The Ongoing Story: Hang the Pundit Pt. 5

Ah, the end. Well, here it is, the final installment of our ongoing story. Find out the conclusion of what happens to our poor radio pundit-cum-antihero, Jacob Marlowe. We pick up with Marlowe sitting in the interrogation room at the precinct staring down his unknown nemesis. Ryan Bolton brings the curtain to our final chapter. For the past ongoing stories, go to travismag.com.

TRAVIS' Ongoing Story Conclusion.

TRAVIS' Ongoing Story Conclusion.

The endorphins are running like Usain Bolt now. Jacob Marlowe’s heart was pumping a concoction of Jack Daniel’s and over-oxygenated blood. It beat like a poor boy’s ticker after outrunning the cops because he pocketed a stale loaf of bread. Marlowe’s mind was frantically trying to quantify the situation as he stared at that devilish bugger’s face in the crowd.

            Marlowe runs a quick mind check. Okay, so I told off some guy on the air, he then threatens my life before deciding it’s a good idea to blow up my shitty little apartment, which, as it turns out, holds the burnt remains of Janice and now I’m sitting with pissed pants circled by cops in an interrogation room being accused of murder. Check, got it.

            “This is absurd,” Marlowe says under his breath. He felt like another innocent sap beat by the game. Like a lonely kid trying to register his name as an e-mail address, but his name is taken, so he has to attach some ridiculous number to the end. Detective Howden turns around.

            “Hmm. You got something to say to us now, Mr. Marlowe?” asks the detective before gulping the remainder of his black coffee. “Let’s hear it, boy.” Marlowe stops looking at the sea of faces and sits back down on the ass-deforming steel chair.

            “Yeah, um, well.” He pauses. Turns his head to the side like a frantic parrot and then snap. Snap, it hits him. His mind puts the pieces together. Our protagonist begins to laugh.

            No, I’m in power here. Marlowe’s mind begins to jog again. I’m not going to let this wretched hoodlum get the best of me. I’m a pundit. I know my shit and I damn well know I’m not going to get pissed on by some social delinquent hell-bent on my destruction. The gloves were off. He lifts his ass off the chair and goes back to the two-way mirror. With a smooth tilting of his hand he points to where he saw that face and winks. A little peck of a wink.

            “Detective, I want my phone call now.”

AFTER POSTING BAIL, Marlowe was quick to his rolodex back at the radio station. Years as a radio pundit sure built a large army of adversaries, but shit, his rolodex looked like an over-stuffed yule log. He was looking up Holly’s number. Holly was a cokehead, backstabber and clearly off-her-rocker, but she was also Janice’s roommate. He sat down in his cluttered office and dialed her number. She picked up.

            “Who’s this?” she queried in her semi-comatose state.

            “Holly. Holly, thank God you picked up. It’s Jacob. I’m in trouble. I need you to—” Marlowe screeches into the phone before stopping. Shit, what if Holly is in on this? he ponders to himself. No, not possible. Between the countless bumps of blow, sexual infections and difficulty at remembering her own middle name, she had no chance of being behind any of this.

            “Okay, so Holly, I need your help,” Marlowe continued. “Janice is dead and I’m being set up. Can you—“

            “What? What do you mean Janice is dead?”

            “Holly, she was murdered. Dead, gone, six feet under, no longer a living being.” Holly lets out a whimper. “Hold on, this is why I need your help.”

            “Oh god, oh god,” she lets out. “What, damnit? What do you want from me?”

            “When did you see Janice today? Did she say she was going to go meet anyone? Think about this, Holly.”

            “Um.” She takes a breath and whimpers again. “Well yeah, she said she was going to go and see you. She was trying to call you or something and then she wanted to go and surprise you. But, it was weird, about an hour after that she called me. She was like screaming and just hysterical. I couldn’t really hear what she was saying. Just like murmurs and loud screams.”

            “What was she saying, Holly? Did she say anything about a guy or what he looked like or where she was?” Marlowe questioned as he grabbed around his desk looking for his Moleskin notepad.

            “No, not really. She said something like, ‘Let go of me! Let go, you bastard!’ and then the phone went dead. Oh, wait, no, she did say something about a cop.”

            “What do you mean, something about a cop?”

            “I don’t know, like, something about some cop car or cop badge or something.” Holly goes mum.

            “Holly, this didn’t seem weird to you at all? Janice, your roommate, calling and screaming about some cop?” Marlowe waited for her answer.

            “Oh god. No, I thought she was playing around like usual. But maybe that was the coke’s fault – I’ve had a little too much today, I think. Oh god, I didn’t know, I didn’t know.” She starts to bawl into the other end of the phone. Marlowe shakes his head and hangs up.

            His mind skips a gear again. He can’t make sense of it. A cop had Janice? That doesn’t make any sense. Why would a cop be holding Janice— “oh shit,” he says out loud. His mind begins to wander.

            I’m being set-up by a cop. A cop. That would explain why they were so fast on the scene today and why he was able to make such a swift retreat. That’s why he was on the other side of the two-way mirror at the precinct in that line-up. That’s it, damnit – no more  sitting in the crosshairs.

            Marlowe grabs his rolodex and heads for the door. He heads to the one place he can trust.

TOSSING A BLACK hoodie over his head, Marlowe sits down on the last stool at his local drinking hole. It’s the one place that gives him piece of mind. He sips on stale beer and doodles in the puddles of spilled beer that has congregated on the bar. Stan, the barkeep, eyes up Marlowe.

            “You’re not looking so hot,” says Stan as he shines a pint glass. “Worse than when I saw you throw too many back this morning.” He lets out a mucous-laden cough into the cup.

            “Stan, I’m in trouble,” Marlowe says looking deadpan into Stan’s jaundice face. Years of watching others get tight haven’t weathered well for Stan either. “Have you heard any talk around the bar about any cops? Any cops that are a little, you know, corrupt?” Stan puts down the glass. He looks down the empty row of stools and places his gnarled hands on the bar. He lifts his head up meeting Marlowe’s eyes.

            “What are you talking about? What kind of trouble are you in? So what if you pissed someone off on the radio this morning? You tend to do that every other day,” Stan says in his subdued manner.

            “Stan, I don’t have time to explain here. But that guy, that disenfranchised sociopath on the radio this morning that threatened me, well, he killed Janice and blew up my goddamn apartment.” Marlowe puts his head down. He runs his hands through his once-well-manicured hair and groans. It sounds like a muffled version of a dump truck grinding gears.

            “Jesus Christ,” says Stan. “What does a cop have to do with all this then?”

            “Stan, I’m pretty sure this guy is a cop. I’m being set-up by a goddamn cop. Now what have you heard around here? Come on, you always have your ear to the ground around here.” Marlowe looks around frantically. His face screams forlorn.

            “I have heard about this one guy – some Detective Stevens or something like that,” says Stan, taking his time. “Some of the boys last night were throwing his name around. I don’t know, I think he messed up one of their buddies. They said this guy was relentless. He had this really cool demeanor about him as he wrecked this guy pretty bad. It was like he was playing a game of golf all relaxed and chill. He didn’t even flinch, they were saying. I knew something was up because those boys are pretty connected.”

            “That doesn’t make any sense, though. Why would this cop be coming after me? This cop is after me for making a comment on—“ Marlowe stops and looks Stan in his face. Shit, this is the cop from the accident. That cop that I did that investigative piece on air a year ago.

                  A year or so ago was a drug bust that went wrong. A bunch of the known thugs were starting to shift from hustling pot to dealing meth to some school kids. A couple kids got messed up pretty bad. One climbed up the water tower and tried to fly off. Another tried to rob a gas station with a head full of meth. A couple days later the cops did a raid at the lab and busted it up. After all this happened, a source came to Marlowe with information about an officer being in on the mix. Marlowe then ran a piece the next day about the cop, some Detective Stevens having dirty hands. Turns out after a long official investigation that Stevens was dirty, but they couldn’t put it down on paper – they couldn’t completely prove it. Steven’s wife, however, skips town and runs off with the kids and he’s put on six-month’s of probation from duty.

            “Jesus, Stan. That’s the guy that was meddling with the crystal meth with those kids. His wife left him and he lost his badge for six months,” says Marlowe.

            “Oh shit. This is bad, Jacob. This is bad.”

            “Pour me a drink – the usual,” says Marlowe tossing Stan a package. “Here, take this and close up shop. I need to finish this.”

THE WOODEN CABIN was about a five-minute drive into the forest just outside of town. It was made out of rotten plywood. It creaked when you entered its dusky innards. Hunters usually inhabited it when shooting game in the fall. It smelled like a concoction of beer, piss, cigarettes and a hint of sex. Who would have sex out here Marlowe thought to himself?

 

            “Oh God, help me, help me!” Marlowe screamed into his cell phone. He was calling 911. “Tom’s been shot. Oh God. Come help us, come help us!”

            “Sir, where are you located?” the 911 operator calmly asked.

            “We were hunting at Buck’s Cabin just outside of town. Oh God. Tom was shot, he’s bleeding everywhere.”

            “Sir, please stay on the line. We are sending help. Help is on the way, sir.”

            “Oh God, please hurry. He’s bleeding out on me,” Marlowe shrieked into the phone with precision. Years as a radio broadcaster helped with accents, but also with feigning emotion. Then again, he was a professional.

            Marlowe stepped out of the cabin and walked into the dense shrubs. He could hear the sirens in the distance. It reminded him of his insane day. Nothing made much sense anymore. His eyes started to hurt and his head started to hold a brooding lightning storm. He was ready, though. No more being hunted.

            The police car was just pulling up and footsteps could be heard coming from the gravel road.           

            “Police. Is everything okay out here?” a recognizable voice rang out. It was his voice. The officer called out again and slowly walked into the cabin. “We’ve received a call that someone has been shot. Hello?” he queried again in that calm, decisive tone. He could tell something was amiss and drew his handgun. Marlowe walks into the doorway. It creaks.

            “Nice to see you again there, Detective Stevens,” Marlowe lets out. Stevens turns around and aims the gun expertly between Marlowe’s eyes once again. A familiar sight, Marlow muses. Stevens begins to laugh.

            “Oh my, what kind of emergency do we have here?” says Stevens walking closer to Marlowe. “I was wondering when I would see you next, Mr. Marlowe. I must say, though, you didn’t look too hot in the interrogation room this afternoon.” He caresses a laugh again.

            “Yeah, about that, Stevens. I must say, you did a pretty good job today – with everything, you know?” A crowbar is now present in Marlowe’s right paw.

            “Yeah, that was quite a nefarious turn what I did with Janice, eh? She looked kinda rough. Too bad about your little apartment as well. But damn, that was some explosion I had there. Better than the fourth of July for sure, if I can say so myself.” Stevens’ gun is now three feet from Marlowe’s eyebrows. “And now, thanks to your shitty foresight, we can bring some closure to your life, as, you know, a pundit,” he spits into Marlowe’s face. “No more spreading your fallacious opinions on the airwaves and ruining lives.” Marlowe clutches the crowbar as his knuckles drain all blood. They’re bone white now.

            “Not so fast. Come on Stevens, as a detective, you should be careful with your foresight, don’t you think?” says Marlowe. Stevens visibly winces and scoffs.

            “What are you talking about, you has-been drunkard?” Marlowe shifts his eyes to the cobweb-strewn rafter overhead.

            “Hey detective, smile for the camera,” Marlowe says as he nods at Stan sitting on the beam with a camcorder in hand – its red light glowing.

            The steel that then struck Stevens in the head was manufactured in the late ‘60s in some small corner of Pittsburgh. It was quite worn and speckled with a thin layer of rust on its edges, but it was still worthy.

            It was all worthy, really.

THE END.

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