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bodydump.jpg
Art by Jeff Karnick 2010

Body Dump

 

Brian Haycock

 

 

          Wyland took a long breath and studied the scene. He pieced it together. The body had come out of a vehicle there. Probably the trunk.  It had flattened out on the pavement, disturbing the light sand. The driver—the killer, he reminded himself—had turned it around and dragged it by the feet to the edge of the lot, worked it over the curb, then rolled it over the low railing.  From there it had slid down the slope into the bushes, where it had come to rest against the trunk of a scrub cedar.  It looked pretty straightforward.

 

          There’s always something, he reminded himself. A clue.  Something the killer just missed. Skin under the fingernails. The killer’s phone number in a pocket. Something. Fifteen years as a homicide detective, he knew how to find that one clue that would break the case.  There would be one here, and he would find it. He flexed his fingers in the latex gloves. He almost smiled, just thinking about it. He would find it.

 

          The truth was, killers were stupid. That was how most of them got into jams they could only get out of by killing someone. Even the ones that were pretty smart most of the time got stupid when they killed someone. They got excited. Or scared. And they made a mistake. His job was to find the mistake.

 

          He was good at his job.

 

          He looked around, took in the scene. It was a rest stop on the highway. Quiet. Secluded. There wasn’t much traffic. Not in the middle of the night. A few cars went by, too far away to see much. No one would notice a body dump from the road. No one would pay enough attention.

         

He followed the trail to the edge of the pavement. He flashed his Maglite around. The sand got thicker toward the edge of the pavement, but there were only a few smudged footprints. The body would have swept most of them clean. There were footprints where the killer had dragged the body over the curb, but the sand was too thick to hold any detail.  There was thick grass between the curb and the guard rail. He shined the light over the edge. The body couldn’t be seen from there. A few branches had broken, but that was all. He walked the route again.  Nothing there.

 

          He felt a light breeze. That would erase all traces, and soon. It wouldn’t matter. There was nothing there.

 

He circled around back to the guard rail, choosing a spot ten feet from where the body had gone over. 

 

He stepped over the rail and started down the slope in a low crouch. It was hard going. Dead leaves on dirt. He was worried about poison ivy, but he hadn’t seen any. He tried not to leave a trail. Every few feet he stopped to flash the light where the body had fallen through, looking for clues. Finally he came to the body and he worked his way over to it carefully.

 

          There had to be something. Killers always made mistakes.

 

          He studied the face in the light. Jimmy Shea. He looked better now than he had alive. Shea hadn’t had much on him. A wallet and a switchblade. A couple of ones and about a dollar in change. The wallet was in Wyland's pocket now. The rest was on Jimmy. He moved the light around. There was nothing there, only dead leaves and twigs. 

 

          Wyland reached out and went over the body again, just to be sure.  He felt the pants pockets again. The switchblade, the change. He checked the blood-streaked denim jacket. Nothing. He moved away.            Then he moved back. He pushed the front of the jacket aside.  Jimmy was wearing a tan cotton shirt under that. It was covered in blood that looked brown in the light. There was a pocket. He tapped it, felt something. He reached inside with two fingers and pulled out a plastic badge.

 

          A gold plastic badge. Smeared with dried blood.

 

          It was one of the badges the cops gave out at the schools when they went to talk to the kids about drugs and gangs. Wyland had a pile of them on the console of his cruiser. 

 

He put it together. The son of a bitch had pocketed it when he’d been riding in the front seat. Wyland could picture it now. Jimmy thinking he was so clever, putting one over on the homicide dick. Doing it ten minutes before Wyland stood him up in an alley and blew his brains out all over the concrete.

 

          He almost laughed.

 

          Wyland backed away. Damn, he’d missed that completely the first time. He slipped the badge in his pocket. That was it, the one mistake he’d made. The badge wouldn’t have led straight to him, but it would have raised questions. He’d have been on a short list somewhere. He’d have had to keep his nose clean after that. No more pocketing twenty large for cleaning up messes, disposing of rats like Jimmy Shea. He’d have been living on his salary for a long time after that.

 

          One mistake, and he’d found it. Now he would be clear.

 

          He worked his way back up the slope. It was slower going up, but Wyland didn’t mind. He’d found it, the one clue that a trained investigator would have followed to the end. Of course, he might catch the case himself, and he’d be able to derail the investigation. That wouldn’t be hard. But he couldn’t count on that. Now that he had the badge, he wouldn’t have to.

 

          He got to the railing and climbed over. 

 

Then it fell apart.

 

          “Sir, Harris County Sheriff’s. Please put your hands on your head and turn around, face away from me.”

 

          Wyland felt himself panic, but only for a second. He could handle this. “I’m Detective Rob Wyland, Houston Police. Let me reach in my pocket and show you my badge.”

 

          “Do it slowly.”

 

          He moved his hand in slowly. He thought about it. His gun was in the holster, next to where he kept his badge clipped to his belt. His service revolver, easily traceable. He tried to think.  It could go either way. He could shoot his way out of this, then come up with a story. He didn’t think he’d have to. He pulled the badge.

 

          The deputy nodded, but he kept his gun up. He was a young guy, a little tense. His partner was older, more relaxed. He was ten feet away, on the side, holding his gun at his side. He looked like he’d be too slow if it came to it. Not that it would, but it was best to be ready.

 

          “Mind telling us what you’re doing out here?”

 

          “We had a tip there was a body out here, a guy we know. I thought I’d check it out.”

 

          “And?”

 

          Wyland hesitated. If they found the body later the deputies would remember this. He wished he had more time to think this out. “He’s down there. A guy named Jimmy Shea. It looks like he was dead when he got here.”

 

          “All right. Sir, we’re going to have to search you. Do you have your firearm with you?”

 

          “You don’t have to search me. I’m on the job here. Show a little respect.” If they searched him they’d find the plastic badge with the blood. Jimmy’s blood. There were twenty of the badges on his console, the car just fifty feet away.

 

          “It’s just procedure. You understand. There’s a homicide involved, we have to go by the book. If you don’t mind, bring your firearm out and place it on the ground for me.”

 

          “Sure, no problem.” Wyland held his badge up. “I’m putting this away. The gun’s on the other side. Just relax, that’s all.” He slid the badge in and clipped it, put his hand on the gun. 

 

No option, he told himself. No choice. Do it fast and run like hell.  It was the only way.

 

          He brought the gun out. 

 

          He heard two shots, felt one slam into his shoulder, the other into his side. He didn’t hear the third shot, but he knew there’d been one. He could taste the sand on the pavement in his mouth. He could feel the wet blood flowing around him.

 

          He could hear the older deputy, the one he’d thought would be too slow. Heard him say, “I knew this was trouble when we saw the cruiser sitting over there. And I knew who the trouble was when I saw the son of a bitch come over that railing.”

 

         

         

respectlaw.jpg
Art by Bill Zbylut 2015

Respect the Law

 

by Brian Haycock

 

 

 

          Respect the law.

          I always say that to people.  I always remind them.

          Respect the law.

          Town like this, people need to have respect for the law.  We lose that, we're finished.  You get this many out of work oil hands, smuggler wannabes, tweakers and general screw-ups in one place, we're always just a few short steps from losing ourselves.  Falling into chaos.  And no one wants that.

          I've only got eight deputies for a county about twenty miles by fifty miles across.  Most of it's just empty desert, but even so, that's not enough.  I'm out all the time.  Days, nights, weekends, holidays.  I'm out here.  Keeping the lid on. 

          I know we're not perfect, but we do all right.  Crime rate's pretty low, although that doesn't mean that much.  A lot happens doesn't get reported, but that's true anywhere.  Most of the time things are pretty peaceful, and that's the way everyone wants it. 

          But it's all about respecting the law.  I see some knucklehead coming out Buster Bronc's lot, three in the morning, I know he's had a few.  He gets in his truck, heads on up the county road, that's all right.  He tries to keep the truck going straight, makes it look good, we're all right.  He sees me sitting there under the dead oaks in front of Bobby Ray's brake shop and leans on the horn, waves like a lunatic, laughs his ass off, then we've got a problem.  I probably have to go after him, give him a DUI that'll put him in debt for years to come.  That's just how it is.  People want to break the law, rub my face in it, I have to do something.  And everyone knows that.

          You remember Jimmy Crow.  You knew him.  He was a bad one.  Not really much worse than plenty of others, but he liked to rub my face in it.  He was involved in some things down around the border.  I heard some stories.  That's not my jurisdiction.  I don't know anything about what goes on down there.  I don't care about that.  He'd hang around at that biker bar that burned down a couple years ago, the Split Tee.  He'd brag to his buddies about what he was up to.  I didn't mind that.  Hell, everyone in that place was up to their nads in something.  But he'd be around me, he'd act like king shit.  He'd be grinning, talking real loud, asking me how did I like his new Lincoln Navigator.  How did I like it?  Guy's driving around this town in a vehicle like that, never worked a day in his life that I know of.  How did I like it?

          I didn't like it.

          When Jimmy went missing, I was in charge of the investigation.  There wasn't much to go on.  We all pretty much assumed some of the shit he'd been in down south came up here and bit him on the ass.  Then it swallowed him up.  That was how we looked at it.  We did a few things to make it look good, but really, our hearts weren't that much into it.  We didn't expect to see him again.  And we weren't real broke up about it.

          Jimmy Crow.  He's buried right over there.  Where that big mesquite tree is.  I'm pretty sure it was that one, but, you know, it was dark out, and these mesquite trees all look pretty much alike.  Plus, I got pretty tired from digging that grave.  I had to dig it deep enough the coyotes wouldn't come and dig him up.  So it took a while, and by the time I got it filled in I didn't maybe mark the spot as well as I should have.  But he's under one of these mesquite trees.  I'm real sure about that.

          Which brings us to you.  You think you're a real bad ass.  I don't think you are.  You're sitting there, tied up, big gash on your head.  You know where this is going, and you're trying to act tough.  I give you credit for that.  But inside, you know.  You're just a sack of shit waiting to go in the ground.  No more selling crank out of Riley's Taco Shack.  No more laying rubber down the Ranch Road on your brother's old Harley.  No more nailing that sweet Allie Fay.  Well, not so sweet now, but she used to be, before she started hanging around with the likes of you.  No more of any of that.

          But that's not what this is about.  I could have let all that slide.  Shit happens.  Around here, it happens a lot.  But you don't respect the law.  You went by when I was sitting out there under the Tecate billboard, doing about eighty.  Smoking a jay.  And you flipped me off.  You just had to do that.  So I went after you.  Gave chase.  And when you finally pulled over and stopped, I was just going to give you a DUI.  Teach you a lesson.  Teach you to respect the law.  But you had to mouth off to me.  Called me a couple things I didn't like hearing.  Even when I told you to get out of the truck, you had to mouth off.  Put me in my place, I guess.  When you finally got out and stood there you just had to smirk at me.  “Give me a ticket, old man.  I don't give a shit.”  That's what you said to me.  I didn't like that. 

          That's why I tasered you.  That's why I smacked you in the side of the head with my service revolver.  Why I injected you with a quick hit of GHB and stuck you in the trunk of my cruiser.

          That's why we're out here.  It's not the trouble you've caused in this county.  That I can take.  Hell, I caused some trouble myself, long time ago.  But you just don't respect the law.  And that I can't have.

          I guess we'd better get this show on the road.  I've got a lot of digging to do.  And I'll have to do something about your truck.  I don't know what I'll do about that, but it doesn't matter.  After all, I'll be leading the investigation.  Maybe I'll just leave it there with the door open, like someone came and took you away.  Nobody gives a flying fuck about what happens to you, anyway.  So, let's go.  You need to say a prayer or something, now'd be the time.  No?  Well, I didn't think so.

          Good-bye.

 

 

 

Brian Haycock is the author of Dharma Road, a book about Zen Buddhism and cabdriving. His short fiction has appeared in Yellow Mama, Thuglit, Amarillo Bay, Pulp Pusher, Swill, and other reputable publications.  He lives in Austin, Texas, where he enjoys running in the summer heat and reading stories of all kinds.  Visit his website, www.brianhaycock.com.

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