Trouble Triangle

By: Travis Casey

Chapter 1

January 2, 1982

A short, redheaded cop opened the steel door and nudged me in with his night stick. Shivers ran through my body as the door slammed and he turned the key, metal grinding against metal, engaging the locks. The jail cell had the same smell of stale piss as it did the last time I failed to outrun the sheriff.

A 'Kilroy was here' logo had been scrawled onto the brown cell wall and a single light bulb housed in a flimsy metal shroud flickered the lone source of illumination. A wooden slatted bench ran the length of the walls, with the 'view' into the corridor being a concrete wall on the other side of the ten-foot span of gray iron bars.

One inmate stretched out on the bench in the middle of the cell opposite the bars. He laid in the corpse position with love tattooed on the knuckles of one hand - hate inscribed on the other. Another detainee sat in the corner to the right, dribbling and chanting like a drunk monk. My stomach knotted and I moved to the other side where the air seemed less polluted with funk. An hour must have passed before I saw any other life besides my new roommates.

"Chambers," a policeman barked as he unlocked the cell door. He let me out and escorted me down a bland hallway, which felt like an enclosed tunnel, to a large room at the end of the hall. He pushed me inside toward a table with four chairs that sat in the middle of the sparse room. A clock hung on the beige wall and loudly ticked every passing second. The odor of day-old coffee lingered in the air. I sat at the table, trying to look unflustered, but nausea gurgled inside me. Dad had spent some time in the pokey and gave me some tips about the best way to handle situations like this.

I sat waiting fifteen minutes before the 'Incredible Hulk' in uniform came in. He wasn't particularly tall, but his chest was enormous. I could see Hulk's pecs flex under his badge and the nametag that read 'Jones'. His brown hair was cut short and his square jaw jutted out. He offered a lame smile. Another cop stood at the door. Hulk pulled out the chair and sat opposite me. He brushed some donut crumbs off the table then clasped his hands in front of him, resting his forearms on the plastic veneer tabletop.

"Mr. Chambers," Hulk said, "looks like you've been having a little fun." He feigned a sarcastic chuckle. "Well, you might call it fun, but we call it breaking the law. Now, why don't you just tell me where you've been tonight and what you've been doing."

I crossed my arms. "I want a lawyer." Dad always told me to never tell the cops anything. It's their job to figure it out. If they can't, you're off the hook.

Hulk leaned back, locking his hands behind his head. Perspiration marks stained the armpits of his shirt. "You don't need a lawyer, son. We're just having a little informal chat. Now, you wanna tell me where ya been tonight?"

"Not really."

Hulk stood up. His weak smile turned into a vicious snarl. He circled the table in slow, deliberate steps. He stopped in front of me with his squinty eyes focused on my face. He looked down at me for just under an eternity, then in one swift movement, his fist came crashing down onto the table with an almighty thud. I jumped as much as the table did and had that split second of butt-clenching to stop any sudden bowel movements.

"Goddamn it, punk! We know you and your buddy skipped out on the bill at the Pizza Palace. Then you resisted arrest, nearly rammed a police vehicle, causing damage to said police vehicle. Reckless driving…" He threw his arms in the air. "Should I go on?" He stared at me with his upper lip quivering with rage like a snarling Doberman Pincher and shoved a finger in my face. "You're in a whole heap of shit, buddy boy. It would behoove you to cooperate."

I shifted in my seat. "So, if I tell you everything you want to know, you'll let me go?"

Hulk laughed. "Your little accomplice Bobby isn't a hard-ass like you. He spilled his guts, so we already have a confession, not to mention witnesses. Bobby's just a kid. He ratted you out and we're letting him go. Not much of a Bonnie to your Clyde, was he?" Hulk motioned to the cop standing by the door to come over. "And this ain't your first bust either, is it, punk?"

My heart sank as beads of sweat tickled my brow. The Pizza Palace spicy sausage worked its way up from my belly to the back of my throat. I had to fight not to unleash the contents of my stomach onto Hulk's patent leather shoes.