Saturday, December 24, 2016

Cold Smokes and Metaphors, Part 1


The dark enveloped me like a cold, lifeless blanket. Streetlights left stark orange holes in the fabric, casting harsh rays of visual perception on a snow-covered cityscape. Legs stiffly pumping as they seized up in the breeze, I crunched through the weighty white blanket towards the scene of the crime. I already used blanket. Shoot. Well, it fit better for snow anyway. We’ll retcon the darkness into a cardigan or something.

Turning at the corner of 5th and Simile, I came face to face with tonight’s job. It was a grizzly scene, and not the kind you see fishing for salmon. The stiff was sprawled out on the concrete behind that taught tape TP of the local PD. The chief was already there, looking down his wobbly, grim-faced lip-fur at the blood on the snow beneath him. Well, the stuff wasn’t actually on the snow. It was mostly along the curb, mixing with the filthy gutter slush for a sort of spotty dark brown color. I knew that on top of everything else, the killer had a profound disrespect for the conventions of visual symbolism.

The chief spoke up as he approached. “It’s about time you got here, DONNY HARDTACK. Time is of the essence on this one.”

“It better be, CHIEF SWEATBROW. I had a fancy date with a dame I passed up for this.”

“An’ you’ll have a date with a dame tomorrow too. This ain’t no everyday shit-hit we’re dealin’ with, Hardtack. You know I wouldn’t deal with a loose cannon like you for that. Especially with your rates.

“That’s clear as crystal to me, Sweatbrow. Or in your case, clear as Crisco. So what’s so special about this cold cut Charlie?”

The chief took out a second handkerchief to absorb some perspiration from the one he was already holding. “Take a look for yerself, Hardtack.”

I scowled like a lion due to have his wisdom teeth removed and pulled out a lighter and cigarette. As I took a deep drag of my trusty stimulant stick and leaned down by the cadaver, something seemed off straight away. This pre-mediated post-mortem bystander looked familiar. I leaned closer, the warm glow of my charred carbon cylinder illuminating what was left of the sad sucker’s face. And then, like an elephant at an ice skating rink, it hit me.

“Damnit chief, you know who this is?”

The chief nodded. “That’s why I had to make the call. Can’t ignore a high profile case like this.”

“The Author’s Free Time has been murdered.”



We convened at my office, much to Sweatbrow’s dismay. Even deep in the depths of a stone cold night, light still sliced into the room in razor edged bars through the window blinds. The city never slept, though in a city like this it was hard to tell how literal the phrase was. I’d never heard it snore.

“The answer seems obvious!” said the Chief, throwing a wrench into my well-oiled internal monologue. “We’ve gotta clear perp, what’s the problem?”

I shook my head, lighting a second cigarette to insert next to the one already in my mouth. “Come now, Chief, I thought you did things by the books. You’ve got no proof, and proof is something you’ll need since there’s no way Work Time killed Free Time.”

“Damnit, Hardtack!” said the chief, slamming his fist on the table. “That’s a load of frothy pork behind and you know it! Work Time has been steppin into Free Time’s territory fer years!”

“Oh stepping, sure. Man was stepping more than the local river dance club. He and Free Time had territory right next to each other, lines marked up to a hair’s breadth. But he’d never take the plunge. It just isn’t Work Time’s style. He and his crew keep very strict boundaries. No, this was the work of a wild card. Someone whose turf is less defined.”

Sweatbrow just harrumphed, crossing his arms and softly thumping against the wall. His brow furrowed and his mouth twisted and turned in concentration. It looked like a fat furry caterpillar who’d learned to breakdance. He looked back up at me.

“What about Commuting? Got a report in recently about them pushing Free Time around.”

I shook my head, jostling a trio of cigarettes to the other side of my jaw. “Don’t go talking nonsense, chief. I heard about that, they just hit Free Time with an hour delay two seats behind a drunkard. Annoying, but doubt Free Time even bruised from it. Besides, didn’t you hear? Commuting has been sharing turf with Pokemon lately, and you know them and Free Time get along like bureaucracy and blackmail.”

Sweatbrow gave a damp sigh, like a deflating balloon in a community pool. He toddled a few steps to my desk and started absentmindedly shuffling the crime scene photos with two fingers.

“Youtube Binges? Been taking pot shots at Free Time for years now.”

My eyes spun faster than the washing machine of a cheetah with OCD. “Still thinking too small here, Sweatbrow. Yeah, Youtube took potshots at Free Time. They took potshots at everybody. But they’ve never been this bold, never gone so far before. There are only so many re-runs of let’s plays people can stomach before they take a stand.”

The chief’s eyes darkened. “You’d be surprised.”

Just then, the room was filled with the sound of the Nyan Cat theme. The chief coughed and refused to make eye contact. “That’s me” he said as he pulled out his phone. I decided to wait until he was done talking to ask him what year it was.

“Chief here. A-huh. Yes…I see…wait, really? But how did…alright. And where? Got it. On my way.”

I lifted an enquiring brow at the chief, whose eyes suddenly glinted with the inner spark of a lava lamp in an electrical fire.

“We’ve got a lead! I’ll explain on the way, but we need to head down to the south side before the suspect gets away!”

I nodded, grabbing a few pocketfuls of cigarette packs for the road as my companion molded his coat into a spherical silhouette. I didn’t know who we were up against or what they’d been planning, but I was dead set to find out before dawn struck this frigid grey snow globe of a city. I swore I’d get to the bottom of this faster than a spelunking dwarf jamming out to Sir Mixalot. Because if one thing could be certain in this hard-boiled, metaphysically dubious mess of a town, it was this:

Donny Hardtack always gets his man.

Will Donny Hardtack get his man? Who was it that murdered The Author’s Free Time, and why? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop? The answer to some of these questions, and more, will be coming soon to a Genericide near you!

It’s this one. They’re coming to this Genericide.

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