Monday, March 14, 2016

Blood and Red Tape

The man on the floor looks to be around 150 pounds, which means his body contained about five liters of blood. It seems like most of it has already leaked out onto the rotting linoleum of the old Half Time Deli on Route 431. The floor is slick with the stuff, and since I’m not nine feet tall, I can’t avoid stepping in it. I’m glad I traded my skirt and heels for jeans and boots before I headed out here.

The place was a shithole even before the health department shut it down years ago, but I always found it charming in the same way that I see a weird, busted-neon romance in boarded-up motor courts and abandoned drive-ins. I never really like a place until people decide it’s all used up. My therapist would probably dampen his boxers over that, if he could stop staring at my boobs long enough to hear a word I say. Did you know a judge can order you to see a shrink when you shoot somebody, even if said somebody deserved to be shot? Blood and red tape: the only constants in my life.

Anyway, the guy at my feet is terminally dead and since the Half Time looks like a goddamn slaughterhouse, I have a pretty good idea who killed him. Johnny O. is getting sloppy. He’s always been enthusiastic about his work, but until now I’ve never had reason to doubt his professionalism. I’ve been here thirty seconds, though, and I already see half a dozen mistakes. He left one of his size-twelve shoeprints in the blood, for God’s sake.

I shrug off my jacket and toss it onto a vinyl booth that’s bleeding a dingy gray fluff from both sides of a duct-tape patch job. Normally it would take a three-crew to clean up a site like this, but I’ve been doing this since I was sixteen – long story – and I’m the best there is. My boss should give thanks to the patron saint of homicidal crime lords that I got here before the cops found this mess.

Speaking of my boss, I need to figure out whether to tell him that Johnny is becoming a problem. That’s not a decision I’ll make lightly. When you work for Hadley Grayson, you don’t get a pink slip when you fuck up; you wake up at 3 a.m. with your house on fire and all the exits sealed shut. Grayson’s not my only boss – who the fuck has one job these days? – but he’s the one who matters.

Don’t get me wrong, Johnny O. is an animal – I once saw him pop out a man’s eyeball with a spoon as casually as if he’d been fishing the last olive out of the jar. But he’s also a devoted father of four who’s never missed a dance recital or a tee-ball game. People are complicated.

I should probably talk to Johnny’s wife, see if she knows what’s turning her husband into a one-man slasher movie. Unfortunately, I hate her. She’s the kind of woman who cheers when her Zumba class plays a Kanye song and then shits her Jimmy Choos if a black kid walks toward her Lexus at a stoplight. Wait, are Jimmy Choos jeans or shoes? Fuck if I know. I shoplifted my nicest outfit from J.C. Penney.

I walk out to my car to get my gear – bleach, sponges, pliers, a black light, a reciprocating saw, garbage bags – and that’s when I see the police cruiser rolling down 431 in my direction.

I pray it’ll keep going, but of course it doesn’t. The driver steers a slow arc into the Half Time’s weed-shot parking lot and rolls to a stop. Two uniforms inside: one I’ve never seen before, and one whose doughy face I recognize but whose name I can’t recall.

As they get out of the car, I say a silent prayer that none of Johnny O.’s mistakes will get me killed tonight.

I reach into my pocket. The uniforms tense up, and for a split second I’m afraid one of these macho assholes might shoot me.

I hold up my badge so they’ll know I’m a cop.