3rd Place – August 2018

The Dog Crap Omen


Gary Christenson

The Great Dane ambled along and stopped upwind from where I sat nearby on the front porch. After he had my attention, he squatted and dumped a pile of steaming brownish-green crap on my front lawn. Having done his business he wandered down the street. It stunk, like a sewage treatment plant next to a stagnant swamp.
I saw it as a sign from above. Someone is telling me more crap will flood into my life. Like the pile on the lawn, my past stinks. It includes a disastrous marriage, a hateful relationship with my neurotic son, and several nasty encounters with cops.
I flipped off the retreating dog. My face twisted into a frown as I wrinkled my nose in disgust and contemplated lifelong disappointments.
Moments later two squad cars with lights flashing and sirens blaring screeched to a stop in front of my house. Two suits emerged from a third unmarked car. Four uniformed cops ran from their squad cars and pointed weapons at my chest.
The first suit approached, flashed his badge when he reached the sidewalk and announced, “I’m Detective George Morris and this is my partner, Detective Jill Sconce. Are you Mr. Duane Cotton?” Detective Morris wore a cheap business suit, wing-tip shoes and baby-blue tie that complemented nothing.
Detective Sconce carried an extra sixty pounds of flab and had squeezed her enormous butt into a dark gray suit. She exhibited no fashion sense as she marched toward me and stepped into the pile of dog crap. “Son-of-a…” Her male partner suppressed a grin.
“I am. Why the flashing lights and pointed guns?”
“Mr. Cotton, I’m arresting you for the murder of Sally Cotton…” He droned on doing his Miranda thing, but I wasn’t listening. This hurt. Sally is my daughter-in-law and a special friend.
Two of the uniforms holstered their handguns, yanked me to my feet, and snapped cuffs on my wrists. They marched me to their squad car. Who would murder Sally? Why? When?
After booking me one of the dozen cops lurking in the area put down his donut long enough to unlock my cuffs and re-lock them to a “D-Ring” on a rusted steel table. This wasn’t the first time I had been trapped in an interrogation room. They left me to fret, which I knew was standard procedure.
“Mr. Cotton, we have questions for you.” Detective Morris sounded as charming as a rattlesnake and as dangerous as Dracula. His partner, the obese Detective Sconce, stared at me with unblinking viper eyes. He started a recorder and stated, “Interview with Mr. Duane Cotton regarding the murder of Sally Cotton. Date is July 10, 2018. Time is 2:04 p.m.”
My face gave nothing away.
“Where were you last night between eight and ten?” His voice and manner confirmed he had already tried and convicted me.
“Home watching TV and drinking beer. Where were you last night?”
“I’m asking the questions here! Confine yourself to answering.” His face flushed as he reprimanded me. “Can anyone corroborate your alibi?”
So now I need an alibi. They intend to hang me for her death.
“I watched TV alone last night.”
“Do you know Sally Cotton, the deceased?”
I smiled at him, a cranky smile, dripping with attitude. That attitude had caused trouble with cops before. “Sally Cotton is my daughter-in-law, married to my son, Doc. You want to explain the deceased part?”
“Police found her dead last night in her living room after neighbors reported gunshots. Somebody shot her twice through the head. Do you own a handgun?” Detective Morris frowned as he made notes.
“Yes.” I waited for the next punch.
“Firearms records show you own a thirty-eight caliber Smith and Wesson. Can you confirm its location?” He glared at me, a challenge. The vice squeezed tighter.
“Lying in my bedroom nightstand the last time I saw it.”
He removed a bagged handgun from a case and asked, “Is this your handgun?”
I looked through the plastic and said, “Might be.” So they have the gun. Next stop on this train to hell is finger print city.
Morris sounded triumphant. “You are the registered owner of this gun. Officers found it lying on the floor near the deceased. We identified your fingerprints on the weapon.”
“No shit! Imagine that, my fingerprints on my gun. Amazing! You got anything more?” Defiance did me no good, but I suspected it was too late.
He gave me a cold stare and said, “We do. Here’s a letter that appears to be in your handwriting. I’ll read a few lines to you.” He sounded smug. “Sally, this has to stop or you’ll get hurt. We have to quit before something life-changing happens.” He asked, “You want to explain that threat?”
“It wasn’t a threat. I banged my daughter-in-law whenever my son left town for work. The letter told her we needed to quit having sex or something bad would happen, like her husband would figure it out, get pissed and divorce her.” I gave him my cranky smile again and said, “My crazy son discovering his old man was banging his wife qualifies as bad in my book.”
 I was stupid to put anything in writing.
They continued questioning me for another hour before they delivered the knockout. “Mr. Cotton, we found your gun at the scene of the crime with only your fingerprints on it. The bullets that killed Mrs. Cotton came from your gun. You have no alibi and have admitted an adulterous sexual relationship with the victim. You wrote an incriminating letter threatening the victim. You have a motive, means and opportunity to commit murder. You’ve got a record, a long history of violence, and several criminal arrests. We believe the DA will prove you killed your daughter-in-law.”
I stared at him. They had yanked the noose tight. I shouted, “Screw you. I want an attorney.”
They marched me to a cell with a toilet and cot. I plopped down on the bed, leaned against a stone wall and shivered with fear.
I slept a little. Sally pranced before me in a dream. She wore the same tiny yellow negligee as the last time we hopped into bed. My dream Sally informed me in her whiny little girl voice, “You screwed the pooch this time. I’m sorry it came to this, me being dead and all, but they’ll hang you for killing me. You didn’t do it, but good luck selling that story.”
I imagined my day in court. “Your Honor, I present into evidence a dream of the deceased prancing half-naked before me in my jail cell. She said I didn’t kill her. Honest!” I sneered at the absurdity and smashed the wall with my fist.
They would nail me for her murder.
About midnight my panic dissolved into reasoning. I didn’t kill her and she didn’t kill herself. Someone used my gun. Who had a motive to kill her? Who could have taken my gun? Who has a temper and a nasty streak of jealousy? Who is a little crazy and capable of murder?
The next day my count-appointed attorney arrived. The weasel showed no interest in me. I asked, “How damning is the evidence against me?”
Weasel sneered. “Stevie Wonder could see you killed her. They like you for it and aren’t looking elsewhere. Convincing a jury you’re guilty will be a cake-walk. You want to plead out?”
I ran scenarios through my head. Weasel waited. He had nowhere to go and nothing more important to do than selling my ass down the river.
“Yeah, I want to plead. Not murder one. Manslaughter?”
“Maybe Murder Two. Do twenty years.”
“I’m fifty eight. That’s a life sentence.”
He didn’t say a word.
“Try for something else, anything else. Five years tops. I can’t do twenty.”
He frowned and said, “Don’t get your hopes up.” Weasel left me regretting my violent life.
 The case didn’t go to trial because I pled guilty. The judge chastised my violent behavior and anti-social attitude before sentencing me to twenty-five years. He glared at me throughout the hearing. Weasel told me, “You might get out in fifteen.” He couldn’t make eye contact.
I shouted, “Screw all of you!” as they escorted me to prison.
 Months later my son visited. He said, “Hello asshole. You doing okay?”
He hated me for things I did to him during his childhood. “Doc, I’m doing great. This is a luxurious country club staffed by beautiful and half-naked women eager to please. Waiters in tuxedos serve dinner under chandeliers. I drink only the finest wines. A seventy-five inch QLED TV hangs in my cell. Yeah, I’m doing fine.”
My life is crap.
He stared at me with a blank expression. “Thanks for taking the rap. You owed me.”
I twisted my face into an ironic grin. “Yeah, I owed you. Now we’re even.”

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