If something untoward had happened inside, there would surely have been police tape. But this job fit the definition of clandestine (a word Nutter took pride in having in his vocabulary). It would have had to have been a peaceful death. No luck verifying that, though. The shades were drawn tight and whatever secrets lay behind them were hidden in the dark.

Suicide. Had to be. A murder they couldn’t keep this quiet. So Mr. #107 must have punched his own ticket in there. The car seat told the rest of the story. There musta been a custody battle with the ex and #107 came out the loser. Musta done it quiet, pills or hanging, no noise. Coulda been a wellness check by his contractor. Maybe someone had noticed a smell.

Dwayne Nutter couldn’t say he ever understood suicide. Depression itself was pretty foreign as well. He’d only felt it once, if ever.

He’d been dicking around on the internet on a local forum designed for hip young residents to jaw about Rustin – how stuck-up people were, how much the local construction sucked, which presidential candidate was a sonofabitch.

One off-night some anonymous guy had signed on asking about some girl from back in the day. Where’s she at, what had happened to her, all that stuff. Nutter had called the guy a sick puppy with no life. A few other members of the class of ’04 chimed in with similar sentiments, but nobody unloaded the righteous thunder like Dwayne Nutter. For one Natty-Ice fueled evening it was like being back in home room in the 90’s.

Then the anonymous guy had to go and ruin it. Turns out he’d heard the girl had died, and since he’d moved on from Rustin after graduation, he’d decided to check with people who’d stuck around. Also turned out the girl had died, and died badly, and the family had kept it as quiet as they could. Nutter logged off half asshole-who-jumped-to-conclusions, half loser-who-never-left-his-hometown. He’d felt like his skin was crawling across his body. It took him a long time to fall asleep. But that feeling had passed by dawn.

So depression once, yes, maybe, in passing. Suicide? Never.

“You got no balls if you can’t suck it up and move on," Nutter whispered to nobody, his eyes still on the pink car-seat. He thought of his own kid, living with her mom and some colored guy in Kansas City. Nutter had never taken the distance personally. Distance meant freedom. “Weak-ass bullshit if you ask me. Good riddance."  

He backed his tow-truck up to the F-150, worked the hydraulic boom from inside the cab. He was a maestro after ten years. He hooked the F-150 in 15 seconds flat. Not even his fastest hook-up time, but Nutter imagined a studio audience giving him a stirring round of applause.

Within a minute he was on De Soto Street, “the Strip" from his youth. It looked weird to him tonight. The lights of the Waffle House and the Sonic seemed extra dim, and mass grave of dead bugs at the bottom of their translucent signs seemed just a little deeper than normal. Nutter shifted in his seat uncomfortably. In the rearview, the dead man’s truck was a shining black mass that gave away nothing.

Nutter put it out of his mind. Two blocks later he was at the police station. He set his wrecker in park, grabbed his paperwork and went inside.

Officer Peter Harrington was manning the front desk. He was a red-cheeked, sleepy-eyed doughboy with a close-cropped blonde buzz cut he’d had as far back as Nutter could remember. Back in ’04 Harrington had driven in a game-winning touchdown for the Rustin Rebels on what was later determined to be a stress fracture. Harrington was what Pat Benatar would have called a real tough cookie.

“What up, Dwayne?" said Harrington, putting down his iPhone. “What you got out there?"

“F-150, ‘07. Broken Oaks people called me, told me to haul it over here."

Harrington frowned and looked through his own paperwork. Tilted his head the way he used to while failing one of Mrs. Davis’s algebra exams. “Not seeing it. They’ve got to clear it with us before we can place it in the lot."

“Since when?"

Harrington shrugged. “I don’t make the rules, man."

“Well, I ain’t hauling it back."

“I think you have to."

“You sure?"

“Pretty sure, Dwayne." He tapped his badge with his class ring.


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