A quick story with a little mystery.
Part 2: Jack finds out who sent him photos of the green door and what’s behind it.
The dream at 2 a.m.
It was May, senior year. The trees had just filled out and street lights glowed through leaves with a soft green patina. Graduation was a month off, Alice Cooper pounding in his head – “School’s out for summer… School’s out completely…” There he was beer buzzed, running down streets with dark houses, angry, jumping at tree trunks, stopping in an open field yelling, “How could you?!” Running, trying to outdistance the loneliness, the rejection; running through what? Tall red grass? Something sticky and wet, which made no sense. Then just before he woke up in a sweat, her face, Jenny Nelson’s, and in the fuzzy background a growling voice, “Hey loser, get out of here. Who invited you, anyway?”
Jack Digger started at the ceiling, eyes wide, mouth open. Running through tall, red grass? Some shrink would love to analyze that image.
Where did he end up that night? That wasn’t his crowd, the football crowd. Team jackets, a couple new sports cars, talk of scholarships. Jenny had just invited him to the party to be nice, he supposed. They had been friends for years, sharing classes, bus rides on school band trips. She had seemed different, a member of that crowd, but somehow apart. And suddenly she wasn’t. What had she said at that party? Maybe she was just a little high. Whatever it was, it ripped through him and he called her something nasty and on the way out kicked over a beer keg, which got him chased by half the guys, but they were too loaded to run for long.
“Oh, man. Triggered by Todd saying her name,” he said to the ceiling. “Aren’t you supposed to forget that stuff after thirty years?”
He sat up and ran his fingers through his hair. No falling back to sleep after that.
He opened his computer and searched for Jennifer Nelson, Greenside, N.Y.
Sure enough, she was dead. A week ago.
“Murdered.” Someone hated her.
Jack searched for a news story about the murder and found several, including one in the New York Times filled with background information.
“Some people just want to be a big deal.”
He hopped out of bed and wandered to the kitchen trying to walk and read the computer screen at the same time. He kept reading while he filled the Keurig with water and brewed a cup of Ethiopian.
“Oh, look at that … did go to old MIT, degree in something about biomechanical DNA analysis, use of water by plants… Really? Couldn’t find anything more pretentious? ... Reading: “Break though study, patent applied for… who’s this guy? “(Jennifer) was leading the grain industry to a new tomorrow, one diametrically opposed to its past… and preparing it for the hard choices that will need to be made in a world facing climate change…”
Saving the world, were you? Couldn’t even save yourself.
“What’d they say about her death? She had moved back to Greenside three years ago…Look at all the things people do when you’re not looking?” Reading: “She started a company to grow organic vegetables using experimental farming techniques. … In the shuttered Greenside Frozen Foods Company complex. She was found stabbed to death in the refrigerated warehouse … workers returning to work on Monday found her in the produce section, behind some pallets, under a tarp, police said. She hadn’t been seen in the office for a week; her secretary said something about a conference in Colorado. The medical examiner said the cold would make a precise determination of her day and time of her death challenging, but he offered an estimate.”
That’s what I thought.
Jack sipped his coffee and scrolled through the few other stories about her death. One had a photo.
“Oh, that’s her husband, no, ex-husband, Mark Maguire, that jerk quarterback. He threw me out of that party. They’ll think he did it. Cops always like spouses as suspects, ex-spouses even more. Wonder what the divorce settlement was like? Maybe she only gave him a cut of the arugula.”
That was some complex, even half empty, he recalled. Some company. Green packaging, had a big green vegetable as a mascot. The company cars were green. The doors are still green.
He let that idea settle before he closed down the search engine. It felt satisfying. No, felt complete.
His mailbox held more than twenty new messages.
“I’m sorry, Jenny. Business calls. Rest in peace, Blondie.”
With his finger poised on his mouse to open the mailbox, Jack waited for a flicker of sorrow to emerge. All he heard was Todd’s dismissive voice: “You can really be a jerk sometimes.”
Jack smiled. “I know. Ain’t it great?”
He opened the mailbox and recognized a familiar name.
He downloaded the file and saw a photo of bloody knife.
With glee: “Perfect.”
His phone rang and Jack saw it was Todd.
“Todd, it’s four a.m.”
“I know. When was the last time you were in Greenside?”
“Why would you ask that?”
“It was a two weeks ago, class reunion. Your first in decades. You called me about a weak computer link because you were in some fleabag motel with bad wifi. Remember what you told me, gonna make them finally pay attention to you. How’d that go? Not like you planned, huh? Did she call you a loser again?”
“You don’t know that, Todd.”
“Jack, I do. I set up your system. I can track you anywhere, and I know you sent the green door photos and the one of the bloody knife to yourself. How many more are there, Jack? What are they, trophies? Christ, Jack. Did you take one of her dead body?”
“You do know the absolute last thing you’re never supposed to do on the Internet is post evidence of your own crime. I’m hanging up. I have a call to make.”
“Todd, don’t hang up. I can pay you.” The ice hardened in Jack’s voice, words like gravel. “Don’t make … don’t make that call, Todd.”