19 Grendel

        Brunch, a nap, a shower, and then the party, Ethan’s friends will pick him up at 4:30. He sits the sack of food on his table. He takes out the samosas, unwraps the corner of one of the veggie ones, and raises it to his lips. The peas and cheese is lukewarm, but satisfying. He finishes it in four bites. He unwraps the lamb. It’s a little tough, but the peppers are still warm. The meat needs to be chopped or stripped more, Ethan thinks to himself. Curry accumulates on his lips and burns slowly, but more intense after each bite with every passing moment.

       He sits the samosa down and goes to his half-size fridge and removes a pint of milk. Ethan swishes it the carton to feel the weight for quantity. At about a third full, he thinks there is no reason to dirty a glass. He’ll finish it from the carton and replace it next week. Ethan sits back at the table and opens the carton with his fingers. He tips it back and drinks. The thick, cool, liquid quenches the burn on the inside of his mouth, but his lips tingle more fervently. He holds the carton against his lips to no avail.

       “Spicy today,” he says to himself out loud and sighs. He closes his eyes with the cold carton on the side of his face. I am tired. I wish I didn’t have a party tonight. I am going to cancel and stay home, he thinks. Joel will just have to deal with it. Ethan takes two more bites of the lamb samosa, finishing it. He follows it with most of the milk and holds the carton to his lips again. He closes his eyes, as events of the previous night begin to play like a dream caught in a whirlpool.

       Seven lies back on his couch, his eyelids reduce to a thin line. He balances the milk carton on his chest, and sleep. Deep, but fitful sleep puts him back on the BART platform. He tries to hold himself back, but can’t. The outcome is the same, and Ethan moans and turns on his side. The carton drops onto the floor on its side. A few drops splash out, but the spout is opposite the floor and contains the last gulps of milk. In his dream, Ethan is on BART again, under the Bay. A woman is talking to him; it’s his mother. He can’t understand what she is saying.

       

        “We’ll need a car, Officer Simon.” Cochran says to the Blue as they are standing at the top of the BART escalator.

       “Yes, Lieutenant. Who should I put as lead for the requisition?” He asks.

       Cummings. Didn’t you hear the Chief?” She is terse, not happy to be a 2nd.

       Officer Simon walks away from the two, and contacts the station on his radio. Cochran looks at the evidence bag again. Seven stands next to her. He is trying to remember how his card got into the bag.

       “How about something to eat?” Seven inquires. “Pancakes at Sears?”

       “No time. Besides, you wouldn’t want anything, if you just saw Ms. Susan Fitzgerald in the subway tunnel.” She answers.

       Seven’s stomach growls loudly. “I didn’t realize how hungry I am.” He says to himself.

       “Maybe, after BART. Did you know Ms. Fitzgerald?” She asks, Seven, again.

       “I don’t believe so.” He thinks about his card and is perplexed. Did they plant it? Are they trying to get revenge for Inspector Sampson? Who the fuck is Cummings, and why is a drugstore-cowboy running this investigation?

       “You did or you didn’t: seriously, you don’t know? How did your card get in this evidence bag?” Cochran is more and more agitated. Why is he lying to me, she thinks to herself. Why doesn’t he trust me? I just got him out of one scrape?

       “I must have met her, somewhere, a potential client?” Seven shrugs. He is drawing a blank.

       “Officer Vincent is bringing a squad over. He’ll be here in 10 or 15 minutes.” Simon rejoins the two.

       “Vincent, Vince, V’s, VESUVIO,” Seven shouts, as each officer turns and stares at him. “I met her at Vesuvio’s last night and bought her a drink. I can’t believe I forgot that.”

       “Last night?” Cochran raises her eyebrows.

       “And, you fucked her and pushed her off the BART platform, because?” Officer Simon speculates, rapid fire.

       NO, no, I wasn’t on BART last night. She came on to me.” Seven laughs to himself.

       “Where were you?” Simon presses.

       Seven looks at Cochran, then at Simon, “I bought her a drink, but the bartender refused to serve her. I think, Jules, the bartender, thought she was too drunk or too young.”

       “Go on.” Cochran shakes her head and rolls her eyes.

       “Yes, yes, before the Buddha, I was at Vesuvio’s and this drunk girl came up to me at the bar.” His face flushes, and sweat begins to form on his forehead.

       “Okay. Who was the bartender?” She says with the force of a blunt billy. Cochran takes out her smart phone and opens her SFPD, city notepad application. All notes are automatically synchronized with a server application at headquarters.

        “I am a suspect?” He is incredulous, but not so surprised. “After last night, you think…?”

       “You know how this works, Mr. Bardo.” She interrupts him. “Everyone associated with her is a suspect until they can be eliminated. Your card was found on the victim. The Chief was fixated on it.”

       “It could be a suicide. The girl I met didn’t seem too complete.” He shrugs with open hands. “She could’ve been a jumper.”

       “But, I don’t think so;” Cochran continues, “we’ll look at the tapes in Oakland, and if you are on them?” She frowns and shakes her head. “You should really get ahead of this.”

       “There is nothing to get ahead of.” Seven is less sure if she is serious or not.

       “Really?” Cochran furls her eyebrows. “A dashing old Dick like you; she couldn’t resist your male charm, huh?”

       “What was the bartenders name?” The Lieutenant asks again.

       “And, you took advantage of her, and.” Officer Simon piles on.

       “SHE WAS DRUNK, and needy. I don’t know. Maybe she had daddy issues.” Seven smirks, and no one laughs. “Uh, it was Jules. The bartender on duty at Vesuvio’s was Jules.”

       The two stare at Seven, at his eyes and his body language, as he squirms, sizing up the truth in his story. Cochran pecks out a few digital notes on her phone. “Let’s go over it again until the car arrives.” She says.

       “C’mon Em, you know me. I wouldn’t kill anyone. Well, except in self-defense.”

      &nbsp “She attacked you in the subway. She threatened to accuse you of rape. You had to stop her, your reputation.” Officer Simon speaks faster and faster. “She called you a pervert and begin screaming. You had to calm her down. People were looking, walking over towards you. You had to shut her up and the train came. It’s a crime of vanity and opportunity.”

       Lieutenant Inspector Emily Cochran pauses as he holds a stare with Seven, and then sighs. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves Rookie Simon.” She pecks on her phone notepad, raises her head, and looks up and down Market Street. “This isn’t a true crime, romance novel.”

       “Emily,” Seven grabs her arm, “I’m telling you everything. This young woman came up to me at the Vesuvio’s; I bought her a drink and gave her my card.” Seven sighs, “she tried to pick me up, offered to let me watch, and then got kicked out.”

       “Let you watch what?” Simon asks.

       Seven turns to him. “You know how these kids are today.”

       “No, really, how are we?” Officer Simon is not much older than Fitzgerald was.

       The Lieutenant turns to Market again. “Where’s our car?” She says under her breath and stretches out her neck and ankles to scan for it. Market is full of cars, bicycles, pedestrians, buses, streetcars; it’s a hub of activity as weekend lunch approaches. Tourists and locals are out in the shops, from Barney’s to Old Navy. Every level of shopping opportunity can be found here and in the surrounding blocks.

       “They want sex; they use sex to negotiate; it’s a commodity, but not in the traditional sense, no touching what so ever. It’s all in the mind, the imagination is the most erotic organ, you know.” Seven can’t help but think he is sounding more and more guilty. Why is he so nervous? Sex changes everything. He looks at Emily and she is staring at him again. Her eyes are wide open, but stern. The corners of her mouth turn down, slightly.

       A black and white pulls up to the curb, and the driver puts on the flashers. The Lieutenant looks at Simon and shakes her head in disbelief. A mechanic in grey coveralls gets out of the drivers side and walks around the front of the car to great him.

       “Squad car?” Simon shakes the drivers hand. “Where’s Vincent?”

       “One hand washes another. I owed Vincent a favor and now we’re even.” He explains.

       “Okay. I am Officer Simon.” He extends his hand, but the man does reciprocate. He is wearing mechanics gloves, which are stained black from oil and grease.

       “It’s all we had available. Jeffers, Motor Pool,” he says. He looks toward Cochran and Bardo, not sure which is in charge.

       “Your tag says Grindel?” Simon asks. “I hope you wiped the steering wheel.”

       “It’ll be fine,” Cochran says and opens the passenger door. She turns towards Seven, “get in.”

       “It’s a joke. I’m Wendell, and when I first started, I shook hands with the Chief just after tuning some valves. I got grease on his crisp blues; so grime and Wendell is Grindel. The other gear grinders have never let me live it down. Who are your passengers?” Jeffers asks.

       “You don’t want to know, Grindel.” Simon walks around the front of the cruiser and sits behind the wheel. He studies it for a moment: no grease that he can detect, but he smells the scent of burnt engine oil. He starts the cruiser and turns off the flashers. “Where to, Lieutenant?”

       “BART (Bay Area Rapid Transport) Headquarters on Lakeside Drive in Oakland.” She commands.

       “That’s near Lake Merritt, right?” Simon asks and looks up into the rearview mirror.

       “Yes, Simon.” Cochran shakes her head as she makes eye contact. She lowers her head and looks around the backseat of the cruiser. Obviously, it’s been around the block a couple of times. Besides burnt motor oil, the scent of stale human sweat and urine perpetrate the passenger seats. The seat back behind the front passenger seat is ripped from top to bottom. All the seats are cracked at the each passenger’s leg V. Seven is sitting on a large brown stain. It could be blood or it could be…? Simon hits the siren and the flasher, waits for traffic to stop and makes a u-turn from the curb to the opposite lanes, in the opposite direction and towards the Bay Bridge.

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