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Of DOGS and Pirates

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So, I came across someone trying to find my book for free on pirate sites. I have to say, I don’t approve of the whole stealing creative work thing unless there really is just no other way to see/read/hear whatever it is. BUT, at the same time, I was kind of thrilled somebody would go through the effort. If people have the time and interest to read DOGS IN THE DISTANCE or anything else of mine, it’s a beautiful thing. So, I guess what I’m saying to pirate person is don’t do that…but I’m kind of glad you did that.

As for the rest of you. Just buy DOGS IN THE DISTANCE already!

RE-POST: DEERHUNTER IN DOGS IN THE DISTANCE

 

CHAPTER SEVEN:

I walked to my car and drove to The Pig. It was pissing down rain and seemed to be getting harder. I’m hoping Emily’s waiting because there wasn’t a place to park. The assumption had been made that I would drive. I didn’t protest. I watched her run out and step into a puddle. It was deeper than she thought. Her canvas sneakers got soaked and I heard her curse through the glass.

She got in still swearing. We didn’t hug or kiss. Jokes were more the song of the hour. “Have a nice swim?” I asked. She was too pissed to answer which was kind of a twist. Usually, I was the one sulking.

She tended to her shoes and then decided to give up. I asked her if she wanted to change. “No, thanks. I’m good. How are you this evening?” she asked with a smile. That warm smile heroin that kept me coming back for more. I knew what I was doing but I couldn’t seem to quit.

She was in a mood to be sure. Tips had been decreasing. That night was pathetic. “Nobody uses cash anymore. It’s all debit. So, instead of a dollar a beer I get fifteen percent.” “Is that a huge difference?” “Hell yeah.” “Maybe it’s the economy.” Portland’s always been a cheap town but it was getting worse. The younger they are, the more they don’t like paying. Even drunk, people were getting stingy.

We drove down MLK past the scene of the crime. It wasn’t quite in sight but still too close for comfort. I didn’t want to think about it. At least not right then.

We crossed the bridge and arrived at Dante’s. Even in the rain there were crowds outside. Some were trying to get in. More than a few were just smoking. I wondered which they needed more, the tobacco or the conversation.

It took some circling but I finally found a space. There was something on her mind but I wasn’t sure that I should ask. “You alright?” “Yeah, why?” It was a smile back but it wasn’t the right one. I knew something was wrong. I didn’t push my luck and decide to drop it. I didn’t want to know if it was something about me. Let me at least have this night before we have that talk.

Everyone knew her and we’re let right in. But we were too late to get a seat at a table and stood in the back. I always liked this club because you could sit and relax. That night, I’d end up aching from too much standing around.

The lights grew dim as a band began to play. It wasn’t her boyfriend. He’s the main act. Instead it was white lights and fog machines accompanied by a haunting score. A throwback to the old days but highly effective. Shadowy figures emerged in silhouette. It really was a vision to behold.

They remained frozen like statues in a thick layer of fog. One moved forward and commanded your attention. A boney figure, distorted by disease and ready to break. It wasn’t anorexia but something worse. He’s milked his malady for all it was worth. He was even wearing a dress.

The effect wasn’t funny or ironic but more like a shot from “Vampyr.” Keyboards and synths built the ominous sound. The stick figure singer added his distorted whisper to the scene. It wasn’t my kind of music but I was entranced. It was the best show I’d seen in a long time.
After three encores, the house lights went on. Everyone present still seemed in awe. “Wow, that was great,” Emily said. Her mood had improved and I spoke before thinking. I made the mistake of referring to a concert back in the eighties. Another charismatic singer had made the same impression. Psychedelic Furs lead Richard Butler. I might as well have put a label on my head with my age on it.

I saw a group of pretty young girls. “Are they legal?” I asked. “To drink or to sleep with?” I wasn’t sure if she was serious. So, I declined to answer the question. “The show is 18 and over. So, the answer’s yes to at least one of those.” I regretted bringing it up and dropped the topic. We’re comfortable enough with each other that there was no need to talk just to fill space. There was something on her mind but she’d tell me when she was ready. Until then I could only wait.

The crowd thinned out. I wondered if they would return. “Is Billy screwed?” I asked. She looked at me oddly. “What do you mean?” “Because he has to follow such a good performance.” I wasn’t certain but I swear I saw relief in her eyes. “No, he probably loved it. He’ll be fine.”

By the time he took the stage everyone was back in their seats. Accordions and acoustic guitars weren’t my thing. It was the Portland sound, circa Twenty-Twelve. But Billy had a voice, there was no denying that. I had no doubt the kid would be a star. He had the perfect face for magazine covers.

I wondered who decided to have these bands play together. One or the other would have been perfect. Having both in one night just seemed a little weird.

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Re-post: DOGS IN THE DISTANCE opening

CHAPTER ONE:

Anyone who described it as ballet didn’t have any sense of grace. The police arrived loudly. At least three different agencies. It was all urgency and chaos. Sirens and yelling everywhere. Nobody was quite sure who was in charge.

A man had called in from a liquor store in Clackamas. He had found the woman we were seeking. A woman in her thirties, maybe forties, matching the sketch of “Natasha.” He had called it in from the safety of his cage. A wall of thick, clear plexi. She hadn’t caught on that he had made the call until she tried to pay for her fifth. He had seemed a little jumpy and a little too friendly. Natasha tried to run.

It just so happened there was a black and white, a local patrol, right down that very street. By the time Natasha figured it out they were already there in the parking lot. Guns drawn and waiting for back up.

There was a moment of fear that Natasha would panic and try to harm hostages inside. They didn’t know if she was armed or not. The store clerk hadn’t said. They just knew that she had already killed.

By the time I got there with Gillian the whole circus was in full swing. The tactical detail had arrived. Quasi-military in style. Oregon’s version of SWAT. They took their positions and waited. There was still some question of command.

Arguments ensued right on the spot about who had authority over the scene. It was a glory moment, or maybe more of a glory hole, for any cop wanting some fame. Arresting a serial killer was big news. Something that would stand out on your record. No man wanted to give up their piece of the pie. Inside, Natasha just waited.

Crowds gathered and news vans arrived. Local stations cut away from syndicated talk shows. Helicopters circled. Flies buzzing over a carcass. There was almost a collision. The TV choppers were ordered to stay away. Natasha was never going to get out of this one. At least not alive.

“Has anybody tried to talk with her yet?” I asked Gillian. “Beats the fuck out of me.” His disdain for the FBI started on cue. Fuckers in Blazers. The “so-called-experts” were probably waiting for some negotiator to be flown in from the moon. His tirade didn’t make sense but I got his point. The Task Force had taken control. They had evaluated the situation and assumed there were hostages. They needed to play it by the book. They’d take their time and wear her down. Eventually, she would have to give in.

The reporters were left with too much time to kill. They kept saying the same things over and over. A few stations cut back to their regularly scheduled programming but most stuck with the show. A man arrived in a black suit and slacks in the backseat of a government-issue sedan. The negotiator. A PHD. He had experience with these delicate situations.

They called the store but Natasha wouldn’t answer. She wasn’t in the mood to talk. The troops circled the noose and took closer positions. She wasn’t going to be an easy target.

The crowd got bored. This wasn’t what they had hoped for. A scene from Michael Man or John Woo. Instead it was sitting and waiting. Nothing much happened. Some admitted that it was really kind of dull. Few, however, would risk leaving. What if they missed something important?

Over an hour passed and contact had yet to be established. Some suspected that Natasha had managed to escape. We learned later what she did. How she used that time. She was very methodical in her ways.

She deleted all the information from her cell phone. Then she stomped on it until dead. Plastic remains littered the floor. The only witness to her actions was the lone clerk in his cage. That and the cameras that monitored the store. High-angle images from multiple views of Natasha burning the contents of her wallet. She was determined to get out even if she couldn’t escape. It was as good an ending as any.

The police saw the fire and became concerned. It was small but what if it spread? The order was given to take the store. Concussion grenades were thrown in to confuse. Assault troops barged through the doors. It turns out they weren’t really needed. They swooped in to take her but she was already half gone. Natasha was unconscious and bleeding on the floor. She had taken a broken bottle and done it right. Two slits. One on each of her wrists.

Blood had poured from her but she had mistimed the deed. She never should have started that fire. She was kept alive by the paramedics. She was soon stable. At least as far as the blood. Natasha Kruger was wheeled out on a stretcher. The killer had been caught. A victory for law enforcement everywhere. Grudging credit to the Portland PD.
And all the time you were laughing.

CHAPTER TWO:

Somewhere in my mental rerun of times gone by, the music I was listening to became a part of things. I saw a half-a-dozen uniforms in their ponchos, waddling around aimlessly like mutant penguins. It’s all as it was down to the nitty gritty. But it started to blur with memories of the music video. Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” High School kids. The Janitor. I even pictured the Anarchist Cheerleaders performing in the alley. Black uniforms with nice, short skirts. The anarchist “A” symbol across their chests. Slowly, it became one big musical number. Flashing lights from cop cars and lovely young things cheering and dancing to grunge in the rain. “Entertain Us” indeed. It was all just a big, God damn show put on for your viewing pleasure.

And it was all in slow motion. The pissing rain caught, just so, with elaborate lighting rigs which defined each and every acid sting. The cold breath of the officers standing by the warehouse wall. The intense beams of the flood lights blasting down on the crime scene like the eyes of God himself.

Right on cue I saw myself strolling through the scene. Out of the car and past the cheerleaders. Out of the darkness and into the light. A present awaited me. The closed garbage bin a gift box for the trinket within. I saw my hand reach out. The dramatic pause. Then, in a single gesture, the lid of the dumpster was flipped open to reveal my prize.

The music reached crescendo. Malicious guitars and violent drums as I stared down at him. He was seventeen. A seventeen year-old kid naked and trussed up like a turkey. His wrists had been bound to his ankles. And there wasn’t a stitch of clothes on him. His pale skin glistened in the rain. A single drop fell from his hair. The poetry of death. And all I remember thinking was that even dead the kid looked pretty.

I stirred from the silence. My alcoholic daze disturbed by the playlist ending. Time to go to bed but I resisted. I was enjoying the self-pity and delusion too much.

Each conversation played in my head like snippets from a tape recording. I swear I almost heard tape hiss as I recalled the exact words that had been exchanged. First there was Johanson, the uniform. Twenty-years old and pleased as punch to be there. The rest of us wanted to be home in bed. But Johanson was on the trip of his life. Eager. Inquisitive. Excited. What could be better than this?

“You think he was a rent boy?” Johanson asked. “You mean a male prostitute?” ”Yeah, whatever” he said dismissively. “Nobody calls them rent boys anymore.” “You know what I meant.” “Yeah, I do. And yeah, it’s a possibility. But if he was one, he was either brand new to town or expensive.” Johanson looked up at me. “How do you know that?” he asked. I pointed to our watery find. “Look at him. Not one sign of a rough life on him. He’s a fucking Adonis. His teeth alone probably cost fourteen grand to make that perfect.”

Hiss. Pop. Crackle. The great man had spoken. Senior Detective John Dudek of the Portland PD was already expounding wise to the naïve, young followers there to suck up every morsel of profundity.

I then talked to the homeless guy who had found the body. Maybe he was a messenger sent to guide me but I just couldn’t hear his tune. St. Reeks Like Piss delivering the gospel. Hiss. Crackle. Crackle. “So, you called 911 right away?” I asked. “Yes Sir” St. Piss responded. “On what? Is there a phone around here I don’t know about?” “On my cell phone.” “You can afford a cell phone?” St. Piss looked at me and smiled.. “Pre-paid minutes.” Hiss. Pop. St. Piss didn’t have that much more to tell me. He was looking for bottles and anything else he could sell and found the kid. I believed him when he said he didn’t touch the body. Unless he had stripped the corpse clean, there wasn’t a whole lot to take.

I sat up in my chair a bit higher. Ikea crap falling apart at an accelerated rate. Dinner was sitting badly. I slowly took the headphones off and stood up. I felt grounded but had to concentrate a little to make my way across the hardwood floor. Maybe it was the memories of the saint, but I suddenly needed to take a leak with great urgency.

I faced myself in the mirror in classic, washed up detective fashion. With total seriousness I said the words. Those deep, painful words which gave insight into my inner turmoil. “Pre-paid minutes.”

I smiled at my own ridiculousness and found some chips in the cupboard. I thought about grabbing a soda. Instead I grabbed another beer. I was having too much fun to let things end.

More words and memories were retrieved. Recollections of that night in the rain. “I’m not in advertising, I’m in design.” I hated that guy. He was my age but trying to look twenty. His clothes cost hundreds of dollars and were hand-tailored to look used. Or “distressed” as they say.

Rewind tape. Cue here. White noise memory hum. “What were you doing down here at three in the morning?” I asked. “Working. We have a big pitch tomorrow. I’m a Senior Designer at Visionaire.” “Where exactly is that?” He gestured vaguely down the street. “Twenty-one Ash. The granite and plywood building. I have a corner space that looks right onto the street.” “Did you see anybody else down this way, earlier?” “I saw a grey SUV go by around eleven.” I made note of his answer. “Can you describe it for me?” “Graphite. Chrome details. Medium sized.” “Chrome details? You mean, like custom trim?” “No, the usual garish stuff” he said. “The same as on all of them.” “Was there anyone else working at the ad agency with you tonight? He looked at me with indignation. “I’m not in advertising. I’m in design.” “Right. Was there anyone at the design place with you tonight?” “No, I sent my junior home at ten. I’ve been alone since.”

I remember thinking how it might be amusing to tell Johanson to send out an APB for “an average looking, average sized, SUV in grey with the usual garish looking trim.” My guess is that he would have done it, eager puppy that he was. The thought seemed less funny now.

Lest the night should come to a close before its due, I forced myself to focus further. The scene was not yet complete. There was that moment. That golden moment when I learned the news from Tina, the forensics lead. I tried to make my fuzzy brain remember her exact words. It didn’t come easily. Could be the beer. Could be exhaustion. More likely I was just old, tired and more than a little fucked up. But I got them. I got down into my little brain and retrieved those bits of conversation past. The little snippets that were the first clue that I was well and truly screwed.

Cue misery. Crank up the volume. Embrace the final cut. I approached Tina and wondered why there were so few forensics people on the scene. “So, where’s the rest of your team?” “You’re kidding right? You been in a cave all night? she said. “I was home. Then I was here.” “You might try staying in touch with the world now and again. Might do you some good.” “Might depress me, is what it might do. So, what the hell are you talking about? She looked at me in disbelief. Apparently I’d been out of the loop. “A family of four was down from Seattle to see the Blazers play. Someone decided to shoot them while they were going back to their car.” “A robbery?” I asked. “Could be but they went after them all. Even the kids. Three dead at the scene. The media is already on it like rabid dogs.” “I bet” I said. “Which means the Mayor and the Chief…” “I get the picture” I said. And sadly I did.

Fade up mental image of his eminence, the Mayor, aglow from the light of TV crews as he gave a hasty press conference. Behind him stood The Chief of Police and my boss, The Chief of Detectives. Begin slow motion! Bring on the Anarchist Cheerleaders! Fine, young things with long, lean legs saluting all that is evil and all that is chaos! “Here we are now/Entertain us/I feel stupid/And contagious/Here we are now…

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