Greg is walking home from school since his acid-green Jeep is in the shop. He looks around aimlessly at the trees surrounding him, nodding his head in rhythm with the Metallica blasting in his ears. He watches a bird fly overhead, following it as it disappears behind the trees, when he notices something that looks like a shoe sticking out from under a bush about 20 yards ahead. His pace slows and he stuffs his earbuds into the pocket of his worn leather jacket as he gets closer. He softly taps his black boot against the sleek dress shoe.
"Hey, buddy," he says loudly, "You alright?" He kneels down and pulls the shrub away from the guy's face. He jumps back, dropping his old, worn-out backpack in his haste. He hears Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" blaring from his pocket.
"Yeah?" he answers breathlessly.
"Hey, man, you wanna- dude, you okay?" Greg's best friend Tessa Hoechlin asks him as she hears the panic in his voice.
"Uh, not really. Think you could come pick me up?"
"Sure, where are you?"
He rattles off where he is; she says to stay put and that she'll be there in a few. Greg moves away from the dead guy lying in the bushes. He nearly jumps out of his skin when his hand falls onto something cold and metallic. He lets out a sigh of relief when he realizes it's just the guy's briefcase. He ponders briefly over why it's all the way over here before he hears the rev of a familiar engine.
He looks up and Tessa gestures for him to hurry up, but he shakes his head and motions for her to get out. She huffs and and swings out of her sleek, black Camaro to join him on the side of the road.
"So. Why are you on the ground?" Tessa asks Greg, bumping her shoulder against his.
"Because I probably couldn't stand without assistance right now," he answers, nodding toward the sharp dressed man shrouded in greenery. "I found his briefcase, too." He points out the small silver case behind him.
Greg, if you saw him walking down the street, looks like one of those people who can handle anything. Always wearing his worn, brown leather jacket, plain t-shirt under a flannel, with old, faded jeans and his black biker boots. He's buff, but not overbearingly so. Some people look like they're on steroids, some look like limp noodles. He's built more like Colton Haynes; but better looking. So, naturally, Greg is terrified after seeing this mysterious dead man with his throat ripped out, eyes wide and staring. He still wonders why the briefcase is so far away from it's owner.
Tessa, the slight, dark haired beauty, is the curious one. The one who has to go check out the body. To see if it is actually dead, or just to say that she's seen a dead body. Up close and personal. That's why she and Greg are such good friends.
They've been friends since they met in Kindergarten. Some bigger boys were picking on Greg because he was the smallest kid in school. Tessa, upon seeing this, ran over to where the bigger boys were crowded, kicking and hitting Greg's small form. She started kicking and punching anyone she could reach. Finally, the other boys ran away and she stuck out her hand to help a trembling and crying Greg to his feet.
"You wanna be friends?" Tessa had asked, to which Greg had nodded sheepishly. They've been inseparable ever since.
"Tess, can we just leave?" Greg begs. "Call the police as soon as we get to town?"
"Don't be such a square, Greg," Tessa replies, moving to get a closer look at the dead man's wounds.
Greg grumbles and leans against the hood of the Camaro. He can tell that she is going to want to keep this to themselves. She's going to want to be Nancy Drew and find out what happened to this guy by herself; do some sleuthing. While Greg, on the other hand, just wants to give his statement to the local authorities and be done with the whole thing.
Tessa isn't going to have any part in that. Her Uncle Dylan will give in to her badgering, and keep her posted on the case involving this scene. He is rather close with the sheriff of this small town.
She whips out her over-sized cell phone and starts snapping pictures on the body, then panning around to the briefcase, emphasizing the distance between the two.
"Okay," she says when she finished. "Let's go. I'm gonna call Uncle Dylan and tell him what happened. It'll be on speaker since he'll probably want to talk to you too."
"Um, alright." is Greg's only answer before Tessa is dialing Dylan's number and then they're listening to the ring back tone.
"Hello, niece," they hear from the phone after the second ring.
"Friend is here as well," Greg informs him.
"Well, hello to friend of niece as well, then," Dylan amends, chuckling. "What can I do for you kids today?"
"Well you're probably going to want to sit down for this..." Tessa says then goes on to tell Dylan of Greg's findings.
"You didn't touch anything, did you?" Dylan says to Greg. "Because you may have disturbed the crime scene."
"No, sir. The only thing I did was tap his foot, then I stumbled back and accidentally laid my hand on his briefcase..."
"Well then, they'll probably take you down to the station to make sure that your prints are separated from any others on the case." Dylan says, "You guys should head on over to the station. I'll meet you there." With that, Dylan ends the call.
"See?" Greg says smugly, "It's always better to go to the police."
"Then listen outside the door as they chit chat about their findings," Tessa adds as she takes the turn onto Birch.
Greg rolls his eyes and turns on the radio. He is pleased to hear Asia's "Heat of the Moment". He starts to sing along to try and put the thoughts of the dead guy out of his mind. Tessa just laughs at him and pats his knee reassuringly. She swings the car into a spot in front of the police station.
"Do you think we should wait for Uncle Dylan?" Tessa asks, turning to Greg.
"Uh, yeah. To be honest, Ritz creeps me out a little."
"I know what you mean, man. But he and Uncle Dylan have been friends since their diaper days. He trusts him, so I guess he can't be all bad."
"I guess so..."
Out of the corner of his eye, Greg sees Dylan's white, Chevy S10 pickup truck pulling into the lot behind the station. A second later, Tessa's phone starts to ring.
"Yeah, I saw you," She answers then hangs up and opens her door, gesturing for Greg to follow.
They go in through the front, while Dylan takes the back entrance. They meet up in front of Sheriff Ritz's office. Before any of them can even think of knocking, Ritz swings the door open to face them all. Greg looks up at all 6 feet of Charles Ritz. He has a thick, black mustache, which is more than could be said for his head. There are about ten hairs there, which are combed over his scalp in some vain attempt to cover his baldness. He is, probably, the scrawniest sheriff this country has ever known.
"Hey, Chuck." Dylan greets him, "The kids here have got something to report."
"Do they, now?" Ritz says, turning to Greg and Tessa, gesturing for the three of them to enter his office. "Shoulda known that you weren't here on a personal call, Hoechlin."
"Sorry to say I'm not." He turns to Greg and Tessa, "Tell him what you guys told me."
They start with Greg walking home from school and finding the guy, then end with Tessa showing up. She doesn't mention the pictures she took, so Greg takes that as a hint that he should follow suit. Ritz sits nodding the entire time, asking the occasional question.
"So, that's when I called Uncle Dylan, and now we're all here," Tessa concludes, looking between Ritz and Dylan.
"I'm gonna need to get your fingerprints, Mr. Nugent, to separate them from any others that are on the case," Ritz says, grabbing a print card and ink off an officer's desk. Greg does what he's asked and the card is sent out.
"So, could you take me to where you found this guy?" Ritz asks, calling someone higher up on the chain of authority.
"Yeah." "No problem." Tessa and Greg said in unison.
So saying, Greg, Tessa and Dylan pile up in the Camaro -Tessa driving, Dylan riding shotgun, and Greg in the back leaning forward between the two- Ritz follows close behind. Greg is being a backseat driver while Tessa and Dylan ignore him.
"Right there!" Greg points toward the dead man's shoes sticking out from the bushes. Tessa hits the brakes and pulls off the road as far as she can.
"Alrighty, younguns," the sheriff says after they point out the body and briefcase. "That'll do it for now. If I need you, is there a way that I can get ahold of you?"
They each write their name and number on a sheet of paper and hand it to Ritz. "Thanks, kids." He says, "I'll talk to you later, Dylan." And with that, they drop Dylan back at his truck then head out to Mocha Mike's, the local hangout/coffee shop.
"So, I wonder who that guy is." Tessa wonders aloud as they walk up to the counter. "I'll have a coffee. Black, two sugars, please." She tells the young man behind the counter pulling out a ten to pay for it.
"Was," Greg corrects her. "And I'll have a coffee as well. Black." Greg says grinning politely as he snatches Tessa's money out of her hand, paying for both of their drinks from his own pocket.
"What was that?" Tessa whisper-shouts at Greg as they accept steaming paper cups and make their way to their usual booth.
"That was me paying for our coffee," he answers and stuffs Tessa's ten into the hip pocket of her jeans. She raises her brows at his boldness, but doesn't say anything further.
"Maybe he was a depressed stock broker who killed himself," Tessa ponders, getting back to the dead man.
"Then why was his briefcase so far away?" Greg points out, sliding into his side of the booth.
They sip their scalding coffee in silence for a few minutes.
Greg is watching Tessa as she stares off into space, thinking about the case and what could've happened and why. Probably coming up with countless theories of angry mistresses or drug deals gone wrong; horribly wrong. He finds himself wanting to take her hand, or even switch sides of the booth to sit next to her. Just to be closer to her. He knows that she will probably kill him if he even tries.
Holy crap, he thinks, I have a crush on my best friend. He tears his eyes away from her and makes himself think about something else. Anything else. He starts tapping the beat of "Carry On My Wayward Son"by Kansas on the table to keep his mind away from Tessa.
Just then, some guy walks into the shop and makes his way to the counter. Something about him draws Greg's attention. He stops tapping and whips his head around to stare at the newcomer. Tessa asks what was wrong but he doesn't hear her. She follows his gaze to the man waiting for his order then looks between the two.
"Do you know him?" She asks, sounding concerned. When he doesn't answer she lays her hand on his arm, making him jump and turn to her.
"Huh?" Greg answers then glances over at the man again -only to see that he is now staring at him.
"I said, do you know that guy?" Tessa repeats looking at him like she's about to drag him out of the place.
"No. At least I don't think I do," Greg answers, then looks up as a shadow covers their table.