Extract from Stashed Cash © Stina Hemming
When you’re about to die, does your whole life flash before your eyes? Martha Graham, trust fund baby and Columbia Law School dropout, was about to find out. Pumped full of a chemical cocktail of lethal drugs, she sat leaning against the cold concrete pillar that supported the overpass that snaked its way through downtown Houston. She inhaled raggedly and sputtered out a phlegm-filled cough. Blood and saliva dripped out of the corners of her mouth.
As the world drifted further and further from her consciousness, she thought of nothing but the last 24 hours. She vaguely remembered being dragged out of the rear door of her financial advisors’ offices and being thrown into the back of a minivan. She had struggled, but a punch to her stomach had taken her breath away as well as her will to resist.
When they finally pulled over into a grimy industrial area under the NASA overpass on the fringes of downtown Houston, Martha knew that she would die that day, and even though she had long ago lost her will to live, it mightily pissed her off that someone else was making that decision for her. The story of her whole fucking life.
Martha was yanked out of the back of the van by the two burly security guards that put her there and pushed stumbling along the muddy pavement past the homeless people who called the under pass their home. It had been raining heavily and when Martha slipped in the slick mud landing on her hands and knees, the guards quickly grabbed her by her arm pits and dragged her around a pillar and out of sight. As they propped her up in a sitting position a figure emerged from behind the concrete pillar. With a curt nod he dismissed the two security guards and walked over and squatted beside Martha and pulled a plastic bag out of the inside pocket of his jacket.
Martha looked at the shadowy figure sitting on his haunches beside her and the rubber hose and syringe that he was holding and struggled to get up.
The man leaned over and said, “You are going to die. Don’t make this harder on yourself than it has to be. Hold still” and he grabbed Martha’s arm, shoving her sleeve up and tieing a rubber tube around her arm in one easy motion. Martha hardly felt the prick in the crook of her arm.
Martha slowly looked up and with all the energy that she had left, tried to get up again but the man with the needle held her firmly on the ground. Martha felt a strange, dangerous warm rush of euphoria rush through her blood and she stopped struggling.
Martha could hear the howl of a siren in the distance. Martha’s head dropped back against the pillar and she tried to call for help out but a only barely audible, “Help me, help me please,” emanated from her mouth.
No one was coming for her, Martha knew that, not the police, not her parents, no one. She closed her eyes and waited for death.
It was nearly midnight when Detective Joe Garcia, a middle-aged detective from the Houston Police walked up to Martha’s dead body under the overpass. Martha’s relaxed positioning lying on the sodden ground made her looked like she was resting except of course, her glassy dead eyes. And the smell. The smell of shit and vomit coming from Martha’s body was overwhelming. Garcia grimaced and pulled out a mask from his coat pocket and placed it over his nose and mouth.
Garcia leaned over and took a closer look at Martha’s exposed arm. The track marks were there, that was for sure but her arm was in better shape than most that he had seen.
Garcia stood up and turned to the uniformed copy beside him and asked, “Who is she?”
“No ID on her, Detective Garcia,” said the uniform smartly. “Another Jane Doe.”
The detective frowned. Another Jane Doe. He’d seen too many during his time on the force. This one could have been his daughter. He silently thanked God he was close to retirement.
Garcia said, “Do we have a time or cause of death yet?”
“Not till we hear from the medical examiner, sir,” the uniform responded.
Garcia had been late to the scene. He only been called in after the attending medical examiner had raised the possibility of a suspicious death.
“It looks like she choked on her own puke,” said the uniform.
Garcia looked up and said with scowl, “This better not be a garden variety overdose. Waste of my fucking time.”
“No sir, I mean I don’t know sir, it’s just that the ME…” the uniform said his voice trailing off.
“How did she get here?” Garcia asked looking around.
“It looks like she was dragged here by two men, judging from the shoe size and marks in the mud.”
“Have we taken casts of the shoeprints?” Garcia growled.
“Yes, sir,” said the uniform. “We’ve got the two that dragged her. It looks like there was a third person involved, a male judging from the size of the prints.”
“Lucky that the rain stopped. Anything else?”
“The ME didn’t say much to me, sir,” said the uniform.
“Anything in her pockets?”
“Two fresh one-hundred-dollar bills and … this,” the uniform said as she passed the detective a crumpled business card.
1200 Hercules Avenue, Houston Texas 77058
“Malachi Investments.” Garcia said his frown deepening.” Funny imagine her being mixed up with a bunch of high-flyers like Malachi.”
“Can they take her away?” asked the uniform nodding in the direction of the two attendants standing by with their gurney and body bag.
“Yeah. Take her away,” Garcia said and turned and walked back to his car.