The Flip-Phone Murders

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Chapter 3: A Real Ass Scratcher

It was no sense going immediately to my sister’s house as Andrew would no doubt be catching up on sleep. Instead I drove to the local convenience store and bought a pack of Yodels, one of those sugar-encrusted Hostess apple pies (because I have the cravings of a 10 year-old) and a coffee as big as my head. Keeping up with Miss Iceland, I suspected, was going to require arrhythmia inducing amounts of caffeine in someone as indolent as me.

Twenty pages of J.P. Donleavy and a bursting bladder later I arrived at my sister’s. She told me Andrew would be up soon. He’d only been given a four hour reprieve before he was needed back for his regular shift. The kids, three boys ages eight to five, were all quiet. Either napping or lulled into a Disney-Pixar contrived coma in the TV room. For banging out three kids in such a small window she was still fit and reasonably attractive in a tomboy-ish sort of way. From the way she looked at me, however, it was obvious the feeling was not mutual.

“Looks like you been doing crunches,” she said, pointing at my recently expanding waistline. “Nestle’s…”

“Well, I’ve never exactly had the body of a Chippendale Dancer anyway,” I replied.

“Yeah, but now you look like you have the body of a Chip-A-Hoy Dancer. There’s plenty of room in your place why don’t you get a treadmill or a stationary bike?”

“I already have plenty of places to hang my clothes. I don’t need anymore. You know I’d never use those things.”

Amy walked over to the counter, poured me a cup of coffee and I was reminded of my barking bladder. I made no move for the bathroom however as I accepted this abuse as my payment for access to any information she might have gleaned from her husband.

“Then why don’t you join a gym or take one of those classes they give at the Community Center. You could come with me to Zumba,” she said, chuckling at the thought.

“Sorry I already do Goomba…”

“Goomba? What’s that?”

“It’s the Goomba Workout. I smoke a cigar and eat a plate of linguine while watching an episode of The Sopranos on Netflix. All in all I’m feeling pretty good,” I answered only half joking.

“Better watch it or you’ll be old before your time. You used to live in Boston, work on a big newspaper and now look at you; locked up in your apartment eating mac and cheese and reading books that went out of print 50 years ago.” A child screamed in the next room and without pausing for breath or diverting her eyes Amy shot out a, “Shut the Hell up in there!”

“Well we all can’t be like you, taking a big bite out of life and letting the juices run down our chins. By the way I didn’t know UGGs came out with a peep-toe these days.”

“Very funny,” she spat, hiding her stained, torn footwear beneath the chair. “I have kids, a house…a life here. You know Mom calls me all the time asking when you’re going to get married. What am I supposed to tell her?”

I never thought I’d welcome the company of my brother-in-law, but I found myself listening hopefully for his flat, splayed footsteps on the stairs. “You know what, tell Mom what I tell her. When she asks when I’m gonna get married I ask when she’s gonna break a hip…conversation over.”

She gave me the signature family eye roll and went for more coffee. “Just think about it. I mean it’s probably better you didn’t marry that Kayla or any of the others. What you need is someone sweet, kind and not nuts.”

“Hell if I’m gonna limit myself like that I’ll never meet anyone,” I cracked just as Andrew rounded the corner rubbing sleep out of his eyes.

He wore a yellow-collared wife beater with matching briefs and his thinning hair was matted forward like William Henry Harrison coming off a two-day bender. He plopped down in a kitchen chair that creaked out for mercy, found a pack of cigarettes in what I originally thought was a fruit bowl (silly me), lit one and accepted the black coffee Amy handed over. “I know, not exactly the Breakfast of Champions,” he wheezed while simultaneously clearing his nose with a low rumbling that seemed as if he was producing not bodily fluid so much as molten lava.

“Actually sex is the real Breakfast of Champions,” I joked as he opened the napkin and examined its contents. “But not much chance of that I suspect.”

After my lame chuckle died out a silence came over the room. The comedian Steven Wright once opined, “There’s a fine line between fishing and standing on the bank looking like an idiot.” I knew exactly what he meant as I sat there, full bladder-ed, waiting for Andrew to start blabbering about the murders.

“What a mess,” he said after what seemed like an eternity but was probably no more than fifteen seconds. “You couldn’t have stomached it.”

“Have you ever seen my apartment?” I quipped reflexively then shut my mouth.

“This was no joke Luke,” he said flatly without the more officious-than-thou attitude he usually took when talking to me about police business. “Blood everywhere…Ted in the bed with a hole blown through his chest. The girl slumped in the corner, her white dress soaked red. And Merwin in the bedroom doorway with a bullet in his temple. It was ugly, man.”

Amy reached over and put a hand on his arm as I took mental notes. “Wait a second, who’s Merwin.”

“Curly Carson, the father. It was a family name. He never liked it.”

Suddenly the name struck a chord in my mind. Years ago when we were having trouble getting players for one of our softball teams Wally Reynolds, the desk sergeant I’d spoken to earlier, offered to “…get this guy Merwin, he played Double-A ball.” When we jumped at the chance to get someone who was a September call up away from the Major Leagues Wally corrected himself, “…not Minor League Double-A ball, I mean he played Sunday mornings in the Alcoholics Anonymous League.” That meant either alcohol didn’t play a part in this case or something had caused Curly to slip off the wagon and possibly propelled the fatal spree.

I made a note to check out the local AA chapter and tried to gently push Andrew for more information. “Any clue as to the motive?”

“I shouldn’t say anymore,” he said and drew on the cigarette. I wasn’t exactly The Mentalist, but I knew that meant he would say more and I went back to standing on the bank again looking like an idiot.

It didn’t take long. “It was the age difference. She was only twenty-three and hell she looked like she was going on twelve. Very pretty, but naïve. The Chief is pretty sure that’s what drove the father mad and I agree with him. It’s a matter of interviewing folks, searching his house and checking everyone’s phones and emails. I’m sure we’ll find something to indicate that.”

I, however, wasn’t convinced. Monica Carson may have looked young, but Ted Sheehan wasn’t exactly Abe Vigoda. In the yearbook pictures he was fit, handsome and had a thick, full head of hair. Men don’t fall apart, present company including myself excluded, that quickly. Besides the Cosmo I flipped through last time I was at the doctor’s office told me 40 was the new 30, 30 the new 20, 10 the new embryo…well, I’m guessing on that last one, but still it was only sixteen years not Anna Nicole Smith and J. Howard Marshall for crissakes.

At this point a generic rock song part Led Zeppelin, part Hocus Pocus by Focus came blaring out of my pocket; the default ringtone that I had no idea, or inclination to learn, how to switch. It was Charlie Grissom telling me that no one at the High School was talking, but he did get pictures and a lot of good background on Sheehan’s career. “Did a blonde show up…from the Burlington Bee?” I asked.

“Yeah. Quite a looker. A lot better than old Glenn Hubbard, huh.”

“Not bad. I’d throw her a chop,” I said, trying to evoke a nonchalant ‘Bros before Hos’ attitude while really not knowing what in the Hell that was. “Um…er…well just give her any help you can. She seems like a good kid.”

The phone flipped close with a loud pop causing Andrew and Amy to look up from their coffee cups. “Sorry,” I said sheepishly. “I really gotta upgrade. Nobody has these things anymore.”

“Actually Monica Carson did. I bagged all the items in her purse for evidence,” Andrew continued. “I was surprised, but someone said it looked like a disposable. Probably lost her phone and was using that while hoping the real one turned up.”

He looked haggard from the all-nighter so I figured I should push for a few more details before it was too late. “Did she have a key to Sheehan’s place?”

“I don’t think so. Her chain had only two keys on it. One car key, one house key. We’ll eventually check out.”

We will? Three people died why aren’t the State Police being brought in?”

He made a face as if he’d just sucked on a lemon and stabbed out his cigarette in the remains of his coffee. I’d finally gotten under his skin, but, of course, that was inevitable.

“Why do we need the State Police? This is an Artfield matter involving good Artfield people”, said Andrew, rising from his chair. I could tell he was simply mouthing Chief Bowden’s words, but these were likely the last I’d get from him so I let him go on. “Sure old man Carson got crazy over the whole affair, but what’s the point of dragging the State Police into it. They’ll only turn it into some kinda CSI circus. We can handle things just fine.”

And with this he turned and walked out, a hand reaching back under the boxers to scratch a cream cheese white butt cheek, not exactly instilling me with confidence.

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