The Fall

Three Cheers and a Tiger ~ Gold
Jennifer Ruddock


“He was pushed,” opined Detective Miguel Fuentes, rummaging in the pocket of his leather jacket for a lighter. A Marlboro protruded jauntily from his bottom lip, adhered by saliva. A charred and smoldering corpse lay at their feet near the base of a high tension power line tower, surrounded by burnt circle of weeds. Nearby a bevy of empty liquor bottles ran the gamut from Coors to Absolut. “He probably broke his neck or back in the fall. I’ll bet someone tried to burn the body.”

“Why?” asked his partner, Michelle Noonan. Her high heels were sinking into the sandy ground and she shifted her weight uneasily.

“Maybe it was a fight with a drinking buddy, Noonan,” Fuentes said. “Or better yet,” he continued, jabbing his cigarette at the corpse for emphasis, “maybe the guy had an enemy. Maybe this enemy thought if he burned the body up, no one would be able to identify the victim.”

“I don’t think that theory’s going to work out for you,” a uniform said, approaching the two detectives. “Unless the killer was really unobservant.”

“Why’s that?” snapped Fuentes.

The officer poked a thumb over his shoulder in the direction of a car parked under a streetlight. “That car appears to belong to the vic. 1985 Dodge Diplomat. My grandmother has one just like it. His wallet was in the glove compartment.”

He handed Noonan a banged-up leather square, which she opened. “Thanks, Townsend. Andrew Loupos,” she read. “127 Millbury Street, Apt 12A.”

“I know that name,” Townsend said. “Liquor store robbery about two weeks ago. He must have gotten bailed out.” Townsend laughed a little and ran a hand through his thinning grey hair. “He was a smart guy, right? Three weeks ago, someone breaks the front window of the Montgomery Street Liquor Depot. The owner shows up, says nothing’s missing. Really weird stuff. Then, the following week, same day, same exact time, we get a phone call from dispatch, broken window in the front of the same store. We were in the neighborhood already. We get there, this idiot is loading booze into a box. He admitted he did the first break-in to time our response.”

“Anything weird about the arrest?”

Townsend shrugged. “The owner of the package store was pretty worked up when he found out we had to take the stuff as evidence. If you’re looking for enemies, you could do worse than starting with him.”

Fuentes snapped his fingers. “Maybe the guy took something of real value. Pisses off the store owner… snap, crackle, pop—he’s crispy!”

 

“Yeah, we get broken into all the time,” Arnold Wendus said. He was a big man in his late fifties. He had a full head of white hair and a sizeable beer belly. “I’ve been thinking about selling the place. I bought it about ten years ago. It makes good money, but sooner or later I’m going to get shot. It’s only a matter of time.”

“You live in town?” Fuentes asked.

“Man, I don’t even live in state. I’m from over the line, in Massachusetts.”

“Long commute?”

Wendus shrugged. “Forty minutes, give or take. The commute isn’t the issue. It’s idiots like… what did you say his name was?”

“Loupos,” Noonan offered. “We heard he broke in twice.”

Wendus laughed humorlessly. “He comes down here one week, breaks the window, times how long it takes the cops to show up, figures he has at least that much time. The next week, here he comes again, only this time we had replaced the window with stronger glass.” He rolled his eyes at the store front. “The people in the apartment across the street saw the first rock bounce off the glass a few times and called you guys. Loupos, he wasn’t willing to give up so easily, figures he’s safe because the alarm hasn’t gone off. He goes out back, gets a chunk of asphalt and smashes the window good. He climbs in and… well, that’s where they found him.”

“A number of items were taken as evidence?”

Wendus nodded bitterly. “Yeah, half my stock of Grey Goose, a few cartons of cigarettes… some other crap. Lottery tickets, mostly. Maybe a few hundred dollars worth of stuff, total. You guys have it all still, if you want to take a look. I’d really like to get it back.”

“Loupos turned up dead early this morning,” Fuentes said. “Mr. Wendus, where were you last night?”

“Home with my wife,” Wendus answered. “Why?”

“We’re just trying to piece together a scenario,” Fuentes said, snapping his notebook shut.

“Hey, I’m the victim here,” Wendus said stiffly, blood suffusing his cheeks. “I’m the one he robbed. If I went after all the guys who broke in here, there’d be bodies all over the place.”

Noonan cut in with a winning smile. “There is some good news to all of this, Mr. Wendus.”

“What’s that?” the owner asked, still glowering.

“No trial, no need to hold the evidence. You should be able to pick up your stuff this afternoon.”

Outside in the fading afternoon light, Fuentes opened the car door. “There goes that theory. Where’s that leave us?”

“Let’s go talk to the coroner,” Noonan suggested.

 

“Cause of death, electrocution,” Polaski, the coroner, said. “You found him near high tension power lines?”

Noonan nodded.

“I think he was pushed,” Fuentes supplied. “You’re sure this was electrical in nature? He didn’t break his neck and then get burned up?”

“The only thing that I can find that looks even marginally like an accelerant is a trace amount of alcohol,” Polaski offered. “I haven’t finished the tox screen yet, but I’d guess he was probably drunk.”

“That makes sense. We found a dozen empties at the base of the tower. How’d he get from the top of the tower to the bottom, dead and on fire, if he wasn’t pushed?” Fuentes mused out loud.

Noonan tapped a nail against her front teeth. “Obviously he got electrocuted at the top and fell,” she said finally. “But there wasn’t any sign that he came in direct contact with the lines.”

Polaski grinned suddenly and unexpectedly. “You know, there’s a delicate balance between good judgment and bad. For that matter, there’s also a fine line between being safe on one of those towers and being… well…” she motioned at the body, “marshmallow on a campfire.” She pulled up her mask and leaned towards the crotch of the body, poking and peeling with a scalpel. “And sometimes… when you’re drunk, your better judgment is impaired. The top of a high tension tower is not the best place for that kind of moment.” She paused and looked up, her blue eyes blinking owlishly through thick magnifying glasses. “Point of entry for the electricity, crotch.”

“What?” Noonan and Fuentes asked together, crowding closer to the body.

Polaski straightened. “I’m going to have to do a more thorough examination, but I think it’s a pretty safe bet to say that your victim here got drunk at the top of the tower and decided to take a leak. And, for whatever reason drunk guys have… target practice maybe… wasn’t watching where he was going… instead of pissing off the edge, your Mr. Loupos urinated directly into the high tension lines.”

“Ugh,” whimpered Fuentes, crossing his legs.

“Now that’s a real pisser,” quipped Noonan, unable to resist.

pencil

Jennifer Ruddock is a graduate of the University of Hartford. She’s an aspiring novelist, full-time web designer, the head writer for a small online text-based RPG, and a contributing writer for Revolt Media. She is currently working on a children’s book with illustrator Denise Griffin. Jennifer currently lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and three teenaged stepchildren. E-mail: macky610[at]yahoo.com

Print Friendly, PDF & Email