Category Archives: My City by the Bay

My City by the Bay (Chapter 5, Part 1)

Old Town

SLS

(Photo credit: wilcreative)

The stakeout began early, and the SLS was parked a fair distance away from Chestnut Grove. Dawn was on the brink of breaking and Sig started to squirm already. He was an active man. Kinetic energy was the best energy, and like sharks, stopping could be deadly. All of this frustrated Benelli.

“Cut it out!” She finally spoke up, as the leather creaked under the seat of his pants.

“What?!” The peevish tone meant he was fully aware of the problem.

“Can’t you sit still? We’ve got the whole day to watch for this guy, and you’re jumping around like a jackass.”

“Not even your posh seating can soothe my animal spirit, Benelli!” Humor was always a good way to diffuse friction, but it was only rewarded with a heavy sigh.

About 8 o’clock, the old woman began her rounds near the cemetery with a replenished stock of floral material from God knows where. Blues, pinks, oranges, and yellows bobbed up and down in the cafeteria cart keeping in time with each pot hole. As she reached the gates, a pause was made in order to look around. A surveillance of her own was conducted, as it appeared something wasn’t kosher to her.

Both detectives thought they were far enough away to be inconspicuous. Without saying a word, they slowly slid down in their seat. Shaggy and Scooby had nothing on these two. Being caught could mean bad news, as it seemed she took a liking to Tiny. If she were to mention anything, it could put both their lives in jeopardy.

The observation took only a few seconds and the lady was on her way. Neither Sig nor Benelli could be certain if they were found out. All they could do was wait for the person of interest. McGreavy was next to desperate for answers, probably because the mayor’s office was getting a stream of phone calls about the “cowboy” on the force. That would be Sig, or “the Dunking Detective” as the writers at the Phoenix called him. Lucky for Sig, the Chief always went to bat for his team. Always, even though he was extremely tempted to throw Pauly under the bus for getting stuck in an abandoned refrigerator during a kidnapping case last year. Internally, it was a whole new ballgame. Sig imagined himself getting clocked with a Swingline if he didn’t come through.

After an hour of the news and playlist critiques, Sig eased into his typical pseudo-intellectual arguments. Benelli closed her eyes in dread, as it always ended up somewhere in left field with him convinced beyond reason. These bizarre assertions, like the Kool-Aid man being a metaphor for Satan, left a rational person in perpetual state of confusion. The tee was set and Sig led the kickoff.

“You know the saying ‘be yourself’?” He rolled his head to the side, and let it rest on his shoulder.

“Yes,” Benelli sighed.

“Well, I was thinking that isn’t very good advice.”

“Why do you say that?” Benelli was letting the discussion take its course. Otherwise he would pout like a four year old with a melted ice cream cone.

“We are constantly ourselves.”

“What about people who put up a front and pretend to be something they’re not? That’s not ‘being yourself.'”

“You mean like Phileas?”

“If this has anything to do with me, I swear I’ll punch you in the face!”

“Not directly, no. This is more of a macrolevel observation. People who use disguises are still themselves.”

“Right, which is why they should ‘be themselves.'”

“They are that already. Being in costume does not negate the fact that they are still being.”

“OK, wise guy, what would you prefer?”

“I’m glad you asked!” Sig’s eyes twinkled as the candy shop was open for business. “I would say to others ‘accept who you are’ instead. It’s much more productive.”

“If people simply accept who they are, then what if they are accepting poor behavior?” In no time, Benelli was sucked into the whirlpool of Sig’s mind.

“We all have a despicable side to us. That’s what makes us human. Let us say, for the sake of example, that Pauly’s a homophobe.”

“That’s not much of a stretch, Sig.”

“Granted, but given the options of open acknowledgement and closet confidence, which would you prefer? There isn’t any middle ground. So, don’t get all wishy-washy on me.”

“Fine, I would rather have him be open about his beliefs if only to avoid passive-aggression.”

“Right! It’s less stress to repress bad feelings and have them manifest themselves into dirty pool.”

“Well then, Mr. Know-it-all, where is the progress in that? If we accept our ill feelings, there would be no unity.”

“Unity is an illusion as long as we all come from different walks of life. That’s not to say there couldn’t be a healthy amount of cooperation, but as it stands now, unity has too many variables in the way. That said, a person isn’t prevented from working on changing their beliefs. Never once did I say it was impossible. I merely suggest they accept themselves and not feign camaraderie. However, since you’ve broached that topic, I will say any useful amount of cooperation (non-common-enemy cooperation that is) will require an earnest effort from all parties involved.”

“I don’t follow.”

“What I’m saying is any marginalized group of people would need to provide positive support to the ‘offending’ party in question. That’s where the real progress is. Society isn’t a one-way street. A problem can’t be solved by focusing on one side of the equation. Right now, efforts for equality are based on bombastic shouting matches and political power plays throughout all levels of government. That is not true progress, and it sure as Hell ain’t unity.”

“What’s the plan then, Plato?”

“To support equality, the canonized population should not be left to its own devices. Equality is a push in the card game of life. The underdog needs to interface in an accessible manner with the other, and vice versa. The combativeness to acquire a ‘privilege’ will alienate those perceived to have it. Balance should never feel like it’s being bullied.”

“So, what, you want me to throw a cook out for Pauly?! That’s your answer for gay rights?”

“Perhaps… the fat boy does like hot dogs. I’ve seen him down a pack of Hebrew National like a bag of chips.”

“I’m not buying it.”

“OK, I’ll spring for the franks, but you’ll have to get a grill. I can’t afford that.”

Benelli rolled her eyes. How did they get from acceptance to hot dogs? She hated hot dogs.

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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My City by the Bay (Chapter 4, Part 4 of 4)

The Dip

Love loves complication. Love loves drama. Love loves attention. One day you want to nestle your head on her chest, the next you’re looking for an apartment far away from her. For as painful as it is, this condition has to be for the best. Continuity and consistency are rules for robots, and no one’s a machine… yet. That’s to the wealthy’s chagrin anyway; they would be the only ones to benefit from it.

At the heart of humanity, being human, is change. Without it a person becomes obsolete like a Commodore 64 or 8-track tape player. Sure, they’re fun for the sense of nostalgia. People would like something more modern for the day-to-day activities though.

Sig’s ride jostled with each imperfection in the road. He looked up at the ceiling ads and sighed, “what am I doing?” This was some sort of defeat, but there wasn’t any definition to it. He hadn’t actively done anything to destroy the relationship, but wasn’t the greatest proponent of it either. Who was to blame? No one, he supposed. Chrissy and he were just two incompatible people hoping to cross over. He was out helping family, while she was in need of most of it.

With a little anxiety, he rolled together stems of the bouquet purchased in Old Town. Cellophane became a cathedral radio, crackling as he adjusted to his favorite station: nervous. The last time they spoke was at 100 decibels. Love loves scorched Earth, too.

Life in the Dip felt like living in a hole. In truth, it was a depression in the land but also acted as an oubliette. Deriving itself from oublier, French for “to forget,” many lost recollection of the area and its residents. Unlike Old Town and North Harbor, people in the Dip kept to themselves and didn’t make a fuss. Heavy notes of defeat and resignation drifted through the neighborhood as sweeping winds carried litter down its streets.

Christine’s house stood as a fortress from all that was outside of her personal sphere of influence. Not even the smog of Uptown could penetrate the small, ecru bungalow of Stapleton Row. Mostly-plumb pickets poked the atmosphere with an air of defiance and smacked of rough carpentry. Sig was not the best craftsman in the world, but it worked for what they could afford.  It was better suited for filtering plastic bags anyway. Cheap pine is serviceable baleen.

Bottles from Sig’s “Alcolympics” disappeared since his departure. His favorite past time was the “beer put,” which involved launching an empty beer bottle like three-pound shot from the porch. The unbroken bottle furthest from the front door won. And what did they win? Another beer, of course, however the crisp shatter of glass was a satisfying runner up.

Sig pushed back the front gate, and it drooped to the right as if to say “oh God, not you again.”  This was the first time he was back in months, only enough time to settle into his new digs, yet crossing the threshold felt like a violation itself. In a strict sense, it was trespassing, but this was beyond any technical interpretation.

The porch was different only in the sense it had been cleared of various debris from unfinished projects. She let a whole flat of petunias wilt one year, but something prompted its removal. Change is good, but change is scary. The eyes of an emotionally worn man turned up to peer at the knocker which was polished, yet not entirely wiped clean. An oak tree in the front lawn waved its shadow on the beast as if to warn of bad ideas.

“What is going on here?” Fingers touched the hastily buffed brass ring attached to a lion’s mouth, which gave way to space a few seconds later. In its place stood a stern looking man in a white tank top and a cell phone.

“Can I help you?” the wall of a man was at least getting down to business in a semi-cordial manner. Tonality indicated, however, Sig’s reputation preceded him. There wasn’t much room for a favorable opinion.

“I… uh… I’m here to see Christine Taureano. Is she in by any chance?”

“She went shopping. Sor…” The obviously lie was quickly foiled when a sprightly, small figure came up from behind the slab of meat and gave him a kiss.

“Who is it, swee… oh, hey Sig.”  Disappointment became palpable at that moment, and the energy drained from her form. This was obviously not the day she wanted to break the news to him. She might have been banking on never seeing him again. It was probably the lack of control over the situation which carried the most dissatisfaction.

“Yeah, hey. I was hoping you still had my box of clothes. It could come in handy down the road.” Yeah, for when he wanted to burn an effigy of Sergeant Beefhead standing next to him.

“Oh! Yeah, no problem.” The softball was smacked with so much fervor, one would think nothing happened at all. There were a few seconds of awkward silence that followed between the new beau and Sig. That was nothing compared to the awkward silence following him home that night. Chrissy returned with a faded egg box signifying the end of the round. Sig got a consolation prize.

“There! That should be the last of it.” Smiling during a meeting of this nature could be considered an insult, but the one riding up her face was probably meant to be such. The two lovebirds probably met within the last month or so. Her benevolence was a good way to avoid spoiling the honeymoon. “So, what’s with the flowers?”

“Oh, these. I happened to meet a florist today and she wanted to know if you would like them.” No one would have ever bought that. What good would it have done regardless?

“No, thanks.”

That hurt more than it should. They both claimed the fire was gone more often than he could remember, but this was it. Sig pursed his lips at the bitter end of book he didn’t want to finish. She actually found someone new.

“OK, then. I’ll see you around.” Lingering any further would result in someone either getting physically or emotionally battered. A quick exit was the way to salvation.

“I sure hope not,” followed quietly thereafter.

For all the enticing aromas, the flowers refused to look at him at the bus stop. They only stared at the street wanting someone else to plant them in a vase. Sig knew that was only his perception, but it seemed real enough at the moment. An attitude like that only gets the trash can. An attitude like his only gets the curb. It was the price of being himself.

The egg carton showed wear from being thrown about the house. Rough in feel, only the dried adhesive provided competition. Failed duct tape clung to one end of the box as if to document some sort of effort in the storage process, but maintenance had a lot to be desired. Sig tucked the flaps back and peeked into the faded darkness.

Various garments felt fresh air for the first time in ages. Underwear, bowling shirts, and the cut-off jeans he used for mowing were among various articles tossed about like a wild sea of dyed cotton. Bailing out the container, he noticed something sunk at the bottom of the box. Diving deeper, it became apparent Davy Jones found a picture of them when they first started seeing each other.

Sig looked up at the sky and added a few more drops in the ocean.

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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My City by the Bay (Chapter 4, Part 3 of 4)

Chestnut Grove

“Do you see her?” Benelli slowly rolled the SLS down a side road bordering the graveyard. Evening was making its way toward the bay, and the two of them wouldn’t have much time to screw around. The somewhat honest people of the neighborhood started to wrap up their day and lock down their possessions. Few were up for the hilarity and hijinks the slum provided in the night time. There were enough hassles in broad daylight.

“Nothing yet. Let’s park the car and search on foot.” Sig indulged his nervous habit of smoothing out the wave in his hair. He was getting nervous. It may have been the coffee though. “She can’t be too far.”

The vehicle slid into a parallel spot, and they stepped out into the misting rain. The whether there wasn’t the most predictable, but Sig always thought weathermen didn’t know rain from shine regardless. What exactly did they do all day in meteorology school anyway? Who knew? It was best to just roll with the punches and deal with the consequences.

“We’ll need to work quickly, if we want to find her. I don’t know too many cart vendors that will work in a darkened downpour.” Sig stared up at the sky.

Walking the perimeter didn’t reveal much. Light, while giving a valiant effort, was on its way to a retreat. There wouldn’t be enough time to accommodate to a search of the interior.

“Dammit! She must be gone.” He slammed his palm on the wrought iron gate.

“There’s always tomorrow.” Benelli knew it wasn’t much of a consolation prize.

“No! We need this now! Nownownownow!” Each command was summoning a blow to the gate. Rust from the neglected iron covered his hand.

“Come on now, Sig, I know you were close to Sal but we haven’t seen her anywhere. She’s probably gone for the day.” That would be the only logical explanation for it. How else would an old lady be able to evade them?

“God damn it, Benelli! I want her now!” His brittle side surfaced after several days of stress.

“Calm down!” She was starting to lose her patience as well.

“Calm down?! I’m perfectly fi…” Sig stopped in mid-sentence and completely forgot his frustrations at the moment. “Do you hear that?” He scanned the horizon.

“Hear what?” Benelli was less than impressed with the non-sequitur.

“It sounds like some sort of… cowbell.” It certainly wasn’t a sound fit for the city.

“No, I don’t. Wait, yeah, it sounds like a cowbell. It’s coming from inside the cemetery.”

No sooner did she say that then a small figure with a catering cart appear at the mouth of the graveyard. She was aged and petite, with grey hair wrapped up in a scarf and in a black dress. She stopped her plodding to look at the two officers with annoyance. “You shouldn’t be carrying on like that, young man. There are still dead here to be respected.” She was quiet but got her point across.

Wasting little time on debate, Sig spoke up. “I apologize for getting out of line, ma’am, but you see I’m the doghouse with my girlfriend and a vendor recommended you. It sounded like he was your husband. The other florists around here didn’t have anything I wanted, and he told me to give you a try.”

“I would imagine so, on all accounts.” She was a judicial person; there was no doubt about that. “He always enjoys making money. You wouldn’t happen to be this gentleman’s attachment, would you miss?”

Benelli took a moment to register the question and with a few awkward, jerky movements answered, “What? Oh, no. I’m his par… friend.” She always came down hard on herself for not being as fluid an actress as she could be. Like most people, she was her worst critic.

With a suspicious tone, the elderly lady turned to Sig. “Well, I can see why you’re in such trouble with your romantic life. Brazen men like you always do first and ask for forgiveness later. If you don’t take care of it now, it’ll catch up with you.”

Even though Sig reddened out of injury, he thought it provided a more convincing act. Knowing when to bite one’s tongue is important in this line of work. “Err, well, yeah. I’ll make it up to her, starting with this.” The nervous smile was ambiguous enough, but the whole act was starting to require effort. He really didn’t want it to unravel on him so soon, but the needling was getting under his skin. “What do you recommend for sweeting up a significant other?”

The old woman stood back and surveyed her inventory. After a moment of moving flowers back and forth, she pulled together a mix of blue delphinium, white roses, and yellow aster. “I think this should do nicely. If it works for that one man, then I’m sure it’ll work for you. That will be seven dollars, dear.”

“One man?” Sig almost fell over himself to pull out information.

“Oh, yes, there’s another man who’s frequently in trouble with his woman. You two seem to have something in common, but he’s much larger than you. Sweet little boy, though. He visits me all the time. Most people buy my flowers for graves. It’s nice to have the recipient see them every now and then. Here, take the bouquet, and you get your life together. Do you understand me, sonny?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he shot a tired look at his partner. This routine had worn out its welcome. “If I ever need you again, where can I find you?”

“Oh, my dear, I walk this area all the time. You heard the bell before I showed up, correct? Just follow the ring and I’ll be around.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

The matriarch laid her bony hands on the cart and moved it down the sidewalk. Since it was getting dark, she was more than likely going back to her house for the evening. Tiny would have to wait to buy flowers either tomorrow or the next day.

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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My City by the Bay (Chapter 4, Part 2 of 4)

Old Town

“We’re looking for this man. Have you seen him?” Benelli held up a computerized sketch of Tiny, recreated from the best of Sig’s memory. The two spent most of the day hitting up every florist they could find in the vicinity. All of it was tiring footwork. No one liked to be harassed by the cops around there, especially when it drove away paranoid customers. There’s a saying on the other side of the river: “everyone has a rap sheet in Old Town.” It wasn’t without a little merit.

“I don’t know who that is.” The clerk at the final flower shop dismissed them in short order, and went back to throwing cheap flowers in a second-hand vase for the budget section. He reeked of gin, and looked like he hadn’t seen a bathtub in days. Both of them stepped out of the shop a little disappointed. Benelli turned to her partner and asked the inevitable.

“That was the last of them. Got any other bright ideas?” The sentence was punctuated by two cats going at it around the corner.

“Maybe we’re not approaching this problem the right way. It’s always possible they wouldn’t talk to the police. It’s not like we’ve done them any favors over the years.” Sig stared out into space.

“If that’s the case, then we totally blew it. They’ve already seen us once. The thieves would have to do something to make it a losing strategy to keep quiet, like make a shop owner go missing. Trying it again another day would be stupid.”

“True, or…” Sig’s voice trailed off and he started to blink like something flew in his eye.

“Or…?”

“…or he’s not buying them from a store.”

Benelli knew their current conversation was now secondary, as the vacant look meant he was out to lunch. If gears were turning in his head, the smoke would surely follow. She pictured a hamster running as fast as it could on a wheel, then collapsing from exhaustion. As irritating as it was, she learned by now not to take it personally.

“He’s not buying them from a shopkeeper.” Sig finally came back to the real world. “They might just be telling us the truth after all.”

“So, where is he getting them? You said yourself he wasn’t getting them from the graves.”

“Sure, but there’s still more than one way to buy flowers around here.” He stopped to put a cigarette in his mouth. “I’m willing to bet there’s a travelling merchant on the street.” With a short point, he made out a kiosk to the north of them.

“How are we going to find them? Street vendors roam and we could be on the hunt for days.” Benelli was disappointed in the long shot. It was starting to sound like he was getting desperate, and wasting time wasn’t much of a hobby for her.

Sig frowned at the question and then added, “word of mouth.” A small light from a Zippo could be seen inside the palm of Sig’s hand. “They have their own little trade organization down here. They’ll talk each other up, if there’s something in it for them. It’s the best advertising they can get at this level. Everyone helps everyone else out. You know, quid pro quo.”

“How can he string all of his wild theories together to sound so plausible?” Benelli thought. It drove her nuts, but it was all that they had at this point. A shot in the dark was better than back to the drawing board. Sig was already walking across the street at the vendor he saw. She decided to stay there and let him do all of the work this time. She needed a break from the race.

“Hey buddy, how much for the apple?” Unwittingly, Sig walked straight up to the man whose cart recently became part of the car chase obstacle course. Fortunately for him, the merchant never got a good look at his face. The corpulent senior looked up attentively, after he put the pen down on his crossword puzzle.

“30 cents,” replied the immigrant. “You look like a shrewd man, and shrewd men know it’s the best deal you’ll find around here.”

“Great. I’ll take that, a peach, and a pint of blueberries. By the way, I’m looking to pick up some flowers for a special someone. Do you know where I could get that on the street? All of the florists around here don’t have anything I want.”

The old man’s eyes sparkled and a smile spread across his face. “Aha! You’re in trouble with your lady friend, ah?” He nodded toward Benelli on the other side of the street. “You’re wise to beg for forgiveness. You’re also a lucky man. My wife sells flowers to people who want to remember their dead. You can find her near the graveyard.”

It never occurred to Sig that there were still grieving people in Old Town. Where else would they go? The proximity would also be perfect for Tiny. The times didn’t jive well, but he could always loiter about during the daytime. He’s obviously not the brains of the operation.  Sig handed a few crumpled bills to the seller and denied his change. A sense of accomplishment came over the fruit seller, as he thought all of his work paid off. Little did he know it could have been twice the price, and Sig would still have paid him.

“Thanks, friend, I’m always around if you want more fruit!” The merchant beamed not only for the profit from the sale, but the prospect of future income. Sometimes the small things in life mean a lot. Sig tucked the produce under his arm and trotted back to his partner.

“You starting a health food kick?” Benelli was eying the peach. She hadn’t eaten much all day, and she was starting to get curt. Not being as dense as he looked, Sig tossed the fruit to her. “Here, it looks like you’re going to pass out.”

With the bite of peach still in her mouth, Benelli mumbled,“what did you find out?” The sticky sweet juice dribbled down her chin as manners were for another day. Sig bit into the apple dramatically. “We need to go to Chestnut Grove to pay our respects.”

 © 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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My City by the Bay (Chapter 4, Part 1 of 4)

Station

The next few days were rough on Sig. The thought of Sal weighed heavy on his mind as he went through the day-to-day motions of his life. Conversations got garbled and meals were tasteless. Benelli did what she could to help, but could only stay out of his way. There wasn’t much that could be done. He had to sort this out and make peace with the issue by himself.

He stared at the map on the corkboard. All the red pins started to dance a bit, as he stood there motionless. There wasn’t much of a pattern, save that they were close to Old Town. That’s merely a practical move. Dead bodies showing up in the richer neighborhoods would rattle too many movers and shakers, and pressure on the police chief would be compounded.

“They wouldn’t want the bodies to get cold too much. They obviously need a chop shop, and it’s obviously in Old Town. It’s got to be large and accommodating, which says little. There are plenty of those down there. Too many drop offs would also stir the hive.”

“That is, if the hive isn’t afraid for its life. Life’s cheap in the ghetto. There’s no reason to push the envelope.” Benelli chimed in behind him.

“How long have you been standing there?” Sig twisted his head to the right.

“Long enough to listen to your little soliloquy.”

“With Sal gone, it’s going to be a little more difficult to pull out information from the area. He was one of the few people that talked to the police.” There was a lingering bit of sorrow, bring up a sore subject.

“Do you have any bright ideas? You seem to be good at them, even if they are a little reckless at times.” Benelli was trying to change the subject. Sig winced, recalling McGreavy’s words a few days ago, and she closed her eyes at the realization. After a long pause, Sig spoke, “when I was face to face with their enforcer, he said he got flowers for his girl. At first, I thought it may have been funeral arrangements but that could be it.”

“Why’s that?” Benelli was one to get straight to the point.

“Because the corpses wouldn’t be fresh enough by the time they got a hold of them. They would want the parts as soon as possible. That and I already asked the Chestnut Grove caretakers if they noticed any body parts missing on their grave robberies. It was just jewelry and fillings.” Sig stared at the board the whole time he was talking. “That means the flowers came directly from a vendor. How many flower shops are there in Old Town? I doubt the gorilla likes to go outside his comfort zone.”

“A quick search reveals five plausible locations, Sig.”

“That’s a start, at least. It sure beats staring at this board. He’s a creature of habit for sure. He’s not smart enough to deviate from a learned routine. We’ll tail him and bring him in for questioning.”

“On what? Promoting the destruction of plant life?” Painfully following the letter of the law was a favorite pastime of Benelli’s.

“Aw Hell, he’s too stupid to know. We’ll find something. Keep your eyes peeled for something that will ease your conscience.” Sig always had trouble wrapping his mind this quirk.

“I don’t like this! You can’t just do that. This is what separates us from dirty cops. I’ve looked the other way on a lot of things, but… I just can’t! No, I just can’t.” Benelli was starting to get her fur up.

“Alright! Alright! We’ll follow him and see where his sweetheart lives. We’ll question her when he’s gone. Better?” Benelli calmed down after that.

“Yes. Thank you.” She finally said.

 © 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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My City by the Bay (Chapter 3, part 4 of 4)

The building of the now defunct Lucky Mutt Dog Food processing plant sat sulking on the banks of the Natawagachumi. Its bricks displayed a dulled and sooty appearance, which mirrored the appearance of a nursing home resident. The business was forced to shut down operations, when it was discovered the beef in the product was switched out with savory substitutes such as cat and dog. It was always rumored that they even used humans off the street, but that was never proven. Once an aesthetic building in the 1880s, it has now been reduced to tatters via vandals and time. Windows faded like memories, and were either replaced with walls, jokes of substitutes, or left as a testaments to events long since passed. The only attention paid to it was by the unsavory with no intention of reform.

Lydia Redglove stood in the belly of the beast, hovering over a recent donor. Straightening up, she put a set of lungs on the suspended scales. Her assistant quickly set up a cooler for transport. A west coast venture capitalist needed to have a fresh start from his pack a day habit. These would do nicely.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg.” She said snapping off the latex covers that gave her the namesake. “We’ve got plenty of catch up to do after that moron decided to burn his tongue on our soup.” This all came out like a disgusted mother. The assistant didn’t seem to even notice. Most associates of Dr. Redglove got over the personality quick. “Do we have any other places we can farm?”

“Yes, Dr. Redglove, I believe there are a few other bars we can work.”

“Good. Have those two idiots check it out. They can do that at least, right?”

“I’m sure.” It was quite a bit to tolerate, but the money it paid was too much to turn down.

“Miss Redglove! Miss Redglove!” A voice could be heard from the main entrance. “We’ve got someone for ya.” A slow, clumsy voice announce Tiny’s presence. Along with he and no-neck was an intruder they had caught. “This kid was sticking his nose in where it don’t belong. He was spying on us outside of Jack’s. We thought he’s might make a great volunteer.” With a little bit of energy, Sal let out some profanity.

The street rat stood bound and battered between the two goons with a look of apprehension. He had good reason to be. He, like other long-time residents of Old Town, knew no good came from this place. A few seconds passed in silence, only interrupted by the occasional drips from the rafters.

Lydia slid off her cap and mask to reveal raven black hair and full lips. She was evil, with all the beauty to propel it to diabolical proportions. Slender, porcelain fingers met her waist, and a slight foreboding smile formed on her face before she spoke.

“So, we have a ‘volunteer’ for the cause.” This was the beginning of the end for Sal, and he was unfortunate enough to know it. He decided to exercise his newly found freedom. “So, you’re the bitch stealing body parts.” He barked.

“Charming fellow, and just the right kind of subject.” Lydia turned to her assistant. “We have a new order in for kidneys. Victor, show me his back.”

As commanded, no-neck spun the specimen around and pulled up his shirt. After a brief examination, she continued with, “no marks, by the looks of it. He wouldn’t have been able to afford it anyway.”

“They’ll find you, bitch, and you’ll be the one making donations!”

“Shut your mouth, trash!”

Tiny had enough sense to take a hint and landed a right on Sal hard enough to question the state of his jaw. “We think this kid might have something to do with that cop nosing around the bar. Who knows what kind of mouths this kind of scum has.”

“Well, my dear, that was the first smart thing you’ve done all month. I was almost certain I’d have to pay Daisy a visit.”

Tiny’s face grew tense with this information. Daisy was the only thing in this world he could hold on to. She was his everything. He wouldn’t know what he’d do, if she weren’t around.

“No! No, Miss Redglove. You don’t have to do that. Don’t hurt her. Please.” He nearly wept at the thought.

“Oh, man up you big child,” Redglove snapped and slapped him for showing weakness. Immediately afterward, she began to caress his face. “Besides, you would still have me. I’m really the only woman you would ever need.”

Tiny softened, as he was trapped and attracted. Many men would be. Her crystal blue eyes would hook them in, and the often low-cut dresses would drag them down.

Sal laughed. There wasn’t much hope for him. So, he was going to make the best of it. “She’s got a big man like you whipped! You’re sad, man. Sad.” There would be no doubt that his jaw was broken after that little comment.

“Quit hitting him!” Lydia commanded, “we don’t want the merchandise damaged any further.” Her emotions turned on a dime, and it was that mercurialness that made her a danger to work with.

“As for you, filth, I won’t tolerate people who can’t mind their own business. As a matter of fact, I think there’s a judge on the East Coast who could use a new set of corneas. Kill two birds with one stone. Victor, throw him on the table.”

“You’ll burn in Hell for this, bitch!” Sal was trying to speak to the best of his abilities, given his current condition.

“Oh! Oh yes, it would be a river of boiling blood and fire for me. Too bad it doesn’t exist. Do we have the containers ready?”

“Yes, Dr. Redglove.”

“Good, I’m going to thoroughly enjoy this! Lights out, worm.”

Spring-loaded clamps pried Sal’s eyes wide open. Redglove began to slowly and carefully lift his eyes from his sockets. The screams did gymnastics off the brick walls, until he passed out from the shock. That was a bit merciful. The blood was left to drain, before they unceremoniously dropped him off at Chestnut Grove. A storm was brewing, and that would give a little more cover on any evidence they left behind.

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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My City by the Bay (Chapter 3, Part 3 of 4)

Sidewalk

The blood from the gentleman’s face drained. Hoping beyond hope that he could still play the charade, he spoke startled, “I do not understand. What is the meaning of this?” He was irritated with the emotions that lay in conflict within him. “Why did I have to step in this mess? Damn it, why did he have to get so drunk?” the gentleman thought as he pursed his lips.

“Aww, come on Benelli,” Sig sighed with the weight of his liquor. “You make a fine actor, but you didn’t put on enough concealer to hide that beauty mark near your left eye.” While the chance of it not being who he thought slim, he proceeded to add more evidence to his case. He slid up close to the impostor’s ear and whispered, “besides, you forgot to wash off that Coco Noir of yours.” He bobbled back with the impish of grins and chuckled silently.

“I didn’t want to wash it off!” Benelli was white hot and rolled right into the rough East Coast accent.

“Winner, winner, chicken dinner!” Sig danced in place like a child. “AND,” Sig was drunk enough to egg on a gang of bikers. “By the looks of it, I’d say you’re headed to the Sable Saddle’s ‘Victorian Night’ they promote so heavily, which means…” His eyes light up with devilish delight.

“Don’t say it, Sig.” Benelli was regretting her decisions with each passing sentence.

“What?! Why would I care about who winds up in your bed?” Sig raised his arms in a shrug.

“Do you realize how this could affect my work at the station, if this gets out? I can’t let this happen, Sig. It’s bad enough to listen to the jokes in the locker room!” Benelli was starting to hyperventilate with situations that haven’t come to fruition.

“Madeline,” Sig said with a firm tone. This struck Benelli off-guard, as he never calls her by her first name. After a brief pause, Sig proceeded, “you have been my partner for four years. In that time you have treated me better than anyone ever has, let alone any partner. I’ll be damned if I were to do anything to jeopardize that. I want you to stick with me, until…” Sig got distracted by the flashing “Don’t Walk” sign in the corner of his eye.

“Until?” Benelli didn’t know what to make of the speech.

“Until you get promoted.” Sig knew she was on a faster track than he in climbing the ranks. His antics were too much to fit in the upper echelon of the force. Benelli looked down at the street to compose herself.

“Thanks.” Benelli was now solemn and pensive at such a display of camaraderie.

“You’re welcome.” Sig matched her solemn nature as if he was in a poker game.

“Why are you doing this to yourself, anyway?” The more obvious issue finally came to the surface.

“Sal was a good kid. I knew him forever. No one gave him the time of day, until we met. Dammit, Benelli, I had him THIS close to getting into the academy. This close! He would have been a fine cop, and maybe he could finally have something to hang his hat on. Something to make his life worthwhile.” Sig held up his fingers, as if he were trying to crush Benelli’s head.

“I’m sorry, Sig. I didn’t know he was that close to you.”

“Aww, what’s it matter now. No one cares about another dead street rat.”

“You do. That has to count for something.”

“If I’m the best example, then that’s pretty sad. I bet his own mother is wiped out over in Hammy Park and doesn’t even know he’s dead. She may not even remember she has a son. Is that what it has come to these days? To forget there are people around us? To forget what the word “countrymen” means? To forget that we’re all in it together, for better or worse?” Sig slowly shook his head. “We’re here to protect everyone, even the junkies and bums, and I’m sore to say it’s not even close to that.”

“Yeah,” Benelli exhaled, “but at least there are some people still willing to fight for it.”

After a brief silence, Sig spoke up. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a bus to catch.” Sig straightened himself up, trying to look as dignified as he could be.

“Oh, no you don’t. You can barely walk.” Benelli jumped out of being in her head for the last few seconds.

“Madam, I am a grown man. I do not need my mommy for anything anymore. With that, enjoy your event and I shall see you later.” Sig spun around and promptly walked into a parking meter.

“Oww…”

“You’re coming with me.” Benelli said flatly.

“Oh God, she’s taking me to a gay bar. On a theme night at that! I’m not even in costume!” Sig started swaying dramatically. “My ‘Miss Havisham’ is at the cleaners right now. Oh, what a tragedy!” He paused for a second and looked at Benelli. “Who are you supposed to be, anyway?”

Phileas Fogg,” Benelli muttered while shouldering a bit of his weight.

“Oh! I thought you were Oscar Wilde for a moment there.”

“No, there’s not enough velvet here for that.”

“Oh…”

The Sable Saddle

“I can’t let him in.” The bouncer looked like Tiny’s sister, with less polish.

“Come on, Kate, do me a favor just this once. He’s all out of sorts, and I have to keep an eye on him.” It was rather amusing to see Benelli in costume without speaking the part.

“He doesn’t have a costume on, Mittens.” Sig’s eyes got wild and looked at his partner to mouth “mittens” with glee. Benelli shot him daggers back. “That’s the first rule tonight. The second rule is that I don’t let in trouble. He looks like trouble.” Sig gave the bouncer an incredulous look and then proceeded to bat his eyes at her. Kathryn folded her arms in support of her argument.

“Listen, I’ll speak with Truman and tell him that you did your job. Please, Kate? Please?!” Truman Huckleberry was mostly a pleasant man, but prone to fits, if things were disrupted or he didn’t get what he wanted. The idea of hearing another 30-minute tirade from him wasn’t the most appealing to Kathryn, but she was fond of Benelli.

Kate shifted her eyes left and right and then twisted her face. “OK… just this once, Mittens. Don’t put me in this jam again.”

“Oh, thank you. Thank you, Kate. I’m so sorry this had to happen.”

The bouncer then shifted her eyes to Sig. “…and you better not cause any trouble, asshole.” Sig said nothing, but made the loveliest of smiles. This made Kathryn’s eyes sharpen and lift her pierced nostril slightly as they passed.

The Sable Saddle was expansive. Truman had gone to great lengths to harvest what he could from the ballrooms, playhouses, and mansions of England. Its antique light washed over everything, which gave it a daguerreotype feel. While the establishment was mostly open access to everyone, the woman hung around the first floor and the men enjoyed ascending/descending the dual staircases to the second floor.

“Who the fuck is this?” Virginia was befuddled at the appearance of Sig

“This,” Benelli paused, “is my partner on the force: Sig. Sig, say hello to the ladies.”

Sig feigned a smile and muttered something incoherent.

“He reeks,” recoiled Jane, “what’s going on? Why is he here?”

“He just lost a dear friend to a horrible crime, and had one too many drinks. I couldn’t let him go home alone in this condition.” Benelli couldn’t think of anything else but to say the truth.

“Please, please, PLEASE don’t tell me he’s coming home with us.” The expression on Virginia’s face was nothing less than sheer disgust.

“Only to drop him off at his apartment.”

“You sure know how to make a bad night worse, mittens.”

Sig, who’s head was now comfortably resting in the corner of the booth with a cloth napkin over his head, let out a giggle. “Mittens!” He said with a high-pitched tone. Benelli jabbed an elbow in his side to shut him up.

On the way back home, Sig took the same stance in the back seat of Virginia’s Kia Rio as he did at the Sable Saddle. On occasion, he’d mutter something but just as soon as he did, he’d fall back to sleep.

“You must like your partner a whole lot to be doing this for him. If he were working with me in any capacity, I would have let him sleep it off in the alley.” Virginia was a lot calmer, now that time had passed, but still stewing a little about the unwelcomed visitor.

“Yeah, Kelly, I do.” Benelli rounded the corner to Tatum Avenue, which is where Sig lived. “For the longest time, I didn’t know why.” She shot her date a side glance. “After tonight, though, I think I figured it out.”

“Yeah?” Kelly was trying to remove any garments that were convenient and non-essential. “Why’s that?”

“Because he’s fighting for us. The both of us together and for each and every one of us as ourselves. He’s out there doing his job for his family. We’re all his family, and he doesn’t want to let us down.” Benelli stopped the car, and yelled to the back seat, “OK, this is your stop!”

Kelly looked at Sig through the rear-view mirror. It was too dark to tell if he was awake and listening, or asleep and oblivious. In a matter of moments the door opened up and he was hoisted out of the car.

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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My City by the Bay (Chapter 3, Part 2 of 4)

The Gentleman

Several footsteps moved down Pierce Street and could be heard for what seemed like miles. A party of four, which included the likeness of Virginia Woolf and Phileas Fogg, were on their way to a monthly event at the Sable Saddle. Preparation for such a soiree was evident by the attention devoted to look the part.  The residents in the well-to-do neighborhood of Hooker lusted for a time of courtesy and fancy. They protested city council’s decision to pave the cobble stone street years ago, and instead levied a special tax to restore it. The gas lamp posts were single-handedly afforded by the neighborhood’s wealthiest individual: Truman Huckleberry. The HOA, albeit never feeling completely satisfied in pegging the source of his wealth, was more than ecstatic to hear such funds were being devoted to infrastructure. Huckleberry’s income was always shrouded in vague responses and hasty segues.

“Why do I have to wear this ridiculous, fucking get up anyway?” Moaned Virginia.

“Because, my dear, it’s Victorian night. They won’t let you in, unless you’re dressed accordingly. You would like to be with me tonight, correct? At the very least, the vodka.” Replied Phileas.

Virginia slapped Phileas in the chest, after catching the small barb. “Yes, I want to be with you. Dammit, do we have to go into it tonight? I just want to have a drink and maybe have some fun, not get stuffed into some stupid costume of some wolf woman.”

“I understand you’re not the biggest of fans, but you can’t deny you have a strong resemblance to her. Look, Jane, Emily, and I want to go. Humor us for one night, at the very least. We can all go to Dusty Gold Studios soon.” After which, he produced his great grandfather’s pocket watch from his breast pocket. “It’s ten o’clock,” Phileas looked up at the painstakingly refurbished clock tower near town square to make sure it wasn’t in need of winding, “we should be able to get right in and get a seat.”

Making another block in quick fashion, Phileas was caught by the sounds of Liszt. Surely such a masterful performance was worthy of investigation. Peering into the extremely large picture window of Monk’s, he discovered a man wrapping up the piece with vigor. To his surprise, he knew the figure quite well.

“Ladies,” Phileas turned to the group, “please excuse me for a moment. Better yet, I’ll meet you at the Saddle. It won’t take me long.”

“What?! You can’t drag me along to some snooze fest and then ditch me just like that! What’s all this shit about ‘being with me,’ and then disappearing when you feel like it?” Howled Virginia.

“Madam Woolf, the night is still young and I shall gladly spend the majority of it with you.” Phileas then grabbed Virginia by the hips and pulled her in close. Their bodies rustled with the sound of ancient fabric. “Besides, I have something planned for you later on.” The last sentence was within an inch of their lips and they kissed softly. “You’ll definitely thank in the morning.”

Sig stood up to a standing ovation, balancing himself on the edge of the Steinway. “Fooled you all, didn’t I?” He crowed with a grin. Moving slowly, and carefully, he teetered back to his seat.

Astonished with such a surprising display of showmanship, Ginny came down the bar to meet him.

“Hey, uh, that was pretty good.” Ginny couldn’t muster much eloquence with her astonishment.

“Catherine Monroe’s piano lessons were rough, but rewarding.” Sig remarked, remembering all the times he was rapped on the knuckles with a ruler.

“Here, this is one the house, but only ONE. You got that?” She slid him a thimble full of Wild Turkey.

“You’re the greatest, red.” Sig smirked with wild eyes. That curly red hair of hers could be seen from a block away.

Ginny flushed. She was always self-conscious of the fire engine that sat atop her head. Never getting over the childhood embarrassment, she started to sputter with temper.

“NO… no, no.” Sig patted the air with his hand. “I love it. I’m not putting you on. I love it. There hasn’t been one, single time I have come in here and not been captivated by that red ocean that rolls off your forehead.” Sig put his money down with usual gratuity. “It’s more intoxicating than the whiskey.”

Sig headed out the back door, too drunk to figure out how Ginny was able to replace all the glass with brick while he was there. Within moments, he realized he needed to gain a better sense of direction. A few moments after that, he then realized he might not make it home that night. Propping himself up on a brick wall, he took a few deep breaths. The lingering taste of alcohol made him more than uncomfortable. In a notion to head for bed, he tripped over some loose cobble stone and planted his face on the pavement.

“OWwww…” Sig laid there for a good long while. He was starting to think that the ground wasn’t such a bad bed after all.

“Excuse me, good sir, but it seems you have hurt yourself.” A man in a top hat appeared in front of him.

“Am I in London? Do you have tea?” Sig’s thoughts weren’t very attached at the moment.

“Please allow me,” Phileas said as he helped up the drunk.

“Say, thank the Queen for me. She has made fine examples of manners out of her subjects.” Sig was focusing again.

“My pleasure, sir. Are you OK?”

“Aw, nothing’s broken that wasn’t already. Thanks. Say, don’t I know you?”

“Me, sir? Uh… erm… why yes! I’m Phileas Fogg from Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days.”

“No, I mean the actor. You look awfully familiar.”

“Why… no… I think you may have me mistaken for someone else.” This excited Phileas something awful, as if to fully understand the implications of being identified.

“Oh, I apologize. It’s my mistake. Would you do me a favor though?” Sig said with the best possible serious face he could muster, which wasn’t even close.

“Yes. Yes! What is it?” Relieved, Phileas could continue roleplaying.

“Say ‘Long Island’ for me.”

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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My City by the Bay (Chapter 3, Part 1 of 4)

Salvatore Miguel Castro

…or “that damned street rat” to most people who worked in Old Town. Son of a Hammy Park resident and a Columbian gentleman on a “business trip,” the street was his way of life. It had been a while since Sig thought about the first time he met Sal. How long ago was it? Six years… six years ago last August. Sig was buying lunch from a hot dog vendor during an extortion ring investigation. Old Town reeked during the summer months. Years of garbage and neglect had taken its toll on the ghetto. Sig was sure that didn’t help the level of misery pervasive on the street. They were both about as sour.

Hot dogs weren’t the most nutritious thing out there, but the cart was right around the corner from Ferris Mosley’s pawn shop. This was a couple of years before he was slated to work with Benelli. She would have never touched the stuff. That’s probably why she was able to keep fit all this time, and the MMA training didn’t hurt either. The Thomas brothers were fronting a basic protection money scheme with the local shops. They ended up getting tried and convicted under RICO, because of a few soldiers that couldn’t handle the pressure and took plea bargains. A chain’s only as strong as its weakest link.

On this particular day, Sig was fishing for his wallet and the vendor was placing the mustard back in its holder on the cart. The vendor thought his customer had taken his food, and was about to pay for it. When Sig looked up from his wallet, the bare hand was out for his money.

“So, where is it?” Sig looked blankly at the vendor’s palm.

“I gave it to you, son.” The vendor said flatly.

“Does it look like I have it?”

“It’s not like I’m giving you ‘five,’ pal. There was a dog in my hand a second ago. ”

“I don’t have it!” Sig said getting a little heated. He gestured with open hands to show there was no sketchy beef products being concealed on his person. He even went so far as to hop around on one foot, in a circle, as to prove the beef frank wasn’t artfully wedged in a pocket. Immediately after this spectacle, Sig looked around the street for answers. If it weren’t for a small hood walking away from the scene of the crime bobbing up and down, he would have been stumped.

Sig gave the hot dog jockey a couple of bucks and slowly pursued the hooded bandit. Within no time did the figure disappear into an alley. Sig casually passed the entrance and slid down the next alley over. Doubling back, he peered into the alley to see a worn pair of tennis shoes sticking out from the side of a dumpster. Crouching like a tiger in tall grass, Sig sidestepped to make sure any echoes couldn’t be detected by the little frankenthief.

“You know, kid, I could have sprung for another if you would’ve asked.” Sig’s head was the only thing visible from the dumpster.

Startled, the young urchin tried scurrying away with much rustling of plastic and paper.

“Oh, no you don’t.” Sig’s arm was now a grappling hook. “I’m not going to hurt you, or take you in, or anything like that. I just want to talk.” His eyes looked upon the boy with stern, yet surprisingly earnest quality.

“Don’t matter. They’ll just turn me loose. I ain’t worth their time. Ain’t worth anyone’s time.” The kid’s mustard smear bobbed sprightly up and down on his cheek.

“Well, you’re buying mine right now. What’s your name?”

“What’s it matter to you?” The kid was putting on the tough façade.

“More than that hot dog you just swiped, obviously. I know everyone in this town, but I don’t know you. What’s your name?” Playing it cool and logical was the only way Sig thought it could work.

“Dee Snuts!” Why do children have to be so difficult?

“That’s too bad, because I was going to get a can of Coke and chips for you. Since you seem be uninterested, I guess I’ll be going.” Sig released the kid from his hold and started to walk down the alley. It was kind of a long shot, but there wasn’t much left he could play.

“Sal.”

“Eh?” Sig turned around with an eyebrow cocked. That gamble paid off better than expected. Not only did he get a name, but he also got the kid to drop his defensiveness.

“My name is Sal.” The kid returned.

“OK, Sal, the vendor’s down that way. I hope you like Lay’s, because that’s all they’ve got.”

That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Sal would deliver the word on the street, and in return, Sig would bring a sack lunch. The kid never ate better. Sig was surprised to hear he was 13 years old, but not that he was a denizen of Hamilton Park. His mother was usually strung out and inactive, unless she was looking. She got by with using her womanhood and sticky fingers. He supposed that’s where Sal learned to lift things.

“Yeah, Sal, you sure were something else.” Sig was marveling at an empty shot glass. Ginny the proprietrix of Monk’s Piano Bar and Lounge wiped up the bar top with her rag in anxious circles. He had been in there enough times for her to know when he’s teetering on the edge of mayhem. Shots were never good omens around him, and could herald the coming of things broken. Often times he was fine. He tipped extremely well, was great conversation, and even got her car out of hock when the parking tickets finally caught up with her. Once in a blue moon, though, he was trouble with a capital T.

“Ginny, bring me the ‘Turkey’.” Sig sucked air through puckered lips.

“Oh, no you don’t!” Ginny remember the last time she did that.

“What?!”

“The last time I gave you Wild Turkey, I had a three busted bar stools and a broken jukebox!” Ginny was bound and determined not to let him do anything like that again.

“I can’t help it your patrons like terrible music.” With his face all wrinkled up, he bobbled a bit on the stool.

“No, and that’s final! I have the right to refuse service to anyone, including you.”

With a harrumph, Sig popped off the stool and headed to the piano. Many of the patrons sunk in their seat, as no good could come from a drunken man tickling the ivories. As fortune would have it, they were wrong.  Lightly rubbing his fingers, Sig took himself back to Ms. Monroe’s afterschool piano lessons. She was a spinster, but smart and sharp even at 85. She smarted his knuckles with a ruler, if the notes weren’t supposed to be anything else. Stiff taps on the keys introduced a timeless classic. Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2” chimed out of the Steinway and into the audience where a stunned, yet appreciative, crowd sipped their cocktails.

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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My City by the Bay (Chapter 2, Part 6 of 6)

A colder wind blew in off the bay carrying the sooty clouds of a rain storm. First North Harbor, then Old Town, Eddingsbrooke, the Dip, Hooker, Uptown and the Shelf were soon covered in a thick, fluffy, wet blanket. Bricks that have seen so much, coated in years of experience and age, were now coated in rain water. The precipitation sped down the sides of the ancient edifices to form continuous “vees,” as if to recall its origins.

Sig was born in the breadbox of America, in an obscure town nobody thinks about after he explains its whereabouts. It’s as irrelevant as the time he spent there. He packed his bags at 18 and headed as far west as a beat up Greyhound bus could take him. His ship landed him here. Over the years, he dismissed that period of time and considered his true birth the moment he walked off that bucket of bolts stiffer than a med student’s specimen. Since then, he has spied every nook, cranny, alley, storefront, bypass, rooftop, park bench, and sewer line this place has to offer. He knows more people here than many of the actual natives and can give you a dossier on plenty, from the junkies in Hamilton Park to the blue-satin-party-dress debutantes of Uptown.

This place. This chunk of dirt. This is his town, and these are his people. That’s why he joined the force all those years ago. You protect the ones you love, and if you’re lucky, they’ll love you for it. Sometimes, when he feels lost, he’ll drive up to Bailey’s Point on the Shelf. There he’ll watch the twinkling lights of the neighborhoods and the spike-like spotlights of uptown. Whether it’s his imagination or not, it always seems like those lights are winking and waving at him. Like she’s waving at him, as if to say she appreciates what he does and loves him as her son. She doesn’t care how much of a screw up he has been, because she knows he’s only trying to do her right. Today, though, she was crying.

Rain falls from such a height you barely think about when it initially starts. You know when it hits you. It’s like out actions. For try as we might, any action can have unforeseen consequences. This unforeseen consequence lay dead in Chestnut Grove.

Benelli threw the GTS in park at the cemetery gates with all of the other flatfeet. Yellow police tape made a challenging cat’s cradle at the front entrance, which the two detectives straddled with robotic accuracy. For its ominous reputation and unfortunate location, Chestnut Grove was a rather charming spot. Goth geeks would love its old-school approach to death and grieving with its worn mausoleums and towering obelisks decrying a faith they discarded ages ago. Half-broken angels by vandals with a beef with God, and ditches from the occasional grave robber foretold of its security (or lack thereof). The unkempt trees gave the perfect signals to criminals that this place was low priority on the city’s watch list.

“I thought you guys rarely patrolled this area.” Sig said in a rather cynical tone.

“We do, plenty of times. This time we got an anonymous call.” The cop was almost trying to save face, but not quite.

“Who’s the victim?” Benelli stopped the argument before it started.

The cop rolled his tongue around in his mouth and proceeded. “We’ve got a John Doe here. Time of death was only a few hours ago. He’s missing both eyes and his kidneys. We fairly sure it’s linked to the organ trafficking.”

“Also could be a message.” Sig’s eyes shot up from the reflections the puddles made on the ground. Their wobbly images reminded him of a funhouse he went to a long time ago. “He probably saw something has shouldn’t have.”

“It’s possible.” Benelli glanced at her watch, “let’s go check John out. Lead the way officer.”

All four proceeded into the graveyard. There were plenty of overgrown paths and trash strewn about the memorials. Sig squinted in the rain to catch the names on the tombstones. Some of the white marble slabs have faded into obscurity, but there were enough to keep him guessing how the deceased was once connected with the town, where they lived, what they probably looked like. No one else said a word. It, in and of itself, was like a funeral procession: everyone thinking along the lines of their personalities. Benelli was probably reviewing the case and trying to think of leads before she had evidence. Sig was trying to recreate the past, and the two officers were probably thinking about lunch.

“Herrrrrrre’s Johnny!” The one officer said, probably trying to shake off his nerves. “They really carved him up like a Thanksgiving turkey.”

“That’s not John.” Sig said with a sick stomach.

“What?” Benelli twisted her head around enough to catch Sig with her right eye.

“That’s Sal.”

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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