THE BACKSEAT VIRGIN PART 3: A SOUTH FLORIDA NOIR STORY - TODD W. BUSH
I had a friend in the Miami PD named Jose Garcia. We had met placing illegal bets in an illegal bookie’s living room on a Saturday afternoon three years ago. We didn’t say a word in that room, but later that night, when one of my clients wound up murdered by her husband, Garcia was the detective who pulled the case. A friendship based on shared secrets was born, and as far as we were concerned those are the foundations that make for lasting relationships.
Peppy, as he was known by his friends and co-workers alike, had also worked the Virgin case. He’d worked it for months after the department shuttled the whole thing off to the ‘Open/Unsolved’ wasteland where cases were forgotten by everyone but the family involved and the detective who was still obsessed. Peppy never let this one die, and I knew he’d want to be in on this.
I called him as soon as I found out who she was.
“Peppy, you ever get an ID on the Virgin?”
He got quiet, like a dark cloud had just passed in front of his brain and whatever was about to come out wasn’t going to be nice. “Why you bringing up that shit, Price?”
“It’s come up with something I’m working on.”
“Bullshit. You don’t call and bring up ghosts like this just because it’s on the edge of some fucking divorce shit or a cheating man-whore. You don’t call up just to find out the dirt, bro. Only reason you bring up shit like this is you got something for me. So spill, Price.”
“Awful direct today, Peppy.”
“Fucking A. It ain’t the fucking day.”
“Listen, I might be able to get you an ID if you don’t got one yet.”
“I gotta get something to compare it with, but I think I might have a name for you.”
He was quiet for a few seconds, and I could tell he was working things over in his mind. “You bring it in today, you got it? I know you got something else, and you better bring that in, too. Got it?”
I told him I did and left to go to Lauren’s apartment. It was located in one of the shittiest parts of Fort Lauderdale, where white guys like me didn’t go unless they were well-armed, idiotic or both. Her door was opened by a walking advertisement for steroids. His black skin was pulled taut by muscles on top of muscles, and his head was shaved and waxed to a dull shine.
“Fuck you want, cracker?”
Usually, if you show fear, you get killed. So I tried my best to return whatever aggression I was receiving. “I’m looking for Lauren.”
“Fuck you want that cunt for?”
From behind him, I could hear movement and then a voice. “Oscar? Who is it?” Lauren came bounding up and peered between Oscar’s arm and chest. Her eye was black and her cheek was sporting a large bruise that fit the size of Oscar’s fist fairly well.
I looked up at him and he sneered at me, like I was supposed to be admiring his handiwork.
“You do that to her?”
“Fuck you care what I do with my own shit?” I might as well have asked him why he cut the sleeves off the sweatshirt he was wearing.
“She’s a friend of mine, that’s why. And I’d appreciate it if you didn’t take out your latent homosexual aggression on her face.”
Oscar took two steps out the door, his finger jabbing me in the chest.
“You calling me a faggot, you fucking pric—”
He didn’t finish. I grabbed the meat of his hand and turned it toward the sky, then bent his wrist back. Oscar dropped to his knees, but didn’t scream like most people did when I pulled that little martial arts self-defense move. I put more pressure on the joint, hearing the bones start to rub and creak in protest.
He looked at me with nothing but sheer fury in his eyes. I didn’t see the fist coming up toward me until it was too late, but I did manage to adjust at the last second and take the brunt of the blow on my inner thigh. It hurt like hell, and I let go of Oscar’s wrist. Lauren screamed for us to stop, but it wasn’t going to do any good.
Oscar stood up and started to charge me, but I threw a quick cut kick to the outside of his left leg. My shin slammed into his knee and he buckled to his knees again. I wasn’t going to give him time to recover this time. I grabbed him around the head and went to drive my knee into his face, but Oscar saw it coming and threw his weight straight back. I went ass over tea kettle and slammed my forehead into the concrete sidewalk. Oscar jumped on me just as I turned on my back. Now I was comfortable.
The last five years had been more and more violent in my life of work, so I’d decided to take a little training, specifically Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which is mostly ground fighting. I had only gotten to a green belt so far, so I was praying that Oscar wasn’t a student as well. From his first move, it was plain that he wasn’t, but he did watch the UFC on TV.
He started to punch at my head, looking for a quick knockout blow. I reached up with my right arm to try and block his blows, then with my left, I pulled down on his head. This stopped the onslaught to my already bleeding face. I trapped his left hand and turned my hips, wrapping my right arm around his arm. It was called a kimora lock and it was designed not to simply put you in control of your opponent, but to end the fight... painfully. I cinched it in, throwing my weight back and pulling his arm up. All the pressure was on his shoulder and elbow, which were being turned about ninety degrees the wrong way. I rolled slightly to my left, increasing the pressure.
Oscar screamed a primal, animalistic sound from deep within. He wasn’t giving up and was trying his best to hit me with his other hand. I could have pulled steadily harder on him and forced him to give up like I’d done hundreds of times in my class, but I caught a glimpse of Lauren standing in her doorway and the damage done to her face. Oscar had called her his ‘shit’, meaning his property. It pissed me off and what I did next wasn’t the nicest thing I’d done in my life.
I jerked hard back toward my head and heard a sickening snap as Oscar’s arm was broken and his shoulder was pulled out of socket. He screamed again and I let go of his arm, then slammed my elbow on the back of his head. The screaming stopped.
I got up and touched my forehead. Blood was dripping down my face, but it wasn’t anything to be too concerned about. Lauren backed up into the apartment and tried to close the door, but I stopped her with my foot.
“I need something of Jessica’s, anything that might have her DNA on it. A hairbrush, toothbrush, something.”
“There’s... there’s... there’s nothing like that here.”
I pushed past her. “Well, I’m gonna look no matter what.”
The apartment was a two-bedroom with a small hallway connecting the two sleeping rooms with a combination kitchen/living room. I stormed back to the bathroom first and found only one hairbrush, but it had Lauren’s mousy brunette hair in it. I turned to go into the far bedroom, and when I opened the door, my breath caught in my throat.
It was a shrine. Pictures of Jessica Mulholland covered the walls. They were modeling pictures, photo shoots from porn magazines, and regular shots from her everyday life. The girl’s underwear was laid out on the bed and wrinkled like someone had just slept on them. I turned back to look at Lauren and saw her crying. “She was the best of us, the most... I don’t know... the most real.”
A hairbrush was lying on the vanity, along with make-up, jewelry and other personal items. The whole room looked like it was set up for Jessica’s imminent return. I felt like throwing up. I gave Lauren one more look and left the apartment.
Back in my car, I called Peppy Garcia. “Did you guys get the plates on the car the Virgin was found in?”
“Yeah, you get what I told you to get?”
“I got it for you, Peppy. Just answer the fucking question.”
“What’s got up your ass, Price?”
“I just broke a fucking giant’s arm and left a crazy girl to cry over her shrine to her former roommate, so I think I’ve got a right to be a little pissed off.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
“Answer the question, Peppy.”
“Yeah, we got the plates. Car was registered to a big shot, somebody we didn’t want to fuck with if we didn’t have to. Least that was the message I got from the brass. Why?”
“Was the big shot Sam Calvante?”
There was silence on the other end of the line. “How the fuck did you know that?”
“I’m bringing you your ID, Peppy. But I’m also bringing you the other thing you wanted.”
“Son of a bitch, Price. You’re bringing me a big can of shit, aren’t you?”
I thought about what Lauren had told me, that Jessica had been at Calvante’s house that night, and that she had been found in his car. Then I thought about the shrine Lauren had kept for basically two years. That morning, I’d thought for sure that Sam Calvante was the killer and the thought scared the piss out of me. Now, I wasn’t so sure, and I was even more terrified than I had been.
“Yeah, Peppy. I’m bringing you in a big can. But maybe it’s time we all knew the truth.”
BIO: Todd W. Bush is the writer of the South Florida Noir series. He has been published at A Twist of Noir and Powder Burn Flash. He lives in South Florida with his family.