43 (rough draft)
Brigantine snuggled down into her black leather coat, Brigantine the forth owner, the wind of mid-November pushing the forty degree air across the bleachers. She didn’t want to go home, her brothers relentlessly mocking the dead Richard Bly and Casey Little. Such tragic and complex events only happened well across the country, not real, abstract, short videos replayed in the web browser.
She tried the library. The school day with its crowded rooms and low ceilings made her feel claustrophobic as it was, Brigantine experiencing bouts of chest pain and difficulty breathing. She liked the sky above and wind in her face, wrestling with the flapping pages of her chemistry book.
She felt lost, as if the universe were coming apart.
“I really understand your life for the first time, Apple.” Brigantine’s attention was called from her book, glancing the football field, the coach shouting at one of the players.
“Hey.” The voice came out of the sun, blocking Brigantine’s view.
Brigantine squinted up. “Hey.”
The backlighted body twisted. “You a fan?”
The reason Brigantine sat on the bleachers was much too complex, so she just shrugged.
“Asher.” He offered a hand. “Asher Norton. They call me Ash.”
Brigantine took the hand. “Brig.”
“Really? Like a jail?”
“A jail on a ship.”
“Yes, just like that.” Her sarcasm was lost.
He sat. “I’ve seen you around, now and then.”
Closing the book, Brigantine examined the face, not distinctive but certainly not offensive, soft, the boy approachable lacking the hard corners her brothers try so hard to put on. “You’ve seen me around?”
Asher leaned closer, as if to tell a secret. “You’re hitting that really hot blonde, aren’t you?”
“I didn’t know her name. Smoking.”
“We’re friends. I mean, well, we were friends.”
“You broke up?”
Brigantine wanted to correct Asher’s misconception. Again, the explanation was much too complex. “We had some disagreements.”
“Girls, huh, Brig.”
“How old are you?”
“I mean, well, I’ve seen you around and I’ve seen you with, who?”
“Abby. Who’s smoking hot, by the way. But, it’s not like I’m stalking you or anything.” He paused, biting his lip. “Let me say this: I like your looks. Is that too weird for you?”
Brigantine shrugged, almost blushing, smirking. “Why would I think that weird?” She held his soft brown eyes, eyes not much different from October’s eyes.
Coming close, shoulders touching, Asher smirked back. “Many people would find it weird that one guy would tell another he likes his looks.”
Brigantine laughed subtly. “Fine. I’ll be thirteen next month.”
“You’re big for your age.”
“They feed me well at home. I just started in Edgewood this year.” Standing, Brigantine said, “On your feet.”
Asher complied, the top of his head coming up to Brigantine’s eyes. “I’m short.”
“Doesn’t matter to me.”
“You’re way cooler than I even guessed you’d be.”
She narrowed her eyes, looking down on him, smirking again. “You’ve planned this for a while.”
He blushed. “I said I like your looks.”
“Were you going to ask me out?”
His blush deepened, his eyes moving on her face, then in all directions. “The school is not as progressive as you may think.”
“If we were to make our – eh, going out publicly, we could get in a mess of trouble.”
“Me being in seventh grade, you being in ninth?”
“Tenth. You’re funny.”
Brigantine glanced her watch. She liked Asher, so far. “What are you saying, Ash? Hi, nice to meet you. Let’s get a blow job under the bleachers?”
“Brig! No! That’s not what I mean at all.” He looked to his feet. “If I just wanted a blow job, there’s lots of guys around the neighborhood willing to provide. I’m looking for more than that.”
“I know the feeling.” Glancing beyond Asher toward the track below, Brig rolled her eyes.
“What’s with the rollie eyes?”
Asher glanced behind. “Circus act. Want to go down Ribs?”
“Sure, but give me a few minutes.”
Asher returned the rolled eyes. “Another girlfriend?”
“Brig,” came from below. “We need to talk.”
Brigantine nodded down on Asher. “This is going to take more than a couple of minutes.”
Asher hung like snow-laden pine branches.
“Friday. Maybe a movie.”
“Okay! I’ll see you tomorrow!” Asher agreed, hurrying away.
“New friend?” Amaretto asked, coming up the stadium steps, stopping three paces from Brigantine.
“Where’s your shadow?”
Amaretto narrowed her eyes at Brigantine’s tone, taking measure. “You’ve not answered your phone.”
Brigantine sat, her right foot coming to the back of the seat in front of her, Brigantine watching out over the football field. “Trying to sort shit out. We’ve lost October. You know that, right?”
“No, I don’t know that.”
“Then you’re stupid.”
Amaretto glanced over the football field, took a step closer to Brigantine, looking down.
“Ockie had a terrible experience.”
“What really happened in the bank?” Brigantine did not turn her head.
That’s too complicated to explain. “Bly went south and –”
“I’ve never liked you, Amaretto.” Now, Brigantine did turn her head, looking up, holding Amaretto’s eyes for an infinite four seconds, returning to look at but not see the play on the football field.
“I’ve only tolerated you because of October. You’re smug, thinking you’re superior to everyone else. Pulling invisible strings, manipulating everyone to get your way. For example, I had that thing in the woods, you know. I come through the door with this really cool story and you pounce all over it like it’s nothing. Sometimes, Stayman, sometimes you make me feel inadequate.”
“I’m not going to apologize for knowing shit and trying to make sense out of the world just so you can feel adequate.”
“Of course not, because it’s all about feeling superior. And, it’s bad enough you condone Abby hanging with the creepy Jesus freaks, but then you go and get her smoking pot.”
Brigantine looked up at Amaretto again. “Smoking fucking pot. You do know why her and Maynard don’t drink or do drugs, right?”
“I know their father was a drunk.”
“And, there you go. Pot. And, and, here you are in the fucking school parking lot selling drugs. To kids.”
“I’m a kid and I need to eat.”
“Any fucking excuse that gets you through the fucking day, Amaretto. Did you fuck every boy in the school yet? Do you keep a score card?”
“Maynard told me. Did you think he wouldn’t? Guys can’t keep their mouths shut.”
“Nard told you what?”
“That you busted your move.”
“Oh, did he now.”
“I bet that made you feel great about yourself, fucking a boy I was interested in.”
“For the record, that’s not true.”
“Right. Maynard is just going to make that up.”
“He was getting wacky before Abby joined the cult.”
“I can’t imagine why you would convince Candice to join the cult. I guess because you’re jealous of our closeness, like you said.”
“I can see you’re mad at the world, Brig. I think I’ll catch up to you when you’re not being such an asshole.”
“I’ve given this a lot of thought. I’m done with you. When you had your boyfriend kill Casey just so you could have October to yourself, you killed October, too.”
Amaretto hung like a rag doll. “Trying to tell you any different would be like trying to tell Abby there’s no god.”
Brigantine came to her feet, leaning down to Amaretto, a finger bouncing on Amaretto’s chest as she said, “You’re as creepy obsessed with October as Markus is. A blind guy driving by fast could see her love for Casey pissed you off. Bly was your little lap dog. If he had a tail, it would have been wagging. Personally, I think you out and out told him to do it. More likely, you simply implied it. Either way, you killed Casey and with him, October.”
Amaretto, tears leaking from her eyes, wrapped the fingers of her right hand around the finger bouncing on her chest, Amaretto looking up into Brigantine’s angry eyes. “I never fucking cry,” she muttered, then raised her voice. “I have loved you wholly and completely since the day we met. Nothing will ever change that for me.”
Brigantine tried to pull away, Amaretto held.
“However, in this moment I’m going to let you go. Not because I’m mad at you but because I love you.” I don’t want you in the twenty foot circle when all hell breaks loose.
“Fuck you, Amaretto,” Brigantine snarled, breaking free, turning away.
“I don’t expect you to understand, Brig. Trust me, some day you will.”
Amaretto stormed the office, head down, ignoring entreaties, pushing in the door displaying the placard RANDI SCONCE, plopping her Dark Hello Kitty backpack on the desk. “I’m back.”
Sconce scurried from her chair. “Apple. I see that. You look, eh, well.”
“I’ve avoided getting punched in the face this past month.” Amaretto unloaded her backpack, books, papers. “I’ve kept up with the schoolwork and done all the homework. If there’s a test or three or something, let’s get to it.”
“I’m not the one –”
“Oh, sure you are. Or do I have to blow Fishy.” She narrowed her eyes. “I’ve really not kept up on the gossip. Is Markus still here?”
Sconce fell to her chair, pushing the papers around. “Do you know Lindsay Fowler?”
“Sure, top cop in Edgewood.”
“Have you spoken to her?”
“No. Not since before the bank. Well, in the bank, but that was me just yelling at her.”
“That’s true then? You were in the bank?”
“Shut the door.”
Amaretto did, returning to stand before the desk.
Amaretto shook her head no.
“I don’t know whether to file a missing person report or not.”
“Mail gets picked up everyday. My guess is that Carol has October squirreled away in a private institution.”
“Ah. Why an institution?”
“Ockie was sick in love with Casey.”
“When I got to her, Ockie was trying to put Casey’s brain back in his skull, saying I can fix this over and over in the tone of a little kid attempting to put a wheel back on a toy car.”
Sconce blinked repeatedly.
“That’s why I’m guessing an institution.”
With closed eyes, Sconce shook the image aside. “Markus had an incident.”
“If it was in school, we have cameras everywhere.”
“This wasn’t in school.”
“You must mean that nonsense with the photo?”
“And the fake drugs.”
“Lindsay wants to talk to me about that?” She rolled her eyes. “If I were to do that, I’d have gotten Markus naked and taken a photo instead of crappy Photoshopping. If the planted drugs were fake, I’d say that’s a stupid joke and a waste of time. If the planted drugs were real, then I’d say we have a crooked cop covering Markus’ ass.
“You need to share all this with Detective Fowler.”
“I don’t think so. She could be the crooked cop. Her son, Brian, is the biggest pot dealer in the school.”
“Don’t play poker.”
“So, we’re good?” Amaretto packed her bag. “I can just return to class?”
“I’m not sure –”
“I’ll make nice with Fishy and Markus.”
“That would be a good idea.”
“If it’s not too much trouble, I’d like a copy of my school records.”
Sconce narrowed her eyes. “That would be too much trouble.”
“I figured as much. I was thinking it’s my record, after all.” Not a problem. I’ll get John to hack it for me.
Sconce took a deep breath. “How are things at home? I’m really not happy with – things.”
Amaretto sighed, looking much like the child she was. “I am no longer happy with the way things have been, too. I grew up in a whole different culture than most kids around me. I know that. The child is the father of man.”
“That means –”
“I know what it means.”
“Wordsworth. I’ve been reading some classics this past month. I’m really not gaga over poetry, but it’s growing on me. Mom and her crew disappeared into the woodwork like so many cockroaches. I’ve had the house to myself. Had a lot of time to think about things. Put life in perspective.”
“People hate me for some of the choices I’ve made, but what they don’t see, is I made the choices for them.”
“Can you be a bit more cryptic?”
“No. I’ll say this much. The abuse I’ve taken I’ve always levered to my advantage. I was victimized, but I was never a victim.
“From this chair, I don’t see a distinction.”
Amaretto shrugged. “I happen to like who I am. I look out the window and I don’t see many people who can say that. I walked through the fire and lived to tell about it.”
Sconce nodded slowly. “Here’s a promise: If you need anything, we’re here for you.”
“Plural, but you don’t mean the school system.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Then, I do need something. I’m looking to change my situation. To do that, I need a copy of my school record, the whole file.
Sconce shared her grimace of a smile. “See me at the end of the day. Not a word where you got it.”
“Not a word.”
“Mr. Fisher,” Amaretto said, leaning on the door jam. “Principal’s office.”
“Apple!” he called after her, catching up quickly. “What are you doing here?”
“I want to talk to you both at once.”
They entered Markus’ office, Markus coming to his feet behind his desk, backing away.
“Relax,” Amaretto assured him. “Last month, I’m actually sorry, but I did warn you.”
“Warn him, what?” Fisher asked.
With a shrug, Amaretto explained: “To leave October alone. He had her by the wrist, dragging her down the hall.”
Markus showed his palms. “It was all a misunderstanding.”
“You should get that on a tee shirt.” Amaretto rolled her eyes. “Anyway, all the problems I’ve had in school are solely because of your inappropriate attention to October. I do apologize for what you made me do.”
Markus grumbled, narrowing his eyes. “Do you have it on you now?”
“No. I figured you’ve learned your lesson.”
“It was all a misunderstanding.”
“One more thing: the photos and the drugs. I had nothing to do with that. If I wanted to frame you for a crime like that, you’d be in jail now. I’d never be that sloppy.”
“That, I believe,” Fisher said.
“Besides, I’m an on-hands girl.”
Markus rubbed his chest, Fisher’s hand going to his chin.
“So, we good?”
Markus and Fisher nodded.
“One more one more thing. We’re even now. I won’t ask for any more favors.”
Amaretto leaned across the desk to take Markus’ hand. The door clicked shut behind her. She spun, aggressively.
Fisher showed his palms. “You calm down, now.
“Off the record,” Markus said behind her.
“Sure thing.” Amaretto nodded. “Off the record.”
Fisher produced a chair, Markus beckoning Amaretto to sit.
Markus dropped to the chair behind his desk, Fisher joining him, over his shoulder. “We have, shall I say, some difficulties, in the school,” Markus announced.
“With the student body.”
Amaretto squinted. “You have difficulties with the student body?”
“Well, some behavioral difficulties.”
With a dismissive shrug, Amaretto rolled her eyes. “Tweens, teens, hormones, sure I understand.”
“We could use a strong willed student to, shall we say, talk to certain people, maybe help them see better behavior is in everyone’s best interest.”
“You want me to be some kind of enforcer?”
“I wouldn’t put it that way,” Fisher said.
“You seem to have a talent,” Markus explained.
“How would that work? I see a kid throw gum on the floor in the hallway, I hit him with my Taser and say, ‘not nice?’”
“No, no, no, Ms. Stayman. Nothing so mundane as that.” Fisher winked.
“We have a list.” Markus nodded.
“Oh, a list,” Amaretto offered mocking wide eyes, lost to their sales pitch. “What do I get out of it?”
“You get a forever get out of jail free card. You’ll be one of the good guys,” Markus told her. “What do you think?”
I think you guys are fucking nuts. “Let me think about it.” She stood. “So, we’re good?”
Amaretto was late for every class, each teacher wishing a short meeting to go over the schoolwork.
“Exhausting,” she told John McIntyre in the crowd in front of the school. “The month spoiled me with no social interaction.”
“You know what I mean, not-apple.”
“When’s the band getting back together?”
“I want to catch up to Abby. She wasn’t in class, see how she is. I’m betting she hates me, too.”
“Just means I get more Apple time.”
“Always looking at the bright side. I saw this coming. I saw it the day Ockie met Casey. I think about Ockie, sometimes, at night, and the thought of never seeing her again, and I can’t breathe. I think I’ll be okay, though.”
“Walk you home?”
“Yes, we need to have a conversation.”
Lindsay Fowler reclined in her red Chevy three houses up and across the street from Amaretto Stayman’s house. She puzzled at the lack of activity over the weeks, but for the one child coming and going. Squirreling around, she slipped her pistol off her belt. “That I didn’t miss,” she said to the steering wheel, coming off a three-week suspension.
Fowler was finally cleared in the shooting when Special Agent Cooper Applewhite swooped in out of nowhere, taking over the inquiry. Before that, Lieutenant Daryl Kay hammered away.
“What people were beyond the subject in your line of fire?” he asked.
“I really don’t recall, if anyone.”
Kay consulted his notes. “Would it surprise you if I told you three people were in your line of fire?”
“Yes, it would. Behind the kid? I really don’t think so.”
“I thought you didn’t remember.”
“I repeat: everything jumped off so quick, I didn’t have time to think, check the environment or check line of fire. The kid –”
“Richard Bly. You gunned him down. Might as well call him by name.”
Fowler swallowed hard. “Richard Bly pulled a gun –”
“Other witnesses say he had the gun in his hand when he entered the bank.”
“I would not know if he had the gun in his hand when he entered the bank. I came in after him.”
Kay made a note. “How long?”
“How long, what?”
“I have no way of knowing.” She rolled her eyes. “Okay, I entered the bank.”
“Did you know the silent alarm had been activated?”
“No, I did not. I’m not sure it was.”
“It was. So, you’re saying that you did not know there was a robbery in progress.”
“Yes, I did not know there was a robbery in progress.”
“Just when and how did you become aware that there was a robbery in progress?”
“I don’t believe there was.”
Kay wrinkled his brow, examining his notes. “Think again.”
Fowler leaned on the Spartan table, holding Kay’s eyes. “The tellers have the money.”
“In the bank, the tellers have the money. Richard Bly was no where near the tellers.”
“He was there to rob that bank.”
“I really don’t think so.”
Kay matched Fowler’s lean on the table. “Think. Again.”
Fowler bit her lip, watching the other’s dark eyes. “We’re going to be stuck here until I think again, aren’t we?”
She closed her eyes. “I entered the bank as Richard Bly was in the process of robbing it. I guess he recognized me –”
“I’d recently given an assembly on safety at Edgewood Junior Senior Regional High School.”
“Did you identify yourself as a police officer?”
“He produced a gun, or rather I became aware of the gun he must have had in his hand and grabbed a child.”
Kay nodded. “Describe this child.”
Painfully beautiful. “About five-four, medium brown hair down her back. Weight about 80, maybe 90lbs, light complexion.”
Kay pulled on his chin. “We have a problem with that.”
“There was no such child there. Not on my list of people in the bank that we made immediately.”
Fowler shrugged. “No problem. Check the video.”
“There was a glitch.”
“What kind of glitch?”
“Some of the video was corrupted.”
“What do you mean: corrupted? I remember you looking at it on-site.”
“You do not remember correctly.”
“I’m sure I do.”
Kay flipped back in his notes. “I asked if there was anyone in your line of fire. You said you did not recall. Now, you’re going to tell me that you don’t recall that, but you think I watched video on-site?”
Fowler sucked air. “Richard Bly revealed his gun and shot Casey Little in the head, twice.”
“I produced my pistol.”
“Did you identify yourself as a police officer at that time?”
“No. Even before Little hit the floor, I shot Robert Bly, not wanting to give him a chance to shoot anyone else.”
“You did, in fact, shoot him five times.”
“Yes, I did.”
“Why did you shoot him five times.”
“That’s all I had in the revolver.”
“You don’t think shooting him once would have done the job?”
“He’s a big boy, barely recoiling when the first bullet hit him. He’d just put his gun on the side of another boy’s head and pulled the trigger. You’re damn straight I didn’t think one bullet was going to put him down.”
“Put him down?”
“I didn’t mean it that way.”
“Did you shoot with the intention of killing this child?”
“I wanted to protect the bystanders. That was my intention.”
Kay narrowed his eyes at the notes, tapping his pen on the table. “That’s problematic.”
“That you shot him five times. After the second shot, what were you thinking?”
“I’m not sure that matters.”
Fowler sat back in the chair, closing her eyes. “I fired. He jerked back, still on his feet, still holding the gun. I fired again, the same result. Walking forward, I fired three more times, Richard Bly finally falling backwards.”
“What if you had more bullets in the gun?”
She smirked. “Then, when I kicked his gun away and held my gun on him, it wouldn’t have been an empty gesture.”
“I’ll be keeping your badge and your gun. Consider yourself on suspension, pending my investigation and final determination. You’re to go nowhere near your stationhouse until I reach a determination.”
“Really,” Fowler said to the steering wheel. “Why was it so important I shot Bly five times.” Fowler was not happy to learn of Bly’s death a few days later. “First shooting, first death. Way to break my cherry.”