Table of Contents: Chapter 1
“So maybe I should start a couple days ago…” Pete said, his head still on his hand, Maxine doing her best to not appear obvious that she was listening in.
The voice on the phone responded, “We have enough time for you to do that?”
Pete shrugged, “No clue, but you aren’t going to believe me if I tell you the short version.”
There was a sigh on the other end of the line, that Pete took to be grudging agreement, “Go ahead…”
I was born in 1983. It was a Tues–
“I thought you said you were starting a few days ago?” the voice interrupted.
Pete laughed, “Yeah, I’m just fucking with ya, I’ve always wanted to start a story like that.”
The silence on the other end made it clear the voice was not amused.
On Monday, I got up like I always do. Checked my schedule, and I wasn’t due in to the machine shop I work at until around noon, so I went and got myself some breakfast over at the diner. Now, this place is pretty ok, and Opal, the old woman who runs it, will occasionally throw me an extra egg. Good lady.
Anyway, I sat at my usual booth, got my usual egg and cheese on a hard roll, and was just about to bite into it when Lucille slid in at my booth. Lucille is a problem. She’s the type of girl who thinks everyone is her friend because nobody is and that’s all she’s known. I’d feel bad for her if it wasn’t for the fact that she was a wretched human being. I mean, to start, she’s not easy on the eyes. That usually isn’t a deterrent for me, I try to be nice to all god’s creatures, but she had a personality to match.
The problem is, unlike many of my contemporaries, I’d gone out of my way to talk to her once or twice to see if there was something in her nobody else saw. In her head, that meant that we were best friends. Hell, I wouldn’t even have much of a problem with that if it wasn’t for the fact that she couldn’t help but lie about everything at the same time as believe every single ething she read from the local rag newspapers they keep at the end of the checkout line.
I’m sure you don’t write for one of those Weekly World Enquirer type places, but I have to assume you know which ones I mean. The ones that on Tuesday tells you that the President is a vampire, and the following Tuesday tells you he’s been replaced with an alien. Which one is it?! Pick one!
The fact that this girl had the uncanny ability to somehow believe in both stories simultaneously and fill in the gaps with random bullshit she probably just came up with, meant that she was a super special kind of stupid that I had the displeasure of dealing with on a regular basis because I was just too damn nice to tell her to go away.
“Heya Pete. You hear the news?” She asked, sitting down at my booth without so much as an invitation.
“Can’t say that I have. And hello.”
“Rickles is dead.” And at that I choked on the first bite of my sandwich. Rick Lester aka Rickles was one of my good friends. We hadn’t seen each other a lot in recent months because of a falling out due to money he owed me, but I still would count him amongst the people in my life. To hear that he had died made my stomach just drop.
“From what? Please don’t tell me it was drugs.” I asked, because Rickles had been a year clean from some pretty serious shit, and I’d hate to think he lost his footing on the wagon.
Lucille shook her head, “Nope. Nobody knows. They found him behind the counter of Big Bob’s all bloated and gross.”
“Like an allergic reaction to something?” I asked, my bullshit detector already starting to rise..
“No, like tons worse. Bob said he looked like a sausage about ready to burst.”I pushed my sandwich a few inches from me, which made Lucille think that I was offering it and took it and a bite. “Fhanks” she said. Now, forever more, when I think about the day I found out Rickles passed on, it will be a memory linked up to Lucille’s ogre face with egg spittle all over her mouth. Great, right?
I paid for my breakfast, well, really Lucille’s breakfast at that point and the diner was only a few blocks away from the gas station so I headed off in that direction. I’m not one to get all nuts about a spectacle, but Rickles had been a friend. Lucille tagged along. I tried to stop her too. Told her I needed some time alone. Told her that I just wanted to see it with my own eyes. She didn’t get the hint, which is another of those typical Lucille traits.
“You hear about the experiment?” She bummed a smoke off of me and waited for me to ask.
“I obviously have no idea what you are talking about.” I said.
“Binary Chemicals.” She said, as if that answered the whole of the question. Like just knowing who she was talking about, I had gleaned what she was talking about too.
After I realized she had nothing more to add to that little nugget, I sighed and fished for more. “No Lucille, I don’t know about the experiment from Binary Chemicals, would you please oh heaven above, please tell me about it.”
Missing every ounce of sarcasm in my voice she started in, “They’re working on my condition! I’m super excited.”
Now, I’m not going to continue on relaying to you how I had to ask a dozen questions to get every piece of information out of her. The only reason I’m even telling you is because it is highly relevant to my story. Apparently, Lucille seems to believe she has a couple of problems, none of which, by her report, were hypochondria, although I’ve added that to the list. Over the years, she’s told me that she is dyslexic, ambidexterous, autistic, has Paris Syndrome, Disassociated Fugue states, Stendhal, hand and foot dysmorphia, and synesthesia. Now, I know what those all mean, because I’ve looked them up. I promise you, the ones you have to look up, won’t make much sense when all put together. So when she said it was about her condition, it could have been about anything.
Then she told me it was about her being an Indigo.
It was a new one for me, too.
Apparently, Indigos are kids born with this supernatural amount of empathy and they learn in different ways than your average schmuck. They also sometimes have psychic abilities and feel like lost souls, entitled to a better life. The name came from something about their aura being a weird color… look, it sounded like a bunch of horseshit to me too, but, like I said.. Lucille. She just continued babbling on about it as we walked, and it was only when we got to the police tape around Big Bob’s did I start to think she might have been telling the truth. At least about Rickles, the rest was just noise.
There was only one cop hanging around the police tape, but I saw Bob walking out the backdoor of the building. We ran up to him and when he saw us he rolled his eyes. Me and Bob don’t have a bad relationship, I used to get scratchers and smokes from him before the Quick&Go opened a block from my apartment, so I just had to assume his look of disdain was about my unrequested companion. “I can’t talk about it.” He said bluntly, looked over at the cop who wasn’t paying attention to anything but a magazine he likely lifted off the rack in the store, and walked in the exact opposite direction with a cardboard box under his arm.
The way he said it though, was super quick, like he was trying to get out of their quick. Lucille started to talk, but I put my hand up in front of her to shush her quickly. “Bob. I can’t imagine you’re supposed to be going in and out of a crime scene.”
His eyes darted back to the cup and then back at us. “I was told I could.” He was walking and talking quicker now, and as we got to the side of the building where we definitely couldn’t be seen by the police officer, he slowed his pace.
“Don’t fuck with me Bob. What’s in the box?”
Lucille yelled out, ‘What’s in the boooxx’ you know, like from Seven? If anyone else had said it, I might have laughed, but it just sounded stupid from her.
The loud noise startled Bob enough that he damn near almost dropped the box which was one of those lidded types you see in offices. A couple of small scraps of paper went flitting away on the wind, and for a moment it looked like Bob was going to go chase after them, but there were already three pieces fluttering away in different directions. “Fine, fine, fine. I had to get some .. things.. that.. well, to be dead honest I may not have wanted the police to find. All business stuff. All on the up and up.” He added on, “You know how it is..” as if that would somehow make him seem less guilty.
I laughed, “Okay there Bob. You do realize that admitting you are stealing a box out of your store to make sure a bunch of cops don’t see it is like the last thing I’d ever put on a list called ‘Things That Are On The Up And Up’. So quit the bullshit. I don’t care if you’ve been cooking your books or whatever. I just want to know what happened to Rickles. He and I were buds. Lucille said he looked like it was some sort of allergic thing and he looked like a grape ready to burst?”
“A peeled grape,” Added Lucille, uselessly.
Bob looked over our shoulders, likely paranoid that the policeman might decide to do his rounds any minute. “I’m not cooking th–” he stopped himself, and then started again, this time even more frustrated. “She isn’t far off. Bugged out and puffy and almost like he was baked from the inside. God, that’s kind of what he smelled like too.. Like he was shoved into a microwave and stopped before he exploded. It’s disgusting.”
I paused, “Is? He’s still in there?”
Bob nodded, and looked towards the building, “Yeah,” he looked sad or disgusted, maybe guilty, “he’s got to remain until some.. I don’t know.. scientists or something come pick him up. I don’t think the police knew what to do, so they called in the big guns.”
I don’t know why, but I needed to see him. Maybe it’s because the sound of what happened was so weird, or maybe it was because he and I were thick as thieves for a while there. I just don’t know, but it was just so weird that it felt like I gotta get in there to see what’s what. Our town doesn’t have a whole helluva lot of news coming out of it and to be really honest with you, I needed to see if Lucille was just pulling another one before I started talking to the boys down at the shop about it.
“Let us see him.” I asked, “You owe us.”
Bob gave this shriek of a laugh that surprised even himself, “Owe you? What the hell do I owe you anything for?”
“For not making sure the cops don’t get an anonymous tip about the missing paperwork they might be looking for on the case of one Rick Lester.” Lucille caught on pretty quick and gave a nod like she had been in on the scheme the whole time.
Bob’s face went an amazing shade of purple, and he probably wanted to hit me. Hell, I kinda wanted to hit me. It wasn’t a nice thing to do by a long stretch, but now that curiosity was killing me.
If I knew then what I know now, I would have thanked him kindly and got myself to work instead of watching as he unlocked the door and opened it for us, propping it open with a half of a cinderblock. “You go in. You look. You get out and shut the door. I’m not kidding, there are some dangerous people on their way, and I am not going to be here when they show up and recommend you do the same.” He turned away from us, and added as an afterthought over his shoulder, “I’ll be checking the cameras, don’t steal anything neither.”
Just like that, we were in, and Bob was literally running in the other direction. We didn’t ask ourselves how he knew the people coming were dangerous. We were way too excited about seeing our friend plumped up like a sausage. Lucille may be the dumbest person I know, but sometimes I come in a close fucking second.