Detective Darby #6 – The Arrest

It took only a few moments for the coppers to funnel into the depot. A few of the officers that I knew had quite a look of surprise on their faces while a few others took it as business as usual. It was already clear that the room was divided.

My heart sank when the first suit I saw was Detective Greene walking through that garage door. Greene was not a bad guy, but he wasn’t exactly good for me. He moved to the city from the Midwest, Kansas or something, and spread his boy scout antics around to a fault. I don’t think he has a reasonable bone in his body.

“What are you waiting for?” Detective Greene asked anyone who would listen. “Pat him down.” One of the officers looked at me apologetically as he slowly approached.

“I am carrying. It’s registered,” I said as I opened my suit jacket. Greene seemed to notice the blood on my right hand and cuff. In my haste, I had failed to see it myself. I hate to admit that it did not look good. “I came here at the request of a client. I’m looking for a woman,” I said as the officer took my gun, emptying the chamber and removing the magazine.

“Where did the blood come from?” Greene asked, almost robotically.

I did not see any reason not to cooperate. After all, I didn’t do anything wrong. “There was a tussle. I got jumped by three guys. My punch was rather on the nose,” I said as I examined my slightly bloodied fist. “I found a body in the trunk of the taxi,” I announced as I pointed towards said taxi.

Greene furrowed his brow and then walked deliberately towards the cab. He did not take his eyes from me until he passed by. Before he did, he stopped and looked hard and deep into my eyes as if he could sense my guilt or innocence by doing so.

“There is a body in here,” one of the officers announced even though Greene was standing right next to him by this time.

“Go radio it in,” Greene commanded. “As for you, Mr. Darby, you’re under arrest for suspicion of murder. Cuff him,” he announced.

“Are you serious?” I asked. I cannot say that I’m entirely surprised given Greene’s by-the-book nature.

“I’m afraid so,” he replied. At this point, nobody had handcuffed me. “What are you waiting for?” he asked. This time, his frustration leaked through his usual icy demeanor.

An officer finally approached me with his handcuffs at the ready. “I’m sorry about this Chet,” he said, as he clicked the handcuffs into place.

I knew his remorse was genuine by how loose the cuffs were on my wrists. “Don’t worry about it. It’s all part of the job,” I replied.

“Take him away,” Greene calmly demanded. The officer complied and I was soon sitting in the backseat of a police car.

I sat inside the squad car for quite a long time. It looks like they put a rookie out here to keep an eye on the perimeter and he gave me the occasional glance. I doubt he thought that I would mount an escape but who could blame him for watching me. It’s a far sight better than trying to explain it had I successfully escaped.

After some time, the crowd around the perimeter had gotten pretty large. Many of the onlookers stared in and pointed at me. Some seemed curious or concerned while others would have been glad to have hanged me from the nearest lamp-post of sufficient height. Speaking of height, after surveying the crowd I saw my pal Walt Hayes towering over them. I imagined him holding the rope that I was hanging from as the crowd cheered and spat at me, he likely had the strength. For some odd reason, I found the mental image quite hilarious albeit morbidly. I began to laugh hysterically at the thought. Some of the crowd noticed as did the rookie cop. I won’t soon forget the look of terror on his face as he looked at me while I cackled maniacally. Tears slowly slid down my cheeks as the laughter turned into sinister echoes. I imagined Walt pawing at me, as a cat would a string while dangling me effortlessly. By now, my ribs and cheeks were sore, my breath was running short, and I was becoming light-headed. Time seemed to slow down so much so that my laughter sounded far more like the roaring of a beast frenzied in a fit of rage. The scene was undoubtedly incriminating. I don’t care. Whatever contempt the crowd may have felt for me, I revisited on them tenfold simply for existing.

Al long last, two officers got into the car and drove me to the nearest station. It was comically close to the depot considering how long I languished outside in that police car. Once we arrived, they rushed me inside, which seemed odd, once again, given the amount of time I had waited.

One of the officers took me to processing, removed the handcuffs, and seemed intent on fingerprinting me. “My prints are in my file already,” I said. He looked at his partner, both of them dumbfounded.

“What’s going on, Chet?” the desk sergeant asked. He looked sternly at the two petrified officers. “Take him to room two. I’ll vouch for him,” he ordered. The officers did not make him repeat himself before yanking me towards room two, presumably. “And take those cuffs off,” he shouted from a distance.

Strangely, as soon as my butt hit the chair, Detective Greene walked in. “Could you recommend a good lawyer?” I asked as he sat down across from me.

“Are you sure you don’t have anything to say?” he asked. I wondered if he cared or not. “Murder is serious business.”

“So is prostitution but you know that. Growing up in a brothel must be tough,” I said, convinced that would get Greene out of the room. As I predicted, he slowly got up from his chair and closed the door behind him. I could see him talking to another detective, Eddy Hill. Everyone calls him “Ebby” Eddy since his allegiance always seems to flow with the tide. The tide being cold, hard cash. Seeing him was almost never good news since the good guys aren’t typically inclined to hand out bribes.

“Ebby” Eddy walked in with his usual swagger. He was the personification of a weasel, tall and thin, almost sickly in appearance, with light brown hair and a pointy nose. “Well, I have good news and bad news,” he announced. His utter corruptness exceeded his originality or lack thereof. “The good news is, it’s Ash Wednesday. The bad news is, the judge on duty is a devout Catholic,” he said.

“What do I care?” I asked. By the way, I didn’t care.

“You care because we have to figure out what to do with you until Monday,” he replied. His filthy grin was almost as disgusting as the dark secrets he must have accrued over his many years as a dirty cop. The fact that he was a dirty cop was almost as cliché as his bad cop routine. Not that him being a bad cop was a routine. Nevermind. I made my point.

If I could ask that question all over again, I might change my answer. After looking into the pin-sized, desolate eyes of that scumbag, I could only wonder where I might end up at the end of the day. If this is merely a tactic, then color me impressed. Unfortunately, I feared the lengths they were willing to go to impress their will upon me.

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

Like this post on my Facebook Page or Twitter and check back soon for Detective Darby #7 – The Sergeant. 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

Detective Darby #5 – The Trunk

Walt and I were petrified as we continued to stare into the trunk of that taxi. It seemed to have untold depths with only a glint of light captivating us while we squinted in vain to reason out its origin.

“For a second, I thought we were going to find that dog,” Walt remarked. His bravado was unrelenting, but that has always been his defining quality. During the war, I thought the guy had a death wish. More than once he grabbed me by the collar and threw me back into the fray. There never was a particular instance during which he saved my life, but I’m convinced that he did somehow. The cats of this city are undoubtedly grateful, though gratitude and cats are as oil and water in my opinion.

“Is he dead?” I asked, hoping maybe saying so would make it otherwise. The man looked like a typical businessman. He wore a suit and tie with a brown overcoat. His hands and feet were bound in a familiar manner. Unfortunately, I had some personal experience with such bindings. Then, I saw the suitcase, and it finally hit me.

“Maybe we ought to poke him with a stick,” suggested Walt. I asked myself if he was serious, but I’m not going to ask him. I don’t want to hear his answer.

My eyes locked on the man. Just as I feared, the echoes came back. They started off in the back of my mind and gradually intensified until it was the only thing I could hear. Walt’s voice was but a murmur muffled under layers of sonic pollution. Suddenly, I reached for my flask but, as soon as I touched it, the realization that it was empty mocked me. The feel of the cold, hard metal of the flask was an equally brutal reminder. Not only was I an emotional weakling, drowning my sorrows in poison, but I was also too inept to provide myself with the instrument to do so. In truth, my sorrows were drowning. Each time I swam the fermented seas to save them, they pulled me under with ease. Whenever I empty a bottle, I always lose a piece of myself to its void. This pace cannot go on forever, at least not as far as the universe is concerned, but it can go on for my forever, whether it be weeks or years. The universe is concerned as if the universe can spare some concern for a bum like me.

Wouldn’t you know, Walt grabbed me by the collar. I immediately snapped out of my trance. “Snap out of it!” he yelled, which was quite apropos.

I put my hands around his wrists. “I’m okay,” I said as he loosened his grip. Eventually, he let me go, but he did not mention anything. Walt was hardly the sensitive type yet somehow he knew when to keep quiet and when to get in my face. This situation called for the former. “I think this is the passenger that helped toss me in the trunk last night. I won’t lie; I love the irony,” I said as I studied him.

“This is the first time I’ve heard about this. Apparently, you made it out alive. That’s something,” Walt remarked. It never occurred to me to look at the bright side, unless it involved surrendering to the moonlight, and I certainly did not expect to be reminded to do so by Walt of all people. “Are you sure?” Walt asked. I couldn’t be sure whether he asked out of his curiosity or because he doubted my state of mind.

I think it might be time to do some detective work. With that in mind, I approached the trunk and began to rifle through the man’s pockets.

Walt seemed uneasy. “I’m going to get some air,” he announced.

“Who’s a jumpy girl this time?” I asked only to ridicule him. Truthfully, Walt is not a squeamish man in any sense, but he always had a problem with scrounging from the dead. During the war, he beat a man half to death for taking a pack of smokes from a fallen comrade. Eventually, he adopted a pragmatic viewpoint on the matter, but it always made him uncomfortable. At least he stopped piling up casualties of his own before a court-martial resulted.

He winced as I continued to search the man. “I’ll be close by,” he said before disappearing.

My search was rather disappointing. Amazingly, there was not a single drop of blood anywhere in the trunk, and I only found the things I would expect to find in anyone’s pockets such as money, a watch, a handkerchief, and a few other baubles. Suddenly, I had an excellent idea, for better or worse, so I quickly and calmly reached into the inside pocket of the victim’s overcoat to see the results of my panning. I may have been calm in my actions, but inside, my heart burned with the shoveling of a thousand stokers, and the fruits of their labor were bound to erupt from my ears momentarily. I was relieved to find that the man did not carry a flask even though I desired it to be otherwise. Instead, I procured a small brown envelope. I opened it up and found a picture of myself inside. It was an official photo that the Army took of me when I came home. Since that was going on five years ago, I was happy to be recognized by it. I flipped it over to discover that my name and the address of my apartment, which had been crossed off, and the office had been written down. I guess there was no denying that this was one of my kidnappers. For good measure, I checked the other pockets of his overcoat and discovered a book of matches from a local bar called Lucky’s. America’s pastime may well be baseball, but mine was such that I knew my bars all too well. When Emily came to me, she mentioned that she frequents a bar from which a man was presumably stalking her. They say the best lies contain a modicum of truth; this book of matches might be the lead I was hoping to find.

Suddenly, I heard sirens and the screeching tires of hard braking. I went over everything in my mind. I had my investigator’s license, my gun is registered, and I was hired to come here, technically. For the life of me, I can’t remember if I filled out any paperwork regarding Link’s favor. Depending on which coppers come through that door, my life might soon become immeasurably complicated.

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

Like this post on my Facebook Page or Twitter and check back soon for Detective Darby #6 – The (insert title here). 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

Book Excerpt #1 – The Mad Ventures of Bindlestiff Cliff

Here’s an excerpt from my book for you to enjoy. Keep in mind, this isn’t from the final draft. Check back in the near future for more excerpts. Thank you.

“What’s this all about?” Bob said as he was driving towards a four-way stop sign. It appeared that there were two cars already stopped and they seemed to be in a stalemate in regards to who should go next. “Come on!” Bob yelled as he angrily mashed his car horn to no avail.

“This sort of thing is exactly why I don’t have a license, Bob,” Cliff mentioned, with the understanding that Bob would agree with him.

“You do realize that I was there when you lost your license, right?” Bob asked with a puzzled look on his face. He disengaged from Cliff to give the horn another blare. “Let’s go you jerks!”

“That whole situation was a huge misunderstanding,” Cliff responded but he often found himself mixed up in one misunderstanding or another. Bob knew that better than anyone.

“The judge didn’t seem confused about it,” Bob said, determined to pick at an old wound. “If I remember correctly, you somehow exposed yourself to the lady teaching your DUI class,” he continued.

“What’s your problem, Bob? You know there’s more to the story than that,” Cliff’s tone was noticeably shifting to a place of anger. “You know; I wasn’t even driving the car. I got a ride from a man who turns out was the ex-boyfriend of one of your colleague’s sister. That cop had it out for him for violating a restraining order and he took it out on me because I just happened to be there.”

“Listen, I’m sorry. I was just messing with you,” Bob apologized. “I’m on your side, Cliff. You remember who kept you out of jail, got the fine waived, and the cost of the classes too? They only made you do the classes so the officer involved saved face,” he explained, trying to calm him down.

“Well, I was too poor to defend myself and, I admit, I was lucky that you had my back. Not everyone has a Bob in their corner though,” he said, thanking him in so many words.

“Don’t get mad,” Bob warned. “Refresh my memory as to how you exposed yourself to that lady. I remember the charges were dropped but I actually had nothing to do with that and nobody really told me what happened.”

“Like I said, it was a misunderstanding. I went to the class as they told me and everything was going fine until we took a break. I went to the bathroom and was doing my business when she grabbed my shoulder and started hollering at me. Naturally, I turned around and she starts screaming because she saw my man bits,” he tried to explain and was a little irritated to discover Bob was laughing uncontrollably at his story. “It turned out she came in the men’s room, like I told them, so they dropped the charges. I still got arrested though and they didn’t believe a word I said until half of the people in the class told them they saw her run out of the men’s room,” he continued.

“How does this stuff keep happening to you?” Bob managed to ask as his laughter had tapered off. “Look at this situation. You’re like a magnet for this,” he continued and shook his index finger in the air to suggest he had more to add to the conversation. “You’re some kind of bizarro Rumpelstiltskin that spins situations into chaos.”

“I’m happy I can entertain you, Bob,” he replied solemnly, if not sincerely.

Bob noticed his comments were getting to him so he attempted to turn things around. “You don’t usually let this get to you, Cliff. If I took it too far, I am sorry. Are we good?”

“We’re good,” he answered and nodded as well which boosted both his confidence in his answer and Bob’s confidence in its sincerity.

“Alright then,” he replied. He immediately turned his attention back to the two cars at the stop sign. “Go! You,” he pointed at one of the cars, “get going!”

Cliff, unlike Bob, sat patiently in the passenger’s seat and tried to figure out who the people in the other cars were. On the left side, there was a young girl driving a nice sedan and an older man sitting in the passenger seat. The man seemed to be trying to talk her through the situation but the girl seemed to be scared or arguing with him. It was hard to be sure from that distance.

On the right side, there was a man in one of those tiny little trucks. The truck had an unusual arm attached to the bed with a wheelchair hooked to it. That along with the handicapped sign hanging from his rear view mirror led Cliff to believe he was disabled.

“I still can’t believe nobody is going,” Bob said. At this point, it seemed he was too tired to get angry. Instead, he just shook his head and threw up his hands in disbelief.

“Don’t worry, Bob. I think I’ve got this,” Cliff said confidently.

“I can’t think of a single time you’ve told me not to worry that ended well at all,” Bob replied and the situation flew out of his hands before he knew it.

“Parley!” Cliff shouted as he stuck his head out the window and began to open his door.

“What are you doing? Are you kidding me?” Bob asked in disbelief.

Cliff scurried out of the car but then he turned and looked at Bob. “You remember, from the pirate movies, they’d have a little meeting to hash things out. That’s what I’m doing,” he explained while Bob looked on, helpless to do anything about the avalanche of absurdity except watch it unfold.

The girl in the sedan got out of her car as well, with only slight hesitation, even though the older man was about as bewildered about it as Bob. She walked timidly towards the middle of the intersection, following Cliff’s lead, and occasionally looked back at the car as if doing so would make the ordeal any safer or appropriate.

Eventually, Bob angrily got out of the car to see if he could assist in wrapping up the nonsense. “You do realize that this isn’t some stupid pirate movie, don’t you?” He asked as he slammed the car door hard enough for the others to notice. He was both disappointed and relieved that he failed to shatter the glass of the car door during his Herculean episode.

By the time Bob reached the others, the man from the sedan had joined the girl and Cliff. The four of them watched, in awkward silence, as the disabled man was in the process of using the little crane attached to the back of his truck to retrieve his wheelchair.

“Listen up,” Bob began to speak but Cliff interrupted him.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa…” Cliff said while gesturing him to slow down.

“What is it?” he replied impatiently.

“We can’t start without the other guy,” he explained as he pointed towards the disabled man who was, at last, in his wheelchair.

Bob did not have time to answer because the man in the wheelchair zoomed over with much greater speed than anyone expected. As he got closer, he stopped abruptly causing everyone in the group, save Cliff, to jump backwards to avoid a collision.

“Sorry about that,” he said, looking up at them. “I’m still getting used to this new chair I got from my grandma,” he explained.

“That was really nice of her to do that for you,” the girl replied in that tone people often use when they feign sincerity.

“Oh, she didn’t give it to me,” he said shaking his head, “she died and I took her chair because it’s so much better than the one I had.”

The group of people looked at one other. It was clear each of them was hoping someone would step up to the plate, so to speak, and steer the conversation back on course.

Cliff was all too happy to oblige, although the results with him were a mixed bag at best. “Well, it’s not like she needed it anymore,” Cliff blurted out the first thing that came to mind. To make matters worse, he raised his hand towards the man signaling a high-five and, to the surprise of the others, the man enthusiastically slapped his hand thus completing the aforementioned high-five and eliminating any possibility to leave Cliff hanging.

The situation evolved beyond the realm of what Bob had thought a simple drive from a motel room to his home could entail. He was determined to take control and saw little choice but to play the hand he was dealt. In this case, that was the police card. “Listen up,” he announced in a manner to suggest he was not foreign to taking action. “I’m a police officer and I really need everyone to return to your vehicles and move along. The middle of an intersection is no place for anyone to be standing.”

The five of them continued to stand in the middle of the road. It was astonishing that no other cars had showed up at this point.

“He’s right. Let’s just do as he says and get back in the car,” the older man said, clearly agitated, to the younger girl and attempted to grab her, albeit gently, by the arm.

The girl quickly pulled away from him and turned her attention to Bob. “I’m sorry, officer. It is just that my dad is totally stressing me out. I got my learner’s permit and Dad was going to show me a few driving tips since he is always driving in big cities. We started arguing at the stop sign and then I noticed the truck was there and I didn’t know if it was my turn to go or not so I just sort of froze,” she explained and talked extremely fast while doing so. Her dad suddenly seemed content to let her take the lead perhaps in the hopes that she would learn something or at least gain some valuable life experience out of the deal.

“Okay, calm down,” Bob said and the girl seemed to heed his advice by taking a deep breath. “Does anyone else remember who was there first?” Bob asked. He raised his eyebrows and looked over the two men.

The disabled man pounced at the chance to answer as if he were waiting for the question. “I remember. It stuck out in my mind because about halfway down the street, I almost hit a cat…”

“What kind of cat was it, house cat or feral?” Cliff interrupted. The nature of his question seemed to suggest it mattered one way or the other.

“Cliff!” Bob tried to stifle his voice to keep from shouting but his outburst startled the would-be commuters nonetheless.

“I don’t know. What’s the difference?” he asked.

“Maybe you should loan him your dictionary, Cliff,” Bob sarcastically added. He immediately regretted the suggestion for fear that he might actually go fetch it.

“Well, I’m sure you know what a house cat is. A feral cat is basically just a wild cat,” he explained. “As a matter of fact, I once met a Chinaman who taught me a lot about the virtues of feral cats. You see…”

“Let me just stop you right there,” Bob said as he casually shoved Cliff away from the man. “First of all, nobody says Chinaman anymore. I am not a historian but I’m pretty sure that is offensive. Secondly,” Bob leaned down to get uncomfortably close to the man, “do you know if it was your turn to go or not?”

The man leaned away in vain because the more he did, the closer Bob got. “It was definitely her turn,” he answered.

Bob lingered in the man’s face far longer than he had hoped especially since he had given him his answer.

Suddenly, another car pulled up to the stop sign. Now a car waited at every end of the intersection. A very old woman drove it, one of those older sedans with a hood almost as long as an entire modern car. In addition, the car was at least twenty years old but looked brand new and probably had fewer miles than Bob’s two-year old vehicle. Without any hesitation, the old woman honked her horn, screeched her tires, and flipped the group a very common hand gesture among motorists representing her disapproval of the situation.

“Well, she has a point,” Bob commented as he retreated from the absurd battlefield of wills.

“That’s not the first time an old lady did that to me,” said Cliff with a hint of pride in his voice. He apparently found it humorous.

“Imagine my surprise,” Bob replied and continued to walk.

“Hey, Bob! I think I can see your house from here!” Cliff exclaimed while still standing surreally in the street with three strangers.

“No kidding? You keep that up and you might make detective before I do,” Bob replied and was unrelenting with his sarcasm.

“He really is on fire today,” Cliff mentioned to them and got about as much reaction from them as he would have from a dairy cow. “It was nice to have met you all,” he added and scampered away abruptly. The motley trio of dawdlers finally took the hint and began to disperse.

Cliff quickly arrived back at Bob’s car. What he did not find, however, was Bob. In response, he looked all around the car, in the car, and down the street. As he did, he noticed that Bob was more than halfway to his house. He had walked, abandoning his car.

Cliff thought that to be out of character for Bob but always tried to be liberal in his understandings of people. On the contrary, he lived his life with his own kind of understanding: some things are not meant to be understood. With this in mind, Cliff tried his best to let people be who they are rather than shaping them, in his mind, to what he wants them to be. He quite often found himself on the pointy end of public judgment. Although he did not enjoy that, he took it for what it was and endeavored to move forward.

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

Detective Darby #4 – The Passenger

Finally, I conjured enough nerve to lay eyes on my presumptuous passenger. I prepared myself to receive quite a shock but, in the end, was rather relieved instead, which was something of a shock in its own right.

It turned out to be none other than Walter Hayes, one of the reasons why my door reads Chet Darby and Associates. Walt is a bear of a man, don’t ever call him Walter. He stands about six-foot four, has impressively broad shoulders, a barrel chest, and hands large enough to cause insecurity in those who dare shake his hand. He maintains that the best use of his brain is to headbutt someone. He always wears the same brown pants and suspenders with a white undershirt. I long assumed the combination of the broadness of his shoulders and chest and the relative leanness of his abdomen made it difficult for him to find a well-fitting button up shirt, though I’ve never asked. He was surprisingly clean shaven, given his temperament, except for a thick, bristly mustache he maintained. His hair was equally thick and deep brown in color, though he often hid it under a flat cap. I first met him during the war. He seemed to show up, like today, when I was alone and in need of backup.

“You’re a jumpy little girl this morning,” Walt said gruffly as if he talked any other way. Truthfully, I was jumpy considering my recent experiences. “What’s the plan?” he asked. Knowing him as well as I do, I could guess what his plan was, it was the same every time.

“I was thinking we’d just storm in there and start punching people in the face until we figured out what to do next,” I replied and expected little argument from Walt on the matter.

“Sounds like a good plan,” he replied. He smiled and began cracking his knuckles. His grin wasn’t even sadistic in nature, which I found to be more unsettling than if it had been.

“I thought you might say that,” I admitted. Unfortunately, Walt wasn’t kidding and even if he agreed to an alternate plan, the result would remain the same. My best play is to keep it simple. “How about this, you swing around back, and I will go through the front. That way one of us should be able to surprise them,” I explained.

Walt grimaced at the thought. “I suppose I can live with that,” he said reluctantly. “I’ll give you a head start,” he added and winked at me.

“How much for the fare?” I asked the cabby. He turned back to look at me, the fabric of the seat groaned as if a mysterious creature. He didn’t speak. Instead, stern uncertainty beamed from his eyes. Perhaps he overheard our conversation. With that in mind, I thought it prudent to overpay, an unspoken agreement that matters remain unspoken. As I opened the door, I looked at Walt one last time as if to confirm the plan. His eyes revealed no hint of uncertainty and I was convinced he’d just assume punch his way out of the cab. I wasn’t going to stick around for that. I hope I’m wrong, wouldn’t be the first time, but I’m glad I tipped him well at least.

I walked up the block before crossing the street. I was surprised I recognized the cabby so quickly, but I have a knack for that sort of thing, wouldn’t be much of a detective otherwise. On the other hand, I had no way of knowing whether the cabby would recognize me so easily. Since I was unconscious, I can only guess how involved he was, or wasn’t, in casting me into that man-made inferno. In any case, I bet I find out sooner than later.

I was within one hundred feet of the depot when a large group of men emerged from the garage. Luckily, there was a phone booth nearby so I casually slipped inside, as if that was my intention all along. I remained incognito by pretending to use the telephone. As I watched, I noticed six men in all, three wearing suits, and three apparent flunkies. They all seemed to be orbiting one man in particular. They followed his lead and hung on his every word. One of the suits got into a car parked nearby, starting the engine, while the other suit opened the door for the distinguished gentleman with the gravitational pull. The flunkies stayed behind as the car sped away. There was no sign of the cabby; it was making me paranoid.

“Here goes,” I said as I exited the phone booth and walked towards the depot. I made it to the garage door quickly enough and kept walking as I peeked inside using mainly my peripheral vision, which revealed nothing. After I had passed the door, I leaned up against the wall and prepared to make my way inside. I hope Walt is at the ready.

I wasn’t actually counting in my head but I definitely felt like I was waiting for a countdown to expire before I rushed inside. This sort of thing annoys Walt and, after mere seconds, it annoyed me too so I dared myself to go inside and obliged all in a single motion. As I took a few steps, I feared my shoes might be the death of me. Suddenly, I remembered the echoes that Emily’s heels made on the staircase outside of my office. Every time I took a step, I could hear that same echo. It haunted me for reasons unknown.

As I turned a corner, I locked eyes with the cabby. I’d swear that my expression neutralized any lie I could imagine to get out of this peacefully. I told myself to say something, but nothing came out. I’m about three seconds away from drawing on this guy. Even I couldn’t miss from this distance.

“Who are you?” he asked. I was relieved that he hadn’t recognized me so far. “You shouldn’t be in here.”

I said the first thing that came to mind. “I’m looking for a dog. Did you see one wander in here?”

“No, there’s no dog in here so move along,” he replied. He wasn’t nice, but he wasn’t rude either.

I’m not sure if Walt’s presence was influencing me but a wellspring of rage began trickling to the surface of my psyche. “Look, I really need to find that dog. You see, I got out of bed this morning and your mom asked me to walk her dog. She’ll be upset if I go back without it and frankly, I’d like to stay on her good side, if you know what I mean,” I said.

Suddenly, the flunkies had me surrounded, and the cabby seemed to be studying my face. “What do you think boys?” he asked rhetorically. He sighed loudly through his nose as his gaze softened. “Get out. This is your last chance.”

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting that. And these goons weren’t expecting Walt Hayes. “Are you sure you haven’t seen that dog?” I asked, and the cabby immediately looked disappointed. “If you stare at its arse long enough, you’ll think you’re looking into a mirror.”

The cabby nodded, and the flunkies immediately converged. “Don’t bloody him up. The boss wouldn’t like it,” he announced as he pulled out a cigarette and a book of matches. The cabby’s handling of the situation was intriguing.

Oddly, the flunkies didn’t seem to know what to do since the cabby took blood off the menu. The three of them stood in a circle around me and seemed to be waiting for someone do something.  I shrugged while looking towards the cabby and immediately decked the flunky to my left. My fist sank into his nose so deeply, breaking it to be sure, it felt as if I was pounding my fist into the mud. As I expected, the flunky behind me wrapped his arms around me. He had an iron grip for such a skinny bastard. Unsurprisingly, the remaining flunky began to work my body like a heavy bag while the cabby continued smoking.

I was expecting Walt to intervene any minute but it wasn’t happening. After a few more blows, the cabby looked at his watch and walked swiftly from the building. Finally, I could see Walt walking in from a doorway in the back. Instead of intervening, he casually sat down on the bumper of a taxi and watched with a concerned look on his face, at least he cares.

One flunky was still nursing his nose on the floor while the skinny one held me and the third one was getting ready for another combination. I glanced at Walt and he emphatically clenched a fist as he clenched his face in a similar manner. This was undoubtedly meant to encourage me. Just as another punch was about to come my way, I went limp and crashed to the floor. As I hoped, the skinny one folded under my weight and I instinctively introduced my foot to my sparring partner’s gonads. Once he collapsed, I sprang to my feet and presented the same foot to the skinny one’s face. It was only fair; I didn’t want him to feel like a heel.

I stumbled back to the taxi on which Walt was still sitting. At this point, he was laughing and clapping his hands oafishly, on both counts. The flunkies had gathered themselves by now and seemed ready to start round two. I opened my jacket just enough to reveal my pistol. They scampered like the vermin they are. Thank goodness, I was running out of steam.

“Well done,” Walt said approvingly.

“Thanks,” I replied as he patted me on the back so hard I nearly fell over, stumbling a step or two as a result. I wanted to be mad at him but, truth be told, but I was both proud of myself and glad to have his approval. I turned around and took yet another look at Walt sitting on the bumper. A feeling came over me as I moved towards the taxi.

“Let’s open the trunk,” he said, reading my mind. It was locked so he immediately grabbed the nearest tool and began to pry it open. While he did that, I strolled up and opened the driver’s door. The keys were in the ignition. I held them up and jingled them to emphasize how clever I was. “Have it your way,” he said as he backed away from the trunk and tossed the tool carelessly aside. The tool and the concrete floor composed a clang that resonated and seemed to ricochet inside my skull as a bullet, and with equal effect, albeit temporarily. My mind flashed, trying to take me back to that staircase, but I resisted.

When I managed to regain my senses, I place the key into the lock. Walt’s use of force had mangled the metal around the lock and sporadically chipped away the yellow paint. Despite that, the trunk popped right open.

“I was not expecting that,” Walt remarked as we looked into the trunk. So far, this week had been so strange that if I heard someone tell this story, I wouldn’t believe a word.

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

Like this post on my Facebook Page or Twitter and check back soon for Detective Darby #5 – The Trunk. 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

Detective Darby #3 – The Favor

I wiped the steam from the mirror after draping myself in a towel. Consequently, I was shocked at image looking back at me. It appears that a hot bath cured my ailments except for my incessant need for a shave. Honestly, I didn’t care anymore, but I hadn’t given up on my clientele, not even the cat lovers. This shave would be strictly for business.

As I exited, successfully clean-shaven, I felt smart for having a bathtub put in the office bathroom. I remember Linda was furious when I got it. She warned me that we might not have months as successful as that and I should save my money. Instead, I bought a leather couch, the bathtub, a crystal drinking set, and a new M1911 pistol. I was always a terrible shot with a gun and never even fired one during the war. Since I can’t carry a rifle around the city, I opted for one because I figured that I would need the extra ammo, eight shots are better than six after all. If she knew that I had given up my apartment, she might forgive me the bathtub; I doubt it, though.

Speaking of Linda, I noticed a fresh suit hanging from the coat rack in the corner. I hadn’t noticed it before, but I was a bit preoccupied climbing from the inside out of a bottle last night. Not to mention, I was hit on the head, punched in the face, and nearly incinerated while dodging some rather sinister lumber as well. By dodging I mean the right side of my head avoided while the left side absorbed the blow. By the time I was done coming up with excuses, I was fully dressed and looked credible at least, to the untrained eye.

Since I had been on a tear the last few days, I decided to do a quick inventory of my desk. Luckily, I found my gun, my watch, and a current copy of the books, thanks to Linda of course. She was my wife, big sister, and mother all rolled into one. Just as I thought, there was no sign of whiskey inside my desk, and I was pondering whether that was good news or bad when I heard a knock at the door.

I quickly rushed to the door and, upon opening it, I was rather surprised. I was expecting my new friend Link but was greeted by the postman.

“Good morning, Chet. You’ve got to sign for this letter,” he said.

Our postman was always friendly, which made me feel bad for never remembering his name. “Thanks,” I replied as I signed a form. He handed me the letter, and I quickly inspected it. It was addressed to Chet Darby and Associates; it had been typed rather than hand written. Upon opening, I discovered only a check for fifty dollars, enough to pay my rent, also made out to Chet Darby and Associates. Emily Black signed it, presumably the same woman who hired and ambushed me. I can only assume the money was for Linda. Criminals this classy typically fly around town atop unicorns.

As soon as I sat down behind my desk, there was another knock at the door. I angrily walked back to the door but got it out of my system by the time I got there. As I expected, it was Link, returning as he said he would.

“You look pretty good considering what happened last night,” he said as he walked through the door at my invitation.

“I thought the same thing when I looked in the mirror,” I agreed. Link turned around after walking only a few paces. Last night, I either did not or could not get a good look at him. Link was below average height, but not short, and above average build, but not muscular. He appeared to have a strong jaw; it was prominent and angular, and his eyes were large and somewhat far apart. Also, one of his eyes was blue, and the other one was gray, which was rare to see. His hair was blonde and mostly shaved on the sides and back of his head. He wore long sleeves and pants but some small burn scars, old ones, were barely noticeable above his collar.

“Is now a good time to talk about that favor?” he asked getting straight to the point. A man in my line of work always appreciates that.

I thought about the fact that I had recently paid my rent and just received another payment that would easily cover next month. Now was the best possible time to return a favor, a nonpaying one I assume. “Like I said, I owe you,” I replied confidently.

He shook his head positively. “I need your help finding someone, a woman. Her name is Emily Black,” he announced.

I did my best to keep my composure. It appears Emily shellacked me yet again. “Okay, what can you tell me about her?” I asked as nonchalantly as I could.

“Well, she is very fair-skinned, and she has red hair. She’s so beautiful that you can’t help but notice her,” Link described, much to my horror. Truthfully, I was hoping it was a coincidence, and he would describe a different woman altogether.

“Can you tell me the last place you saw her, places she frequents, or her known associates?” I asked, but he just stared at me.

“I’m sorry, but I have already exhausted everything I know. That’s why I’m asking you now,” Link replied and headed for the door. “Look, I have somewhere to be. Can you help me?” he asked while standing in my doorway.

I sighed and threw up my hands. Normally, I wouldn’t do that in front of a client, but normalcy was nowhere in sight lately. “You haven’t given me much to go on, but I will give it a shot,” I responded. At least, he hadn’t filled me full of false information. However, I couldn’t be so sure he hadn’t lied by omission. Then again, I never can when it comes to clients.

He walked a few steps towards me and shook my hand firmly. “I’ll be in touch,” he said. He pointed at me and smiled before closing the door behind him.

I had previously put my holster on under my suit jacket, so I retrieved my gun, checking the chamber and magazine before I holstered it. Then, I grabbed my hat, overcoat, and cigarettes. I don’t smoke much, drinking is my thing, but they have value when gaining the trust of others. I paused for a second and patted the inside pocket of my jacket. My flask was gone. How could I have missed it? Since I was out of whiskey, I assumed the flask would be empty too. But what if it wasn’t? Just then, I imagined tearing my office apart to find it, as I had done before. Instead, I calmly walked over to my desk and stood in front of the center drawer. As I slowly opened the drawer, it sounded as if I was dragging the entire desk across the floor, the legs scraping and screeching hideously across the floor. I’d swear the flask sparkled at me with some unknown source of reflection. I slowly reached for it and then frantically snatched it up. Upon shaking it, I discovered it was empty. I crumbled into my chair, took some refreshingly deep breaths, and noticed my heart beat slowing down, though I don’t recall it speeding up.

Once I began to think clearly, I slipped my flask into my jacket pocket and gathered my coat and hat yet again. I locked up the office and turned around. Apparently, the elevator was back in service. I only use it when I’m too drunk to walk up the stairs since I’m only on the second floor. I started for the stairs, but the echoes didn’t come, which brought a smile to my face.

As I exited the building, I planned on hailing a cab and, as luck would have it, one was driving towards me from up the block. I whistled and waved, and the cab slowed down and pulled over towards me. Boy, I love it when things fall like dominos. Now I just need to remember not to shoot the cabby. I certainly hope I don’t develop a fear of cabbies like some folks have with clowns.

“Where can I take you?” the cabby asked.

I had my own plan since Link was useless as a compass. “Take me to your headquarters or base of operations. I don’t know what you lot call it,” I said with a tinge of disdain.

“Which one?” he asked, and I didn’t have an answer. “There’s the main place and the maintenance depot,” he clarified.

“What’s the difference?” I asked even though I was pretty sure that I knew. Long ago, I figured out that making people feel smarter than you can be a useful tactic to gain information.

“Well, the base, as we call it, is where we all go daily to change cabs and check in. The depot is where they take cabs to be serviced. There’s a lot fewer guys there,” he explained.

If I need information, there are more cabbies to speak to at the base. On the other hand, if someone wanted to take a cab that nobody would miss for a few hours, it would be much easier to take it from the depot. “Should we flip a coin?” I joked. He only stared into his rearview mirror with his droopy face and dead eyes. “Take me to the depot,” I said, and he nodded.

“We’re here,” he announced. As we stopped, I looked out the window and saw the same cabby that punched me in the face walking into the depot. I ducked down into the seat hoping he wouldn’t notice me. “The meter is still running,” the cabby reminded me. He seemed completely unfazed by my actions.

Suddenly, the door to the cab opened, and someone sat down beside me. I was petrified and vulnerable. I thought finding my cabby was another domino falling into place, but I hesitated to see whether I was to be the next domino. People often say that luck runs out, but I don’t believe that. Luck turns good, or it turns bad. When I turn my head towards my unwanted passenger, my luck turns with it. The question is, which way will it go?

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

Like this post on my Facebook Page or Twitter and proceed to Detective Darby #4 – The Passenger. Check out my book, available 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