The Thick Man- Chapter Seven

I woke with a start as I felt warm hands shake my shoulder. The scent of Nora’s perfume, a subtle scent that smelled like rose petals, filled my nostrils and I turned over to see her sitting on the side of the bed, looking down at me. “Nora? Crap, did I oversleep?”
She shook her head in the negative. “No, it’s only been a few hours. You just didn’t sound good when we talked on the phone. I know your Grandma went out of town today so I thought that I should check on you. I used the spare key you gave me. I hope that’s okay.”
I rubbed at bleary eyes, trying to ignore the sudden grip of panic as the realization that Nora was here, on my bed, and that I was only wearing a pair of boxers finally broke through the haze of sleepiness. “No, s’okay. I appreciate you coming by.”
She nodded and looked a bit uncomfortable. “I actually wanted to talk with you anyway. You’ve been acting a little weird, Taft. You know; since the other night when I told you about my date with John.”
Uh-oh.
“What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean.” She reached down and her hands are warm against my chest. “You’ve been acting weird because you didn’t like that I was seeing someone else.”
“Nora, I-“
She pressed a finger to my lips, cutting me off. “No, don’t try to play it off and talk your way out. Look, I’ve known for a long time. I’ve tried to ignore it because I didn’t want it to screw up our friendship, but after last night and today I can’t ignore it anymore.”
My heart was beating like a trip hammer and I felt like I was about to have a panic attack. I started to deny it in an attempt to keep things from going nuclear, but before I could say anything her lips were pressed to mine and my brain completely shut off. Her body was pressed against me, soft and warm, and I pulled her closer, joy and longing radiating off of me in waves as I let go of all the hang-ups, insecurities, and fears and just lost myself in the kiss. We kissed passionately, with an intensity that I’d never experienced before, until I felt like I was going to pass out for lack of oxygen, and not caring because I don’t want it to end. Finally we did pull apart, gasping for air, just long enough for her to pull her shirt off.
Dear God in heaven, this is really happening! This is really-
Taft.
What?
TAFT!
My eyes jerked open at the sound of my name. Nora was staring down at me, a look of amusement spreading across her beautiful features as she tossed the shirt I’d dropped on the floor the previous night at my head. “It’s nine o’clock. Time to go to school.”
Wow, seriously?
A fucking dream?!
Damn, my subconscious can be a real asshole sometimes.
My voice was muffled from behind the shirt. “Five more minutes, mom.”
I heard her laugh as she headed back towards the stairs. “Get a move on, Sleeping Beauty. We’ve got a big day.”
I quickly got dressed and hobbled out to the car, the whole time doing my best to not make eye contact with her. “Sorry I overslept. Pain meds must’ve kicked my butt.”
She shrugged. “No problem. How’s the knee?”
“Better. Should be fine in a day or two.”
“Good.”
We drove for a few minutes while a smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. “So, it sounded like I interrupted something as I was coming down the stairs. Sorry about that. Good dream?”
“Uh…” I could feel my cheeks warm, and my reaction just made her laugh.
God, please just take me now.
“So, where are we going?”
There was a mischievous sparkle to her eyes, but she let me off the hook. “The first con on the list that Ron left for me. Michael Cavenaugh, but he goes by ‘Mikey-C’.” She rolled her eyes. “He’s a member of the East Side G’s. Wanna guess what he was in for?”
“Drug trafficking?”
“Ding! You win the no-prize! Kevin and Gonzalez are staking out his place.”
“Bet they didn’t think to bring peanut M & M’s and sweet tea.”
She laughed. “That’s what we have you for.”
“Yep. The important things.”
As you might expect, “Mikey-C” didn’t live in the best of neighborhoods and had I not been there with three armed cops I might have been nervous. Lieutenant Matthew Kevin, the officer in charge of Nora’s investigation, was a fairly large man in his mid-thirties, close to six foot four and probably clocked in around two hundred and forty pounds. He was built like a pro wrestler, which is probably why he was a pretty successful one in high school and college, but he didn’t have the typical jock douchebag attitude so I really liked him. He had shoulder length red hair and a bushy red beard that made him look like a mutated dwarf from The Lord of the Rings that ate his Wheaties growing up. His partner, Ronald Gonzalez, was about as striking a contrast as you could make. He stood barely over five feet tall and if he weighed over ninety pounds soaking wet I’d be shocked. In his off hours Ron was a competitive runner so he picked up the nickname “Speedy Gonzalez” in the precinct, which wasn’t the most politically correct nickname, but Ron didn’t seem to mind.
They were camped out in a non-descript grey Mercury they’d borrowed from impound and parked just up the street from Mikey-C’s house. Nora pulled in behind them and they both got out and walked over to our car. We rolled down our windows and Matt went to Nora’s while Ron came to mine. We exchanged pleasantries and Matt gave us the run down.
“He came in at about three this morning and he hasn’t left as far as we can tell. He went in alone, and it didn’t look like anyone was here beforehand, so it should just be him inside.”
Nora checked her gun. “We should play it safe just in case.”
Matt nodded. “Yep, so here’s the game plan: Nora and I take the front door. Ron will cover the back in case he rabbits.”
I smirked and gave a thumbs up. “And the gimp guards the cars. Got it.”
They all smiled politely as Nora joined them and I tried to make it look like I was perfectly fine with being left in the car like a terrier. At least they left the windows down for me. It frustrated the hell out of me that I was all but useless in this scenario. Even if I hadn’t jacked up my knee the night before I would have been nothing but a liability in the field and I knew it. I came to terms with who I am a long time ago, but it doesn’t mean that reminders of my limitations don’t sting every once in a while.
I watched as the three made their way across the street towards Mikey’s house. It was a dumpy, two story ranch that may have been white at one point in its life but was now more of a dingy gray. I silently worried that Matt might fall through the porch because it didn’t exactly look stable. Ron disappeared into the overrun jungle that was the backyard so I turned my attention back to the front. Matt was standing off to the side of the door, so anyone looking out wouldn’t see him. Nora knocked, her gun hidden behind her back.
It took a few minutes of knocking but Mikey finally opened the door. He was a pasty, skinny little guy in his mid to late twenties, with a shaved head and a wicked scar just over his right eye. His entire chest and arms were covered in various tattoos that I couldn’t make out from where I was, other than the giant stylized C smack dab in the middle of his chest. The dopey grin on his face when he saw Nora morphed quickly to “oh shit” when Nora flashed him her badge and Matt stepped into view. I’ll give Mikey credit where credit is due. Even half asleep the kid was fast. Nora had barely said two words before Mikey threw the door back at her as he bolted back into the house with Matt and Nora close behind. A few minutes later there was a white streak that was Mikey, wearing nothing but a pair of red boxers, hauling butt down the street with Speedy Gonzalez right on his heels.
Ron almost had him, but then this boy, who couldn’t have been more than eight, on a blue bike came around the corner. Mikey grabbed the kid, hauled him off of the bike, and practically threw him at Ron. Ron tried to catch the kid and the two went down in a heap as Mikey hopped on the bike and started peddling. Nora and Matt weren’t too far behind but there was no way that they’d catch him on foot now.
I glanced over at Nora’s side of the car. She’d left her keys. It took a lot of effort, not to mention excruciating pain as my knee protested, but I managed to squeeze past the steering wheel and wedge myself into the driver’s seat where I could adjust it. It was still tight as hell and I wouldn’t have much play with the steering wheel digging into my gut, but it was something. I turned the ignition, gunned the engine, and sped off after the suspect.
The fat and the furious.
I saw the look of pure shock on everyone’s face as I raced past, but then I was around the corner and out of view. Mikey was just up the street, peddling for all he was worth. Still, fat guy in a car beats naked gangbanger on a bike any day. The question was what would I do once I caught up to him? I couldn’t exactly ram him with the car. Then I thought of something I’d seen in a movie once and figured why not? I passed him by, and given that I was in an unmarked car and didn’t have the lights going or anything he had no reason to believe that I was anything but a passing motorist, otherwise he probably would have done something smart, like get out of the middle of the street and turn into someone’s yard or something. Or maybe I’m just giving him too much credit. Either way, he was taken completely by surprise when I slammed on the brakes and threw open my door.
He tried to swerve to avoid it, but the door still clipped the front tire and sent Mikey flying over the handle bars to land hard on the pavement. I pulled out the little snub-nosed revolver that Nora kept in her glove compartment, the same one that I’d used during the Ghost case, and leveled it at Mikey’s head as I hauled myself out of the car. He looked at the gun, then at me, and seemed to be trying to decide if he should take the risk and run again. I pulled back the hammer of the gun with a satisfying click and smirked Dirty Harry style. That seemed to make his mind up for him and he laid his head back down on the concrete.
A few minutes later the other three, everyone but Ron struggling for breath, caught up to us. I glanced back at the others and grinned. “Meep, meep.”
***
An hour later we were back at the police department and Mikey was getting the scrapes he got during his capture cleaned up. Ron and Matt had already tried questioning him when we first brought him in and he hadn’t said a word other than asking for his lawyer. Obviously frustrated, Ron crossed his arms as we watched the medic work through the window. “He’s never going to talk. I busted his skinny punk ass three times when I worked narcotics and not once did he rat on his people. It’s the reason he got sent to Potosi in the first place.” He glanced up at Matt. “You know we can’t hold him much longer without charging him with something. We could probably slap him with obstruction of justice and failure to assist as a violation of his parole, but it won’t do us any good if he won’t tell us what we need.”
Nora arched an eyebrow at him. “You think the fact that we have four other inmates on slabs down in the morgue with their tongues cut out won’t be enough to shake him?”
Ron shrugged and Matt shook his head. “He doesn’t strike me as the sharpest tack in the box, and he has a rap sheet thicker than the last Clancy novel. I think that he’ll keep his mouth shut on general principle just because he hates cops. How many other people were on the list?”
Ron shrugged. “Three. We’ve got people looking, but this was the only turd that we could find so far. If the killer sticks to their pattern we’ve got maybe a day before another body shows up.”
Nora cursed under breath and kicked at a little metal trash can in frustration.
I can’t stand seeing her like that, so I swallowed past my pride and chimed in from where I’d been sitting on the other side of the hall. “I guess that means we’ll just have to come up with something creative then.”
Nora saw the look on my face and smirked. “Just what did you have in mind?”
I sighed. “Something incredibly stupid.”
Ron perked up. “Sounds like my kind of plan. Let’s hear it.”
***
Nora brought Mikey into the darkened interrogation room and sat him down next to the two-way mirror. “Yo, bitch, where da fuck is my lawyer? This is some unconstitutional boo-shit up in here!”
“He got held up in traffic.” The door clicked shut behind her and the exit sign cast a hellish red over the scene as Nora leaned forward to get in his face. “So while we wait, why don’t you just do yourself a favor and help us out. Or haven’t you heard about all the ex-cons from Potosi we’ve found with their throats slit? We got a fresh one just last night. You want to end up like them?”
He snorted. “What, ya think turnin’ off da lights and telling me horror stories is gonna scare me lady? Sheeeit. I got news for ya, girlie- you aint dat scary.” He leaned forward and leered. “Point of fact, I kinda like this more intimate setting we got goin on. That why you brought me in this dark room all by your lonesome, pretty lady? You wanna break you off a piece of Mikey C?”
She grimaced and leaned away from him. “One, you need a Tic-Tac. Two, just the sight of you makes my fucking skin crawl. Three, I’m not the one that you should be scared of.”
That was my queue. I leaned forward from the chair I’d been sitting in at the corner of the room. Mikey hadn’t noticed me when he was brought in, given the dark and that his focus had been completely on Nora, but he noticed now. I reached into the department duffle bag at my feet and slowly started pulling its contents out and setting them purposefully on the table in front of me: mustard, syrup, a bag of marshmallows.
Mikey scoffed. “What the hell is all that? We gonna have us a picnic?”
I slowly raised my eye level to meet his and in my deepest baritone I grunted in a southern drawl “Fixens,” and returned to my work: Plastic gloves, forceps, and a gerbil in small plastic cage with air holes.
That last one was Ron’s idea.
He has issues.
“What da fuck?!”
Nora stood up and gestured in my direction. “Are you sure that you don’t want to talk, Mikey? I’m not afraid to admit, this whole ‘Godfather’ thing has got us pretty desperate. We’re trying to save lives here, yours included, and time is running out. All you have to do is tell me what I need to know.”
Mikey’s eyes stayed locked on the gerbil for another second before he broke into a smile and leaned back. “I gotta hand it to y’all, this shit is pretty funny. Creepy fat guy with all this messed up shit, making me think yer gonna go all Deliverance on my ass. That’s some fucked up, funny shit; but I ain’t stupid. Y’all ain’t got shit on me and you ain’t gonna do sheeeit to me. You’s cops and y’all can’t touch me. Now either charge my ass or get me mah walkin papers, cuz I’m done playin’ with yo asses! And take this fat retard and his ‘fixens’ with ya.”
Nora nodded. “You’re absolutely right, Mikey. You’re not under arrest and I’m a cop so I really can’t touch you.”
“And that’s a damn shame, baby, cuz you be all kinds of fine.” Mikey-C winked at her and then smirked in triumph, but the smirk faltered when her hand casually pointed in my direction again.
“But him, he’s not a cop. He doesn’t have that problem.” She leveled her gaze at me and frowned. “You best just take your shirt off or you’re gonna get stuff all over it.”
I nodded and obliged. I pulled my black t-shirt from my body (silently a bit self-conscious given that Nora was standing right there) and Mikey gasped. Now, I’m not proud of this, but I’ve got a fairly impressive man boob situation already going that would get anyone’s attention, but I thought that I’d add to the look by putting electric tape X’s over each nipple. Across my chest the department sketch artist did an inking that read “FEED THE NEED” with flames around it. All in all, I was pretty impressed with the result.
Apparently, so was Mikey. I could hear him audibly gulp.
I eyed Mikey up critically before nodding and lovingly caressing the Mrs. Buttersworth bottle suggestively. “You and I are gunna have us some fun, little man. Real fun.”
Nora struggled not to laugh as she headed for the door. “I think I’ll leave you two alone to…bond. Just remember, we need him to be able to talk.”
I slowly looked up at her and grunted as I popped the knuckles on my hands in one smooth motion. “No promises. I’m gunna break me off a piece of Mikey C, and he looks like he might break easy.”
That did it.
“No! Wait! Jeezus you guys are fuggin twisted! People are getting their tongues cut out, and then you come at me like this?! Sheeeeiiit, they don’t pay me enough. Not by a damn sight! I’ll tell you everything you want to know, just call off jabba da slut, aiight?”
Nora shot me a wink that Mikey couldn’t see and then opened the door. “I’m going to go get Officers Kevin and Gonzalez. Don’t do anything to him until we get back.”
I pouted and slammed my fists on the table, causing Mrs. Butterworth to fall to the floor. Mikey jumped. “Dammit! I never get to have no fun! You promised!”
Nora snorted and headed out the door before she lost it completely. I could hear her sharp bark of laughter echoing through the hall from the open doorway for just a brief second as she quickly got behind the door to the soundproofed room next door where Ron and Matt were watching.
Mikey spoke up from across the table, smiling nervously. “Yo dawg, you’z just playin’ right? You weren’t really gonna… do nuthin, right? It was all an act.”
I bent down and picked Mrs. Buttersworth up off of the floor. “Don’t talk and you’ll find out.” I slammed the bottle down on the table in front of him. “Please.”
His eyes went wide and he shook his head emphatically. “Oh, hell naw. I knew cats like you in da pen. I don’t want none of that brokeback prison kinda shit.”
A shadow fell over the table from the doorway and I assumed that it was Nora returning with the boys. Mikey looked up and relief spread across his face. “About damn time, yo! These folks be fuckin’ nuts!”
I started to turn around to see who he was talking to, afraid that his lawyer had shown up after all and wondering how in the hell we’d explain everything, when something hard slammed into the back of my head. Stars flashed before my vision and I fell from the chair and hit the floor with a woof. The last thing that I remember before blacking out was the cold of the linoleum floor on my face and the blood chilling sound of Mikey-C’s scream being abruptly cut off with a wet gurgle.

 

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