6: Sound Salvation
Getting to The Radio Station took longer than I anticipated, even with the traffic I suspected would be a hassle. After a cigarette and some less-sexy thoughts to calm me down, I lit a flare I found in the trunk (which I was surprised was even there) and put it up on the road near where I “skidded” off. It was a bit longer before someone stopped to tell me they couldn’t help, and still longer after that before someone who lived on the Island came to see what was up, and offered genuine help in the way of coffee and a blanket, as by now my feet were wet from inspecting the car. The gentleman by the name of Tom stayed with me until the tow truck arrived, and even offered to help with the driver laughed and suggested that the three of us push the car out, which might be faster. One changed tire and a jump later, the Bug was up and running again, and further inspection from Tom revealed that it would, most likely, continue to run for me for the time being, but he recommended that I take it in as soon as possible.
I thanked everyone involved, and before I left sent a photo of the car (pre-river removal) to texted Sam, “I’m wet with anticipation.”
It seemed like too much effort to call in a hit-and-run just yet, and I wanted to let the Deluxe Drivers feel as if I’ve been “taken care of” for the time being. I made a quick call to a friend who lived in the area, and he agreed to let me swap cars for the time being, an old Ford Pickup, for a few days, and after a quick vehicle exchange, made it to KLOW, and managed to leave myself with plenty of time to be fashionably late for my meeting with Sam. In spite of what I was sure to find to be exciting texts from her, I decided to leave things hanging for the moment and ignore everything from her until we met in person.
Like every radio station I’d ever been to, this one was difficult to locate, in a small and shitty space, and appeared more like a dentist’s office on the outside than it did a place where music would be. Outside of the few big broadcasters in any given area, every other radio station in the world starts out in a closet, and if it has a door, it is nearly always somewhat sketchy. This was no exception. While KLOW was supposed to be a heavy-hitter in the area, and a lot of people I knew listened, access to the station itself was down a side street, turning down an alley, and beneath the light of an ill-maintained lamp, a simple sign showed the letters K L O W. Had I known there wouldn’t be parking, I would have hoofed the last block, but as a police car was blocking my ability to pull through, I backed back to the street in a dimly-lit place in a huge truck I was not used to driving, and experience that 100% sobered me from all of my chemical intake that day. I popped a piece of cinnamon gum in my mouth and entered the station.
KLOW was no exception when it came to the interior. A few hanger-ons were sitting in various locations in the station, headphones on, laptops out, ironically not listening to the station. Every imaginable surface was covered in graffiti or a poster for some album, and the rock-club visual stimuli was offset by the out-of-context, bright fluorescents that illuminated the room far too well, revealing how pale everyone was. Various rooms led off from the main area, and above one in-particular an “On Air” sign was lit up, and through the window the animated figure of Frankie was working his magic. Through another window, two people were seated around a microphone, chatting away, and through a third an engineer was working the faders. Pacing around one corner was a guy with an acoustic guitar, mumbling to himself the words to a song he clearly wrote, and was about to play. Another DJ was peering into the window where Frankie was working, and you could hear the faint sound of Frankie wrapping up his show for the day. Amid all of this two cops were standing, very much sticking out in a room they did not belong. One was a detective and the other, a beat cop, to whom a kid with a beard and tattoos was giving his full attention.
As the door closed behind me, the sound triggered a comical turning of heads that all rotated to meet my wandering gaze. I waved, and lost the attention of nearly everyone. “Can I help you?” asked the bearded kid.
“No,” I rejoined, and continued glancing around the studio. This seemed to annoy the kid, but the detective did not care one way or another, and said, “and you didn’t hear the caller at all?”
“Hey, I didn’t know anything about this until you guys showed up!” and the kid threw up his hands, as if giving up.
“Relax, you’re not in trouble, kid,” said the Detective, and the beat cop began to walk in my direction.
“Is that you, A-” he began, but I cut him off.
“Fred!” I said in a hopefully-recognizable tone, and I thrust my hand in his as I grabbed him near the shoulder. “It’s Marcus, you remember?”
Fred rolled his eyes and said, “What, are you a DJ now?”
“You know how it is, in this economy,” and behind us, the Detective and the bearded kid continued, clearly getting frustrated with each other.
“I know your economy, anyway. Are you still -”
“When the money’s right.”
“And did the money lead you here?”
“Well, Frankie did, anyway.”
Fred shook his head. “You might want to steer clear of this, then. He just called us.”
“What?” was all I could get out, but before I could continue plying Fred with my innocent routine, Frankie burst out of the studio, his feathered hair and make-up hiding his true age, who was ready for his second performance of the day.
“Detective Fish, thank god you’re here,” Frankie belted out. “I received another call today, while on THE AIR. Hope you’re here to tell me when this is going to stop. A professional like me just can’t deal with this terror plaguing him every time he comes to work. What kind of police force is this that can’t catch a criminal like this?”
I laughed, with so many handles on this suitcase presenting itself. But this caught Frankie’s attention, who looked over in my direction. “Who are you?”
“Little,” I offered, with my had. “Long time listener.”
Frankie started saying, “You’re n-” then cut himself off. “Marcus Little, you said? Interesting.”
The Detective was uninterested in me, and turned to Frankie. “What did he say this time?”
Frankie rolled his eyes and adopted a condescending tone. “If you’d been listening to me all this month, you’d know that the voice is in the kind of whisper that masks its gender.” Frankie shook his head, then looked at me and mouthed, “Can you believe these guys?”
“What did THEY say, Diamond?”
Frankie sat down on the nearest couch and produced a long, thin cigarette. “THEY, as you say, said that I had made some poor choices recently, and if I didn’t change my ways, I would pay for it.” One of the hanger-ons seated on the couch extended a lighter, obliged Frankie, and returned to their headphone and laptop.
“Have you considered the advice?” I asked.
The Detective turned to me, and said, “I’m sorry, but I’ll ask the questions.”
“THANK YOU, Detective,” said Frankie.
I looked at Fred, then turned to walk to the other couch to seeth.
It was clear that Diamond was a problem for everyone, and that his presence in the room is enough to command the kind of patience you need for a child. I rolled a cigarette and listened to my police-approved counterpart to see if there was anything useful or new that I could get from the situation.
“Did you take the call on the air, Frank?”
“Do I look like I don’t know what I’m doing?”
“And when did the call come in, again?” asked The Detective.
“How should I know? I’m not some magic-powered robot animated by spite and frustration.”
“How long before we can review the archives of today’s show?”
“Shouldn’t be long,” Darren said as he turned to the office and tried to flag down the attention of someone within. “We keep a running recording of all our shows, which post to the computer a few minutes after the show airs. If something needs to be reviewed, or if the show goes out as a podcast too, the recordings are automatically posted to the appropriate places.”
Another kid – this one with glasses, and bicycle accoutrements – popped out of the office finally, frowned as part of his usual facial expression, and looked only at Darren. “Yeah.”
Darren motioned again, and the kid sighed, got up, huffed and puffed the entire way over, and stood next to Darren.
The Detective looked at the faux-messenger and said, “Who are you?”
“Brandon? Who the fuck are you?”
“Detective Fish,” he said, pulling out a badge. Brandon looked somewhat less annoyed, but still put out to be standing there. Fish let the silence build for a moment.
“And?” asked Brandon?
Darren pipped up, “Brandon is our tech director. Handles the gear, the recordings, the website, and everything that makes KLOW work.
The Detective looked over at his partner. “Fred, work with this kid here and get the archive of the show so we can review the call.” Then, looking at Brandon. “Make sure we get Frank’s show, in full, and try not to show too much contempt for me if you know what’s good for you, huh?”
Brandon sighed, but did not make eye contact with anyone else, nodded toward Fred, then went into a different office door, through which a few computers and other pieces of gear were visible. Fred turned to me, shook his head, and followed him.
“Look, Frank,” started the Detective.
“Look, nothing!” shouted Frankie. “This is at least the 8th time this has happened, and I’m starting to wonder if I’m the only one taking this case seriously.”
“I assure you, I’m giving this case exactly the right amount of seriousness, considering the circumstances,” the Detective offered flatly.
“So why hasn’t this person been caught?” demanded Frankie.
The Detective’s tone got deeper and quieter suddenly. “Now you listen here, Frankie. No one has died, and no crime has been committed.”
“Yet!” Frankie insisted.
“But one is about to happen if you don’t watch your tongue!” Frankie turned and looked at me, then motioned to the Detective with his eyes. “We take threats like this like we do all our other investigations, and we try to solve the case, rather than arrest everyone who listens to your show. Which we should probably get around to doing anyway, as they’re probably all guilty of something much worse.”
Frankie bristled, but I merely puffed away on my cigarette and enjoyed the show.
“Now, shall we talk about the number of phone calls you’ve had to the police, recently? How often you threaten us when we don’t take immediate action? How often you send back the beat cops and insist on an actual Detective to show up? There are laws against abusing the public resources that we offer, and there’s plenty of room in my car if you want to go for a ride.”
“How does You Spin Me Right Round fit into your regular show, Frankie?” I asked from the other couch.
“Who wants to know? I mean, really, who are you?”
“Answer the question, Frankie,” the Detective prodded, and turned to give me a look.
“The station has a long-standing deal with them, to get records for air-play.” Frankie suddenly looked worried. “No no, not that. Not payola, or anything! They support us, we support them.”
Darren piped up, “If we mention them on air a certain number of times, we get new records from them in trade, that the DJs use to program their shows. I have the Underwriting Paperwork if you’d like to see it.”
“FRED!” yelled The Detective.
Fred poked his head out of the other office. “Yes?”
“When you’re done, team up with this kid for this Underwear Paperwork, or whatever,” The Detective said.
“Your on-air friendship with Miles & Robert seems fairly chummy for someone who is just working with their business, professionally,” I continued.
The Detective turned to me fully and asked, “Little, is it?”
“Marcus, yes,” I said.
“Cram it, Little,” he commanded, then turned back to Frankie. “Is there a conflict of interest here?” he asked, to both Darren & Frankie.
Darren shook his head, while Frankie said, “I’ll pretend you didn’t suggest that I would stoop to something like that. I know Miles, and Sam, too.” Frankie looked at me suddenly, then looked away. “Professionally. I would never use my status here to abuse that relationship,” he said to Fish. “That seems like something a…” and he turned back to me, “lesser person would do.”
It was clear to me that Frankie and Miles were connected, and that was enough for me to let that stew and percolate as the evening progressed. I looked at the time, and while it was still a while before I was supposed to meet Sam, with traffic and finding a place to park the truck, I thought it would be best to avoid the continued abuse, and motor.
I stood up, but Fish turned to me, and with the smallest of gestures urged me to sit back down. Clearly, I was next. I drew on my cigarette and let it out with a sigh. This is what I get for sticking my nose in.
Frankie was starting to feel as if he was no longer the center of attention, and decided to continue. “If we are finished here, Detective, I would like to go.” Then, directed at me and Darren, “See, I’ve been working all day, and I’d like to get home, get some food, put my feet up, and pray that these phone calls don’t keep me from falling asleep tonight.”
“Yeah, yeah, we’re all worried about your sleep, Diamond,” Fish muttered. “You. Little.” And, he pointed. “Stay on that couch, and don’t move a muscle. FRED!?” This time he moved his entire body out of the office where Brandon was hammering away. “We good?”
“We will be. Just need to get the paperwork from this guy,” and directed his thumb toward Darren.
“I’m gonna walk the legendary Frankie Diamond to his car,” continued The Detective, who then turned and led Frankie out of the station. On his way to Darren’s office, Fred gave me a glance that conveyed everything and nothing.
I stood up, and began to wander around the station, looking at all the crap on the walls. On small end-tables and any flat surface, unfiled albums sat around, continuing the visual motif of rock and roll that could not be containing by a mere 40,000 Watts of power. I stubbed out my cigarette and began looking at things in that way that you do when you are killing time, and it was in this state of mind that I glanced around and noticed a photograph on a wall with another familiar face in it, a woman’s. There was a phrase on the photo – Dig Your Grave – and it took me a moment or two to piece together what it could mean.
I wandered over to the stacks of CDs and looked for the Ds, but before I could get any further, two letters stood out, written in pen on the back of another album. Gears began to turn, and as I thumbed through more I found a disc labeled, “Dig Your Grave – Six Feet A Sunder.” The photo matched. I began pacing in thought, wondering what all of this pointed to, and pulled out my phone to thumb at it for a while.
Fish returned, and shouted, “Are you done with your pity party, Brandon?” Brandon was now wearing a bike-helmet, and poked out of the tech room he and Fred had been in. “Excuse me?”
“OUT!” commanded Fish, and Brandon grabbed his comically waterproof bag and walked out. “Little-man. Quit looking at Tumblr-porn and get in here.”
I acquiesced, and before I could get comfortable he snapped on an overhead light and slammed the door shut.
“Just who the fuck do you think you are, Dexter?” he snapped.
“Whew, thank you Detective, that was going to save me a ton of explaining.”
“You think you’re funny? It’s bad enough that vapid creepoids like Diamond are always trying to rattle my cage, but you come in here during an official inquiry, start using a fake name and step all over my Waltzing Toes? I don’t even have to come up with an excuse to lock you up, you dipshit.”
“You wouldn’t do that. I talk too much. I’d keep everyone up all night with my bullshit.”
“Maybe we should find out?”
“Maybe I should help you.”
Fish laughed. “Right. Like I need you to find a crank caller. For all I know it’s my 13 year old, bored out of his head because I took away his Atari or whatever.”
“Well then, case clased. Wanna get a drink?”
“Cut the crap, Roland. I know who you are, and I know your reputation. You think Fred is the only person who used to work with you? Cops talk, you know.”
“Right. You stitch-n-bitch is well attended.”
Fish slapped me. I absolutely deserved it, but I decided to feign that it actually hurt.
“Why are you here?”
“I’m on a job.”
“Now, you know I can’t tell you that? My client -”
“Your client. Shit. Really, Dexter?”
“- wants me to look into a few things, all above board. Frankie is a person of interest.”
“Fuck Frankie, he doesn’t know shit.”
“Perhaps. He’s already said plenty.”
“Then you know who’s been calling him?”
“I’m afraid that I don’t know.”
Fish chewed his lip. “Maybe we should go downtown. Tampering with a police investigation is more than enough at this point.”
With one hand I began swishing back and forth, creating a metronome effect, and started to draw off of the massive collection of albums in the station. A small burst of energy formed in my fingers, and I conjured a quick spell.
I pulled out my Green Lantern Fan Club card from my wallet with my energiezed fingers, and handed it to Fish. “Look, I have a current Private Investigator’s licensce.” I pulled out an ATM reciept. “And here’s a reciept, showing I was paid in full by my client, who prefers to remain anonymous at this time.” I let that sink in for a beat. “I don’t carry a gun or any weapons, I have current ID for the truck I’m driving.”
“It’s a truck, now?”
“Long story. The point is, I’m just doing my job. In about an hour, I will clock off, and you won’t see me again until I pick up again in the morning. I have a lawyer, who’s quite familiar with getting me out of Jail, too, so if you’d like to waste the entire evening with this Waltz, as you call it, be my guest. Let’s do it.”
Fish handed back to bullshit I’d foisted on him, and looked at me again. “You’re a suspect at this point, Dexter.”
“That’s fine. I don’t like you much, either. But you know I can’t withhold relevant information about the case from you without making myself an accessory to the crime, and and believe me, if I knew anything about your 13 year old kid making prank calls, I would have mentioned it ages ago.”
Fish glared at me. “What’s your point?’
“I’m investigating a case involving the record store, and Frankie has enough connections to that store to make him a person of interest. But, to my knowledge, he’s done nothing wrong, and might not even be involved in the case. I was dropping by to see if those connections led anywhere.”
Fish mulled this over. “This is the first I’m hearing about a record store, but you’re right. It probably has nothing to do with the crank calls.” Fish chewed his lip, then put his hand on the door to open it. “If I can’t get in touch with you when I need to, so help me, there will be an APB for your ass issued quicker than you can say ‘radio.’ Capiche?”
“My ass, Detective? Why not the whole body?”
Fish threw open the door and yelled, “FRED! Let’s get out of here.” Fred, armed with some documents and a CDR, nodded at me, then followed Fish out of the station. Behind him, Fish yelled, “Later, ‘Little.’ “