Beyond The Grave – Eleven
Julie wasn’t sure if driving to Missouri to pick Michael up from prison was the smartest idea. At first, she planned on flying out and renting a car to get back to California. But Michael wanted to smoke some pot after his release, and there was no way she was going to get on a plane with marijuana in her bag.
She rented the car in Palm Springs, California, and headed out on Interstate 40, where she eventually would end up on Interstate 70, closer to the prison.
The checkpoint in Arizona was tricky, but Julie got lucky. The drug-sniffing dog was on a break. The Border Patrol officer waved her through. Julie was always fortunate when it involved men. They seemed to gravitate towards her long, bleach blonde hair extensions, her Juvéderm lips, and large, silicon breasts.
When her mother died of cancer several years back, she’d left Julie a rich woman. Her mother was smart when it came to investments. The trust money allocated to Julie was more than she’d ever need in her lifetime. Rumors told a different story.
Julie was ten when she overheard a conversation between her mother and a man she referred to as Uncle Vinnie. Even at her young age, she quickly realized her mother’s business wasn’t in dry cleaning. Every evening, Julie would lie in bed and pretend to be asleep. Her sharp ears heard the men’s conversations as they sat in the kitchen drinking coffee.
At fifteen, she met Michael. He was five years older than she was but street smart. An up-and-coming thug, Michael knew the things Julie wanted to master. And so, their lessons began. Michael took Julie under his wing and eventually landed her in his bed. She wasn’t sure if it was her naivete, but Michael wasn’t able to satisfy her sexually. She asked her mother’s employees for some advice, and they happily helped her out.
Michael wasn’t a large man. Julie’s girlfriends told her he suffered from the ‘Napoleon Syndrome’ or ‘short man syndrome.’ He tried bossing her around, but she was too smart for that. Julie wanted to break things off with him, but her heart told her to keep him close as a friend. When he went away to prison for armed robbery, it was his third strike.
His sentence was for ten years, five of which he spent in California State Prison in Lancaster, California, not too far from her home in Huntington Beach. But when they transferred him to Missouri, Julie moved away from the beach and settled in Palm Desert.
Why they chose to send him to Missouri was beyond her comprehension. Southeast Correctional Center in Charleston was far from any of his friends or family. Needless to say, Michael had few visitors his last five years in the prison. He spent his time in the prison library and learned everything he could on the law, civil, criminal, whatever they had. And because they had a program for rehabilitation for prisoners, he could get a certificate as a paralegal.
His plan, upon his release, would be to work for an attorney who didn’t always do things by the book. His idea to help criminals get away with their crimes was right up his alley.
While he was in prison, Julie purchased a townhouse for herself and a small house in a gated community for Michael when he was released. She was the one who arranged a meeting with a shady lawyer in the Coachella Valley who promised Michael he could work under his office. Scott was in the US on a work visa from Canada. He would allow Michael to do whatever he wanted, within reason, though within reason in Scott’s mind was very broad.
Julie started up a landscape business for new builders in the desert area. If her company got fired from one job, she’d start a new company, place the business license in a friend’s name and send them out to secure a new contract. The money flow never changed.
When medical marijuana became legal in California, she opened up a dispensary. Still suspicious of law enforcement, especially the federal government, she put another friend’s name on the business license. But after five years of no raids and the legalization of recreational marijuana, she came out of the closet and made herself CEO. A title and business that landed her in the scope of a local reporter. During her interview, she lied about everything in her life, except her mother. Her reason for starting a dispensary, she told the reporter, was to give patients alternative methods for fighting cancer. After all, she watched her mother die of cancer.
She expressed her love of animals even though she hated them and thought they were filthy. She came across as compassionate and caring when her reasons were purely for the money she was raking in on a cash business.
The escort service she inherited from her mother was another moneymaker as well as another cash business. The Internal Revenue Service had no idea how much Julie was worth. She never deposited her money into a bank. A lesson her mother taught her. “Mattresses are for two things in life, money and sex. Never forget it.”
Michael was waiting outside in the prison parking lot when Julie pulled up in the rented Hummer. It was the Friday before the July 4th weekend. A guard watched as Michael hopped up into the vehicle. He saw the occupants hug each other across the console, and they drove away. Michael rolled down his window and gave the prison a one-finger salute.
When they didn’t show up past the scheduled drop-off for the car, the rental company charged the credit card on file for late fees. They tried calling the number on the contract, but it went straight to voicemail.
The employees at the dispensary called the local police filing a missing person’s report on Julie and Michael when they didn’t show up for the party on the fourth. The information the authorities were given wasn’t forthcoming as Julie hadn’t shared much with her employees.
A detective at the Palm Desert station put out an APB then called the FBI. The call went to VICAP since they had been traveling along an interstate. The waiting began.
* * * * *
Old Hank had been making his rounds of the farm when he came across the somewhat pretty blonde and her boyfriend. They were sitting on a picnic blanket and had a spread of cheese, crackers, and wine. He smelled the familiar sweet stench of marijuana too.
“Howdy, folks,” Old Hank said out the window as he approached them. “You do know you’re trespassing on private property, right?”
“Sorry, old guy,” said Michael as he stood up. “We’re just passing through and decided to stop for a picnic lunch. It’s so beautiful here. Is this your land? We didn’t mean you any harm.”
“The hell you don’t,” said Hank. “That shit you’re smoking is illegal in these parts. I’ve a mind to call the sheriff on you. That’ll get you a few days in the slammer, trespassing, and possession.”
“Now hold off there, old man. We’ll pack our shit up and go. No harm, no foul. Agree?”
“And who do you think you’re speaking to like that? You one of those disrespecting punks from the big city, thinking you can come out here and do whatever the hell you want on my land? The fact of the matter is, you’ve pissed me off.” Hank stepped out of the Dually. “This here your vehicle?”
“Eight thousand tons worth,” said Julie, who had been listening to the two men go at it without butting in.
“Is that a fact?”
“That’s a fact.”
“Well, I think my old Dually here can tow this piece of crap off no problem.”
“Why would you want to do that? We said we’d leave.” Julie started packing up the food and put a cork into the wine bottle.
“Not so fast there, little lady. I ain’t done with you all yet.”
“I know my rights; I’m a lawyer,” said Michael.
“Not in these parts you ain’t,” Hank informed him.
Julie looked at Michael and said, “Let’s get out of here. I’m tired of arguing with this old fart.” Julie picked up the picnic basket now packed with all their belongings and pushed past old Hank. “You stink,” she murmured. “Damn, old man, when was the last time you washed your ass?”
Michael laughed. “Don’t mind her. She’s testy from driving too long. Can we offer you some money for your troubles?”
“Money? You think you can buy your way out of this?”
“Okay, don’t say we didn’t offer you anything.”
As Michael walked past Old Hank, he lifted his leg to start climbing into the Hummer. Hank pulled out his taser and hit him in the back. Michael fell down into the dirt.
“What the fuck?” Julie screamed. “You’re in big trouble now. This land will be mine when we get through with you, you bastard.”
Hank didn’t say another word. He walked over to the driver’s side of the Hummer. Julie quickly locked the doors. He stared at her for a second then brought his right hand out of his pocket. He tapped the glass, and the window shattered. Julie screamed again as she climbed over to the passenger side. The car alarm started blaring. Julie looked down out the window and saw Michael, still passed out from the stun gun.
“Come on, little lady, don’t be afraid. You talk a good game; let’s see you put it into action.”
Hank released another electrical charge hitting Julie on her left side. She started spasming. Hank saw the spread of wetness in the crotch of her shorts. “Gotcha,” he smiled. “Guess in a few days you’ll be smelling like me.” He laughed out loud.
Hank lifted Michael’s limp body into the Hummer’s back end and hooked it up to the tow truck.
What a pansy-ass. These metrosexuals think they are all that and a piece of cake. Hank thought to himself as he drove up to his driveway. I have no use for him but the girl, well, I’ll be keeping her.
* * * * *
A group of cyclists, taking a shortcut to Blue Springs, stopped to take in some water. They noticed an unusual number of flies buzzing around. They assumed there was a dead animal carcass nearby by the smell. A few of the guys decided to go into the tall weeds to see what animal. They started taking bets as they walked through the grass.
“Bet it’s a deer,” one guy said.
“Nah, might be a coyote,” another one said.
To their surprise and horror, it was neither. Both vomited at the sight of a naked, decomposing body of a man. They could still see the worms moving in and out of where the rib cage was. His eyeballs had been removed or eaten by vultures. They ran back to where the rest of the group was getting ready to take off again.
“Call the police,” one guy shouted as they got closer.
“There’s a dead body dumped over there.”
The leader of the group took out his cell phone. “Shit, no service.”
“I’ll stay here; you guys go ahead until you get service. Someone will need to direct them to the body.”
* * * * *
Daniella was about to leave the office when her cell phone rang. The Missouri State Police Chief explained they had a male body dumped on the side of the Interstate.
“I think we found the missing guy from the APB.”
“What about the girl?” Daniella asked.
“We’re on our way.”
Daniella ran to the elevator and caught up with Rodriquez.
“They found a body.”
They rode in silence as they drove up the Interstate, stopping behind a line of police cars with flashing lights.
Daniella looked over at Rodriquez. “Well, here goes nothing.”