If you asked most of his friends – the handful who’d admit to being his friends – they’d tell you Eric was a little intense. If you saw him, you’d probably agree – Eric had short spiky black hair, eyes that were perpetually between manic and feral, and his general manner made most people think of amphetamine psychosis.
Eric disagreed. Eric didn’t see himself as intense. He saw the world as intense. His reaction to it seemed only sensible. Proportionate. Sure, he was a little hyper, and his voice was kinda high-pitched, he supposed. But that didn’t make him wrong. And besides, he hadn’t taken any speed since he left the army.
He had hold of something now, something no one else had picked up on. And he knew he was right, now, too. That’s why he had to tell people.
Fortunately, Jim and Vincent were home when he got there. Eric didn’t waste time with social niceties. He limped into the living room and blurted it out: “There’s a killer!”
The silence lengthened uncomfortably. Jim and Vince tried to keep straight faces, but Eric knew they were one second away from laughing their asses off. “It’s true,” he said. “Look at this!” He threw his scrapbook of newspaper clippings and jottings down on the coffee table, atop the Rolling Stone the two men had been looking at when he arrived.
“Eric, what are you talking about?” asked Vince.
“There’s a killer. Someone’s killing us,” said Eric. “They’ve already killed twice!” To Jim, he sounded almost pleading.
“Okay, Eric. Take a seat, tell us about it. You want a glass of water?”
“You got coffee?”
“Water, Eric,” said Jim firmly. Eric wilted and sat.
“Okay, water,” he agreed. Jim gestured to Vince to get Eric his drink.
“Now, Eric, tell us what you’re talking about. From the top.”
“Okay,” said Eric taking his glass from Vince, and draining it a single gulp was Vince sat. “You know Fred Howell?”
“Sure, died in a car accident the other week coming back from Mt Griffith.”
“Right. A single car car accident.” He paused for effect.
“Yeah. So?” said Vince.
“So a man who’d never had a car accident in his life crashed his car?”
“He was an old man,” said Jim.
“Older than you, even,” said Vince, elbowing Jim.
“Maybe he just fell asleep, or had a heart attack, or something?”
“I got his autopsy report from a contact in the morgue. Did you know he was loaded up on Note Perfect when he died?”
“That makes no sense!” exclaimed Jim. “The man was a teetotaller. Hell, he’s the one who helped me detox when I went cold turkey.”
“I know,” said Eric. “I was suspicious already when I saw the accident report, but when I got this it just confirmed my suspicions. He was killed.”
“Okay, I can see a few problems with that idea, but let’s assume it for now. You said twice?”
“Right,” said Eric, nodding vigourously. “The second killing was Delores Nash.”
“I thought she was shot by the kid who stuck her up?” asked Vince.
“I can’t deny that that one’s a murder,” said Jim. “But what makes you think it’s connected?”
“Her assailant was never caught.”
“Her assailant was a kid.”
“No,” said Eric, “that’s just what the police told us. That doesn’t make it true. No one saw the assailant – the police are just playing the odds. Sure, most robberies like that, it’s someone aged between 15 and 25. But this isn’t like that.”
“If no one saw the assailant, how can you know that?” asked Vince.
“Because there was no money taken from the till. Do you know anyone around here who’d do that?”
“Maybe they just panicked?”
“That’s what the cops said. I don’t buy it.”
“Why am I not surprised?” asked Vince.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Eric.
“Just that you’ve always had a problem with authority. You spent more time on KP than anyone else in our unit, and that was just Basic Training.”
“They were lying to us.”
“I know,” said Vince, “but like I’ve been telling you since the day we met, there are smarter ways to fight them than head on.”
“If we can get back to the matter at hand,” said Jim, and the other two subsided. “Eric, I can see you’ve put a lot of thought into this, but I just don’t agree with you. I think you’re reaching too far with this one.”
“I’ll remind you of this when someone else gets killed,” said Eric accusingly.
“And if no one does?” asked Jim. Eric sighed.
“Then I guess I’ll apologise for wasting your time.”