"So, Detective, how can I help you?" Marcus asked.
The Detective molded himself into the cheap, faux leather loveseat. Long legs sprawled under the table, arms folded behind his head. He looked up at Marcus with a curt nod.
"Yeah, Coffee." he finally responded .
Marcus could not believe the detective's behavior was so casual, especially if he was here to ask questions about Shelly's horrible demise. He gave the comfortable cowboy one last look before turning to enter the small kitchenette and brew a pot of coffee.
"How do you take it?" Marcus called as he set two mugs on the counter, "Black?"
"With one teaspoon of sugar, thanks." replied the detective.
Marcus finished pouring coffee into the mismatched mugs and carried them into the living room. He handed the detective his, then settled down into the well-worn recliner opposite the love seat. Detective Mocroni leaned forward slightly to sip from his mug then set it down on the table. Marcus stared at him, ignoring his own coffee. He wanted to start the conversation, but couldn't decide how.
"Marcus," began the detective, saving Marcus from his anxious introspection.
"About the incident yesterday afternoon, the report indicates you were the lone witness to an act of arson in the Malt-Stop. Can you tell me more about that?"
Marcus cocked his left eyebrow in confusion. This cowboy detective was overly nonchalant about a case of spontaneous human combustion. And 'lone witness? There had to have been at least twenty people in the Malt-Stop yesterday. Everyone of them rushing to spectate the pretty girl on fire. Marcus was becoming angry at the lack of detective work that had been going into Shelly's death.
"What do you mean lone witness to an act of arson? Me and every patron in that shabby ice cream parlor were watching my girlfriend burn to death. Shelly and I were sitting in our regular booth, sipping on a chocolate chip malt; when all of the sudden I smelled smoke. Looked all over for it, turns out it was the smoke coming from Shelly as she was consumed by random flames right next to me." Marcus recounted the previous events in a rush of breath. He challenged the detective with his eyes to call Shelly an act of arson again. Detective Mocroni remained unphased by Marcus' cold stare.
"And who is Shelly?" asked the detective.
"Marcus flinched at the sound of her blessed name coming from profane lips. He had to restrain himself from demanding the detective not ever utter a syllable of her name again.
"Shelly," Marcus whispered through gritted teeth, "Has been the love of my life for the last five and a half years. She is Rochelle LeAnne Wachowski, niece to my boss, Dr. P. She's 5'1'', barely, blonde curls down to her tight ass, eyes: glittering green emeralds and a smile brighter than the sun. She was.. Is my absolute everything. I was going to ask her to marry me."
Marcus shook his head before placing it in his hands. He wiped away a few tears that fell down his cheek and looked around his apartment.
There were a hundred different pictures of him and Shelly all over the apartment. Half a decade being a couple catalogued in 5x7 framed memories.
Marcus glanced above the detective to the small shelf that held his spelling bee trophy from grade school and his favorite picture of Shelly from their first date. Her blonde curls blown over her face, smile wide as the horizon as she laughed at Marcus for taking a picture with a film camera, like a caveman she said. He eyes only settled on dust and the trophy.
Marcus leaped from his recliner and scrambled into the loveseat next to the Detective. He frantically searched the small shelf and behind the loveseat desperate to find the picture.
The Cowboy Sleuth watched with calm perplexity as Marcus rushed around his apartment looking for all the small things that made up his life with Shelly. Her shampoo and conditioner were absent from the shower, her clothes and make up were gone from the bedroom, even her favorite bottle of wine, 2/3 full was no where to be found. Marcus stopped to catch his breath, standing in the middle of the kitchen, tears threatening to overwhelm him.
"What the fuck is going on?!" he sobbed.
The Detective stood up from the loveseat and walked over to Marcus to pat him on the back. He gently lead Marcus back to the loveseat, they both sat down and waited in relative silence. The detective sat patiently at Marcus' side. Marcus sniffled and wiped his cheeks every few minutes or so, but couldn't quite bring himself together. Though he loathed to cry in front of this frontier front man. He inhaled deeply, finally finding a small piece of calm he could hold onto.
"I'm so confused," Marcus confessed, "Yesterday, I was celebrating our fifth year anniversary with the love of my life, engagement ring waiting at the bottom of a chocolate chip malt. Suddenly, she's screaming, on fire. Nothing but smoke and ash next to me. I can see it all so clearly. Her skin becoming lava, bubbling and sloughing off her bones, hair crisp and brown even though it should be soft and blonde. The worst was watching the saliva steam up from her tongue as she screamed and screamed and screamed…"
Marcus jumped up from his seat and grabbed his head. He turned to the cowboy, oddly smiling, surely close to a break in sanity.
"And you know what I did? Do you know how much help the man who was going to marry her, was? I asked someone to piss on her before I passed out cold on the floor. And she burned. Just burned, while I did nothing."
Sobs broke from Marcus as he collapsed back to the loveseat.