Dennis was all right with freezing weather. He also did not mind having to be working in the middle of the night. It was the combination of the two that bothered him. At that hour there was no getting a good cup of hot coffee, even in Quadesport. The freezing slush on the sidewalk mercifully had not soaked through his shoes yet as having cold, wet socks would be the final barb that would drive him over the edge and possibly lead to him assaulting one of the colleagues.
Then again they were in the same boat he was in. All of them were standing in an alleyway shivering and wondering why a known gangbanger was lying face down in slush that was dyed red around him. Officers responded to a call from residents in the apartment building adjacent to the alley reporting shots fired and someone screaming. The forensics officer was already hard at work and Dennis was not sure why he had been called in on the case. He and his partner Sharon, who was no doubt curled up in a nice warm bed, usually caught special cases. Special in this case meant the type of cases no one else would want to deal with for the sake of their sanity. Dennis would not have even gotten the call if not for the fact that he happened to have been in the neighborhood when the request for SCU assistance went out.
The officers at the scene told him that the man who called the police had witnessed part of what happened. Dennis was happy to hear it, not only since it would help the case, but also the apartment building had to be more pleasant than being outside in that weather. Another officer was already talking to witness when he got to the apartment. The witness was a trim man in his mid-twenties who looked like he really needed some sleep.
“Detective Dennis Yi.” He said as an introduction as he showed the man his ID. “I understand you saw something, Mister…”
“Constance. Kevin Constance.” Kevin and Dennis shook hands briefly. “Yeah. Am I going to have to go to the station tonight?” Kevin looked like he dreaded the thought and the fatigue on his face made it obvious as to why.
“Hopefully not.” Dennis said with a smile to try to comfort the man. “I know you went over everything already.” The officer gave a nod and held up his notebook. Dennis gave him a nod back. Even in the middle of the night everyone was on the ball. “Would you mind going over things one more time for me and then we’ll leave you alone to get some rest.”
“Sure thing.” Kevin answered followed by a small sigh that came out more like a yawn. “I was adjusting my window when I heard yelling from the alley.”
“Adjusting your window?’
“Yeah, this building is pretty old and my bedroom window sometimes slips a little and lets in a draft.”
“I see. Please go on.”
“Well, I hear a guy screaming ‘you’re dead, you’re dead’ and that’s when I heard the gunshots. I looked out the window real quick and saw the guy in the alley struggling with another guy.”
“What did the other guy look like?’
“I didn’t get much of a look, because once I saw what was going on I went for my phone to call 911. It looked like a thin guy with long black hair. I looked again after I had grabbed my cell phone, but by the time I had gotten it and got back to the window the guy was just lying in the alley and the other guy was gone.”
“Any idea which of them was threatening the other?”
“What do you mean?”
“The person screaming ‘you’re dead, you’re dead’.”
“Oh. That was the weird part.”
“Whoever was yelling that didn’t sound like he was threatening anyone. He sounded scared to death.”
Javier came to in a bathtub. He was lying on his side and the first thing he was aware of was the smell of vomit and feces. He was sore all over and his body complained as he moved to right himself. He realized that the vomit and feces were his own. He started to pull himself up and out of the tub. He recognized the bathroom. It was Pilar’s, and much cleaner than the last time he had been there.
He peeked over the edge of the tub he saw a black garbage with a note on it.
“Don’t you dare come out of there until you put your filthy clothes in the bag and bathe yourself.”
He stripped down and tossed everything into the bag except his wallet, which luckily was not damaged from him soiling himself. He knotted off the top of the bag and turned on the shower. The hot water pounded him back into something resembling human. Washing himself was a chore. He still had a lot of trouble moving, but he managed to get himself cleaned up. He could not remember the last time he had a good shower and felt that clean. He emerged soon and dried off. He wrapped a towel around himself and peeked out of the bathroom.
The apartment had been completely redone since he had lived there. The furniture was new and everything was neat and orderly. The wall-mounted flat screen television was on the morning news show. It hardly seemed like the same place. Pilar was in the kitchen, already dressed and sipping a cup of coffee. She immediately saw him and glared at him.
“There’s some of your old clothes next to door.” She said coldly and went back to sipping her coffee. Javier looked down and there was some clothes folded neatly on a table.
“Th-thanks.” He stammered and quickly grabbed the clothes. After dressing himself, he emerged and walked slowly to the kitchen. Pilar continued staring icily at him. Javier sheepishly returned her look. “Thanks for…”
“Save it. You’re not staying.”
“I understand. I’ll get my stuff out of there and go.” His stomach growled audibly.
“Jesus. When was the last time you ate something, Javier?” She pulled a bagel out of a bag on the counter and tossed it to him. He caught it, which seemed to surprise them both.
“I don’t remember. My head’s… really fuzzy, right now.” I began quickly devouring the bagel.
“That’s nothing new.” She jabbed at him, but something was new. She saw something in Javier that was different. It was his eyes. There was something there again. “You’re still using.”
“I am. I was. Something happened last night. I can’t really remember.”
“I don’t want it or you around me anymore.”
“I know.” He said after finishing the bagel. “I know that. I’ll get my things and get out. Thanks Pilar.” She tossed him another bagel, which he also caught, before going to the bathroom and retrieving the trash bag with his soiled clothes. He was moving a lot easier now. There was still a weight on him as he walked but it was something different than what Pilar remembered. Before, the chemicals and poisons that he filled himself with to escape his existence chained him. Now there was something different upon him with every step.
The cell phone rang in the middle of him pounding away on a heavy bag. Even after pounding away for several minutes his breathing was still even. He took a break from the bag to answer, but was eager to get back to work.
“Get to a safehouse, Wade. Something’s up.”
About the artist: This month's artwork is courtesy of the very talented Amy Lou Kirner.