Chapter 3 – The Discovery
Greg pushed his cart down the sidewalk. The streetlamps along the road gave off enough light for him to conduct his business. He liked to go out in the early morning before the streets filled with people and cars. It was quiet and calm. He hated to interact with all the others once they appeared. He made a conscious choice to avoid them whenever possible. It wasn’t so much that he was opposed to people, but the way that they looked at him when he was out was uncomfortable to say the least.
The moonlight was enough to show his surroundings tonight as well. It was a good night. He liked the four o’clock hour. All of the bars had closed and most of the more undesirables had called it a night as well. It was a good time to collect the cans and other things that lay out in the dark world. He would then take them to their respective recycling locations when he felt he had enough and then be able to get his essentials, food and cigarettes.
It wasn’t the life that he had planned for himself, he didn’t think that anyone in his situation had set out to be in it, but if one was able to adapt and learn it was surprisingly satisfying. The key was to come to terms with it. He had been in the dog eat dog world once and the stress had almost killed him. Now he was happy to get by. Between the parks in the spring and summer and the various shelters in the colder months he got by rather well.
The one thing he didn’t like was when those around him had a sad ending to their stories. Those were mostly the people that couldn’t take being homeless. Sure, there were a lot of addicts among his population, but they usually kept to themselves. It was still depressing when something happened to them though. That was another reason that Greg really never got close to anyone. The thoughts of past friends that had moved on before he decided to become a loner came back to him as he entered the alley just to the side of The Shiny Badge.
It was a cop bar, but cops, on average, could get a little rowdier than most at times. He also had an arrangement with the owner. Greg had been his ears and eyes on the street for a few years when he was still a cop. In return he had helped him out a bit, and now he left out whatever cans he had when he closed the bar at night. Greg was here to pick those up, but on his way, he stopped at the dumpster to take a look. One never knew what they might find.
The coat that he was wearing he had found in one about four blocks away the year before. It had a hole in it and was covered in something. Thankfully Greg had a sewing kit and just had to wash it. Most likely it was just some spoiled kid who drank too much and stumbled, catching it on a door or something. His standards resulted in it being discarded, and it became Greg’s win. So, he lifted the right-side lid on the dumpster and looked in. After a few minutes he determined that there was nothing of value in it. He closed it and pushed his cart. Then it stopped.
Greg tried to push a few more times, then finally went and looked at what was stopping it. There was a pair of feet blocking the front wheel. He leaned down. He hoped it was just another bum like him passed out, but his gut was telling him differently. His gut was right.
Greg got up and shifted his cart to go around the feet. He went to the back of the alley and turned left. The shock was still on him. It’s not like he hadn’t seen a body before, but the suddenness of this one got to him. He stopped and took deep breaths, trying to calm down. He had gotten down and seen most of the body. The man looked familiar. He was a local dealer. Not that Greg had a lot to do with him, but he had seen him around. At least if it was who he thought, the clothes are what made him think it was who he thought it was.
He finally calmed down and got behind his cart. Then he went a little further and took another left. He was going to exit from the adjacent alley. He thought about calling the police, but he wanted to get a bit away first. He had to think for a few minutes to retrace his steps from the night. He knew that if he did call it in that of course they would question him. He wanted to make sure that someone of some camera could verify where he had been earlier. If he got unlucky and got some rookie, he could be in for a long night or a rough time. He had no money for a lawyer or anything.
Not that three hots and a cot for a few days in the county lock up would be the worst thing, but Greg’s biggest worry was his stuff. If he was gone more than a few hours all of his stuff would be stolen and sold. He didn’t want that. There was an old pay phone a couple of blocks away. It was outside the old bus station. They moved it when the city decided to modernize itself. Now it was being converted to fashionable townhouses, but the phone was still there. He would pop out into the main road and make his way there. He could have just as easily gone to the station himself, but that would mean a lot of questions.
He slowly made his way up the alley, that is when he saw it. Another body. This one was hastily hidden. Sitting up right behind a stack of boxes that were along one of the walls. The body was well dressed. Not someone that would normally be in this area. Greg immediately suspected that it was someone looking to score. Then he thought of the first body. They might be connected, but he wasn’t going to stick around to ponder it.
Now he knew he had to call it in. But he hesitated. The new body was right below a light. The thing that stuck out besides the apparent fact that the person wasn’t from around here was the pair of holes in his neck. There were small trails of blood right below them. It was something out of a bad eighties’ horror movie. Greg just stood there and stared for a long time. He had never seen anything like it before and it was too odd not to look at. This was one thing he wasn’t going to tell the cops.
The clothes on the body were a little scuffed, but overall in good condition. That was odd considering that the man was dead. It looked as if he almost gave in to his fate. Anyone else would have fought and it would have shown. It was all really odd to Greg. Another thought came into his head, look for a wallet or something. But the total absurdity of the situation made him shale it off.
Finally, he pushed his cart past the second body and out onto the road. He made his was to the pay phone and lifted up the receiver. He hesitated for a long while. He just couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something going on that was out of the ordinary. In fact, he knew it. But somewhere deep inside of his mind a little voice told him not to get involved. Just to call and report it and then to move on.
His fingers made their way to the three digits. “This is 9-1-1, what is your emergency?”
Greg paused when the voice on the other side finished.
“Hello? Is anyone there? Is there an emergency?”
“Not so much an emergency,” Greg started, “But I would like to report a crime.”
“What crime sir?”
“There are two dead bodies in the alley next to the Shiny Badge bar.”
“Are you sure they are dead?”
“Are you the one that did it?”
Greg was taken aback at the question, “No, I just found them and am calling in to report it.”
“Can I get your name sir?”
“No, I’m just calling it in.” With that he hung up the phone and started pushing his cart in the opposite direction of the alley. There was a soup kitchen nearby and they would be serving breakfast soon. The line would be forming about now.
His plan was to get to the line and blend in. The cops would get to the scene rather fast, but it would be a while before they started looking around for people. They had to secure the scene and make sure there was nothing else going on. That would be their focus and that was the window Greg had to disappear. It was just too weird, and he wanted nothing to do with it.
Within five minutes after he hung up, he could hear the sirens. A few more and the ambulances were in the area. He was in line for a meal by the time they stopped. He knew they were cordoning off the area. He felt sorry for his old friend. His business might be affected by this, at least for a few days. That meant no cans in the alley for him either until the next week, if he was lucky.
As Greg made it through the line and got a plate of eggs and ham, he decided that he wouldn’t say a word to anyone. The community liked to talk about what was going on in the area, but this was one of those rare cases where keeping his mouth shut might be better for him in the long run. He had gotten by for quite a few years by playing it smart, this was just another one of those decisions that was smart in his opinion.
Greg found an empty table, sat down, and ate his breakfast in silence.