Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator (5 page)

BOOK: Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator
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After that time, Dad “died” many more times. I can’t
remember how many times I’d come home and find him playing “corpse” in some odd position or another. I’d gasp, and he’d always jump up with a laugh or an improvised song with an Irish melody:
“Hey there, Guy / You thought I’d died / But your old man lied / Your old man ain’t never gonna dieeeee.”
Sometimes he’d hop up and full-on break into a jig in his robe and underpants.

Except, of course, for last May, when he didn’t …

Every room of the house is weirding me out. I decide to hide up in the attic. This is a terrible idea. It’s weirding me out worse. It’s filled with Dad’s personal effects. Man, it’s so weird how after you die, your things become your “effects.” No one ever calls your things your “effects” while you’re alive, do they? Maybe when you go to jail. I’m totally going to start calling my things my “effects.” And I’m also totally going to start wearing an ascot. Dad has a bunch of awesome ascots among his effects. I can’t quite figure out how to tie one, but it still looks cool draped across my neck. I don’t look as cool as he did in all these pictures. There are a lot of pictures among his “effects.” I don’t think Mom has even gone through all this stuff. She jokes about him, but I don’t think she likes to think too much about him being gone. I think back to the funeral. She put those sunglasses on, covered her eyes, hid her tears, and that was that. Sunglasses are totally a symbol for not dealing with shit, right, Dr. Waters?

It’s hot as hell up in the attic, and dusty. There are some crazy things in here. There are the coins, of course, the literal treasure of his life. I take them out of the ancient cigar box and turn them over in my hand. They’re Spanish, I think. Dad never said how much they were worth. He’d just say “a whole hell of a lot.” Thousands? Tens of thousands? There are three of them.
Supposedly there were a lot more—he discovered a whole trove. He sold them soon after discovering them, and it helped make him rich. But I think he wished he’d kept them all rather than just these lucky three. There is something so awesome about them, something beyond money. They are the type of things that should probably have been kept in a safe or a bank vault or something. But Dad being Dad, they sit in a box in the attic. You can’t believe the shine on three-hundred-year-old coins. I rub my thumb over the raised figures on each coin—a cross and a lion. And I can almost hear Dad telling the story about how he got them …

“The trip down to the Keys was almost enough to get us killed. The seas were so rough, I threw up so many times, that my stomach was empty and I began barfing up bits of bone. But I had it on good authority that a shipwreck could be found down there, and it just hadn’t been found yet because the scuba technology sucked—until I improved it. I should have never sold that patent. If I was the only one with a Langman valve, I could have found countless treasures. Not that the valve didn’t pay well enough. But money is nothing—it’s the adventure that I loved. And this was quite an adventure. Me and my crew arrived on the island, finally. I had lost forty pounds from puking and was almost too thin for the wet suit. I was delirious and starving and it was about a thousand degrees down there. But I knew I had to get that treasure. I knew I was the only one who could complete the difficult dive. And when I did, when I laid my eyes on those chests of gold …”

Also up here is Dad’s birth certificate and a “birth spoon,” which apparently was normal to get. Hey, congratulations on being born. Have a spoon.

There is an envelope on which Dad had written
BORING SHIT
in his distinctive hand. No need to look in there. Unless, hey, maybe that was his brilliant way of making sure no one would look in there. I open it up. And there are no files. Just more pictures. Mostly old pictures of Dad. There’s one of him on a boat that catches my eye. Mainly because he just looks so … alive. So absolutely and undeniably and electrically
alive
. He’s tan and shirtless, with a full head of hair and a curly beard whipping in the wind. He has his arm around a young dude I’ve never seen before. I’m sure I’ve never seen him, yet he does look oddly familiar under a scraggly beard of his own. They have their arms around each other and are laughing and smiling and …

“Find anything good?” Mom asks.

“You scared the hell out of me!” I yell, dropping the pictures. “I … I didn’t hear you come up.” She comes up to me and looks over my shoulder. I hold up the picture of Dad and Beard-O on the boat. “Who is this?” I ask. She reaches over and fixes the ascot around my neck. But she doesn’t answer the question.

“Are you okay?” she says. The answer, I think, of course, is “Absolutely not.” The answer I say, of course, is “Sure, sure, sure.” It’s quiet for a moment. I don’t feel like small talk, but Dr. Waters says that small talk is healthy and that I should practice it even if it feels pointless and wrong and stupid. “Did I tell you I’ve been doing this Forensics Squad thing Anoop talked me into?” I say. “It’s sort of weird, but sort of fun.”

“Forensics, huh?” she says. “I always thought there were only three ensics.”

“Good one,” I say. My fondness for dumb jokes isn’t solely a paternal trait. “Today we did fingerprints and stuff like that.”

“Oh,” she says. “You know I don’t have any on this finger?”
She waves the index finger on her left hand at me like we’re playing “Where is Thumbkin?”

“Yeah, Ma, you’ve mentioned it.” Mom
really
likes to tell the story about how Uncle Walt talked her into touching a cigarette lighter in Grandpa’s car when she was a kid. It burned the index finger on her left hand so badly and so deeply, the print never grew back.

“If I ever got fingerprinted, all they’d find would be a blur.”

“Shoulda been a jewel thief, Ma,” I say. That’s what I always say when she tells that story.

“Shoulda,” she says, which is what she always says. Silence again fills the stale attic air.

“So, who is this?” I ask, showing her the picture.

“I really don’t know who that is,” she says, returning her attention to the picture of Dad in my hand. She doesn’t take it from me, but she stares intently. “I’ve never even seen this before,” she says. I believe her. Big mistake.

CHAPTER FIVE

Next week’s Forensics Squad begins with a buzz in the air. Everyone is still worked up about day two. How had Zant lifted our fingerprints? And why? We’ve lost dear Penis-Head, so we’re down to five hard-core fans: me, Anoop, TK, MF, and Raquel. Oh yes, Raquel is here. The lovely Miss Flores is looking unbelievable in a thigh-high black dress and knee-high black boots. Dear Lord. I don’t think I can even talk about it.

No one is saying much. Is everyone feeling overwhelmed by those boots? They are some nice boots. I might have mentioned that. Zant enters. Still quiet. It is Maureen who says something first. “Okay, so was I right?” she asks in a chirp. “You lifted our fingerprints off those papers?”

Mr. Zant nods his head yes, his auburn hair bouncing softly in the sun as he does. Shut up. “I’ve been at this for a while,” he says. “So it wasn’t that hard for me. All I had to do was dust your papers for latent prints using fingerprinting powder. Then I lifted the prints with fingerprinting tape, scanned them into my computer using a regular scanner, and printed them out on these cards. Easy-peasy.”

“Easy-peasy?” I say, raising one eyebrow. Seriously?

Mr. Zant continues. “If I were really using these fingerprints for crime-solving, I would feed the prints into a special piece of software that would create a spatial map of all of your
ridge patterns. The computer runs a script to put them into binary, and then can relatively quickly compare each print to the thousands that are in the databases.” The nerds are impressed. Okay, I am too.

“I didn’t do that, though,” he continues. “Good thing, right? Catch you for all those crimes you’ve been a part of?” Everyone laughs.

“My mom has no fingerprints!” I blurt out. “She’s not a jewel thief, though.” And no one laughs. “Uncle Walt burned them off.” Nice explanation. Smooth.

Then Mr. Zant continues. “Moving on,” he says. Nice. “Real fingerprinting tape is expensive and real fingerprinting powder is awfully messy, but there’s a way we can do a simple project to lift fingerprints. Ummm … Guy, would you please help me hand out these supplies?”

“Why?” I ask. “What did I do?”

“Not as punishment or anything,” he says. “I just need a hand, and you’re right there.”

“Guy is lazy,” Maureen says by way of explaining me.

“I am not!” I yell. Although yeah, I totally am. I just don’t want Raquel to think of me that way. I want her to think I am an ambitious young go-getter. At least until we get married or get to second base and it is too late for her to back out.

“He’s totally lazy,” TK adds. (Is this something everyone knows about me? Is it because I am known in English class for my ability to write as few words as possible whenever we have to come up with sentences for vocabulary? I am seriously a master at that, especially after I realized that one-word sentences are technically sentences when used as a command. The subject is
implied. For example, if you’re ever asked to use the word “initiate” in a sentence just write: “Initiate.” It’s totally correct.)

“Fine,” I say. “I’ll pass out the damn supplies.”

“Language, please,” Mr. Zant says. “We’re still in school.”

“Gee, I’d love to pass out the gosh-darn supplies,” I say, doing a goofy elbow-shaking dance like I’m in an old sitcom. Mr. Zant rolls his eyes.

“Anoop, maybe you can help me here, then,” Mr. Zant says.

“I’ll do it, I’ll do it,” I say, slamming my chair back harder than I meant to. It bangs into Maureen’s desk.

“Sorry,” I say. She rolls her eyes too. Too bad getting people to roll their eyes isn’t some sort of marketable skill. I’d be a gosh-darn billionaire. So I help pass out the supplies: a few cards made of thick white paper, tape, paintbrushes, pencils, and some little handheld pencil sharpeners. The sharpeners all have smiley faces on them, which make them seem sort of morbid somehow.

Mr. Z instructs us that the first step is for each of us to use the sharpeners until we have “about a thimble’s worth of graphite from the pencils.” First of all: A thimble’s worth? How many of us have lots of experience with thimbles? Second of all: That’s an awful lot of grinding. It feels like all day, sitting there, twirling my pencil. (So to speak.)

“Sheesh,” I say, shaking my hand out, faking deep pain. Really, I am just bored.

“Keep grinding, Guy,” Mr. Zant says.

“Why aren’t you grinding?” I ask him.

“I
wish
he was grinding,” I hear a muttered voice say from the corner. I don’t look out to hear from whence it came. Sometimes it’s better not to know.

And we keep grinding and grinding and grinding.

And then Mr. Zant explains how to collect fingerprints. We each press our fingers into the cards, then sprinkle a thin layer of the graphite powder onto them. Anoop takes it very seriously, keeping his area very neat, like if he contaminates the operation with germs a patient might die or something. I keep faking like I am going to sneeze on Anoop’s card. I’m hilarious.

“And now please be very delicate as you brush away enough powder so that a print becomes visible. Voilà!” he says.

“Voilà?” I ask.

“Voilà.”

“You don’t get to say that word too much,” I say.

“Maybe you don’t—I say it all the time. Maybe there’s just something wrong with the way you’re living your life, Guy, if you don’t have a lot of ‘voilà’ moments. You should have at least one ‘voilà’ moment a day—probably ten or more at your age.”

I want to give him the finger and shout “Voilà, dickhead!” but instead I just mumble “Whatever” and get on with the project.

I have to admit, it is sort of cool to see my whorls developing right there on the card. I am not as good at it as Anoop, of course. He seems born to perform this type of delicate operation. I just do okay. I Langman my way through it enough that I get the basic idea.

“If you don’t properly lift the print,” Mr. Zant says, “if you don’t pay attention to every detail, if protocols aren’t followed—if a sample is misplaced, if the chain of custody is broken—it’s no small thing. A killer could go free.”

“Weeee-oooh,” I say. Everyone gives me a look. “Scary ghost noise,” I explain. No one seems to find this explanation sufficient. “Voilà!” I add. That does it. Yup.

CHAPTER SIX

After Anoop drops me off at home, I feel sort of like complete and total shit. Forensics Squad is cool, but it’s weirding me out, the talk of death. Like dying is just a game, a puzzle to be solved. It’s really not. I wish Dad were here. As if I need a reminder that it’s not a game. What is the point of it all? He’s the only one I want to ask. So you know what? I decide to go visit him. Mom’s not home, and I don’t drive. Even though it’s raining, my only choice is to walk. I don’t mind. It isn’t raining hard, just tiny drops fluttering like fleas. You hardly notice them until suddenly you are soaked and you have no idea why. I am starting to notice details, I realize. Mr. Zant is getting into my head.

The closer I look at the rain, the more I can see the tiny individual drops swooping down and swirling around in several directions at once, like even the weather is feeling confused. I sure feel that way. I feel totally alone. Like a piece of paper soaked in water and run over by a car. It’s a long walk to Berry Ridge Cemetery.
We all end up at Berry Ridge Cemetery
.

The cemetery where Dad is buried is in a tacky place—just off the shoulder of one of the busiest roads in Berry Ridge’s commercial district. This being America, we have to have at least one street with fourteen fast-food joints on it. This being Berry Ridge, they are sort of fancy-looking fast-food joints with pillars out front and expensively manicured flower beds and stuff. But it
is still the tackiest part of town. And there, just off the shoulder of the busy road, sits a large cemetery. A lot of people are annoyed that more and more fast-food places and tacky billboards are going up alongside the final resting place of their loved ones, but I know that somehow Dad wouldn’t have cared.

BOOK: Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator
9.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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