Lawrence University Creative Writing Club Spring Serial Story: Part 4
It was 2:53am during my usual shift at the radio station when I got my first big break. One Jane Doe called in saying she had something big—she knew who killed that guy who died in a bathroom stall. In all my years running the biggest late-night paranormal activity radio show in the Midwest, I was suddenly on the biggest story in Potterfield history.
“I know who did it alright. Go to the Squeaky Clean laundromat—you know, in the old strip mall? Sea foam green doors? That one. Tell them you’re there to see a guy about some corn.”
“Thank you for the tip! All right my fellow ancient astronaut theorists, this is your host, Calliope West signing off. I will be back tomorrow for another night of The Cows Have Eyes. Keep ‘em open!”
I went off-air and started frantically assembling my things before dashing out to my little red Yaris. As I peeled down the road toward the stripmall, I thought about my informant. Who was this Jane Doe? How did she know this? And why call now?
Soon enough, the flickering neon of the Squeaky Clean laundromat shimmered out of the dark like an island in the sea of corn. I pulled into the deserted parking lot, and popped a mushroom to calm my nerves before grabbing my tape recorder and heading through the sea foam green doors.
Inside, a tall woman with a jawline that could cut glass was playing solitaire behind the counter. I had to catch my breath, cheeks flushed, before I worked up the nerve to talk to her.
“Hi, I’m—here to see a guy about a—uh… cow? I mean some corn, about some corn. Uh.. yeah.”
The woman leaned over the counter, staring straight into my eyes for a moment that would’ve been uncomfortably long if she wasn’t so stunning. Then she nodded. “Alright.”
I followed her to a washing machine in the back corner, where she stuck out a long acrylic-nail-covered finger to press the button for Heavy Duty. The whole front of the machine swung open on invisible hinges. Inside, a narrow staircase descended into darkness, a faint purple glow and thumping bass music emanating from the bottom.
“Have fun, cutie,” she said, winking at me.
I blushed, tripping over my chucks as I rushed down the stairs. At the bottom of the steps I found a small room filled with women with Adam’s apples, androgynous kings and queens in brightly colored wigs, and boys in daisy dukes and pink cowboy boots. This wasn’t a murderer’s hide out at all.
It was Potterfield’s best kept secret—a gay bar.
“I’ve seen those wide eyes before, first time huh?” A queen in stilettos strutted up and threw an arm around me, ushering me to the bar. “MAJIK! This young lady needs your finest Pothole, stat!”
“What’s a Pothole?” I asked, climbing onto a stool and digging furiously in my pocket for the on-button of my tape recorder. A shirtless bartender with two giant sunflower pasties started pouring one brightly colored liquid after another into a cocktail shaker. I made eye contact with her and she winked.
“The best drink Potterfield’s never seen!” The queen said, glancing between me and the bartender. “How’d ya find this place?”
“A uh, friend,” I said absently, watching as sunflower woman pushed a huge hurricane glass across the counter. She kissed the rim, leaving a bright yellow lip print. I blushed, and sipped bashfully at the swirly straw.
“Damn girl, you’re as queer as they come!” The queen teased, and I spit my drink out , which made her laugh. “Don’t worry about hidin’ that here honey, we got all kinds.”
I looked at her, really looked at her. It was the first time someone had said that to me and I hadn’t wanted to go hide in a hole. Suddenly, as I was staring at her, the queen became familiar. “Say, you look a lot like—”
“Oh I know just the thing. MAJIK! We’d like to visit Lucy in the Sky, please.” Sunflower woman came back, and I hid behind my drink as she set a glitter covered tray with two tiny squares of paper on the bar.
“Oh,” I said, my eyes widening. “That Lucy. Um, yes please. Just a half, is that okay?”
“That’s more than okay,” Sunflower woman said, picking up one of the tabs and biting off half with her teeth. She beckoned me forward, and grabbed my chin. “Say ah,” She said, before placing the other half on my tongue.
Who can say how many hours later, Sunflower woman finally pulled away from kissing me. “Bye, Calliope.” She purred against my cheek, before disappearing into the stalks.
A loud moo made me jump and spin around. A huge, purple dairy cow was standing behind me, smacking cud. “So, ya figure it out yet?” She asked.
“No,” I sighed, and sat on the ground. The cow sat next to me, and let me play absently with her fur, which was surprisingly soft. “I don’t get it, why did Jane send me here? I mean, I’m glad I met Sunflower woman, but the killer was nowhere to be seen.”
“Oh, you thought the killer would be in Squeaky Clean?” She laughed, nudging me with a big round hoof. “No silly, I sent you here so you could meet me in person.”
I swiveled to look at her. “Jane?”
“The very same,” She winked, and pushed a photograph of a very familiar man into my hand.
”Mr. Bellarose?” I asked, confused.
“That little weasel.” Jane spit the cud out. “Gives the likes of us a bad name.”
“Us? Wait, he’s gay? Wait, Mr. Bellarose killed that guy?!” I shot up to my feet.
“He sure did. Everyone says Mr. Elliot was in town for Celia, but they were wrong. Henry and Mr. Bellarose have been seeing each other in secret as long as I’ve been a gay cow in Potterfield. When Henry threatened to tell Celia, Mr. Bellarose made sure he couldn’t. Cassidy works for the old bastard, been their messenger for years. Check the tape, she told you all about it.”
“Cassidy?” I asked, then blushed as a beautiful thought blossomed in my head—Sunflower woman’s name in big, bubbly letters. “Oh, Jane!” I gasped, and threw my arms around her furry neck. “Thank you so much.” Tears sprung into my eyes, and I pulled away to look at her.
“Don’t mention it. We got your back.”
I walked back to my car, fingering the tape recorder in my pocket, and smiling as I thought about Cassidy. I couldn’t wait to start a life of fighting crime with her. Just the two of us, taking down the biggest man in Potterfield, and hopefully holding hands while doing it.