An Unattended, Part Three
By Stephen B. Bagley
I ended up in the woods with a gun pointed at me as follows. Four days after Aaron Brody’s funeral, Ron Sims came to the station to record voice-overs on new public service announcements. Usually the PSAs were tapes of some kids driving fast in a car, and then you’d hear a young man shout, “Give me another beer!” You’d hear him open it, then there’d be a car crash. Then Ron would say, “The Ryton Police Department reminds you to not drink and drive.”
Our station manager set up Ron in the recording booth. As I walked down the hallway to deliver an advertising run to our programmer, I saw Ron behind the glass wall and remembered him being at the funeral and leaving so quickly. I was curious about that.
I delivered my run and then waited until Ron finished recording. I went in the booth and helped him pull the tape.
“So, how’s it going?” I asked, putting a new tape into the cart machine.
“Can’t complain,” Ron said. He looked tired. “You?”
“I would complain, but who would listen?”
He smiled and rubbed his eyes.
I equalized the levels on the tape and then said, “I saw you at Aaron Brody’s funeral.”
He looked at me, and I swear he became alert like a dog on point.
“Yes,” he said. “I was. What were you doing there? Did you know him?”
“No,” I said and explained about our sales manager.
He sighed. “I thought maybe you’d know something.”
I looked at him. “Is there something that someone should know about? I thought it was an accident. He overdosed.”
“Yeah, he had enough heroin in him to kill a herd of horses,” Ron said.
I laughed at his pun, thinking this was some of the dark humor that the police use to deal with the stress of their jobs.
He looked at me like I had lost my mind.
"Uh, I thought you made a pun," I said.
"Uh ... Heroin was originally called ‘horse’ back in the sixties,” I said.
“Oh,” Ron said. “Okay. Funny.”
"Were you watching Aaron’s girlfriend?” I asked, ready to move on.
“That’s a curious question,” he said. “What do you know about her?”
“Nothing,” I said. “She made quite an entrance at the funeral. Everyone was talking about her. If half of what they say is true, wow.”
“More like two times what they say is true,” Ron said. “Marlene Postwain is rotten to the core and back.”
“Did she kill Aaron?” I asked. “Is that why you’re watching her?”
He looked at me and cocked his head. After a long pause, he said, “There’s nothing to say that it was a murder. No marks on his body like he had been forced to shoot up. He was an addict.” He shrugged.
“I thought he had stopped taking drugs,” I said. “Simon Williams told me that he had.”
“Addicts rarely make it the first or second or even third time they try to stop,” Ron said. “He finally fell off the wagon for the last time. Marlene says he’d been talking about how hard it was. She saw him drive off. Said he was upset at his father because the old man wouldn’t give him any more money. Brody says his son had asked him for a loan, but he turned him down. Probably that was enough to push him off the edge.”
“Then why are you watching Marlene?” I asked, sure that he was although he hadn’t said so.
“I have this feeling at the base of my neck,” Ron said. “Something’s not right, doesn’t fit.” He paused. “Maybe I’ve been watching too much TV.” He looked at me. “If you know something, you should tell me. If not, you should stay out of it.”
But I didn’t know anything and said so.
Ron left the station, but I kept thinking about Aaron and his death all that week. That Saturday, I decided to play detective. Yes, I was curious to the point of stupidity, but I wasn’t totally stupid. I didn’t want to go to a murder scene alone; I talked Thomas Owell into going with me.
I’d been friends with Thomas for years. He was a good guy, but divorced twice because he loved hunting more than his wives. He owned more guns than most army units. I suspect some of the guns weren’t strictly legal. Or maybe it is okay to hunt deer with a fully functional machine gun.
Aaron had been found in the woods near Watts Ridge. I didn’t know exactly where he’d been found, but since the newspaper article said the road was a dead end, I didn’t think we’d have much trouble.
Thomas drove us in his pickup. It had a strong, strange odor that at first I attributed to Thomas, but he explained that he had dropped a bottle of deer musk. I rolled down the window.
The road took lots of twists and turns, at first blacktop, and then gravel, and finally dirt ruts. I was completely lost and about to suggest to Thomas that we go back when the ruts ended.
“Over there,” Thomas said.
We got out of the pickup and walked toward fluttering yellow police tapes. The tapes had been attached to wooden stakes, but the wind had pulled it loose from a couple of them.
There wasn’t much to see. Just a patch of ground with some leaves on it and a few rocks and sticks.
Thomas was plainly disappointed. I don’t know what he expected, but he started looking for deer sign.
I started walking around the area in a spiral pattern, something I had read in a book or maybe seen on TV. After about fifteen minutes, I stopped and felt foolish. What exactly did I expect to find? The police had searched this area, and they were professionals.
I heard someone behind me. “Thomas, I’m ready to go,” I said, turning to face him, but it wasn’t Thomas.
At this point, the whole detective adventure stopped being interesting and became mighty scary. Leon Brody stood before me. He held a big black pistol.
“What are you doing here?” he demanded.