I awoke to the sound of a soft metallic click. When I pried open my eyes the blurry numbers on
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“Live Free or Die,” read the license plate of the swerving chunk of fiberglass that nearly clipped my front bumper.
Screwing an impassioned slogan onto your glorified 100mph coffin doesn’t make you a free man. Fucking materialist. I hoped with every taut muscle in my upper body that the guy’s transmission would fall right out the bottom of his Corvette, and he would die in a blaze of Red Asphalt glory. I hate sports cars. I hate the smell and the flashy colors and the rubber they leave behind on the pavement in Edgerton. The world would be a better place if we didn’t leave the bored, incapable rich hoards to their own devices. Those same devices come back around and catch our asses in their eager gears.
“Don’t get so fucking mad when you drive, Brett. It pisses me off.”
“Listening to your face in the morning pisses me off. Shut up and stop dropping crumbs on my front seat.” I shot a sidelong glare in his direction without taking my eyes off the road for more than a second. “You can’t drive any better, you pedestrian.”
“Fung meh,” he cussed around a mouthful of half-chewed breakfast.
“That’s right, fuck you.” I screwed up my face and poked at the eye-boogers accumulating in the corners of my eyes. They were black and ugly with the remnants of last night’s eyeliner. “I don’t know why the hell we decided to do this so early.” We had crashed just four hours ago at his place, and it was now 7:12am. There’s not much that irks me more than being interrupted from my drooling sleep by an idiotic plan. Except for ground up biscuit in my truck’s upholstery.
“Grrl, be migh. Oo nee uh bwe-er apipooh.” He wrinkled his forehead in irritation, and then looked down, brushing crumbs off the lapel of his thrift store suit jacket with his long artistic fingers.
I forced out a “huh,” shaking my head at how ridiculous he sounded. “I’m not nice in the morning. Deal with my attitude. I’m driving.” I’d been with the same band for a couple years now, and we all practically cohabited, sleeping around at each others’ apartments on couches and futons. I’d even been on the road with them, four huge guys and me, crammed into a van towing a trailer of our instruments and sound equipment. We’d spent so much time together that I could understand them even if they broke all their teeth and swallowed half their tongues. Sometimes I wish they would. I’m not a morning person.
I pulled through the gate at the back of the complex where we rented a sound-proofed garage for band practices, and hit the gutter at an odd angle, rocking my truck’s solid frame back and forth hard enough to click the rearview mirror’s dangling skull ornament against the windshield and crack
“Shut up, it’s too early to deal with your shit. Why did we decide to drive two blocks? We’re wasting gas.” I jammed my truck into park next to Shane’s truck. “Did Shane spend the night here? I thought he had plans with Angelica or something.”
“He still loved her. The guy was completely whipped.”
“Did it rain last night? Everything’s wet.” I pulled my keys out of the ignition and swung my left leg out onto the runner of the truck. I looked down at the wet pavement. Mud had been washed out of the new planters to the left of the parking lot. It squished up around my shoes when I stepped down, and I sighed, ticked off that we’d have to clean our shoes before getting back into the truck. While I have a love-hate relationship with
My pocket started vibrating as we walked the few steps to the garage door. I fumbled the flip top and pushed the green button.
“Brett? It’s Ethan.” Our other lead singer was on the other side of the country in
“What? He always has his phone on. He’s in the garage, and I bet he’s just got the volume up so he can’t hear you. We’re here right now, gotta get in this last practice bef–”
“No, I’ve been calling him all morning since I got up. He left a message in my voicemail around 3am your time. It was short. He said he was about to meet up with Angelica, and I heard Misery Signals in on his stereo, so I was worried. It’s been a little over a year. You know how he gets.”
“Mmm.” I did know. And I still loved him. He was everything I wanted, everything I thought I needed, and now he was everything I despised about myself and the world, neatly packaged in a hot blonde surfer’s body. Shane and I had spent all that year together after his breakup, except that our relationship fell apart when he told me he still loved Angelica. He listened to the band Misery Signals a lot, the song “The Year Summer Ended in June” repeating in his CD player. I still had a bitter mix of feelings about the whole situation, but I did worry about Shane because he usually got pretty moody and depressed when he resorted to listening to Misery Signals. Anniversaries aren’t always cheerful. Sometimes they lead to alcoholic self-medication. “Ethan, I’ll let you know what happens. Lemme call you back, we’re going into the garage. TTYL sucka.”
I slipped the phone into my pocket as
“What the fuck, man. This door is so jacked.”
“Dude, I’ll just crawl under. Maybe he’s got the headphones on.” I crouched down awkwardly and tried to look under the door, but there was only darkness. My eyes just hadn’t adjusted yet; it was pretty bright outside. I shimmied under, trying to keep my knees out of the mud. My hands were a lost cause. It seemed like some of the mud had gotten under the door and into the garage. “Shane?” I blinked and rubbed my hands together, straightening up. “Shane,” I called louder, insistently. I hunched my shoulders, expecting him to jump out and yell something startling. I blinked a few more times, and my eyes dilated in the weak light. I took a step forward onto the carpet and bumped into something bulky.
Shane’s limp body hung from a thick strap that was stuck over the track of the garage door. His beautiful hazel eyes were bloodshot, open and staring, and his face was discolored even in the low lighting. His neck was purple and dark. The garage began to spin and I tripped backward over the edge of the carpet.
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The police had come, escorting an ambulance into the parking lot of the garages. There was no one around on Friday morning. No one stood witness to the glory of gleaming chrome on the black and white cruisers, and no one appreciated the parade of lights flashing despite the sharp daytime glare of the sun. The three of us huddled together, chilled despite the increasing desert temperature, because Shane was dead.
“It was murder.” It came out as a whisper, but solid, unhesitating, uncompromising.
“He killed himself, Brett. Suicide. Being in love with him won’t bring him back.” He turned his head away. His suit jacket looked rumpled. He was a crumpled sheet of grey paper, disenchanted and defeated. “I’m sorry; I don’t know why I said that. I can’t believe he killed himself, but that’s what it looks like.” He kicked the mud and said somberly, “He should have talked to us.”
A short police officer approached us, interrupting, a pad and pen in his hands. “We didn’t find a suicide note, but there doesn’t seem to be any indication that there was any foul play. His parents have been contacted. Do you three have any information about his habits, or what might have driven him to suicide?” We three stared down at him. He was loud, offensive in the hush of the scene. I found myself balling my fists at his clipped, brusque manner of speaking. I wanted to sock him in the face.
“Yeah, you should talk to Ethan about it. He’s the other singer in our band. They’re best friends, and Shane left a message with him or something, but he’s in
“Wrap it the fuck up. Everybody go home. It’s just another kid got sad about life an’ went nuts. We’re taking the body down. I want everyone off the scene in 15.” The police sergeant of Edgerton was a skinny prick in a suit. Of course the Edgerton police were excited about anything going on in town that wasn’t a traffic violation. Extensive building lured in big business, and then people from every other state started moving in to take advantage of suburbia. Then the rich people started showing up, violating traffic laws and paying off the CHP. Now that’s all the cops have to deal with on this side of town: red light runners,
“We’ll call you if anything comes up. Coroner’s report, some shit. In the mean time don’t poke around your garage. We put up tape in case it gets more exciting than suicide. Fat chance.” He turned and started barking at the scurrying officers. We watched the scene slowly dissipate.
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Driving was a blur. The next few hours were like looking at a digital picture too closely: pixilated, warped, gives you a headache. The lucky ones have epileptic seizures and get to take a break from all of the stimulation. The rest of us drink something strong and pop some ibuprofen. It was a hollow ache that nothing touched. It was preserved on a pedestal in my chest cavity, enshrouded in my flesh, veiled, silent but painfully present. I had lost him. I couldn’t even hope that someday he’d figure out that he loved me. No, he was gone forever.
Great time to have an existential crisis, self, I told myself. I sat on the couch by
“I’m okay.” I jerked my hand away and chewed on the cuticle of my pinky finger. “Do you think it was suicide?” I pushed the blonde out of my eyes and continued to gnaw.
“Yeah, that’s what Ethan said.” We were silent for a few moments. I leaned forward. “Do you think Angelica might have had something to do with it?”
“Brett, you can’t go around blaming everyone for his death, okay?”
“I’ll be right back, I need to take a walk.” I stood up abruptly.
“I’ll come with y–”
“I need to go alone. My phone is on.”
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I walked until I was out of sight of the apartment, and then jogged the two blocks to our garage. Something wasn’t right. I needed to look at the garage again. The police would just write this off as another tragic, emotional suicide, but even if it was, I had to satisfy my own unease.
The garage looked like a date rape victim. Police tape was everywhere, inside out, upside down, no rhyme or reason to its placement. I ducked under the garage door, which was still only open a few feet, and stood in the darkness as my eyes adjusted.
The bass cab was right where it had come to rest. How could he have kicked it over? It would have rolled unless the wheels were locked. Most of the big ones had locking wheels so that they wouldn’t roll around on stage. I bent down and looked, but the locks weren’t on. It should have rolled away, despite the carpet, which was cheap and thin anyway. Someone pushed it over. Maybe it was an accident, but if someone else was there they could have gotten Shane down before he suffocated.
Someone else was in the garage with him. Why did I know this? My eyes bored into the dim light. The garage was sound proof, so if there was an argument or a struggle no one outside would have heard anyway. Most likely there wouldn’t have been witnesses. This area was still developing, and there weren’t any apartments out here yet. With no shopping centers interrupting the swath of weedy field that stretched out to the hills no one had a reason to be out here in time to see suspicious activity. It would be dark at night. Darkness. Shane wouldn’t practice in the dark. He wouldn’t be able to see anything. The light was off when we got here, and it wasn’t on a timer, so someone had to have turned it off on the way out. “There had to be someone here.” My voice in the dim garage startled me.
When did he die? We left him around 3am to go crash at
I looked down at the mud. If there was mud in the garage, the door had to be open when it was raining. That garage door was a tight fit to keep the sound from escaping. Rain, rain… rain and mud. Wet.
Something clicked in my head. I ducked out of the garage and started running toward the apartment. As I ran I pushed
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I burst into
“–an isn’t here right now. I have to talk to you.”
I opened and shut my mouth a few times, and then shifted my weight back onto one leg and crossed my arms. “Just, what?” He gave a little half smile. I shook my head. “Harv, I just, I had no idea. But I can’t deal with this right now; I uh, I should find
“Brett, you’re so beautiful. I don’t know what I would do without you.” He stepped toward me. He looked so vulnerable. I’d never heard him this emotional before.
“Did you hear me? Let’s talk about this later, I ought to–”
“I want you to be mine forever.” His eyes got a strange gleam.
“–get back to get our gear and–”
“Now that Shane is gone, it’s just you and me.”
“–then grab… what?” I paused, and drew back from him.
“You and I can be together now that he’s gone. He won’t get in the way. I know he led you on, and Angelica was such a bitch to you, but you don’t have to worry anymore. I won’t do that to you. I have to have you, you don’t know how much I’ve been hurting for so long without you. I know that you love me.” His hand snapped up and closed around my wrist.
“What are you talking about, Brett? The police even said it was suicide. He was emotional.” He pulled me toward him.
“But the light was out, and you know how heavy the amp is, it couldn’t have tipped over like that – it would have rolled, and I mean someone would have had to have shut off the light because it was dark, and if someone else was there he wouldn’t have died.” I was getting nervous, but I had to reign in my fear and stay calm. I didn’t want him to think I was weak.
“It’s sad, but I’m here for you. He was trying out his moves, remember? Last night at the show he fumbled and couldn’t sling his bass around all the way. He probably just put the amp in the wrong place, went to jump off and toss it around, and got stuck. Does that make it better? That it was an accident?” He started to stroke my hair. Shane and Harvey must have used the same deodorant because they smelled a lot alike. On Shane the scent was comforting. Now on
“What do you mean it was an accident? You saw it?” I was trying to disentangle myself from his arms, but he was too strong. “Were you there?” I looked up, searching his eyes. They had the same glazed shining. “Let go of me,” I demanded, setting my jaw. His fingers tangled in the hair at the nape of my neck and pulled my head back. I felt exposed, trapped, defenseless.
“I was there. I left when you guys fell asleep.” He tightened his other arm around my back. “He was at the garage messing around with his stuff. I had to talk to him. I was pissed that he was taking you from me when he still liked Angelica. He didn’t love you like I love you.”
I let out a strange, animal-like wail. “You killed him, you killed him, you–”
“Shh,” He took his hand out of my hair and pressed it over my mouth, still gripping me tightly. “
I was alone with someone who had facilitated Shane’s murder, and now he wanted to keep me with him forever. While his hand was on the deadbolt I blurted out “Fuck you, you monster!” and struggled against him. He threw me onto the la-z-boy. My mind was racing. Where was
“Brett, you’re all I need. When I’m with you I don’t feel so alone. We’re meant to be together. You’re mad right now, but you’ll get over it. He didn’t love you. You’re part of me, and I love you so much I can’t stand the thought of you being with someone else. Tell me you love me.”
“I could never love you,” I spat, “you killer.” He had his knees on my thighs. I thought it might be funny if the chair broke under our weight.
His face hardened. With one smooth motion he grabbed my knife and stabbed it viciously into my side. Searing pain arced through my chest and exploded in my right lung. I’d never trust a left-handed percussionist again. I gasped and bent away from the pressure of his fist against my body. Out of the corner of my eye I saw blood begin to stain the plush chair.
I touched my side in shock. I could die right here, knowing the truth about Shane’s death, and no one else would ever hear it. I blinked. My vision started to fade. Sounds meshed together into a roaring noise. My body felt lighter and lighter. He had stabbed me with my own knife, and with a choked, harsh cough of a laugh, I closed my eyes and lost consciousness.
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I awoke to the sound of a soft metallic click. And beeping. There was a beeping noise that jarred me into a shallow unconsciousness. I was peeved. I’m not a morning person. Whose idiotic idea was it to set the alarm to a beeping noise?
“Ungh.” I tried to cuss, but there was something down my throat, taped over my mouth. My eyes were heavy. I felt swollen all over and dense, and it was so bright.
“Brett, you’re alive. Well, shit, I mean you’re awake! It’s Sunday afternoon. I flew back from
I shook my head. I felt so weak, and I was angry that they had a tube down my throat. I couldn’t even tell him how ironic it was that I had been stabbed with my own knife. I squeezed his hand. My chest ached, but not the kind of ache I associated with being stabbed. Shane was dead. The words repeated over and over again. A morbid image of his blonde hair spread across the white pillow in a casket floated across my vision. Must have been the morphine.
“Jordo,” Ethan shouted, sending a wave of shooting pain through my forehead, “She’s awake! Pee faster!”
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