The following is an excerpt from the upcoming novel Jesus Christ, Boy Detective, which will be out July 15th from Pelekinesis.
Tom Hightower gripped the wheel of his pearl colored Range Rover. The rain turned the highway into a shallow, raging river. Mary Hightower peered through the windshield, looking for the exit to her mother’s house. Timmy Hightower looked through his pocket notebook, trying to piece together the clues regarding the case Marie Swanson hired him for to find out who would forge a love letter in her handwriting to Carlos Francisco, Parker Lewis Middle School’s token pariah.
“Mary, do you see the exit yet?” Tom sighed. The sweat slowly knitted wet gloves around his hands.
“No, I don’t Tom. Why don’t we just pull over and sit a bit until the rain stops.”
“We’re running late as is, baby. There’s no need…”
The burst of the Range Rover’s right front and rear tire interrupted Tom’s sentence. Tom furiously turned the wheel as the Range Rover spun out before a Mack truck tapped it just enough for it to flip and roll until it stopped, wheels spinning in the air. The horn cried like a dirge as a figure in a raincoat walked over to the ruined Range Rover.
“Hhheeellp…hellllp ssusss.” Tom’s broken ribs fractured his plea. The figure walked to the back seat, crouched to look. The seatbelt kept Timmy in his seat, the blood trickling from his forehead onto the roof. The figure picked something shiny out of the back right tire before walking back and picking something out of the front tire. The figure crouched down, looked into Tom’s desperate gray eyes before covering his mouth. Tom’s arms wanted to move, slap the figure’s wrist. Tom’s eyes fluttered, his body slacked.
“The vessel is ready.” The figure said to the rain.
“Good.” The rain hissed back. “You have done well.”
* * *
“How…is he doing?” Leopold Franz’s question came out in a faint German/Christopher Walken drawl. The night nurse stared at the man’s slicked back black hair, salt and pepper handlebar mustache, the tattoo creeping from the collar of his shirt.
“Who are you?”
The night nurse stared harder, her brow furrowing. Her cheeks quivered, trying hard to fight her fear, her awkward surprise. “Wait, you’re…”
“I am, yes.”
“Pardon me for asking but how are you related to the Hightowers?”
“Every family…has a wolf…they’d rather forget.” Leopold tackled the night nurse as the lightning bolt came through the window and struck Timmy Hightower. The EKG flattened, moaned. “Are…you ok?” Leopold helped the night nurse up.
“I am. Thank you.” The night nurse noticed the monotone of the EKG. She punched a button over Timmy’s head. The loudspeakers chanted “Code Blue, Code Blue, Code Blue.” Doctors, nurses, ran past Leopold.
“Sir, you’ll need to wait in the waiting room. We’ll let you know what happened when we’re done.”
Leopold turned, walking calmly from Timmy Hightower’s hospital room, into the nearest men’s room. He looked around to make sure he was alone before running the water and dunking his face. “I know you know what you’re doing,” Leopold thought to himself. “I hope one day…I understand.”
Three of the playing cards laid face up on the kitchen table (8 ♥, King ♠, King ♦). A charcoal pinstriped suited man peeked at his cards before looking back at the 12-year-old boy. The boy ran his tongue across his braces, peeking at his cards slightly.
“You’ve played well so far, Larry. So well, far better than I thought you would. It’s a shame this game has to end.”
“Dude, are you gonna shut up or are you gonna make the turn?”
The charcoal pinstriped suited man slipped his hand beneath one of the face down cards in the middle of the kitchen table, revealing it as a King ♥.
“This is quite interesting. Your move, Larry.”
Larry’s chips glowed brighter as he pushed them all into the rest of the pile. “I’m all in, dude. You got the balls to follow me in or are you gonna fold like a pussy?” The charcoal pinstriped suited man’s chips glowed just as bright as he pushed all of them into the pile.
“It’s time to see what the river brings.” The fifth card is an Ace ♠. “Call.” Larry revealed an Ace ♥ and a 5 ♣.
“Full house, dude, Aces and Kings. Think you can beat that?” The charcoal pinstriped suited man revealed a King ♣ and a 7 ♥. Blood trickled out of Larry’s mouth, each drop that touched his skin turned it to stone.
“Wghah ghav yoah don to me?”
“The same thing you just did to your friends. You all knew the stakes going in.”
The blood poured faster out of Larry’s mouth, stone creeping up his body until he was a statue sitting at the head of his family’s dining room table. The chips melded into a column of light, shattering the ceiling above. The charcoal pinstriped suited man collected the cards, placed them in a black tin, then sealed it tight. He didn’t look back at the other statues sitting at the table as he left Larry’s house.
You did well, Nathaniel. The words buzzed in the charcoal pinstriped suited man’s ears as he walked to the faded midnight black Camry parked adjacent to the outside curb of Larry’s house. Nathaniel opened the driver’s side door of his Camry, settled in the driver’s seat before putting in the keys. The local talk radio station played the news about the death of the Hightower family, of Timmy Hightower still struggling to wake up from his coma.
Nathaniel, start finding players for the next game.
“This quickly? We need to lay low for awhile.”
Make it happen, Nathaniel. Do you understand? Nathaniel nodded as he turned the ignition, set the Camry to D, and drove normally out of Larry’s neighborhood.
* * *
“How’s the father doing?”
“Not so well. He had to be sedated and taken to the hospital. You wouldn’t be doing that well either if you found his kid and four of his friends…”
“How did they do it though, Chief? Did each kid slit the others wrist and then watched each other die? Where’s all the blood?”
“All of these are good questions. This is just too damn weird for our detectives to handle. I mean, they’ll have to try and figure out what happened. It’s their job, but I don’t think they’ll solve this. I might need some outside help.”
“Outside help? Like FBI?”
“No. I think I’m staying local on this one.”
“Wait. If you’re thinking who I’m thinking, this might even be too weird for him. Besides, he…”
“I know. I know. I hope he makes it. We need him more than ever.”
Leopold Franz watched Timmy Hightower’s eyes flutter beneath his eyelids before snapping open.
“You’re…awake. Thank God. I thought…I lost you.”
“You’re at…St. Joseph’s. You, your mom, and dad… got into a really bad accident on the highway.”
“But my mom’s already dead and my dad is…”
Leopold placed a finger to Timmy’s lips. “Good… you’re in there. I need you to…relax. In a minute or two, the night nurse is going to come in and check on you. You…need to act like the boy as best as you can.”
“Why should I trust you?”
“Because he’s asked me…to make sure I watch over you while you are in this body.”
“I can escape this body. Watch.” Timmy Hightower gritted his teeth, clenched his fists, shut his eyes. The EKG beeped faster. Timmy opened his eyes and noticed that he was still tethered to his hospital bed. “Why isn’t this working? Why am I here? What have you done,” Timmy asked the ceiling.
“We’ve got about…thirty seconds. The boy’s memories…are intact. Access them…and use them. You’ll need to play along…in order to get out of here.”
“Do you trust me?”
“I don’t have a choice do I?”
“You do. If you say who you really are though, it’ll be written off…as brain damage. You’ll be in here…a lot longer.” Leopold heard the sneakers of the night nurse squeaking closer. “Well?”
Timmy closed his eyes again, thrashed beneath his eyelids before opening again. “Uncle Leo, is that you? What happened?”
“Timmy, thank God. I thought…I lost you. You, your mom, and dad…got into a really bad accident on Highway 27.”
“Are…they ok? Where are they?”
The night nurse walked into Timmy’s hospital room, watched Leopold take Timmy’s hand into his. She held back her own tears as a slowly sobbing Timmy dived into Leopold’s chest, Leopold’s shirt muffling Timmy’s questions, snot and wails.
* * *
The boy is awake now. You know what to do.
Nathaniel took five random playing cards from the black tin, placed each one in a white envelope, then sealed them. The mailing addresses slowly appeared in gold cursive, with a subtle crimson outline around each letter. He placed a Forever Stamp on each envelope, then stacked them in a neat pile. Nathaniel placed them in his inner pocket before walking out of the motel room, to the mailbox at the front of the hotel, feeding it the envelopes.
Timmy and Leopold sat in the left front pew of the viewing room, listening to the priest giving Timmy’s mother and father their eulogy. Timmy heard the pew behind them creak as a new person slid in. Over his shoulder, Timmy noticed the new person in a formal police uniform, the length and width of his black beard, and the mahogany pipe sticking out of his pockets. He leaned into Timmy’s right ear.
“I’m so sorry for your loss, Tim. This was terribly tragic,” the man whispered. Timmy shut his eyes for a moment.
“Yes. Yes, Chief Donaldson, it was.” Timmy numbed the words.
“Is there anything I can do for you, at all, anything?”
“I don’t think so, Chief.”
Chief Donaldson began scooting out of the pew before leaning into Timmy’s ear again. “I hate to do this to you but there’s a case I need your help on.”
“Chief, my mom and dad just died. Can’t this wait a few days?”
“This can’t wait a few days. I’ll talk to you after the burial, ok?”
“What is so damn important…about this case?” Leopold hissed. Chief Donaldson pulled out a manilla folder, handed it to Timmy.
“Once you look in here, you’ll understand.”
* * *
Timmy, Leopold, and Chief Donaldson walked through Larry Kreg’s parents’ house, ignoring the lazy ’70s decor and color choice. They stopped in the dining room.
“Why do you need me for this again, Chief? The file said murder/suicide. This is something your CSI team should be walking through, not a twelve-year-old boy.”
“We had to put something down, Tim. Didn’t you read through all the report?”
“Yeah…there wasn’t any blood found and…” Timmy looked up at the plastic tarp bandaging the hole in the roof above the dining room table.
“You’ve dealt with weird cases before and we’re all stumped on how all of this happened. A murder/suicide without any traces of blood. A giant hole in the roof but no gunpowder or traces of explosive chemicals. I need a fresh perspective, Tim, and you’re the best option I’ve got.”
Timmy walked around the dining room table, looking at it, ducking underneath it. He noticed Chief Donaldson’s shined shoes marring a faint curve on the floor. Timmy used one of the dining room chairs to step up to the top of the dining room table.
“Chief, does your phone have a camera?”
“It does, why?”
“Throw it to me.” Chief Donaldson pulled an iPhone in a police blue case, handed it to Timmy. “I need you both to step away from the dining room.”
Leopold and Chief Donaldson walked out of the room. Timmy took pictures all around the dining room floor, connecting the curves of the circle in his head. Is this why you put me here in this body? You could at least answer me. The only thing Timmy heard in response was the built in sound effects of the camera taking picture after picture.