-Tuesday, May 11th-
"Do you recognize this man?"
Jaris Treff was crouched under the sagging Victorian porch of Jackson
Demeanor, faced with nine dull homeless eyes.
One, a young teenager with a belly the size of an oversized watermelon,
scowled, "Yeah."
An older woman clucked softly and rubbed the girl's back. In a stage
whisper, she told Jaris, "He broke her three times and left her with
nothing but this belly."
"Three times? You mean he came here more than once?"
"Oh, a lot more." This was a man in his mid-thirties, "He was here at
least twice a week. Did some sort of business with Sonny. Watch where you
aim that smoke, Max."
Max swiveled his glazed eyes at the man, then turned to Jaris, putting a
cigarette back in his mouth, "I know what kind of business."
Jaris took the cigarette from him and snuffed it in the dirt, "If you're
going to smoke, please don't do it near me or near this poor young woman
here." She gestured to the pregnant teen.
"I'll smoke where I like." He grabbed weakly at the cigarette.
"Not while I'm here. And you know I can always tell the cops what kind of
stuff you're smoking."
He didn't grab for the cigaratte again while she was there.
"So," Jaris settled into a more comfortable sitting position, "Who wants to
tell me about this guy?"
She waved the picture around with a twenty dollar bill and a chorus of
eager voices called out to her.
"Let's take this slow." She pointed to another new face, "You. What do
you know?"
"McJaw, that's what we called him 'cause that's what it sounded like Sonny
called him, came here the night that Sonny was killed. That's what you
want to know, eh?"
"Good job. That's exactly what I'm trying to find out. How Sonny was
killed and what McJaw had to do with it." Sonny, she assumed, was Jackson
while McJaw was simply the version of Mike Java they heard through the
walls and porch.
Another man crawled forward, "McJaw came here right after Demi. Oh, that
woman was just beautiful. Dressed in black boots that went halfway up her
lovely legs, and a short skirt and no panties," he glanced upward and Jaris
realized and he would have been able to see up any woman's skirt.
"Okay, so this woman, Demi, who's she?"
"This one." Yet another new face presented itself, this time a child with
a piece of scratch paper.
Jaris inspected the small paper, an off-white business card. A woman's
face was drawn with impeccable detail.
"This is Demi?"
The child nodded.
"May I keep this?"
The child started to shake her head, but at the sharp poke of the old
woman, nodded.
Jaris smiled, "I'll bring it back, okay?"
The child smiled back, revealing two missing front teeth.
"Jackson Demeanor. Mike Java. Marie Demeanor." Another child lay on her
back, staring at the porch boards.
"What?"
"Their names." The child turned her head to face Jaris, but her eyes
settled blankly a little to the left of the woman. "They never paid
attention. They called the dealer Sonny, but he was Jackson Demeanor.
McJaw was Mike Java. Sometimes Jackson called him Coffee. The woman, the
one Spike started panting over, was called Marie Demeanor. She was
Jackson's sister and she worked as a hooker."
The child returned her blind gaze to the porch boards.
"McJaw liked those and those." The pregnant teen pointed to the cigarette
Jaris had ground into the dirt and the beer bottle another man was
draining. He smiled and waved at her before opening another bottle.
"So he was a drunk and a pothead."
"I guess. Whatever you call it."
Jaris started piecing together the puzzle. Mike Java had bought marijuana
from Jackson Demeanor, who also did some sort of business with his sister,
Marie. Marie had visited Jackson's house not long before Mike arrived.
"Hey, when Demi left the other day, the day when Sonny died, did she have
any blood on her?"
"Not much." The perverted man smiled at the memory, "It was a bit on her
tities and she took off everything on top but her little lacy bra to get
the blood off."
"This is all excellent, so helpful. This may help get an innocent man off
the hook for murder."
The teen put a hand on her belly, "He's no innocent man."
Jaris took her hands, "What he did to you was wrong. He won't get away
with that. He will go to prison for hurting you. But also Demi will go to
prison for killing Sonny."
She nodded, still not quite satisfied. Jaris took out her wallet, "What's
your name?"
"Dakota."
"How old are you, Dakota?"
"Fourteen."
Jaris stifled a horrified scream, but took out the money she'd brought for
the purpose of giving to these people. Carefully, she counted out seven
twenties and handed them to Dakota, "This is fourteen tens. Seven twenty
dollar bills, that means one hundred and forty dollars. I want you to take
this and go buy yourself something nice and something nice for the baby,
okay? This money won't pay for what Mike Java did to you, but it will help
make everything easier."
"Thank you." Dakota hugged Jaris and tucked the money into her ragged
shirt.
Jaris turned to the older woman, "I'm going to give you some money for all
of these you. I want you to make sure that each and every one of them gets
something good. Take care of Max, don't let him get anything bad."
She nodded solemnly and Jaris pulled another two hundred from her wallet.
Finally, she gave a single twenty to the artist child, "I promise I'll
bring back your picture. Buy yourself some good paper and some pencils to
draw with."
Crawling out from under the porch, she called back down to them, "Thank you
all so much!"
They grinned and nodded.
Jaris drove back to her house, satisfied and feeling very good. As she
turned onto her street, the good feelings dissapeared.
Her house was smoking, with flames still licking the charred sides.
She drove up and pulled to a stop. Hurrying out of her call, she ran over
to a police officer, "What happened?"
"I'm sorry, ma'am, we're going to have to ask you to stay out of the way.
This place is still a danger."
"This place," she retorted angrily, "is my home!"
"Don't raise you're voice to me, ma'am."
"I'm raising my voice because I'm upset! What happened here?"
"Ma'am--" He started.
She turned from him and marched over to one of the firemen, "Excuse me.
This is my home, can you tell me what happened?"
He turned to her, "It's arson, obviously. There's gasoline spread around
the base of the house and splashed up the sides. Of course, an old house
like this doesn't need gasoline to help it start up a flame."
"Yeah, my boss is always telling me to move someplace safer. I guess I'll
have to take his advice now. Any idea who might have done it?"
"Well... not unless you can tell us about this," he handed her a small
envelope.
She could see that it'd already been ripped open. The front was addressed
to simply 'Jaris' with a border of flames around her name. Inside, there
was no note, but simply three words scrawled on the envelope itself: "I
warned you."