Detective Darby #2 – The Samaritan

My sight was the last sense to return to me. It confirmed what my other senses already told me; somebody doesn’t like me very much.

It was nighttime by now and would be pitch black if not for the fire. I could feel the crust of dried blood taunting my nose like an itch just out of reach, being tied to a chair didn’t help. The best I could tell, I was in an abandoned building, maybe a warehouse. My first instinct was to look for a way out. What I could see ahead of me was far from promising, flames piled atop more flames.

“I wonder if I could burn the ropes and break free?” I thought aloud. As soon as I heard my own words, I was glad I didn’t just think them. Otherwise, I might have gone through with that absurd plan. Plan B was simple; I need to try to turn myself around so I can see behind me. I slowly did my best to lunge upward and twist the chair around. The ropes were so tight, I could feel them burning, stinging my wrists each time I lunged, a mere taste of things to come if I do not get out of here.

As I finally got turned around, I managed to slip a chuckle in between the laborious puffs of breath. Suddenly, a creaking louder than the thunderous flames caught my attention, which was saying something under the circumstances. It sounded as I imagine two pirate ships might sound upon colliding, except without the ocean. The wood moaned and groaned as if an angry titan before snapping with a crispness so sharp it mimicked fireworks exploding. After that, a large beam from the high ceiling began to fall. I watched the beam for what seemed like minutes until it crashed laughably close to the left of me. I did not know whether to feel lucky or even more screwed. Several smaller boards followed, many of them using me to cushion their blow. I guess I got my answer. Man, I sure could use some of that ocean right about now.

When it seemed the boards were done battering me, I looked up. The hole in the roof was big so I didn’t expect more debris, for now. More importantly, I could see the stars and the moon shining bright. It seemed to be looking down on me, letting me know that there are far bigger and more glorious forces in existence. It brought me some comfort and I could feel myself letting go. If I could see my own face, I wonder if it would look like the faces of all the friends I lost during the war. I lost my two brothers in the war, one in the Pacific and another in France. I always thought of them when I held the dying hand of a brother in arms. I wonder if, as I held a bloody hand, they looked at my face and saw something as beautiful as that moon, telling them it was okay to let go because peace would gladly embrace them. Some days, I longed for that kind of peace.

I wanted to give up but something urged me to rock the chair back and forth until, at last, I fell over. It was a good idea but the execution only partially broke the chair. Unfortunately, my ankles were tightly bound and enough of the chair remained to limit my mobility. Then, I noticed that some of the boards from the roof were beginning to catch fire so I swiftly rolled away. While that saved me from the immediate threat, it put me in an awkward position with my hands, still firmly tied behind my back, under the weight of my body. I clawed at the wood, losing a fingernail or two in the process, trying to get the chair legs out so I could at least get to my feet. If I was going to die here, at least I wouldn’t have to take it lying down.

Suddenly, there was another crash and I frantically looked, as best I could, to see its origin. I’ll be damned if it wasn’t a pair of headlights. A man jumped out of a truck and ran towards me.

“Let’s get you out of here,” he said. Until he cut my ankles free, I was not sure he was real. Then, he pulled me up from the ground and cut my hands free. I winced as he cut my hand while doing so but I wasn’t in a position to complain. “Can you walk on your own?” he asked and I nodded.

When I got into his truck, he immediately backed out and a large part of the building caved in as soon as we cleared it. “Thanks,” I said as I extended my bloody hand. Despite the blood, he gladly shook my hand.

“You’re welcome,” he replied while retrieving a handkerchief from his jacket pocket. “Are you okay, pal? Do you need me to take you to the hospital?” he asked alternating his glance between me and the road.

“No, that won’t be necessary. Take me to my office, if you don’t mind. I have plenty of first aid supplies there,” I replied. The man nodded and I sensed a question coming about. “It’s at 45 North Third Avenue,” I said and he again nodded before handing me the handkerchief, now bloody.

The truck stopped right in front of the door to my building. I managed to get out fine on my own. I couldn’t help but notice a taxi stopping down the street. I watched as the people got out, three of them, but I’m not sure what I expected to see.

“Let me help you inside,” the man insisted and put my arm around his shoulders while we entered the building. “It looks like the elevator is out,” he said as we turned to the stairs.

With every step we took, I could hear Emily’s heels echoing and my heart rate steadily increased. I should have seen it coming. Everything about her was wrong. All of her clothes were new, her perfume was fresh, her makeup was perfect, and those heels cost more than my rent. She was as much of a working girl as I was.

Before I knew it, we made it to the second floor. “This is me,” I said as I pointed out the door to my office.

“That was easy. Is this your office, Chet Darby and Associates?” he asked. “Do you need some help with those wounds?”

If only he knew what a joke the associates part of that title was, he wouldn’t be so impressed. “I fought in the war, so I can handle it,” I replied.

“So, you’re a veteran. Were you a medic?”

“Everybody in the war was a medic,” I said gruffly. I immediately felt bad for raising my voice to someone who just saved my life. “Come and have a drink with me,” I demanded as I eased into my office. I went straight to my desk and poured a couple of glasses of whiskey.

He downed his whiskey even quicker than I did. “Listen, I have to be going,” he said while taking a few steps away. “Are you going to be alright?”

I looked over at the over half full bottle of whiskey. “I’ll be fine shortly,” I jested. The man noticed that I was referencing the bottle. “What’s your name?” I asked, irritated that I hadn’t already, which was becoming a bad habit.

“Oh, I’m Link Godwin. It’s good to meet you,” he said and saw fit to replace our previous handshake with a more formal one, now that we know names.

“In this case, I think we can agree that the pleasure is all mine,” I said cleverly, if only to me. “I owe you one,” I added as I raised my glass to him and took another drink.

He abruptly waved and began to walk away. However, he didn’t get far. “I hate to ask at a time like this, but I do need a favor,” he apologetically mentioned.

“This seems like the perfect time,” I replied, and he appeared to understand my meaning.

“I’m going to come back tomorrow and check on you. We’ll talk about it then,” Link said and promptly left.

After he left I wasted little time getting close to that bottle. The liquid inside looked as though it had been touched by King Midas. I gripped the bottle and unscrewed the lid using only my thumb. The lid shot from the bottle, landed on my desk, and began spinning like a top. I grinned and watched as it danced for me, seemingly celebrating its freedom. That makes two of us. I stared down inside of the bottle. It shined bright, letting me know that there are far bigger and more glorious forces in existence. It brought me some comfort and I could feel myself letting go.

Copyright © 2016 by Adam L. Cobden. All Rights Reserved.

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“I am enough of the artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

-Albert Einstein

 

 

Detective Darby #1 – The Dame

The morning was so bright; I almost thought it had a beef with me. Nature should offer cloud cover until 10 am for all of the night owls. To be fair, I had yet to surmise the time and typically call morning whatever time I manage to wake up.

I reluctantly eased up from the well-worn couch in my office. The smell of the leather always brought me an odd sense of comfort. Perhaps it was the sweet reminder of a more prosperous time tapping on my mind’s shoulder. Somehow, a quilt I previously took as payment from a cash-poor but lovely woman covered me. I shudder to think how my pants managed to be laid out over the back of my office chair.

As I made my way to retrieve my pants, I could see the silhouette of Linda, my secretary, in the lobby, if you dare call it that. More people have fit into a campus phone booth I bet. She worked harder to find me work than I did to complete the work that she found for me. It was mostly trivial stuff that even a desperate jerk like me felt was beneath my dignity. To be clear, I made rent this month, barely, by finding some old lady’s cat. To be even clearer, I took the case, walked down to the corner, lit up a smoke, and the crazy cat walked right up to me. I still accepted her money; I even got a bonus. Truthfully, I thought I’d get a second quilt out of that deal.

“Chet, are you decent? There’s a woman here to see you,” announced Linda.

Damn them both for preempting the first cup of coffee of the day. “Gimme two minutes, sugar,” I replied as I hastily fumbled into my pants. Speaking of sugar, I glanced over at the fire escape and gave further consideration to that cup of coffee.

“Chet, did you hear me?” she asked, knocking on my door as if I owed her money. I probably did, though.

“Hold on,” I said desperately. I had no clue how ragged I might have looked so I tried my best to comb my hair by running my hands through it a few times. I couldn’t do much about a shave, but a shot of whiskey for me seemed better than a shot of morning breath for a potential client, at least that’s what I told myself as I poured it. I sat down behind my desk and downed the whiskey. “Come in,” I announced as I shuffled the whiskey bottle and glass into a drawer. I wasn’t fooling anybody save me.

Linda opened the door and gestured for the woman to enter. Once she took a few steps, Linda scowled and pointed her index finger at me, which seemed eerily long and foreboding at that moment. The woman stopped after a few steps as if to give me a chance to drool over her. They always do that, the cute ones. Her skin was far too creamy and delicate to withstand even a few minutes of this wretched sunlight, I thought. Oddly, her flaming red hair was a brilliant contrast despite my previous thought. Beyond that, she was so beautiful with her sculpted cheekbones and celestially orchestrated figure that I instantly found her annoying, because I was sure I had sized her up in a flash.

I did not bother to stand up; I still needed my coffee. “I’m Chet Darby, Private Detective. What can I do for you, miss?” I asked. I could sense that she picked up on the lack of enthusiasm in my tone so I motioned for her to sit down hoping that would prove sufficient distraction.

“I’m not sure how to begin. I’ve never done this before,” the woman replied. Her voice was slightly seductive even though I believe she came by it naturally. Part of me hoped that she sounded like a diseased baboon that somehow learned to speak. That much perfection always leads to trouble, which is evidenced by her presence alone.

“Well, usually a client tells me about a problem or task that they need help with, then they lie about it making my job harder, we agree to terms, and I get to work,” I explained sarcastically yet accurately, in my defense.

She was shocked by my frankness. “Are you always so callous?” she asked.

It was a fair question. “No, sometimes I am much worse,” I joked. She giggled cutely, of course. The joke’s on her because there is often plenty of truth hidden behind a jester’s whimsy. “Talk to me.”

She took a deep breath. “I go to a bar nearby several times a week after work. Sometimes we stay out until dark,” she began to speak but paused for a second deep breath. “Somebody has been following me home, and I think it’s the same man, a man from the bar,” she said timidly.

I enthusiastically nodded, because it seemed simple to me. “That’s good,” I said, and she appeared to take it the wrong way. “What I mean to say is that I can help you,” I clarified, which repopulated a smile to her face.

“Thank you, but how will you help?” she asked, her smile going as easily as it came.

“That’s easy. What time do you get off from work?” I asked.

“I came here as soon as I got off,” she replied.

My confusion transformed to shock. “Uh, what time is it?” I asked and winced at the upcoming response.

“It’s almost 5:30 pm,” she replied, which was admittedly hard for me to hear.

It was my turn to take a couple of deep breaths. “Okay, here is the plan,” I announced though I felt quite a blow to my credibility, even as a social crusader for cats. “We will go to the bar together, and you can point him out to me. I’ll get a feel for him and then we will decide whether we leave together or you lure him out for me. What do you think?”

She seemed relieved, I can only assume, by my decisiveness. “That sounds perfect. I could use a drink,” she replied.

I stood up and realized that I had no shoes on, was wearing my undershirt, and had failed to zip my trousers. “Can you wait with Linda for a minute while I freshen up?” I asked. I would have been embarrassed had I not lacked the presence of mind. She graciously obliged, and I quickly threw myself together.

I burst through my office door to find Linda and the client looking at me as if I were a Martian. I instantly realized that I didn’t even bother to ask her name. Luckily, I had a plan. “Did you get all of her paperwork in order?” I asked Linda, and she promptly handed it to me. I managed to pull her name from the papers, but Linda had me pegged from the start, as she always does. “Emily, are you ready to do this?” I asked, hoping that I didn’t over-enunciate her name.

I offered her my arm, and we briskly set off. As we entered the hallway outside my office, I quickly noticed the elevator was out again. Luckily, I couldn’t afford anything higher than the second floor. When we hit the stairs, the sound her heels made against the floor echoed an unknowable truth, inexplicably filling me with dread. I could not help but stare at her heels, hosiery, dress, and even her hat. She looked back at me, and her smile seemed to enchant all of my worries into submission.

Once we got outside, I began to look for a taxi. I looked to my left and then my right. Fortunately, there was a taxi parking just down the street. We hurried after it but the cabby got out and opened the trunk, so we slowed down. The passenger got out and retrieved a suitcase. By then, we were standing right behind the taxi. I stopped with the intention of hiring the cab, but Emily kept walking and left my arm. As I turned, I saw yet another scowl, this time of the sinister variety, peering back at me. Before I could speak, Emily blackjacked me with a force that I’d swear she hadn’t the capability.

My vision was blurring, but I had just enough sense to witness the cabby and his passenger carry me while my legs dragged across the sidewalk. The scraping noise that my shoes made against the concrete seemed to echo with a similar profundity as Emily’s heels had upon the stairs. They unceremoniously heaved me into the trunk, and the last thing I saw was the cabby’s fist before the darkness claimed me.

When I finally began to regain consciousness, I thought the echoes were coming back for me. As my vision cut through the blurriness, my other senses followed. I could hear the roar, feel the heat, and smell the gasoline. If I wasn’t already amidst the fires of Hell, I need not wait long.

Copyright © 2016 by Adam L. Cobden. All Rights Reserved.

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Like this post on my Facebook Page or Twitter and proceed to Detective Darby #2 – The Samaritan. Check out my book, available for pre-order on Amazon.

“I am enough of the artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

-Albert Einstein

Identity Crisis in Comics

I have always been critical of the comic book industry. Maybe it isn’t fair but we are all guilty of laying down our money, for comics or any other form of entertainment, as an unspoken license to judge, second guess, and sulk about the things that happen and supposed terrible decisions behind them. Of course, we could have done better, right? With that in mind, I have long had a private joke about a miniseries, a successful one by most accounts, that DC Comics released in 2004 called Identity Crisis. To be clear, I am not here to beat up on Identity Crisis. It was somewhere between above average and good for me and, to be honest, I don’t remember it well at this point in time. For me, the only connection it has to comics, is what it represents to me personally, which I think is largely the point and goal of any media. I mean, it’s a comic called Identity Crisis, which sums up the industry quite well if you ask me.

I have been collecting comics monthly since about 2000. Over the years, I have mostly been annoyed by reboots, relaunches, rebirths, or any other spin the industry has put on pulling the rug out from under its fan base. For example, your favorite comic is currently on issue #21 in June and you wake up one day to discover the July issue is going to be inexplicably knocked back to issue #1 or, in an equally odd twist, warped forward to issue #500. That’s not to say I haven’t been sucked into these stunts on numerous occasions because I have indeed. I’m not completely naive. Since the major comic players and titles have been around for decade upon decade, I understand the need to change things up to keep it fresh or when a new generation or company takes the reigns. That makes sense and I can wrap my fragile mind around those facts. In the end, all the reboots, DC or Marvel, have only pushed me out of the monthly comic scene. I’m simply fed up with the absurdity. At this time, I currently buy whatever Conan series Dark Horse sees fit to publish, more on that soon. To clarify, I still buy other comics but almost exclusively in graphic novel form because it represents a cozy finality that monthly comics cannot offer. In my opinion, monthly comics represent pure chaos nowadays. Maybe they always have and it took me a while to notice. Who knows?

Okay, so I am just another complainer but that is good news. If I stopped caring altogether, I would not waste my time complaining. I do have a proposal that I cannot imagine is a groundbreaking idea by any means. I’m going to lay it out as a numbered list below because we are definitely dealing with numbering issues here.

#1 Drop the traditional numbering system completely. It obviously isn’t working and makes comic entities appear foolish and the fans feel foolish.

#1.1 Implement a new numbering system, big surprise. Every year, and I mean EVERY year, start a new issue #1-12. This is a win for all. You get closure, continuity, and the industry gets to release #1 issues with regularity, which equals sales. Not to mention, we already measure our lives in this manner to a large degree, companies and individuals.

#1.2 The #1-12 yearly system is more than enough issues for any story arc, or multiple ones, and adds structure to story telling and the industry as a whole. It also gives the readers something to look forward to as the latter part of the year is winding down. Let’s be honest, we do not care about issue #63 most of the time even if it is awesome, until issue #64 mysteriously becomes #200. At that point, it simply pisses us off and is akin to an alternate cover with our favorite hero giving us the finger.

#300 The frequent issuing of new #1 issues leaves plenty of room for autographed, graded comics, 1 in 50 special sketch covers done by the best artists, also autographed and graded, and plenty of wiggle room to accommodate a relaunch tied around a big movie release. I hear a lot of winning going on here.

#5 Every successful 12 issue run will be celebrated with the release of a hardcover graphic novel collecting the year’s entire run. Release this after issue #6 of the current year releases and, for added oomph, make it coincide with a major Comic-Con. If you start your issues every January, the timing would be perfect for San Diego.

This brings me back to Dark Horse. What I respect about them is how they have handled their Conan series, for the most part. For example, my beloved Conan, also released in 2004, ran a respectable #1-50 run. After that, there was Conan the Cimmerian (#1-25), Conan Road of Kings (#1-12). Conan the Barbarian (#1-25), Conan the Avenger (#1-25), and the new series Conan the Slayer, set to begin this July. Now, I’m not saying this is perfect, and my plan calls for something different, but I like knowing what to expect from Dark Horse and they have been delivering on this formula for more than a decade.

In closing, you can take all this with a grain of salt or dismiss it altogether. It’s my idea, so obviously I am biased, but I do not see a single negative aspect here. Even if a comic runs continuously, the story and direction are inevitably going to change no matter the number printed on the cover. At least this way, you know what you are getting as a fan and what your are in for as a writer, artist, editor, or publisher. That’s my take on it and, if I may be so bold, I think it is a great system, at least in theory. Unfortunately, a theory is all it may ever be.