FAMOUS AFTER DEATH
Everything else has gone viral, so why not murder?
Three Miami teenagers seeking internet fame thought it would be a riot to post videos of risky pranks online, then a police officer gets killed and their fun really begins. The more outrageous the murder, the more hits they garner. Chris, Jorge, and Kelso spend their lives in obscurity, but the victims in their viral videos are Famous After Death.
With his religious sensibilities offended by the millions of hits the anonymous murder videos are getting, cyber cop Clyde Deauville pursues those responsible. Yet the closer he gets to the answers, the closer the bloodshed creeps to his door. Will Clyde become famous for the wrong reason?
Stretching up on his toes and peering over the top of the wall alongside the four-lane road, Jorge Casanegra spied a car nearing the overpass that arched above the asphalt. A surprise was hanging just outside the driver’s view. Patting his heavy black jacket and feeling the device inside that would ignite the mayhem, Jorge rode the adrenalin pulsing through his veins. This night could change his life, or ruin it.
“He’s gonna swerve around it, man,” said Kelso Stokes, whose crane neck easily elevated both his narrow noggin and his blue Mohawk above the wall. “He’ll stop and bust us.”
“No way. He’s going through that bitch full bore,” Chris Crawford said. He smacked his fistful of rings into the wall, simulating the impending impact. With the thick muscles of his chest and forearm, and a little beer gut, behind the punch, the larger ring left an imprint of a gargoyle in the stucco.
Jorge had never seen Chris fight, but he had heard stories from the kids in school. He didn’t doubt that a few unlucky punks had gargoyle brands on their faces. The victim tonight might fare far worse.
“Get the camera ready, Kelso, and don’t say shit until you turn it off,” Jorge said. He swatted a mosquito away from his sweaty forehead, sending the bloodsucker off into the humid night on the western fringes of Miami-Dade County. Jorge had found a spot close enough to the swamps that nobody could venture outside without getting tackled by a horde of winged pests. They didn’t need any witnesses, or competing footage.
Jorge waited until Kelso’s handheld camera peeked just over the wall, giving it a clear view of where the car would pass underneath the overpass. Jorge withdrew his phone from his jacket and, with sweaty fingers, sent an encrypted signal to the pulley on the elevated road. It instantly released the dummy. Not taking any chances, Jorge didn’t let Kelso order the doll online. If this became the internet sensation Jorge promised them, they didn’t need somebody tracing the doll to a credit card. Kelso had paid a bum in cash and a bottle of his dad’s pain killers to stumble into the sex shop and buy the blowup doll, because he couldn’t chance his skater friends seeing him in a pervert den. Trying to stifle their laughter so Chris’ mom wouldn’t awake from her drunken coma, the three teens had dressed it as a leather dominatrix. The poetic dropout Chris had scrawled “I eat cock” across her face.
Too bad the driver wouldn’t have much time to admire their handiwork as the wire hurled the dummy his way a split second before his car reached the overpass. It kept coming.
Feeling like a bomb was about to blow up in his face, Jorge wanted to run. His nerves nailed him to the wall. It’s just a blowup doll. What could happen?
A ton of roaring metal bashed into the doll with a whoomp. The doll swung high into the air like a child pushed way too hard on a swing. Its stiletto heels went flying. Chris hooted with laughter. The giggling Kelso tilted the camera all over the place. Jorge kept his eyes on the car as it passed underneath a street light. It was a Cadillac with huge golden rims. He had lived in South Florida long enough to know those weren’t people he should fuck with.
The car jolted to a stop. It rolled down both sets of windows. The two teens’ laughter came to an immediate halt. Shifting into reverse, the Cadillac backed up until it came even with the doll lumped onto the road – unmistakably not human. Then the car lurched forward. “You setting me up!” the driver shouted out the window.
Seeing that Kelso stood there with his camera on like a wooden target in a shooting range, Jorge grabbed his baggy shorts and dragged the gangly kid below the wall. “What are you doing? Turn that off,” he whispered.
Chris was already down and gritting his teeth behind his locks of long blond hair and horseshoe moustache. The brawler hated lying low, but he had no choice this time.
“You wanna laugh at me bitch?” shouted a husky voice from the car. “Come on out and I’ll jam my glock up your ass.”
Kelso lunged to scramble away. Chris caught him with only two fingers hooked on the sleeve of his designer t-shirt. “They’ll hear us if we run for it. Just sit here and wait.”
They wouldn’t leave. When he realized there were four irate voices coming from the car, Jorge felt his heart beating in his throat. If they searched long enough, they’d find them over that wall. They’d rip them apart like the zombies in Night of the Living Dead. Jorge didn’t even have a knife, not like his stubby arms could swing one past the reach of a full-sized adult.
He didn’t hear the car doors open. He heard a car speeding by, but Jorge didn’t know whether it was a new passerby or giant rims rolling out of there.
“Jorge, check it out,” Chris ordered.
“Yeah you, dipshit. See if they’re gone, and then we’ll rig the doll back up.” Chris rubbed the back of his neck, where he had a tattoo of a pair of sinister eyes.
He had known the dropout for a few weeks, so he hadn’t squarely placed him in the friend category yet. By the condescending look he gave him, Chris didn’t seem so different from the kids at school who pushed him around because he refused to goose step with them, setting his own style with his black trench coat, platform boots and classic horror movie t-shirts. Three nights before, when Jorge accepted this challenge over joints and shots of vodka, Chris had gazed upon him with respect.
“I got the footage man. This’ll make for a sweet post, like ten times the hits my brother gets in his tweener skating flicks,” Kelso said. “Let’s get out of here before we get nailed.”
“Dude, that was okay, but I wanna go hardcore,” Chris said. “What, can’t you guys hang?”
Shaking his head, Jorge stole a glance over the top of the wall. “They’re gone. I’ll reel her up.” He sent the code to the pulley. It raised the battered blow up doll out of view of the road.
“Well, all great directors like a second take.” Kelso flicked his tongue stud between his lips like a frog gobbling a metal fly.
Jorge seethed that Kelso thought of himself as the director when Jorge assembled the equipment. Sure, Kelso shelled out the dollars for it thanks to his motocross star dad, who afforded him a bottomless dresser of fresh skater gear. But nights like this were the only times Kelso would hang with Jorge, never in school as he wandered the halls alone. If forced to name his best friend, Jorge would have to say it’s Kelso, as pathetic as it sounded. When this video goes viral, he won’t ignore me at lunch any longer, Jorge thought.
“I got me some creative inspiration right here.” Chris placed a fat stogie between his lips.
“Are you totally baked?” Jorge asked. Chris responded with a blank look that confirmed his suspicions. “We’re creating a crime scene here. Major property damage. Why do you think we couldn’t touch the doll and the pulley without gloves? That joint has your saliva all over it. That’s DNA.”
“If you didn’t want to leave DNA around, then you shouldn’t have fucked the doll,” Kelso said as he slapped Jorge on the shoulder.
Like so many times when kids ragged on him in class, Jorge tightened his little pectorals, clamped his fists and said nothing. Kelso knew that Jorge’s nonexistent sexploits were a sore spot for him, yet he could at least stay off the subject with Chris around.
“Hey virgin boy, don’t worry ‘bout it,” Chris said as he drew his lighter up to the joint. “I’m not gonna leave this baby here.”
“And the smell, what about that?” Jorge asked. “If those guys had sniffed out the pot from over this wall when they stopped their car, damn, it would have been ugly. Why don’t you just go ahead and sound an air horn?”
Kelso shrugged in agreement. Chris put the joint away. “I’ll save it for the drive home. Hope you got more air freshener in your car.”
“I’m always stocked.” Kelso grinned.
They were interrupted by the hum of another car approaching. Kelso focused the camera. Jorge clutched his phone against his chest with his finger hovering over the pulley command code. He watched the high beams approaching on the empty road until they reached the point of no return. He thought for a second about the last car. What if the men hadn’t given up so easily? What if Kelso had freaked out and given them away? Jorge had taken his licks in the schoolyard and the hallways and he’d languished in detention often enough, but the consequences he would face if he misfired here were severe. They were adult consequences.
The sixteen-year-old had seen firsthand what such an outcome did to his wealthy uncle – his formerly wealthy uncle – now under federal lockdown for Medicare fraud. Alberto came to the U.S. with nothing and that’s what he was left with. But, oh how he lived in between. Better to live on a roller coaster than treading water.
It felt even more right than it did before. Jorge hit the switch, releasing the dummy into the road. The newly disfigured blowup doll was captured in the pillars of light like a dissected rabbit under the lab lamp. Jorge waited for the horn to sound. Instead he heard a “whoop!” His stomach shriveled into a tight ball. The sound was unmistakable. For a split second that felt like ten minutes submerged in ice water as his heart beat in slow motion, the car’s black and white frame drifted under the streetlight alongside the overpass. Those were sirens on its roof. Inside, Jorge saw the outline of a shaved head. The words on his door read “Miami-Dade Police”.
Scooting back, Jorge’s body shuddered from the overwhelming instinct to bolt out of there. That would give his location away when the officer stops, he realized. He’d never hear the end of this from his mom. He’d rather go to juvenile detention than serve house arrest with that tightwad.
Just as Jorge was thinking about how he’d pose for his mug shot, he realized that the cop car wasn’t stopping. It was swerving. The car ducked onto the shoulder, avoiding the blowup doll but striking a mangled fender left from a previous breakdown. It shredded the tire. The vehicle careened off the road. Jorge’s heart caught in his throat as he watched the car elevate. It plunged into the canal. A thousand sounds of impact – shattering glass, splashing water, bending steel, a panicked scream – rang as one.
“What the…” Jorge plugged Kelso’s mouth with his palm. He pointed to the camera rolling footage. Kelso turned ghostly pale as he looked at Jorge with a, “What the hell do we do now?” expression. Jorge couldn’t wrap his brain around what he just saw.
He had expected a few cars getting dented up, not this.
Chris pumped his fist through the air and mimed a roar. It reminded Jorge of when he sat with Chris watching a pro wrestling match with barbed wire and thumbtacks all over the ring. Chris adored the blood-stained canvass like it belonged in an art gallery.
But this was real bloodshed.
Jorge stood there with his hands on his head, feeling his pulse pounding against the sides of his skull, and watched the taillights dip beneath the water. The officer didn’t climb out. Jorge’s body constricted, his elbows squeezing his ribcage until the breath shot from his lungs. The streetlights blurred before his teary eyes. He wiped them dry before his friends saw.
He could have leapt over the wall and tried saving him. But the camera was still filming and touching him would leave evidence. Was going to jail worth a futile attempt at saving the police officer, who likely wouldn’t have shown Jorge any mercy if he had safely navigated his car around a blowup doll?
Jorge swatted at the camera in Kelso’s hand, but the skater elbowed him aside and kept shooting – caring more about great web footage than life itself. Kelso directed the camera from the sinking vehicle to the dummy dangling harmlessly from the rope. It pirouetted in the wind in a farewell dance to the officer who had spared its inflatable life. Chris snickered.
“Okay, that’s a wrap,” Kelso said a moment after he turned off the camera. “Instant classic.”
“Holy shit, man, we fucking rock!” Chris said, throwing up devil horns with two fingers. “Let’s go. Viewing party at my place.”
Jorge wanted to tell Chris the obvious, that he was out of his mind. “We have to call an ambulance. Maybe they can still save him.”
“If you tell anybody—” Chris seized the skinny teen’s shoulder blade and gouged his fingers into his tender muscles. “I’ll break your fucking neck.” Jorge nodded. He released him.
“They’re already coming,” Kelso said. “I bet the cops have a collision notification system plugged into a GPS on there – like on my dad’s Land Rover.”
“Then let’s not stand around here holding our dicks,” Chris said. “Come on.”
They scampered away from the wall hunched over like inmates sneaking out. Jorge expected a strong hand on his back collar or a bullet through the back of the skull at any moment. Skirting around the abandoned houses left in their bare concrete and rebar states, they made it to the other side of the stalled home development project. Kelso had parked his yellow Mustang just inside the entrance wall, near where the gate had been steamrolled by a pack of ATVs. Seeing the guardhouse, Jorge feared a flashlight beam catching him. That would be followed by an angry security officer popping his head out. With his heart pounding, Jorge glanced inside the guardhouse as he hurried past. It had a bird nest and not much else. Jorge sprinted to Kelso’s Mustang and threw open the door. When he ducked for the passenger seat, a hand grabbed him by the back of his neck.
“It wasn’t me! I swear!”
“You know the rules pubes-for-hair,” Chris said as he tossed Jorge on his ass in the dirt. “Backseat.”
He folded the front seat down so Jorge could take his place. His little legs fit snugly back there, even as the hefty Chris created a bulge in the seat in front of him when he leaned back. The dropout had taken his first drag off the joint before Kelso had even started his car.
“My brother is going to flip when he sees this,” Kelso said. “How many hits you think it’ll get on YourShow?”
“A million, man.” Chris sucked in another toke. “Naw, 10 million.”
“Are you kidding?” Jorge asked Kelso, rapping him on the shoulder as he drove. “This isn’t one of your skate board stunt videos. You can’t tell anybody we did this. If somebody sees it, we’ll do hard time. Pull over, ok? I’ll throw it in a lake.”
“Aw, you’re tripping,” Kelso said. “This is the most bad ass footage ever. I get that we can’t put our names on it, but we can’t toss it.”
“Ten million, baby, 10 million,” Chris repeated as he exhaled the herbal vapors. “You’re the Cuban computer geek, Jorge. You can post it, like anatomically…”
“Anonymously,” Jorge corrected him. “I guess I could try…”
“Don’t just try. Do it,” Chris said. “I bring the mayhem, you post it and you…” His glassy eyes glared at Kelso. “Make your dad pay for it all.”
While the two of them cracked up, Jorge clamped down. The camera had landed in his lap and it felt like a tarantula.
Fishing for Perverts
Clyde Deauville read the e-mail meant for a fourteen-year-old girl and covered his mouth. That deranged animal is going to hell just as surely as he’s going to jail tonight.
The officer linked his phone to the network inside the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s computer crime center van. It had been camouflaged to look like a beer delivery truck so it would blend in on South Beach. The cyber pervert was staying in the Sand Dollar Hotel, where he had e-mailed the fictional “Amber” through the wifi uplink. He was in Room 214 and eager to capture a naïve underage girl’s virginity.
Of all people, Clyde knew how tough it was to find a classy woman, but he could never imagine letting his physical urges overwhelm him. That’s why he bit his tongue when he sent the would-be child molester his reply: I wanna try that with u. Sounds sooo hot! I’ll b there in 5 & knock 3 times.
“Nice lingo, slick,” said Miami-Dade County Detective Olga Cohen, known in the department as OC. An eager grin crossed her beauty mark-dotted cheeks as she loaded her pistol. Her curved nose nearly reached her thick lips. “You sounded just like a blossoming nubile on her way to hook up with a sugar daddy.”
“I hope you’re not insinuating…” Clyde blushed and straightened his tie – the only one in the van full of uniformed county sheriff officers. “I mean, I’ve got the psychological profile down.”
“Oh, I know what you mean, honey,” she said with a wink of her brown eye and a bob of her puff of curly locks. She had a slender build with the muscle tone of a gymnast. “OC is like orange concentrate, because that’s what I do. I concentrate and stalk my prey. Then I pounce, like wham.”
OC hopped up and drew her stun gun. Clyde flinched, even though she didn’t point it at him.
“Simmer down OC. Quit scaring the cyber cop,” said one of her thick-shouldered male cohorts. Lieutenant Freddy Dominguez was built for tussling with brutes while Clyde’s physique was perfectly sculpted for a desk and chair. Occasionally, he met a paper clip that needed a firm twisting.
Clyde had heard “cyber cop” used in that scoffing manner plenty of times from “real” officers. Sure he didn’t chase suspects into dark alleyways and pull over cars full of gangbangers, but perverts like this would defile dozens of innocent children without his intervention. Too many molested children turn from God into Satan’s hands, where they delve into drugs and sexual depravity. Clyde couldn’t stop every one, but each arrest was another soul saved.
The cell phone that supposedly belonged to “Amber” buzzed with another message from her would-be seducer.
“Wow, he’s really into you,” OC said. The officers laughed with OC like she was another one of the guys. She had a tight body, but Clyde noticed that none of the guys had checked her out the whole time they were packed in the van. She was like their sister.
“I’m flattered, believe me.” Clyde shrugged and crossed his arms.
“I saw the photos he sent. He’s actually pretty hot,” she said.
“Those photos were of a French underwear model.” The three male officers in the van shot Clyde quizzical glares. “Not like that makes a difference…Let’s see what he said.”
Hurry up doll. I popped some blues. Am hard 4 u. Gonna open u up wide 4 hours n hours.
There was a photo attached. Clyde cringed, half hoping for incriminating evidence and half not wanting to see the suspect’s pride and joy. It was as he’d feared. He didn’t get how such a small part of the man’s body transformed him into a predator.
“Can you believe that?” OC remarked at the photo. “It’s like he’s stepping up to the plate to bat with a chopstick.”
While the male officers snickered, Clyde posted his clenched fist in front of his mouth. He wished he could drive his knuckles through the sicko’s skull and out the other side.
Hate the sin, not the sinner.
“Hey buddy, we’re ready for the raid,” Dominguez said as he crouched to the seated cyber cop’s level. “Want to come with? I can see you don’t like this creep.”
“I don’t know about that.” Clyde set his hands in his lap. “You have plenty of manpower to make the arrest. I’d just get in the way.”
“Come on, don’t you want to see your boyfriend get busted?” OC asked. “Just imagine how it’ll feel when we make him lay belly-down on the pavement after he took Viagra. Raging hard-on, meet unforgiving concrete.” She stabbed her middle finger into her palm to demonstrate. Clyde cringed.
“I’m feeling that game plan,” Dominguez said. He draped his arm over Clyde’s slight shoulders, practically engulfing them. “Tell you what cyber cop, after we get him down you can do the old knee pressure on the small of the back to drive the point home”
Clyde thought about how he’d enjoy making the abuser squirm like he’d undoubtedly done to so many victims.
“I’m not about vengeance. All I want is to see sinners and criminals put in their place. If you need me to be in the room with you, fine. Let’s get him.”
Normally seeing five cops bust into a hotel would be out of the ordinary, but not so much on South Beach’s neon lighted strip. A few tourists snapped photos while some people slipped away to avoid an arrest that wasn’t meant for them. The classic Art Deco hotel’s narrow stairs and hallways meant the officers had to go single-file to give them room to maneuver. Clyde brought up the rear while OC took second behind the bulldozer Dominguez. When they reached Room 214, the policemen waited a few feet down the hallway while OC did her best feminine knock – three times as promised. The door opened immediately.
“Wow, nice costume. You’re a little older than I was expecting,” Clyde heard a voice say as the male officers kept out of sight. “It’s been a long time since I had a babe on the other side of eighteen, er 30.”
“Who you calling old!” OC snapped. She shoved her gun in his face. “Get the fuck on the ground. Now!”
Before the pervert could utter a coherent word, the pack of county cops cornered him. Clyde couldn’t tell if the rotund, balding man was always that pasty or staring down the barrels of four guns drained the color from his flesh. Either way, he reasoned that adding a fifth gun wouldn’t be necessary, even though it would feel satisfying. He’d rather ensure that this molester didn’t escape conviction.
Scanning the room as the officers tossed the man on his belly and OC applied the knee pressure to the small of his back – making him yelp in pain – Clyde saw bottles of vodka and a glass crack pipe. It smelled like a wet armpit in there. His daughter was only ten, but she was growing up so fast with the internet. Men were out there – men like this fat incubus – who wanted his daughter Holly. Even at her tender age, she was viewed as a precious commodity in the illicit world of child porn. Those like him roaming cyberspace thought they could sin from behind fantastical avatars and then blend in with the innocent flock in their daily lives. Not if Clyde could unmask them.
Clyde dug the pervert’s wallet out of his pocket. He owned a modeling agency, one that accepted children. Clyde made a note to get a search warrant there, as the computers probably had some footage that would add years onto the sexual predator’s sentence.
Clyde tapped the man on the shoulder with his boot. “I’m Amber. Not what you were expecting, right? I bet you’ve taken advantage of many children like that before.”
“Piss off!” He shouted with his cranberry red face buried in the carpet. “I want my lawyer.”
“Unless your lawyer is the Angel Gabriel, you’re going away for a long time,” Clyde said. The sinner rolled his eyes at the mention of something holy – a sure sign of a lost soul.
“They can’t lock me up forever, Amber. And when I’m out, I’ll ram my cock in you and every girl in your family!”
He felt the cold steel of his pistol in his palm. Clyde had nearly drawn it. What right do those who perform abominations have to life? In Biblical days, this sinner would have been stoned into a broken sack of bones. Yet now, he would have the opportunity to emerge from jail one day and resume his prowl for forbidden flesh. Clyde could end that with a burst of gunpowder.
Mercy. That too is a divine attribute.
“I shall pray that you find forgiveness in the Lord’s eyes,” Clyde said through clenched teeth as he released his weapon.
While the county sheriff officers dragged the feisty pervert to the patrol car, Clyde snagged the suspect’s cell phone for analysis and boarded his van. He was about to leave when he heard OC shouting.
“No! Don’t tell me that! You’re fucking kidding, right?”
Clyde peered out onto the street and saw Dominguez reach for OC to comfort her. She spun out of his grip like a wild chicken. She paced up and down the sidewalk in front of the hotel jabbering into her phone with words too tear-stricken to understand. Her wobbly knees led her smack into a parking meter. She fell on her side kicking and clawing at the air. Dominguez hustled over and scooped her up.
Clyde left his van and approached her out of concern, but he didn’t close the distance enough to truly lend a hand. Another one of the county sheriff officers told him what had happened. Lieutenant Cory Franco – OC’s ex-fiancé and lover over four years – had run his patrol car off the road and into a canal in west Miami-Dade. He had drowned.
Clyde clasped his hands together in prayer for the departed man. Dominguez finally let Officer Cohen out of his grasp, although she looked like she would have rather stayed there forever. Clyde trudged up to her.
“I’m so sorry to hear what happened,” he said.
“Clyde.” The tears rolled away, leaving her eyes focused on him as sharply as a night owl’s yellow glare. “I need you. Come with me.”
She seized his wrist and tugged him toward her patrol car. He weighed enough to resist her pull if he wanted, but her grip was surprisingly rigid.
“Are you taking to me to the scene? I’d do anything to help, but traffic accidents aren’t…”
“Accident? No, by what they found at the scene, this was deliberate. And when I find who did this, I’ll kill them.”
Review by: Cyrus Webb, Vine Voice
Review by: Reading Other People
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