Detective Maye Chronicles: Dead End

“There’s a special place in hell reserved for people who drink diet soda.” Spence kicks the empty Coke can across the cracked asphalt, slaps his overhanging gut.

Detective Maye fits his hands into a pair of too-small black latex gloves, hoping they don’t split open over his swollen arthritic knuckles. Genetics. His father’s were just as bad, had hands the size of bear paws.

Maye picks up the can with his index finger and thumb and drops it into a plastic evidence bag. “If we’re lucky, we might get the perp’s DNA on this.”

Spence shrugs. “Or just another dead end.”

Maye rolls the bag down and stuffs it under his arm. He sighs and stares up at the spray-painted street sign marking the intersection of Fifth and Washington, sectioned off by yellow caution tape. “I just don’t understand how someone can get snatched right from the bus stop in broad daylight, and nobody sees nothing.”

Spence sucks his teeth, twists his mouth and spits on the ground to the left of his shoe. “It’s Cumberland Heights.” Which is another way of saying it’s the hood. And the hood has a rule: No snitching to cops.

“But this is a twelve-year-old boy.”

“A twelve-year-old boy who probably saw something he shouldn’t have.”

Spence turns and walks back to the car, but Maye lingers in the intersection for a few more seconds, the flashing yield light hanging overhead. Someone saw something. Someone always sees something.

Like his father. Someone notices an elderly man meandering along the sidewalk with a bouquet of flowers and a “Happy Birthday” balloon. People don’t just vanish into thin air. There’s always a trail. He just needs to find that first bread crumb.

“Mind if I drive?”

Spence shakes his head, leaves the door open and circles around to the passenger side.

“We headed back to the station?”

Maye tosses the evidence bag containing the Coke can onto the seat. He puts one foot inside and drums his fingers on the seal of the door.

“My mind’s not settled yet. Let’s do one last run through the neighborhood.”

“Your call.”

Spence ducks his head inside and slams the door. Maye can tell he’s getting frustrated. They’ve been at this scene seven times in the last three days, and no one’s talked. But with a glance at his watch, he sees that it’s approaching two o’clock. School will be out soon, kids walking home from the bus stop. One of those kids was holding a secret, and if he could just get that kid alone, without the fear of being seen “snitching,” maybe he’d be more willing to spill.

—Nortina

Stockholm

Detective Maye has seen it dozens of times before. Stockholm syndrome. When the victim develops an affection for her captor.

He holds his hand out for the feral child hiding under the kitchen sink. If not for her wide marble eyes, glowing like orbs in the darkness, he would think no one is there.

He shines his flashlight inside. Compared to the photo he keeps in his chest pocket, she is unrecognizable. Gone is the fair-skinned angel with the free-flowing blond hair. Her skin is caked in dirt, hair a dingy orange collected in one unkempt knot atop her head. The t-shirt she wears barely covers her. She folds herself like an accordion amongst the kitchen chemicals, no bigger than a bottle of bleach.

Maye curls his fingers into his palm to draw her out. “Come on. He can’t hurt you anymore.” But then he wonders how many times this man has promised not to hurt her.

He stuffs his hands in his pockets, and child psychologist, Dr. Pridget, steps in front of him, opens her arms like a doting mother.

“You’re safe now.”

Maye thinks it’s working. The child emerges. All skin and bones, falling hair and ripped fabric. She shields her eyes to the flashing of CSI cameras. Pridget moves to hug her, but the girl drops her shoulder. On hands and knees, she crawls across the floor, between Maye and Pridget’s feet, exposing everything the shirt doesn’t conceal to everyone in the room.

A sickness in Maye’s gut tells him she’s used to being naked around men, she’s used to the heaviness of their hands, the tightness of their beer guts pressed hard against her fragile body.

They watch as she does what she’s had to do to survive for the last six months—curl herself underneath the sinking chest of the now dead man who killed her childhood, t-shirt soaked in both of their bloods.

Nortina


 

Fright Night Fridays:  Every Friday night, dare to venture into something spooky, something paranormal, something suspenseful, something that would surely give you a fright. Are you brave enough to stick around?

S is for Suicide

Originally published April 22, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge

“Do you have any idea why your boyfriend would want to kill himself?”

It was the third time the detective had asked her that question and Jessica still didn’t hear him. They sat at the cold metal table at the center of the gray interrogation room. A second detective stood by the one-way window.

Jessica wrapped her arms around herself. When she had finally gotten over the shock of seeing Whitmore dead on her floor, a bullet hole in his head, she’d only had enough time to put on a pair of shorts and a tank top before emergency personnel arrived. The police tried to interview her at the scene, but she was too distracted by the men snapping photos and taking samples. Then Bruce behaved so inappropriately. He kept touching her shoulder, squeezing it, telling her everything was going to be OK. Every time he opened his mouth, a film of mucus crept up her throat, tickled the back of her tongue. Stop it! She wanted to shout. Stop acting like the concerned boyfriend. He’s dead. We did this! You. Me.

Jessica wasn’t wearing panties. She didn’t have on a bra. The draft in the room caused her skin to prickle up into goose bumps. Her nipples hardened underneath her shirt, and she felt as if they were pointing out toward the two officers like daggers. I’m not attracted to you, she tried to explain away. I wasn’t fucking when it happened. I didn’t kill him.

She wished they would quit stalling and arrest her for murder. She knew they suspected foul play the second they stepped over Whitmore’s body. She could see it playing out in their scheming minds. She was having a steamy affair with Bruce. Whitmore caught wind of it. She couldn’t keep it a secret any longer; they had to get rid of him. She was the brain, Bruce the brawn. He pulled the trigger. They staged his suicide. Then she assumed the role of the grieving girlfriend.

“Ms. Ryan.” The first detective snapped his finger in front of her face.

“She may still be in shock, Dan. That was a pretty horrific scene,” the detective by the window said.

The good cop, bad cop routine. She was under arrest.

“I’m sorry. Could you repeat the question?”

Dan sighed, shaking his blond hair over his eyes. “Why would Whitmore kill himself? Did he suffer from mental illness?”

Jessica put her fist to her mouth and coughed, but the cough was weak, originating from the front of her mouth instead of deep in her chest. Her tongue convulsed at the back of her throat, and she lightly coughed again, sounding like a child trying to fake sick to get out of going to school. Her lips curled into a smile, and to conceal the imminent laugh, she attempted a truly fake cough, and laughed instead at how pathetic she sounded. Both detectives stared at her quizzically.

“Is something funny?” Dan asked.

“No, no. It’s just—” She crossed her legs, wiped the corners of her lips as if her laugh were crumbs leftover from a dinner long forgotten. “I thought he would kill me,” she finally said.

“Has he ever threatened you?”

“No . . . It was Roger Peacock.”

“The guy in Houston?” the officer by the window asked.

Jessica shook her head. The more she spoke, the more ridiculous she sounded—the more suspicious. “I don’t know why I thought he would kill me. He’s always threatened suicide, though subtly. He would say things like if I ever left him, he would go back to that dark place he was in after his last girlfriend.”

“Layla?” Dan interrupted.

Jessica blinked.

“His final text to you said, ‘Just like Layla.’ I’m assuming Layla is the last girlfriend.”

Jessica nodded. “He admitted that he tried to kill himself then. But it didn’t work. I guess, I just assumed that if he ever had his heart broken again, he would give up hurting himself and hurt the woman who hurt him. He’s never said that to me directly, though.”

“Why do you think you hurt him?” Dan asked.

“I didn’t love him the way he wanted me to.”

“Meaning you cheated,” the man by the window said.

“Excuse me?”

“The man you were with. I assume you two are involved.” He approached the table, pressed his palms down on the metal. He peered down at Jessica over the rim of his glasses.

“I . . . we . . .” She shivered underneath her thin clothing. She could feel her pointy, perky breasts trying to pierce through the cotton fabric of her t-shirt. She wanted to cover herself, but she feared any further gestures to hide her suspicious mannerisms would make her look guiltier.

“Look,” Dan said, “we’re not gonna judge you for what you might have been doing with the radio DJ.”

“I thought his name sounded familiar! My brother-in-law listens to him all the time. Saved his marriage.”

“Jake,” Dan snapped. Jessica could only assume that he was the older and more experienced of the two. He turned back to Jessica. “I don’t care if you were screwing him, sucking him, or watching a movie. All I care about is the dead man on your doorstep and how he got there.”

“We just want to get to the bottom of this. That’s all,” Jake said, recovering the serious tone in his voice.

“The bottom line is he killed himself, and he did it in front of my door to make me suffer for it.” Jessica shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t blame him.”

—Nortina

A Witch Scorned

Detective Perez had returned sooner than she’d expected with a search warrant, more questions, more officers with gloves and flashlights peering into her side of the closet, shuffling for clues through her underwear drawers while his remained empty, snatching the sheets from her California King bed, black lighting the bare mattress, leaving the bed unmade.

“Has he tried to contact you since we last spoke?” Perez asked.

She shook her head.

“Where do you think he might have gone, Mrs. McCain?”

“Costa Rica.”

“What’s in Costa Rica?”

“That whore.”

His partner approached him from behind. He leaned over the couch, clamped he hand down on Perez’s shoulder and whispered something into his ear. The way his moistened lips grazed Perez’s ear lobe made her wonder if they were partners in other areas.

She studied his partner’s face. Did his furrowed brows signify that they found something? A pair of socks left behind? The still missing spare key? His cheeks were drained of color. Had they discovered her grimoire on the top shelf of the closet, in a hidden compartment of a shoe box, underneath never-worn red bottoms wrapped in tissue paper? She’d removed the post-it note from the page she’d last read. She was sure she had.

Perez patted his partner’s hand, caressed his  fingers as his own hand slid back down to rest in his lap. Only Perez wore a ring. She suspected his wife was clueless.

“Are you a dog lover?” Perez asked, pointing the eraser end of his pencil toward her dog sculpture next to the fireplace.

He’s more a lover of dogs than I am. He could even be one.” She thought of her husband, how the corners of his eyes and mouth always drooped downward in a perpetual pout, the same engraved on her newly appreciated living room decoration.

Perez stood, returned his notepad and pencil to the chest pocket of his blazer. He reached over the coffee table to shake her hand. “If you can think of anything else—”

“I have your card.” She nodded.

“We’re gonna find him, ma’am. You have my word.” He waved for the officers, who had congregated into the living room, and they followed him out the front door, heads hanging low, empty hands pressed behind their backs.

“Take your time,” she whispered as she shut the door behind them. She turned to the sculpture by the fire place.

“Let’s see how much your whore likes dogs.” She assembled the shipping box. As she rolled the dog in bubble wrap and packed him inside, she wondered if a package mailed to Costa Rica would make her look suspicious. No, she shook her head, it would solidify her story. That he had run off to be with his Costa Rican mistress.

In about a week, that would be true.

—Nortina


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This piece of flash fiction is in response to this week’s photo prompt for Sunday Photo Fiction. Click the froggy icon to read other stories inspired by the photo and add your own.

 

Literary Lion: Escaped the Bullet

My left arm feels like it’s on fire. Something is protruding from my shoulder. Bone? I throw my head back and scream.

“Quiet!” he says from the front seat.

Two minutes. I was two minutes from Ace Hardware. Two minutes from buying the screws and screwdriver that would secure my drive home. No more nervous glances in my rearview mirror. No more fear of flashing blue lights.

My dad was teaching me responsibility. If I wanted a car, I had to buy it with my own money. He’d been working on the ’99 Accord in the back yard for almost two months. He’d given it a fresh coat of paint, changed the tires, put in a new timing belt.

“Hondas are durable,” he told me. “You can put 300,000 miles on these boys, they’ll still run.” He told me if I could pay the insurance on it by myself for three months, he’d sell to me for a discount. $800. Three months later, I could finally take Stacey Carlton to the movies in my new ride.

Now, I fear the only Stacey I’ll ever kiss will have a beard, long shaggy hair, and call me his chocolate lollipop.

My hands are pinned behind my back. At least, I think they are. I can’t feel them, the metal cuffs cutting off my circulation. I can only feel the pain in my shoulder, as if a thousand sharp needles tied to a brick were being dragged down my arm.

“I think you dislocated my shoulder!”

“You cryin’, boy?”

“Th-the plate…. it’s in there. D-did you check the backseat? Under-r-r the driver’s s-seat? It must’ve fallen when I s-slammed on breaks.” I blink away the tears, hold my breath as my body shakes underneath the weight of the sobs.

“When you passed the stop sign,” he said flatly.

“I didn’t see it! The sh-shrubs.”

“You’re slurring your words, son. Have you been drinking?”

“I’m 17!”

“Underage drinking is against the law. Driving drunk, driving without registration, plates, insurance—that’s if you really bought the car— resisting arrest. They’re adding up quickly.”

“Call my dad. He’s on the way home. I was behind him. I just had to stop by Ace.”

“Is that some homeboy?”

“The store! So I could screw on the plate! Check the car!”

“I didn’t see anything.” He puts the cruiser in gear. I fall back into the seat, igniting the pinching pain in my shoulder that had temporarily fallen numb. I can no longer hold back the tears. The waterfall descends, and in my blurred vision, I am transported back a year, to my 16th birthday, three months before my grandma died. Her final words of advice ring loudly in my ears.

If you ever find yourself in a jail cell, whether you did something wrong or not, be happy you escaped the bullet.

—Nortina

To Protect and Serve . . . ? #WalterScott

The dense fog sinks to the ground and conceals the officer’s body underneath a blanket, gray as his skin.

View of the gun sharpens amongst blurred surroundings as it pierces the thick air, firing eight rounds toward the man fleeing for the abandoned rail car on the other side of the tracks, praying the rusted metal will block the approaching bullets.

One final shot strikes underneath his left shoulder blade. I crumple to the ground as he crumples, face first, heart bleeding onto the gravel.

“I said, hands behind your back!”

Does he not realize we’ve stopped breathing?

word count: 98

—Nortina


This is dedicated to Walter L. Scott, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and all of my fathers, brothers, and sons who have lost their lives to men sworn to “protect and serve.”

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly challenge where you must write a story in 100 words or less using the provided photo prompt as inspiration. Click the froggy icon to ready other stories and add your own.

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© Jennifer Pendergast