His mind was full of rage and he grew angry at himself for not figuring it out sooner. He knew that the case would have never been solved, and had he not come to Pine Bluff Haley would have been some other detectives’ Andy Stafford. He said as much in the note that he left on Jerry’s car at the funeral. He laid out as best he could what would happen.
He told Jerry that he would never see him again. He told him that he should not worry about the bill and that it was on the house, solving the case had been enough payment for him, and the fact was that he meant it. He had truly come to posthumously care about Haley, she was a truly talented and loving individual who was taken from this world too early. And Jacob knew that the people involved would have to pay. He didn’t tell Jerry who the killer was, he figured that it would be better, he only told him that to watch the news and the answers would come to him. No matter how the media portrayed what was about to happen, no one in the story was innocent.
Gravel crunched under the weight of the SUV as it pulled up to the decrepit trailer. She always hated this place, and had been thankful to have left it to live in town. She had spent several years trying to escape the legacy of her father but she soon realized that he reasons that he had done what he had done was to put food on their table.
Times had changed and but things remained the same. She may not have had a family to feed but she had a desire to never set foot on this shitty farm again. When she had been approached by Tony and his buddies at Blue’s one night back when she was on the drug task force the opportunity seemed to good to be true. She didn’t have to do anything but give them a place and look the other way and she would have more money than she would know what to do with. And it had been the truth. Until she moved to homicide and couldn’t ‘look the other way’ anymore.
Then it wasn’t enough, she wanted ‘him’. Charles was the one for her, and she knew it deep in her soul. And that little cunt wasn’t going to destroy everything she wanted because of some fucking song.
Now with the shit that was beginning to go down with the BBS she had decided it was time to cut her losses and step away. She breathed in and filled her lungs with the strong smell of a country winter. The cold had a scent all its own, and she had always found it hard to explain, but she knew it well. She had smelt it every winter in that shitty trailer with no insulation, and four comforters just to keep warm.
The familiar sound of the thin metal clanging against the metal door frame as she knocked sent her back to a different time. Back when she was a young girl and would hear the screen door clap as it slammed shot as she ran out to feed the chickens.
The door cracked open and she saw the one person she had drove all the way to see. He stood with his thick beard hiding his mouth, “What can I do for you, Kelsey?”
“Its Detective Lawson, and I have a search warrant to search the premises.” Kelsey stood at the bottom of the concrete steps with her side arm in her hand.
She heard the familiar click which she instantly recognized as the cock of a gun. Sounded like the double barrel that her father used to keep in the back bedroom.
“That probably wouldn’t be a good idea inside that trailer, Tiger.”
“Why you need a search warrant to search your own place?”
“My, place, this is my brothers place.”
The 9mm raised up from her side and Kelsey fired a shot. Tiger’s beard exploded with red as the bullet ripped through his chin and up through the roof of his mouth and into his brain sending the top of his skull flying back into the living room. Blood and brain matter splattered onto the white popcorn textured ceiling. Tigers body fell lifeless to the floor. It didn’t fall like a tree straight and rigid nor did it fly back like in some action movie. It just fell like someone dropped a sack of potatoes in the floor.
Kelsey reached up and pulled the screen door open and stepped over Tigers lifeless body.
Then she heard the crackling of sticks behind the trailer and she turned, keeping her gun aimed at the door. She could see the shadow cast onto the front yard from the midday sun. It appeared to be a fairly large figure moving from behind the house near the pond and heading around the front of the trailer. She waited expecting to fire any moment.
“Its me. Don’t shoot.”
She heard him before she saw him but she knew his voice anywhere. She had heard it for years. It was the voice of her brother, half brother, Tony Preston.
He thought of the note and he hoped it made clear enough that Jerry would figure it all out, but as he pulled the screen door open he knew that it didn’t matter now. It would have to do.
The smell of dirt and filth filled the living room of the trailer as Jacob stepped over the body of Tiger as he lay in the doorway. Blood covered the walls and the ceiling and it amazed Jacob, once again, how much blood actually fits into the human body. He listened carefully as he moved through the trailer room by tiny room. In a shooters stance he was ready if he saw someone and had to shoot.
Chemical bottles lay strewn all over the kitchen floor, some still half full of liquid. He saw a black 9mm pistol sitting on the Formica countertop, and it looked like the one that Kelsey carried. It smelled like nothing that he could describe, almost like the chemical smell of a high school lab except dirtier. The burners of the stove were covered with beakers and coffee pots, tubes ran from one thing to another and Jacob had no idea what any of this meant, except that it was definitely a methamphetamine lab.
Jacob moved, carefully, through the kitchen turned lab to the back bedroom of the trailer, still in a shooter stance he pushed the door open with the barrel of the gun and quickly shot inside. All that inhabited the room was open air, it appeared there hadn’t been anything here for years.
Crrreeek. He heard the front door as it opened and the clapping of the screen door as it slammed against the metal frame of the trailer. He heard the inaudible murmurs of two people talking and he looked around. He was trapped in the empty bedroom in the back of the rusty home. The trailer was tiny and only held four rooms. The living room sat at the front of the house which held Kelsey and, who he assumed was, Tony and the body of Tiger, then the kitchen turned meth lab, then the hallway which had the tiny bedroom on the right facing the front of the trailer and at the end of the hallway at the back of the trailer was a tiny bathroom.
Jacob hadn’t remembered seeing a backdoor to this shithole, which at the present time he found a little disconcerting. The voices grew louder which Jacob concluded was the result of them moving closer to the back of the trailer. He still couldn’t understand what they were saying but it sounded as if they were in a good mood. He smelled the gas of the stove lighting.
They couldn’t have known he was in the back room, he had parked the car miles away and walked in through the woods. Their vehicles had been in the drive so they hadn’t passed his car on the way in, they were already here. But he should’ve checked the barn instead of coming right to the trailer.
Suddenly Kelsey stepped around the doorway of the bedroom with a double barrel shotgun in her hand. She raised it and pointed it at Jacob’s chest. He wasn’t wearing Kevlar this time.
“What the fuck are you doing here? I thought you were leaving town.”
“The better question is what are you doing here?”
“Who you talking to in there?” he heard Tony yell from the lab.
Jacob shook his head, hoping she would understand his predicament.
“No one Tony,” she said. Then she began to whisper. “I don’t understand what’s going on here Jacob.”
“I’m here for the killer, Kelsey.”
“And who would that be, Jacob?”
“I think you know.” He stopped as he heard the sound of foot steps coming down the tiny hall, it would only take three to four steps to get to them.
Kelsey spun around and saw Tony step through the door of the bedroom. She turned and leveled the shotgun on his face and pulled the trigger sending both shots flying though his head, leaving nothing but a stump where his head had been. His body fell to the blood soaked hallway.
Jacob jumped as the sound filled the tiny metal trailer, nearly deafening him.
“Holy shit, Kelsey, you could of blown the fucking place up.”
“Oh, well.” She kicked his body as if it were going to move. Jacob somehow doubted that was the case. “Are you happy Jacob? Is that what you wanted?”
“Are you fucking crazy?”
“No,” she said matter of fact.
Jacob knew that the gun she held in her hand was empty, he also saw that her pistol wasn’t in her holster.
“Why did you just kill your brother?”
“I had to, didn’t I? He came at me with a gun.”
“You are nuts.”
“Nope,” she said again.
“Kelsey I know what you did,” he said. She moved closer to him raising the gun to his chest again. “Its empty and your gun is in the kitchen.” He raised his gun and put one in her left knee cap. Kelsey fell to the floor and screamed in pain as she gripped her leg.
“What are you talking about?”
“Don’t play dumb. It started the night that we met and I saw the picture on the mantle of you with your father and brother on that dock out there. Of course it looked a little different than it does now. Then after I found the journal I get attacked by a guy who is looking for something in my room. He looked familiar but at the time I didn’t make the connection, I knew it was the copy of the journal that I had made. Someone feared something in that notebook. Haley talked a lot about the people that she met in Pine Bluff. The characters that she came across. But she only used them in code so it took some work to figure out who they were. I figured it out pretty easy except one, the lady in blue. That one took some work.”
“Fuck you Jacob,” She said.
“Calm down, I’m getting to the good part. I thought it was Charles for the longest time. He had the best motive of anyone I think. Money, fame, fortune, over one song, he’ll be big. But at first I thought it was about sex. Haley was going with him, and you didn’t like that. He told me that you liked to stalk him, is that true?”
“Fuck you, god this hurts.”
“Good. I knew it wasn’t Charles when he came at me with his knife to cut me free from some rope I was in, that’s another story, but he used his left hand. My buddy Pete in St. Louis said that she was shot on the right side, indicating to me, that it was a right handed person that killed her, you’ve drawn on me several times, Kelsey, I know your right handed.”
“That doesn’t mean I killed her.”
“After you had had an affair with Charles you started following him around and pulling him over. He said you pulled him over as he pulled out of here one day, I thought it strange that you were this close to a meth lab and didn’t think it odd, surely your years of drug task force had given you an idea this place was here. Yet you didn’t question him about what he was doing here.”
“I don’t understand how you think it was me?”
“You knew she ran everyday in park. You knew she always carried her notebooks, because you told me you ran two miles everyday and that was how you stayed in shape, Charles told me that half the department runs in that park.”
“So,” she rolled back and forth on the floor holding her knee.
“Well, you saw her there several times and she mentioned it in her notebooks.”
“She didn’t know me.”
“She knew you as the Lady in Blue.”
“That was my problem as well. She of course never said that you killed her, that would be crazy, but she noted your presence and you were the only person I didn’t know. Then I remembered that you told me that you went to ALL of Damned Old Train’s shows. And Blue had told be that Haley liked to hang out backstage with the band. Then it became clear that you were the Lady in Blue’s not blue, another code.
“So you didn’t know where the journal was and I came upon it by luck, really. When I gave you the original and you saw the mention of you, you panicked and sent your brother to make sure I hadn’t made a copy like any decent detective would do.”
Kelsey let go of her leg and reached behind her back, she came back with her pistol and she raised it at Jacob. He fired two more shots into her shoulders. She dropped the gun.
“Don’t do that again. Now I’m assuming you thought that Haley was planning on taking the credit for the song that Charles had already been singing. Charles probably told you that they had wrote it together and you wanted him to get all the credit for it. In your crazy stalker mind you thought you helped him. You were able to get the page from the notebook the first day that you looked around her room. You had to make sure no one would see the page so you tore it out. The only problem was that Haley would never do that and once you gave the notebook back everyone found it odd that a page was missing.”
She lay motionless on the bloody shag carpet, coughing.
“The only thing I don’t understand is why you killed Bash.”
“I didn’t, Tony’s dumbass did after Charles and Tiger out there killed King and threatened Tony. What are you going to do now Jacob?”
“I’m sure you saw what happened in St. Louis, why I left.”
“Yeah,” she said.
“Meth labs burn down everyday.”
Jacob stood outside the trailer after he poured every liquid he could find on the kitchen floor and since Tony had left the stove on with an empty coffee pot it wouldn’t take long before it burst into flames.
And he didn’t have to wait long. The good thing about being in the country was that there wasn’t anyone to call 911. Or to hear Kelsey scream as she burned alive inside the tin can.
The smell of his grandmothers old musty house filled Charles’ nostrils. He had had his fill of his brothers tirades. He had made a promise to Charles that he had never intended to keep. Granted Charles hadn’t held up his end of the bargain but he knew that even if he had he would have had to do something else for his brother. In fact there would always be something else.
It had been that way since his parents had died and it would continue to be that way. Raymond had been a good kid but situations force some people to do things that they normally wouldn’t do, and Charles understood that, but he just couldn’t be his brother.
Charles knew where the money was hid. It was always there. It had been their plan of operation ever since they started the dealing. He would pick up the suitcase with two hundred fifty thousand in it, go buy the drugs, make the drops then refill the suitcase with two hundred fifty thousand and bring the profits back to Raymond at the factory. It worked without a hitch every time.
Except this time. This time there was no buy, Charles had other plans for the money. It was the plan that he and Haley had made the night her father told her she couldn’t go to Nashville. She would run away like her step father had suggested. She would go to Nashville make her mark as a writer and live happily ever after. But that never happened. Someone had gotten to her before she got out of town, but Charles didn’t know why.
He knew that it would haunt him forever but he also knew that not knowing was better than waiting around and living under his brothers thumb.
Only one thing was on his mind as he threw the suitcase into the rusty van full of guitars. Nashville here I come.
Jacob made the call to Rachel. It had been the hardest thing he had ever had to do, even harder than leaving. After the police pulled Andre Macklin’s body from the pond along with pieces of what would later be identified as Michael Robinson, AKA King, and the burnt bodies of Donald Adams, AKA Tiger, Tony Preston, AKA Scarface and Detective Kelsey Lawson of the Pine County Sheriffs Department had been found in what remained of the trailer it was obvious this time that she and Maggie could safely return home.
There would be no one to come after them. It had been six months since Jacob had driven to Dublin to see his family. He sat across the snow covered street and watched as Henry guided them into their beautiful home. Rachel’s lovely golden hair no longer lay hidden under a tightly wrapped white bandage of gauze. But she moved with the labor of a sickly patient or terminally ill child. She was hurting, and Jacob guessed he could only see some of the pain that he had caused, there had to be more underneath.
And he knew that she didn’t deserve that, that she was better than him, better than anyone he knew. She had an innocence of a child and he had caused her pain. He would forever blame himself for that. She would recover from the physical wounds but the emotional ones that he had brought to this family would forever linger in all of there lives. He would forever haunt her memories and he would be the thing that she would never forget, not matter how hard she tried.
Jacob pulled the Black Escalade out onto the pavement of the cul-de-sac and out of the gated community that held his family. He reached over to the passenger seat and picked up the only CD that he kept in his car. He pushed it into the CD player and opened the jacket to read the words he had read a hundred times. And even though they were written by an up and coming artist that few people knew, they rang true for Jacob as well. Written in the acknowledgements was one thank you that read simply: Thank You Haley Murphy, I’m sorry.
Thank you, Haley.