The next morning, Chris came walking in, and seemed to delight in reciting a poem he had composed.
Red Dog’s dead and in the ground.
His remains will not be found.
Where he went, no one will tell.
Let’s just hope he burns in Hell.
After a few raised eyebrows, all the boys ordered their coffee and decided it would be a good day for a big breakfast.
Maude loved that the boys kept her in the loop, and listened intently while they talked about the bizarre circumstances surrounding the death of Red Dog, and how there were absolutely no leads whatsoever.
Chris jokingly said, “oh! Well, let’s not forget the phantom. What was it Richie? The Beautiful, willowy blonde that baggy pants John said he saw?” Floyd said, “you mean saggy britches Jack?” Chris rolled his eyes and said, “yeah. He was there and apparently seeing beautiful apparitions, while falling down drunk.” Richie looked at Chris and sternly said, “that’s enough.”
Floyd said, “you know him, don’t you Richie?” Richie said, “yeah, but he didn’t really see anything and I’ll tell you guys something. Every one of us takes an oath to uphold the law, but I’m not going to spend a whole lot of my time trying to find the killer of a killer. All I know is that piece of scum is off the streets and it’s a better world. Now if something happened to fall onto my desk one day, I might take a look at it. That is, if I don’t have anything better to do, like play a round of golf.”
After a hearty laugh, Richie asked Gary how his case was going. Gary said, “oh, you know. Nobody knows anything. Nobody saw anything.”
Floyd said, “there was one the other night, wasn’t there?” Gary said, “yep. She’s the fourth. Throat slashed almost to the point of decapitation. There’s been one every week.”
Chris said, “is it their John?” Gary said, “we think it is but we’ve got nothing to tie him to the murders, except familial modus operandi.” Chris said, “whoa. Who are you trying to impress with those big fifty-cent words? Do you think they make you sound like a hot-shot or something?”
Gary was a little peeved by Chris’ remark but let it go and continued his conversation. “We get the call when somebody finds a body. The last one was thrown into a dumpster and she was only sixteen years old. Nobody really cares about them because they’re just nameless, working girls and none of them will talk to us because they’re afraid if they do, they’ll end up in an alley, or a dumpster. Remember that one girl who came to us because she was afraid? She’d gotten a pretty brutal beating by her John. You know, the one they call the Six-Foot Savage. The poor girl. I guess she thought we could protect her somehow, and we might have been able to…if she’d just quit working. Kind of makes you wonder what happened to these girls, doesn’t it? They just get forgotten.”
Floyd asked who was working the case with him. Gary said, “McAvoy.” Floyd laughed and said, “shoot, we call him Drunken Hines McAvoy. Haven’t you ever noticed how many times he needs to run back to the cruiser for a little ‘liquid courage’?”
Gary said, “you mean he likes the sauce?” Floyd said, “uh, that’s putting it mildly. You’ve never smelled the fresh scent of Altoids on his breath?” Gary said, “now that you mention it, he does tend to hang back and let me take the lead on all of our calls. If he’s a lush, how is he still around?”
Floyd said, “he’s short and they didn’t want to fire him. If they did, he would lose his pension, so they’re letting him ride out his last few months. Five years ago, his only son blew himself up in his meth lab and McAvoy was the one who found him…or what was left of him. I don’t imagine you really get over something like that. But I will tell you this, Gary. You better watch your six. At this stage in his life, if you got into a gunfight, he’d be the one who showed up with a fork.”
Richie switched gears and surprised Maude when he said, “Maude, where is your lonesome dove? I haven’t seen him today.” Maude said, “yeah, he didn’t come in, but yesterday he left a napkin that he had doodled on.” She still had it in her apron pocket and was taking it out when Chris said, “don’t tell me. It said, ‘run away with me and be my woman’.”
Floyd and Richie looked at him in a way that Chris knew was a reprimand. What he said didn’t really sting Maude and she quickly retorted, “honey, I’m old enough to be his mother.” She surprised him when she bent down and softly said, “take a break, honey. You don’t have to be a prick every day.”
She had noticed a subtle change in Chris, just as Richie had. He had developed a sarcastic attitude, and her quip was her muted way of letting him know that she was not his comic foil. What he said to her, his remark to Richie about the “phantom, willowy blonde” and his snide comment to Gary, were examples of a side she had never before seen, and she didn’t like it.
After a brief moment of surprised silence, they all laughed, and it was apparent that Chris appreciated Maudes’ wisecrack.
A week later, another anonymous tip came into the station about another body being found. Gary and McAvoy hurried to the scene and found the John, aka the Six-Foot Savage, laying in an alley. His throat had been cut almost to the point of decapitation. Since it was early in the watch, McAvoy still had a few of his wits about him, and said, “well, this is what I would call some sort of poetic justice.”
The coroner had already arrived and estimated the time of death at about two in the morning. Chris and Floyd were both in the area when they heard the call come over the radio, and decided to stop by. Gary walked over to Floyd and told him that the body had been found by “Sammy the Rat.”
Sammy was one of the local homeless. He got the name because he lived in the alley with rats. He would share bits of food he had scrounged from the dumpster, but if he hadn’t found anything in several days, he would catch one of the rats and eat it.
Sometimes he would walk through the town with one or two clinging to his coat. If they weren’t there the next day, everybody knew that Sammy had gotten hungry and the rat population had decreased by a few.
Chris walked over while Gary was trying to get Sammy to tell him if he had seen anything. Sammy said, “yeah, yeah, I think I seen something, but it wasn’t like anything I ever seen before.”
Chris stooped down and mockingly said, “I bet you saw a beautiful, willowy blonde, didn’t you?”
Sammy looked up and gestured with his hand like he was trying to touch something. He said, “yeah. That’s it. A beautiful, willowy blonde. That’s what I seen.”
Chris stood up and in a disgusted voice said, “oh boy. We’ve got another crazy on our hands. This guy’s obviously been talking to baggy pants John.”
Sammy looked confused as he asked, “who’s baggy pants John?” Gary looked at Chris and said, “saggy pants JACK. Then he looked at Sammy and said, “just tell me what you saw.” Sammy again looked toward the sky and said, “I think she was an angel.”
Chris spread his arms out and said, “so, did she have wings…like this?” Sammy said, “I didn’t see none. She just kind of floated by but she wasn’t high up.” Chris said “oh. So she was one of those angels like in the song…you know…angels flying too close to the ground.”
Sammy said, “yeah. Just like them.” Gary was annoyed with Chris and waved him off.
After Chris left, Gary tried again to get Sammy to tell him a bit more. Sammy said, “well, I was just laying here with Marci and Poodle.” Gary interrupted him and said, “wait, who are Marci and Poodle?” Sammy said “they’re two of my favorite rats. They sleep real close to me. I had just drifted off to sleep when I thought I heard a noise.”
Gary asked, “what kind of noise?” Sammy said, “a kind of thump.” Gary said, “a thump? Sammy said, “yeah, like somebody falling down or something, but I was sleepy and just a tad bit indisposed, if you know what I mean, so I can’t be sure.”
Then what?” asked Gary. Sammy said, “then I looked up and saw this angel coming down the alley. I thought she was coming for me, but she walked on by. I figured the good Lord wasn’t after sending for me yet, so I just went back to sleep.”
Gary walked over to Floyd and said, “looks like we have an angel sighting. I guess it’s going to be one of those days.”
Floyd’s radio sounded. After he answered, he said, “geeze. Stella’s been robbed again. Let’s go.”
The next morning at the Waffle Shack, Chris, Richie and Gary were musing about what they were going to do next. “I guess we’ll have to go back to handing out parking tickets,” said Richie, “and that’s just fine with me.”
Their cases hadn’t been technically solved but as far as they were concerned, they were closed. Gary said, “hell, we may as well help Floyd with his convenience store robberies. He had another one yesterday. Where is he, by the way?”
Richie said, “you didn’t hear?”
“Hear what?” asked Gary. “Remember, I was a little busy with Sammy the Rat and his ‘angel’.” Then he said “do you think there’s anything to the suggestion that Chris made about talking to saggy britches Jack?” Richie said “I think that’s a good idea. You know all those guys know each other.”
Gary interrupted and said, “what were you saying about Floyd?”
Richie said, “somebody killed Stella.” Gary was stunned. He said, “what do you mean somebody killed Stella? She got robbed just about every other week but she never got hurt.”
Richie said, “yesterday, she decided that she wasn’t going to give them any more money. Floyd told her every time they came for money, that she was doing the right thing by just letting them have it. He said, “it’s not worth your life, Stella.”
Richie said, “this is going to tear Floyd up.” As soon as Richie said that, Floyd walked in the door, looking much like Chris had looked after the old man had been killed.
Maude handed him a cup of coffee and asked if he was hungry. Floyd thanked her but told her that he was too tired to eat.
Maude cautiously asked about Stella. Floyd said, “she was a Cuban refugee. She and her husband literally floated over here on a boat. He took any job he could get, and so did she. He worked construction, dug ditches and did janitorial work. She cleaned houses during the day and worked as a waitress at night. They lived in shelters and scrimped and saved every penny they could, until they finally saved enough to buy that store. After they bought it, they slept on the floor in the back room until they could fix it up enough to live in. After they got everything together, they were doing pretty well.”
He looked down and said, “and then came Tommy the Weasel.”
To be continued______________________