Opening segment: An antihero character takes the stage
|An Antihero character takes the stage in 1117 words.
JANUARY IN DETROIT is an exercise in mind-numbing endurance. The sky takes on a dull gray that reminds me of the frozen woods I imagined while reading Jack London's To build a Fire. That same hopeless feeling followed me around Detroit all winter.
The Detroit sky matched my mood that morning as I stared at the body on the floor of the Northside apartment. I'd left the force ten years ago, but I kept a few of my old friends. A private eye never knows when he might need a little help from the desk sergeant.
This was one of those times. An old friend from the 77th gave me a heads-up. The dead girl on the floor was my ex. Or at least she had been until some scumbag cut her throat and left her to choke on her own blood. The once white rug was thick and fine and spoke of good taste. The crimson stain from Lila's blood had crept to its corners. Now it spoke only of death and the bile backing up into my throat.
Lila and I made a good couple at first, but it wasn't long before she was sick of my unpredictable hours and the other women the job threw me together with every day. She'd been pretty much handling it until Cinnamon Rowels came along. Some other cop's wife called Lila and told her she'd seen me coming out of Cinnamon's apartment. That's all it took. Lila filed for divorce the next day. I must have been out of my mind, getting involved with a stripper, and letting myself get caught.
Lila had the kind of beauty that men ogle over and women yearn for with equal intensity and I couldn't get her out of my mind. After the divorce, I kept in touch, even kept her on my insurance policy, but it didn't do me any good. Lila wouldn't let me back into her life.
That's when I got a bug up my ass to quit the police force. Not sure why maybe I thought Lila would take me back if I left the job. She didn't.
"Hey, out of the way." I recognized the voice of Jack Turner, from the coroner's office behind me. That voice, like metal parts rubbing together, always made my skin crawl, and today, it scraped harder than ever. Jack Turner was here for Lila. His was the last part of the Crime scene investigation—to find out how she died and look for hidden any clues. The thought of the gleaming autopsy table in the morgue made me turn away. I wouldn't cry in front of these guys, not even for Lila. My friends might understand, but the other cops wouldn't.
I heard Jack unzip the body bag and set out his tools. His voice turned atonal as he began his recorded exam.
"Subject is a well-nourished white female approximately thirty years of age. There is a deep lateral cut across her throat. Quality and quantity of blood indicate the cut likely severed the carotid artery. No other immediate signs of violence."
Tears started to well up in my eyes at the drone of his disconnected voice like it was coming from a machine. I rubbed my fists into the oncoming flood and sucked in a lungful.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Jack asked, startled by my interruption.
"I'm interviewing him," Rick Taylor, a detective I'd know from the old days stepped up and guided me out of the room."
"Thanks . . . and I'm sorry," I muttered with an embarrassed drop of my head.
He dismissed my remark with a wave and led the way outside. "You know we can't let you hang around the crime scene."
I couldn't talk any more. The tears came pouring out like a fountain. I stepped over to the bushes beside the driveway and puked into the snow.
Just as I finished wiping my mouth off, on my sleeve, my cell went off. The little window told me it was Cinnamon Rowels. I'd hadn't had much to do with her since everything hit the fan, ten years ago, but she was a looker, all right, built like a brick shithouse with a Marilyn Monroe voice. She kept telling me about her movie that was going to come out next year. But all I ever knew of her doing was dancing at the China Doll strip club.
Right after the divorce, Cinnamon made moves on me a couple of times, and I can't deny that I was tempted, and those silicone knockers turned me on. But I couldn't let Lila see me with that plastic bimbo again. The next time I heard of Ms. Rowels, she had moved into the Northside Apartments, right across the courtyard from Lila. What a coincidence. But, I hadn't thought much about her since.
"Hello, Jooooe," she oozed breathfully. She always had a way with words. "I saw you come in while ago. What's going on? There are cops everywhere."
"I don't want to talk about it. You'll see it on TV."
"Aw, come on, Joooe." She put a little more breath into it this time. "Something's going on. I don't know anything and there's cops all over the place."
"One of 'em will probably be around to talk to you about it."
She paused for a moment and then as if a sudden great idea had jumped into her head, she popped out with:
"Well, then, let me talk to Lila. Me and her have patched everything up. We're the best of friends, now. She always tells me everything."
If it had been any other victim, I'd have kept my mouth shut but I guess my head wasn't workin' right, 'cause I started blabbin'.
"Look, Sin, you can't talk to Lila. Somebody killed her. The cops are still tryin' to figure it out."
"That's awful, Joe. What happened? Who did it? When?"
"I don't know anything yet. But, I'm gonna nail the bastard. Whoever did this, I'm gonna bust his ass."
"Yeah, I'll bet you will. You were always really good at that." Her voice lost that sexy flavor; it sounded more like mine. Then she switched back to Marilyn Monroe and went on:
"Joe, this is just awful for you; her bein' your ex and all. You need someone to talk to at a time like this. Come on over. Have a drink and sort out your thinkin'."
Like I said, Cinnamon Rowels always had a way with words.
"Aw, what the hell? You might be right. I'll be over as soon as the cops get done."
Lila ain't gonna see us together, now.