The blood that covered Tiger’s face was still fresh in Charles mind when he pulled the van into the only spot within four blocks of the funeral home. And to his disliking it left him with a three and a half block walk in the freezing cold. Steam leapt from his mouth and nostrils as the street light shown down onto the sidewalk. Charles had elected to not wear a jacket to the event due to the fact that the Haley he had known was not the type to make a fuss over formalities. But with the temperature dropping below freezing and his long walk he wished he had.
The sound of the saw that cut King into pieces buzzed in his ear as the cars sped past him. Charles could feel the wind from its whirling chain every time a car passed, blowing its cold air onto him.
The warmth from the building when Charles entered through the glass doors reminded him of the steam that came off of Tiger as he answered the door of the barn, covered in the red glow of the fresh blood. His mind held hold of these images long into the evening as he greeted people with handshakes and hugs. Haley had truly been a friend and he respected her for her love of music. When he walked up to the coffin he was saddened to see the picture her father had chosen to place as her memorial. It reflected nothing of what he thought Haley was. It reflected the way her father wanted to remember her. But his heart gladdened a bit when he noticed some of her things to be buried with her. Her notebook of music and her Les Paul, in all its Golden Maple bodied glory. Shining like a beacon from the front of the coffin.
He made his way to the notebook that sat on the table and was reminded of all the times he had helped her with music. She had a raw natural talent that reminded him of his own. She was a few years younger than him but she had it. He felt she was a star that burned out before its time, exploding in space yet touching everyone she met.
He felt a tap on his shoulder and turned. His heart fell and he felt sick to his stomach.
“Can we talk outside?”
“Sure I guess,” Charles responded. He had to act normal. Try his best to pretend that nothing had happened. That he was just a normal kid trying to live his dream. Like he hadn’t done bad things in his life to achieve those dreams.
As they stepped back outside into the cold he immediately wished he was back inside the warmth of the funeral home.
“How can I help you?” Charles asked.
“You can start by telling me all about your relationship with Haley.”
“Mr. Collins,” Charles began, “I told you before that I gave her guitar lessons.” He knew it was a lie and he knew that Nathan knew it was a lie.
“Charles, I am tired of the bullshit and I need to know the truth. I know what you done.”
What? How could he know? There was no way that anyone could have known what had happened. “W-what do you know?” stuttering wasn’t a sign of strength and he knew that if Rainbow where here in his shoes he would be stoic and he would put this Nathan Collins or Jacob Mallory or whoever he was in his place.
“What drugs?” Play dumb.
“The drugs that Haley sold for you from her fathers house.”
Oh my God! Close. “Okay. She sold for me. I get taxes from the drugs..”
“it’s a percentage of the money I collect for the drugs. I did great when I was in high school. That’s how I made my money. But when I graduated two years ago I had to find another way to get it in there. Haley’s father wouldn’t pay for lessons so we made an arrangement. She would sell for me, give me the money and I would teach her to play the guitar and give her some voice lessons.”
“Seems like a good trade then.”
“Worked out quite nice I guess.”
“Until it got her killed.”
“What,” Charles gasped. “I don’t think..”
“I think it did Mr. Luther.”
“Where did you give her the drugs to sell? At the park?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, why chance getting caught with them. I would just take them to her in guitar cases during lessons.”
“Did you ever meet her at the park for any reason.”
“No that was her quite time. She liked to go there to write. Everyone has their own place. Mine is shower. I know it sounds cliché, but I do my best thinking in there.”
Charles felt his phone vibrate in his pocket, he pulled it out. It said Rainbow. “Can I take this?”
“Sure,” then Nathan walked away.
“Yeah,” Charles said, “I’m at the viewing.”
“What the fuck happened?”
“I got nervous.”
“What were you thinking, Charles. You coulda’ got x’d out.”
“It’s okay, Tiger took care of it.”
“What about Scarface?”
“In the pond. Like you said.”
“Tiger said you didn’t cut him up.”
“It’ll be okay, I aint’ like you Rainbow.”
A silence hangs heavy with tension. Rainbow isn’t saying something. Then it comes. “Bash was shot four times on his corner an hour ago.”
“I’ll be right there, wait on me.”
“Yeah, I’m at the viewing…I got nervous…It’s okay Tiger took care of it…In the pond like you said…It’ll be okay, I ain’t like you Rainbow…What?”
Jacob had stepped around the building but stayed in earshot of Charles. He didn’t know what he was talking about but it didn’t sound good. What was the talk about the pond?
Inside Jacob’s pocket his phone vibrates to life as well. He looks at the number and immediately he knows what it’s about.
“What ya got for me?”
“No small talk, huh,” the deep voice responds. “I just got the results back. I’m giving you the heads up.”
“Thanks Pete, I really owe you one.”
“You owe me more than one,” he joked. “Tox screen came back clean, from best we could tell. The body was pretty bad but the hair held no signs of drugs that I could find so I’d say she wasn’t using.”
“As I said the body was too badly decomposed to tell if she had been sexually assaulted. But in my opinion I’d say that she wasn’t.”
“The clothes were still on her. Buttons all buttoned, and the draw string on the pants were still tied. It appears that she liked them tight.”
“What about time of death? Please tell me you have something.”
“Can’t be to certain. It has been a while. Decomp and Entomology show it could be within a forty-eight hour period that falls right when she disappeared. So there isn’t much help there. I wish I could give you more, but its just been too long.”
“Cause of death?”
“Your not gonna like it.”
Jacob knew that no matter the cause of death he wasn’t going to like it. Nothing should have happened to this girl. “What was it Pete?”
“Back of the head. Execution style. I’d say she was on her knees, or the killer was seven foot tall.”
“Don’t know. There wasn’t a bullet but I’d say small, maybe a nine mm. The entry wound was just to the right in the back of the head and the bullet exited out through the right eye socket.”
Jacob flipped the phone closed without so much as a thank you. He knew that Peter knew he was grateful and could never repay him for what he had done. But a nine mm gunshot wound with no bullet to match didn’t really leave him with much to go on. And time was running out.