There were twelve straps of 100’s behind the letter, stacked six high and two deep. Hawk was paying me 120 large to bring his killers to justice. Technically I had to find who was killing the shiners too. I went into his recent cases file and pulled out the folder with my name on it, the contents were bundled inside a thick letter sized envelope. I pulled the money out of the safe wiped my prints off of the keypad, the safe door and the picture frame. After that I retraced my steps downstairs wiping things down as I went. When I made it downstairs I snagged a couple of plastic grocery bags from the caddy Hawk had hanging on the broken off door to his laundry room and packed the money and envelope there.
I tucked the bag up inside of my duster and strolled out to my silver Honda Accord and dumped the money under the passenger’s seat. What I did next was out of necessity, I shut the car door, leaned against it, shoved my finger deep into my throat until I gagged and finally vomited. A mess of spaghetti, garlic bread and wine came spilling out of me onto the cold sidewalk by the vehicle. I hate vomiting up bread. It chunks up and seems to force vomit into my nose; I would be breathing the smell in for the rest of the night.
After puking I pulled out my cell phone and called the police, they arrived ten minutes later. Thirty minutes after that I found myself talking to Clarence Stepson, the good detective wanted me to come down to the station for an interview.
“I don’t feel up to it right now.” I said.
“I’m not so sure you have a choice.” Clarence said.
“Am I under arrest?”
“Should you be?”
“Clarence you know he was my friend. I have damn few of those left these days. Tonight the city lost another defender, one of the last, if not the last. I feel sick.”
“’Cause of how he was killed?”
I nodded weakly, playing the part, “It was a shiner. A bad one.”
Clarence shook his head, “Coulda been a group of guys.”
“Against Hawk?” I shook my head forcefully, “No way. He was fast, strong and could fly.”
“He was giving up the life. Word on the street is he converted and became a pacifist.”
“Even a pacifist will defend himself or his family. We both know that.”
“So why is he dead?”
“I told ya, a shiner got him.”
“You told me alright, yeah, but the only shiner I got is you. You trying to get onto the suspect list?”
“Ain’t I already?” I pressed.
Clarence shook his head slowly, “I can’t say. You found the body, you messed up the scene of the crime. Dog ain’t pleased.”
‘Dog’ was a ghost shiner, someone with a minor talent, but useful. His was his nose. He had the smelling capacity of the best blood hound with a human intellect behind it.
“How was I to know? I thought…I thought maybe they were still there. I thought I could…apprehend them.”
“You walked all over Hawk’s place. Lucky for you Dog says you didn’t go out back, which is how the perp left.”
“I shouldn’t have said even that.”
“Are you going to hire me for this one?”
“Can’t say ‘cause I don’t know. I’m a betting man and I’m laying odds on ‘no’. You’re too close to this one, Billy. Too damn close.” His face softened, “You outta go into another line of work.”
“Yeah? Like what? Pushing carts down and the Stop ‘n Shop? I’m thirty five years old, never went to college, barely made it through high school. Before I hooked up with people like Hawk, I was in and out of trouble with the law. I have a record and you know it, it was Hawk and Boomer that got me set on the straight and narrow, but their guidance didn’t come with useful skills that I can turn into a J-O-B. Besides, I’m good at what I do.”
“All I’m saying is, it’s getting dangerous to shine anymore.”
I squinted at him, “You heard something?”
With a shake of his head, he answered, “I hear a lot of things. It doesn’t take a brainiac to figure out any shiners that stick their heads up get pounded down flat. You seen Skeet or Ruby around?”
“No.” I answered.
“Yeah, neither has anyone else.”
We were approached by an unkempt looking beat cop – Dog. He came within five yards of me and nodded, before his face wrinkled in disgust and he turned away, pulling air in through his mouth. “Couldn’t contain yourself?”
Dog hated the smell of vomit, claimed it screwed up his shine, but I think it’s just the smell. “Cut me a little slack, I just realized what had happened.”
“Yeah, after you ran all over Hawk’s house. Then you come out and puke your guts up.”
“I got a little… Look, Dog, I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking clearly. To see him like he was…impaled like that. It shook me up.”
Dog snorted, “I don’t believe you.”
“I don’t smell right?”
“Something doesn’t smell right. Something about this smells like…money.”
A chill ran up my spine, did he know? I said nothing.
“He wasn’t killed for his stuff.” Dog went on. “Guy came in through the back door, Hawk confronted him there, guy killed Hawk and left by the back door. This was a hit.”
“You know who did it?” I asked, Hawk’s murderer stood out like a beacon to me, all I had to do was follow the light in the darkness now that I had taken the job.
To my surprise Dog nodded, “I got their scent. The old man injured him. Made him bleed even. I got this guy. We don’t need you pointing fingers on this on. I can find him.”
“I’d like to come.” I said.
“Whoa, slow down, you ain’t in on this one, Billy.” Clarence said, “Not unless the Captain says you are.”
“And I got this one.” Dog said, “They guy walked outta here, to the alley, but he didn’t get into a car and drive away, he walked away, out the alley. That way.” Dog pointed east. “I can follow it like a beacon.”
I didn’t care for his analogy, it stepped on mine. “I can follow though, like a concerned citizen.”
“We could book you for interference too.” Clarence said.
“It wouldn’t stick.” I retorted.
“It wouldn’t have to, dumbass. I swear sometimes, Billy you’re thick. While you’re going through processing and getting your charges dismissed in front of a night judge, Dog will already have the guy chased down. It’ll be in the morning write up for the paper, you’ll be able to read about when you hit the diner for breakfast.”
“Or…?” I asked, letting the question hang there.
“Or maybe it doesn’t have to play out like that. Maybe we can let you tag along. Seeing as you were his friend and all, and you have worked with the department for some time.” Clarence conceded.
“Only if the Captain says though, right?”
Clarence winked, “Sometime, Billy, you are thick.”
Dog snorted and called out to his partner, Patricia Wellstone, they got into their car, with her driving and Dog leaning out the window like, well, like a mutt being taken for a ride.
“Coming?” Clarence asked.