Jonathan Hayes

A Hard Death


Jenner, his license suspended after the events in Precious Blood, has come to Florida, offered a medical examiner position in a sleepy sea-side resort town by his mentor and close friend, Marty Roburn. Jenner soon finds himself investigating the murder of some migrant workers. Adam Weiss, a Barnard student who's doing an internship with a non-profit organization devoted to organizing farm workers, is also investigating the deaths. A possible witness, an older migrant worker with a graying goatee, driving a small truck from a nearby farm proposes that they meet in the cemetery near sunset, where the man will tell Adam. The man is late; Adam begins to worry. Then finally he sees one of the farm's trucks turn into the cemetery.

WARNING: Bad language, worse people.

The truck seemed larger to Adam; he dismissed it as a trick of the light. In the setting sun, he couldn't see the interior of the cab well, but it looked like there were two men there now.

Adam coasted to a stop, let his bike down onto the grass and walked over to the pickup, approaching the driver's side.

It was a different man, younger, bigger. Muscular.

Adam said, "Hey, how's it going?"

The driver nodded, grinned widely, and said, "Fine. Everything's fine."

He paused, then added, "You?"

Adam nodded, also struggling for casual. "Good, just heading home. Long day."

Beyond the driver, he could see the man in the front passenger seat held a camcorder on his lap.

Grin unchanged, the driver said, "Can I help you with something?"

Adam shrugged, "Nope, I'm good."

The man said, "Oh. Well, you came up to us..."

"Oh, no problem, I thought you were someone else."

"Really? Who?"

"Oh, some guy who... who was going to tell me the best spot..." Adam grinned sheepishly. "He was going to tell me where I could buy some pot round here. You guys don't know, do you?"

"Some pot? As in marijuana? That's pretty pathetic." The man shook his head. "My friend, this is Florida. In Florida, only pussies smoke pot..."

The passenger stifled an excited giggle.

"You a pussy?"

The driver cracked the door as Adam backed away.

Adam said, "Okay, well, I guess I'll have to keep looking."

"Oh, not so much."

Adam was walking back to his bike.


He turned. The man was ten feet from him.

"Kid? You lost."

Adam shook his head, as if not understanding.

"You lost. You lose. You played, but you lost. Time to pay up."

Adam's feet were rooted to the ground. He stammered, "There seems to be some kind of misunderstanding, sir."

"Sir? I like that!" The man was grinning again. "That's pussy talk!"

"I think you think I'm someone I'm not."

The man cocked his head. "Really? You're not Adam Weiss?"

Adam stammered, but nothing came out.

"Put the bike in the truck."

Adam was shaking.

"Kid, it's over." The man pulled a black automatic out of his waistband. "Now put the fucking bike in the fucking truck before I fucking gutshoot you and let you bleed shit right here in the cemetery. All we want is to talk with you."

He watched the boy pull the bike up and wheel it to the truck. In the flatbed, several stacked bags of feed and canisters of pesticide peeked out from under a weathered tarp.

"Lift it and put it in the fucking truck."

Adam's muscles were liquid, sloshing loosely under his skin. His hands wouldn't grasp, his arms wouldn't heft the frame up onto the flatbed.

"Kid, I swear to fucking Christ, I will shoot you dead right now if that bike isn't on the truck by the time I count three."

He racked the pistol with a slick, dull click. Adam thought: it sounds just like on TV.

The wheels and frame floated up as if buoyed by helium, and the bike tipped up over the side and into the flatbed. The front wheel caught, and twisted, the frame tumbling sideways onto the truck, lifting the tarp to expose for a second the bloodied body of a man. Not even a second, a fraction of a second—just long enough for Adam to see the small gray goatee.

"Okay, kid. Now the three of us are going to go for a little ride, going to have us a little talk...."