Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Whine; Chapter Four

Chapter Four

I am definitely getting too old for this shit. Today I saw what was left of a ten year old kid after someone got through with him and also after the rats and whatever else had gotten into him. They weren’t through with him. We had disturbed this recycling of the formerly animate, presently transitive.

You don’t know what it’s like. You think you do but unless you’ve been right up on it you haven’t got a clue. It’s not just the sight of it, or the smell of it; there’s a lot more to the full environmental effect. As they say in the real estate game, “location, location, location.” There is a particular horror to be found in the one remaining red sock; in the missing notice where the sweet spots are, the spots that the vermin hit first. You wonder about the wounds...what/who caused which wounds? ...Pre-mortem? ....Post-mortem?

Later you’ve got the full graphic effect whenever you close your eyes. And you know that there are people who will pay a lot of money for the photographs. You know that there are people who will cum hard over the idea and the image. You know there are people that wished someone had videotaped the event and maybe videotaped the feeding afterwards. You know these people. You’ve met them in the course of your business day.

Other people get to talk to the postman and the sales clerk. Sometimes I meet these people too but it’s not a happy time. Sometimes they are no longer speaking except in forensic tongues.

It seems like it was easier when I started. I’m going in reverse. They say the more you’re at it, the less you really notice anything but the evidence. They say you crap out in the beginning or you harden up. I don’t remember feeling the way I do now back then. Yeah, I was shocked, angry and I occasionally got sick but it didn’t stay with me like it does now.

I had a bad incident two years ago and I can trace the change from that time. Somebody hit me in the head with a crowbar and fractured my skull. They say I hung on the edge of the final departure for over a week while I was in the coma. I was told my heart stopped twice. It took some time getting out and about after that. Now I’ve got this neat lightening bolt scar that dances from my left eyebrow up into the hairline. I’ve got another across the occipital lobe. The first blow was such a nice shot that the guy just had to add one more on my way down.

My partner put one through his liver about the time he was winding up for the coup de grace. I suppose I’m lucky. They always say things about how I’m ‘lucky to be alive.’ I don’t know that it’s all that good to be alive here though. I don’t know that it isn’t better somewhere else outside the sight line of this planetary space. After I see things like I saw today I am of the opinion that it has got to be better somewhere else.

Maybe we’ll find the guy that did this and maybe we won’t. You can’t make it an all or nothing kind of thing. I’ve found that some things never get resolved. In this world justice does not always triumph and the good do not prosper any more than the evil. Quite often the evil prosper very well.

I’ve kicked this around in my head a lot of late. I know that there is a balance to it all because I see that balance in many instances in my work. I see it in the symmetry of the planets and I understand that if you go really small it’s the same thing. And I understand that the space between the atoms is, relatively speaking, the same as the distance between the planets, or the stars. Whatever, it’s a lot of distance, relatively.

Yeah, I know that there is some kind of a balance, some presence of Justice. But the more I think about it all, I think that a lot of it must be handled somewhere else, because we don’t see a lot of it here.

Things have been very different for me since I got hit on the head. I’m not the same as I used to be. I used to be pretty tight except for a certain period about six years ago. I knew what I was doing and where I was going and what I would probably do once I got there. Now I have to think about it. It’s because of all the new stuff that wasn’t there before. Now I hear things and sometimes I see things, mostly peripherally. I hear ringing tones on occasion that vary in pitch and sometimes I hear other things. The doctors said this is an after effect of the clubbing; “auditory hallucinations” he called them. The visual things are not identifiable because they are always to the side and if I turn to look at them they’re gone. That parts not too bad. It’s the things I see sometimes when I close my eyes that make me very uncomfortable. It’s the dreams I have that are every bit as real as real life. Of course I have to be careful who I talk to about these things or I would be out of a job. They don’t really interfere with what I’m doing. The real effect is that they make me more insecure about who I am. They make me wonder if I’m okay. At least I don’t have the headaches some people get after severe head trauma. At least I’m still here only I’m less sure of that than I was.

I’m a detective with the Manhattan PD. Except for a short time traveling after I got out of the Army I’ve been in police work. That’s ten years now and I’m thirty-two and probably look forty since my hair turned snow white in the hospital after the attack. Around the station house they refer to me as Andy Warhol but not generally in my hearing since I am none too fond of bad artist cocksuckers. I guess that’s not very PC of me and that would be fitting since I am none too PC anyway. Most of us aren’t these days since it usually means bullshit and extra work. There was a lot more understanding, more give and take, before it all got forced on us. We’ve got a fine victim industry going in these United States these days.

It used to be that a victim was someone with an empty purse, a bleeding body part or a missing car. We’ve expanded on that in the true spirit of American entrepreneurship. Now a victim is anyone who perceives themselves to be, or is perceived to be a victim because of; one’s sex, one’s color, one’s physical height, one’s age, one’s religion or lack of religion, one’s mental state, one’s addiction, one’s predilection or one’s victim-abled status. These are all criteria to determine the nature of the offense. We’ve got a handbook down at the station, about the size of something James Minchner might have written. Unfortunately they didn’t include a codebook to go with it since it is written entirely in perceived, victim-assistive language and no one can figure it out. This is okay because this is handled by the people for whom this entire new area of offense was created; personal victim lawyers. These are more or less the same people who adopted the old crime industry and made it their own. They always know immediately if an offense has been committed; but I digress.

People call me Whitey now which is funny sometimes, like when a black officer wants my attention and some of them still laugh and I do too of course. And probably I should say that I’m not down on cocksuckers or cocksucking as an art form either, I just don’t like Andy Warhol. He represents everything I don’t like about the things I don’t like about New York. I’m routinely amazed when people use words like ‘cocksucker’ as a pejorative; don’t they like blowjobs? Well, I guess Clinton showed us that maybe a lot of people don’t. Anyway, my real name is Peter Reilly and I do like blowjobs, getting them that is and pretty much all the facets of Vanilla sex, only maybe I would call it French Vanilla in my case but I haven’t had much sex in awhile and I’ll get to that in good time; not the sex, I don’t know when that’s going to show up, but the “how come I haven’t had much sex.” part of it.

So I’ve been in police work for some while. Once I thought that it would be all of what I did and that I would eventually be old, stout and consistently drunk like the bulk of my associates with Irish forebears in the department.

My father lived in Belfast and finally had all that he could take of ‘the troubles’ and British Justice; emigrating in the 60’s through the good offices of an uncle who helped people find things that fell off of trucks down at the wharf. He taught my father how to find things and my father did pretty well with it. Several years later he met my mother at a parish dance and I was the sole issue of that strong but all too brief passion. Two years after I arrived my father himself fell off of a truck and sustained fatal injuries a great deal more severe than one would expect in a fall from a truck that was not even moving at the time. During that period there was a rash of injuries suffered by Irish dock workers; the uncle broke both of his legs when he somehow managed to interpose himself between a brick wall and a moving car. Apparently things falling from trucks had become a growth industry that sparked a competitive rivalry between my father’s group and another group concerning the boundaries of relative enterprise. This was all sorted out shortly thereafter and the number of accidents reduced to the usual attrition. My father, unfortunately, did not benefit from this, having already moved on to other areas of enterprise unknown to me or to anyone in a position to tell.

I’ve heard it said that this is what led me to police work. I would dispute that. I trained as a policeman by default in the military and that led me, by default, to a position in law enforcement. It turned out that I was good at it so I kept doing it. I don’t see any Freudian mystery outworking itself in this regard.

There are a great many days when I wonder what I may be doing next; today being one of them. There is no excuse for dead children, not in my worldview. It may be that this is just a part of life’s ancient sorrow. One can die at any age but when one is hastened to it through violent outrage and when one is ten years becomes something beyond my ability to understand. As I said, I am getting too old for this shit.

A woman I knew briefly, in the biblical sense, told me I had laughing eyes. She said they danced and reflected starlight. She was something of a poetess and thereby prone to exaggeration. I expect it is out of vanity that I remember her words. I’ve a wide rugged face as befits a man of my heritage. My nose is straight and my chin is square. On a good day I’m just over 5’ 10’ and weigh one hundred and seventy pounds. This hasn’t changed more than a pound or two since I was sixteen, except during my hospital time when I lost forty pounds and had to more or less learn to walk all over again. My sense of equilibrium had been vastly altered by the headshots. Apparently I had to develop new neural pathways. I’ve never understood this and I don’t think the doctors did either. There are worse roads to travel. I consider myself lucky, if, being ‘here’ is lucky.

This dead kid had been missing for about a month. We already knew about him since the day he didn’t come back from school and his parents called him in missing. Missing kids are the only time we break the twenty-four hour rule. Usually when someone goes missing we wait at least that long before we give it any interest. You have to understand that when someone goes missing it’s a much bigger issue to those affected than it is to a cop. People go missing all the time and usually they show up again. Kids go missing all the time too, more so than adults on the average and they too usually show up again, well before twenty-four hours have passed. Still, we go on the lookout for kids pretty quick, especially if they’re pre-pubescent and they go to parochial school and they never went missing before, like little Johnny Carson.

I caught this case along with my partner Max Bloomberg, who is an orthodox Jew and the butt of no end of station house humor. He takes it all in good stride, recognizing just how incongruous he is in the general mélange of the force. He belongs to some sort of mystical sect, not your usual Hassid and he’s got some weird views on why things are the way things are. Max is one who has been somewhat advantaged by the PC virus, as I call it. He’s allowed to keep Kosher in that he gets the Sabbath off, no matter what and he gets to wear a yarmulke to work. This isn’t such a big deal, now that he’s in plainclothes and when you see some of the guys in their Bermuda golf outfits. I guess the only real standout is that strange fedora of his. I know he wore the yarmulke under his cap when he was in uniform.

He’s been my partner for going on four years now, ever since he came into homicide. I’d come into homicide about a year before that and still hold the record for the quickest ascent ever because of a pretty spectacular piece of work concerning a bank robbery which was blind luck really and that was followed by another serendipitous event when I nailed a national fugitive that I spotted in a topless bar where I never would have been except for I was drinking a lot at the time. That was a dicey period for me and thanks to unknown fortune I kept that going only in the off hours until it just sort of dribbled away. It’s more than passing odd that I would have had all these career changing events just as I was about to slide off the short end of the pier. Why that was I don’t want to talk about right now. For whatever it’s worth, here I am now. If this is where my luck brought me today then I’m not sure what kind of luck it is.

Max is stereotype in appearance all the way, curly black hair, hooked Semitic nose, big brooding, melancholy eyes that watch you all the way. He’s 5’9” and goes about one fifty with all his clothes on. I like Max, he’s easy and he’s smart and he also saved my life. More than that, he never brings it up and doesn’t want to hear about it. He’s happily married to a diminutive woman named Sarah with magnetic brown eyes and a wonderful tumble of brown curls that ring her oval face. You can find her picture in the dictionary next to the word ‘sweet’. I’ve been to their house for dinner a few times but I try to avoid that. They’re a great family but I really don’t like the food. They’ve got two kids, a boy of ten named Hersh and a daughter who’s six named Esther. I feel like I’m in an old linotype photo when I go there to eat. They’re warm and friendly and all around good people but culturally miles away from anything I understand, especially when they break into that secret language as they are prone to now and again.

Two hours after Johnny didn’t make it home, officers were going round the neighborhood and tracking his movements. The only thing we found out was that he didn’t stop at the corner store for his after school candy bar so we knew something of the parameters in which he went missing.

It was two days later that we got a call from a ninety-three year old lady who spends every good weather day sitting in the window of her ground floor apartment. She’d seen it on the news and then called the police.

Ms. Ceauseziew told us that she had seen Johnny walking on the other side of the street when a...and I’m quoting here, “dark green 1998 Toyota 4runner with tinted windows” pulled up alongside him. Ms. Ceauseziew saw no action but when the 4runner pulled away there was no Johnny on the sidewalk. There was a ‘B’ and a ‘9’ in the license plate, which was from New York and the spare tire was in a silver metal case on the rear door. I hope I can see and remember things like that when I reach ninety-three, God willing.

Besides looking out of her window all day, Ms Ceauseziew watches cop shows along with every crime drama movie she can get from the local video store. She’s what we would call, ‘a trained observer’.

Max was still shaking his head a block away as we looked for further witnesses. “Only in New York.” he muttered. You might wonder why two homicide detectives were looking for a little boy who was only missing at the time but it’s our nature to pitch in when we can and our duties permit.

When we processed this information on the 4runner we found out that a similar vehicle had been seen before in two other locations where children had gone missing, one of them in Yonkers upstate. In the Yonkers disappearance someone has gotten a brief look at the driver. This time the details were not as specific as those provided by Ms. Ceauseziew. The man had brown or blond hair, was between thirty and fifty years old and may or may not have been wearing sunglasses. He may have been Spanish, or Italian, or Greek and he might have had a moustache, or maybe not. This made Max shake his head even more. “I can’t wait to get this guy in a line-up.” Max said. By now we more or less knew the kid was dead. In the last two months an eight-year-old Hispanic kid in Washington Heights and an eleven year old black kid from Brownsville had also turned up. Both of those bodies had been sexually molested and found in dumpsters. “I imagine there’s more than that.” Max had said. “They don’t always find the bodies in the trash.”

We got no leads on the 4runner and we looked at a lot of 4runners. Toyota is a very popular make and there were hundreds, thousands of 4runners out there and the plates could have been fake... of course.

Do I sound like a depressed personality? Doing what I do, living where I live, it comes with the territory. I want to get into something else but I’ve got this idea that I make a difference. I know that I do not make a difference and I think it is this lying to myself that causes the depression. I don’t want to face reality. Max tells me that reality is a personal construct and that reality is measured by its level of integration with the whole; not that that is really reality. He says there are millions of overlapping bubbles and that reality, morality, truth and every other relative intangible has meaning only in relation to its environment. Then he says that every environment you can imagine is present here. Then he goes on further to say that all of this is irrelevant in the larger sense since our environment, our sense of self and every focus of our attention is an illusion. Only God is real and the point of life is to discover that. So, if I weren’t depressed from the things I mentioned before, the shit Max tells me guarantees it. See, I’d said that I felt like I had no effect on anything, that nothing I did mattered and here comes Max to tell me, “as a matter of fact, you are correct Sir.”

I’m alone and often despondent and the world is getting crazier and less explainable every day. Take that 9/11 thing. If you work for the police department it didn’t take very long to figure out that this was not a terror attack planned and carried out by a small rag-tag group of Stone Age Arabs. Besides hearing the recordings of firemen who reported that the fires were all but out and couldn’t have caused the towers to fall, there’s the way the buildings fell and the fact that no skyscraper in history ever came down from a fire, much less two of them and another building that didn’t even get hit by anything. And no way do these buildings come down straight down and all at once and... shit, you don’t want to know. Most people don’t want to know... And if you talk about any of these things too loud where anyone can hear you; if you are a cop, well... let’s just say it’s not a good career move. But we all know. We all know this was some kind of an inside job. I met the guy who found Mohammed Atta’s passport on the street. Somehow it had fallen unharmed from the planes explosion into the side of the tower when nothing else survived. He didn’t want to talk about it. Nobody wants to talk about it. It’s going to happen again.

Besides our regular jobs we now have to be practicing brown-shirts in the interest of Homeland Security; report all suspicious behavior... in New York City? You got to be joking. Max is lucky. Max has God. Everything works out. Everything is perfect, according to Max. Everything is meaningful, nothing means anything. Everything is important and nothing is important; Zen and the art of Jewish police work with one hand clapping. It would usually piss me off to hear this kind of thing but for some reason it sounds funny when Max says it and somehow that puts it all into perspective, if that makes any sense. Max says you can either laugh about it or cry about it. We generally tend to laugh about it, though not today. There’s nothing funny about what we found today. It seems like every cop in all of the other divisions wants to work in Homicide. What do they think that consists of? “Go figure.” as Max would say.


Anonymous said...

This is the first piece that I've read here. I didn't realize that it was fiction until the character revealed personally identifiable information.

I know Peter Reilly. In a mildly disturbing number of ways I am Peter Reilly. I was a bit disappointed when I realized that I'll never be able to have a conversation with him.

I can't think of higher compliment to the author.

A classic Visible post:

With gratitude to Patrick Willis.

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