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.
The last time he had been at this motel, a motley crew of grieving Texans fans, ladies of negotiable affection, and the local criminal element had gathered near the room where Eliot Nash spent his final night. Today, hoodlums wearing ludicrously baggy clothing and expressions of menace loitered throughout the motel, doing little more than lowering property values.
Scott glanced around nervously, hoping not to catch anybody's eye as he made his way to Jay Orlund's room/apartment. He knocked two sharp raps on the door and looked back to make sure nobody was breathing down his neck. Now that the police weren't swarming around like wasps, life around the motel was returning to normal, which made Scott all the more nervous.
Orlund opened a crack in the door and Scott squeezed in, quickly closing the door behind him. The motel room was as shabby as Scott had imagined it. The room smelled of spoiled cabbage and old socks; oddly, Scott felt grateful that was all it smelled of. On the nightstand next to the dilapidated bed laid several books on gardening, with a bookmark midway through the one on top. Scott discovered that Orlund had not been joking about how thin the walls were. Even now, he could hear the sounds of well-scripted groaning from one of the negotiable ladies in what had been Nash's room.
"I'm glad you could make it, Brooks," Orlund said, placing additional emphasis on Scott's last name.
"You said that Belgreave was here," Scott asked, not wanting to spend any more time here than was necessary.
"She is," Orlund gestured toward a closed door. "Been in there 'bout three hours now. Scared out of her wits."
"So you mentioned," Scott replied. "Any idea what could've scared her so bad?"
"If she said anything about it, I didn't catch a word of it. Hard of hearing, you know. Kept going in and out of one of them weird Caribbean languages, you know? Like Creole or something," Orlund said in his thick southern accent.
Scott frowned. It would be no small task getting her calmed down enough to talk. He walked up to the bathroom door and tapped it softly so as not to scare her further.
"Ms. Belgreave," Scott said, using the tone of voice he normally reserved for his children. "Is everything okay in there?"
A muffled wail resonated on the other side of the door which was followed by incomprehensible rambling.
"I-I can't hear a word you're saying in there."
There was a faint click followed by a high-pitched creak as the door let out a sliver of light. Sitting in a heap on the floor was Helena Belgreave. She looked up at Scott and cleared her dreadlocks away from her face. Her deep sunken eyes were wide with panic and bloodshot from tears.
"Tank de lawd you here."
Orlund was right, she was even harder to understand than usual.
He took her by the hand and helped Belgreave to her feet. She looked a positive wreck. Her uniform was filthy from the dirt on the floor and fraying at the edges. As she stood up, Scott noticed her feet were bare and cracked. She limped out of the bathroom, leaving droplets of blood as she stepped. It looked as though she had walked through broken glass.
She walked a couple of steps without assistance, grimacing and flashing her blinding white teeth as she did. She sat down heavily on the corner of Orlund's bed and wiped off the blood still oozing from the soles of her feet.
"Ms. Belgreave," Scott said, trying to get her attention. She continued wiping, gazing blankly at her feet. He repeated himself, still to no avail.
Belgreave sat bolt upright and blinked.
"Orlund said you had something to tell me," Scott said.
Belgreave slapped at the front of her housekeeper uniform aggressively trying to get the dust off. "Ya was askin' 'bout de foo'ball player de udda day?"
"I got sometin' to tell ya," she said softly. "It's safe, innit? To tell ya, I mean."
He looked into her eyes. Her eyes flicked to the curtains where a couple of silhouettes went by noiselessly.
"You can trust me," Scott said as he sat down in a chair next to the television, glanced up at the ceiling, and made a mental note to use 'an anonymous source' when referring to her in the post.
Belgreave leaned toward Scott, "I was walkin' to work dis mornin', like usual. Den dese two guys stop me on de way. I try to get past dem but dey kep' gettin' in de way. I ask dem to move out my way and one o' dem grab me by de shoulders. I look up at de udda guy. Dat one got de crazy eyes goin'. Tells me, 'I know what you done.' "
There was a long pause, the only sound came from Scott scribbling notes into his pad.
Orlund had gone into the bathroom and began scrubbing vigorously at the blood in the bathroom with bleach and a wad of toilet paper.
Tears formed around the corners of her eyes. "I tell him I got no idea what he talkin' 'bout. He call me a liar..." Her voice trailed off as she struggled to compose herself. "And dat's when he give me dis."
Belgreave held back several dreads to show a massive welt just below her left eye. Scott cringed as he saw it for the first time. "Good God," he said in a low tone.
Orlund, his chore completed, whistled softly at her shiner.
She quickly covered it back up with her dreads. "He say, 'I know what you done and you gon' pay for it.'" She wiped at her nose gingerly. Scott saw her nails had been bitten down to the quick.
" 'Gonna pay for it,' " Scott repeated as he wrote it down. "Pay for what?"
Belgreave let out a loud sob as tears streamed down her face. The amorous couple in the next room banged on the wall violently, telling her to shut up. She then gave a long-winded account of what had happened since Scott had left. But between the sobbing, the muffling effects of her hands on her face, and the nearly indecipherable dialect, Scott could only make out one out of every five words. Several minutes dragged past as Scott waited for Belgreave to calm down to the point where he could understand her. Every so often, Orlund would pat her on the shoulder, uneasily, in a pitiful attempt to console her. Scott considered asking her to repeat herself.
But he didn't. He knew why she had been threatened. Belgreave had found Nash's dead body, which meant aside from the police, she was the only one who saw the condition of the room; including anything that might have led an inquisitive reporter, or blogger, in the direction of someone who didn't want to be found. They were threatening her because she had talked.
"Have you talked to anyone else about this?" Scott asked urgently.
Belgreave choked back a sob, "What was dat?"
"I said, did you tell anyone else about this?"
She looked puzzled, "N-no. You de only one I tol' dis to."
It wasn't that much of a surprise. Even Flapjacks McClanahan couldn't get her to talk. The only reason she told Scott anything was because he passed himself off as a lawyer.
Scott sat up in his chair as an unnerving thought sent a chill down his spine.
"Could you describe the two guys involved for me?"
Belgreave looked up from the floor and gave Scott a look of confusion, "Wh-why?"
"Can you describe them?" Scott asked again.
"I don' see what dat has to do wit' anytin'," Belgreave said.
"It's important," Scott growled.
"One o' dem, de one dat held me was a roly-poly kinda guy wit' really short hair and all in black."
Scott scribbled the description down furiously, adding a question mark at the end. "And the other?"
"De udda guy was a big hulk offa guy wit' no neck and the hair dat get all pointy in de middle."
Scott looked up from his notepad. "Was it a fauxhawk?"
"I don' know what de hell a 'fauxhawk' is.
Scott explained it to her using his hands to form a point at the top of his head. Belgreave let out an abbreviated snort of laughter.
"Dat's de one," she said bemusedly.
There was no doubt in Scott's mind who gave Belgreave her shiner, who would do almost anything, even threaten harmless Barbadian housekeepers, to keep her quiet. She had told only one man about the crime scene, and he was getting far too close to the truth; too close for Marcus Sheridan's comfort.
He thanked Belgreave for giving him everything he needed to put Sheridan away once and for all and left.
Scott was on his way back to the office when a bell chimed ominously in the car. He glanced at the dash; the needle on his gas tank meter crept dangerously close to empty. In the distance, he spotted a sign for a gas station and smiled at his incredible good luck.
The station had faded gold paint which cracked and flaked around the mini-mart attached to it. The pumps were coated with dust and looked as though they hadn't been cleaned in a very long time. Scott pulled into the closest pump to the mini-mart, despite there being no other cars around.
Scott stepped out and reached for the handle on the edge of the pump. Expecting to hear a beep as he pulled the handle, there was none. He inspected the pump closer and noticed that the screen was black and had a large crack running through the middle. He glanced at the other pumps, all of which were in various states of disrepair. Looking through the window of the mini-mart, the inside looked like it had been looted.
When he placed the handle back into its holster, Scott heard a loud clicking sound and felt something nudge against his tender ribs. He let out a stifled groan.
Scott froze in place, resisting every urge to reach for his still aching left side.
"Put your hands up," said a man with a voice as harsh as steel wool.
Scott did as he was instructed.
"M-my w-wallet's in my back pocket, you can have it. J-just please don't hurt me."
The man poked harder at Scott's side with the gun. "Shut up."
Scott's eyes winced as he struggled to avoid screaming.
"Open the door," the man said.
Scott reached slowly down toward his pocket, only to be prodded again.
"I said keep those hands up,"
"I-I was just getting my keys."
The man remained silent as Scott pulled out his keys. He then held them behind his back.
"What are you doing?" the man asked.
"Giving you my keys."
"Don't you want to steal my car?"
The man smacked Scott in the back of the head. "This piece of shit? I'll pass. Now open the goddamn door, I won't tell you again."
Scott opened the door slowly. "If you don't want my car, then what?"
"You really do ask a lot of questions you shouldn't," the man said viciously. After a brief pause, he added, "Hand me that notepad."
Scott reached in and fished his notes out of the car.
"Why do you want my n--"
"Stop asking questions! Now give me the damn notepad."
He held the notepad behind his back and the man snatched it from him.
"Thank you. Now was that so difficult?"
Scott remained silent. He could hear the man flipping through the pages.
"You want a piece of free advice?"
"Don't go poking your nose around where it doesn't belong."
Before Scott could respond, he felt a sharp thump on the back of his head and the world around him went to black.
The next thing he knew, he was back at the motel. But it wasn't Orlund's room he was in. This room had cheap wallpaper, a small lumpy mattress, and cheap-looking nightstands flanking the mattress that he found himself kneeling on. He could feel something move beneath him. Writhing beneath him was a gorgeous woman with a heart-shaped face and flowing blonde hair. Her body had been blurred out, much to Scott's disappointment. Everything moved in slow motion, including the girl, and himself for that matter.
He was about to say something when the door burst open noiselessly, revealing...someone. The figure looked like he was shrouded in mist, but very clearly looked enraged about something. The scene felt like something out of a silent film; no words came out, only overly dramatic gestures. The blonde raced into the bathroom and slammed the door silently. The shrouded figure was very clearly yelling at him. Whatever it was, Scott had no idea why. The pace shifted suddenly to lightning speed and the intruder, and the blonde were both out of the room in less than five seconds.
Scott found himself lying face down in the darkness when a very soft creak came from the door. Scott heard it distinctly. It was the only sound he had heard so far. The figure that stood before him looked like something out of a cheesy comic book. Only his silhouette could be seen and a malevolent grin on his face. In his hand was something sharp, something deadly, and the silhouette was inching closer to Scott, as if the mysterious man's feet weren't touching the ground.
Scott clutched at the sheets, kicking and thrashing around in an attempt to get out of the bed. It proved useless and the man held the sharp object high above his head and aimed at Scott's naked body and...
That was when he woke up. The wind around him picked up and the ominous clouds that had been on the horizon now swept across the sky. Scott grabbed the still-open car door and pulled himself up, dusted himself off, and felt carefully at the back of his head. A large, angry welt had formed and was growing to cartoon-like proportions. Or at least it felt that way. Scott sat down in his car and pulled the door closed. A clap of thunder off in the distance caused his windows to rattle.
He sat motionless in the driver's seat, watching the sky blacken with each passing minute. Rain soon followed and splashed on his windshield, bringing him back to Earth. He turned to the passenger's seat. His notes were still gone. He wanted to feel angry about losing the only hard copy of his notes. But he didn't. He couldn't. He still had notes on his computer at home. Instead, Scott felt something different; something he couldn't place his finger on when it finally dawned on him.
From the very beginning, looking into Eliot Nash's death had been a surreal experience for Scott. Despite all the interviews, the missed time at work, the time spent away from his family, the entire experience felt like an exciting dream. With his head throbbing and his guts burning in pain, it felt entirely too real. Too dangerous. And for the first time, Scott was genuinely afraid.
Between the notes on his hard drive and his own testimony, there was enough evidence to put Sheridan behind bars for the rest of his life, even without Julia's account of what happened the night Nash died. It was high time someone else heard his story. Someone with authority, someone with a gun.
Scott picked up his phone, looked up the number for the Third Ward police station, and dialed it.
"HPD Dispatch," the voice said flatly.
"I need to speak with Detective Carlyle."
"What's this in regard to?"
"Tell him it's about Eliot Nash."
There was a long pause until a gruff voice snarled into the phone, "Carlyle."
"Detective, I have some information about Eliot Nash you might want to hear," Scott said, trying to sound contrite.
There was an audible groan, "Why? The case is closed. He overdosed on heroin. There's nothing else to talk about," Carlyle said glibly.
Carlyle ignored him, "Now if you don't mind," he growled.
"He was murdered," Scott shouted desperately.
There was silence on the other end of the line. Scott took the phone away from his ear and was about to hang up.
"I'm listening," Carlyle said, sounding intrigued by the notion. "You have three minutes."
"Not on the phone. Meet me at Harlon's in half an hour. I'll tell you more then."
Carlyle grumbled, "This better be good. Fine, half an hour. Do not keep me waiting Mr..."
"Adenauer," Scott said, using the name he gave Carlyle before.
"Aw, shit," Carlyle mumbled and hung up.
The isolated raindrops turned into a proper storm and Scott drove out of the abandoned gas station and into the wall of water.
Scott arrived at Harlon's with seconds to spare after getting lost twice in the Third Ward. The air was thick with the smell of slow cooking meats and fragrant wood smoke. The dining room was small with wood paneled walls and bright red plastic booths tightly packed together.
In one of these booths sat a wet and very irritated Detective Carlyle. He had bushy black hair with a mustache that matched and lugubrious brown eyes like an old bloodhound.
"Thanks for coming," Scott said, sliding into the seat opposing him. "You hungry? I'm buying."
"Let's skip the bullshit, okay? You think Nash was killed?"
"Yep," Scott said glibly.
Carlyle took a long pull from his soda and stared into Scott's eyes.
"Okay, three minutes. Starting..." he looked down at his watch, "now."
Scott told the detective about the interviews he conducted with Orlund and Belgreave, about the girl and the photograph, about his encounter with Sheridan and Nash's lawsuit, about Belgreave's panicked state and her shiner, and ended with the would-be carjacker who told him to leave Nash's case alone before knocking him out and taking the notepad.
Relaying the story took far longer than the three minutes Carlyle allotted him, but he didn't stop him. When Scott finished, Carlyle peered down at his paper cup, thoughtfully.
"That's quite a story you've got. But that's all you've got it seems: a story," Carlyle said as he stood up.
"What," Scott asked incredulously.
"It's a good story, but you said it yourself, your notes are gone. You can't prove any of it. All you have is the word of a handful of people who can't put Sheridan in Nash's room at the time of the 'murder,' " Carlyle said.
"But Detective!" Scott shouted, standing up suddenly. He stopped quickly as two other people stood up, each of their hands reaching inside their coats.
Carlyle glared at Scott, extended his arm toward the two men, and gestured for them to sit back down.
"Could you at least take another look at the body?" Scott pleaded. "Maybe somebody missed something."
"Look," Carlyle said, his tone softening slightly. "I'll make you a deal. I'll take one more look at the evidence we have."
Scott smiled gratefully, "Thank you, Detective, you won't re--"
"In return," Carlyle growled, "you will turn over everything you have about Eliot Nash. Do we have a deal?"
Carlyle offered his hand to Scott who shook it eagerly.
"Done," Scott said. "I'll send my notes when I get home."
Carlyle and the two men made their way to the door.
"Why are you doing this? Helping, I mean," Scott asked.
Carlyle let out a weary sigh, "Because you bring up a lot of questions that I can't answer, and that bugs me. A lot. I'll be seeing you," Carlyle said, and left flanked by the two men.
It had gotten dark by the time Scott returned home. From the kitchen, he could hear the sink running and Claire humming to a song playing on the radio, and not doing very well at it either. Scott tiptoed upstairs and went to the library, passing Charlie and Matt engaged in yet another epic game of Madden.
Once inside the library, Scott slid into the chair and turned on the computer. He pulled up Battle Red Blog to take a final look at his post before sending it through. When his story list appeared, the post about Sheridan wasn't on screen. Scott searched through the BRB dashboard but there was no trace of it anywhere.
He let out a low groan and minimized the screen. He would have to write it all over again. The case notes file was on the desktop so Scott wouldn't have to search hither and yon to find them if he needed them. He clicked on the icon and was greeted with a dark blue screen where his notes had been. For a moment, Scott could not make himself breathe. It was like being blindsided by Whitney Mercilus. His eyes were fixed in shocked disbelief at the monitor.
The only words on the deep blue screen read:
All Things Deep and Steel Blue
Texans News, Both Great and Small
I Have Some Bad News For You
Your Nash Notes, I Took Them All
Scott slumped back in his chair.
"That son of a bitch."
TO BE CONTINUED...