Fields and trees teach me nothing But the people in a city do. —Socrates (Plato, Phaedrus)
7:45 a.m. John Husker wanted to be God but his addiction to follow murder made him as dangerous as the devil. He got dressed, listened to his shoulder pain and followed the scent of Colombian coffee. His wife Karen Husker stirred breakfast Chinese leftovers in the weak handled wok. Soy sauce dripped with scrambled eggs smelled up the kitchen like a German whorehouse. They lived next to an alley as the food floated pungent odors around their sleepy heads through cupboard valley of glass, china cups, and silver spoons in their town home. A cold white winter sun tried to get through the back door blinds. Eyes barely blinked, she was pissed and not half good this morning when she heard the familiar.
“Morning,” Karen poured his coffee,” Superman.”
Karen watched him sit down; combed, dried and over six feet tall fancy man. He had to be bold, arrogant with a bad message in his eyes to stay alive. He needed a haircut All things scrubbed, her husband’s face hungered for heaven stars in a cup of coffee and in his thirties an old veteran street theme from murder and mayhem of a man with wide shoulders in good shape. She served him breakfast and as he walked strong street game of city sidewalks. She kissed him as he grinned, dropped his spoon. She purred over him. He rubbed her damp back. She leaned over his coffee and let him squeeze. He reached
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and kissed her on the neck under long frizzy red hair that just came out the shower. She surrendered like him. He stirred his coffee, sipped like a good Christian. Karen sat across. She was a great actress to inspire the cold buzz morning, inspired the octaves in him as he looked ready to take a bite in his British blue blazer, red silk tie, white cotton shirt and gray trousers. Her husband was going straight to hell with his sharp self.
His eyes looked like the drowsy morning clock in the Haverford railroad station. Tired savage, worth the wait She didn’t think he or the miracle of local trains coming put of Haverford Junction was going to make it to work. She was a warm distracted blanket across from him. He yawned; not ready to find another murderer this day.
“You look fresh,” he said. “I been married to you for over ten years and you still look like you twenty-three at every breakfast.” He bit into a shrimp roll, thought this might get him a kiss.
“Honey,” she yawned over her cup, “take another sip of coffee, that look will change.”
That’s right, I forgot it will change.” He nodded sadly, stared at his daughter with yellow bows that came down her shoulder holding her cup of orange juice. His elbows poked like wings from his body; he tried not to look at her again. He forgot she was a bitch in the morning, a family bitch in the morning; goddamn, how he loved her.
“You want sesame chicken tonight?”
“I’m not sure, is that what your mother’s crystal ball asked?”
“No,” this riled her good, “that’s what my crystal ball asked.”
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“I guess,” he bought his elbow down, “I feel like a chicken.”
“John, it’s my mother.”
“I’m sorry,” he forked up some rice, “I forgot about your mother.”
“John, don’t,” she got mad, “don’t.”
The woman is getting ready to slip into heaven.”
“Honey, have some respect”
“I think it’s a cop-out” John glanced at his watch. Tou left a great career to take care of her full time.”
Thank you,” Karen ignored him, “now eat your rice.” She got back on track. “Iris, turn that Mickey rat off.”
“Mom,” Iris turned off the television, “he’s a mouse.”
“Stop lying,” she sipped, “you want Ruben with you anyway.”
Iris slurped her milk and peeked at her parents as they kissed at the white tablecloth of painted purple finches.
“Now,” he stopped, “can I go to work?” John held her. She took her hand off his back, feeling the leather strap of his .45.
“Come home early,” she studied her chipped nails, “I got something for you.”
“Yeah,” he rubbed her shoulders, “right…”
“Don’t have me come after you.”
“Okay, Miss Green Eyes,” he put his hands up, “the bad guys wouldn’t want that”
“John,” she pulled his finger, “go in late.”
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“Oh,” her big dance eyes got him, “now you nice to me.” He smiled, kissed her and left as the school bus horn broke them apart.
“Ma, eat your cereal,” Karen held the spoon to her cracked pink lips, “it has raisins in it” She lifted it to her mouth, but the mouth did not open. The sad stroked eyes barely touched life in the blue hospice. She waited with her for the dying Phoenix to lay its body across the pillows, but it’s not time yet…not time yet Karen sat in front of her gowned mother with hair that flowed like blue eagle feathers. Her eyes watered in the comers to show life without a smile. Forced herself to an old soul trapped in a ninety-pound body who once took care of her destiny. “Swallow, Mother, please try.” Not anymore as sea tides in the room opened to clean white fitted sheets on the bed, separated them from the rest of the big bad wolf world.
Karen decided after God graces from the force, to give time to her and mornings to mourn over both their graves.
“She’s sleep?” the nurse asked with her hand on her shoulder.
“No, she’s not sleep.” Karen looked up in the face of Nurse Campbell, suited nicely in white uniform and white shoes. The room was like her mother’s hollow face trying to die; singing no lullabies. A face that was there but not there, her eyes of uncaring blue were at peace, but a mockery of the ones in front of her in the wheelchair by the bed. Her mother’s roots of life spread over the room like branches from a white oak. Doctor Croteau came in. “She’s doing fine.” She hugged him and felt old herself.
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Wasting like her slight mother, validated the aroma of death and breath in a small coffin room. White sky window watched over as she put the cereal bowl on the tray. He took Agnes’ pressure and left. Concerned with the serious price of love, she washed her mother’s hardrveined fingers. Snow would find her in this world of sad physicians and so many miracle medicines to keep the dead alive. Karen took care of her mother like a child taking care of a porcelain cracked doll baby. Tuesdays with courage and gusts of garbage in the world; scattered in this pale room of needles and IV feedings kept her from the smells of the streets, away from bad reminders of the city. She felt safe through the sixty-year-old ivy-covered walls of Winterhaven Manor.
Two nurses pushed an empty bed in the room. Jenny Berry had just died.
“Ma, Iris is doing great in school.” Karen pushed the breakfast tray away. “Better than me, and Oh! John may be getting that promotion he’s been waiting for.” She moved her hair off her earrings. “John just wants more headaches, as if I wasn’t enough for him.” She took a lotion bottle out her purse. “Ma, if you keep up your physical therapy I can bring you home Thanksgiving…would you like that?” She rubbed her fingers. “Ma, I don’t miss the force anymore. Oh! Sure, at first I did.” She frowned, with her head to the side. “Ma, I’m here, I do want to be with you.” She kissed her forehead, sensed from James Hilton open pages her stroke-soaked eyes didn’t welcome her. They stared through her at the heavy door. The hall PA system called for Dr. Cox. “Ma, it’s nothing, you’re going to be fine.” She got out her hair brush. “We are going to be fine.”
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He smelled a coffee cloud as soon as he got his coat off. Baby-faced FBI agents talked out their minds on the Twelfth Precinct ship. Bright Assistant D.A. whores stormed toe to toe with puke-faced convicts. Not much room. Shoulder to shoulder with detectives as cooked face plainclothes men cursed from file cabinets. Busy phones were translating lies around his desk. Nauseated victims cried over mug books.
Window dust lingered over his green glow and two murder suspects; handcuffed, sat around for life. Noisy. Not much room as rain forest patrolmen shoved drunks in a bad-attitude hole. His Commander O’Connell was an asshole with nothing but Academy book sense. He rubbed his stomach as it grew like cheese souffle. He feather-dusted his desk and swiped unsolved murder mysteries away. Other morning cops talked about the New Jersey Jesters and Connecticut Yankees, fighting it out before the half of Friday’s game. Used to smoke. He was into pro wrestling on juicy Saturday nights, sometimes had a beer and made love to his ice-sculptured wife.
John finished yesterday’s coffee; this is how he made a fresh start. By the way, he had to take a computer course to learn the ways of the stalker. He knocked over a box of yesterda/s sweet and sour pork in the trash and put the feather duster on the file cabinet when his phone rang.
“Detective Husker, get your ass in here.”
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“Be right there, sir.” John put the receiver down, looked for his partner around Wanted posters of rapists, murderers, stickup artists, fake-hair hookers, cool pimps, and switchblade gay boys.
All flexed bullshit of the world with very cool men and women whacked out on heroin, PCP, speed and coke. With things to do, sleepy cops woke up in their nests; Misbehavin’ staff and crime-fighting reporters unfurled their capes and ate donuts with attorneys with tattooed street lieutenants for a page-four story.
John searched the noisy sardine second floor can he jerked off on for almost ten years. “Mr. Strawberry!” He caught him behind the just-got-married secretary.
“Mrs. Bacon,” Ruben sniffed her dirty blonde hair, “you should have married me.”
“Go play,” she licked an envelope, “before I murder you.”
“Yo!” He back-slapped him. To the hole.”
“John,” he looked back at her, “I got to get this memo.”
“Come on,” John went over and grabbed him by the arm. He didn’t listen to Ruben’s protests. “Almeda will be there when you get back.”
“Where…” Ruben shrugged, “we going?”
“We going to see the wizard.”
“White bread O’Connell.” He needed a drink. “Damn!”
“Hey! What’s the deal?” John became amazed. “I’m white bread too.”
“Husker,” he punched his arm, “you cool white bread.”
Thanks,” he pinched his tie, Til tell my wife tonight”
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O’Connell’s office had the American flag on both side of his desk; his bald head shined like a baby’s butt. He was a bureaucratic Criminologist out to hurt anybody who might take his office from him. His face was like white pine nuts. Unroasted. How many times can you say pussy; because he was, his face was the end of a horror movie with gray eyes that never left a memo or a lunch meeting. It was hard to have respect for a boss who was afraid and paranoid to confront strength and dignity.
“Killer, if I had fifty cents for every time you said you working on it…I would be a rich son of a bitch.”
“I’m just washing some things, Commander, you know, keeping the D.A. off my ass.”
“You keep that pussy-eating Showcroft off all our asses and maybe we can catch some crooks around here.”
“Commander, isn’t that your responsibility?”
“Fuck you, Husker.” He looked at him like a bastard who had a few more years up his ass. “I want you two at the Arms.”
“Commander,” Ruben’s eyes didn’t like the atmosphere, “that place is full of cockroaches.”
“We found a dead woman in that shit hole this morning.” He showed off a bloodthirsty grin like Elvis over a dead rock star.
“Commander,” he pinched his tie, “we busy.”
“I grew up there,” Ruben frowned, “ain’t no hurry to go home.”
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“Send Hopper…he ain’t worth a shit”
“You ain’t either, now get your ass over there.” He gazed at the Homicide Detective who was a winged Pegasus with his partner Puck.
November 10, 1993 juggled murder and the holiday vibe. South Main Street was a one-way hole with people dug in. You welcome. Drunks slouched and drank in alleys. Sistah Sadie churches snaked into the pit of people who danced like puppets and grooved to some Luther Vandross on Saturday night. Yo! Yo! Baby, give me a cigarette. Bounce that ass; dig it. Yo, baby, yo! Hurting, smiling cocoa faces seemed lost. Always going to be as if clouds fell on past atrocities. Beaten-surviving. Tired people hung their heads. Humped, pimped and rushed. Old dogs looked for a garbage can. Good-morning old drunks looked for a meal, as old women shopped like lost mothers. A young man stood on the comer. Just arrived, mobile, slick with a gold chain around his neck. His face was a dark mean house; eyes never were going to change. He stopped, watched. Cribbing on the comer of Tenth and Water Street. No school anyway. Cool. Chilled out, slapped somebody a tight handshake. He sold him a nice-size bag of dope; in the other comer a kid smoked and sold the Haverford Republic. Ruben recognized scented Caribbean salt fish shared the busy comers. Curry spicy infected women walked like stallions by Danny’s Barber Shop. Chipped abandoned buildings’ shadows clapped tight, as traffic sounded like violins.
It was Cane who cursed them black souls. Dogs growled, tore at garbage bags. A car accident was going on Monteray Place. Patrol cars, ambulance kept the crowd back like a bad storm.