‘Cause That’s Where the Story’s At

Bash’s ears came to a point at the light knock on his apartment door. So light if the TV wasn’t muted, or he’d been asleep, he would never have heard it. 11:14 PM. What the hell? He hadn’t ordered food. Hadn’t been in this jurisdiction long enough to piss off any bangers. Hadn’t told many of his neighbors he was a sheriff’s deputy. Maybe he was hearing things. Or somebody baked, unsure if they had the right apartment. Regardless, yellow Sponge Bob sleep boxers wouldn’t do. He pulled on a loose black Radiohead T-shirt, stepped into a knee-length pair of shiny maroon basketball shorts, racked the slide on his Browning, held it behind his back on the way to the door.

“Yeah?”

“It’s Candi, Bash. Agent—”

“Cotton?” He poked his head out, checked both directions. Candi. Alone. Ponytail, loose black Amy Winehouse T, same knee length basketball shorts only silver. Pink, gray and turquoise cross-trainers, an open laptop in her upturned palm. An out-of-place waitress from Key West.

“What you said about our moccasins coming from the same place?” She clocked his outfit. “Must be true about our off hours tailor. Are you going to invite me in, or are you—”

“No… I mean yeah… c’mon.” He backed up, she stepped inside, stopped just inside the door. He closed it, flipped the Browning’s safety on, and set it on an end table by the couch.

She followed, taking baby steps, engrossed in the laptop. She looked up when she bumped into the end table. Her head tilted at the TV. “What’s that?”

“Cuban baseball. I still know some of those guys.”

“What’s that say about them?”

“High tolerance for bullshit? Passion? Forgot to get a degree on scholarship? The computer says you aren’t here to talk baseball or watch TV.”

“Actually…” she kept her eye on the laptop, “but not Cuban baseball.”

“I wasn’t really watching—”

“Good.” She moved in front of the couch. “Then it’s okay to cast this to your TV?”

“Go for it. You can sit, the hard chair line won’t work here.”

She surveyed the leather couch, the clean coffee table, the big corduroy Lazy Boy chair, the carpet, the pass through into the kitchen. “Do you have a housekeeper?”

“My mother taught me to vacuum. I can iron and run a dishwasher when required.”

“Damn.” She shook her head, eased down on the couch. “And Sheriff Harden thought he’d seen a unicorn.”

“What?”

“Never mind. Look what I found.” She pointed the remote at the TV, and baseball turned into six equal squares on the screen, each showing an eerie night vision view of woods, clearings, a riverbank. She tapped the keyboard, and six different screens replaced the originals.

“I recognize the top right.” Bash raised an index finger. “That’s where Altus Murphy sent us to clean up after a small redneck rave. The Thursday we think Jimmy Pierce died. Where’d you get this?”

“We know a co-sponsored private and government grant paid for the cameras. Several of his cameras are on public land, so they had to be available somewhere. I had to dig for it but finally found them on a tree hugger website, supposedly funded by a tire company aiming to save the natural world.”

“Don’t tell me you’re a corporate posturing cynic.”

“Only when I’m breathing. If it weren’t for a cloud over the moon occasionally,” pointing at the TV, “you’d think the night views were stills. Had enough?” She didn’t give him time to answer. “Okay, now…” Another click, and one of the previously nothing but nature asleep on a peaceful night shots filled the screen with Bigfoot strolling in front of the tree line until it exited the frame.

“Fuck. Me.” He turned toward her. “Sorry, but…”

“S’okay. When I backtracked the name on the credit union account through three layers of LLC and DBA lists? Bingo.” Another key tap and a dark, almost cartoonish graphic of Bigfoot, under Red River Monster Hunters in a 1950s B horror movie font filled the frame.

“That’s not the Red River.”

“That’s not Bigfoot, either, but it doesn’t seem to matter.” A click and a list of episodes flew in on the left side of the screen along with a ‘click here to join’ banner.

“You paid fifty bucks to join?”

“A hundred. Don’t worry, I’ll get it back.”

“Why…”

“For a hundred, you get daily updates. For a grand you get to go online, live, with the Sasquatch hunters.”

“A grand? That’s fuckin’ crazy.”

“Not everyone agrees. ‘Join our family of over twenty-three-hundred members and watch history being made’.”

“That’s—”

“Two hundred and thirty grand and change. And it’s only the tip of the iceberg. The credit union account has seen a total deposit of over half a million dollars.” Another tap and she’d entered a list of program packages at the fifty-and one-hundred-dollar level. “They make it easy to drop fifty and get hooked. There are thousands of people out there buying three episodes at a time. Or a T-shirt, or thirty, handled by a print-on-demand third party.”

“Fifty for three episodes? Who…”

“On the forum, it looks like everyone from hunters, fraternities, sororities and retirement villages to lady’s book clubs and survival Barbies and Kens buy them for theme parties.”

“For some reason I can’t see my mother drinking wine and watching hokey Bigfoot videos projected on a sheet outside the Del Webb Retirement Community Center.”

“For some reason I can’t believe our parents grew up watching The Creature from the Black Lagoon at the drive in, but it’s precedent, right?”

“Maybe they weren’t watching?”

“Mine probably were, because they knew God was. Now, pay attention.” She scrolled through episode thumbnails. “The more serious fans who pay the hundred, like me, get to pick their episodes based on previews, including a ‘free’ seventh episode you can trade in once a month for a new one, for fifteen dollars. The key word there being previews. Which is how I found this.” A tap and the screen filled with a shot of Bigfoot from the back, headed for the tree line with a screaming, squirming, exaggerated runny mascara, messy-haired Ivy Green over its shoulder.

***

“You two got me down here at 7:00 AM to show me this?”

“I had to kick her out at midnight-thirty, Chief. She’ll play the speculate game until she’s the last one standing.”

“So I’ve heard, But look,” Sheriff Harden sipped his Exxon coffee, “Ivy’s already confessed to being in the studio, so what does this prove, if anything? That there are more gullible people out there than we realize?”

“Not necessarily gullible, Chief.” Candi switched to the Red River Monster Blog. “The Monster’s entire pitch is based on the poor quality of their product. Their claim to authenticity isn’t about the Monster, but that they don’t have all the Hollywood assets that most reality shows have. No field camera crews, no mobile lighting techs, no techno babble hardware that captures the electronic essence given off by Bigfoot or alligators or aliens or ghosts or anything else that’s being hunted out there. These guys are masters of the everyman-meets-the-improbable trope.”

“And who better to portray those wide-eyed dumb asses than two men who are, by all accounts, career dumb asses. I get it, Candi. But it’s not fraud, it’s not murder. It might be peripheral, or of interest to the IRS, but I don’t see how it affects Jimmy Pierce dead unless we can find a motive. When you went through the records, did you see anyone in this deal gettin’ screwed financially?”

“No. I don’t know how they arrived at the outlay, but at irregular intervals the credit union account dispersed equal amounts to Murphy’s, Green’s and Pierce’s personal accounts.”

“The expensive truck? The renovation of Jimmy’s, actually Karla’s lawnmower repair shop? Brandy’s red Mercedes? The trailer full a eighty-inch televisions?”

“What they needed to make a home for the monster productions came from the credit union account. The purpose of the SUV must have been to use it as a company car. The personal expenses they paid for individually.”

“As a f’rinstance, how much money does Virgil Green have in the bank?”

“Forty-Seven thousand dollars. All he’s purchased is a used Mercedes and a couple of grand going to individual accounts.”

“Do we know who?”

“No.”

“Find out. What was Jimmy worth when he died?”

“Twenty-nine thousand. He blew money all over the place, but no activity since he died.”

“Altus?”

“Forty-three thousand. He bought a custom fish tank and a three-thousand-dollar high frequency ham radio amplifier and paid some contractors to work on his mother’s house.”

“Where he still lives. So, three goofy rednecks with Altus Murphy’s Army radio operator knowhow and some help from Ivy Green come up with a scam that should embarrass us all for missing it, but again, what does it prove?”

“That we need more information. Because somehow the Red River Monster is at the bottom of this.” Candi switched screens to a series of thumbnails of stills she’d captured of the Monster. “This is the costume we found. The bullet nose head modification, the—”

“Candi, that costume was made for someone seven fuckin’ feet tall. No one involved in this is seven feet tall. Aiden must have looked like a kid in his dad’s pajamas.”

“I realize that, Chief, but we found it in proximity to a murder scene.”

“Again, there’s no evidence anyone wearing the costume laid a, a… hand, or paw, or whatever on Jimmy Pierce. He got hit in the forehead with a mystery weapon that defies the standard definition of weapon and has yet to be discovered. This is old ground. But… Tell y’all what I’m gonna do. I’ll go to the old lawnmower repair shop with Ivy and get the lowdown from her about all this streaming monster business that has both a y’all Bigfoot blind to what we really need to know.”

“But—”

“‘But’ is the chunk of hog you throw in a smoker. Either or both y’all go out there, you’ll come back spoutin’ a buncha useless techno mumbo jumbo. I’ll go get the kindergarten version ‘cause that’s where the story’s at.”

***

“Interesting that you, of all people,” Bash ran his fingers across the unmistakable pink head and ponytail silhouette, “would have an Honest to God Barbie Jeep,”

The Honest to God Barbie Jeep.”

“You know, we could have used this at the river. No way you could bury it with these tires.”

“The custom shop that built it set it up with the paddle balloons for the beach. That’s where I met her. It…”

“And you wouldn’t drive it?”

“The tires may be pink, but they will beat you to death on pavement. And it’s part of… Anyway, I told the county prosecutor the other day that every time I come home, I end up burying a ghost. I guess this thing coming out of the garage is another one.”

“There has to be more to it. I’m game.”

“It’s a long story.”

“They all have a short version.”

“I’ll believe that when you can give me the short version of Native American history.”

“We got screwed. We’re getting even. Your turn.”

“Damn. Okay,” she looked down for a few ticks, toed the parking lot, checked back in with him. “I stole it.”

“Perfect. And totally believable.”

“Don’t you have a million clever things to say,” arms still crossed, legs crossed at the ankles, “or ask?”

“Only one. Where’re the keys?”

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Published by

Phil Huston

https://philh52.wordpress.com/

18 thoughts on “‘Cause That’s Where the Story’s At”

  1. This retired-EMT from England is finally back, and catching up. I can visualize the jeep, but not the pink balloon tyres. Would they even work on a normal road? 🙂
    (I only managed 300 views of my blog last Wednesday, so things are quiet. But the Queen’s death might be keeping UK followers away from blogging. )
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. And for book #2 we’ll get to read about a chupacabra vampire and the nuns that raise them.
    Pretty damn savvy for a couple a yokels. Maybe it’s a franchise deal.
    These folk that spirit speak through you, they ever get you outta bed at 2 AM to eat chocolate cake?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not too savvy. If you’re bored you can always write some fanfic, take the sheriff or Betty to the fridge for me. Because in the end none of it will matter. Superstition is strong in this one. This is not the Bigfoot you’re looking for.

      Like

  3. Big Foot lives! Soon he’ll have his own hit TV show on Fox, Hanging With Notorious Biggie. It’ll take place in a hip-hop neighborhood in Compton and Bigfoot will be the butt of all the jokes. But he’ll get the last laugh when he sits down on a skateboard, crushing it with his vast weight. “OMG! But that was my only board!” Cue audience laugh-track.

    Like

    1. I will confess to pulling about 400+ words of a backstory dump here. Had I been smart I’d have trickled it in but when I suggested it the characters were like, why take a left turn out of what we’re doing? So I left it alone. It was tough enough getting her to go out to the garage with the sheriff to get it, where I had to ditch another 400 word version. My plan was to have Bash drive her to her to get her personal daily driver from 90 miles away not far from her OSBI workplace. Nope. She was the one who dropped the line about a more badass Jeep than hers so that Jeep had to show up or end up on the cutting room floor at post edit. It’s a great story but where she can find room to drop it without it being an obvious speed bump… There’s something out there about her and Betty burying the hatchet, which might be a nother good snot on a Ritz moment but who knows. We still don’t have Bash’s short lived pro baseball career story, either…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, that is crazy! I never would have seen that coming. That’s original. I’m not going to bother guessing what will happen.

    Unrelated note, I feel like people on WordPress are tired or something. The peanut gallery and drive-bys have been quiet, which is not necessarily a bad thing by any means. It’s just oddly quiet.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah. Burn out, maybe. Even the 3k follower people are getting less than 1%. Except this ex ambulance driver in England who regularly clocks 80 comments, not counting responses. Who knows?

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I know what you’re talking about. A couple weeks ago, my lil post erratically when I want to corner of the blogosphere was getting 40 hits a day. That should not happen.
      Now all is back to normal, traffic-wise. It’s like the boys needed to flex and then went back to the farm. 😄

      Liked by 2 people

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