I never expected to kill any of those people.
I never wanted to be a murderer. A simple life as an honest thief was all I wanted. That whole week was totally unexpected. I had plans, none of which included homicide. I had a hangover. I had eyelids stuck shut like Post-It notes. And early on that particular Monday, I had a really interesting girlfriend.
Her name is Valerie, Val when I’m too lazy or too drunk for three syllables. She has some childhood issues, a law degree, freckles in the right places, and a really uncomfortable sofa. It was six inches shorter than me, but a guy’s got to pass out somewhere.
Anyway, that morning, I fully intended to sleep in. Had I known what had happened the night before and what the days to come would bring, I would have never opened my eyes. Hell, I would have gouged my baby blues out like Oedipus. I would have ripped out my left kidney and eaten it right there. But I didn’t know — yet.
At that point, and for another five minutes, it was just another morning, and I hate mornings. My professional hours are, shall we say, irregular. I’d been up into the early hours working, picking up an item or two from the odd “over-equipped” car, and maybe ingesting a few of the finer distilled spirits sold by the courteous Kevlar-vested package store clerks of the neighborhood.
But I was at Val’s place, and Val is a morning person. As usual, she was making a God awful racket. Women are so damn loud in the morning. Especially if the inside of your head already feels like an empty beer keg full of psychotic hamsters.
Val’s God damn blow drier, the banshee, was emitting a high-pitched whine that I could feel more than hear. The jelly inside my eyeballs was crystallizing, sending sharp spikes into my brain.
My head hurt. My eyeballs hurt. My fingernails screamed. Val’s hair would never dry. A thousand cats in heat were screaming at me from the bathroom.
I pulled the drool-covered couch pillow over my head. The sound waves stabbed like a red hot sonic poker through the soles of my feet where they stuck out from under the stretched green Afghan.
Val had a bad childhood. I had a bad childhood. So what? Bad parenting, despite what all the snappy paperback advice books tell you, is good for developing ambitious expansionist civilizations. Besides, you need dysfunctional people to invent something as usefully sadistic as the modern blow dryer. In this case, Val’s hand held a maladjusted five horsepower jet engine.
The blower’s whine was like an approaching tsunami.
“Get up, Marty. You can’t stay here after I go into the office,” Val shouted.
“What?” I shouted back.
“Hey, I don’t have time for this. We are buried at the office, I have to be in early. I don’t know why I let you in last night.”
“Let me stay. I’ll lock up when I leave.” I used my best “sick little boy” voice. It was a little shot of audio Pavlovian stimulation.
“Get your ass up.” There was no Pavlovian response today. She is always less vulnerable in the morning.
“Got any coffee?” No response. When in doubt, turn on the tube. I reached up from the couch and grabbed the remote. I maxed out the volume to compete with the roar from the bathroom.
“Turn it down,” she screamed. “Make your own fucking coffee.”
“There’s never been a better time to buy a Chevy truck.” The loudest announcer I’ve ever heard was blasting out of the TV, shaking my mostly empty beer cans off the coffee table.
“Let me stay, Val. In the name of suffering humanity.” My volume geometrically increased with each word I shouted. Thus, my last word,
“Humanity!” was infinitely louder than the commercial’s climactic, “Truck!” It was inhumane.
“Better hurry! This sale won’t last forever!”
“Turn that down, idiot.” Sound was layered on sound. My skull started to crack.
A muffled, “Hey, hold it down.” And pounding from the wall started in. The rhythm section was joining in from next door. “Boom! Boom!” A bass drum from the ceiling kicked it up a notch. We were Archie Bell and the Drells in Hell.
I hit the mute. Val clicked off the blow dryer. All the cacophony halted suddenly and simultaneously. The silence hit me as if I had just shot up to the surface of the ocean from a hundred fifty feet down. Bubbles formed in my blood stream.
Val emerged from the bathroom. She looked at me like I was lint. “Marty, It’s seven. I’ve got to be at work by eight. Get up. Take a quick shower ‘cause you smell. Try not to look like a carny worker when you leave.”
Taking my life in my hands, I went for the win. “Can you make some coffee, some of that fou-fou stuff?”
There was a pause. Her eyes gave up. “Just get up. God, if only you’d stayed in the seminary. Womankind would have been spared.”
That’s when I noticed Liz Nice on the screen. Liz was a local “news personality” who specialized in happy chatter and mayhem. She stood near a wooded area and looked directly into the rising sun. She kind of squinted, and it exaggerated the asymmetrical placement of her overly large eyes. Well, her right eye was overly large, the other was smallish and stuck in too low like a kid’s first shot at Mr. Potato Head. Val’s old TV distorted the colors. Liz had an almost orange John Kerry tan. I adjusted the volume to a reasonable level.
“…The shocking discovery was made by an off-duty police officer, James Redlands, on this lonely hill, a Lover’s Lane known locally as the Albino Farm. The path to passion now the scene of a crime of passion?” I loved the alliteration, the weak irony, and the big question mark ending. I was mildly amused.
“… The Channel Six Crime Patrol was first on the scene.” Was she smiling?
The camera pulled back to reveal a blocky football-type in a Tirawa police uniform standing next to Ms. Nice. “…Officer Redlands, what did you discover when you arrived here late Sunday night?”
Television supplies me with so much important information. Now I knew it was Monday.
Redlands grabbed the mike. “On arriving at the scene, I observed the partially nude body of a female. The suspicion of foul play was evident considering the location, condition of the body, and the type of victim.” What the hell did that mean, “type of victim?” Then I noticed, wrapped around the policeman’s fingers, a rosary. I suppose a gang tatoo on his knuckles might have seemed more out of place, but just barely.
“What did you do then, Officer Redlands?” She was almost breathless. Kinky.
“I informed HQ on my cell phone, put up the crime scene tape and…”
“And then what, Officer?”
“Well, Liz, I said a prayer or two.”
The flushed face of the reporter turned away quickly, and the camera zoomed in for a close up. “To protect, serve, and say a prayer. Our Tirawa city police helping even the most lost of souls. So, with those prayers, a low-life ends on a high hill…” At that point I wanted to throw a beer can through the screen, but there was a little warm flat PBR left, and I chugged it instead.
Liz went on, “Her name has been leaked to this reporter by a source who hopes the information may help speed the investigation of this horrific crime.” Was Redlands smiling in the background? “The victim of a brutal sexual assault, the body of a young woman has now been transported to the coroner’s office. Police will not release the name of the victim at this time pending identification and notification of next of kin, but this reporter has learned that the woman is known as “the Head” on the streets of the seedy Vaporville section, and authorities hope to make a final identification soon. Meanwhile, Detective Carl Vandy….”
“Fuuuuucckkk,” long and drawn out, emerged from my cottony mouth.
“What’s that?” Valerie’s voice from the kitchen had a slight hint of her original hostility. She probably thought I was going to start in again.
“My fucking Lord, come here, Valerie. It’s fucking Terri! Terri’s fucking dead. Oh, fuck!” That’s a verbatim quote.
The shot cut from Liz’s thin-lipped inappropriate smile to a prerecorded loop of the crime scene. Crime tape surrounded the top of a little overgrown ridge. I could see Redlands fingering his rosary. And an overweight detective was looking down where an soiled tarp covered something. A pathetic naked foot was momentarily visible as the camera did its cruel pan.
“…According to confidential sources, the victim is well-known to local police for involvement in drugs and prostitution. Investigators are running down several good leads and many believe an arrest is imminent. So a town that has awakened to fear this morning hopes and prays that this savage threat will be removed from our streets before he strikes again. This is Liz Nice for the Channel Six Crime Patrol.” The morning wind was brisk. The branches of the trees behind her swayed. Her hair didn’t move.
“Christ, Terri the Head is dead.” The rhyme clunked on the floor.
Val slapped the back of my head, hard. “Don’t call her that, you sleaze ball. My God, Marty, show a little respect for once. She had straightened out. Crap! She was turning things around. You weren’t? …were you?…did you?”
“I haven’t seen her for, jeez, six months, Val, I swear. Maybe it’s been eight. I stopped going to, or, in the Palomino at least a year ago?” I was lying. She knew it. She was going to let me babble on. Valerie was a good lawyer. There was only one safe tactic.
“How could you even think such a thing?” As soon as I said it I knew I had picked the wrong question. Ours was a relationship made in “Doctor Phil Show” heaven, and we were headed for Jerry Springer hell..
“Just get out.” She didn’t yell. It was time to go.
When she got quiet like this, it was stupid to say anything. I pulled on my old tennies, grabbed my Cubs jacket, and without any eye contact, got up slowly. Like being in a cage with a mama she-wolf, I moved deliberately, nothing sudden. Trying to be invisible, I opened the door and let myself out.
I closed it silently behind me, stepped into the wind, and finally took a breath.
Terri was dead. My gut rumbled and my brain twitched. Terri was dead. What did I feel? I felt like I needed a drink.
The November wind hit me in the face. I took a step and almost fell flat on my face.
“Shit!” Seems to me, I just thought that. Or maybe I said it out loud.
Martin Luther Hutchence was back in his natural element, the street.
You can call me Marty. But my associates call me “Tools.”