DOUBLEBACK – A Cliff Drouin Story by C. R. Fausset

George Jacobs was a drunk. One of those kinds of drunks AA couldn’t fix. Almost every night, when his wife went off to work, she would leave their two kids with him. He started off the night relatively sober but as soon as he put them to bed, he’d start drinking. And drink he did. George never knew the word, ‘stop.’ One night he got so trashed he stripped naked and left the house to walk the neighborhood, leaving his kids alone. People would call the police about a strange naked man stumbling in the street not wearing any clothes and of course, I would respond. When I’d find him lying on the park bench near his house, as usual, I’d arrest him and call his wife to come get the kids.

George’s wife told me had lost his job and most of his friends. Yet, he still got drunk. I never knew if there was a reason why he got drunk, but either way it seemed to cause him more problems. The other officers said some people drank because of the traumatic things they’d seen overseas, but George was never in the military. Another theory was that he had lost a close relative, but his family had long ago stopped talking to him due to his excessive drinking.

So naturally it was no surprise to me that I found George face down in the gutter. I was with my friend Nathan Morris walking through a back alleyway of a bar when we stumbled upon him. The only difference this time, George was dead.

“Well shit, there goes our night. This is your fault ya know,” Nathan said tilting back the brim of his straw cowboy hat. He scratched his head and stared down at George’s body.

“Sorry, I had to park down the street but I didn’t figure we’d stumble across George here,” I replied.

“You know him?” Nathan asked.

“Yeah, I’ve had to deal with him before when I was on duty. So what are we gonna do now?” I asked.

“Dunno, you’re the cop. I guess we gotta call this in.” he said lifting his pant legs up making it easier for him to kneel down. It was a funny that he had called me a “cop”, yet used the word ‘we’. He used to be a cop himself, so I guessed it was an instinctual statement. Yet despite no longer being in the business, he still had the urge to listen to my stories and help me solve cases. Nathan looked down at George’s body closely.

George was dead alright. His shirt was off and tucked part way in his pants. His skin was a sickly yellow and his face was submerged in a puddle of water from rain earlier in the day.

“Can’t tell ya what killed him, the water or his own vomit,” Nathan said pointing at puke under George’s belly. I could smell the putrid stench of puke, piss and human feces. The warm humid air only intensified the smell. Ah, the finer side to law enforcement.

“Looks as if he shit himself too,” I said pointing at the brown stain on the back of his pants.

“What a shitty way to die,” Nathan quipped. I smiled at him, cop humor. I walked around and knelt down on the other side to see if there were any other clues leading to the cause of George’s death. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary and I was only coming to just one conclusion. George stumbled, puked, fell down and suffocated himself.

We both stood up and I pulled out my cell phone while Nathan walked the alley looking for any more clues. He walked in the direction of travel that George appeared to take. I called the police department and had a hell of a time trying to explain to them who I was and the situation I was in. I kept repeating that, ‘yes, I am a police officer’ and ‘no, I am not on duty.” When the call-taker finally understood what was going on, or probably just gave up trying to understand, she ensured me an officer would be sent to my location. I thanked her and hung up.

“Cliff, check this out,” Nathan said. I walked over to him and saw what he was looking at. A brown, leather wallet sat on the ground. I knelt down, picked it up and flipped it open. There wasn’t any money or credit cards but there was a driver’s license. The name on the license read, ‘Stan Amico.’

“Dunno who Stan Amico is. It could be a mere coincidence his wallet is laying back here. Or maybe someone stole Stan’s wallet and this is where they dumped it.” I said, thinking out loud.

“Or maybe your friend George here stole his wallet. Then Stan found him and killed him.”

“How? By feeding George so much alcohol, he puked all over himself and suffocated? Doesn’t seem right.”

“Well, maybe Stan attacked him for stealing his wallet and when George accidently died, Stan freaked out and ran the other way.”

I nodded. That made sense.

“Let’s go with that and try to prove it.” I trusted Nathan’s opinion. At least needed some reason why George was lying on the ground dead. I held on to the wallet for evidence and we continued searching the alley for any other clues but came up empty.

“Well damn, I guess that’s all we’ve got,” Nathan said.

“Yeah, well I guess we can just wait around until the…” Then I was the backdoor to the bar opened and a man stepped out holding a black trash bag. To say the man was ‘big’ was an understatement. He towered above us and had all the body features of a pro-wrestler. His black shirt was tight due to his broad shoulders and massive biceps. His black hair was cut short and he had the flattened nose of a fighter. I guessed he was probably the bouncer.

The man took a quick glimpse at George’s lifeless body and then at me and Nathan. His eyes were focused on the wallet in my hand. Probably should have left the wallet where I found it, I thought to myself. The bouncers face contorted unnaturally, his lip curled up and he snorted like a pissed off bull.

“What the fuck are ya’ll doing?!?” the bouncer screamed, starting to storm towards us. He dropped the trash bag he was carrying, letting off the sound of clattering glass bottles and aluminum cans when it hit the ground.

“Sir, I’m a police officer and this man has been killed. I’ve already called—“

“Bullshit Aggie!” the bouncer interjected, obviously looking at my Texas A&M t-shirt, “Ya’ll killed this dude and you ain’t gettin’ away with it.”

I tried to say something else, but I could tell he wasn’t listening. I guess the situation looked bad for me and Nathan. He charged after us and we had no choice but to react. Nathan took the upper body and started trying to control the guy’s hands while I took the low ground. I wrapped my arms around the guy’s legs and tried to take him down.

He was really strong and didn’t go down easy. The bouncer broke free of Nathan’s grip then swung his fist hard catching me on the shoulder blade. It felt like I had been hit with a baseball bat. I collapsed to the ground and the bouncer easily tossed Nathan to the side. Nathan’s cowboy hat crumpled when he hit the wall head first. He took his hat off and set it beside him. The bouncer started walking towards Nathan and I made it up to my feet. I ran up behind him and drove my shin into the back of his leg.

The bouncer’s knee gave out and he dropped to the ground. Nathan was able to stand and punched him with a wide haymaker across the jaw. His head whipped around and he dropped to the ground. Sadly, that wasn’t enough. The bouncer just growled and pushed himself up. This time we were ready for him when he turned to face us. Nathan again took the high ground and parried the bouncer’s hands as he tried to grab for him, feinted to the left then punched him in the exposed ribs. The bouncer let out a yelp that was cut short as I tackled him knocking the air out of his lungs. His body went limp as fell back and his head bounced on the wet asphalt. It sounded like someone dropping a melon.

The bouncer’s eyes closed. I lifted his arm and it fell with ease. He was out like a light. It was then I noticed the Longhorn logo on his arm. I sat next to Nathan, panting and laughing. My arms felt cut up and Nathan’s head was bleeding, other than that, we were fine. I looked around the alley to see if anyone had witnessed the events that just took place. Lucky for us no one was around.

“Motherfucker messed up my hat,” Nathan said picking up the crushed ball of straw, “He’s gonna pay to get it fixed.” I chuckled.

“Well, you always are hitting your head.”

“Shut up, asshole,” He said. Then noticed something I hadn’t seen before.

“Damn,” I said when I caught my breath.

“What, you still upset the bouncer called you an ‘Aggie’?” Nathan joked.

“No, did you notice the blood?”

“Blood, no, where?” Nathan asked.

“It’s on George’s hand,” I said pointing, “And there a streaks of blood on that dumpster of there. How could we have missed it?”

“Wow, I dunno. I guess we just assumed it was something else or we were at a bad angle or something.”

“I guess. I probably would have been looking for blood, had I saw it on his hand but… We should look in the dumpster,” I said and stood up.

“What’s this ‘we’ shit, you’re the cop,” Nathan said sarcastically.

We walked over to the dumpster, and I slowly lifted the lid, nervous to see what was inside.

“Nothing. Just trash bags,” I said. Nathan moved one of the bags and there was the dead body of Stan Amico.

“Ah, Shit!” I exclaimed. Seeing two dead bodies in one day was more than enough for me. There was a small, chrome snub-nose .38 with a black handle on Stan’s chest or back, I wasn’t sure. I fought back the urge to puke and took a step back. It was then I noticed something. It wasn’t in the dumpster, it was a person. She was sitting in a car at the other end of the alley. My mind started to spin and I started to walk towards the car without saying anything to Nathan.

“Cliff, where are you going?” he asked.

“Hang on, I’ll be right back,” I told him and saw that I police car had just pulled up…

“But Cliff, the police are here. This ain’t gonna look good with you walking away from a crime scene like this.”

“Just figure something out to tell him. I’ll be right back.”

Nathan growled, but I kept walking to the car. The woman didn’t move. Instead, she pretended not to see me walking towards her. The police officer turned the spotlight on and shown it down the alley way. It helped illuminate the woman’s face. Once I was close enough, the car’s lights turned on and I started to run. I got to the car as she started the engine and pulled the car door open with one good yank.

“Get out!” I demanded. The woman’s eyes started filling up with tears and she started whimpering.

“Officer Drouin, l-lemmie explain.” The woman stuttered.

“You’re gonna have your chance, now get out!” I said with more conviction. She didn’t move, sitting in fear. I grabbed her by the wrist and tugged her out. She screamed and scratched at my arm with her sharp nails. The harder she dug her nails in my skin the harder I pulled.

I drug her all the way to where Nathan was standing. He was trying to explain the situation to the officer, who stood with his arms crossed and a scowl on his face. I let go of the woman’s hand and she fell to her butt with a grunt.

“Cliff, who’s this?” Nathan asked. The police officer, who I had only seen once or twice before nodded in agreement with Nathan. His nametag read, ‘Pearson’.

“This is Heather Jacobs, George Jacobs’ wife,” I said to Nathan and turned my attention back to the woman, “now tell me, how long have you been sitting there Heather? How about you tell us why your husband is dead. Who is Stan Amico? Answer me!!” I felt my blood boiling. I was tired and starting to get cranky. My night had been ruined and something told me I had her to thank for it.

“I dunno!” she sobbed, tears were streaming down her face, her breathing panicked. Any other time I probably would have felt sorry for her, but not tonight.

“Well you sure as hell better think about it. After all, that’s your husband over there, dead, lying face down in a puddle. Plus, let’s not forget the man in the dumpster named Stan Utley, also dead. I need some answers Heather and I need them P-D-Q. So take a breath, and do whatever you have to do to calm down. Then tell me what happened.” I tried to calm down, but I wanted her to be shaken up. I wanted her to feel as if she had something to lose.

She took my advice, closed her eyes and took some deep breaths before she spoke.

“George was not a bad man. I swear he wasn’t. He just had a problem with his drinkin’. I just wanted…” she took a second to swallow and looked up at me, “I just wanted George to love me again, like he did when we first met. He was always ignoring me and spending time at the bar, and I didn’t like the person he was becoming.”

“Which was?” I asked for clarification.

“A drunk,” shooting me a glance that told me I should’ve known the answer to that question, “so I thought I’d do something to help get him to notice me again. Stan was a friend of mine. He agreed to stay over at my house and pretend to be someone I was cheating on George with. I just wanted to get George’s attention. So, when George came home, Stan was in our room, and I hid in the closet. I never expected George would react the way he did. He thought Stan was a burglar and killed him! He shot him in the chest.”

“Whoa!” I exclaimed.

“Yeah, I watched in horror as George stabbed Stan with his pocket knife. When George was done, he freaked out and put Stan in the trunk of his car and took him to the only other place he knew in this world… the bar.”

“And then he dumped him in the dumpster, right? But how did George die?” I asked. Heather started to tear up again.

“I-I ran over to George and he saw me. I guess he wasn’t expecting that. He freaked out and threw up. Then tripped, fell down and knocked himself out. I ran over to him but it was too late. He was in a seizure.” Heather began to shake and cry uncontrollably.

“So you left?” I asked. She gave me the same look as before. “Because you showed up,” she said. “I recognized you as soon as you parked your car next to my car. I knew you’d recognize George and I didn’t want you to think I had done this to him. So yes, I left. I was scared. I don’t know what I’m gonna do.”

I looked over at Pearson, who had been really quiet. I asked if he understood the situation and I explained to him who I was. He said he understood and that he’d take care of Heather.

“Ya’ll had a pretty messed up night didn’t ya?” Pearson said with a slight smile.

“You have no idea,” I replied. I asked Pearson if he needed us for anything else. He just shook his head and said me and Nathan were free to go. I thanked him for his understanding.

As me and Nathan walked around the corner of the alley, I had an overwhelming sense of freedom.

“You are never choosing the bar ever again,” Nathan said.

“Yeah,” I agreed, “So what ya wanna do now?”

Nathan shook his head, “I’m not sure, I think I need a drink.

*   

BIO:

C.R. Fausset lives in North Texas where he works as a police officer. He also holds a 2nd degree black belt and has trained in the martial arts for over 17 years. His first novel, THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE, will be published by Solstice Publishing. He also wrote a short-story, DAWN, which was published by Pulp Metal Magazine.

www.facebook.com/AuthorCRFausset

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