Tiger Stripes

Chapter Three 

This guy is lucky he's my best friend, or I'd fucking pop him one. I always kick his ass at this game. He tries to act as though I cheat, but he only thinks that because he can't beat me. At least he hasn't yet.

"Fuck you, Kingston, you asshole," I yell. Busting out in laughter, "you fucking cheater!" I bump into him sideways, and he drops the game controller. 


"Fuck you, guy!" he laughs as he picks it back up.


"I got a date with Svetlana tonight," he smirks while humping the air.


"That Russian blonde, from the bar?" I ask. 


Not that I care. This guy has a new fling every week, and a week is pushing it. I never really have a chance to get to know one before she's history. Then he's on to the next. Sometimes it's every few days. He's such a player. I can't do that. I want one girl, and I'd like it if that one girl wants only me. Call me crazy, but I think that's the best. I know what it's like to have someone cheat on you. My ex. I don't know what I saw in her or why I put up with the petty bitch for so long. Maybe because she was what my friends would approve of versus what I like. I stopped letting my friends choose my girls a while back, but there was a time I allowed such nonsense; I cared about what they thought and probably missed out on the love of my life because of it. 


"You're the fucking cheater, cheater!" I joke.


"Yeah, that hottie. We're going to pop some bottles and shit. Go back to my place. I'm going to fuck the piss out of Svetlana, and then I'll be taking her on a long romantic walk to the door."


"You're an asshole, you know?"


"I know." he laughs.


He doesn't give a shit about their feelings. They use him, too. He promises them the world, and then he gives it to them for the night. He's loaded. He got left a bunch of money in his rich daddy's will. Spoiled pretty boy; you know the type. But he's my friend, though, and we've been friends since long before the money. We've been friends since way back when. From day one. When he was still a poor boy on the block, playing manhunt. Snot nose kid turns snotty nosed rich kid. I'm still the poor boy.


"I'm finito, homie. Gotta get ready for work." I say.


"I hear you, homeboy. I'm out, too." 


"You off to see Svetlana, you filthy fucking animal?" I joke.


"You know it. If you're nice, I'll let you smell my finger later, bro." 


"No, thanks. I like my coochie unscented." I joke back.


He laughs. We always joke with each other. He roasts me all the time for being a 'one-woman man' as he calls it. I burn him for being a manwhore. Maybe one day I'll rub off on him. One can only hope. He's a great guy; he's just a dirty dog. He'd never hit a woman in his life, and he'd beat anyone who did, but he's a womanizer, a big one. He will let them use him so that he can do the same.

***

I sip my coffee. Man, that's good. Where would I be without it? Coffee. Legal addiction, but no different than any other addiction. Moustache needs a trim. It keeps dipping into my cup with every sip. It's starting to get stained, and it's becoming a darker brown—a darker brown than usual.

 

What do we have here? I look down at my desk to find a couple of new cases. A doctor assaulted. Another missing girl; I hate these.


"Justice Atkins. Fourteen-years-old." I say aloud to myself.


Wow. So young. So sad. How can I help find you justice, Justice? Tell me something. I read over the details of the day she went missing and her description. I pick up the phone and dial the number for Wong's Chinese Food. Voicemail.


"Hello. I'm Detective Eastdale of the Shady Acres Police Department. We're looking into a missing person's case, and we'd like to come by and have a look at your security cameras from the day the young girl went missing. Her obvious route takes her right by your store. I'd like to see if she made it as far as your store or not. I'll be by some time today to give it a look-see. Have a nice day, and take care." I say.


I hang up the phone and grab my hat, coat and case file. I head over to Wong's Chinese. Hopefully, this will tell me something.

***

I have a feeling about this girl. I don't know what it is about her. She seems like someone who can get Billy to open up. I sip my hot tea. It burns my lips, and I give them a wiggle.


"Hot, hot," I say.


I set the teacup down and pick up the Blake casefile once again. Poor child. He looks so scared in his first photo taken after he arrived on that horrible, horrible day. He swears up and down that his dead brother is after him. He's never spoken it but has always shown fear whenever he's shown a picture of Bobby. Then he points to the door and windows of his room. It's eerie. It's like he's saying he's been here, but that's impossible.

Bobby killed himself in an explosion at their family's abandoned barn many years ago. He ran away from the orphanage. They found his body incinerated to ashes. Bobby was only able to be identified through his dental records.

I pick up my phone and call Mary. The professor and I have been looking into this case for many, many years now. We want to know what happened in that house? What has Billy gone through? Why won't he speak? Is he afraid of something? Someone? Does he have a secret?

I look back over the evidence. How did I not catch this before? I can't believe I've missed such a thing. I'm flabbergasted! Oh my goodness, This can't be right. If this is true, It could change everything! I must call Professor Flannigan right away, and she must let Nylah know this information, too. It's pertinent to the case. I'm so embarrassed to have missed such a thing. Oh dear, oh my! This old age must be catching up with me. Maybe it's time to retire? I can't let such things get past me in the future. People's lives are at stake here.

***

I'm so nervous. What if I fuck up? No. Stop thinking like this. I can do it. He can't control me forever. Some people want to help you, Billy. If Ma had spoken up maybe, she'd still be here. Oh no. Nylah's trying again.

"Get away from me! Get the fuck away from me, bitch! Don't touch me. Go away!" I scream.

Who does she think she is, trying to talk to me? She doesn't know what's at stake here. I don't know her from a fucking hole in the wall.

 

I run to the door and start bashing my head into it. Self-injury usually scares them off. They don't want me to 'hurt' myself. I can feel the blood begin to run down my face.

"Go get Nurse Etta, please, Nylah." Dr. Hans asks. "Hurry."

I see Nylah dash out of the room to go and get the nurse.

"Nurse Etta, please come quick!" she screams.

Nurse Etta comes running toward the room with a needle in her hand to sedate Billy. We'll have to try this again another day.

***

Fucking Kingston. Can't the guy pick up rolling papers on his way home?

"I'll be right back. I'm going to get the papers that you forgot, asshole." I say while shutting the front door.

The store isn't too far away anyway, and it's a nice night for a walk. I can see the intersection I need to get to just a couple of blocks up. 

I hear some yelling coming from the alleyway up ahead. I do a glance down as I walk by it. Three gigantic men are giving an ass whooping to someone. They don't notice me. I should just mind my business and keep walking. The guy they are pounding is an older man. He is on the ground, holding something. They're trying to take it from him. What if this was my grandfather? I'd want someone to help him. But what if he's a pedophile or something, and I'm stopping some justice from taking place. No. I've got to say something.

"Just give us the envelope, old man, and no one gets hurt," says one of the men.

"Please, just leave me alone. You don't know the whole story," says the senior.

Another man kicks him hard in the head and snatches the envelope out of the older man's hand.

"Hey!" I yell, "leave him alone!" I say. They all turn around.

"Mind your business, kid. You're in dangerous territory. I'd recommend that you leave, now," threatened the brute.

"You've got what it seems you want. Just let ol' grandpa go." I shout back.

They start walking toward me. Shit. What have I done? That last kick laid the guy out. He's bleeding from his ear and isn't moving. If I don't think of something quick, I'm going to be there right next to him. Suddenly, I hear a growl. I look to my left, and I see three raccoons digging through the garbage bins out the back of Wong's Chinese. These little guys don't look all that friendly. They start walking towards the three men.

 

"Boss, I don't like these fucking things," one man says while his voice shakes.

"Let's get out of here. We've got what we came for," says another.

The raccoons charge toward the assholes.

"We'll see you around, kid," says the guy who seems to be the leader.

"I hear that a lot but never see anyone." I snap back. I'm trying to seem more confident than I am. These guys would shake my tree.

They get into their awaiting parked car. I notice the plates and try and remember as much of it as I can before they squeal off. The last three numbers are J13.

 

I immediately run to the man on the ground and check to see if he's OK. He doesn't look right, but he's awake. I hail a cab and pick the man up. I put him in the backseat.

"Shady Acres Memorial, please hurry," I tell the cabbie.

It wasn't far from the scene of the assault. I quickly pay the cab and take the man out of the backseat and place him in a wheelchair left there by someone else. I pull my hoodie up over my head so that security won't recognize me on the cameras. I roll him in, and right away, someone approaches me, asking me twenty questions. I don't know anything about what happened to this dude.

"I'm sorry, I don't know this man," I say as I walk away, lowering my head.

"Sir, you're going to have to stick around and fill out some paperwork and answer some questions," states the attendant.

I ignore his request and leave as soon as I know the man is in better hands. I sure hope he makes it. I look back and see them putting him on a stretcher. I can hear some of what's said as I run out the door.


"Oh my goodness! It's Dr. Hans!" shouts the hospital attendant.


Is the guy a doctor? What was he doing in that alleyway with those mafia looking, men? 


"Whats happened?" asks another lady who walks next to the stretcher.


"I'm not sure, Professor Flannigan. A young man just dropped him off here and ran out without answering any questions. He is there, at the end of the hall. I tried to get him to fill out the paperwork and answer some questions, but he refused and left." he explained.


"Dr. Hans warned me something like this was going to happen. He didn't elaborate, and I didn't think it actually would. I thought he was just silly, but wow," she says. "I need to get to the office."


That was the last thing I heard before the hospital doors slid shut behind me. I need to get out of here fast before they call security.

***

The more of these I get out, the better.


"Hello?" I'm Detective Eastdale, with the Shady Acres Police Department." I say.


I hand the cashier a flyer, and he looks it over.


"Can I post this on the door of your store, please?"


"Yes, no problem at all. Please, go ahead," says the cashier. "I hope you find her. I'll show it around to all of my customers," he ensures.


"Thank you so much. I'm trying to get the word out to all of the businesses in this area. Please, be on the lookout for Justice? It's very much appreciated. Thank you, kindly."


I see a young man coming out of the store and stick my hand out with a poster for him as well.


"Hello, young man. How's your evening going tonight? I ask.


"Malachi," he says, as he outstretches his hand to accept my offer. What a nice gentleman.


"She's been missing for over two weeks now, and her mother is worried sick about her," I explain.


"Terrible. Just terrible. I will ask around. Mind if I keep this, sir?" asks Malachi.


"Please, do. Thank you, young man. Take care. Here's my card. If you find out anything, I'd appreciate a call, yes?" I ask.


"Yes, sir. Will do."


He walks away, putting the poster in his pocket.

I've just been to Wong's Chinese, and I've picked up the security tapes. I figure I'll hand a few more of these posters out on the way back to the station. Hopefully, there's something on these tapes that can tell me how far you made it, Justice, or if you even did?

 

***

 

I've been watching the tape for about 10 minutes, and then I see her. Justice Atkins. She's wearing white jeans and a puffy pink coat. She's carrying what looks to be a total of three library books. So this tells me that you made it this far. Wong's Chinese Restaurant is closer to the library than it is to the school. You almost made it, so what happened?

 

I rewind the tape and play it back again. I look at some of the other people in the video. An older Chinese woman sits on the bench. One man with a cane slowly trudges by, along with another younger man. Wait--I recognize that jacket. That's the man I spoke with outside of those nice condos. I didn't get his name. Damnit. I'll have to go back and ask him to come in. He is walking right next to her. Maybe it slipped his mind, and this video will refresh it.

It's not too late right now, so I grab my jacket and hat and head back over to the condo. Maybe I will run into the young man again?