Excelsior!

~ a short story

This was it. The big one. A new beginning, or an end to the whole game…

Detective Dave Colm sat back in the main chair of his small slice of living room at edge of dusk, leaning deep into its well-worn curves. Fingers steepled and gaze steady through their tangles, Dave settled into mental subroutines concerning his past and his near future. No longer functioning as a recliner, both his feet lay flat on the floor, grounding the man to the apartment where so little of his time was consumed. Shoes still on, his body was still at work, mind still working things out.

A breeze ducked in from the open window directly before him. Beyond it, a glinting crimson sun, amidst the towers of his city at rest, set the last vestiges of his long day away. Old and untouched records shelved at the base of his rolling record player creaked beside him. An unwatched flat-screen harbored upon the south wall glanced its black mirror into the detective’s sprawling form upon the chair. Slumped with his shirt unbuttoned to cool his only recently inactive form, Colm braced his shivering. It was not from the chilled beads of sweat drying away into evaporate upon his bare torso that he felt this coldness. It came from fear.

Would the fear evaporate, too? he asked. Only if I condense all of this chaos into a plan, he answered.

Dave stood up, loosed his shoes, and carefully stepped over the carpet in his bare feet and into his kitchen. The inner passages of his fridge were barren too, save for a final bottle of Brewster’s Lite. The only resource left to him in his home, he snatched with clutching fingers, instinctive and borne of a desperation he was only just beginning to feel inside of him. Gonna have to be resourceful. Going to stay thinkin’. Gotta keep my head on a swivel… Dave twisted the cap on the bottle so hard that he cut his finger. He realized midway through the pull that it wasn’t a twist-off. Nevertheless, the bottle cap clinked into his sink, along with a few droplets of his blood. He began to drink it while watching the red sunset peeking through the mirrored, silver sheening of the city’s outstretched wills. The bad beer would sustain him this evening. Its cold flows crashed into his empty stomach, instantly soothing him into further unreality.

Now I can start thinking clearly. Now I can plan.

He returned to his chair.

So now here we areHow do we get out of this, Dave? … Simple … I’m listening … First, we need to get clear about what we are willing to do to get out of this? … Anything … OK. Good. That’s a start. Second, we need to layout all of the facts … Got ’em … OK. Third, we need to predict what the response will be … They’re gonna come and they are gonna look around. They are going to respond to the clearest signs of any evidence left and investigate further. They are going to bust the place up, going anywhere and everywhere to find that evidence. They are going exhaust every piece of physical and circumstantial surrounding this… event. They are gonna talk to the neighbors, for sure. They are going to delve into you most of all. … I’m ready for that. I can feel an idea coming on already … Yeah? Well, fourth and finally, you are going to need to execute that idea, and you are going to need to continue to do so, adapting to every change within the game’s series of events to come … Indeed … Because no matter what, you’re gonna be close to this one. Closer than any of the others. Because it’s in your house. All the evidence is here. It is right- … That’s it! … What? … Excelsior!

I’m not gonna hide anything. I wanna have some fun… I’m gonna play this one on hard mode. I don’t just want heat … I want an inferno!

Dave jumped up from his seat in excitement, leaped over the carpet and to the window. Pulling the window shut again, he drew his pistol from the back of his waist and fired it through its central mass, into the dawning dusk and over the lake that separated this burb from the city proper. Then, moving quickly, to get it over with and to pair the two shots close in time to any listening neighbors, he opened the window to the air again and crawled through. Holding tight to the edge of the frame with his left, halfway into the open air of the fifth story, Dave placed the barrel on the outside of the window and readied to fire it into his living room. He stopped himself. Idiot. There can’t be two bullet holes, two bullets, in here. Only one! Only the one already there

He drew himself back into the apartment, flew over to his closet and grabbed his flak jacket. He placed it onto the chair where he’d just been sitting, front-facing and securely rested against the back cushion at only a slight angle. A prime target. He positioned himself into place again and fired his gun through the outside surface of the window and into the room, aimed at his jacket. His aim off but it was good enough. The bullet slapped into the upper right strap of the vest and plugged there shortly, before falling into the seam of the seat.

Fuck. I’ll get it later, he promised himself. Glancing at his watch, Dave realized his partner would be arriving soon. Nance. Never, ever on the take. A foil to foil. Truly, a worthy adversary, he chuckled. He turned back to the horizon outside, looking through the twin holes in the frames of his window, unshattered but with cracks webbing outward from the bullets’ passages. The sun had set, night was coming fast now.

Dave turned back to his apartment, and to the center of the carpet of his living room where the blood was now dry. The body of his informant, the triple-dealer key to their precinct’s latest bust, Johnny Hacho, lay there in a shocked sprawl. His eyes were still open, a single bullet lay lodged within his heart. Dave grimaced at his latest handiwork.

He’d never seen it coming. And that’s why people like him die and people like me don’t. In the forever unwinnable war, one trail goes cold, while another sparks to life.

This one would be the toughest job yet. What a stupid bastard I am… But Detective Dave Colm grinned unto himself, going someplace deep inside, where he had yet to reach in the thrilling work of being of an always-innovating, two-timing, cunning entrepreneurial force within this city’s eternal war between law and order. The closeness of it — the risk — made that grin. It was all a game to play, with himself as creator and player, with many other players to play alongside, competitively, cooperatively … and with no one ever knowing the ending. To either friend or foe, to the hunters or the hunted, no one yet understood how he really played.

A knock on the door shook him from his delightful contemplations.

“Dave!? What happened?” came the voice from outside.

Dave let the thoughts fall away, concerning the grin and the game. He put on that mask again. For the part he was about to play, he’d need every extremity.

Time to go to work…

He rushed to the door and braced to open it. Gun in hand, finger on the trigger for effect, Dave’s face was frantic, eyes racing for answers and options. But then, a familiar discipline slowly focused its exhausted seams toward procedure and protocol, to the next task at hand. Dave’s countenance, serene, greeted his partner.

“Nance! So glad to see you… Don’t panic. I need you to listen to me very carefully… Johnny? Our guy on the inside? He’s dead. And someone framed me as the killer…”

“What?! How? Why?”

“I don’t know. But take a look. His body ended up in my apartment…” ~