Cops before breakfast.
It was not Kyle Broflovski’s favorite way to start the day, especially when the cop in question was Eric Cartman. If anyone had told Kyle twelve years ago that Eric Cartman would be a decorated war hero and the youngest Chief of Police South Park had ever had, he would have died laughing. Of course, if anyone had told Kyle that he would still be in South Park at nearly thirty, he’d have punched them in the face. And yet, here they were. Cartman in the blue uniform, and Kyle wearing nothing but old basketball shorts and a threadbare South Park High football t-shirt that had belonged to Stan, once upon a time. He felt distinctly underdressed, especially with his hair wild and sprouting out in uncontrollable curls from his head. Cartman, of course, looked perfectly pressed and professional, regardless of the fact that it was barely an hour past dawn. Cartman’s ability to make him feel inferior was one of the many, many things Kyle hated about the fatass.
“What do you want, Cartman? It’s not even six o’clock yet.” Kyle made no move to let Cartman into his apartment, though he couldn’t help the small feeling of unease that settled in his stomach. The fact that Cartman was here so early, and in uniform, could mean nothing good. He could hope this was part of Cartman’s agenda against him. In the past month Cartman had shown up at various times to issue citations and warnings against him. Nothing ever came of them, but Cartman had yet to give up. It reminded him annoyingly of high school, where aside from one regrettable night, he and Cartman had always been at each other’s throats. “What’s wrong this time? Did someone complain that my ‘Jewfro’ blocked their view of a stop sign again?” That was just one of the stupid incidents Cartman delighted in making up.
“Can I come in, Kyle?” Cartman didn’t smile, or even so much as smirk. His voice lacked any mocking or derision, and if Kyle didn’t know any better he’d say that Cartman was nervous. A glance down at Cartman’s hands confirmed that hypothesis. They were trembling slightly, not enough to be noticeable unless you knew what you were looking for. As someone who’d known Cartman for twenty-eight years, Kyle knew what to look for.
He stepped back wordlessly, allowing Cartman into the small hallway. Cartman all but dwarfed the space, and Kyle quickly moved into the kitchen before he could start feeling trapped by Cartman’s bulk. Cartman followed, still uncharacteristically silent. Kyle could feel his palms start to sweat, and ran an unsteady hand through his hair, wincing as his fingers got caught in the curls. “Just get it over with, Cartman. Did someone break into the store?” It was the best of the worst case scenarios running through Kyle’s head at breakneck speed. The rest of the scenarios were too terrifying to give voice to.
“Kyle, I think you should sit down.” Again, Kyle searched Cartman’s voice or face for any sign that this was a cruel trick, but there was nothing.
“Just spit it out, fatass,” Kyle said, nervousness turning to fear and fear turning to anger. Anger was a much easier emotion for Kyle to handle, especially with Cartman crowding his kitchen.
Cartman sighed, and to Kyle’s surprise didn’t rise to the bait. “The police department received a call of a domestic disturbance at two thirty this morning. The address given was 1542 Elm Drive.”
Kyle blinked, not sure that he’d heard Cartman right. “My old house?” His voice sounded loud in the kitchen, reverberating off the laminate countertops. “Cartman, what the fuck are you talking about?” The house at 1542 Elm St had stood empty--and partially demolished--for years, ever since Kyle’s parents had died in a freak accident when a plane crashed into their house.
“Police arrived at 2:37am, and found one man dead. He’d been stabbed in the throat and bled out before police arrived.”
Kyle felt light headed, and he knew what Cartman was going to say before he even opened his mouth.
“Ike?” Kyle forced out his brother’s name, barely able to keep the bile that was roiling in his stomach from coming out. Cartman nodded, eyes never leaving Kyle’s face. “Fucking Jesus. Ike, oh fuck.” He didn’t recognize his voice, or even process the fact that Cartman was gently pressing him into a chair, urging him to put his head between his knees.
“Deep breaths, Kyle. That’s it, through the nose. You’re going to be fine.” Kyle had never heard this particular tone from Cartman before, equal parts soothing and firm. Cartman’s hands were warm on his shoulders, and one slid up to rub comforting circles in Kyle’s neck. It felt good, familiar in a way he hadn’t allowed himself to think about for twelve years. He wondered, wildly, if he’d been transported to an alternate dimension where Cartman was something other than a racist, megalomaniac asshole.
Once Kyle could breath again, he shrugged out of Cartman’s grip. There were memories there that he didn’t feel up to processing at the moment. “There’s more, isn’t there?” He didn’t know why he asked that, but he could tell from Cartman’s expression. “Fuck, asshole, just tell me. Tell me!” Anger again, because otherwise he might curl up in a ball and start crying. Cartman had already seen too much weakness.
“We pulled prints off the murder weapon.” Cartman paused, looking uncomfortable and as close to devastated as Kyle had ever seen him. “Kyle, they were Stan’s.”
Graduation seemed to drag on and on, and by the time Ike finished his Valedictorian speech, Kyle was well and truly ready to be gone. It was bad enough having to sit next to his twelve year old brother for the ceremony, let alone have to listen to the little asshole give a heartfelt speech that had nearly everyone in tears. Never mind that Ike was a sociopath, and high as fuck. His parents, the whole town actually, thought Ike Broflovski could do no wrong. He was off to Stanford in the fall, having been offered a full scholarship to their Applied Physics program. Kyle would be attending Marymount Manhattan, major Undecided, and only on partial scholarship.
Kyle glanced back at Stan, hoping to share an eyeroll, but his best friend was seemingly enraptured by Ike’s rousing speech. Sighing, Kyle slumped back in his seat, inadvertently catching Cartman’s eye instead. The fatass was sweating, but looked as impressed by Ike’s call to action as Kyle was. Cartman rolled his eyes, and mimed slitting his throat. Kyle bit back a laugh, and looked away abruptly feeling unsettled by the interaction. He and Cartman weren’t what he’d term friends, hadn’t been since Middle School. They were, if a word had to be applied to them, mortal enemies. Okay, that was obviously over dramatic, but they were rivals. Cartman seemed to enjoy making Kyle’s life hell, and there was no one (not even Ike) who could make Kyle angrier faster than Eric fucking Cartman.
Ike’s speech ended, and after several minutes of applause, the ceremony continued. Finally, after the last student had received their fake diploma (real ones wouldn’t arrive in the mail until the end of June), Principal Garrison wished them all good luck and people began to file out. Kyle headed straight to Stan’s, knowing that his parents and Ike would be a while longer due to everyone wanting to congratulate the younger Broflovski son. Kyle was definitely not in the mood to sit through another round of Wow, Ike, you’re so incredible! from his parents’ friends and South Park High teachers. He knew he sounded like a little bitch, but enough was fucking enough.
“Dude, that was awesome!” Stan came bounding over, graduation cap askew and robes open to show off the jeans and t-shirt he’d worn under them. Kyle, of course, had followed regulation of khaki pants and collared shirt but it didn’t surprise him that Stan had bucked the system. Stan made a habit of ‘sticking it to the man’ whenever he could, a trait he hadn’t grown out of since childhood. From anyone else it would be annoying, but from Stan it was endearing. To Kyle at least.
Kyle just shrugged and climbed into Stan’s car as soon as it was unlocked. “I’m just glad it’s over with. Three more months and we’ll be in New York.” Stan was heading to Marymount as well, for their theatre program. It was the reason Kyle had chosen it Colorado State, despite the number of loans he’d had to take out to afford school in Manhattan. CS had offered him full academic scholarship, including room and board.
Stan cleared his throat nervously, and turned to look at Kyle. He looked guilty, and Kyle felt a ball of dread knot in his stomach. “Uh, about that. There’s something I have to tell you.”
Through the roaring in his ears, Kyle barely heard as Stan explained how Wendy was going to Costa Rica to build a school, and she’d asked him to come with her. They were starting over, away from South Park, and Stan really needed to give their relationship a shot this time. He loved her, and it went on and on until Kyle wanted to puke. All that mattered was that Stan had chosen Wendy over him, and he would be going to Manhattan alone.
“Dude, say something. You’re starting to scare me.”
Kyle laughed, bitterly, and threw open the car door. “Fuck off, asshole.” He was proud of the way his voice didn’t waver, didn’t so much as hint at the tears that were threatening to fall. “Have fun building a hippie commune with the girl who’s broken your heart at least six times.” He took off blindly in the opposite direction of the school. He heard Stan call after him, but didn’t turn around to look.
He had no idea where he was heading, but it wasn’t to the school or back to Stan’s car. He’d walk the five miles home if he had to.
Before Kyle could respond to the bombshell Cartman had just dropped, his phone rang. He jumped for it, snatching his phone from the charger before Cartman could interfere. “Stan? Stan is that you?” Kyle could hear the barely suppressed hysteria in his own voice, and avoided looking at Cartman at all.
“Kyle? Kyle, oh fuck. Shit.” Stan was babbling, clearly drunk, high or some combination of the two. “Kyle, I don’t know...fuck...Ike.” Stan was crying now, and Kyle couldn’t breathe for a minute. No, he reminded himself, this was Stan. Stan wasn’t capable of murder.
“Stan, where are you? How can I help?” He knew Cartman would be frowning at him, so continued to stare at the wall. Cartman could fuck off, this was Stan. “Talk to me, Stan.”
Stan continued to sob, and then took a sudden intake of breath. “Is Cartman there? Oh fuck, he is, isn’t he? Fuck balls.” Kyle heard Stan take several deep breaths, and then: “Don’t trust him Kyle. He’s evil!”
Kyle couldn’t help but look over at Cartman at this, and before Kyle could respond Cartman had snatched the phone away.
“Marsh, make this easy on both of us and turn yourself in.” Cartman’s face was impassive, but Kyle could hear Stan screaming abuse at Cartman, but it was too muffled to make out. “I want to help you, Stan. I can’t do that if you don’t turn yourself in.”
There was silence, and then dead air. Stan had hung up. Kyle dropped his head to the table and took a deep, shuddering breath. His life was falling down around him, and Ike was dead and Stan was on the run. He looked at Cartman, who was glaring at the phone.
“When he calls back, you need to find out where he is. Don’t even think about trying to hide it from me. I’ll have a trace on your phones by noon.” Cartman wasn’t looking at him as he spoke. “You should shower, get dressed. You’ll need to come down to the station, give a statement.” Cartman paused, and finally looked at Kyle. There were traces of awkwardness in his eyes. He swallowed, before visibly composing himself. “Identify the body.”
Kyle blanched at the thought, but there was no one else to do it. “Just go, Cartman.” He knew he was moments away from a breakdown, and he didn’t want Cartman there to see it. “Get out.”
“I’ll have a deputy come, and drive you to the station.” It wasn’t an offer, but a demand. Kyle thought about protesting, but the truth was he just didn’t have the energy. Cartman didn’t bother to ask if there was anyone he could call. He knew as well as Kyle that there was no one. His parents were dead, and there were no other family in town.
“Whatever.” Kyle refused to look at Cartman again. He found a spot on the refrigerator fascinating.
There was a long pause, almost as if Cartman wanted to say something else, but in the end he just pushed past Kyle into the hall. A moment later he heard the door slam shut, and he finally let himself collapse to the floor, painful sobs breaking free from his chest.