Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Nighttime Walk in My Neighborhood

There’s a full moon out tonight. I’m walking in field. Tall grass? Wheat? What is it about narrators that they can always name everything. I can’t name anything. All I know is the pale moonlight making the tall-wheat-grass look like a still frame in a black-and-white movie. I don’t know what kind of grass this is or what kind of rock that is… I just know that I’m here, under the moonlight, and it’s cold and I tell myself I like it, but it’s still cold. So I keep walking.

My street snakes toward the edge of the island…in between are the tall wheat grass fields, ready to be plowed under and turned into more houses in this suburban seaside town. Till then, I can cut across the field, straight down the hill, believing, briefly, that I’m out in the wild, free. Alone.

I look up at the stars and I imagine myself flying, a winged adolescent angel framed by the night sky, flashing eyes and flaming hair. But alas, I’m ever earthbound.
I use my arm like a machete and hack at the grass. Doesn’t do much good.
I look up at the stars and envision vile red-eyed leather-winged, bloody fanged beasts swoop from the sky. I raise my shield to fend off one and flash my sword at another. They disappear in a puff of acrid smoke.


And in my darkest visions she’s walking with me, in that pink sweater and that perfume and she’s holding my hand with both of hers entwined around my arm and my jaw is shaking in that way it does when I’m feeling…feeling…and we stop walking and we press our faces close and she feels warm and smells like her and I squeeze my eyes shut and see supernovas of green and orange and red…
And…and…now I’m home.


What do you think? Click the envelope below to comment, or email me.

Friday, May 11, 2007

"A Better Place to Be"

There was a time when every thing was all right. Wasn't there?

Roslyn stuck her thumb in her mouth then pointed that same thumb out over the highway.

Take me there,
she whispered to herself as she climbed into the backseat of the blue convertible driven by the laughing couple with the expensive sunglasses.

Let's go.

# # #

What do you think? Click the envelope below to comment, or email me.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

"Crash! Boom!"

"It's not supposed to be this easy," Ramrod said as he handcuffed the scruffy, would-be jewelry store robber to the lamppost.

"That's what they all say at first, but you get used to it," said King. King was about six-and-a-half feet tall, in his mid-fifties with grizzled white hair, blue eyes blinking behind a black mask and a perfect physique beneath a black spandex shirt and sweatpants.

"They don't make villains like they used to, do they?" Ramrod asked. He had a lot of respect for the old man, and it showed.

King grunted and spat on the sidewalk. "Kid, the villains make themselves. And no one with half a brain would be a super villain. What's the point?"

Ramrod laughed. "Taking over the world, of course. You got power, you want to rule the world, right? That's what Doctor Dread did, right?"

"Doctor Dread was a mental case who just happened to have access to nukes. Look, how the hell can anyone rule the world? The bureaucracy alone would kill you."

"Well, yeah, but..."

"Shut up, kid." King had a phone to his ear, mumbled a few words, then snapped it shut. "The cops are on their way. You'll want to get out of here."

"What about you?"

"I'll give 'em their report, then I'm out of here, too. I'm too old for this."

Ramrod laughed. King was always saying that. But there he was, every night, cruising the streets, beating up muggers, foiling robberies, busting dealers. Ramrod knew. He'd been tracking King for years. He'd learned his every move, duplicated and even improved upon his equipment. For instance, Ramrod's grappling hook actually worked. And he'd tried a number of projectiles -- billy club, throwing stars, boomerang -- but finally settled on the taser. It just worked better.

Well, Ramrod thought, my work here is done. He shouted a goodbye to King, but the old man ignored him. So he jogged down the street, rounded the corner and tore off his painted motorcycle helmet and mask and started to drive.

He was hungry, so he stopped at a Dunkin Donuts for a coffee and chocolate honey dipped. He smiled at straw-haired girl behind the counter, who ignored him. He sat down on the curb and ate the donut while he waited for the coffee to cool down.

A pair of black leather boots and dark slacks stopped in front of him. Ramrod looked up.

"Got a job for you," said a deep voice that came from somewhere behind dark glasses and a hooded windbreaker.

"Mmmphf?" Ramrod said, spitting pieces of donut. He swallowed. "I'm not looking for work."

"You're looking for this work."

Ramrod stood up. He wasn't a small man himself -- six-foot-three and all the muscle he could grunt out of himself at Jerry's Gym. But this man was huge. Had to be at least seven feet tall. But stood up straight, like a statue of a hero.

Ramrod stuck out his chest and balled up his fists. Always be ready.

"Are you looking for trouble?" Ramrod said to the man's chest. "Because I'm not looking for trouble. But I've got it to spare." Ramrod thought for a moment. He'd never been good at talking tough. He could throw a punch, take a punch, but threats... "Trouble, I mean," he clarified.

"Got a job for you," the man said again. "Follow me."

Ramrod stared after the man, striding like a giant, two-legged cat toward a black Humvee.

"What the hell do you want you sonofabitch!" Ramrod shouted.

The man turned and slowly pulled back his hood. Out of the shadows, his face was remarkably red. Smoke poured from his head. He removed his gloves. Smoke and fire billowed from his hands.

Then all at once, there was a sound, like a sonic boom. Smoke and fire burst from the man's body, advancing on Ramrod. Ramrod screamed. Then he stopped and collapsed in smoking heap.

The man put his hood back on his head, and pulled on his gloves. The smoke and fire dissipated. The man exhaled and looked up at the stars. Nice night.

"It was a good job," the man said, flatly.

He got into his car and drove off.

# # #

What do you think? Click the envelope below to comment, or email me.

Monday, March 05, 2007

"She Can Kill with a Smile..."

I didn't think it would be that easy. But it was.

I walked into the flower shop, all casual like. I grabbed one red long-stemmed rose, careful not to prick my finger.

I smiled at the workers in the back, busily snipping stems and arranging arrangements. They nodded back at me. I browsed the Hallmarks for a minute. Then I walked out, the door jingling behind me.

She was in the car. She stared straight ahead, careful not to avert her eyes from whatever she watched as walked in front of the car. I sat down in the driver's seat.

"For you, m'dear," I said, leaning over for what I hoped would be a kiss worthy of a certain kind of cinema.

"Nice," she said instead, looking down at the flower then taking it gingerly between her thumb and forefinger. "What am I supposed to do with it now?"

"What do women ever do with flowers?" I said, leaning back, silently swearing at the car roof. "We buy them, you tell us how sweet we are, you stick them in a vase, they die a few days later, you throw them out and life goes on."

"So, it's the thought that counts? That's what you're saying?"

"Yeah. I guess so."


I looked at her, noting how her long black hair was pulled tight over her head and tied into a ponytail. At her full red lips, lightly lipsticked against her light brown skin. Her dark eyes, framed by unnaturally long lashes. I looked at her and I could feel her moving against me.

Moving against me.

"You thought this would make a difference?" she asked, brushing the red petals against her lips as breathed its scent.

"I took great risks," I offered.

She was quiet for some time.

"Did it work?" I asked. I raised my eyebrows for comic effect.

"Not really," she said I and I slammed my palm against the steering wheel.

"Then what am I supposed to do?"

"Nothing really," she said.

And then she turned to me and smiled.

# # #

What do you think? Click the envelope below to comment, or email me.

Monday, February 19, 2007

"Bringing 'Em Home"

"Crazy days, don't you think?"

"How do you figure, Jesse?" I flicked a tiny hunk of meat from a toothpick while Jesse talked at me. I knew from long experience that when we set on the bench in front of Sam's place, we weren't so likely to have a conversation as much as I was going to be the straight man for a soliloquy. I shifted in my seat as to make myself more comfortable and took a pull of cream soda from the bottle.

"How do you not figure, Augie? You got your troops out there in that desert place..."


"Yeah. Eye-rak. What are we doing there?"

"That's what a lot of people are asking these days, Jesse."

"Well, I'll tell you what we're doing there. We're there because the folks in Washington want us to take our eye off the ball, if you know what I'm saying."

"I'm not sure I do, Jesse. Maybe you better help me out." As I talked, I couldn't help but to smile. I took out my notepad and started to sketching a picture of him, just for fun, sitting there in his John Deere cap and overalls, even though he'd never done a lick of farming in all his years, which must have been more than 70 or so.

"What I'm saying is...and maybe you'd better take notes here, Augie...what I'm saying here is that we're over there so the terrorists won't go bother us over here. What I'm saying here is that the longer we're over there, the terrorists will be happy to kill as many of us over there as they can, while the folks here are safe in their comfy beds."

"Well, maybe we'll get 'em home soon, Jesse."

"Get 'em home? Why would we do that? Hell, at least out there, it's a fair fight. Our boys have got guns and tanks and air support and the Green Zone and all that. What have we got here? Nothing! Those Al Qaeda guys ..." He made the name of the terrorist group sound like a fellow that lived down the street. "Those guys can just slip in here and 'boom'! We'll never know what hit us!"

"Pretty damn scary, that is."

"So you want to keep our boys out there? Hell, see that's the problem. We don't want 'em to stay out there -- it's just not right. But mark my words, soon as they come home, all that stuff that's happening there? It's going to be happening here."

"You think so?" I said, scuffling my pencil on my notepad to darken the shadows under Jesse's cap.

"Mark my words, son. Mark my words. We're taking our eyes off the ball."

"So you said. You ought to explain that part."

"Look, Augie. Those boys...and the girls, too... they're the best America has to offer out there, right?"


"Wrong! They're great people, don't get me wrong. I've been there, you know that right? Army, 1953."

"Sure, Jesse."

"What I'm saying is, we've got to show these people the real America. The America that's about folks helping other folks. About letting people be who they want to be, and be ruled by who they want to be ruled by. The America that when we invade a country and screw up, we leave 'em better than when we found them. If it was me, I'd kill 'em with kindness, that's what I'd do. Get every last one of us thinking and working about how to make that country better, and then make it our mission to help those terrorists see that we're here to help. Make sure people know that we're the good guys. Stop at nothing. That's what I'd do.

"Sounds a little Pollyanna to me, Jesse. Maybe those folks just plain hate us, you know?"

"Ah, Augie, I thought you were smarter than that."

"I am what I am, Jesse."

"What are you scribbling at there, anyway?" Jesse asked peering over to my side of the bench. I showed him. A not-half-bad sketch of an old man in a John Deere cap, standing at attention, arm raised in a stiff salute, flag waving in the background.

Jesse chuckled, clapped me on the shoulder, and stood up.

"You're all right, Augie."

"You, too. You take care now."

"Oh I will."

And I watched him go, on his proud, creaky legs, marching home.

What do you think? Click the envelope below to comment, or email me.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

"A Bold, New Direction"

If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there.
- Lewis Carroll

And they were off!

It was a tight-knit, unusual crew, trooping through the forest trail, single file. Young Harry took the point, 10 years old and full of spirit. "If we run into a bear, boys, just stay behind me!"

Harry had read in his parents' National Geographic (or thought he did) that bears smell fear and have terrible eyesight. Before they set out on their journey, he practiced in the mirror, raising his arms over his head and growling. They'd think you were bigger if you did that.

Behind Harry was Samir, the youngest and smallest of the troop at the age of 8. Samir, skinny and short with a mop of curly black hair, walked in great loping strides to keep up with Harry, whom he idolized. Samir wore a backpack, carried a walking stick he'd borrowed from his visiting Grandpa, and had a purple felt cape tied loosely around his neck.

Then there was Grant, at a burly 10 and a half, who looked as if he was ready for a rest mere moments into the journey. Grant enviously eyed Samir's Grandpa's walking stick and regretted his own knapsack, with its thin black string that cut into his shoulder as he lumbered along behind his fellows.

Pushing up the rear was dreamy Roslyn, a slim girl of nine, and Grant's little sister, whose curly brown hair spilled in shiny ringlets about her face and shoulders. Roslyn insisted on joining the boys, and no one dared argue with Roslyn. They knew better than to take a stand when her turned fiery red and her fingers curled up into cute little fists. She wore a t-shirt that sparkled with comets and stars and a pink knapsack festooned with dangling streamers and trinkets.

And it came to pass that after a long journey through the forest the little crew stopped in a clearing under the trees and unwrapped the plastic from their hummus-on-wheat sandwiches and sipped from tiny straws that punctured their juice boxes that he fell from tree into the little clearing, starting the children so that even brave Harry scurried behind a fallen tree with the rest and peered through the branches as the man carefully stood and dusted off his leafy green jacket.

"Are you lost?" the man said in the general direction of the little crew.

The man seemed impossibly tall, even for a grown-up, and strangely thin and angular, in Samir's assessment. He wore a leafy green jacket that was the color of thick maple leaves in the summer, and knit cap that fit just a little too tight, allowing bursts of blond hair to jut here and there in no certain pattern. His pants were green cloth and his boots were tall and brown, laced almost to his knees.

"What is he, Harry?" Samir whispered.

"Probably a Park Ranger," Harry said, without his usual confidence.

"That's stupid," Grant scowled. "That is no Park Ranger."

"Well what do you think he is, smarty?" Harry shot back.

"Yeah?" Samir said.

"I don't know. But it's no Park Ranger."

"Hmmph," Harry said.

"Yeah, hmmph," said Samir.

Roslyn spat on the ground in front of the boys, and stood up. "I'm going to ask him!"

And amid cries of "No!", and "You can't!" and "Stranger!", Roslyn stamped out of the brush to stand before the tall stranger.

"We're not lost, sir. Are you? My friends and I," and at this point she gestured urgently for the boys to join her, and they reluctantly complied, "are on a journey through these woods. You might call us Explorers."

The man bent down so that his face was nearly level with that of Roslyn, and tilted his head his eyes wide with amusement.

"And what, milady, is it that you seek? Perhaps it is something that I might help you to find?"

"Oh, I'm sure you can't," Roslyn said.

"Oh, you would be surprised at what I know," the main said, smiling.

"If I tell you, you can't tell anyone," Roslyn said, pointing a pink fingernail at the man's rather large nose.

"My word is my bond, milady." Roslyn blushed, thinking that this man speaks like he comes from the land of fairy tales, and the thought crossed her mind that he could well be an elf. That would be silly, she thought, but not impossible.

"Whose word?" Grant blurted.

"Whose? Ah," the man said, understanding. "You may call me Stilt."

"I'll need to talk with my friends, Stilt" Roslyn said. She gathered Harry, Grant and Samir in a huddle.

"Well, he seems nice," Grant said.

"What do you think, Harry?" Samir said.

"'What do you think, Harry,'" Roslyn mocked. "What do you think, Samir?"

"I think we should tell him. He seems, I don't know, magical or something."

"Hmmph," said Harry, and Samir's face turned quickly from pleased to crestfallen. "I think I should get out there and make him go away."

"He's not a bear, Harry," Grant said.

"A Hairy Bear, Harry?" Samir giggled and then stopped at an angry glance from Harry.

"I'm going to tell him," Roslyn finally said. "Sir, we seek the remains of the Last of the Unicorns!"

The man stopped and sat down heavily, head bowed low, arms on his knees, which were about as tall as Harry's nose. Finally, he looked up, gazing deep into Roslyn's green eyes.

"Why do you seek this?" he asked gravely.

"Because it's there!" Harry declared.

"Because it's magic!" Samir shouted.

"Because it's dead!" breathed Grant.

"Because I wasn't going to be left behind," Roslyn said.

Stilt laughed. "That may be the best reason of all, milady." He stood again. "If you must see it, then you must see it. Let us go there now."

Stilt walked into the woods and the children looked at each other and Grant shrugged and Harry nodded and the little troop hurried after him.

It wasn't far. They climbed over a hill, clambered over the rocky, barely visible trail on the other side that led down to bustling little creek. They followed the creek for a little ways till they saw it. The animal lay on its side, its legs limp and bony, its fur a dirty brown and white. As they drew closer, they could see the fuzzy branches of its antlers, and the brown stain in its side...

"Antlers?" Harry shouted.

"Have some respect, young man," Stilt warned.

"But...but..." Harry sputtered. "Unicorns don't have antlers!"

They were close enough to touch the beast now, but no one did. They stood, staring.

"There is no such thing as a unicorn, young man," Stilt said.

"But what about you?" Grant asked, tearing his eyes away from the fallen beast.

"Me?" Stilt asked in mock surprise.

"Yeah. There's no such thing as you, either!" Samir accused, like a prosecutor revealing a witness' lies. Stilt just laughed his long, funny laugh.

"No, you're right. I'm very...magical... is that what you would say? I'd prefer mythological, but to each his own."

"So?" Harry asked, practically shouting.

"So? What?" Stilt paused.

"So how are you here?" Harry shouted, almost in tears.

"Ah. Don't worry, young man. It will be all right, milady," he said to Roslyn, who was wiping away a tear of her own. "You're never too young to learn that some magic isn't real while other magic is very real."

"And how will we know?" Samir asked, smiling, quivering.

"I can't tell you that, my friend," Stilt said, placing a giant hand on the boy's head and tousling his hair. "But I can tell you that every bit of magic lost is a chance to turn this way or that. To choose a bold, new direction. To learn what is knowable and to seek the unknown."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Grant said, spitting.

"You're being rude, Grant," Roslyn said, throwing a handful of dirt at the boy.

"It's OK, Grant, milady. You know what you know now. The poor beast will be here for a long time. But you have places to go, wonders to see, people to be. Go home my friends, go home."

And Stilt doffed his cap and bowed low and Samir bowed low back to him and smiled a happy smile and led the little troop back into the wood trail, back toward home.

# # #

What do you think? Click the envelope below to comment, or email me.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Complete "Peter Flak, Big Time Detective"

Now that I've gotten the sordid tale of Peter Flak, Big Time Detective out of my system, here is the whole thrilling tale in one convenient post:

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part IX
Part X
Part XI
Part XII

Thanks for reading... and now, back to our regularly scheduled short bursts of randomness!

What do you think? Click the envelope below to comment, or email me.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Peter Flak, Big Time Detective, Part XII

The "Thrilling" Conclusion

Flak dug his hands deeper in the pockets of his trench coat. He thought about the sitcoms he hated the most: the comical misunderstanding resulting from a character talking on and on about something to someone who thinks or knows something completely different. Like, say, Jack is going on about his special spicy meatballs to the new chef who thinks all this talk about "balls" is because Jack is gay. It always made Flak squirm. He hated to be embarrassed, even for someone else.

And as he listened uncomfortably to Janey's mule-like bray, he was embarrassed for her. Lucky no one else was around.

"Oh, Petey...stand up straight. And wipe that silly grimace off your face." Janey patted Flak's cheek. "Haven't I told you that you have to look confident to be confident? Don't you want them to take you seriously?"


"You're babbling, Peter," she said, hands on her hips like an old schoolmarm. Or a teenager pretending to be one.

"You're dead!" Flak finally blurted.

"Haven't we been over that already? Sit down, Petey. Have a drink." And Janey went to the bar, pressed a martini glass into Flak's hand, shook a mixer and, very deliberately and carefully poured him a drink. "Sorry, honey. No cherries." Flak sat down heavily on the couch. Janey pulled up a chair across from him, spun it around and straddled it, arms over the back, chin on her hands.

"Are you ready for the story now, Petey?"

Flak sipped the martini. The cold ran down his chest like mercury in a thermometer -- thick and slow.

"Do I have a choice?"

"Not if you know what's good for you, Petey!"

"You always know best, Janey."

"That's my boy! OK, Petey. Here's the deal: I rounded the corner, got out of the car, and blew it up by remote control."

"Oh Kay."

"It's not that complicated, really. The mob's been doing it for years."


"OK so far? Good boy, Petey. Now, here's the deal. You are going to solve the murder of Laine Bannister. We are going to call the press here to get the video of you capturing the killer. The resulting fame will catapult you into the highest echelons of power. You'll be nominated for commissioner next year, of course, when Grant retires. From there, it's only a matter of time: Mayor, Governor...the sky's the limit!"

"Great plan, Janey. But how am I going to solve the Bannister murder? I hope you have something for me because I've gotten nowhere so far..."

"Petey, you big dumb cutie. I killed Laine Bannister!"

Flak laughed, splashing his drink onto his lap. "Janey! That's silly!"

Janey's face turned pale and grim. "Don't you ever underestimate me, Peter Flak."

"Oh, I won't. But you'll have to do more than just say it for me to believe it." Janey stared icicles at Flak for a moment. Then her eyes warmed. She leaned over, lifted a green gym bag and dropped it on the coffee table with a clank. She unzipped the top.

"Have a look...don't touch it!" Janey said, slapping at Flak's hand, or more specifically, his fingerprints. "It's all there: Icepick, claw hammer, letter opener, electric nail gun, exacto knife, granite paperweight, and that silly Lucite publicity award shaped like a pyramid we won for your Super Cop story. All in resealable plastic bags, at least what would fit. I bet the blood isn't even dry!"

Janey smiled expectantly at Flak, waiting for a reaction. Flak didn't move. But he did notice an audible click and a flash of red from somewhere behind Janey.

"But, why, Janey? Why did you do it?" Janey spat inelegantly, and stalked over to the couch. She sat down next to Flak, leaned in close, whispering in his ear.

"For you, Petey. All for you."

"Janey, I..."

"I love you, Peter Flak. Love me, Petey," she pleaded. "Right here, right now. Before they take me away. Just this once, and it'll be enough forever."

Flak stood, abruptly. Janey's grip slipped from his arm. She fell on the floor with a thud. She quickly stood and fixed her suit, checked her hair.

"Petey, I..."

"Janey, you are under arrest," Flak pointed at her with a dramatic flourish. "For the murder of Laine Bannister."

"Wonderful, Petey, but you can do that after. For the camer..."

"You have the right to remain silent."

"Ooh...handcuffs! Peter, if that's what..."

"Anything you say can be used against you..."

"What are you doing? Not here. Not now!" Janey's head whipped back and forth in a panic, then stopped short as she faced the round black lens of a Channel 5 news camera and the disapproving scowl of Samara Steele, reporter.

"Oh, Petey," she said, straightening her posture and licking her lips. "Touche."

What do you think? Click the envelope below to comment, or email me.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Peter Flak, Big Time Detective, Part XI

Flak took a deep breath, exhaled on his hand and sniffed.

Minty fresh.

He licked his lips, took another deep breath, visualizing himself a lot calmer and his heart beating a lot slower than it was right now as he prepared to insert the key card that would unlock room 215 of the Carstairs Hotel at the request of his recently dead publicist, who, he expected, he would find behind the door.

I can't imagine how this can be good for me. Janey would tell me to leave now and send someone else.

Flak rubbed his temples.

But Janey's dead. Or behind this door.

Irony gave him headaches.

He put the card in the slot.

"So! What have we here?" Flak jumped back from the door as Samara Steele strode smartly down the hallway. "A rendezvous with a secret source? Or, perhaps a rendezvous of another sort, hm?"

"Steele," Flak said, regaining his posture and mustering a nervous sort of condescension. "This is police business."

"Yeah, and this is First Amendment business!" Steele boomed. Flak was impressed. She was just as dramatic live as she was on TV. Shorter, though. Regardless, he wasn't ready to face whatever was behind that door with a reporter. Especially one without a camera.

"Listen, Steele. You're smart and you're cute." That should butter her up! "You'll get your story. But I can't let you in here." He narrowed his eyes. "There's too much at stake."

"Really, Flak," Steele said. "Like what?"




"I don't believe you."

"Where's your camera?" Flak asked.

"Coming up the back stairs. He'll be here any minute. We can go live like ..." she snapped her fingers under Flak's nose... "that."

"Look," Flak said, trying to achieve some sort of 'I'm-on-your-side' tone of exasperation, "wait by the stairs with your cameraman. I have to go in there alone."

Steele bit her lip. "I'll get the story?"

"Exclusive. Do you see anyone else here?"

"Don't screw me, Flak," Steele threatened.

"Not unless you ask," Flak said. Good one, Flak!

Steele turned on her spiked heels and stalked back down the hall toward the stairwell. He admired her ambitious, merciless gait.

Then he slipped the key card into the door, waited for the soft click of the lock mechanism, jammed the handle down and shoved the door open, stumbling as if he'd been pushed from behind. Thus, it was from the floor that he saw her -- the shiny patent leather boots, the fishnet stockinged legs, the wide -- too wide -- leather skirt, the cream-colored silk blouse accented by a chain of gold links. The smiling face, the professionally whitened teeth, the lipstick just a little too red. The big brown eyes and painted on eyebrows. The dark bobbed hair sprayed to perfection, the hair of someone ready to pitch, to sell and any time, any place.


"Petey! So nice of you to drop in."

"Janey!" Flak croaked out loud. "You're dead!"

"Rumors, statistics and lies, Petey," Janey said. She knelt down next to Flak and smiled a wide-mouthed grin. "I thought you were a detective." Then she stood up and laughed. And laughed some more.

Flak was getting uncomfortable. This was more laughing than was appropriate.

# # #
NEXT TIME -- Part XII: The thrilling conclusion!

What do you think? Click the envelope below to comment, or email me.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Peter Flak, Big Time Detective, Part X

The Carstairs Hotel had a doorman dressed up like a London beefeater: Red coat, tall fuzzy hat, gold button, bayonet -- the works. It was just that kind of hotel, the kind that catered to top executives, politicians and even media celebrities.

To say the lobby was ornate would be like saying that Limburger smells cheesy. The chandeliers, the plush, dark carpeting, the frescoes on the wall, the gold trim and statues of British generals. The Carstairs defined ...

"Class," thought Flak as he noted that the sand in the ashtray was imprinted with the Carstairs logo.

The real question was, what was Janey doing there? Alive?

Flak stood in the lobby, soaking in its ambiance of wealth, status, prestige.

"Excuse me, sir." The voice had a rough British accent. Flak turned around to find the Beefeater doorman just behind him.

"Yes? Can I help you?" Flak said.

"That's just what I was going to ask you, sir," the doorman said.

"Just soaking it all in, my good man," Flak said in his best British accent. "A fine hotel you have here...old chap."

"Yes, sir, old chap," the doorman cleared his throat. "But is there a place where you'd fancy going."

"Ah, yes. Certainly. Can you show me to the ... lift? I'm meeting a friend in room 215."


"Indubitably," Flak said. English accents were fun!

"I have something for you," the doorman said to Flak's surprise and marched to the bell desk, took an envelope and marched crisply back. He handed the envelope to Flak.

"What's this then?" Flak asked, switching to a more Cockney style. Sort of.

"This is for you. I was told to look for you and hand you this. And here you are. And I have handed it to you."

"Inscrutably, I might add," Flak said, then did a double take, realizing that the doorman still stood before him, clearing his throat. Finally, Flak understood, pulling a crisp 20-dollar bill from his money clip and handing it to the doorman.

"My good man," he said, and resumed his post at the entrance.

Flak opened the envelope. Inside, he found a folded sheet of manila note paper bearing the logo of High Profile Communications. On the paper, in Janey's familiar, loopy script, was a note:

"Zip on up, Pete. Right to the top!



Inside the note was a plastic hotel door key for the Carstairs.

Flak turned to the doorman.

"Is there a restroom here, my good man?"

"In the back, behind the fountain."

"Cheerio," Flak said, and walked as fast has he could before the bile in his throat could reach his shirt.

Been doing too much of that...there must be a drug for this, Flak thought, as he carefully washed his faced, scraped the dirt from his fingernails, ran a dab of gel through his hair and sucked vigorously on a fresh breath mint before heading to the elevator.

* * *

"Goddammit you beefeating son of a bitch! You will let me in!" Samara Steele was adorable when she was angry. And she knew it. Rosy cheeks and icy blue eyes and a rock hard 5-foot-three-inch frame that belied a low, booming broadcaster's voice. The doorman took a step back and gripped his bayonet.

"Yes, ma'am. But the camera has to stay outside. We do have strict rules. I'm sorry, ma'am."

"Not as sorry as your going to be. Get your manager."

"Very good, ma'am," the doorman said, and turned to the phone attached to the wall by the door.

Damn, Steele thought. On to Plan B, I guess.

She turned to her camera man. "Artie, run," she whispered. I'll meet you." Artie nodded and jogged off.


"No matter," Steele said, smiling her widest TV smile. "He's gone. If you'll excuse me..."

"Very good, ma'am," the doorman said, holding the door open as Samara Steele strode briskly into the lobby. As the door closed, he picked up the phone and made one more call, smiling.

# # #

What do you think? Click the envelope below to comment, or email me.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Peter Flak, Big Time Detective, Part IX

You might want to start this saga at Part I...


The message light on Flak's phone was blinking like a debutante. He sat down at his desk, spun on the chair and punched the voicemail button. Out of the corner of his eye, he spied the News 6 cameraman standing in the doorway, red light on. He suppressed a smile as he punched his password into the phone with efficient authority.

Two messages...first message:

"Flak! Johannson. The Commissioner wants a report tomorrow at 6:00 am. No more goddamn press conferences!"

Oh-kay, then, Flak thought and punched six to hear the next message.

Second message:

"Peter, it's Janey. I'm in trouble. It's Bannister. I can't believe this. You've got to come quickly. I'm in trouble and you're the only one who can help. Meet me at the Carstairs Hotel, room 215...I left the key at the desk. Hurry! Love ya."

Hmmph, Flak snorted. Janey was always a bit melodramatic. Great trait for a publicist, lousy for a friend. Fortunately, she's my publicist, not my friend, Flak thought. Or was...before she died.

Right! Dead! Forgot again!

She'd left a message on his home machine last night, but he assumed that was before she died. But this one ... it had to have been more recent... this morning.

Flak dropped the phone, and ran out the door, nearly upending the News 6 cameraman and tackling Reporter Samara Steele. He hastily untangled himself from the reporter and raced for the street.

"Let's follow him," Steele said.

"Like you had to tell me?" the cameraman said.

# # #

What do you think? Click the envelope below to comment, or email me.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Peter Flak, Big Time Detective, Part VIII

"Flak! Flak! Flak! Flak! Flak!"

The media mob sounded like a flock of mallards around a man in a trenchcoat with a bag of bread, but instead of bread the man handed out heaping hunks of news, and these media mallards were hungry ducks.

"Ha ha!" Detective Lieutenant Peter Flak said, raising his hands to quiet the crowd. "I have a brief statement, and then you may ask questions. One at a time, please. You'll all get your turn."

Flak paused looking out over the mob, satisfied at their expectant quiet.

He smiled.

The reporters stared.

Flak smiled wider.

"A statement, Detective?" one of the reporters, a young pixieish girl with short blonde hair and a "News 6" logo jacket, called out impatiently. "We've got deadlines, y'know."

Flak smiled even wider.

"A statement, yes," he said, standing up taller, and summoning up a firm, competent, determined expression. "I have a brief statement, and then I will answer your questions."

"You said that already," growled a grizzled print veteran in a coffee stained white Oxford.

"Yes. My statement is this: We have been working night and day on our investigation into the heinous murder of Laine Bannister. This investigation will clearly be a long, hard climb."

Up the stairs...holding the bannister, he thought to himself.

"Is something funny?" the News 6 reporter asked.

"Of course not," Flak said, recovering his steely expression. "Murder is never funny." He cleared his throat and continued.

"As I said, this investigation will be a long hard climb. But, we are making significant progress. We have uncovered critical clues that already point us toward a number of possible suspects. Our investigative team is interviewing some of these suspects at this very moment."

"Do you know who killed Laine?" News 6 called out.

"Not yet," Flak said. "Do you?"

"No! Why would I...You're the... ?" Ha!

"What can you tell us something about the critical clues you've discovered," the grizzled print vet said in a low voice.

"You know, of course, that I can't tell you that... we are always careful not to tip our hand to the perpetrators of crimes yet under investigation. But, I can tell you..." and at this Flak paused, dramatically, for effect, and among the effects were reddening faces and gnashed teeth inherent to people who spend all of their waking hours on deadline.

"...that we know one key fact about this crime. We believe that Mr. Bannister was on a date the night he was killed. With the killer."

Flak paused again, allowing the revelation to settle in, and, incidentally, tilting his good side to the photographers as flashbulbs burst. When they finished, Flak smiled at the mob... and walked away from the microphone.

"You said you'd take questions, you son of a bitch!" "Get back here, Flak!"

Flak ignored the screams. Janey always told him to keep the media on their toes -- it was better to keep them guessing than to answer questions straight out. She'd never taken it this far, of course, but that's why he was the boss. Or would be. Some day.

As he headed back onto the precinct house, the blonde News 6 reporter caught him by the sleeve and shoved him inside, cornering him against the wall just inside the door, and out of reach of the slowly dispersing media horde.

"Samara Steele," she introduced herself. "News 6. Listen, Detective. I don't know what the hell you think you're doing, but Laine Bannister was a friend of mine. You better not be on a fishing expedition here."

"How good a friend, Miss Steele?" Flak said, cocking an eyebrow.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Steele said. Then she shoved another palm into Flak's chest, causing him to rapidly expel a lungful of carbon dioxide at Steele's hair. It had no effect. "Listen, yeah. I was dating Laine. I was his girlfriend for the past six months. Am I under investigation?"

"Hmm," Flak said. Considering that he had no other suspects, this conversation might turn out to be a godsend, he thought. "I didn't say you, specifically, were under investigation. But perhaps you should be?"

"I didn't kill, Laine," Steele scoffed. "And he didn't have any girls on the side."

"How can you be so sure," Flak asked.

"Let's just say I'm very sure. What I want to know is what the hell this critical clue is that you're hiding back there."

"You must understand that I just can't say. My hands are tied," Flak said, demonstrating how his wrists were locked together by invisible ropes and offering a helpless shrug.

"All I know is that your clue better not be one of his goddam breath mints. He eats those things like they're popcorn."

"We knew that," Flak said, quietly.

"I'm sure," Steele said. "Look, Flak. I'm watching you. And I'm watching this case. And I'm going to find out who did this to Lainey whether you like it or not. We're going to be on you. We're going to make sure the public interest is served, and that justice is done. Or else. Got it?" And with that she pointed her adorable pixie fist at Flak's chin and tapped, hard. Then she stalked out of the precinct house.

Flak rubbed his chin and smiled. He was going to have his own camera crew on this one!


What do you think? Click the envelope below to comment, or email me.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Peter Flak, Big Time Detective, Part VII

"Well, sir, one thing we do know is that there was someone else in the room with him when he died," Flak said, speaking slowly, trying to remember what it was he was supposed to know about this case.

"Well, lookee here. We got the ever-lovin' Sherlock Holmes here!" Captain Johannson said. "What? Did you think he did that to himself?"

"No, sir! Of course not, sir!" Flak said, snapping out of his stupor. "It's just that, he wasn't alone...if you know what I'm saying."

"No. I do not. Flak..."

"What I mean, sir, is that he had a breath mint."

"A breath mint. Flak! See that window behind you?"

"Yes, sir."

"How high up would you say we are?"

"I'd say we're on the seventh floor, sir, but..."

"I swear to god I'm going to push you out that window, watch you fall seven stories, take the elevator down to the street and start pounding the rest of you with a battering ram if you don't start MAKING SOME GODDAMN SENSE!"

Flak was beginning to realize that his boss was a bit steamed. He figured there was only one way to go from here.

"I certainly wouldn't like that, sir! What I'm saying is that we are working under the theory that Laine Bannister was on a date when he was killed, and that the killer may well have been his date!" Flak smiled proudly.

"And?" Johannson said, leaning forward.

"And what, sir?" At this point, Flak deduced that the expected compliments were not forthcoming.

"What else? Recent dates? Spurned lovers? Desperate housewives? Where's your goddamn list?"

"Sir, we're still developing that sir," Flak said, thinking quickly. "I have a plan to gain that very information very quickly, sir."

"And how, pray tell, will you do that?" Johannson said in mocking tone, completely lost on Flak.

"Tomorrow," Flak declared, "I will hold a press conference!"

"Oh, God," Johannson put his face in his hands. "Get the hell out of here. Flak!"


"Just go!"

# # #

What do you think? Click the envelope below to comment, or email me.

"Peter Flak, Big Time Detective, Part VI"

Flak looked at his reflection. Not bad, he thought, and mussed his hair a bit, then flipped up the collar on his trench coat, which he had left on despite having spent the last two hours indoors, pacing the cramped confines of the precinct interrogation room.

The door slammed open, and Captain Johannson entered like a bursting balloon.

"FLAK! Why the goddam hell do you have a goddam publicist?"

Under intense questioning from colleagues clearly relishing the chance to put the screws to the "Super Cop," Flak had been forced to admit that Janey was not a date or a suspect or anything other than his publicist, who he was meeting for drinks at Marty's last night, just before her car exploded. Flak, not surprising in retrospect, had become the prime suspect.

"Well, I don't anymore, now do I?" Flak said petulantly.

Johannson grunted. "I see you cared deeply for her."

"Janey was a great girl. I guess I'll miss her," Flak said.

There was a long silence as Johannson scanned the file, then stared at Flak, and then scanned the file again.

"May I go now?" Flak asked, meekly.

"Sit down. Flak."

Flak sat.

"Flak. Besides evidence that you were sharing appletinis with this...publicist... and the fact that you fled the scene of a crime, which I'm going to chalk up to cowardice..."

"Thank you, sir."

"Ahem. I have nothing I can pin on you."

"Just as I would have expected, since I've done nothing."

"Hurrg," the Captain grunted. "That's what you're best at. I'm going to keep trying, though." The Captain stared at Flak, thinking that if Flak would just flinch or sweat or make any kind of move, he might just sock him one. But Super Cop was cool now, that sonofabitch.

"So," Johannson growled. "What have you got on Bannister?"

* * *

What do you think? Click the envelope below to comment, or email me.

Friday, October 20, 2006

"Peter Flak, Big Time Detective, Part V"

Don't forget to scroll down to read parts I, II, III and IV


Flak wearily unlocked the door to his Lakestone Drive condo and undressed, meticulously placing his shirt, suit, tie and trench coat into separate dry cleaning bags and hanging them up by the door for morning.

"What a day," he said out loud. ""

He checked his messages. One from his brother:

"Pete. It's your brother. Listen, when you get this, check out Ravistech. Everyone says they're about to do a deal with ... Aw, man, I can't leave this on your machine. Call me."

The get-rich-quick deal of the week, he thought. Maybe when he solved the Bannister murder, Janey could line up some endorsement deals.

Another message, this one from Janey. "Peter, we need to talk about this Bannister thing. There are some things you need to know. Rush right to my apartment, right away, when you hear this. Do not delay. Bye now."

Oh, Janey. Janey was always trying to get him to her apartment. Clearly, he mused, he shouldn't have let what happened happen that time ... that it happened. He chuckled to himself. "You never know what's going to happen when that happens to happen," he said, still chuckling.

Flak was in the shower for ten minutes when he remembered: Janey's dead.

"Janey's dead!"

In shock, he fell backward against the shower wall, slipped and landed on his ass. He stood up, slipped again and fell foward against the shower door, landing sprawled on all fours on the bathmat.

"Deep breaths now, Flak," he said to himself. "There must be an explanation.

Flak considered the situation carefully, and came to a single, frightful conclusion:

"Janey's ghost left me a message!"

Finally, he stood, and dressed himself in neatly pressed button-down pajamas. He slipped into bed and, as he did every night, picked up his microrecorder to set down his thoughts for the day and goals for tomorrow, in the manner he learned at the seminar.

"I have the chance of a lifetime. To really be the Super Cop they say I am. Lane Bannister's murder will be my launching pad!" He paused for a moment, then spoke in a lower voice. "Of course, it is a horrible tragedy, and I am confident that we will bring the perpetrator to justice." Good, Flak, Good. "But this will be a tough nut to crack. It's going to take all of my training, investigative and managerial skills to pull this of, but I'm sure... I am confident...that we will bring the perpetrator to justice!" Even better. Good to get that down right.

"But what of Janey's ghost? How does she figure into this? It sounds like she's trying to help, but is she?" Is she? "What could she know? Or..." Flak rubbed his chin, thoughtfully. " she trying to sleep with me again? Can you sleep with a ghost?" Good question, Flak! "Maybe I should call Ghostbusters..."

"Or, maybe she's not a ghost, and she somehow made that call before she was killed," Flak said, then scratched his head. "That seems unlikely. She was with me and never mentioned her apartment. The ghost theory makes a little more sense, I think."

Flak turned the recorder off and nodded, still thoughtful. "OK, goals for tomorrow. Check out Janey's apartment and confirm ghost theory. Review conclusions of investigative team. Hold press conference to update TV on the latest. Be smart, be intense, be proactive."

Nice one!
Flak thought and closed his eyes. It seemed like he'd hardly slept when he heard the banging on the door. And the shouting.




"Coming!" Flak said.

# # #

What do you think? Click the envelope below to comment, or email me.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"Peter Flak, Big Time Detective, Part IV"

"What the hell happened to you, chief?" AK, police department photographer and forensic analyst, looked Flak up and down. Flak's usually impeccable trench coat and suit were smeared with oil, his pale face darkened by black soot.

"Car exploded on 7th Street." he generally tried to keep the fact that he'd hired a publicist and agent quiet among colleagues. If they knew, he thought, they'd all want one. " friend...was inside."

"Dead?" AK's eyes widened, slightly in awe, mostly in disbelief.

"Yeah, Janey's dead."

"Car just blew up."

"Yeah. We had a drink at Marty's, she gets the car from the valet, turns the corner and just blows up. Ka-boom."

"Come on, Flak. You don't know people who blow up."

Flak frowned. He was being mocked, he was sure of it. He wasn't going to stand for it.

"Well I do now, don't I?" Snap! Flak thought.

"Sorry, man," AK said and shook his head. Then he went back to staring at his flat screen monitor.

Flak stomped his foot on the floor and sniffed. Pull yourself together, Flak. He works for you...

"So, what do you have for me?" Flak said. AK looked up at him blankly. "C'mon. On Bannister."

"Yeah, I know...I'm just messin' with ya. Here, come take a look at this."

On the wide screen, high resolution monitor was a photo of the body that once was Lane Bannister, TV anchor, now mutilated and hollowed out corpse. Flak felt the remains of the egg salad sandwich he'd had for lunch nearly 12 hours ago rising toward his esophagus. He covered his mouth.

"Why don't you just tell me what you see?"

"Breath mint."

"Geez, do I need one?"

"No, look." AK clicked a mouse and zoomed in on a spot to the right of Bannister's head. "Breath mint."

"You want one?" Flak said.

"No, man, look!"

"I don't get it." Flak didn't get it. AK wheeled around on his chair and faced Flak. "Son of a bitch, Flak! Open your eyes!" Flak's eyes were squeezed shut and his hand was over his mouth.

"Just tell me, AK. Please," he said through his hand.

"Just tell me, AK. Pleeeeaaasaasssseee," AK said. "Look, I've zoomed in. You can't see the body anymore."

"You can't?" Flak opened his eyes a crack, then all the way and uncovered his mouth. "Good. I don't have much expertise at forensics."

"Sure. Now do you see that right there?" There, on the plush red carpet, was a round, white pill speckled with blue flecks.

"Breath mint!" Flak said.

"Don't mind if I do!" AK said and filched the box of Altoids from Flak's trench coat pocket.

"No, right there -- that's a breath mint." Flak paused, and began to pace. "So. Our victim was killed in this most horrific fashion. He's stabbed, then shot."

"Shot...then stabbed."

"Right. Shot, then stabbed," Flak said, miming the actions as he spoke each word. "Then, he chokes, and out pops...this breath mint. Sucked upon for, I'd say, approximately 30 seconds."


"Yes. I know this because you can still see the blue specks."

"Uh huh."

"Longer, and it would turn white."


He's mocking me again, isn't he? Flak thought. Ignore it. Move on. He'll respect me when I'm chief.

"So," Flak said. "The question is: What makes a man take a breath mint?"

"On a whim, I'd say he had bad breath," AK said, a small, mocking smile playing across his face. Inscrutable, Flak thought.

"Exactly!" Flak announced, dramatically taking the conversational initiative.

"Well. I'm glad we settled that," AK said. "You want to know what I think, Mr. Holmes?"

"Yes, I want to know what you think," Flak said loudly, his impatience rising.

"I think that most people don't pop breath mints when they're alone," AK said. Flak furrowed his brow seriously. He decided it would appear more commanding for him to appear to listen carefully.

"Mmm hm," Flak said.

"Mmm hm," AK said, "and he'd just popped that breath mint before he was shot, stabbed and gouged and cut and whatnot."

"Hm. Yes, go on," Flak nodded.

"And, we know that there were two sets of fingerprints in Bannister's condo -- one set his, and the other unknown. So, I'm surmising here that he wasn't alone when he was shot, stabbed and gouged and cut and whatnot."

"Well of course he wasn't!" Flak could keep silent no longer. "The murderer was with him!"

"Well. Yes," AK said slowly. "But what if the murderer was not dressed in a black mask and striped shirt, like most murderers, but was dressed in, say, a little black dress, when she entered his condo?"

"Why, then..." sputtered Flak, "she'd be a woman!"

"True," AK said even more slowly. "But, more importantly, she would be a woman that knew Lane Bannister. Perhaps she was someone who Bannister thought he might kiss."

"If he was planning a date, as you seem to be implying," Flak said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully, "he would have arranged his room just right, combed his hair, brushed and flossed, maybe lighted some candles..."

"Yeah? And?" AK said hopefully.

"And," said Flak, "just before she arrived..."


"He'd pop a breath mint!"

"Yes!" AK shouted. "That's it! And so what happened?"

"Bannister's date had just arrived when the murderer burst in and killed him!" Flak shouted triumphantly, then ducked as a heavy, black metal object that happened to be a Swingline stapler flew by his head, grazing his ear. "Hey! Cut that out!"

"Or," shouted AK, "since there was only one other set of fingerprints in the room, it was his date that killed him!"

Flak froze.

"So we find the date..." Flak said quietly.

"And we find the killer," AK finished.

"I was going to say that," Flak said.

# # #

What do you think? Click the envelope below to comment, or email me.

Friday, October 06, 2006

"Peter Flak: Big Time Detective -- Part III"

"You'll make Chief someday. I promise," Janey said over the rim of Marty's special apple-flavored martini. They clinked glasses. Flak laughed.

"I hope so. Dead bodies are disgusting. And Bannister is very disgusting."

"Once you make Chief..."

"If I make Chief..."

"Once you make Chief," Janey said emphatically, non-verbally reminding Flak of the self-actualization seminar she'd sent him to last year, the one on how visualizing the impossible is the key to achieving the impossible. "Once you make Chief, you'll have detectives to see them for you."

"Damn right!" Flak said, and raised his glass, a Manhattan, to his publicist. He winced and tottered slightly on the bar stool.

"So," Janey said, waving to the waitress and holding up two fingers. "Any leads yet on poor Lane?"

"Hmp. Are you kidding? I delegated. The officers are doing the interviews. The labs are analyzing fingerprints and stuff. The ghouls are cutting into what's left of him to determine cause of death. I'll get a report in the morning. I'm sure they'll come up with something."

"I'm sure you will, Super Cop!" Janey flashed a wide smile.

"Janey, you've got a little smear of lipstick on your teeth."


"Right there," Flak pointed to the top of her left front incisor, and helpfully offered the corner of his napkin. She leaned forward and he gently cleaned the stain. She leaned forward a little more.

"Peter, I..."

Flak's phone rang. "Excuse me, Janey. Duty calls." He flashed his own smile, confident in his teeth's perfection. He flipped open the phone, and lowered his voice an octave.

"Detective Peter Flak speaking!"

"Flak! It's AK. There's something funny in the photos."

"The photos?"

"Of Bannister. You need to come down to the lab."

"It's kind of late, isn't it?""

"Just get down here. It'll be worth your while. I think I know who killed Bannister," AK said impatiently.

"AK, just tell me now...I trust you," Flak said, winking at Janey. He and Janey had worked on that line. It was useful for building confidence in subordinates and building their respect for him...and for avoiding the more unpleasant aspects of his job.

"I can't. You have to see this. Just get the hell down here, OK?"

"All right. I'll be there in 30 minutes." Flak flipped his phone closed and sighed. "I interrupted you, didn't I Janey?"

"The media plans. You want me to call the night desk now?" Janey said from behind a compact mirror. "Otherwise," she sniffed, "We can go over it tomorrow."

"I guess we better do that, Janey," Flak said. "Probably a little early to call the press tonight. I'll let you know what we have first thing."

"You got it, Petey!" Janey said, her smile now perfect. She was cute, Flak thought, in her own officious way. A little too short, a little too pushy and a little older than he usually liked, but she did the best with what she had. They hugged and pecked each others' cheeks. The valet drove up with her BMW 9000i and she smiled and waved. Waiting for his own used Audi to arrive, he admired Janey's car as it drove down the block and rounded the corner onto 7th Street.

Love that car. I should get into PR, he thought.

That's when he saw the explosion.

Flak backed up into the glass door of Marty's, and then experienced one of those rare moments in his life when fight overcame flight, and he ran toward 7th Street. The smoke was thick and the fire hot. He heard a crack under his feet -- a familiar pink compact, covered in black soot -- Janey's.

The BMW was a smoking ruin, and Flak shook his head at the waste. He tried to see whether anyone was inside the car, but the smoke made his eyes water. Then through the smoke he saw a gnarled, charred arm rise out of the window, as if waving, and then fall limp. Flak covered his eyes.

What a way to go. Maybe I'll stick to police work," Flak thought, looked around, and, with sirens approaching quickly, more familiar instincts took over and he backed up to the entrance of Marty's, took the keys, tipped the valet five bucks, made a hasty U-turn and headed for the crime lab.

# # #

What do you think? Click the envelope below to comment, or email me.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

"Peter Flak: Big Time Detective -- Part II"

"This cop will not rest until we bring the perpetrator to justice!"

Flak paused, and flashed his $10,000 grin to the motley armament of microphones and video cameras that recorded his every utterance from the steps of the precinct house. Due to the tireless efforts of High Profile and Janey, his agent, the word was out that Peter Flak, Super Cop, was on the Lane Bannister case, and the city press ate it up. Finally, Flak sensed it was time to stop the questioning.

"I will be here tomorrow with an update. Until then, please, let me get to work. You'd think you've forgotten that the victim is one of your own!"

The reporters nodded and grimaced artfully, and Flak held, for just long enough, highly concerned grimace of his own, turned away from the microphones and smiled at his reflection in the dark glass precinct house door. He brushed a stray strand of hair back into place.

"FLAK!" Captain Johannson appeared, blotting out Flak's reflection. Disappointed, Flak turned to face his boss as he charged out the revolving door.

"Flak. What the hell are you doing here? They're waiting for you at the crime scene. Goddamn. Flak. If you screw this up I'll..."

"Really, sir. Forensics will prepare a very complete report. There's no need for me to actually be on the scene, is there?"

"How the hell did you make Detective? Don't answer that. Just get the hell over there before I punch you in the mouth."

Flak held his hand over his mouth, saluted and jogged for the garage.

* * *

Flak covered his mouth with both hands.

"You OK, Detective?" The photographer didn't look up to see Flak's response, a dry heave aimed at the windows that spanned Bannister's high-rise condo like a wide-screen TV. His camera clicked in sync with the snap of the wad of gum he kept at all times in his left cheek.

"Yeah. Pretty gruesome, eh?"

"Well, I've seen worse," said the photographer, a Californian-American of Korean ancestry who everyone called AK.

"You have?"

"Oh, yeah," AK said, snapping a close-up of Bannister's mutilated face. "This one vick down in Lowertown, she had her whole face bit off. Just a skull with hair. You remember that one?"

"Oh, yeah," Flak nodded knowingly, though he hadn't.

"Anything else you need?" AK said, packing up his equipment.

"No, you've done great, thanks."

"Catch ya later."

Something tapped Flak on the shoulder.

"Get away from me!" he shouted at the uniformed officer. He was a young cop, three years on the force, who was known for wearing a perpetual smirk.

"Sorry, sir," said the officer, who's name was Petitte.

"Well. You should be," Flak said, regaining his composure. "What do you want?"

Petitte continued to smirk. "Thought you'd want to hear a report from the officer first on the scene," he said.

"Yeah. Yeah, I do," Flak said. "Get him over here, Petitte."

"Um, yeah. Well, he's here," Petitte said. "He's me. Sir."

Flak didn't like that short pause before Petitte said "Sir." The uniformed cops never seemed to like him much, as hard as he tried to gain their favor. Perhaps he should try harder, he thought.
"Good man," Flak said and clapped Petitte on the shoulder. Petitte looked at Flak's hand and smirked. "Let's hear it," Flak said, resigned to the fact that he was going to have to hear the gory details.

"Alright," Petitte said and flipped open his notebook. "At 9:53 pm we responded to a 911 call from a Jennifer Simpson, intern producer at TV station NBC-7. Simpson said she was to get Bannister and bring him to the station for the 11:00 pm news."

"Hm. He doesn't need much prep time, does he?"

"Just a talking head, sir. But Simpson reports that he should have been at the station by then. She was to, quote, "snap him out of it," unquote, and get him to the station."

"Snap him out of what, Petitte?"

"She wouldn't say," Petitte said, his smirk nearly turning into a grin before getting control of itself. "She buzzed the buzzer and banged on the door, to no avail. Then she called security. Said Mr. Bannister might be asleep."


"Yeah. Anyway, the manager's a big fan of Mr. Bannister, so he let's Ms. Simpson in. At which time, they find Mr. Bannister in the position in which you see him now, sir."

"What's the, uh, cause of death?" Flak said, feeling the bile rising again into his throat.

"Let's see. A lot of stabbing. Couple gunshots. Slashes. You noted the eye gouge, I'm sure..."

"Yes," Flak said weakly.

"Yeah, well, that's not the most unusual thing." Petitte paused, waiting to see Flak's reaction. Flak stared back, silently gritting his teeth behind his thin, tightly pursed lips.

"No, for that you'd have to look at his midsection. He's almost completely emptied out. His guts were sealed neatly into plastic bags." Petitte held up a gallon-sized bag for Flak to see. Flak's eyes widened.

Flak said something incoherent.

"Yeah, pretty sick, huh? But you know, Wilson, the forensics guy? He was almost appreciative. It takes all kinds, doesn't it, sir? Sir?"

Flak had already passed the officer and was racing down the stairs, frantically trying to brush off the mess he'd made on his trench coat before he reached the bottom.


Eww! Gross!

Will Flak be able to stand the sight of dead bodies long enough to solve this mystery? Find out, as the mystery deepens, and the glare of publicity closes in...

# # #

What do you think? Click the envelope below to comment, or email me.

Monday, September 25, 2006

"Peter Flak: Big Time Detective -- Part I"


Detective Peter Flak didn't flinch. He smiled, because he'd been practicing not flinching at Captain Johannson's roars, and it filled him with pride to know that he'd succeeded.

He stood slowly, careful not to hurry. Flak smiled and nodded at the Captain, who stared smoking holes in his skull as he strode, slowly, to the coffee pot. His ceramic mug was a favorite. On it was printed an old-fashioned camera with a bursting flash. The tagline was "Smile! You're on Candid Camera!" He calmly, slowly, filled it with steaming coffee, then carefully tore open a packet of sugar and poured the sugar into the coffee in a circular pattern around the edge of the mug. Then he reached for the tiny cups of creamer and, turning the opening flap away from him to avoid splashing half-n'-half on his suit, he very deliberately peeled back the cover and poured it into the coffee, again in a circular pattern. Then, Flak reached for a stir-stick, dipped it into the coffee, stirring around and around, and then in a figure-eight pattern to ensure that the coffee was properly...


Flak flinched this time, but didn't look up. He could feel Johannson's hot breath on his cheek, and the pungent odor of salami, brown mustard and provolone that his obviously long-suffering wife must have packed him for lunch that morning.

"Coming right over, sir!" Flak said brightly.

Captain Carl Johannson and Peter Flak were a study in contrasts. Where Flak was tall, thin and wiry, Johannson was built like a block of concrete. Where Flak took great care of his full head of thick dark hair, Johannson's morning routine included just enough time to comb the remaining wisps of long steely gray hair over his bald, oily scalp. Where Flak's face seemed sparkling and smooth even at midnight (due to his frequent trips to restroom with the electric razor he kept in his coat pocket), Johannson's five-o'clock shadow sprouted by noon and by 8:00 pm when he threw on his tan trench coat and time-worn fedora, you could have forgiven the cops at the front desk for sometimes assuming they were letting a homeless man out on his own recognizance.

It was five-o'clock, Flak noted. Johannson looked like he had gray nails sprouting from his jowls.
"How's your day going, Captain?" Flak said, trying to lighten the mood.

"Flak." Whenever the Captain said his name it was always began and ended the sentence. "Shut up. You've already taken up more time than I have for you."

"Sorry, Capt..."

"I said shut up. Flack. You have an assignment."

"That's great! I..."

The Captain cut off Flak with a a low growl. "Take a look," he said, and slapped a folder down on his cluttered desk. Flak grabbed the folder, sat up a little straighter. Paper clipped to the inside cover was color glossy of a well-coiffed man -- blond hair, blue eyes, strong trustworthy chin, thick healthy hair -- and Flak recognized him immediately -- it was Lane Bannister, the new anchor for the NBC-7 11:00 pm news.

"That Bannister...he's a good looking guy, sir," Flak said. "For a guy, sir."

"Not any more he's not. Look at the next photo."

Flak lifted the photo to find another color photo. Past the deep bloody gashes and cris-crossed knife cuts, the chunks of bare scalp and the garish hole where the left eye used to be, Flak recognized the same strong, trustworthy chin that made Bannister the hottest newscaster in the state.

"What a shame, sir," Flak said, choking back the bile that suddenly lodged in his throat.

"Yeah? How so?"

"He won't be much good on TV now, sir," Flak said, swallowing. He flipped the pages of what was obviously a rather extensively detailed forensic report.

"Damn right, you jackass. He's dead!" Johannson exploded. "And those sons-of-bitches down at the station have specifically requested the 'Super Cop' they profiled last month to lead the investigation."

"Well! I'm quite flattered, sir!"

"Listen. Flak. You know and I know that the Super Cop profile was a snow job put together by the Mayor's PR department. You know and I know that there is no way I'd let you anywhere near this case," Johannson snorted, and cleared his throat, which sounded something like a vacuum cleaner trying to suck up a sock. "But, the conglomerate that owns the TV station informed the mayor's office, who informed the police chief , who informed me that they expect nothing less than our own Super Cop on this case, on penalty of budget cuts." Johannson spat into his ash tray. "So the Super Cop they will get."

Flak smiled, his full set of teeth gleaming.

"Don't worry, sir," Flak said, still smiling. "The station, the mayor and the public can rest assured that I will not rest until we find the vicious animal who did this to one of our most beloved citizens."


"Yes, sir?"

"Just don't screw this up. And stay away from the cameras."

Flak smiled more broadly.

"I'll do my best sir. But it always seems to be the cameras that find me!" he said.

Flak left Johannson's office practically bouncing. He walked quickly past his desk, dashed down the stairs and out the front door. From the sidewalk, he pressed a speed-dial code on his cell phone.

"High Profile! Janey speaking!"

"Janey. Pete."

"Pete! Super Cop! How's the screenplay coming?"

"Janey, listen. This is it! A heinous crime against a high-profile media celebrity...and it's mine!"

"No, kidding? Bannister, right?"

"How did you know?"

"Are you kidding? Everybody knows! Poor Lane..."

"Yeah. Listen, your my agent. Make the most of this, right?"

"You know we will! Keep your hair in place, Petey. You got your soundbites?"

"Of course."

"Let's hear it, Peter..."

"'This cop will not rest until we bring the perpetrator to justice!'"

"Gold! I'll meet you tonight at Marty's. 10:30?"

"See you there!"

Peter put away his cell, looked up at the sky and took a deep breath of city air -- the mixture of exhaust fumes and tobacco smoke delivering a unique sort of buzz. This was it. Even more than with the Super Cop story, this was going to make him a star. And from there? Technical advisor in the movies? Maybe even some on screen roles.

Damn! he thought. I've gotta go home and shower!

# # #


Will Flak resist the siren call publicity in the case of a celebrity murder?
Can he keep his teeth clean and hair in place?


Who killed Lane Bannister?


What do you think? Click the envelope below to comment, or email me.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

"Dreams Have Eyes"

Leaves falling. Colored leaves -- red and yellow. Deep and beautiful. These aren't just fall leaves. They're the Autumn leaves from which all others were shaped and colored. I'm on the Massachusetts Turnpike amid the foothills of the Berkshires. I drop down the off-ramp like an eight ball in the corner pocket, like I'm rolling off a table, like I'm falling off a log....

I wake up on the floor. Twisted my arm. Get up. She'll see. To the bathroom. Take a leak. Wash hands. Take a drink. Water's soapy.

Go back to bed...Nah, not yet.

Step downstairs, quietly. Can't wake the kids.

Slide the door to the deck back...slowly. Shoot. Gotta fix that.

Bare feet in the snow. I don't care. Flurries falling on my hand. So No rhyme or just falls.

I'm on my knees now. So cold. What was I thinking? I want to go back. To the Autumn. To the fall. Where everything is ... perfect. Where there's not so much pain. Where what you see when you close your eyes is what you see when you open your eyes.

She's here. I can't see her but I know she's there. Her arms are crossed and she's shaking her head. She's saying something. Something about frostbite, about losing my toes. She's right, of course. She's always right. Usually. She was right on the day we met, when I told her she was lucky she found me that day, besieged as she was by that sad collection of geeks and losers when I slipped in and held her eyes long enough that the rest slunk off and disappeared into the bar, and I told he she was lucky she found me. And she said, with this twinkle in her eye, she said, no, there was no luck at all. It all happened the way it was supposed to happen. Meant to be, she said. I laughed. But she was right.

I want to scream. But I don't. I won't.

I'm flying a kite on the beach. Chatham. Cape Cod. White houses, The ocean is choppy. The kite fights me. I fight back, pulling back, letting out a little line then yanking the line like I'm setting a hook. The wind comes steady, then in gusts, a slap in the face. The kite dips and I run until it catches an updraft and I sit, digging my heels into the sand. Got it. I could do this forever. A dog runs by. Golden retriever. Bumps my knee. I trip, and fall. I let go. The kite shivers, shimmies and shakes. It's gone.

She's grabbing my shoulders. Pleading. I can't move. She pulls harder, cursing. Very rude. Can't talk that way in front of the kids.

I fall. I'm on my back.

Look at that sky!

The snow, falling harder now, lonely white crystals in a black night sky. The frozen breath of an unseen god. Oh, please.

Hard to believe these tiny, lonely specks join together into something so thick, so strong.

So cold.

I'm moving. Sliding. My head hits the floor. She's begging now. Is she crying? Really crying? I didn't think she...

I rise. Stumble, grab her shoulder for support. She lifts me up. I go to hug her. She stiffens.

Dreams have eyes, you know. They're watching. Like a suspicious lover, they know when you're true, and they know when you've strayed.

Forgive me.

* * *

What do you think? Click the envelope below to comment, or email me.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

"The Shortest Story"

I went down to the coffee shop just down the block from my office to buy myself a coffee when all of a sudden this car drives by through the puddle left by the rain last night, the first we've had in a long time what with the drought and all and I remember the thrill we had last night when I sat with my kids by the window, counting the seconds between the lightning and the thunder, wondering how close the electric flash was to the old maple tree in the front yard and secretly imagining it split in twain with a tremendous, dramatic crack, but nothing like that ever happens here, which either makes us really lucky or really unlucky, depending on how many dramatic surprises you want in your life, like your mom suddenly dropping dead from anyeurism or an airplane heading toward your 53rd floor window and not stopping like it's supposed to, or a Jetta weaving to the right just so, so its tires could splash through a deep puddle like a toddler in a yellow slicker and rainboots and soak a passerby who just wanted to get himself a latte and forget, for a few minutes, that the really cool stories always happen to other people while stuff like this just happens to me, although I guess that's OK because when the really cool stuff happens to those other people, they don't often live to tell the story.

# # #

What do you think? Click the envelope below to comment, or email me.