Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 245 - Joshua Andra


So we started to leave the station house for the courthouse and I asked a young deputy they called Norton for a jacket to put over my head but he just laughed and said something about it being summertime and who has a jacket around here being it’s so warm out you know. The other deputies laughed too and I felt pretty helpless. I figured on seeing a whole mess of reporters and photographers waiting to take my picture on the front steps like my lawyer said there would be. I’d never once admitted to doing what the police was saying I did and I sure didn’t want my face plastered all over the newspapers saying I was a double murderer. They’d already taken my name and run it through the mud and the last thing I wanted was my mother seeing my mug next to the pictures of those people that got killed. I’d never even been arrested before. Hell, I even only got one speeding ticket ever.

My lawyer had said he’d give me his suit jacket to put over my head so the photographers wouldn’t get the perp walk shot as he called it that they were looking for but where the hell was Rubenstein and his jacket now?

Two of them officers grabbed the back of my arms and pushed me out the station lobby to a long hallway and down some steps and out the front door of the station house. For a few seconds I just closed my eyes and let them lead me on like I was blind. They had my hands cuffed tight behind my back and those deputies weren’t exactly worried about being gentle neither.

Before I made it down one step them photographers and reporters circled all around me and I couldn’t move an inch or even make out what any of them said ‘cause they was all talking at the same time and popping flashbulbs in my face. I tried to just stare down at the ground but I kept looking up at them out of curiosity, you know like you would at a car wreck or something horrible like that. My lawyer had said he’d get me through this thing as painless as possible but where was he now that I needed him most? I asked the cops if they knew where Mr. Rubenstein was but one of them just laughed and said you get what you pay for which striked me odd ‘cause Rubenstein had gotten my cousin off three times for robbing different stores when he got called down to court here in Gallipolis.

I didn’t answer none of the reporters’ questions ‘cause I couldn’t even hear what they was saying and there was too much frustration inside of me to listen to that kind of nonsense anyways. I could hear a word here or there but I couldn’t even put the words together in my head to make sentences. The shouts and all them bulbs popping around me sounded more like a truck engine all hopped up on some kind high octane than it did like people.

Them deputies paraded me around on the station house steps for what seemed like weeks and then they shoved me through the crowd towards the street where a long black car just sat waiting. One deputy put his hand on the top of my head and pushed me into the car and slammed the door. The car window was only so far up so I could still hear the reporters and that humming noise and I looked and I took my own mental pictures but otherwise I just tuned them out.

I just sat there thinking like you do in a daze or like you would after you hit your head in a car crash. I was thinking about all the things I told them police when they first put me up in that pokey, thinking that maybe some of the things I’d said didn’t make so much sense and that maybe this thing was a lot worse than my lawyer had let on. I’d gone from a one room jail house back in Vinton to a nine story station house at the county seat in Gallipolis and I’d never seen so many photographers in my life. Hell, I don’t think I’d ever seen one photographer except maybe for my pop with his polaroids.

I was sitting there in that black car in that daze thinking about what I may have said that might of made them think I could do something like a double homicide, bringing me down here in cuffs and telling me they’re setting a pre-trial date like they just know it was me who done it all along. I was also thinking about the alibi I told them about hunting rabbits by myself off the east side of Tycoon Lake. I thought about the way that cop had looked at me when I kept telling him I didn’t do it and how I could tell they didn’t hear me no matter what I said and how many times I done told them I didn’t do it and how they didn’t care whether I really done it or not ‘cause in their heads I done it no matter what really happened. I was also thinking about all the other things the police didn’t understand.

What they didn’t really know was that I most certainly did kill Ben Proctor and I did kill his wife and I did bury the both of them down by the Raccoon River in a refrigerator box I took from their back yard. I shot Ben at close range four times in the chest and I got his blood splattered all over my shirt. Mrs. Proctor I shot once in the head.

It didn’t have nothing to do with what the police said it did ‘cause they didn’t really know nothing about the sit-ee-ation even though they sure thought they did. They didn’t know I had looked old Ben square in the eye before I killed him ‘cause they kept saying I ambushed him as it was some sort of plan I had. The missus was another story they didn’t know much about. With her I just closed my eyes and pulled the trigger and got lucky I even hit her in the first place ‘cause I was down to two bullets and she was twenty feet away I’d guess. I know it ain’t right to hurt a lady but if you’d a known Mrs. Proctor you might of done the same thing I did only a bit sooner.

The police had their own version of what happened, though. They said I done killed Mrs. Proctor ‘cause I was in love with her but like I told them that couldn’t be further from the truth. She was way too irritating and prone to moods for me and, for that matter, she was married to Ben and a little crazy in the head and you just never knew what to expect with her. She was also twenty-some years older than me and not the prettiest pumpkin in the patch no more. They said old farmer Ben was the real victim here ‘cause he was an upstanding citizen of the community and it was me and the missus that had a thing on the side and when Ben figured it out I ambushed him and killed him to keep him out of it. Then they said I shot the missus, too, ‘cause somehow I realized I could never really have her all to myself for some reason I didn’t even understand or the police said ‘cause she got scared and said she might call the cops on me.

Just for the record, upstanding was the last thing Ben Proctor was, according to me, and the missus was anything but some doll I could ever fall in love with. My family known the Proctors for a couple of generations. I’d drive by their place some mornings if I was out hunting in Shaw’s Woods ‘cause Mrs. Proctor made delicious pies and I swear she made a different kind of pie every morning. Ben was a farmer so they always had fresh in-greed-ents and she’d give me pies all the time and I didn’t even have to stay and talk to her too much. Like I said my family has known Ben’s for some sixty years or more and we ain’t never been too close but we knew them.

Ben was usually out farming when I’d stop by and Mrs. Proctor was what you would call socially awkward or maybe just weird in the bean, I’d say. If I was driving by, I’d sometimes slow down and honk my horn and, most times, Mrs. Proctor would pop her head out the front door and signal me to stop and come in. Usually before I could even tip my hat, she’d shove a fresh hot pie into my arms and tell me it was nice seeing me and goodbye. Sometimes she would ask me odd questions, like one time she asked me how many eggs were in a dozen and, every time I would say twelve, she would start laughing like I was the funniest guy who ever lived and one time she asked me if I’d ever seen Mr. Proctor drinking whiskey in the barn ‘cause she had once and she was on to him. Just one time she made me sit down and drink a cup of coffee and she told me how she sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night and makes soft boiled eggs ‘cause Ben don’t let her eat enough for dinner but that was just that one time in a hundred over the years that she invited me in the kitchen for coffee.

My mother hadn’t been well for the last couple of years and she didn’t cook at all no more so I was happy getting those fresh pies on occasion. I also stopped because I was a little afraid of Mrs. Proctor and I felt a little sorry for her and I’ve pretty much just always did what older folks told me to ‘cause my parents raised me that way. Mrs. Proctor kind of acted like she was two different people in the same body and that’s also what scared me a little and I guess why I also felt sorry for her.

I also felt bad for her ‘cause she was married to Ben and I’d been scared of him since I was knee high. Ben Proctor had been a crusty old man when I was a boy and he was even meaner and crasser now. He had a hulking big figure and was intimidating to say the least and he always used his weight to push folks around. And believe me, I know how much we weighed ‘cause I had to haul his body off that driveway and up into my truck and I had to drag him thirty or forty feet to get him in that hole I dug for him and the missus by the river.

The Ben Proctor I knew never had nothing nice to say to no one, not once I ever heard and especially when addressing the former or latter Mrs. Proctor. My parents knew Ben and even knew his parents but I never trusted him once and he probably said all of ten words to me personally in my life before the morning I shot him.

I had no plan of admitting to killing either of them, though, no matter how much pressure the police and them prosecutors put on me. I lived with my mother and like I said, her health weren’t so good no more so I took care of her. She didn’t have no one else to watch over her with my pop and my brother Jake being dead. No, I wasn’t going to admit to nothing. I did feel some regret for killing Mrs. Proctor but in another way I felt like maybe I’d put her out of her lonesome misery or something like that.

Sitting in that police car, I also got to thinking about all the things Mr. Rubenstein, my lawyer, said to me in private. He’d told me about what he called the chain of custody and how that bloodstained shirt might get thrown out of court as evidence. He said how the Staties had taken the shirt in as evidence ‘cause they were the first ones to arrive at the farm after they dug up the bodies by the river but how it weren’t their case to take up evidence in the first place and how that had fouled up what he called the chain of custody. He also said they got nothing on the murder weapon ‘cause they ain’t got no murder weapon. I’d bought it at a flea market and never bothered to register it. Hell, I’d never even shot it before, not even once. My mother would never testify that I owned a gun like that ‘cause she never saw it in the first place. Everybody knew I carried my .22 rifle everywhere I went and the police knew it weren’t no .22 rifle that done in the Proctors. I’d also gone and melted the gun I used down to smithereens in the oven in our scrap yard the night I killed them.

Rubenstein said the prosecution’s got no eyewitness and, with no gun, what the hell have they got? I kept telling myself that and it made me feel a lot better. What they hell have they got? I kept thinking that to myself like a broken record.

He also said they got no real motive. He’d told me there was no evidence linking me to the missus romantically and no one ever heard of any problem between me and neither of them. It weren’t no mystery that I stopped over there for a pie sometimes but you can’t lock a guy up for that; not yet at least you can’t. Their neighbor, Mrs. Wabash from down the lane, told the police how I made visits to the farm but no one saw me that day and no one saw my truck, according to what Rubenstein known.

I guess I’d left that bloody shirt right there on Proctor’s front lawn ‘cause I must a taken it off as I got pretty hot moving those bodies around and cleaning up the porch. Rubenstein said the shirt might get thrown out ‘cause of that chain of custody rule and that’s what he said we was really hoping and praying for. He’d smiled real big and said something about those foolhardy small town deputies being what he called priceless.

The shirt he said could be a problem ‘cause they known that’s Ben’s blood on it but they didn’t know yet for sure whose shirt it was but they was saying it was probably mine ‘cause I wear a medium, too. He said my alibi wasn’t what he would call air-tight ‘cause there weren’t no one to say they saw me that morning but Rubenstein also said they couldn’t prove I wasn’t out rabbit hunting by the beach at Tycoon Lake that morning where I am lots of mornings. So what they hell have they got? I kept telling myself that and probably more asking myself.

Rubenstein finally showed up and came running towards the car just as we was about to pull away for the courthouse. He had his arms wrapped up around a big stack of papers and some of them blew away and he didn’t even care and he just kept yelling stop the car that’s my client stop the car! It was funny seeing Rubenstein in his suit and tie running with them papers like that and I couldn’t help but laugh even though I did kind of like him as a person, even if he did probably have all-teerior motives. That deputy Norton let him in the backseat with me.

Rubenstein said he was sorry for being late and he was sorry for giving those assholes the real perp walk they were looking for but I knew something else was going on ‘cause he had the biggest smile on his face I ever did see. He was like that cat that ate the canary, you know. That big smile reminded me of our talk yesterday when he got all excited as he was telling me all about how they didn’t have no murder weapon and no real motive and how all he had to do now was plant some seed of reasonable doubt, as he called it, and so long as that shirt didn’t come back to bite us, we’d be good as gold.

Yesterday was also when he got me talking for the first time about what really happened that morning at Proctor’s farm. He’d told me that the best way for him to get me off was going to be if he knew what really happened on Ben Proctor’s front yard that day. Rubenstein said how he got my cousin off for his thieving by knowing what really took place so he could spin something different as he called it. And my cousin Edwin never did one minute in the pen.

So I told him.

I told him how I was taking a walk out in Shaw’s Woods the day before I killed Ben Proctor. Shaw’s Woods is just across the Raccoon River from my property and probably about ten miles from Tycoon Lake, which is where I told the police I was the next morning when I shot old Ben. Proctor’s place is on the west side of the woods just about three miles south of where the Little Raccoon River runs into the Big Raccoon.

My mother took long naps and really only needed to be checked in on every five hours or so and I’ve always taken to hunting and taking long walks and things like that. I had my .22 rifle over my shoulder, like I always do, but I wasn’t really even hunting that morning. I was just taking a walk ‘cause we had a season’s worth of meat in our freezer back home. I didn’t go anywhere without my .22 strapped over my back, though, so Rubenstein liked me to point that out, ‘cause he says if I’d a shot the Proctors, I’d a done it with my .22 rifle.

I also told Rubenstein how there’s a little abandoned cabin at the southern tip of Shaw’s Woods where it turns into Wayne National Forest and how sometimes I stop there when I’m out hunting or walking to take a break or eat something or if it starts raining out. There’s a couple of dusty old chairs in there and some pots and pans and a place to build a fire and there’s a roof over your head even if it is a little leaky. I ain’t ever seen anyone else in that cabin before but this time, on my walk along the river, it starts raining kind of hard so I go into that cabin only to find old Ben Proctor in there with Billy Morgan, the half-wit kid whose mother owns the dry goods store in Vinton. Billy’s dumb or mute or whatever you call it ‘cause he can’t talk none and he ain’t the smartest kid by any stretch of the imagination. He certainly ain’t never done me no wrong though and he’s always acted a perfect gentleman when I been in his mom’s shop.

But this morning, when I come in the cabin, I see the Morgan kid was half naked from the top up and he was crouched right up against old Proctor real close-like, and as soon as he sees me, he goes running out the cabin faster than greased lightning. Old Proctor pulls up his pants and tells me it ain’t what it looked like but I know a thing or two and I ain’t no fool. I told him it was wrong to take advantage of a half-wit boy like that but he keeps saying it wasn’t what I said it was. We argued for a minute but then he just storms out.

I stewed on it all day and night not knowing what to do. I woke up the next morning without really having any plan and went right down to the Proctor farm house and this time I took my .45 revolver and not my rabbit hunting rifle ‘cause I knew exactly what kind of guy I was dealing with. Like I said, my parents known Ben’s family since who knows when and it was no secret that Ben’s first wife Annabelle had gone missing some fifteen years ago or so and nobody ain’t heard a word from her since ‘cause he probably did her in as far as I can tell. He said she run off to Pittsburgh with some fella she met but I never believed that not for one second. What kind of fella from Pittsburgh comes all the way down here to Gallia County to pick out a married woman when they got all them women up in Pittsburgh? I been to Pittsburgh twice and I seen all the young ladies they got there. And I knew the former Mrs. Proctor and believe me she weren’t any kind of long distance catch.

When I pulled up, I didn’t honk my horn and I didn’t even try to hide the .45 tucked in my pants when I pounded on Proctor’s front door that morning. He answered and come out swinging and shoving me into the front yard and he almost knocked me down twice. I backed up and told Ben that I’d decided he needed to turn himself in to the police for abusing that boy but he said he didn’t do nothing like that and that I damn well better stop talking like that. I said he either was going to turn himself in or I was gonna take him in and he said I could go to hell. Then he laughed and said he’d like to see me try and take him in and he pointed at the front door and told me to go in the house and call the police myself ‘cause what did he care ‘cause what the hell were they gonna do about it with it being my word against his and then he laughed real hard and said something about it being his word against the boy’s and then he said oh wait, the boy don’t have no word and he can’t read or write his own fucking name and what the hell are the police going to do about that and then I just thought for a second ‘cause he was probably right and I knew that and that’s what I’d been stewing on all night.

Then Mrs. Proctor comes out the front door with a hot pie and Ben tells her to get the fuck back in the house but she comes out anyways and tries to give the pie to me. I tell her plain as day what I seen in the cabin yesterday but it was like I was speaking a foreign language or talking to an animal or something ‘cause she wasn’t getting it at all. She starts spouting off to Ben about him hitting the sauce and keeps trying to give me the pie and then she starts blabbing on and on about a lot of nonsense. Ben starts cursing at her and then she rushes back into the house and drops the pie right on the porch and, a second later, I hear her scream inside and then a window got broke.

Proctor tells me to get the hell off his property and how he’s gonna beat the stuffing out of me if I don’t get back in my truck so I start backing up towards the truck. He’s shouting at me and I pull out the .45 without even thinking about it and he’s still yelling at me even though I got a gun in my hand. He’s screaming about how that dumb boy didn’t even know no better and how it was his idea and how it was the fucking kid’s fault anyways and he said he never wanted to see my face ever again. Proctor said he never like any of my family anyways, including my lazy stupid brother Jake, who worked on his farm and quit after two days. He said he never liked me none, neither. Proctor’s still pushing me and yelling about my brother and me and then he says he never liked my mom none ‘cause she talks too much and how he never liked my pop none neither ‘cause he was a real patsy and before I knew it, I’d shot him a bunch of times all over his chest and he just fell down and didn’t move no more. Then before I know it, Mrs. Proctor comes running and screaming out the front door waving a big kitchen knife that looked more like a machete and before I even think about what to do, I just close my eyes and pull the trigger and I kept pulling it till I didn’t hear no more bullets. I heard a thump and then there was a silence and after a second or two, I opened my eyes and seen that I’d blown off the side of Mrs. Proctor’s head and it looked like a ripe busted watermelon broken all over the porch steps.

Rubenstein said I could tell the police the real story but then they’d have to bring in the Morgan kid and get his testimony somehows and put him through all kinds of torment. They’d probably still put me in the pen for five or ten years by which time my mother would be long dead and buried. Rubenstein said it weren’t a clear cut case of self-defense and if we start pleading self-defense now, the prosecution’s gonna find a bunch of holes in that right away as there’d be no signs of a struggle on the old man’s body other than them gunshots. I’d also thrown that kitchen knife in the Ohio River somewheres and they’d never find it. He said to just sit tight and stick to what I told them about hunting rabbits in the woods by the beach at Tycoon Lake that morning with my .22 rifle over my back ‘cause there weren’t no way to prove I wasn’t.

In the car, I asked Rubenstein if he had any news about the shirt and he just looked back with that big canary cat smile of his and said what shirt?

BIO: Joshua Andra is an unpublished author who has just starting sinking his teeth into the art of fiction writing. He is a lover of everything hardboiled and always appreciates a good kick-in-the-mouth blockbuster ending. He is a woodworker by trade.


Sheila Deeth said...

I like it! Great voice. Just the right amount of mystery and mixed feelings.

AEZ said...

I'm glad you explained the complete sit-eeation.