36 (rough draft)
Early in the week, Detective Lindsay Fowler squinted at her notes. “You’re sure the Ferguson child had nothing to do with it?”
“Certain,” Officer Kyle Penrose answered.
“You have no notes on the interview?”
Uncomfortable, Penrose said, “Caroline has a red flag for these insurance claims. Going out to the Ferguson house was a waste of my time and the department’s gas. You know it and I know it.”
“Besides, the kid has no record.”
October changed Casey’s life. Casey sat in the darkness, alone, Friday night, like so many Friday nights of his life. The difference was he sat alone for October. His back supported by a concrete foundation, he watched out between two boxwoods. Just around 10pm, the bedroom light across the street flicked out.
Casey waited an hour.
Casually, avoiding the streetlight, Casey crossed over, along the driveway and into the backyard, crouching, waiting, listening. Fifteen minutes leaked by. He donned plastic gloves, noted the exact location of the patio chair, then relocated the chair under the dining room window. He placed a bandana from his pocket onto the chair, climbed up, popped the screen and slowly, quietly opened the window.
Awkwardly, he entered, making little noise, the hundreds of practice climbing-in-windows he did over the week at home paid off. Again, he crouched, this time counting off ten minutes. Retrieving a Batman pillowcase from his backpack, he draped it over the computer screen, bringing the computer to life.
Carefully, slowly opening the top left drawer of the desk, Casey placed one bag of cocaine bags toward the middle of the drawer, hiding the other two bags in the back of the lower left drawer.
Working the keys softly, he dimmed the computer screen, removed the pillowcase and opened the email, typing in October’s address, plugging in a thumb drive, dragging and dropping an image from the thumb. He typed You know you want some of this, hitting SEND.
Closing the email, he replaced the pillowcase, reset the brightness and shut the computer down. Satisfied all was as it was, he left the way he came, closing the window, replacing the screen and putting the patio chair back where he found it.
Nestled back between the boxwoods, he put his throwaway phone to his ear. “Hey, Banner. Working Friday night, I see. Really gotta fucking suck to be you.”
“Who is this?”
“Casey Little. I’ve got that big bust for you. Edgewood principal. He’s got a bag of serious drugs in the top left drawer of his desk. Enough drugs to get the senior class through midterms.”
“Just how do you know this?”
“Maybe Markus likes to get me high and blow me.”
“These are serious allegations.”
“Call it an anonymous source and bust his fat ass.” Casey broke the connection and waited. He did not have to wait long.
Detective Robert Banner pulled to a stop across the street in his blue Chevy Malibu, quickly exiting the car, hurrying up the walk, banging on the door. Paul Markus opened the door wearing an oversized tee shirt. Markus and Banner had an exchange Casey could not hear.
Banner pushed by Markus, soon to exit the house with his right hang tucked in his coat.
“There’s a fucking surprise,” Casey said to the boxwoods, climbing from his hiding place, hidden in his hood, casually walking away.
Amaretto came to awareness with the stink of vomit in her nose and rancid taste of acid in her month. She vomited again into the pool of vomit, choking, pushing herself up, her hair soaked, dripping. She dry-heaved several times.
“Fuck,” she moaned, wiping muck from her eyes. “Where the fuck am I?” The sun blistered through the window. “Fuck.” The room was unfamiliar, the open door to the nearby bathroom called to her. Working over the side of the bed, she pushed to her feet, staggering, falling to the carpeted floor, arching, dry heaving again.
Crawling into the bathroom, the shower curtains ripped off its rings when Amaretto tried to pull herself up, climbing up the wall instead, twisting the knobs for the water full on, falling in the tub, laying on her back, watching the water rain down on her. She rubbed between her legs, looked carefully at her hand, then put her tongue to her fingers. “Fuck,” she moaned again.
Life oozed back into her limbs and she managed to scrub her body and wash her hair, twice. She assumed she was in a man’s apartment, given the Spartan nature.
Still on unsteady legs, she returned to the bedroom toweling off. Her clothes were carelessly thrown over a chair, her bag next to the chair on the floor. Sitting on her clothes, she pulled the bag on her lap, fishing for her pot. A joint later, she felt almost human, dressing in the clothes from the day before.
“Saturday? Today’s Saturday?” She confirmed, checking her phone. “Friday. I met Kyle at Ribs. I’m supposed to meet Bly. I have a date tonight, John wants that ounce.” She closed her eyes.
“Where the fuck am I?”
She found her way to the living room in the cramped apartment, a note on the small desk addressed to her.
“Right, had to go to work. Right, I should clean the place up a little. Right, I can make dinner for you.”
Removing the top sheet from the pad, she found a pen. Dear Kyle. Please, leave me alone, she wrote. “Mother fucker could have killed me instead of just humping my comatose body.”
With makeup quickly applied, she entered the common hall, pulling the door shut, thinking she should lock it. “Fuck that,” she moaned in passive aggressive defiance.
“Why, hello,” a friendly voice invaded from nowhere, becoming a man in his early thirties.
“What the fuck,” she answered.
“Oh, feisty and cute. I like that. Didn’t your mother teach you to be polite? I’m Rupert. You a friend of Kyle’s?” He nodded to the door.
“Sorry, Rupert. I’m in kind of a hurry.” She swung her bag from her shoulder. “How about I give you my phone number? Would you like that?”
Rupert Whitman stepped close in, looming, grinning. “God, you’re hot, so young, and you still know it.”
Amaretto dug in her bag, produced her Hello Kitty Taser, applying the instrument to Rupert’s chest, pushing him back, down, following him to the floor, kneeling, applying a second joint. “ Hello Kitty, Creeper,” she sneered.
Tackling the four flights down, Amaretto went out into the bright daylight, holding her arm up to block the sun, squinting.
“Apple! Apple! I was worried.”
“What the fuck, Richard. You been sitting out here all night?”
“Yeah! I didn’t know the apartment or I’d have come looking for you.”
“Thanks, I think.”
“We going to the park? We going to the park?”
“Yes, Richard, we’re going to the park, after I make a stop,” she said, pushing her dark Hello Kitty bag at him, too dizzy, too tired and too sick to think.
Casey knocked, then entered, finding the kitchen. “Carol,” he said with a nod, kissing October. “Nice day today, but I don’t know how long this nice weather is going to last.” He poured coffee.
“I don’t know, Ockie,” Carol said, as if repeating herself. “Casey, good morning.”
With a bent wrist, October presented her phone.
Taking the phone, Casey squinted. “I bet he was in the pool.”
“Nothing. Does Markus send you stuff like this all the time?”
“I don’t even know how he got my email.”
“Age of Google, Ockie.”
She took the phone back. “With the head cut off, I can’t be sure it’s him.”
Casey shrugged. “Looks like his office, thought I can’t imagine him standing naked in his office taking a selfie. Wait a minute, I can imagine that freak doing just that.”
“It’s not a selfie.”
“You little pervert. You’ve been looking at that picture way too much.”
“I’m just saying.”
“I wanted to call the police,” Carol said.
Casey shrugged. “I’ll shoot it along with the metadata, make a poster size print with my Photoshop, post them up around school.”
“I agree with Mom. He’s exceeded my creep-o-meter. Learing at me, drooling is one thing.”
“Yeah, right, Case, almost flattering.” She waved the phone. “This is way over the edge. I can’t believe he’d be this stupid.”
Again, Casey shrugged. “Call the cops, then. I still like the poster idea. Can’t we do both?”
“I want to talk to Apple first. She’s got someone on the inside, so it won’t be a cold call.” October narrowed her eyes at the image again. “Besides, I think Apple could use the laugh. What a freak.”
Amaretto squeezed on the only stool open at the eight-stool counter, having sent Richard Bly to the back. “Go look at the comics for awhile,” she said.
“You don’t look well,” Mrs. Hunter greeted with legitimate concern.
“Didn’t sleep well. Can you dig up some chicken soup and a buttered roll for me? Thanks. And, I have a list.”
“Oh, a list, is it.”
“And, a question.”
“Let’s get something in your stomach first.”
“That’s not much of a breakfast,” the man on her right elbow said.
She nodded to his coffee and donut. “The irony is not lost.”
The man to her left snickered.
“Gentlemen,” Mrs. Hunter said, placing soup in front of Amaretto. “You will not be picking on my Apple.”
“I was just saying –”
“Mr. Carpenter,” she snapped in the tone of a seasoned grandmother, “if you wish to give dietary advice to children, save it for your own children. Apple is an independent spirit.” She placed the roll. “If she wishes soup and roll for breakfast, that’s what she gets.”
“I certainly did not mean it that way, Mrs. Hunter.”
Amaretto shrugged. “It’s cool. Mr. Carpenter has no idea what kind of night I had. I’m sure he means well. Maybe if he weren’t estranged from his own daughter, he wouldn’t be compelled to give advice to strangers.”
Again, a shrug. “Now it’s my turn to just be saying, you know. Saturday morning, here you sit, obviously estranged. It’s not like I have any way of knowing who your actually are, Mr. Carpenter.”
“Apple,” Mrs. Hunter snapped. “Shut up, now.”
Amaretto nodded. “Eating soup, Mrs. Hunter. Eating soup.” She could feel Carpenter’s stare boring in her ear. “You may stop staring at me now. If you must, take a picture with your phone and stare at that.”
Carpenter returned to his coffee.
With her bowl empty, and Amaretto feeling a little better, she leaned toward Carpenter and whispered, “Is it problematic that I know who you are?”
“It can be.”
“How about I tell you I have Ockie’s back.”
“I do find comfort in that. However, I find concern in the drugs.”
“You mean that I got strung out last night?”
“I repeat: You have no idea what kind of night I had. I was drugged and raped.”
“I expected a different reaction.”
“You have no idea what kind of life I’ve had.”
“Well played, Mr. Carpenter. Well played.”
He climbed from the stool, placing his hat on his head, nodding. “It’s been nice to meet you, Amaretto.”
She nodded back, not turning. “Nice being met.” Amaretto had one of her many questions answered. He called her Amaretto, not Apple. He knew who she was before she sat down. She recalled him from in front of the school. “Sloppy, Mr. Carpenter,” she said to herself. “I expected better, but then I’m just a kid and easily underestimated.”
“How about him?” Mrs. Hunter asked, nodding over Amaretto.
“Richard,” Amaretto called. “Would you like anything?”
“I’m kind of hungry!”
“Come, child,” Mrs. Hunter said, then glanced toward the door. “Watch him. He can be dangerous.”
“Mr. Hunter will see you in the back,” Mrs. Hunter told Amaretto.
“Give Richard –”
“I’ll take good care of Richard.”
The door opened hard, letting Amaretto in the back. Mr. Hunter took her by the elbow, leaning close. “What did you tell that man?”
She shrugged free. “About, what, huh? We just had a casual conversation about nothing.”
Mr. Hunter bit his lip.
“Mrs. Hunter already told me. What do you know about him?”
“Forget you ever saw him. He’s like a ghost.”
“Okay. He grew up in town, huh? You’ve known him since he was a kid,” she guessed.
“Forget you met him,” he answered, but she could tell by the body language she was right.
“Need a couple of ounces, three.”
“Okay, not a problem.”
“If I wanted it, how quick could I get five pounds?”
He whistled. “I’ll have to work out a price for you.”
“Least of my concern.”
“You can move that much?”
“I’m going after the main dealer.”
“Brian Fowler. You plan on flooding the market, driving him out?”
“That, Mr. Hunter, would be stupid. I want to be his supplier. I plan on making him an offer he can’t refuse.”
Mr. Hunter snickered. “You really have no idea what you’re getting yourself into. Do you really need to make that much money?”
“It’s not about the money. It’s personal.”
“When you make things personal, you only get yourself in trouble.”
“I tried the Facebook games, not amusing. I have to do something for entertainment.”
“His mother is the lead detective in Edgewood.”
“I met her, not all that impressed. I’ve already guessed that Rat can’t operate like he does without everyone looking the other way, maybe even Markus and Fisher, the principal and vice.”
“I’m not sure –”
“They cover for each other. Fisher is the moron that smashed my nose. They circled the wagons before my blood hit the floor.”
Mr. Hunter smiled sardonically. “You’re going after them all.”
“And, Mrs. Hunter told me Mr. Carpenter is dangerous.”
“Your biggest obstacle is going to be Fowler’s supplier. He pushed me out four years ago.”
“I really don’t plan on leaving a single blade of grass in Edgewood uncharred.”
“I was going to ask about your arms.”
“It’s a related matter.”
“When Fowler’s supplier gets wind of your move, he’s going to be coming for you.”
“I count on it. When Fowler’s whore punched me in the face, I was young and innocent, never saw it coming. Now, it’s their turn. Who am I looking for? Maybe I’ll pay him a visit.”
With a chuckle, Mr. Hunter said, “I’m really not sure. He’s careful, well insolated. They call him Uncle Jack.”
“Why am I not surprised?”
“You know him?”
“Better than I wish to.”
Just after noon, Amaretto sat cross legged under her willow toward the back of the park, Richard Bly behind her ten feet, rolling joints. “Sorry,” she said into her phone.
“I wish you’d stop doing that,” October answered. “I really need to know I can get you on the phone.”
“Someone else get gang raped?”
“Tough night. I was drugged and raped.”
October laughed. “I got an email from Principal Markus. I need your advice.”
“Well, you’re already dating Casey, and unless you’re willing to break up with him, I suggest you don’t date Markus.”
“You’re a laugh a minute. He sent me his naked picture.”
“Forward it.” Amaretto squinted at her phone. “I have to see this on my pad. I’ll call you back.”
Richard handed her Ipad from her bag without being asked.
“Just how did you know where I was?” she asked, turning the Ipad on.
“I was watching, on the bench.”
“You were watching Kyle and me in Ribs?”
“You didn’t look good when you left.”
“Did he carry me out?”
“Almost. I ran across the street, to see if you were okay. He badged me.”
Amaretto narrowed her eyes at the image now on her Ipad. “Then, what?”
“He said to back off or I’d get arrested. I asked to see his ID again.” He handed a crumbled phone book page forward.
“Apt is the abbreviation for apartment, Richard,” she said.
“I did not know that. I would have knocked on the door. Is that pornography?” he asked.
“Back to the joints, Richard. No. A photo Markus sent October.”
“Do you like photos like that, too? I could send you some.”
“No, Richard, and Ockie didn’t like getting this one.”
“I like to look and I like to watch.”
Kids came in clumps, waiting patiently, receiving AppleBright and wisdom from Amaretto. She felt good, lost in the acceptance and the routine, Richard over her shoulder, Amaretto almost to the point where she didn’t dislike him.
Toward late afternoon, someone said cop, Richard quickly stowing everything in Amaretto’s bag. Officer Kyle Penrose, in plain clothes, stormed the hill as if angry.
“Apple,” he said, irritated.
She rose to meet him, looking up. “I thought my note was pretty clear.”
“You left my apartment a mess.”
“You left me a fucking mess.”
“Oh, come on, Apple. Everyone knows what you’re all about.”
“Kyle, I asked you nicely to leave me alone. I won’t ask again.”
“Or what?” he sneered, going nose to nose.
“Richard,” she said evenly into Kyle’s face.
“My bag.” She reached out, taking the bag. “Now, Richard, beat the shit out of Kyle, if you would.”
Richard was on Kyle without hesitation, roundhouse after roundhouse, Kyle going to the ground, Richard on top pounding away until his arms got tired, Amaretto, dark Hello Kitty over her shoulder, casually walking off.
Amaretto entered without knocking, Casey and October scrambling on the sofa.
With rolled eyes, Amaretto said, “Get a room, kids.”
“Mom doesn’t want us hanging in my room when she’s not home.”
“Carol has good reason.” She waved the Ipad. “Did Carol see this?”
Amaretto looked at Casey. “You know what condoms are for, and how to use them?”
“Apple!” October said.
“I won’t have you knocked up at thirteen, I don’t give a fuck how in love you think you are.”
“Aren’t we in a mood today.”
With another wave of the Ipad, Amaretto looked at Casey. “How did you do it?”
“Obvious to the casual observer, this isn’t Markus’ body and this certainly isn’t his office. How did you do it?”
“I don’t think it matters if it’s his body or not. The fact remains he’s sent pornography to a minor.”
“The minor you’re trying hard to fuck?” She rolled her eyes again. “How did you do it? I don’t mean the Photoshopping. Anyone can do that. It’s a shitty job, but maybe it’s meant to be.” She narrowed her eyes at Casey. “It’s obvious it’s not Markus, yet the metadata says it’s from him.”
“You mentioned the metadata,” October said. “What’s going on?”
“Here’s the point,” Casey said. “Markus is an asshole with a crush on October. Him sending that to October is going to get him fired, at least. Isn’t that what you want?”
“Fuck, Casey. So, you make up some shit, and plant a photo and somehow make it seem like Markus sent it to Ockie and you think that makes you some kind of fucking hero? When it all comes apart, and shit like this always comes apart, it’ll blow back on October.”
“Nothing seems like anything. That was sent from Markus’ home computer.”
“You broke into his fucking house?”
“The window was open.”
“Casey!” October said.
“The only people that know I did it are in this room. Nothing is going to what? Blow back on October. I’m just taking the trash out that should have been removed a long time ago.”
Amaretto waved the Ipad. “It’s not his picture. He’s going to fucking dodge this because they stick up for each other.”
“No, he won’t dodge it. Trust me.”
Amaretto held her hand forward. “Give me the phone. I’ll take it to Fowler without a complaining witness and see what she thinks.” Again, she rolled her eyes. “I have a fucking date tonight with a guy who might not be a fucking asshole, but fuck, I’ll go see Fowler.”
“Another drug and rape?” October asked.
Amaretto shook her head. “I was not joking, Ockie.”
“Well, it’s not like you never had sex before,” Casey offered casually.
“Welcome to my shit list, asshole.”
October stood between her two friends, taking Amaretto’s face, going forehead-to-forehead. “Sorry, I thought it was an Apple joke. Are you okay?”
“Sure, I’m fine. I got to get Richard to kick the shit out of the asshole, almost incidentally.”
“This is the cop?”
“How you going to keep Richard from being arrested?”
October closed her eyes, sighing. “You think we should ignore this photo.”
“Will you take it to Detective Fowler? For me?”
“I will. For you.”
“Who’s this new guy?”
“Older kid. John McIntyre.”
“A wannabe bully,” Casey offered.
“You’re still on my shit list, asshole,” Amaretto said. “A repented wannabe bully. Seems nice. I haven’t met many nice male of the species. I’ll give him a date. If he doesn’t drug and rape me, a second date.”
“I didn’t mean it that way,” Casey said.
“I know, Case,” Amaretto said, watching October’s eyes. “I know.”