Crime du Jour: 31 Days of Malfeasance, Misconduct, and Immorality
One crime story per day, all the way through October. Ebook to be published Nov 1. This will be under my mystery/crime pen name, Diane R. Thompson!
Crime du Jour #21: Open Container
So about two years ago, my cousin Joe Griggs here and I had been drinking, first at a strip-mall bar in Saginaw, then out in the parking lot, then walking along the highway, which maybe wasn’t that great an idea, but eventually we caught a break in the traffic and crossed to the other side of the road, then the other side of the railroad tracks, two-three sets of them, then over into this kind of open lot with a bunch of scrub trees in it. It’s behind the steel fabricator place and animal services, so you got your rusty smell and your smell of dogs, and the sound of barking and the highway.
It was a clear night, hot and warm, you could hear the insects singing, a train rolling out along one or another of the tracks, a party off in the distance with music playing tinny and faint off someone’s phone.
Well, Joe and I, we got to arguing about his ex-girlfriend and whether he should get back together with her, and we got in a fight, then kind where you’re half-wrestling and half-trying to punch each other. He hit me real hard and I passed out. Actually, he might not have hit me that hard, but I passed out anyway. We were that kind of drunk.
When I woke up, it was morning, but only just.
I wasn’t sure what had happened, so I looked around. Right in front of my feet was my cousin Joe’s body, right next to an empty bottle of Jim Beam, which I was sure had been full when I blacked out. Joe’s face looked pale and dead-looking. I touched him, and he was colder than anybody had any right to be. No joke, he felt like a wax dummy.
I yelled and shook him. He flopped around like a bag of pinto beans.
I decided he was dead. D-E-A-D dead.
So I did what any hungover white boy in Texas would have done. I dragged Joe’s dead body over to the railroad tracks. I wasn’t sure whether I had killed Joe or he had just drunk himself to death, but I didn’t much feel like taking the blame for it.
The train was coming, close enough to feel the track vibrate and hear the thrumming sound of all the wheels rolling on the rails. I had to get out of the area, but I didn’t dare go back to my pickup truck. My story was going to be that Joe and I had fought, and I’d abandoned him out in the open lot and walked home without him. Whatever had happened to him after that, well, not my fault.
I was about halfway to the opposite end of the open lot when I remembered that I’d left that bottle of Jim Bean behind, and turned around to get it. I didn’t know whose fingerprints were on it.
As I turned, someone ran across the highway to the place where I’d left Joe on the tracks. A woman, maybe five feet tall in four-inch stilettos, and built like a feather boa. She screamed and tried to pull Joe off the tracks—the wrong way, that was. All she woulda had to do was push him sideways off the tracks, and he would have rolled off the track bed and to safety. But no, she had to try to drag him across the tracks, which meant she’d have to try to drag him over two sets of tracks, because right there, they ran side by side, and it wasn’t clear which tracks the train was on yet.
“Help me!” she screamed, then waved her arms.
I swore under my breath. She’d seen me.
I ran toward her, grabbing the bottle of Jim Bean off the ground as I ran. The train was on its way now, you could see it off in the distance as it came around the bend. I made it to the tracks, dropped the bottle, and grabbed Joe’s body to start pulling him off the tracks and toward the open lot.
This little lady grabbed him and started pulling him back the other way. Between the two of us, we had him half-sitting up.
She was strong. I don’t know how a lady so tiny got so strong.
“Let go!” I shouted.
“Help me!” she shouted back.
We both kept pulling in opposite directions.
The train came closer, the brakes on it screaming. It was on our set of tracks, all right, headed straight for all three of us.
That’s when Joe’s head rolled back on his shoulders and he started screaming, “I don’t wanna go toward the liiiiight!”
He jerked his arms away from both of us and covered his face with his hands.
Still sitting there, right on the tracks.
The woman yelled, “I’ll save you!” and tried to grab him under the arms and drag him backward along the tracks. Even with the train trying to stop, she wasn’t going to be able to drag him backward fast enough to do either of them any good.
So I grabbed her and dragged her off the tracks, toward the open lot. And she—don’t ask me how—kept hold of Joe and dragged him off the tracks.
As we dragged Joe away from the oncoming train, he saw the bottle of Jim Beam and grabbed it, cradling it to his chest like a puppy.
The engine went by, brakes still screaming. We had made it.
After a while, the train came to a stop, and we all heard this weird humming sound.
“What’s that?” the lady asked.
We all looked.
It was a drone floating above our heads and off to the side, a camera right in front.
Filming the whole thing.
Which is why we’re Internet-famous now, how Joe and I got busted for open container, and the hundred-percent truth of how Joe and Meredith met.
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