Sunday, 23 August 2009
IT SHOULDN'T HAPPEN HERE - by Michael Robert Gordon
Newcomer Michael joins the fray...
IT SHOULDN'T HAPPEN HERE
It shouldn’t have been such a big deal.
Frank thought this is what neighbors do for one another. If Vito needed a hand, maybe cutting down a tree in the back, or like the time his car was overheating, you stop what you’re doing and help your neighbor. That’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s the way things should be in any neighborhood. Frank didn’t think Vito would mind when he asked if he could keep an eye on his house. There were some beers in the fridge and he was free to have a few. But when Frank handed him the keys Vito looked confused and then lost in his thoughts. Frank imagined Vito going up to their bedroom and rummaging through their bed side tables. He made a note to stash his porn before they left the house.
When they pulled out of the driveway, he eyed one of the many Hispanics in his neighborhood that either biked or walked to Main Street. This is where they met the local contractors who picked up their lumber at the yard on Hallock Avenue. He wasn’t sure where they came from, meaning where in the neighborhood. Frank could give two shits where they lived before they swam across a river or hid in the back of a cargo van to get into the US. They were hard workers and he respected their tolerance for handling menial labor. He just didn’t like seeing them walk past his house. Didn’t trust them.
“What are you thinking of?”
“If I locked the back door.”
“Frank, you need to relax honey. This is our vacation.”
The kids were in the back watching a movie on the DVD player; he thinks it was Bug’s Life. He liked this movie and wished he could join them in the back, but he had to drive to the airport and then, and he really thought about it, he could take a deep breath and just relax. There was nothing to do. No more driving, no more calls to make, no more client’s asses to kiss. Nothing. Maybe binge on the beers and sleep as late as possible? Perhaps. Maybe even swim in the pool on the cruise ship he learned so much about and he began to fantasize about the other wives that were there and looking more fit than Roberta. He could watch them all day, and imagined rubbing some sun tan lotion on their backs and…
“What’s been eating you?”
“Nothing Ro… just…nothing.”
Roberta lit up a cigarette, cracked the window and held the tip near the crack and the window and assumed the smoke was not coming inside van.
“Guess you couldn’t wait?”
“There’s no smoking at the airport or on the plane, so I need my fix when I can get it.”
“You’ve been smoking a lot Ro. Is there smoking on the ship?”
“If there wasn’t, I wouldn’t be going.”
The girls were in the back seat and his son was in the middle seat. Frank Junior had his mother’s nose and appeared as if he was falling asleep. He was very tall for his age, and the doctors said he was always going to be big and strangers will look at him strangely when he begins to speak, since they may assume he’s twice his age.
Marie, the oldest looked bored and he felt sorry for bringing her on the trip. Being sixteen and in the middle of a serious relationship and now sitting next to her nemesis, her sister, Antonia, was like watching Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali at their press conference. Marie was like Frazier, always in shock when her sister wants to start some shit.
“This is going to be so much fun,” Roberta said.
“That’s what we paid for.”
She rolled her eyes.
They drove on the Long Island Expressway for three exits that took forty five minutes. Frank’s moods changed from calling the commuters suckers for going to work, while he was going to play, to getting pissed off when a few of them wouldn’t let him get in their lanes. “You think they owned the road? Just a little courtesy…sucker! Yeah!” But once he was in the lane he wanted to get in, he didn’t let anyone get in front of him.
“Frank, the airport? We’re going to the airport. Did you forget that?”
“No, I just liked having this lane…this piece of the highway. It’s all mine.”
“You have to get off here!”
He flicked on the directional, was called an asshole by a real asshole, or so Frank insisted to the kids and was given a finger from a guy driving a garbage truck.
“What the fuck? Oh, excuse me for saying such and such. Daddy shouldn’t have said that kids! You hear?” He shook his head and got onto the exit ramp and looked at Ro who was glaring at him.
“Nothing. Dear Jesus Frank, I just want to start our vacation in one piece and you’re about to kill us!”
“Why was a garbage truck…out in rush hour?”
“Who cares? Honey? Who?”
“Right and you’re the one who is calling himself an asshole and saying curses in front of the kids. What’s wrong with you?”
Frank thought about the pool and sipping a Long Island Iced Tea and feeling numb. That’s what he wanted. To feel numb; the sun on his chest and burning his belly till he was red and feeling so numb his skin was secondary.
“Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”
He thought about the Bob Marley song No Woman No Cry, “Everything is going to be alright. Everything is going to be alright. Say no woman no cry.”
Last year Roberta hired Jose Felix Cruz to mow the yard and to take care of their in-ground pool. The yard was more than a half acre, and it was a lot of work. She wanted Frank to relax on the weekends.
Jose placed some signs around the town that he was reliable and a hard worker and had references. When he came to the door, Roberta was struck by his dark eyes as well as the bulging veins in the back of his muscular hands. He seemed liked a hard worker and he was quiet although his English was very good. He was well dressed she thought. He wore a Ralph Loren shirt that was cleaned and ironed. She brought him around the yard and she noticed Jose checked her out, and she remembered the way his eyes would not look into hers, but gazed at her breasts. She blushed and even smirked a few times and put up with it, even to the point of leaning over some flowers so he could get a better view.
“Jose, here. Look at me. Up here. How much are you going to charge?”
“This is nothing. I can take care of this for you.”
“Great, how much?”
“Twenty five a week.”
“You think I should charge more?”
“Make it thirty and do a good job.”
“I’ll do a good job.”
Detective Mick Doran was assigned the case. He was called to the scene just as he stopped in at the Drowned Meadow Deli for his coffee and buttered roll. He went in for his breakfast and told Gerri that he had to make it quick. She made it quick and they cut their small talk to just a few words. The weekend was just alright. Have a good one. See you tomorrow, and he was back in the car and sipping from the cup with the torn lid, only the rip was too small so he was making sucking noises.
The victim’s left leg was left in the tub. Dark streaks of blood trailed on the white tiles and the maggots were already doing their job on the rotting flesh. He held his nose and thought back to the roll he ate on the way over.
“Whose leg is this?”
“Not sure Mick.”
Jose was punctual and Roberta could count on him to begin work on the yard at 9 AM every Wednesday. She knew the grass could be cut every other week, and the pool which was barely used was clean. She liked having him around and even found herself watching him work and asking him questions about his life.
Then one day, naked under a robe she asked if he would like to come inside for some coffee or juice. The kids were at school. Come in the back yard, she remembered saying and showed him the back door. Go inside. It was platonic or so she said it would be platonic, but it just happened. He came up behind her and wrapped his muscular hands around her breasts and she leaned back and said nothing.
She gave Jose keys to the house since she knew they would be gone for over a week and he may need to use the bathroom or have to make a call, but of course Frank had no idea.
“Who lives here?” Mick asked Detective Wendolowski.
“A regular couple and four kids. No criminal records that we know of. They look like a good couple. Can’t find anything here. Ah, they just got back from a cruise and their son found it.”
“I need to speak to them one at a time.”
“Maybe? Could be the mark of some gang activity.”
“The kids are too young.”
“We’ll get to the bottom of it.”
Frank couldn’t find a recliner. There were too many people on-board the ship for him to find a place to rest. The women, what the hell was he thinking, he thought, were just like Roberta and the rest of the wives from their neighborhood. There really was no difference. You fly all the way from Long Island and come to the cheapest cruise line and what do you expect to find? Half nude models with tight bodies – are you serious? Sure, he thought he was nuts, and the drinks. The drinks are watered down shit, and he can’t get away from Roberta who wants to make love on the sea since she’s always wanted a water bed and this is the best place to make it since there is no need for a water bed when you’re in the middle of the ocean. The kids, they won’t leave them alone and were constantly fighting, and he wanted to find a place where he could crawl into and hide, but there was no place to go on the cruise. There he said it, he thought. This was not what he wanted.
Frank looked at the streaks of blood and tried to find some words or images in the streaks. There was nothing. He became sick and threw up in the toilet, and could not escape the sound of Roberta’s shrieks or his son crying in his room. The girls didn’t see it and they won’t see it as far as he was concerned. What a way to end a vacation he thought. The cops were there in minutes. Frank sat on the sofa in the living room and wanted a cigarette. One of the detectives came over to him and he looked down at his black polished shoes.
“Mister Denoyer. This is Mick Doran he’s a homicide detective.”
“Okay. What can you tell me?” Mick asked.
“I was going to ask you the same thing.”
“When did you notice the leg?”
“About five minutes when we got back from the cruise.”
“Where did you go?”
“Ah. Key West and Cozamel. It was a short cruise.”
“Didn’t expect to find this when you came home.”
“No. Of course not.”
“Who had access to the house while you were away?”
“I gave my neighbor keys. Do you think?”
“Don’t jump to any conclusion Mr. Denoyer. Just let us handle this.”
That didn’t stop Frank from thinking about Vito or maybe it was his son who looked like a dirt bag and smoked pot in the woods behind their house. Frank watched the kid roll up a thin spliff and he remembered his glory days when he could get away with getting high. Maybe it was that little punk? And he thought about Bob Marley, and his song. “Buffalo Solider.”
Roberta was in the kitchen standing by herself and shaking. She faced the sliding glass door towards the back yard.
“You have a nice pool back there,” Mick said breaking her thoughts.
“Can you tell me anything we should know?”
“Shit, what’s the use? But I don’t want Frank to find out.”
“I gave the landscaper a key. I shouldn’t have but I did.”
“What’s his name?”
“Jose Felix Cruz. He’s a good worker.”
“Why did you give him a key?” Mick wanted her to turn around, and he said, Let me see your face over and over again in his head.
“I felt sorry for him. He might need a drink.”
“Mrs. Denoyer, would you mind turning around?”
When she turned around she mouthed the words, “I don’t want Frank to know.”
“That Jose and me. We…”
Mick whispered, “What?”
“We are lovers.”
“Listen, Mrs. Denoyer, he’s going to find out eventually. Something like this doesn’t stay hidden for long.”
“I’ll tell him. Not today though.”
On Tuesday morning the following week, a headless body washed up to Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai, New York. Mick checked it out at the M.E. lab and confirmed the body belonged to the leg.
Frank went back to work and Roberta went back to her routine. Jose was not seen in their area. Their grass became overgrown and the pool collected the fallen leaves at the bottom.
And then a report came from Lake Atalin, Guatemala, a head rose up from the bottomless lake that belonged to a known drug courier and washed onto the shore of presidential mansion. Mick checked the photo, but it was too difficult to tell if the head belonged to the body. The dead man’s family confirmed the man swallowed balloons of cocaine and flew into Newark Airport.
Mick asked the local police if they knew Jose. Turns out he was a courier for a year, but ran from the trade and was never seen again. Mick put together the pieces and handed in his report. Jose picked up a courier at Newark and brought him back to the empty house and gutted the drugs from him. He cut up the body, but in his haste forgot the leg.
It took months to put the story together and on January 5th, Frank was outside sweeping the driveway of ice and snow. Mick pulled up and parked his car on the street. The clouds were low and he noticed a jet slowly going over them.
“How’s it going detective?” Frank said.
“I’m alright Frank, how are you doing?”
“Remember my old lady? Turns out she was fuckin around with our Mexican gardener. She told me that you knew.”
“I was investigating the murder and she told me. She said she’d tell you in time. She cares about you Frank.”
“She’s good for nothing. I was about to kick her ass out, but she begged me and pleaded and told me it was a horrible mistake.”
“And you forgave her?”
“What else would I do? I’m a fat shit. My days are over. Do you think I can get laid in my shape? So tell me what brought you here.”
“Your gardener was a drug courier, but got out of the business. He was smart though. He knew where the couriers from Guatemala were met. The empty house was a perfect cover. Beautiful house and in a safe neighborhood. What could go wrong?”
"He cut him up in the tub. Pulled the drugs out of the body and cleaned up."
“Shit. Did you get him?”
“He’s on the loose.”
“Does my wife know?”
Mike is raising a family on Long Island. His mystery novel - Killer Commute is under consideration. The protagonist, Mick Doran in It should Happen Here is the same in Killer Commute. Monk Press published his buddhist mystery Acid Tree Park in 2001. Mike can be reached at email@example.com