Checkdown - A Battle Red Blog Mystery (Chapter Three)

The following is, from start to finish, a work of complete fiction. Any resemblance to persons alive and/or dead are purely coincidental, so please don't sue me (because I own nothing of value); unless, of course, it's a reference to someone here on BRB, in which case REALLY don't sue me.

Chapter One - It's Good To Be The QB

Chapter Two - A Blogger Named Scott Brooks

Chapter Three: The Quarterback Is Dead

Texans Star Quarterback Eliot Nash Found Dead

By Jack McClanahan

Eliot Nash, a four-time Pro Bowl quarterback and former NFL MVP, was found dead early this morning at a motel on Hamilton and McGowan, sending a wave of shock throughout Houston and the NFL community. Nash, 32, had died of what the police are calling apparent heart failure.

The body was found by a housekeeper who entered the room not realizing that the deceased quarterback was still in his room with his back turned to her. She says that she knew something was wrong when she apologized for entering without permission and he didn't move an inch from where he was. She then noticed that he wasn't breathing and immediately called 911.

A few minutes after police arrived at the scene, people started crowding around the room, trying to get a look at where the quarterback spent his last hours.

Houston Police spokesman Peter Nguyen declined to state what was specifically responsible for Nash's death, saying only that they do not suspect foul play. He also states that the police are examining all the possibilities in this senseless tragedy.
Scott slid back in his seat, as he let the news sink in. Eliot Nash, the best Texans quarterback since Matt Schaub, was dead. The emails that followed were filled with the same sentiments that Scott felt right then.

I can't believe he's gone. Just...just like that.
Hang on, maybe it's a mistake. It IS Flapjacks reporting, after all.
Scott fought back a bitter chuckle. This isn't the time for jokes, he thought, regardless of how crappy a reporter he is.

Scott skimmed through the rest of his emails to the last one.

Could one of you guys throw up a quick post about Nash's death? I'm swamped with work today.

Thanks,

Chief

Chief was the editor of the blog. It was the only name that BRB writers knew him by. In the several years he managed what he called "the sinking ship," he had never used his real name. Every so often, a curious writer would search through his comments for a clue to his name and would always come out empty handed.

Just as he closed the last email, another one popped up on his screen, announcing that a writer had done just as Chief had asked. Scott pulled up the blog and the "obituary" post already had close to a couple of hundred comments.

Out of morbid curiosity, and a desire to avoid work, he peered through the comments. The overwhelming majority of comments were sadness about Nash's fate and amusing anecdotes from readers about their encounter with the quarterback, positive and negative. A handful of comments asked about drafting a quarterback in next year's draft.

Scott lowered his head and shook it glumly. Unbelievable. Just unbelievable.

The comment that seemed to drive most of the thread, though, was asking what Scott had been wondering about himself.

Thanks Flapjacks, that was totally unhelpful. Anyone got any idea what caused his "heart failure?"

He had to admit, he was stuck.

Good question, nobody seems to have an answer to that one. You would think someone would have said something about it by now, even if by accident.

He read through the comments, even the ones claiming he wasn't really dead and only faked it so he could help Elvis start up a chain of doughnut shops. Scott stopped at one comment that caught his attention.

A friend of mine that works for HPD told me that he overdosed. Didn't say what from, but that's what they're thinking.

Scott shook his head and squinted closer at the screen.

...overdosed...

He closed the site and stood up from his chair. He left his office/broom closet and went to the break room. The break room was a drab little room with a few small, round formica tables and two vending machines, one for soda and the other laden with snacks. Scott wished he had remembered to bring his lunch in today. Claire was always on him about forgetting such things. He looked longingly at the vending machine and let out a pitiful sigh. He had money to put into the machine but he refused to use it as a matter of principle. He glared menacingly at the machine and sat down at the lone empty table in the room.

It didn't prove to be empty for long as a tall, dark-haired man sat down opposite of him at the table.

"You look like you just found out your dog got run over or something."

"Nice to see you too, Diego," Scott said forlornly

"What's the problem? I don't think I've ever seen you this upset."

"You know who Eliot Nash is?"

Diego looked at Scott and tilted his head toward his friend, as if to say 'Of course I do.'

"He was found dead today."

Diego raised his eyebrows, "You're kidding. When?"

"This morning. He was at some motel. Heart failure, they're calling it."

"You don't think he was..." Diego raised his arm and pointed a finger at the crook of his other arm and squeezed an invisible syringe.

"That's just it. It's not something he would do."

Scott knew that wasn't entirely true

"He's never been caught with anything more than a small bag of weed in his life," he added.

At saying that, he remembered a press conference Nash had a couple of years back to refute the possession charges he faced at the time. What were his exact words, Scott wondered silently.

"My body is a temple, baby."

"He thinks--er, thought--too highly of himself to use anything stronger than weed."

"Maybe he had a change of heart," Diego suggested.

Scott cast a glare of disgust and disbelief at Diego.

"What?"

"Never mind," Scott said, looking down at the table.

"What have the news outlets said about it?"

"Not much. Flapj--I mean, Jack McClanahan was the first one to break the news and everybody else has been working off of his report since then."

"We have a saying where I come from: If you don't want a rotten apple, don't go to the barrel. Get it off the tree."

"'Where you come from?' We're from the same damn town! We grew up together. Also, that's from 'The Untouchables,'" Brooks said.

"I could've originally been from Chicago, you know, and moved here at a young age," Diego said in an effort to save face.

Scott rolled his eyes.

"My point is if you're sick of bad information, go and get it yourself!"

Scott had a far away look in his eyes. He suddenly saw himself in black and white, wearing a trench coat three sizes too large, and sitting behind a large wooden desk decorated with only a half-empty bottle of whiskey.

"Scott?"

He saw a long-legged blonde walk into his office, or at least he assumed she was blonde; his imagination was still in black and white, after all.

"Scott," Diego shouted, bringing his friend back to reality.

"You know, Diego, I'm not feeling too well all of a sudden. I think I'm going to go home early."

"Must've been that 'Cup o' Noodles' you had for lunch," Diego winked.

Scott turned back at the vending machine and growled softly as he got up and left the break room.

As he drove down Hamilton toward the motel, traffic got more and more tightly packed until he couldn't hardly move more than a couple of inches every 10 minutes or so. The motel wasn't so much a death scene as it was a circus by the time Scott was able to pull into the motel. He fully expected to see peanut vendors and street performers in the parking lot while police and forensic experts scoured Nash's room.

The motel itself was the kind of place you would expect police to be found on a regular basis. It had a thin metal roof and white walls, the paint flecking off to show the plywood interior. The walls were lovingly coated in intricate tableaus of indecipherable graffiti.

The scene in the parking lot was not far from what Scott had envisioned driving up. Texans fans were chatting with streetwalkers whose best days, assuming they had them at all, had long since passed. Drug dealers and fences watched the police like hawks while they made their daily contributions to the black market. And he couldn't be entirely sure, but Scott thought he caught an STD just standing there in the crowd. If this isn't hell, Scott thought, then it can't be too far off.

Scott scanned the rooms from the parking lot for the one swarming with Houston's finest. His eyes fell on a room on the first floor at the corner of the building.

Obviously this must be the Presidential Suite, Scott thought to himself. He sidled past a Texans fan in a ridiculously large cowboy hat and a hooker who had probably been turning tricks during the Depression and moved toward Nash's motel room.

The room was cordoned off with yellow crime scene tape and Scott could see the flash of camera bulbs inside the doorway. Standing on either side of the door were two burly, and decidedly unfriendly-looking, policemen watching the still-sizable crowd of looky-loos who waited in the parking lot like birds waiting to be tossed bread crumbs.

As Scott grew closer to the room, the guards moved to obstruct his view into the room until they stood directly in front of the door.

"Help you with something?" one of the guards asked brusquely.

Scott opened his mouth and nothing came out except a tiny squeak. His mind was racing for an excuse to get a look at Nash's room.

"Y-yeah, my name is...is, um, Adenauer, Charles Adenauer. I'm a writer for the Houston Daily."

The other guard looked at him without moving his head. "Never heard of the Houston Daily," he said with a snarl. "You have no business here. HPD only."

"My-my editor sent me here to cover the death of Mr. Nash. Our readers h-have been so enthralled with his story and want to hear--"

The guard raised his hand, "Stop. Just stop. You're the sixth 'reporter' that's come by here today. Getting kind of tired of y'all trying to gawk in here."

"God, is there another one of those 'reporters' hanging around out there?" asked a gruff-sounding voice from within Nash's room.

"Yep," said the first guard, his eyes firmly fixed on Scott.

"I'll take this one."

The guards stepped aside and let through the owner of the voice. He was a giant of a man who wore a gray dress shirt, tie, suspenders, and tan slacks. He stood out like a sore thumb among the blue-clad police officers swarming inside and around the room.

The giant man towered over Scott by several inches, a fact made more plain by him leaning over the blogger.

"Listen good because I'm not about to say this again, Mr..."

"Adenauer," Scott said nervously.

"Whatever, if I see you hanging around this room again, I'll arrest you myself for..."

"For..." Scott asked kindly.

"For pissing me the hell off. Now get out of here before I change my mind."

"Detective Carlyle," another voice shouted inside the Presidential Suite.

Carlyle turned his head and said, "Did you find something?"

Scott walked away slowly, deliberately, looking back at the detective and the two guards.

Well, Scott thought, that went well.

He was about to get into his car and call it an investigation when he caught sight of the front office for the motel.

"He said not to go near the room. He didn't say anything about the rest of the motel," he said to himself.

He turned and walked smartly into the office. The office was a microcosm of the motel as a whole. It was shabby and paneled in the cheapest fake wood that money could but probably should not buy. He pressed a bell that was wired into the wall, next to a large Plexiglas window separating what would laughingly be called the lobby from the front desk. After a few minutes, Scott tried the bell again. He could hear the faint sound of exaggerated moaning coming through the Plexiglas. Still, no response. Scott held down the buzzer until finally the door flung open and the manager stepped out.

Scott instantly wished he would step back in. The manager was a fat balding little man wearing a wife-beater shirt stained with food from around the world and held a stump of an unlit cigar in his mouth. Scott could see immediately that this man was put on this Earth to perform this job.

The manager looked scornfully at Scott and pressed a button behind the glass, "You want a room or what?"

"Actually, I wanted to ask you some questions about the Eliot Nash case."

The manager looked positively bored by Scott's statement, maybe even his very existence. "I don't got nothin' to say about it. Now if you ain't gettin' a room, then scram."

"I was just wondering if you saw Nash last night."

The manager grew angrier at Scott for keeping him away from his...no, he didn't even want to think about what he was watching back there.

"I don't know if you've noticed or not, pal. But we charge rooms by the hour. Payin' attention to things ain't one of my strong suits. Now get lost!"

The manager turned to go back to his inner sanctum when Scott shouted desperately, "What about that housekeeper? Is she still here?"

"She's busy cleaning. You wanna talk to her, find her damn cart. Now leave me alone," he exclaimed, slamming the door shut.

Scott left the office to find the housekeeper, the person who originally found the body this morning. But there was no cart parked in front of any of the mangy-looking rooms. The circus in the parking lot had died down since Scott arrived, but the few that remained seemed to be carrying candles and hovering a safe distance from Nash's room and the police. Scott looked at his watch. He didn't realize how late it had gotten. It was nearing nighttime and he would have to hurry home before too long.

"Did you say you were looking for information about that Nash guy?" asked a man with a thick southern drawl.

Scott turned around. The voice belonged to a man with a long ashen beard with streaks of gray and twinkling blue eyes. He wore a denim jacket, jeans, and a trucker hat; unlike so many people he knew, it didn't look like he was wearing it ironically.

"I am. Who, might I ask, are you?"

"Name's Orlund, Jay Orlund. I rent the room next to Mr. Nash's. Pay rent every week."

Scott shook Orlund's hand tentatively, "Can you tell me anything about what you saw last night?"

Orlund scratched his beard thoughtfully, "Saw? Saw? Hmmmm, nope. Didn't see much of anything, really."

Scott pinched the bridge of his nose and groaned, "Is there anything you can tell me, Mr. Orlund?"

"Jay, please. And I never did get your name, Mr..."

"Adenauer. Charles Adenauer," Scott said, wishing he had chosen a less clunky alias.

"Mr. Adenauer. Like I said, I didn't see anything, but I did hear quite a bit last night."

Scott raised his eyebrows, "Go on."

"Yeah, these rooms, their walls are like toilet paper. And most nights, it's like trying to sleep in a Portuguese cathouse. Last night wasn't much different, but I did hear Nash's voice in the room next over last night. I also heard a second voice; a female voice. They were making the kind of sounds together you would expect from a quality establishment like this one."

Scott glanced back at the office, remembering the troll-like manager, and shuddered. "I think I know what you're getting at."

"I expected you might. Anyway in the middle of the usual late-night lovefest that happens here, I hear a door bust open and a lot of yelling from another male voice. The woman shrieked and said nothing else while the other voice was there. I'm guessing she hid in the bathroom."

"They were arguing. Could you hear what it was about?"

"Not really, no. It died down around 3 a.m. though, I remember and I heard snoring. Probably Mr. Nash's snoring."

Scott was scribbling as much of what Orlund said onto his arm as he could.

"Did you hear anything else out of the ordinary?"

Orlund looked up at the brim of his hat. "I'm not sure."

"What do you mean, 'you're not sure?'"

"I thought I heard the door squeak again later that night, but it was so soft, I couldn't be sure. What I do know for sure is that not a few minutes after that noise, Mr. Nash stopped snoring."

"He stopped snoring?"

"Yep. Didn't think much of it until this morning when I woke up and the zoo was camped out in the parking lot there."

"Thank you so much for your help, Jay," Scott pulled out a card from his wallet and offered it to Orlund. "If you remember anything else in the meantime, you give me a call on my work number there, okay? You'd be doing me a favor."

Orlund took the card and tipped his trucker's cap to Scott. "Glad to be of help, Charles. You mind if I call you that?"

"Feel free," Scott said as he bolted for his car, which he expected would likely be on blocks by now. He let out a sigh of relief to see his car, an old Toyota Tercel, was still intact, or at least as intact as it was when he left it. He got in and drove away from the motel, glad to be gone from it and sad to know he'd have to come back to get the housekeeper's story.

On the way home, Scott made two calls. The first was to Diego, asking if he would meet him at the bar for a drink or seven. The other was to his wife to let her know he'd be coming home a bit later than usual.

"Another late night at the office?" she asked, exasperated.

"Sorry, hon. Kiss the kids for me, will you?"

"That assumes I don't kill them first. I'll see you when I see you. Love you."

"Love you too, sweetie," he said and hung up the phone.

The Alcove had been Scott's favorite watering hole since he started drinking in his late teens. He always looked older than his age and the bartender was either too lazy or too profit-driven to ever check ID. It wasn't the most glamorous place on the planet; in fact, many would consider it a dive of the highest order. Scott didn't care, it was his dive, and he liked the place. It may lack atmosphere, he thought, but what it doesn't have in atmosphere, it more than makes up for in high prices.

When he walked into the bar, Diego was sitting at one of the laminated tables with a couple of beers waiting. He sat down and wordlessly clinked his bottle with Diego's. As he drank, his mind swirled with questions. Who was the woman that was with Nash the night he died? Who busted in and broke up Nash's little party with this mystery woman? And where was the cleaning woman at?

"There weren't that many rooms at that damn motel, but she wasn't at any of them?"

Diego tilted his head at his friend, "What the hell are you talking about there?"

Scott glanced up at Diego a little startled. "Just thinking," he said, taking a pull of his beer.

"About what?"

"Nash."

Diego nodded solemnly and raised his bottle, "A toast. To Eliot Nash. May he avoid getting sacked by St. Peter at the Pearly Gates."

Clink.

"So what's bothering you about Nash, then, Nob?"

Scott sighed, "I think there's more to this Eliot Nash story than meets the eye."

TO BE CONTINUED...

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