Okay, this story devolves from ongoing work on Out of the Blue, the Dallas cop novel-in-progress. You recall ‘The Duke’ – from Predators? Well, here’s a little backstory and yes, he figures in the arc of the novel’s main storyline, too.
I’m subsisting on Percocet and coffee these days, and hopefully this isn’t too incoherent, so dig out your old CDs and find Suddenly Last Summer by The Motels, put your feet up and have a read. This is a short piece, so it shouldn’t take long, but it get’s kind of gritty. Well, really gritty, so no popcorn with this one. Oh, the action starts in October, 1982, just so you know…and as usual this is fiction, but you could consider it more like experience dressed up to look like glossy bullshit and not be too far off the mark. As such, this is part of a nightmare landscape, one of many that just won’t go away.
Cottage Cheese and Green Onions
Maybe it would go through after all, he thought. This was the biggest deal he’d had on his desk in years, something that would put him back in the game – big time – and he’d known going in his presentation had to be flawless. It was, too. He was sure he’d nailed it, and he was ecstatic about the way the morning’s talks had gone. One of the company’s senior partners, Linda Markowski, had been there and she’d seemed pleased by the whole morning as well, so the signs were good.
They’d gone to lunch after, just he and Markowski and a couple of the principals involved, and she’d made noises about promotions if the deal was signed, sealed and delivered – and he felt like he had in the late-70s. Invincible. One of Wolfe’s Masters of the Universe. They finished two bottles of Champagne and he’d felt it, too. She was coming on to him…no doubt about it. Problem with that was simple enough, however.
It wasn’t just that she worked at the same place; no, he’d screwed half the women in the office over the years, so that wasn’t the problem. No, Markowski was Fugly – as in fucking ugly – and from behind her ass was about as wide as a Volkswagen Beetle’s. And roughly the same shape, too, he thought. Round and low. Fugly…with ankles as fat as her thighs. She was brilliant, however, so he’d considered screwing her before. Now, with her nearing fifty, sex was out of the question. No way, if only because it was still considered bad form to throw up on your boss’s tits.
So, when a high heel brushed his ankle he – successfully – tried not to jump, then he slowly, not at all obviously, moved away, not letting his part of the conversation break stride. She picked up the check – on her corporate card, of course, then they rode down in the elevator together.
“I’ll see you Monday,” he said as they split in the parking garage; he didn’t wait for a possible invitation and walked through the garage to his car – an old BMW CSi that had seen better days. He got in the queue to pay for his time, then turned right out of the lot onto Elm, made an immediate right on Field and was approaching the light at Ross when he saw her. Maybe homeless, maybe just a hooker, she was dressed like a vagabond but even from a distance he could tell she was a looker.
As he approached she held up a small cardboard sign that read ‘will fuck – for food,’ and he damn near skidded to a stop by the side of the road where she was standing. He rolled down the window and looked at her as she walked up to the side of his car.
“So,” he began, “you hungry?”
She looked at him, pretended to smile a little. “Yeah. Feel like some company?”
“Yeah, ya know, some company might be good right about now. Know someplace we can go?”
“No, not really. Aren’t there a bunch of hotels out on Hines?”
“Yup. You a cop?”
“Not likely,” he said as he unlocked her door. She picked up her book-bag and opened the door, stepped inside, and he was surprised if only because she didn’t stink. He’d half expected filth as she looked, from a distance, like a vagrant. But no, she smelled of perfume, and not cheap perfume, either. He looked at her as she buckled up, noticed her jeans were clean, her halter top was too, and her sneakers were almost brand new. Kind of like a cop, in other words, and he suddenly grew cautious.
“You know someplace?” she asked quietly, now almost like she was shy, maybe even a little confused – and he relaxed again. If she was a cop she’d have a place in mind, someplace already bugged, probably with vice waiting in a room next door.
“No, not really. I don’t do this kinda thing very often, if you know what I mean. What’s with the sign?”
“Good way to get you stop, wasn’t it?”
He smiled, tried not to laugh. “Yeah. I guess so.”
“Why don’t you just head up Harry Hines. There’s got to be some places out there.”
“So, you don’t do this often?”
“Nope. First time for me. You married?”
“No, not in a few years.”
“What do you want to do?”
“I don’t know. You like rough stuff?”
She looked out the window and grinned. “As long as I’m the one being rough, yeah.”
“You do much stuff like that?”
“Um-hmm,” she sighed.
“You like it that way?”
“You have no idea,” she cooed.
He pulled into the first sleaze bag motel he saw, got a room then went back out to the car, drove around the side and parked out of view from the office, then opened her door, helped her out of the Beemer. He opened the room door, stepped inside and turned on the a/c, and when he turned around to face the girl she stepped into his arms, kissed him deeply, massaging him through his jeans until he felt like he was ready to explode.
“You got something for me?” she asked.
“Hmm, what? Money?”
“No, silly. You feel like you’re about to lose it down there.”
“You want me to take care of that for you? We can go for round two a little slower, if you know what I mean?”
“Oh, God…could you?”
She knelt and pulled his slacks down, took him in her mouth and worked him over quickly, and she was careful to take all of him in her mouth. When she was finished she told him to take off his clothes and lay out on the bed.
“Spread your arms to the corners,” she commanded, and she reached in her bag and took out two pairs of handcuffs, then cuffed each wrist to a bed post. “Spread your legs,” she hissed next, and with two lengths of rope she tied him off to the bed. She pulled a very soiled pair of stockings and panties from her bag and took them out of the baggie she’d put them in about two hours ago, then rubbed them over his face. “Open wide,” she said a minute later, then she stuffed them in his mouth, tying the wad in his mouth with one of the stockings. “You wanted it rough, didn’t you,” she cooed again, smiling at him.
He tried to say something but of course couldn’t, and she walked over to the TV and tuned into an afternoon news program, turned up the volume then turned to him again and walked over to the side of the bed. “Ready for some rough stuff?”
He mumbled something but nodded his head.
“Well, okay, but I’m going to need you to hold back, okay? I don’t want you to cum too soon. If you do, I’ll be upset. Okay?”
He nodded his head and she started working him over with her hands, occasionally taking him in her mouth until she was sure he was about to blow his load, then she straddled his thighs, still using her hand on him…
“You know, I think you’re about to cum. And you know what? I haven’t even been fucked yet. Do you know how pissed that makes me? Huh? Have any idea?”
He shook his head while he watched her rise up over his groin, then he saw her take his penis in hand and guide it inside. When the warmth enveloped him he tried everything he knew to stop the flow – but it was pointless and he came inside her moments later…
“Did you just do what I think you did?” she cooed again – only now she pulled an eight inch kitchen knife from her bag and in one swift motion drove the blade into his chest, just beneath the sternum. She cut through his stomach and bowels then pulled the knife out just shy of his penis, reinserted the blade and cut from his liver to his spleen, severing the aorta in the motion and leaving a neat cruciform wound across his gut, then she went to the shower and rinsed his semen, and his blood, from her body.
After she dried off she went over and checked his pulse – and of course there was none – so she dressed and went to her book bag, took out a pint container of cottage cheese, then a baggie full of finely sliced green onions, and she sprinkled the onions on the cheese and ate about half the container before leaving it on the bed by his face, then she packed her bag and walked out of the room.
She figured her mark would stop at this hotel, so she’d parked her two month old Ford Mustang nearby then hopped a bus downtown; now she went to the convertible and opened the door, drove up Harry Hines to the medical school – and she drove into the student parking lot and got another book bag out of the trunk and walked to her first year anatomy lecture.
She got to the lab just in time, and smiled all the way.
His name was John Wayne Dickinson, and he’d been with the Dallas Police Department for a little more than five years. His first two years, in academy and with an FTO, or Field Training Officer, had been followed by three more years working patrol in Central Division, in and around downtown Dallas. He’d done some good preliminary work on a couple of homicides and scored well on the Civil Service exam, so had then been sent to a school to learn basic criminal investigative duties and procedures; when he aced the final exam he went back to Central hoping to work homicide but soon learned that – like everything else about this job – you had to pay your dues and put in the time before plum assignments came your way.
He had, of course, landed on the bottom rung of the ladder – right in vice – yet he had found the work instructive so far, as long as you could keep from falling into the gutter. The cases he’d had so far tended to lead downward – down into the darker recesses of humanity. He didn’t particularly enjoy the work, but at least a few of the cases had been challenging. Others, like one at an adult bookstore earlier in the week, had left him feeling soiled, ashamed to be a member of the human race.
Some weenie-wagger had gone to the glory holes in the video arcade and had promptly stuck his hard-on through the first available hole; the person on the other side took a nine inch hat-pin and stuck it right through the guy’s erection – in effect impaling him to the wall. Until his screams brought management, who then called the paramedics – who then, of course, called dispatch. And the responding patrolman had of course called CID, or the Criminal Investigative Division – and so, of course, the call landed on Dickinson’s desk.
As there was no imminent danger of the guy bleeding out, the paramedics left the guy impaled there until Dickinson showed up, and after he photographed the poor guy the medics took tin-snips and cut him free, not bothering to catch him when he fell to the floor – which resulted in a major head injury.
That report had been a son-of-a-bitch, too.
There’d been no evidence, of course, save for a small, half-eaten container of cottage cheese with green onions sprinkled on top. He’d bagged the container, if only as a matter of policy, then taken the container straight to forensics – and hoped for the best.
It was a warm Friday afternoon, the first day of October, and the State Fair was going on and he hoped to get out there over the weekend with his brother and sister-in-law, and their kids, too, because the Fair was still a big deal to them. Always had been. Back in grade school they’d always gotten a day off from classes and rode out to Fair Park in school buses, and he’d been fascinated by the train exhibit that opened up in ‘63 – a few months before that Kennedy fella got himself shot over on Dealey Plaza. Some guy named DeGolyer collected all those trains – then donated ‘em, and he thought that was just too cool.
He looked through his mail, called to see if forensics had anything on the “cottage cheese caper” – as his captain had called it – but no, nothing yet, but his photographs were in and he pulled out the prints and cringed when he saw that hat-pin sticking through that poor devil’s dick.
“Man, talk about coitus interruptus,” Becky Sawyer said as she walked into the room. She was an old hand around CID, one of the first women to make detective in Texas, and that had been ten years ago. She was homicide now, and a damn fine detective – at least that was the scuttlebutt on her. He felt her leaning over his chair, her breath on his neck as she looked at the pictures in his hand. “Goddamn, don’t that make your balls shrivel up, run for cover just lookin’ at ‘em?”
“Now that you mention it, yeah.”
“Anything come back on that cheese?”
“Was there a spoon in the container?”
“Yup. Sterling silver, too.”
“Yeah, some fancy English brand. Real expensive, according to Perry.”
“That doesn’t add up.”
“Yup. I’ve called all the retailers in the area. Told ‘em to call if someone comes in looking to replace a spoon. Called a few pawn shops, too.”
Sawyer nodded. “Good thinking. Did you check and see if any have been reported missing in recent burglaries?”
“I got Records working on it.”
“You know, for a spud you ain’t doin’ half bad.”
He turned and looked at her; she was still close to him and smelled like cigarettes and chewing gum – not the nicest thing in the world – but she was cute in an east-Texas kind of way. Lanky, strong, a pure country gal – the real deal – and then the intercom blared to life:
“Anyone down there?” a dispatcher called out.
“Sawyer and Dickinson,” he replied.
“We got a bad one out on Harry Hines, signal one and thirteen,” the metallic voice said.
“Okay, we’ll take it,” Sawyer said, then she turned to him. “Hey, murder and a sex crime, ya know? Homicide and vice? Sounds like a match made in heaven…”
“Well, fuck-a-doodle-do,” Dickinson said. “Let’s do it!”
“Did you just say fuck-a-doodle-do? I mean, did I hear that right?”
“Shit. I didn’t know people still talked like that…”
“Yup. Well, I do.”
She stood back and looked him over – a little like she was looking at a weird bug under a microscope. “Oh, well,” she said after a long pause, “this could to be interesting.”
They made it out into the parking lot in time to see a good ole West Texas frog strangler rolling in from Ft Worth, lightning flickering in the towering anvil shaped cloud – and they both retreated into the station to get raincoats before finally getting in the gray Ford Crown Vic and checking into service. The crossed through downtown and got on Stemmons, made there way over to the motel on Harry Hines, a real doozy with a long, distinguished reputation among the guys working vice. Rain was starting to drizzle down from the anvil as they walked into the hotel room – waiting behind the wall of patrolmen and paramedics standing just outside the open door.
Dickinson saw the eviscerated body splayed out on the bed and bunched his lips: “Fuck-a-doodle-do,” he whispered – then his eyes went to the container of cottage cheese on the bed by the victim’s face and he walked over, looked down and saw green onions scattered in the melted goo and turned to Sawyer. “Better take a look at this.”
She came over and looked in the container. “Fuck-a-doodle-do,” she sighed, then she grinned as she turned to the door. “Who got here first? Anyone touch this container?” she said as she pointed at the cheese.
“I was here first,” a patrolman said, “well, second, after the manager came to check on a noise complaint.”
“No, Ma’am. Not even a light switch.”
“What do you have so far?”
“Names of the manager and all staff on duty, the name of the RP who called in the noise complaint. I’ve pretty much been right here, making sure no one disturbed the scene, Ma’am.”
“Pretty much? You sure no one’s been in here since you arrived?”
“Yes Ma’am, I’m sure.”
“Got a service number yet?”
He looked at his steno-pad. “82-10-494.”
She scrawled the number on her note-pad and nodded. “Go get the manager and the RP, would you? And don’t bring ‘em in here, okay?”
Dickinson was looking at the wound, or trying to, anyway. The victim had bled out fast and the nature and shape of the cuts was hard to make out – until he leaned close and looked close, anyway.
The guy’s colon had spilled it’s contents into the peritoneum and he could see barely digested shrimp and lettuce floating in the congealing brine. He took a deep breath and stepped away, wondered what would happen to his reputation if he flashed-hash right here on his first big homicide crime scene.
“What is that?” Sawyer said. “Do I smell light remoulade?”
That did it. Dickinson ran out and spewed his guts in the parking lot, grateful the rain was falling hard now and would wash away the evidence…
It took them an hour to check the room and the car for prints, and to take a few shots of the scene, but there were, essentially, no real witnesses. The guy had checked in and the manager on duty hadn’t seen anyone in the car with the victim. The reporting person had called in to complain about the loud noise coming from the television in the victim’s room – and while that pinned down the time of the event the RP hadn’t seen anything. Sawyer cleared the scene and they drove over to Parkland, to the medical examiner’s facility in the basement. The ME’s van was just pulling in, too, and they rode down in the elevator with the victim and the ME’s crew. They sat and worked on their preliminary report while the body was prepared, and when they were called in they got their first chance to see the extent of the damage.
“Is that, roughly speaking, a crucifix?” Sawyer asked as the tech looked over victim’s body.
“Yup, you could call it that,” the tech said as she took smears from the victim’s penis and put them on glass slides. After she washed and dried the body she picked up a pair of forceps and began picking food from inside the body cavity, placing each piece in a separate, numbered petri dish. Next, she took a bright light and began examining the victim’s mouth.
“Any pubic hair?” Sawyer asked.
“Nope,” the tech said as she took more samples from his tongue and cheeks, then under his fingernails.
“Did he die fast?” Dickinson asked, and both women turned and looked at him.
“You new at this?” the tech asked.
“Look, you better get this shit under control, buddy,” the tech continued, “‘cause if you don’t you ain’t gonna last. Got it?”
Dickinson nodded. “Yeah, I got that, but what I want to know is, did the perp try to draw this out, make him suffer?”
“Oh. Well, no. See the aorta? Severed. I mean slashed. Death was instantaneous after that, and I do mean fast. Seconds, ya know…way less than a minute, anyway. Big blade, too. Maybe seven, even eight inches. Like a K-Bar, or maybe a kitchen knife. Whatever it was, it was sharp as hell, too.”
She took a syringe and prepped a vial, then slipped the needle into the victim’s right eye and drew the plunger back, filling the syringe with fluid from inside the eye that would be used for one of the toxicology screens, and Dickinson squirmed when the eye deflated like a punctured beach ball.
“You know…I think I’m going to go try and find some people who knew this guy…” he said as he walked out of the lab – while Sawyer and the tech grinned at one another.
“What a pussy,” the tech said, laughing.
“Only been with us a few weeks. Assigned to vice, anyway.”
“Wet behind the ears.”
“So were we all, once upon a time.”
“I can’t remember that far back.”
“Live in a sewer long enough and even shit begins to smell sweet, ya know?”
They looked at one another and the tech nodded. “I’ll try to cut him some slack.”
“Thanks. He’s sharp, but still at that vulnerable stage. Probably best to help him over the hump.”
“Got it,” the tech said as she flipped the body, ran a gloved hand up the victim’s anus, checking for fecal matter to send off to the lab…
She found him out in the waiting room, on one of the phones reserved for law enforcement and she listened as he talked.
“So, what time did you last see him?” He listened, scribbled on his steno-pad.
“Where’d you have lunch? The Dallas Petroleum Club? Where’s that?” More scribbling.
“What did y’all talk about?”
“Uh-huh. Is it possible anyone at that lunch followed him? He might have been, ya know, involved with?”
“Hate to ask, but did you have anything going on with him?”
“I see. Yeah. Sorry, but I have to ask these things, Ma’am. Kind of obvious stuff, but we have to cross all the T’s, dot all the I’s, ya know?”
“Yes, Ma’am. My name’s John Dickinson, and here’s my number. You need anything, you just give me a shout, okay?”
“Yes, Ma’am, you too.”
He hung up the phone and looked up at Sawyer.
“Co-worker, had lunch down there today, some big business deal.”
“Oh? What kind of business?”
“Oil. Nigeria. Say, you know about this Petroleum Club thing?”
“Yeah. Way above our pay grade, Slick. Don’t even think about going down there without an okay from the Chief.”
“Really. Top two floors of the First National building. Good grub, too.”
She ignored the question. “What else did she say?”
“They, uh, weren’t involved. Doesn’t think anyone there was either, mainly as everyone else was male.”
“So? You ever heard of homosexuality?”
“She was pretty sure about that, if you know what I mean.”
She shook her head, sighed. “Get a list of the people at the lunch? Who they work for?”
“Well, run the names when we get back to the station. Maybe give ‘em a call on Monday.”
“What about the vic? Any background?”
“A little. Local boy, University Park. Highland Park High. Married twice, divorced twice, no known girlfriend right now.”
“You thinking hooker?”
“Seems likely to me.”
“Was that the same sterling pattern as the bookstore?”
“Okay, we got us a possible serial killer just getting wound-up.”
“We need to see if any other departments have had a similar set of killings, don’t you think?”
“We’ll have to go through the FBI for that, but yeah, good idea. What time is it?”
“Fuck, let’s head to the barn, maybe run over to Adair’s, see if they have any hamburgers left.”
“How can you think about food…?”
“You get used to it, Slick. You start on the report yet?”
“Me? This is homicide, not vice.”
“Yeah, so? You want to make it to homicide, don’t you? Well, here’s your chance. I’ll let you sign off on the main report; I’ll do the supplementals.”
He brightened at that. “Yeah? Thanks.”
“Well, let’s head on back, get something written up…”
They made it over to Adair’s just before the doors closed, got their orders in just before the kitchen shut down the grills and the beer was still cold, too. Sawyer leaned back in the booth and sighed; Dickinson quaffed his Lone Star in one pull, walked up to the bar for another, then came back and saw Sawyer was asleep – or damn near, anyway – but when he sat her eyes popped open.
“You married? I can’t remember…” she said.
“Been with the force, what, five years? And you’re coming on thirty?”
“So, what’d you do before?”
“Army. Warrant officer. Helicopters, spent ‘74 and ‘75 in ‘Nam.”
“Were you there when…”
“Yup. Pretty real, too, if you know what I mean. I spend two weeks running orphans out to Tân Sơn Nhất, loading ‘em on Braniff DC-8s – one right after another for a few days. When I got home I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but the whole gun and a badge thing sounded interesting.”
“I like the idea of serving, I guess. Better than selling aluminum siding, anyway,” he said, quaffing his second beer.
“You always slug ‘em down so fast?”
“Yeah, you know, before they get warm. Warm beer tastes like donkey piss.”
“Oh? That the voice of experience speaking?”
He laughed a little. “The girls in Bangkok will do anything for a buck, ya know?”
“So I’ve heard.”
“What about you?”
“Married, all that jazz.”
“No. Never found anyone that clicked, ya know? I was goin’ with someone when I went into academy; that didn’t last two months ‘til he got all possessive and jealous and shit. Had a few since, but it’s always the same song. Want to know what it’s like, then when they find out they scoot.”
“Where you from?”
“Athens. Well, a farm south of there.”
“Yeah. East Texas Baptist,” she said, looking away.
“You into all that?”
“I used to be.”
“Hard to believe in God after a few years out on the street, ya know?” She drifted, saw that crucifix carved on the guy’s chest and shook herself back to the present. “What about you? You right with God?”
“God and I parted company somewhere west of Saigon.”
She nodded her head. “Roger that. You better go get another brew. I’ll drive you home.”
“Yeah. Do it.”
He walked up to the bar and came back with two, put one in front of her. “Don’t fall too far behind, now.”
Their burgers came and they were still the best thing on this side of the sky, the fries still hot and homemade-thick, and with three more ice cold Lone Stars onboard Dickinson began to feel almost human again. They talked some more – until she looked around and saw they were the last people in the joint, and that waiters were staring at them.
“We better split,” she said, standing up.
He looked around, saw the score and stood too, but almost fell over.
“Come on, Slick. Better let me hold onto the reins, help you out to your horse.”
“That’s just what I need. A fuckin’ horse.”
He was slurring his words now and she shook her head. She knew from experience some folks had a hard time wrapping their heads around homicide, so this wasn’t all that unexpected. The problem now, she knew, was that this kid was cute – and she was getting horny. ‘Not good,’ she said to herself as she buckled him in her car. ‘No, not good at all.’
“Where to, Slick?” she asked as she looked at him.
He turned to look at her and smiled. “Are you as horny as I am right now?”
And she looked him right in the eye. “Yeah. Probably.”
“Well then, I think I’ll come again, if you don’t mind.”
Turned out she didn’t, not even a little.
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