fiction by Jason Edwards
The sun rose like it does which makes for a nice start to things, day time and such. But nothing gets started on its own, does it. Sunlight chases away the cockroaches that collect around old ladies and ATMs, but then there’s the heat, and the humidity, and if your my partner, bright ideas about fixing up the place.
I walked into our office, and stumbled over the sheet he’d laid down to protect the floors from paint. “There’s no tarp so deadly as the tarp you set for yourself,”, he said. Suave little schmuck in his pink linen suit.
“You’re hilarious, Hill. What’s with the decor change? One of your divorcees get weepy over the mint green?” I managed to find my desk, my chair, a glass that wasn’t too dirty, a bottle that wasn’t too empty. For now.
He looked at the bottle, the glass, my desk. He avoided my face, which meant he was in a good mood, more or less. He sighed and went back to the roller brush. It’s one thing to throw down a sheet and make with the refurbish. But this guy, in his suit, whistling. And not a drop on him anywhere.
I was in a bad mood myself, however. The little lady back home, getting less little by the day, and with it the hormones and the fun that brings. Fecundity, it turns out, ain’t a dirty word, except it is, if you know what I mean. “You got a problem with my morning ablations, say it.”
He just smiled, tossed a cigarette into his mouth, lit up. Took a big drag, blew it out casually. Shrugged. “There’s no bad ablation. There are only some ablations that aren’t as good as others.” He walked to his own desk, pulled a bottle out of a drawer, walked it over to me.
The good stuff. He gave me a pat on the shoulder, went back to his painting. We worked in silence for a while, me putting receipts against a telefax for a case we had, him with the roller brush and the occasional hummed phrase from an 80s era hip-hop song.
After a bit I put the bottle away, sat up straight, gave my neck a twist and crack. “Well, that’s that then. No matches, not that I can find. If Fenway’s wife is stepping out on him, we’re going to need some other kind of proof. Nothing’s happening with this paper trail.”
“In working a case, when things stall out, just wait for two guys to come through the door with guns,” he said. Which sent a chill down my spine. All the time with the Chandler quotes. Like he was writing this thing, not living it.
“Now you listen to me Hill. I got a kid on the way, I don’t need-” but it was too late. The door burst open, and sure enough, two nasty looking toughs came spilling in, both of ’em armed to cause trouble.
My partner lost no time, dropping into a crouch and ripping up the tarp. The dumb lugs hit the floor, and were wrapped up and tied in a wriggling roll faster than you could say monkey business. I got up and walked over, nudged ’em with my toe. We just stood there, hands on our hips, looking at ’em.
“I dunno, Hill. This ain’t got to do with Fenway. I mean, unless his old lady’s stepping with a made guy, but why would a made guy bother?”
“Yeah, that’s it.” One of the toughs said. “We ain’t got anything to do with them guys. Which is why, you let us go now, we don’t have to tell ’em what happened here.”
I knelt down. “And what are you going to not tell ’em, paisan? That you didn’t come in here with your roscoe erect, didn’t get tripped up by a guy painting the walls, didn’t get your asses handed to you out back a few minutes later by a fat old bastard in a Hawaiian shirt?”
“You don’t know who you’re messin’ with,” one of ’em said. “Don Marconi don’t-”
“Shut your goddamn mouth,” the other one said.
I stood up. Oh goody. A Don Marconi thing. I went back to my desk, grabbed the phone, and dialed. My partner rolled the two over towards the wall, went back to painting, over a symphony of curses.
“This is Kendrick,” a voice finally said.
“Alfonse. It’s Edwards.”
“I know. Caller ID. Whattayaneed. Someone to drag a coupla scumbags outta your office?”
“You got ESP Kendrick? How the hell-”
“You’re working that Fenway thing, right? His old lady’s putting the horns on him, and Don Marconi’s the hunter. Or something. I’m not the writer– you can’t probably come up with something better.”
“Well how come you never told me?”
“Ask your partner. He said you needed something to write about. Something about old man’s ennui, I dunno. Kid’s got a ten dollar vocabulary, and me with my nickel ears.”
“Tell me about it. Yeah, okay, can you send over a cruiser, coupla boys?”
“Already on their way,” he said, and hang up.
I put the phone down. “Hill. You asshole.” But I had to grin.
My partner just smiled, one foot resting on the jerks in the tarp, cigarette in his mouth, one eye closed against the smoke. Painting. “I can kill time, or kill myself. Time dies better,” he said.
I shook my head. Some guys read too much Raymond Chandler for their own good. Or mine.