It’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday again, rapidly becoming my new favourite game.
This week’s writing prompt was “onomatopoeia”, defined as “the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named” and as is my habit, I went off on my own little tangent and couldn’t stop.
So here is my offering to Linda G Hill’s weekend writers’ workout.
The Riceman Cometh.
Cranford listened with feigned interest as the homicide cop explained the back-story to the situation, but as he scanned the scorched room for clues to the fatal blaze, his professional interest was perfectly genuine.
He liked a good puzzle.
“This guy, he boosts a Chevy downtown somewhere, cruises around until he runs out of gas and then, instead of dumping his new ride, he steals gas from some limo in the parking garage of the Ritz Carlton and hightails it outta there when one of the valets spots him sulking around the fancy rides with a hose pipe.”
Cranford nodded distractedly as the detective continued in an amused voice,
“Trouble is, he only went and siphoned a mob car didn’t he? Stupid fucker didn’t realise there was a big meet going on in the hotel and five minutes later the boss man came down and found he was out of gas,” he laughed, “no wonder this punk turned up barbecued a couple hours later.”
“Ok, and who reported this…” Cranford gestured at the incinerated corpse, still seated in the room’s only chair, “..nasty accident then?”
“Neighbour upstairs dialed 911 when they smelled smoke and couldn’t get no answer out of Smokey Joe here, and they’d been hammering on his door for five minutes.”
“And the Chevy, you found that here also?” asked Cranford.
“Yep, down in the motel parking lot, keys still in it.”
“Ok thanks, I’ll take a look round and give you my findings soon as I can”
“You do that Riceman, and I’ll buy you a beer, this one beats the shit outta me, I kid you not. I told you we had to force the door didn’t I?
How they managed to whack this guy and get out without leaving a trace is beyond me.”
He walked off, shaking his head, muttering once again, “Yep, beats the shit outta me…”
“Hey Riceman, how long you gonna be in there?” A different voice, coming from outside the door this time.
“As long as it takes,” he replied, silently groaning at the use of the idiotic nickname, “you know better than to ask that.”
What kind of twisted logic came up with a stupid name like that anyway?
He was an arson investigator, so why did they call him Riceman?
“Snap crackle and pop” of course, that’s why.
The sound of burning buildings, vehicles and, for that matter, bodies, somehow transformed via a cop’s warped sense of humour, into the catchphrase of a kid’s cute cereal box cartoon.
Yeah, go figure.
Cranford stepped out into the parking lot of the run down motel and made for the Chevy in the far corner, nodding to a couple of patrolmen stationed next to it before ducking under the police tape and approaching the car on the driver’s side.
After a quick search of the front seats and dashboard came up with nothing but a slim cylindrical cellophane wrapper, an empty cardboard packet and a length of siphon tube that the detective had mentioned, Cranford retraced his steps and once more surveyed the room containing the unfortunate car thief.
The body, what was left of it, was still more or less upright in the cheap, metal-framed armchair, the foam cushions and the body itself having provided enough heat to burn a circle in the carpet about eight feet across, also badly damaging the table to the right of the chair.
It was the table that caught Cranford’s attention, or rather what was on it.
There were only two, badly burned things on the table, the black cylinder that stood to one side was clearly an aluminium can of some sort, but it wasn’t that he was interested in.
Pulling on a pair of latex gloves, he carefully turned the second blackened object on the table round until he could remove the charred stump of something that stuck to its edge, inspected it closely and smiled with satisfaction.
The two lead detectives were sitting on the hood of their car drinking coffee when, only ten minutes after re-entering the motel room, Cranford walked towards them across the litter-strewn lot with a look of a man happy in his work.
“What’s up Riceman,” called the detective he’d earlier spoken to, “you solved our murder for us already?”
Cranford waited until he reached the car before saying, “I’ve solved it, yeah, but it isn’t a homicide,” he grinned, “what we have here is death by stupidity, pure and simple.”
He held up the little tube of cellophane and said, “We’re always being told how bad it is for us, well here’s your proof.”
The second detective frowned and said irritably, “Stop talking in riddles Riceman, if you’ve got something to say, just say it, me and Joe ain’t got all day.”
“This genius, he siphoned gas out of some goon’s limo, the hose was still in the car by the way, probably swallows or inhales a few mouthfuls in the process, then drives back here, congratulating himself on his good fortune,” Cranford paused dramatically, still grinning and clearly enjoying himself immensely, “because not only did he get himself a new set of wheels, the previous careless owner had left a packet on the dash with his last cigar in it.”
“So? Get to the point Riceman.”
“So Mr Master Criminal here, he gets home, pulls up a chair, gets himself a beer, decides to watch the boob tube and toast his success. And what better way to celebrate than with an expensive cigar…?”
The first detective, Joe, began to chuckle, the penny had obviously dropped and he grinned along with Cranford.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me! And we thought it was some wiseguy with anger issues. Ha!”
His partner just scowled at them, he clearly wasn’t as quick on the uptake so Cranford took pity on him.
“You drink a few gulps of gas, you’re gonna be belching fumes for a good couple of hours and that’s not a good time to be lighting a cigar, especially not if you get a blowback.”
“A blowback? Ain’t that something you get with acid,” asked the slower of the two, “or is that a backdraft?”
“I think you mean flashback Dean,” said Joe, raising an eyebrow at Cranford and shaking his head “what Riceman here means is our Chevy booster sucked a load of burning gas fumes into his lungs and pretty much caught fire from the inside out. That about it Riceman?”
“That’s it exactly,” laughed Cranford, “he must have damn near exploded,” at this point it looked like Dean might lose his lunch but Cranford cheerfully continued anyway, “any gas left in the gut would have burned, once his stomach burst. and that would also account for the burn pattern on the carpet.”
“Ok, ok, we get it!” said a green-tinged Dean, probably louder than he meant to, “Riceman does it again, you’re our saviour. There, happy now?”
“Happy enough, you’ll have my report this afternoon.”
“Thanks Cranford, we owe you one, I’ll get you that beer too.” called Joe as The Riceman walked to his car.
“Well, what do you know?” he thought to himself, “they know who I am after all.”