(written 11/2/2010 - total words 5,926)
Oscar drove with one hand, resting his head on the other. Aberdeen isn’t a big city, so he had to turn often, but he kept moving. Cal stared out the side window, watching the sun get choked by clouds. A light drizzle was starting.
“Where are we going?” Cal asked.
“I don’t know,” Oscar replied. “Away from mobsters?”
“I need coffee,” Angel said, sitting forward between the front seats. “There’s a Denny’s-”
“No,” Cal and Oscar said in unison.
Angel dropped back with a huff. Time passed in silence. Oscar pulled up to a stop light, left blinker clicking.
“Look,” Angel said. “There’s a Starbucks right there. You’re already turning that way.”
Oscar continued staring at the red arrow in front of them. Cal looked across him to the strip mall across the street and checked out the Starbucks. He looked around for black SUVs.
“Yeah,” Cal said. “Let’s do it.”
More silence in the car. Cal looked at Oscar.
“Fine,” Oscar said.
* * *
Angel didn’t have any money and Oscar refused to pay more than a dollar for coffee, so the drinks were on Cal.
The front corner of the store had three cozy looking chairs set around a table full of the wreckage of a newspaper. They claimed the corner and scooted the chairs close together. Angel scooped her hair out of her face and tucked it behind her ear. If she noticed Cal watching her, she didn’t let it on.
“So what the hell was that?” Cal asked, taking his attention off of Angel.
“It was nothing,” Oscar said with an absent tone. “We should just forget about it and not get involved.”
Angel sneered at Oscar. “It wasn’t nothing dipshit, that was a kidnapping. Your mob still seems to be pretty active.”
“No,” Cal said. “That wasn’t the gang that killed my dad. They were drug dealers. A biker gang. They didn’t wear suits.”
Angel shrugged and took a sip of her mocha. “Maybe they’ve diversified,” she said. “Or maybe, they’ve hired outside help.”
Cal nodded into his latte. “Yeah, maybe.”
“Let’s just drop it,” Oscar said.
“Is he always this fun?” Angel asked Cal.
“You’re his lab partner, apparently,” Cal replied. “You tell me.”
“Maybe that guy was another drug dealer,” Angel said, her eyes growing wide. “The competition.”
“Maybe he slept with the boss’s girlfriend,” Cal responded.
“Guys,” Oscar said. “I’m serious, let’s drop it. It was probably nothing, and if it wasn’t, what can we do? We’re just kids.”
“We have to do something,” Cal said looking sharply at Oscar. “What if it is the Lemolos? What if that guy is in trouble?”
“Oh, that guy’s in trouble,” Angel added with a smile.
“What if he is?” Oscar asked, his voice growing more pleading by the minute. “We can’t do anything. You want to drive all over the city looking for a black SUV?”
“No,” Cal said. “But we could go to the cops.”
“And say what?” Oscar asked spreading his hands wide. “We think we saw a guy get beat up and kidnapped? Oh, but we don’t know who either of the guys or where they went and don’t really know any more except that a black SUV was involved.”
Angel sighed and put down her mocha. “I think he may have a point,” she said with a pout. “Our case is a little weak.”
Her admission of defeat brought a dismal silence to their little conspiracy corner. The shrieking sound of steaming milk filled in the gap in conversation.
“What were you doing at the comic store anyways?” Oscar asked after the noise quieted down.
Cal cringed. He wanted to let that slide and hope that she’d forget about it.
“I wasn’t at the comic book store,” she said, sitting back and crossing her arms across her chest. Her hair was starting to fall back into her face. “I just got dropped off there.”
“At the comic book store,” Oscar said.
“It just happened to be near the comic book store,” she replied.
“Okay,” Oscar said nodding. “Okay, so why did you happen to get dropped off near the comic book store?”
Her leg started kicking and she seemed to sink back into the chair further. “It was Ivan.”
Cal’s heart sank at the name of another boy.
“Ivan?” Oscar asked. Pursuing his prey in much the same way his father did in court. “Who’s Ivan?”
“He’s a jerk,” Angel replied and Cal’s emotional roller coaster started to climb up again. “He’s in Death Shaft. Y’know? the band?”
Oscar shared a look with Cal. “No,” he said smiling.
“Oh,” Angel said. “Well never mind. He was being a jerk, so I made him drop me off. It just happened to be near the comic book store.”
“So you weren’t there to buy comics?” Oscar asked.
“Uh, no,” she responded. “I’m not into the Superman thing.”
“No, that’s DC,” Oscar said quickly. “All of their stuff sucks. Well, maybe not all of it.” Oscar laughed, looking to Cal for some support.
If Cal had any super powers he would’ve been using them to shut Oscar up. As it was, his icy stare was enough. Oscar’s laugh died out and he checked his phone.
“We have to go,” Oscar said. “I need to get home and get ready for work.”
Oscar and Angel stood up, Angel shooting the last of her mocha.
“But what about what we saw?” Cal asked.
“I think the wet blanket is right,” Angel said. “It was probably just some random thing. Let’s just forget about it.”
Cal spent the rest of the ride home trying to find someway to spin the situation into a way to get together with Angel again, but when they dropped her off at her house, he had nothing. A lame goodbye and they were driving off again.
* * *
The man woke up with a start. His hands and legs were tied to what felt like a chair. He looked around, but there was some dark fabric over his head preventing him from seeing any detail of his surroundings aside from various pinpricks of light.
He heard a shuffling and the bag was pulled off of his head. The cool air felt good on his skin, but a harsh chemical smell filled his nose. The sharpness of the smell stung his nose and made him cringe.
He looked up and saw a man standing in front of him.
“Hello, Peter,” the standing man said.
“Stan,” Peter said. “You’re not going to get way with this. Any of this.”
Stan smiled. He slowly unbuttoned his shirt sleeves and rolled them up.
“You’re not really in a position to threaten,” Stan said as he walked to a sink that was built into the wall.
Peter looked around the room as Stan washed his hands. He was in a circle of candles, their flickering light the only think keeping the room from total darkness. He didn’t see any windows. Shadows danced all around. He heard a shuffling noise behind him, but when he looked he only saw more shadows.
Stan walked back to the circle of lights, drying his hand on a white cotton towel.
Peter looked up at him, an unreasonable fear growing inside. He tried to remind himself that it was all show. That Stan was just a charlatan with a little power trying to bully people around. The shuffling noise came from his left this time, but again he saw nothing.
“What the hell are you doing down here,” Peter asked.
Stan smiled again. “Your little article hit close to home,” he said, “but there’s so much more to know.”
Stan stayed outside of the circle and smiled down at Peter.
“You want to know more, don’t you,” Stan said.
Peter felt his chin quiver. A gnawing, cold fear pulled at him.
“Yes, I think you do,” Stan said. “You see, you had one thing correct. I’m not working alone. But you were off the mark on who I’m working with.”
Stan indicated to his left. Peter was shivering now. He thought he heard somebody whispering something, but Stan’s lips weren’t moving. He slowly followed Stan’s outstretched hand to the dark corner.
There was nothing there.
Peter looked back at Stan, the fear draining away from him. Stan stood motionless except for his smile twisting slightly. Peter smirked and looked back at the corner.
There was nothing there.
Something caught his eye. A movement maybe. A hint of something.
What he thought was shadow wasn’t shadow at all. It was something. Something indescribable.
The fear came back with a vengeance. It cut through to that core part of his brain inherited from the monkeys watching the skies for predators. A direct line that scattered all rational thought. He had to escape. He strained against his bounds, knocking his chair over. The dull ache from slamming his skull against the concrete floor barely registered as he stared into the dark corner. Tears streamed from his eyes and screams came from his throat. Urine soaked through his pants. Then the thing moved with a confusing speed and took a shape that defied all logic.
But, by then, it was over for Peter. The human body can only handle so much fear.
* * *
Cal left his Precalculus class in a daze. He was working hard to keep up with the material, but it just wasn’t making any sense. He was looking forward to the winter holiday break to get some breathing room back into his head.
He rode along with the wave of students in the hallway, mindlessly adrift in his after school commute.
A hand grabbed his shoulder roughly, shaking him out of his dream state. He stopped and turned, expecting trouble, but it was Oscar. He had a strange look on his face. A mixture of guilt and panic. Other students pushed around them like water in a river pushing a stone down hill. Cal frowned as he pulled his earphones out his ears. Oscar said something, but Cal couldn’t hear it. Oscar pulled him into the classroom behind him. It was the Chemistry lab. The last place Cal wanted to be.
The smells brought back bad memories. He looked around, hoping that the teacher wasn’t there. He’d remember Cal, the Chemistry drop out, but the room was empty except for Angel who was gathering up her stuff.
“Did you see it,” Oscar asked. The panic winning out over the guilt.
“What?” Cal asked.
“This,” Angel said, slapping a piece of newsprint down on the table.
Cal looked down. The front page of the local paper. Why would he have seen that? His eye followed down to where Angel’s shiny purple fingernail pointed. She had nice hands. There was a picture of a man under the headline “Local Reporter Takes Own Life”.
“No,” Cal looked up at Angel. She had black lipstick on today. It showcased her silver lip piercing nicely.
“Some guy killed himself?” Cal asked.
“Not some guy,” Oscar said, looking out the door. “It’s him.”
“Petter Walsh,” Angel said.
“Who?” Cal asked, trying to shake the dullness out of his head.
“Listen,” Angel said and picked up the newsprint. She scanned down the article. “His body was found south of town.” She looked up. “That’s near the comic book store. And his car was found nearby, a red honda civic.”
“That’s him?” Cal asked. “Let me see it.”
Angel handed him the article. He stared at the picture and started trying to fit it with his memory of the guy from behind the comic store. The guy they had seen looked older and a bit more haggard, but it could definitely be the same guy.
Cal looked up from the article. “He killed him,” he said.
Oscar pointed at the newsprint. “It says he killed himself,” he said.
“But we don’t buy that,” Angel said. “It’s a cover up. The sign of a professional killer.”
“And all the more reason to leave this alone,” Oscar said.
Cal looked back and forth between them. Oscar had a stern look that reminded Cal of Oscar’s dad. Angel’s expression was harder to gauge. She didn’t seem as determined as Oscar did. There was a hint of something else there. She raised an eyebrow slightly. Was she daring him to continue?
“So why point this out then?” Cal asked.
“Because you’d see it eventually,” Oscar replied. “And I know you’d start trying to figure stuff out, and then get me and Angel involved. I want to be in agreement that we’re going to just drop this.”
Cal looked between them again and got the same result. While a part of him wanted to appease Angel’s call to adventure, he mostly just wanted to go home and get some sleep. He went down this road when his dad was killed. Oscar was right earlier. There was nothing they could do.
“Yeah,” Cal said. “You’re right.” He didn’t meet Angel’s eye.
* * *
On the way home from school, he noticed that he would pass by the Sheriff’s office. He turned the scooter into the parking lot without thinking much about it. He wasn’t surprised to find himself in the main office, asking to see the Sheriff.
He sat down and waited. None of the magazines looked very interesting.
“Calvin?” a voice said. He looked up to see Sheriff Bradshaw smiling at him.
When Cal smiled back and started to stand, the Sheriff walked over with a hand out. His massive hand easily enveloped Cal’s hand. It was a gentle handshake, but had enough firmness that reinforced the wide physical frame of the Sheriff.
“C’mon back, son,” Sheriff Bradshaw said, leading Cal back to his office.
They got settled in his office with the sheriff behind his wide desk and Cal sitting in a hard backed wooden chair in front of the desk.
“Lord, you’ve grown,” the sheriff said. “I remember the first time your pop brought you in to work. Such a scrawny little thing back then. Hey, how’s that brother of yours, The Cannon.”
Cal suppressed a sigh. “He’s fine. Doing great at Radio Shack.”
“Oh? They’re treating him good then?” The sheriff leaned forward with a smile.
Cal gave a nod. Everybody loved Rob, #51 on Aberdeen High’s football team. Robert Cannon, aka “The Cannon”. He took the team to state in his senior year. From Cal’s point of view, Rob seemed to have peaked in his senior year. It had been a slow downhill slide since then. He didn’t even get called back to emcee homecoming this year.
The sheriff picked up on Cal’s disinterest in talking about Rob. “What can I do for you?”
“Well,” Cal’s words came slowly. He was starting to think maybe he was being silly. “It’s about that reporter that killed himself.”
“Ah, Mr. Walsh,” the sheriff said. “Yeah. Curtis found him yesterday morning. Terrible thing. Gave Curtis the rest of the week off.”
“I,” Cal started then stopped. “I know who killed him.”
The sheriff looked at Cal for a moment, then said “We do too. He killed himself.”
“No, sir,” Cal cringed as the reflexive honorific slipped out. “He was killed by a gang.”
The sheriff sat forward. “Son, he killed himself.”
“No,” Cal said. “We saw him get kidnapped last weekend. We saw who did it. That person was hired by a gang to kill Mr. Walsh.”
The sheriff sat back and ran a hand through his thinning hair. “Well,” he said. “We actually have a dispatch from the FBI working with us on gang related crimes.” The sheriff paused and looked at Cal.
“I’m supposed to report all gang related tips to him,” the sheriff continued. “But maybe you should go home.”
“No,” Cal said a little stronger than he had wanted. His was excited. The FBI? They’d be able to crack this case easy. Maybe it would be enough to get Cesar Bigby, the reported head of the Lemolos.
“I want to file my report with the FBI,” Cal said.
Sheriff Bradshaw shrugged. “Okay,” he said. “Let me go see if he’s in.”
The sheriff walked out of his office. The entire sheriff’s office was a double-wide trailer, so Cal could hear the heavy foot steps of the sheriff going down the hall. There were muffled noises of talking, then two sets of heavy foot steps came back.
The door creaked open, and the sheriff came in. Behind him was the second man Cal had recognized today. Black suit, black tie, white shirt. His piercing grey eyes looked down at Cal. Fortunately Cal didn’t see any recognition there. This was the other man from the kidnapping. This was the kidnapper.
“Agent Parson,” the sheriff said, closing the door and squeezing by to get behind his desk. “This is Calvin Cannon. Deputy Glenn Cannon’s son. Says he saw some gang activity in regards to the Walsh suicide.”
The agent nodded and stuck his hand out. Cal took it. Nothing like the sheriff’s hand. This handshake was cool and limp. The agent pulled the other wooden chair around to face Cal and sat down.
Cal was stuck.