I spent about 5 minutes yesterday trying to craft a one-sentence short story for Twitter, but gave up. Turns out I needed another 40 minutes and a whole lot more sentences to transfer the noir-ish detective story from my brain into my Android phone. Here it is:
The steel grey of pre-dawn shatters into existence as the ringing of my phone rips me from my dreams.
"What?" I bark, as I fumble for my cigarettes. These days, the few dreams I have are my only solace from the grisly reality that makes up my life tracking down serial killers, and I hate having them cut shot.
"OK, I'm on it. I owe you one Kandinsky. Yes, another one. Put it on my tab."
After I cracked up last year during a particularly long -- and oddly personal -- string of victims from a certain cocky serial killer, the force made me take a year off to clear my head. Kandinsky has been giving me leads off the record so I can still try to catch the bastard in a, shall we say, "unofficial" capacity. Motherfucker messed with the wrong cop -- and now the cop ain't a cop no more. No more ethics rules. No more disciplinary hearings. That fucker is going to pay.
After finishing my cigarette and slamming a couple shots of bourbon -- my usual breakfast since I was a kid -- I grab my overcoat and head out to go sneak a peek at the latest murder scene. Lucky for me I'd passed out last night still wearing my clothes. If I believed in God, I'd thank him for this one small favor, but I don't, so I thank Jim Beam instead. Maybe that's just semantics.
I arrive on the scene even before the city dicks have had a chance to arrive, let alone to put up the crime tape, so I walk purposefully in and flash my library card at the building's security guard. I identify myself. He lets me in with no trouble, no idea that I'm telling a lie.
I can tell immediately, this is just like the others. There's no mistake; this is the same guy. Same MO, same calling card. He's taunting me. If I could just figure out the pattern...
The security guard tells me the frog's name was "Digg'em" and I don't find anything out of the ordinary in any of his belongings. From the yellowed clippings all over the walls, it seems the frog may have had some notoriety in the past, but I just can't see how it ties in. I pull out my notebook to add details and to see if anything from the other victims might shed some new light on things.
Sonny, the first victim, was some kind of bird. This initially seemed relevant, since the second victim was a toucan named Sam, but I spent weeks investigating the bird angle until the next victim turned up. It was a jungle cat named Tony. All that bird research wasted. Fuck.
The fourth victim was about three months after that; a little Irish guy nicknamed "Lucky." Then, six weeks later, a little bear with a sugar addiction. He had powdered sugar all around his nose and his stomach was filled with nothing but; it seems the killer may actually have done that poor little bear a favor by putting him out his misery. Still, favors or no, I'm going to take the fucker down.
Quite some time passed then, during which I went a little crazy. My drinking became a lot more pronounced. The chief kept telling me bourbon was not a balanced breakfast, that I should lay off it and have some cereal, juice, milk and toast instead. Cereal. Fuck that shit. My pop always said cereal was for faggots, so I never touch the stuff anymore.
I held myself together until after the discovery of the next victim, which, as it turns out, ended up being victims. Plural. Extremely plural.
See, some neighborhood parents began reporting their children missing. After a couple days of Amber Alerts and 'round-the-clock searching, some of the parents found a treehouse, labeled "Honeycomb Hideout," chock full of children. Dead children. That really got to me. Brought back painful memories from my own childhood. Billy. Jimmy. Ugh. I don't want to think about that...
That's when things started to get really bad for me. Probably four months passed without any more victims. I started cracking up. Then, mercifully, a report had come in. I had rushed to the scene to find the victim still alive. Barely. I tried to get him to tell me whatever he could about the guy that did this to him. Little guy had several priors for stealing cookies, and I think that made me a little rougher with him than I intended. Who knows, maybe it was just me going crazy.
In any case, he died in my arms, and the ME said it's possible that my violent shaking may have contributed to his death. The little bastard just wouldn't talk. I needed information, dammit.
In any case, that's when I went on suspension. Since then, I've been getting tips from Kandinsky whenever he can and have been burning through my father's life insurance payout as I try to track down the son of a bitch who has been toying with me.
I hear footsteps coming down the hall, and from the sound of it, it's the boys in blue. I get up and shove my notebook in my pocket, making a mental note to go over the contents again -- for the millionth time -- in hopes that I can try to figure out a pattern. And maybe try to figure out who is next.
The footsteps come around the corner just as I'm leaving the frog's apartment, and I try to hurry out unseen.
"Hey, you. Stop!"
Fuck. Not unseen. I sigh and turn around slowly, ending up face to face with the chief. He sees me and looks extremely angry.
"God dammit, Mikey," he yells at me. "How many times have I told you? You are off this case, off the force, even. You can't be here. You can't be playing vigilante. You can't act like a cop. Let it go."
He grabs my arm and drags me down the hallway.
"Look, I like you Mikey, so I'm not going to report this. But if you're seen here, you're going to cause me trouble. And if you cause me trouble, I'm going to have to report it. You gotta stop with this, man. Are you taking your meds?"
He could tell by my face that I'm not.
"Dammit, Mikey. You gotta get yourself together. I know you've had a rough life... hell, that shit from when you were a kid is enough to drive anyone craz-"
"I'm not crazy!" I yell as I grab him by the collar, breathing hard and shaking. Even I can see how crazy I look right now, so I let go and take two steps back with my hands in the air.
The chief looks both infuriated and sad as he shakes his head and and walks away. I walk out of the building and reach into my pocket for my flask, swallowing a long slug of bourbon. I grimace. My breathing begins to slow.
"Shit," I say to myself, not unaware that talking to oneself is one of the first signs of insanity.
"You gotta get yourself together Mikey." The chief had been telling me that for some time now. He's been right, though. I'm losing it. If I can catch that killer, though, losing my mind is really a small price to pay.
I pull out my notebook again. If I can just figure out a pattern... figure out who might be next...
"You can do this, Mikey." Me again. "Just keep looking. There is something there linking all these victims, you know it. You just have to figure out what it is. Look harder."
Out of all the bastards giving me shit these days, I think I'm the most irritating. I really get on my nerves.
"Fuck you, Mikey."
"Fuck me? No, Mikey, fuck you."
I laugh and put my notebook back in my pocket. I light a cigarette, walking off into the grey hoping that the nicotine will help give my brain the boost it needs to make the connection that I know is in there somewhere. If I can just make that connection I can figure out either the next victim or how I tie into the whole thing.
If I'm lucky, maybe I'll do it before it's too late.
While listening to NPR's podcast of "Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me" -- which is sort of the radio equivalent of Hollywood Squares -- the topic of discussion turned to the neo-nazi sympathies of the guy who created those useless brine shrimp "pets" marketed as "Sea Monkeys."
One of the panelists made the following painfully-unfunny joke: "Was his autobiography called Sea Monkey Kampf?"
I'd like to offer the follwing replacement to anyone else who was as negatively impacted by this unfortunately unfunny joke as I was:
"Was his autobiography called Brine Kampf?"
It may not be hilarious, but at least it makes sense.