Max felt like his body was being pierced by a thousand white hot needles. Groaning he forced his eyes to open. He heard the sound of running water before his eyes focused. Realizing he was laying partially submerged in a cold flowing river he tried to raise his head. Pain flashed through his brain, his muscles screamed in retaliation. That was when he noticed the water flowing past him was tainted blood red. "Oh god, what the hell is going on?" he screamed silently to himself. Max dragged his battered body out of the frigid water. His skin feeling every stone he crawled over. Propping himself up on an old deadfall, panting , he tried to assess his injuries. Blood was pooling slowly under his left knee. Max tried to bend it but was met with painful resistance. "Shit, my knee is screwed!" he muttered through clenched teeth.
A loud splash behind him caught his attention. Something was moving in his direction. Max could hear the slow footsteps closing in on him in the gravel of the river. His heart was pounding, dizziness was setting in, and he was shivering uncontrollably. His mind tried to understand what was going on, but all he could think was pain and fear. A large gloved hand grabbed him arm from behind and yanked him to his feet. Clenching his teeth against the pain Max looked at his attacker. Max's eyes widened in recognition and was about to speak when he was hit squarely in the jaw. His unconcious body fell on the log, and he laid still.
Mark O'Donald sat hunched over some paperwork, scribbling some last minute notes. He got up, grabbed his clipboard and headed outside. The stench was terrible and clung to him. To his left three bodies lay in a shallow grave half buried. He walked by them unconcerned. Mark passed several other corpses, a men, women, some clothed, some naked. He paid them no attention. His focus was on one body in particular. A woman, middle age, half naked, partially submerged in dirty water. He meticulously examined her, making quick notes on his clipboard. Movement to his left caught his eye. Turning, Mark saw nothing out of the ordinary. Corpses. Frowning he walked slowly to the nearest one. The skull stared blankly at him. He stared back, when he saw movement again. Mark made his way to a body of a man laying on his side, back towards him. Flipping through his clipboard he found a map and studied it, frowning. There was not supposed to be a body here. Moving closer, the body rolled over onto his back. "Holy shit!" Mark yelled "Hey Mister, are you OK?" Receiving no response Mark grabbed his cell phone and dialed. "Hey Captain, you might wanna come down to the body farm and check this out. Bring an Ambulance."
Max stirred, trying to open his eyes. It felt like someone had a crowbar jammed between his eyes prying his skull open. He could hear a faint steady beeping to his left. Wrestling his eyes open, his vision foggy, Max realized he was in the hospital. Every little movement he tried caused extreme agony. Breathing deeply he cleared his mind and tried to figure out what to do. Max absently looked out the window of his room and caught someone staring back at him. It was a man, dressed in coveralls and holding a rake.
"Just the maintenance guy" he though to himself relieved. He watched the man walk towards him and raise his arm. "Oh no!" Max tried to scream but it only came out as a strangled gurgle. The man aimed his handgun and fired directly into the glass of Max's room. Glass flew across Max's helpless form. Opening his eyes again he noticed the man was gone. A nurse burst into his room, "are you OK?" she asked, "what the hell is going on here?" That's when Max passed out.
Max struggled to open his eyes. A morphine haze seemed to strangle his thoughts before they became concrete. He recalled seeing nurses, doctors, people talking in hushed tones. It all seemed like a dream. Max forced his eyes open and groggily looked around his room. He saw the IV stand and not much else. He also noticed this room had no windows which made him feel a little better. A tall grey haired man entered, closely followed by a petite middle aged woman. Both had sharp angular features and their faces looked as though they had never seen a smile. The man came to the side of Max's bed. "I'm Detective Stanton, and this is my partner Detective Morris," he explained motioning towards the woman. "We have some things we need to talk to you about. I'm sure you know what we are going to ask," the detective continued. "Do you know a man named Cromwell, first name Andrew?"
Max slowly nodded his head in affirmation.
"How long have you known him and how well?"
"I work for him" Max answered his voice a low rasp.
"What did you do?" the female detective asked.
Max swallowed his eyes watered with pain, " I drove a delivery truck, I delivered flowers for his store. 7 months now."
Looking directly at Max, Detective Stanton asked "Did you kill Andrew Cromwell?"
Max's breath caught, his eyes wide, "He's been killed? When? How?"
"Three days ago, he was drowned in his pool" Morris answered.
Just then an older nurse came in, "sorry detectives, you must go. It's time for this man to have his bath." She ushered the two detectives out the door. She closed the door and turned towards Max. Eyes narrowing, a crooked grin showed one of her teeth was missing. The nurse slowly walked to the side of Max's bed, her eyes never wavering. "Well now. Seems I have you to myself," she said unsmiling
Detective Stanton and Morris paused outside Max's hospital door. Elaine Morris was frowning. She hated being interrupted, especially while working a case.
"You know Ed," Detective Morris said "I have a feeling this Max guy really has no idea what's going on. Gut feeling mainly. I dunno."
Smiling Detective Stanton replied "You always have the gut feeling."
Sighing, crossing her arms Morris leaned on the wall, head back eyes closed.
this case was killing her. Each hour seemed to turn new leads, most of which were dead ends. She was certain Max was the key, but now, she was left feeling a little disgruntled.
The detectives snapped to attention drawing their service revolvers. Staring at Max's closed door they nodded at each other, ready.
"Police!! We are coming in!" Stanton yelled opening the door cautiously.
The nurse was in a heap on the floor, Max was on the opposite side of the bed half on the floor. The IV stand lay across the nurses still body.
"What the hell is going on????" Max asked.
Max Beckers was born and raised in Meaford, Ontario. Nothing out of the ordinary. His mother was the typical housewife, his father in construction. One brother Alex, one sister Amy, both older. Max wasn't the top of his class but did well. He had lots of friends, played hockey, defense. Just an all around average guy. When Max turned 20, he decided to move to Alberta. Everyone seemed to be heading there. Jobs aplenty to who ever wanted them.
Max bounced from hob to job, town to city. Calgary, Red Deer, Edmonton, Grand Prairie, Peace River to name a few. He had a varied work history. Pizza delivery, janitor, worked the services rigs for a summer. His latest endevour was delivering flowers. He wouldn't be considered a ladies man, but he had his share of fun.
Detective Elaine Morris sat back in her chair sipping on her now lukewarm coffee.
"How does Max figure into all this?" she mumbled to herself. Her desk was strewn with reports and photos. Looking at her coffee she thought Tim Hortons should deliver piping hot coffee. Now that she could get into.
Ed Stanton strolled into the room, "Hows it going? Solve it yet?'" he asked.
"Oh fuck off," Elaine replied laughing. "I'm trying to figure how Becker fits into this mess."
"Well," Ed spoke, taking his time, " We know he is involved, why else did he get a shit kicking. We need to find out who did it, the maybe get lucky and learn why." Sighing Elaine stood up, "Let's go get a beer." Ed just smiled and followed her out of the room, closing the door.
The small bungalow was set far back from the road. Almost hidden. The nearest neighbour was miles away. A red Sunfire sat in the driveway. A man sat in a back room working. Ill lighting made shadows jump and wave from every corner. On the table in front of him lay several handguns, an assortment of knives, sharpening stones, medical journals, hunting magazines, and his own personal diary. Vivaldi's Four Seasons was being played loudly. The man sat with his eyes closed, letting the music take him. Euphoria to nostalgia, giddiness to rage. He embraced them all, a large satisfied smile pasted on his face.
Max pushed the food around on his plate. The tasteless meals the hospital served took his appetite away. Trying not to feel the pain and aches, Max tried to figure out what was going on. He remembered stopping at the store. Nothing unusual. He made a few deliveries. Nothing unusual, even when the one lady answered the door naked. He didn't mind, even though she was about sixty years old, he could tell she took pride in her body. But still, nothing unusual. So why did I get sought out to be hunted. That was the word. Hunted. A small tingle ran up his spine. Tapping his fork on his plate in a slow rhythm, why was I driven off the road, chased through the bush, beaten he questioned himself. Then, when he had fallen in the river, why did he show up and knock him out? What was he even doing in town? Max tried another mouthful of bland mushy carrots. Chewing thoughtfully, the carrot taste gave way to a metallic taste. Max swallowed and wiped the corner of his mouth with a napkin. Blood.
"what the hell?" Max took his fork and mashed his carrots and brought a forkfull to eyelevel. Tiny shards of glass glinted and winked at him.