The Killing Today

I remember that summer of 1979, putting over three thousand miles on my 1981 BMW. Cameron had dogged us at every turn, all the way from Alhambra to fucking Xyzyxx Road. One day in December we lost one of our men when we thought we had him cornered at a diner in Fresno. I’m not one to pass judgment, but before Fresno I’d sooner have tracked Cameron down to give him a medal than his Miranda rights. It’s different now, and a job’s a job.

His very first victim had been this Fujiwara character, a man he‘d been assistant to. Fujiwara liked to diddle kids, his daughter especially. Cameron knew about it, but when he walked in on them one day in the lab last year, it was too much for him. A crime of passion, the courts would call it, a lot of sympathy, but murder nonetheless. It was the beginning of a sort of vigilante spree spanning the entire state. From there we’d established his M.O.: lascivious talent agents, traveling salesmen with a penchant for the little ones, johns with “special requests;” a whole rogues’ gallery of perverts.

 

The long-suffering, avenged daughter—Yuki was her name—had been a mousy little creature, the poor thing. Her English was borderline comical, but given the circumstances there wasn’t much to laugh about. She was really fond of Cameron, saw him as a kind of protector, and it must’ve broken her heart twice to find out that how he was wanted as a serial murderer. I’ll never forget that sweltering day, squeezing her hand and hoping to God that the man from the agency could find the right place for her. I’ve always been a sucker for troubled women, and had I anything else to offer someone besides too many books on the Civil War and a run for her money for hang-ups and problems, I would have whisked her away right then and there. At least I could have promised her that no one would ever bother her again, that she wouldn’t have ended up the way she did. That day, all I could do for her was give my word that we wouldn’t treat Cameron too harshly once we got him. But it was personal once one of our men became the latest item on the list.

 

There Cameron had been, in one “Polar Bear Café” in downtown Fresno. Smart guy, sitting on the outer edge of his booth so we couldn’t box him in. Just when O’Hara and I had slid in opposite him, Cameron’s jacket blew a hole from the inside, Matthews was on the floor with a .38 slug in his belly, and milkshake splashed in our faces. That day in Polar Bear I really would have liked to have just ask him some questions, but the argument coming out of a snubnose was a much hotter topic than what’s going on this summer. O’Hara stayed behind and I went after him, but I lost his Chevy Novelle just across the tracks as a train in came by. You can’t write this shit.

 

A few weeks later, O’Hara and I were outside of a library in Barstow, staking out what must have been our hundredth baby-blue Novelle that month, when its owner came back. Some German-looking guy in an outfit straight out of the turn of the century, but his build was close enough that we had to ask him for some ID anyways. Didn’t speak any English either; don’t know how these people make it into our country. I was seeing more and more weird stuff in recent days, but no one would believe me if I said there was some kind of pattern beneath it all. I picked up a newspaper: MURDERED SCHOOLTEACHER SUSPECTED PERVERT. Our man had struck again. Date: June 15, 1979.

 

On July 10th we got a positive ID on our perp, this time holed up in some motel in Orcutt. Word was he was sooner or later going to try to catch a flight back to Australia, and there were flights to SFO from Santa Maria Airport just a few miles south. We had over a dozen men with us, his car completely surrounded in the parking lot, and all that was left to do was knock on his door. House calls are unpleasant enough, but motel calls are a whole another animal. I announced myself and tapped a few times with the butt of my gun, glancing back at my men. The odds were pretty comfortably in our favor, and if we’d gotten this far Cameron must’ve known it too. To my surprise, he opened the door and just stared dumbly, as if I was here pitching him our latest and greatest vacuum. I frisked him, he was clean, and I covered him in the corner as the rest of my men searched his room. Another scorchingly hot day. We locked eyes.

“Nice car. Alpine white. Doesn’t come out for another two years, does it?”

I glanced around. Somehow, no one else was hearing this.

“Can I have a cigarette?”

I obliged. I didn’t know what to say. We just smoked together in silence.

 

On our way back to the station, Cameron again leaned as close as he could to me from the backseat and said I never answered his question.

“I didn’t know what to say.”

“I’m sorry about your partner Matthews. He was the key to that day.”

“Pardon?”

“Your car,” he continued, “This model doesn’t come out for another two years. Haven’t you wondered?”

 

And then I thought back to the summer of 1981, another Satanically hot day, seemingly a common thread running through everything as of late. Rolling off the lot of the Bimmer dealership in Pasadena, Alpine white, AM/FM stereo with cassette deck, and of course A/C. Top speed of 100mph, 0 to 60 in a respectable 9.6 seconds. The guys in Homicide teased me relentlessly for getting such a small faggy European car, but I knew if it really came down to it this little machine would’ve left all their Ford and Chevy and Buick clunkers in the dust. But one day, just a little bit before a certain B. Cameron had ever shown up on my radar, my morning paper informed me that time had somehow rolled back to 1979. It was big enough to turn my world near-upside down, but it was small enough that I could still carry on like nothing was amiss. It seemed to be normal for everyone else too—Yuki’s horrible death in early ‘81 was still fresh in my mind, but no amount of hinting to it registered with anyone. My colleagues didn’t hassle me about my car anymore. Nobody even asked about it.

 

Cameron had asked me something else but I missed it. I just grunted. O’Hara was busy stubbing out his cigarette in the ashtray—always so fastidiously—but otherwise apparently unaware that I was talking with our prisoner about what year it was. He was right, of course. I was relieved that I wasn’t the crazy one. But then again, maybe the faithful-assistant-turned-murderer of Japanese scientists and kiddy fuckers isn’t someone you should necessarily rest your marbles with.

“…Fujiwara’s contraption. Without the key, the day repeats. If you arrest me it’ll still be July 11 tomorrow.”

I lit my 5-cent cigar in response. I’d been saving it for after we booked him.

“I have to kill,” he continued, “the key for each day. They’re all evil, wicked to the core. But it never gets any easier.”

“Oh?”

“Your late partner had been one of them. Break out his ‘personal files’ again sometime. And O’Hara is a key too… he’s the one who got ahold of Yuki.”

My mouth went dry. What was left of Yuki had been found discarded by some train tracks. The case was still open, but all the leads disappeared almost immediately and in fact, some key evidence misplaced. I felt like I could have saved her, somehow, if only… if only… The sight of her mutilated corpse still made me cry myself to sleep most nights. And I’d been so caught up mourning Yuki that it finally dawned on me—it was 1979. Yuki was still alive.

“Jesus fuckin’ Christ,” was all I could manage. I looked over at O’Hara. He winked at me, still mashing out his cigarette butt.

“Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain.” A pause. “These sickos are all over the state. Your neighbor, your pastor, your uncle. You’re stuck in this loop too.”

“Well… it was the 9th yesterday for me.”

“You only live in the world where things progress. In the other one, your partner from Polar Bear lives and everyone wakes up to a new December 1st for the rest of eternity.”

“Why am I special?”

“I wish I could tell you. I knew it the moment you pulled up with this Bimmer that day. You’re somehow two years ahead.”

“Christ… Sorry, bad habit.”

 

We pulled into the station. We had Cameron booked and ready to go for questioning in just ten minutes. The chief congratulated us and remarked how regretful this whole situation was. He clapped both O’Hara and I on the back. O’Hara winked at me again.

Thinking about it, we were never really “friends.” We were courteous, insofar as I knew he had my back and I his. I could never put my finger on it, but there was something about him that bothered the hell out of me. A terrible urge overtook me. I knew it now, I hated this Irish fuck, the way he winked, like it was some trick he’d practice in the mirror but still didn’t have the hang of; how it’d always take him a full minute to stub out a single goddamn cigarette; and how he never had much glowing words for Mrs. O’Hara either, even though I knew without a doubt she was just about the sweetest who’d ever walked this Earth. And now and most importantly poor poor Yuki, who’d given my life more meaning than ever any criminal I’d arrested. I reached for my gun. Cameron had burst out of the interrogation room, two detectives running after him. There was something in his eyes that made me understand what I had to do.

“Yuki’s still alive! You can save her now!”

I put one in the back of O’Hara’s head. He crumpled to the floor as the chief stepped back. I grabbed Cameron by the collar and got the hell out of there as the station bell rang, to a cacophony courtesy of Smith & Wesson and co.

“Don’t worry about me or what happens tomorrow,” panted Cameron as he jumped into the passenger seat. He was hit in the shoulder. “So long as we get to Sausalito by midnight.”

Three hours north. A bullet struck my window, showering us with splinters. I’d already started the engine. I could hear the sirens. But a few minutes’ head start was all I needed.

 

 

Originally “published” April 12, 2020. Last updated May 21.