Cloud’s worst fear comes to fruition as the media flocks upon Augusta, Georgia, foaming at the mouth with cries of racism and police corruption. Families of the Slave Quarter Killer’s victims demand justice. They say, if the victims were white girls, the police would’ve had a greater response. Cloud confronts the whistle-blower for fanning the flames and, in the end, gets checked for all the world to see.
Chapter 13 – The Worldly Media
By Rock Kitaro
Whelp…After I got beat the fuck up, I had no choice but to file a report. The sergeant working the graveyard shift wasn’t too pleased about my going out without a service weapon. Thankfully, he was polite about it, keeping his skepticism and scolding to a minimum. Other than a description of my assailant, he couldn’t care less why I was there or what I was looking for. He suggested I visit a hospital but wasn’t persistent about it. I ignored the suggestion and opted to return to my motel room.
As the shower rinsed the sweat and dirt off of my battered body, I saw the messy blotches of black and blue swelling all over my chest and back. The area between my neck and shoulder was worse from the barstool. Never before had I been so thoroughly thrashed. I winced with every turn. The simple act of reaching sent a wave of inflammation through my shoulders like popping battery acid in my bones.
My face remained unblemished, thank God. However, a migraine persisted and no matter how many painkillers I took, this migraine would stay with me for next three days.
On top of all that, there was blood in my urine. I couldn’t remember if pissing blood was a good or bad thing in terms of the healing process. All I knew was that I definitely didn’t want to go to the hospital and get a catheter stuck up my urethra. Too much information? Good! Street fights aren’t cool, kids. They suck. And as an investigator who depends on his sharp senses and clever wit to outsmart criminals, a throbbing headache is the last thing I need.
I should have sprawled out on that inviting floral pattern comforter covering my queen size bed. I should have nestled my head in between those crisp and cool pillows and let my burning eyes recuperate from the strain of staring so much. Like an imbecile, I don’t do any of that. I don’t know what’s driving me. It doesn’t make sense. It’s stupid. I know.
With a disgruntled mug, I wrangled on a white collared shirt. I shoved my legs through black slacks and yanked my blazer off its hanger. My head dangled forward in a dazed stupor as I glared at myself in the mirror and fiddled with frustrated fingers to tie this stupid tie. I’m whispering f-bombs. Should’ve brought a friggin clip-on.
I had to stop, calm down, and breathe.
This time, before I left my motel room I made sure to bring my service weapon. It’d be a shame to have to shoot the suspect, but I’d rather put one in his back than watch him scurry off in the woods again.
As I made my way to the motel’s front office, my face gradually descends into the droop into a disheartening grimace. I passed by Leanne’s room and as much as I didn’t want to think about what was going on inside, her nasally laughter couldn’t be ignored. She was still up but I don’t hear anyone else. I didn’t expect to. Because I know Griffin excused himself not too long ago to try and kill me.
I thought about kicking in Leanne’s door like riot police and interrogating his departure time out of her. I thought about it, but didn’t have the nerve. So I simply proceeded to the front office and dropped off the rental keys to the car. Leanne would pick them up in the morning and that would be that.
It was closing in on three in the morning when I hit the streets. Downtown Augusta is an eerie sight, not for the timid or fainthearted. The roads are barren and silent. Tungsten streetlamps cast a burnt orange tint over the sidewalks, but beyond the cracked cement and chained linked fences is a vast sea of darkness. I saw outlines of historic buildings with no electricity. Every once in a while I’d hear a random cough in the distance. I wondered how many squatters took up residence in those vacant buildings. I wondered how many were watching me.
Police HQ was only few blocks away, a thirty-minute hike. I take out Miranda’s pack of cigarettes and just as my lips snag one out, a strong pressure squeezes in my head so hard that my jaw clenches. That was my body’s way of telling me, “Nope!” and I listened. The pack is discarded in the next trashcan I pass.
Flipping up my collar, I replayed the last few hours in my head wondering if there’s anything I missed, anything I might have overlooked. Mr. Wayne said the killer drove in a vehicle with flashing lights. It has to be law enforcement! The desk sergeant knew where I was going. Anyone could’ve found out where I was from entry logs but I can’t just approach the sergeant and make inquiries. It would let the killer know I’m onto his trail. And when you’re trying to set a trap for someone the last thing you want is to let them know you’re baiting the hook. Not to mention, a hawk scooping up a venomous snake still runs the risk of getting bit in return.
So what should I do? Was it really Det. Griffin? For all I knew, Griffin could’ve still been in Leanne’s motel room when I heard her laughing. I don’t know for sure. And if Leanne was with Det. Griffin all night then his alibi is airtight. However, if he slipped out sometime around midnight, then yeah…he’s my guy.
After thirty minutes, the cold finally penetrated my defenses. It numbs the pain but my front teeth’s doing Morse code as I stopped under a lamppost on the corner of Moor and Hightower. Police headquarters was a stone’s throw away. I just stood there staring at the ghastly four-story building of Beaux-Arts architecture like a vindictive criminal coming for payback on the pigs who locked me up. My brooding eyes were fixated on the main entrance and the line of squad cars parked out front.
Migraines…they not only dull your senses, they reduce your common sense. I’m strutting down the middle of Moor Street like it’s nobody’s business. There wasn’t any traffic but even if there was, I doubt I’d get out of the way. I was in a mood unbecoming of an officer of the law, unbecoming of the authority vested in me.
Even as I passed City Hall on my left, I was squinting at it with disgust as if the entire building was sprinkled in bird shit. I never understood why people liked to put City Hall and police HQ within spitting distances of each other. It’s like having quarreling siblings grow up and deciding live next door to each other when there’s a whole world of space out there. So stupid. Like I said, I was in mood.
When I entered police HQ, I ignored the desk sergeant’s judgmental gaze and didn’t react when she called me a dumbass from afar. I simply found refuge in the mostly vacant 2rd floor bullpen. It was sad. The Chief just finished giving a press conference talking about how urgent this case was, but I only saw two detectives burning both ends of the candle. These two good detectives were following up Jessica’s suggestion to search J-Poopy’s sanitation truck. I could’ve walked over for an update but it was so quiet, so tranquil. I’ll ask them later.
Taking up a post at an empty desk, I spread out the case files, the pictures, the documented statements. I was ignoring the obvious in search for trivial details, any kind of discrepancy I could use to prove J-Poopy’s innocence. I was walking on eggshells because I knew my agenda undermined that of Jessica and Leanne’s. They’re not gonna want to hear that I think their primary suspect is innocent, so I’m determined to keep my suspicions to myself until I have concrete evidence.
My eyes jumped from page to page, timecode to timecode, dates to dates, addresses and their correlation to the points of interests. It’s…it’s all so very taxing. It’s never a good sign when you start seeing things in three, when your vision blurs the lines and causes the letters to come floating off paper like leaves on the surface of a rippling pond. My body finally seizes control. Fatigue grabbed me by the back of my neck and gently lowered my head to rest on the surface of the wooden desk, right next to Tiquasia Payne’s autopsy report.