Crime Fiction

 Greenville, South Carolina                             

     “Where’s my kid?” The small man’s dark, handlebar mustache trembled. He leaned forward and placed his hands, palms down, onto the paperwork-littered surface of the police sergeant’s desk. “Where’s my kid?” he repeated. “I know he’s here. I need to take him home. He’s…he’s not stable.”

     The desk sergeant swiveled around in his chair and took a long look at the man before him. “State your name, please, sir.”

      “Morlan Keeleigh. He’s…he’s not reliable, okay?” His left hand shook slightly. “You get what I’m saying, right? I need-”

     “I understand, sir,” the sergeant interrupted. Abruptly, he arose and walked out from behind his desk. “Come with me.”


      “Wait a minute.” Officer Chad Kelly straightened and strode across the floor of the interrogation room. “Let me get this right. You saw someone get accosted, but you’re not sure if it actually happened or not?”

     The boy nodded. Beneath the bright light that hung above the long table, he appeared even skinnier than he actually was. “I thought I’d better say something…just in case.”

     Chad marched over and plopped down in the chair across from the kid. “When was this?”

     “I think it was last night.”

     “You think?”


     “Look…” Chad paused for a second. The bright lights made the boy’s smooth face look ghostly pale beneath his mop of black hair. “What’s your name again?”

     “Jathan Keeleigh.”

     “Look, Jathan, I have other duties to attend to. If you can tell me exactly where you saw this happen, I’ll go with you and we’ll check it out. Otherwise…”

     The kid’s eyes were pale- the color of silver. “It’s like a dream sometimes. I just…” he was silent for several seconds.

      Chad waited.

     Jathan’s expression changed and his eyes clouded over. “She’s dead.”


     “I saw him…” The boy reached up and wrapped his long, slender fingers around his own neck. “He killed her.”

     At that moment, the door swung open and Chad sprang to his feet. His intended reprimand died at his lips as he met Sergeant Jackson’s unreadable blue eyes.

     “This is Morlan Keeleigh.” The sergeant gestured toward the scrawny man at his side. “He says-”

     “I’ve come to take my boy home,” Keeleigh interrupted. “He’ll just lead you on a wild goose chase. He’s done it before…at our last home. That’s why we moved here. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about, Officer. He lives in a dream world.”

     “Would you be quiet, please?” Chad felt an instinctive dislike toward the sorry excuse for a man.

     “Kelly,” said the sergeant sharply. “The boy is fifteen years old. He’s underage. Keeleigh has the rights. He can take his son home if he so chooses.”

     “But he’s a witness to a crime,” Chad protested. “A murder.”

     The sergeant glanced at the boy at the table and then leaned closer to Chad. “The kid’s psycho, Kelly. Keeleigh says he’s a schizophrenic. He sees stuff all the time but it’s just in his head.”

     Chad opened his mouth but Sergeant Jackson straightened and held up his hand. “Keeleigh, take your boy and scoot it. Now.”

      The thin man trudged over and seized his son by the wrist, hauling him out of the chair. The boy followed his father willingly until they reached the policemen.

     “I saw it happen again,” he said, stopping and looking at Chad. “Just outside. Before I woke up. I saw it just like the first time.”

     “Come with me, Kelly.” The desk sergeant stepped out of the room and continued down the hall toward his own private office.

     Chad glanced over his shoulder to see Keeleigh pulling his kid up the hall in the opposite direction, toward the exit. Then he hurried to catch up with his superior officer.

     As soon as they entered the office, Sergeant Jackson sat down and motioned for Chad to do the same, but the younger officer declined. “With all due respect, sir. I would prefer to stand.”

     “Suit yourself.”

     Chad didn’t see any point in beating around the bush. “I think the boy is telling the truth.”

     The sergeant frowned. “You’re missing the point, Kelly. Of course the boy is telling the truth. He’s telling what he saw, but he saw it in his head. Did you see his eyes when he spoke to you before he left? He’s spaced.”

     “Maybe. But he was totally normal when we first started talking. I want to check it out. I think he’s legit.”

     There was a long silence. Then the desk sergeant heaved a sigh of resignation. “Alright.”


     Chad was not expecting much help when he walked through the door of the principal’s office at Greenville High, and it went just about how he thought it would.

     “I haven’t seen the Keeleigh boy in weeks, Officer,” said the principal apathetically. “And it suits me just fine.”

     He tried the students next.

     “Jathan Keeleigh?” exclaimed one athletic-looking teenage boy. “You gotta be kidding me. What would the police want with a weed like that?”

     A small, pert fourteen-year-old was of pretty much the same opinion as her brother. “I’d forget about it if I were you,” she told Chad candidly. “He’s a basket-case.”

     A well-fed boy in Junior High showed a little more potential. “What d’ya want with him?”

     “He claims to have witnessed a crime,” Chad replied carefully. “I’m just following it up. Do you know where he lives?”

     The boy fiddled with his notebook for a minute. Finally, he said, “Sure. I’ll take you there after school.”


     Chad hadn’t realized that people actually lived in dumps like this one. Morlan Keeleigh’s place looked like it would cave in with the next good wind.

     They found Jathan sitting on a stump behind the house. He wasn’t really doing anything; he was just sitting there.

    The chunky student approached him and plopped down heavily onto the grass beside him. “Hey, man, how’s it goin’? You doin’ okay?”

     Jathan turned his silver-colored eyes onto the other boy’s face. “Cartrell?”

     Cartrell smiled. “It’s me alright. I’m real.” He reached out and touched his companion’s shoulder.

     Jathan nodded. “I thought I saw my mom earlier. She was swinging on that tire.” He pointed at the dilapidated tire swing that hung from the branch of a nearby, large maple tree. “I started to walk toward her, but then she was not there. I don’t know…”

     “Hey,” Cartrell laid his hand on the younger boy’s knee and jerked his chin in Chad’s direction. “This cop wants to talk to you.”

     Jathan looked up as if seeing Chad for the first time. “...Hello…So I really did tell you, then. I…I wasn’t sure.”

     Chad nodded. “Where’s your dad?”

     “I…I don’t know.”

     “Do you remember what you told me?”

     The boy’s thin face looked pinched. “I can’t forget it.”

     Chad hung his thumbs in his belt loops. “Can you show me where you were when you saw that lady get killed?”

     Slowly, Jathan rose to his feet. For all his skinniness, he was fairly tall. Taller than Chad. “Yeah,” he said. “I can show you.”


     Cartrell went with them.

     Jathan led the way through piles of garbage and ugly shacks that were serving as houses for people. Chad felt sick. He hadn’t known that folks were living like this.

     They ended up in a back alley behind a tavern where Jathan stopped behind a rain barrel. “I was standing right here.”

     Chad took a step back and surveyed the setting. The rain barrel was about twenty-five feet to the left of the back door. “Tell me exactly what you saw.”

     The boy bit at his lip, but he didn’t hesitate. “It was dark. I saw the figure of a man come out through the door. A woman was behind him. They were…” His pale face fused with color for the first time. “. . .they were a couple. The man stopped and turned around. They were talking quietly to each other and she was laughing. But then, he reached for her and she…move away from him. He grabbed her…” Jathan stopped talking. His breath came in quick gasps and he turned, leaning his forehead against the brick wall of the building.

     Cartrell approached his friend and laid his large hand onto the other boy’s shoulder. “Jathan.”

      “I can see it.” Jathan’s voice was barely above a whisper. “Like it just happened…He grabbed her. She tried to get away and he got mad. He was drunk too and the drink had…taken over. Even in the dark, I could tell ‘cause I’ve seen it before.” He turned away from the wall and faced Chad. His jaw was set at a hard angle. “He killed her. He lost it and he choked her. Then he saw me and I ran.”

     Chad shifted his feet. He was more certain than ever that the kid’s story was true. “Did you ever see this man’s face? Would you recognize him again if you saw him?”

     “No. It was too dark. As soon as I saw him move toward me…I took off.”

     “Where’d you go after that?”

     Jathan looked down. “I…I don’t know. I can’t remember. Next thing I knew, I woke up behind the police station. I was sleeping in the dumpster.”

     The dumpster? “You can’t remember?”

      The boy shook his head. “It’s all…a shadow.”

     Unexpectedly, a rather disturbing thought formed itself in Chad’s mind. He tried to squelch it, but it persisted. “You didn’t go home?”

    “I don’t know.”

    “Did you ever see your dad?”

     “I don’t…think so. I would have remembered that, I guess.”

     “I see.” But he wasn’t sure if he did. Something didn’t add up. “When you came to the station, you told me that you weren’t sure if what you saw was…real. Why did you say that?”

     Jathan shifted his feet and swallowed visibly. “Because I’ve seen…things like that happen before and…and the police checked them out and…nothing.”

     “One more question: Where did you live before you moved here? Your dad said something to the effect that you had recently relocated.”

     The boy nodded. “Savannah, Georgia.”


     Chad popped his head around the corner and caught the eye of the desk sergeant.

      “What is it, Kelly?”

     “I got something very interesting to show you.”

     Reluctantly, Sergeant Jackson arose and followed Chad back to the desk sergeant’s office. “What have you been doing in my quarters, Kelly?”

     “Researching.” Chad did not intend to let the sergeant take off running with the conversation. “Look what I found.”

     He pulled out the information that he had printed from Jackson’s computer and pointed out a couple of significant details.

     Deep furrows lined the sergeant’s brow. “No way!" He took a closer look. "You're right, Kelly. How about we pay Mr. Morlan Keeleigh a little visit?”

     Chad shut off the computer and stood up, carefully stashing the papers in his back pocket. “My thoughts exactly, Sergeant. But I think we should see the tavern keeper first.”


     “Sure.” The tavern keeper was a huge man who looked as if he had had too many drinks in his lifetime. His name tag read: Harvey. “Sure. Morlan was here last night. He hung out right there at that table and drank a whole half-bottle of whiskey.”

     Chad looped his thumbs behind his belt and rocked back on his heels. “Was anyone with him?”

     “Sure. Alana Ross. She works here. I think that they left together too.”

     Chad grimaced and took a glance at his sergeant, who hadn’t said anything. Then he returned his attention to ‘Harvey’. “Have you seen this Alana since last night?”

     The tavern keeper shook his head and reached for a couple of shot glasses. “No. But she comes into work every night here at about eight-thirty. You can talk to her tonight.” He laughed. “I’m sure she’ll enjoy it. Would you guys like a drink?”

     “We’ll pass,” Chad replied. “Thank you for your time,...Harvey.”

     “No problem.”


     They found Morlan Keeleigh relaxing in a chair on his rickety front porch. A bag of trash sat on the front step. The other step was missing.

      Keeleigh sprang to his feet as Chad leapt up onto the porch. Sergeant Jackson stayed behind on the ground as if content to let Chad handle the interview.

     Keeleigh pasted on a smile. “Jathan’s around back, if you’re looking for him.”

     “We’re not,” Chad answered. “It’s you we want to talk to.”

     “Oh yeah?” Sweat beaded out on the small man’s forehead.

     “Where were you last night?”

     “Uh, here, of course. In bed.”

     “Really? All night?”

     “Uh, yep.”

     “Funny how Harley says different.”

     Keeleigh paled visibly. He stuttered something unintelligible.

     Chad drew out the sheets of paper from his back pocket, unfolded them, and showed Keeleigh the picture on the front page. “That looks just like you to me, doesn’t it to you? It says right here that you are wanted in Savannah, Georgia for beating up a woman in a downtown saloon. So far, you have lied each time that we’ve met. You told me that you moved here because of Jathan. That’s not true, is it? Also, from what I gather, you did not make contact with Jathan between the time you left for the tavern last night and the time you showed up at the police station this morning. So, how did you know what your son would even be at the station and what made you assume that he had some ‘unreliable’ story to tell us?”

     Keeleigh’s face turned several shades of red. Without warning, he spun around and jumped off of his chair over the side of the porch. He hit the ground running, but Sergeant Jackson was right there to greet him and the fugitive sprawled in the dust with the sergeant on top of him.

     Chad reached them just as the sergeant jerked Keeleigh to his feet. “It’s because you saw him watching you in the alley behind the tavern last night, Keeleigh, isn’t it? You figured that all you had to do was tell us that Jathan’s story was unreliable because he is schizophrenic and has conjured up weird stuff in the past. The only problem was that his story is true, isn’t it? I’ll bet that Alana Ross won’t show up for work tonight…or tomorrow night…or the night after that.”

     Keeleigh jerked as if to try to get away again but the sergeant had him fast by the collar. Deliberately, Chad folded the papers back up and returned them to his pocket. He withdrew a pair of handcuffs and held them up in front of Keeleigh’s face. “I think that you need to come with us.”


                                                                                                   3 days later

     Chad walked into the station and poured himself a cup of coffee from the thermos in the corner of the room. Hesitantly, he tasted it. It was lukewarm. Horrible.

     Sergeant Jackson, as usual, sat at his desk filling out paperwork. He looked up. “How’d it go, Kelly?”

     “Good,” Chad replied. “Keeleigh confessed and he told us where he had hidden her body. It was right where he said it would be.” He took another sip and grimaced. The coffee was really bad. Worse than it had been for a while.

     “What’s gonna happen to the boy?”

     “Jathan?” Chad walked over to the water dispenser and dumped the coffee down the drain. Why bother? “He’s gonna be staying with his friend Cartrell’s family for now. This hasn’t helped him any, but at least he knows that what he saw was real. He told me that, a lot of the time, he feels like he’s living in a dream…a shadow land. But I think that it will be good for him to be with Cartrell and his family. They’re solid, common sense people. It’s better than some orphanage or foster home, anyway.”

     The sergeant nodded slowly. “A shadow land, huh?”

     “That’s what he said.”

                                                              THE END

October 13, 2022 22:22

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