Groundswell: Chapter Twenty-nine

“Who was that?” asked Candy as Logan stuffed his phone back into his jeans pocket.

They were sitting on frayed and wobbly lawn chairs, on the back porch of a house with a collapsed roof. When Shonda called, Logan had been searching online for the last known address of Walt Sheckley.

He looked into her eyes. Suspicion? Jealousy? Or is she afraid I know she used her dead lover’s bloody hand to paint death threats to herself on her own wall? No, it’s jealousy.

He wasn’t so sure, anymore, that she hadn’t killed Chance Miller. He could see it now–she was a manipulator, and a damned good one, too. She’d even admitted as much, when it came to her dealings with men. Each of them had a purpose; something she could get from them.

What’s my purpose?

“My contact in the FBI,” he said. “She’s coming down from Washington. We’re in some pretty deep shit, I guess.”

“That’s all she is to you? A contact?” She smiled–not in a happy way, but in a scary way. He pictured her smiling at Chance Miller like that before she killed him.

Who am I to judge, though? I killed a child. He was really starting to regret having told her that. He certainly couldn’t report her to the authorities. She’d just rat him out and give them a sob story that anybody with a dick would line up around the block to buy.

“Come on,” she teased. “I could tell by the way your voice changed that ya’ll have something going on.”

He sighed. She was good. No point in lying. “Did have something going on. Years ago. Years. And what do you care, anyway? You act like we’re in a relationship or something.”

“Well, I do feel something between us. Don’t you?”

He looked away.

“Fine,” she said, getting up. “Let’s go find this stupid house and see if the crazy person who probably can’t tell us anything still lives there.

Off she went, then, down the ivy-covered alleyway. He rose to his feet and followed after her.

Turn right on Wilton Avenue in seven hundred feet,” said his phone.

“Place looks like something from The Walking Dead, doesn’t it?” Logan asked her as they navigated the cracked, uneven sidewalk, stepping over holes and around tall weeds.

“I wouldn’t know,” she said icily. “I hate that show.”

“So you’ve watched it, then. I mean if you hate it you’ve seen it, so you do know what I’m talking about.”

She shook her head. “You’re such an asshole. I hope your little FBI girlfriend likes assholes.”

He stopped, grabbed her by the shoulders and spun her around to face him. “Look,” he said, “I don’t know what you think is going on here, but you’re really starting to piss me off. I don’t want anything to do with you after my job here is done. You understand? Stop what you’re doing. Turn it off. Right now. I don’t feed attention whores.”

She slapped him hard across the face. “Fuck you, babykiller.”

He winced and rubbed his cheek. “Alright, fine, I deserved that. Let’s just get this over with so we can get outta here.”

“He probably lives all over the place. He’s not even going to be in there. This is stupid.”

He ignored her and walked up the steps to the front door of Walt Scheckley’s house. He knocked, waited, and heard nothing but the sound of flies buzzing.

He looked down. “Somebody’s been here,” he said. “There’s a bucket of shit on the porch.”

“This is disgusting,” said Candy. “I want to go home.”

“Hold on,” he told her. “Wait out here.” After discovering the door was unlocked, he eased it open and crept inside. He’d been in houses, as a cop, that were in much worse condition, but not by much.

“At least it’s not full of cats,” he muttered, shining the flashlight on his phone around the room.

It was almost impossible to isolate any single stain on what was left of the carpet, but there was a big one right by the couch. A big dark one, and it looked fairly fresh. Lying next to it was an old M16.

He knelt down and pressed his fingers into the stain.

Damp.

He sniffed his fingers, conforming his suspicion.

Blood.

He shined his light against the wall.

Bullet hole.

Someone had found Walt Sheckley first. Someone who didn’t want Walt Scheckley to talk to Logan Hayes. Somebody, or somebodies, rather, had tried to kill Shonda for the same reason.

The M16 hadn’t been recently discharged, but someone had attempted to. It was jammed. He laid it on the couch.

Just what the hell happened here, anyway?

A quick search of the house almost revealed nothing of importance until instinct told him to check the master bedroom closet again.

He cleared away all of the debris piled in front of it and knocked. The wall wobbled.

He ran his fingers all over it until he found the edges of the panel and pried it away.

Years ago, he’d won ten grand from a scratchoff at a Circle K. The surprise and elation of that moment couldn’t hold a candle to what he felt when he saw what was hidden behind that wall. He closed his eyes and exhaled. He felt safe again.

“Thank you,” he whispered.

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