#friday flash

The Renter*

Later it was widely remarked upon that each of the four told the same story syllable for accent mark without hesitation or variation no matter how many times they were called upon to tell it or where in the story they were required to begin.

One of them could even tell the story backwards.

“That guy must’ve been a regular Charlie Manson,” the lead investigator, a barrel chest named Clements said.

His partner agreed but only because she was new, agreeing hid inexperience and the fact she had no idea who Charlie Manson was. She did know enough about the victim to convince herself that this Charlie must have been just a colossal waste of skin.

But they still didn’t know his name. The victim’s. Stretched out on cold metal with a toe tag that read Doe. The four referred to him only as “the overlord”.

“The overlord wouldn’t allow pets that required caging.” Or, “The overlord wouldn’t let us have a sofa because we might sit on it.”

He had no i.d. No papers of any kind were discovered during the search of the house. The rental agency that leased the house to him had never dealt with him in person. Email or phone. And they’d never asked for any proof of who he was or run a background check because he paid in advance and always in cash.

“He was soft spoken. Didn’t waste words,” the agency spokesperson reported.

“Drugs,” Jenner put forth a rare conjecture and then waited for Clements to piss all over it despite the fact that it made some sense. The sub-letters’ dazed and confused expressions and gestures contrasted with their letter perfect recitation of facts but aroused suspicions that no one wanted to voice. Only the girl was clear eyed and concise. Her jade eyes ringed with day old mascara hallowing her gaze and making her questioners feel uncomfortable and intrusive.

Jenner offered her a washroom to clean up her face at least.

“It makes me look thinner. And wiser than my years,” she said.

She looked knowing. Both Clements and Jenner agreed on that but the girl’s story varied not one sentence from her three roommates except for the lone tear which would seep from her left eye to punctuate a particularly nasty revelation and then roll down an apple cheek before dropping into the oblivion of her lap where her bejewelled fingers were clasped and resting lightly.

“She sits like the Queen Mum,” Clements observed to no one in particular.

“Do you believe her? Them?” Jenner asked.

“What part? That he bludgeoned himself to death? Or that he gave himself regular colonics with a garden hose? Or that he was a Svengali who had those poor renters of his forking over their paychecks like they were living a chapter out of Dickens?”

“Any of it.”

“Well, he looked the type to shove a nozzle up his wazoo, but would he whack himself repeatedly with a lacrosse stick just to make it look like they attacked him because they’d decided not to give into his extortion anymore?”

Clements shrugged. There were no prints. No signs of struggle. Not one neighbor recalled hearing a thing. The girlfriend, who officially still lived with her ultra conservative parents and was away that night, confirmed that he regularly terrorized his sub-letters and what they reported was not out of repertoire range for him.

“I don’t think we can hold them,” Clements said.

“We’ll keep the case open?” Jenner asked.

“Right. Sure. Of course,” Clements said as he picked up the phone and dialed. “Go head and release those four. Give ’em the usual about staying close in case we have need of them.”

The green eyed girl with the knowing eyes and the wise thin face led the others out to a car with cardboard for a back window. The next morning, after the police tape was gone, the “for rent” sign went back up.

*10oo word flash fiction piece for the Twitter #friday flash. Any resemblance to the living or dead is naturally a coincidence and all rights are reserved per usual. Next week I will introduce you to Eubie Blake, zombie dealer.