#9 – A Bad Man Comes To Town

February 14th, 2011


Emerald Heights Police DepartmentDetective Burgess was feeling the effects of the third uncomfortable chair he had experienced in the past hour.  The other two, incidentally, were located beside one another in the waiting room outside the office in which he now sat.  He shifted uncomfortably and considered standing, but that seemed confrontational given the circumstances.

These chairs, he reckoned, most often contained criminals or other ne’er-do-wells that passed through the halls of the Emerald Heights Police Department and so it wasn’t a surprise that they were of substandard calibre.  He, however, was no such criminal and thus, in his own estimation, warranted a chair with somewhat more padding in the appropriate places.

Police Chief John Godspeed had yet to appear.  Burgess had been waiting in this office for forty minutes.  Regardless, he had been granted access to the office and left unattended, told simply, “wait here”.  And so he was.  He chuckled to himself at the thought that these New England cops in their sleepy little towns would be so trusting as to leave a complete stranger, fellow police officer or not, alone among thousands and thousands of pages of no-doubt sensitive material.

“Mr. Burgess,” the Chief stated as the door clicked open.  Kevin stood.  Chief John Godspeed had been everything that Burgess had expected – precisely that “Godspeed” was a very ironic name.  Chief Godspeed clearly enjoyed the local bakery that was located around the corner from the cop-shop – and quite likely the nearby diner, and probably The P & Q, too.  The fact that there had been three cruisers parked in the lot of the bakery on his way by had given Burgess a hint to its popularity.

“Chief Godspeed,” Burgess replied, “it’s nice to meet you, sir.”

“Likewise,” the Chief lied, badly.  Burgess could read a face, particularly a face that was poorly crafted for lying.  “So, heard you had a little trouble with Duncan Marshall.”

“Yeah,” Burgess replied rubbing the spot on his cheek that had already begun to show the signs of their altercation.  “I was questioning Mr. Marshall about a case I am investigating in Los Angeles and he objected to my questions.”

Godspeed chuckled slightly at the city cop’s misfortune.  Emerald Heights was no without its legal problems but officer assaults were very rare.  “I see that,” Godspeed said.  “What made him hit you?”

Kevin Burgess thought a moment before answering.  I accused him of not being able to get it up, basically, he thought.  “I was questioning his alibi and confronting him about a lie he’d told me a few days ago.”  That was the truth in the broadest of strokes and he hoped that it would suffice for the Chief.  He was out of his jurisdiction and felt entirely at the mercy of this small-town cop.  Burgess knew that if Godspeed called L.A. he could be on the next flight home; and then it would be up to the District Attorney and the Governor to get Duncan in for questioning.

“I am here investigating a double-murder that took place in Los Angeles three weeks ago.”  Burgess added by way of explanation.  “Duncan Marshall is the prime suspect.”

“Why didn’t you bring him in?” Chief Godspeed asked the man sitting across from him.  He wasn’t particularly interested in all the intrigue that the good detective was bringing to his jurisdiction.  The Chief dealt with cops from other cities, states and, occasionally, even other countries working on their cases on an unreasonably regular basis.  He often found that these cases proved fraudulent, baseless or just without any coherent purpose.  Certainly it seemed that little ever came of them.

“What?” Detective Burgess replied.

Godspeed repeated, “why didn’t you bring him in?  Duncan Marshall, you said he assaulted you, why didn’t you arrest him and bring him in on charges?”

“He hit me, Chief,” Kevin Burgess clarified, “he didn’t assault me.”

The P & QShe puffed out her cheeks and drummed her fingers against the wall.  “Je…  Jehua,” she stammered finally after staring at the back of his head for almost three minutes.  As he turned to face her she couldn’t help but think that he looked good.  The years since she had seen him last had been kind to him.  “Your Dad told me that you could show me around and get me a…  an apron,” she looked askance when she said that last bit.

“Yeah,” he said immediately.  He reached into a shelf and pulled out an apron with the characteristic green and gold colouring of The P & Q.  She gratefully took the apron and hugged it to her chest.  “Uh, you ready for this?”

She crooked her eyebrow, not entirely sure what question he was asking exactly.  Was she ready to see him again?  Was she ready for the job?  “No, I don’t think so.”  Which was actually an answer to both questions.  She smiled briefly and then said, “uh, so, how have you been?”

“Good, I’ve been… good.”  He smiled wanly, “you?”

“Good, yeah,” she said, looking around, trying to find someplace else to go.  “So, what’s my job exactly?”  If she wasn’t able to get away she’d rather keep the conversation work-based for as long as possible.  Actually, she wanted to do anything but, she had a vast list of questions that she wanted answers to.  She wanted to ask him why he lied about his last name when they met in college.  She wanted to know why he stopped returning her phone calls after their eight month relationship.  She wanted to tell him…

“You’re a waitress,” he said by way of explanation; interrupting her train of thought with his helpful insight. “You wait.” He chuckled in a way that she found ever so charming.

“Uhm, okay.”  She mocked a pose of boredom which was mostly a mask for awkwardness. It was strange how he could disarm her, even after all this time, albeit only for a moment.  She had met Jehua nine years before while in college in Grand City.  He had been Jehua West, not Jehua Stanley, in those days – West, she happened to know and now realize, was his mother’s maiden name.  They had become fast friends and then more.  It had been a storybook romance right up until the day it wasn’t.

“You can get a cloth from under the bar,” to which he gestured casually.  “Then just wipe down the tables and stuff and get used to walking around here.”  He stopped for a moment,  “at four we open and it’ll get like a minefield in here within a few hours.”

She quirked an eyebrow. It was a Monday. How crazy could a bar get on a Monday afternoon?

Black CarHe sat across the street from Price in a dark car.  It wasn’t his car, he couldn’t have driven his car into this burgh, it would have been recognized.  He needed something with Massachusetts plates, something that wasn’t conspicuous; something that wasn’t his flame red BMW.

He had been sitting in the same place for two hours, he glanced at his Rolex watch, it was almost 10 and he was starting to wonder if his information was faulty.  He had hacked her Facebook page nearly a week ago, he had been following her updates carefully and learning her schedule.  He missed her, was all, he wanted to see her and there was no other way to ensure that she didn’t blow him off.

He opened a new pack of peppermint Tac-Tacs and threw the empty pack into the back seat on top of the developing pile empty Tic-Tac containers. One must always have fresh breath.

He ran a trembling hand through his blond hair. His blue eyes widened as the object of his desire entered his view.  He watched as she got into the car that he’d seen her drive away in only a few short months ago.  As the car passed him travelling in the other direction he prepared to turn the key and start the engine of his own vehicle, but he was stopped abruptly as he spied another form emerging from the building.

She stopped, turned and locked the door.  She was dark haired, thin, extremely attractive and, although he couldn’t place it, familiar to him in some way.  He began to mumble to himself, unintelligibly at first and then with more focus; he was trying to recall a name, her name.  He’d seen her picture.  On Facebook, yes, but also before, among her things; among her pictures.  “Sarah,” he breathed, finally recalling the name of the young woman who was now making her way toward her car.

He clicked the handle on the door and stepped from the car.

He was immaculately dressed. At six foot six he always made an impression. So he wasn’t surprised in the least when the woman turned and regarded him almost immediately.  It was dark but the street was well lit.  The buildings were high and close together, this was one of the densest areas Emerald Heights.  Sarah, the woman toward whom he was walking with unquestionable intent, didn’t seem frightened of an unknown man walking her way in the artificially bright night.

“Hi,” the woman said openly as he reached the sidewalk.  It actually made him smile in spite of himself.

He extended his hand and spread the smile wider into the most charming smile he could muster.  “Ms. Price, I presume.”

She was visibly flattered by the recognition, which was his fullest intention.  “Why yes,” she said, appearing flustered, or flattered, or a combination thereof, “I am Sarah Price.”

“Well, isn’t this excellent,” he stated, sounding enthused.  “I represent a magazine that is very interested in you, Ms. Price.  It’s called Fashionable Fashions.  We are doing a series on the up and coming players in the fashion world and, Ms. Price, we would love to do a spread on you.”

Even before he finished the sentence he could see her face change, he could see that she’d bought it and that she was soaking it up perfectly.  “Really?”  She said slowly.

“Yes.  Your story, working on the family business, helping to drive new trends and influence the world of fashion – it’s a compelling story.”  He didn’t know enough about the woman to bluff through the specifics but he had her on the hook.  Now he just had to reel her in.  “I would like to sit down with you a few times over the next few day if you’re willing.  The only proviso, Ms. Price, is that the names on the list are secret…  it’s sort of like an award, you see.  If you tell anyone we’d have to remove you from the articles.”

She nodded along, “of course.”  She smiled, “contact my office and set up the time.”  She slipped her hand into her purse and pulled out a business card.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name.”

“Oswald Glendale,” he said plainly.  She frowned after a moment and he thought that was sunk.  He thought that she’d seen something in him that had tipped her off, he thought that she had recognized the name or put two and two together with his story.

But she hadn’t.  She smiled and reached for his hand, shook it, bid him farewell and walked away.

Oswald Glendale, meanwhile, made his way back across the road to his car.  While he watched Sarah drive past he unconsciously lifted the business card in his left hand to his nose.  He touched the edge-on side of the card to the underside of his nose, to that little divider that separates the nostrils.  He breathed a single deep breath, inhaling the scent of the woman that had lingered on the card.  “Sarah,” he whispered as her taillights disappeared in the distance.

In that moment his plans changed.  In that moment Leticia was the farthest thing from his mind.

He reached down and turned the key bringing the car’s engine to life.

Kerstin WaterfordShe pushed the damp cloth across the table and watched as the spent shells of eaten peanuts fell to the floor. She wiped the rest of the table down and then replaced the astray – newly washed – in its original place.  She turned and tucked each of the chairs in neatly before moving on to the next. The room was quiet but for sounds of Jehua milling around the bar.

She was exhausted.  She was physically exhausted and she was mentally exhausted.  She glanced at the clock on the wall which read 3:10 – that was a.m.  She glanced over her shoulder toward the bar and caught a glimpse of Jehua watching her work.  It was harder to carry a tray full of drinks and make change on the fly than she had realized; it was absolutely harder to do both at the same time.

“Tired?” He asked, he couldn’t have helped but to have already known the answer.

She nodded, “my feet are really sore.”  Her job, as a waitress of sorts, meant that she was on her feet all evening long. She spent the vast majority of it walking between the too-close tables or waiting whilst patrons made their decisions. By the second to last order of the evening she had begun to develop a system for remembering what it was that each individual had ordered; it worked about half the time.

She cleared off the last of the tables and picked up a tray containing a few empty glasses and a number other such items and carried it toward the bar. She sat it down on the wooden surface and threw the rag down alongside it. She propped herself up against the bar and looked at Jehua, who looked back at her.

Kerstin caught Jehua’s eye and neither of them looked away for a long time.  She was thinking about their relationship and the time that they had been together, the memories of a time when she had been happy.  One of the few times that she could remember being truly happy in her adult life.  She suddenly realized that her facial expression had change.  “Tired,” she repeated.

“Yeah,” he agreed. “It’s been a long day.  Mondays are always long around here.”

When she had been introduced to Jehua she had immediately felt a spark.  He was a friend of a friend of a friend who was attending the same college as she was.  It was a passing, brief meeting in the college library that lasted no more than 6 minutes, but he had made an impression on her.  She had asked her friend to ask his friend about the guy from the library that day.

The next time they saw one another was at a large party a few weeks later that she would have rather not attended if it hadn’t been for the fact that he was going to be there.  She had wanted to see him again after that first meeting in the library in spite of the fact that she had a boyfriend.  From the minute he arrived at the party she had all but forgotten that anyone else at all was in the place.  The passage of time that evening, the speed with which the hours flew by as the two chatted and learned about one another, was utterly contrary to the passage of time of her first shift on The P & Q.

“Jehua,” she began; she was smiling in the glitter of the happy memory of their first encounters.

He lifted his head and looked at her, “yeah?”

“Nothing,” she replied.  It was the end of her first day.  It wasn’t the time to bring up the past.  Not yet.

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