by Bj Rain
The sound of night is loud, if you listen...
| The fat, steadily falling drops of rain were doing their job of keeping the highway cloaked in shadows. The heavy fog competed with the rain to cut visibility. Clark Hartford maneuvered carefully through the dual hardships- eyes glued to the road in front of him.
Although Clark had driven this highway numerous times, tonight was different. The call from the dash-mounted radio had informed him that an anonymous caller reported a body found in a remote campground along Highway 20.
With the rapidly declining visibility and the fact that the speedometer is pushing well past the eighty-five mile per hour mark, his heart was hammering. It was thudding against the police issue vest that he wore under his uniform. There seemed to be a charge in the air, an electric current coursing through his veins.
Clark reaches for the radio; “One-seven to dispatch.”
“Dispatch to one-seven. Go ahead.” The voice in the box responds. Clark knows this voice to be Nancy Wilcox, the graveyard dispatcher for the weekends.
“Are there any additional details on this situation? I’d like to know what I’m getting myself into.”
"That is a negative one-seven. The call originated from the seventy-six station on Highway 20. The call came through the switchboard at… Three Twenty A.M, no further details at this time.”
Clark glances at the digital clock incorporated into the cluster of gauges on the dashboard. Three Thirty Three, thirteen minutes have elapsed and I have passed no one. Caller may still be in the area, he thinks to himself as he replaces the handheld mike.
Ahead the road begins a slight bend to the right. The headlights on his Crown Victoria try, and fail to cut through the dense fog and pelting rain. Completing the bend he sees the Seventy-Six station where the call originated. The only lights on at this hour are the yellow and gold MGD neon in the front window and the bluish sodium vapors above the fuel island, left ablaze for credit card paying customers. The store behind the pumps is nearly invisible. Through the inclement weather Clark can see that the parking lot along with the phone booth, off to the right, are deserted.
Due to the remoteness of the campground Clark knows that back-up is at least fifteen minutes out. There again, the current continues to course in his veins. He spots the sign for Kamp-A-Way Campground ahead on the left. Braking, he cranks the steering wheel, tires sliding across the rain-slicked macadam, finally finding purchase; he shoots into the entryway of the campground.
Densely lined with tall swaying Ponderosa Pine trees, the entryway drowned itself in darkness. The headlights on Clark’s cruiser reflect off the minut droplets of water making up the fog, returning to his retinas in the form of an almost blinding light. So hindered is Clarks visibility he almost does not see the yellow metal gate that is swung across the road, impeding any further progress by vehicle. Standing on the brakes he brings the cruiser to a jilting stop within feet of the gate.
Having spared himself an airbag to the face and a lot of explaining he again glances at the digital clock. He picks up the handheld and calls in his arrival time of Three Thirty Eight. Replacing the mic, he opens his door and steps out into the fog and rain, not bothering to wait for acknowledgement to come back over the radio.
Walking over to the gate, wishing the damn rain to let up, Clark notices three things; the yellow gate is padlocked shut. Due to the severity of the winters in Washington, campgrounds often closed during this time. Clark spends a moment contemplating why anyone would be out here in the first place.
The second thing Clark notices is a soft glow emanating through the rain and fog to his right on the other side of the road. It takes a minute to place the eerie glow. His hand reflectively goes to the butt of his Nine mm before he realizes that he is seeing an endangered species of the technology age. A phone booth. Walking across the road he steps into the dimly lit Pac-Bell booth.
Thoughts begin to trip over themselves in Clarks mind; why call from the Seventy-Six station if there is a landline right here? Where is the body? That thought stumbles across his previous ponder of why anyone would be out here in a closed campground, in a damn typhoon. Let alone two people on the same night.
Clark's blood begins to circulate faster as his heart rate increases. The electric current has resumed its course.
Clark reaches out and picks up the receiver, expecting the phone to be out of service. He is instead surprised to hear a dial tone. The thoughts stop tripping and stumbling and begin racing through his mind.
The third thing Clark notices as he replaces the receiver and turns around is a hooded figure, nearly obscured by the weather, standing in the middle of the road he had just crossed. The figure appeared to have a cross-bow pointed directly at him. Before his hand can return to his holstered Nine mm Clark sees the moonlight glint off the silver tip of an arrow. In a breath the arrow smashes through his larynx, pinning him to the thin metal backing of the phone booth.
The last thing Clark hears is the sound of night. The last thing he sees is the hooded figure merging with the fog, disappearing from sight, and Clark knows that he is out of life.
“Officer Jenkins, if this is some kind of jo…” Chief Michael Jones stops himself. He knows that when it comes to an officer’s life there is no joking within the department. He is speechless, holding the phone away from his ear and staring at the receiver. Finally, with his hands shaking slightly, he returns the phone to his ear. With more steadiness in his voice then he actually feels he cuts off whatever Jenkins is saying. “I’m on my way down.”
Hanging up the phone he stands. Still trying to wrap his mind around what he has just heard. He exits his office and heads for the elevator.
In his six years as the Chief of Police in Washington, Jones has heard his fair…hell, more than his fair share of bad news. Nothing…NOTHING compared to this.
The elevator stops on the second floor. Stepping out into the hallway Chief Jones spots Officer Jenkins engaged in an animated discussion with Nancy at the dispatch desk. Hearing the chief approach, Jenkins cuts his conversation short, turns and heads in that direction.
At six foot four and compressing the springs on a scale to the tune of two hundred and fifty pounds, Chief Jones was an intimidating presence. By the look on his face, and rightly so, Jenkins knows that this is not going to be easy. Not knowing where or how to begin he starts with the basics. “Chief, the last transmission is logged at Three Thirty eight…”
“I don’t give a shit about that right now.” The Chief thunders.
The chief continues to thunder; “I only want to know two things at this time. One; is Clark all right? Two; how the fuck did this happen?”
“ Sir…, He is…, Clark did not make it Sir, he’s gone.” Jenkins chances another look at the chief, does not like what he sees, and goes back to studying his map. “Clark appears to have suffered a fatal impact from a crossbow of some type. He was shot through the throat, and is pinned to the phone booth.”
“ Jesus Christ.” The Chief responds as his hand slides over his eyes and begins to massage the temples on either side of his head. “Have forensics arrived yet?”
“Not as of yet, they should be on scene any minute though.” Jenkins states.
“Call them.” Jones Says. “He’s one of ours. I want everyone in top form on this one. I want all evidence to have priority in the lab.”
“ Yes Sir.” Jenkins turns and heads for the phone on his desk.
“And Jenkins…” Jenkins turns back. “Yeah…”
“No leaks, no press, no comments. I do not want this splashed all over the morning news if we can help it, o.k.”
“ You got it boss.”
Chief Jones heads back to his office. Once inside he collapses into the leather chair behind his desk, reaches down, and pulls open the bottom drawer. Inside lies a black leather day planner. Inside that the home phone numbers and addresses of every officer in his unit. This is not going to be easy he mutters to himself.
Dreading the next few hours the Chief opens the door to the cruiser and steps out into the night. Surveying the scene in front of him he feels a sickening stream begin to meander through him. Taking a deep breath he allows his eyes to take in the environment of the scene. He noticed the way the land angled down towards him from the cordoned off scene ahead. Hearing and watching the rain drip-drop-splashing through the boughs of the pine tree's onto the wet forest floor he realizes he is not able to observe much more. The harsh glare of the coroner’s portable light impairs his vision. He wills his legs forward and into a sure case off heartburn.
As he approaches the yellow police tape securing the scene Jones frowns, thinking to himself; sure is a sick bastard that chooses yellow. Yellow reminded him of summer days and smiley faces, happy shit. Never has he lifted the yellow tape and stepped into anything having to do with happy shit. “God damn tape should be red. The universal color for danger and shit that's no good.” He mutters to himself as he ducks under the “happy” tape.
Seeing Officer Jenkins speaking very animatedly with the Medical Examiner, he heads in that direction. As Jones approaches the two men he hears only three words before the heartburn begins.
“Exactly what is it we’ll be cutting off?” Jones asks of neither one of them in particular- The look on the Chiefs face, and the steeliness in his voice sufficient to receive a prompt response.
The M.E. does not hesitate. He looks up from the clipboard he is holding, locks eyes with Jones, and states very simply; “The arrow.”
“Why?” The Chief Asks, a master of succinctness himself.
“The arrow has been altered, there are… " the M.E. pauses. He seems to be searching for a way to explain the alteration. “Little fins for lack of a more professional term. Sharpened stainless steel triangles welded onto the shaft of an arrow. It is impossible to separate one from the other without cutting the arrow.”
For the second time in less than two hours he speaks his lord’s name in vein. That is not like Chief Michael Jones. Not like him at all.
I wake up at Five Forty five everyday, everyday for as long as I can remember. I hate Five Forty Five in the morning. No matter the amount of hours I sleep, I wake at the same… fucking… time. I roll over, not to look at the bedside alarm clock. I know without a doubt what time it is. Instead, I lean all the way over and reach underneath the twin bed with painful metal coils. They creak and screech in protest. My hand slides back and forth across the floor searching until finally finding what I am looking for. Wrapping my hand around the butt of the Three Eighty hand gun stored there, I pull it out, point at the alarm clock and pull the trigger. The sound resonates through the small room. Not as loud as I expected though. This is the first time I have fired a gun in my thirty-two years of life.
My name is C.J. Hansen. You might ask me about the neighbors hearing a gun shot and contacting the authorities. I could give two shits about that, one way or the other. I will not be here by the time they respond. You see, today is the first day of the rest of my life. Today I begin a transformation, a transformation from the monotonous way of life that society has bestowed upon me.
I have been out of prison for a decade now, ten long years of trying to do the right thing. Of getting to work on time, being cordial to others. Staying within the boundaries of the law, trying to reduce my carbon footprint, recycling, reducing, and reusing. In all that time one thought constantly permeates my brain- life IS prison. Oh sure we have our freedom, but do we really? Can we really go wherever we like on a whim. No. There is always a bunch of preparations to make, vacation time to request, mail to stop, errands to run, chores to take care of. If you are having a hard time believing me, try it. Pack up the car and take off to The Grand Canyon without informing anyone. Instead of going to work on Monday, just jump in the car and go white water rafting. Why not, we supposedly have our “freedom.”
The homes we live in no matter how big and grand, are just larger cells with (if your fortunate enough) nice things in them. Instead of a twelve by eight box, we have a twelve hundred square foot box. Rather than someone else locking us in at night, we do it ourselves. We are constantly doing what we are told, doing things for someone other than ourselves.
For me, C.J. Hansen, that is going to change. Today I embark upon a new life. A life lived for my happiness. A life lived for my own saneness. Free of expectations, the rules and regulations of others, free of guilt when I call in sick to my minimum wage job. Free FROM my minimum wage job for that matter.
A smile creeps onto my face as I place the gun on the nightstand, not much different then the metal table next to a bunk in a cell, I think to myself. Rising up from the ever-protesting bed I approach the closet with a strange hint of confusion. What exactly would one wear while undergoing a liberating, life changing transformation? I inquire of myself. Scanning the clothes on their hangers I see mostly frayed and worn work clothes, followed by a single white tee shirt that appears to be mostly unstained. In addition a pair of my cleanest, or least worked in, jeans. Grabbing the pair I dress quickly. After lacing up my “going out” shoes- a pair of white and red Nikes, I scan the rest of the room. Not seeing anything a newly liberated murderer would need in his future endeavors, I exit the room.
Now I know that that sounds bad, but its not. On the other hand maybe I have spent so long justifying it that it just seems o.k. to me. You see, I have something on my mind. Something that has eaten away at me for a very long time. It has consumed my mind, body and soul, slowly and efficiently. Now I believe the time has come to deal with it from a new perspective, a pro-active prospective, if you will. Not bothering myself with locking the front door I exit the cell of a life past and begin walking into a future created for me, by me.
The morning is cool. A crisp wind blows through the leaves of the adolescent elm trees that line the street. The sun just rounding the horizon shoots silken shafts of light into the gray morning. I enjoy watching the many colored leaves swirl and swoop up off the ground. They arrange themselves into a swiftly moving mini-cyclone. As if they themselves could envision a greater fate then simply being raked up into garbage bins, or worse yet, those horribly expensive pumpkin leaf bags that seem to be all the rage. They seem to want to continue arranging themselves higher and higher. They wanted to become a great cyclone- one big enough to strike back against the trees that had so callously shed them from their food supply. I enjoyed the fresh smell of the morning as I made my way to the first stop I had in mind- The Park.
Cliff Edge Park seduces me with its charm more and more since moving into the area. Only three blocks from my place. (What use to be my place, I remind myself with a grin.) I found that it is an excellent place to come when I feel the need to clear my head. The fact that I find myself here almost daily is not lost on me. As I said before- I have something on my mind.
Walking into the parks embrace I hear the faint sound of the maintenance crews riding mower. Walking past the basketball courts I soon come to a sprawling grass field, mellow hills rising and falling in all directions. The playground finds itself in the middle of all these hills. A spongy walking trail circled the circumference of the park. One time around the trail equaled one mile. I chose to begin my walk with the uphill portion first. Veering left onto the walking trail I see the sun make its first full appearance of the day. It would turn out to be the last smile of my day.
As I put one in front of the other my brain began the familiar task of trying to rid itself of my problems, all at once. I learned long ago how to shut my cognizant self off for periods of time. I also learned that in order to do that, I had to let it run its course. If you have ever tried to fight your brain I am sure you would agree it is difficult, if not impossible. When I allow it to happen my brain becomes a super highway. Problems, thoughts and sometimes solutions race through my mind seemingly at the speed of light. After walking five minutes or so I come to the first of many benches located along the trail. Seldom do I take advantage of these benches. Today however, I collapse onto it, sitting down hard. Walking out on my "so called” life I found, had eliminated the majority of problems that generally plagued my walks.
No longer having to worry about the electric company taking partial payment or having to tell the proprietor of my place that rent is going to be late, my mind turns to murder. It's a simpler thought. The absolute realization that I was going to kill people took the strength out of my legs, making the bench my friend.