"The Happening In Hub, Prelude" | Issue #1RORY'S ROARIN' RECORDS SHOP
Ditko Street, The Wedge; Hub City, Illinois3:48 PM, December 22nd, 1967
"I, can't, get, no... Sat-is-fac-tion..."
Rory eyed the disheveled man as he carelessly dug through the newest records with a mixture of contempt and caution. These fucking bums always going in and out of her shop without buying anything, "just browsing" they always said. Screw that. You go into a store, you buy something. Normally she'd shout at them to get out if they messed with the merchandise and loitered for longer than fifteen minutes, but she had a bad feeling about this guy. The grimy and tattered suit jacket the man wore over a white t-shirt stained in what looked to be blood
, combined with his haggard face covered in unkempt stubble and crazed black eyes, gave Rory pause. If this guy was some violent bum, she didn't want to be the bum's next victim.
The man turned, as if sensing that he was being watched, and looked Rory dead in the eyes. He smiled, revealing yellow, decaying teeth that looked like they hadn't been brushed in ten years. A cold hand gripped Rory by the spine, sending a chill through her body. That man was evil. Rory didn't want to look at him any longer. "Hey, man. You've been loiterin' in my shop 'bout forty minutes now. I need you to get out if you ain't gonna buy nothin'."
The man ran a hand through greasy shoulder-length brown hair, letting out a laugh that sounded more like a barking cough at Rory's words. "O-oh, right, don't mind me, I-I must've lost track of time. Being in a record shop w-with a pretty lady? Wow, t-that I ain't used to. Just gonna g-get on my way, y'know? Places to be, gotta hop o-on my bike and get g-g-g-GOING! VHROOM! Gotta get lost, baby!"
Despite saying he'd leave, the man walked closer to Rory, that devilish grin still wide across his face as he advanced upon her. Rory backed away as the man got closer, before feeling her hip bump against the counter. The gun under the register! She had to get to her gun!"Get the hell away from me, you creep!"
Rory screamed, smacking the man in the face with an open palm. His head snapped to the left and he quickly whipped his head right back around to look at the woman. A red hand print was bright across his pale skin, but his expression had only changed slightly; gone was the amused glint in his dark eyes, replaced by a cold fury with furrowed brows. His grin had grown wider, if that was even possible.
Rory was about to bolt behind the counter when his hands shot out and gripped her neck, squeezing tightly and wringing out her throat. She coughed and gasped, bringing her hands up to smack and claw at the man, but he didn't budge. Just kept squeezing, tighter and tighter, looking her dead in the eyes. He pushed her onto the counter and slammed her head into the wood once, twice. One hand was lifted off her neck to deliver a vicious punch to her cheek, splitting it open.
The Rolling Stones continued to play over the speakers in the store, Mick Jagger's vocals drowning out Rory's choked out curses and shouts. The man kept wringing out her neck even as her resistance grew weaker and her protests quieter. Not long after, she went limp underneath him. He let go of Rory's neck and let her body slump to the floor, staring down at his handiwork and laughing loudly. The man made his way to the door, grabbing a record off the racks, The Doors' Strange Days
, along the way.
Outside the shop, the man got on his motorcycle, started it up, and went flying down the road.
? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ?RORY'S ROARIN' RECORD SHOP
Ditko Street, The Wedge; Hub City, Illinois5:24 PM, December 22nd, 1967
As the detective pulled up to the crime scene, he couldn't help but see the dozen or so civilians that were swarming the record store, uneasy murmurs rippling through the crowd. Isidore O'Toole sighed, snuffed out his cigarette after lighting another with the cherry, took a long drag from the newly lit smoke and exhaled with another heaving sigh. His left hand flew up to massage his temples as he felt a sharp migraine coming on. Just one of those days. Izzy climbed out of his beat up '57 Ford Ranchero and walked up to the storefront, pushing past the crowd of onlookers to duck under the police tape and into the store proper.
Officer Walter Ellington was there to greet him, having arrived first on the scene. "Izzy, you're finally here."
"What's it lookin' like, Wally?" O'Toole asked, taking a drag from his cigarette.
"We got one stiff, the owner. Rory Fairfield. Twenty-nine, unmarried. From the looks of it, she was killed by asphyxiation. Strangled with the perp's bare hands. Officer Lawrence figured she's been dead less than two hours, 'cause rigor mortis hasn't set in yet."
"Anythin' missin' from the store? Cash, belongings?" O'Toole scanned the room. Aside from the officers snapping pictures and the corpse on the ground covered by a tarp, it looked like it hadn't been disturbed.
"Nothing. Register's full, Fairfield's wallet was still in her pocket. The perp didn't take anything as far as we know."
"There a safe in the back?"
"That was my first thought too, but there wasn't anything."
"Hrmm." O'Toole took a drag and asked, "What'd you get from the interviews? There anyone that'd want to do this to the owner?"
Officer Ellington nodded. "From what I heard, Rory was a bit of a, uh... She was rough around the edges to put it lightly. She'd go off on anyone that kept loitering in her store, y'know, just browsing the records. Tell 'em to get out and if they stuck around, she'd pull a gun on them and say it again. Most people leave after that. We found the gun behind the counter, under the register. A Colt Cobra, chambered in .38 Special. Wasn't fired."
"Hm." O'Toole mulled this over as he walked around the shop, taking a drag from his cigarette. He spied dried blood on the countertop, then looked over at Ellington. "There's blood on the counter. She have any wounds? Aside from the bruising from the neck-wringin'."
"Yeah. Got a gash on her cheek, probably from a strong punch, and another gash on the back of her head. Probably had her head bashed on the counter a few times."
O'Toole whipped out another cigarette and lit it with the cherry of his near dead one, snuffing the butt out with his fingertips and sticking it in his coat pocket. "Right... Perp didn't use a weapon, Rory didn't have time to get the gun... Or she didn't even think to get it at all. Might've been someone she trusted, at least enough not to threaten them at gunpoint. A friend or a lover, I'm thinkin'. Crime of passion. If not, maybe a customer that lingered too long for her tastes and didn't take too kindly to her tellin' them to get out of the shop. Spur of the moment murder."
Ellington nods. "That's what I'm thinking, too. The customer, that is. We should keep the personal acquaintance angle in mind, though."
"Right... So, any witnesses see someone enterin' or leavin' the shop around the time she died?"
"Some of the folks outside said they saw a real raggedy looking guy walk in not long past 3 PM and leave just shy of 4 PM. There were about five who saw him, all from different places on the street. I can get Alderson to work on a composite sketch."
"Hop to it," O'Toole said, waving the officer off. Ellington left to go grab Officer Alderson. O'Toole barely had a moment to himself before another officer, Parker, came up to him. "What is it?"
"There's a journalist outside, Detective. Asking for an interview," Parker replied, a troubled expression on his face.
"Tell 'im to get the fuck outta here," O'Toole said, waving a hand dismissively.
"I uh, I did sir. He's real insistent that he talk to the detective."
"Well why don't you try bein' insistent and tell 'im to fuck off again."
"... It's Vic fucking Sage. You know he'll just try busting into the crime scene to talk to you himself."
Sage. That little shit. O'Toole felt a sharp spike being driven into his skull just hearing the name. There it is again. Migraine. Izzy made for another cigarette only to find his pack was empty. Typical. "... I'll go deal with this prick. You go canvas the area some more." Parker nodded and ducked under the tape to head outside, O'Toole doing the same shortly after.
? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ? - ?RORY'S ROARIN' RECORD SHOP
Ditko Street, The Wedge; Hub City, Illinois5:39 PM, December 22nd, 1967
I pushed to the front of the crowd, muttering "excuse me" and "sorry, coming through" to the onlookers as I did so. At the front of the crowd, I eyed the officers canvassing the area, before waving one down. He approached me, quirking a brow. "Do you know something about the crime, sir?" he asked.
"No, but I was wondering if the cops in there do. You see, I'm a journalist, writing for Starrstruck Monthly." I replied, shoving my press pass forward. The officer took it and looked it over. "Vic Sage."
The officer wrinkled his nose and handed it back to me. "Look, Sage. You are persona non grata at any crime scene, especially after the stunts you've pulled. Get going."
"I implore you to reconsider that, Officer... Parker. Please, go and fetch Detective O'Toole for me. I've got some questions for him." Parker sighed and I had to suppress a grin at that. I think he was finally getting it through his head that I'd just keep on hounding the cops until I got an interview. "Please? I won't take longer than five minutes."
"... If I go and get him, you promise you'll leave after you've asked him what you want?"
"And you won't show up demanding an interview every time the cops show up at a crime scene?"
A smirk made its way across my face despite myself. "That, I cannot promise."
Parker sighed and pinched his nose. "... Fuckin' good enough. I'll go grab him." Parker left me to go head into the store and grab O'Toole. I used this time to take some notes.
-rory's roarin' record shop (stupid name)
-crowd doesn't look torn up about it. unpopular?
-o'toole is finally gonna give me that interview. gonna hav
I looked up from my notes to see Izzy O'Toole, the HCPD's top detective and most corrupt cop before me. His bulldog-like face was contorted into a scowl, green eyes boring holes into me. If looks could kill, I'd be dead ten times over. "Detective O'Toole! I was just wondering if I could ask you some questions about the cri-"
"You got sixty seconds, then you leave. 60. 59. 58."
Shit. Should've known O'Toole wouldn't give me long, but I didn't expect this little time. "Uh... Ahem, the victim's name?"
"Rory Fairfield. 49. 48."
"Cause of death?"
"Strangled. 42. 41. 40."
I scribbled the facts down as O'Toole continued counting down. "Any suspects? Jealous ex? Robbery?"
"It wasn't a robbery and we've got a perp in mind. We'll be releasing a composite sketch to proper newspapers sometime tonight so it can make it into tomorrow's paper. 23. 22."
"And you can't release it to Starrstruck Monthly because...?"
O'Toole's scowl deepened. His voice cut like glass as he spat out, "Because some fuckin' hippy magazine ain't a newspaper, you little shit. We aren't gonna release information to some magazine that'll fuckin' drag us through the mud in the same article." O'Toole fidgeted, reaching for his pocket, only to sigh and stop. "... Your time is up, Sage. Now get the hell out of here."
I gave O'Toole a strained smile. "Of course, detective. Gotta let you get back to stuffing your pockets with the Sinners' money. You have a nice day now." I tipped my hat to O'Toole, almost seeing the hot anger building inside of him as I do, then turned to leave, pushing through the crowd to do so.
Hopping into my car, I started it up and pulled out into the street, heading back to Starrstruck Monthly's office to get right to work on my article. Deadline for January's issue was coming up and I needed a story. Some murder in The Wedge is less of a step down from my rallying cry for the youth of the nation back in November and more of a drop from the top of the Empire State Building to the sidewalk. Still, it's better than not turning in anything, considering I'm Sam's only full-time writer.
At a red light, I finished scribbling my notes down in my notepad and tossed it into the passenger seat, spying the pseudoderm mask in the seat as I did so. Perhaps I could do some investigating of my own tonight. This didn't seem to be more than a random act of violence, but maybe, just maybe, something more could turn up.