The cop’s decision to wear his bulletproof vest 24/7 combined with a lack of exercise during the holiday season had slowed him considerably. His dashboard camera revealed a weary, slow-moving man who’d forgotten most of his training when it came to approaching vehicles, and he was clearly unaware of what was about to happen.
One minute he was hunched over the driver’s side window, fumbling for a pen to write a reckless-op ticket, the camel-like hump of his vest bunched up above his shoulder blades. The next minute a shotgun was lifting his chin high, followed immediately by the silent flashbulbs of both barrels, which seemingly propelled his head up through his hat and out of the frame forever.
What the dash cam did not show, however, was the unlucky officer’s head traveling in a lazy football spiral, rebounding off the Interstate-75 sign and tumbling down the on-ramp. Back on the highway, it rebounded unnoticed between the wheels of rush-hour traffic for fifteen minutes, until it became lodged in a lowrider’s exhaust. It was carried over fifty miles away from the scene of the crime, lower jaw still frozen in surprise, collecting the smaller stones and the occasional candy wrapper.
The boy driving the lowrider was unaware of his gruesome cargo until his last stop of the night, the Kings of Kings Hydraulics competition, where he placed third and was awarded a lucky rabbit’s-foot keychain and a small trophy topped with a league bowler whose ball had been hastily removed with scissors. The first-place winner, however, encouraged by the frenzy of a crowd who had noticed first the blood, then the policeman’s head leering down from the undercarriage during the final Victory Bounce, surrendered his first-place title to the boy, along with the tallest trophy of them all, almost five feet from base to hood ornament, a chrome flying pig polished to infinity.
At the ensuing press conference, the Chief of Police explained they had no leads, except for a strange necklace found draped around the remains of the officer’s neck, a tangled menagerie of beads and string which was later identified as an inexpensive dreamcatcher, sold at most gas stations in the area.
“What’s that?’ a reporter asked.
“Bunch of shit hanging off a hoop…” the Chief answered, impatiently looking around for a better question. “…catches dreams.”
“Sure does, motherfucker!” the boy shouted at his television, now a local celebrity who’d been quickly cleared of any connection in the original shooting. His trophy sat proudly on top of the TV, the tips of the pig’s wings mere inches from the ceiling, vibrating to the beat of Kraken III, the only CD he owned.
The next day, the boy’s sister raised the hydraulics and check every inch of the Impala’s undercarriage, finding everything that, impossibly, the forensic team had missed; a garage sale sign, most of a turtle, a child’s jumper that would have likely solved an unrelated kidnapping, a ten-dollar bill, and exactly half of a gigantic foam cowboy hat.
“It’s like when they cut open sharks,” she whispered, cradling as much of the treasure in her arms as she could.
“Only if they could keep swimming,” her brother answered proudly.
“Is all of this stuff under every car?” she wondered.
The question terrified him, and he never let her crawl under it again.
David James Keaton’s fiction has appeared in such anthologies as
Deadcore, Dark Highlands, and The Death Panel, as well as in Dark Sky,
Plots With Guns, and Thuglit, among others. He has a story forthcoming
in Needle: A Magazine of Noir and is the Editor of Flywheel, another
journal throwing elbows to make a space online.
This story is part of a series attempting to counter the destructive
influence of Aesop’s
Fables. He has also found things under his car that he cannot speak of.