Monday, December 17, 2018

Delivered to the Grave by Michael D. Davis

Knute the pizza delivery guy needs to find out the secret behind the tragic death of a child in a small American town; by Michael D. Davis.

Chapter One
Six Years Later

Knute Knack put his foot through the floor forcing the Pontiac to make noises like a dying horse. The faster he got the pizza there the bigger the tip he got. If he got a tip at all.

It was only a town of four-thousand, a piece of lint on the map, but they kept him busy. Especially since the pizza place was one of only a few places to eat and the only one that delivered. He headed uptown, swinging his way through the streets that he'd know in the next life and the one after that.

When he came to the street he was looking for, Knute saw a black and white cruiser sleeping next to the curb. He slowed down to a crawl and kept an eye on the house numbers. When he found the one he wanted, he parked and grabbed the bag. On the way up to the sidewalk Knute glanced at the cop car, no one was in it.

Knute got to the door, rang the bell and waited like a good delivery boy. The man who answered was wearing a shirt of hair that covered all and blew slightly in the wind.

"That was fast."

"Yup, we try."

"Good weather today."

"Not too bad, although I doubt your neighbor'll be enjoying it?" Knute shoved a thumb over his shoulder.

"That ain't what's goin' on."

"What ya mean?" Knute took the hairy man's cash and handed him his pie.

"I gotta scanner and heard it all, her kid's dead."

"Oh, that's not good, Who's kid is it?"

"Mitzi Rosecheck's, Andy was his name, nice boy, or at least he was."

Knute stared ahead, looking at nothing, his head starting to throb suddenly like the speakers at an outdoor rock concert.

"Her mother, her and the boy all lived in the house over there. Cause she didn't have no husband, was one of those knocked up teenagers. Oh, hey look, there's someone comin' out."

Knute turned, a uniformed police officer stood on the walk facing into the mouth of the house. After a minute, the cop turned, went to his car and drove off. Throwing a wave in their direction. The hairy man waved back.

"That was Spalt, wasn't it?"

"Yeah," Knute said, "Spalt."

"When your thinkin' of becomin' a police officer, I doubt you think about doin' things like this. Me, all I'd be thinkin' 'bout is gunnin' down people lef'n'right bang, bang, bang. Maybe get me a poncho like Clint Eastwood."

It looked to Knute like he'd been growing his own.

"Yeah, well see ya," Knute started to leave.

"Wait here's somethin' extra for ya. I don't have much paper, so here ya go." He handed Knute two-thirty-seven in change.

"Thanks," Knute pocketed it and went back to the car. He threw the now empty bag inside and stood looking at the Rosechecks' house. Then he shut the car door again before crossing the street.

Mitzi didn't answer the door, her mom did. She was a tall woman in her mid-fifties and Knute could tell she'd been crying. Redness licked her cheeks and tears bit at her eyes.

"What do you want?"

"To see Mitzi."

"It isn't a good time."

"I know what time it is and that's why I want to see her. Tell her it's Knute Knack."

"I know your name, Knute. But this is the worst possible day."

"I need to talk to her."

"No," she started to close the door. Knute put his hand up and held it open.

"I heard about the kid and I feel like shit. I think about him every day. Hell, if I'd played things differently he would of been my kid. Now, let me see her."

She hesitated but opened the door. Knute went in muttering a thank you. It was obvious a child lived in the house as remnants of him polka-dotted each room. Knute stalked behind Mrs. Rosecheck, his footsteps filling hers.

In the living room, Mitzi laid coiled up on the couch. The tears she rained were soaked up by a bright blue stuffed animal that she clutched too. Knute went to the couch, kneeling before it. He put his arms around her and smothered his face in her neck.

"I'm sorry Mit, I'm sorry."

Mitzi raised her head like a snake coming out of a charmer's basket.

"Knute?"

"Yea, Mit."

"What you doin' here?"

Knute picked his head up and looked at her closely, the first time in a long time. Her face was round, but her cheekbones were like they were sculpted out of marble, her black hair was short and crazed. A dark rabid animal ready to attack atop her head. With the tears in her eyes and the redness in her face she didn't look good, but there's no such thing as a good looking crier.

"I heard about the kid."

"What's it matter to you?"

"It matters plenty, Mitzi. Back in school I loved you, it's been six years and I still love you. When Wade knocked you up I stood by you, but I thought I had potential. I thought I was meant to do things. You know I would of married you and raised that boy as my own and I regret every single day that I didn't."

"Whatever Knute."

"Come on Mitzi, at least tell me what happened to him."

She started crying again, just as hard as before.

"Andy was a wanderer," Mrs. Rosecheck said. Knute stood up and turned to her. "He'd wander away from me, his mother, teacher, anyone. Not on purpose, he just had his head in the clouds. Andy goes to pre-school in the mornings and at school today he wandered away again. There's supposed to be multiple adults watching them, but they're understaffed, they said, and some have been out sick. He was found up the street. Police think he tried to climb a tree, fell and hit his head on the sidewalk. An accident."

"It can't be," said Mitzi, "it can't be an accident! Someone murdered my baby. I know it, I just know it."

"Why do you think that?" Knute said.

"Because it doesn't make sense. None of it. My boy doesn't climb trees. He doesn't even really like going outside. He wanders off sometimes maybe to look at a bird or something, but he never climbs a tree."

"Also he's fat," said Mrs. Rosecheck matter-of-factly.

"What?" said Knute.

"He's fat, a big cute rosy-cheeked boy."

"What does that have to do with anything?"

"Have you ever seen a fat kid climb a tree?"

Knute thought about it, but let the question hang.

"No-one's gonna find who killed my boy, because no one thinks there's a killer to be found. Except me."

Knute thought about himself for a moment and about how things went to crap. He didn't get married and raise the kid with Mitzi because he was going to college. Four years later from community college to a city college he ended up with, of all things, a bachelor's degree in library sciences. That got him a part-time job at the library in the town where he grew up and another part-time position at the pizza place. A job which was supposed to be temporary, but his uniform shirt was so faded he'd have to order another. Six years passed like a tortoise's gallop.

"I'll, I'll look into it."

"What?"

"I'll see what I can do to figure out what happened to Andy."



Chapter Two
A Day Off

Zicker was short, wide and a mortician. He sat in the corner of the funeral home's office eating a sandwich like a stray dog behind a fast food joint. Knute walked in and took a chair near him saying, "How ya doin' Zicker?"

"Alright, 'n' you?"

"Been better. You gettin' an early start on lunch?"

"Naw, runnin' late so I picked up a six-inch at the gas station. What brings you around?"

"Andy Rosecheck."

"Yeah," Zicker said around a bite, "got him in the back. Hate to see a kid in here, those're the worst. Wasn't it you and his ma used to be a big thing back in the day?"

"Yeah, years ago. Is there anything unusual about him?"

"Like what?"

"I don't know, something out of place."

"I don't think so, the examiner took one look, said it was an accident, plain as day."

"I know. You think you could let me see him?"

"Not without family consent, anyways we're gonna need to work on him. He's a mess right now."

"What do you mean?"

"Smashed his noodle pretty bad. We try to put 'em back together for the services. Sometimes you can't do a thing. There's a car accident last year, brought the poor bastard back here in buckets. When it's that bad you can't tell nuts from nose," said Zicker talking and eating as calmly as a postman among envelopes.

"Was there anything else wrong with him, other than his head?"

"Naw, not a one broken bone other than the," Zicker waved a hand around his head, "you know. Not even a scratch otherwise."

Knute let things crawl into his ear and get comfortable before he said, "Do you think that's odd?"

"What?"

"He falls from a tree, high up enough that when he hits his head it's fatal, but he didn't break a bone? Scratch an elbow?"

"Yeah, strange, but I've seen a lot of odd things. You come to expect it in this line of work."

Knute chatted for a few minutes more then peeled himself away and out of the funeral home. In his car, Knute sat trying to think where to go next. He ran his finger over the map in his head then started the car.

Not even a block away from the school was where Andy met his end. The tree was on the berm of an old blue house. It was a willow tree that was once beautiful but now served as a morbid reminder. Knute parked out front and went up to and around the tree. He didn't know what he was looking for, but he looked anyway.

Knute wasn't by the tree for very long before a woman came out of the house. She had her hair stacked on top of her head and had a face like a rusty old kitchen knife.

"What're you doing?" she said.

"Just lookin' round."

"Well, get outta here."

"A boy died here the other day, right?"

"Why? Who're you?"

"I'm... that boy's uncle," Knute said letting the lie melt in his mouth.

"Don't you deliver pizzas?"

"Yes, and work at the library."

"Thought I knew ya somewhere. Sorry 'bout your loss."

"Thanks, did you happen to, um... see what happened?"

"No, I work, but my mother lives here too. She's got a touch of the old timers in her head. You wanna ask her? She's pretty solid today."

Knute breathed heavily and said, "Why not?"

There wasn't an inch of space in the house that didn't have something covering it. Cluttered isn't the word. Knute followed the path cautiously to the old woman, a chair was cleared for him and he sat near her.

She smiled then, "I'm Rootie, that's Roo-Tee, people call me that because my names Ruth Marie. Do I know you?"

"No, I'm Knute. Wanted -"

She cut him off saying, "You look familiar, are you related to the Whipjakes? You're not Angie's boy are ya?"

"No," Knute said shifting in his chair. "I was hoping to ask you about the boy who died out front a few days ago."

"Oh, that... the death of a child's bad. Not to say the death of anyone else ain't bad, because that's bad too. It's just a death of a child is real bad. I had a two-year-old cousin die and that was real real bad."

"Yeah," Knute gave it a rest for a minute then said, "so, did you see what happened to the boy, the other day?"

Rootie crunched up her face in deep thought. "I saw kids at the school, then I went and watched T.V. Then I saw a boy in the yard."

"What was he doin'?"

"Do you know my son, Henry? He wants to be a doctor."

"No, I don't, back to the boy, was he tryin' to climb the tree?"

"No."

"Was he just walkin' around?"

"No."

"Then what was he doin'?"

"Layin' on the walk with the officer shakin' and helpin' him."

"That's all you saw of him?"

"Yeah with the tall blonde police officer."

"Thank you, Rootie."

"No, trouble at all... are you moving in next door? You'd make a good neighbor."

Knute shook his head and walked out wanting to stay longer as much as he wanted his feet chopped up and served to him on a deep dish. Outside he walked around the tree some more. There were branches low enough that a kid could climb it if he had the will to. On the sidewalk, there was a brown stain. It could have been Andy Rosecheck's dried blood, or in that town, on a public sidewalk, it could just be where a stray cat took a shit that lingered.



Chapter Three
The Backpack

Knute Knack seeped into the open wound that was the Rosechecks' place. He didn't know where else to go. He didn't want to tell Mitzi how little he found out. He didn't want to tell her anything at all.

When Knute walked into the living room he found Mitzi again on the couch and wondered if she had moved at all in the last few days.

"Hey, Mit."

She didn't respond.

"How are you doin'?"

Still nothing.

Knute was directed to a chair by Mrs. Rosecheck. He lifted the child's backpack from the seat and sat down, putting it in his lap.

"You said that you were gonna look into a few things," Mrs. Rosecheck said.

"That's right. I didn't find much, but, but, there were a few odd things about the... um, incident."

"Like what?"

"Well, um, he didn't have a scratch on him other than, um..." Knute's eyes kept shifting around the room and landing on Mitzi. He pointed down at the backpack and said, "Can I move this?"

"Of course, it was Andy's, he had it on during the... incident as you called it. We brought it home, but haven't been able to do anything with it."

"May I, uh, look through it?"

"Why not?"

Knute unzipped the backpack and smiled at what he saw. Taking it out of the bag, he looked closely at the purple GTO. A toy car that had had its fair share of use.

"Andy loved cars," Mrs. Rosecheck said to the room.

Knute put it to his side and kept looking through the bag. He found Andy's school artwork and documents revealing his troubled relationship with the letter E. At the bottom of the backpack he felt an envelope and took it out. It was blank except for the name Mitzi written on the front. Knute asked if he could open it, Mrs. Rosecheck shrugged a yes. He opened it, it was a handwritten note on lined schoolbook paper.

Knute read it and said to Mitzi, "You didn't tell me you were suing Wade for child support."

Mitzi looked at him but didn't answer.

Mrs. Rosecheck said, "how do you know that?"

"Says it right here. Wade slipped a note into Andy's backpack that says in so many words he isn't gonna pay it."

"So, she was suing Wade, he was the father wasn't he?"

"Yeah, he was. Didn't he, by the way, give ya a couple hundred for an abortion? That's his version of child support."

"We were doin' fine. Until Mitzi got fired. And why shouldn't that son of a bitch do a little somethin' for his child."

"I ain't fightin' it. I just said I didn't know, and let me say also it puts a few things in line for me."

"What things?"

"Just things. How did Wade get this in Andy's backpack?"

"Wade's always up at the school, doin' talks and different things."

Knute stood up, putting the backpack on the floor. "I gotta go," he said.

"Why?"

Knute didn't answer, he just walked out of the house. Dark clouds were moving between him and the sun. It looked like bad weather on the horizon.



Chapter Four
Orders Up

Knute Knack had a gun. The property crime had gone up in town the last two decades. Knute's apartment had been broken into twice, his car three times. Not like there was much to steal though. He'd had the gun nearly a year, using it for self-assurance more than anything. It wasn't until he was sitting in his car watching the rain wash the dead bugs off his windshield that he loaded it for the first time.

After setting his phone to record all that was about to happen and putting it in his pocket Knute still felt as ready to go as a marathon runner with his shoes untied. He let the feeling fester a minute then got out of the car. Letting the rain wash him, Knute crossed the street, passed one car in a little parking lot and entered a small building. He locked the door behind him. Most of the lights in the place were shut off, there was one burning in a room off to the side. Knute made his way to it.

"Hello, Wade," he said entering the small office, the gun in his fist.

Wade looked up from behind the desk. His eyes didn't travel far from the gun.

"What the hell?"

"Oh, I think you know."

Wade wore a dark blue uniform with a fancy piece of metal and a name tag on his chest that, put together, told people he was Officer Wade Spalt.

"What are you doin'?" Wade said.

"We went to school together."

"And that means you have to hold a gun on me?"

"Today it does."

"What do you want?"

"The truth."

"What truth?"

"Remember Mitzi Rosecheck?" Wade's face tightened. Knute said, "Of course you do. You got her drunk, had sex with her, gave her money for an abortion, and six years later killed the kid with your own two hands."

Wade leaned back in his chair. "Don't you deliver pizzas?"

Knute let the question drop.

"Yes, you do, Knute. You're the one Mitzi was goin' with. You know I didn't get her drunk, she was already that way, and willin'. So, why ain't you mad at her?"

"Because I love her. Maybe that's stupid in this day and age, but it's true and I forgave her."

"You're right, that is stupid."

"I said it might be... you're glossin' over the fact you killed the kid."

"What makes you think I'm alone here, in the cop shop?"

"Because I was born, raised, and I live in this town. You're one of three deputies. The chief never comes in, that skinny guy's got the day off, and that woman cop's always out cruisin'. And I've been parked across the street for three hours."

"Wow, you should've become a detective."

"Yeah, well, with cops like you there's no need for criminals."

"What makes you think I killed my own -"

Knute cut him off, "Don't do that. The only relationship between you and the kid is murderer and victim. And I know you did it. A boy falls from a tree, he breaks more than just his melon. And Andy Rosecheck never climbed trees in his life. There's also the note you put in his backpack. The fact that Mitzi was suin' for back child support and, oh yeah, the person who saw you do it. You didn't just find him lying on the sidewalk. You killed him."

Wade sat there not saying a word, just staring at Knute.

Knute said, "You're gonna admit it or I'm gonna kill you."

"Why should I? To make you feel better?"

"Just get it off your chest."

Wade stood up. "Fine, I admit it." He walked slowly around the desk, his hands up almost mockingly. "I killed my son. Hell, if she would of just aborted way back when, things wouldn't of ended up like this." He smiled. "Happy?"

Wade went for the gun. Knute put his shoulder into him, throwing Wade off balance and against the wall. Knute pulled the gun up and shot him in the forehead.

Knute felt in his pocket, but there was nothing there. He checked his other pockets fast, then looked at the floor. Between the guest chair and Wade's desk was his phone, landing there after the scuffle. The screen was black and cracked. Knute tried to turn it on. It didn't. No more recording of the conversation, of Wade's confession.

There were two ways Knute could look at the situation. One was that he killed a child killer. The second was that he walked into a police station and killed a police officer.

Knute walked out of the building into the rain. The gun and phone were in his pocket. He'd wiped off what he touched. And even though it was a police station it was one in a podunk little town. He looked, but there were no cameras he could see. Thunder stomped overhead and Knute got in his Pontiac. He had to get to work because yes, he was the pizza guy.

1 comment:

  1. Well written, and had some funny moments. Enjoyable piece.

    ReplyDelete