STORYGLOSSIA    Issue 30    October 2008
http://www.storyglossia.com/

 

Slip Away

 

by KP Dorsey

 

 

[previous transcript fragment lost]

 

 

Captain W: [redacted]

Detective M: Keirnan, yeah. Well, Detective Keirnan shows up to the first one two nights ago in that duster of his, that looks like he washed it in winter road slush, and—Look, whoever you are, we, the Cap and I, we call him Slip, right? So Slip's standing at the scene, outside the yellow tape and he knows already what the thing is that somebody crossed the tape to wrap in a was-white bed sheet before he got there. The grass is black and smoke is still breathing out of the porch boards, and there's those black scorch fingers on the aluminum siding from rapid burn. But he won't cross the tape cause the arson guys, they aren't there yet, and gimme a 'd,' gimme a 'u,' gimme a 'h,' and what's that spell, am I right?

Internal Affairs: [redacted]

Detective M: [garbled] So he just stands there calmly waiting on the FD, making a few notes in his PAA and not jumping to any conclusions. You got concrete steps covered in carbon frosting, and the bladdery remains of an exploded plastic gas can in what's left of the front yard, so natch, Slip's thinking your basic arsonist homicide.

IA: [Q]?

Detective M: Personal Analog Assistant. His paper notepad and pencil.

IA: [Q]?

Detective M: Yeah, I do think it's funny, petersmooch, and you want some real funny, try that smirk six inches closer.

Captain W: [redacted]

Detective M: I'm fine.

IA: [redacted]

Detective M: You heard me, polesmoke.

Captain W: [redacted]

Detective M: I'm saying. So Slip backs off to let the empty ambulance leave, at about the time the FD and the coroner pull up. When this derelict waves him down from the alley across the street. —Can I get some more coffee? Send fuckstick there. They teach you how to make coffee at that college, smartass?

Captain W: [redacted]

Detective M: Do I look upset? I'm cooperating. It's three am. You ain't exactly as fresh as a blown kiss yourself, Cap. I'm merely suggesting cock robin could do something useful besides squint. He won't miss anything. How many recorders you got going anyway?

Captain W: [redacted]

IA: [redacted]

Detective M: Black. Like your wife's boyfriend.

Captain W: [redacted]

Detective M: So Slip goes over to question this quote witness, who turns out to be the sole passerby, which means he's derelict by definition to be on foot in this hood at this hour.

Captain W: [Q]?

Detective M: Evening. I forget, exactly. Let's say after the dinner hour.

Captain W: [redacted]

Detective M: The bum, well, Slip doesn't need to smell him to know that since this is mid-November and it hasn't rained since Labor Day that the guy hasn't bathed in ten weeks, but the smell doesn't care whether Slip needs it or not, so they stand there about two feet farther than contact distance and this guy, he's got the checklist covered on functionally insane. Facial masking, flat affect, disconnected speech, vitamin-B shiners under both eyes. Nystagmus. The works. Slip said his face was the texture of a freshly emptied dumpster.

Captain W: [Q]?

Detective M: Slip's notes under the heading 'witness' make about as much sense as you'd expect, but the important thing is, amongst all the hallucinatory babble, the guy says 'little girl,' and 'codetalker.'

Captain W: [Q]?

Detective M: I'm sure he thought of that, but the bum wanders off, and do you really want to detain a hard-core vagrant who's probably also a Nam-era vet without surgical gloves? Besides, the guy's going to be around if needed. I'm sure Slip tried to elicit some more, but he wrote 'sundown effect,' so asking this guy more questions would basically be Slip talking to himself.

IA: [redacted]

Detective M: Thanks, there, pillowbite. How about you explain to the Cap here what sundowning is.

IA: [redacted]

Detective M: No? Dementia, Cap. Probably Alzheimer's. When the sun goes down the crazy gets worse. The lucidity goes night-night. Nice job, there, rosebud. Tastes like you pissed in it. Maybe Cap should have a cup, too.

IA: [redacted]

Detective M: Your mother. Can I continue?

Captain W: [redacted]

Detective M: So, so much for the witness. Slip gets cleared by the FD to eyeball the scene, so long as he doesn't disturb anything, and he notes three specifics. There's a set of black boot prints tracking greasy ash down the front walk, ending at the concrete curb next to one peelout mark, from unbalanced torque, indicating a turned steering wheel, pointing northwest; and there's some kind of drag trail in the black grass where the body ended up, which didn't look like what you'd get from a stop-drop-and-roll. Slip told me it looked designed. Like the fire may have been posthumous.

IA: [redacted]

Detective M: Kissdick says what?

IA: [Q]?

Detective M: Exactly.

Captain W: [Q]?

Detective M: Oh, yeah. The quote diary. Diary. That's a pretty fucking word. Brings to mind giggling school girls. Or is that you.

IA: [redacted]

Captain W: [redacted]

Detective M: Fine. Well, the—diary—is partly written in blood, partly illustrated in various biomatter, the labs on which I'm sure are in that small shiny object pansy is tapping on over there with that stick.

IA: [redacted]

Detective M: Style this, daisy-lips. So anyway, Cap, it's a document only in the charitable sense. It was under the burned out porch. The opening passage is a first-person account of a farm accident. The narrator is a boy and he and his Pa are harvesting in their fruit orchard when their horse breaks it's ankle in a groundhog hole.

IA: [Q]?

Detective M: No, I can't explain. Thirty years ago I'm sure there were still horses in use in some cousin-fucking holler somewhere. You're the genius, go look it up. And grab me a bagel while you're out. If your knees aren't too sore.

Captain W: [redacted]

Detective M: Jesus. What's with that kid?

Captain W: [redacted]

Detective M: Yeah. I think it says the horse has a compound fracture, so that's the show for the horse. So the Pa is hopping mad, because this was his dear old horse, or whatever, and he runs down to the barn and grabs a five-gallon gas can. He runs back up to the orchard and pours the whole can down the groundhog hole, takes a Zippo and a Drum paper and volcanoes the thing. The narrator describes an 'Exhalation of flame and smoke ring, then muffled shrieks, then a flaming, brown-pelted buzz-bomb from a silo.' The animal charges into the kid's right ankle and bounces off, but the kid doesn't care, because he's mesmerized—here's this flaming groundhog, which scurries around in these frenzied orbits in some rye grass that lights up with smoldering trails of gasoline and burnt fur. The narrator gets ecstatic. 'The singed design writing itself across the orchard in illuminated calligraphy.' 'A steganogram tattooed on the orchard's scalp.'

Captain W: [Q]?

Detective M: Greek warriors, like in The 300, used to tattoo secret messages on their shaved heads, then let their hair cover it up during their trip, then shave again to reveal the message when they got where they were going.

IA: [redacted]

Detective M: Thanks for nothing, semenbreath. Hope you choke on it.

IA: [redacted]

Detective M: Maybe he read a lot by the fireside. Maybe he dropped out of the same vagina factory that graduated you. Anyway, the kid comes out of his reverie when the flames creeping up his pant leg reach his knee. Can we take a break? I need to take a leak.

 

 

[paused]

 

 

Captain W: [redacted]

Detective M: OK, the second one. Last night. We were both in the precinct late. On his desk Slip's got the cellophane contact impression of what turns out to be the tread pattern of a nearly bald Continental 235/60-15 sport coupe tire. Original optional equipment on the 1974 Camaro. His phone rings. I presume it was the lab, because after he listens for half a minute he asks me what kind of work you do if you wear Red Wing 2206 six-inch, steel toes, size seven. Something that involves not dropping a crushing weight on your toes, I say, which, duh. Agriculture not ruled out. Slip says the wearer limps, favoring the right, heavy on the left. Little guy.

IA: [Q]?

Detective M: Pull your pinkie out of your pissflaps and call them yourself.

IA: [redacted]

Captain W: [redacted]

Detective M: [grunts]

IA: [shrieks]

Captain W: [redacted]

Detective M: Arrest me again, then.

 

 

[ paused ]

 

 

Captain W: [redacted]

Detective M: Why do I need to read it aloud? It's right there.

Captain W: [Q]?

Detective M: 'I lit four displays outside of Madison, WI, west of town, the spectators at the wheat field mostly methheads who'd mustered up gas money to drive out and view, once the TV discovered my work and attributed it variously to space aliens, sociopathic vandals, or some new, tektitic pathogen of obscure, maybe Asian, origin. I pretended to chin-stroke and hmm-haw with the old-timers who could be counted on not to take too close a notice of one not of their barbershop coterie. Days till someone investigated closely enough to find the black, blood-blistered whistlepig, my signature on the piece, the carelessly squiggled 'PP' at the bottom of the dove-bearing cocktail napkin. I need more drama.'

Captain W: [Q]?

Detective M: Yeah, that's the passage Slip copied out. I was the one who looked it up. Guerrilla art. There's one in London who calls himself Banksy. Spray paints these ironic murals on other people's property. No one knows who he is. Reporters have tried and failed to get interviews. Christie's has sold his work. But to the Yard, he's a vandal. Overgrown tagger. The bobbies are stymied. The citizens have started to think of him as a tourist attraction. Like Paul Bunyan. I give all this to Slip, and typically, he says, 'Bumper-sticker this, kid. I'm busy.' So I tell him, 'It's turned into a world-wide phenomenon. Guerrilla art. Your arsonist may be one.' I show Slip this website. Photos. A corn field. A wheat field. Soybeans, snapped from a helicopter. All burned with these curlicue patterns. Crop circles from an outcast alien with schizofreniform disorder. 'Their chronological. The website is a fanboy who collects these things,' I tell him. He says, 'My guy burned a house down and killed an eight-year-old girl.' You know Slip. If it was invented after 1976, he does that ironic-dumb act. So, because you have to, I say, 'But didn't he use a five-gallon gas can and drive a beater Camaro?' and I point to the photo captioned as from Wisconsin. In among all the other cars pulled over on the shoulder is a skinny little guy in the foreground with his back to the camera. He's leaning against a primer-only Camaro, a plastic gas can clearly visible in the front seat. Slip does that neck-stretch cracking noise move of his. 'If he acts like a tagger, he won't leave till he gets his name on this city, and gets it right,' I say.

IA: [garbled, Q]?

Detective M: Want me to help you put some direct pressure on that, shithook?

Captain W: [Q]?

Detective M: Well, the—diary—is marked up with these cartoons. Slip was all over that one. They're hardcore hobo symbols, old school variety. Our guy is big on secret codes. You know, a top-hat with diamond means 'rich people ahead,' and a square with a diagonal handle means 'alcohol joint here,' and all that old railroad jumper lore from the wayback machine that's the kind of thing that makes Slip pine for the day. Steel toed boots for sneaking around trains. He has to sleep somewhere without getting picked up, and he probably left some burnt hobos as trial victims along the way, which would turn up if anyone cared to investigate.

IA: [redacted]

Detective M: He isn't train hopping, you numb from the neck up fashion victim, he's got his car. He's a parasite. The train hoppers provide cover and shelter and victims no one could ID if they wanted to. So Slip translates the crosshatches and squiggles and lays them against a map we drew up of this websites' 'fire artist' pics. We get a more-or-less easterly track heading straight here. The most recent web pic is of an exurban soccer field, with teams playing right on the burn pattern. It's from the northwest uppities, just across our own county line.

IA: [mumbled]

Detective M: I know. I never met a rich punk yet whose attitude wasn't fucked into a cocked hat.

IA: [redacted]

Detective M: Why should yours be any different?

Captain W: [Q]?

Detective M: Men are men, Cap. It had to be like this: Our guy is clearly around the bend, he's not getting any younger, and he's escalating. Like a serial. Or a rapist—porn to peeping, to stalking, to flashing, to the outright deed. Slip thinks he picked up the first girl's mom in some liquor joint, which are always within easy walking distance of the railroadmen motels, such as are left. Two barflies walk into a bar. 'Let me call to make sure my baby'z with her grandma,' she says, and our guy knows he's in. But he fucked up. Maybe he meant to kill that little girl, maybe not. Either way, now he can't leave until he gets it right. All he needs is a canvas in the city. One-adam-12, see the man. Slip takes off for Central Green. Last public park inside the city limits with big green grass.

Captain W: [Q]?

Detective M: Pure speculation.

IA: [Q]?

Detective M: That's exactly what I would think. If I was a needledick twink.

IA: [redacted]

Captain W: [redacted]

Detective M: I can't tell you what he did after he left, but as I imagine it, purely hypothetically, just to fit a scenario to your evidence, it might go this way. Midnight. Three and a half hours ago. Slip parks in the darkest corner of the anonymous queer sex section. Steps out, leans against his hood, lights an unfiltered cigarette. Maybe a middle-aged fat man in a sweat suit and an executive haircut approaches, pretending to walk a long-haired wind-up dog. Slip stops the man with a flat palm to the chest, just short of a punch, and says, 'That rat got its shots?'

IA: [Q]?

Detective M: Because that's what the anonymous tip caller said happened, chin-nuts.

Captain W: [redacted. Q]?

Detective M: Slip rubs his badge on the pervert's nose then listens to the dainty sound of six retreating feet. An unmufflered engine, individual cylinders clearly distinguishable, coughs to a stop across the park lawn. Slip kneels behind his fender, one knee impacting on a shard of glass that punctures his duster, his trousers, and the flesh covering his knee cap. And before you feel the need, where else would the blood you found have come from? It was incidental. He ducked to avoid being seen. Now stick your thumb in your piehole and bleed while I wrap this up. Skinpopping Christ you are a worthless piece of shit.

Captain W: [redacted]

Detective M: Sorry, Cap. Across the lawn the skinny runt drags a rolled rug, swollen in the middle, out into the grass. Slip spits the cigarette butt to the grass, which you bag and tag later. He retreats three feet along the side of his sedan, reaches through the rolled down window, and retrieves a stainless steel flask from the driver's seat. And let's not have any oh-me-and-my-whats-this-drinking-alcohol-on-duty from the peanut gallery.

IA: [redacted]

Detective M: Yeah, nancy, who you think I'm talking to? The runt unrolls the rug then leaps forward and lands flat on his belly, the shadows suggesting a tackle of something four-legged trying to escape captivity. Slip hears feminine moans from the rug. He calls for the ambulance. He twists the collared steel cap of the flask and flips it open. On the lawn, the runt pours gasoline from his plastic can into a five-gallon paint bucket, then plunges a struggling bundle in, too. Slip stands. Takes a sip, swallows. He orders the kid to stop and freeze. Which is, duh, pro forma. So he pours his mouth as full as he can, his cheeks puffed out, and charges. The runt kicks the bucket over, a puddle of gasoline seeps into the soil. Steps backward clutching the raccoon by the tail, and pulls the backyard grill lighter from his coat. Slip reaches the runt as he pulls the lighter's trigger. The runt hears Slip snort, looks up. Slip flicks the flask at the runt's knees, and spits a cloud of mist. Screams follow. Slip retreats, then in the nickelodeon flickers pulls the woman on the rug away from the fire. There is no way any CSI is going to be able to establish time of death finely enough to disprove defense of life. The runt, thrashing one hand against his bad leg, kneels disastrously forward with the raccoon into the gasoline spill. Orange roll clouds bloom.

IA: [Q]?

Detective M: Or like a college-pussified IA bitch. I made it a raccoon. Of course it could have been a possum, too. You ever seen a groundhog inside the city limits? Ask another stupid question and I'll break it altogether. Where was I?

Captain W: [redacted]

Detective M: Yeah. His clothes burn. He rolls, but instead of smothering the fire, he just soaks himself in the spill, making it worse. After a minute, the circle of flames settles to a level of happy applause. You got your perp, medium-well, slightly pink on the inside. Ambulance calls coroner for bag-n-tag.

IA: [redacted]

Detective M: Just like between your legs.

IA: [redacted]

Detective M: I got a twenty-pound cat at home and he's still less of a pussy than you.

Captain W: [Q]?

Detective M: Slip doesn't care. He watches the flaming raccoon, pelt ablating like a comet's tail, scurry for the sewer sluice that flows behind the trees. Hypothetically. If he had shot the guy, 100% chance he's dead. Stop him with his own tools, and there's a less than 100% chance he's dead. The perp pulled his own trigger on that lighter. He could have complied and lived. He could have fallen backward and lived. Whoops, dead whacko. Slap my sleeve and break my heart.

IA: [Q]?

Detective M: Then what we know: rectum lips here arrests him, and you compare his story to mine. Does it really take a genius, Cap? Slip tried to save that woman tonight, and jizzbreath here wants to jail him. I tried to save Slip from himself, and pantysniffer wants to jail me, too. Well I'm not here for IA—this is a personal favor to you, Cap, cause Slip and I are the only two who did a damn thing about this and if we and you are the end of the thin blue line and all that follows us is cock robin here and all his ass-buddies, then this is not a test. This is an actual emergency. See how many bad guys sausagelick here and his circle-jerk brigade can bleed into submission.

IA: [Q]?

Detective M: You have no evidence on me at all, and nothing on Slip that I haven't explained. Now get me my union rep or set me loose. Story's over, smooch.

 

[end transcript]

 

 

Copyright©2008 KP Dorsey

 

KP Dorsey lives and works in a glacial outwash basin, on the Devonian bedrock layer, on the Mississippi flyway, in the northern temperate zone. His fiction has appeared in Spinetingler, and Mysterical-E.