Detective Frank Takes a Swing

This is the 2nd story in my planned series, The Detective Frank Chronicles.  The stories are episodic so you don’t have to read the prior story to enjoy this one.  If you wish to read the 1st story, you can find it here: https://jackl0073.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/detective-franks-daytime-dilemma/

The following is a work of fiction.  The views and opinions of the characters don’t necessarily reflect those of the author. 

New York.  This is my home, this is where I can breathe and walk the streets and know with absolute certainty that I’m exactly where I belong.  Sometimes I’ll take a walk down by South Street Seaport and I’ll smell the salt air and look at the water and just let myself go and think.  What I think about in these moments varies from time to time. I might be thinking about the latest woman I’ve been seeing (a Brazilian coquette named Mariana – ah to use and be used there’s a sick twisted joy on both ends of that spectrum), or the many women from my past, or perhaps an old case from my days on the job. Occasionally, those things get entangled and I think about them all at once without regard for chronology or practical reality.  That’s a long way of saying that I like to daydream.   Lately though, I’ve been unable to daydream as my thoughts invariably return to some very recent events, the details of which are still very fresh in my head to the point where my mind has yet to process them completely.  It was like this while I was on the job too.  Whenever a case was hot or just completed, it was all my mind could think about even off the clock. I would eat, sleep, dream, and even fuck thinking about these cases.  I guess I’ve always had a tendency to get pre-occupied and obsessed with this kind of stuff only this thing – it’s personal.  I know, I know. It sounds like such a tagline doesn’t it?

Now that I’m retired, I wish I could shut off this thing inside me, but there’s no switch to pull to change my nature.   The problem is that I actually don’t want to shut it off as much as I complain about it because this thing – whatever it is – there’s a sick part of me that needs it. As much as I want to purge recent events from my memory I find that I can’t nor do I want to. I’m not quite sure why I can’t let it go, but the pills, the cigarettes, and the booze helps.  I know it sounds like some fucking cliché, but that stuff really does help you cope. It gets me through the fucking day anyway.  I figure after all this stuff happened, my drinking and smoking must be reaching Bondian proportions.  Yeah, that’s right – Bond, James Bond – that guy.  Only I’m not referring to the movies as much as I love them. I’m referring to the books.  In the Ian Fleming novel, Thunderball, Bond admits to smoking 60 cigarettes a day.  Ha!! I got that beat though not by much!

Don’t give me any of that shit about smoking either.  I know what it does.  I know the PC police likes to call them ‘cancer sticks’ and that you can hardly find places where you’re allowed to smoke anymore, but  you think I give a fuck about any of that shit?  Nowadays, when people see me light up they look at me as if I have the plague.  If I’m in a bad mood, I try to get in their face about it and make sure they get a whiff.  What are they complaining about anyway? The war is over.  They won.  No more smoking sections in restaurants, no more smoking flights, no more smoking at public events, heck there are only a handful of buildings you can stand in front of to light up.  One of these days I’m going to invite all these kale-eating self-righteous fools to my house and lock them up in a room full of cigarette smoke and watch them cough as much as possible before taking pity on them and setting them free.  For anyone who has a problem with smoking, you know what I got to say to you, fuck off and leave us smokers alone and enjoy your smoke free world you fucking assholes.

I know I sound like a mean bastard, but I have my reasons. As I was saying, the Bond franchise –both the Fleming books and the films – have been on my mind a lot after what just happened.  Whenever Hank and I were on a stakeout we’d always end up talking about Bond.  It was our thing, and it became a thing between him and his daughter as well.  I remember taking her with Hank to her first Bond movie in the theater when she was a little girl.  She walked out that theater so excited and bursting with pride as she recalled all the action scenes and some of the dialogue to her father.  Those were special moments, and yet that was another time.

Just two months ago now, Hank was gearing up for his own retirement, but before that we were all on a softball field near his Long Island home on a bright and sunny Sunday afternoon.  A bunch of us showed up including some guys from our old precinct as we played a “pick-up” game. I must admit to laughing to myself privately as every man’s childhood fantasy came to fruition for me during that very game.  Bases loaded, Bottom of the 9th, 2 outs, down by three.  Anyone who loves baseball has dreamt of that scenario, I don’t care who you are. Heck, I’ve had girlfriends who love the game who have talked about it.  I couldn’t have asked for a more cinematic moment especially since Stan Housman was on the mound.  That loudmouth blowhard Housman had it in for me all day throwing at my head.  The man hated me for sleeping with his sister, Rebecca, a long while ago.  The unspoken rule that family members are off-limits is something that I was all but too happy to abide by, but it was Rebecca Housman who chased after me.  She was if I recall more than a little desperate, more than a little pleading.  Anyone else in my place would have also found it impossible not to cave in.  After all I’m only human, subject to temptation and all that comes with it.  The shocking thing was not that we did it, but how she wanted it I suppose but I’ll get to that later – much later.   There, there let me reign myself in.  After all, this was serious.  This was baseball. . . and I don’t care what anyone says about the sport.  Baseball will always be my first love. Heck, it gives us the closest thing there will ever be to a true and honest historical document.  You know what I’m talking about, stats and box scores.  No one can argue with those.  Whether you win or lose, it becomes much more than that with stats. I’ve even calculated my lifetime batting average to be .354. I’m talking since little league. Maybe it’s not that impressive on the surface but when you face the kind of pitchers that I’ve faced over the years it means something. These guys aren’t professionals, but the guys in my league throw hard.  These are guys who love the sport.  That’s how I knew Hank and I would get along so well as partners.   The first conversation we ever had was about the Mets. Yeah, that’s right I’m a Mets fan so all you Yankee band-wagoners can suck it. To every Yankee fan that doesn’t know who Dave Winfield is, FUCK YOU!!  That’s right. I said it. What the fuck are you going to do about it!?

Anyway, it’s every ballplayer’s dream scenario, and Housman’s got it in for me.  He tried hitting me earlier in the game but I dodged it and right now he couldn’t afford to hit me with the bases loaded.  What a fucking blowhard prick, this guy.  He taunted me as I walked to the plate, “Well, whaddayaknow.  It’s fucking, Casanova.  How about I throw at his other head, huh!  It’s the only one he uses.”

“Rebecca knows a thing or two about my other head. Maybe she’d have a better chance than you of striking me out.”

“Guys! Guys! Guys! Let’s just play the game,” shouted Rodriguez, another close friend of mine still on the job.  He was playing first base and I bet he could just see the blood in my eyes and the vein popping in my forehead so it was all he could do to defuse the situation.

At that point, I could tell Housman relented and decide to get serious about pitching to me, and in turn, I shrugged off the exchange of words and focused on my at bat.  It wasn’t the first time Housman and I had almost come to blows on the field, and neither one of us would allow the other to believe he had won by not showing up.  Heck, a few months before I had only arrived home on a red eye from LA and it didn’t matter because I knew I had to be on the field and play. So, the guys were used to Housman and me butting heads.  Things never got out of hand until that day though, which is a testament to my patience.

The first pitch came and sure enough I swung hard and missed, and as soon as I missed, I knew Housman wanted to say something but didn’t.  That only infuriated me even more because my imagination immediately began to wonder just what was on the tip of that fat blowhard’s tongue.  Had he said what he was going to say, I could have shrugged it off or I could have come back with a stinging one-liner to burn him, but it was not knowing that triggered something inside me.  I had to hit the next pitch and it had to be a grand slam home run.  That was the only way to shut Housman up for good and that in itself would be a personal victory.  I couldn’t miss again. I just couldn’t . . . only I did.  The pitch went by me before I could even react properly with a weak, lousy, ugly swing I wish I could erase from my memory.   It would have been a strike anyway.  My buddy, Archie was umping the game and he would have called it a strike anyway, but I could have spared myself a moment’s embarrassment by not attempting such a feeble swing.  Then, I knew my moment had come. This was it. It was all or nothing and I’m not the kind of guy who accepts nothing as an option. This was it. “Do or die” as they say.  The pitch came . . . I swung. . . the sound of the ball flying off my bat was music to my ears.  Before I knew it the ball was flying down the line beyond the left fielder’s reach.  Had there been fences, It would most certainly have been a home run, but with no fence a home run had to be earned, which meant you had to run and run fast.  I sprinted as fast as I could and as I was rounding second I could tell that Manny, the left-fielder was still chasing down the ball.  I ran faster still rounding third. I could tell the throw was coming.  I slid into home and I beat the throw. My teammates swarmed around me and even those on the other team came by to congratulate me on hitting the ball perfectly. It was a dream come true until just then, the blowhard dick shouted the only words that could ruin it.  At the top of his lungs like a train whistle he yelled, “FOUL BALL!”

Everyone quieted down for a second and then Archie spoke up, “The ball was fair. I’m the ump of the game and that’s my call.”

Furious, Housman face twitched as if he was some demented old witch and I could almost see the smoke coming out of his ears.  The man’s head was about to exploded. He got right up in Archie’s face and started screaming, “I KNOW WHAT I SAW AND THAT BALL WAS FOUL!!  YOU’RE GIVING THE GAME TO YOUR FUCKING BUDDY YOU FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT! WHY DOES EVERYONE LIKE THAT FUCKING ASSHOLE ??!! THINKS HE’S STILL SOME BIG SHOT BECAUSE HE FUCKS ANY WOMAN IN SIGHT!! IT . . . WAS . . . A FOUL BALL!”

A couple of Housman’s friends came and held him back. I had to walk past him to get to my stuff near the benches.  I wish I would have said something in that moment to just defuse the circumstances, but my wise mouth struck again.  It wasn’t the cleverest thing to say, and I know I shouldn’t have said it but here’s what I said as I brushed by his shoulder, “Tell Becca I said hi . . . she knows a thing or two about a good swing.”

At that moment, Housman freed himself and came after me.  This guy’s a good fifteen years younger than me and I’m just recently retired, but none of that mattered as he threw me to the ground.  I could feel some guys tugging at us trying to get us off each other, but it was to no avail. We rolled around, each of us trying to land a punch.  He punched the back of my head a couple of times as I shielded my face from his blows.   I was the only one who could stop this so I did. I cupped my right hand and clapped his ear as hard as I could.  His body locked over me and I could tell he was disoriented. I probably could have pushed him off of me, but just to make a statement I swung my arm around and punched him in the mouth with as much might as I could muster.  His blood started dripping onto the field and we were finally pulled off of each other.

“Flecha, you crazy? You didn’t need to punch him, man. You just ruptured his ear drum,” some random voice spoke to me from the fog.

I could hear myself saying, “He deserved it the no good bastard.”

The rest of the morning went by in a blur and all I could remember was Hank drove me home, but hardly said anything to me. I was exhausted enough to sleep for next two days but I knew I had to be up and about again later that evening.  There was a special occasion and I couldn’t miss it.  Hank’s daughter had published her first novel and there was the book launch later that evening, some fancy soiree complete with caviar and champagne.  I couldn’t possibly miss it, and I knew Mariana would love it. It would give her a chance to dress to the nines.  In the few weeks we’d been dating she’d persistently kept reminding me that I never take her anywhere fancy and just how strikingly gorgeous she would look in a nice dress if she only had  a chance to wear one.  Well, this was my way of giving her that chance to knock my socks off.  Who knew after all these years that it would be Hank who would give a girlfriend of mine an excuse to dress up?  I’ve got to come clean and admit that I’ve been a bit off my game since coming back from LA.  Sure I met this knockout and charmed my way into her bed, but something had just about been feeling off lately.  I couldn’t quite pinpoint it.  I didn’t feel as swift as I used to. I didn’t feel quite as confident as before, and generally felt like I lagged a stepped behind despite keeping up appearances. Ever get that feeling like everyone around you was just a tad quicker? Like you were just a bit off your game but only you noticed it while the rest of the world seemed oblivious?  Well, that’s how I felt.  The fight with that asshole Housman didn’t do me any favors either.

So, there I was fresh after a fight and I had an event I needed to go to that evening.  When I say I “needed” to go I’m not exaggerating. It would have killed me to miss it especially since I knew what Hank had planned.  He was my best friend and his family treated me like one of their own.  His girl practically grew up around me, and part of me would like to think that maybe I played a small part in her path to success.  All those emails and phone calls she would make to me to check on the authenticity of her police and criminal characters just because she was a little more than embarrassed to ask her dad had paid off.  I mean not only did I inform her of all the procedural stuff, I’d tell her what was going on inside my mind during some cases, how I arrived at certain conclusions, and what I did to get suspects to talk.  As much as she loved her dad it was just easier to ask me because there would be no judgment, none of that “are you sure this is really just research” bullshit that a concerned parent might blurt out in an awkward moment.  No, Uncle Frank would just tell her what she needed to know, and now Bethany Swinton was the proud author of her own crime novel. Truthfully, I’m not crazy about the title but I’ve always kept that to myself. She decided to call it Murder by Moonlight, which is an okay title I suppose only just a little generic for my taste.   When a quick google search revealed this to be the title of a laughable science fiction 80s TV movie starring Brigitte Nielsen and I told her about it, she just shrugged it off and said, “At least I’m not calling it ‘Cobra’.”  That’s what I love about her and I think Hank loved that in her too. Despite her age, she got all sorts of obscure cultural references that might have otherwise eluded someone of her generation and she knew just the right way to let us know that she was just like one of us.  Hank and his wife raised one hell of girl.  She had only just turned 32 and she was publishing her first novel with Vintage Press.  Early reviews had all been more than just favorable.  One periodical proclaimed her to be “the most important new voice in the world of crime fiction” and another gushed that Bethany Swinton had “single handedly transcended the genre to emerge as one of today’s most inspiring artists of any medium.”  Prominent producers were already fighting for the movie rights.  There was little doubt Bethany had written her masterpiece and now it was time to celebrate her official book launch with style.

I could tell Hank was worried I may not be able to get myself together to make it that night.  I felt awful and I must have looked even worse. I’d seen that concerned look on my best friend’s face way more times than I’ve ever wanted to.  I could tell he was thinking about Bethany’s feelings knowing she’d be crushed if I didn’t make it. So, just as Hank began to say something I interrupted him, put on the best smile I could, brushed my messy hair to one side, and said, “The name is Flecha, Frank Flecha and I never disappoint a lady.  You could tell Bethany I said so myself. Your daughter has nothing to fear. I’ll be there suited and booted.”

So, the evening came and Mariana and I walked arm in arm into this upscale gala, which Hank had a hand in arranging since he always wanted only the best for his little girl. There was a live band and a dance floor and before I knew it I was cutting rug with my girlfriend in her stunning purple gown that probably cost me a small fortune (who knows, I just gave her my credit card and told her to make sure she looked beautiful).  All that mattered though was that we looked and felt great.  I live for these kind of things yet if only I knew what that evening would culminate into I’d have been equipped with much more than a tuxedo and a beautiful woman as my armor.

Everything geared up to this big moment.  I could tell Hank was nervous and that this was the moment he had been thinking about all day. He couldn’t wait to surprise his daughter with the perfect gift for this very special occasion.  A few minutes before the big moment, he approached me and I could see the sweat of anticipation on his brow, the nervous smile on his face, and his eyes were just beaming with a giddy sort of glee.   He took my arm and talked into my ear so that I could hear him over the band’s music, “You know what I’m about to give her?”

“Only the most treasured object in your possession, my dear friend.”

“I can’t wait to see the look on her face.”

“She ever figured out you had it?”

“Once she asked me when she was about 14, ‘Daddy, what’s in that box?’ and I told her she would know one day and she kept hounding me about it until I finally told her that if she ever peeked inside that box the greatest gift I’ll ever have to give her would be ruined.”

“Well, that’s quite intimidating.”

“It kept her away from that box.”

“Hank, I can’t think of any other man who loves his daughter more than you. Now, go take the floor before you lose the nerve.” With that, I gave my best friend a gentle push towards the stage where he could approach the band leader for use of the microphone to make his grand presentation.

Everyone faced the stage with eager curiosity as Hank directed an employee of the venue to wheel out this mysterious box that contained the item in question.  It was gray and encased in a sort of heavy plastic, and it looked aged but not old just as I remembered it from many years ago. Hank had only shown me the item once and the instant he told me that he had a surprise for Bethany for this event, I knew exactly what he was going to do and exactly the significance of this gift.  Part of me feared that those others in attendance may not quite get the importance of it, but it mattered not because I knew Bethany and I knew that there would be no other object that would please her more.  Her father had been so protective of that box since he obtained it.  It actually resided in a safe in a secret compartment in his basement for most of the duration of years.  He only trusted me enough to show me after many years of friendship, too many to count.  He hadn’t told his wife or his daughter what was in that box. They only knew that it meant a lot to him.   He looked at me from the stage and I gave him the widest smile I could despite some of the pain I felt from that day’s earlier incident. I knew he was a nervous wreck as he stammered through the beginning of his speech.

He started again, “I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of my daughter. Bethany, I wanted to make this a special night for you.  Since you were 10 years old I remember you telling me that you wanted to be a writer and that one day you’d publish a book and now here we are and everyone here who knows you knows that you are a talented, brilliant, and stunning young lady.  I stand before you humbled and proud to be your Dad.  There is one thing now that I want to give you.  I don’t think you know what it is. . .”  Hank instructed Bethany to take his hand on stage as they both approached the box in question. He opened the box carefully with his two hands, and Bethany’s mouth stood agape. I could tell she guessed what it was the moment she laid eyes on it.
“A golden typewriter for my princess and her golden words. . . may your inspiration never lose its luster.”

“Dad . . .  I’m at a loss for words.  Is this?  Could it be?”

“My love, this typewriter once belonged to none other than Ian Fleming.  It has been missing since an anonymous bidder bought it at auction in 1995.  Bethany, that bidder was your great-uncle Peter.  When he died in 1999, he left it to me and I’ve kept it a secret all this time waiting for just the right time to give it to you.”

At this point, Hank’s self-consciousness took over as he realized that he had an audience who may not quite understand just what the significance of this gift meant to him and his daughter.  His bleary eyes opened wide as he turned around almost in shock forgetting that he wasn’t alone with his daughter.  His wife, Madelyn, stood aghast in front of the stage, but after a quiet chuckle he composed himself and gathered his thoughts together to talk to all of us who were watching.

“You see anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge fan of James Bond.  Not just the movies, but the books too.  Some of my favorite memories with my daughter, Bethany, were introducing her to the Bond movies and to the Fleming books.  At first, I could tell she was only indulging her old man, but as she got older she really got into it.  In the 7th grade, Bethany decided to write an essay on Ian Fleming for school.  She must have been the only kid who chose to do anything like this.  Well, I had a whole bunch of materials for her research everything from books to magazine articles to the actual novels themselves of course.  I told her the story about how after Ian Fleming wrote his first Bond novel, he ordered himself a custom made golden typewriter, and it’s on that typewriter that Fleming wrote all of his Bond books at his villa, Goldeneye, in Jamaica.  Well, one day the little girl came up to me and asked, ‘Daddy, what happened to Ian Fleming’s typewriter?’  Little did she know I actually inherited it from my uncle Peter, who happened to be quite independently wealthy.  I thought about telling her then, but I knew a better time would come.  Well, what better way to celebrate the launching of Bethany’s first novel than to give her this.  She deserves it much more than I ever did.  Sweetheart, I’m so proud of you.”

Everyone gave a loud applause, and it was then that I noticed something strange.  Mariana had just asked me what was so special about Ian Fleming’s typewriter when just out of the corner of my eye I spied someone who I never thought would be at this event. I left Mariana mid-sentence springing out of my chair across the room to where Rebecca Housman stood.  She wore a tight bare back red gown that left no room to the imagination.  In her hands she clenched a red and gold purse and I could tell by the expression on her face that she was up to no good.  She was about to make some kind of a sudden move but I caught her mid stride, “Becca, what on earth are you doing here?  I can’t imagine that you just swung by.”  (there’s a reason why I emphasized the word “swung” but I’ll get to that later).

“Frank,” she said in the driest possible tone, “I should have known I’d run into you at some point.  Don’t you have other skirts to chase?”

“No need to chase skirts when I’ve already got a lovely date.”

“Of course you do,” she said.

“Seriously, what are you doing here?”

“For your information, Madelyn invited me.  Not that it’s any of your business.  I just thought I’d come and support Bethany.  Besides, I’ve never been to a book launch before.”

“Ah, I see. You just couldn’t stay away could you.”

“Think what you like. I need a smoke. These days you can’t light up anywhere.  I’ll see you around, Frank.  Oh and try not to cross my brother again.  You’re not young anymore.”

“You’re no spring chicken yourself now, Becca.”

Then, just after she had turned her back on me to leave, she tilted her head and spoke over her shoulder.  Louder than whisper but softer than a shout she said, “We are all in a state of withering, Frank.  Some of us more than others.”

With that she walked slowly deliberately shifting her rear end from side to side just to make sure I’d watch.  She must be in her early fifties but she shook it that night as if she were in her twenties.  There’s something to be said for cougar confidence.   After all these years, she didn’t look half bad.  You may be able to count the years on her face, but her body still held up quite nicely.  Still, it’s as if her words pounded into me.  I couldn’t shake them.

I walked towards the bar and got myself a martini and swam towards the bottom of that glass.  Just as I finished, the room went dark.  The old man in me thought it was just a blown fuse, or maybe I just drank up that martini too fast.  The better side of me knew that something was about to go down, but I couldn’t react swiftly enough.  Just then a commotion started at the front of the room.  Several people were moving about briskly.  I got up to find out what was going on when someone clocked me right across the jaw. I was down for the count, but just as I hit the floor I thought I heard Bethany scream.  The world felt like it was colliding into me and I couldn’t move. Now, I heard several screams.  Was that Madelyn shrieking in the near distance? I couldn’t make out all these sounds that blended together.  I thought I heard a female voice say, “Don’t forget the fucking typewriter” but it was all muffled . . . blur.

Panic  .  . .  confusion, then just as quickly as it started, the lights came back on.  The scent of danger left the air, and there I was helpless and in pain.  I got myself up and stumbled to the front of the room where Hank and Madelyn sat on their knees on either side of Bethany who’s hand grasped at her right cheek as she laid flat on the floor.

Hank saw me and shot me a look full of intense rage.  I still wasn’t sure what had happened, and that’s when he bellowed from the pit of his stomach, “THEY SLASHED HER FACE, FRANK!!! THEY SLASHED MY BEAUTIFUL BABY’S FACE!!!!”  That’s when I noticed the blood gushing from her face and dripping out of her hand.

I could tell Hank was inconsolable.  I wasn’t sure what else to do so I bent down and draped my arms around him and let him sob into my shoulder.  He kept saying, “How can I let this happen to my daughter. . . my beautiful Bethany?”

“She’ll always be your beautiful girl. Nothing can change that, Hank.  Look at me!”

All he could do was keep on sobbing and that’s when I smacked him not very hard, but it had to be done, “Look at me, Hank!  We are going to catch whoever did this.”  Then, I turned towards Bethany who was still clutching her cheek crying.  I took her hand, looked her in the eyes and said, “I don’t know if you heard me, but I just told your Dad we’re going to catch whoever did this to you. You’ve got my word, Bethany. “

Bethany looked at me through her tears. I could tell that the slashing still hurt her. She looked me in the eyes and said, “Just make sure my Dad is okay. Don’t let anything else happen to him.”

That’s when I knew I had to do this thing alone. I couldn’t risk Hank’s life and leave his daughter without her father possibly blaming herself for her Dad putting his life at risk.  It was at that moment that I knew what I had to do.  My badge may be retired, but my work still calls and when it calls like this I must go wherever it leads.

The next morning, I questioned Hank and Madelyn together.  Although I did my best to disguise it as just a casual breakfast get-together, Madelyn knew what I was up to and she was more than cooperative as long as Hank would take no part in my investigation.  Whenever Hank would even imply that he’d help me, she’d shut him down, “Hank, you’ll do no such thing. Between the police investigation and Frank, I’m sure justice will be done.  You have 8 more weeks left before you retire, and you are not to make me a widow.”  There was something regal about the sound of her voice despite the fact that she looked sullen and withdrawn over what had happened.  Her chaotic red hair frayed at the ends and she couldn’t look as far removed from the bedazzling figure she appeared to be the night before.  She told me what she had told the police.  All she could remember was the lights going out and two people in black burglar masks running into the room towards the stage. One of them restrained Hank holding him from the back while the other, a woman in all black gear, grabbed Bethany and slashed Bethany’s face with a switchblade.  Then, a third man came from the back of the room, which must have been the man who clocked me in the jaw and took the typewriter and left.   Outside, we could all hear a car speed away.

Just as I was about to leave, I stopped myself.  I suddenly recalled how strange it was to see Rebecca Housman there that night.  I remembered that she said that Madelyn had invited her, and I just thought I’d verify that for my own peace of mind.  There was no reason for me to think she had anything to do with this, but still, it’s odd that she was there at all.

I walked back to their living room where Hank and Madelyn were contemplating if it was too early to go and visit Bethany.  She had been released from the hospital late last night, her face requiring 9 stitches and had insisted upon going home to rest despite her parents wanting her to spend the night at their house.

“Madelyn, I just have a quick question.”

“Yes, Frank.”

“This might seem like an odd thing to ask, but did you invite Rebecca Housman to the book launch?”

“Yes, I did although it was more like she invited herself.”

At this point I could see Hank’s ears perk up. He seemed interested and displeased at the same time. Something wasn’t right.  I could tell that even the mentioning of Rebecca Housman’s name bothered him even though he was trying to hide it.  He spoke up, “Honey, you never mentioned that to me.  Why didn’t you tell me?”

Madelyn got all defensive but re-composed herself and said, “I didn’t think it was a big deal.  You play softball every week with her brother and I know we haven’t seen her in a long time, but we all used to be close friends.”

“When did you see her prior to last night?” I interjected.

“Well, I happened to be at the jewelry store over on Westbrook when we ran into each other 2 weeks ago. I was looking for new earrings to wear to the event and Rebecca just happened to be there.”

I could tell Hank was uneasy, “Why did you invite her?”

“Well, like I said,” Madelyn hesitated, “I ran into her and we got to talking and I mentioned that Bethany had written a book.  She seemed interested and when I said we were putting together a book launch party, she insisted that she wanted to be there. . . I didn’t think there would be any harm in inviting her. . . Hank, what’s wrong?  You don’t think she had anything to do with this.  I mean I know we haven’t been close in a long time but we’ve never had a falling out with her.”

“Honey, you should have told me that you invited her.  That’s all,” Hank resumed a quiet calmness in his voice, “And no, I don’t think she had anything to do with this,” only when he said that he gave me the look.  Having been partners for the longest time, I don’t think I need to explain that you learn to communicate without talking.  That look that Hank gave me was his way of saying, “You better look into Rebecca and you had better be careful about it.”

I left my best friend’s house determined to find answers.  It had been a long time since I put in a phone call to Rebecca Housman.  I still had the number in an old address book back at home.  Yes, my history with Rebecca Housman pre-dates cell phones (they were around it’s just that not everyone had them back then as they do now).  These phone calls are always tricky since I didn’t want to let on why I was calling, but at the same time I knew I had to see her and question her about this incident.

Luckily, her home phone number still worked, but only after hearing the sound of my voice, she said, “I had a feeling you’d call.”

“And why is that, Becca?”

“Because I know your type.  Once you’ve been reminded of the taste of something you’ve discarded, all of a sudden you want it again.”

If this is the game she was playing, I found myself with no other choice than to play along so I replied, “Maybe you’re right. Maybe you know me better than I know myself.”

“Don’t placate me, darling. Just come to my apartment in a half hour and be ready.”

“I’ll be there.”

“And I’ll be waiting.”

Rebecca Houseman had a spacious 4 bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side.  She lived there for ages, inherited it from her mother who in turn inherited it from her grandmother.  She and her brother Stanley Houseman were raised in that apartment until he became a cop, married, and moved out.  Right around that time, their parents died in a fatal car accident leaving the apartment all to their daughter, Rebecca.   Around that time, Rebecca had become increasingly promiscuous.   You don’t want to know what kind of a display she had put on at her parents funeral.  I remember it clearly though. I went to support Stan at the death of his parents and right in the front row of the funeral parlor Rebecca Houseman sat in the lap of her date petting, fawning, and kissing the living daylights out of each other.  I tried to discreetly get them to stop and that’s when she started in on me commenting openly on my uniform and begging me to take her home.  At first I wanted no part of her, but the next day I found her at my front door.  Still, I resisted and sent her home.  The following night I found her naked in my bed after coming home from my midnight to 12pm shift. She had broken a window at the back of my house to get in, and in that moment – a very weak moment I must admit- I gave in.  I knew it would get back to Stan, but I didn’t care.  Code or no code I felt obliged to abide by her wishes.  The affair lasted over 8 months. Time and time again I wanted to pull away, but I couldn’t.  Not until the night she wanted to use her swing. Oh that dreaded swing!  Where did she think of such a thing?  Is it true she built it herself? I’m not so sure I want to know.

The feeling of dread swept over me as I exited the elevator on her floor.  Surely, I could do my job and find out what information she may have and get the hell out of here.  Technically, this wasn’t even my job anymore, but still there’s that familiar sense of obligation I feel.  I couldn’t let what happen to Bethany slip through the cracks.  Every step I took towards her door felt as if I was walking to my doom.  Could I have not just passed along this lead to the official investigators?  What good that would do?  They wouldn’t be as driven to get to the bottom of things as I am.  When I’m on the case I make sure there are results.  I had no choice but to be here right here and right now or else Bethany’s assailants would never be brought to justice.

I knocked and she answered.  She wore a thin long golden nightgown that came down her body like lathered butter.  It was translucent and just so I could see everything and she knew it.  She had indeed been expecting me.  Her body beckoned mine with every painstakingly sweet subtle movement and my eyes were transfixed on her curves.  She kept the place clean and orderly.  Everything smelled of strawberries.  As I walked into the den, there stood a large canvass over the archway leading to the bedrooms.  An artist had painted her nude surrounded by several men.

I awkwardly said, “Last I heard you were in one of those sex addict groups . . . I’m guessing none of it took.”

She laughed uproariously, “Don’t sound so surprised.  You know you should have been with me in those groups.”

“Me?”

“Yeah you, Mister ‘I date a Brazillian model with fake tits younger than the morning dew’”

“You always had a way with words, didn’t you Becca.  Well, I came here to ask a few questions about –“

“About what?  Oh you mean the night the snuggly little princess got her face all carved up?  That night?

“Yes, that night.”

“And what makes you think I know anything?”

“I suspect you do.”

“Oh, you suspect.  You suspect  . . .just like you suspect I’m some kind of a slut because of a painting on the wall or because of what I choose to wear.  Did it occur to you that maybe I’m wearing this because I’m comfortable in it and I’m in my own home and it has nothing to do with you or with me expecting you?  Did that ever occur to you, Sherlock?  Or are you too busy thinking about having your next oatmeal on time so you get enough fiber in that diet of yours?”

“It’s your home, Becca.  You do what you like and dress how you like.”

“Men! I swear I hate the lot of you! A woman has some fun with her sex life and automatically she gets labelled a slut or she’s easy and ‘look what she’s doing to herself’ and all that.   A man . . . Well, a man can do anything.  A man sleeps around and he’s ‘sowing some wild oats.’ He uses up one woman and goes right to the next and the world calls him ‘a heartbreaker,’ a lady killer,’ ‘a playboy.’ “

“Can I just –“

“I’m not done!” She screamed and put her hand in my face. “You used me and threw me away like all the rest . . . at least that’s what you think, right?  You think I cried my eyes out when you left me that night all because I wanted to try something different in bed, right!”

“Technically, it wasn’t a bed. It was a swing, and I told you I wasn’t all that into mechanisms,” I said.

“No! You said and I remember what you said.  You said, ‘If you want to go for a swing like that I’m sure there are about a dozen men who can accommodate you but I’m outta here’ and then you left.”

“I was uncomfortable, Becca.”

“Well, I didn’t care. I wanted you to submit to me, and I failed. The second you left I did EXACTLY as you suggested. I picked up random men and I fucked them on my swing and you know what, it FELT GOOD! And I wanted more.”

“Should I be congratulating you here?”

“No, because you thought you were using me, but I was using you. All I wanted was one final act, but you denied it to me.”

“You know, Becca I think you need help.”

“It’s this patriarchal society that needs help, Frank.  A man can have as much sex and do as much fucking as he pleases and it’s all in good fun, but when a woman empowers herself through sex she’s a slut.”

“I never called you that, Becca.”

“I wanted you to, Frank.  Oh, how  I wanted you to call me a ‘slut’ and all kinds of despicable names because that’s what I am. And now that we’re many years older, we stand here just one slutty old bag and one gray-haired limp dick dog afraid to learn new tricks.”

“Perhaps, you can join a feminist group of some kind?”

“Feminists? Don’t get me started on those fools.  They want women to believe that they’re all victims and that men should treat us with ‘dignity’ and ‘respect’ but they don’t know the meaning of those words.  You know what’s more important than dignity and respect to a real woman? Do you?”

“Am I even supposed to answer, Becca?”

“Power!  In one word all a woman should ever need is power.  And do you know how she gets it?”

“Uhhh, sex?”

“See, you’re not so dumb after all.  There’s no greater power a woman could have than that power she gets for herself when she has a man between her thighs.  Men get their power through money and politics, which is all well and good. You can hire people with money to do things you don’t want to do yourself and to serve you the things you can’t acquire on your own.  That’s one way to influence people.  A woman’s power when she controls a man stems from that man’s desire to return to that place right between her thighs.  That’s the kind of power that gets men to do the things they wouldn’t want to do for money. That’s the kind of power that supersedes all other mechanisms of control, and that’s the very kind of power that I wield when I sleep around.”

“It seems you have quite the manifesto, my dear.”

“So Frank, tell me again what it is you want from me.”

“I’d like to know what you know.”

“About what?”

“About what happened the night of the book launch.  Do you know who may have wanted to do this to Hank’s daughter?”

“I just might.”

“Tell me, then.”

“Have you not been following along?  I’m old enough now to know that a woman does nothing for free.  I thought all your years of elderly wisdom and experience would teach you to know better.”

“So, what do you want in exchange?”

“You know what I want.  I want us to go into the 4th bedroom that only VIP guest are allowed to see and I want to go for a swing and I want you standing between my legs thrusting yourself into me.”

“You can’t be serious, Becca.”

“For everything there is a price. Allow me to finish using you and I’ll tell you what you want to know.  First, I must collect you, my dear Detective.”

We went into the infamous room together with her walking behind me.  It was surrounded by all sorts of adult paraphernalia that I don’t care to discuss here.  In the corner was a stereo system, so Rebecca quietly strutted across the room to put it on.  The song she played was “I Think We’re Alone Now” by Tiffany.  She put the bloody thing on repeat until our session was over.  The music was all I could listen to as I did my best to thrust myself into her as she perched herself up on her swing with her feet in stirrups and her legs wide open for me to take her.  I did the deed but felt disgusted with myself immediately afterwards.

Rebecca got herself out of the mechanism, turned off the song, put on her sheer golden nightgown, and opened the door for me to leave after I dressed myself. As I walked through the doorway she smiled, “How does it feel to be used, Frank?  How does it feel to know that as you took me I was taking you knowing that you won’t be released until the deed was completed?”

“I’m not sure I care to discuss it, Becca.”

“Well, now you know how it feels to be a woman, don’t you?”

“What do you know about last night?”

Rebecca Housman laughed quietly to herself.  It’s as if she relished both her triumph over me as well as the information she was about to impart to me equally and simultaneously.  She shot me a look with that cold smile of hers, “You think Hank kept that golden typewriter a secret for all these years?  Well, you would be wrong. He told me about it right after the first time we fucked.  I didn’t even bring the subject up.  It was as if he needed to tell me.  That’s the kind of power I speak of, detective.  A woman who uses what she got the right way . . . well, she doesn’t even have to ask.  A man’s will acquiesces to her body and soul and sometimes not a word needs to be spoken for it to be understood.”

“Hank would never cheat on Madelyn.”

“You think you and I were exclusive during that time?  I fucked him every other night that I wasn’t fucking you and let me tell you something, Hank had no problems with the swing.  Once he stopped amusing me though, I had to let him go.  I suppose he never told you any of this?”

“No, I suppose not.  So, how does this figure into what happened?”

“Do I have to do all the work for you, Detective Flecha?  Seriously?”

“You better tell me or I’ll make sure you’ll get hassled by the investigators on this case and it won’t be too soon they’ll figure out just what kind of nut job you are.”

“A little sensitive after the fact, I see.”  The teeth in her smile reminded me of a wolf, and in my mind’s eye, her face contorted into the face of snake.  I wasn’t feeling well. I was about to be sick, but I held it together because I had no choice.  She started to speak again after grabbing a cigarette making sure the smoke reached my eyes as she pulled in closer to me. “Okay, I may have mentioned the typewriter in passing to someone who may have had something to do with it, but I don’t see how.”

“Who was it, Becca?”

“Mimi Sharlton, but she and her husband are in prison now.  They couldn’t have done anything.”

“You told one of the leaders of a gang of murderous jewel thieves about Hank having Ian Fleming’s typewriter?”

“Listen, you remember the case.  None of us knew who they were at the time.  It was before Mimi and Roger Sharlton were exposed.  We had mutual family friends out in Long Island.   Anyway, you and Hank put them away years ago after that heist that turned into a massacre.”

That’s when a light bulb went off in my head. I said, “Mimi and Roger Sharlton may be in prison, but their kids. . . Their kids are not.  They were brought in for questioning for some petty crime shortly before I retired.   Becca, I have to go.  Don’t take this the wrong way, but I hope I never see you again.”

“Frank, the pleasure was all mine for a change.”

I raced over to my old precinct where I knew I could find Hank.  I must have been clocking in at around 90mph at some points. I was furious with rage and confusion.  Hank had been my best friend.  How could he keep something like this from me? Once more, how could he keep the typewriter a secret from his family for decades and yet reveal it to Rebecca Housman so easily after sex?  Did I really truly know this man after all?  His little indiscretion has now scarred his daughter for life!  How could he!

Ignoring all the greetings that came my way as I stormed through the door, I raced through to the locker room, found Hank, and slammed him against his locker.  I was thinking of punching him square in the jaw but I stopped myself.  People were confused trying to get me to calm down.  I took a step back and started breathing normally again.  I told everyone that I was fine. I just needed to speak to Hank alone if they would be so kind to give us some privacy.  Everyone quietly exited the room with puzzled looks on their faces. When the last man left, I got right back in Hank’s face and said, “You told that psychotic cunt about the typewriter, you fucking son of a bitch!”

Hank frowned, his mouth and his face would have literally dropped to the floor if they could have. “Frank, I don’t know what to say.”

“You could have said something to me before I went over there, you fucking idiot.”

“It was years ago Frank.  It all ended and nothing ever happened.  I went back to being a good husband to Madelyn and she never found out so I thought nothing would come of it.”

“Well, try telling that to your daughter now, huh Hank.”

“She told someone about it then did she?”

“Yeah, we need to put out an APB on the Sharlton kids.”

“Why, Frank?”

“Because they are the ones who pulled this off. Probably some kind of twisted revenge for the two of us busting their parents.”

That’s when Hank gasped and his eyes squinted as if he were deep in thought.  “Frank,” he said, “The Sharlton kids . . . they’re here.”

“What?”

“Picked up not 20 minutes ago and put into holding.  Got busted trying to rob a liquor store down by the bridge.”

“Have they been interrogated?”

“No, not yet.”

“I’m getting in that room with one of them, Hank and you’d better help me make it happen.”

Sean “Slick” Sharlton sat up straight with his hands folded facing the two-way mirror in the interrogation room.  He was used to the routine by now.  At 19 years old he had already been picked up 6 times for various other crimes, but none of them ever stuck. Victims were too scared to testify or they ended up changing their stories at the last minute.  He and his sister, June,  began picking up where their parents left off some time ago.  For a while, it was assumed that the brother and sister had been given a normal childhood after the imprisonment of their parents 15 years ago, but then just three years ago they were arrested after a convenience store robbery.  They got a slap on the wrist because of their childhood history, but everyone knew they would resort back to criminal behavior.  It was only a matter of time before their crimes escalated, and they became just as notorious as their parents even killing 4 people in their last heist.

He looked up at me as soon as I walked into the room.  There were cigarette stains in his unkempt beard and he stunk of urine and beer. He recognized me right away, “You’re the man who busted my mom and dad, aren’t you?  I thought you retired, you fucking pig.”

“That’s right.  I put your parents away, and now I’m going to help put you away for good unless you help me find out what I need to know.”

“I told the pig who arrested me.  It was all a misunderstanding. The clerk only thought I was sticking him up.  I made a joke and he overreacted.”

“That’s not why I’m here.”

“Then what do you want?”

“I want to know what happened last night at the Carlyle on the Green in Long Island.”

“Shit man, what the fuck I know.”

I took my fist and rammed it deep into his gut.  Then, I watched as he coughed to regain himself.

“Police brutality, man. I know my rights.”

“I’m not police anymore and let’s just say I conveniently broke in and it may take a while for the people in charge to figure it out.  It’s just you and me and my fists pounding your flesh until you talk.”

“Man, I don’t know!”

“That’s not the answer I want to hear!” I took my left hand, lifted his face and punch his adam’s apple with my right with just enough force to avoid permanent damage but still cause him excruciating pain.  He fell backwards and I let him recover before lifting him back up in his chair.  “You want more, Slick?”

“No, no, no, man! Enough!”

“Talk”

“It was her.  She put us up to it.”

“Who?”

“Rebecca Housman.”

“Rebecca Housman is the sister of an nypd officer.  Why would she need the likes of you?”

“Her brother’s dirty, man.  June and I . . . We owe her money.  She’s one of the biggest loan sharks in town.  We were in big with her. Owed her 150 grand.  She called in her loan and when we couldn’t pay up she got us to do this thing for her.  She and her brother.”

“And why should I believe you?”

“Shit man.  She was there wasn’t she? As soon as she left the room after talking to you, June helped her get into her gear and she was the one who sliced up that woman’s face! I swear man!  I fucking swear!  Stan, he was the one who knocked you out.  Man, I had no choice!  Stan would have raped June if I hadn’t helped her.  You gotta believe me!”

“You better be telling me the truth.  That’s all I could say.”

“Fuck, man, I am!”

I left the room and found my former Lieutenant and asked him to put June Sharlton in protective custody, but then when an officer went to get her from holding she was missing.

“Where’s Sgt. Stan Housman?” I asked.

“He was just here.  Left with that female perp,” said some random voice.

My head was spinning.  For a second, I couldn’t think of what to do next, but then it came to me.  I had to go back to Rebecca’s apartment.  Maybe I’d find Stan there too.  Maybe they’ll both be waiting for me.  Hank tried to stop me, tried to get me to wait until they could get a squad up there, but no way was I waiting.  I already knew what would happen if I did wait. Red tape, waiting around, procedure- all the stuff I hated back when I was on the job.  There was no proof other than a desperate thief’s word to go on.  Surely, it wouldn’t be enough for the cavalry to storm Rebecca’s apartment.  No, I had to do this alone. I had to mete out my own justice.  I had to see this through for myself. Fuck the consequences.

I arrived on the floor of Rebecca’s apartment, and carefully tried to listen to see whether or not she was in.  It was quiet inside.  At least I didn’t hear any voices so I jimmied the door knob and when I got no response, I began picking the lock.  There was only one simple lock on the door so after about a minute I found myself in the apartment, the last place I thought I’d ever return to. Making my way to the 4th bedroom, something caught my eye that I hadn’t seen earlier in the day.  One of the kitchen cabinets was wide open.  Inside I could see the slightest hint of yellowish gold.  As I approached the kitchen, I knew right away what I was looking at.  It was Ian Fleming’s golden typewriter.  There it stood as if nothing unusual had ever transpired.  The object that had provided the source material that had given me so many wonderful memories.  From that object came the source of the friendship between Hank and I.  The words that came from those very keys helped forge a bond –no pun intended – between so many people.  Bethany and Hank spent many a night talking about James Bond both the books and the films.  How many stake outs had I gone on with Hank where all we talked of was Bond?  Too many to count that’s for certain. I stood there in awe of it as if it were somehow mystical.  The gold had been worn out in places but in other places around certain keys, it still glimmered.  I couldn’t help but smile and lose myself in it.

Then, out of nowhere –  a slam.  It was the front door.  I tried to crouch and hide but it was too late.  Before I knew it, Rebecca and Stan stood in front of me with June Sharlton on her knees in front of them with her hands cuffed.  I tried to think of something clever to say but words failed me.

Stan Housman spoke first, “Looks like someone’s trying to play the hero again.”

“Fuck you, Housman.”

Rebecca raised her voice in a satisfied rage, “QUIET!  SHUT UP! Both of you.”

“Whatever you say, Becca.”

Those wolf’s teeth sprung once again from the shadows.  The corners of her cruel mouth looked as if they thirsted for the blood in my veins.  Her eyes fixed themselves upon me like daggers spiraling forward yearning for that first bite of flesh.  “Now, Detective Flecha, let me tell you a saying that was ironically typed on the keys of that very device by your own idol.  They may be the last words you’ll ever hear.  Allow me to quote Ian Fleming:  ‘Mr. Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: ‘Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, the third time …”

I straightened up and set my eyes deep into hers as I interrupted, “It’s enemy action’”

She laughed.  Stan’s gun was pointed at my head.  “Take his gun and get them in the room.  Detective Flecha is already familiar with it.” Just as I saw Stan about to pick up my service weapon from the floor, I sprung to action.  I quickly kicked him in the face and fell down on him as we both struggled for my gun when it slid away.  We wrestled as he tried to get at my eyes, but I stopped him.  I bit the flesh between his thumb and his palm and as he reacted by pulling that hand away I reached for his gun.  Both our hands were on it as we struggled on the floor, each of us trying to gain the advantage.  Then suddenly, the gun fired in both our hands.   Each of us looked up to see the wide eyes of Rebecca Housman inch forward. Removing her hand from her waist, the blouse underneath seeped with the red stain of her blood.  We each stopped fighting and made our way to her.

“Stan, leave us.” Her voice already waned.  Stan got up, walked over to June Sharlton and uncuffed her. Afterwards, he collapsed in a flood of weeping just out of sight.

“Becca, I will get you help.  – Stan, call the ambulance!”

“No.” She could barely move those lips. She coughed and pursed them together and in my mind they became a rose. “Just one thing, Frank.”

“Becca, what?”

“Kiss me.”

My eyes watered, and I started to lean down. Just then I thought of Bethany.   Hank’s precious daughter didn’t deserve any of this. Just when she thought her father had given her this precious gift of a father’s love, it was all ruined because of this dare I say ‘woman.’ Becca’s eyes yearned for me to lean further in to complete her request, yielding to her in her final moments.  I stood up, looked her in her dying eyes, and said, “Goodnight, Rebbeca.” Then, I walked away and called 911 from the hallway.  I knew she’d be dead on arrival.

About a month later, I sat at the very desk where Ian Fleming wrote the Bond novels with the golden typewriter in front of me.  Hank, Madelyn, Bethany, Mariana, and I all made a special trip to Goldeneye in Jamiaca.  It’s now a resort and for a small fortune you too can stay at the Ian Fleming villa.  All of us felt it was the right thing to do. We needed to bring the golden typewriter back to its home for one last visit before Bethany could bring it to her own home without the bad memories.  This trip would serve to purge it from all the terrible things that had just recently happened.  After some reconstructive surgery, Bethany’s face still bares a scar but it was nowhere near as big as it used to be. In fact, she remarked that she had gotten used to it now. She just hated having to talk about how it happened though.  Usually, in interviews she’ll say something like, “It is what it is. It gives me character and that certainly doesn’t hurt if you’re a writer.”

I drank heavily on that trip. Mariana was concerned, but as long as we still pleased each other there was nothing she could do to stop me.  We must have had sex 5 or 6 times a day during that trip so that curbed my drinking a little and kept her satisfied. After I drank the cradle of a bottle of bourbon, I walked up to Ian Fleming’s desk (the resort kept the desk and the chair in their original places in Fleming’s bedroom).  I put a blank page into the type writer and started hitting the keys vigorously.  I wrote something short and sweet.  I then lifted the paper out of the machine, rolled it up, and placed it inside the empty bourbon bottle.  Then, I ran onto the private beach and threw the bottle as far out as I could. I went back and slept with Mariana again.  Afterwards, she asked what I wrote, and all I said was “Nothing, dear.”

I can now picture a random person, probably a tourist, finding my own message in a bottle. They’ll open it up and in the center of the page would be written:

“‘The bitch is dead.’- Ian Fleming.”

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