I’ve been lucky enough so far this month to be able to keep up with my goal of 2,000 words a day. I’ll be hitting 36k tonight. In my opinion, the story’s going great. It’s still hard for me to believe I started this project with a single line in my head. Anyway, Chapter Eight is pretty short. Right now, it’s about six pages. I figure it’s a nice little tidbit that helps tie the room together, so here you go. Enjoy!
“What is that, bubble gum?” Carl asked.
“Coconut. Is your nose broken?” Bill replied.
“It smells like bubble gum. I can’t help it if none of the assholes in the air freshener factory have ever smelled a coconut before. I’d buy them all a trip to Hawaii if I could.”
“Florida has coconuts.”
“It’s closer. It’d be cheaper to send them there.”
“I don’t give a shit where it would be cheap to send them. That’s not the point.”
“No, I’m just saying Florida is still tropical, and it’s closer than Hawaii. It makes more sense.”
“Do you hear what you’re saying? Ah, fuck. Whatever. Bill, give me the diary.”
Bill pulled the writer’s diary out of the glove box and handed it to Carl. Carl picked out the loose-leaf pages and handed them back to Bill. When they stopped at a red light, Carl opened the diary and flipped to a random page.
“God, this guy whined. He was like a little kid, you know that?”
“I know. I read a little of it yesterday. He goes on and on every day about missing his daddy or his sister.”
“Yeah, it’s like, dude, go for a frickin drive. See um already.”
“Why did you say the old guy next door had this?”
“I don’t know. I bet stole it from the house. It was empty for the whole winter.” Carl said. He sneezed into a tissue, then blew his nose into it.
“Carl, if you’re that sick, I’m not sitting in this car for another three days with you. Screw that. I don’t want to be sick right at the start of the weekend.”
“It’s allergies, Bill.”
“How do you know?”
Carl threw the tissue into a plastic bag that he kept looped around his shift knob for trash. He wiped his nose again, this time with his sleeve. Bill opened his window and turned his head towards it, afraid Carl was wrong, and he would get sick breathing the air in the car. The pair were driving back to their office outside of Boston. A few days earlier, they’d received a call from someone saying Francisco had the writer’s diary. Whoever it was, knew they were working on the sequel to their book on Radwin Ali. They were doing their best to turn the house into legend. As they were rummaging through Francisco’s drawers, they saw his stone carving gear. Bill walked around to the back of the kitchen to take get a better look at the sculpture when he saw it through a window that was further away. He shouted to Carl, telling him what he’d found.
“Good. Maybe the bastard will buy the house next door to keep other folks from moving in. If we’re lucky, he’ll die in that house instead of his own. Imagine if that happened. We’d be famous for all this crazy ass non-fiction.”
“I guess we would. I don’t want anyone else dying, though.”
“Bill, he shot a gun into the air to scare us off last time we were here. You better bet at least one of us is dying if he finds us here now.”
“Got it!” Bill shouted. He’d found the diary in the drawer at the end of the kitchen counter.
Carl dashed over. He ripped the diary out of Bill’s hands and rifled through it.
“Shit. This is it. Everything we need to do the next book is right here.”
“Man, it’s going to be nice not to have to stay in this hell hole interviewing grumpy folks again.”
“That’s for sure.”
The two ran out towards their car, parked on the opposite side of the film students’ house. When they were about to pass the front steps of the porch, Bill stopped and ran up them. He put his hands up against the glass of the front door and peered in to see if he could see anything obviously useful. Carl continued to their car, hopping in and starting it. He starred at the wall of the house where Radwin Ali had crashed his car. It was incredible, a miracle that there was no damage. The first few feet of the house above the ground were concrete, but it wasn’t unusually thick. The turquoise paint on the siding above the concrete was chipping. Underneath was a nasty dark gray that must have been the old color of the whole house. How did that car not plow through the wall? Carl wondered.
Bill came running around the corner and slid into the passenger seat. He popped the glove box open and tossed the diary into it, then slammed it shut again. They drove off down the dirt road, going the opposite direction of the town. Neither of them wanted to run in to Francisco. Unfortunately, it meant adding another couple hours to their trip. Because it was early, they decided to stay in the town to the north instead of driving straight home. On the drive to the town, Bill noticed that the scent coming into the car from outside was stronger than the pine scented air freshener hanging from the rear-view mirror. When they put up the windows as it got colder, he noticed the pine scent left completely. That afternoon, as they were walking around town looking for food, Bill bought a new air freshener. It was a brown, two-dimensional tree that was supposed to smell like coconut.
“So, if this Christopher Lawson guy didn’t get shot by his ex-wife, you think he would have still killed himself?” Bill asked, watching Carl thumb through the book.
“It’s hard to say. I had a friend in college who committed suicide. That guy was normal as hell. You never know what’s going through people’s heads.”
“Oh, yeah. He could have moved out to this quiet little town with it on his mind. Maybe he was so nice because he was a little coo-coo.”
“You’re saying you’re not crazy, Bill?”
“I’m not crazy. Plus, if being nice makes you crazy, you’re not crazy.”
“Ha! Got me there.” Carl said. The light turned green and he dropped the diary between his seat and the center console.
Bill lit a cigarette. He rolled his window down a few inches. The smoke from the cigarette between his fingers was sucked right out of the car. Carl wanted a cigarette as soon as he smelled Bills. He lit one and rolled down his window.
Carl and Bill had been working together for five years when they started writing the book about Radwin Ali. They met on a collaboration project between two papers. When they finished the project, they talked about how well they worked together over a few beers. Then and there, a little drunk, they decided to go into business together. Coincidentally, they both dreamed of being non-fiction writers when they were young boys. It was something that always intrigued them. Their fathers encouraged them because, the way they understood it, they thought the boys were interested in becoming journalists. In reality, Bill and Carl dreamed of working on a project similar to Capote’s, “In Cold Blood” or Bugliosi’s, “Helter Skelter”. Four years of freelance writing later, Radwin Ali ran his oversized convertible into the side of his house. Carl and Bill’s days of eating rice and beans for every meal were over.
When wind of the writer’s death got to Massachusetts, they hit up all their sources for weeks trying to find out more. When the anonymous phone call came in, they’d given up trying to get enough information about the writer to put together a book about him. That call solidified their reputation as a non-fiction powerhouse. Years later, they’d go on to build one of the largest true-crime publishing companies of their time. The company, Secret Entrance, would go public fifteen years later. Bill would die of a heart attack before seeing any profit from the initial public offering. His first would weaken him, his second would finish the job. Carl was to ride the crest of the wave until the bitter end, when traditional publishing companies were slaughtered by their electronic counterparts. After that, when Carl finally died in his sleep, of natural causes, he wouldn’t be living in poverty, but he wouldn’t get the plot under the willow that he really wanted.