A New Man Part 23

The water rose to her nose in the porcelain claw foot bathtub, he watched as it poured from the faucet like a rainforest waterfall filling the bathroom with a misty steam. Her ears fell below the water and all the sounds of the day where drowning away as he began to feel like he was talking to himself.

“Some days it seemed the job never ends and today has been just one of those days. Haley’s body being found, the bar fight, Nathan following Charles. But it is good to let it all wash away down the drain of the tub.” she said to the computer screen. He only wished that the bubbles from the bath weren’t hiding her body.

He could tell that the laptop was sitting on the back of the just a few feet away. Keith could tell he was at an angle were they could see each other well, but as always, she made sure ‘she’ was just out of sight. He watched her, her eyes closed and breathing deep her small perky breasts moving up and down, just under the cover of her bubbles. Allowing him to see nothing. She had always been like this with him, teasing and keeping herself just out of reach, at times he felt like a lovesick puppet. She used him for what she want, teasing him with the possibility of conquest, but keeping him at arms length. Hell he hadn’t even been at arms length. He had always been at internet length.

He would give anything to touch those breasts and feel the warmth of her breath on his neck. Feel the soft touch of her hand playing with his chest after sex. He was thinking of her perky little bubble butt and how just one time he would like to pat it, lovingly, in a place were he shouldn’t and they could share a laugh as she playfully slapped his arm. He was thinking all those things when she jumped from the water, startled by a loud vibrating sound.

“Hello,” she answered in a raspy half asleep voice.

“Am I interrupting?”

“No, just taking a bath.”

“I see that, and it is very nice.” Keith had done all his work with Kelsey from a live video conference over the internet since they met. He didn’t even really know where she was from.

“What did you find out?”

“Oh, I see,” he said, “business then pleasure.” Keith Scott had always been a flirt. He had told her the first time they spoke, a little over a year ago, that he thought she had a lovely voice. She said she thought it sounded like a smoky lounge singer. Sultry, however, is what he called it.

“Get on with it.”

“Right, well seems your new boy toy has some money in the bank.”

“Oh, a lot?”

“Enough. One mil.”

“That’s not a lot in today’s money.”

“It’s enough to get by, especially since he put it off shore and the government more than likely won’t find it. It‘s sitting drawing ten percent. He could live comfortable off of that alone.”

“What did you find out about id, who is he?”

“Well sweetie that might cost a little more.”

“I’m not paying you anything.”

“Well maybe you could raise up so I can see all of you.”
“Not a chance, just yet, depends on what you have to say.”

“Fine, Nathan Collins is a banker in Chesterfield. Hasn’t been at work in over a week, but it’s nothing unexpected. They said he was about to get downsized anyway and probably ran off before he got the axe.”

“Or stole a mil as severance. Just thought it was owed him.”

He thought this was likely.

“So he wasn’t or isn’t a PI or a cop?” she asked.

“Not that I’m seeing. In fact he pled out on several drug charges, most likely snitched. Nothing ever made it on his record nor was he ever charged.”

“That’s why the only hit I got was a parking ticket.”

“Yep.”

“I don’t know how you do it nor I care. But Keith you are amazing. I bet you could probably find the abominable snowman if you tried.”

“Now about that show,” he said.

“Not gonna happen today.”

Kelsey sunk back into her bath and Keith saw the steam roll in front of the tiny camera on top of the laptop. She lay the moving the water around her as the bubbles began to move, lapping up on the side of the tub and around her sexy body. Then he watched as Kelsey began to raise herself, pulling up from the water and reaching for the computer. Just a peek please God…Black. Damn.

***

After the phone call with Kelsey he decided to stay around the hotel in case she made a “surprise” visit. He needed some time to think anyway. With the discovery of Haley’s body he hadn’t really done much thinking, especially since the case has now went from missing person to murder. Suddenly he remembered that night at the bus station when he first saw the picture of pretty Haley. He had a gut wrenching feeling in that instant and knew this would not turn out good for anyone, especially Haley.

In three short days he had learned so much about Haley and the people of this town. But the more he thought about it the more he couldn’t figure out who would want this little girl dead. What could she have possibly done that would make someone want to kill her.

He thought back to Caleb West, a thirteen year old boy who went missing from Forest Park in St. Louis. He and his mother had been bike riding through the trails near the Art Museum and the Zoo. Most of the trails are in the open and more like a path through the park but there are several miles that snake through a heavily wooded area. He and his mother had been trail riding, she said he had been lagging all day and they were nearly done when she noticed that he wasn’t behind her. His bike had been found lying off the path with a stick rammed in the spokes. It had been assumed that he wrecked and got turned around trying to walk out. After three days his body was found off highway sixty-four in East St. Louis, in Illinois. Soon three more boys were found and then as suddenly as the bodies started showing up they stopped and the case died, for three years. Then one day Andy Stafford went missing from his home in Kirkwood. His bike was found two blocks away with a stick in the spokes. Three days later, Andy was found, dead. Strangled with a belt and duct tape on his mouth.

Then they stopped again, forever. All this meant nothing to the current case except that sometimes there seems to be no reason, or at least not one that the victim had any control over. Was that the case with Haley? Or did she in some way, inadvertently maybe, do something that caused her death.

Jacob turned to the one thing that might hold the answers. He had to look at the journal with fresh eyes. He knew that she wanted to go to Memphis, it was in the journal and then confirmed by Dean, but she never made it there. But why did she want to go to Memphis? Was it to see her mother, or had casual talking turned something more with Dean? Sex, or lust, was definitely a possible motive.

Seth’s secret (which wasn’t much of a secret as it turned out), Jordyn’s anger for breaking up the band, or Graham’s rejection. All seemed likely motives.

The BBS also had a good reason, money, as it turned out, was always a good motive. And speaking of money, where did Jerry and his daughters twenty mil fit into the picture. He assumed it would be going to her mother, but Jacob learned long ago to never assume.

He spread the photocopied journal out on the bed and stared at them, he grabbed a notebook and a pencil from the nightstand. It would take keeping notes to make sense of all the letters and abbreviations.

He saw mundane stuff that would be in any teenagers journal, shopping with J(ordyn),

had dinner with D(ad),

then going back a few months to before the break up he found things like,

S(eth) took me to meet his parents. Didn’t really care for them, his dad gave me the creeps.

Could that mean something? He knew more often than not a gut reaction to usually be correct. He wrote it down in his notebook, just in case.

Reading through the journal he noticed the letters that he didn’t know off hand last time. Then seeing them together something stands out about them. They now have a new meaning. R (Rainbow or Raymond), C (Charles), P (Piper), B (Bash). But there were still a few that he didn’t recognize. T, K, Ti, the Lady in Blue, not a letter but she seemed to be mentioned several times.

August 10

This morning was a drag, woke up on the wrong side of the bed and D was late getting up. Made me late for my run. I’m really starting to enjoy them, I know it sounds crazy but it relaxes me. Plus I get to write by the pond for a bit. Saw the Lady in Blue there again. She is really starting to make a habit of running, although I don’t know why, If I looked like that at her age I wouldn’t spend time running, I’d be flaunting it everywhere.

August 14

Had some alone time with C today, we practiced on the guitar and some vocals. We have been focusing on the songwriting a lot lately, he says that I have a talent that I shouldn’t waste. I can’t wait to go to M and study music. He said that he had a surprise for me that might make me change my mind about M. hmmm wonder what it could be. He had to leave early ‘cause he had to run some errands. I went with him though because we were really into this latest song that I have been working on. He said it could be a hit. When we got to where he had to go I saw the Lady in Blue there. She didn’t recognize me though, I don’t think. She didn’t say anything. I really wouldn’t have expected to see her in one of those places.

Then one passage stood out among the mundane, something haunting, something that Haley might not have even understood. But Jacob knew all to well what this might have meant.

August 1st

I saw RE at the store today, I was in that new store at the mall, b t w LOVE the jeans. But he came up to me and told me how pretty I looked. He is really nice. Too bad he is like 25. D doesn’t even like me taking lessons from C. I don’t know why RE was there though, he doesn’t seem the type to be buying $200 jeans. I don’t even know what he does, hangs around the neighborhood a lot, and I’ve seen him at the park some during runs. I see him over at L’s house, maybe he is a pool boy, oh, that’s hot. LOL!

She knew Charles outside of the relationship between him and her father. Seems maybe he was giving her guitar or voice lessons. But that wasn’t the part that bugged him. RE, who was that. Only shows up in this one passage. A passage dated relatively close to when she disappeared. And he likes to hang out at the place where she disappeared.

***

A New Man Part 22

Jacob stared ahead, into the dark like peering dragons lair. Two faint red taillights shined back at him like the eyes of a dragon staring out of a dark cave. Out here the absence of street lights or the glow of a city allowed the stars to be seen. Although he couldn’t remember the last time he had seen so many stars, the only lights Jacob focused on were the two red ones that shown in front of him. The only thing he could think about was that the dragon slayers rarely came home.

He had noticed the rusty late 1980’s model Ford Econoline cargo van at the abandoned factory and saw the music equipment laying in the back and assumed it to be Charles’s van. If he knew he was being followed he wasn’t trying to loose Jacob. The lights stayed at a safe distance and Jacob didn’t have to adjust his speed or make any unexpected turns, he seemed to be heading right back into town.

What was Charles doing? They had sat in the factory for about an hour after Jacob was forced to make his visit a short one. No more than forty minutes after he left he saw Piper return with Bash and Gordy, who’s blue jeans had been cut up to the gunshot wound which had been wrapped in a large white bandage. After about twenty minutes Charles got in his van and left the factory.

Something, he wasn’t sure what, but something told Jacob to follow Charles. His actions at the factory had struck Jacob as odd. He wasn’t like them, the rough and tough hard gang-bangers. They had ended up out in the middle of nowhere but after climbing the recently thawed pine tree lined road and topping a hill he looked down onto the small city of Pine Bluff as it lay between the bluffs and Mighty Mississippi.

Charles reached the bottom of the hill when he hit his blinker. Jacob wondered what he could possibly be doing. There didn’t seem to be anything on this road, unless there was an exit that Jacob had missed the sign for he would be pulling to the side of the road. Had he spotted Jacob following him?
He watched as the van sputtered off onto the shoulder of the road, then he saw it. What Charles was stopping for. A car was parked on the shoulder, sitting there with its lights off. The large white SUV sat there in silence. Had Charles not decided to stop Jacob thought he might have drove right past it, never even noticing it sitting there.

But now he didn’t know what to do, his gut told him to stop, he can’t be spotted, but his years of training told him that he had to be as inconspicuous as possible and keep driving.

As he neared the van and the SUV his heart began to race and his stomach tied in knots. He kept both hands on the wheel and his face ahead, focused on the road. But his eyes where cocked to the side, making it possible to see the occupants of the car.

As he passed the SUV and Charles standing at its door, he saw writing. Writing that he recognized all to well to be that of the police. It was a sheriffs department vehicle. Out of instinct Jacob craned his neck in an attempt to try to see who was driving, but Charles’s body blocked the window and his only opportunity to see what was going on inside that police car.

***

After he crossed fifty-five and entered Pine Bluff he knew that he had most likely lost Charles. What was going on? What made a gang-banger stop to talk to a police officer out on an old country road in the middle of the night? He had only one answer that made sense and he didn’t really want to think about it.

That seemed to be the problem with most small town drug enforcement practices these days. They all seemed to be crooked. He had seen it a hundred times, even in the city it happened. Money made a lot of people do things they may not have normally done. And in these economic times he figured it was even harder to resist the temptation.

His phone vibrated in his pocket as he reached the hotel parking lot. He pulled it out of his pocket looked at the caller ID.

“Hello,” he said.

“You gone?”

“Excuse me, Kelsey. I don’t know what you are talking about.”

“Charles.”

“I’m at my hotel.”

“Good. I saw you drive by. Charles called me and said you were following him around.”

What? How had he been spotted?

“I really don’t know what you are talking about.”

“Sure you do, you thought to accuse him and his brother of murdering a little girl for some retaliation act because her dad owes them some money. Really, Jacob, this isn’t the city. People don’t do that kind of stuff here.”

“Really? People do that kind of stuff everywhere.” The one thing that he had learned over the years is that most of the  murders he had seen had been for two major reasons, love or money and it really didn’t matter who got in the way. If they couldn’t have gotten to Jerry they might have taken the opportunity with Haley.

“Not here Jacob.”

“How did he have your number? He call 911 or you personally, Kelsey.”

“Let’s say I know him from Blue’s. I told you he was my favorite band. We have hung out.”

“Kelsey, they are drug dealers and pimps.”

“There is no proof of that and Charles is different.” Jacob had to agree with her on this point. He didn’t tell her but that was the reason he was following him. He had saw something in the mans eyes that was different from his brothers.

“So your sleeping with him, huh?”

“Maybe I did, what does it matter?”

“It doesn’t, just that you may be a little bias.” It was a trick to try to see what she may reveal, get her mad enough and she might reveal a card she is holding close to her chest.

“I’m an officer of the law, Jacob, but I’m a friend first. I may be bias but if he has done something wrong, which there is no evidence of, I would be the first to pick him up-” She stopped there, cutting herself off. “Also I thought I told you to stay at the bar.”

He could hear her anger. “I waited for quite a while and you never came back, I thought that you had forgotten about me.”

“Of course I didn’t forget, I want to see you first thing in the morning at the station. And I’m giving you a formal warning, if I don’t see you there by nine am there will be a warrant for your arrest.”

“On what grounds?”

She thought for a minute, “Illegal possession of a firearm. Don’t fuck with me Nathan, I mean it.”

Now for the question that he hoped she would answer.

“What’s Haley’s cause of death?”

“If its any of your business, We can’t determine that, she went to Saint Louis for an autopsy.”

***

There were only a handful of numbers that Jacob knew by heart, Rachel’s, his parents before they passed and Peter Harwood. Peter had been the best man at Jacob’s wedding, his wing man after the divorce and his right hand man during the Andy Stafford kidnapping case. It was the case that tore his career and his marriage apart. Peter had watched it all unravel, and never said one judgmental word to him, even though all the things that had happened to him were far less than what he deserved. And Jacob knew he could never repay the debt that he owed Peter.

That’s what made calling him that much harder. He knew the things it would do to Peter if he called him. But he saw no other option. His stomach tightened and retched with pain when he heard the first ring. He had opted to call Peter’s cell phone rather than the medical examiners office where he worked. He figured it would be less likely that his call could be traced. But as he heard the phone ring and ring until the voice mail picked up he began to grow concerned that his friend wouldn’t pick up to the unknown number. After two more attempts Jacob stood at the brink of giving up.

“Hello,” the rough baritone voice answered. Pete always reminded Jacob of the guy who played in The Green Mile. His six foot seven, three hundred pound stature, and deep voice showed his high testosterone level but Pete’s lovable demeanor made him a teddy bear. He loved and cared for everyone he met and truly had no enemies. More like Lenny from Of Mice and Men, only not slow.

“Hello, old friend.”

The baritone voice was silent. Only breathing filled the line between them for what seemed like two full minutes.

“You M-efer,” Pete rarely cursed and he liked to use abbreviations to make his point. “Your toe tag is down at my morgue right now. I’m actually with the chief and two other police officers now. They wanna know how exactly you died.”

“What did you tell them?”

“I didn’t tell them it was a heroin overdose and that it was the gunshot wound to the neck.”

“Thank you.”

“You really ef-ed me on this one, ‘friend’.” He was angry and Jacob sat silent. “I had my suspicions that it wasn’t you but I wasn’t sure.”

“You are now.”

“Yes I guess I am,” he stopped for a moment and Jacob could hear talking in the background and metal and glass clinging together. Although he was unable to make out the chatter he was certain he knew what was going on. “What am I supposed to tell the police, Jacob?”

“Just tell ‘em it was me.”

“What about the dead man?”

“I assumed his identity. No one will miss him, I checked. He had no family, no one even reported the man missing.”

“That doesn’t make it right, Jacob.”

He agreed but right now he wished he was eating as well. He thought back and couldn’t remember the last time he had fed himself. But as quickly as the hunger came it was gone, he knew he had other things to do at the moment.

“Listen, Pete, I have a favor to ask of you.”

“Like you haven’t asked enough of me over the years? I’m done helping you Jacob. As far as I’m concerned that is you on my table.”

Just as he was about to hang up the phone and go back to his lovely dinner with the chief, Jacob yelled into the phone. “Its not for me, its for a girl.”

“A what?”

“A fifteen year old girl-” he paused. He knew that Pete would finally be done judging him. “She was murdered and I need to find her killer?”

Another deep sigh filled the space between them. Then Jacob waited through the silence and wondered if Pete had hung up the phone. He looked down at the screen and saw that the timer continued ticking, the line was still open.

“What do you need?”

Thank god. He didn‘t sound as though he was judging. Pete knew his friend too well. “You should be getting her body within a couple hours. She is being sent to you from Pine Bluff Missouri.”

“Okay,” he said. Jacob could tell he was making mental notes.

“She is a fifteen year old Caucasian female, roughly five six, small frame. She will be highly decomposed.”

“Okay.”

“She was murdered in a park here. Her father hired me to find her, but we found her body.”

“Not again.”

“I need to know everything you tell the police. Estimated time of death, cause of death, tox screen. Everything you got.”

“What are you going to do?”

Truth was Jacob didn’t have an answer for that yet. But he was sure something would come to him.

Photograph

A cool breeze slapped my bare cheek as the scent of early spring dew filled my nostrils. Leaves rustling was drowned out by a humming, slight droning hum like something spinning. Confused i attempted to find my bearings. Where was I, how had I gotten here?

I was wet, why, I wasn’t sure. My hand stumbled across the ground looking for what might the culprit. Tall dry uneven grass is all my fingers touched. Their jagged edge rubbing my fingers like a serrated bread knife.

My face lay pressed hard against the ground, legs trembling from an unknown force giving all it had to push me deep into the earth. Thinking that I hoped my legs worked I tried to move my toes and to an elation of a two year old on christmas morning, they moved with relative ease.

Still on a mission to discover the origin of the dampness I gave a deep inhale and smelled the fermented yeast. It must be beer. Was I drinking, I never drink and drive. It couldn’t be mine.

I moved my hand underneath my nearly limp body until I found my back pocket. I had to call 911. I fumbled until I couldn’t locate my phone. What I did find however gave me comfort. The photograph I carried in my right front pocket. The picture of her.

I had to get out from underneath this beast of a car and find her, last thing I remembered was her lips touching the crystal wine glass as she said yes.