Zane is a psychic teen hired by the police to solve the murder of a lieutenant's daughter.
|THE CRIME CHRONICLES OF DECKER ZANE~
By Lynne Logan
© Lynne Logan 2005
My name is Decker Zane, and I’m 15 years old. I’m in jail. No, not juvenile hall neither, the nasty county lock-up in Flint, Michigan. The guy above me is snoring, really loud like a cartoon bear in hibernation. I don’t know his name. He ain’t stopped snoring long enough to ask him. I was in gym class-just shooting hoops when they arrested me seven hours ago.
They said a lawyer was going to talk to me. Ain’t seen one yet. This cot is lumpy, and this whole place smells like piss. I couldn’t even keep my damn Walkman. I’ll bet in juvy I could’ve kept my Walkman. I’m not sure why I’m in a regular jail instead of juvy ‘cuz I didn’t kill nobody, but I heard one of the guards say something about all the juvy halls being full, and all they had open was the drunk tank.
I did all the wrong things for all the right reasons, of course. At least that’s what my mother always told me. She said I’d end up in jail unless I started obeying the rules. I was seven when she said that after I hacked into the school’s computer, but I had good reasons then too...long story. I didn’t believe my Ma about going to jail. I thought if I got caught, it would be like the movies, good guy who breaks the law in order to help somebody gets a medal, but it ain’t like that.
Wish she was here, my Ma, I mean. Even if she yelled at me – at least it’d be a friendly face. Damn, I wish Billy Bob up there would stop snoring. It’s really getting on my nerves. He’s starting to cough and gag too, and his breath smells like rotten fish mixed with vomit. Jesus. I am in hell.
She was in the military, my Ma. She believed in discipline, but funny thing is she never hit me or nothing. Her favorite discipline was making me scrub around the toilet and under the rim of the toilet bowl with a toothbrush. God, that was disgusting. I learned to aim a little better after she made me do that. Shit, I heard the cell block door open. Did you hear that?
Footsteps. Jesus, I hope it ain’t another roommate. Guess I should quit cussin’ so much now that I’m in jail. God might spare me then. Mom tried to make me go to church, go to church and pray. I don’t think there is a God listening no more, not after he took my Ma. She died. They said it was cancer, but I don’t believe ‘em. Footsteps is gettin’ louder.
The guard, Phil Bickles, this guy with a huge neck and buggy eyes is now standing beside my cell with a tall man who looks like a cop. Yeah, with them shoes, he’s a cop. Just like the cops in my nightmares. Cheap, Wal-Mart brand black loafers with scuffed heels. He wears out one pair, and off to Wal-Mart he goes. Bickles clears his throat.
“Decker, this is Lieutenant Black. He’d like to talk to you,” Bickles said as he unlocked my cell door.
My cellmate keeps snoring. Mr. Black is eyeing me like I’m some kind of alien insect, and he don’t know whether to squash me or put me under a microscope. Black likes order. He’s obsessed with it. He don’t like nobody messin’ with his stuff, and everything has to be “just so”. His videotapes are in alphabetical order, and if anything is “out of sync” he gets upset, which is why he don’t have a girlfriend. I know this because I know things about people that they don’t tell nobody. It annoys everyone, but I’s born this way. Ain’t nothing I can do about it. Some people call it a GIFT. I call it a curse, don’t wanna know what everybody thinks all the time. It’s too frickin’ noisy, and sometimes really too screwed up for my taste...ya know what I mean?
Dr. Mason called it psychic transference. He was the state shrink. He evaluated me after I bit some kid in my first foster home. Of course, I bit him. The asshole kept peeing in my sock drawer. What kind of freak does that? I called him the Doberman after that. He didn’t seem to like his new nickname much, but marking his territory? That’s a little too dog-like in my book.
So, since he wouldn’t quit pissing on my socks, so I sucker-punched him, and then he came after me, and I bit his ear. Okay, so that’s lame, just like that boxer. What’s his name? Mike Tyson, yeah, that’s it. But what the hell was I gonna do? Keep lettin’ him piss on my socks? Don’t think so.
“Decker, or should I call you Zane?” Black says sitting down on the rickety-looking chair across from my smelly cot with no blanket on it, just a greasy pillow.
“Zane is fine. What do you want?”
“I want to know how you hacked into the FBI computers.”
I laughed. “I ain’t telling you that. What if I need to get in there again when there’s another rapist loose in my school?”
Black gives a thin smile. “Look, I understand you had noble motives, but you still broke the law. You realize that, don’t you?”
“Yeah, but sometimes the road to hell is paved—”
“Yeah, with good intentions.” Black nods, eyeing me with his blue eye.
“Your eyes is different colors. That one’s green—”
“Yeah, and, according to your file, you’re blind in one eye,” Black says leafing through a file with my name on the upper right-hand corner.
“Almost, legally blind in my right eye,” I said pushing up my wire-rimmed glasses.
I hate these glasses. The woman at the eye doctor’s office said that I looked like an older Harry Potter with these on, but I have blond hair, and I just look plain stupid, like some bookworm lost in the hood. Oh, wait. Maybe, that’s who I am anyway. Jesus. I gotta stop analyzing myself all the time!
“How’d that happen?” Black asked, shuffling his feet.
“Car accident when I was four. Glass went in my eye.”
“Oh, shit. That must’ve hurt,” he said, his eye twitching realizing he said a cuss word. Big deal. I heard worse on HBO.
“Sure did. I’s in the hospital for three days, did surgery, but the cornea was too damaged to repair it completely. So, you want anything else, or you just wanna talk about my health?”
“Where’d you get that tattoo, Zane?” he asked eyeing the purple dragon on my arm.
“At a tattoo parlor,” I said looking him square in the face.
“No, you didn’t. You have to be 18 to get a tattoo in the state of Michigan.”
I just glared at Black. He’s a real prick when he don’t get his way. I can tell. What does my tattoo matter? I’m in here for hacking into a federal database. He couldn’t possibly know how I really got this tattoo. I covered my tracks. “Look, Mr. Black, I shouldn’t be talking to you without an attorney, okay, so unless you’re offering to spring me, I ain’t talking no more.”
Mr. Black nodded. “That’s Lieutenant Black,” he said clearing his throat.
What does that mean when people clears their throat all the time? Is that like a dramatic pause I read about in that theatre book or what?
“Lieutenant Black, sorry.”
“Well, I know how you got that tattoo, and it wasn’t at a tattoo parlor—”
“Look, Lieutenant, I’m in here for hacking into a federal database. What does that have to do with my friggin’ tattoo?”
“We’ll get to that. I assure you,” he said smiling.
For a moment, we just sat there looking at each other, me analyzing him, and him doing the same. He was thinking about how smart I am, how he must be careful. He’s staring at the stud in my chin, and the eyebrow. They’re piercings, asshole, get over it.
“So, why are you here, again, Mr. Black?”
Black taps his file, looks down, then leans his head back like he’s thinking all the while staring me down like I’m some God damned experiment.
“What’s it say about me in there?” I asked touching the folder he was holding, and Black yanked the folder away.
“Nothing, you don’t already know,” he said staring at me, not blinking.
That’s a bad sign, studying me over his very large tortoise shell glasses—playing chicken, waiting to see if I’ll look away first, and suddenly I saw him.
I saw what he did to my room. All my shit is all over the floor, books thrown everywhere, my pants and shirts and underwear on the floor—not where I left ‘em, my stamp collection my grandpa gave me scattered everywhere, my box of keys open... and my closet...ransacked. Now, this was just like the movies, and I did not like it.
Mr. Mahan had let him in. Didn’t even blink, Mr. Mahan, didn’t even look upset. He told Mr. Mahan he had a subpoena and a warrant, very thorough man, this Mr. Black. Mr. Mahan let him in, standing at the door in his bathrobe, must have been very early but after I left for school because Mr. Mahan always gets dressed by 8:00 a.m. sharp.
Another police officer, this one in a uniform, opened the closet. Black was carrying this folder on me and set it down on my dresser and looked in the closet. Black pulled the chest of drawers out of the closet. He saw my secret door that I cut out of the floorboards, and he pulled up the trap door to the cellar that Mr. Mahan didn’t know about.
Mr. Mahan had his cellar closed up, didn’t like it ‘cuz it had rats, and Black walked into my den, my sanctuary with its gray cement walls and spider webs hanging from the ceiling and my tattoo machine. He’s looking at the tattoo machine and grinning.
“Jackpot,” Mr. Black said grinning at a uniformed officer. The uniformed officer chuckled.
“You were at my house,” I said my voice cracking. God, I hated when that happened.
“Yes, how did you know that?” Black asked. “Did Mahan call you?”
“No, I ain’t talked to him since I got in here.”
I looked down, didn’t want to explain about my “gift” ‘cuz most adults laughed, and no one ever believed me anyway, no one except my Ma and Mrs. Peachtree, and Mr. Mahan.
Black was staring at me. I could feel it.
“So, why is it you’re wearing that necklace anyway, son?” Black asked staring at the Celtic cross on my neck that my Ma give me, which had been my grandmother’s. I said nothing glancing at Bickles’s new tattoo, then looking down.
“Well, uh, if you need anything, Lieutenant Black,” Bickles said turning away toward the door of the cell block.
Black gave Bickles a suspicious look and caught sight of Bickles’ new tattoo of a black spider on his arm just as Bickles shut the huge, metal door with a bang.
“They’re supposed to seize personal effects—unless, of course you gave the guards a nice tattoo, but I’m not sure how you did that without your machine,” Black mused, his plucked eyebrows curving up like he’s some big, smart ass detective, some Columbo in Wal-Mart shoes.
“Yeah, right, like Bickles just got a spare machine in the break room. Guess Bickles missed the necklace. He must’ve been too busy looking at my ass.”
I shook my head. “Look, I ain’t talking to you no more without my attorney, so why don’t you just piss off.”
“Excuse me?” Black snapped as the cell door slammed open again, and footsteps. Mr. Black didn’t flinch. “I’m not some two-bit private detective, okay, Zane? I could easily get you transferred to a federal—”
Suddenly, a woman in a red suit with the expression of some sissy poodle stopped abruptly in front of my cell, Bickles on her heels. “I don’t think so, Lieutenant,” said the woman in red.
“Zane, this is Ms. Finch. She’s your attorney,” Bickles said opening my cell door, and the poodle strutted in carrying a manila folder, much like Black’s folder on me. Great. I’m a case file in two government departments.
“Ms. Finch, this is Lieutenant Black from the 15th.”
“Yes, we’ve met,” she said with one of them million-dollar smiles as my Ma used to say. Finch’s teeth were perfectly straight and square like they’s built outta white Leggo-shaped teeth. This poodle is uptight. She and Black should get along, but I don’t think he likes her. His mouth is a straight line now.
Her fiancé is cheating on her, and she knows it. She wants him to stop because it’s embarrassing, but she doesn’t seem that hurt about it. That seems weird. She’s angry though. She found the woman’s earring between the sheets this morning when she made the bed. She lobbed it at the wall and stomped out of the room. So, she’s off her game today. Wish I could turn this off. I don’t want to know about this shit. I’d rather not know that Bickles is gay, and this poodle in a red suit with her red plastic nails has “fidelity” issues.
“So, Mr.—” Ms. Finch said consulting her manila folder.
“Zane,” I replied, and her eyes snapped down at me, really seeing me for the first time.
“Wait, there must be some mistake. I’m not assigned to Juvenile Court.” She turned to the cell door and called out, “Mr. Bickles—”
I grinned at Black. He gave a thick-lipped smile, one of them—trying not to laugh kind of smiles.
“Rebecca, he’s in Federal Court,” Black said standing up and gesturing to the rickety chair.
Ms. Finch, the sissy poodle known as Rebecca, eyeballed the dirty, rickety chair, and said, “thanks, I’d rather stand. But what do you mean he’s in Federal Court?” she asked turning toward Black, then eyeballed me. “Why?”
“He hacked into FBI computers.”
“Oh, that’s a horse of a different color,” she said reviewing my file. “That is, that is a federal offense, young man. You are aware of that?”
“So, they keep tellin’ me.”
The poodle licked her red, shiny lips, then took a deep breath.
“And we were just discussing his credit card fraud also.”
“What?” Ms. Finch asked, rifling through her folder. “There’s nothing in here about that. This is labeled as a computer crime only,” she said puzzled, looking to Black for answers.
“Well, he hasn’t been charged with this offense yet.”
“Cuz you ain’t go no proof,” I said.
“We have the tattoo machine we found in Mr. Mahan’s basement and your computer.”
“Yeah, that and fifty cents won’t buy you a verdict. I just re-formatted my C drive, so you won’t find much but some new hip hop videos. Ain’t got no proof I actually used the tattoo machine, maybe it’s Mahan’s. He collects a lot of shit, you know.”
Black laughed, a loud horse laugh. “Yeah, I can just see Mr. Mahan giving tattoos to his buddies at the Rochester Club.”
“And what about Eric C. Carter, the man whose credit card was used to buy it?”
My heart tripled its steady rhythm to a painful disco beat. “I never met nobody named Eric Carter.”
Black leafed through his folder, then slammed it shut and stared at me, stared at me hard like Ma used to when she was trying to get me to fess up to feeding hot dogs to the neighbor’s cat or something, but Fifi liked hot dogs, but anyway...
“Look, Decker, let’s cut the shit. I know you ‘procured’ Mr. Carter’s credit card number online somehow. I know that you bought that tattoo machine and the ink on the Internet and had the stuff sent to Mrs. Lipscomb’s house, and she was your foster mother, prior to Mr. Mahan, correct?”
“Yeah, old drunk, she was my foster parent, don’t prove nothing,” I said glaring at Black, his face an inch from mine, could smell his Colgate breath.
“Yes, well, Mrs. Lipscomb had a DUI that was dismissed yesterday.”
I hung my head. That old drunk sold me out to a higher bidder. Giving her money for booze didn’t hold much water over going to jail. Damn drunk.
“And we know that you sent Mr. Carter a money order for $300 to pay for the tattoo machine with an anonymous note apologizing for using his credit card, and the, uh, font on the letter matches the font on your printer that we found in your room. There were no other fraudulent charges to his Visa after that. Then two days after Mrs. Lipscomb accepted delivery and signed for the tattoo machine and ink, three of your classmates showed up at school with tattoos and couldn’t properly explain where they’d gotten them.”
“All circumstantial,” I countered.
“I’ve convicted many a felon with less,” Mr. Black said, one eyebrow raised.
I swallowed. “That don’t mean you’s gonna convict me,” I replied in a tone that didn’t even convince me, my stomach doing backward flips.
“And your classmates’ parents were none too happy,” Mr. Black said.
I smiled, more out of nervousness than amusement. Then my smile flattened and retreated watching the poodle’s pale-pink face go dark. I’m in deep shit.
“Mr. Black,” the poodle began, but I stopped her. I knew when to fold ‘em. The jig was up, and I got nothing but a pair of sixes, and the house has a royal flush.
“So, what are you offering me, or better yet back to my original question. What do you want?”
Black smiled, a coffee-stained, not-so-million dollar smile that was crooked. “We want you to come and work for us.”
“What?” Ms. Finch, asked, “What are you talking about? No one apprised me of any offer of any kind and—”
“Buddy, Lieutenant Black, have you forgotten that I’m only 15? I’m not old enough to work. That’s against the labor laws, ain’t it?”
“Actors can work from the age of six months. Why can’t you work? With supervision and permission of your guardian.”
“Mr. Mahan wouldn’t care, the more money the better, but why the hell would I want to work for you stiffs? I hate cops.”
Black’s eyes targeted mine, and my middle went all soft. I didn’t like it. I stared at Ms. Finch. “Well, ain’t you got nothing to say about this?”
“What about Mr. Mahan? Why isn’t he here? And your mother? Where is she? The file doesn’t say,” the poodle asked, her regal and perfectly plastic-surgeoned nose twitching.
“I ain’t got a mom no more. She died, hence the word ‘guardian’ as in Mr. Mahan. Ain’t you listening?”
The poodle looked offended, her face flushing red. “That’s not in your file. I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Yeah, that’s a good way to put it. Well, I’m an orphan, but trust me, it ain’t nothing like David Copperfield or Les Miserable.”
The poodle seemed impressed that I could say that right. Yeah, I studied French, you little snob. God, I hate snobs. Just ‘cuz I talk like I’m from the street, which I am, and I got tattoos don’t mean I’m stupid. My mother wouldn’t have liked this poodle neither.
“And your father?” asked the poodle.
“Died in Desert Storm in ’91.”
She nodded. “I’m sorry.” She actually looked like she had tears in her eyes. I wanted to slap her.
Don’t feel sorry for me, you little bitch, with your expensive dry-clean only suit and fake teeth.
“Yeah, thanks, but I’m over all that, all right, so why—”
“And you were eight when your mother died, right?” Mr. Black asked, his blue eye watching me.
I watched Black look from me to Ms. Finch wondering why he’s going through all this family history. What’s the point? What’s he trying to do? Trying to make me to cry—break down or something? Get me to feel like I need some father figure, some asshole like him? Jesus, these government guys are stupid. Ain’t gonna happen. I’m not eight years old no more.
“Yeah, I was eight, so what?” I said feeling the acid gurgle in my stomach, probably from that baloney sandwich Bickles brought me for lunch starting to bubble up in my mouth like would-be vomit. Baloney was probably too old. I coughed trying to avoid tossing it all over Mr. Black’s cheap black shoes.
“So, would you like to work for the police department?”
“Why do you want me to work for you?”
“Because you hacked into FBI secured sites, and no one can figure out how you did it. Even after they analyzed your computer, they still can’t figure it out.”
I laughed. “That’s because I re-formatted my hard drive two days ago, like I said.”
“Why? Why did you suddenly re-format your hard drive?” Black seemed surprised.
Because I saw you coming, you, your badge, and your cheap black shoes, saw you in my nightmare the night before I’s arrested.
“Just doing maintenance, ya know.”
“Uh, huh. Sorry, don’t buy it. Hackers only purge their systems when they’re trying to hide something.”
I looked at the poodle’s shoes. They matched the red suit exactly and looked like they’d never been worn.
“You knew, didn’t you, Zane? You knew that we were on to you.”
“Hackers have a sixth sense,” I said shrugging my shoulders. Then I made the mistake of looking down.
“So, it’s true. You are psychic, just like Mrs. Peachtree said,” Black snapped back, his teeth clicking slightly.
“Mrs. Peachtree? You knew her?”
The poodle looked confused and annoyed. “Who’s Mrs. Peachtree?”
“His second grade teacher. No, I didn’t know her, but I’ve read her notes,” he said looking at the poodle, feeling so important. “She wrote on his school records that—” Black said opening his file again. “Let’s see. Her exact words were: ‘Decker seems to know what people are really like and what they want out of life whether it’s money or a new car or to be an actor or whatever, and he can discern who has touched certain objects. He gets certain impressions from inanimate objects, impressions he can’t explain. He’s extremely verbal for a seven-year-old, and he has a recurring dream, a dream about being captured. I gave him an I.Q. test, and I couldn’t score him because he didn’t miss any, not one question out of 259. There is no scale for that. It’s above measurable I.Q. standards. I think this is where his psychic ability is derived. His intelligence is above any human that has ever been measured.”
I looked at the dirty, cracked cement floor that smelled like piss. I hated when people talked like this around me. I’m not a lab rat that doesn’t run the maze in a predictable pattern. I know I’m a freak. I don’t need to be reminded by this asshole with his flat cheekbones in his crinkly Kmart suit.
I felt hot tears on my eyelashes, and I wiped them away pretending to have something in my eye, hoping they didn’t see. I glared at Black.
“I’m not talking to you no more. Ms. Finch, would you ask Mr. Black, excuse me, Lieutenant Black to leave. I’d rather talk to you alone for now about this, this deal, this offer from the state.”
And suddenly, I saw what Black really wanted, to solve a case, a case about someone, someone special, a little girl with dark hair and intense brown eyes. She had dark purple bruises all over, and a lot of blood on her forehead, and it made him cry in his sleep. He kept seeing her naked and dirty on some basement floor. That’s why he wants me... to help him solve this case. He found out what I can do, and he wants to use me like some computer, his own personal psychic toaster, who sees things and feel things that other people can’t. He loves her, loves her a lot. She was his daughter. She was maybe 10 years old. That’s what’s this is all about.
Now, I see all the darkness and pain in his life. I am his last hope. His blue eye was growing darker. When he’s upset, they almost look the same color, a dark murky green, swamp water green. Well, I’m not giving him the satisfaction, not right now anyway. Why do adults always think they have to trick us into doing the right thing? I would’ve done it then if he’d just asked, but not for him, not for this order-psychotic goon with his big square glasses and attitude. I would’ve done it for Sarah to give her some vengeance against that evil bastard who tortured and killed her, give her peace, and put that evil freak in jail where he belongs.
Just ‘cuz I broke the law don’t mean I’m a criminal. I put a rapist behind bars. Don’t that count for nothin’?
The Crime Chronicles of Decker Zane can be obtained by emailing the author at: email@example.com for a signed copy or from www.amazon.com.