All Ped Up

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A Chance Meeting (Mystery & Cozy Mystery, Writing Award 2023)
Award Category
Logline or Premise
Novice detective, Elvis Carfrae, is invited to help his mentor and friend, detective Raymond Jake, to investigate a pedophile claim in Raymond's hometown.
First 10 Pages

From the age of 10 or 11 Raymond Jake knew what he wanted to be when he grew up: a school janitor, first, he loved the official job title, custodian. Raymond had always loved words and was always looking them up. His father always said: “if I tell you, you’ll just forget; but if you put in the time, do the leg work and research, you’ll remember forever”.

The day Raymond looked up “custodian” he loved what he read: “a person entrusted with guarding or maintaining a property; a keeper of things”. Raymond liked the idea of being a keeper or guardian and being entrusted. That was right up Raymond’s alley.

The second thing that sealed the deal for Raymond, was meeting Henry Blankenship. Henry was the school custodian, he had a black beard and mustache combo, he was slightly overweight, he had big hands, a bulbous nose, and brown wide set eyes. He wore a gray uniform with the name of the school on one side and his name emblazoned on the white badge on the other.

Henry was a Korean war veteran, he stayed with the army after his tour and then retired with honors and began his civilian life ; he wanted something with less stress, but still had some responsibilities, he told Raymond, this job fit the bill, Henry laughed when he said that. Henry laughed a lot. “Keeps me from crying after all the horrors I’ve seen,” he told Raymond; and Henry was always telling Raymond something: little nuggets of information, witticisms or even off-color jokes. “As long as you don’t tell your folks, Ray, I’ll keep feeding you full of information,” Henry would say. “I just don’t need to be getting in trouble because I say the word pussy in your presence.”

Raymond swore himself to secrecy.

Raymond followed Henry around like a puppy dog, he had very few friends in school, as it was. His parents moved around a lot and this was Raymond’s third school in 5 years. Mom and Pop promised they’d be sticking around a while this time; but Raymond had heard that promise before. He remained a loner because he didn’t want to get to attached to anyone, then have to leave them. Henry seem to be a safe bet as someone Raymond could focus his attention on. Plus, Henry said one day he’d be moving on, but he never did.

Raymond watched Henry clean up bathrooms and hallways of puke, shit and debris, but he did it all with a positive attitude: “Hell Ray, this is Paradise compared to the shit I had to clean up in Korea; I’d rather pick up shit in a towel than have to stuff someone’s guts back in to them with my bare fucking hands, excuse the French.”

What Raymond also liked was that Henry’s job just didn’t follow the school year, it was all year long. “Even when you kids aren’t here, there’s plenty of work to be done, the fucking place needs constant attention, excuse my French again.”

Raymond learned a lot of French that summer.

There was also the cool side of Henry’s job that Raymond liked. The big ring of keys that Henry carried around on his hip, jingled as he walked, reminded Raymond of those movies where Santa Claus came to town with to the jingling of sleigh bells. Henry could also get into any room in the place, even those marked “Off Limits”, “Faculty Only” and “Danger, Stay Out”. Henry took Raymond into all those places.

“I don’t give a fuck what you see Ray,” Henry once said. “This shit-hole really has no secrets, it’s nothing like being in the military, where divulging the wrong thing could get you killed. Here, the worst stuff you’ll see is the stuff you’ll overhear. Larry Paul’s bunions, Mrs Potter’s abortion, Mason Dixon is cheating on his wife with that big boobed vice-principal Dana Hasselbeck. Christ, this place is a regular soap opera, with all the secrets people can’t keep and all the goings on.” He roared with laughter and mussed Raymond’s hair. “Not that you heard any of that from me.”

Grade six and Raymond Jake was the keeper of secrets and the custodians assistant, at least that’s how he thought of himself. Henry used to have him hold the light when he was fixing something and needed both hands; handed Raymond the key ring for safekeeping when Henry climbed a ladder; he even helped Henry re-light the boiler because “the goddamn school is going to freeze this fucking goddamn winter if we don’t get this mother up and running.” Henry was not happy that day, he muttered and cursed like crazy, but he still had the wherewithal to end his sentences with “excuse my French.”

Henry’s least favorite job was chasing kids away. He genuinely liked people, but there was some restricted places kids weren’t allowed to play. The roof being one. There was access through the school, but there were also places people could climb around the school, and if you were nimble enough, you could access the roof from a number of places. Usually, Henry was chasing off a kid who lost a ball on the roof and decided to take matters into their own hands to retrieve it. Henry always tried to remind them, “I’m here 24/7, just ring that bell beside the front door, I’m happy to get it for you.” But kids still liked the thrill of climbing, and continued to do it.

Henry tried to be jovial and friendly about chiding them, but he also tried to stay firm. He was not one that liked having enemies.

“There’s enough countries in the world that hate us, their people and their rage towards us could fill the sea three times over; and we certainly don’t need to be hating one another in this country. Though there is enough of that to go around too.” Raymond also loved how philosophical Henry was, and as he got older he learned to appreciate it more.

But Henry had developed an enemy over the years, Hogan Leftwich. Hogan was a “dick” according to Henry. Hogan was also “and entitled, rich fuck who thinks his shit don’t stink,” Henry confided in Raymond one day while Raymond was in grade seven. “That motherfucker don’t give a shit about anything and it’s going to get him killed or he’ll end up killing someone, mark my words. I saw guys like him in Korea, think they’re invulnerable, world can’t touch them, their shit don’t stink and everyone owes them something ... The world has a way of straightening those assholes out. It’s never quick mind you; but Mother Nature makes ‘em suffer, in the end they get theirs - and mark my words that’s what’s gonna happen with that Hogan kid.” And Raymond, did, he filed that little nugget into the back of his mind for future reference.

As Raymond Jake advanced through the grades, and finally established himself in one place for more than two years, he continued to hang with, and help, Henry Blankenship with his custodial duties. Henry liked having a little after school ward, he called Raymond his little soldier.

One day when Raymond was in grade nine, Henry took him to what Henry called “his barracks” .

“Remember the day I told those kids. I’m here 24/7?” Raymond nodded, because he did. “I wasn’t kidding. Part of my deal with the school is that I be on site 24/7, as long as they provided me a place to stay.” Raymond was following Hank down two flights of stairs to a part of the school he’d never been in. At the bottom of the stairs was a door with a “Private Property” sign on it. Hank reached into his pocket and pulled out two keys, one’s not attached to the ring on his belt.

“This one’s for my home, the other my car,” he said putting one into the lock of the door in front of him. He pushed the door open. “Welcome to my home,” Henry announced.

14-year-old Raymond walked through the door and into Henry private world, awed by what he saw. A square room, a cot with a thin mattress in the corner, a small night table made of metal with a clock and a tin cup on it. There was a small table, two chairs, and a thin upright fridge beside a counter that held a hot plate; beside that, we’re two glasses, two dishes and a pair of cutlery sets: two knives, two forks and two spoons.

“Believe it or not this is more than what I had in my army days,” Henry confided.

Raymond spied a door to his left: “what’s that lead to?”

“All right,” Henry nodded. “You miss nothing. That’s my special room, the school might not even know I have it.”

He used the same key he had used to get into his room to open this door. He pushed it open and Raymond could see the room was glowing. He stepped inside. There were at least six TV monitors on a table, all in black and white and each showing a different part of the school. They were also two wooden chairs in this room.

“Nothing’s more important than surveillance,” Henry said, as Raymond stood mouth agape. “That’s something I learned in the army. Knowledge and surveillance makes the world go ‘round. I have this room so that I can keep an eye on things at night. School doesn’t even know about the cameras, I had an old army buddy get those for me and installed them myself. The wiring was a bitch and a half, but I finally got it right”

“Cool,” was all Raymond could say.

“Since you’re here, you want a Coke or something?”

Raymond was in too much awe to say anything.

“I’ll take your silence as a yes,” Henry said.

He then went and fetched the two cans of Coke. They sat and watched the goings-on on the monitors, seated in the chairs in front of them sipping Coke and being quiet. Raymond saw something on the monitor and pointed it out to Henry.

“What’s that?”

Henry paused a moment or two, squinting at the monitors. “Fuckers got on the roof again, pardon my French Ray. You stay here. Looks like that tool Hogan Leftwich, that little bastard never fucking listens.”

Henry got up from his chair and walked towards the main door. “Just stay here Ray.” Henry repeated, “I won’t be long, enjoy the Coke and the show.” He laughed his roaring laugh. “I’m going to put a scare into Hogan this time.”

Raymond heard Henry trudge up the stairs, seemingly in no hurry. Raymond, knew Henry was coming back, because you left the door open to both rooms and the key in the lock of the secret room.

Raymond watched the monitor. He saw Hogan Leftwich on the roof pacing back and forth, as if trying to get spotted by the cameras. But there was no way he knew about them, maybe he was just trying to make noise. Then another figure appeared, Martin Kilbride, then. Then Joseph Montgomery, and finally Michael Lawrence ... Raymond wondered why four guys needed to be on the roof to get one ball. Raymond spied a knob on the desk with the letters above it VOL., he turned it and could hear birds chirping and the occasional car go by; there was also the scraping sound of Hogan’s feet against the pebbles on the roof. He then heard a key in the metal door to the roof and it opened it slam as Henry heaved it open with such force it whacked against the brick wall behind it. He knew Henry was there. He could see Henry take in the four boys, surprised, but he was the adult and former army. He was in control, Raymond was sure of that.

“What are you kids doing up here?” Hank demanded in a stern voice.

“We’re here to see you,” Hogan Leftwich said.

“Well, I’m easier to find on the ground level than up here,” Henry responded. “Now get down and we can discuss whatever it is you want on terra firma.”

“Make us,” Hogan said defiantly.

“Hogan, don’t be an asshole,” Henry said “I know your father and if I have to report you’re being a disturbance on school property he won’t be happy, seeing he’s on the board and all.”

“Fuck my father, and fuck you too, Blankenship. Just because you have a set of keys and a puppy dog doesn’t mean you run the joint.”

Raymond, who was watching and listening to the whole exchange didn’t even realize he was the puppy dog Hogan Leftwich was referring to, he started looking around the room for the dog Hogan mentioned.

His attention didn’t return to the monitors until he heard Henry say, “Now what the fuck are you boys going to do with those?”

Raymond looked up to see the flash of metal blades in each boy’s hand.

“We’re going to carve you up Blankenship,” Hogan said.

Henry stepped forward, “I dare you.”

And Hogan dared. He plunged his blade into Henry’s belly. Henry’s eyes bulged out in shock. But Hogan was not finished, he pulled the blade out and plunged it into Henry six more times. The other three boys stood and watched and stunned silence. How Henry remained on his feet Raymond could not figure - six pokes to the belly should have put any man down. Then Hogan did the really unexpected, he grabbed Henry by the collar and belt and rushed him towards the edge of the roof and then off.

“Goodbye Blankenship,” he said. Henry never said anything, not even a scream.

Raymond heard a noise he’d never forget, but she assumed it was Henry Blankenship’s body hitting the pavement two stories down from the roof.

All three of the boys dropped their knives and began screaming at Hogan.

“What the fuck, Hogan.”

“I thought we were just here to scare him.”

“You killed him. What’s wrong with you, Hogan? You are one crazy fuck.”

Raymond had no idea who said what, because he didn’t know their voices. But he knew Hogan, and he could see Hogan on the monitor, clear and plain as day.

“Bastard fucked with the wrong guy. He was in the army, he knew the score, he knew the consequences of fucking with me. He got what he deserved.”

“He didn’t deserve to die,” one of the voices said.

“This is fucked up,” another said.

“I’m gonna to be sick,” said the third.

“No one’s going to be sick and no one is going to say a goddamn word. If you do, you’re fucking next. Am I understood?”

There was silence.

“Good. Keep your mouth shut. Now, pick up the hardware, no witnesses, no evidence and we’ll be fine if we all just keep quiet. You all planned this with me, so you are all accessories; if one goes down, we all go down. Now, let’s get out of here.”

The other three boys dutifully picked up their knives and walked through the door. Henry had emerged from. Raymond assumed they’d walk down the stairs and right out the front door. Raymond stood there watching the monitors, hoping something would happen. Hoping against hope that Henry would walk through the door, beaten and broken but alive. After 5 minutes of waiting and staring at the screen to no avail, Raymond flopped into the chair and began to cry.

The next sound he remembered hearing was the scream of a woman, and her telling something, or someone, to get away from that. Sirens ensued, and now on the monitor Raymond could clearly see light flashing, but due to the lack of color he could not make out of the red that had now engulfed the building. Raymond got up from his chair, walked the two flights of stairs to the main level, found an exit and emerged through a side door.

“You,” a voice cried out when his feet were no less than 3 seconds on the pavement. “Who are you and where did you come from?”

“Inside the school,” Raymond answered.

“And who are you?”

Raymond told the officer his name. He was then told to stay right where he was and not to go anywhere. Raymond did as he was told. He must have stood there 5 minutes before anyone else came along. Though there was a few set of eyes on him.

Finally, a man in a black suit approached him. He was dressed in a white shirt and black tie. To Raymond he looked like one of those FBI agencies he saw on some of the TV shows he watched. The man introduced himself as Detective Todd Stein. He was young, thin, clean-shaven with a thin face and very white teeth. He smiled at Raymond.

“And who might you be?” He asked.

Raymond again told someone his name, where he had come from and waited.

“You know anything about this mess?” Detective Todd Stein asked.

Raymond said he did. He told him the whole story beginning to end. Detective Stein seemed incredulous, then he asked the follow up.

“And how did you know all this being that you were in the school?”

Raymond told him about the room with the monitors.

“Young man, I believe you, really I do, but you are going to go up against some very powerful people with that story. You got any proof of what you say happened, happened.”

Raymond took the young detective down to Henry’s inner sanctum and the monitor room. Detective Todd Stein then use the radio on his belt to call another detective, another man appeared in the doorway some 2 minutes later. He was the senior detective in charge: Detective Spacelli, but everyone called him Tony.