The coach pulled into a rest stop so Those Assholes (they’re a band) could stretch their legs, and that’s when they discovered that Izzy, the drummer, had died at some point in the night.
‘Far fuckin’ out,’ said Tombstone Pete. ‘This is some heavy shit for Izzy to pull, y’know?’ As lead singer, Pete was prone to a) blame other people for messing up, and b) be fucked up pretty much all of the time.
‘Someone cut his head off with a sharpened cymbal,’ said Zeandra (bass and ironic tattoos), ‘so I don’t know if it’s fair to blame Izzy for being murdered.’
‘Yeah, well, you always stick up for him’, sulked Pete. ‘Maybe if you weren’t banging him you’d admit that this is totally his fault.’
‘Guys, guys, come on,’ said YOLO Tengo (keyboards and mediation). ‘Can we maybe agree just this once to focus on what’s important, which is getting to LA for this gig? Once we’re back on the road we can work out who murdered Izzy.’ After some muttering and grumbling and tequila body shots, everyone agreed that YOLO was right (sigh, like, again) and they got back onto the coach and then back onto the highway.
Lead guitarist Gar Artfunkel was the first to speak up. ‘I put it to you,’ he said, ‘that the murderer is someone on this very coach.’ Which would have been more impressive if he’d said it louder, or while facing the rest of the band, or in English, but in his defence Gar was really freakin’ drunk.
‘What did you say, Gar?’ asked Lisa-Marie Presley (rhythm guitar, real name, total coincidence).
‘Tämä hyvin valmentaja,’ muttered Gar in bad Finnish before falling asleep.
‘He’s right,’ said Zeandra. ‘Izzy was alive when we left Portland yesterday, and no-one else has been on the coach. One of us must have killed him.’
An ominous chord hung in the air. ‘Sorry,’ said Lisa-Marie, and put her guitar away.
‘I still think he just did it to fuck with us,’ Tombstone Pete said sullenly.
Zeandra held up Izzy’s severed head to face Pete. ‘Say that to his face, Pete’, she said, shoving the head at him, ‘Say it to his face!’
Tombstone Pete turned away. ‘Jeez, fine, don’t have to make such a big fuckin’ deal about it, so he was murdered.’
‘But it still couldn’t have been one of us,’ said YOLO Tengo. ‘None of us would have killed him.’
‘You were always threatening to kill Izzy,’ said Lisa-Marie. ‘You said just yesterday that you hated him and wanted to see him dead!’
YOLO turned red. ‘Okay, yes, that’s true,’ he said, ‘but I couldn’t have cut his head off with a cymbal. You know I can’t bring myself to touch a drum-kit, not since… since The Incident.’
No-one said anything. The memory of YOLO’s drum-related shame was still too fresh.
‘Look, no matter who killed him, we have a gig to get to,’ said Lisa-Marie. ‘We need another drummer.’
‘And we need to do something about the body,’ said Zeandra.
There wasn’t any time to stop again before the gig, so while YOLO called ahead to the agent to arrange a replacement drummer, Tombstone Pete conducted a funeral for Izzy at the back of the coach. ‘Viking style, yeah,’ he told the group. They all bowed their heads and relived their fondest memories of Izzy – doing coke with the Stones, doing coke with the Peppers, doing coke at the Lilith Festival, trying to do coke when there wasn’t any coke and just snorting Pepsi instead until one of his eyeballs turned black.
Good times. Better times. Times when Those Assholes were more than just a band; they were a family.
Then they drenched the corpse in butane and lit it up. Izzy’s body slowly burned to ashes, along with his drum kit, his signed photo of Hulk Hogan and half the seats in the coach. The black tour bus continued to cruise down Highway 5 to Los Angeles, smoke streaming from the windows, real flames licking at the ones painted on the sides, and the last bodily remains of Isaac ‘Izzy’ Molkowicz drifting off on the Californian breeze to get recirculated into the airconditioning systems of passing SUVs.
As the fire died down and the sprinkler system kicked in, the mood of Those Assholes turned tense once again.
‘Maybe Lisa-Marie killed him,’ said YOLO.
‘That’s impossible,’ said Lisa-Marie. ‘I’m a Buddhist and a vegan.’
‘Yeah, but you killed that guy in Winnipeg,’ YOLO said, ‘and those two dudes in Chicago.’
‘Why do you always have to bring up Chicago and Winnipeg?’ Lisa-Marie sobbed. ‘That was different!’
‘I don’t know how any of us could have killed him without someone else noticing,’ said Zeandra. ‘This is some impossible locked room shit.’
‘I’ve got it!’ yelled Tombstone Pete, so loudly that everyone else screamed and the coach nearly drove into a billboard. ‘I know who killed Izzy!’
‘Who?’ said Lisa-Marie Presley.
‘Who?’ said YOLO Tengo.
‘Who?’ said Zeandra.
‘Hmm? What?’, said Gar Artfunkel, who had been woken by the noise.
‘Ghosts!’ exclaimed Pete. ‘Invisible killer Highway 5 ghosts!’
It was the only possible explanation. ‘Nice work, Miss Marple,’ said Zeandra. ‘We’ll get a press release out tomorrow and tell his family. Now let’s ROCK AND ROLL!’
And so they did.
Oh, and it was the coach driver who killed Izzy. Midnight cymbal frisbee game, total accident. He felt really bad about it afterwards. Especially once Those Assholes set fire to his fucking coach.
As usual, you can blame Chuck Wendig (see image to the right) for this one, thanks to his current Flash Fiction Challenge. This one involved picking three story aspects from lists of ten, and while it would have been fun to use a randomiser, the appeal of setting both a murder mystery and a funeral within a vehicle on the highway struck an instant chord.
(I could have had them all as separate events, but where’s the sport in that?)
As usual, this gets added to the list of stories that will become the cheapo anthology Nine Flash Nine, available once I have nine good flash stories to stick into a single EPUB file. Surely that will happen any day now.
And that’s all I have time for tonight, folks; I’m still feeling pretty lousy, and I think I’ve done well to knock out a flash story today rather than spending the day in bed coughing and watching Doctor Who reruns.
I do it for you. Always for you.