through Estelle.
+++++“It wasn’t about the money. It was about finding trust.” Estelle straightens the creases in her dress, brings herself rigid. “And four people can balance trust better than five.”
+++++“Or so we thought.”
+++++Helen leaves it at that. She doesn’t say what they both know, that they did end up with four people, just the wrong four. But balance eluded them still. Even after Tom’s liver finally gave way and there was just the three of them, Helen, Estelle and Ike, left alive. No closure ever sought them out. No peace is ever found in odd numbers.
+++++They hug and Estelle sees her to the door, kissing both of her cheeks, the way the French do. She watches her from the doorway as she saddles into her 1960 Ford coupe, a gift from Tom. She doesn’t wait for her to drive away.
+++++Ike’s dog meets Estelle in the yard. She pats the dog’s stomach. She’ll need a name. Maybe something Greek, Hera, or what about Roman? Yes, that’d be perfect. She’ll call her Augusta, and absent a man, she will inherit the empire.
+++++She tosses a blackened stick towards the fence and Augusta hustles after. Estelle walks to the hole.
+++++She knows what she will find. Estelle has dug it out before, moved it even though no one but her and Stan ever knew where it was. When she arrives, and the plastic edge, tattered from the dog’s imprecise digging, flaps from its tomb, there is no hesitation in her belly, no immediacy to bury her shame.
+++++Augusta returns, scratching again at the dirt. Estelle lets her extra paws unveil the last of it. Without much more trouble, Estelle pulls free the first of many items entombed there.
+++++The bills are all still intact, though a few have ripped from the dog’s claws. But overall, the bag has preserved them well. Beneath the first she sees the second, shrink-wrapped and still tightly bound together even after all this time. Four more huddle below those.
+++++In forty years, she’s only needed to exhume two; such is each bag’s value.
+++++She meant what she said, about knowing, about the entropy caused by the havoc of greed, of people and their desire to kill. Helen can’t hide behind naiveté. It had been her idea, to frame Ike. She had the most to lose of course, her husband had just made detective and there he was covering up a bank robbery for his two childhood friends. But Helen never understood greed the way Estelle did. That’s why the money had to always remain hidden, from all of them. It would be her and Stan’s reward, for protecting Tom and Helen, from Ike, from themselves. At least, that’s what they had planned.
+++++Augusta scratches her ear in rhythm with Estelle’s rubbing before darting back to the house. She barks at the backdoor until Estelle sees Helen, silhouetted in the frame, the waning afternoon light burning the tip of her nose orange and glinting off top of her husband’s 9mm service handgun at her waist.
+++++“With Ike gone, you were the only one left.” She says through the screen door.
+++++Augusta’s head aligns with the ground, a snarl replacing the lapping tongue that has until now been her only form communication. How strange, that Ike’s dog should be the one here in the final hour, the last defender of her wretched life.
+++++“I thought you knew.” Estelle stands, wipes the dirt from her wrinkled hands. “After all of these years I just assumed you knew Stan and I had the money all along.”
+++++Helen pushes open the screen door, rusty hinges whine against the warped and weathered wood frame.
+++++“Stan always loved you so damn much. I should’ve figured he’d make sure you were taken care of.” She looks down at the gun and the growling animal at her feet. “And no. I assumed Ike had it. Thought that was why he left us alone all these years since he’s been out.”
+++++“No.” Estelle closes her eyes, lets the wave of nausea and vertigo lap against the back of skull. She opens them again. “Ike had no more use for us, never knew it was us that called the police. Your Tom was already dead when he was released after serving his twenty-five, and the money he thought confiscated a lifetime ago.”
+++++“I guess in a way it was.” Augusta’s low growl boils to barking. “I wish I didn’t have to do this. But that was my Tom’s money too, at least a third of it. It just isn’t fair that you got to keep it for all these years.”
+++++Estelle shakes her head, the vertigo is gone, anger bringing the blessed equilibrium so long denied to her. “It was never Tom’s. Keeping your mouth shut isn’t the same as putting your neck on the line. I paid the highest cost. My Stan. The money was the least of it.”
+++++Helen pulls the hammer back. “That may be true. But with Tom gone I have to look after Reginald. This is his inheritance now.”
+++++“And you know I can’t let you do that.” Estelle steps atop the hole, straddling it, guarding her land.
+++++“Don’t make me do this, Estelle.”
+++++Spiked hair, matted and dirty but enraged, sprouts from Augusta’s back. Estelle lowers her glasses, lets them sway from her neck and stares down Helen from the twin barrels of her stalwart eyes. “And I’d say the same to you, you incompetent old dullard.”
+++++In the fading Alabama heat, a gun fires and a dog charges and two old women fight over one last plot of dirt.

 

END.