I wrote a short story two weeks ago. I used the HBO drama True Detective as my writing prompt for the story. Hayward Blues is a straight cop procedural with a few supernatural flourishes. The Detective in the story is an everyman named Jeff Lowe and the town he grew up in is changing around him in a negative way, but he feels powerless to slow its demise even as a detective. I was trying to capture a noir feel and I think I succeeded.
There was a drive-by shooting. A gang of Native Americans came from the nearby Indian reservation and fired automatic weapons into the woods where a house was set a hundred yards deep into the trees. Their goal was to send a message to a rival from town. He had shacked up with his old lady. No one died, but the girlfriend has to use a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
Jeff closed his eyes and took a deep breath before he got closer to the body. “Have we I.D.ed the body?”
“Kelley Molson.” One of the uniformed officers answered.
“I know that name.” He crouched next to the body. Kelley Molson’s hands were missing and a strange symbol was carved into his forehead. “He works with Richard Heller.”
“Yeah.” The officer replied. “You think he did this?”
“Maybe.” A thin path of dry blood trailed from the corner of Kelley’s mouth to his chin where it turned into a gummy stalactite. “I grew up with Richard.”
Heidi Crus was home one afternoon when she heard a knock at the door. Jeff stood on the stoop with his badge hung at his chest. Her eyes scanned the badge and traced back up to his face, her face was neutral, almost bored. She left the door open and receded into her apartment. He entered. The coffee table was littered with items, cocaine on a mirror, a powdered credit card, two iguanas with their toes hanging limply over the edge of the table and a large hookah at the center. Heidi flopped on the couch, her right arm reflexively crossed behind her head as she pulled a tendril from the hookah and sucked the smoke into her lungs. She was glassy-eyed and languid. “Where is Richard?” He asked.
“Gone.” she answered with an almost imperceptible shrug.
The room was muggy with heat and all the windows were covered with heavy blankets that cast the room in an orange gloom. He cleared his throat, “I’m looking for Richard.” They have known each other since elementary school but had to stop. He was a violent thug in his youth, but the years mellowed him. Now that he saw her she looked like a ghost of the girl he knew.
Memories of old sexual encounters relayed at the back of his brain in a rapid-fire montage with the girl that laid on the couch in front of him. He hadn’t taken a seat yet, but the scene was depressing him and he wanted to leave already. “He’s a fuckhead.” She said as she shifted onto her side.
He suddenly didn’t know what to do with his hands so he stuffed them in his pockets. “We tried his number.” One of the iguanas shifted and turned almost knocking the hookah over in its haste
“He got into a fight with a bartender last night. They cut him off. I left without him.” She took another puff off the hookah. “Do you want a hit?” She offered. Her eyes were flirtatious with the hint of a smile curling at the corner of her mouth. It was the sly half smile he remembered. The girl he remembered was still in there, buried under asshole boyfriends and prolonged drug use. He didn’t blame her, didn’t think to arrest her for the coke, he just felt sad for her. Years of disappointment left everyone a ghost.
“No thanks.” Her feet rubbed against each other. The movement drew his eyes. “Which bar?”
“Lincoln’s Pub,” She answered.
He put a business card on the coffee table. “If he comes back, have him call me.” she didn’t pick it up, she just pulled the mouthpiece back to her mouth and took another draw.
Outside he felt the blood rushing through his veins. He looked back at the door. Memories were fucking with him, conjuring forgotten emotions. He shook them off as he climbed into his truck. Nothing good would come from him going back to her.
Lincoln’s Pub was an old creaking bar. It had a reputation as an upscale joint in the seventies, but it’s lost its shine, now it’s the kind of place old drunks go to die. The smell of decades old nicotine still hung on its walls and the floor was sticky as he walked to the bar. Jeff flashed his badge at the bartender.
On the stage a band was setting up. The sound man was hooking cords together while the band members drank beers and laughed at inside jokes amongst themselves. Jeff smelled marijuana and he looked over, but nobody was passing a pipe or a joint.
The bartender moved closer and waited for the question. Jeff rehashed the fight to the bartender who corroborated the incident and the bartender on duty. He wrote Cody Reynolds address down on a bar coaster.
The trailer park Cody lived in was a nightmare. None of the lots were marked, the roads that crisscrossed the park were riddled with potholes and it looked deserted, luckily it was small. Jeff circled twice before he found Cody’s place. People watched Jeff through beige blinds and floral print curtains. His trailer had a wooden deck attached to it with a greasy propane grill and a weather warped case of beer next to white plastic patio furniture. There weren’t ashtrays on the table, but there was a forest of stuffed butts on plates and in the tops of tallboy beer cans.
The storm door was all but ripped off its hinges from years of misuse and the primary door had a football shaped hole at shin level. The door hung open. Leaves had already drifted into the house. Jeff cautiously opened the door and stepped inside. “Police. I am looking for Cody.” The house was still.
Cigarette funk seemed to hover in the air. Somewhere in the distance he heard a baby crying. He did a quick sweep of the trailer, he noticed the master bedroom was wide open. The water bed dominated the room and a man sat at the edge of the bed swaying slowly. “Your door was open.” Jeff said loudly. The man continued to sway in place. Jeff lifted his gun from its holster. “Sir, please respond. I need you to turn around.”
Jeff circled the bed. The man didn’t look at him. His hands were gone, blood drained all over his lap and onto the floor. He sported the same strange cross that adorned Kelley’s forehead. The man’s eyes darted up at him. His mouth drew open in an “O” shape. Thick black blood pooled in his mouth and fell forth like a dam when he moved away from Jeff. Jeff reared back startled by the sudden motion. The man didn’t make it far. He crossed half the bed and stopped cold.
Jeff stepped out of the bedroom and went for his radio. “I need backup and an ambulance at 3378 Hargrove Place, Lot 792. Get here fast as you can.” Jeff turned back and saw the motion a second too late. It was Richard, he bashed into Jeff and tried to run down the hallway. The hall was too narrow for him to break away. Jeff grabbed hold of his arm, threw a forearm into the back of his neck and stamped on the back of his knee simultaneously. “What the fuck are you doing? Didn’t you see my fucking badge?” He put his arm around the guy’s neck and held it there without applying too much pressure. His pulse was accelerated and he was seeing red. He threw him to the ground and kicked him in the midsection for good measure before he handcuffed him. “Motherfucker.”
Richard was shackled in a small brightly lit room with two plastic chairs and a table set against the wall. The room looked more like a closet then an interrogation room. There was no mirror, just a small camera covered with black plastic in the ceiling. Richard leaned back against the white brick wall with his eyes closed. He was breathing loudly trying to wish himself away from this place.
Jeff stepped in with a notebook and a piece of paper.“This is a confession.” Jeff put the paper in front of Richard, “Read it.”
Richard opened his eyes and looked at the paper. “I didn’t do shit.” He said through clenched teeth.
“Talk to me. Tell me what happened.” Jeff sat down across from him.
“Fuck man, I didn’t do this shit. He was like that when I got there.” He leaned his head against the wall. He was grinding his teeth and his eyes were watery.
“You got in a fight with Cody at Lincoln’s Pub last night and then you went to his place to get even.” Jeff laid it out.
“No.” He leaned forward in the chair resting his forearms on the table. His hands were fidgeting and his eyes were downcast. “I got in a fight with him last night, yeah, but I wasn’t going over to fuck with him. I walked out to the Res and then went to his place. He was like that when I got there.”
“Why were you over there?”
“I was, I was gonna sell him somethin’.” He shifted nervously in his seat.
“Right now you are in a very bad place. There are two dead bodies and you are my primary suspect. I can’t help you unless you tell me everything.” Jeff clicked a pen and put it on top of the confession. Richard watched the pen intensely as he placed it down.
“Crying Hawk,” Richard said quietly.
“Tom Crying Hawk?” Jeff responded.
Richard nodded, then he looked Jeff in the eyes. “Dude’s going on the warpath. He was sayin’ all kinds of weird shit about death and retribution. He said they were stealing from him.”
“Who was stealing from him?”
“He didn’t say, just said ‘they’.”
“Why did you go to the Res?”
Richard’s eyes were fixated on the paper in front of him. “I’ve been with his sister. She wasn’t around last night, so I bought some crystal. I was gonna sell some to Cody as a peace offering, but he was dead and then you came in. I didn’t kill him. I didn’t kill anybody. It was Crying Hawk, you gotta believe me.” He looked up at Jeff. “I didn’t do this shit.”
The Reservation was made up of several Native American communities and was predominantly forest. None of them were towns in the traditional sense. To the outside world it was just a casino and some duty free shops, but the bulk of the populace lived away from the tourism. The young natives formed mafia-like gangs throughout the region. The large forested area made it near impossible to regulate criminal activities and the flow of drugs in and out of the reservation. Racketeering, drug smuggling and extortion were all common crimes on the Res.
Tom Crying Hawk lived in a small trailer nestled among trees and undergrowth almost a mile from the road. Jeff turned into his long unpaved driveway. The gutted remains of cars lined the trail. He heard howling before he saw the metal pen that housed three large wolves. The air was filled with the smell of roasting meat and dog shit. An army of motorcycles and ratty looking cars were parked out front. A bonfire was burning and several men were milling about with beers in hand. Jeff’s stomach sank.
He stepped out of his car and took a deep breath into his lungs. ‘Play it cool,’ he thought to himself. ‘Just ask a few questions and if you have evidence call for back up.’ He took his time walking up to the trailer, his badge dangling around his neck suddenly felt heavier with all the eyes on him. No one spoke to him, but he could feel the cold wash of their scrutiny. He heard a bottle crash against the bonfire. At the door he took another breath before knocking.
The door opened. A woman greeted him with a smile the was wiped away when she saw his badge. “It’s the cops,” She said with a sneer in her voice.
“I have few questions for Tom,” Jeff spoke calmly. He could feel the teenagers growing restless next to the fire. There was no conversation between them which meant they were waiting for him to make a move.
A booming voice inside answered, “Let him in.”
The woman stepped out of the way and Jeff stepped across the threshold. The trailer was nice. Double wide with wood trim over everything. The living room was furnished with leather furniture and a massive flat screen TV hung on the wall. Some reality show with an MTV logo at the corner of the screen was playing. There were five men sitting around a dining room table on the other side of the living room. They had drinks around them and cards on the table. One of them was smoking a fat cigar.
Tom Crying Hawk sat at the head of the table shirtless. He was a well built man. All his muscles bulged even as he sat with cards in his hand. His hair was pulled back in a long braid. “What do you need man?” He said with a smile.
“I have a few questions about Kelley Molson and Cody Reynolds.”
“I know them.” He stood up, “What about it?”
“They turned up dead today and,” He cleared his throat, “someone blamed you.”
The smile fell away from his face. “Who did that?”
“I can’t say. Not until the case is closed.”
He stepped from behind the table, “I got a right to face my accuser. You should tell me and save us both a lot of trouble.”
“I can’t do that.” Jeff felt a quiver in his voice and took a step back.
Crying Hawk had an elaborate skull tattoo on his chest the eyes of the skull were stuffed with roses and a Red snake was trailing out from the mouth and circled around his shoulder. He also sported a black tear under his left eye. His face lost all trace of civility. Jeff felt his heart in his throat and wanted to run, but that would only throw the army out front into a frenzy and he would never see his home again. He was close enough that Jeff could smell the Scotch on his breath. “I say you can white man!”
Instead of a response Jeff unclipped his gun holster.
“Where do you think you are?” His eyes darted to the gun and back to Jeff’s face. He could hear people behind him. They came in from the bonfire to see the show. “Who the fuck said this shit about me. You can walk away, juts tell me his name.”
Jeff opened his mouth, Richard’s name was on his tongue, but the moment it escaped from his mouth Jeff knew that would be the end of Richard. Crying Hawk’s eyes bore into him with unrelenting ferocity. “I…” The crowd behind him was close. “I can’t.” He let it fall from his mouth. The hands behind claimed him.
Outside the mob was laying into him with hands and feet. He felt a belt lash his back. He reached for his gun, but a stray boot intercepted him before he could reach it. He heard Crying Hawk order, “Get his gun!” This was his last chance if they got to his firearm his life was over.
One of the men kicked him over and others moved in to pin him down. Jeff threw a punch that caught flesh and managed to get his hand to the grip of his gun. Her clicked the safety and fired. The shot went into the ground, but the sound was enough to give him a moments space. He pushed off the ground and held his gun out in front of him. “Back the fuck off!” They could rush him and he’d be fucked, but no one wanted to be the first to take a bullet.
Jeff blasted for his truck. He heard the cage unlatch and the snarling sound of wolves. He swiveled on his feet. A wolf jumped for him its teeth bared. He fired a shot that caught the wolf full in the chest. It whimpered for a moment before falling lifeless on the ground.
The other two had gotten to his hood and were barking at the windshield. He got the door shut and started the car. They weren’t pursuing him any further. The wolves jumped off the hood as he pulled around hitting cars as he clumsily maneuvered away from Crying Hawk’s place.
The investigation wasn’t over. Richard was his only link to Crying Hawk’s potential involvement and it was only a matter of time before Crying Hawk came knocking on Richard’s door. He was weary, but the bruises on his ribs put revenge in his mind. He was going to find something on Crying Hawk. His city, his place was changing all around him and nothing was going to bring back the home of his youth, but he could sure as Hell get even. Heidi’s door was closed when he arrived. She greeted him with a smile this time. “I have a few more questions for Richard.”
“Sure, he’s in the bedroom.” She let him in. Heidi touched his shoulder as he walked in. Jeff turned to her. “You look tired.” She said.
“Very.” The iguanas were off the coffee table and lounging on a rock in the corner with a heat lamp beating down on them.
“Let me help.” She pressed her fingers gently into his shoulders and Jeff’s eyes reflexively closed. “Sit.”
“I shouldn’t.” His protests were futile, she guided him to the couch and worked his back more.
He lost track of time and found she had snaked herself around into front of him. “I was happy to see you.” She said with her half curled smile.
He didn’t say anything. She leaned in and kissed his mouth. Her tongue darted between his lips and he didn’t fight it. He kissed her back. Fireworks went off in his brain and he was enraptured by her moist lips and the incense smell of her place. His hands clumsily groped at her breasts and she moaned softly as she pressed herself closer to him. He was lost in heat, but a sound from the back broke the spell. He pulled himself away. “I can’t.” He said and willed himself off the couch.
“Don’t worry about Richard.” She jeered. “He’s useless.”
Jeff shook the fog from his brain and headed for the back. Richard was dead on her bed. Blood had welled up on his chest from what looked like multiple stab wounds. Jeff’s mouth dropped open and he felt a needle in his neck. He thrashed back, but whatever was in the needle was already working its way into his bloodstream and his arms felt like liquid. He stumbled onto the ground Heidi stood over him smiling. “There’s a storm coming Jeff. I’m sorry that you won’t get to see it, but there is a plan and I’m so sorry you had to get caught up in it. I really was happy to see you.” She kissed him on the forehead and knelt next to him as his eyes closed. Her pretty half smile was the last thing Jeff Lowe saw.