Feather in the Tar: Cigarette Break

          Det. Sampson enters the fish bowl, and closes the door behind. Bardo turns and walks toward him. “I think I’ll get some fresh air,” Bardo says.

           “Whatever.” Sampson replies. Returns his stare towards the fish. Bardo opens and steps through the door. “Bardo, hey limpy, don’t go near the interview room.” Bardo doesn’t turn to respond, and the door closes with a thump.

          A far away gaze, Seven passes through the security exit when someone calls out, “Hey, Super Spy, get kicked out again?” The blues working the gate turn and look. Seven’s instinct points a scowl in the general direction. A young officer walks over to him.

           “Making your way from the scene of another crime?” Johnston, the officer from the last body collection, says, “remember me?”

           “Yeah, sorry,” Seven says with blank eyes and no retort.

           “I’ve heard of you, Bardo.”

           “Really, what?”

           “I’ve heard you are really good investigator.” The other blues have lost interest, and return to looking tough and polite under the same breath.

           “Hum,” the moment returns to Seven’s attention. “Can I bum a cigarette?”

           “Don’t smoke.” He says, “Hey Simon’s, I say, give me a Camel.” A younger blue working the gate turns toward us as he takes a pack out of his uniform pocket and throws it to Bardo. “He’s a rookie.” Johnston says and pops one out of the pack. Seven smiles put’s it between his lips. “Here,” the blue pulls out a book of matches from the Hungry I. “Keep them.”


           “Listen, I am moving to a foot beat in North Beach in a month. Can we meet an have a talk about your neighborhood?”

          Seven’s eyes focus, “yeah sure,” Seven says. “On or off duty?”

           “Off. I’m not squirrelly; I just want know about my new turf.”

           “Yeah sure.”

           “I want to know what the watch doesn’t.” The officer says with less volume.

           “Sure, great,” Seven is still not 100%. “It’s good to have as many friends as possible in the world.”

           “Strictly professional relationship, you understand. If I catch you fucking around, I’ll have to pin you.”

           “Strictly professional.” Seven turns and leaves. A stick and fire doesn’t make us pals, he thinks to himself. Still, it’s good to at least be close to the blue zone. Seven walks to the street corner, his head down watching for butts. He’s not smoked in five years, but his friend’s predicament wretches too much angst, too much tense unpredictability. He’s worried. He pulls out a stick from the Hungry I and strikes it. He inhales, slowly deeply; he sighs, and repeats. A few minutes, the uncertain passes into indifference.

          A good street friend stands accused of multiple murders she could not have committed. Bodies cut in half and cauterized so quickly to not leave any blood. WTF? The cops don’t even know how. I can’t think of what was used. There is no fucking way. She’s paranoid about killing a spider, much less several human beings. In fact, I can’t think of a single time she has raised her hand against anyone, even if they deserved it in the worst way. Bad businessmen, douchbags, and the occasional punk, men and woman, never enraged her enough to touch anyone who wasn’t willing.

          A group of frats from Stanford, real douchebags, with there Cal ball caps turned sidewise, polo pony, alligator, potty icons, double stacked, and what-ever-mart flip-flops (tanned feet, toenails perfect) were buying her drinks one night as a joke to see who could get her in a cab and send her to nowhere, no fare.

          They came over playing nice like fan-bois or a long lost brother, father, son, touching her shoulder, cheek or ear; and laughing at her jokes and whispering who knows what in her ear. Mike the bartender grows more and more sourer the later it gets; she’s a friend and good customer.

          The douches finish their 6th pitcher of the cheapest yellow flow and a huddle ensues, a real fucking huddle. Who the hell does that? While Mike’s grimace directs their waitress to cash them out, the youngest walks over to Jeanie. He leans into her, “Can I buy you dinner?”

          Jeanie giggles in good faith, “That’s sweet, but you boys are old enough to be my grandsons.”

          The adolescent terrible will not accept no for an answer and a cab pulls up outside. He escorts her out, and opens the door for her. He motions as if he is going to get in. One of his buddies sticks a small digital camera through the open front passenger window.

           “Take her to the glue factory.” The door shuts as the camera flashes multiple times at Genies’ face. The group are hollering and hooting, high-fiving each other.

           “Take me to Sal’s on Lombard.” Genie says.

          The cab drive is speechless, blushing. Eyes wide open he closes his mouth, turns, and speeds off. The rowdy group is laughing to red face choking. They turn to re-enter the bar.

           “NO!” Mike yells to the doorman, a six foot 280 lb bear, quiet, docile, friendly stands up and blocks their regress.

           “Come on man, it was just a joke.”

           “That old skank needs to find a bar of her people.”

          The doorman says nothing and does not move.

           “’Man, we spent a hundred bucks, we’ll never come back her again.”

          The bouncer’s smile flips and blood builds in his face. His eyes are deathly serious.

           “Man, looser, your bar sucks. Well never drink in this dump again.” The crowd moves off, and the doorman’s smile returns.

          Gene is a class act and sweet. There is no way she could have killed those people. Seven inhales a deep drag off the cigarrete.

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