Pigs oinked the whole joint down. Their systemic stink worse than the stink coming from Santino’s decaying body.
D leered with her nose turned upward, then turned to reach for a bowl of thin mints across the suite’s minibar. She had to hop and set her stomach flat, legs dangling. She went to snacking.
One of the cops approached from the other side of the bar. Portly and in plainclothes. A thick mustache resting on his upper lip. James Gomez, Chief of Police.
He said, “D.”
She, with a mouthful of thin mints, said, “Tito J.”
“Who--fuck it. What are you doing here?”
“Like right now right here? Or metafictionally?”
“I’m asking as a courtesy. You can still walk out of here without handcuffs.”
“Courtesy is a ruling class ideology.”
“So you want to be arrested?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“What are you going to say--the answer to my original question? Finally?”
“I’ll answer your question with my question--you don’t seriously think I had something to do with that do you?”
Handful of thin mints, D gestured weakly toward Santino.
Tito J said, “I seriously think you should take this seriously.”
“Boo. Lame lame lame.”
Tito J breathed. Then he pointed toward the bedroom and walked. D jumped down from the bar and finished her cookies and fixed her skirt and followed.
He did not slide the doors closed. Out of view from the pigs, Tito J said in a whisper, “D.”
“I was at the other scene when I got the call here. I saw the body. I’m sorry.”
D opened her mouth and closed it again. She looked down and her beret covered her eyes.
He said, “If you want, I can have someone escort you out, or you can just leave and leave this alone. You can forget about this and go. For your own sake.”
D looked up at Tito J again.
She said, “I’m here on a job.”
Tito J raised an eyebrow.
“I was asked to come here to pick up something. Some kind of stupid object.”
“Don’t ask me. It’s a petit-bourgeois thing.”
“No--what I mean--what are you saying?”
“You asked me what I’m doing here. I just told you.”
“That’s not what we’re talking about right now.”
“It’s rude to go off topic and yes it is.”
She stomped her foot, muffled against the velvet rug. They stood in silence.
Tito J breathed again. He crossed his arms. He held for a beat. Then he asked, “So what’s your plan here?”
D smiled a gap-tooth smile. She said, “Still got a job to do, and Santino was part of that job. I didn’t do him in, and I know you know that, so now I have to find who did.”
“Meaning you want me to help you.”
“It’s why I called--or rather let the cleaning lady call. I knew you wouldn’t resist coming down here.”
“I can’t believe this.”
“Come on, it’ll be fun.”
“Fun is not the operative word here.”
“Consider it then a fight against the spectacle, a situation--a revolution against your everyday life!”
“Long as I’m not the Miles Archer to your Sam Spade.”
D turned and skipped back toward the crime scene. Tito J right behind her.
Some of the other pigs were close, snapping photographs. D made wide arcs around them. Tito J shooed them away.
D inspected the body and said, “Whoever got him knew him. Look how he’s sitting or sat or--you get it. Relaxed. Didn’t see it coming. No weapon around and no sign that he tried to spring for one in his final moments.”
Tito J said, “First, Miss D-for-Detective, we have to establish the facts.”
“As Nietzsche once said--there are no facts, only interpretations. Shall I interpret a world?”
Tito J thumb-jerked toward the body. D eyed the torso.
She said, “Something’s sticking out of the breast pocket.”
D began to reach--Tito J grabbed her wrist.
He said, “It’s already going to be my ass that you’re still here.”
Tito J took a pair of gloves from a passing pig--he put them on and began to reach and went for the breast pocket and removed a small black pocketbook.
Tito J stood straight and flipped it open. D got on her tippy toes and jumped to see.
“Come on, what’s it say what’s it say?”
“Doesn’t say anything--just a bunch of notes scribbled in. Names, addresses. Sonny never had great handwriting. The poor fuck.”
D jumped and took the book out of Tito J’s hands and she flipped through it. He let her have it.
She said, “It’s a planner. Here. Looks like he had somewhere to be later at noon.”
D then nodded. She closed the planner and went off.
D turned and asked, “What?”
“What are you doing?’
“What do you mean what am I doing? I’m walking out of here. No handcuffs.”
“And where the hell are you walking to?”
D raised the planner and said, “Santino had some place to be. Now he can’t be there anymore. But I can.”
“You’re walking all the way there?”
“Course not silly. I’ll take a taxi.”
“What happened to you wanting my help?”
“I got it from here.”
“No. Someone needs to keep an eye on you.”
“And you think that someone has to be you?”
“I think it has to be someone.”
D laughed and said, “Fine. Watch closely--in big super CINEMASCOPE 70MM,” and they moved to leave the suite.
Exterior. The factory. The sun barely peeking over the jagged city skyline, distorting and breaking the light.
Styx sitting at the front of the taxicab--missing the driver and five hundred dollars in cash.
He sat and waited. He checked the rearview mirror. He saw something not unlike what Ferdinand saw in his rearview mirror in the 1965 film Pierrot le Fou directed by Jean-Luc Godard--a man about to drive off a cliff at sixty miles an hour.
His eyes darted--mirror to street. A man coming out the side of the factory and walking along a chain-link fence. Closer to the lone streetlight--an ill-fitting suit.
Styx saw him approach, he reached and switched the light at the top of the taxicab back on. The man started coming for him.
Styx sat back and waited. He heard the door open and the man sit behind the passenger side.
“Domain Apartments at--”
Styx went for the crowbar resting on the passenger side and turned and pressed the thing against the man’s throat. The man choked and sputtered.
“How many inside?”
“How many inside?”
“Three--no--two. Two others.”
“What’s in there?”
The man said nothing.
Styx said, “Start counting to ten.”
“Start counting to ten.”
“One, two, three, four--”
Styx swung the crowbar across the man’s head and knocked him against the window and the man went quiet.
Then Styx switched off the top light. Then Styx got the cab. Then Styx went around the cab and opened the door and the man fumbled out.
Hands around the loose tie, pulling up against the gullet. Styx held this position until he saw the tongue flop out. He then dropped the body and rolled it under the taxicab. Crowbar in hand, Styx moved to the factory.
He followed along the chain-link fence. He approached the factory with his back straight and shoulders relaxed.
The side door unguarded, Styx let himself in.
A hall with faint light through cracked windows. Styx moved quickly and calmly.
Then someone turned a corner and stopped and peered through the dark and saw Styx coming.
“Who in the fuck--”
Styx swung before they could finish. He heard the jaw crack. He saw the fucker bleed.
They fell back through doors, into the main factory floor. Styx followed through.
He swung down again. They didn’t get up again.
Styx stepped over the body and maneuvered through the dark, the harsh shapes around him. The smell was rank--ranked bad to even worse. His eyes adjusted and then he saw.
He saw the cages. He saw the parts. He saw the blood.
Most of the bodies had no pulse. But they were all equal in their nakedness.
Styx scanned over everything. He remained quiet. He moved on.
A butcher’s table by some machinery. The surface clean. A bucket by the one of the legs stained.
Styx hit the opposite end of the factory floor. Car parts hanging on hooks like dead meat. More cages. Those who could call out to him did. He continued in his stealth.
Stairs to an overlooking floor. He took them. He ascended in a spiral.
Up. He moved across a wing. Railings rusted or missing.
A blast from the other side, Styx dove and almost tumbled off the whole thing.
The gunshot ringing, then more. Styx kept low and saw where the bursts of sound and light were coming from.
A metal door for cover, an office above the factory floor, a large panel for a window missing. The shots fired and the room illuminated.
Styx timed the shots and moved in accordance and stayed in the dark and got closer and closer.
Cover behind a box. Shots banged out and pinged off walls. Styx checked his side. The stitches still there. His jaw still clenched.
He heard a shot--then he rushed. The gunman using the door for cover. Quiet but Styx moved quick--he kicked the door down.
Flipped the other way--crashed into the gunman. Styx entered the office and watched him tumble.
He fell over a desk and chair. Papers flying. The gun slipped out of his hand and under a desk.
Styx lowered the crowbar. The un-gunned gunman scrambled back to his feet and panicked to find something.
Hands searching in the dark, something heavy and metallic. Fingers clasped and the gunman raised it.
A ring of keys jangled and Styx walked up to him.
The gunman panicked again and jumped back and slipped on a loose paper.
He was thrown off his feet. He crashed over something. He got caught by the raised wall and fell through the windowless panel.
The impact was muted. Styx went to look over.
He had landed on one of the cages. Arms spread, the keys hanging off a finger. Styx saw a bony hand reach between the bars and take them.
A beat, then a phone rang. Styx turned and saw it--a rotary phone.
It was incessant. He went over and picked it up.
“Hey Bob. Sonny again. How close are you to closing up?”
Styx said nothing.
“If your crew’s still there I can send up another shipment. Just one piece--a small piece--a fucking annoying piece--but I think you can get something pretty off the thing. And don’t forget my new percentage off the top. Hello?”
Styx said nothing.
“I know I’m fucking your shit up right now--you want to go home and fuck your wife or some shit I don’t know--hello? Bob you there?”
Styx said nothing. Then he said, “I don’t think Bob is here anymore. But I got the message--Sonny.”
There was a short pause in the communications until Styx heard, “Then who in the--wait a fucking minute--that you--”
Styx hung up and stared down at the phone. Then he stepped out the office and across to the stairs and down and through the factory floor and past the open cages and discarded chains.