Well, I wrote it. So, you know. I think it’s amazing.
fiction by Jason Edwards
The door to the captain’s office burst open like it normally does and the captain himself emerged, holding something in one clenched fist, shouting, “God damn it, Marcus, what the hell is this?”
“That’s your stapler, captain,” I said.
“God damn it!” The captain shouted and went back into his office, slamming the door again. The hub-bub of Precinct 17 went back to hub-bubbing.
Sergeant David Marcus, detective, Seattle PD. Been on the job for about ten years now, and I have seen some shit. I’m far passed my wide-eyed phase, but not quite to my cynical phase. I’m sort of in the middle of a wild-cannon phase, and probably will be for a while.
That’s how my writer’s setting me up, anyway. Mostly he just fakes it as he goes, more worried about word choice than character development. Still, it’s not all bad. I have a captain who yells all the time, a partner from the Paleozoic era, and all the donuts I want without getting too fat. Not sure if I have an alcohol problem or not— my writer likes his tropes, but he shies away from cliche, when he can.
It was a typical Tuesday in Seattle. The sun was fighting the clouds, the office was a hub-bub of felony arrests and misdemeanor paperwork, and the Mariners were getting ready for their October vacation. Day game. On the radio. Noise lost in the hub-bub, Mariner’s losing in the 6th.
The captain’s door burst open again. Captain Chauncey DelaCourt, six three, black, about 290 I think. Second stringer on his college team, straight into the academy, honors, beat cop to dick to captain along the usual routes. Some claim it was a case of affirmative action, but he was a pretty god damn good captain, and nobody said no when we got that door of his reinforced for his birthday three years ago. On account of all the slamming.
“Marcus! Get your skinny white ass in here now!” He left the door open. A good sign.
I shrugged off torpor, clicked off the game, put on my jacket. It never sits right when I don’t have my service piece in the shoulder holster, but I’m no idiot— gun goes in the desk lock box when I’m not on the street. Safety before vanity, my writer likes to say, for no reason I can think of.
I went into the captain’s office.
“Did I tell you to shut the goddamn door, Marcus?”
I took that as my cue to shut the door.
“What the hell is this?” He was pointing at a folder.
“It’s a folder, Captain.”
“I know what it is god damn it. You think I’m some kind of idiot, Marcus? Is that what they taught you in that college of yours! That police captains are idiots?”
“Captain, I never went to college, I—”
“God damn it, Marcus! You’re a loose cannon! I got the mayor breathing down my neck, I got the newspapers dragging the one-seven through the mud, and do you want to know how many calls I’m getting from the citizens of Seattle about your god damn shenanigans?”
“Three! So you listen to me, you no good twisted piece of waste of god damn dirt bag piece of filth! You take this case, and you do it by the book, you hear me! Or its your badge this time, Marcus! I’ll have your gun, I’ll have your pension, I’ll have you writing parking tickets in Renton! You hear me you piece of what I said?”
“Loud and clear captain.” I picked up the folder. Cold case, homicide from about 25 years ago. “What were the calls about?”
“God damn it Marcus, do I look like some kind of Dictaphone to you?”
“One from some lady saying thanks for helping out on the Jenkins robbery, an anonymous call asking for a large with pepperoni and olives, and one from your wife, asking me if Tilda and I were still on for dinner this Friday, you-”
“What did you say?”
“I said yes you god damn piece of low-life no good son of a piece of now get the hell out of my office before my foot parks itself in your ass!”
I walked out, shutting the door behind me.
“And close the god damn door on your way out,” the captain shouted.
I walked over to my desk, sat down, flicked the game back on. Mariner’s still losing. Made me wonder if my writer even cared about the team. This is fiction, after all. Throw ’em a bone, let ’em win one maybe? God damned verisimilitude.
I perused the file. A grisly murder, a priest, hammer to the back of the head. I sighed a few times, read a few of the newspaper clippings attached. Homeless kids, a shelter, a foods program.
I stood up, walked over to my partner. Mezzoni, 59 years old, a year away from retirement. “You’re under arrest, Mezzoni. Get up.”
Mezzoni got up with a heavy defeated look on his face. “That priest was runnin’ an underage prostitution ring, ya know. He had them poor girls hooked on skag.”
“I know, Mezzoni.”
“How’d you figure it, Marcus?”
I shrugged, putting a hand on his shoulder and turning him around so I could cuff him. “There’s always a twist, and my writer wants to wrap up this writing exercise so he can go for a run.” We walked towards the holding cells while the hubibub kept on hub-bubbing. “You have the right to remain silent. When I think of something clever to interject here, my writer will come back and edit it in. You have the right to an attorney…” etc etc etc.
You ever heard that phrase, thou shalt not suffer a witch to live? I guess I have to kill a witch then. I got one living next door to me. This is a full-on, black dress, pointy hat, green skin, hook-nose-with-a-wart witch. We’re talking cauldrons, cats, the whole bit. And I have to kill her.
Not that I believe in that Jesus stuff. Not that I even own a bible. But a rule’s a rule, I guess. Not sure how I’m supposed to do it though. Do you just shoot them? Hang ’em? Drown ’em? Does it work like The Wizard of Oz, I just got to throw a bucket of water on her or something?
Thing is, it’s my own fault. I bought the place, and the real estate agent told me and everything. “Just so you know, the lady next door, Agnes, in that scary hut looking thing, she’s a witch, an actual poison-the-neighbor’s-cow type witch. She eats children. Just so you know. Sign here, here, and here.” So I only got my self to blame. Sweet deal on fourteen hundred square feet though, let me tell you.
Maybe I thought the agent was joking, but, I don’t think I can even use that as an excuse. I mean, when I moved in, I didn’t think about how there was a pasture nearby, even though I finally noticed it last week and it wasn’t even a surprise. And there was plenty of cows in it, but there’s fewer these days. And children too, running up and down the street, until one day they just stopped, like something happened.
Now it’s up to me I guess. I mean, you would think the guy who owns those cows would do it, or the parents of them kids. Get together a regular mob with the torches and the pitchforks. But they don’t. They just go about their business, shifty glances up the hill where the witch’s hut is, next to my house. And like with the pasture, I guess I knew I was buying a place sort of removed from the main thrust of things. As long as I had access to the highway. But the other day I was talking to Gena in Accounting and telling her about the place and had to admit its more or less like we live in a little village, me and the other folks ’round here.
I was looking at the shotgun I keep propped up next to the front door, just mulling over nothing, and I thought I’d maybe go for a walk, clear my head. It was one of those cold autumn nights, big fat sliver of a moon in the sky. I walked down to the village, along the dirt road and passed the usual shoppes, like the butchers and the farriers and the apothecaries. Everything lit up by candlelight, iron-bound doors shut tight. And there goes Agnes, hobbling along like she does, cackling under her breath.
And I’m thinking, what year is this? What century? Have shot guns even been invented yet? I looked at my watch, which glows in the dark and has one of them batteries that recharges itself whenever you move. It was nearly midnight. And I’m thinking, what if the crops don’t come in? Or did the crops already come in? Are we going to have rats in the grain silos? Are we going to make it through the winter?
I went back home and turned on the TV. Typical, three hundred channels, nothing to watch, so I switched it off. Sat there in the dark. A wolf howled somewhere off on the moors. A chill set in. The fire was out, just a few coals left— don’t recall having started one earlier, but I must have. Never really occured to me that I was buying a house with a fireplace in it, me, a city boy my whole life. I looked down at my plain clothes, hand-stitched, my woven shirt and rough pants. The smell of earth coming off my thick beard from spending all day in the mines. I mean at the job where I’m the assistant tech support manager. I mean the mines.
Why do witches even do it? Why do that cast spells and spoil crops and eat children? What’s their end game? Is it like, I dunno, Nintendo for them or something? Are they just mean people?
I’m looking over at my shotgun, which is basically a scythe at this point, a huge thing, looming in the corner. The clouds outside shift, the moonlight catches the edge of the scythe blade, and I guess I got some work to do.