“What a fucking mess!”
Rodney had his head poking into the bedroom doorway with a crumpled, disgusted look on his face and his trademark toothpick dangling on his wet bottom lip.
Rodney was our new boss. He had just been promoted and transferred to our unit, despite having a lack of qualifications and experience. The worst part is he didn’t even realize it.
“What the fuck happened here?”
He also had a penchant for unnecessary “Fuck”s. I guess he figured that gave him more of an old school “street detective” authenticity. It didn’t. This was incongruous with his general mannerisms and nature, which caused the rest of us to wince when he would appear at our scenes.
“Bloody hell huh? The fucker offed himself pretty fucking wanky. Heh.”
“Hey boss, yeah it’s messy but it’s an open and shut case. Basic template type shottie-to-the-head suicide. The Lab are on their way and Crime Scene is just finishing up with photographs.”
“Mmhhhm, let me guess, a broad right? Only a broad can make a man do something like this.”
Rodney was also a complete asshole.
“There is a note to his husband- Stephen. They were apparently having …… problems.”
Rodney clenched his eyes shut and muttered under his breath, “ For fuck’s sake.”; causing his toothpick to fall and stick to some blood spatter, thereby, providing scene contamination inside the 30 seconds since he arrived. A new record I thought.
He popped his head back out of the doorway and walked away- “I’ll see you back at the office. You got this right?”
Fish was standing off to the side, behind the door. He was shaking his head while taking notes. “Sheeesh, what a jack-asshole”, he said. “ ‘God-ney’ didn’t even know I was here. Some dick he is.”
Fish was a great partner. Best you could ask for, except of course, when he was banged-up or hung-over, which unfortunately was just about every other day; but I’ll take fifty percent of Fish at his best over anyone else’s one-hundred.
Nighttime. Fish and I stood outside and watched the medical examiner’s crew walk the bag out of the house and slide it into the meat wagon. Behind us, a large gathering was pressed up on the yellow police tape. Once again I couldn’t help but think of the mishmash of noise, yelling and distant blaring music with police lights bouncing all over the block, and how it created the surreal atmosphere of a morbid discotech.
“Here taday, gone taday.” Fish said.
“Here today, gone today.” I mirrored our mantra as we stepped into our black Ford Impala.
Detective Caleb Winters (Lead)
Detective Fred Carp (Assist)
1538 hrs- Receive call from Car 203 reference what appears to be a suicide. Decedent sustained fatal gunshot trauma to head and neck. Discovered by patrol in master bedroom with shotgun. Body supine on bed. Location is 145 Longford Av…
“Cal! In my office. Now. You too Fish!.”
Rodney was standing outside his office which was about 20 feet away from our desks. His tie was pulled loose and he had ketchup on the left lapel of his shirt. Facing us, he made a sharp gesture with his thumb over his left shoulder, towards his desk, and then turned around and went back inside, like a troll returning to his cave. Fish stared at me with his “what now?” face and let out a sigh. We had just returned to the office and I was hoping to type up the tour report and leave. Fish had planned to take a rookie cop out to Smitty’s Bar and Grill. I knew that he’d be of no use tomorrow if he did.
As we made our way through the room towards Rodney’s office, the other dicks, not unlike middle-schoolers, giggled at us- some quietly mocking Rodney’s thumb-over-the-shoulder move. Fish obliged with double middle fingers behind his back as we entered Rodney’s cave.
We stood at his desk and waited as he worked on chewing a big mouthful. He held his index finger pointing upward in a “wait-one-second” gesture. I figured I’d speak first to try and move things along.
“Fish and I are just about done with the suici—“
“—Never mind that Cal, (wipes mouth) I got a call from a Chief over at Red Creek Town PD. They got a strange one and need our help. I want you and Fish to show them how the job is done. Christ, knowing them, you’ll probably have to handle the whole fucken thing. Heh.”
The last thing Fish or I wanted right now was a new case, especially one that’s already been contaminated by a little pissant department. “No problem boss, I’ll call them first thing tomorrow and we’ll deal with it straight away.”
“For fuck’s sake Cal, aren’t you listening? I got a call from their Chief. A Chief. I don’t need no shit. I don’t want him calling our Chief cause that would be shitty, and you know how shit rolls right? You’re going over there right fucken now.”
Fish was already walking out the door as I stood at Rodney’s desk, staring at him. He broke first and looked down at the remnants of a cheeseburger. I turned around and heard him say with a soft voice:
“I need my best on this one Cal. When you get there, ask for investigator Abel.”
I kicked the doorstop on the way out and let the door close on his last words.
“Don’t fuck this up!”
The desert roads along the way to Red Creek were dark and desolate. The closer we got, the quieter- all the noise and lights fading. Disappearing. Only the sounds of the engine and the road remained. Fish was passed out- chin to chest. I began replaying what Rodney said: “They got a strange one and need our help.” A strange one?, I thought. What could that mean. I was too angry at the time to ask.
Anytime I drove out here, I could feel it. There was something hypnotic and disorienting about Red Creek- there was also something indescribably haunting too. Things seemed to move and sound differently the closer you got. Red Creek had a presence. I used to think that it had to do with all the Native American Witch stories which always scared me as a kid, or all the strange tragedies that happened here over the years- but in truth it was probably just shared local superstitions born by layers and layers of stories told over generations.
I’m a grown man now. “It’s just another Town.” I would remind myself.
As we pulled up to the barren Red Creek Town PD Station House, I saw a tall man standing alone in front of the main entrance. I imagined he was standing there waiting for us the entire time we were driving. The station house was dark except for some lighting by the front entrance and a couple of pole lights in the parking area. I counted 3 marked police cars parked in the lot. The man hunched down and squinted his eyes as he peered into our front windshield. He waved, once he figured who we were. He was in his late 40’s or so. He had strong features with dark anchorman hair and black eyes. He was dressed neatly with his button-down shirt perfectly tucked into his perfectly creased jeans. Fish awoke, looked at the man, then at me and let out a sigh.
“Evenin’ sirs, I’m investigator Abel.”
We followed Abel into the ramshackle building. There were curling, faded wanted posters and public information flyers all over the filthy yellowed, once-white walls, and the old asbestos floor tiles crackled with each step. There was a lone uniformed officer at the desk who didn’t move as we followed Abel into his office. The place was eerily quiet. Too quiet for a station house.
“Again, I can’t thank you enough for coming. Please take a seat. I’d like you to listen to something”
We took our seats in front of Abel’s desk. He had a tape recorder resting on it and hit play.
“911, how can I help you or redirect your call?”
(Static and hysterical breathing)
“Hello, what is your emergency?”
“They're all gone! I don’t know where they are! This is impossible!” (crying)
“Sir what is your location?”
“What did I do? Why is (static) —happening? You have to help me! My family!”
“Sir you need to calm down. Please, What is your location?”
(Mumbling in a low voice, almost unintelligible) “They’re (static)— gone- My family has ….vanished.” (call drops)
Abel stopped the recording.
“Ummm, okay, sounds like you have a guy with some sort of altered mental state there Abel.” I said.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Fish looking at his watch and I could read his thoughts. “Why are we here? This is bullshit. I have a hot piece waiting for me at Smitty’s. I need a drink.”
Abel also noticed Fish’s body language and continued.
“I’ll make this quick as I can and to the point. We got this call about 6 hours ago. We were eventually able to locate the caller’s car about 17 miles east of here on Snake Tail Road which is kinda in the middle-of-nowhere. Officer Jimmy Tucker found it on the side of a bend, facing the opposite direction. It looked like the driver braked suddenly and the car spun out. There was blood and damage to the driver side windshield and steering wheel. No video-no witnesses.”
“Okay Abel, a car crash. Listen I’m all for helping out but it’s been a long day, why are-“
“-You here?” Abel finished.
“Water.” said Abel.
“Water?” Fish laughed.
Abel continued,“There was water all over the interior of the car except the driver’s seat, which was bone dry. The other seats were soaked and there were, what had to be gallons of water in the front passenger and rear footwells; and clothes- soaking wet clothes in the car that looked like complete outfits on each seat. A woman’s effects in the front passenger seat and children’s in the backseat- for one girl and two boys. There were also cellphones, belts, shoes and umm, I’m sorry I’m just gonna say it- A used feminine hygiene product on the front passenger seat.”
“We eventually located the driver about a half mile down the road. He seemed to be in shock and was bleeding from the head. Just like his 911 call, he kept saying his family was gone and they had just vanished. Then he kept repeating a strange word- ‘amaganida' or something like that, over and over, with a crazy stare. We identified him as John Blake. Looks like he’s a self-employed CPA whose married with 3 kids. We’ve been searching for hours and there are no tracks- no leads- no… We’ve never dealt with anything like this before and that’s why we need your help. We can hold him for twenty-four hours but time is running out.”
Abel looked down and said softly.
“I need to find his family and figure out what happened to them.”
This didn’t seem real. There had to be an explanation for all this. No one truly vanishes. His family was probably somewhere safe and sound and this guy became disoriented after the crash, but why would he stage a scene like that? Why the water? For some reason, the hairs on my arms and neck started to creep up and that feeling was stronger than ever.
I looked at Fish and then at Abel and said, “I need to talk to Mr. Blake, where is he?”
“We have him locked in the interview room down the hall. But I think you should look at this first.”
Abel slid a manilla folder across his desk.
Red Creek Town Police Department
I, John Blake, say that on this date I was traveling with my family in our 2016 Green Outback station wagon PA reg# AHD-2498. We are from Lancaster Pennsylvania and we were driving cross-country on vacation. My wife’s name is Patricia Blake, she is 42 yrs old. We have a 12 yr old daughter- Olivia and 9 yr old twin sons- Mark and Steven. Today we stopped at a local diner in Tonopah and asked if there were any interesting places to visit. The waitress suggested an off-the-map Native American shop that was in Red Creek and gave us directions. We got lost. I don’t remember exactly how we found the place but we got there. The store was creepy and had a bunch of old hand-made things for sale. We let the kids walk around and I stayed with Patty in the front. She suddenly let out an ear-splitting scream. In a dark corner of the store, obscured by hanging dream catchers and blankets, there was a tiny old Indian lady. I think it was the sudden realization of her presence and appearance that startled Patty. Both of us held the old lady’s gaze quietly like we were in a trance. She had long dirty white hair, and a horribly wrinkled face. It felt like minutes but it was probably only seconds. Patty eventually looked at me and Patty just started laughing uncontrollably. She was laughing at her embarrassment for getting so startled. I then started laughing uncontrollably too which made the kids run over and spontaneously laugh with us. The old lady took a couple steps out of the corner, into some light. She had bad scarring all over her face. She showed her terrible teeth and started mumbling. We all stopped laughing at once. Patty and I apologized and said we weren’t laughing at her, but that seemed to make her angrier and she started pointing at us in a stabbing motion. I had enough. I mimicked her and pointed at her the same way. As we were walking out I remember her repeatedly chanting “Amaganida, Amaganida, Amaganida”. It took me a while to get my bearings but we finally got back on the main road.
It happened at about 5 o’clock, both the twins started to cry in pain. They tensed up their bodies and jaws- they were grunting and convulsing. Then Olivia started. Patty screamed- “Stop the car!” She began convulsing too. It was like slow motion- I remember the car spinning after I hit the brake and I saw the sunlight passing through the windows. With each spin I saw each one of their faces then sunlight, and then nothing. When I regained my consciousness, they were gone. The car was soaked, there was water everywhere and the clothes they were wearing remained on the seats. It didn’t make any sense at all. I stumbled out of the car. I thought that maybe they were looking for help, but why would they leave their clothes and phones behind? They would never leave me. I tried calling 911 but I had no reception so I kept walking until I did.
I did not harm my wife or my children in any way.
I have read the above statement and I swear it is all true.
“It was that old lady- I know it was her.”- “That’s what Mr. Blake told me after he gave me that statement.” Said Abel.
“A while after we found him, he became a little more talkative and I was able to get him on paper. My Chief wanted to lock him into his story until we found the bodies. My Chief is convinced Mr. Blake killed them.”
I needed to get to the truth- Let’s see him bullshit me.
“Have you vetted any of these details yet?” I asked, although I knew the answer.
“Fish- find the diner and that shop. I want to locate this ”old lady” and while you’re at it- try to find out what that strange word means, Abel and I are going to have a chat with Mr. Blake.”
We walked down the dark hallway toward a closed door with light peeking from the bottom and projecting from the frosted glass. On the door, the glass was labeled with black letters- INTE VI W OOM.
Abel unlocked the door.
Fish was at work on Abel’s desktop. The computer was slow and loading a response when he heard a sudden yell from the down the hall. He ran out of Abel’s office, hurried into the interview room and immediately stopped. He saw the backs of Cal and Abel who stood frozen and pale- facing an empty chair. Completely empty, save John Blake’s dirty clothing, shoes and bloody bandages which were on the floor. The handcuffs on the wall were still in a locked position- and there was water everywhere.
Abel’s office changed color as a freshly loaded computer screen displayed:
DID YOU MEAN:
AMA GVNIDA CHEROKEE
AMA GVNIDA - (Ah ma guh nee dah) - Water Is Life