I-95 Northbound, So. Brevard County, Mile Post 169,
5 Miles South of Palm Bay
There was a time when “The Juice” would never have been seen in his tan colored uniform in its current condition. The pants in particular were awful. He was usually pretty careful about his laundry, but these last few months it had all been way too difficult to handle. It was actually easier to try and stay outside in the dark areas. You could see everything under the plaza lights by the toilets and the vending machines. If he stayed behind his truck, or made sure he was sitting down at the picnic tables during each shift inspection, then his shift supervisor was less likely to see the pee stains and the stains from the accidents in the backside of his pants when he made his rounds. Actually, he was having trouble with a lot of stains lately. And he already had enough trouble with that li’l Shi’t Super sum’bitch.
Juice Wickham was the night shift Security Officer at the I-95 Rest Area at mile marker 169 on the northbound interstate. His 8 hour shift officially started at 10 PM, alternating weekends with the other guy. At six-foot eight inches tall, he had been an imposing figure throughout his years as a Correctional Officer. He’d always been thick around the middle, but he didn’t actually get fat until he retired at the age of 52. Somehow the contractor he worked for was able to convince FDOT that his experience and imposing presence would more than compensate for his girth and lack of mobility.
That never saved him from the comments and off-hand remarks he would consistently get from each of his contract supervisors over the years. They would do everything short of threatening to write him up if he didn’t lose some weight. And throughout the eight years on this job, he did lose weight… several times. But it always came right back.
So he’d been pleased last year when he’d had to take his uniform pants in on two separate occasions. They were damn near falling off of him. He was still carrying way too much belly and he’d always had a big ass, but this was better. The Juice had never married. He had lost touch with his only sister ages ago, and he lived alone. There was a woman in his building confined to a wheel chair who kept him company on occasions. Her name was Vera. When she asked him what he was doing to lose so much weight, he knew it wasn’t just a fluke.
He couldn’t explain why he was losing weight. But that was about the same time that he also noticed how dark and cloudy his water looked against the stark white of the Men’s Room porcelain. Over time he noticed it more often whenever he peed. That’s about the time when his diary showed up as well. It was as if his body forgot how to take a decent dump. It was either liquid and runny or thin and sandy-colored. The few occasions of a few firm brown turds were cause for private celebrations.
The details escaped him. He remembered that the doctors had scared him badly. They had scared him so badly that he never went back. And he was supposed to do something if his gut caught fire… but that was last year.
Now his gut is on fire almost all the time. It’s a pain so bad, that he sometimes doesn’t realize that he’s messed himself until after the pain has subsided.
Vera used to call when she wanted to see him. He’s not sure when she stopped calling, but he hasn’t seen her or anybody else at all in months. He also stopped going to the titty bars, and no longer seemed to have any sexual interests at all anymore. When did he stop yanking his own chain?
At least he’s not scared anymore. Now he’s just mad. That woman had said something that made him mad. And that Harley had startled him so that he pissed his pants again. And he got mad.
He was “mad as hell” when the “Brutha Man Super” wrote him up for not filing his monthly report on time a couple of months ago. Well shit I forgot. There hadn’t been anything worth a damn to report anyway… ‘cept for that guy on the Harley and he won’t say nuthin!
Then he’d been written up again by a different contract supervisor because of the condition of his own pickup!!! It’s my gah’damn truck. They only gimme some shitty magnetic “Rest Area Security” signs to put on the doors. How is that sum’bitch gonna write me up cause he don’t like the way I’m taking care of my truck? Need to hang out wit the Brutha Man. He’d spent a long time just sitting on the tail gate of his pickup in the parking lot when that was all over… no longer worried about when the Super was gonna make his rounds that night. His slowly receding rage helped him overlook the flaring agony in his gut that night.
But he was truly pissed when the most recent “Li’l Shi’t Super” wrote him up last night because of the condition of his firearm. Pissed… and maybe a little scared once again for the first time in months. His supervisor had started off giving him shit about wearing sun glasses at night. He’d begun wearing them because his eyes were really looking funny, kinda yellowish. What had the doctors said about john dice? Hard to remember.
Then he asked him for his firearm. He supposed he had given it to him. Can still see that freakin’ Harley-Davidson V-Twin Power decal.
Then his supervisor asked him to step over to the tiny Security Office, which meant he had to walk across the plaza... under the lights. Shit. Dwarfed alongside Juice, the shorter man began asking more questions while they walked. He asked about whether the firearm had been discharged, and if so, why no Extraordinary Single Incident Report had been filed. Boy ain’t old enuff to piss straight and gon write me up??? Stomp a mud-hole in that li’l sumbitch. Make him scream like that woman. Yeah.
The young supervisor stopped talking when he could see Juice more clearly, and his eyes widened. Then, before he could say anything, Juice doubled over and threw up on the concrete walkway in front of the Women’s Rest Rooms.
He recalled the rest of that night in jerky, snapshot images and bright strobe lights. The lights had hurt his eyes. They took my freakin’ sunglasses away. Another Security Officer he’d never seen before had arrived just before the ambulance. Then some cops came. At some point they’d looked in his truck. They found the broken baseball bat, the other guns, the rope, the soiled uniform, and the bloody stuff from that Harley guy in his truck.
On and off throughout the night, his gut was on fire again.
He had managed to hit the ambulance guy pretty hard when they’d opened the ambulance doors at the hospital. Should’ve been that li’l sum’bitch. He had envisioned knocking out the attendant (and the driver) and leaping from the ambulance like a man in his youth. They won’t be able to catch “The Juice.” Instead he fell heavily out of the ambulance door and shit his pants as a blinding lance of pain shot through his stomach.
He had the image of a seriously pissed off ambulance attendant standing next to the driver and looking down at him as he was clutching his belly on the ground. Other people were gathering around.
He also heard police sirens.
The decomposed remains of a shut-in invalid named Vera Wickham was discovered by neighbors this afternoon. Her estranged husband, a retired Corrections Officer named Clarence Wickham, is being held as a person of interest at the Malabar Medical Center. Wickham, who has been diagnosed with advanced stage pancreatic cancer, is also being questioned in conjunction with at least four other homicides along Interstate 95 over the past few months.