Roy and the Dead Beats

I thought I would do something different this week and share one of my favorite scenes. This comes from my short story, “The Legend of Roy Utt,” which appears in the short story collection, When the Wicked Rest.

Roy meets up with the Dead Beats, Joe and Tom. The Dead Beats appeared in the first 509 Crime Anthology, The Eviction of Hope.

I hope you dig it.


roy and the dead beats

“Explain it again,” Joe said. He ran his fingers through his thick, dark hair. He wore a faded Britney Spears t-shirt that was torn at the neck, black jeans with holes in the knees, and dirty Reeboks. “I’m having trouble following this.”

Roy nodded. “You know Morgan?”

“Who doesn’t?”

“He wants a bag—”

“But doesn’t care about the dude carrying it?”

“I don’t think so.”

Joe leaned against the rear of the 7-Eleven and eyed his friend, Tom. “Does that sound like Morgan to you?”

Tom didn’t answer but instead sipped from a large cup of soda. The lid of the drink sat on the far side of him. He had remained silent during most of Roy’s initial telling while Joe interrupted with mostly inane questions. Roy had partied many times with both men and knew Tom usually kept his thoughts to himself, which probably wasn’t difficult with Joe around.

So far, Roy’s story had stuttered along, but he knew things could devolve quicker with these two. He just needed to know if they saw the guy from Dick’s and which way he ran.

The building shaded the three men from the afternoon sun. A patrol car raced by on Second with its lights activated. Its siren, however, remained silent.

Joe watched it until it was out of sight. “Wee-wee-wee, all the way home.” He faced Tom. “What? That was funny.”

Tom shrugged. His brown hair was tucked behind his ears, and he wore a pair of sunglasses with one arm broken off. His Levi’s were faded and torn at the heels, and mud covered his running shoes. Tom’s white t-shirt was inside-out to hide whatever logo was on the front.

Joe dismissed his friend’s lack of humor with a cluck of his tongue and turned back to Roy. “What’s in the bag?”

“He told you,” Tom wearily said. “Morgan didn’t know.”

“I wasn’t asking what Morgan knew,” Joe snapped. “I was asking about him.” He pointed to Roy. “What’s in the bag?”

Roy shook his head. “I saw the guy running. That’s all.”

“Uh-huh.” Joe smirked. “And I bet you told Morgan you never saw ol’ boy before.”

“That’s right,” Roy said. “Never.” He glanced between the two friends. “So, did you guys see him run by or not?”

Joe tugged an unfiltered Camel from a crumpled pack then lit it with a match. He blew out a line of smoke.

Tom slipped the broken sunglasses from his face and studied Roy with an unsettling intensity. Even when Tom was high, he had that same look. It was the type of thing that the cops did, and it unnerved Roy.

He broke Tom’s gaze and motioned toward Joe’s cigarettes. “Can I have one of those?”

“Not unless you’re holding.”

Roy was, but he couldn’t share. There was only enough for him. If he shared, he’d only get partially well. Then the sickness would overwhelm him by the morning. He had planned to work on that problem today, but this new opportunity took priority. Nothing like this had ever happened to him—Roy had hit the Lotto and gotten Super Bowl tickets in the same day.

Joe offered the pack of cigarettes to Tom by smacking it against his friend’s shoulder. Tom accepted them without looking.

“C’mon,” Roy said. “Just one. I’m offering you guys something here.”

Joe snatched the cigarette from his mouth. “What are you offering? Nothing. You come over here, screwing up our day because you want to know if we saw some jerk-off with a bag. How is that offering us anything? That’s you taking. And when you find the guy, you score the Monopoly card.”

“Get Out of Jail Free,” Tom said.

Joe rolled his eyes and turned to his friend in an exaggeratedly dramatic fashion. “May I continue?”

When the Wicked Rest

Tom extended his hand. “I’m not stopping you.”

“That’s exactly what you’re doing.”

“How’m I doing that?”

“By doing what you’re doing. And if you’re so eager to talk, why don’t you go ahead and finally do it?”


“Fine,” Joe said.

Tom shook his head then lit his cigarette. As he waved out the burning match, he asked Roy, “How’s any of this help us?”

Roy faced Tom now. Maybe he would finally get the whole situation explained. “Morgan wants a bag. Doesn’t matter who brings it. Doesn’t matter what’s inside. As long as there’s value to him and it gets to him by tomorrow midnight at Dick’s.”

“Horseshit,” Joe said. He stuck his cigarette between his lips. It bounced as he spoke. “Utter horseshit.”

Tom lifted a hand to quiet his friend. “So, as I understand this—”

Joe interrupted. “You’re buying this?”

“Hold on. I got another question.”

“Now, you’re fulla questions?” Joe waved his hands around. “Oh well, please, by all means, continue on, Counselor.”

Tom waited for Joe to settle down before focusing back on Roy. “Just so I get this straight, Morgan is offering amnesty to anyone that brings him a bag?”

“From Dick’s. That’s right.”

Joe contemptuously eyed his friend. “The fuck is with you?”



“It’s a word.”

“I know it’s a word.” Joe swung his hand again. “But look around. This look like a campus to you?”

Roy motioned toward the cigarettes again. “You sure I can’t have one?”

“No,” Joe and Tom said together.

“Can’t you see the big picture?” Tom asked his friend. “Roy’s got a deal, and he’s cutting us in.”

Joe thrust his hand out, and Tom put the cup of soda in it. After taking a healthy drink, Joe wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Morgan’s full of shit. Roy, too.”

“Maybe not,” Tom said.

Roy craned his neck to get their attention. “It’s for real. I swear.”

“It’s Willy Wonka,” Joe said. “One golden ticket. Everyone is going to be chasing this guy in hopes of getting that bag. The chances of us getting it are ridiculously slim. Why would we even want to try?”

Tom eyed his friend. “Willy Wonka gave away five tickets.”

Joe inhaled on his cigarette and held the smoke for a moment. “Right. Five tickets. I forgot.” He knocked some ash free from his cigarette. “The blueberry chick and the TV kid are the only ones I remember.”

“Mike Teavee,” Tom said. “He got sucked into that old television set.”

“So cool.” Joe tapped his cigarette again. “Who were the others? You recall?”

Roy stepped forward. “So, have you seen the guy or not?” He looked up and down Pine Street. “He came running this way.”

Tom’s face turned toward the sky, and he dragged on his Camel. “The fat kid.”

“Yeah,” Joe said. “The fat kid. That’s right. What was his name? Goofus Gump or something like that.”

“August Goop.”

“Are you sure?”

Tom shrugged.

Joe held out his hand and extended three fingers. “Five tickets. Who are the other two?”

Roy waved a hand to get their attention. “Hey? The guy with the bag. Did you see him?”

Tom squinted and looked toward the sky. “Goop, Teavee, and blueberry chick. Wasn’t there a second girl?”

“This is going to bug me,” Joe said.

Now, Roy waved the basketball jersey like a matador. “The guy with the bag? Did he come by or not?”

Tom absently pointed further down Pine Street, but his face remained upward.

“He went that way?” Roy asked.

“Veruca Salt,” Tom muttered. He looked at his friend with a smile. “That’s the other chick.”

“Right,” Joe slapped his hands together. “Veruca Salt. Awesome work. Hey, did you ever listen to their music? They were fuckin’ great. They had that one song.”

Tom leaned forward and flicked his cigarette into the street. “I liked Liz Phair better.”

“Are you kidding me?” Joe angrily threw the butt of his cigarette to the ground. “The shit you say makes no sense.”

Roy gave up waiting. He turned and ran further north.


What did you think? Had you read the scene before?
Have your read other books in the 509 universe? If so, what scenes stick out for you?
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