I thought we were going to get through a year with no murders. No blood. I was wrong. Karina says that it’s time to go. You’ve done your bit, she says. Let it go, she says. I flip open my phone and dial her number. She doesn’t answer. Umm, something came up, I tell her recorded voice. I’m out past Black Jack Springs. I pause. There’s a body, I say. And then, It’s snowing. For a moment I forget I’m talking. Anyway, I say, don’t wait up. Okay. Goodbye.
Jackson comes up from the house. Cold, he says. El nino, must be. El what? I ask. El nino, Jackson says. He’s very young. Probably not even thirty. El nino. You don’t know what El nino is? I shake my head. The woman’s body is still there. For some reason I expected it not to be. Karina is right. It’s time to give this up.
Jesus Christ, I say, I’m old with or without him. It don’t matter. Now stop faggot tapping around and get to the point. What did he say?
Says he saw headlights, Jackson murmurs.
What a pussy he is. Feelings hurt. Young cocks go thumping around with emotion and forgiveness. Expression this and that. Not one of them can handle a stern voice or eye contact, much less something more. Something real.
What time? I ask. About three in the morning, Jackson says. Bullshit. That old fart is in bed by nine, I say. Well, that’s what he said. Says he got up this morning to feed the cows. Found the body. Called it in.
I see two cows on the horizon. Thin and distraught. Silhouetted against the winter sky. Gray on gray. Sinewy meat. Diseased. Thank god Karina got me off that stuff years ago. It gives you cancer, she said. They pump them full of chemicals. Slaughter them by the hundreds. Cutting machines. Nothing done by man no more. Everything machines. In the end the only thing human will be art. And this shit. Machines never solved no murder.
Phone rings. A number I don’t recognize. 512. Austin number. No answer but they leave a message. Who was that? Jackson asks.
Last day of the year, I say. Forty years of this shit and they get me on the last day of the year. Huh? Jackson asks. A bloodless year, I say. No murders. One goddamned time I would have taken a bloodless year.
Really? Jackson says. You’ve never gone a year without murders? Jesus. That’s fucked up. It’s not like this is Chicago, you know what I mean?
Karina and I in church. It was during the summer fires. The whole sky was dark with smoke. Noon. No rain for weeks. Preacher said, these fires will cleanse us. He said, it is God’s way. To make something new from something old. Karina saying Amen whenever they ask her to. You see it in the big cities, Preacher continued. See it in the New Yorks. The Los Angeleses. You see it in the Chicagos, he said. Like Sodom and Gomorrah before them, these places have turned their backs on God, and for that He will punish them. And he will do the same to us. Even here in Texas, he will do the same to us. Unless we accept Christ into our hearts. Into our homes. Our families. And when we do that, he will protect us. Each and every one of us. He will protect.
Another phone call. Unknown. 512. Austin. Another message.
Can I help you gentleman? A young woman. Beautiful. Sandy blonde hair. Jackson’s age maybe. Dressed like a rancher. Cowboy boots. Brown. Blue jeans. Checkered shirt underneath a Carhartt coat. Also brown. Freckles on pale skin. Rosy cheeks from the cold. Perfect teeth. Strong jaw. Pursed lips.
Phillip Jackson, he says. Detective. And this is…
Landry, I say. Marcus Landry. Firm handshake. Eye contact. Slight smile. Fuck me eyes not seen since my youth.
Can I invite you up to the house? she says. It’s freezing out here. Hot coffee?
I look at the body while Jackson says, That would be kind of you, miss. For some reason, she never remarked on it. Never even looked at it. Blue face. Lost eyes. Dried blood like a necklace. It could almost be her twin. Same blonde hair. Same build.
You go to school there in Austin? he asks. Yep, she says. Senior. Go Horns. I come out every weekend to see Papa, but it took me so long this morning. Roads are terrible. Ice everywhere. Wrecks everywhere. We’re just not used to this weather, you know? Don’t have the equipment. Salt, or whatever. People don’t know how to drive in it. So dangerous.
My phone rings. Same number. Like lightning I am hit. Karina. My Karina. She is heading to Austin today. Doctors appointments. Icy roads.
Hello, I say. A pause. A voice on the line. Is this Mr. Marcus Landry? it asks.
Written by: Logan Theissen
Photograph by: Michael Ken