What are you working on right now?
I'm currently working on finishing up BLACK GUM GODLESS HEATHEN, volume 2 of my weird crime saga GOD$ FARE NO BETTER, a novel about the so-called "acquatic squatters" of Portland called KING CRAYFISH, and a novella about a prostitute who finds the bodies of two dead detectives in the woods and launches her own investigation called THE CLEARING.
Jack Elkhoury and Nora Gonzalez ducked under the yellow tape and adjusted to the stench fogging the windows of the apartment. The neighbors had called about the smell but the maintenance man knew better and phoned the cops. Elkhoury and Gonzalez got the call ten minutes prior. They finished their paninis in the car.
Gonzalez asked the officer, “What do we have, here?”
Elkhoury answered for the kid. Pointed at the couch, the woman there staring blankly at the floor, throat cut. “That is Molly Richardson. And that,” pointing at the man sitting in the computer chair, his head tilted back, torso a mass of red stains, “is Rafe Cooper.” The back of Cooper’s skull was blown open, the pillow used to muffle the blast lying against the sliding glass door.
Gonzalez crouched by the floor, rifling through Chinese takeout boxes and empty beer cans. “You think it was him?”
“You want to check on Rick?”
Elkhoury shrugged. “Maybe.” He moved quickly through the hall. Bathroom: curling iron on the sink/hair around the tub and toilet/dried toothpaste on the porcelain. Bedroom: California king with posts, almost too big for the room/TV on the wall/box of tissues on the nightstand. Closet packed with clothes. Stained carpet. Back in the living room: “Where’s the kid?”
The rookie cleared his throat. “At her grandmother’s.”
Gonzalez looked pale.
Forensics walked in, two small men. Behind them, a photographer.
Digital cameras beeped. Latex gloves tilted Molly’s head and made notes on clipboards.
Gonzalez sighed. “Neighbors?”
Elkhoury pulled on gloves and leaned over the computer desk. Moved the mouse. A computer game was still running, a knight bouncing back and forth, waiting. He exited the program and opened the internet browser. “In a second.”
A uniform stepped through the door. Little baggie with a .22 inside in his hand. “It was in the trashcan.”
Gonzalez frowned. “Doesn’t sound like Beck.”
Elkhoury turned from the computer screen. “Maybe not.”
Pretty Rick peeked from behind the crack in the door. Smiled big cartoon piano teeth. “What’s up, Jack?”
Door swung wide. Two corgis sniffed the detective’s shoes. Elkhoury hugged the small pimp. “Rick.”
Gonzalez stepped inside behind her partner. Two girls sat on the couch and screamed into headsets, Xbox controllers in their laps. Anime posters on the walls. Ferrets worming through a cage by a bookshelf.
Pretty Rick buttoned up his bowling shirt. A robot held a flaming samurai sword aloft on the breast pocket. “You want some Mountain Dew?”
Elkhoury nodded. Gonzalez said, “No, thank you.”
One of the girls on the couch looked up at them. “How are you, officer?”
“I’m fine, thank you.”
Rick brought both of the cops a plastic cup full of sugar water. To the girls: “Bothering our guests?”
“I should hope not.” His eyes went wide and he hopped over to the couch and stuffed a giant Ziploc bag of weed between the cushions. Looked back at Elkhoury all bashful. The detective shrugged and said, “Got some bad news.”
Rick pulled the scrunchie from his ponytail and shook out a stiff Sideshow Bob. “You’re here with a plus one, so yeah, I figured.” He gestured to a couple chairs. “Have a seat, please.”
Elkhoury sat and rested his elbows on his knees. “Molly’s dead.”
The girls kept playing the game. Rick put his head in his hands.
The cops waited.
The pimp blinked a few tears back. The corgis jumped up on him. Licked his face. Elkhoury said, “Seen her lately?”
Nod. “Yeah. She kicked it with the hoes a few nights ago.”
“Did she seem nervous? Scared?”
Rick thought on it. “Not really, no.”
“Bitches always have the fear.”
Sound of ferrets in the sawdust. Wet thumbs on plastic buttons.
“She say anything about anyone being after her?”
“You can tell me, Rick. I need to know.”
Pretty Rick chewed his bottom lip. “No. Not that I know of. No.”
Elkhoury stood up. “Thanks for your time.”
Gonzalez already at the door, hand on the knob. Rick held up a finger. “Wait,” he disappeared into a back room and came out with a plastic bag stretched translucent with DVD boxes.
Elkhoury thanked him and left with his partner. Gonzalez started the car and blasted the heat. “I’m gonna smell like that place, now.”
Chin tilted toward the present on Elkhoury’s lap. “What’s that?”
Rustle of plastic. He showed her one of the boxes. Cartoon woman wrapped in tentacles, one in her mouth, one in her vagina. Big teardrop sweatbead on her forehead. “It appears to be a giant bag of animated porn.”
Back at the office, Elkhoury took his glasses off and set his pen down on a stack of paperwork. He stood and stretched and went out front to smoke. North wind cut through fabric and he only finished half before sniping it on his shoe and shivering back through the big glass door.
Poured some coffee in the breakroom. Sergeant Nieyhuis dropped quarters in the vending machine. Elkhoury sidled up next to him. Nieyhuis just staring, tapping his foot. Pressing his finger to the glass, then pulling it back and snapping, then pressing again.
Elkhoury reached over him and pressed the buttons for Cheetos. The ring swirled and the bag dropped. Nieyhuis took his snack and left.
The coffee scalded Elkhoury’s tongue so he set it on the table and took a bag of ice from the fridge and beat it on the floor. Shouting in the office. Handful of ice in the cup. He picked a dollar from his wallet and put it in the vending machine. Running his eyes over the treats. Pressing his finger to the glass, pulling it away, snapping, pressing his finger to another point.
Suspended in that moment. The humming of the fridge and the commotion from the office.
Gonzalez hunched into the break room. Poured coffee, grabbed ice from the bag in the sink. She came up behind Elkhoury and reached over him and pressed two buttons.
The ring swirled.
J David Osborne is the author of BY THE TIME WE LEAVE HERE, WE'LL BE FRIENDS, LOW DOWN DEATH RIGHT EASY, and OUR BLOOD IN ITS BLIND CIRCUIT. He runs the indie press Broken River Books, and lives in Portland with his wife and dog.