I’ve always been the type of person who’s asleep when his head hits the pillow, and I’m a sound sleeper. But that Saturday morning the sharp crack of the first gunshot flipped me over on my back and popped my eyes wide open. The second and third shots, which came close together, sat me straight up in bed. I looked at my alarm clock. It was four thirty.
I knew right away they were gunshots, and I knew they were fairly close. I jumped out of bed, ran through the living room of the double-wide trailer that I share with Danny and John, unlocked the front door, and ran down our short driveway and into the street.
Everything looked dark and wet, quiet and deserted. My breath was white smoke in the cold dark air. I looked up and down the street and saw nothing but empty cars parked here and there along the narrow berms. Puddles left from the rain reflected the yellow glow of the streetlights on the black pavement.
I heard a car engine start up somewhere. Dogs began to bark all up and down the street. As lights came on in trailers all around me, I heard another car engine start. I looked in every direction, but there was nothing moving anywhere that I could see.
I heard a noise behind me and spun around. John Garvey, who shares the trailer with me and Danny, was hopping down the dark driveway toward me, trying to get his cop pants pulled up and zipped under his gun belt.
John’s an Indiana farm boy who’d recently graduated from Ohio Highway Patrol School. He was a rookie on the Spencer PD, only a month into his six-month probationary period. He had his cop shirt on but not buttoned, and he was barefoot.
He looked at me critically. I’d run outside in what I was sleeping in – a T-shirt and red plaid boxers.
I can’t help mentioning that I hate plaid boxers. I’m a white briefs man. But while we were together, the Bitch was in charge of buying my underwear, and she bought me plaid boxers. I had a drawerful of the hideous things. Until I got around to going to the mall, I was stuck with them.
“Where’d the shots come from?” John asked me quietly.
I shrugged. “I couldn’t tell.”
He pulled a little radio from his gun belt, and began to talk into it quietly as he clipped it to his lapel. “This is Garvey. I’ve got shots fired, Chandler’s Trailer Park, middle block of Sumner Court.”
His voice was steady and calm and I admired him for it, since I knew for a fact the most serious offense he’d handled so far as a first responder was a traffic violation.
The voice of the female dispatcher came through the speaker all buzzy. I couldn’t understand what she said after, “Copy. Shots fired.”
John signaled me to start walking down the street. He turned and began to walk in the other direction.
Doors were open and coming open in trailers here and there. Ahead of me, a bare-chested guy in a pair of cutoffs walked out to the street.
I said, “Where’d the shots come from?”
He shook his head. “Maybe up that way, but I’m not sure.”
I turned back toward John.
The dispatcher’s voice buzzed through the radio again, and this time I made out, “Bushnell responding.”
That meant Alan Bushnell was on his way. Sergeant Alan Bushnell’s a big guy who wears wire-rim glasses and has gray hair that grows down over his collar. Apparently there isn’t anybody on the Spencer PD who wants to stand up and tell him to cut it.
When he’s being a hardass, which seems to be most of the time, I’ve noticed that he takes his glasses off and polishes the right lens. I’ve never seen him polish the left lens. I guess he expects the left lens to take care of itself.
Alan’s been best friends with Smitty Ridolfi since they were in kindergarten. Sometimes Alan and I are friendly; sometimes we aren’t, depending what day it is. I can tell you this for sure: Don’t call Alan “General.” He doesn’t see the humor.
I walked back toward John and caught up with him quickly, since he paused to shine his flashlight up each driveway he passed. Now there were quite a few people, mainly men, out in the street, looking around and talking to each other in quiet, excited voices. John reached a little knot of them just as I caught up with him.
John was trying to button his shirt and hold on to his flashlight at the same time. I took the flashlight from him and he finished buttoning.
He said, “Could any of you guys tell where the shots came from?”
One guy pointed up the street, one pointed down the street, and everyone else laughed nervously.
I said, “Hold on.” I pointed to the guy who said up the street. “Which trailer’s yours?”
He pointed down the street. “The green one. With the light on.”
I said to the other guy, “You?”
He pointed at the trailer across the street from where we stood. John and I glanced at each other. Then we ran down the street to a drive halfway between the two designated trailers. The lights were already on inside the trailer and the door was opening as John reached to knock.
John said, “Everybody okay in there?”
The woman said, “What was that?”
John said, “I believe it was gunshots, ma’am. Could you tell where it came from?”
She pointed through her backyard. “Back there.”
John and I ran through her backyard and into the backyard of the trailer behind hers. Both of us were barefoot, so we slipped and slid in the cold mud. Just as we came up on the back corner of the trailer, there was a loud crash from the vicinity of its little side porch. John drew his gun and we ran toward the noise.
John’s flashlight beam picked up the shape of a tall, slender woman standing in the shadowy driveway, weaving drunkenly, her back to us. She was wearing a white T-shirt that was way too big for her and nothing else, as far as I could tell. Her arms hung limply at her sides. A gun dangled from her right hand.
John leveled his gun at her and yelled, “Police. Freeze. Drop the weapon.”
The woman just stood there weaving.
John yelled, “Drop the weapon. Now.”
Almost in slow motion, the woman’s fingers opened and the gun slid onto the wet cement of the driveway with a sharp metallic crack.
John yelled, “Take three steps to your right.”
She obeyed, slowly and unsteadily.
He said, “Three more steps, right up to the trailer wall. Put your hands on the trailer. High on the trailer. Now.”
She did as she was told, but sluggishly. It looked like her knees wanted to fold.
John turned his head so he was talking into the radio. “This is Garvey. Suspect in custody, middle block of Haskins.”
The dispatcher said, “Copy, Garvey. Do you need an ambulance?”
John said, “I don’t know yet. Hold on.”
He approached the woman cautiously, pulling handcuffs off his belt. I hurried toward the porch, dodging the shards and dirt from the flowerpot she’d apparently knocked off the porch as she’d come down the steps. I ran up the steps, stretched my T-shirt over my hand to turn the handle on the screen door, and stepped into the dark trailer on muddy tiptoes.
I looked around and couldn’t see anything. There was light streaming into the trailer from the streetlight outside, but not enough. I ran my T-shirt-covered hand over the wall to the right of the door and found the light switch.
Bright light blinded me for a second. There was no furniture in the living room and nothing on the walls. I scanned the empty living room, working toward the kitchen.
He was stretched out across the kitchen floor, facedown, a pool of blood running away from me toward the back hallway. Big guy. Muscular. Wearing a white T-shirt and jeans, gray socks, and black hightops.
I tiptoed over to him, watching where I stepped, and squatted beside him. I pushed his tangled dark hair off his neck and put my fingers on his throat, feeling for a pulse. There wasn’t one. He was dead.
I hurried back out through the door. John had the woman handcuffed behind her back. She was sitting in the shadowy driveway crying, her head bowed, her body swaying. Her tangled blond hair hung down between her knees.
When John finished reading her rights I said, “There’s a dead guy in there.”
As he ducked his head to the radio and began to tell the dispatcher he needed the coroner, the woman sitting on the driveway raised her dazed blue eyes to look at me, let go with a sob, and said, “Terry?”
Danny came running up behind me and skidded to a halt, staring at her. “Holy shit,” he said. “Marylou?”
He sounded as stunned as I felt. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
I thought she was drunk. There are a few things that happen to ole Marylou on those rare occasions when she gets drunk. First, her eyelids begin to droop. Her eyelids are like a sobriety meter. The drunker she is, the lower they ride. At that moment, they were fluttering about one degree above lights out.
Another thing is, she gets weepy. The drunker she is, the weepier she is. And she also gets sleepy. It doesn’t matter where she is, as soon as she hits a certain level, all she can think about is stretching out and going to sleep.
So even as John started apologizing to me for not realizing it was Marylou, because she’d been hanging her head and he’d been more concerned with getting her handcuffed and under control than getting a look at her face, there’s ole Marylou letting out with another sob, trying to roll over onto her side and go to sleep in a puddle on the cement.
I was about to reach down and pull her up off the wet driveway when she twisted her body and her T-shirt rode up and I saw her naked butt cheek sticking out. That’s the other thing that happens to Marylou when she’s drunk. She wants to get naked.
I was disgusted with her.
“Where’s your fucking clothes?”
I guess it might seem odd that I was more concerned with her bare ass than I was that she might have just killed a guy. But the thing is, I never for a second thought she was the one who had fired that gun.
She mumbled something in a sobbing little voice, but I couldn’t understand her. I took hold of her shoulders and lifted her onto her feet, tugging her T-shirt down over her key areas. Then I held her up in front of me. I quickly ran my eyes over her, looking for blood, making sure she hadn’t been hit, too.
“Let’s try this again. Where’s your clothes?”
She scrunched up her face at me, like I was speaking in a foreign language or something. “Huh?”
Danny said, “I’ll go find ’em. Was she in this trailer?”
He’d come running up after everything was all over. He didn’t even know yet that she’d been carrying the gun or that there was a dead guy inside.
John said, “Hold on, Danny. You’ll have to wait until Alan gets here. That trailer’s a crime scene now.”
Marylou turned her head to look at him. “Huh?”
John said, “Marylou, tell us what happened.”
She shook her head. “I wanna go to sleep.”
John said, “In a little bit. Right now we need to know what happened.”
She said, “About what?”
I said, “Who’s the guy in there, Marylou?”
She said, “What guy?”
I said, “The dead guy in the trailer.” and immediately regretted losing my temper with her because I knew by this time it was useless to ask her anything. The waterworks started up all over again.
John said, “Marylou, who fired the gun?”
She blinked at him, hiccuping with sobs. “Huh?”
When Alan arrived a few seconds later, he didn’t take long to figure out we weren’t going to get anything coherent out of Marylou until she’d had a few cups of coffee, at the very least.
Once he’d satisfied himself that the guy in the trailer really was dead, he got a blanket out of his cruiser, wrapped Marylou in it, and put her in the backseat of his cruiser where she promptly rolled over and passed out.
By that time other cars were rolling up. Alan and John disappeared inside the trailer, along with everybody else.
Danny and I walked out to the street and leaned on the hood of Alan’s car. Little knots of trailer-park residents were huddled up and down the street, smoking and talking in quiet, excited voices.
I started to feel the cold night air for the first time. Every time I shuffled my bare feet, cold mud squished between my toes.
Danny pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his shirt pocket – he’d taken the time to throw on a flannel, jeans, and his hightops – and tapped me out one. His long, reddish gold hair was loose and wild in the wind. The same strand kept blowing across his face. He looked like a big freckled Jesus standing there. I told him about the gun.
He whistled softly. “You don’t think she did it, do ya?”
I shook my head. “No way. She doesn’t get violent when she’s drunk. She gets a lot of other things, but not violent.”
“Then how’d she get the gun?”
I shrugged. “Musta picked it up or something.”
“I don’t know how you can be so sure . . . ”
“Trust me. I know the Bitch.”
He looked up the street. “It looks like she did it The cops’ll think she did it.”
I said, “I’m not worried about that. They have tests they can do to tell if she fired a gun. The tests’ll show she didn’t do it.”
One thing about spending some time in jail, listening to the other guys talk, was that I’d learned a little bit about crime.
He said, “Oh. That’s good, then.”
I said, “Yeah.”
We smoked silently for a while. We started seeing flashes go off inside the trailer as a police photographer recorded the scene.
Danny said, “Wait a minute. If she didn’t do it, that means she was inside that trailer when the murderer was.”
I shrugged. “Maybe. We didn’t actually see her inside the trailer. She was in the driveway when we first caught sight of her.”
One of the little knots of people began to move toward us. The woman was reluctant and kept a tight grip on the arm of the man she was with, but the other guy encouraged them to come on. As they passed under the streetlight I could see they were all young like us, somewhere in their twenties. The two guys were average height and build. The girl was a plump little brunette.
The bolder of the guys lit a smoke as they joined us. They formed a little circle with us and he took a long draw. Nobody spoke for a while. The three of them were jittery and jumpy.
Then the bold guy said, “What a night, huh?” He let go a sleepy-voiced, nervous chuckle.
Danny and I nodded wordlessly.
The guy rubbed the brown scruff on his chin. “Well, fuck it. I’m glad this is Saturday. Be able to just sleep all day, huh?”
Danny and I both nodded like we agreed with him, even though we were both planning to work that Saturday. So was John. It was gonna be a long day.
The girl had a high little scared voice. “Is someone dead in there?”
I nodded. “Think so.”
She shivered and turned to her boyfriend or husband or whoever he was. “I told you to call the cops. I told you someone was gonna get killed.”
He said tiredly, “Oh, jeez, Janice. This had nothing to do with the fight. That was up the street. Across from us.”
Danny and I said together, “What fight?”
The guy stuck out his hand and said, “Frankie Abbott.”
Danny and me both told who we were and shook the guy’s hand.
Then the other guy, the bold one, stuck out his hand and we formally met Will Nazinski.
Danny said again, “What fight?”
Frankie laughed nervously. “Some of the neighbors were really going at it for a while before we heard the shots. They were throwing stuff at each other and screaming bloody murder. But that was up there.”
He jerked his thumb.
“And they musta settled down when they heard the shots. Right, Janice? Nothing going on in there now. Nothing to do with this.”
She said, “Still . . .”
Frankie gave me a look that was supposed to mean, Women. Can’t live with ’em . . .
Danny said, “Still, it could have had something to do with this.”
Frankie shook his head. “I promise you, it didn’t. Those two up there go at it like that all the time. Next day, to look at ’em, you’d swear nothing happened.”
He shot Janice a look.
He said, “Anyway, that’s a blonde lying there in the cop car. The woman up there.” he jerked his thumb. “She’s got brown hair. Nothing to do with anything.”
We smoked on. I was just bending over to scrub out my cigarette butt when John came down the driveway toward us. He ran a hand over his brown buzz cut.
“They cut me loose since I’m technically off duty. Come on. We may as well go home and try to get some sleep.”
We said good night to Will, Frankie, and Janice and began to walk back up the driveway and slog through the backyards toward our trailer.
I stopped walking and said, “Hey. Did you find Marylou’s clothes and shoes in there anywhere?”
John shook his head. “Sorry. The trailer’s empty. I even looked in the closets and cabinets. Nothing but a six-pack of beer on the kitchen counter.”
I said, “Shit.”
We went on walking.
Danny said, “Who was the guy?”
John shook his head. “No idea. We didn’t find any ID on him. We don’t even know yet whose trailer it is.”
Danny said, “Once Marylou sleeps it off, she’ll be able to explain a lot of it, huh? Hell, she musta been a witness.”
I said, “She mighta been a witness, but she won’t be able to tell anybody anything.”
We’d reached our own driveway. John stopped and stared at me. “Why not?”
I said, “She’s not gonna remember anything that happened tonight. She was in blackout.”