We went as far as his car would take us, driving past the smoking blue mountains of north Georgia and Tennessee, the hickory sweetness invading the cracked leather of our 1995 Chevrolet Cavalier, which was an indistinguishable red-brown-orange depending on which angle you looked at it from. We sped through the once-treasured nightmare of Detroit, the neglected chaotic sunset of Dallas. Yellowstone, freshly scorched and withered from its latest cleansing.
Eric Ward was never the same man when he put on the suit. It was a three-piece, black pinstripe with a notched lapel. A silk kerchief, deep crimson, sat Presidential in the jacket pocket with a tie to match. The Homberg on his head carried the proper tilt. He never checked the mirror. It just felt right. This was a suit for winners. A deal closer. That’s what his father would have said: a suit you wear when you want to Get Things Done.
The gang from the boatyard, by God you had to love ‘em, the lot of them, every man jack of them; braised, poured, scratched, abraded, welded, mucked about by all of life, you had to love ‘em. Up front you have to know that those who had gotten nicknames felt honored, for that moniker stuff usually came from within, a private medal of sorts, earned without hoopla, seared forever. Those who hadn’t been so acclaimed patiently waited some kind of anointment, slow in coming, taking over like a root, underneath everything seen or known. Some of them had names like Max, Slad, Wilf, Muckles, Shag, Ronnie J, Slip, a feast of designations varied as character. And the sole captain of his own boat in the lot of them was Shanklin Garuf.
To a man, you had to love ‘em.
My early morning beach run on sucking, squishing, hard-packed, shifting sands marks the ebb and flow of my wrong way life.
I race up the dunes to my rental cottage ending with a lung busting, leg killing suicide sprint.
I sense them before I see them. There’s no red dot on my chest, a head shot maybe, easy ending, no pain.
Not this time, but soon.
The following 911 transcripts were recorded between Thursday, March 17th and Friday, August 8th, 2016. Out of respect for the deceased, the victims’ names have been concealed. All suspects in the East of East Apartment murders remain at large and are considered armed and highly dangerous.
Thursday, March 17th. 11:30 A.M.
Dispatch…911 Dispatch, what is your emergency?
Caller…Hello, can you hear me? I’m trying to reach 911.
Dispatch…Yes sir, I can hear you. What is your emergency?
Caller…Thank god you’re there. I’d like to report a crime. There’s a bunch of kids on my apartment lawn right now smoking weed. I can smell it coming through my goddamn window. I swear, I tell you I’m tired of this shit.
(Muffled Shouting) I’ve called 911 you little punks. You hear that! The cops are coming.
Dispatch…Sir, what is your current location? Are you calling from the corner of 16th and Detroit?
Caller…16th and Detroit…how do you know where I’m calling from? Never mind. Listen, these goddamn kids are trashing my lawn and smoking weed right in the open. I’m no square, but a man can only put up with so much. I was in Vietnam damn it. I’m a veteran. I shouldn’t have to deal with this shit.
Dispatch…OK sir…Thank you for calling. I see your apartment is located next to East High School. I’ve radioed the Campus Liaison Officer and informed him of your complaint. The officer should be arriving shortly. I will stay on the line with you until he gets there, but until then is there anything else I can do?
Caller…Anything else you can do? You’re god damned right there’s something else you can do. You think this is the first time these kids have been over here? I’ve already complained to the Principal at East, and to that Liaison Officer a half-a-dozen times. Your Officer, that rent-a-cop fat ass, he can’t do jack shit about these kids. Why do you think I called 911 in the first place?
Dispatch…Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to calm down. The Campus Liaison Officer is a regular member of the Denver Police Department. He will be able to offer the same services that any other officer could. Besides, when we can, we try to handle issues with East High School with our officers who…
Caller…Listen here damn it, that’s not good enough. These kids have that cop wrapped around their fingers. Why do you think they keep coming back to my building? They know that nothing will happen to them, that’s why! Call another cop, please, I’m begging you. I’m at my wit’s end here.
Dispatch…Sir, if you have an issue with the Liaison Officer you’re going to need to file a complaint at your precinct, but to be honest, students smoking marijuana during their lunch break doesn’t really qualify as an emergency. If you want something done about these kids you’re going to need to find another way to get this situation resolved.
Sir, my computer is showing that the officer is arriving right now. Is there anything else I can do?
Caller…No, you’ve done enough. Guess these days an old veteran doesn’t count for shit. But you better believe I’m going to file a complaint if nothing happens, and if I have to call 911 again, I want something done.
Dispatch…Thank you for calling sir. Have a nice day.
Saturday, March 19th. 5:42 P.M.
Dispatch…911, what is your emergency?
Caller…Hello, I’d like to report a crime. I’m being harassed, and I don’t feel like I deserve to be intimidated. This is goddamn harassment, well, that’s what it feels like. Hell, I’m not really sure what you call it.
Dispatch…Sir, I see that you are located on the corner of 16th and Detroit. Is that location correct?
Caller…Yes, that’s correct. I called a couple of days ago and spoke to some woman about a complaint I had. You see, that’s why I’m calling. Two days ago when I called it was about some kids who were smoking weed on my lawn. Well, I didn’t believe your dispatcher, but when the Liaison Officer arrived he finally did something. He arrested one of those punks and the rest scattered. But you see, that’s when my problems started.
Dispatch…Sir, are you in immediate danger or experiencing medical distress? 911 is reserved for emergencies. Are you currently in danger?
Caller…Danger, well, no, I wouldn’t call it danger. It’s just that ever since I called 911, those kids won’t leave me alone. I’m looking out my front window right now, hell, it’s every time I look out my window. Every time I look out there one of those kids is waiting. They aren’t smoking weed anymore, but you can bet your ass that ever since I called one of them has been out there…Creepy little pricks staring up at my window.
Dispatch…Sir, if you are not in danger and you are not having a medical emergency then I am going to transfer you to our non-emergency line. If you would like to file a complaint an officer will be glad to come by and assist you, but if there is nothing else that I can help you with I’m going to transfer your call.
Caller…I’m sorry, maybe 911 wasn’t the right number to call. It’s just that these kids have been outside my apartment ever since I called, and I’m not just talking school hours. I woke up late the other night to take a piss, but when I peaked out my window one of them was there. It was the kid who the cop arrested, but when he saw me, all he did was stare. I guess they’ve been getting to me, so if you wouldn’t mind, could you please transfer me. I need these kids to know that I ‘m not going to let them walk all over me.
Dispatch…I understand sir, I’m sure that was an unsettling sight. I’ll transfer you right now and you can see about filing a restraining order. Perhaps this is just kids being kids, but make sure that you follow through so that they don’t cause you any more grief.
Caller…Thank you sir, thank you so much. I really do appreciate it.
Tuesday, March 22nd. 1:47 A.M.
Dispatch…911, what is your emergency?
Caller…Hello, I live at the corner of 16th and Detroit, in the apartment building East of East. Someone just threw a rock through my window.
(Muffled) Jesus Christ…
Listen, there’s glass everywhere. It’s all over my couch, on my carpet. They damn near took out my whole window. I can’t believe I’m dealing with this shit.
Dispatch…Sir, are you injured? I’ve put out a call for the nearest officer and he should be arriving soon. An ambulance is also on its way, but if you are hurt any details you could provide will help prepare the paramedics.
Caller…No, no mam, I’m not hurt. Just a little rattled. Let me put some slippers on so I don’t cut myself. I’m going to look outside and see if they’re still here.
Dispatch…Sir, please be careful. An officer will be arriving shortly. If there is someone outside your apartment you shouldn’t approach them. Please wait for the officer.
Caller…(Muffled Yelling) I see you, you little prick. Why don’t you come up here and face me like a man?
Hello, are you still there? How close is that cop? One of those little bastards is still outside. If your officer gets here soon I can describe him. He has a hood over his face, but he’s wearing a grey sweatshirt and black pants.
Dispatch…Sir, please be careful. Whoever threw the rock might be armed. Officers are only minutes away. Please wait until they arrive.
Caller…Wait, hold on. I think I hear something. Oh thank God, I hear sirens. Thank you very much. We’re going to put an end to this shit tonight.
Friday, March 25th, 2:15 P.M.
Dispatch…911, what is your emergency?
Caller…Hello, I’m calling from the corner of 16th and Detroit, from the East of East Apartment building. I’m calling from my neighbor’s place, from apartment 305. I just went out grocery shopping, but when I got back there was a rabbit nailed to my door. Holy shit, I think I’m going to be sick.
Dispatch…O.K Sir, I’ve put out a call for response. An officer should be arriving soon. Please stay inside your neighbor’s apartment. There might be someone inside your home. Sir, besides the rabbit, is anyone else experiencing medical symptoms?
Caller…No, no medical symptoms if you don’t count my stomach. They filleted that poor little rabbit, the sick fucks. Its guts are dribbling down my door. I’m losing my mind over here.
I’m losing it. I don’t know how much more of this I can take.
Dispatch…Sir, please make sure you are sitting down. It looks like officers should be arriving shortly. My records indicate that this is not your first call. It looks like a group of students have been harassing you and you recently filed a restraining order? Is that correct?
Caller…Yes, I did file a restraining order, it’s just not making any difference. The one kid they arrested, he has to stay at least one hundred feet away from my building, but that doesn’t take care of the rest. Those damn kids are acting like a pack of animals.
The one kid hasn’t talked, so without a list of names they can’t pin this to anyone else. At this point I just wish I would’ve never called 911. I was just trying to make a point.
Dispatch…Sir, if you don’t mind me asking, have you considered moving? Unfortunately living that close to the high school means that you are going to have to continue dealing with students, but if you moved…
Sir, it sounds like the police have arrived. Consider what I said about moving, it might be the simplest answer to your problem.
(Shouting) Denver Police. Please open the door.
Caller…(Sniffling) Thank you, thank you so much. I just hope this ends.
Tuesday, March 29th. 4:37 A.M.
Dispatch…911, what is your emergency?
Caller…Hello, I’m calling to report a fire. My front lawn is on fire right now. I live at 1611 Detroit, in the East of East apartment building. I live on the ground floor and the fire is right outside my living room window. Please, we need a fire truck down here as soon as possible. The fire’s burning pretty good. If this get’s to the building…
Dispatch…All right…I’ve just placed an emergency distress call on your location and firemen should be arriving soon. Mam, is the building on fire? If it seems like the building might be in danger you are going to need to evacuate.
Caller…No, it’s just the lawn. The flames aren’t as bad as they were a little while ago. It’s weird, at first it looked like the whole yard was on fire, but now the only thing that’s burning is the grass. It almost looks like someone spelled out some kind of message.
Dispatch…A message? Mam, do you see anyone standing near the flames?
Caller…No, well not anymore. I’m a nurse at Denver Health and I’d just gotten up to get ready for my shift when I noticed the light coming from outside. I called right away, but now that you mention it, I do feel like I saw someone. They were wearing a hoodie and looking up at our building, at one of the apartments above mine.
(Muffled) Holy Shit. Babe, does that say what I think it does?
I’m sorry, that was my boyfriend. Officer, you’re not going to believe this. The flames, they spell a message out in our lawn. It says ALL OLD MEN DIE. Why would anyone spell that out?
Oh my god, that’s a gun!
(Shouting) Come out here you little bastards. You want a piece of me? You want to kill me? Then do something about it. I’m not running. Let’s finish this.
(More Popping Sounds)
(Muffled Shouting) Babe, get down.
Oh my god, there’s an old man on the lawn firing a gun.
Dispatch…Mam, take cover. The police should be minutes away.
Caller…(Crying) Oh my god. Oh my god. What’s happening?
(Shouting) I’m not running anymore, you here me? You want to kill an old man, well now’s your chance.
(Police Shouting) Sir, drop the weapon and get on the ground. Drop the gun and put your hands in the air.
(Shouting) You don’t understand. Please, I have to finish this.
(Shouting) Drop the gun.
Caller…Oh my god. Oh my god.
Friday, August 8th. 10:11 P.M.
Dispatch…911, what is your emergency?
Caller…(Whispering) Hello, 911, Oh god, I need help. They’re here, they’re inside my apartment. Oh god, I knew I shouldn’t have come back.
Dispatch…Sir, I’ve placed a distress call to your location and police should be arriving shortly. Who is inside your apartment? Sir, can you tell me what is happening?
Caller…(Whispering) Oh god, there’s so many of them. They’ve found me, oh God, they know I’m here.
I just came back for the night. All I wanted was to get my clothes. What was I thinking?
(Barely Audible) Hey old man…come out come out where ever you are.
(Whispering) Please, if you don’t get here soon I’m a goner.
Dispatch…Sir, if there is someone in your apartment you don’t need to speak. Try and find somewhere to hide. I will stay on the line. The police are only minutes away.
Caller…(Whispering) Tell the police I’m in apartment 304. I’m in the crawl space inside my pantry. I can hear them going through my bedroom but I don’t think they know I’m in here. I just got out of the hospital a week ago. God, how did they know I would be coming home?
(Barely Audible) You’re only making things worse for yourself old man.
Dispatch…Sir, it looks like the police should be arriving any minute. Please, remain hidden and help will be there any min…
(Screaming) Please, no. Oh God, please leave me alone.
Dispatch…Sir, can you hear me. Sir…Sir…
Caller…(Barely Audible) Thought we forgot about you, didn’t you old man. Stupid fuck, we never forget. Everyone’s time comes sooner or later.
(Crying) Please, leave me alone. I’m sorry I called the police on you. I’m so sorry.
(Barely Audible) I was worried the cops did you in when you pulled your little stunt, waiving your gun around like a tough guy. What did you think, that you would scare us off? How many times did those pigs shoot you? How much did it hurt?
Dispatch…Sir, anyone…whoever is there. Please, police are on the way.
(Barely Audible) Please, I’m sorry. I called 911. The cops are on their way. You win. Just leave me alone.
Dispatch…Hello…Hello…The police are on their way…
(Barely Audible) Leave you alone? Things have gone too far to leave you alone. But don’t worry. After tonight, I promise we’ll never mess with you again.
(Screaming) Oh god, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m…
(Sounds of a Chainsaw)
(Barely Audible) Grab his arms and legs. I want to quarter this fuck. Nighty night you old prick. Remember, all old men die someday.
(Sounds of a Chainsaw heighten, sounds of screaming increase too)
Dispatch…(Screaming,) Sir, please hold on. Whoever is there, please, stop. The police are on their way. You don’t have to do this.
Dispatch…Hello…Is anyone there? You don’t have to do this.
Caller…Hello Officer, I’d like to report a murder. At the corner of 16th and Detroit, apartment number 304. Some old fuck is bleeding out on his kitchen floor. Someone cut off his arms and legs. Pity really, the choices we make. Get the cops here soon and he might still be warm by the time you show up.
Banner Image: Pixabay.com
Six-sided cubes, ivory colored, black-eyed dots, tumbling, bouncing, rattling, futures and fates in the balance. The dice rock and roll in the alley, under the streetlights, reflecting neon red and blue and sometimes, once in a while, colored with flecks, hints, sticky drops of arterial or venous blood.
Nathan sat in the corner, in the lone chair of the hotel room, facing the door. An open pack of Marlboro Reds along with his cell phone sat on the end table beside him. Smoke drifted from a cigarette held loosely between his fingers. The ash had grown long and drooped down from the red cherry.