Tag Archives: Crime

Static Conversation

Bands of rope tightly wound around my wrists and burned slightly as I shifted in the chair. Upright and restrained, my back muscles tensed under the anxiety. It felt like being in front of my high school speech class again, only this time the idea of dying might be more literal. That wasn’t including the confusion of winding up here.

This headache was the worst ever. Liquor has done strange things before, but maybe someone hit me from behind? It’s anyone’s guess. Too drunk to feel anything then, I certainly do now. My surroundings make for what’s known at the moment. There is no reason for me to be here. Misunderstandings happen all the time. This has to be one of them… I hope. Where is this place, anyway?

The room dealt with shipping, as crates stacked three to four pallets high lined the walls. This had to be some sort of warehouse. A slowly-swirling vent fan made for the sole light source in the building. Its blades became a distorted starfish pattern on the floor in front of a table with what seemed to be homemade devices. That doesn’t make one comfortable in the least.

To add stress, an unwelcome visitor decided my leg was an interesting landmark. Long whiskers grazed the front of my shin and a furry muzzle felt at my ankle. “Shoo!” blew in short puffs while I tried to wiggle free. That merely managed to frighten the rodent, and it made a response in the form of teeth. Feeling a stinging sensation gave me the spirit to yell and bobble the chair a few inches backward. My captor(s) now realized I was awake.

“I hope you don’t mind the basic accommodations, Mr. Ellison.” A shade-blackened figure stared at me from over the table. The glint of the sun seemed to focus on his bald head. Even after hard concentration, his voice and figure did not hold any clues to his identity. From what could be seen, the illuminated skin was eggshell, a hallmark of a desk job. “We were in a bit of a pinch.”

“Who are you? Why did you call me that? Why am I here? What do you want from me?” That seemed to cover all of the bases for the time being. Whether they’d be answered sufficiently was another matter entirely.

“You know who has interrogative authority in this situation, Mr. Ellison. This histrionic behavior will not go unpunished.” With a slight wave of his hand, he emphasized the devices on the table. Pausing for a moment, he looked down at them too. Grabbing what appeared to be a coffee grinder with wires, he approached my chair. There he threaded the copper wire around my fingers. Sparks erupted from the box when he spun the handle around. It scraped like an old magneto telephone.

The shock was beyond painful. There wasn’t much to do, save bending over as a reflex and making guttural noises. A sigh came from above me and he rested himself on the edge of the table. The sound of my breath kept the room from being silent.

“Since you seem to have selective memory, I’ll lay out the details of what we already know. Your name isn’t Harold Katzinger; you’re Finbarr Ellison. You’re wanted by INTERPOL on a long list of espionage charges. You’re currently in America to sell sensitive information, namely coordinates to our confidential weapons development facilities, to a private buyer. To be brief, Mr. Ellison, we want to know who that buyer is.”

“You’re full of shit, buddy. Gyaaaaaaaah!” That wasn’t the wisest answer in the world.

“One last time, Mr. Ellison,” the voice was now through gritted teeth, “to whom are you going to deliver those coordinates? You might as well tell us now, and you may get a fair trial. We’re nice like that. If you won’t cooperate with us, we could simply leave you in any remote area we please to let you starve to death. I’m partial to the Mojave, but Alaska has a certain charm. Nobody will ever find your body either way. “

“I am Harold Katzinger. I’m an American citizen. I’m not a spy. I don’t have any coordinates, and I don’t want to know any coordinates. You’re hurting an innocent man. Let me go. You’re violating my rights!” How could anyone confuse me, the man who once affixed a rafter square to his forearm with superglue, for some cunning secret agent?

Uttering a string of profanity, my companion grabbed the coffee grinder and violently twisted the handle more times than I could count. Any more than once was way too many.  My arm hair bristled with current as my limbs went numb.

“MOTHERFAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” I was convinced my fingers fell off. It took forever to stop, and once it did, there wasn’t much fight left in me. My muscles relaxed and my head fell forward again. Feeling the heat from my eye sockets, my breath became more stable. The stench of burnt hair reached my nose but I was too tired to care. Fading out from exhaustion, I could hear parts of a new conversation.

“What do you think? Is he telling the truth?” A voice with heavier footsteps came in from my right. We weren’t alone.

“He’s definitely hiding something. I’ve never met a more natural liar.” The interrogator turned his back to walk out.

“What do we do with him now?” The deeper, husky voice was obviously a subordinate.

“Keep him here for all I care,” came the reply. “He’ll doing the same thing soon enough.”

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Bless Me, If You Can

Violent rain laid sheets of water on the already weather-beaten facade of St. Francis de Sales. Slick, daggered fingers caressed the building with a day long temptation of eternal ruin. Peering out his office window, Father Molony stared at the smoky tufts creeping off to the east. “Heaven is crying today, Sister Catherine, and it doesn’t look like its showing signs of stopping.”

“It’ll be done when it’s good and ready,” replied the nun as she went about her way to the chancel.

“It certainly will,” Molony muttered with a brief sweep of the grounds. The trees were not yet coming out of Winter hibernation and a figure made itself known in between the barren branches of the oaks. It came closer at a hurried pace, splashing along the sidewalks and roads with little regard to the rest of the world. The long, drawn out complaint of a car horn came through the glass as the person was nearly hit by a Cadillac.

The curtain was dropped, and the priest made his way out into the vestibule. Molony’s face pulled taught as he reached the front door of the church. Cold weather blew in strong gusts, as he and his frantic companion forced the door shut. Letting the man rest a moment, he studied the figure now sopping wet from his journey. He seemed older, but only through stress. His panting gave way to a garbled greeting and gratitude.

“I need to confess, father. I’m torn apart!” Smoothing out his chestnut-colored hair made a few extra puddles on the marble floor. Turning his head to the priest, the pain in his grey eyes could only have come from deep guilt.

“Of course, my son. Right this way.” With an outstretched arm, he lead the stranger to the booths for what he thought was the lesson in adultery or some sort of sexual perversion.

Dark as it was, the booths were warm from the antiquated radiator a few steps away. Stuffy almost, as it seemed Malony needed to open the door a crack to let cooler air in. A step outside in this weather may be beneficial to a man cooped up inside for too long. It might even throw off this sluggishness he had been feeling as of late.

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. My greed has lead to the deaths of many. People have died for my comfort, and they will all be waiting in Hell when I die. They’ll be ready to exact their revenge upon my wretched spirit. Oh God, what have I done!”

“Yes, my son, what exactly have you done to believe this?” The priest was waiting for something melodramatic and a molehill rather than a mountain.

“I signed a contract with the Devil. In basic terms, he would teach me the secret of distilling the best whiskey on Earth and I would be rewarded with prosperity, fame, and the finest of women. Being that I was a divorced nobody without a dollar to my name, I didn’t care about my soul. I was in a state of desperation and apathy. By my logic, I was Hell-bound regardless of what I did. The chance to be wealthy for a hot minute was too much to handle.”

Molony tried very hard to weigh the truth in the man’s words. The whole thing sounded absurd, but he was in the business of believing all sorts of spiritual activity. His guest was not guileful; his words were as grave and sober as a judge. The energy from his visitor reeled him in like a fish.

“It was later revealed to me the whiskey was enchanted to drain the life out of all who drank it. This was a highly addictive concoction. It was slow enough to go unnoticed, but the person would eventually lose all will and become the property of Satan. His minions would be in charge of shipping the victims back to Hell for consumption as the Dark Lord sees fit.” The voice was now down to a whisper, as if he were trying to avoid sharing the secret with someone else occupying his seat. He shuffled closer to the window.

“The lackeys transport the souls back to Hell through water. Baths, sinks, pools… this rain! As we speak people are riding the downpour to the entrance of Hell! Their bodies are so weak in spirit, they dissolve and spend days seeping into the dirt. I’ve watched good customers melt like wax in front of me. It’s terrifying, and it’s all my fault, father! It’s all… all my fault.” Leaning up against the wall, he began to cry quietly. He’d committed a terrible evil among humanity and could only hope his repentance would do something to ease the pain.

The clergyman removed the hand from his mouth. “You have sinned quite deeply, my son. While Heaven forgives those for the sins of the past, no one can guarantee forgiveness in perpetuity. God may be merciful, but He isn’t blind. Your inability to prevent further mayhem will fall upon your shoulders, and you will have to face His decision on Judgment Day.” Without a sound, Father Molony found his pocket flask and rubbed it between his forefinger and thumb. He, too, had been drinking whiskey that day.

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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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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A Queen’s Ransom

“All right, lad. Tell us the whole story.”  Detective Hargrave slid the recorder over to Wally ‘Cupper’ Cupington. Black coffee swayed to and fro in a mug that was recently laid down before him. Scraped and bruised, he was pretty shaken up. Silence seemed a long lost friend.

“Can I smoake?” he looked up with his hand on the pack.

“Depends, boy. Do you have anything to say for the record?” Hargrave looked at the camera in the corner of the room. Hopefully Inspector Brixton wouldn’t have a problem with the violation. The ends justified the means.

“We ‘ad a request in for some jewls from our contact in Mossco. They weren’t very specific, but we assumed they were for some Russian oil magnates trying to tar’up their laydies.”

“If they were oil magnates, then why didn’t they buy their goods over there? They have the money.” Typical bobby logic. He always admitted having a difficult time understanding the criminal mind.

“Because it gets ‘em off. Gifts are nice, but stolen sweets are sweetah, eh mate?” Cupper smiled to a tough crowd. What’s it going to hurt spilling some criminal philosophy all over the case? It’s not like he was going anywhere.

*****

“Wot’s ‘at?” Beany looked at the Smith & Wesson .357 magnum.

“Eet’s a gun, you tit.” Oliver shot back.

“Wot yoo need it foah?”

“Don’t be stewpid! Wot ealse?!”

“I don’t need a gun. I got me knife.”

“Good for yoo, mate. Now git in the car!” Gears pointed to the backseat. The Jaguar XJ Supersport was filled to the brim with criminal veterans. John ‘Beany’ Bell squeezed into the backseat with Oliver Hastings and Jack Irons. Cupper took the front passenger-side seat. Mick ‘Gears’ Gall put the saloon car in drive and headed toward their destination. “You ‘member the plan, mate?” Gears said looking through the rear-view mirror. [1]

Victoria Quarter was the target, or more precisely the jewelry store on Briggate. That seemed as good a place to fill their Muscovite order, and they were a flashy lot. Flaunting their activities in front of the law was half the fun. At their destination, the crew milled about the foot path until the perfect moment. When the time was right, they would all converge on the spot better than any synchronized swimming team. It was a perk of working with the same crew for years.

After waiting for the police carts to run down field, all four put their rubber masks on and rushed into the store. They were four of a kind, all Queens of England: Cupper was Elizabeth II, Beany was Victoria, Hastings was Mary, and Irons was Anne. Gears, as the name would suggest, sat on the Headrow waiting to speed off with the spoils.

In a police car not too far away, Constable Penney was finishing his snack of marmite and biscuits. Licking his fingers he stared wide-eyed at the dispatch of a robbery in progress at Victoria Quarter. He lit up the squad car and sped towards the scene of the crime. This was it! This could get him that promotion he wanted. Salty spread coated the wheel as he turned the streets into a racetrack.

Everything was going according to plan: Elizabeth gave the speech while the other three collected the merchandise. They had ninety seconds before they had to split. They might have actually made it to Hull for export, if it weren’t for the jewelry store attendant having a panic attack. It all started in the pit of her stomach, a knot or two at the realization of it all. Tremors began to creep up her legs and her breathing quickened. By the time Mary got to her with the bag, she yelled out, “I CAN’T DO THIS!”

Mary flinched and pulled the trigger. The slug tagged the attendant and threw her up against the wall with all screams that followed. “Shit! Shit! Shit! I didn’t mean t’do that!” The six-shooter shook in Mary’s hand, and the delay was costly. Finally pulling herself together, she smashed the display case and scooped the jewels into the bag.

“Thirtee Seconds!” Screamed Elizabeth. “Get it all up and go!” Victoria, Mary, and Anne bagged up their trove and signaled to go. With all three running out, Elizabeth backed out slowly. “It has been the utmost pleazuh visiting you all, moy loyal subjects. Give moy regards to thuh MP for me.” A backwards hop, and Elizabeth was out the door.

Bolting for the Jaguar, the four plowed through several shoppers and bystanders. People became pins as the team bowled their way to the Headrow. Constable Penney jumped out of his vehicle and ran full tilt towards the gang. At the very last moment, he caught Victoria by the arm and a searing pain only pepper spray could deliver stopped him from going any further. Victoria wasn’t going to go down Mary’s path.

Royalty packed into the getaway car and became men once again. Tucking the stolen goods under the seat, Mick made a course for the A64 [2], which wouldn’t be easy. He would have to navigate through city streets laid out like spaghetti. As he made his way to a major artery, the familiar sound of sirens could be heard.

“It’s the rozzers! They’re on to us early.” Mick shouted at the top of his lungs. He made a jackrabbit turn onto York Road at the last minute. This threw the police off slightly, and two squad cars went sailing over the concrete island in the middle of the intersection. He looked over his shoulder to smile at his handiwork and then turned his attention back to the road. Unfortunately, he realized too late that he was going to merge with a lorry driver who wasn’t paying attention himself while changing lanes.

The impact at 130 KmH sent the Jaguar into the side wall and over on its top. By the time the police regrouped, there was little that could be done. The job was ruined and the authorities were stuck with the gruesome task of clean up.

*****

“It was only heist. It was straightfo’ward and simple. It wasn’t supposed to end like this.” Cupper sat the mug down on the interviewing table and pinched his brow. He missed his crew all ready. They were the closest thing to a family he had. Now they were all in the morgue. Hargrave pushed the button on the recorder. “Yeah, a heist that went all wrong. ‘The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley.’” [3]

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

——–

Soundtrack:

[1] – “Gansters” by The Specials. Track 1, The Singles Collection, 2 Tone/Chrysalis. 9 January 1991.

[2] – “Song 2” by Blur. Tracks 2, Blur, Food. 10 February 1997.

[3] – “What Do I Get?” by Buzzcocks. Track 2, Singles Going Steady, EMI. November 1981. 

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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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