Groundswell: Chapter sixteen

Logan hated nursing homes–they always smelled like a mixture of pee and old cafeteria food. People moaned crazy gibberish all day and all night, trapped inside broken minds until death relieved them of their suffering.

This particular one exceeded his expectations, though.

Built in 1967, according to the bronze plaque by the entrance, the place was even more run-down than the library. It looked as if it hadn’t been renovated since at least the Carter administration. The paint on the walls looked about Clinton era-ish, and was beginning to chip and flake off. Well, not beginning to. The process had reached a fairly advanced stage.

Most of the staff seemed dejected, depressed and brimming with bitterness and resentment. He couldn’t blame them. He hated life himself, but at least he had a fun job. Their lives sucked entirely.

Clancy was sitting by the window with his back to the open doorway when Logan entered the room.

“Who is that?”

How the hell did he know I was here? Nothing wrong with his hearing, that’s for damn sure.

He stepped into the old man’s field of vision and extended his hand. “I’m Logan Hayes, private detective. I’ve been hired by the family of Mr. Chance Miller to investigate his death.”

Clancy reached with a shaky, gnarled hand and Logan squeezed it. Hard.

“Yow, take it easy, fella,” snapped Clancy, drawing back and rubbing his knuckles.

Did those girls you raped tell you to take it easy?

“Sorry.”

“What do you want with me, anyway? I ain’t done nothin’. You’re a cop, right? I’m a cop too.”

“Private detective. I was a cop, though, just like you were a cop. Past tense.”

Clancy’s face darkened. “I don’t like your tone, boy.”

Logan smiled. “Too bad you can’t do anything about it.”

“Who the shit are you? You a cop? I’m a cop. You better watch yourself. We do things a lil’ bit different around here.”

“I can tell you were a mean one,” said Logan. “A power tripper. Certainly fits with you forcing yourself on helpless little girls. Is that what you liked about it? The power? That is what they say rape is all about.”

“Fuck you Walter, I’m sick!”

Walter?

“Yeah,” said Logan. “You are. Right now I really need you to remember some things for me, okay? For your old buddy Walter?”

Clancy leaned forward and peered at him. “Walter?”

“Yes, it’s me. Remember ’78 when Prismara bought Groundswell and everybody left?”

“Hell of a town. Beat us at football every year.”

Logan chuckled. “Yeah. Them was the days, huh?”

“Sure was, Walt. Say, what was that stuff called they brought in? That chemical? One that got ’em all riled up? Remember that?”

Clancy seemed confused. “I got a lotta phone calls to make, Walt.”

You don’t have anybody to call or anywhere to be except Hell, you son of a bitch.

“They can wait, Clance. This is important. We got people up here puttin’ their noses where they don’t belong, if you catch my drift.” And I know how much experience you have with putting things where they don’t belong.

“Oh,” said Clancy, furrowing his brow. “They figure it out? What happened?”

“Not yet. But they will soon. Now, I need you to tell me who was in on it with us that’s still alive. I need to go check up on ’em, Make sure they’re safe.”

“Are you a cop? You know, I’m a cop, too.”

“He was a cop. For awhile. Couldn’t hack it, I guess.”

The two men looked up to see Kimball standing in the doorway, his hands in his pockets.

Shit.

“‘Course, what I can’t figure,” said Kimball, walking in, “is what he’s doin’ up here talkin’ to you. I mean, hell, I don’t know anyone who’d want to talk to you, but Mr. Hayes does, for some reason.”

He looked at Logan. “Why?”

“Just doing my job. Collecting information. Putting a puzzle together.”

Kimball’s craggy, tired eyes stared daggers. “Well I don’t think it’s gonna be quite as pretty a picture as you expect it’ll be when you get finished.”

“I just want the truth.”

“The truth,” scoffed Kimball. “You want to get paid, is what you want. Comin’ down here harassin’ people, stirring up all kinds of rumors… you don’t care. You ain’t some kind of social justice worker.”

Logan didn’t even know how to respond to that–there was far too much to unpack, so he just sighed and chuckled.

“Laugh now, cry later,” said Kimball.

“Never ends with you, does it?” asked Logan, moving closer. “You think you sound smart with your little out-of-context quotes and mind games? I’m a professional and I’m here on business. I don’t have time for pissing contests. We all want to find Chance’s killer. Right? That’s an outcome that’s good for everyone.”

“Only good for you if you’re the one that catches him,” said Kimball. He nodded at Logan’s jacket. “Where’s your piece? Packin’ a nice .44 a few days back.”

“I didn’t feel it was appropriate for a nursing home visit.”

Kimball looked at Clancy, who was watching them with a look of childlike confusion on his face. He snorted. “Yeah, I guess not. This ol’ broke down son of a bitch ain’t no threat to anyone but himself, jerkin’ it all day thinkin’ about all them girls he screwed up.”

They had something in common, Logan realized. He could use that.

“Yeah. I heard about all that. Makes me sick. I’ve got a kid myself, you know? I can’t even imagine what he put them through.

Kimball nodded. “You don’t want to imagine it.”

“I got phone calls to make!” Clancy blurted out.

“Shut the hell up,” barked Kimball. He turned back to Logan. “I wanna see that .44, y’understand? Bring it up to the station so we can, y’know, register it. Bein’ as you’re a guest in our town. We like to keep track of that type of thing.”

“Law around here allows open carry, and it’s not contingent upon your approval or anyone else’s.”

“So it’s not. I was just asking as a favor, that’s all. Looks like I’m going to have to seize it as potential evidence. I didn’t wanna do it that way, but you forced my hand.”

“Evidence of what, exactly?”

“Oh,” said Kimball, reaching into his shirt pocket and producing a small plastic bag containing…

They found the damn bullet. Shit.

“We just want to take a look at it. See if it’s the same type of gun that fired this here bullet the boys dug out of a tree earlier this morning. Just to clear you, of course. Nobody’s accusing you of anything.”

“Of course,” said Logan. “I understand completely. I’ll bring it by tomorrow.”

Kimball smiled. “Perfect.”

He knew Kimball wasn’t going to leave until he did, so he checked out. As soon as he got to the car, he texted Candy about meeting with Bonez ASAP. After that he dialed the phone number Nate Hollis had given him.

“Hello?

“Hey, Nate, Logan Hayes here. Listen, do you know anybody named Walter?”

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