Kelly looked down at the worn legal pad again appraising the list he had painstakingly scribbled out, making sure nothing was missing.
THINGS I KNOW ABOUT THE ACCIDENT
1) I knew Kyle Usher before the accident
2) I was arguing with Kyle at Alley’s before the accident
3) The two guys in the picture were apparently with us when we argued
4) My car was rear-ended by Kyle’s truck
5) Kyle was in my car when the accident happened
6) Someone I know is or might be gay
Kelly peered down at the list, chewing the end of his pencil, pondering if there was anything else he needed to add to it. His brow furrowed before he put pencil to paper again and added:
7) I am NOT gay
He mulled over his list for a moment before drawing a heavy line across the paper and starting another one.
THINGS I DO NOT KNOW ABOUT THE ACCIDENT
1) Why Kyle was in my car
2) Who the two guys in the picture are
3) Why I was at Alley’s the night of the accident
4) Why I was fighting with Kyle
5) Who I would know that’s gay
He looked at that list again and tried to work out the questions in his mind. Obviously Kyle was in his car because they hadn’t finished their argument at the bar. But where the hell were they going? Kelly had absolutely no reason to be on that road.
The two guys in the picture had obviously known Kyle. In the photo they had those looks on their faces that speak of years of friendship. Plus, they were obviously comfortable with each other the way they were clowning around.
The third one was a little easier to work out. He obviously had a beef with Kyle over something or other. The only question was, what was it? Had Kyle hit on him? He didn’t think so. Maybe that tied in with number five. Maybe he had a beef with Kyle based on the fact that whoever he knew that was gay had something to do with him?
“Shit!” He exclaimed, slamming his hand down on the desk. This doesn’t make any fucking sense!
He picked up the pencil and, in a moment of rage, scrawled I’M GOING FUCKING INSANE across the bottom of the page.
Detective Conner sat at his desk going over the Yates/Usher file for the hundredth time, looking for the missing piece of the puzzle. Something about this puzzle doesn’t make sense, he thought, it’s like I’ve got two different puzzles I’m trying to put together into one and it ain’t working!
The realization that Usher wasn’t in the car with Kelly had thrown him for a loop. He was so sure he needed just one last shred of evidence to connect the little rat to Usher’s death and he could close this file and get the hell on with his life.
He’d already decided he’d keep Kelly Yates out of the loop on that for now. Good to make the kid sweat. Maybe he’d get scared and drop .some little tidbit of information that could be useful. Hell, maybe he’d even “remember” something and incriminate himself!
He looked down at the folder again, thinking of anything he could use to tie the pieces together. The accident report still wasn’t back from the Feds and the .insurance investigation hadn’t turned up anything more than a small smear of Usher’s blood on top of the hood, reinforcing the theory that Usher was in the back of the truck.
He idly sifted through the contents of the folder, examining each page again for some detail he missed. Coming across Kelly’s medical records from the hospital, he paused. “Something’s missing here,” he grumbled to .himself.
A shocked look came over his face as he realized something that was here before was missing. Somebody had been messing with his file!
Conner spun around, snatching the beat-up receiver of the base of the phone, and spat at the operator, “Get me the coroner’s office!”
Kelly, Hiro, and Blake sat wedged around a small table in the back of the Purple Onion, the horribly unskilled DJ mixing techno records that nobody ever heard of from a ratty DJ booth in the back.
This bar was definitely nothing like Alley’s. Where Alley’s tried to pull off a chic, trendy look that made the place look just a little too fake and gaudy, the Purple Onion was nothing more than a trashy meat market. The entire room, bar and all, was painted a hideous shade of dark purple with garish posters of what Kelly guessed classified as “erotic art” stapled directly to the walls. Behind the bar, various small plastic stick-on figures posed in mind-bending sexual positions were stuck to every available surface, highlighted by blacklights attached to the warped and sagging black ceiling tiles.
The tables were all chipped and scarred, with some of them so rickety that you couldn’t set your drink on them for fear of it sliding off the table and onto the floor.
The air hung thick with a great plume of smoke and, from where Kelly was sitting, most of it didn’t smell like it had come from cigarettes.
Blake cringed and slumped down in his chair as a thin, waif-like boy who looked no older than fourteen dragged a skinny finger across his shoulders on his way by.
When Kelly had called up his friends demanding that they come with him on another fact-finding mission, they had no idea that they’d be crammed into the back of a rat trap being hit on by everything in the place.
A greasy old man, wearing clothes that were out of style twenty years ago and stinking of cheap cologne and alcohol sauntered by for the third time that evening, eying the fresh meat warily. Leaning over, he put his mouth right behind Hiro’s ear and slurred, “Come into the back, you hot little man. I can suck a bowling ball through a straw.”
Hiro stiffened visibly and shrank away from the old man, wiping the side of his face as if that alone would rid him of the entire encounter.
“I’m giving you fifteen more minutes, Kel,” Hiro hissed, crossing his arms and staring down his friend. “I’ve been hit on more times in the last half hour than I care to count, by guys old enough to be my Dad. I understand you need to work this shit out and all, but this is .seriously creeping me out. Memory or no memory, I am not sitting here one more minute and being mentally undressed by these freaks!”
Kelly shot Hiro an angry glare. “Hiro, I came here looking for information and I intend to find something if it kills me! Stop acting like a spoiled little kid!”
“Hey,” Blake interrupted, putting a hand on Kelly’s shoulder to calm him down. “Even you’ve got to admit, Kel, this place is kinda creepy.”
Kelly’s expression softened as he looked from Hiro to Blake, not realizing until that moment how uncomfortable his friends were. He was so intent on finding out something that could help him he’d completely ignored the effect that this “environment” was having on his friends.
“OK,” he reluctantly agreed, “fifteen minutes and then we’re out of here. I know I’m grasping at straws here, guys, but I just don’t know what else to do. I’m about to go out of my mind trying to work all this shit out.”
“We’re not asking you to give up, Kel,” Blake said, shooting a sharp look at Hiro. “If you think you can find answers here that’s fine, we’ll stay.”
“He said we could go in fifteen minutes, Blake,” Hiro spat, now doing his best to stare down both of them.
“Shut up, Hiro! Listen, if Kelly thinks…”
Blake trailed off when he looked over at Kelly and realized that he was no longer paying attention to the conversation, instead staring dumbfounded at the bar, where two guys had just walked in and were bumping hands with the bartender.
“Kelly,” Blake barked, snapping his finger in front of Kelly’s face to get his attention, “what’s…”
At the sound of Blake’s fingers snapping in front of his face, Kelly vaulted out of his seat towards the bar, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a crumpled piece of paper.
“You,” he roared, stalking up to the bar and confronting the newcomers, “I want to know who you are and how the fuck you know me!”
The shorter of the two men visibly shrank from the enraged stranger while the taller one puffed out his chest and turned, squaring up with Kelly as if getting ready to defend himself. The patrons in at the other end of the bar were now glancing nervously out of the corners of their eyes at the scene unfolding a few feet away from them. Even the shitty DJ in the back corner missed his cue on the next song .trying to watch what was unfolding.
“Whoa, what the hell,” the bigger man replied. “Who in the hell are you and why the hell are you screaming at me and my boyfriend?”
“First of all,” Kelly replied, squaring off against the guy in front of him, “I want to know who the hell you are, how you know me, and how the hell you know Kyle Usher!”
“OK, wait,” the man said, trying to slow Kelly down a little bit, “who are you? And Usher, what? I’m not sure what you’re asking here.”
“I didn’t say who I am,” Kelly spat, “but you know me. I know you do. And I know you know Kyle Usher!”
“How do you know we knew this Usher guy, and what makes you think I know you from fucking Adam?”
“Because,” Kelly stated, pulling out the crumpled paper and unfolding it in front of the guy’s face, “I had this picture on my computer and you guys are in it with Kyle!”
The bigger guy’s face turned from a sneer into a stone mask instantly, while the smaller man visibly paled and gaped at the picture.
“Where the fuck did you get this?” he asked, pointing at the picture in Kelly’s outstretched hand.
“I told you, asshole, it was on my computer. And now, you’re going to tell me why I have a picture of you and your boyfriend!”
The bigger man spun around and confronted his companion. “Mark! Where did this picture come from?”
At the mention of the name Mark, Kelly’s brain flashed back to Alley’s and the fight with the mysterious guys. He placed a hand on the bar to steady himself as part of a memory came flooding back with such clarity that it made him dizzy. Mark…Mark…and Steve!
“You’re Mark and Steve,” Kelly blurted out, shocking himself and both men. “You guys and Kyle Usher are the people I was fighting with at Alley’s the night of the crash!”
“You’re not supposed to have that picture,” Mark stated, finally making himself known from behind Steve. “I sent that to…”
“Mark!” Steve shouted, interrupting him before he could finish the sentence, but Kelly finished for him. The only other person who used that computer was…
Before anyone knew what was going on, Kelly sprinted out the door and out into the street.
Detective Conner sat at his desk, replaying the conversation with the Coroner’s Office over and over again in his head.
“What do you mean you don’t have an autopsy report for Kyle Usher?” he had screeched into the phone, “I had a copy of it in my file here the other day!”
“I’m sorry, Detective,” the voice on the other end had replied, “we have no record of a Kyle Usher being in this facility at all. Are you sure you have the right name?”
“Of course I have the right fucking name,” he had snapped, venom dripping from his voice, “I’ve been working this case since the accident and I know there was an autopsy done on this corpse the very night it was brought in!”
“Detective, I’m telling you there’s no record…”
“Get me the M.E. then. Maybe he’ll remember autopsying the corpse that made headlines for weeks!”
And when he had gotten the Medical Examiner on the phone, the conversation had gone exactly the same way. No record of Kyle Usher ever being in the facility. No body, no remains, no paper trail, no nothing!
He rifled through the dog-eared case file on his desk again, hoping he’d missed it before.
Just as he was slamming his hands down in frustration on his desk, Captain O’Brien walked through the door.
“Whoa there, Mike,” he said, perching himself on the corner of the worn desk, “Take a chill pill. I understand that you had a…conversation with the M.E.’s office this afternoon.”
“Cap, I just don’t fucking understand it,” Conner replied, shaking his head. “One minute, I have a copy of this autopsy in my investigation file and the next, not only is it missing from here, it’s missing from the M.E.’s office, too. I know the kid’s dead! I saw his grave! I don’t know what the hell is going on here, but I’m going to get to the bottom of it ASAP!”
“No, you’re not, Mike. As of now, the Yates/Usher case is officially closed.”
“Closed,” Conner yelled, shooting up from his desk, “Closed? What the fuck are you talking about?”
“It’s closed, Detective,” Captain O’Brien snapped, “end-of-story. No more questions, no more investigations, no more anything. It’s closed.”
“I don’t understand, Cap, what…”
“It doesn’t matter, Mike,” O’Brien replied. “None of it matters. This case is officially dead in the water.”
Conner watched his Captain walk back into his office, seething with rage.
“Closed,” he muttered under his breath, “we’ll see about that…”
The front door of the Yates house flew open as Kelly stalked into the hallway and made a beeline for the stairs.
His mother looked up, startled, from her perch on the couch as her older son steamrolled his way across the living room intent on reaching the stairway.
“Kelly,” she inquired, “what are you doing home? I thought you guys were staying at Hiro’s.”
Kelly flung his hand up at her as he continued towards the staircase indicating that he would not be stopping to talk to her.
He stormed up the stairs, not stopping to knock before he burst into Todd’s room, screaming at the top of his lungs, “All right, Todd. I want to know just how the hell you know Kyle Usher, and those guys Steve and Mark!”
Todd visibly stiffened in his desk chair before spinning around slowly to face his enraged brother.
“Don’t play stupid! Mark and Steve, and Kyle Usher,” he yelled again, pulling the crumpled picture back out of his pocket. “I found this picture on our computer, and I sure as hell know it’s not mine!”
Todd’s eyes started darting around the room, searching frantically for an exit.
“Todd, I know you know who these guys are,” Kelly pleaded. “I’m trying everything in my goddamned power to piece together what happened on the night of the accident! You know who these guys are, and you let me sit here like a monkey fucking a football knowing exactly who was at the bar while I’m trying to find out what the hell happened to me!”
Todd slumped in his desk chair, tears springing to his eyes and threatening to spill down his cheeks.
“C’mon, Todd,” Kelly pleaded, “tell me what you know! Please!”
Todd sighed heavily, not at all ready for this conversation, again, and not ready for what he knew would come after it, again.
He nodded his head slightly as he began to speak. “Mark and Steve were Kyle’s best friends. He knew them forever.”
“And how do you know them and Kyle,” Kelly demanded, waving the picture in the air.
“Up until the accident, Kel,” Todd stated, tears now streaming freely down his face, ”Kyle was…my boyfriend.”
Editors Note: If you would like to contact the author of this chapter, you may use this email address, CollisionAuthors@Deweywriter.com . Please include the author’s name. Thank you.