Authors: Jamie Garrett
Tags: #Mystery: Thriller - P.I. - Drug Conspiracy - Virginia
|Jamie Garrett - Riley Reid 01 - Jesters and Junkies|
|Riley Reid |
|Wild Owl Press (2014)|
|Tags:||Mystery: Thriller - P.I. - Drug Conspiracy - Virginia|
Jesters and Junkies
Riley Reid Mysteries #1
Wild Owl Press
Copyright © 2014 by Kids n More Pty Ltd – All Rights Reserved
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and locations portrayed in this book and the names herein are fictitious. Any similarity to or identification with the locations, names, characters or history of any person, product or entity is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
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It was April of 1998. I don’t remember the exact date. But I do remember what happened. Every detail is as clear to me now as when it occurred. People tend not to forget the last time they saw their parents.
Our apartment was a little sad. I was embarrassed to bring friends over. My mom wasn’t too hot on cleaning. Dishes were often stacked in the sink with the remnants of past meals caked on. There was a visible layer of dust and dirt on the floors. The living room (if you want to call it that) consisted of an ancient TV/VCR combo and a coffee table covered with cigarette burns and empty beer cans. If one were to walk in and take a deep breath, they’d smell menthols and weed.
Sure, I could have cleaned. Sometimes I did. But within hours the apartment would be a wreck again. The two bedroom apartment was tangible proof that my parents were not ready for a kid. They were nothing but big children themselves. I was an accident.
Their ridiculous arguments sounded like something you’d hear on a playground. And on that particular night, they were at each other’s throats. At the time, I had no clue what the yelling was about. At the time, I had no idea why my mother was sobbing. At the time, I simply didn’t care.
There were more important things going on in my life other than what Mom and Dad were bickering about. Fifteen-year-old girls have plenty to occupy their minds. Things like boys, music and school took priority. Looking back, I suppose I was a bit selfish. But I think everyone is at that age. I was fully engrossed in my own little world, ignorant of the real one around me.
So as my parents fought, I retreated into my bedroom. It was the one place I could find peace, but not quiet. The walls were thin and porous to sound. I was prepared for that. Two birthdays before, my folks got me a CD Walkman. When things got too loud at the house, I put on headphones and lost myself in music.
No one would ever say, “Riley Reid is just a normal girl.” I was never into the boy bands or pop music in general. Not one piece of clothing I owned had the name of the store I bought it from printed across the front. Fitting in was for the boring. With my dark clothes, and collection of bands that never even released an album stateside, I was convinced I was unique.
Of course, I wasn’t special. I was a teenager. In typical teenage fashion, I was oblivious to what was really going on in my life. While I listened to my music and stared at the posters on my walls, my parents were planning on leaving Stone Harbor. They were planning on leaving not only the town, but their daughter behind.
My mom tried to open my door. It was locked. So she started pounding on it.
“Riley? Riley!? Open this door!” Mom started yelling. Her voice was hoarse from her argument with Dad.
I heard her, but acted as though I didn’t. Whatever she had to say would most likely be lies. She’d come in, sit at the edge of my bed and try to convince me that everything was going to be okay. Easy lies would flow from between her lips. They were meant to be comforting, but they served another purpose. Mom would lie to me in order to make herself feel better. Her weakness was more upsetting then any spousal dispute.
“Riley, open this door right now!”
Again, I ignored her.
“You’ve got until the count of three before I kick this door open!” My old man had joined the effort to get into my room.
I turned off my Walkman. With a sigh I got up off my bed.
I sauntered over to the door.
Before my dad could get to three, I complied. He was on the other side of the doorway, standing next to my mom. My father, Troy Reid, was in his mid-thirties. I don’t think he ever let go of his younger days. Dad wore nothing but band t-shirts, beaten up jeans and a worn leather jacket. His hair was longer than mine and brown. Never can I remember seeing him without a cigarette or cigar in his mouth.
Next to my dad, my mom, Dana Reid looked out of place. In an attempt to cling to the last scraps of her former life, she dressed in nice clothes. Every morning she woke up and styled her long black hair and put on her make-up. Even if she never left the apartment, she was all done up. Her time in the bathroom every morning getting ready was the only time she was truly happy. There, she could forget that she left behind a life of privilege for the criminal who knocked her up when she was my age.
“What did I tell you about locking your door?” asked my dad. He was referring to the numerous times he forbade me from locking them out of my bedroom.
I rolled my eyes.
“Your father and I are going out for the night, baby,” said my mom as she entered my room. She reached into her pocket and took out a crumpled wad of bills. “Here, get yourself some pizza or something.” She handed me the money.
I straightened out the bills. There was sixty bucks in my hands. That was a bit too much money for just ordering myself some pizza. But I wasn’t going to complain. With that extra money I could go out and rent a movie and make a night of it. Maybe I’d invite Lisa over.
“Where are you guys going?” I asked, even though I didn’t really care.
“Out,” quickly replied my dad.
“We’ll be back later.” Tears were forming in my mom’s eyes. At the time I didn’t think much of it. I told myself it was just a product of the myriad of pills she was on. She hugged me tighter than ever before, then kissed me on the forehead. “Be good. Don’t burn the place down while were gone, okay?” Her voice cracked.
“If you go out, make sure you lock up.” Those were the last words I heard my father say.
I watched as they left the apartment. I watched them walk out to my dad’s black 1978 Pontiac Trans Am. He loved that car more than anything in the world. I’ll never forget the golden firebird on the hood. When I was a kid I thought it was cool. As I got older, I found it tacky.
Mom and Dad got in the Trans Am and drove off. The red tail lights got smaller and smaller as they fled the apartment complex. I remember a strange feeling coming over me. There was no telling what it was, but I was suddenly anxious and upset. In order to snap out of it, I called up my best friend.
That night, Lisa and I gorged ourselves on pizza and watched some old horror movies. We ended up passing out next to each other on the futon. It wasn’t a particularly eventful night.
Lisa and I woke up to a parentless apartment. She freaked out, afraid of getting grounded for not coming home, and left. I was left alone for the whole day. The night came without anyone coming home.
The weekend was over and I went to school thinking nothing was wrong. I expected to come home and find my parents arguing or my mom smoking a cigarette on the balcony watching me walk home. But I didn’t.
Four days went by. There was still not even a word. The money my mom gave me, and my own meager savings, were gone. I had no one to turn to. My mom’s parents lived in California, and my dad’s were in Fordham Cemetery.
What I decided to do would make my dad furious. That was part of the reason why I did it. I called the cops. My parents were classified as missing persons. And I was on my way to becoming a ward of the state.
Stone Harbor, Virginia, was not a large town. The last census I read counted a population of 5,322. I remember that clearly due to the fact that it is about the same amount of people as I have dollars in my bank account.
Located between the Rappahannock and Piankatank Rivers, Stone Harbor was once a glorified rest area for crab fisherman. They’d dock on the shores and head inland for food, rest and entertainment. For a short while towns like Stone Harbor were booming. Then came the George Washington Highway.
When the highway was built, the docks near it saw a dramatic increase in boat traffic. Suddenly there was an artery that went out of the Chesapeake Bay and connected to cities like Norfolk, Richmond and Washington DC. Stone Harbor was forgotten.
Most of the town was filled with suburban homes. They were built around what was once a vibrant downtown. Well, it was vibrant by small town standards. There was a hardware store, a supermarket, a post office and even a theater. None of those lasted long after the George Washington.
It was a shame. I used to ride my bike through downtown, before it became labeled as the “bad” part of town. Half the fun was dodging the weeds that forced their way through the broken concrete. That always fascinated me. How could something seemingly so weak as plants break a road? The shortest answer is time.
By the time I rented in the neighborhood, downtown was overrun with the homeless. Word got around the Chesapeake Bay area that there was an abundance of abandoned buildings in Stone Harbor to squat in. They came in droves. The drug use and vice downtown got it labeled, “the bad part of town”.
Beyond downtown, Stone Harbor was all family homes and a couple of small apartment buildings. There was nothing remarkable about it. If I were to take a picture of one of the streets, you’d be hard pressed to differentiate it from any other town in America. Ranch and two floor homes were everywhere.
The majority of people who called Stone Harbor home did not work there. Apart from a gas and police station, no one worked there. Homes were cheap. Folks from all around the Chesapeake Bay moved in and commuted out. That led to a mix of income levels. On one side of town, there might be a single mom who worked at some large chain department store a couple of towns away. On the other side, barely a couple of miles away, a lawyer working in the state capitol.
When my parents disappeared sixteen years ago, I was taken in by the Greysons. Richard Greyson was a detective on the Stone Harbor police force when my parents disappeared. He felt sorry for me, and when my parents couldn’t be located, he took me in. They lived in a modest two story home. The front lawn was always mowed. All the paint was kept fresh. It was this awful periwinkle blue. Richard always hated it but his wife Molly picked it out. After she passed away he couldn’t bring himself to change it.
I didn’t live in the Greyson residence anymore. When I finished school, I moved out. The only housing I could afford was ironically enough the same apartment building I grew up in. It wasn’t my first choice but the income of a private eye isn’t very lucrative.
Briar Gardens was the name of my apartment complex. It was just on the edge of town. There were fifty apartments. I knew of only seven other occupants. Who ever built the place must have been a hopeless optimist. But this case didn’t start at Briar Gardens. No, it started at The Side Car Diner.
Over in Saluda, Virginia, was a diner with exceptionally good breakfasts. It was called The Side Car. I’d drive the ten minutes out there just for the fresh squeezed orange juice. Delicious pancakes, eggs and hash browns so good that ketchup wasn’t needed were just bonuses. The proverbial cherry on top.
On the morning of May 15, I was in my usual booth near the back of The Side Car. The seats were red and shiny. They reminded me of something you might see back in the fifties. I felt like I should’ve been eating a burger and sipping on a shake. In fact, the whole place had that vibe. Maybe that was one of the reasons I liked it so much.
I was one of the only people in The Side Car. My only fellow patrons were a couple several booths away. They were notable due to their arguing. It wasn’t the usual loud, shouting type of arguing. Both of them were trying to keep it quiet but emotion would raise their voices at random moments.
One side of the arguing couple was a pretty girl with long dyed-blonde hair. I could see her distended belly. She was pregnant. Her big grey eyes were tearing. What I assumed was her husband or boyfriend had his back to me. He was tall and African American.
“What can I get you honey?” Those were the words from the angel in a waitress’s apron, Carol. She broke my focus on the arguing pregnant couple.
I looked up from my book and at Carol. She had this strange ageless quality to her. She could’ve been thirty or fifty. And I mean that in the best of ways. “Eggs, scrambled, hash browns and some toast.”
“Haven’t you forgotten something?”
“Orange juice, large.”
Carol smiled at me the way she always did. It was warm and comforting, like your favorite blanket. “Coming right up.”
I jumped back into my book. No e-readers or tablets for Riley Reid. I preferred my stories delivered via old-fashioned paper. Touch screens could never replace the feel of paper on my fingers or that smell that I can only explain as the aroma of a library.
The book I was reading was an old-fashioned noir thriller. I know it’s kind of weird to entertain myself with stories about what was essentially my work. But I enjoyed them. There was something about the formula that I liked.
“Here you go, doll,” said Carol as she placed a large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice in front of me. I thanked her.
As Carol walked away, I felt the phone in my pocket vibrate. When I took it out I saw an unfamiliar number. Seeing that I was technically on the job, I picked up.
“Hello, Reid Private Investigations. This is Riley.”
I took a sip of my orange juice. “Speaking.”
“My name is Irene Clark.”
“Good morning Mrs. Clark. What can I do for you?”
“I…we saw your ad online. You are a private investigator?” I could tell over the phone that Mrs. Clark was struggling to keep her voice from wavering. Whatever her reason for calling, I knew it was nothing good.
People sought out my help for numerous reasons. The most common reason was spousal infidelity. A wife or husband suspects their other half is sleeping with someone else. Nine times out of ten, their suspicions are well founded. It’s almost depressing how many people couldn’t stay monogamous.
Another common reason for people to hire me is to find missing kids. Normally the rebellious youths are just runaways. I find them and bring them back home. In the more serious cases where I suspect foul play, I contact the cops.
The rarest of reasons to procure my services are serious issues that the police can’t or won’t solve. While those cases were exciting, they never ended well. Something in Mrs. Clark’s voice made me think she had one of those for me.
“Our son, Dennis…” Mrs. Clark couldn’t stop herself from crying. Awkward doesn’t even begin to describe the situation. There I was, waiting for my eggs and hash browns as a stranger sobs on the other end of the line. I got impatient.
“Is missing? Dead?” I know that seems like a cold thing to say but I was running a business, not a therapy service.
“He was found dead a month ago outside of Saint Mercy.”
I knew what she meant by “Saint Mercy”. It was a hospital about fifteen miles from Stone Harbor. But I had to confirm. “The hospital?”
“Yes. He was found outside the emergency room. Doctors said he overdosed.”
“Mm hm, and what did the police say?”
“They ruled it an accident. They said…” Again more crying. “They said he must’ve been doing heroin with some friends and OD’d. His friends panicked and dropped him off at the hospital.”
“And you don’t believe that?”
The man who was arguing with his girl in the diner got up. He passed by. I tried my best not to look or make eye contact, but those attempts were to no avail. We briefly locked eyes. There was an expression on his bearded face that made me feel guilty for eavesdropping. That guilt was short lived. They shouldn’t have aired their dirty laundry in public.
“Are you still there?” I realized I kept Mrs. Clark hanging.
“Okay, Mrs. Clark. Let me get your address and I can come down and talk to you in person.” I took out my notepad and pen.
“We live at 107 Bainbridge in Stone Harbor.”
“1-0-7. Okay, got it. I’ll be there soon.”
Mrs. Clark was surprised. “Now? You’re coming now?”