Holiday Throwback: Empty

((Did everyone get what they wanted for Christmas? Below is a short story that I wrote for a creative writing class in college. Don’t remember what the prompt was, to be honest. I think it was something about concealment or keeping secrets? Anywho, enjoy!))

 

The room was in shambles. Clothing was strewn about the room haphazardly. Boxes of half-eaten Chinese food lay on the ground. The food was on the floor because six bottles of vodka had stolen their spots on the table. Each bottle was nearly empty except for one. There were a few couches on the sides of the room. Wooden chairs surrounded the table, six in all. As the cop entered the room, a sharp smell reached his nose. Ammonia, he thought while looking for evidence. All he noticed was the lack of furnishings besides the couches and chairs. He walked over to the table. Something in the circle of bottles caught his eye. “Bingo,” he said, putting on a pair of latex gloves.

The officer picked up an unused cartridge. It looked like a .357 round – the most common round used in revolvers – but he wasn’t sure. Placing it back on the table for the investigation crew, he did another quick examination of the room. Whoever they were, they were thorough. He took off his gloves and headed back for his police car.


“So, here’s what we have so far,” Lieutenant Smith said at the meeting the next day. “At 10:30 PM, we get a noise complaint from the lady in the next apartment over. She says that it sounded like a bunch of drunken idiots. We put it on the queue, and continue the evening. 10:45, the situation escalates as the lady calls back saying that she heard a gunshot. Officer Lourie was the first to arrive on the scene, and he found little hard evidence. A team is going back to the apartment to find all the evidence that they can. When I call your name, head to the door…”

Officer Samuel Lourie took a seat in the van next to the other three officers heading up the crime scene. Until further notice, he was in charge of the investigation. Fortunately his partner, Gregory Thomas, was on the crew. Greg was one of the most observant officers on the force, and he would find details that other people might miss. The other two officers were young but good at following procedure. He wouldn’t need to keep an eye on them. Lourie thumped on the wall, and the van lurched to life.


It had only been one day, but the room was starting to smell. The fresh aroma of ammonia mixed with the soothing smell of spoiled Chinese food, topped with a hint of vodka, was a little overbearing. The first thing that Lourie did as a commanding officer was open the window. That done, he delegated the rookies to scanning the walls and floor for any blood spots or other evidence. Officer Thomas was sent next door to ask the lady a few questions. This isn’t too bad, he told himself as he walked towards the table. Nothing had changed in 12 hours.

“Sir!” Officer Thomas said, “Mrs. Andrews has no recollection of anyone ever living in that apartment before. She said it was probably a bunch of high school students fooling around. As for the gunshot, she said that she only heard one.”

“Thanks, Greg. Help the others scour this place.” Officer Thomas walked over to the pile of clothing, putting on a pair of gloves. He began to pick through the articles. Lourie walked over to the window and called the department. He relayed all of his information, and then waited as the lieutenant picked up the line.

“Lourie, additional information came in today. Apparently, other precincts have had similar incidents occurring in their areas. Detective Jones is going to be heading up the rest of this investigation. Sorry, it’s procedure.”

“I know, sir. Out.” Lourie hung up the phone and cursed. Jones was one of the best detectives that the precinct had, but he was just a bit too eccentric for Sam’s taste. Sam wasn’t too angry that Jones was coming; it was just that this was his case, and now it was being turned over to someone else.

About five minutes later, Detective Jones came in the door, a cigarette in his mouth. His nose wrinkled. “Lourie!” Sam went over, and stood beside Jones. “I want you to relieve Thomas of searching the clothing. Thomas, help the rooks find some hard evidence.” The detective plugged his nose. “And will someone please take care of this Chinese food?” One of the rookies leapt to his feet to discard the rotting food.

Thomas examined a spot on the floor, and shook his head. “None of this is any good. They sprayed ammonia on the bloodspots.” He looked at the wall. “This one too.”

Meanwhile, Sam picked through the clothing. Reaching into a hooded sweatshirt pocket, he pulled out a scrap of paper. It read, ‘Jeff Vencus, James Marquee, Vincent Powers’. A list of victims? Culprits? Lourie stood up and handed the paper to Jones. Jones examined the scrap, then handed it back. “Have dispatch find these people for me.” Lourie slowly pulled out his phone.


Jeff Vencus didn’t exist in the precinct records. Vincent did, but there was one problem that made him difficult to talk to – he had gone missing about a month ago, and was presumed dead. After those two, Sam was surprised that dispatch was able to come up with anything for Marquee, and impressed that they had a full dossier. As a result, he and Thomas had been assigned to grab Marquee for questioning. Greg had decided to do the talking, and Sam was backup. He fingered the taser, making sure the battery was fully charged. A blue arc of electricity leapt from one contact to the other. He replaced the prongs, and watched the houses go by.

The police car pulled up in front of 21 Greenhill Street, in the residential district. A man was taking out the garbage. He was tall and thin, with disheveled blond hair. Sam and Greg got out of the car and approached him. “Excuse me, but does Jason Marquee live here?” Greg asked calmly. The man looked at Greg, then at Sam. The hand holding the bag of garbage tensed.

“Yes he does, why do you need to talk to him?”

“There’s been a shooting, and we were wondering if you knew anything about it.”

A moment of hesitation, and then the man threw the bag into Greg’s face. Greg staggered from the force of the blow. The man then ran inside his house. He made it as far as opening the door before two metal prongs jabbed into his back. Sam squeezed the trigger again, and heard a humming sound as the electricity shot through the cord and into the man’s body. He collapsed almost instantly. Handcuffing the man, Sam placed him in the back of the vehicle. “I’m guessing that’s Jason,” the officer said to Greg, then reeled back. “Greg, you smell pretty bad.”

“You get hit with a garbage bag, and we’ll see how ripe you smell. I think I got some in my mouth…moldy bread and coffee grounds. Blech.”


“Is he talking?” Greg asked Detective Jones when he came out of the interrogation room. Jones shook his head. The case had picked up speed over the last 24 hours, but now it was at a standstill. Marquee just wasn’t cooperating.

“What the hell?” Sam couldn’t believe it. Marquee was killing what could be his biggest case ever. Didn’t he know that? “Sir, can I talk to him for a minute?” Sam asked.

“And do what? If he’s not talking to me, why would he talk to you? You tasered the guy, for Christ’s sake. Just give it a rest.” James sighed, and then went back in the room. Sam looked over at Greg. Officer Thomas merely shrugged and went to the break room. Sam was the only person in the hallway, but he didn’t move.


Sam was responsible for watching the holding cells tonight. The only person being held was Marquee. He still refused to talk, and Jones was about to let him go. Sam brought the detainee a bag of McDonalds food for dinner. He handed the bag through the bars, and Jason took it greedily.

“Thanks, man. I didn’t think that you cops were gonna feed me.”

“I don’t think we should, not with the trouble that you’ve been causing us in interrogation.”

“Hey, every man is out for himself. Remember that.”

“I will. Why are you so stubborn? It’s not like we’re gonna convict you of murder.”

“You might, after hearing what happened.”

“No way, it’s not like you killed a person.”

“You’re right.”

“What?”

“Off the record. I don’t want this to come up in court. No Mirandas, and I’ll talk.”

“…Deal.” Marquee had been through the system a few times, Lourie could tell. The lack of a Miranda made the statement useless for prosecution, but it would help move the case along.

“Alright. There are a few rich sickos in the state that get their jollies from watching poor guys kick it. They pay us ten grand; we play a game of Russian roulette. If you live, you get the cash. If you’re the unlucky one…well, your family gets the expenses paid for your funeral. I just recently was laid off of work, and wound up at a bar. Someone told me about this, and I went to their next meeting. They were full, but they put my name down on a list for future contact. I was asked to stay as an adjudicator. There were six people, one bullet. The last person was new, apparently. It was his turn, and the other five people were still alive…”

“And?” Sam had a feeling where this was going.

“He refused to pull the trigger. Someone handed me a gun, and they offered me twenty grand to shoot.” Jason laughed. “Twenty grand seems like a good trade for the life of a stranger, right?” Jason finally broke down. “I killed him, alright? You wanna convict me, go ahead. I don’t care!”

“We can’t.” Sam said. “No Mirandas, no case. You can help us, though, if it makes you feel better. Have they told you where the next meeting is gonna be?”

“Yeah…”


Sam asked Jones for permission to go undercover. It was granted under very strict circumstances. No badge, no police sidearm, nothing tying him to the precinct. It was almost as if he was being told to act independent of the law. Well, if I’m caught, I don’t want the precinct to get involved. He had maybe three hours before he had to go. Sam wanted to do this, but not without some ‘protection’.

The problem was that he didn’t own a gun of his own. But Greg does. Greg was a gun connoisseur, and Sam had gotten him a derringer-style pistol for his last birthday. It had served Thomas well, having been used twice already as an emergency firearm. Greg usually brought it on days that he was on call. Today, though, he was traveling with the K-9 unit to schools across the state. He wasn’t expected to be back until late tonight. Did he still bring it anyways?

After depositing his police paraphernalia in his locker, the officer went to Greg’s. Sam knew his partner’s code by heart. He opened the door and looked in. “Excellent.” The tiny gun was there, and it was loaded. Sam looked to both sides, and then pocketed the derringer. I’ll bring it back. He left the room to report in to Jones before heading out.


It was another apartment like the one that started this whole ideal. Instead of Chinese food, someone had brought pizza. Sam looked at the people there. Some looked gaunt, others blubbery. All had tired looks on their faces, as if they knew what was to come. One of them walked up to Sam.

“Who are you?”

“I’m a friend of Jason’s, Andrew Stone. He said that I could have some fun here.”

The man laughed bitterly. “You’ll have fun all right. I’m Marcus. Enjoy the party.” He walked away, and Sam let out a sigh. The festivities continued for half an hour, eating pizza and drinking vodka. Sam made sure not to have any – he needed his wits about him.

After all six bottles of vodka were drained, everyone was called to order. A man with graying hair stepped into the middle of the room. “For those of you that are new, welcome! For those that have been here, welcome back!” He smiled, and continued. “It’s a pleasure to see your faces again…where is Jason Marquee? He was invited.”

“This guy’s filling in for him.”

“Is that so?” The elder man readjusted his spectacles. “Very well. You all know the game. The checks will be handed out after the round is complete. Marcus, will you adjudicate this round? Thanks. Marquee’s replacement, you will be going sixth. Wouldn’t want you to lose your first time, eh? Take your positions.”

The six men sat around the table, and a Colt Python was handed to the person to Sam’s left. He placed it up to his head and calmly pulled the trigger. Nothing. He passed it along to the next person. The same thing happened. The third guy was also left sitting.

The odds are now one in three that the next guy is gonna kick it, Sam noted. They all seemed to be pulling the trigger nonchalantly, as if they didn’t care whether or not the bullet was in the chamber. Was it the alcohol, or a general disregard for their own lives? The next person hesitated for a moment before firing. Click. The man smiled, and handed it to the person to Sam’s right. 50:50 chance… Sam frowned. The next person followed the same calm routine of putting the gun to his temple, cocking back the hammer, and pulling the trigger. Click. He passed the gun to Sam.

Sam felt the weight of the large revolver the moment it touched his hand. With a slightly trembling grip, the officer put the gun to his own head. He slowly cocked the hammer back. His finger tensed, but didn’t pull the trigger.

“Mr. Stone?” Marcus said, before drawing a second gun and aiming it at Sam’s head. “If you don’t pull the trigger, I’ll have to shoot. Which would you rather have, a bullet by me or a bullet by yourself? At least you’ll know when you’ve shot yourself.” Marcus cocked the hammer. “Last warning.”

Click! Sam pulled the trigger, and nothing had happened. He dropped the gun, face pale. Impossible…a misfire? The elderly man laughed. “You’re got the luck of the devil, Mr. Stone. Most people don’t live when the odds are 100 that they’ll die. I guess you’re just lucky that I didn’t load a round this time…or ever. I just do it to see your expressions, see whether or not you’re willing to kill yourself. You passed.”

“Bastard!” Sam said, lunging for the elderly man. Two people held him back. Sam struggled for a moment, then surrendered. “I…can’t believe that someone could be so sadistic.”

The man merely smiled. “Sadistic is such a vulgar term. I hope you don’t use it again.” He handed him a check for 10,000 dollars. “Will we be seeing you next time?” The man asked kindly, but Sam didn’t answer. He thought about ripping the check, but then remembered his purpose.

“No, you won’t.” Sam left the room.


“Sam?” Jones asked from his desk. “What did you find out?” Sam put the check on the table, and left without a word. “Sam?” Jones looked at Sam, then back at the check. “Wait…you didn’t play, did you?”

Sam didn’t listen. He replaced the derringer in Greg’s locker, and closed it. The officer took a seat on a bench. He couldn’t think about anything but the two guns to his head, one of which was his own. Was I really willing to die for this case? Sam buried his head in his hands, and then regained his composure. Walking back to Jones’ office, Sam stated, “The case is all yours, now. I’m asking the lieutenant to be put back on the beat, starting tomorrow.” He left again before Jones could get in a word.

 

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