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Bewildering Stories

Gary Clifton, Burn Sugar Burn


Burn Sugar Burn
Author: Gary Clifton
Publisher: McLennan House
Date: May 1, 1987
ISBN: 0918865107; 978-0918865106

McCoy, an aging, veteran, hard-drinking, Dallas-based ATF agent, constantly in disfavor with management, is in desperate need of solving — “clearing” in copspeak — a quality case to avoid the annual shuffle of manpower into the maw of the dope wars in and off the coast of Florida.

He responds to a brutal murder, where a female victim, a former highschool cheerleader turned prostitute, had been wired to a bed and burned alive. As he wends his ways through the sordid back alleys of Dallas, amid the narcotics, perversion and violence, he gradually realizes that the murder is so twisted and bizarre that even his cynical mind has difficulty absorbing the awful truth.

* *

The snitch hadn’t told us Slow Bill’s broken jaw was wired shut. A rookie cop, schooled in dope-coppery, shouted “He’s eatin’ the dope .A half dozen cops, including a skinny dope-cop known as “Muscles Malloy,” struggled to insert a nightstick in the struggling Slow’s mouth. Into the fray waddled Short T Jones, three feet-two, seventy six pounds, and angry as hell. Being half Mulloy’s length, he threw himself into the pile, the size differential being just right to take a giant bite of Mulloy’s crotch. Mulloy was still making sounds like an electronic siren when a real ambulance hauled him to Parkland fifteen minutes later.

“Had breakfast yet, McCoy?” The medical examiner looked up from the carnage. The thing wired spread-eagled on the bed — flesh charred black, hair burned away had been human. The M.E. clipped the wires and rolled the body over. Face unrecognizable, the remains were female, evidenced by edges of a yellow telephone receiver shoved up her private parts. Christ, how was I ever going to have another sexual thought?

Jesus, the smarmy little assistant, sawed off the top of her head, pried out her brain with a chrome-plated tire iron, and handed it to Dr. Westra. Westra rolled in in his hand and droned into the microphone, “Brain is unremarkable” and tossed it toward a spare-parts bowl at the foot of the gurney. I wondered, what if the brain had been remarkable. Would he have deduced “This kid did well in algebra,” perhaps? The nasty blob missed the bowl and splatted on the concrete floor. “Headache,” Westra sniggered. I held my game face, careful not to show weakness in the face of lunacy.

Slim Boyd parked two car lengths down. Coburn squeezed the city car in up the block. I parked just across from the door. At 11:10 pm. a whore serviced a trick in the bed of an old pickup right in front of me. At 12:50 a.m., two young men used the pickup bed for a session of wild lovemaking. Afterward. both urinated on the side of Slim Boyd’s car in the pitch blackness. “Slim,” I whispered into the handset, “Folks in this neighborhood regard you the same as the bosses.” At 4:31 a.m., a bulky figure appeared from the dark. Suddenly, the glare of a match illuminated his dark hair and scraggly beard. Then, flame illuminated the entire area as he tossed the Molotov against the front door. Slim tackled him first, then me, then Coburn. “Hellllp,” he shrieked. “I’m in Satan’s grip.” I grappled for a wrist with handcuffs. “Dammit, McCoy, that’s my wrist,” Slim grunted, straining to subdue the big man.

I made my goodbye to Wilby, Oklahoma and fled south on Interstate 35 — fled in headlong haste. I could clear the case by “exceptional circumstances” — not “solved” because the perp was dead, but I could beat the transfer monster another year. Then the front yard of the Prentiss farm would be jammed with news jerks. It would be the end of her — the entire family ground to dust by the unforgiving cycle of the streets. If I jiggered with the facts, the follow up team from Internal Affairs would be young, smart, and ambitious. No reason they couldn’t retrace my file and figure out what had happened.

I swung the old Chevrolet into the Federal parking garage. Chadsey and his helper sweated in front of the incinerator which instantly devoured all that entered. Was that a depiction of Hell? Maybe I’d talk to the Priest in the next few days... maybe. I studied the flaming hole and then the file with the morgue photos, the dental charts, the whole sorry mess. The flames consumed it in a second. “Whutcha doin?” Chadsey wiped his brow. ”Movin’ on,” I said.

Copyright © 2018 by Gary Clifton

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