Chapter 24: Job 4:8
As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.
Phil Snider took the initiative to provide some enlightenment. “Mike, things aren’t always as they seem. Some people at this table have worked hard to expose Carter Flynn for the piece of shit that he is, but Flynn beat them to the punch.”
Mike looked directly at Little John. “What the hell are you saying, Phil? You’ve got an ex-con on your team. Who is he to point the finger at anyone?”
“Ha, ha, ha, Wordman,” Little John started. He then reached into his back pocket, pulled out his wallet which had a police badge attached to it. “A fallen angel at your service, Ros.”
Snider began to fill in the missing pieces. “Mike, Little John McCann, that’s his real name, is a vice unit detective with the Oakville County Sheriff’s Office.”
“How is he a cop, Phil? The guy’s been getting high and dealing drugs since he’s been on campus.”
“The job’s not that exciting, Mike,” Little John answered. “You’ve seen me drink a beer, but tell me when you saw me get high or deal drugs?”
“Well, what about the weed that Frankie said you gave us?” Mike began to sound desperate.
“Frankie likes to pin a lot of shit on other people to take the spotlight off of him. He got in over his head with Flynn and started looking over his shoulder a little bit.”
“What about your friend, Toots?”
“That’s a Frankie connection with Carter Flynn. I don’t know that crazy ass bitch from a hole in the wall, but the hole in the wall gave me an idea of what she does."
“What are you talking about?”
“When we put together the courtesy room situation, we also drilled a hole into the wall which we hid with one of the three desks in the other room. That’s where my little buddy, Fred, comes in.” Little John explained.
“Hey, Mike,” Fred greeted him.
“Mike,” Phil entered the conversation, “I know this is a lot to deal with all at once, and I’ve never talked to you about my family.”
Mike scratched his head and scanned the room once again. “What’s that got to do with anything, Phil?”
“I’ve got a little sister who got married and had a couple of kids. Fred here is my nephew.
“Unbelievable!” Mike nearly shouted as he was trying to avoid curse words given his audience. “So Fred this whole weird thing you do, how you talk, is all just an act?” He watched as Fred stared back at him with a blank expression.
“Fred has what you might call a ‘literal view’ of the world," Phil explained. "The doctors got a fancy name for it, but fuck ’em; they got a name for everything they can attach to a bill. Anyway, conversations don’t always work out well for him. It’s funny, though.” He reached into his inside coat pocket and flipped a snapshot toward Mike. “When he looks at the world through a camera lens, he says a shitload.”
Mike rubbed his eyes with thumb and forefinger as he stared at the photo. A clear fall morning sunrise preened and fanned out through the crevices in the pine tree foliage, strutting like a golden peacock and providing the backdrop for a couple holding hands as they walked, her mitten clutching his bare hand, their ski jackets fused together. It was as though they were the only two people in the world, her body leaning into his as if pushing him toward some other destination, her head on his shoulder as if her burdens were his, their cold and smoky breaths linked, shards dangling like stalactites, their steps a synchrony measuring the frozen moments, moments captured even as they moved all over the photograph. He held the picture in a shaky hand before tucking it into his notepad. He knew the couple very well.
“Mike, Fred commuted to junior college his first year before coming here and did really well." Phil awakened him from his trance."His parents wanted to see how well he could handle a dorm setting and the college life. He’s very bright, gets good grades, and he has a special gift. You just saw that for yourself."
He set up a time lapse spy-type camera and fitted it into the hole I routed when we were redecorating,” Little John revealed. “When Frankie found out about this, Fred gave him a crash course on how to use it as well.”
“Fred was going around one day with a bunch of naked shots of Toots in his possession. Are you saying that he didn’t take them?”
“Frankie gave me those pictures and I was holding them for Little John,” Fred said.
“What about the shots of Toots with my roommates? Who took those and for what purpose?”
“It seems that the little man got off on watching her earn a living,” Little John said. “He’s got a shoe box of pictures of her in-action, and I can’t say for sure what his intentions were for your crew.”
Mike again scanned the room, but went back to Little John. “So now that your cover is blown, what does that mean for suite 629?”
“The shit’s hitting the fan early Monday, Mike. We’re going to be taking Frankie in for questioning. I don’t know how much we have on him that’s worth pursuing, but Hillview campus police will be there as well. I don’t see him continuing as a student there.”
“Holy shit!” What about James Waters?”
“He took money from someone identifying himself as a fan. That’s an NCAA violation of which I’m aware. I have to report it. The only reason I didn’t at first is that it would have interfered with the investigation. The school, the coach, all will have to make a decision regarding his status.”
“There’s nothing you can do for him?”
“I can attest to the fact that he didn’t know what he was getting himself into,” Little John offered.
Phil re-entered the conversation. “Fred will be commuting to school this week to finish his exams, and he won’t be coming back. He didn’t enjoy the experience. Little John and I go way back, so he promised to look out for Fred and made Fred promise to not say anything about his being a police officer. He also thought that Fred hanging with your group might be good for him. My sister will probably try a smaller school without the drama. We didn’t anticipate Little John’s investigation occurring right under his nose. He was there to watch Flynn’s comings and goings with the campus population.”
“And Toots?” Mike asked.
“There’s a unit ready to bring her in for questioning. They’re heading right now to the massage parlor where she provides her special kind of therapy.” Little John gave up his gravelly laugh.
Mike placed his right hand under his knee and pinched the skin there to ascertain that he wasn’t dreaming or experiencing some kind of flashback from the dope he had smoked weeks earlier. “Phil will tell you that I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster for the past few weeks,” he told the group. “This is all a little too much to absorb right now.”
Dan Davis had been a patient observer but sought closure. “Mike, this has been a year-long, joint effort between the paper and the O.C.S.O. Today, we’ll bring further hell to that S.O.B. His sick actions toward a child have opened the door to being able to close the door on him for a long time. As a sitting member of the Sylvan City Council, I have information to share with you regarding the follow-up feature to Phil’s story. Before you leave today, make sure you make an appointment with me. I know that Phil has a list of people you’ll need to contact, and I’m sure there are others that come to your mind as well.”
“Mike,” Dr. Brown found his opening, “I took the chance on you, and I set you up for this possibility. You already have demonstrated your talent and work ethic at the Times. This is an opportunity for you to shine and to do some good.”
Mike looked at Dr. Brown’s perfectly tied knot and thin white hair, and then scanned over to his sport coat with the patches. This guy actually gives a shit about me, he thought. “I’ve got a lot of ideas for this, Dr. Brown.” Then he looked over again to Little John and asked, “All the shit you saw us smoke; where does that leave us in terms of any legal obligations you have?”
“Ha, ha, ha,” Little John cackled, “Wordman, I see you almost every day hanging over Brew Pond, even when it’s this fucking cold.”
“Yeah? So? What does that have to do with what I asked?”
“Well, it seems that you are pretty good with metaphors. You, Eggs, Y.A., and Nose need to slow the fuck down, but you’re nothing more than small fish in a small pond. Do something with your life, Mike. I still meant what I said after I serenaded you and Donna. Work to get her back, my man!”
Dr. Brown got up from the table which set in motion a chain reaction. He tightened his tie knot a little bit more, placed a Sylvan-gray fedora on his head, and extended his hand to each member of the group, saving Mike for last. With his firm grip, gentleman’s countenance, and riveting eye-contact, he simply said, “Why and how, Mike, why and how.”
When he got back to campus, he noticed Donna’s doorway was open and saw James Waters leaving from it. James waved to him as he headed toward his room. “Going to need to holla at you later, Ros,” he said.
Before he could open his room, he saw Donna stomping his way. “I need to talk with you, right now!"
“Donna, you’re welcome to come in, but if it’s to reiterate that you don’t want me in your life, you made that abundantly clear on Sunday.” Mike opened his door, and he and Donna entered to find Kurt reading on his bed. “Kurt, could you do me a favor and give us a few minutes alone?”
“No problem, Word,” Kurt took his book with him and left.
Again, Donna assumed her distant stance where she pointed her body away from Mike’s, appearing to look out the window as she began. “So now you’re dictating who I can or can’t associate with?”
“What are you talking about, and could you please look at me when we talk?”
Donna obliged by turning her body and squaring her shoulders with Mike’s. “James Waters just got done telling me that it was okay with you for him to ask me out. Who the hell do you think you are? Where do you get off giving anyone permission to talk with me? I’ll talk with anyone I want. I’ll see anyone I want, and I’ll fuck anyone I want. You’re dead to me!” she screamed as her eyes began to well up.
Mike felt a rage building within him that was foreign as he chose his words. “Donna, you don’t know the context of our conversation or why it even happened. If I’m dead to you anyway, I’m not going to waste my time by providing you with an explanation. You go see, talk to, and fuck anyone you want.”
“I don’t need this shit!” Donna screamed.
“Good, neither do I. There’s the fucking door. Please get the hell out of here.” He watched as Donna exited the partially open door and bore the brunt of her slamming it shut. A physical reaction that was foreign to his experience then took hold as a sourness rose from his stomach and attacked his salivary glands. He rushed to the bathroom, got on his knees, and bent his head into the toilet bowl, vomiting with great force on four closely-separated occasions until the feeling passed. He locked both doorways to the Jack and Jill bathroom, looked at his tired face in the mirror, sat on the toilet, and cried with such force that after some minutes he had no tears left. How can someone I love so much, hate me so much?” he wondered as he exited the bathroom and threw himself on the bed.
“Hey, Man. ” Mike had not noticed Kurt who had re-entered and assumed his earlier position on his bed. “I guess that didn’t go too well. I saw Donna crying on her way back. You going to be all right?”
“What time is it, Kurt?”
“It’s five; you want to go down and get some early dinner?”
“Yeah, I need to get out of this room. I can’t breathe right now.”
The fallout from the stormy winter continued to exact its toll that evening. “I just wanted to tell y’all goodbye, so you could hear it from me and nobody else,” James Waters told John, Andy, Mike, and Kurt as they sat in John and Andy’s room at around 7:00 p.m.
“What the fuck are you talking about, Water?” John asked. “Where are you going?”
“I’ve been suspended from the team for taking money from a booster, you know, that Flynn Carter dude. I’m packing my shit tonight and leaving tomorrow morning.”
“Water, what are you going to do?” Andy asked.
"I’ll be looking for work at home until this shit gets investigated, and they make a final decision.”
John, Andy, and Kurt looked stunned at the news and remained silent for some time until Kurt asked, “Can you challenge this?”
“Ain’t nothing to challenge, Nose. I did it. Shit, Ros told me weeks ago to not do it, but I didn’t listen.”
“Guys, Mike chimed in, "there’s a lot of shit that is going to be going down on Monday, particularly as it relates to 629. I guess that Water just got his news early, but that room will be unoccupied come Monday.”
“How do you know that, Word?” John asked.
“It’s all part of a joint investigation involving the Times and the Oakville County Sheriff’s Office. I’m in the middle of it because I’ll be writing to it. I can’t really say much more about it.”
“Do you think that’s why Frankie went home this weekend?" Andy asked. "He never goes home."
“I really don’t know why he would go home,” Mike said, “but he’s going to be answering a lot of questions come Monday.”
“What about Little John?” Kurt asked. “I haven’t seen him in a couple of days.”
“You guys will have all the answers on Monday. I’ve only said this much out of courtesy to our friendship, but I need you to back off on the questions, please.” Mike turned to James. “Water, you’re pretty much a victim in all of this, and I think you’ll be able to fight it.”
“I appreciate you, Ros,” James said. “Hey, y’all, it’s a slow Friday night for a change. Would you mind if I talk privately with Mike for a little bit?” John, Andy, and Kurt remained as James and Mike crossed the bathroom threshold into the other room to talk.
“Water,” Mike began. "I know some people, myself included, who are going to put in some good words for you to help you get re-instated.”
James smiled. “Yeah, that’s cool, Ros, but that’s not why I requested a private audience with you.”
This has to be about Donna, Mike thought. “So go ahead then. What’s up?”
“Ros, I had my conversation with Donna, and she just don’t see me the same way I see her. She sees me as a friend, which is cool because she’s good people. So are you. You are probably the most straight up white dude I’ve ever known, and I think I might’ve overstepped my boundaries by asking you about her, but I also want to thank you for how you handled that.”
“That’s fine, Water. It’s all good. We’re going to see you back here soon, man.”
“There’s something else, Ros.” With this, James looked Mike squarely in the eyes.
“Donna still got it for you, Man. I can tell.”
“Did she tell you something, Water?” Mike felt his heart begin to race with desperation.
“Ros, I’ve got some Chippewa Indian blood in me. Got some bone readers, spell casters, and even some Voodoo priests on my African side. I don’t believe in any of that shit, but I’ve always had good instincts that probably got passed down. I just could feel it when I talked with her, and I’m going to leave it at that.”
“I’m going to miss you, Water.”
“Same here, Bro, but you’ve got to promise me something.”
“Don’t give up on her.”
With the story’s details being recounted ad nauseam in all the local newspaper and television outlets, Carter Flynn became a household word. Charges against him included engaging in an unlawful sex act with a minor, possession and sale of narcotics, procurement of prostitution, illegal gambling, and racketeering. By Mike Rosovich’s estimation, Flynn was the second most hated man in the county.
The bus ride to Sylvan came two Monday’s after the story broke. It had run its course and would be re-visited when legal proceedings commenced, but the stories-within-the-story had yet to be spun. Stop one was Dan Davis’s office at the Times.
“Mike, I’m going to make this easy for you,” Davis began. “Just keep your notepad and tape recorder handy. I took over this paper in 1955, a time when Sylvan was alive and thriving. I’ve been at the helm and watched it go through changes, mostly for the worse, until it reached its current state. I’m a former CEO with General Motors in Flint, a family man with a 35-year marriage, and the father of two daughters I put through college. I have lived locally in Lake Oxford, and my sense of service has extended to occupying a seat on the City Commission since 1960. Now you go ahead, based on that information, and ask me a question.”
Mike realized the dual purpose of Dan Davis’s approach. He wanted a story, but he also wanted to see if Mike had what it took to write it. Thinking of Fred and D.C. comics, Mike fancied himself as Clark Kent petitioning Perry White.
“Given your knowledge of Sylvan’s history, how does a guy like Carter Flynn get a foothold with the locals?”
Davis inhaled a deep breath and let it out through vibrating lips. “He resuscitated the city with a breath of fresh air from young lungs with an eye toward preserving and restoring what once was. The fresh coats of paint on the Railroad Inn, the Jewel, and the old Motor Lodge created the luster of hope at the same time that it covered his underlying intentions.” Davis nodded toward Mike in anticipation of the next question.
“But how could he be so conniving at such a young age? Why were you and the local politicos so enamored of him?”
“He spoke to our hearts. He has charisma. His restoration proposal for the Railroad Inn came at a time when it was preparing to close for good. The senior citizen lifers of Sylvan revered that watering hole, and the City Commission had to serve its constituency. Flynn had the money and the energy. The same applied for the Jewel. What a stroke of genius to bring back old movies on the weekend, but keep the place financially solvent with amateur night during the week. I’m sure Phil already told you that there were some grumblings about that initially, but when the senior women realized that it was one more way to get the old farts out of the house, they looked the other way and said a prayer for them on Sunday’s right before they took in a matinee.”
“What about the Motor Lodge?”
“While it only has 25 units, Flynn suggested that it would provide a cheap alternative for out-of-towners coming to see the football and basketball teams once they moved to the new stadium. You know that’s happening this year?”
“Yes, I’m aware of that,” Mike said, “but isn’t that argument a little weak.”
“Yes, but not in the way he presented it. He said that Sylvan would be the big loser in terms of any financial windfalls as Northwood and neighboring cities had more to offer. The motel could be one step toward being competitive, and Flynn had an eye on the Kresge and Cunningham’s venues being closed down and converted to bars and or eateries. He even planned on procuring the Sunoco property as an additional parking lot to complement the one directly across the street from it.”
“What reservations did you have, Boss?”
“He proved to us that he could take the initial financial steps, but I questioned whether a young guy would have the patience to see this through.”
“I’ve heard that his daddy is a rich ambulance chaser and was Flynn’s financial backer.”
“That’s true, but you can make money a lot quicker with accidents happening every day.” Davis pointed at Mike with his index finger as he said this.
“What do you mean?”
“Our hearing him out was an accident waiting to happen, and our blessings paved the way for chain-reaction collisions that preyed on the city’s naivete. In more ways than one, Carter Flynn is a predator.” Davis sat back in his swivel chair and crossed his arms over his chest.
The interview lasted about 25-minutes, and the two went downstairs to grab some breakfast afterward. Mike had another appointment waiting for him that afternoon.
The old bar relied too heavily on daylight so that blindness upon entry served as a blessing in that its appearance all-at-once would be likely to prompt about faces from anyone new to its trappings. Beyond the booths that housed juke box menus, generic condiment offerings, and varied sports memorabilia, the archaic picnic tables that made up the bulk of the seating appeared to long for the outdoors where their warped frameworks and knife-carved messages might be excused. Beyond these accommodations and to the back right portion of the room, an L-shaped bar contained a range of mid-shelf liquor reflected in its mirrored background, and an array of domestic beers on-tap to reflect the Pabst, Stroh’s, and Budweiser budgets of the clientele. Cigarettes burned in the black plastic ashtrays and created a smoky haze that held its position even as the rest of the place rumbled and shook with the passage of a train.
“What else can I say? I fucked up, Ros, and I took people down with me,” Frank Spinelli admitted as they talked over burgers at the Railroad Inn. “I’m surprised that they haven’t shut this place down already.”
“Well, the back room definitely is out-of-business, Frankie. What’s going to be happening with you?”
“I’m a Lake Pointe kid with a rich daddy and a good lawyer, Ros. I’ll be that piece of shit that got away with it, more likely than not.”
“Are you bragging about it?”
“No, Ros, I fucking hate myself for wanting too much. You got to understand. I’m not you. I’m not good looking and six-five with bitches getting wet when they see me. I got to have a game, and Flynn helped me step it up.”
“Where did you come across this guy?”
“I met him at the end of summer at the My Place Lounge. He saw me dressed down in a Hillview sweatshirt and jeans, so we had the university in common and struck up a conversation between sets. Found out he was going to be living at Fitz and no pun intended, Wordman, but it was downhill from there for me.”
“What did Flynn do for you?”
“Ros, he was getting me laid on a regular basis with Toots. He was supplying me with some high-end shit that I sold. He came up with the idea for the study room which made me look like Joe Cool when I presented it. I didn’t expect Toots to be hooking out of there. I didn’t expect Water J to get offered money to fix a point spread, and how the fuck were any of us supposed to know that Little John is a cop?” Frankie tucked his hair behind his ears, his eyes opened wide and then looked downward where his fingers fidgeted with a plastic ashtray.
“What did you know about the dope you gave us that you said Little John supplied?”
“It was my share from a pound that Flynn gave me to break down and sell. I’d get a free ounce for personal use, and there’s no shortage of people on campus looking to score.”
“That shit was laced with PCP, Frankie. It created a whole world of problems for us in 619 and probably for some other people on campus.”
Frank’s eyes again opened wide, and he shook his head from side-to-side. “On my life, Ros, I swear to God that I didn’t know that. Fucking A!” He sifted his neck length hair through the fingers of his right hand and exhaled deeply.
“Well, what happened with you guys when you smoked it?”
“It’s not something I want to talk about, Frankie. It’s done. I’m using this interview and some others for a follow-up story. Obviously, I’ll keep your name out of it, but let me ask you, what were you planning on doing with those shots of my roommates and Toots?”
“Nothing, Ros, you know me. I just wanted to fuck with them. Ros, I’m kind of glad that all this happened, at least for me?”
“Why would you be glad?”
“It got to a point that I was scared of that fucker. That elbow that Water said he took after his big game, you know when his eye was black?”
“Yeah, what about it?”
Frankie now provided his profile as he spoke, seeming to pick out details at the back of the bar where the cigarette machine glowed at the entrance to the restrooms. “Water got jumped after the game when he was on his way back to the dorms. It took three guys, but they kicked his ass pretty good. Guess he didn’t pay attention to the scoreboard to their satisfaction.”
“Water didn’t report it?”
“No, Ros, he was afraid as well. I tried to talk to Carter about it, but it got to the point where he was really moody and just plain nasty.” Frank’s knuckles turned white as he squeezed the ashtray and absently looked about the place.
The music had played its signals on that late evening, his arrival thus unnoticed at first. Beads of sweat had been percolating on his forehead like an indecisive rain, and he used the back of the hand that held the gun to intermittently wipe them off. His nose was reddened, and every few seconds he snorted and sniffed, sounding like snow being shoveled. There was a pathology about him, the Brylcreemed side-combed hair had several sprouts of independence liberated by the repeated passage of his free hand.
She had been there. In recent days, she had become a fixture in the study room, often occupying the phone from the foyer, its cord stretched into the room. Staring at the gun, she rose hastily from the futon, leaving Frank with an untucked shirt and an unbuckled belt.