Trailer Park Noir

Trailer Park Noir

by Ray Garton

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781497642874
Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media LLC
Publication date: 07/29/2014
Pages: 250
Sales rank: 888,612
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author


Ray Garton is the author of sixty books, including horror novels such as the Bram Stoker Award–nominated Live GirlsCrucifaxLot Lizards, and The Loveliest Dead; thrillers like Sex and Violence in HollywoodMurder Was My Alibi, and Trade Secrets; and seven short story collections. He has also written several movie and TV tie‑ins and a number of young adult novels under the name Joseph Locke. In 2006, he received the Grand Master of Horror Award. He lives in northern California with his wife.

Read an Excerpt

Trailer Park Noir


By Ray Garton

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 2011 Ray Garton
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4976-2800-7


CHAPTER 1

The Riverside Mobile Home Park was so thick with trees, the sun scarcely shone on its residents. There were oaks and elms, willows and silk trees, maples and palm trees, and even a couple pines. They were old trees, and big, and they provided blankets of shade. As a result, the park always had a gloomy darkness about it that remained even on the sunniest days, when only spots and stripes of gold dappled the trailers and grounds. It was as if the trailers existed in their own dimension of sun-speckled darkness, of shadows on shadows on shadows, separate from the rest of the world.

Riverside had twenty units, trailers of all sizes and shapes and colors, from spacious double-wides to small trailers intended for camping. It started with unit one just inside the entrance on the right, followed by two and three and four and so on in a straight line down the right side of the park. In the rear, the straight line looped around a barn-red house in a semicircle, then became a straight line again down the left side of the park, ending with unit twenty back at the entrance. Trees and weeds grew within a curbed divider between the two narrow paved lanes.

In that small, run-down, barn-red house lived the trailer park's managers, Hank and Muriel Snodgrass. It had a tiny untended front yard that had become overgrown with vines and weeds and the small but colorful flowers the weeds produced. Ivy swallowed up a little long-dry fountain with plaster fairies attached to the rims of the two bowls and crawled up the sides of the house. Beside the house stood a slide, a swing set, and a merry-go-round on which the park's children often played.

Running along the right, or eastern, side of the park, beyond the row of trailers, was the Sacramento River. There was a sandy bank there among all the thick vines and blackberry bushes, where some of the residents went for picnics, or to fish. A white wood-and-metal pier stuck out from the shore from which some residents cast their lines. A sign ordered NO SWIMMING. The river's current was powerful, and just less than a year ago, it had carried away two children who had paid no attention to the sign. They had been found several miles down river, both twisted and dead. That story kept kids out of the water.

Riverside was an old trailer park, established in 1953, and it showed its age. The mailboxes to the side of the trailer park's entrance were dented and rusted. The narrow paved road that made a loop through the park was broken and potholed, and weeds and wildflowers grew up through the cracks.

The July heat was suffocating. There were some fat clouds in the sky and the heat was moist and clinging. The thermometer hanging on the wall on the Snodgrass's front porch read one hundred and fourteen degrees. Shasta County summers were brutally punishing.

* * *

Marcus Reznick left his tiny cramped office on North Street in downtown Anderson at five-eighteen. He'd just finished up the second of the only two cases he'd had lately, both divorce-related.

Divorces. The cesspit of the private investigator. Where P.I.s went to die.

He'd just told a woman named Linda Straight that her husband Alan was seeing seven different women on his UPS route. He'd shown her pictures of Alan kissing these women in their front doorways or beside his big brown UPS truck. She'd reacted with disbelief. So had Reznick at first. Seven women? The guy had been busy.

The air conditioning in his aging metallic-gold Toyota Corolla sedan did not work, so he had all the windows rolled down as he drove north on North Street.

The baking sunlight was occasionally obscured by the enormous clouds in the sky, sending large, whale-like shadows passing over the ground. Humidity made the air thick. Mirages shimmered on the road up ahead, gradually evaporated, then reappeared farther up. In the short time it took him to get from his office to Stingy Lane off of North Street, the back of his shirt was soaked through to his suit coat, which was also wet. He regretted not taking the coat off before he got into the car. He turned right on Stingy, drove east a short distance, then turned left on Park Way, which led to the Anderson River Park. Halfway there, he turned left into the Riverside Mobile Home Park. He stopped his car in the entrance, unfastened the seatbelt, and got out. He went to the mailboxes, stopped at his, and got his mail, all of it junk. He went back to his car, got in, and put the mail on the passenger seat, on top of his briefcase. He drove past the enormous oak tree that grew up in the center of the entrance to the trailer park, between the two lanes.

When Reznick had driven to work that morning, unit five had been empty. It had been empty for over two weeks, ever since the previous resident had been taken away by the police for beating up his girlfriend, and she had taken their two children and moved in with her mom. The battered old trailer in which they'd lived had been hauled away like the wreck it was. But now, a handsome, spacious, brand-new trailer occupied unit five. A metallic-onyx Porsche Cayenne Turbo SUV was parked in the carport beside it.

Nice and pricey, Reznick thought as he looked the SUV over in passing. What's he doing here?

Reznick drove to his trailer, unit nine, and pulled into the small carport, killed the engine. He took his briefcase and mail from the passenger seat and got out of the car, jangled his keys as he went up the steps. He unlocked the door and went inside.

The front door opened on the living room, with the small dining area and kitchen to the right, and to the left a hallway that led to the bedroom and bathroom.

His chocolate-brown Chihuahua yipped with machine-gun speed as he jumped up and pawed Reznick's shins.

"Hey, Conan," he said. He put down his briefcase and picked up the little wriggling dog. Conan licked his face. "You've got bad breath, kid. Hungry?" He put the dog down and picked up his briefcase again.

Reznick wore a grey suit with a dark red tie, which he loosened with one hand as he put his briefcase and keys and mail on the dining table and walked into the kitchen. Conan continued to yap.

"Hold it down, kid." Reznick went to the front door and opened it, then opened the screen door. Conan hurried outside. While the little dog was relieving himself, Reznick went to the kitchen, took a can of dog food from the cupboard, a can opener from a drawer, and opened it. He used a fork to scoop food into a bowl on the floor beside a bowl of water. He put a rubber lid on the open can, and put the remainder of the dog food in the refrigerator. In no time at all, Conan came back in and went straight for the bowl, his tail, his whole rear end, wagging back and forth as he ate.

Reznick closed the screen door. The swamp cooler in the hall ceiling was already on – he'd turned it on before leaving for the office to keep the trailer cool for Conan. He went to his bedroom, and changed into jeans and a T-shirt, then returned to the kitchen for something to eat. He had some cold fried chicken in the refrigerator. He put a leg and thigh on a paper plate and took them, a segment of paper towel, and a Diet Dr. Pepper to the living room, where he sighed heavily as he sat down in his recliner. He used the remote to turn on the TV. The news was on. Reznick quickly turned it to a rerun of Friends. He was not in the mood to hear the world's problems. He could barely stand his own.

What he really wanted at that moment more than anything – more than fried chicken or a Diet Dr. Pepper – was an ice-cold glass of vodka. It had been over a year since his last drink. He didn't keep track of the number of days or weeks or months the way some alcoholics did because he had not gone through a twelve-step program. Instead, he had done it himself, alone, cold turkey.

"If you don't stop drinking, Marcus," his doctor had told him, "you'll never live to see forty-five. It's going to kill you. It's killing you now. You've got to stop."

He'd decided he could do it without help, but the DTs had hit him hard. His body had quaked as if possessed, and he'd vomited again and again, uncontrollable projectile vomiting, until blood had come up. He'd ended up in the Emergency Room, feeling like he was dying, certain he was in his final moments of life, wondering who would care.

Now he confined his drinking to ice water, Diet Dr. Pepper, and the occasional sparkling mineral water. But a day did not pass without the cravings that puckered the inside of his mouth, when he could almost taste the cold vodka. They usually weren't this bad, though.

He'd fallen into a bottle when his whole life had come to pieces six years ago. Everything had fallen apart.

Before that had happened, Reznick Security and Investigations had been a going concern, the biggest and most successful security and investigation firm in Shasta County. He'd had plush offices and several employees back then, located in the city of Redding, just ten miles north of the small town of Anderson, where he lived and worked now. Reznick had inherited the firm from his father, who had taught him everything he knew. He'd never been happier than he'd been while working there with his dad for those years. Then, after Dad had retired, then had been killed – that had been one of the things in his life that had gone so wrong and had contributed to his existence falling down all around him like a collapsing building – Reznick had the place to himself, and he'd promptly run it into the ground.

Starting over was slow going. He had that tiny one-room office between a beauty parlor and a small accounting firm. The beauty parlor – not a salon, but a parlor – was the old-fashioned kind, mostly pink, with blue-haired ladies wearing too much makeup sitting under hair dryers reading magazines. A few doors down was a barber shop with an old-fashioned barber's pole spinning out front.

It was just Reznick now – he didn't even have a secretary, and there would be no room for one in his office if he did. Just Reznick and two divorce cases, with both now finished. He would've taken neither case back in the old days – he would've given them to junior investigators. Back then, he'd taken on only the biggest and most interesting cases himself, along with his father. They'd taken only the cases that got the most publicity, and he and Dad had been in the paper and on the evening news a lot back then.

Back then. His whole life seemed to be back then, before it all had come to pieces and he'd ended up living in his car for a while.

Conan planted himself on the floor in front of Reznick's chair and stared up at him with big, begging eyes.

"You just ate," Reznick said.

The dog made a small, pleading sound in his throat.

"Oh, all right." Reznick broke off a piece of thigh meat and held it down for the dog.

Conan snatched it from his fingers and happily chewed it up.

When he finished his chicken, Reznick wiped his hands and mouth on the paper towel, then leaned back in the recliner with the plate of bones on his lap. Conan hopped up on the arm of the recliner and settled down beside him. Reznick smoked a Winston, then, after awhile, he drifted off to sleep.

It seemed safe to sleep during the day. Somehow, the daylight held off the nightmares.

CHAPTER 2

In unit eight, Anna Dunfy set dinner before her sixteen-year-old daughter Kendra, who sat at the kitchen table. It was one of those tables with blue Formica on top and chrome edges and legs.

"There you go," Anna said.

"Thank you, Mommy," Kendra said.

Anna got her own meal and sat down at the table with Kendra.

Kendra's favorite food was fish sticks. They ate them so often that Anna had developed a taste for them, herself. There was a specific brand she preferred, although Kendra was not particular – she liked them all.

"How was Vacation Bible School today?" Anna asked.

"Oh, it was lots of fun. It was over too fast."

"Have you had any more trouble with that boy? What's his name? Jake –"

"Jake Tibman?"

"Yeah, he's the one."

"No, Jake's been nice to me since Miss Fisher had a talk with him. He can be nice, really."

"Well, that's good to know. He sure wasn't nice to you at first."

"He said he was sorry."

"That was nice of him."

Kendra's eyebrows rose high as she said, "Well, I had to forgive him, right? 'Cause that's what Jesus would have done."

"That's right, that's exactly what Jesus would have done."

Vacation Bible School had been Anna's mother's idea. It proved that not all of her ideas were from outer space. Anna wanted Kendra to have a Christian upbringing. She couldn't afford to send her to private school, but took her to Sunday school every weekend, and every summer, she went to Vacation Bible School. Anna did this even though she had problems with the church herself. Even in this day and age, she found there were still people whose faces puckered up with disapproval when they learned she was a single mother – not a divorcee or a widow, but a mother who never had married. To some people, it still smacked of scandal. So Anna did not go to church herself – she didn't like the stares and whispers. She dropped Kendra off for Sunday school, then picked her up ninety minutes later.

She envied Kendra her faith. Kendra believed everything told her by her teachers, and her faith that there was a loving god was solid and unshakeable. Kendra was lucky – she would never reach a point in her life when she would be faced with serious questions and doubts about the faith of her youth.

Sometimes, Anna found it difficult to believe that god was there, and if he was, it seemed he wasn't paying any attention to her anymore. Of course, she could hardly blame him – it had been a long time since she had uttered a prayer. She didn't see the point. When she prayed, nothing happened. Bills piled up, but money failed to come in to keep up with them. If it weren't for her night job, she feared she and Kendra would be living on the street. She thought that night job was probably part of the reason she'd stopped praying – thanks to that job, she was too ashamed to go before god and ask for anything.

She was signed up at a temp agency, which occasionally brought her some work, but it was always temporary. She had to be ready to drop everything at a moment's notice when the temp agency called. She had to run Kendra over to her sister's. Rose watched Kendra often and Anna was grateful that she was always so available and willing. Then she had to locate her temporary assignment. Being an outsider, she never fit in with the tight-knit group already installed at the businesses where she temped. They were all the same – they didn't welcome outsiders with open arms, and Anna was always on her own. Like in life.

At night, she did something else, something she wanted to keep from Kendra at all costs, and something her sister Rose disapproved of deeply. It was a topic they avoided, but somehow it was always there, whether they talked about it or not.

"How would you like it if Kendra did that?" Rose had said one day. "God knows she's got the looks and body for it. She should be on a calendar in a bikini."

"Rose! What kind of thing is that to say?"

"Well, it's true. Just look at her – she's drop-dead gorgeous. You're going to have to come to grips with something, Anna. Sooner or later – and probably sooner – Kendra is going to discover her own beauty, and she's going to start noticing men's reaction to it. She's going to put two and two together and behave the way she knows men want her to behave, and she's going to get herself into big trouble. Now, you need to have a good talk with her. You should have a few years ago. You don't want her to find out the way we did, do you?" She laughed and ran a hand back through her short dark hair. "Can you imagine Mom or Dad having a sex talk with us? I don't think either of them would get through it. We'd have to call an ambulance, they'd have to be hospitalized."

Anna tipped her head back and laughed. "I don't think anybody ever explained sex to them. We were accidents, no doubt about it."

They laughed together some more.

"I've talked to Ramona, and Frank talked to Bobby," Rose said. Ramona was her teenage daughter, Bobby her ten-year-old son, and Frank her husband. "We talked to them early, and made them feel free to ask questions. It's not a forbidden topic in our house, so it's not the big huge deal it is to so many kids. So far, it seems to be working."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Trailer Park Noir by Ray Garton. Copyright © 2011 Ray Garton. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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