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Where did they go?

If they went...

By Willem IndigoPublished 7 months ago 20 min read
Where did they go?
Photo by Ussama Azam on Unsplash

“Don’t call me a lower-than-dirt criminal until the facts—yes, facts from my point of view. All of it, the money, that detective I thought was one of you, all the tunes just get me out of this damn position. I’m fresh out of an arm cast, undoing weeks of physical therapy progress.

Dwight Blanc.

Mall benches are rarely built for comfort, and the scene was smothered with dark-colored Polo shirt-type investigators outnumbering the local authorities. By the time I was being dragged back to the fountain, where the railing was nearly broken through, uniformed officers widened the perimeter, taking the sheriff with them. Geez, how sly could they possibly believe me to be? I’m almost flattered. Meanwhile, the woman with bloody hands was chatting up someone in forensics in front of a Pac-sun, and where’s her aggressive pat down? He’ll, she offered. This position’s perk, according to the officer standing overhead, thinking if he’s going to call Becky over after bedtime, I’m only five feet from the victim. Bruised up to his jaw line gapping over the missing section of human remains, the coroners weren’t done with the evidence, half distracted by the second-floor loophole to the police tape. The other half was something about the wound that kept one on the phone and sending pictures with concern in the eyebrows. Suddenly, I felt the exits were about to pull a lockout or a lockdown. Security will turn me witness soon enough, not that I’m concerned with their preconceived notion that I’m some patsy.

For some reason, I caught myself looking toward the woman who initially took over the scene with the detective title. Light brown trench coat, too big except the tailored sleeves, red hair Medusa would kill for, pale, but you can tell she recently tried to give some sunlight a try. Her eye contact met mine like I was late. She winked.

“While we are no longer classifying you as a suspect, you are a witness and person of interest,” Sergeant Greene stated to the sucked-teeth display of dismay of the now sweating suspects. I thanked and stood to be pushed back on the bouncing steel grid some idiot thought felt great on the tailbone. Wire seating, seriously? It’s the only reason I didn’t bite the bullet and take the charge. “Since I have you, Mr. Blanc, can you give me your eagle-eyed view of the incident before you bolted?”

I could hear a faint hint of recovered breath, making him a cop who fell behind later. “Are you going to get me pen’ turn your recorder—Okay, I was here around 2:30-ish and went to the bathroom, then stopped in a few shoe stores. It was above in front of the Journey’s I saw what looked like a growing altercation.’

“It was a traveling debacle so I lapped through a small section of JCPenny to remind myself why I don’t and caught up with the screaming match. A crowd formed opposite the carpeted stone seating around them, trench coat and glitter dragon.”

“Detective Scarlett and Mr. Amber. So, not Maxwell Lapis?” Sergeant Green asked.

“No. I could tell she was freeing a week’s worth of suppressed aggression, but something got him heated, and he pushed her. Then, former Debo Priest stepped in, practically took out a stroller, getting them to split up.”

“Father Jet.”

“He was talking to Maxwell a little before the incident. But that’s another thing. This is about how Trench coat burst an eardrum when he stepped between them. It might have been for the best because it looked like it would’ve been chased by a .38 Special. Realizing her mistake, she sought to his wound. This didn’t stop her shit talk now that she had a shield. When Mr. Ambers seemed hell-bent on only making his point, DJ Pinky Rave Queen helped the priest under my feet. Maxwell ran over behind where she was rejoining the argument, that’s when glitter dragon’s focus switched real quick. Something he was holding, I think. Whatever it was, I sat near the smoothie kiosk out of sight, so I can’t say where he got it. If you’re wondering why that detective’s hand is glowing, it happened when she palmed his jacket with her finger in his face. His finger wag signaled a goon to do his dirty work. They made a B-line to Maxwell, backing him to the center of the semi-circle, then into the railing overlooking the fountain.”

“Martine Regal and DJ Fuchsia PoP! Did you see a weapon on anyone else?” Sergeant Green asked.

“So close and no.”

“And you saw her .38 special?”

“She always looks like she’s going for a weapon, and I watched her reholster a metallic device in a chest slot. Without a weapon, she went for Maxwell behind the luchador on his day off when a couple bangs convinced me to seek cover. When I returned to peek over the railing, and saw the guy bleeding all over himself with final death twitches looking like a breaststroke through the gargled, foaming blood from his lips. The buff one stood over him. I never saw a flash. Someone yelled, ‘What did you do?’ and that’s when I thoroughly believed this was the bottom of my Mall experience for today. That’s when I was attacked by your guys for being disturbed by a tragedy.”

“Could you tell who asked, who it was directed towards?”

“This is fuzzy, but it did seem like she knew him.”

“How many shots? I mean, the guy looks like a shark bit ’em.”

“Yeah, so, when your creepy photo club is done, could you cover that wreck of a corpse.”

“Where are his eyelids?”

Hot-headed or not, something was bound to happen today. I walked with my shoulders back more, stayed tense, intimidated a clerk for a discount. It got worse when Cecil chose me as ‘the muscle’ for the day. The guy talks like a mirror covered in positive affirmations, hovering three feet ahead, and I can tell he can’t stand seeing me. I rarely get experience from a deal done peacefully.

Martine Regal

“What’s your occupation, I mean?” Sergeant Green asked.

“Negotiations Specialist,” He seemed to stare me down, so I returned the favor. Believe it or not, reading them top to bottom has avoided more conflict than a public setting.

“What brought you two here today?”

He’s been getting paranoid lately. Closing the blinds, taking extra laps around the block type shit, so I brought him here to calm his nerves. It’s always something, never someone, though, so I was getting worried. Then that loud Ginger Nut pops up out of nowhere.”

“Detective Alice Scarlett, so she didn’t arrive with you?”

“Hell no. Crazy Chika blindsided us, accusing Cecil of stealing from her while we were in the H&M. I don’t know how they found that shirt in his jacket, but there it was, and he was just as shocked. So was the manager.”

“Why?”

“Because it wasn’t anywhere near his size or style, not to mention I don’t think they sold that t-shirt there. I got security to chill on the report if I took him out of the store; too bad that left her trying to citizens arrest us. Then she attacked his need to steal the room and his irrational temper that made his father hate him; she was digging into his operations like she was C.I.A., and his face started turning red. I grabbed him from losing his shit until this lanky guy in a teenager’s priest costume picked the wrong side of history. I pulled Cecil back as the haymaker just—Wham! His ear bled immediately. I stopped caring about the situation as long as it stayed over there.”

“Did you happen to notice the detective with anyone prior?”

“I’m not sure they carpooled, but he held the door for her. Seemed pretty friendly. When we entered, we saw him, not her.”

“Sure, then what happened? What did Mr. Ambers do next?”

“He goes ape, and I’m talking the light bulb went on and burst from the power surge. He’s shouting, ‘Get’em, get’em,’ pointing at a guy kneeling beside the priest. Him and the bag. He hadn’t told me who we were here to meet or anything, so I’m trying to catch my focus. I grab the guy with a couple of taps on the shoulder and ask him for the bag. I’ll let him go after looking at his license and save him my boss’s angst. But when I asked him for the bag, he gripped it tight like it would run. Grabbing at him tripped him up. Next thing I know, he loses his balance and scrambles toward the guard rail. He was wild, swinging a knife back and forth, smiling ear to ear, breathing shallowly. I thought he was the guy my boss was here to meet, so I started trying to convince him we were the blind date of their dreams. He wasn’t going to take me; we both knew it. I heard a tiny glass break. We looked at each other--Pow! Bang! My eyes don’t open until I heard that girl’s high-pitched scream. The blood was thick, and I wasn’t ready for the sight of it after feeling a chunk fall from my chest.”

“A tiny glass…. So, how would you describe the sound if you were to say, have weapons training?”

What’s with a cop’s need to put the guilty title on everyone you come across? What, you live so far outside your district, someone like me wouldn’t exist? Even you’re clearing out the stores and vendors to a different end of the mall. It gives him the tell that could reawaken my poker hot streak. “One like a sawed-off shotgun but in reverse.”

“Excuse me?”

“And like,” I paused because the comparison my mind put together felt accurate in some right but odder with each repetition. Since I heard it, I had struggled with whether this was finally the event that drives me insane. High ceilings or a brief hallucination, nothing explains, “—a Roman Candle at my feet where the whistle crackle and pop all happen at the same time.”

“A reversed shotgun and a firework?”

“Don’t blame her projectile vomit, seeing that rib cage live like that. Whole torso was in the trash can she hid behind right after.”

“Where do you think it came from?”

“The bag. I don’t know a weapon that could do this much damage from any of the vantage points his back faced, nothing that wouldn’t have taken the rest of us out. It was controlled for an isolated incident. Unless you found at least three .50 caliber shells, nothing from Macy’s would do that,” I said, showing him the angles on the second floor in front of the summer blowout displays. “You know, rounds that stop in the body and explode with no forward momentum?”

“You sound disappointed, like you know my answer.” I was.

“An injury would do better for my story; sell my innocence.”

My Friends get so annoying. I get enough of that clingy shareware from my producers, not to mention my openers. I guess going back to swing sets and tea parties must mean something as they drag my coattails in the mud. They’re just broke. But I know they only brought me out of my come-down cocoon for a free lunch. Some friends they are, they left me during a terrorist attack.

DJ Fushia PoP

“Ms. PoP, about what you saw related to the murder.”

“You don’t think I did it, right? Although, since I didn’t, you think the rumor could boost my intrigue for my next album? My Poppys love a killer theme.”

“Poppies, Miss?”

“Fans. You have kids; one of them might be one.” “Actually, don’t. You won’t want to.”

“You were in a line of sight of what killed the man, Maxwell, and I need you to focus on that, please. A flash or a source of the sounds you heard.”

“The bag looked very full when it boomed.”

“You make it sound thunderous.”

“Not the first one. It was sharp, but I’ve heard that in a gun range, kind of. The other one was like clapping bricks against steel and all this bluster of air.”

“No gun, huh? How hard was the force of air when it went off?”

“It sucked me in. I saw a gun in the coat of that pale woman in the trench coat, but I guess she’s one of you, so whatever. She had like where she could whip it out from her tits, so dope. She ducked when I did, I think. She was odd.”

“Oh, yeah.”

“So, the first clappy bang happens; she looks at the walkway overhead. I didn’t see what she saw, but she took cover by the time the boom happened. Then, looking at the wrestler guy, she said, ‘What did you do?’ I got fixated on those ribs and felt sick in that trash can.”

“The one that left the cement scratch marks. Why so far down? According to a witness, you were practically climbing in it.”

What the fuck? “Nah, I’m fine, just some grotty mall food.”

“Let me know because while we’re here, we can have a look at their practices; get the health inspector down here.”

“It’s a mall staple, right? The harsh reality of a dying community. Wait, where are they going with that bag? Does the staff not realize what an emotional space we’re trying to unpack here?” It’s a trick I use often. Make it all about the emotional confrontation and either the sensitive pick an enemy to blame or an exit to find. Talking about the trauma of a dead loved one in the middle of a Rue 21, and suddenly, you’re invisible. Or it makes feeling more important than the act and refusing to alienate those who want to help wipe my running mascara. Just so inconsolable—

“No. Sorry. Security footage shows something being thrown, metallic and heavy inside—I should warn them about the—”

“Wait, damn it, wait. My phone is in there.” I didn’t appreciate his cynical expression of deceitful cluelessness.

“I was thinking detonator—”

All right, cool it, super cop, I was ditching them. I got a new phone, a new babe, and a newish ride waiting for me on the Sears side. If that’s going to be evidence, it kind of goes against the Vanishing Act.”

“If you’re vanishing—you left a collection of photos on there—”

“Yes. Jeez.”

“Take any while you were here?”

“I arrived at Black River Mall at approximately 14:35 to purchase a better suit to compliment the hair. I strolled for a while aimlessly until I caught a smattering of proof of foul play from an overconfident oaf and his buffed-out sidekick doing all the shielding while the boss does all the stealing. A tyrant of a man trying to wear the essence of disco fever out of the store like the blissful beginnings of a protection racket. Big guy didn’t pay, so I confronted them for the sake of all being forced to know what lies beyond the socially unacceptable amount of cowboy-themed bedazzling. The confrontation led out into the café area where that guy exploded.”

Detective Alice Scarlett

“Who were you talking to?” Sergeant Green asked.

“When?” I tried to fathom coming from this once thought competent ass hole.

“I started by quoting you, ‘What did you do?’ end quote. Who was that directed to?”

Shit. “Open forum. Someone opened that guy up with the jaws of life in fast forward.”

“Guess it comes with the territory.” His little chuckle confirmed that Sergeant Green was a military operative used to dealing with the bearing of a general who beat his spouse before dispatching the drones. It was faked, whether he would admit it or not.

“Unless I’m tired.”

“Sure. What is your relationship, if any, with Mr. Blanc? I mean, you spoke to a dying Maxwell, but he’s dressed remarkably similar to our former main suspect. Brown pants, the jet black shoes, I guess you’d say that still creates two unique looks but with a vague description….”

Crazy fucker went back under the sheet for that one. Can’t knock the effort for the craft. “I think he frequents here, as do I—”

“I doubt it, but go on,” he interrupted.

“—and you know, the savings.”

“It’s uncanny. Both in soft jackets and red pants, even if corduroy lost to kaki, also got to add their hats. Skull and cap, sure, but both are a similar darker green. Oh, but I guess you didn’t notice their bracelets, either.”

“Such coincidences in the world. Jesus, they’re insane. Like, what if that’s how an appendix explodes.”

“Have you ever seen that?”

“Once. But that was plagued as well with its own coincidence.”

“What was that?”

“See, what I’m missing is the first bang. A bullet-sized casing of explosive was implanted during an elective surgery a month prior. Little fucker was overpacked. Just look good enough to make a prince a victim of a tyrannical Father of the groom.”

“What’s the theory here?”

“Your creepy blood guy over there said if anything stranger could be said about the wound with no exit strategy, the piece of flesh thought to be the entry wound was a healed scar.”

“Who do you think flipped the switch? And what’s your interest in this case is?”

“Huh? Nothing, I just caught this guy stealing. Never would’ve been this big of a deal.”

“Sorry. I saw you attempt to wink at Mr. Blanc earlier, although I think you inverted the steps.”

Shit. “He’s cute.”

“Sure.”

What I wouldn’t give for that officer’s aviators right now. They’d be such blasphemy for some churches, and I’d pull my shirt over my face to lessen my pounding ache. Anna is doing her best to keep the blood off my collar. I know she means well, but much more suffering than a solid right hook is needed to make me break that promise.

Father Jin Jet

Most days, I’m gardening. Besides the challenge of not ruining a patch of tulips, the quiet field lost under the sun surrounded by the peace of mind I’d like to think provides a special kind of nutrients that can’t be lab-grown. However, not all church functions stimulate as a mass of people moving and grooving in the solemness of the lord has different rewards. Then I’m invisible with no money to spend nor anything but a replacement pair of home Crocs. An unexpectedly fantastic gift from an old friend I’ll miss for their harsh words of wisdom and spirit lined with dynamite in the best ways while fighting through the worst of it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have taken the original pair. That is how parishioners find themselves with donated Shake weights and Snuggies during the holidays.

“This is my first trip to a mall since ’94; not much to say beyond the less dense crowds. The youth have the reign and hold it at communal cell phone spots where plugs allow for charging to continue their debates on with their screens. Everyone else ignores the energy and slowly strolls to walk off their generously portioned lunch. Less congested by most accounts but the same. I enjoy when I’m stopped for advice by the lost who find themselves not ready to seclude with their problems yet weren’t expecting a little cup of Jesus to nudge them where they need to go. A less than professional confessional but Maxwell was without fear. A devil of a deal if he could pull it off like he was doomed. His smile read of desperation, a maniacal fire he was happy to unburden. His doom was not made clear to me, but some bag scheme that he had just learned would make some money for his going-out ride. I don’t know what was in them by-golly. That man, the one in the suede jacket. He took a call that must’ve been serious because he walked off in a hurry.”

“With or without the bag?”

“That’s right, without the bag. Maxwell figured he could make some swap during the diversion. Then that loud woman with the flaming hair started accusing that man of murder.”

“Wait, coming from the H&M?”

“Yes, officer. She shouted, ‘You’ll deserve what you get every painful second of it.’ With heavy use of expletives, of course. It didn’t sound like the accusation worthy of a tacky jacket and an addiction to tassels.”

“It doesn’t to me either,” Sergeant Green said.

Nothing should sound this insane. I was nice before this., aligned with this murder like any homicide case. But like a living entity, its separation from other crimes flourishes gruesomely as a disgusting display of evolution, laughing at itself at our expense. Forensics proved some things unbelievable which always muck up an investigation. What’s killing me is the corpse riddled with unknown, unrecognizable pathogens centered around the bullet wound in the head roughly seven days old. No one speaks of it, but my team and where it protrudes, there should’ve been a mention, and the priest who was the closest to him had no idea what I was talking about. Stranger still, despite the detective’s hands showing no signs of having fired her weapon, the round was the same caliber. Coincidence?

I skipped Ambers’ statement because it was fucking useless. Instead, I rounded them up a half level below, where performances were often held in front of the fountain on the carpeted steps. There wasn’t too much blood the contamination team was as worried about at this stage. The evacuation was successful. He felt good in his decision, but only in seeing what was presented as the show involved staring at the back of the dead man dripping under a cloth did he feel the squirm he was going for would be disingenuous. Why haven’t they taken the body away, Mr. Blanc wondered aloud.

Sergeant Doug Green

“I appreciate you all being patient with us and my methods. This will be over soon. This will all make things clear, hopefully to put a lid on this tragic incident.”

“It’s like having my crimes solved by that M.T.I. in Texas.” Mr. Blanc uttered to no one. No one knew who he was talking to until Detective Scarlett chuckled, sitting behind him next to Father Jet.

“If he was sober,” she responded.

“With everyone’s cooperation, we’ll proceed through events as you remember with necessary alterations. I will allow for corrections—”

“Can we talk about—” DJ Fushia PoP started.

“—at designated times. But with your honesty, this should go smoothly. Detective Scarlett—”

“I’ll take it from here. The switch was a double-blind move that technically got more than the organizer meant for in one silly commotion. The whole thing was meant to expose a third party who is long gone, an invader of the—killer variety with a secondary target in mind. My proxy drop-off went fine with a clear sight view. The most I could hope for was a visual description.”

“Mr. Blanc’s involvement?”

“Shh, Sergeant, I’m talking. Rude. Ambers, with his energy color too gray for what he’s wearing, caught on to the exchange thanks to the biggin he’s flaunting as his gal pal spying on me. DJ Ballet Slipper saved me from that.”

“DJ Flamingo Punch,” Mr. Blanc laughed.

“I slowed you so you wouldn’t spook the pick-up away. Mr. Blanc tries to warn me about the handoff, which I figured I’d miss anyway since we’ve met and they don’t like me. That’s what alerted Father Jet wrongfully that I was in peril and jumped in. The killer added something I assume broke reality for all of us for a moment, but I was concerned with Cecil’s push.”

“We’re skipping the part where she spit on me?”

“If Mr. Blanc saw the truth,” Sergeant Green started, “that’s when you smack the priest—accidentally, I remember. So what did you see?”

Not that he turned to greet her sinister smile, he paused for a great breath as he put his head in his hands. “It glowed, didn’t it?” she said.

He shook his head, and in the steady motion back and forth, he worked up a chuckle of exasperation. “Really, no one else saw the bag? The way it looked, none of you? Sergeant, make sure this goes down as evidence of my insanity plea if this goes wrong.”

“Noted,” he responded.

Mr. Blanc continued. “It didn’t glow. I—watched it build up or charge after it was concealed in the bag. The switch happened, but only an arm and a little pant leg visible, and they took nothing, only delivered.”

“Is that the bag that had the squishy, squiggling thing spinning and twisting, pulsing—wait,” DJ Fushia PoP started, then stopped.

“That’s it; think about why we’re in this select group. Think about what Maxwell looked like carrying it. Remember, it looked like my bag, but—”

Her wide-eyed gaze met Mr. Blanc as Detective Scarlett clapped the attention away from the growing silence of the quarantine. “Not important. What did the arm look like?”

“Not important, but I was the second person I saw take cover.”

Sergeant Green would’ve intervened, but his partner returned with something to say quietly. With the update side ended with a whispered, ‘They’re snitching on themselves, I’ll be fine,” he took charge of the locked-in thought suspects heading toward a kerfuffle. “All right, we all know the truth hurts; let’s be adults about this. Detective Scarlett, what killed Maxwell? See I get you’re working a case, nothing to do with mine, mind you. It’s your lack of credentials that puts you at the greatest disadvantage in finding your innocence. As far as this shows, either your proxy or you were the target. Seeing as his diagnosis gave him barely months to live to stare down death, the search for kicks isn’t much of a surprise.”

“Excuse me, but this isn’t about that death anymore. Luchador, you were right in the blast radius; why haven’t you spoken? You saw through the bag. It—couldn’t hide behind the paper. If you would’ve clocked a bomb, you wouldn’t have stood there, would you?”

“It didn’t blow up like a bomb,” Martine started. “I heard air escaping—sucking on a massive scale but only for a second. No lights, just a gap in my sight that picks up after it is over.”

Shit. “I had their approach all wrong.”

“Where are you going, Detective? What was he trying to kill you with? And when I say you, I’m open to answers from my suspect number one.”

Oh, this again. “Whether I’m guilty or not, I’m—we’re not leaving, are we?”

“But you weren’t warning the detective, were you?”

“If he would’ve looked down, he would have freaked out like I did, or maybe not, but he’s dead because of something you think we know about, and his hair isn’t even the same since this started,” Mr. Blanc exclaimed. "Where's that inquiry."

“Something the woman with no social security number, no birth certificate, and nothing resembling a license of any sort might know of, yet will risk lives to keep hidden,” Sergeant Green said, blocking the exiting steps of the arena with co-workers with full chemical warfare get up.

“If you would let me go, I’ll—”

“Detective, where’s Maxwell Lapis?”

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About the Creator

Willem Indigo

I spend substantial efforts diving into the unexplainable, the strange, and the bewilderingly blasphamous from a wry me, but it's a cold chaotic universe behind these eyes and at times, far beyond. I am Willem Indigo: where you wanna go?

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