Flamboyant Homicide

“You shittin me? Mother fucker.” Archie slammed his palms on the steering wheel, reached over, yanked the big revolver from Rifat. “You can’t shoot a motherfucker cause you can’t fuckin shoot? Not, you know, even the motherfucker killed your brother? I thought you Rag heads was ‘sposed to be all secret terrorists an shit, know what I’m sayin? Now we gotta do a fuckin Chinese fire drill in the get-toe? Get the fuck out. An hurry.” He popped out of the driver’s side, gun drawn, gripped sideways movie gangster style, swung side to side like radar. “Motherfuckers down in here be like Zombies an shit, know what I’m sayin, come outta nowhere an be gnawin your foot off fore you know. Hurry.” He continued running commentary about the locals and Rifat’s lineage and camel fucking that Rifat missed most of as they took opposite ends walking around Archie’s long nosed Town Car.

They climbed in, Rifat sliding the driver’s seat back and the seat back up, Archie bitching, “Don’t be fuckin’ with shit in my ride, man. Shit, nigger. Now you done fucked it all up. Don’t touch nothin’ else motherfucker. No radio, no AC… Goddam, now you drivin’ like a old fuckin woman. Case you hadn’t noticed his is a auto-mo-beel, not a fuckin camel… You know where we goin? Goddam Rifat, lissen, you know, watch the fuckin traffic not the hoes…”

Six miles on side streets and half an hour later, Rifat slowed the Lincoln to a crawl on Cahuenga south of Selma, Archie still ragging him.

“You understand profiling, motherfucker? Drive like you mean it, know what I’m sayin, not like you be high an shit thinkin maybe you oughta rob the fuckin C store… Stop. We here.” Archie reached for the door handle. “Stop!” Rifat nosedived the Lincoln, Archie stepped out goddam motherfuckering, leaned in the door, eyes darting everywhere. “Drive around the block. Do it like you a sand nigger with a purpose, you know, on a fuckin mission, like you belong, know what I’m sayin? I cap this asshole for us, you pick me up an we drive outta Hollywood like nothin happened.”

Rifat considered leaving Archie with the man who killed his brother. Instead, he followed orders and drove around the block, through a parking lot full of out-of-state plates, thinking they’d come in handy when he got a new van, drove around the block again. This time Archie stood on the sidewalk in front of the detective’s building, wild eyed, obvious, the fucking gun in his hand. Piece of pretentious shit. Rifat curb bumped the Lincoln on purpose, Archie fell in raising hell.


Rifat scraped his knuckles, swore at the pipe under the big sink in the warehouse behind his mother’s shop, swore at the ringing phone, answering it “ARS Fine Imported Linens and Ladies Wear…”

“What the fuck is going on down there, Rifat? People are asking questions. Important people. Tell me you shipped the fluids.”

“I shipped the fluids?”

“Don’t be a wise ass, diaper head. Answer the question.”

“I shipped the fluids, Mr. Wichtikl?”

“Minus the attitude?”

“Yes, I shipped the fucking fluids, Mr. Wichtikl.” Rifat opened a drawer in the work bench, closed it, opened another. “Cold Medical transport, air express. If they don’t have it by now, they screwed the pooches on their end and they’re lying.”

“I’m not paying for comedy. How’d you lose the dogs?”

“Seven at one time, they made too much noise. Drove my brother crazy.” He closed the second drawer, opened a third. “He said we were being watched, so he stopped the barking and whining immediately after I’d harvested your precious fluids.”

“He decided this on his own?”

“What’s to decide?” The third drawer slammed shut. “None of the dogs we process for you have been returned.”

What? Do you have any idea how much those dogs were worth?”

“Rich people have insurance.” Rifat opened a crumbling particle board pantry, found the band aids.

“No one, not even a high-end breeder can insure a fucking champion for anywhere close to what’s being paid by my people. North of ten, sometimes twenty, up to fifty grand. Jesus. Put your brother on. I need to know what he means by ‘watched’.”

“I would, but he’s dead,” saying it with one end of the band aid wrapper in his teeth.

“Dead?” Clucking noises on the line followed by a long silence. “How did he die?”

“He wrecked the van with seven dead dogs and a homeless drunk inside.” He managed one side of the band aid on his finger, held in place by the workbench.

My seven dogs?”

“The seven dogs we stole for you, yes.” He flopped the loose end of the band aid over his index finger, pressed in place with his thumb.

“Don’t get fucking technical with me, Rifat. What made him think you were being watched?”

“He was told someone persistent was asking questions of the dog fighters and private adopters. Our operation is unknown to them. I don’t see the problem.” He flexed his finger, not completely satisfied with the band aid.

“That’s why you’re a grunt and I run things. This is the worst possible fucking news. Your operation—”

Our operation.”

“Whatever. The operation must have come up or he wouldn’t have gotten killed.”

“My brother’s death was avoidable. He overreacted to something that might have had nothing to do with us. Even if it had, it would have gone away in its own time had he been patient. We’re… I’m not stupid.”

“That’s debatable. Are you sure he’s dead? I find it difficult to believe there was nothing in the news.”

“Perhaps the news, like you and Archie, feel there is no news in another dead camel jockey. We are as disposable as dead dogs and a homeless drunk.”

“Watch your attitude, Rifat. And your mouth. You know what could happen if anyone were to run those dogs’ numbers?”

“Next time my dead brother kills your stolen property, I’ll be sure to cut their ears off, deep fry them and throw them in the dumpster behind Jack-in-the-Box. Where, in a matter of minutes, they will consumed.”

“You’re really pushing it, Rifat. My name can’t come up if this ‘persistent’ someone keeps asking questions.”

“Archie has taken care of that for you. And me. He called it a two-fer.”

“Flamboyant homicide is the last thing I need. Tell me he was discreet.”

“He was discreet?”

Damn you, Rifat. I was going to say how sorry I was, about your brother. Being…um…”

“Dead? Now you are not sorry for my brother’s death?”

“Now I’m sorry it wasn’t you.”

A Friendly Game

“Read ‘em and weep, Pilgrim.” Sunny winked, fanned her cards across the swing arm hospital tray. “Three little boys and their two baby daddies.”

“Ain’t no kinda right…” the orderly in blue scrubs shook his head.

“It’s not right,” the shift nurse slid her ample hip from the edge of Sunny’s bed. “I get to Vegas practically every weekend I’m off and I’ve never seen anything like our Ms. Sutton.” She dropped her head, inspected her name tag, inventoried her top and side pockets, lifted her head to set the stethoscope and wrapped a cool, plump hand around Sunny’s wrist. She checked her watch in silence before shaking her head like the orderly. “Honey, I’d love to call you a cheat or worse, but I bought the frickin cards in the gift shop.” She scribbled Sunny’s vitals on a clipboard. “Judging by these, if you were a no good lying cheat it wouldn’t pose any health hazard.” She eyed the orderly cleaning up Sunny’s lunch and the card game clutter of vending machine junk food wrappers, energy drink and soda cans. “Woman’s got ice in her veins, D’Montay. You ever need to take a lie detector test, get her to sub for you.”

“You may be right, ‘bout her health an all, but poker her way’s why the old men where I come up keep their money in their pockets, play dominoes, drink Cutty or Colt and talk shit.” He spun the loaded white plastic waste basket liner.

“What’s wrong with a friendly game of poker?” Sunny took the bag from the orderly, handed it across to the nurse.

“Somebody’d get to winnin’, an then showin’ off cause with cards there’s always money. An there’s liquor a course. An where there’s liquor an money an cards there’s guns. An you know somebody gonna end up dead outta that situation.”

Pudgy nurse knotted the bag saying, “I know tequila and handguns lead to a lot of bad decisions.”

“Tequila and anything,” Sunny snort laughed. “I’d drink tequila and try to argue a wall down.”

“Tequila an a wall?” Sunny’s room door slammed shut. “Muhfucker, argue with da wall you want but bitch don’t never try talkin’ a bitch down she has a gun, tequila or no. Less you dumber’n fuck.” Five feet tall, three wide, crew cut. A tattoo of two large, intermeshed gears covered her forehead, FUCK under one eye, YOU under the other, 5 BCH 5 in Old English letters from lower cheek, under her chin to lower cheek. A dozen other tats illegible or ornamental. Her hand engulfed a nickel plated 22 automatic. “This down to Blondie, bitches,” the ham-handed pistol directed at Sunny. “Bitch slippin ‘bout money da bitch owes an we done playin’. Bitches shut da fuck up, stay alive. Nigga,” pointing the gun at D’Montay, “on da floor. You,” gun going to nurse, “fat white bitch ass down’tha nigga.”

“I thought they had some cops up here to protect me,” Sunny said, as the door thumped open for a taller version of the gang banger dragging two wide-eyed nurses into the room, their wrists and mouths taped.

“Bitch?” Short banger looked to the new arrival.

“Bitches’re no pro-tection. They more’n lab coat bitches I’m the muhfuckin’ bitch ass Easter Bunny.” She offered two single-use scalpels. “Bitches were in a drawer. Carve the bitch.”

“What I see happnin’ here,” D’Montay, chilled, “be Hefe sent out a pair a dis-posable beluga biscuit eatin’ bitches on a man’s job, holdin’ nothin’ but a piss ant twenny-two. Double deuce in a room full a full growns makes you hoes ones be dumber’n fuck.”

The short banger, her voice rising through “NiggaaAAHH BITCH!” popped one in D’Montay’s direction, missed, shattered a sconce light fixture. The tall one pulled a 45, exploded the patient monitor system off its stand showering the room with glass and plastic. The door flew open, filled with two men in scrubs, one high, one low, both in double grip firing mode. The 45 boomed, knocked the top man out the door. The 22 popped twice, one of the taped nurses spun down squirting blood, two more pops, more sheetrock, taped nurse number two ducking, following her partner down. Squatting door scrubs put five quick rounds, bam bam bam… bam bam in a short arc dusting Sunny with sheetrock, blasting the oxygen outlet, nailing the short banger in the upper left arm, spinning her to take a 45 round in the chest that was meant for Sunny. Short banger’s 22 hit the floor, went off into pudgy nurse’s left butt cheek, bounced under the bed where D’Montay had been since the wheezing short banger now looking at him fired the first shot. She clawed for the gun, he grabbed it, stuck it in her right eye, pulled the trigger. Door scrubs, down on his side, fired twice. One through the sink faucet sending up a geyser, one into tall banger’s thigh. She dropped to one knee, head level with Sunny’s bed, thundered two shots at scrubs, sending him against the wall.

Hey you,” Sunny barked. “Bitch Ass Easter Bunny!” The tall banger raised her head past Sunny’s mattress, turned Sunny’s way, gun coming up. Sunny pushed up from the bed swinging her full-leg cast, slammed it into the side of tall banger’s head. The collision thunked like a dropped cantaloupe.

“Dayyy-um.” D’Montay rose in the eerie relative quiet of cordite, low moans and spouting water feature like a conjured spirit, the first banger’s blood-and-brains splattered 22 auto in his hand. “This kinda shit here? You see it now?” He used the gun as a pointer. “Every time you set down to a ‘friendly’ game a poker, don’t care who you are, this the kinda shit’s gonna happen.”


The first time Meyers met Marcia Hobbs-DeMilnes he’d followed as she clumped her way up the right side of a pair of wide, winding staircases to her study. On the way up she’d preemptively corrected him from further social misstep explaining, over her shoulder, “It’s Mar-see-uh, Mr. Meyers. Deh-Millen. I believe the misplaced e and n is something clever or illiterate my husband’s family decided on hundreds of years ago and subsequent generations haven’t bothered to correct. The silent s is along for the ride, like the silent p in fishing, as my father used to say. Hobbs is simply… Hobbs.” She’d turned and smiled such a quick, faint wisp of a smile he might have imagined it.

She’d propped open her study door, or half of it, by toeing a convenient, thick book against the bottom. He remembered thinking three things. She was proper, in the old definition. The room, what did a petite woman in her sixties study in a room the size of half a basketball court with double ten-foot-tall doors that, for all its size, felt like an extension of her being? Last, was it money that turned the ‘Marshas’ of the world into Mar-see-uhs? That sent him down the rabbit hole with ‘probably’ for an answer because it was money that turned marshes into Disney World. A bit of word play that tempted him to check her sense of humor. Only tempted. He thought she’d read his mind while that thought arose saying, “When I was young… through college actually, I didn’t know how to respond to Marcia. Everyone called me Hobbs. Even relatives. ‘Hey little Hobbs, how ya doin’? Please, Mr. Meyers,” she stood beside a large for its type Victorian writing desk with legs that matched the baby grand piano, “be seated.”

He’d discovered Marcia DeMilnes had a way of being both open to scrutiny while scrutinizing, and expertly conversational in a way that reinforced her demeanor of an ageing yet ageless sprite. Tinkerbell as new grandmother with an appraisers eye. Further, to his mild surprise, she’d requested his presence in the hills above Malibu not because she found his business address in Hollywood disagreeable – “Certainly not, Mr. Meyers. Hollywood is tacky and touristy, but the Roosevelt bar and other haunts are wonderful reminders of what glamour used to be. Hollywood, as an entity, is mandatorily avoided after dark. It’s only that I’m unable to drive at the moment that we are here.” She presented the walking cast like he’d missed it. “Before you ask about a chauffeur and that ridiculous automobile on the drive, I must tell you I am a terrible passenger. Perhaps ‘terror’ passenger is more appropriate. I believe the phrase among family and friends runs along the line of ‘backseat driver from hell’. As a result, everyone refuses to drive me just as I refuse to ride with them. So here we are.”

In the course of being where they were she’d asked him to find her beloved black and white Newfoundland, Oxford. Affectionally known as Oxi. As she related searching the house and grounds for him all he could see was her opening and closing drawers and doors shouting “Here, oxi. Heeeeerrrreee oxi…” A filthy rich power doctor for a husband, three children, all doctors, her measured composure… It wasn’t beyond possibility.

This time he waited in the same robin’s egg blue leather wingback, the look of which belied its comfort, and felt the same timelessness. As if suspended in a still life by one of the great illustrative watercolorists. Immersed in a room ringed in white bookcases filled with impressionist blotches of color that might have been books. Her oversized Victorian writing desk, baby grand piano and occasional tables polished to mirrors and covered with photographs under vases of fresh pale yellow and lavender flowers. The home was high enough to leave the city and its brown haze below, the mountains visible through a veil of gauzy lace and sunlight possessed the look of a faded photograph. Entrenched as he was in Marcia DeMilnes own universe, he couldn’t pinpoint exactly what made him feel sorry for her.

They’d both turned their chairs to sit directly in front of each other, an empty space of Persian rug between them. Meyers unsure of what to expect after feeding her a condensed, sanitized version of how he found her dog, waited in silence. After a short eternity she said, “The numbers don’t lie,” as she lifted the photograph of Oxford’s tattoo she’d held listlessly after a first inspection. “I was afraid of this. But had so hoped…” She looked off through the windows. “I’ll need to find someone to claim him… and—”

“Not to be insensitive, or presumptuous, but Oxford was in no condition to be returned. I arranged with a private mortuary to have his remains cremated.”

“Not one of those horrid canine death camp operations where they throw them all in the furnace at once and give you an ashes casserole…” This time she found his eyes.

“No ma’am.” He held her gaze. “The arrangement I made was for Oxford to go alone. The ashes I bring you will be his.”

“Thank you… I… You needn’t have… It had to be expensive, and I know it wasn’t in our agreement, so if you’ll send me the bill, I’ll…”

“All I need from you is what type of container you’d like for Oxford’s final resting place. An urn, a wooden columbarium …”

“Wood. Cherry. If they can manage.”

“They’ll manage.”

“Thank you. Again. He loved to sit in here, you know… Just there, in the center window…” She stayed in that window with a dog’s ghost for a moment. “During your inquiries sleazing as you called it through dog fighters and puppy millers and sketchy breeders, did you by chance come across the name Wechtikl?”

“No. Something I should know?”

“I suppose not. Goddammit,” she returned to facing him, her eyes held a sad fire. “I know our agreement was for you to find my dog, which you have done, but… but…”


“I want you to find the bastards who did this. I don’t care what it costs, or how long it takes. I want to know who the hell they think they are, what they’re doing… More than that, I want to know why.”

“‘Why’ is generally something easy, like greed.” He stood, lightly squeezed the hand she offered.

“If it’s not easy?”

“We learn to live with inexplicable evil the best we can. I’ll be in touch.”


Scenes are coming at me in random order, at odd times. I have to grab the ones that fit and let them drop in draft or I’ll get lost. So short, sloppy and more often, scenes not chapters.

I’m Offended #1

I’m sick of divisive language, and using it to leverage a point.

Pick a topic and these days you’ll get two viewpoints, or an act will be attributed to two viewpoints. Conservatives and Liberals, Red and Blue. That’s it. Whatever happened those fuckhead conservatives or those fuckhead liberals did it. It’s the broadest swath, painted with the broadest brush. No consideration of the issue. If it’s a fail, the conservatives or the liberals blocked it. If it’s a win the conservatives or liberals did it despite opposition from conservatives or liberals.

I call bullshit.

The whole thing is tantamount to giving Monet a 9-inch roller and gallon of flat grey latex. Or, hey, Beethoven! Here’s 37 mini-keys and a cheesy marimba sound. There will be no nuance, no finesse because they have been eliminated from the artistic palette.

This came up in blog where book banning was attributed to the broad swath of “conservatives” Possibly. More likely religious zealots and cultural extremists. I can’t seem to find any typical broad swath conservatives attempting to rewrite history or change 100 plus to five-thousand-year-old literature to make it more palatable to appease far less than a majority who are “offended”. Don’t read it, change the channel, put it down and write what you like to read. Erase history and we are doomed to repeat it.

It seems there is no viable discourse without attributable blame. A process that is perpetrated by pseudo intellectuals, bloggers, academia, talking heads, “influencers”, pop stars and politicians for the sole purpose of maintaining an electronic personal momentum. I recall a line from a Bonanza rerun – “If’n ye ain’t fer us, yer agin us!” What a mess. A lowest common denominator cheap shot mess.

I’m offended when, in a Google search, I get interrupted by an ad from either party asking for money to help beat down the opposition. Fuck you people, you know? WIFI and internet access ought to be free for everybody. Fix that, then ask me for money you don’t deserve to get nothing done.

I’m also offended by my last post. No, not the language. That’s a direct take. Or the portrayed racism. That’s real. Nope, what I’m offended about is that I don’t have a lot of followers because I don’t friend farm or fawn over mediocrity and what followers I do have, nary a single one commented. OMG, there’s characters talking racial smack all over the map. Okay I’ll like, maybe, but I won’t leave any tracks. God forbid anyone should think I endorse this type of thing. So here’s a secret. I wrote that on purpose. Not that I’m a fan fic person, but you could word it up a little and plug that scene into Get Shorty or Stay Cool or The Switch. Because when the racist, misogynistic animal thieving assholes bite it the crowd will cheer. Is 2005 so far away no one remembers what sort of books used to make movies? Or are we all so walled into our pillow forted weak sister half assed circle jerk of author liking author Indie cozies that we need broad swath right or wrong don’t offend anybody shit lit? Bob is a racist homophobe. I’m the author, believe me. The crowd screams, “Death to the racist homophobe!” Wow. Because the author said so? Great. Next step? Let’s paint every conservative as a book burning racist homophobe. I say behave like a racist homophobe, okay you are one. But just because somebody in a shitwhistle town in Georgia killed a black gay guy automatically makes every white male in Georgia a racist homophobe? That’s some scary Aristotelean logic right there. Scarier is that logic, in that vein is both pandered to and pervasive on both sides of the street.

Change the channel, turn it off, put it down. Because I’m offended by so much race and gender propaganda I could puke. For example, I’m cruising Google looking for a tutorial on a piece of musical software and half the screen is suddenly filled with Stop Asian Hate. WTF? Asian hate WAS the furthest thing from my mind. Until it was thrown in my face. My PCP is Dr. Nguyen. My pharmacist is Paul Nguyen. My urologist Dr. Benaim. My cardiologist Dr. Bavakati. These people are charged with keeping me alive and I am reminded to develop some hatred for them so I can then stop it and participate in the “conversation”? I’m offended.

Fuck a Duck

“How busy are you for the next three, four days?” Meyers spoke straight ahead over the concrete counter of the coffee shop to a wall size print of an attractive brunette perched on a boulder with mountains in the background. Dressed in an off the shoulder peasant blouse and colorful, swishy skirt, her exposed calves, bare feet and painted nails coupled with a come-hither smile completed the plea to smoke Brazilian Hollywood brand cigarettes.

The Bishop, in an expensive suit, sat next to Meyers, stirred his coffee, asked the countertop, “Is this a money job?”

“Not at the moment,” Meyers said to the Brazilian woman.

“I need to shoot somebody. Soon.” Bishop said to his coffee. “Before I forget how.”

“I’ve heard it’s like riding a bicycle. If it goes down the way I think, you’ll get to pop some bangers.”

Bishop considered his coffee. “Fish in a barrel. That’s not work.”

“That’s why there’s no money,” Meyers told the cigarette ad. “Yet.”

“Say I’m available,” Bishop held up a finger for a refill. “What flavor of bangers?”

“The Five Block Cherries.”

“Shit…” Bishop stayed focused on his empty coffee cup. “When did they get to be worth killing?”

“They’re shaking down their turf. Cut up an old couple pretty bad.”

“Denaldo doesn’t know they’re stepping outside their deal?”

“Nobody knows where the mob complaint desk is, so no. Besides,” Meyers seemed to stare through the ad, “this is personal.”


“Sunny Sutton.”

That brought quiet for a few. Bishop’s refill landed. He zipped open a sugar packet, dumped it in his cup with an economy of motion that was close to sleight of hand.

“Her old man still a supreme asshole?”

“He’s still a politician.”


“Sunny is. Can’t speak for the asshole.” He hit his coffee, twice. “The quick version is she was on her way to rob the Russian’s all-nighter in Toy Town. She thought it was the shortest distance to the buck and a half the Cherries were leaning on her for. I changed her mind.”

“So you go south of the Harbor, pop a couple Cherries, stick a canon in hefe’s mouth, let them know Sunny’s a friend and you don’t approve.”

“Can’t yet. I’m on a job. Sutton’s in the hospital.” Meyers heard Bishop’s eyebrows go up. “Somebody tried to kill me with a van. She threw me out of the way, got run over by a dumpster playing hero.”

“Smoke is beginning to clear.” Bishop worked a paper napkin from the dispenser. “You’re on a job or you wouldn’t be down there. Sutton squirrels up out of nowhere, you intervene. Stepping into the spotlight you get made. You can’t get out of it alive without a scene.”

“I gave the Cherries’ shakedown to Purcell.”

“So you made a big fucking scene.”

“Big enough. Now he has undercovers on Sunny to grab whatever fuckwits the Cherries send up to collect. Sunny’s got a girl to cover her shop while all that cooks. I need you to cover her girl, in case.”

“I babysit Sutton’s edible panties boutique, cap any ugly Tijuana broads in men’s clothes decide to be a nuisance. No charge.”

“I knew you’d get it on the first pass.”

“Fuck a duck.” He slid off the stool. “Tell Sunny I said hello.”


“Rifat, that man. He is in my shop again.”

“‘That man’?” Rifat Skroteem stood in a puddle of water, glared at the pipe wrench in his hand.

“The sweaty one. Curly chest hair,” she worked her hands like fans, up and down in front of her chest, her son not getting it. “Goddam, Rifat. Black Popeye.”

“Archie? I asked him to find out who killed my brother. Send him through.”

“Make him go to the back when he sees you in future.”

“Don’t you want to know what happened to your son?”

“My sons are criminals and dead to me many years. Send him to the back next time. He frightens my customers.”

“You don’t have customers. You have tourists and old people who were young when they escaped with the Shah who want to visit a postcard of how it wasn’t. Send him through.” Rifat smiled, thinking of Archie, banging his way around, claustrophobic, surrounded by Saris and sandals hanging from the ceiling everywhere, without order, in his mother’s shop.


“The fuck is it with you camel jockey motherfuckers?” Archie Dubois brushed himself, eyed Rifat. “I know brothers got dirt floor crack shacks cleaner’n that cluster fuck out there.”

“My mother thinks you scare her customers.”

“Me? Shit. Place stinks, you know, like somebody nuked leftover broccoli or some shit. Not my fault, know what I’m sayin’. Stink is why the bitch got no trade. An the goddam clothes? Who buys them? That shit hangin’ like Pier One curtains cut by a blind rag head. Makes no sense.”

“They’re traditional.”

“Since when is it tradition, you know, to make your women look like a five-year-old retard gift wrapped a giant Tootsie roll? The ones in tight jeans now, workin’ that little mask, that’s some doable shit, know what I’m sayin’. But the fat bitches in the wrap, they need to forget that shit, go to some kinda African moo-moo thing. Fat sisters get up under a colorful tent, know what I’m sayin’, and the whale look be more manageable, you know, an easier on the eye than the retard gift wrap on Shamu.”

Rifat, his hand sweating, strangling the pipe wrench to keep from swinging it. “What do have for me, Archie.”

“What I have for you is a ec-u-menical matter till I see what you have for me. An put the wrench down, Rifat. My hand’s in my pocket for good reason this part a town, know what I’m sayin’?”

“I’m good for it,” Rifat stalled a second, released the wrench to clang into a metal toolbox.

“Your brother used to say that, an he ain’t good for shit no more. I look like a fuckin’ charity?”

“I’m not my brother. Right now, I need to know what you know so I can tell my clients what fallout they might expect from his death.”

“And what your investor Mr. Archie Dubois expects. Awright, I give you what I found, you get their money flowin’ again before I start visitations into their homelife, know what I’m sayin’.”

Rifat smiled again, thinking about this big mouth gym rat nigger racist going up to the palaces in the canyon, talking his shit, seeing his head bashed in with a six-thousand-dollar putter wielded by a paranoid housewife in a tennis skirt or a kung-fu house boy, maybe getting his nuts ripped off by a Doberman. Thinking maybe holding out on Archie a little longer just so it would happen, saying to him,

“Do what you think you have to do.”

“It’s what you have to do about our current problem.” Archie wiped his forehead with a red handkerchief that matched his side-zip cowboy-from-the-ankle-down boots.

“What problem is that?” Rifat smiling, seeing the Doberman running off across the putting green in tennis skirt’s back yard, Archie’s nutsack in its mouth.

“I go camp out, you know, where the dog barbecue’s at ‘cause I got a funny feelin’… You with me Rifat?”

Rifat nodding, the daydream and the smile fading away.

“Good. Okay, I’m at the barbecue, an first thing I see, I see this white girl don’t look too happy make a legitimate business drop, you know, and some homeless fuck I seen earlier goes from pissin’ the alley to Olympic sprinter an slides in the door behind her. They all cool for awhile, inside, then the white girl, she hits it outta there, you know, like fuckin’ Nascar. But the homeless pisser, he an that skinny old sand nigger, you know, the one cooks the dogs, they’re in there together maybe half an hour. Homeless comes out not lookin’ so homeless, way he walks. You followin’ me, Rifat?”

“Yeah yeah,” wishing he hadn’t dropped the wrench. “Homeless at the mortuary isn’t really homeless.”

“Right. I follow him, you know, an he walks the middle a the street through all this shit down here after dark like it don’t bother him, like maybe he’s got a rocket in his pocket somebody decides they gonna fuck with him, know what I’m sayin’, an right into the Montclair garage he goes like he fuckin’ owns it. An none a the rentacops slow him down. No more I can do, you know, Montclair security, me bein’ positively black with no business there an all, know what I’m sayin’. So I idle on around the block an I wait, get the first tag number comes out. A cousin works for the county runs it. Fuck. A. Duck. You ready? Homeless dude’s a fuckin’ private detective. I learn that shit, an I’m askin’ myself all the way down here to see you what the fuck is a private detective doin’ at the dog barbecue, know what I’m sayin’. What. The. Fuck.”

“Maybe the mortician’s wife wants a divorce,” Rifat, relaxed, thinking the time for the pipe wrench would come. “Maybe he and the legitimate delivery girl have a thing.”

“That fuckin’ camel turd’s so old he ain’t got a thing left to have a thing with, Rifat. An what is he tellin’ the private detective about our business, know what I’m sayin’? He has to be, because, listen, you know, homeless detective is the motherfucker killed your brother. Can you think of a good reason for that shit, him killin’ your bro an bein’ at the cook’s crib? No. So there’s what you wanted to know. What I wanna know, you know, is now you know, what the fuck you gonna do about it?”

The Can Opener’s Tale

“I don’t have time for this today,” Purcell said. “Or any other day.”

“You got me out of bed and into Hollywood to tell me that?”

“I got outta bed for you at two in the fuckin’ morning. I got six hours after your shoot ‘em up, figured you got the same.”

“Do I need to write something,” Meyers pulled Purcell’s guest chair away from the desk, “or sign something?”

“No, and don’t get comfortable.” He licked his thumb, used it to peel off three sheets of paper, held them out. “This is your story. Wring what you need out of these ‘cause nobody around here’s gonna waste any more time on it.”

“What about Sunny?”

“I got two UCs up there. I’d better not be diggin’ a big hole to drop your nuts in on that deal because that’s what’ll happen if it kites.”

“I need to talk to her about—”

“Use the phone and stay away from real detectives doin’ actual work. Y’see Meyers,” he pulled a stack of paper out of his inbox, dropped an envelope with INTERNAL’ stamped all over it on top of them, “without your two there’re half a dozen dead citizens and at least that many Janes and Johns swept off the sidewalk last night. Besides,” he lifted the INTERNAL envelope with his pinkie, “I got serious crime to deal with.”

“Let me guess. A drunk producer who wasn’t driving but his girlfriend from Hungary who speaks maybe three words of English was when ‘she’ ran a light and killed somebody unimportant. Now a lot of noise and money is getting thrown at not deporting the producer’s squeeze and turning off the witnesses who put him driving and her head in his lap.”

“Do I look like I’m auditioning clowns?”

“The dog tattoos?”

“I held ‘em for you. Send somebody with a camera and a gas mask down to impound before the damn things explode in the back of that van.”


Meyers paid to park his car under a hotel in the Fashion District. Like the lines on a map made any difference in the shithole defined by freeways that contained the Fashion District, Wholesale District, Arts District, Little Tokyo, Toy District, Skid Row and Downtown. The hotel was favorable to the street because it had several visible armed guards, and for the money they’d keep him from dealing with car jackers, car strippers or street gang “security”. He locked the car, pulled grease-stained mechanic’s coveralls, a pair of laceless work boots and a dog-eared train engineer’s cap out of his trunk. Once he’d stepped into his blend-reasonably-well-with-the-natives outfit, he rechecked the address on the bloody invoice he’d pulled from the van. His destination, The Eternal Rest mortuary, sat on a corner three blocks away. He walked it staying in the street. On another job in this part of town he’d seen a homeless man sleeping on the sidewalk pop up with a sharpened can opener and disembowel an uninvited guest who’d disturbed him. Then witnessed the pissed-off guest return holding his intestines in one hand, a loose construction brick in the other and proceed to bash Can Opener Homeless’s head into tomato sauce before falling dead on top of him.

At the Eternal Rest he got no response to leaning on the buzzer at the locked front door, gave up, walked to the back. On the alley side, he found the load-in entrance, complete with a delivery door cover. This alley, between South Broadway and South Main was maybe a mile from where he’d stopped Sunny Sutton from fatal stupidity and shot up a van. When no one answered the back buzzer, he took a seat on the steps next to the gurney in – coffin out ramp, pulled out the papers Purcell gave him before getting the bum’s rush.

They turned out to be copies of the van registration and two head-shots from the coroner’s slab. The van’s information was useless. A Bob Smith salvage title with an address that mapped to a railroad crossing in Oxnard, and plates reported stolen months ago from a plumbing supply company truck. The first headshot was the driver, Arias Skroteem. Known to law enforcement from Florida to California as a perennial petty criminal. His claim to fame was obtaining work as an orderly or janitor at assisted living centers where he’d run a for-hire shoplifter operation stealing liquor, cigarettes and Ramen for the people inside who were incapable of foraging for themselves or had blown their allowance on lottery tickets and bootleg Viagra. When he wasn’t gouging the elderly, he was a clean up man, diversion orchestrator, driver and all-around shit shoveler for other low-level scam artists. Meyers figured a name like Skroteem fucked the man from the day he was born, and he’d lived up to it.

Skroteem’s passenger was a John Doe. No print hits, not enough teeth to run dental, Thirty-five to forty-five, five-ten, one-thirty. X-rays showed somewhere in the distant past he’d been in an accident or bomb blast that inflicted “a multitude” of broken bones. His liver, kidneys, and lungs were shot. He had one unique identifier. A tattoo of Our Lady of Guadalupe rising out the center of his pelvis, her feet firmly planted at the base of his do-a-horse-proud penis. Otherwise, another nameless face in L.A.’s homeless mecca who’d volunteered to shlep dead, bloated dogs for a couple of bucks and ended up dead trying to better himself.

For a split-second Meyers felt bad about killing them. The broken man didn’t have it coming but was dead on his feet. Skroteem had tried to kill him, with no regard to Sunny as collateral damage, over some stolen dogs.

What a fucking mess of a world. He folded the papers, put them back inside his coveralls, wished there was a substitute habit for smoking besides gum.


An hour passed before lights from inside the mortuary sent a murky haze through a row of narrow windows that ringed the orange brick structure about a foot from the roofline. Whoever turned the lights on lived there and had ignored or slept through the buzzer. He tried the buzzer again with no luck, checked for cameras, found none. He was looking for a way inside when headlights bounced above the potholes at the alley’s entrance. He started shuffling through the ankle-deep trash lining the alley, head down like whatever he found underfoot was the most fascinating shit in the world. And a lot of it was exactly that, alleys being the al fresco toilets in this part of town.

The headlights rolled under Eternal Rest’s awning and stopped. He glanced up long enough to see the headlights belonged to a newish black van emblazoned with a wide Tartan plaid stripe, The Scot’s Restoration Services–Trauma and Biohazard Management Division underneath in a stiff, all-business white font. The driver switched on the interior light, studied her clipboard, eyebrows furrowed, reached toward the dash and lit up the alley behind the van with a landing beacon. She climbed down, her stiff white coveralls a sharp contrast to Meyers’. She gave him a once over, checked her Mace holster before heading to the rear of the van.

The steel plated back door of the mortuary opened with a hydraulic shhhhhhhush, followed by the van’s back doors. Meyers shuffled his way down the opposite side of the alley facing the wall like he was looking for a good place to pee. He checked over his shoulder again when he’d passed the van. The woman and a thin, dark man with a soccer ball belly loaded various sized black plastic bags onto a stainless-steel morgue gurney, wheeled it up the ramp and inside. Meyers hustled across the alley, got his foot between the auto-close door and the jamb, forced the door back wide enough to slip inside.


“That’s nine.” The Scot’s driver turned her clipboard to the thin dark man. “Plus two urns and two boxes. Sign here.”

“Okay. For you, sweetie? Three days.”

“Don’t jack me around this time or I swear to God I’ll tell Scott to find somebody else.”

“Sarah, you act like we’re not the oldest of friends. What’s the problem if you make a trip to see me only for conversation?” The dark man scribbled on the clamped form.

I’m not old, Yakob,” Sarah ripped the top copy off, pushed it his way. “And for damn sure we aren’t friends.”

“It is only for you, Sarah, that my heart sings. There is no one else for me.” His voice dropped to a growl. “As there is no one else for your Scott at my prices. Three days,” his tone went dismissive, topped with a wave-off. “I’ll have your urns and boxes of little Fifi’s ashes.”

“You don’t have to be a jerk, Yakob. We’re in the compassion business. A little respect wouldn’t kill you.”

“We’re in the waste disposal business, girlie. And don’t you tell me about respect or what a service your Scott and the vets are doing. I know,” he pointed at his chest, “they charge the rich crybabies five times what I get for roasting their pets.”

“I don’t know anything about that. All I know is I’m telling you again, three days means three days. No games, no bullshit. Do it right this time or you can forget it.”

“Maybe you don’t love me so much, so I tell you maybe I don’t love you so much neither, or need your blondie bullshit no more. Maybe somebody I know pays cash and don’t treat me like they step in shit when they come here. What do you say to that?”

“I say I’d love for three days from now to be the last time I step in your shit.” She turned on her heel, marched to the door, pushed the opener and the door refused.

“And I say,” Meyers appeared from behind an open interior door, “we all step into my office, pull up a casket and have a little chat.” Sarah reached for her Mace. Yakob fumbled with a drawer. “Mine’s already out, people,” Meyers motioned toward the door with his Glock. “Let’s do this friendly.”

Night of the Bumblefucks

Short, round, middle-aged and bald blew out the door of the liquor store, scanning side to side with a large, long, orange wood and black steel rifle from one of the world wars. He spotted Meyers. “Vawtdavock?”

“Call an ambulance,” Meyers shouted over his shoulder. “And the cops.”

“Yah, yah.” Shorty turned, shouted something Slavic sounding to what could have been his twin standing in the store’s door before he waddled stiff legged to the alley’s mouth where he found Meyers talking to a woman’s hand that protruded from inside an industrial plastic dumpster. Shorty stood vigilant, his gaze shifting rapidly between Meyers and the van wedged at a 45-degree angle and resting on its side between the walls of the alley. He motioned to the van with the rifle. “Vot I can do?”

“Anything moves in that van, shoot it.”

“Ho-boy. One a doze tings.” Shorty walked around the dumpster, poked the rifle inside where the windshield used to be. “I tink, fren, for tonight you shoot dem plenty enough.” He returned to Meyers’ side. “Da girl? She ho-kay?”

“Ho-kay maybe.” Sunny’s muffled voice oozed from inside the dumpster. “The crazy van mofos didn’t kill me, but if somebody don’t like get me the fuck out of here all this nasty-ass shit I’m swimming in will.”


Lieutenant Purcell rolled up in a shiny new black sedan, complete with on cue lightning, stayed inside long enough to compose himself. He climbed out, motioned for the ambulance parked around the corner to move in, walked to the streetlamp Meyers was handcuffed to and set him loose before turning his attention to the two uniformed motorcycle cops hiding behind a graffiti covered steel dumpster they’d wheeled into the middle of the street, between them and the liquor store.

The male officer had shaved until he was pink-cheeked and had enough man-whore products in his hair to make him flammable. The female officer wore no makeup except some cakey Chapstick and five pounds of eyelashes, her hair severely pulled and slicked back into a small purple ball. She spoke first.

“With respect, sir, you should take cover. There’s an armed psycho in the liquor store.”

“Is that right?” Purcell leaned his right arm on top of the dumpster, pulled his pipe out of a jacket pocket with his left hand.

“Yes sir. We radioed for SWAT.”

“I canceled that. Budgetary concerns.” He dropped the handcuffs he’d pulled off Meyers, turned to face the liquor store, packed his pipe, lit it. “While my back’s turned, whoever belongs to those cuffs should pick them up. Whoever has the PI’s gun, set it on the ground. Either of you intrepid crime busters call CSU?”

“No, sir. It… this… Wasn’t a crime scene. Yet. Exactly. We were still engaged with… uh -”

“An old man holding an old rifle?”

“Yes, sir.”

“He point it at you?”

“No, sir, not-”

“‘Exactly’? Be damn glad. That old man can take your ears off at a hundred yards and leave you standing like the jackasses you are wondering where the hell they went. I’m gonna count to five. I expect you both to be long gone by three. One…”


Sunny lifted a hand in a feeble wave. Meyers lifted one in return before the ambulance door closed. He watched it light up and roar away in a cloud of diesel, rubbed his wrists.

Purcell handed off Meyers’ gun. “Been through the van yet?”

“No,” Meyers holstered the gun, pulled his windbreaker around it. “The bumblefuck twins showed and put me out of business.”

“What can I say? We hire the handicapped.” Lightning lit up the intersection, thunder echoed off the buildings, through the alley.

“Explains why the department gets sued every other week. You’d think downtown would put that together.”

“Don’t strap logic to politics, Meyers. Lots of fit, youthful bodies fighting crime is a photo op. Undertrained gung-ho crime busters doing stupid shit in the line of duty is always down to suppressed mental health issues leading to ‘unfortunate and unforeseeable circumstances’. Do I need to empty your pockets? Make sure you’re not shittin’ me, withholding vital evidence?”

“‘Vital evidence’? Of what?”

“Of why you emptied a seventeen-round clip into that van.” He tapped his pipe out on the lamppost, pocketed it. “You don’t look too smug, so we’ll give it a look. Together. While you tell me what the hell you and Sunset were doing down here.”

“We weren’t together.”

“So the van might be yours, might be hers?” He pointed a flashlight as bright as a carbon arc spot at the dash of the van. The circle of light crawled from top to bottom, stopped on the two bodies jumbled together in a dead man’s embrace. He moved closer. “Jesus.” He yanked a handkerchief and covered his nose. “These stiffs are too fresh to smell that fuckin’ bad.”

Meyers kneeled, shined his flash through to the back where a pile of maybe half a dozen dead, bloated dogs lay jumbled up like the driver and his wingman.

“This was meant for me, Purcell.” He reached into the van, palmed a sheaf of bloody paper sticking out of the passenger’s shirt pocket.

“Hey, get outta there. The crime scene boys’ll make an inventory.”

“And you’ll let me know.” Meyers pushed off his knees, the paper disappeared up the sleeve of his jacket. “If there’s anything you think I should see?”

“If I know what you’re up to by then and think it’s germane.”


“I been in court for two days.”

“That explains vital evidence and germane. But not the new car.”


With practiced indifference the crime scene crew’s latex clad thumbs and fingers gingerly swept and dusted, lifted arms and legs, emptied pockets and bagged miscellaneous loose paper and shell casings while Meyers cryptically explained his reason for being in the area as canvasing for the whereabouts of definitely missing, possibly stolen, dogs.

“That’s a noble pursuit,” Purcell said. “But it don’t tell me jack except you can’t get any real private dick work. Or tell me how I’m supposed to write up seventeen rounds into a van full of dead dogs. And Sunset Sutton smellin’ like shit on a stick, ridin’ off outta here in a city ambulance.”

“Sunny has a problem.”

“Like that’s fucking news.”

“A Five Block Cherries problem.”

“Now I’m listening. Unless you’re about to tell me Sutton’s thrown in with those dykes.”

“You should keep Sunny in the hospital for a couple of days.” Meyers took the stick of gum Purcell offered. “That crew is short just enough cards to come grind her on her deathbed.”

“From the EMTs I heard a broken leg and some bum ribs. Maybe a collarbone.”

“The Cherries don’t know that.” Meyers flicked the gum wrapper into the sideways dumpster. “Wire her room, put a trigger-happy recruiting poster quality bumblefuck wants to play undercover doctor on her floor. And wait a couple of days.”

Purcell loaded and lit his pipe, watched the coroner’s people extricate the bodies from the van, zip them into black body bags and drop them unceremoniously on stretchers. The entire scene played out under an occasional strobe of lightning.

“Gang Unit says the FBCs are tryin’ to be real gangsters. Extortion. Brokering containers of desirable stolen goods and bootleg lux logo junk. Talk of a murder that hasn’t hit my desk yet.” He puffed the pipe in silence. “You’re sayin’ all I gotta do is sit on Sutton and I’ll wrap that? What’s your angle?”

“Have the body baggers check the dogs for ear tattoos and get that to me, keep the dog part off the press dailies. For a week or so, at least.”

“A couple of dead by misadventure no ID dog fighters in this part of town’s not news, Meyers. We got a deal, though. If you’re right, and if I can squeeze whatever pigs the Cherries send in…” Lightning cracked, thunder on top of it rattled glass.

“Figure the Cherries as more motivated to sell out their jailed sisters after you make an arrest than they are now.”

“I heard damsel in distress and saw Meyers fly by on his white horse. Try not to kill anybody doesn’t need killing. We have other customers.”

“I don’t like to shoot women.”

“That’s not in your favor here. Not that they’re women in any sense other than plumbing.”

“I plan on taking the Bishop. He’ll shoot anything.”

“I didn’t hear that. So now,” Purcell used his fingers to enumerate, “I have your tap dance about lost dogs,” finger one, “and in self-defense you killed the perps tried to run you down,” finger two, “and your gifted bust that ties the Cherries extortion racket to Sutton,” finger three. “But… I’m still squat on why Sutton was down in this rat hole.” The lightning and thunder exploded simultaneously.

“She was here to rob the liquor store.” Meyers reached between the dumpster Sunny came out of and the grimy wall, pulled out a rolled-up paper bag, offered it to Purcell. “I intervened. She admitted it was idiotic.”

“I hear being self-aware is a good thing.” The first raindrops hit, splattered like raw eggs. Purcell opened the bag. “God help us.” He shook his head. “Some people, you wonder how they remember to breathe. What was it you called my Kawasaki kiddie cops?”


“Yeah, that.” Sunny’s bag went back to Meyers. “Let’s hope it’s genetic or age-specific, not contagious.”