Rated: 13+ · Campfire Creative · Novel · Mystery · #1854692
Comical misadventures of a clever detective, with very bad luck.
An ex-cop turned private detective, Gary Black, is a bit clumsy but with a clever brain. He has a high rate of solving cases, but quite possibly the world's worst luck. He bumbles his way through case after case, always hoping for the one case that would make his name.
Third person POV.
Proper grammar and spelling.
Due to a problem with invites, everyone has been cleared, including myself. I have had to make a new item Sorry!
|Gary Black on the side of a chain-link fence opposite a very large, very angry German Shepard. He hoped to God that the dog's rabies vaccinations were up to date. Gary Black's brain began to work furiously, trying to come up with a plan. He needed to get the leash back on the dog's collar, without losing vital body parts. He tried not to think of the beast's huge fangs or the way that the fence shook ominously whenever the dog lunged against it.|
It seemed like it had been hours since he first took this case. His work was mainly word of mouth, so when a client asked if he could find 'Cupcake', he had taken the case without a second thought. Gary Black's rent was coming due, and beggars can't be choosers. Cupcake had been dog-napped by a yet-undiscovered perpetrator, who had apparently bitten off more than he could chew. The would-be dog-napper had apparently let Cupcake loose, after discovering Cupcake's taste for human flesh.
It was sheer luck (or perhaps, the worst luck) that Gary Black had found Cupcake running wild behind a junkyard hours after taking the case. He took another look at the snarling monster trapped behind the fence, and tried not to think about the circumstances that had brought them here.
Written by: caroline52
Mainly, it had been a series of events of the most unfortunate type, he decided. Well, maybe a few bad decisions were involved too, if he were really being honest -- namely, the decision to take this case, he thought ryely. He should have known by the look of the lady who hired him. Dames who looked like that were never as transparent or needy or innocent as they seemed. Come to think of it, what was a lady doing walking alone in his neighborhood after dark anyway? It was almost as if she had known he would be coming home at exactly that moment.
A vague sense of uneasiness pulled Gary Black out of his musings. Something was missing. It was too quiet. He listened intently: no barking, no snarling, no banging on the fence, no panting ... nothing. Gary Black edged gingerly toward the fence. "Here Cupcake!" Nothing. Mustering all his courage, he stepped up close to the fence and banged on it hard. "C'mon Cupcake, you stupid mutt!" Still nothing.
Cupcake had apparaently escaped. Feeling slightly guilty over his sense of relief, Gary Black's mind returned to the lady in the stilettos. Something was definitely wrong, but his brain stubbornly refused to sort it out. Most people came to his "office" in his buddy's garage to enlist his help; Stiletto Lady had stopped him for directions on the street. Most people were concerned about his fee. Stiletto Lady never even asked. Most people had a story, a reason, a background. That was it! Stiletto Lady offered no back story.
Now that he thought about it, Gary Black realized he didn't actually know very much about Stiletto Lady. Ordinarily, he procured a signature on a brief application and fee agreement before accepting a case, but having only met his most recent client on the street in front of his house, he had failed to obtain even that.
What did Gary Black really know about her anyway? She had stopped him and asked for directions as he got out of the taxi in front of his house. She had been alone and on foot. Somehow she mentioned she was looking for her dog; somehow he had offered to help. She said someone had broken into her home and taken Cupcake. Having now met Cupcake, Gary Black thought this seemed more than a little unlikely. Her name was Susan. Susan Wells. She had jotted her phone number down on a napkin that Gary Black had hastily pushed into his pocket. She said she would check back with him in the morning. Had he even given her his number? He thought not. Something was definitely not right.
Gary Black stiffened as a low growl sounded somewhere too near him.
|Afraid to even turn his head, Gary Black shifted his eyes to the left. A dark, four-legged figure crept into his periphery, head down, ears back and slowly stalking forward one paw-step at a time. How did he find his way around? He wondered. There had not been a gate or a break in that fence for a hundred yards in either direction.|
Another low growl sounded to his right. His eyes darted there to see exactly what he feared. There were two Cupcakes! The situation had gone from dangerous to deadly. His hands clenched into fists, his right hand squeezing down on the dog whistle stiletto lady had given him. He could not believe what a fool he had been. She had played him dirty, and now he only had one chance; to make it over that fence before either of the Cupcakes could stop him – if in fact ‘Cupcake’ was truly both their names, which seemed unlikely.
After all, what owner in his or her right mind would ever give two dogs the same name? But if that were the case, then Gary Black was obviously dealing with a psychopath.
Preparing for action, muscles tensing, eyes glued to his goal, Gary Black planned every move needed to sprint across the fifteen foot wide dirt alley and vault over the six foot high chain link fence. It would take speed, athletic prowess and lightning fast reflexes.
He took a deep breath, and, envisioning a gun being fired to start a race, he shot forward, slipped on the dirt, then tripped forward and tumbled onto his face. Both Cupcakes pounced.
“No, Cupcake!” he screamed. “Please! Ow…oh jeeez! Oh my God! Cupcake! Cupcake!”
Gary Black curled in a ball, teeth clamping down on him, tearing his clothes, penetrating down into skin and muscle, but just as suddenly as it began it stopped.
Both Cupcakes ceased their attack, and charged off, running at full speed down the alley. Gary Black looked up, relieved to be alive, but perplexed. The dogs were chasing something, something small. A space opened up between them, and the object of their pursuit appeared for a split second.
It was a small white poodle, wearing pink ribbons on its ears. The poodle began yapping its little heart out like small dogs often do.
Gary Black stood and watched the pretty white poodle dart off at full speed to disappear behind a building, followed by both of the German Sheppards.
“Cupcake?” he said, realizing two poignant truths. First, stiletto lady may not have set him up after all, and, second, one should never blow a dog whistle next to a junkyard.
Gary Black decided, since the real Cupcake had saved his life, to get out from behind the junkyard, seek medical attention immediately, and then get right back on the case.
Later at the hospital, Sister Lilly tended his wounds.
“You have to let Jesus be your guide in those situations, Gary,” said Sister Lilly, a nun and nurse at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Hospital. “Taking dangerous jobs just because you need a little cash is going to get you killed someday, and, what, for a poodle?”
“Well, Sister Lilly, I got bills to pay. You wouldn’t understand.”
“Oh, I understand alright,” Sister Lilly said, applying a generous helping of iodine.
If only Gary could take her seriously as a nun, or even as a woman, then maybe her advice might mean something, but he did appreciate the soothing sentiment.
Sister Lilly, or, as the transgender once called herself, Lorenzo ‘the Schnoz’ Coletta, pulled a ‘Sister Act’ that had put Whoopi Goldberg’s to shame. When Gary Black worked with the feds on the gang task force, he had helped to place Larry ‘the Schnoz’ into this new life of his – or into this new life of hers.
Witness Protection had been a golden opportunity for the former mobster. Gary Black was there when ‘the Schnoz’ had pitched his wild plan to the feds, basically admitting his deep dark secret; that he had always felt like a nun trapped in a mobster’s body. Eventually Larry ‘the Schnoz’ persuaded the feds to finance all the operations he required instead of paying for his relocation to a distant city.
So that’s how ‘the Schnoz’ had that huge nose of his surgically altered to look like Nicole Kidman’s, and a few other body parts entirely removed. Then he had used his new identity to be officially ordained as a nun, and now Sister Lilliana Lazarus lived the simple life of a nun and nurse at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Hospital.
The worst part was that Larry ‘the Schnoz’ – he hated to admit – was absolutely gorgeous as a woman, but Gary Black’s disconcerting and unwanted attraction to her seemed wrong on so many levels that it sometimes made him stutter, or knock things over whenever she was around.
This is why Gary Black hated the hospital. Sister Lilly would always find him and insist on tending to his bumps and bruises. He really wished he did not need to go to the hospital so often. Hazards of the job, he guessed.
Sister Lilly put her hand on his thigh, which seemed natural at first, but then she squeezed. He looked back, terrified at her intentions.
“I know where you can make a real score, Gary,” she whispered.
Gary Black stammered uncontrollably, trying to inch away, but trapped.
Sister Lilly looked around for prying eyes, then she turned back, leaned in and whispered, “Forget about that mangy mutt, Gary. How does 30 million in gold bars sound to you?”
| Black stopped, stunned to hear anything million, much less 30 million and gold bars in the same sentence. Wow, even going half after moving that, he could leave this lifestyle and finally settle down. Get a real house, not that ramshackle apartment. The lighting made it look like one of those old detective offices where there was always a deadly dame and the intense romantic of a detective. But Lilly was the deadliest dame he knew and he hadn't gotten, eh, kissed in over two years. But this, this could be his big break. He wouldn't have to go out and get ripped to shreds, shot up or try to weasel his way into a federal investigation. "It sounds great. Do you really have a lead on that?"|
She pushed his leg, right on a claw wound, and laughed. As Black groaned with crossed eyes, Lilly laughed. "Of course I don't. You should have seen the look on your face." Chuckling, she went back to a tray of instruments. Some crowd I work with. Nothing but jokers and crooks. The worst of them are both, Black thought to himself. He stood up to leave, "Whoa! Where do you think you're going, mister? We're not done here yet." Lilly grabbed for Black and caught his arm.
"What are you doing? You cleaned the wounds, I need to get back out there and find the damn dog. If I can get some money, maybe I won't have to keep coming to this charity hospital." The grip around his arm tightened and made him cringe a little. Suddenly, he felt rather exposed, seeing as the back of his pants had just been pulled down. Before he was able to protest, he felt a sharp pain and jumped. He pulled up his pants and turned around, coming face to face with a needle.
"Tetanus." She walked back to her tray as Black rubbed himself. "Be glad you got into that scuffle with those racoons a few years back or I'd have to give you rabies shots as well."
"Yeah. I'll never do a stakeout in the garbage again, that's for sure. Those things came out of nowhere, like furry little ninjas... But I thought Tetanus was given in the arm." She just turned and winked at him. Time to go! And he was off and out the door. Still sore, he figured he would call a cab. Man, she did a number on him. He rubbed the injection site again, but felt something, or rather, the lack thereof. Suddenly, panic set in. He felt along his back pocket. No wallet! The dogs had ripped a hole in one of his pockets and it must have fallen out sometime after he got to the hospital. So, he started the long walk home, limping along the way.
"This is just my luck today. I take a case I know nothing about, I get attacked by dogs, the wrong dogs no less! I get molested by a trans-gender nun and to top it off, I have to walk home. What next? Struck by lightning? Rain? A tornado?" A gust of wind blew against his coat and he heard thunder in the distance. "I WAS KIDDING!" He took a long deep breath and sighed, head hanging low as he listened to his own footsteps. All six of them.
Wait a minute. One plus one, plus four did not add up to his number of legs. He looked around to find the white poodle from earlier walking beside him. It didn't appear to be hurt. He stopped and knelt down to check it over. "Are you alright? Hmm?" A couple of scratches, not like bites but like they ran through some busted up fence or something. "Looks like you may need a shot in rear too, eh? But a lot better than it could have been." He caught the tag in his hand and sure enough, Cupcake. "Well, it looks like my luck is turning. What to come home with me? I'll help you find your mommy."
They walked, Black talking to the dog and telling it the troubles of his life. The stars faded and the sun began to rise as a soft twilight descended on the two of them. Grumbling something about the street probably being more comfortable than his bed, Black opened the door and walked up to his fifth floor apartment, sneaking as the landlord would probably remind him of the rent and his allergy to dogs. As they hit the fourth floor, Cupcake ran up to the stairs and started scratching at his apartment door. "You know my home?" He unlocked the door and stepped inside.
"Don't turn on the light, Mister Black." Cupcake run in and sat at the feet of Susan Wells, if that was her real name. She stood up from his favorite chair and walked toward him, a very deadly but very feminine stride. "I've been waiting for you to come home. There is business we need to discuss."
"Business? With a gun that size pointed right at my heart? Now here I thought we were going to talk politics." She slapped him.
"Enough snide remarks. Now come in and sit. We have a lot to talk about."
|The day Gary Black stopped making snide remarks, was the day that the ocean turned into beer, or the sun went nova. Nonetheless, he made a sincere effort to bite his tongue. He backed away from the Wells dame and found himself up against a recliner. It was moth eaten and lumpy, but he only owned two chairs, so it took the dubious honor of being his second favorite chair. He sat down, but took his sweet time about it. To her credit "Susan Wells" waited until he was seated before continuing. Gary Black knew that he was not going to like whatever came out of her mouth next.|
“You have a job of no consequence in a squalid little “office”. You barely scrape by, and have no real friends or family. I'm afraid I am at a loss to understand why.”
“I’m sorry,” said Gary. “Are you trying to raise my self-esteem?” She would not have gone through all this trouble just to come and point out his inadequacies. She was cool and efficient, nothing like his ex-wife. Or maybe they were cut from the same cloth after all?
Susan Wells smiled knowingly. “You once had a worthwhile career. I'm familiar with your track record in law enforcement - you were quite the rising star. I'm afraid I don't quite understand why you left it all behind.”
“Eh...” said Gary Black. “Can we just say that it was some bad luck, and leave it at that?” As expected, he did not like the way this conversation was going.
“I don’t believe in luck,” said Susan Wells. "You can make your own luck. I can see that you were honest and clever, and that can bring out the worst in those forced into your shadow." Great, now the dame is telling me things I already know, thought Gary Black.
Gary just shrugged. "That's not really why I left..." This was, strictly speaking, only a half-truth.
"No." said Susan Wells. "However, it is the reason why you live like this. I can be the one to give your old life back."
"And what is the catch?" said Gary Black. There was always, always a catch. If anyone says otherwise, they're lying through their teeth.
"You work for me, obviously." Obviously.
"And this work is no doubt illegal, immoral, and incompatible with human life, namely my own."
"Undoubtedly," said Wells.
"That's not really my idea of a great time. I think I'll pass this job up, thanks."
"I wasn't giving you the choice,' said Susan Wells. Well, damn. He really should have seen this coming.
|To make matters worse, Gary Black's backside was starting to throb. He tried to reach around to rub it, but found his arm unwilling to cooperate.|
"What's ...what's happening here?" he stuttered, rising to his feet. Gary Black's 230-pound 6-foot frame came crashing to the floor as his feet crumbled beneath him. Cupcake licked his face, and he tried to turn his head away, to no avail. His senses were intact, but his body was AWOL.
"Hey, Lilly," Susan's voice? "He's here. Good thing he came straight home -- would of been a shame to find this big guy lying in the street somewhere!" Peals of laughter. "That was just straight-up good luck that he ended up in your ER before he got to me -- makes my job so much easier. I knew this was going to be a profitable relationship right from the start."
Lilly? The "Schnoz?" Susan was talking to Lilly -- Lilly, the gorgeous nun in the witness protection program? The implications of this new development were dawning hard on Gary Black, and he wasn't liking it one bit. Adding to his discomfort was the fact that his nose itched and his butt hurt, and he couldn't rub either one.
"I'll be sure and pass that on!" Susan covered the mouthpiece on the phone, and said, "Lilly says hi."
"Aw, he doesn't wanna talk, I guess. Anyway, I'll let you know as soon as we work out the details. He may need a little convincing, but in the end, I'm sure Gary will be more than happy to help."
Susan, now apparently disconnected from Lilly, turned her attention to Gary Black. "Okay, cowboy, here's how this whole thing is going to work. There's a shipment coming in and you're making the pick-up. I'm leaving a prepaid cell phone -- that's how you'll get your instructions. It's a one-time deal, and if you do it right, we're willing to cut you in. Do it wrong, and you won't be needing any more rent money. Don't be tempted to skip out on us now, Honey. Between Lilly and me, we've got enough dirt on you to keep you from working in this town ever again. Matter of fact, what was that agent's name you used to work for? Adam Sealy, or something, wasn't it? Did he ever figure out who ratted him out and cost him his career? What's that, Honey? Oh....he doesn't know that was you? Oh my, let's hope he never finds out! Any questions, cowboy?" She patted his cheek. "Oh, that's right, you're a little under the weather. Hang in there, you'll feel better in a while."
Gary Black heard stilletos clicking across the floor, then the door slammed and he was alone. Lilly ...did she have work done on those lips or were they naturally that full? Somehow he had never noticed them when she was the Schnoz. Suddenly, he felt nauseous. Adam Sealy? That was one man he was not anxious to meet up with. And this shipment ... was Lilly serious about gold bars? Or was he....she back into drug deals? Whatever it was, it was going to have to wait because all at once Gary Black was unable to hold onto a thought. He was really, really tired.
Gary Black woke up still woozy, his face mashed into the carpet, his right buttock sore from a dog bite, his left calf sore from another bite, his forehead sore from scraping it across the alley, a sick feeling in his stomach, drool hanging from his mouth, his head pounding with a massive headache, his clothes ruined, his wallet missing, and as the clueless expendable patsy in some mysterious evil scheme.
In other words, it was Tuesday.
He lay still a moment, his eyes focused on his kitchen counter, packed with dirty dishes, empty bottles and cereal boxes. “Oh, my God,” he shouted, jumping to his feet and slapping his forehead in frustration. “I forgot to grab milk…Again!”
He grabbed the box of Honey Nut Cheerios, poured a dirty glass of flat diet Pepsi, and sat down in his favorite chair to have some breakfast. He munched his Cheerios, sipped his soda, and blankly stared down at the cell phone lying in the middle of the floor.
What did he know?
First off, he new Cupcake had peed on the seat of his favorite chair.
He rubbed the puddle under him, and sniffed his hand.
He sighed, rubbing the urine off on his shirt.
What else did he know?
There were only three people who knew Gary Black snapped that picture of Sealy. One was the former head of internal affairs, and the same man who allowed Gary to resign from the force instead of being fired, good old Charlie Dunbar. He retired about a year ago and died a month later.
Gary bit down on something that was not a Cheerio, something hard. He pulled it out and studied it. Small, gray, metallic, it looked like a filling. He flicked it in the general vicinity of the garbage.
The second person was his buddy, Detective Mark Briggs, the same man who let him use his garage for an office. They had been rookies together, and Gary had told him the whole Adam Sealy story one night after two or ten drinks too many.
His next mouthful of Cheerios produced agony in his upper left molar. In an effort to take his mind off the tooth, he concentrated on the urine beginning to burn the bite wound on his butt.
The third and final possibility, if he had connected the dots at the time, was the man who had hired him to follow Sealy, Jonas Baxter Saul, owner of J.B.S. Investigations. It had been a freelance gig.
“The wife thinks he’s steppin’ out,” Saul had said on the phone. “Tail him for a week. No pics you lose, but get some good pics for his wife, and I pay double your rate.”
A good private eye would have set Sealy up with a prostitute. Gary Black, however, was not a good private eye.
He failed to get any good photos for Sealy’s wife, but he did get a great one for Charlie.
Gary Black stopped chewing. Everything came together in a flash and it all made sense. Stiletto Lady, Adam Sealy, Sister Lilly, the whole dog and pony show.
He chuckled to himself at that, and started chewing again, smiling through the pain. It really was a ‘dog’ and ‘pony’ show.
Just then, the phone rang.
Gary Black stood, popped one last fistful of Cheerios, and scooped the phone up on his way to the bathroom.
It rang and rang. He pulled the phone up to his face, and checked it for the time. It was noon. Then he dropped it in the toilet.
He stripped, hopped in the shower and sang a loud, off tune, but very enthusiastic rendition of ‘Highway to Hell’ by AC/DC.
| After clearing his head in the shower, Black decided it was time. He was either going to do something or die trying to do something. Or just die. In the end, did it really matter that much? He went over to his locked cabinet. He had flushed the key to it a couple years back after filling it. As he started kicking it, he realized two things. The first was that this just might really be his last stand and he didn't know what would be left of him in this world, what, or even if, people would think about him. The second was that wooden cabinets HURT! Even with boots on, he was doing more damage to himself then the door. He grabbed anything he could find to try to get leverage on the door, but the way it was built that was tough. As he hacked, punched, pried and cried his way to opening the door, it gave him some time to reflect on his life. What happened? He was never the pride of the city, anyone will tell you that, but he used to be good at his job, make honest money and have self respect, not to mention the occasional dinner date. But now he's in his one bedroom apartment, alone each night, usually regretting waking up that morning. What jobs he did get barely earned him enough bread for second hand food over time, and at that, they didn't make him feel good at the end of the day.|
Finally, he got the door opened. He always wondered if he'd open it again. He kind of hoped he would, at the same time wishing he wouldn't. But there it was. He grabbed a pack a smokes, a very good bottle of booze and his gun. It was still pretty full, gambling chips, old Playboys, an Atari 2600 and a bunch of cartridges among other things. The heavy drinking, the smoking, games of chance, all things he'd given up and hid from himself. But what was the point now? The woman had basically said that if he did good enough, he would have a new job with her. But he's seen enough stories like this and they never ended up with everyone living. So why make her happy? And who knows, maybe he could make it out of this one. A plan was starting to form, but some gaps weren't filled. And maybe there were a few ways he could fill them. But it was risky. And the first thing to do was to close up a couple of loose ends and cover his ass.
You were hard pressed to find a pay phone these days and businesses don't usually let you use theirs, unless, maybe, if you're a customer. Finally, after walking for almost an hour, he found one in the lobby of a hotel. He swore the phone hadn't been used in ten years. Checked his pockets for change. Dang. He walked up to the desk clerk. “Hey, could I have some change for the phone?” The clerk, a young guy in a suit, groaned and looked very annoyed that he had to do anything that wouldn't get him directly paid. An exchange of bills for metal took place and Black went back to the booth. “Alright, let's see.” He put in a coin and went to dial the number. Any minute now. Any second. Dang. What was the number again? He walked back up to the clerk, who had an expression like a record was skipping for hours right behind him, a look of total annoyance. “Could you look up a number for me?”
It took several minutes, but soon, he had the number and heard a voice asking who was there. This wasn't something he was happy doing, but he knew he had to. “Hey, it's me. Yeah, Gary. Gary Black. We used to, never mind. Listen, I need to talk to you about a couple of things. No, we should do it in person. Uh, where should we go? Let me think. Could you could meet me at the gun range off Thompson? There's some things we need to talk about. Yeah. About an hour? Sure. Alright. Thanks. See you there.” A gun range? I invited him to a gun range, what kind of idiot am I? Anyway, I better get moving if I'm going to make it in time.
On the weekend is the second busiest time for the gun range, so there were several people there, shooting targets, cardboard terrorists, one guy looked like he was there to train for the MIB with an all alien stack of targets he brought himself. “Gary Black, I haven't seen you in years. I thought you put up your holster and went with the whole peaceful sort of thing these days.” A somewhat homely, buxom woman in her fifties with a lit cigaret smiled as she welcomed back her old customer.
“Yeah, Sue. I gave it up for a while, but I think I'm a bit rusty. I need to get back into it. How much for a few boxes of ammo and a couple hours on papers?” She pressed some buttons on the register and rang up a price. “Whoa! When did shooting guns get so expensive?” He pulled out his wallet and checked it out, imagining a moth fluttering out. “Do I still have a tab here? I'm on the verge of a big case, major pay off, but I'm a bit low at the moment.” She took a drag of her cigaret and narrowed her eyes, her mouth turning to a kind of smile.
“Well, you helped me out in the past. Might not even still be running this place, weren't for you. So, I guess I can pass a little discount and give you some credit. Now, listen, honey. That don't mean you ain't gonna pay me back. But, I'm sure we'll work something out.” She gave him another smile and pushed the ammo boxes over to him. “Right through that door, case you don't remember.” Gary carefully took the boxes, gave Sue a big smile and grimaced on his way out to the range. He picked up the paper targets he payed for and set up. About three magazines in, he was still only hitting paper about one shot out of five when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“Gary! Hey, it's been awhile!” Adam Sealy yelled to be heard over the shots and through the ear protection. Black turned to him and smiled, just slightly. He put up his finger, telling him to wait, and got back to shooting. Honestly, he was trying to figure out what to say. In his stress and worry, he started actually aiming better, but still not what he wanted. Finally, his magazine was empty again. He still hadn't figured out what to do, but it was a bit better.
“Come on, over here to the side. No, let's just leave the gun here.” They walked over to the side, out of hearing range and sat on a couple of chairs. There, Gary Black told Adam Sealy all that had happened. The truth behind the case and all the things that caused Sealy's expulsion. Through it, Sealy sat silently, not angry, not sad, just looking like he didn't understand. Every now and then he nodded, as if to convey that he would have done the same, but still no audible response. Then Black told him about what had happened in the last couple of days. After all the talking was done, Sealy pat Black on the shoulder and stood up, walked away and rubbed his temple. Gary put his face in his hands, slicked back his hair and finished his time at the range.
|Sealy was not the type to forgive easily, not in the past. Gary Black was not sure what to make of this new Adam Sealy. Nonetheless, it was significantly better than lying on the floor with a broken nose and a concussion. That was what the old Sealy would have done, but it left Gary Black with a pang of guilt. At least the old Sealy would have slugged him, then promptly trample him like an enraged water buffalo. But at least Gary Black would have felt vindicated.|
Now he felt like his stomach was weighted with lead. He knew that feeling all too well - it was the feeling that always, always got him into trouble. Somehow, he would have to make it all up to Sealy, because otherwise he wouldn't be able to escape these feelings of shame. He shook his head in despair.
"Well, if I'm going to dig my own grave, it can't hurt to dig it a little deeper." He'd bolloxed up his life, why not make the most of it?
|There was only one thing to do. Gary Black had to see Sealy one last time, bring some closure. That was the only way he was going to beat Susan and Lilly at their own game. With no leverage, he was home free. He reached for the door handle, heading for the hotel lobby with the pay phone. He sighed, dreading everything about this trip: the walk in the rain, the inevitable encounter with the hotel clerk, and the sound of Sealy's voice on the other end of the line. Gary Black swung the door open and lumbered out, nearly bowling over the man on the other side.|
"Sealy? Uh, I was just ... never mind. You were coming to see me? Um, you wanna come in for a minute?" Gary Black found himself less than prepared for this moment. "Oh, hey, you might not wanna sit on that chair -- remember Cupcake? Anyway, sit there." Gary pointed to a rickety kitchen chair.
Sealy finally took a deep breath and spoke. "I always knew it was you that got me canned, Black. The reason I never came after you is because my ex was right -- I was messing around on her. I knew she hired you, I knew you were trying to get proof. I knew because it was Missy -- she told me what you were doing. Sorry, man... I really am. Something I shoulda said years ago."
Gary Black fell heavily onto Cupcake's cushion. Dampness crept through the seat of his jeans. "Missy? Missy told you? You and Missy the whole time?" He lunged suddenly from his chair, locking his hands around Sealy's throat, shaking him, as he realized the implications of Sealy's admission. "Missy...told me...she met ....somebody else... never said it was YOU!" Sealy's eyes began to bulge and Gary Black loosened his grip slightly. He didn't need a murder charge added to his miserable existence.
"STOP!" Sealy's strangled cry was sufficient to procure his release. Taking a much-needed breath, Sealy squeaked, "If it makes you feel any better she traded up on me too. We were only together about a year. Anyway, the way I see it, we're pretty much even, you and me."
All the energy drained out of Gary Black's body and he fell back onto his urine-soaked cushion, exhausted. Both panting, the men stared at each other. Finally Gary spoke.
"Help me then."
"I said we're even." Adam Sealy's voice was monotone, face deadpan.
"Help me anyway."
|"K?" Gary asked.|
"So, where does your ex live now?"
Sealy grimaced. "Last time I saw her she told me she was renting a house, probably lower west side."
Gary grimaced back at him. "You don't know then?"
"I know where she works."
"Before we get to that, I never met Susan. Never even seen your wife before yesterday, how'd you meet mine?"
"Are you going to choke me again?"
It was Gary’s turn to shrug.
"K...I’ll tell you, but if you attack me again,” Sealy indicated the window with a nod. “I will toss you out of your own apartment and type up your suicide note on that computer.”
“Fair enough,” Gary said, and he believed him. He had seen Sealy’s violent side a number of times. The fire escape was outside that window and his computer had a bad hard drive, but he preferred opening windows before passing through them.
“It was a Saturday,” Sealy said. He smirked and Gary Black wanted to slap it off his face. “Anyway, I went by your apartment to see if you'd fill in on a stakeout. You weren’t there. Missy was.” He paused, averted his eyes. “The rest, as they say,” he shrugged and smiled, as if at a fond memory, “Is history.”
Gary shook his head. “You’re not saying she cheated on me the first day she met you?”
“Uh, actually, it was more like within the first five minutes.”
“Five min – you’re nuts! That’s a bunch of bull. What exactly did she do, flirt? Is that what you mean by cheating?”
Sealy shook his head, frowned and sat back on his chair. He dismissed Gary’s outburst with a wave, not even looking at him as he wagged his hand back and forth. “Let’s move on then if you're not going to believe me.”
Gary huffed out his anger then took in a long deep breath. “So where’s Susan work?”
“She’s got a pet grooming salon called Doggy Style. It’s at 1501 Post road.”
Sealy smiled. “K, you guessed it, that’s exactly how Missy cheated on you.” He held up his hand, all five fingers showing. “In the first five minutes.” He grinned at Gary with heavy-lidded, lecherous eyes. “I had your wife howlin’ like Lassie.”
Snatching the lamp off the end table, Gary Black, quite abruptly, decided to end his brief collaboration with Adam Sealy. He had learned enough to find Susan anyway, at least he hoped so since, judging from the awkward angle of his jaw, Adam Sealy would be in no condition to talk again for quite some time.
He stood over Sealy as the former F.B.I. agent crawled away groaning and searching for teeth.
“Your actions got you fired, Sealy. I only snapped the photo. What was I supposed to do, let a violent selfish jerk like you keep a badge because you got me promoted and did me some favors?”
Gary Black picked up his phone and dialed 9-1-1.
“Favors, like what, breaking up my marriage? I can’t believe I felt guilty all this time.” Gary pointed toward the ottoman. “There’s one over there.” Sealy crawled over and plucked it up. He put it with the other teeth in his hand, and counted them. Then he felt his mouth, counting spaces.
“You said we were even, but you were wrong. Now – maybe now – we might be even.” Gary put his lamp on the end table. It toppled over, the base broken. “Strike that,” he said. “You owe me a new lamp.”
The dispatcher answered.
“Hi,” Gary said. “Yeah I’m going to need a cruiser and an ambulance. I had a scuffle with an intruder, but I’ve subdued him.”
Sealy turned from his tooth hunt, and let out a loud, incoherent bellow.
“Shut up or I’ll hit you again,” Gary said. “Yes, officer, with a lamp...No, sir, I understand...no, I don’t think I’ll need to hit him again.”
| Sealy and Black took one last look at each other. In a different series of events, they probably could have worked together. But now, if they meet each other, at least one will be dead. Gary went to get a glass of water. His head was spinning between his thoughts and the adrenaline that made his brain feel like it was swimming in a hurricane. He grabbed a glass and turned the faucet for some tap. He didn't wait for it to get cool and took a swig of nearly warm water. Blurting a gasp, he took a minute to think about everything. If there was anything to be taken from what just happened, it was that Sealy wasn't the one behind this. But something didn't make sense. It made so little sense that it just could be Sealy. Or, but, no that didn't. Who knows? It's not like he's a detective or anything. What am I getting myself into? Digging up my past, getting my gun, all of this gets me nowhere but closer to a dead end. But I feel like I'm missing everything. The time has come to gather clues and figure this mystery out. He poured some more water in his glass, this time cold. It still had a bad taste, but it helped him calm down. He set down the water and braced himself on the counter. What was he going to do? There were no leads. There were no clues. There were no strange bumps under his counter that he'd never felt before. Wait a second, yes there was! He knelt down and found what looked, at first guess, like some kind of listening device. But they way these things were designed these days, you never knew.|
Whatever it was, he didn't want it around. He went to throw it outside but saw the cruiser pull up, probably responding to his call. He didn't feel like answering questions right now. He grabbed a pair of pants and underwear as he was headed out. Stopped for a second, ripped out the urine soaked cushion and left it on the floor. He went up the stairs as the police came and knocked on his door. He'd left it slightly open, which would call for them to investigate. He couldn't tell them anything, but who knows, maybe they could find something he couldn't in this whole case. He heard them go in and talk on the radio. He could sneak back down while they worked. There was a public bathroom on the bottom floor. It was disgusting, but it was what he needed. After he dried and changed himself, he took a look at the pants and did like the cushion.
Now to decide where to go. He walked outside and enjoyed the feeling of the sun, but could see the day was draining. Without more than a few dollars in his pocket and an unwillingness at this point to go back to his appartment, it looked like it would be an all nighter. Perfect for a stakeout. He had a new suspect for involvment. Missy. But if Sealy was secretly behind all this, then that could all be a ruse and a set up. He would know that he'd pull a stakeout if he dropped the name intentionally. Black decided there was only one thing to do. Find out where he would choose for a stakeout, try to see where Sealy would stakeout for the stakeout spot and then stakeout the stakeout's stakeout spot. Black shook his head when he finished thinking of this, as if it couldn't quite wrap around what it just throught. He called a cab down to the lower east side and asked around, pretty quickly figuring out where Missy lived. She wasn't the most shy of people and even if she didn't know her neighbors, they knew her. He figured out his spot, where people would watch his spot from and settled in to watch that spot, still with an eye on Missy's house. He didn't have but some change left, so he couldn't even buy cheap binoculars. He had to rely on his keen sense of observation for this one.
|Stakeout the stakeout spot of the... Oh hell.|
His not-so-brilliant plan found him squatting behind a dumpster not far behind Missy's apartment complex. It smelled of rotting garbage and stale beer, with a slight, subtle hint of fecal odor and rotting flesh. That might have been the dead rats scattered about, or it might have been the drunk, passed out against the wall of the restaurant. If Gary Black had actually been staking out Missy's place, he would have been able to use the well-trimmed, neat hedges lining her townhouse. They simply screamed 'convenient cover', but were unfortunately already taken by one Adam Sealy.
Naturally, he'd be the one to get the cover that doesn't smell like dead hobo, thought Gary Black. And how did he get out from police custody so fast? He didn't have time to ponder this any further, because he felt a slight tickling sensation, and found a cockroach crawling up his leg. Gary Black pulled it off his pant leg, and held it in the air, while it's legs frantically beat the air. With a grin, Gary flicked it, only to watch it sail neatly into the dumpster.
Hole in one! Well, something went right today. If Gary Black understood the language of cockroaches, he would have heard the disoriented insect screaming obscenities at him. Luckily, Gary Black did not speak the language of cockroaches.
Gary Black decided that this situation was, speaking frankly, smelly. He was going to find the culprit, give them a piece of his mind, and make them pay for his 'emotional distress' by knocking all of their teeth out before turning them over to the police. He wasn't sure if the smell would ever leave him. Unfortunately, the dumpster was the only convenient cover with a view of the hedges. He would have preferred to stake out the place from the comfort of his car, but Sealy and Missy would have recognized it right away. The car was the same one from all those years ago, if slightly less-functional, with a few more dings and dents on it's exterior.
At that moment, someone else had plans to keep close watch on Sealy and Black. And they had chosen the dumpster as the most logical hiding place. When Gary Black made the mistake of creeping out from behind the dumpster to get a better look at Sealy, the drunk passed out against the wall made sure to keep an eye on Gary Black.