Ep.52 – Bad Cop in a Small Town on Halloween Night - Mayhem and Blood Rain on All Hallows' Eve!
Halloween is the last shift for a bad cop, but on his final watch he stumbles upon something truly sinister... Can he rise to the occasion and do the right thing for once?
Bad Cop in a Small Town on Halloween Night by John Oak Dalton
Music by Ray Mattis http://raymattispresents.bandcamp.com
Produced by Daniel Wilder
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Faron didn’t know what a viral video was, until his daughter showed him a recording of him sleeping in the patrol car in the parking lot of the school. Some asshole kid had shot it on a cell phone and sent it to a friend who posted it on Twitter and the rest went how it went. That was on a Wednesday morning and by that night there was a dance club mix with Faron’s loud snores and a sample from Junie Morrison’s song “Suzie Thundertussy.” By Friday night the memes were in full swing—there was a screen cap of Faron sleeping in the patrol car and the text read “When you’ve been racial profiling all day and the donut shop is out of coffee.” And a lot worse than that. Monday night was the town council meeting, and if Faron didn’t know anything about social media he sure didn’t think the town council did. But he was wrong. It was a three-person board who met once a month at the library with a handful of old people and a few cranks in the audience. Ellen Soames was the board president and also the town librarian which was a tough combination. Joe Linseed was a retired farmer who held court at the gas station out by the highway most mornings but didn’t do much here. Buster Winsome was the son of a retired teacher named Ann Winsome and when she passed away Buster filled the rest of her term and then nobody could think of any reason to vote him off. Faron gave his usual monthly report about his speeding ticket quota and one or two domestic calls and one or two drunk driving stops but he skipped over the fight at the high school because he didn’t want to mention the high school. The town board seemed to be listening unusually closely and afterwards Ellen asked him to stay and talk. “We’ve got some changes that have been in the works for a long time,” Ellen started. Faron didn’t bother to ask what changes, he just stood there. Ellen started back up. “The county has agreed to drive through town a couple of times a day. And the high school has been wanting to hire their own resource officer anyway. So we will need you as town marshal through Halloween on October 31st but that’s it.” Now Faron reacted. “That’s this Friday.” “It’s been in the works for a long while, Faron.” “Can I at least get my insurance through December? That’s for Abby.” “It isn’t going to work that way.” Ellen looked at him with sorrow on her face but Faron knew it was for herself. When her son got back from Afghanistan it was Faron who talked him through what it was like to be a civilian. Faron had gone from high school to Desert Shield and then had been town marshal ever since so maybe he wasn’t the best bet but he was all Darren Soames had. It still didn’t stop Darren from ending it all with a Tokarev pistol he shouldn’t have been allowed to bring back from in country. “We can let you resign,” she said. “I’m going to need the unemployment,” Faron answered. “Nobody is going to know until the week after Thanksgiving. That’s the next meeting.” “It’s okay, I don’t got my daughter for Thanksgiving.” Faron walked out. The next day Faron was sitting in his patrol car by the flashing light on the main street. It was Highway One but through town it was called Hadley Street although everyone called it Had Been Street. Like there Had Been a grocery store there, and that Had Been a Bank, and that empty field Had Been the school before consolidation. People were speeding and doing rolling stops but why did that matter now? He was talking to his daughter on his cell. “Has the teasing died down at the school?” he asked. “It was never that bad. Mercedes dressed her dog up in an octopus costume and put it on TikTok like Wednesday or Thursday. People got into that.” “Well, thank Mercedes for me.” “Are you going to get in trouble, Dad?” What Abby was really asking was her father going to be able to pay for her college, which he agreed to do as part of the divorce decree five years ago and was happy to make happen. He worked as a bouncer at a bar called the Red Triangle in Ohio on the weekends, which was outside his agreement as a law officer in Indiana, and was why he was asleep Monday morning at his third job as resource officer at the high school. “If I get in trouble I can get out of it,” he answered. “I’ll see you on Halloween. I’ll have candy in the patrol car.” “I’m a senior, I’m too old for trick or treating.” “Well, walk down there anyways.” “Okay.” And they hung up. Faron turned on the radio in the patrol car and put it on the country station everybody listened to. His ex was the mid-day DJ and had done a lunchtime request show for years that Faron still liked. Dolly was singing about how hard it was to be a diamond in a rhinestone world. But then she played Willie singing about the Red-Headed Stranger and the Yellow-Haired Lady and his heart fell in his chest. Faron was a redhead and his ex was a blonde and they danced to this song at their wedding. So that’s how Faron knew that news had spread through the little town already about his firing; his ex was playing the song because she was thinking of him. Faron didn’t want to think about what it would be like to be an ex-cop. Everybody he’d pulled over and ticketed, when pretty women were let go after a smile and sometimes the promise of a drink or more, all the guys he knew had hit girlfriends or wives or kids or all three and might have accidentally bumped their face on the patrol car, or found their paperwork lost for days when they got dropped off at county, all the dealers who were busted because they weren’t his dealer. That was all worth thinking about but having the pity of his ex-wife was the worst. And then his thoughts turned to Abby. He could pick up more bouncer shifts at the Red Triangle, but not too many more, and he could go back to doing security at the big outdoor venue where they had stock races in the fall and concerts in the summer, but it was an hour each way and the tweakers were bad, you could put them in choke holds and kick them in the balls over and over and they just didn’t seem to feel any pain or care. At least the Red Triangle had mostly drunks and stoners and only a biker once in a great while. And anymore most of the bikers were cops and firemen running wild on the weekends, and they always got a pass on behavior. He might be able to scratch together money but he wouldn’t have insurance, medical or life or anything. He had it all until October 31st and then there was nothing. And a little thought squatted in the corner, and he only looked at it out of the side of his eye until Halloween night. Then Faron sat in his cruiser at the flashing light on Hadley starting around 6 o’clock and gave out candy, He waited until Abby came by and she had dressed up after all and dragged out a couple of girlfriends and it was all meant to be ironic but they were having fun. Faron ribbed them but told his daughter that he loved her, because of the thoughts that had been growing in his mind all week. She was wearing a mask so he couldn’t gauge her reaction. As soon as she was gone he put the patrol car in gear and drove south out of town and then a little farther. Two summers ago during the town bicentennial they had closed the main road through town and had a carnival come in. But a night or two in there was an immigration raid of some kind and all the carnies were dragged off or ran off. After a few days of complaints, and nobody from the carnival coming back, Joe Linseed rode his tractor into town and dragged the rides off one at a time to a farm field the government was paying him to keep fallow. There those old rides rotted away, along with some busted-up trailers and some other ragged odds and ends. It’s where Faron pulled in and parked, and saw a little campfire in the dying light. He knew Joe Linseed’s nephews or cousin’s kids or some kin hung out here all the time but Linseed was kind of his boss so Faron did nothing. Even though he had an idea what they were doing out here. Faron took a Remington 870 shotgun out of the trunk and started walking towards the campfire where several figures crouched or sat in broken-down patio furniture. Young guys still shirtless in the fall chill. There was a chemical smell in the air. “Hello, Walls.” The call from the gloom brought Faron up short. Only one person called him that, and it was his childhood friend and adult weed dealer Rickey Webb. He knew his mother had named him after her favorite singer Faron Young and had loved his hit song “Hello, Walls.” Rickey was a nephew on Joe Linseed’s wife’s side but never came out to this little encampment people up the road called Rustytown. Faron thought for a moment, but kept coming. “You look damn serious, Walls.” “And all you hillbillies out here look damn jumpy.” The energy shifted towards Junior, though who he was junior to Faron couldn’t remember. He was the lead dog in this younger group and went from juvie to county to state prison and only recently returned from the grand tour. The shining whites of his eyes stared out at Faron and his neck tattoos looked like bruises in the blue light. “If you want some of that Leopold Gold I done brought up from Tell City last week, come by my place tomorrow. You don’t need to be out here,” Rickey said. “Neither do you.” “I ain’t never out here but I got business tonight.” “I do too. So maybe you can slip out past that tilt-a-whirl and I’ll come holler at you tomorrow for that grass.” Somebody snickered. “He said grass.” “Shut up, Garwood,” Rickey said easily, his eyes trained on Faron. Faron gestured with the shotgun. “I tell ya what, leaving out Rickey, if there is eight teeth between all of you I won’t take you whole passel of dickheads in for making and dealing meth.” Junior, Garwood, and the others began to move, but Rickey put up a steadying hand. It dawned on Faron for the first time that Rickey, despite his easygoing demeanor, might have been the O.G. of this loose band of related, feral criminals. It was just one more thing he had overlooked, not paid attention to, let slide. “Walls, why don’t you ease on out of this here job, everybody knows this is your last night as town marshal? Let somebody else worry about this tomorrow,” Rickey suggested. Junior blinked. “Hell, if he ain’t found until tomorrow, it ain’t like killin’ a cop.” Junior had a gun in his hand, and then Rickey did too. Faron just stood with the shotgun loose in his own hands. “We don’t need to think like that, cuz,” said Rickey mildly. “He knows,” said another voice from the growing darkness. Junior nodded for emphasis. “What else would he be doing out here on his last day?” Rickey studied Faron. “That’s it, isn’t it? It’s your last day. God damn, Faron, don’t let it go down this way. Think about Abby.” “You know I am thinking about Abby.” It was the truest thing Faron had ever said. “And get her name out your mouth.” Rickey blinked, and Faron swallowed. “Then tell your idiot half brothers or second cousins or whatever this Island of Misfit Toys is to stand over against that Hall of Mirrors with their hands behind their backs and make this easy.” Rickey shook his head. “Head on back to town, ole hoss. I’m tryin’ to talk these kids outta makin’ a bad mistake.” “It’s my mistake. I been too easy on these young dirtbags because I took most of their mommas behind the football stadium at one time or the other.” Junior finally lifted his gun, a Hi-Point nine millimeter, just as Faron had hoped. Only Rickey lifted his his own Bersa Thunder 380 and shot his cousin in the face. Garwood fired, and Rickey tipped back in his chair and his legs kicked the air. Garwood turned and fired at Faron next, and Faron felt a hot bite take the bottom of his right ear off. Rickey was up and on his knees pointing his gun at Garwood when somebody stepped out of the shadows and fired at Rickey. A geyser shot out of Rickey’s neck but he still shot again, and Garwood’s jaw disappeared in a cloud of red and his teeth peppered the campfire. Garwood convulsed and fired, hitting another man in the shadows who started screaming. Faron stood and waited for the bullet, but the new gunman turned and ran for the trailer, flannel shirt flapping behind, and the last man broke and run as well. Faron watched for a moment, then threw his shotgun on the ground. The Remington had been empty but the Glock-19 in his holster wasn’t and it turned out he needed it. It was one thing to die in a hail of gunfire and another to die in prison. So he walked up and shot the screaming man and then followed the other two towards the trailer. The one in the flannel banged the door open and ran in but the other veered off. He figured he had the flannel guy boxed in but had better catch up to the second guy. That guy ran hellbent towards what was labeled the Funhouse, a big sheet metal box that had been built on the back of a flatbed. The Funhouse had some sort of zig-zag gangplank held up with chains, and Faron watched for a moment as the guy—who Faron finally recognized as a recent high school dropout named Peyton Sanford—tried to navigate the wobby platform in the dark. He stepped into the round O of a painted clown’s mouth, and the brake must have been off on that tunnel, because the gears started moving and the opening rolled up like a hamster wheel. It would be funny, if Faron wasn’t trying to die in the line of duty. Faron fired into the clown’s mouth and missed, but the bullet spanged around and finally hit Sanford and knocked him flat. He tried to get up, but just flopped around in there until Faron drew a better bead and shot again, and Sanford stopped moving. Faron turned away, and saw some weird shapes dancing in front of him. He triggered his gun without thinking and heard shattering glass. He had shot right into the stupid half-assed Hall of Mirrors. When he saw his own image splintering a hundred times he kept going. Faron beat it for the trailer, and quickly realized he made a mistake. When he stepped through the door, the chemical smell strong, he saw a hole had been knocked in the back wall with a blue tarp strung over it, and taped over onto another trailer parked right behind. So Faron bolted through the trailer and out the back, hoping for the bullet that would blow up the trailer behind him and everyone around to the world beyond. But instead he found the last gunman standing in an open field nearby, next to a beat-up 1980 Plymouth Volare Road Runner. Faron knew the beater belonged to a kid everybody called Baby Gates, because once he got so drunk his friends gated him into a kitchen to sleep it off, and he couldn’t figure out how to undo the latch, even when sober. Baby Gates had popped the trunk and had the gun pointed inside, which Faron immediately flashed on: dogfighting. Even Baby Gates couldn’t think he could get out of trouble by shooting up a trunk full of drugs. But Faron went ahead and killed him anyway, then walked over to see what Baby Gates could have possibly been thinking. Inside the trunk was a very thin and pale young woman, wearing clothes you would throw in the dumpster behind the Goodwill. The stench of human smells was strong, but the young woman was alive. Faron bent over and vomited in the grass, then he felt better. It was the killing of the young men and the finding of a young woman so close to Abby’s age. He had sometimes vomited after killing in Iraq and knew that was part of it. He reached a hand out to the cowering, feebly-moving woman but finally just reached down and lifted her out and set her on the ground. She was a flat five feet and didn’t weigh a buck ten by Faron’s eye. “What’s your name, miss?” The young woman just stood and shook, her teeth chattering. “Can you tell me your name, miss? You’re alright now.” The young woman slowly opened her mouth, and Faron saw a darkness within. It took Faron a minute to realize the woman had no tongue. Faron looked into her eyes. “Okay. We’ll go back to my patrol car. I got paper and pencil there so you can write your name down.” The young woman shook her head. “You don’t want to write your name down?” She shook her head, harder. The truth punched Faron between the eyes. “How long ago did you get taken?” The young woman lowered her hand until the flat of it hovered around her knee. Faron felt the bile rise in his throat when he thought about the enormity of what had happened to the young woman. “Okay, well, we still need to get back to the patrol car. Just keep your eyes on me when we walk that way and don’t look at nothing else.” The young woman nodded, and Faron led her away from the Road Runner. But as he neared the campfire once more he saw movement again. He raised a hand for the young woman to stay where she was, and Faron approached the fire, where his old friend Rickey was somehow still alive, holding a bloody hand to his neck. Faron stood over him. “You ain’t callin’ this one in, are ya, ole hoss?” Rickey asked. “No.” Faron could see Rickey’s eyes slide sideways in the glimmer of firelight. “I’m glad she’s still alive. If it means anything to ya I thought Baby Gates was talkin’ shit. Some stupid internet thing. I didn’t think he could really go and get a girl from somewhere. I was here to make Junior let her go.” “That does mean something. Where was she from?” “I don’t know exactly but they bought her in Indianapolis. But I know where she was going. They sold her to them people out at Comfort Farm.” “Comfort Farm? Where they had those retreats? My ex went to a writer’s group out there.” “Them people went bankrupt two years ago, this is a different group. They’re from Jersey.” “Jersey?” “East coast people, man.” Faron thought on this for a moment and when he looked down Rickey was dead. The young woman was just standing and looking. She didn’t resist when Faron put her in the front seat of the car. He started the patrol car and turned and looked at her. “I’m gonna take you into town and drop you at the flashing light. There are good people there and somebody will call the police and county will respond.” She grabbed onto his bicep and wouldn’t let go. “I can’t take you with me because I’m going out to the farm they were gonna take you to and I ain’t planning on coming back.” The young woman grabbed and clawed at him so hard that instead of making a big U-turn to town he turned off the car and started walking back towards the Road Runner with the young woman a ghost trailing behind. He took the keys out of Baby Gates’ jeans pocket and threw his uniform shirt on the ground and put on Baby Gates’ flannel which only had some blood on it. He didn’t say anything when she got in the passenger seat. Then Faron bumped over the farm field and onto the highway and straight into darkness. Comfort Farm was right at the very edge of the county and probably out of his jurisdiction if he was thinking hard about it, but what he was thinking was that he should have noticed somebody building a watch tower on the other side of the big cattle gates. Faron idled there and finally honked the horn and damned if a big spotlight didn’t shine out of the tower and point right at the Road Runner. Faron and the woman sat very still. After a long moment he heard a deep-throated rumble and here came a 1987 Chevy El Camino, black on top and silver on bottom, that he couldn’t help but admire. Some long-haired guy with a leather vest over a bare chest came out with a MAC-10 in one hand and a gym bag in the other and stood on the other side of the cattle gates. Faron waited, knowing he had a flannel up top but uniform pants and gun belt below. The guy squinted at the Road Runner. “You were supposed to keep her in the trunk, idiot.” Faron said nothing as the man started to undo the chain holding the cattle gates together. Just for fun Faron revved the engine and gunned it as the chain fell away and banged the gates open and knocked the long-haired guy backwards and watched his limbs turn counter-clockwise. He heard a gunshot from above and so he drove straight on into one leg of the tower and crushed the grill of the Road Runner. He heard a crack and a creak as the wooden leg gave way, but what happened next was hidden in a cloud of radiator steam. He opened the driver’s side door in time to see a guy fall from above and bounce off the hood of the car, an AR-15 going flying. The guy scrabbled for his weapon and slid off the hood of the Road Runner, and Faron shot him before he could get his feet under him. The long-haired guy was somehow on his feet and firing into the steam. Faron bent down and scooped up the AR-15 and let it rip into the darkness. He liked it better than the MAC-10 anyway. He heard the long-haired guy scream so he walked over to the El Camino, accidentally kicking the gym bag on the way. Money spilled out onto the dirt. Faron couldn’t believe what he was seeing but he picked up the bag and threw it in the back of the El Camino anyway. Somewhere down this dirt road the big barn you could rent for weddings was all lit up. There were two guys walking down the path towards them. All the little cabins they used to rent to church groups were all boarded up on both sides of the overgrown track. They had definitely heard a commotion but weren’t in a full-tilt panic yet. These east coast types didn’t think much of Midwesterners, Faron thought sourly. He climbed into the El Camino and there was the young woman sitting there already. “You got to get out of here. You got me through the gate but that’s as far as I was planning on you going. There’s a bag of money back there. Take it and walk to town.” She started grabbing at him again so Faron just put the El Camino in gear and started slowly rolling down the dirt road towards the men and the barn. This one was absolutely not a patch on the 1970 El Camino he had lovingly finished restoring when his older brother got sick of it. But it was better than no El Camino at all. When he got close the floored it, then braked hard and knocked both men down in one swing from the long back of the car. Faron got out and reached into the back where he had seen a tow chain laying. He pulled it out and hit one guy with it and watched the hook hit him on the ear and yank part of his face onto the ground. Then Faron got the other guy as he was standing up and wrapped the chain around his neck. “What’s in the barn?” Faron asked, pulling the chain tighter. But he must have pulled too hard because the guy went limp, blood running from his mouth, and Faron just dropped him in the dirt. Faron climbed back behind the wheel and told the young woman to duck. Then he floored it one more time and drove right at the big barn doors. They didn’t bust open as dramatically as he thought, since he was pushing 45 or 50 by the time he reached them, but they splintered well enough that the El Camino went on through and went into a long skid as Faron pumped the brakes. Faron jumped out with the AR-15 and the Glock-19 pointing straight ahead and saw he was in the middle of a big space all painted red—the barn beams, the floor, everything. There were big bright lights everywhere and little cameras with red lights. There was medical equipment in the corners and chains hanging down from above. There were men and women in animal masks. It was the stupidest thing Faron had ever seen. He felt tired. He had gone this whole night and hadn’t met anybody with the juice to kill him. He didn’t think any of these people could either. Then somebody stepped up with an ornate-looking knife and when Faron stuck his hand up to block it the guy drove it right into Faron’s palm. Now something was happening, he thought, and he lifted the Glock and blew a hole in the masked man’s face. Bone shards blew back and cut his cheeks and he realized it was a real skull of some kind, not some Halloween town plastic shit like he thought. Faron tried to steady himself on the hood of the El Camino and work the AR-15. Somebody with a metal pole ran up to him and too late Faron realized it was a cattle prod. He tried to kick and it hit him in the leg and jolted him clear to his balls and he went down on his back involuntarily. The masked man threw the prod aside and came thrusting downward with another fancy knife, but Faron scrambled under the El Camino and popped up on the other side shooting. Faron could hear a low keening from the front seat and realized it was the young woman, but could not do anything but kill everyone in front of him and hope she would get it together enough to finally run away. Some woman in flowing red robes rose up from behind a bank of computer monitors and started saying some shit Faron couldn’t hear between the rumbling of the El Camino and the sounds of gunshots and the keening of the young woman and the screams of the dying. He shot her thinking the rest of them might stop fighting when they saw it but they didn’t, and somebody stabbed Faron up around the collarbone and the blade deflected off and screeched across the El Camino’s paint job. The Glock was out of ammo and so was the AR-15 and now he wished he hadn’t thrown that Remington shotgun on the ground, but it was alright, he felt about done. But then he started thinking about what that young woman, or even his daughter, or both of them, could do with a bag of money and he grabbed the guy who stabbed him around the neck and beat his head on the car hood until he dropped the bloody knife. Then Faron took it and tried to slit the guy’s throat, but it skittered off the bone of the guy’s mask, and then he thought maybe this was just a shitty knife and threw it on the ground. He picked up the cattle prod and used the business end on some asshole with a big hooked knife and then swung at the computer monitors and it sparked and sputtered and, surprising everyone, started a fire. Then there was a sharp pain in his back and he half turned and saw somebody whose wolf mask was half hanging off was stabbing him with a scalpel from that table full of medical instruments. And it was some guy he had seen a hundred times jogging on the historic trail out where the old railroad had been. Then Faron got pissed, because it was one thing to die in the line of duty and it was another thing to die of a thousand cuts from a bunch of dirtbags who got all their ideas from beating off to death metal videos. So he head-butted this guy and clawed at the scalpel but couldn’t get it loose. He heard a loud K-CHACK behind him and saw some douche holding a Mossberg pump action shotgun pointed at him. Faron grabbed the barrel and forced it upwards, upwards, until he forced it under the guy’s chin. The blast showered Faron with gore but he had lost track of whose blood was whose. There was somebody running away from the growing flames and Faron brought the barrel of the Mossberg down on his head and the guy stumbled and fell. Faron wiped blood from his eyes and didn’t see anyone else running or moving at all, just the steady red lights looking at him from every angle of the room, and so he lay down next to the last corpse and let the fire warm his feet and waited to see if anything else would happen. Unfortunately Faron woke up not in that red room but in a white room. The county hospital, and there was a little boom box covered in stickers on the bedside table and his wife was talking on the radio, and he knew that the boom box belonged to his daughter and she must have left it there and he must be alive. His daughter came in and started crying and he did, too. Not for the same reasons. After a few minutes he asked: “Who’s the girl?” “They don’t know yet,” Abby said. “Everybody’s somebody,” her father whispered. “You’re a meme again,” Abby said, showing him her phone. The video was called “Sleepy Cop Wakes Up” and somehow there was heavily edited video of the massacre at Comfort Farm. “What is this?” Faron asked, pushing the phone away. “You shouldn’t be looking at that.” “You busted up a red room. It’s where they take girls to be tortured and people pay to watch it on the dark web.” “The what?” “The bad part of the internet.” “There was a good part?” “Somebody put the video out. They said they thought the red room was a hoax so they were recording it but they are probably just saying that because they are trying to stay out of jail.” “Speaking of which, that guy outside the door looks like a fed.” “I don’t know what he is, dad.” “I reckon he wants to talk to me.” “He does but I had to get in here first. By the way mom has your phone and is taking all your calls.” “She’s doing what?” “The password is still your anniversary, dad.” “Okay, okay. What calls?” “People want to interview you. Pay for your story. A big podcast called.” “What’s that?” “It’s on the internet.” “You can get paid for that?” Abby snuck a glance at the door, where the man in the dark suit and red tie loomed. “Dad, I think they want your help.” “I’m not a cop any more.” The town council extended you. Mom got on the radio and raised hell because you were all stabbed and whatever and wasn’t going to have insurance.” Faron felt like crying again. It had to be the drugs. “Well she’s a good woman.” “The town council still sucks, they only extended it to December 31st.” Faron tried to shrug. “Small victories.” Faron closed his eyes and when Abby left and the fed came in Faron was sound asleep.
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