THE SAME OLD STORY
© Paul Kupperberg
Chapter 23/ HILLBILLY HANK
The local law was more than a little perturbed when I showed up splattered with another man’s brains to report a suicide. I left out a few pertinent details, especially the part about the $80,000 in cash, which I’d stowed under the DeSoto’s seat cushion, one half-hearted search away from discovery but the best I could do under the circumstances. I didn’t know these local cops from Adam and eighty grand was a tempting target for anyone. I had carried the case back out through the woods to where I’d left the car, then drove back the way I came until I hit something that resembled a town and asked the first person I saw for direction to the police station.
Sheriff Billy Van der Hooven was a beefy but hardy looking specimen with a round face, shining cheeks and an honest desire to want to understand what the hell it was I brought with me when I walked into his office. I told him to call Uncle Mick in New York, tell him it was about me. The sheriff looked none to happy about having to make a long distance telephone call but he took another look at the gore I’d been unable to wipe off my clothes and face and dialed.
The rest was sort of a blur. Sheriff Van der Hooven confiscated my clothes as evidence and left me with a pair of dungarees and a jailhouse shirt to change into it. My number was 877. Two deputies were sent to investigate and, if necessary, secure the cabin. He let me wash up and I scrubbed at my face with lye soap until the skin was stinging and raw and I could no longer feel the little bits of Jimmy’s life that had clung there.
I spent the next three hours telling Van der Hooven what exactly it was that had brought me here. He took extensive notes, breaking only to take a report from the deputy who had been sent back for reinforcements and orders, confirming the dead body. The young deputy said it sure looked like a suicide to him but the sheriff wisely pointed out that such a determination should be made by wiser and more qualified heads.
When there was no other way to tell my story, the sheriff left me in a small locked interrogation room with a table, two chairs and an egg salad sandwich and coffee. I drank the coffee and ignored the sandwich. I couldn’t imagine the next time I’d want to eat again.
I stared at the wall, trying not to replay the sight of Jimmy’s head exploding like a melon, flinging blood and bone and gore all over the cabin. There was nothing left. Jimmy just ended at the shoulders. But that was all I could see. Over and over.
I closed my eyes and thought about Shelly.
She was innocent. Of everything. How come I couldn’t see that? How come I didn’t just believe her when she told me?
Because criminals lie, I told myself. If she had been guilty, she’d have lied about it. How was I supposed to know until I had the evidence.
The testimony of a dead man.
In my mind’s eye, Jimmy Noonan kept killing himself. The click of the trigger, the booming eruption of gunpowder, the slow motion disintegration of his head, like a popping balloon popping balloon full of water.
And then silence, except for my screaming and heaving and crying.
And then I see it again.
So I try looking at something else. The moment before he died.
I’m guilty of a lot of terrible things, he said just before he pulled the trigger, but Bob Konigsberg death ain’t one of them.
I’m guilty of a lot of terrible things, but Bob Konigsberg death ain’t one of them.
Jimmy Noonan had just confessed to one murder. He knew he was just seconds away from ending his life. Why would he deny killing Bob if had?
I blinked and in my head, all the pieces of the puzzle tumbled into place and made a perfect picture.