Feather in the Tar: Foreplay

          “It is not so much what I know but who.” Seven answers.

           “Enough with the riddle-speak,” she pokes him under the left pectoral. “What…do…you know about a murder at the Bridge Motel on Lombard?”

           “Like I said Em,” Seven replies.

           “Lieutenant Inspector Cochran to you,” she moves closer to Seven. Her face is flush and breath hot with the scent of Kona. Her eyes are cold.

           “Lieutenant, we don’t have time for this limp dick.” Sampson steps to the side and puts his arm between them. “Coch,” he squeezes in between them as in an angry rou jia mo, and faces her, “we’ve got to get to the Marina; the chief is waiting.”

          Cochran exhales, “OK Sams, let’s go.” She turns to face the front of the elevator. She inhales then exhales slowly, deeply again. Sampson reactivates the elevator.

           “Bardo,” she says without looking at him. You come with us and tell us everything you know.”

           “I have a client.”

           “They’ll have to wait.” She replies. The elevator opens and she turns toward them before they exit, “unless you want to spend the afternoon in the drunk tank.” She turns around and motions towards an entry gate officer. “Conroe, come here.”

           “That is not necessary.. I’ll call and reschedule.” Seven says. He takes his cell phone out as the three leave the Hall of Justice. “Hello Alicia, I’m going to be late.”

           “You’ve never called me that,” Genie answers her cell phone.

           “I know, but something has steamed up in homicide.”

           “WHAT?” Genie squeals in the mouthpiece.

           “Everything is fine. I will see you tonight at my office. I’ll call later to confirm.”

           “Am I in trouble? I didn’t do anything.” She reiterates in the same pitch.

           “No, no, everything is fine. We’ll talk later. Calm down.” Seven mutters into the mouthpiece, low enough not to be heard and loud enough to appear normal.

           “OK, but don’t forget. I can’t take this much longer.”

           “Don’t worry; it will work out. It will be fine.”

           “OK, bye.” She sniffles.

           “A twitter kitten?” Cochran asks as she slides into the Ford next to Seven in the back seat

           “Uh, yeah, she doesn’t want to loose her husband.

           “Stinky snoop,” Inspector Sampson sniffles fake tears.

          Sampson pulls the brown Crown Victoria out into traffic on Bryant, but keeps glancing to the rearview mirror. The talk around the crapper is that Seven Bardo stuck it to the Lt. and I don’t mean in the biblical way. I don’t know what the fuck she saw in him, but while working on a high profile murder case involving a City Supervisor’s daughter and a street punk, a ganja gimp from the Haight. Bar-douche stole the spotlight and saved the stupid teenager.

          Lt. Cochran had her dead to right for using marijuana and 80 percent sure of murder. The 17-year old was hanging out at the entrance to Golden Gate Park with her meth-boosted boyfriend. He got in a screaming match with another dealer over remarks the other loser made to his girlfriend. He wouldn’t take no for an answer and pulled out a gun. He squeezed off a shot into a tree, and a scuffle insured. Her boyfriend killed him, but not until she kicked the other dealer in the balls.

          The doper blamed the girl, and Cochran had her fingerprints on the weapon. Undercover and on his own, while Cochran was processing the girl into the system, Seven recorded the truth from the doper. The punk was bragging to his buds about how to fuck and toss a rich lawyer’s daughter. He got it all on pocket video. He thought he was helping her out, but the girl’s father danced on Cochran’s shield.

          Seven showed up in the press conference, although he didn’t plan it, and Cochran was suspended with pay, a forced “vacation for a courageous officer in need of rest,” quoted the Chief. Emily has never forgiven him.

           “The Bridge Motel,” the Lt. breaks the forced silence, “Mr. Bardo, what do you know about a murder at the Bridge Motel on Lombard?” Sampson looks to Seven then Cochran.

           “I’ve heard about a witness, Lt. Inspector Cochran.” Seven says.

           “Cut the shit,” she says, “what do you know?” She spits, but doesn’t yell. Sampson checks the rearview again.

           “I know that someone broke into room number 202 and murdered a local bartender.”

           “How do you know the room number? Were you there?” She asks.

           “No, no. Where they’re any fingerprints or strange tracks? Where did they lead?” Seven inquires.

           “Did I say anything about quid pro quo or even a handshake? I’ll ask the questions and you’ll answer, with the truth.” Cochran snipes.

           “’I’ve never lied to you.” Seven says.

           “How do you know the room number?”

           “A friend contacted me about the murder and I am doing them a favor.” Seven replies with a empty professional tone.

           “Answer the damn question, snoop?” Sampson barks, slows and pulls to the curb. “Or, I’ll stop the car and remedy it.”

           “Ok. Ok.”

           “How did you know the room number?” Cochran iterates. “Who told you and why?”

           “A friend of a friend…”

           “DAMNIT.” Sampson pulls into and blocks a driveway in the Marina. “I’ve had enough.” He opens his door and exits the Ford, slamming it. Inspector Sampson pulls Seven’s door open and leans over to grab him by the shoulders when Lt. Cochran intercedes.

           “Calm down Sams, there’ll be time later.” She exits the Crown Vic and walks to the entrance of the apartment building. She shakes hands with a blue suit (fresh, just out of the academy, he blushes; he’s heard about her.)

          Bardo stands up out of the back of the car, and Sampson turns around and pushes him back down. “We won’t need any help. You stay where you are, snoop.”

           “Come on Inspector.” Emily says as the rookie holds the door open. She enters and shakes her head.

           “Ya know ass wipe, no one would care if you got a few bruises or broken nose.” Sampson slams the door shut and locks the car.

          Seven waits until the two are out of site and reaches through the protection screen with a telescoping forceps. He unlocks the door, exits, and walks to the entrance.

           “Sorry sir, no entry.” The rookie stands in his way while holding the door shut.

           “Come on officer, you saw that I’m with them.” Seven begins to push.

           “Sorry sir, NO entry,” the blue uniform bolsters.

           “Ok, I’ll wait.” Seven says. He walks to the corner, looking back occasionally at the blue pillar.

          The officer lifts his radio microphone to his mouth and looks in the opposite direction. Watching for the blue’s glance, Seven dashes around the corner of the building. He makes his way to a city access door, and tries it. No luck. It’s an old lock. It has some fresh scrapes, so he’s probably not the first to jimmy it. He takes out a pair of surgical gloves, then his pale blue private library card. It is old school, extremely thick, but not brittle. He wedges it in the weather strip, manipulating it as little as possible, and open-says-me. He opens his wallet to replace the card, but the business end is coated in a slippery jelly. He sniffs it, sweet but oddly chemical like from a butcher store or renderer’s kettle. He wipes it off on his jeans and puts it back in his wallet.

          The hallway leads to the apartment power meters, breaker boxes, and trashcans. The light well has a steal fire escape running to the backdoor of some of the apartments. He lifts the lid of a trash bin, reaches in, and pulls out a tied 3-gallon bag, it drips. Seven slowly creeps up the ladder of steps, gently trying not to shake the building. He doesn’t want to draw any attention. He hears the officers on one floor and then they move upstairs. He climbs another flight and listens to a fiery discussion.

           “Why the fuck did you bring that fucking PI with you Cochran?” The Chief of Police says. “Hasn’t he screwed you enough?”

           “Sir, he may be a witness to the first murder?” the Lieutenant answers.

           “We don’t bring witnesses or suspects to a second crime scene Lieutenant. Why didn’t you bring a damn reporter while you were at it?”

           “No sir, yes sir.” She says.

           “Report to me as soon as you get back to the station Lieutenant Cochran. We may have to do something about those stripes.”

           “Yes sir.”

           “Sampson, you make sure; you’re in it up to your eyeballs.”

           “Yes sir.” Inspector Sampson says.

          A herd of heavy footsteps moves down the stairs. Seven waits for them to fade then opens the door to the inside corridor of the apartment building. Slowly, he looks around the corner and can see activity at one end. He walks into the hallway carrying the plastic bag, and another blue suit stares at him. Seven looks away and whistles Mingus, Better Get it In Your Soul. He swings the bag back and forth as he walks towards the officer.

          Seven turns his back and mimes opening the door across the way. Lt. Cochran shouts out from inside the open apartment, “Officer Johnston, go get me some more bags out of the trunk of my car.”

          The officer turns and looks in the apartment, “yes mum.”

           “And, make sure the dipshit is still down there.”

          The officer jogs, down the hallway and rounds the first banister, keys jangling quieter and quieter. Seven drops the bag, turns, and enters the apartment. No one is in the entry hall. He looks in the living room, empty. He walks down a short hallway to two doors, one is closed, and he can hear the tear of tape and murmured voices from the other.

           “Time of death, Raymond?” Cochran asks.

          Seven pokes his head through the door. The forensic examiner is pulling a long, sharp temperature probe out of giant mound of gelatinous flesh.

           “Judging from the unusual condition of the bodies, I would say about 5 days.” Raymond says as he stands up. He accidently kicks the bed.

          The smell hits Seven just as blood drains out of his face. The mound of flesh jiggles like chilled deep fryer fat, and muck billows over the edge of the bed like a waterfall. His vision closes down to pinpoint then blackness. He hears a shout as he falls backward into space.

           “WHAT THE FUCK is he doing here? Cochran shouts.

           “Sir,” the blue suit returns with the bags. “There is no one in your car.” The officer looks down to his feet. “Oh.”

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