I’ve had several requests from people I care about to show an excerpt from my #NaNoWriMo2016 manuscript, “Behind The Waterfalls”. It’s a draft, so it won’t be perfect, but the setting in Chicago will be familiar to several choir people. Here it is:
[Thus, the decision to put the parts of the gun into two fast food bags and one fast food cup and then into his string backpack. He’d go for a quick run before breakfast. He knew he’d have to report to breakfast by 7:30 so the director could ‘see his face’ and know that they were all on schedule for the morning. There was time for a 25-minute jog along the morning streets of Chicago. He’d go nowhere near last night’s street. He’d throw his trash away, as if he had stopped for a snack while exercising. A very American thing to do, after all. Consume calories in order to burn calories. Why else did we, as gym fanatics, take a 600 calorie gatorade on the treadmill with us? At a brisk walk on the treadmill, with no incline (that hurts too much), the average member burned almost 400 calories an hour. If they drank the entire gatorade, they’d have a net gain of 200 calories, if they managed to walk the entire hour.
“Get back on task, Davis,” he muttered to himself. Millard snored in the next bed. He’d wanted to hear the whole story, but Davis told him ‘no, let’s rest first; it’ll be clearer in the morning’. Which it already was, technically, but Millard had acquiesced, his eyes drooping, hands trembling.
Davis dressed quickly after the shower. He pulled on his baggy basketball shorts in University of North Carolina colors, a ratty tank top that he’d really only brought along for lounging in the room after curfew, and his trusty ASICS running shoes. He grabbed his string bag and key card, slid out of the room and quietly closed the door on the snoring Millard.
6:42. Plenty of time to run out to the Navy Pier and drop the three parts of criminality along the way. He’d return with a lighter string bag, a lighter conscience, and a new plan for downplaying the drama to Millard. There was a chill in the air when he stepped through the revolving door of the hotel. Humidity off Lake Michigan always made the wind cold, except in the month of two of summer when yearlong denizens welcomed the break. Davis had never been to Chicago in the summer, and after this trip, had no plans to ever come back. If he got away with THIS, he’d count his lucky stars and keep his head down. As he warmed up, he was able to trot a little faster. Once he got past the main street’s stoplights, it was a clear shot along the storefronts to the beginnings of the Navy Pier structure. In truth, he had little idea why the place had Navy in the name. Had he read even one plaque along the walkway, he’d have realized it was a landlocked training area for the Navy. A cheaper one, especially for the boys who enlisted from the Great Lakes area. Why, the Navy figured, put them all on trains down to an actual ocean when a third of them would fail basic training? Fail them close to home, was the motto of the Navy way back when.
He only saw a few other people out at this time of the morning. Most of the hard-core runners had been out and back home already. Professionals started early so the runners had, for the most part, to be done and on their way by 6:30 so they could get to the office by 7. Lots of the suits, as he thought of them, had strapped themselves into those jobs and it was their own fault. He had no sympathy for them. Davis’ plan was to get through this piddly high school shit, get to a 2-year college, and then be on his own way with his business brilliance. He didn’t really think he needed any business training at all, but he agreed with his parents that he WOULD go get a 2-year degree (he’d negotiated them down from a 4-year Bachelor’s Degree – already winning in the negotiation department) just so they wouldn’t worry about him quite so much. Trash cans dotted the pier and had little attention. None of the cans was overflowing, but none looked completely empty, either. Perfect for his needs. He stopped to stretch near a cement bollard, a relic of the Navy, that had a trashcan in a metal permanent structure right next to it.
As he stretched his hamstring, which vibrated slightly from the chill, the adrenaline, and the effort, he casually unslung his bag. Loosening the top, he reached in and grabbed the soda cup. Although he was tempted to just get it over with and throw all three things in the same trash, he stopped himself. He took only the cup and placed in well into the lip of the metal trash can holder, and saw the cup slide down the internal bag, resting with several other brands of fast food bags and cups. ‘No one could ever tell there was a magazine of bullets in that cup unless they had a metal detector’, he thought, satisfied. He trotted on, aiming for a distant can and bollard combo. Reaching his intended target, he stretched the other hamstring, unslung the bag, and threw away the first of two small fast food bags. This bag was the heaviest and bulkiest of the three because it contained the body of the beretta M9. It was a calculated risk. But still his best option.
“Hey, man, you ain’t throwin away any breakfast, now are ya?” he heard from behind him.
He turned, startled, “Oh, shit, man, you scared me! Nah, I -” Davis said.
“Cuz I could sure use some hot food this morning, even warm food after that night. It’s COLD out here now; summer’s over,” said the guy. The guy looked homeless but harmless. He had several layers of jackets on topped by an old Nike windbreaker. The kind of windbreaker runners used to have back in the ‘90’s.
“Nah, man, I just brought my bag and got to thinking it was heavy and so I looked into it and realized I had a bunch of fast food trash in there. It shouldn’t weigh that much, but damn, it was slowin’ me down,” Davis chuckled, unconsciously matching his speech rate and language to the guy’s own. “If I had any money with me, I’d give you some. I agree this is cold. It’s my last morning here with the high school group. We’re headed back west in a couple hours and I wanted one last look at this amazing view. This sure seems like the ocean to ME; I’ve never seen anything so big. The biggest water I’ve ever seen before this is a reservoir – NOT the same.”
“Yeah, you got that right, for sure. Ok, man, you take care. Maybe next time bring some food or some money – I could sure use some right now, like I said,” his last comment as Davis turned to trot off.
Davis resisted the urge to turn around and see if the guy believed his story about the fast food or not. Resisted turning to see if his plant would go unnoticed, or the entire story would unravel, right then and there. Had he looked, he’d have seen the homeless guy, an Iraq war veteran, holding the open bag and looking down at what was surely a familiar weapon, one that the entire US Army carried as an officer sidearm. Davis didn’t know that his whole sham had begun to unravel right at that point.
He wouldn’t know, in fact, until he got all the way back to his hometown, an unassuming small town on the edge of the Flint Hills of Kansas. The third gun part dropoff maneuver was successful, the shower and cleanup and packing was normal, and he even made it to breakfast where he had to show his face to the director before her headcount was satisfied. The bus trip home, while dull and monotonous, was without incident. Millard had kept his distance once Davis explained that the only way to play it cool was to play it cool. Hang with other friends; eat with a slightly different group on the way back. It wasn’t as if ALL the students weren’t friends with EVERYone. It was one big happy family, after all. Millard had hung around with a few of the other tenors, and that group typically had a few sopranos (second sopranos, naturally; the first sopranos kept to themselves) that seemed happy to get to first base, but got quickly offended when a hand’s journey took itself to the upper slopes of a breast. ‘So it goes’, Davis thought. ‘Better that Millard gets frustrated in that pursuit than getting no answers from me’.
As they drove the last few miles to the high school, Davis mapped out his plan for the day. He’d go home, dump his stuff, change into his self-prescribed uniform of shorts and flip-flops and go get some chips, roller meat, and a huge Coke from Casey’s. It’d been long enough since he had freedom of movement without having to get approval from the choir director, or the bus driver, or one of the chaperones that constantly dogged their steps. ‘Chicago can go screw. I’m ready for some “me time”’ he silently pronounced. Thumped his chest quietly as a tribute to himself.
“Uh, students, I need your attention for a minute. Students? Hey, students! Listen up,” said the choir director’s initially calm then strident voice. “We have a problem. There has, apparently, been some sort of citywide unrest that happened while we’ve been away. I have NO idea what happened, all I know is that the bus is about to be stopped at a roadblock. It looks like police or some kind of law enforcement officials are standing ready to get on the bus and see who is onboard. Now, don’t worry, I will stop them from coming all the way on. But please make sure you have shoes on and can produce some kind of ID if they ask. I’m sure it’s nothing, but just to be on the safe side, just sit quietly while I and the bus driver go out and talk to them, ok?” she finished.
Dread crossed both Millard’s and Davis’s face. How they found out so quickly is anyone’s guess. Little did they know that the officials were after much bigger fish. One little murder in Chicago was not even remotely on their radar.]