The Roadrunner Murder
By Mark Slade
Dark instincts prevail in this wry hardboiled tale of the dark seedy undeerbelly of Acme City.
Here in Acme City the noise can be unbearable.
For Willie, the sound of buses and trains are nothing in comparison to the noise his neighbor makes. The constant construction, the cars stuck in traffic on the overpass just outside his apartment building can be hard on one’s ears, often drowning out the television, radio. Over the last year Willie Coyote was okay with it. He learned for the most part to tune it out. Even if it was hard for Willie to concentrate on his writing.
But that neighbor and his loud jazz playing at two in the morning, the hammering and sawing. Willie hated it, but there was the one thing he heard, even in his sleep, that Willie hated more than anything was the honking.
Willie often found himself sitting at his desk stuck for a word and he would hear “Beep-beep!”
It was more than he could bear.
Willie tried to take it up with the manager of the building. He could not get in touch with him. He tried telling the cops. They knocked on the door and was there inside the neighbor’s apartment for two hours. When they spoke to Willie, he could smell alcohol on them. They told him the neighbor would definitely follow the quiet rules during appropriate hours. That lasted a day.
Willie decided to take it up with the noisy neighbor.
He knocked on the door, no one answered. But the door swung open, and Willie decided to have a look inside. There was almost no furniture in the place, save for a wooden chair and an old single folding cot bed in the corner. No television, but an old record player with one record on the turntable (the record was Artie Shaw big band record), three big feedbags in the kitchen—and a pile of bird feed that had spilled on the floor.
In the middle of the living room was a sculpture of some kind. For several minutes Willie tried to figure out the abstract piece. Most of it made of wood, except photographs cut out and pasted to what looks like arms. All the photos are of different birds with their faces blacked out.
Willie thought maybe it represented a person—until he saw the tail feathers.
Then there were legs: two, made of straws. He looked even closer and saw feather dusters for wings and a cowl on top of a tennis ball. And of course, Willie could not keep from laughing, a party hat for a beak.
Willie doubled over laughing. Tears filled his eyes. Then he heard creaking behind him.
“Beep-beep!” The neighbor was standing in the doorway.
Nervously, Willie tried to explain.
The neighbor would not accept any excuse why Willie was inside the apartment. Willie was rushed out in the hallway and the door slammed in his face.
Willie stood out there for a few minutes, confused by what had just happened. Anger filled him up. Resentment. Pure hatred filled Willie’s heart.
Soon, sitting in his apartment, hearing big band music and sawing and hammering, “Beep-beep” day and night; not being able to write—all Willie could think of was getting even with that fucking bird.
Not simple childish pranks. But complete, unadulterated, mindless violence to that Roadrunner. Simply put: MURDER.
Willie decided he would buy a gun. He knew a guy on the street corner that sold everything. Willie paid him three hundred for it. The pig stuffed the money in his belt, looked around nervously. “Y-y-y-you can’t b-b-be too sure these d-d-days, with the-the-the c-c-c- the fuzz on every corner.”
Willie just snarled, made hand gestures for what he came for. The pig handed Willie a .38 snub nose. Willie held it gently, gawked at it with a malicious smile. He stuffed it in his trench coat, motioned for the box of bullets.
“D-d-don’t hurt y-y-y-yourself with that-that thing,” the pig said and giggled.
But Willie was disappointed.
When he got home he loaded the gun. His plan was to sneak in the roadrunner’s apartment through an open window and shoot him in the beak while it slept in the early hours of the morning. Willie discovered that the bullets were made of rubber.
Oh, that pig was gonna pay.
For now he still had to deal with that bird. He lay in his bed, tossing and turning thinking of nothing but ways to rid himself of that lousy bird. For weeks he went over scenarios. He ate very little. Only thing he could hold down was oatmeal with half a bag of brown sugar in each bowl. He began popping uppers to stay awake. He had to plan this carefully. Sleep makes a mind weak… and Willie couldn’t afford a weak mind at this point.
One day, while watching his soap, it came to Willie. The plan excited him so much he accidentally knocked over his television set. There was no time to mourn its loss. Willie jumped to action. He ran to the store to buy supplies. Used the last of his money to order from the Acme website.
He spent night and day building his contraption.
Just in thirty-six hours, it was ready. He placed his weapon out in the hallway. It was a wooden box. It stood just a little under six foot. He placed a sign on the front of the box that said FREE BIRDFEED. Below the sign was a red glowing button to open the trapdoor just wide enough for the Roadrunner’s head to fit. The box stayed in the hallway for two days and a night. No Roadrunner, but lots of traffic up and down the hallway. He noticed movers coming and going. They taking the roadrunner’s things, not much, just the chair and his bed, but bringing in lots of boxes, furniture, tables, beds, several electronics inside the Roadrunner’s apartment.
Still that God-awful sculpture was there.
On the fourth day, late at night, the Roadrunner came. He walked right by the box without noticing it. When he was dragging his sculpture down the hall, the sign caught his eye.
He cautiously stepped toward it. He looked around, made sure no one was watching. He pressed the glowing button and the trapdoor raised up slowly. “Beep-beep,” the roadrunner whispered happily. He placed his head inside.
Willy was laying in his bed when he heard echo of the blade hitting the chopping block. He suddenly rose from his bed. Anxiously, Willy hopped out of his apartment.
He ran double-speed to the box. He saw the Roadrunner’s limp body hanging out of the trapdoor. A puddle of blood was forming underneath the box. Quickly, he rolled the box and into his apartment. Willie returned with a bucket of soapy water, a sponge, and an Acme blood-disposal kit.
After an hour cleaning, he went back inside the apartment. Now phase two of the plan. Willie changed his clothes. Now he wore a white smock and a hairnet. He dragged the Roadrunner’s body to the kitchen, lift it to the counter. He took a meat cleaver from the drawer and went to work.
Two days went by, and Willie had several nicely wrapped packages of meat laying on the kitchen counter. He placed them in a box of dry ice and sealed the flaps. On the outside it was addressed to his cousin that lived out in the desert.
The doorbell rang.
Confused, Willie stood frozen in his kitchen. He swallowed hard. What if it was the cops? No… Willie thought. No one saw him. Or did they?
Finally he made himself answer the door.
Willie opened the door part way. He peaked out, steadying himself as not to pass out. His quivering hands pushed the door open further.
He saw five shadows against the hallway wall. Standing in front of him were a family. Father (bespectacled), Mother in her yellow dress and apron, and a boy and girl behind them.
The Father spoke. “Beep-beep,” He said.
The Mother said, “Beep-beep.” The kids screamed “Beep-beep” simultaneously while running around in circles. Willie opened his snout and let out a stifled scream.