Jonny T here with great new that Author and great friend of the site Robert R Best has returned with his new Novella "The Independent" Author of the highly acclaimed Lakewood Memorial Trilogy it's great to have him back with some new stuff.So be sure to clink the link below for Robert's site to get your copy as well as all his great previous work,
ROBERT R BEST OFFICAL SITE:http://robertrbest.com
Sarah Keller stepped across the field, picking her way through grass that would have to be mowed soon. Cars went by on the road behind her. The fairgrounds off to her left, normally vacant, now contained a large, sprawling structure. The carnival was in town. Or soon would be, once they were set up.
Her police car was parked along the road behind her. Lakewood County Sherriff’s Department, it read. Sarah was the small town and surrounding county's Sherriff. Her only deputy, Chip, knelt in the field ahead of her. His hat provided him some shade. Something raw, twisted and red stained the grass in front of him. He wore white plastic gloves pulled tight over his hands. They were stained pink. Flies buzzed furiously around him and the mass.
"So what we got?" said Sarah, picking her way forward.
Chip looked up, nodded in acknowledgment, then back down at the red mass. "Hope you had breakfast a while ago. Or not at all, really."
Sarah took another step and the smell hit her. Raw and putrid. The body up ahead - and Sarah knew it was a body - was already stinking in the early July heat. The acrid tang of it stung the back of her throat.
She stopped and grimaced. "Fuck. God's left tit, that stinks."
Chip smirked. "Eloquent as always, Sheriff."
"Eat me," said Sarah, fishing around in her pockets and pulling out a small container of Vicks. She opened it, dug out a glob with her finger and rubbed under her nose. The strong menthol smell helped cut the odor. A little. "You think you'd get used to that, huh, Chip?"
"Name's not Chip," he said, his voice reminding her he'd told her a million times.
Sarah resumed walking. Two more steps and she was close enough. The red mass was indeed a body, or at least had been. The man - Sarah was reasonably sure it was a man - was crushed and split open. Bones jutted through purple wounds in his skin. His spine was twisted and broken, much of it visible through his ruined back. His head was crushed, partly deflated against the grass. Blood and muck spread out from where he lay, like he'd been stomped on by some sort of giant. Or dropped from the sky.
Sarah looked around the field. Other than her and Chip’s footsteps and the point of the body’s impact, the field was undisturbed. There was no sign of what had left the body there, or how it got in that state. No mangled grass, no bloody trail. Nothing.
"Huh," she said, looking back down.
"My thoughts exactly," said Chip, pulling off his gloves in an inside-out motion and dropping them in a plastic bag to his left.
Sarah slid the Vicks back into her pocket. "Any ID?"
Chip shook his head. "None. Cheap-ass wallet with a few bucks in it, but no ID."
"Most likely," said Chip.
Sarah knelt for a closer look, despite wishing she didn't have to. She leaned in to look closely at what was left of his face. Half of his head was flattened against the ground like a deflated basketball. Splits ran up what remained of his face, radiating out from the point of impact. Blood and bone showed beneath. His remaining eye was open, bulging outward and filled with blood.
"Yeah," said Sarah. "Never seen him around town."
She stood, brushing dirt and grass from her knees. She let her gaze wander across the field, landing on the carnival. She stared at it as she idly slipped a hand into her pants pocket. She pulled out a stick of gum and unwrapped it.
"Isn't that where the Fourth of July carnival's going up?" she said, sticking the gum in her mouth.
"You sure that's a good idea?" said Chip, looking up at her.
Sarah started chewing and grimaced. "Oh fuck," she said. The odor, still heavy in the air, was now in her mouth. She spit the gum out, followed by another round of saliva for good measure. "That was a mistake. Shit."
Chip nodded. "What was that before?"
Sarah spit one more time and indicated to her left. "The carnival. They're setting it up across the field there." She looked over at it, then down to the body. It struck her that the man could have been thrown to where he lay. That would explain how there was no blood or disruption of grass anywhere around the body. She looked back to the carnival. It was too far away.
"Yeah?" said Chip, breaking her thoughts. "Why?"
Sarah stared a moment longer, then shook her head. "Nothing. Call the coroner. Tell him to bring a hoe to scrape this guy off the ground. Maybe a rake. Or a trowel."
Chip retrieved his phone from his shirt pocket. "On it."
Sarah watched Chip, then reached in her own pocket. "Fuck, that gives me an idea." She pulled out her own phone and tapped at it to open the camera. Flies buzzed around her. The putrid meat smell crept past the Vicks guarding her nose.
"What are you doing?" said Chip, pausing his dialing long enough to look up at her.
Sarah knelt and held the phone in front of her. She moved her hand left to right, trying to center the man's head in the frame. "Mush-face here's got no ID. We need a picture so we can ask around."
"As serious as your grandma's blowjobs."
Chip shook his head. "Nice."
Sarah was about to snap the picture when her phone rang. "Shit," she said, standing. The display read Ginny.
Sarah pushed down a pang of annoyance. She tapped the screen to answer and held the phone to her ear. "Yep, sis?"
"Watcha doing?" said Ginny's voice. Sarah could tell she was in the kitchen from the background noise. Sarah assumed she was cooking for Ben, Ginny's son and Sarah's nephew. Sarah knew this meant a huge mess would be waiting for her.
"Looking at a dead body," said Sarah.
"I hope you're kidding."
"Hold on to that dream, Ginny. And hold on for a second." Sarah lowered the phone from her ear and touched an icon on the screen. "I've got you on speaker."
"Why?" said Ginny's voice, now ringing out through the field.
"Nothing," said Sarah. She knelt again and re-opened the camera.
"Oh God, you're taking a picture of the body, aren't you?"
"Don't interfere with police business, Ginny," said Sarah. She snapped the picture. The phone clicked and the red ruin of the man's face froze on the screen.
"That's gross," said Ginny's voice.
"Don't think about it," said Sarah, standing. She held the phone in her palm, leaving Ginny on speaker. She looked around the field once again for good measure.
"I can't help it!"
"Not that I don't appreciate standing in a muggy field with flies and corpses and talking to my sister, but why did you call?"
"Oh, right," said Ginny. "Just making sure you haven't forgotten Ben's birthday tomorrow."
Sarah paused. She opened her mouth and then shut it. Chip, talking to the coroner on his phone, shook his head and grinned at her.
Shit, thought Sarah. "No, of course not. I've already gotten his present."
"Dammit, Sarah." There was subtle, but real, anger in her voice. Chip raised his eyebrows at it.
Sarah's gaze fell back on the carnival. "Wait. Have you already bought passes to the carnival?"
"No, they haven't gone on sale yet."
"Well there you go," said Sarah, stepping away from the body. "Two passes on me."
"Fine," said Ginny. There was a clatter of pots and pans, and Ben's voice saying something in the distance. "Gotta go. Thanks!"
"Sure thing," said Sarah. Ginny hung up on her end. Sarah locked the phone and slid it back into her pocket.
Chip was hanging up his phone as well. “Trouble at home?”
“Have any siblings, Chip?”
“Can’t say I do.”
“Well, if any materialize, don’t live with them.”
“Will do,” said Chip. “Anyway, coroner’s on his way."
Sarah looked down at the ruined mass of pulp and bone. Flies buzzed and the smell hung heavy.
She sighed. “We need some more deputies, Chip.”
“Says the person who fires them and won’t hire any new ones.”
“Hate your face, Chip.”
Chip chuckled. “So fire it, then.”
“Nah. I’d have to hire you a new face and it would get all weird and shit.”
Sarah sniffed as deeply as she dared in the thick, putrid odor. She looked back to the carnival and took a step toward it. "Let's go shopping, Chip."
The walk to the carnival was longer than Sarah had figured. For one thing, the ticket booth was on the far side. And for another, the muggy air made each step feel like two. Both she and Chip were sweating profusely by the time they walked the outer fence of the carnival and reached the front gate. Or, rather, where the front gate would be once they had finished setting up.
It was a wooden archway, freshly painted but obviously old. A large bright sign cried out from the top of arch: Tuck's Travelling Treasures, Est. 1908. Home of the first travelling wooden roller coaster! And it was, too. Or at least it had a wooden roller coaster. Sarah could see the brightly painted coaster sitting across the carnival. The seats were bright yellow and made of ancient looking wood. The metal frame holding them together and the metal track made Sarah feel a little better about letting her nephew ride on the thing.
She frowned and looked around again. More wood had been plastered over everything. Whoever ran the place was really playing up the wooden angle. Every ride was covered in wood, even though obvious bits of metal poked through. Sarah figured it was to make the carnival seem old-timey, rustic. Charming.
She and Chip stopped walking when they reached a large chain that was stretched across the archway. A metal sign reading Closed hung from it.
Sarah glanced once at the sign and climbed over the chain. It was waist high and Sarah was thirty years old, but she could manage it. Chip followed behind her.
Once inside, she saw a large wooden booth. Tickets, read large painted letters. A ragged looking man stood next to it, looking hazily at the sky. A name tag on his dirty shirt read Pete.
Pete noticed Sarah approaching and straightened himself. He swayed slightly. "We look open, lady?"
Sarah kept walking, amused Pete hadn't noticed hers or Chip's uniforms. As she drew near, a second strong smell hit her that day. Alcohol and stale smoke. But mostly alcohol.
"Whoa," said Sarah, stopping right in front of him. "That whiskey smell from last night or this morning? Or is it all one long drunk?"
"Fuck off bitch. We're closed!" said Pete, moving a shaky arm to wave her and Chip away.
Sarah grabbed his arm mid-wave. "Well, ain't you a big bag of stupid? See this shiny thing on my shirt?" She nodded down toward her badge.
Pete's eyes moved downward. He blinked a few times, focusing. Realization spread across his face. "Oh shit. Ma'am, I'm sorry..."
Sarah dropped his arm. It fell limply. “Don’t worry about it,” she said. “Boss man in?”
Pete blinked hazily and was silent for several seconds. Behind Sarah, Chip cleared his throat.
“What?” Pete finally said.
Sarah shook her head. “Mother ass fuck…” she muttered, walking back to the chain and stepping over it. She looked up at the sign, read it, then climbed back over the chain. Chip chuckled as she returned.
“Tuck,” she said. “Is Tuck in?”
“Um,” said Pete, opening and closing his mouth several times, “we’re still closed.”
Sarah smiled and calmly reached for her badge. She tapped it lightly, waiting for Pete to notice. He didn’t. Sarah moved the badge around until the sun caught it and bounced to Pete’s eyes. He blinked and gave a start, as though noticing the badge for the first time.
“Oh right,” he said. “Just a moment.”
Pete stumbled away from the ticket booth, headed for a trailer set against one wall. He made it to the metal steps, hesitated, and made his way inside.
“It’s like watching a baby bird leave the nest,” said Sarah.
“Beautiful,” said Chip.
Pete shut the door behind him. For a few seconds there was silence. Then voices, almost shouting, emanated from within. One voice was Pete. The other, Sarah assumed, was Tuck.
“Cops!” rang out from the trailer, loud and clear.
Sarah smacked Chip’s chest with the back of her hand. “That’s us, Chip!”
“Mmmm hmmm,” said Chip.
As if aware they could be heard, the voices dropped considerably. The talking went on for a minute or so longer. Sarah smiled stiffly and drummed her fingers on her belt.
Right when she finally sighed, the door to the trailer opened. Pete emerged, stumbling back down the stairs and over to Sarah.
“Tuck will see you now,” said Pete, blinking in the light.
Sarah raised her eyebrows. “How formal. Thank you, Peter.”
Chip tipped his hat to Pete as Sarah and he walked over to the trailer. Sarah stepped up the metal stairs, opened the door and stepped inside. Chip followed behind her.
Sarah blinked several times, her eyes adjusting to the dimness inside. The trailer smelled musty and old, covered with a thick layer of cheap air freshener. It wasn’t working.
She stepped over to a fat, greasy man sitting at a desk against the back wall. His face was red and a bright Hawaiian shirt stretched across his considerable belly.
He gave Sarah and Chip a big smile. “Morning, officers! What can I do you for?”
“Don’t do that,” said Sarah. “I fucking hate it.”
Tuck blinked. “What?”
Sarah grinned. “Nothing. Did you know you have a dead body in your field?”
Tuck jolted back in his chair, the wheels squeaking on the carpet. “What? Which one?”
Sarah raised an eyebrow. “Which body?” She turned to Chip, who was already taking out a small notepad from his breast pocket. “Make a note of that, Chip,” she said. Chip fished out a stub of a pencil.
“No, no,” said Tuck, red, sweaty and flustered. “Which field?”
“False alarm, Chip.”
Chip slipped the pencil and pad back into his pocket.
Sarah nodded to her right. “That one.”
“Oh Christ,” said Tuck, wiping sweat from his face and neck. “On opening day?”
“Touching,” said Sarah. She fished her phone from her pocket, brought up the picture of the body, and turned the phone to face Tuck. “You know this guy?”
Tuck pulled back, repulsed. “Jesus!”
Sarah pulled back her phone and looked at it. “I guess what I mean is, did you know him before he turned into field chili?” She lowered the phone and slipped it into her pocket.
“On opening day…”
“You said that already,” said Sarah. “We’d moved on to whether or not you know Cherry Cobbler out there.”
“No, no, no,” said Tuck, looking pale and wiping more sweat away. “Never seen him before.”
“Well fuck me, then.” Sarah shrugged and looked around. “Anyway, the coroner will be here any second, maybe he can—”
Tuck jolted back again. “A coroner?”
“Yep. And an ambulance and everything. If you’re real good, we’ll let you turn on the lights. They go woo woo…”
Tuck shot her a dirty look, then it was gone. He leaned across his desk. “Can we talk a little more intimately, Sherriff?”
Sarah sat in the chair opposite him. “Well ain’t my heart aflutter.”
Tuck cleared his throat. “Sherriff, I’ve got a business to run, I’m sure you understand.”
“Maybe we could come to some sort of understanding?”
“Understanding?” said Sarah. “Like Plato and shit?”
Tucked rubbed his face, flustered and sweating. “Maybe I could do something for you and you could do something for me.”
“I’m not giving you a rimjob, Tuck.”
Chip laughed behind her.
Tuck turned redder. “No, no,” he said, wiping away a thick layer of sweat. “What I mean is, you could keep quiet about the whole body thing until we’ve had a successful Fourth of July and move on?”
Sarah stared at him a long time in silence. The air hung heavy, moldy and damp.
Finally she spoke. “Two tickets for the carnival.”
Tuck smiled and leaned back in his chair. He opened a squeaky desk drawer and fished out two tickets. He pushed them across the table to Sarah, his hand on top of them. “I knew we could come to an understanding,” he said.
Sarah darted forward and slammed her hand down over his wrist. He jerked in shock but Sarah held on easily. He stared at her and she at him. With her other hand, she slid the tickets out, then reached into her shirt pocket, without ever taking her eyes off of Tuck’s. She retrieved a twenty dollar bill and slid it under Tuck’s hand. Tuck squirmed and sweated, but could not free himself.
Finally she let go. Tuck sat back so fast his chair slammed into the wall behind him. His face was red and splotchy. He rubbed his wrist and glared at her.
Sarah kept her eyes locked on his. “That’s for the tickets,” she said, quietly. “Don’t ever try to fucking bribe me again.” She stood and smiled. “Let’s go Chip.”
She turned and stepped past Chip towards the door, and he followed her.
“Sherriff….” said Tuck, his voice shaking with both embarrassment and a rising fury.
“Not now, Tuck,” said Sarah, still headed for the door. “The coroner trains ‘a coming. Whoo whoo.”
She opened the door and motioned for Chip to go first. He did, stepping out into the muggy morning air.
Sarah was still for a moment. She looked back over her shoulder. Tuck looked furious now.
“Also,” she said, “your shirt looks fucking stupid.”
She stepped through the door and shut it. The air was thick and heavy outside but smelled better than the trailer. Chip was waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs.
As she walked, Tuck’s voice erupted from inside. “You crazy fucking bitch!”
Sarah reached the bottom and smiled. “Listen, Chip. It’s my theme song.”
“Yep,” said Chip.
© 2013 Robert R Best