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"Another. It’s been a long night.” I took my glass of brandy to the corner of the bar and slumped myself into the nearest seat. My necktie was strangling me, so I yanked at it till the thing was loose, and let it slip to the floor. The more I drank, the faster time went by, and pretty soon I would lose track of the hours.
For a while, all my ears could make out was the rambling of drunken knaves, quarreling with each other about who knew what. I squeezed my eyes shut and breathed out viciously through my teeth, as if that would somehow block out the noise. My stomach burned, and my skull was metaphorically being caved in by a mace. I considered reaching for my gun and blowing my brains out there, and then to get some rest, but thought better of it.
After a couple more drinks my thoughts had finally stopped wandering. I scanned my surroundings to find that I was the last man in the room. The barman had abandoned his post, and all other bar-dwellers had trudged home to their apartments, or home to whatever dingy alleyway they’d emerged from in the first place. It seemed my only company was the blues track wailing out of the jukebox.
Deciding I ought to leave before I passed out, I snatched my tie off the filthy floorboards, and flung it over my shoulder, then lit myself a smoke while knocking open the back exit, heading out into the annoyingly bright haze of the purple and pink streetlights, most of which were buzzing aggressively as I passed them.
I rolled up the sleeve of my coat, which had become soggy with alcohol, and checked my wristwatch: 3:36 AM. This of course is about the busiest time for a cop in this city, this is when everyone comes out to play. Whatever shitstorm anyone feels like brewing tonight, well, they’ll more than likely get away with it, and they know it.
The truth is, I can hardly give a shit.
Then again, if we had a motto, that would more than likely be it. It’d go something like:
New York Police Department – ‘We Can Hardly Give a Shit’
Everything’s gone south again, and that’s how the city likes it. All the criminals worth paying attention to are back out on the streets: gunfights, angry mobs, sorcery, trafficking, gangs, we got it all. But allow me a moment of self-reflection; hell, who are you to judge?
I slithered down the back alleys of the roughest area in town, and I’ll admit I felt right at home. Do I like that or not? I couldn’t tell you, even if I wanted to. Continuing my pleasant night stroll, I wound up about the rears of clubs, warehouses, and convenient stores in the gloom and mist. When I reached an abandoned parking lot, I passed a substantial number of junkies and prostitutes who wouldn’t have looked out of place in the morgue. I stopped walking. The cigarette between my fingers had already been decreased to a little stub, so after inhaling one more time, I flicked it onto the concrete ground.
I peered into the purple fog, making out the silhouettes of various figures who appeared to be slowly approaching me. It was straight out of a John Carpenter movie. After examining the scene like I was at some goddamn art gallery, I decided to continue my patrol; you should never stick around to find out who’s lurking among these shadows.
I was in a dreamlike state this night, and that’s not helpful to anybody. When I reached my street, I found that it was practically dead tonight, bar the dwarf rooting through a dumpster outside the liquor store. There was a strange tranquillity in the murky air, some kind of odd stillness. But don’t get too comfortable, we’re in the most dangerous city you’ve never heard of.
After climbing the hollow, impossibly creaky stairs up to my apartment, I checked my room to see if it was how I’d left it. It seemed that way. The desk was dimly lit by the neon blue lamp so that I could just about see my case files from across the room, untampered with. The kitchen was a mess, there were vinyl records all over the floor, and the trash can was overflowing with paper. I checked my drawers; the selection of handguns and combat knives were all there. I scratched my chin. I ought to clean up.
I slammed up the window and leaned over the edge of the frame, peering onto the streets below like Batman, if Batman was a 5’9”, Magic Bean-addicted, apathetic cop with impossible-to-untangle, straw-like blond hair dangling chaotically behind his ears and splayed across his shoulders.
I felt the light breeze. Somehow it was colder in the apartment than it was outside. While my thoughts began wandering again, I caught myself staring across into some other apartment. I blinked and shook my head to bring myself back to earth, then began to bring down the window, but just as I did so, I heard a strange wailing sound traveling through the darkened streets. I listened. I heard it; a horrible scream, a scream that could make the Big Bad Wolf quiver (well, maybe not quite).
I’m too tired for this shit.
I reached into my breast pocket, took out a Magic Bean—my last one—and threw it down my throat with a shot of bourbon, clicking my neck and exhaling heavily while the burning sensation grasped my chest. My .45 was locked and loaded, the bean’s effects would soon be kicking in.
Once again, I found myself traversing the purple fog of dying Manhattan, surely about to be cruelly greeted by any nefarious scenario that could ever materialize in a world like this.
I arrived at the source of the scream within minutes thanks to the Magic Bean. I had prepared myself for some sort of banshee or a witch, but the scream had emanated from some regular woman, who was now running frantically and pathetically away from me.
“Ma’am,” I said, “what’s the problem?”
She just continued to run.
“Well go home, it’s not safe.” I grunted, waved her away and headed toward the street she’d emerged from.
There was a group of about twenty people huddled around something on the ground, right in front of the massive Sultan Hotel, which towered over every other building on the block. I tried to shove my way through the crowd, but it didn’t budge. Everyone just continued murmuring and gossiping about whatever it was they’d found. “Alright, move it, police.”
Someone shouted, “You’ve let it ‘appen again! Ya bloody pipsqueak moron…”
I looked down. It was Doc, leader of the Seven Dwarves. Pipsqueak? I thrust my boot into his stomach. He yelled. A few of members of the mob turned to look, but he didn’t hold their gaze for long.
Doc said, “Fackin’ nerve of it,” and stumbled off further down the street, clutching his belly.
I fired my gun five times into the night sky, and with a chorus of screams, the crowd dispersed, revealing to me what had been claiming their attention. My arm stayed in its upright position and I raised my eyebrows. “Damn,” I whispered. I was hit by a stench, it reeked of burned omelets. Yellow goo trickled along the curb toward my boots. It was streaming out of a demolished corpse.
Humpty Dumpty had had a great fall.
I turned to my audience, who had now backed off slightly, and pointed the gun. “Nobody move.” Then I called it in on my radio. “Uh, we got a body—another body—Sultan Hotel, multiple witnesses, get down here.” I added, “It’s Mr. Dumpty’s body, by the way, maybe that’ll pique your interest.” I smirked to myself like an asshole. “Who’s willing to speak?” I asked.
“Look, I can easily pin this on one of you unfortunate souls if I feel like it. Don’t test me, it’s been a long day.”
A voice said, “Hey, buddy, who’s gonna talk when they got a gun in their face?”
I motioned my arm closer to the crowd with a jolt, “Shut the fuck up. Are you insinuating I can trust any of you thugs not to pull a knife on an officer of the law when given the chance?”
“What law?” yelled another voice. Some members of the crowd murmured in agreement.
“Good point,” I conceded.
After a few more minutes of arguing with the civilians and getting nowhere, the street began flashing red and blue as three cop cars came cruising onto the scene. Three cars? I thought to myself, generous of the sheriff to send the entire department down. There was a total of six other officers with me. I was by far the most senior of the lot, but that doesn’t mean I’ve earned their respect. It’s more like the opposite. I spoke before they could.
“Round up the witnesses. Get answers, use whatever force you have to.”
“What about the body, Slade?” said one of them who I didn’t recognize.
“I’m taking care of it. You look around the hotel, ask around, find out which room he was staying in.”
The officer stood there with his hands in his pockets, chewing a piece of gum with his mouth open, staring me down. I stared back and shrugged before crouching down and beginning my examination of the corpse. The guy eventually turned to stroll into The Sultan Hotel.
I looked up. “Ey, Officer, what’s your name?”
“Piper, Sir,” he replied.
“Piper, huh? Let me know what you find in there, Officer Piper.”
He gave me an ironic salute and sauntered on inside. I decided I didn’t like him.
Death by falling. These are difficult ones. Though, perhaps not so difficult in this case. Mr. Humpty Dumpty was a jerk, and way too proud to off himself. He had many business ties, and many ‘friends’. This is where it gets fun, and very, very dangerous. Obviously, this was a murder scene, and the killer knew what they were doing. The strain that comes with classifying the manner of death when it comes to falls from height is a handy tool for the offender. Killing someone by sending them out of a window makes them pretty much undetectable, especially with a police force as inept as ours. But Dumpty was close with the police; we, rather they, have scratched his back for years. However this turned out, it was not my place to be, and by asserting myself on this case I’d be setting myself up for, more than likely, my death.
I’ll give it a shot.
“It’s late, Detective. You should get some sleep,” rumbled a voice from behind me.
I rose to my feet inside a ginormous shadow. Conveniently, on a night like tonight, the sheriff had decided to make a rare appearance. The sheriff is a beast of a man, barely human in appearance. He stands at near seven feet I would wager, and looks to be around half a thousand pounds in weight. He is sickening. As are his personal habits, but I’ll spare you the details for now.
“Go home, Slade,” he continued. “How can I rely on one of my detectives to be ready for a job at any given moment if he is wandering the streets at four in the morning drunk and high?”
I pointed to the eggshell behind me, “I am on a case. And I’m not high.”
“I never liked those beans you insist on using, Jack. Surely you aren’t relying on drugs in order to be proficient at your job, are you?” A frown suddenly appeared on his face and he took two steps toward me. His breath reeked of shit, and sweat was forming on his receding hairline.
I stood my ground. “I’m the best in the department. Are you questioning my ability to solve a crime?”
“Mr. Dumpty was one of the most important people in this city, and also happened to be a good friend of mine, as I’m sure you well know. If I say that you stay out of these unfortunate circumstances, then I expect you do exactly that.
“Who will you put on the case, then?”
“Don’t question me. Know your place, Detective.”
“Why don’t I go and check Dumpty’s room? I’m sure I’ll find some substantial evidence.” I pointed to the line of officers who were standing around pointlessly.
“What, these guys here are gonna figure this thing out, are they?”
“Evidence of what, exactly? You don’t know what you’re looking for.”
I scoffed. “Somehow I get the feeling I know exactly where this is going.
“Listen here, boy,” spat the sheriff through gritted brown teeth, “perhaps you should consider the possibility that you are not quite as good as you think you are, you are very replaceable, I can assure you. Don’t step out of line, who knows where you might end up.”
“Are you threatening me?”
The sheriff hissed, “Of course I’m threatening you!” and grabbed me by the collar. “You are playing a dangerous game, you arrogant little prick.” He slowly looked to his right, where the crowd and officers alike looked on, amused. He released his grip. “And what are y’all looking at?”
“I’ve already slain one giant fuck, I’m not afraid to do it again.” A collection of the onlookers burst into laughter, others covered their mouths in disbelief, almost including me. Did I just hand in my notice? No. I think I just signed my own death warrant, “Ah, allow me to rephrase th-”
Crack goes my cheekbone. The sheriff delivered a hammy fist right to my face that sent me crashing to the ground, then I wheezed as the massive man dropped a knee onto my midsection, and got his repulsive mouth an inch from my bleeding ear.
“Yes, pretty boy,” he breathed, “but this time there’s no fucking beanstalk to climb down. You try anything and you’ve got nowhere to run, remember that.” I feared the worst. No, not a bullet through the head or a curb stomp; for a second, I thought he was gonna try and lick me across the face as he does to the helpless working girls he hires. But to my relief, he struggled back up to his feet, and began walking backwards toward the hotel.
I scrambled away as fast as I could. My vision was a blur and my balance was impossible to retain.
“Run away! Run away, you knave!” the monster roared behind me. I considered reaching for my gun and putting some bullets in him, but there was no way to pull it off without being torn to shreds first.
I would do it another day.