It Ain’t the Kind of Job You Advertise

For some things, it’s hard to remember how you got started. This ain’t like that.

I knew this dude was a realtor from the second he walked in, with his cheap suit, greasy hair, and plastered on smile. He comes right up to the counter, bold as brass, and asks for the manager. I’m the owner, how can I help you, yada yada yada. He asks if we can step into the office for a moment. No one wants to go into my office. Hell, even I don’t like to be in there. But, you know, I’m a curious cat, and I’ve got my .38 special in my drawer, so I say come on back.

This is where the rubber hits the road. He opens up his phone and turns it around, showing me pictures of this house. I need the interior painted, he says, but he’s only showing me the exterior. I’ve got a whole room full of people out front, perfectly qualified to help you get the right shade of white for your walls, I tell him. He swipes again, and now I’m looking at something out of a goddamn horror movie. Mr. Greaseball proceeds to tell me some asshole went full Gallagher on his wife and kids, and they need the place cleaned up for resale.

Now, I need you to understand something about me. I’m not a fuckin’ weirdo or psycho or any of that shit. I’m perfectly aware that there are professionals out there who make their living cleaning up bio-whatever messes like this. But as I said, I’m a curious cat. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life at that point. And if I’m being honest, the pictures were kinda shitty. I wanted to see it up close and personal. Who knows, maybe I am a little fucked up.

I wanted to see it up close and personal. Who knows, maybe I am a little messed up.

Anyway.

I ask him why he’s comin’ to me with this shit. He tells me that people don’t like to live in houses where other people have been murdered, but this place is primo real estate, and he doesn’t want to take a hit on it. He says if he can get it cleaned up on the DL, maybe no one will know if he doesn’t tell his prospective buyers. I’m thinkin’ to myself, this guy’s an idiot. But I’m a business man, and I’m curious, so I says how much is this worth to you. He proceeds to rattle off a number that makes my eyebrows touch the back of my head. So I stick out my hand, tell him to have a nice day, then sit down and start planning.

You see this sort of thing on TV all the time, so you think you’re ready for it. My friend, I’m here to tell you that you have no fuckin’ idea. I don’t care how good your imagination is, nothin’ prepares you for the stench of death that meets you at the door. I stopped in my tracks and almost puked on the steps. Oh, what am I lyin’ for, I puked my guts out all over that fancy porch. Eventually I snapped out of it, got that mess cleaned up, then went in to take care of the one I was being paid for.

Just like with any paintin’ job, the first thing I did was take a walk around and survey the place. Hey, you gotta know how big the job is before you get started, you know? The carpet in the livin’ room had this great big, dark red blob right in the center of it. Up on the wall there was a pattern of fine red dots and a bullet hole. I remember thinkin’ holy fuck, Daddy Dearest blew his brains out right here. I’m not superstitious or nothin’, but I crossed myself the way they taught me back in Catholic school just in case. Apparently mom got it in the kitchen, right in the middle of cooking dinner. From a painter’s perspective, it was kind of a pain in the ass because of all those little nooks and crannies on the cabinets and appliances.

I’m not gonna tell you about the kids’ bedrooms. Not happenin’.

First thing I did was get out the tape and seal off the edges. Then I got a bucket, dumped in some bleach, and dunked a roller in it. The first time you put somethin’ wet on dried blood, you expect it to smear and run, like puttin’ a little solvent on some paint. But blood doesn’t dry like that. Instead, it comes off in big flakes from the center first, leaving hard little rings stuck on the wall. You gotta put some elbow grease into it to get the whole thing off, but it’ll come eventually. I found out later, when this became a long-term gig and I was moved to do some research, that forensic examiners use a razor blade to scrape blood stains off for collection. You can tell your guys a fine rasp is a lot faster. But I didn’t know that for this first job, so I just kept scrubbing back and forth, dunkin’ the red roller back into the bleach. It was a real trip watchin’ it come out white again.

I just kept dunkin’ the red roller back into the bleach, watchin’ it come out white again.

I was an hour late for breakfast when I finished up the job, but I did that whole damn house in one night. For that much tax free dough, I wasn’t cuttin’ any corners. A day or two later, a manilla envelope shows up in my mailbox, with a fat stack of cash and a note thankin’ me for my hard work. And my discretion. Apparently, Mr. Greaseball wasn’t too discreet himself, because about a month later I get a visit from another guy, says he’s a friend of a friend, that sort of thing. Before you know it, word gets around that I’m the one you call when you got a mess on your hands. I don’t know most of my client’s professions, and that’s on purpose, but I do know their faces. Call it a little insurance.

Somethin’ else I learned in my research: the human body is hard wired to have a reaction to blood. Specifically, someone else’s blood. It sends adrenaline rushin’ through your veins, a little natural high to enhance your fight or flight. Now, I’ve never been the adrenaline junkie type, but I’m pretty sure I was hooked on that feelin’. Heh, just like that song. Ooga-chaka, you know what I’m sayin’? My initial surveys started takin’ longer. Most of the time the client wouldn’t tell me what happened, so I’d walk around makin’ up little stories. I bet if one of your forensics guys gave me a blood spatter test, I’d ace it, hand to God.

I cannot tell you how many of those damn rollers I went through doin’ this. Like an idiot, I started off just buyin’ more of them for the store and then sneakin’ them out after hours, but one day one of my managers comes to me and accuses an employee of stealin’ supplies. Turns out he was stealin’ from me, just not the rollers. But I realized how stupid I was being, puttin’ my business at risk, so I moved everything to cash only, in-person transactions, scattered across the city. Pretty ironic, considerin’ what you busted me for.

I don’t suppose you could say who paid me in counterfeit bills, could you. No? That’s what I figured. Not that it matters, I’m gonna do the line up and everything anyway, and not just because my lawyer says the state will go easy on me. I’m not like these scumbags. I mean, it wasn’t even about the cash, really. There’s nothing quite like bein’ that close to death to make you really feel alive. I mean, you’re a detective, you know what I’m talkin’ about right?

Right?

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