What tale did the dead man tell?
December 29, 2013
I am torn.
Part of me wishes I had the manuscript.
Part of me is glad I never saw it, much less possessed it.
It is a constant battle between curiosity and common sense.
He was a good friend of mine.
He hung out with the worst that life had to offer, the worst that came drifting into town, those who had long ago blurred the fine line between good and bad and chose to walk on the wrong side of the law and the street.
My friend was so different from them all. He was clean cut, bright, sharp, articulate, and was driven by one basic motive.
He didn’t like the bad guys.
And there were a lot of bad guys around.
My friend worked undercover for the Sheriff’s department.
His hair was long.
His clothes were ragged.
His beard was ragged.
His language was ragged.
He rode the streets when it was dark, and the drug dealers owned the street corners, and crack was candy, and ecstasy was baked by the devil, and a man’s life was worth about the same amount of money as a woman’s body.
Few would miss either one of them, the life or the body.
Both were used up and wasted.
I had my writing room just off the square in the little Texas town. It wasn’t large enough to be an office. It was just big enough to hold me and a typewriter and a wastepaper basket filled with mistakes.
He came in late one afternoon.
He came in lot.
This time he had a different glint in his eyes.
“I’m writing a book,” he said.
“I need your help,” he said.
“What do you want me to do?” I asked.
“Clean it up,” he said. “Make it sound good.” He paused, leaned back, and stared for a moment at the ceiling. “It’s gonna blow this town wide open,” he said.
He had my interest.
“I know where the drugs are coming from,” he said, “who’s buying them and who’s shipping them.”
“Why don’t you make an arrest,” I said.
“They have more clout than I do,” he said.
“Power?” I asked.
“And money,” he said.
“It sounds like a helluva story,” I said.
“It is,” he said.
“When do you want me to start work on it?” I asked.
“As soon as possible,” he said. “When can you start?”
“As soon as I get the manuscript.” I said.
He stood and walked to the door.
“Wednesday,” he said. “I’ll call and let you know where to meet me.”
“We could meet here,” I said.
“Too dangerous,” he said.
He never looked back.
He never said goodbye.
He was gone.
On Tuesday, I got the phone call.
It wasn’t from my friend.
It was about my friend.
“He’s dead,” his wife said.
“Heart attack.” She paused. He grief was more than she could bear. “But something’s wrong,” she said.
“He didn’t have a bad heart,” she said. “I think somebody killed him.”
“How about an autopsy?” I asked.
“Somebody’s covering it up,” she said.
Somebody with power.
We buried my friend, and the late-night phone calls began.
One was from an attorney. “I understand you have a manuscript,” he said.
“No,” I answered.
One was from law enforcement. “We understand you have a manuscript,” he said.
One was from the richest man in the town, the strongest pillar of the community. “I understand you have a manuscript,” he said.
“I don’t have it,” I said. “I never saw it.”
The last one was from my friend’s wife. “Do you have his manuscript?” she asked.
“Why?” I wanted to know.
“I’ve looked everywhere, and I can’t find it,” she said. “If you have it, please give it to me.”
“It’ll tell me who killed him,” she said.
I wished I had it. I’m glad I didn’t.
I wish I had known where he hid it.
Wherever the manuscript might be, it’s still there.
The drugs still make their way to town.
The phone doesn’t ring anymore.
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