Murder In Elysium (The Full First Chapter)

Posted: February 18, 2015 in Uncategorized
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Sunrise in a thick deep dark forest with fog in autumn

I wasn’t there that cool March night in 1977, but it plays like a movie sometimes in my dreams.

A man is walking up the outside steps that lead to Apartments 2B and 2D, but the one he

wants is the first one: 2B. He wants in there. He wants in there so badly it burns him. It burns in

his ears and in his eyes and gutters against the outside cold in the darkest hollow of his chest.

One of the bulbs is burnt out on the landing, so anyone looking this direction from Austin

Avenue or from the open Intramural Field on campus sees a whole load of nothing. Nothing but

blackness in the inkwell shadows here. But this man, this man here is at home in the shadows.

The faint sound of his footfalls are close and loud in his pulsing ears. He feels every bump in the

lead paint of the metal stair railing. Every breath of air he inhales bites at his lungs and every

exhale is the breath of a dragon.

He comes to the door and pauses for a moment, assessing the silence and the dim light

within as seen through the tiny hole of the door-peeper.

He knocks. He knocks like he knows to knock so that she’ll know it’s him. And she knows

it’s him but she doesn’t know yet why it’s him. And right here, outside her door, he’s not about

to tell her. He wants inside there. He wants what she has.

It’s there at the door that I always wake up.

***

I dressed and got ready for work. I’d been dreaming about the Fogel Murder again. Dreaming

into the light morning hours about ancient history.

On the way to work coming down North Austin Avenue, the sun in my eyes as I rounded

the curve past Central Texas Community College, I saw the apartments over on my right where

the killing went down all those years ago.

For some reason my Chevy pickup wanted to pull into the parking lot. I let the truck idle

for a minute and sat there, looking at the landing.

The apartment landing was unchanged, thirty-five years removed from the crime and in

the full light of day.

Inside, I knew it was a different story.

That much time wipes away the last molecule of evidence. People move in and live

in a place with or without the knowledge of what occurred there, and over time the place gets

repainted, new carpet is laid and gets torn up. The floors get re-tiled and made over. Walls get

taken out and moved. But the walls in Apartment 2B speak. If you’re patient enough to listen to

them you can hear some of what they have to say.

I was thinking about the apartment, seeing it again in my mind’s eye as I’d seen it the last

time I was in there, nearly a year ago, when I felt that someone was watching me. I looked to see

Leslie Beauchamp regarding me from her apartment door on the ground level. She brought her

left hand into view and held up something. She gave me a smile.

It was the key to 2B.

I got out.

“Good morning,” I said.

“Mornin’, Chief. Here’s the key for you.”

“Thank you,” I said. “But what makes you think I want it?”

“Oh. I don’t know. Maybe the way you’re lookin’ up thataway.” Leslie smiled and held

out the key.

I took it.

“Just leave it under the mat,” she said. It was what she’d said last time. Another ritual?

There were far too many rituals in my life already.

I walked up the stairs, listened to them creak.

I unlocked the door. The key turned so easily it could have been turning tumblers of hot

butter.

The fight began at the front door and moved to the front bedroom. I left the door open

and I took four steps to stand in the bedroom doorway. Several minutes I stood there. Traffic

moved sedately along Austin Avenue out front. Someone was honking a horn somewhere.

Distant music, altogether unrecognizable, intruded.

The blood began in this room. Some of it was on the wall there underneath the paint.

The conflict moved around the room and then through me and into the living room. I took

a step back and watched it pass.

I followed them into the living room. She was running from him but he got hold on her.

Her blouse ripped in his hands. She fell and left blood from her face right there on the floor.

His hands clutched at her thighs, leaving what would have been purplish bruises had she lived

beyond the next five minutes, but instead only left very faint fingernail marks. She kicked out at

him, connected, and then got her feet under her again in a mad scramble.

I followed them into the kitchen. She was making for the sliding glass door and the

balcony beyond. Would she have done it? Would she have leapt from the balcony into twelve

feet of space and the asphalt beyond, or would she have simply stood there and screamed bloody

murder?

She never made the balcony. He pressed her against the glass with his full body weight

as he clutched for her flailing arms and in the process left a full thumb print on the glass. The

two of them went down and his feet became entangled with one of the chairs at the table and sent

it backwards onto the floor where one of the dowels that composed the back of the chair came

loose. It rolled towards her and she grasped it and tried to strike him with it. He wrestled it from

her hands and began to beat her with it.

She kneed him, kicked him and managed to get him off of her for a mere moment and

regained her feet. She was in front of the kitchen sink.

A knife was there. She had cut up the chicken for her evening meal with it. The chicken

parts were still there, all bloody and cold and congealed on the drain board.

He came at her again, crushing her against the sink and her elbow sank into the chicken

parts and took some of them away with her. The drain rack that held the plates and saucers and

glasses there tumbled onto the floor and shattered.

The knife was in his hand. He cut her with it. Very likely he cursed her as he did so, his

head full of red fury.

Delores spat blood. It gurgled from her throat and was borne across the room with her

exhaled breath.

And then the death throes began—

“Chief?” Billie Marsh whispered, startling me.

“Hi Billie,” I said. I hadn’t heard her come in. I’d left the front door to the empty

apartment wide open and there was nothing but carpet between there and where I stood,

surveying the kitchen.

“You okay in here?”

“Yeah. Anything happening?”

“No, sir. Just the usual. A fender-bender on Highway 281 coming into town. I blue-
formed it.”

The moment was awkward. Billie knew exactly what I was doing. It was 9:15 in the

morning, and I should have already been at the station.

“Good,” I said. “Why haven’t you changed shifts yet?”

“I was just heading in, but I saw your truck outside…”

“And you thought you’d check up on the old man. See if he’d mislaid any of his marbles

in the Fogel Murder apartment. That about it?”

She nodded, then gave me a faint smile.

I adored the hell out of Billie. She was one of the best cops I had. But then again, they

were all good. Anybody who could last in this town was worth their salt.

The rumor was that Billie was a lesbian, but I had never seen any evidence of it,

nor would it matter one way or the other if it was true. She was a good cop, and that’s all I cared

about. Billie had shot a kid while on patrol late one night on the east side of Austin when she

was a cop there. Originally, Billie was a local to Elysium, born and raised, but had gone off to

Sam Houston State immediately after high school. The kid Billie shot was a twenty-one year

old kid named Lonnie Earl Campbell. She fired on Campbell when he refused to put down his knife in

the parking lot of a seedy bar, just after closing time. After a full court press against her and the

Austin Police Department by the leaders of the black community for what they deemed to be

racial profiling and a propensity to shoot first and ask questions later, Billie was suspended

“pending a full investigation,” which is police public relations-speak for, “We want to give her

the benefit of the doubt without ticking off every person of color in Austin.” During her leave,

Billie came home to Elysium, making it permanent. Austin’s loss was my gain. In my initial

interview with Billie four years back, I asked her about what happened that night with Lonnie

Campbell and she told me the story. The kid had been hopped up on something dreadful—likely

crystal meth—and when she finally pulled the trigger he had been a second from slicing her

throat.

“The Fogel Murder was over thirty years ago, Chief,” Billie said. “Just sayin’.”

“Really,” I said. “I didn’t know you could do higher math.”

“LeFren’s been free for the past nine months,” she said. “He’s been all over the talk show

circuit, running down the prison system and law enforcement in general. Makes me sick, him

acting all innocent like that. Everybody knows the son of a bitch was guilty. I guess it doesn’t

matter. It’s all over with now.”

I nodded. Sure. Everybody knew. But who was everybody? The citizens of Elysium,

Texas, that’s who. Almost everyone else in the outside world was convinced of LeFren’s

innocence in the murder. He’d finally walked out of prison based on a federal judge’s overturn of

his conviction. There would be no new trial.

“I suppose you’re right,” I said, when the silence grew too thick for the room.

“This place gives me the willies,” Billie said.

“Me too.”

Billie chuckled. “You’re all right, Chief. Come on. Let me buy you a frickin’ cup of coffee.”

Get your copy of Murder in Elysium here.

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Comments
  1. Cleve Sylcox says:

    Reblogged this on Dreaming… and commented:
    George you old goat, Great Writing!

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