Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Deadly Drafts - CH 3


Green and Red Bocce Balls
Photo Courtesy of George Chase
Harris Kagan manspread across the interrogation room chair and let out a low whistle. If only he'd been arrested in something better than jeans and a flannel. But of course, it was just the Bakersville Irregulars' weekly writing workshop; it wasn't like he needed tails and a tie. 

"Helloooooo nurse." He moved to run a hand through his hair, but his handcuffs snapped taut.  

Alex scowled, leaned her back to the wall-sized mirror. "Nurse?" 

Harris smiled. 

"I know we've got other business," Alex said, "but if it's okay, I'll tell you a quick story." 

"By all means, detective." 

"Well then, Harris," Alex paced the front of the room. "I was at a bar recently, studying for my detective exam with my study partner, Johnny Walker." 

"A woman near my heart." 

"It's that new hipster place? Out on Front Street, with outdoor seating, a bocce pitch in the alley out back. Standing at the bar, not five feet from me, is a woman in scrubs. Fresh from a shift at the hospital. She's disheveled, hair a mess, makeup smeared, absolutely dying for a beer to wash down a long day of work. 

"She's minding her own business, waiting for her Coors or whatever, when Mr. BigEgo McFratBro comes sliding up, practically bow-legged from how big he thinks his dick is. Smooth as whipped cream, a line he must use five nights a week and twice on Saturday, he asks if she'd like to play bocce. He says he and his buddies are one shy of a full game. She says no, thanks, she's only here for a beer after a rough day at work, that she's actually meeting a guy. 

"Mr. McFratBro's been rejected enough to know a lie when he hears it. There's no guy coming. So he persists. Please would she play bocce? This woman’s imaginary guy can play bocce, too. The poor girl, bless her heart, she softens. I can see it in her posture. Studying to be a detective, you learn how to read people.  

"No surprise, she says yeah, what the heck, I'll play bocce. Beer in hand, they both start toward the pitch out back. But Mr. Smooth, he won't let well enough alone. So he starts in with his lines, his advances, his come-ons. He gives her a once over, eyes bugging out of his skull. He sees her scrubs, and you know what he says?" 

"What?" Harris said. 

"He says, nice scrubs, hon. You a nurse over at the hospital? The girl stops cold. Her posture goes to stone. Bye bye bocce. You can practically see the dude's dick shrivel in his pants. She takes a step back, arms crossed, giving him a laser stare, and says, 'I'm a surgeon.' Mr. Dumb-Dumb McFratBro could only turn and run away. 

"Now…," Alex stepped back, arms crossed with an acid smile. "Do you know, Harris, what the moral of the story is?" 

"Stay away from Coors?" 

"The moral is that I'm not your fucking nurse." Alex slammed her fist to the table. "And if you don't want me playing bocce with your balls, you'll cut that flirting crap right-the-eff out." She stalked to the back of the room, took a deep breath. "See what you made me do? You made me swear. I hate swearing. People swear when their words aren't strong enough."  

"You should consider replacing the leftmost light in your bathroom vanity, Ms. Dalkowski," Harris said, "and put a mouse trap in the bedroom closet. And it's too bad about the Vikings last week" 

"Exqueeze me?" Alex rocked back. "Vikings in my bathroom?" 

"The art of deduction, detective. You should try it. As a certified Sherlockian—one who studies the immortal Detective Holmes—I can give a tip or two." 

“Bah!” Alex’s laugh popped out. "Oh. We're getting way off track here, but, sure. I've got a few minutes." 

"Your purple skirt and gold blouse mirror the colors of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings. You haven't blended the foundation on your left cheek. While that could be attributed to your obvious right-handedness, it's far more likely you simply didn't see it. I'm guessing a blown light in your vanity. As for the mouse traps," Harris leaned back and lifted his foot as much as the cuffs and chains would allow. "The toes of your shoes are frayed. They've been chewed on by mice." 

"Well aren't you just adorable." Alex nodded. "I could just grab a spoon, pull the whole carton of Harris Kagan from the freezer and just eat you up in front of the TV. As a former English Major, I'd like to say B.S. is my forte, but sir," she lowered her head and swept her arm low, "I bow in the presence of Harris Kagan, most ultimate potentate of all things B.S." 

Harris deflated, a balloon left to shrivel in the sun. "No?" 

"No." Alex shook her head. "Spectacular, ridiculous wrongess, Mr. Kagan. What do you know about blending foundation? Plus, Dad is all about Da' Bears. But that was fun. Very fun, right? 

Harris shrank back in the chair. He frowned, listening to the obscene ticking of the cheap clock behind him. Slowly, tugging smooth the hems of her blouse, Alex sat in the chair opposite. 

"Now that we've got story time out of the way, let's start over. I'll tell you what I told Mrs. Adnan-Byrne. I want nothing more than to be your friend." 

"I doubt I'd befriend a mid-level city bureaucrat wasting tax money incarcerating an innocent man." 

Alex put a hand under her chin, shook her head. "Look, Kagan. I only want the truth. If you're really innocent, then I'll be the best friend you ever had. But I can't know your innocence or guilt unless you're willing to be my friend in return. Is it correct you teach physics at Bakersville High School?" 

"There's this wonderful new invention, detective, you type in questions and it gives answers, don't know if you've heard of it… called the internet?"  

"Harris.” She lowered her voice, not above a little sex appeal to get what she wanted. “The faster we do this, the better you get it. get paid much as a teacher?" 

Harris considered his answer. "I require little. Less income, less taxes." 

"So money is tight." 

"If you're going to badger me, then I'll clam up faster than you can say, 'lawyer.' I did nothing wrong. I only answer your questions because you amuse me. Stop amusing me and I stop talking." 

"What about this?" Alex slid the short story across the table to Harris. "Does this amuse you?" 

Harris glanced down his nose at the packet and scoffed. "It amuses me greatly, although Kavi probably wished it didn't. The plot is absurd. I told Kavi it could work as a farce, but she insisted it was a serious heist story. Allusions. All about Rama's pursuit of Sita." 

"Rama?" Alex's brain ached—the last thing she needed was to track down some Rama in the middle of the night. 

"Ancient Hindu myth. It was the first chapter of a novel but thankfully we convinced her to abandon the project. She still talks about self-publishing, though. Stooping so low as to blog it chapter by chapter. Can you imagine?" 

"We?" Alex asked. 

"We. You've probably heard of us…the Bakersville Irregulars? We're practically a public library institution." 

"I'd never heard of you before this afternoon. Writing garbage wasn't enough? You had to dress as an elephant and a monkey, shoot a kid?" 

"Shit on a shingle." Harris' bombast popped. His hangdog face fell. "You think we did it." 

"Where were you this afternoon between 4:30 and 5:30 PM?" 

"Burrito Euphoria." Harris gave the answer without theatrics of hesitation. 

"Any records? Credit card?" 

"Credit is for suckers." 


"I don't know." Harris clicked his soft palette. "Went through the drive through. Maybe the clerk? I, ah…told mother before I left at 4:15." 

"Your mother?" Alex smiled. 

"She rents a room in my house." Harris body tightened as the avalanche bore down. A deadly rumble sounded in the distance, the sun obscured by ominous shade. "The Brit," Harris spit the words. "The Brit was late to our meeting tonight. He's never late. He's a Swiss freaking clock, but tonight he showed up five minutes late with some bullshit story about traffic. He seemed distracted." 

"You mean Arthur Kite?" 

"Yeah," Harris said. "Arthur Kite, the Brit." 

Alex nodded. "See? I told you we could be friends, Harris. A very good start. Who knows, maybe in a different life, you and me could play bocce in some hipster bar. So friend to friend…Tell me where the monkey costume is. You didn't shoot the kid. You didn't attack the clerk. The District Attorney will bump you down to aiding and abetting." 

"Wait." Harris shook his head. "You think I'm the guy in the monkey suit?!" 

"Ross Natze…the kid your friend shot? He describes the bagman as short-ish, with an out-of-shape physique." 

"Five-foot-eight is average!" Harris sucked in his gut. "And my physique is robust. I come from very hearty Eastern European stock!" 

"You know, this is my first time interrogating as a Detective, and I really have to thank you, Harris. You've made this just as fun and exciting as I'd hoped." Alex raised a hand and held it over the table. "Look! My hand is literally shaking with excitement. You can go home tonight, Harris. Just tell the truth. Kavi is the ringleader, right? Her story, her van…did she make you rob the jewelers?" 

"As if!" Harris slapped the table. His cuffs jangled against oak. "Kavi gets panicky if the breeze blows too hard. If anyone is the ringleader, it's me, Alex!" 

"So you're the ringleader?" 

"That's not what I said! You're putting words in my mouth." Harris pushed deep into his chair, arms again folded, leg again crossed at the knee. This time, however, his posture carried none of its false easiness. "I want a lawyer." 

Alex swooped out of the room, a smile tilted back over her shoulder. "You'd better be careful what you wish for, sweetie."


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