The morning editions carried obituary-type headlines. The Times ran with: “Italian Beauty Slain”. A full page spread detailed the investigation, highlighting the lack of clues and tempting Ian’s patience with a several paragraphs of blatant editorial nonsense. “The killer is at large and, with the current administration, will likely remain so.”
“Ignore those rags, Ian. They’re only out to sell copies.”
Ian lowers the paper to look at Everett, the bar owner.
“How about you stick to serving drinks, eh? And speaking of which.” Ian taps the bar twice with his knuckle.
Men of Everett’s calibre were rare. A barman who would open at six in the morning for the late shift and stay open for the early, all day offering advice on any subject, even some - and he would collaborate this – on which he had no knowledge.
“You see,” he has said, “people don’t have problems, they just have fear. And with enough fear, any man can be made a child again, ready to shit their pants and cry just like babies. I just tell them what they want to hear, to push them out of the pram and back on their feet. Doesn’t really matter what we’re talking about, as long as I agree with the poor bastards.” Ian was one of his regular poor bastards, sacrificing whole paychecks to Everett on binges that could eviscerate cattle.
As Ian hadn’t heard the familiar clink of a full shot disturbing the bar top, he rattles the bar again, but this time with more urgency. Everett places his hand on Ian’s white knuckles.
“Perhaps you should go home and get some rest. Any man who has seen what you’ve seen tonight would need sleep to kill the demons.”
The sun was cracking the morning sky as he left the bar, sheathing New York in an orange blanket.
Ian’s apartment perfectly reflected his own crumpled aesthetic. The second hand furniture that occupied most of the space was jumbled about, placed as if by some fortunate accident. At first glance it would seem that there was no design, just muddled colours, but when one spent more time analysing the room it became clear that its arrangement was chosen with purpose. A cleared, worn line on the rug ran straight from the door to the bedroom. On one side of this divide, beside the sole window, was a battered television sporting crooked rabbit ears and an abused recliner. The kitchen made up much of the apartments opposite side, containing a simple patio table and stool, for eating and food preparation. It may not have been conventionally desirable, but it suited Ian for what little time he spent there.
He had just managed to enter his apartment at half nine, after some difficulty with his key, to drunkenly stumble into his bedroom and collapse onto the bed, red faced. As sleep wraps around him, Ian foregoes kicking his shoes off as he anticipates a static rest on his back, fully clothed, ready for work when he awakes.
A sensation of falling through boundless nothing accompanied by the slight fear of hitting a bottom as if it was a possibility but not an immediate danger. Although the universe consists of stark black in every direction, even in what seems to be straight down, there is tangibility to it, as if it could tear or shatter. But even that fades from the mind, nothing replaced with a different, more magnificent visage. A sharp, plane of reflective glass sat at an angle. It was not completely solid though, as slight ripples flickered on the surface, separating light into its constituent parts. A dark friend enters the frame from above, waving its wings as if to greet, then setting, gently down onto the surface, miniature waves rolling out from its touchdown. Drops begin to plop upwards from the surface, defying gravity, and the sensation of falling returns, this time stronger and more urgent, as if it could kill.
A ringing wakes Ian and he rolls over on the bed to fumble for the phone receiver. It was dark outside now, Ian having slept through the day.
“The lab results are back. Barbiturates were found in her system. Pentobarbital and amobarbital, to be exact. What’s worrying is amobarbital can be used as a truth serum.”
The ringing continues in Ians’ head as Geoff relays the information.
“What about the penni… perro…?”
He slowly sits up on his bed as he stutters his words, cupping his head in his free hand.
“Pentobarbital can induce a coma and kill, obviously, when too much is administered.”
Ian struggled to think, his brain tight in his skull.
“What about the hair clump I found?”
He cleared his throat sharply, releasing a pocket of phlegm. He spits it into his hand.
“Someone had a hair cut but it wasn’t the victim or a relative. We checked to see if it could belong to her child but the DNA doesn’t match. We’re running that through the system now. The red liquid with it was a common brand hair dye, found in any pharmacy across the state.”
“Shit. None of that helps. Have you told the Sarge yet?”
“No”, beings Geoff sarcastically, “You’re by yourself, buddy.”
The line goes dead.
In the lobby of the Great Hoboken, a well-dressed couple stroll up to the desk.
“Welcome to the Great Hoboken, how may I help you?”
“A double room, please” replies the gent, taking charge,
“How long are you expecting to stay?”
“Okay sir. Can I take you credit details.”
The man reaches into his jacket pocket.
”I prefer to pay with cash if that’s okay?”
The concierge stumbles on the keyboard.
“Rooms begin at five hundred dollars, sir.”
“That’s perfectly alright. I have it right here.”
He removes his wallet and his woman friends’ eyes widen, locked onto the cash.
“Yes sir. I’ll need your signature in the register here” and he spins a large, gilded book around on the desktop.
"A room overlooking the park."
In the lift, the couple are alone.
“You know”, begins the woman, slightly tense, “I’m surprised you picked me up. There ain’t a whole lot of men willing to go with a pregnant woman.”
“Well, I’m a special type of man.”
She looks him up and down now, the privacy of the lift gifting the first opportunity for her to check out her client in good lighting.
“What are you, Irish or something?”
She was referring to his red hair.
“Yeah”, he smiles, his blue eyes glinting in the fluorescent light, “You could say as much.”