Author: Nikki the Hypie PM
We grew up together. Then a secret got out that couldn't be taken back. It's my fault. It's all my fault, and it's been left up to me to make it right.Rated: Fiction M - English - Humor/Tragedy - Words: 2,987 - Reviews: 5 - Published: 11-08-06 - Status: Complete - id: 2273559
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
This is just a one-shot, folks! No need to worry. "Come With Your Arms Raised" will be updated next weekend, November 17. "Lift Me Higher" will be updated as soon as I find the notebook the original draft of Chapter 2 and 3 is written in (which could take another month). "The Opposite" will be updated THIS Friday, i.e. November 10th. Why? Because my birthday is at the end of this month! Everyone deserves a present for that, and new updates are the best present I can afford at the moment. As for what THIS story/one-shot is about: I wrote it when coming down from a haven't-slept-in-32hours hangover. If it's terrible, I'd appreciate it if you'd tell me (include why, please (I have my own opinions about why it's terrilbe, but your reasons would really help me learn from these mistakes). If you like it, I would LOVE to read what you have to say. Thank you!
I hit the ground running and didn't stop there. Right on 12th Street and a mile (though it felt like three) later I took a left onto 72nd Avenue. Clever with these street names, the city of Bloomington, don't you think? Five houses later, I dodged behind a large blue van and sneaked between the glaring gnomes of Mr. Andrews's yard and pink plastic flamingoes of Mrs. Milston's zoo. As kids, David and me used to pretend the gnomes and flamingoes were having a war. We'd spend hours watching them from Baba's house across the street before naptime, convinced they were alive if only we could catch them at it. By the time we woke up from our 3pm nap, which Baba strictly enforced, David would swear this flamingo or that gnome had moved. We never got around to staying up long enough to figure out the truth.
Mrs. Milston had put up a 6 foot wooden fence in her backyard since I'd last been around the neighborhood. I hadn't counted on that, and it took me an eternal moment to clamber over. There were no footholds, nothing to take a running jump off of to give me a head start. By the time I dropped onto the browning grass of Jeff Golding's backyard, I could hear the distant sirens whining. Soon they'd be wailing right in my ears. Blue, red and white lights flashed before my eyes. Sweat made my hands clammy and my knees weak.
Shaking off the vision, I got up and started to sprint again. Had I taken too long in climbing that fence? Should I have changed routes? Would this err in plans be my downfall?
Four blocks later, I nearly stumbled into the middle of traffic on Portland Avenue. Fortunately it was fifteen minutes until 5am and there is never much traffic in the sleepy city of Bloomington this early, even so close to the Mall of America as we were. There were three cars that went by in no hurry. Across the street from the intersection with the traffic lights, a parked Sudan flicked its headlights. I looked at it and nodded.
At the same time I was taking out the gun from the waistband of my blue jeans. I held my arm down along my slide as I started to jog across the intersection and dropped the gun, letting it slide down my pantleg. It made a muffled, metal clunk as it hit the blacktop. After that, the silence seemed to be deafening.
The black Sudan started up as I reached it. Soon as I clambered in, it slowly pressed on the gas and we creeped forward, climbing up to the legal speed limit at a snail's pace. It was four forty-five AM. Nobody was in a hurry this early, not even a Sudan full of felons. I took off the gloves that had kept my fingerprints off the gun. In the backseat, I changed out of the jeans and bloody sweatshirt into a black business suit with a yellow silk shirt and black tie. I slipped on the black leather belt, and as I buckled it I happened to look down at my feet. The white Nike Air-Forces were spattered in blood. I took them off without using my hands, and then slid on the black socks and leaned over the backseat into the trunk in an attempt to locate my black dress shoes.
A moment later, I was fully dressed as my business-comes-first alter-ego, Aubrey Phillip.
"The hat," Andy snarled from the front seat. One might think his tone was unintentionally harsh, but Andy always snarled. He had smoked unfiltered Marlboros since he was eleven years old, and before that his parents had smoked all their lives, and his grandparents, and probably his great-grandparents. Andy no longer had much of a voice, so when he talked at all, which was rare in itself, he snarled. The day he fell down dead, blackened from the inside out, I wouldn't be the first to see it coming.
I snatched the navy Yankees cap off my head and stuffed it into a small, black Adidas duffle bag with the rest of my clothes. I pushed it to one side and then crawled into the front passenger's seat. Andy looked me over as I popped open the dashboard drawer. I took out the hand sanitizer, which was never short of hand with Andy to count on, and squirted about half the little bottle into my right hand. After replacing the bottle and shutting the drawer, I rubbed my hands together and under my sleeves, then allover my face and neck, until the sanitizer was rubbed so deeply into my pores that I wouldn't be surprised if later today I started shitting lavender-scented bubbles.
"Lavender," I commented, leaving it as neither a question nor an accusation.
Baba used to grow lavender by the bushels in his backyard's garden. The backyard garden was something of an accident; more of a jungle than a garden, really. The people who owned the rundown rambling home before Baba had bragged to the whole neighborhood of their prized garden; or so the neighbors told Baba when he moved in, in an effort to keep him from ripping up all the roots, because despite how the neighbors had despised the old residents of 11408 72nd Avenue, pretty gardens like that one had been were still hard to come by, and harder to imitate or rebuild. Baba had left the garden alone, letting nature run its own course. That course had gone wild, as practically anything will when left to its own devices, if one is to be totally honest.
Andy grunted, but that was his only answer.
I decided to sit back and not complain. Some nights Andy was touchier than others, but by the time you figured out the mood he was in it was usually too late to back out. I'd learned my lesson early on and wasn't eager to repeat it. Besides, lavender didn't smell bad. It was just different.
Story of my life.
In the distance I listened to the sirens still trilling softly. We were headed away from them, but the sound echoed around my head. I wondered if it was an ambulance or the police. The police would have arrived first, but how long until they secured the area, saw the damage and called an ambulance? Would they have even called an ambulance? It was too late for one, anyway.
Something wet trickled down my cheek. Automatically I looked out the passenger's side window the instant I felt it. I didn't even lift a hand to wipe the tear away. Andy wasn't the type of person anyone wanted to show weakness around.
A static filled the Sudan and then calm human voices speaking code. Police code. Andy had turned on the police scanner. I waited until my eyes felt mostly dry and then checked the tiny black box with the silver antenna that was at least three times its length. As a teenager, I never fully comprehended why people in cars in movies stopped everything they were doing and watched the radio for a good minute when a News Flash, or a Special Bulletin, or whatever important report came on. A radio wasn't a television; there wasn't going to be any pictures. So why watch the radio? With age, I'd figured out it wasn't about looking for anything; it was listening. When one felt lost or afraid, it was easiest to look at something, anything, and concentrate on that one thing until the wave of panic or whatever strong emotion had passed and calm could be reinstalled. Until a panicked person could think straight on their own, it was easier just to listen to somebody else talking and thinking for them, so to say.
I watched the inanimate object while the voices within discussed the discovery of a homicide of a family of three, exchanged information about the scene of the crime, called for backup to widen the search for a suspect, set up road blocks, etc. Out the corner of my eye, I saw Andy smiling. There was no feeling to the smile, it was just an expression; but somehow, it sent a shiver down my spine and something acidic dropped into my stomach.
"I'm going to be sick," I said.
Andy ignored me. He continued driving. That was all he ever did when we were partnered up; he drove the getaway car. I'd seen Andy in action only a handful of times and wasn't sure I could stand to witness his handiwork even once more. He enjoyed his job way too much.
Before we left the vicinity, two squad cars went flying past us. One did a very illegal U-turn in the middle of the avenue and came up behind us, shining the light over the left rearview mirror at the back of the black Sudan. Didn't do much good for the cop since the windows were tinted, but sure, better to be on the safe side, I guess. Whatever made him feel safest. Andy pulled over on the shoulder and the squad car pulled up behind us, coming in almost too close. Immediately a uniformed policewoman and her partner jumped out of the car, guns drawn. I turned my head to check the central rearview mirror, but it was still dark out and combined with the lights coming from the wailing squad car, the results were momentarily blinding.
Andy was smiling wider now, almost grinning.
Let us go, I prayed to whatever higher powers might still listen to me. Just let us go.
"Roll down the windows! Show us your hands!"
Calm as ever, Andy turned off the police scanner and pushed it up into a hidden department within the ashtray. Then he replaced the ashtray and that disappeared into a hidden compartment, too. At the same time, he was using his other hand to roll down the automatic windows; mine and his. We simultaneously set our hands on the tops of the windows as they rolled down all the way.
"What's going on?" I called, my voice cracking.
"Shut up!" shouted the woman officer. "Get out of the car! Keep your hands where we can see them!"
I didn't have to check and see if Andy would follow directions. We both opened our doors from the outside and slipped out with our hands atop our heads. Together we began to kneel, at the same time that the woman started yelling for us to lay face-down on the pavement. Right away the officers were atop us, patting us down, searching for weapons. My thoughts kept jumping to the duffle bag in the backseat with the bloodied clothes inside. And was Andy armed?
"He's got a gun!" shouted the male partner, which meant the woman was atop me.
"This one too!" She'd found my ankle-holster. Still wouldn't do her any good.
"Check my ID," I said calmly. "I'm licensed for that weapon. So is my partner."
"Shut up," snapped the female officer. Nonetheless, she started digging for my wallet next. I felt her locate it and heard her open the leather, listened to her rifle through many of the useless receipts and less important business cards in there. "Aubrey Phillips, huh?" To her partner, she called, "This one's a private dick. Got a license for his gun."
A heartbeat later, the partner replied, "This one too, licensed for the gun. Andrew Cathay works for Rollins's Investigative Agency."
"Where's the registration for the car?" demanded the woman still keeping me pinned.
"In the center elbow-rest. It pops up with a little lever on the underside," I answered.
"Stay down," the woman advised me as she moved to fetch the registration.
She took out her flashlight and I noticed the gun holster on her belt was unclipped. The gun was a Browning .38, the usual for most cops around these parts; it was most likely loaded with a fresh, live round. It took her longer to look for the registration than it should have, but I remained unworried. She would see the duffle bag and wonder what was inside it, but she couldn't search it without arresting Andy and I first, and so far she had no grounds for arresting either. As she finally came out of the car with the proper papers in hand, she started asking the usual cop questions.
"What you boys doing out so late?"
"Carpooling to work."
"Before 5am? You live around here?"
Aubrey Phillips: The man of perhaps one too many faces.
The female officer ignored me. I had no idea what her partner was doing to mine on the other side of the vehicle, but I didn't want to turn my head incase somebody drew a gun. If somebody drew a gun on me or on Andy, Andy would shoot first. Forget about asking questions altogether.
"Listen, we're on our way to work," I tried again. "Take a business card. It's not like we're fleeing town. Whatever's going on, if questions come up or you think we can help, you can contact my partner or me at the office. Even my pager number is on there if I'm not in at the time—like I said, we're on a case. I don't know what's going on, and I'm trying my best to stay calm, but I can tell you right now we weren't disobeying any traffic laws."
"The car is registered to the Agency," the woman said, still ignoring me.
I answered as if it was a question, "Yeah. Its policy that we use an Agency car when on a case." For emphasis, I added, "Keywords here being: on a case. As in, could we wrap this up?" The nice, polite, innocent bystander guy suddenly becomes less polite. I bet these cops were shaking behind their shiny, silvery badges.
The woman stalled a little longer. During that time at least one other squad car went past. It flicked its headlights as it went and slowed down for half a second, checking to see if the problem was serious. Officer Bitch nodded to the other car in a we're-fine-here way, and off it went, sirens once again wailing, lights flashing like at some horrific disco. Finally the woman and her partner let Andy and I get up off the ground and returned the registration papers. She couldn't so much as give us a breathalyzer seeing as Andy was the driver and he had asthma, anyway.
Neither officers wished us a good morning or offered a farewell. I didn't even catch the names or numbers on their tags. They grudgingly handed us back our wallets with our guns and waited until Andy and I had got back in our vehicle before they began inching back to theirs. Then we parted ways, and my eyes started to water again.
I looked out the side window and took a soft, but deep breath. My hands were shaking; I fisted them so Andy wouldn't see, though knowing Andy, he probably had noticed as soon as I twitched uncomfortably. He left the police scanner alone this time and instead went for the regular FM radio. The rest of the drive we listened to Andy's favorite station that played all heavy metal music, all the time. Eventually I laid my head back and closed my eyes, letting the music take my mind places; letting the music take me so that wherever I went, at least I wasn't slipping back into the darkness.
"Tonight was a long night," I commented to nobody in particular.
Andy grunted, but then surprised me with an actual answer. "Not for David," he said.
He was grinning.