The Perfect Cup of Joe – 2

PART TWO

Oh, private detective Charles Oliver was a philosopher, alright. The kind of guy who couldn’t start a story without yammering on about what it all means first. The kind of guy who’d chew the inside of his cheek bloody worrying about his place in the universe.

Whenever I catch myself pondering my place in it all, I remind myself that the best way to orient yourself in the dark is to aim your flashlight around yourself, not on yourself. Shine a light on the world. Or laGoyim. Once you start looking at your surroundings, it’s just one more step to not worrying about yourself so much any more.

Not that I don’t have problems in my life. Oy, I got plenty. Particularly as the DA’s chosen project, and as the chief’s trading chattel. Particularly as Detective Sergeant Álvaro’s whipping dog. Particularly as a keeper of the law, everybody’s whipping dog. I got my problems. But, so do other people, and the whole point of the law is to worry about those other people.

Like Rabbi Hillel famously said, the rest is just commentary.

So, here’s some commentary on Chuck’s notebook. There was a lot of Christian gobbledygook in there about the Seven Deadly Sins and knights and shit like that. And, way too much dreck about Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. I had begun to wonder if Charles Roland Oliver got himself ambushed by rogue fanboys waiting in the briars of his convoluted literary crusade.

But, also a lot of affectionate references to Islamic mysticism, casting a curiously erotic light on his relationship to Núr Lucas. Which made the DA’s choosing me all the more mysterious. Why would an atheist (presumed) put a Jew in the middle of a drama between a Christian and a Muslim?

A Jew in the middle of a drama between Christians and Muslims. Okay, I have a stake in that game.

There’s a story about this kingdom in Central Asia pinned between Christian and Muslim armies back in the Dark Ages. But, when was it ever not the Dark Ages? Everyone thinks they’re the light in the world, surrounded by darkness. Me too, I guess.

Anyway, the guy running the place was a Khazar, a Turk back when the Turks were heathens. He knew he had to do something about the warring monotheists on his borders, so he announced that he wanted to convert his kingdom to one of the three great Abrahamic religions. He summoned emissaries from the Muslims and Christians to either side and—after politely listening to their sectarian arguments in favor of the Prophet and the Nazarene—asked them which would be their second choice, knowing damn well neither of them would pick the other side.

As he predicted, they both claimed Judaism as the better alternative. It was a damned clever haggle. The Khazars became Jews at the stroke of a pen and their kingdom became a neutral buffer between the raging warriors of Christendom and Islam.

My rabbi—who is no Rabbi Hillel, I might mention—rants that this tale is an anti-Semitic slander. Supposedly, it undermines the claims of European Jews to Israeli origins. He’s a bit of a Zionist, but I keep going to synagogue anyway. He has his saving graces. Anyway, I say if keeping the peace between other monotheists brings an entire heathen nation to the G-d of Abraham, what’s the loss?

Okay, my stake in it. My mother named me Joseph not after Rachel’s famous son with the Technicolor Dreamcoat, but after King Joseph ben Aaron, who was a descendant of the guy who converted the Khazars to Judaism. He was apparently a real mensch who tried to bring the diaspora together, back when the Christians were betraying the peace by invading Khazaria, forcing the Jews there to make allies of the Muslims.

So much for neutrality, right? Now, here I was investigating a Christian privateer’s death, while the newly reborn Muslim on the other side wanted nothing to do with me. Not exactly living up to my namesake.

And so, here I was, rambling on about my place in Creation like Charles Roland Oliver. G-d damn it, anyway.

To his credit, Oliver didn’t have a lot to say about Judaism in his notebook. I kept expecting some anti-Semitic undertones to crop up in all the talk about holy wars and the entertainment industry. But, nada. He was one of the good goys, I guess. Anyway, I’ll spare you the details of his notes, except when they come up.

As I stood outside the Lucas Men’s Counseling Center, flipping through Oliver’s scribbly notebook, my phone buzzed. I looked at the number; it was the DA. Yeah, she noodged me enough that her number was seared into my brain.

“Are you in uniform?”

“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?”

“Don’t be. The chief put you on paid leave while you’re doing this little detec—”

“He did what?” People on the sidewalk stopped to look at me. I guess my tone was a little confrontational.

“I asked him to.” Her voice was as flat as a Texas highway.

“Should I just go ahead and start calling you mayor, or shall we be polite and wait a few years for the election results?”

“So,” she ignored me, “since you’re not a beat cop while you’re doing this little detec—”

“Look, I’m not interested in being a detective. I’m only doing this so maybe you’ll stop peeking down the back of my shirt every time some guy chooses caps over cuffs. If that ain’t going to happen, if this is just some ploy to—”

“Joe,” she stopped me dead. It was the same tone my mother used to adopt to shut me down. Damn me, but it worked. “You do better detective work in a half-second than a lot of plainclothes officers do in weeks. It’s a waste of talent.”

I had nothing to say about that, so I said it.

“And, in spite of your rep, you don’t kill people you don’t need to.”

Again with this. Mention the Angel of Death once and He sends a thousand reminders your way.

“I’ll try not to kill anyone I don’t mean to,” I said. She was silent on the other end. “And, I’ll change my clothes.”

And, I did. I went back to my schlubby little apartment, stripped off the uniform and put on jeans, sneakers, and a blood-red concert tee I hadn’t worn for a decade. I felt like an anachronism, but here I was, a plainclothes detective in all but paycheck.

I paused by the door on my way back out to the street. On the key table was my mom’s breadbox, which had been her mom’s. Zaydeh and Zaydee had bought it just before going to the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. It was the first time Germany had been allowed to compete since the Great War. They brought it out of Germany when they fled a few years later. It had a sheaf of wheat carved into its door in sunk relief, like you’d find in an ancient Egyptian temple. The yellow paint that had once made it pop against the dark brown of the wood was now faded almost to a memory.

The man who’d carved it, a good friend of theirs, ended up in the death camp at Słoneczny. I dug up that bit of info for them the summer before I joined the academy. Or at least I thought I had. Turned out, they already knew.

I slid up the door of the breadbox. Inside was the only other thing, besides photos, I had kept to remind me of my parents: a plush dolphin with blue, six-sided stars stitched on its back like a constellation. The toy was from Israel, I’d been told. My dad was a biologist. An immunologist. He’d told me that dolphins were the cousins of cows, evolutionarily speaking, much like Jews were cousins of Arabs and Ethiopians. I’d named the dolphin Cow-Fish because of this. I was kid, I didn’t really get what he was trying to tell me about connections and relations.

I touched the worn fuzz of the dolphin with my fingertips, then closed the breadbox again and looked up at the old family photos next to the door, a constellation of blue eyes in swirls of night-black hair. Love you, Abba and Emma, Zaydee and Zaydeh. Miss you.

I kissed my knuckles, touched them to the mezuzah on the door facing, and left home behind.

The city was hot and bright, the kind of bright that turns the whole visible world into a Technicolor Dreamcoat. Like the many-colored Temple veil, hiding the Holy of Holies from the mundane eyes of the unworthy. My mother would have said: the material disguise of spiritual reality. If I wanted to figure out what happened to detective (lower-case) Charles Oliver, I would have to punch through that pasteboard mask into the World Beyond.

So, Oliver’s notebook. “The first place you’ll see is a night club.” This was in his list of things Núr Lucas had told him during their initial interview. He had later scribbled in a side note: “It’s called Pressure.” Good to know.

“Curiosity is nothing but trouble,” was also scribbled along the side of this page, followed by: “Avoid Her!” with triple underlining. The writing was different. Less business-like. More emotion in the strokes. From that “Her,” I’m guessing Curiosity is an angel. And a woman, if angels cleave to our mortal ideas of gender. And dangerous, maybe one of the perils that led to Oliver’s death. She kills cats, maybe She kills private eyes, too.

I wasn’t too concerned about Her myself. I didn’t have anything to be morbidly curious about, except maybe how it would feel if I really did kill someone I shouldn’t.

At the bottom of his notes from the Núr interview, Oliver had scrawled: “Keep your eyes open for signs!” Also good advice, if a bit obvious for a detective or cop. I figured looking for signs is what I always did. Looking for signs of redemption is what got me into the argument with Detective (upper-case) Álvaro, which got me into trouble with the DA, which got me into detective (lower-case) Chuck Oliver’s notebook.

I flipped to the next page. The one with the header, “BREAKING YOUR MIND.” It started like a list of instructions about how to get to this mysterious night club of the angels. Apparently, Núr told him you had to turn yourself inside out, kill your ego by contemplating something unthinkable. Oliver had gone on some crazy matriarchal speculation about belly buttons. Not my style.

What was unthinkable to me? I stood alone in the hot, bright street, civilian pedestrians pushing and shoving all around me. Huffing at the obstacle that was my material body. One or two of them calling me obscene names. Fuck ’em. I had a job to do.

I tried to summon anything my mother had taught me about Qabbalah, how the emanations of G-d have no mind, no ego at all. They’re just archetypes, acting out their programs like spiritual machines.

I closed my eyes, felt the notebook getting damp in my hand. Searing light burned against my eyelids, trying to force me to see. The concert T clung wetly to my chest. Droplets of summer sweat tickled their way down my face.

I let my mother talk in my head. Where was my ego, the axle of my thoughts around which the wheel of my perceptions turned? Shutting out the signs was unthinkable. I could see nothing in the faces of the people moving around me. No clues about their intentions, their thoughts, their saving graces. They were just elbows and shoulders and annoyed grunts.

My mother’s voice was replaced by a criminology lecture. One in every fifteen thousand people will murder someone in their lifetime. One in every fifty people is a psychopath, capable of murdering without remorse. I caught myself counting the invisible pedestrians shoving past me. One, two, three, four, seven, twelve, forty? I had nothing to go by.

No clues to separate the redeemable from the irredeemable. Nothing that identified me with the angel of Death. Or … nothing that separated me from Him. Nothing that could keep me from killing the wrong person. Or, worse, sparing the wrong person.

Nothing.

The droplets on my face felt cooler. They were falling on me instead of rising from me. The light through my eyelids dimmed. The street noise faded away. I opened my eyes.

It was raining. The sky was dark, a fucked-up swirl of black and gray, and the street was empty. It wasn’t even the same street. Where the fuck was I? The buildings were blank faces glaring at the pavement. Across the asphalt was a façade with the only sign in sight, the only light, red LEDs replacing the previous Technicolor brilliance with a sheen of blood.

The sign read: Pentapolis Gym.

My hand went limp and I dropped the notebook. I stooped to pick it up, stuffed it into a back pocket. I suddenly wished I had brought my side-arm. Still kneeling, I studied the building across the street. Double glass doors, tinted a shimmering brass. They almost looked like a hologram.

Eyes open, I wondered: What’re the signs, Oliver? Where’s this night club you said would be here? I scratched my thinning blond hair. Pentapolis? That means Five Cities. The DA’s family is from the Quad Cities. Yeah, she revealed a lot while noodging me. But, four to five, the sign didn’t add up to a “sign.”

The rain grew heavy. I felt like I was standing in a cistern, and it didn’t feel right. I crossed the street, moving toward the blood-red light. As I stepped up to the doors, they evaporated. I mumbled something blasphemous.

It was a gym alright, but like a sci-fi gym. I couldn’t tell where the main light was coming from. Turquoise punching bags stretched floor-to-ceiling along the right side. They were smooth and shiny, high-tech material I’d never seen. Almost glowing. And, fancy weight machines in the corners with crazy touch-screen consoles. I prided myself on being on top of shit like that, but I’d never seen anything like this.

Weirdly, there was a stone fireplace on the left wall. In the midst of all the futuristic gadgets, it was out of place. Out of time. In the middle of the room, where a dance floor should’ve been according to Oliver’s notes, was a hexagonal ring with red ropes and a blue Star of David painted on the padded stage. Nice touch, angels.

Standing in the ring, wearing only athletic Lycra, was a curly-headed blond kid leering at me like I was late for an appointment.

I wiped the rain from my face with the back of my hand. “Thought there was a bar around here.”

He almost laughed, but only managed to exhale. “Do you drink?”

“No.”

“Wanna try?”

“I’ve tried. It’s dumb.”

“So, that’s why there’s no bar.” He leaned teasingly over the ropes on both elbows.

I looked around, into the corners, around the equipment. Nobody there but us two blonds. There was a single doorway leading out the back. Always good to know.

“Where is everyone?” I stepped up to the ring, looked into his face. Or, His face, as the case may be. “I was told this place would be packed. Then again I was told this place would be a night club.”

“There’s just Me this time.” I heard the narcissistic capitalization. So, an angel. My first. The amber-blond curls made Him look like a lion dipped in honey. He extended a hand. “My name—”

“I’m not interested in Your name. I’ve come here to get information for a case.”

He rolled His eyes. “Not that shit again.” He walked to the other side of the ring, toward a raised table near the back wall. He moved like He could handle himself in a scrap. Noted.

He grabbed a pair of gloves from the table and tossed them at me in a lazy arc. To throw Him off, I caught them in my right hand. They were fingerless and sparsely padded. Mixed martial arts gloves. And sparsely padded even for MMA.

I let out a laugh. “Are You fucking serious with these, Kid?”

“Yup,” He said. “It’s My price for listening to your questions.”

I noted that He hadn’t said “answering your questions.” And, I found the disparity in capitalization galling.

“Don’t you wanna know how you measure up?”

Alright. I had boxers on under my jeans. An appropriately named style of underwear. I unbuckled my belt as a way of accepting His challenge.

“First, I gotta know You’ve got answers to my questions. Did You know a guy named Chuck Oliver? A private eye?”

He grinned with a sickly coyness. “Sure, I knew him. And, he knew Me. Just like you’re about to know Me.” He considered it. “Just with a different emphasis.”

Different emphasis? I had a hard time getting a read on this Guy. But, I kept stripping, shoes off, socks off.

“How we gonna do this?” I wasn’t sure if the plural merited a capital W.

“What do you mean?”

I pulled the rain-damp red tee over my head and flung it at the floor. “What rules?”

He grinned. He shrugged. “What rules?”

A different emphasis indeed. Alright then, Kid. I climbed into the ring.

He traced the blade of His upper teeth with His tongue. Fuck that grin. I wanted to bloody it. From some unseen sound system, the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage kicked in with its gritty thump. Hell, yeah. I was on board to make this angel my Bitch.

With a cocky turn of His head, He said: “Let’s dance.”

He started bobbing, pumping His fists, rocking His hips, bouncing on the balls of His bare feet. Oh, He was fast alright, and showing me how fast. I was not so fast. And, although we were about the same size, I did not want to bet that my 37-year-old human muscles would match His 20-something angel muscles.

He was pumping His fists a lot, but I could tell from the way He was bouncing—knees a little too high and hips a little too cocked—that His opener would be to slam His thigh into my groin. I felt a rush of normality, a sudden certainty that I could read Him. Oh yeah, He was gearing up to land that leg in my crotch.

I decided to let Him. I leaned into His first lunge sideways and sure enough I felt a sick, hot pain right beside my left nut. Jesus Christ, He hit hard. Knowing it was coming didn’t help much. But, I used the momentum of the impact to put my left elbow smack into His jaw. As hard as I guessed an angel could take it. Which meant as hard as I could give it.

He wasn’t expecting a left. He crumpled like a rug and hit the stage with a thump.

My own bounce eased off like a dropped basketball. He was just laying there, not moving. I came to rest on my heels, and He was still just laying there. Jesus. That was over fast.

I nudged Him with my bare foot. “Hey, Kid.” Nothing.

I nudged Him, a little harder. His chest wasn’t moving. His throat wasn’t throbbing where it should’ve been. He was a sandbag. His lower lip was slack, and so was mine. His was bleeding. Christ, I’d killed Him. I didn’t think I’d hit Him that hard. Christ.

Then, the damnedest thing happened. He shook, curls bouncing in time with the grinding guitar. The golden coils turned to starlight, spun and wrapped around His entire body. In a flash of amber sparkles, He vanished.

The song slammed itself closed.

I killed Him. I killed It. Fuck me. I’d never killed anyone by accident before. I stared at the empty space in the ring. There was no body. No evidence. The guilt sank in deeper at how easy it would be to cover up. I didn’t want to cover it up, but with no evidence how would I even take the blame? I should report it someone, right? Or, Someone. But Who?

A voice cracked the silence like thunder.

“Well, hello there.”

A dude stood in the doorway wearing matching trousers and suit jacket cut from green camouflage cloth. His hair was dyed a punkish teal color. A Dude? His lips were also dark green, like goth lipstick. His lips were a little too full for a dude. I wondered for a moment if He was a lesbian, as I had assumed the DA was. Or just a cross-dresser. But, in which direction? I caught myself looking at His chest and hips for clues.

My mind was broken. I couldn’t even get a read on this angel’s gender, if It had one. I glanced at the empty space where the Kid’s body had vanished.

“Looking for Someone else?” He or She snarked at me. “I thought I heard someone call My name.”

“I, um… What is Your name?” I asked stupidly.

“Calamity Joe,” He said with a green smirk. I decided weakly that It was indeed a He. Calamity Joe? Did He mean to say Calamity Jane? He laughed at how farmisht I was, reading me way better than I could read Him. “I’m kidding. That’s your name. My name is Misfortune.”

I was annoyed suddenly. “Nobody called Your name.”

He glanced at the empty ring. “Didn’t they?”

Did this angel know I had just killed one of His kind? I tried to recall anything in Oliver’s notes that would help. Maybe He had appeared as an answer to my question. Is that how angels worked? Maybe, my mind fumbled, I should confess to Him what I had done.

“Gum?” He held out a pack.

“No thanks.”

“Your funeral.” He popped a stick in His mouth and chewed. The bite of mint filled the room.

I decided to backtrack to the point when I stepped into Pentapolis. Before all the insanity. “Where is everyone?” I closed my eyes and repeated, with the proper emphasis: “Where is Everyone?”

He nodded as if He had been waiting for the question. “In the penthouse. Downstairs.”

“Wait, what? Penthouse?”

He grinned at my confusion. “The Lowly of Lowlies. That’s where you were trying to go, right?”

I needed to get back on track. Back to basics. “I’m here to investigate the death of private detective Charles Roland Oliver.”

“I’ll show you downstairs,” He said, nodding over His shoulder toward the rear exit. “I like the elevator ride.”

“Alright,” I said numbly. “Thanks.”

“But first, hot stuff,” He added with a wink that threw me off again, “put your clothes back on.”

The building’s elevator was as sci-fi as the gym, brass-tinted doors that vanished as we stepped toward them. Inside, a holographic screen sizzled into being an inch from the wall and listed a host of options. Misfortune tapped it with beringed fingers that made me look at my own hands. I still had the MMA gloves on.

Little bars on the screen lit up, bright green with the word “PENTHOUSE” in white and a string of darker green bars for the floors we’d be passing. I noted the names of the Sephirot in barely legible gray letters. The elevator doors reappeared.

“You looked perplexed.” I guess I had been staring at the screen. “You were expecting something else?”

“I dunno. A celestial ladder? Flaming chariot?”

He grinned. “But not a floating book with dancing letters of light? You know, Arthur C. Clarke said that any sufficiently—”

“I don’t give a shit what some sci-fi writer said.” I already knew what Clarke said. I just wanted that smart-ass grin to go away.

Misfortune grinned harder, but a one-sided grin this time, as if noting that I was distancing myself from Charles Oliver. It was definitely a shift in our banter. He leaned against the wall beside me, a little too close, and turned His head to one side. “You married, hot stuff?”

Shit. Perhaps the wrong shift in our banter. Was He flirting with me? If so, flattering, but I didn’t want to give Him the wrong idea.

“I was. She,” I leaned hard on the pronoun, “left me at my parents’ funeral.”

“I knew,” Misfortune said, almost apologetically. “It’s kinda My thing.”

I guess it would be, considering His name. Hey, maybe I was starting to get the hang of this angel stuff.  I suddenly wished I’d let the boxer tell me His name before I murdered Him. Even if I wanted to confess, I wouldn’t know Who to name as my victim.

Misfortune nudged me bro-like with an elbow. “Sorry. I was just making small talk.”

“I’m still getting my bearings,” I said. “What are You, like an archetype? A metaphor?”

“Me? Or Us?”

“You all, I guess.”

His eyelids dropped enough that I could see olive eye-shadow. “You know the fable of the Green Knight? Gets his head chopped off but keeps living?”

Fucking knights again. I glanced to the screen for some sign indicating the floor we were passing. There was nothing. It was gone.

“I’m not really a big fan of Christian fantasy. But the guy whose death I’m looking into was. You know him? A privateer named Charles Oliver?”

“Oh yeah. Chuck was real popular around here.” He cocked His head to the side. “For a time.”

“Speaking of time, how much longer to the Penthouse?”

He looked annoyed. “It takes as long as it needs to.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Maybe that sounded too rough. He was behaving now, after all. “Seriously, I’m new to all this.”

“It’s okay, Joe. So, tell me something about your wife maybe I don’t know.”

Jesus, with the small talk. Alright, Dude. I’ll give you chit-chat if You want.

“Ex-wife.” I leaned on the ex. “She was Korean-American, second generation. But, also Jewish.”

Misfortune gave me a blank face.

“Not all Jews are from Israel. There’s this thing called conversion. Ask me about the Khazars.”

He looked bored. “I don’t give a shit about the Khazars.”

Fuck it. Maybe I should give Him something He’d appreciate. Something painfully Misfortunate, if that’s what it took to get the elevator ride over. Which Sefirot were we passing? Severity? Beauty?

I could tell him about the honey lion. The empty look in His eyes when my elbow connected with His jaw. The way He’d landed heavy, like a sack of shit. I felt my throat close up. Those sickening seconds when I couldn’t get a read on whether I’d killed Him or not.

I tried to swallow. It was hard. It felt like the saliva was rising up into my eyes.

That deathly slack mouth as He faded in an amber whirl. Off to oblivion. Or, wherever it was that angels went.

I felt dizzy. I decided to just keep on about my ex-wife: “She once told me my mother would die before my father because my middle toe’s longer than my big toe. Some kind of Korean superstition.”

His green face brightened. “That’s neat.”

“Joke was on her.” I tried to smile and failed. “They both died at the same time, in the car accident I was supposed to die in.”

“Yeah?” He said, with a nod. Misfortune would probably know that, too, I figured. I suspected I wasn’t really holding up my end of the conversation. Whatever. We had time to kill. Might as well kill that, too.

“There was a guy. A Neo-Nazi thug I shot in the head to keep him from killing my partner at the time. I thought I ended the guy, only he lived. Had a nasty scar on his face, though. Right under his left eye.”

“There you go,” He said. “I knew you had some small talk in you.”

Small talk? I was confessing an awful mistake. I kill I should’ve made, but didn’t. Only to keep from confessing a kill I shouldn’t have made, but did.

“Anyway,” I said, trying not to remember the Kid’s empty amber eyes. The gloves seemed tight around my fists. “The guy walked on a technicality. Which, I don’t begrudge. The law is the law.”

“You’re a real straight shooter.” He nodded with lowered lids. Straight shooter? Was this another homoerotic flirt? Or was He teasing me about my shooting? I could not get a read on this fucking angelic banter.

“So, one day my father’s car was in the shop, and I let him borrow mine. Long story short, this gang-banger I failed to take out thought he was taking me out. But it wasn’t me, it was them.”

“I would love to say that I’m sorry, Joe,” Misfortune frowned. “But, this is right up My alley. I hope you can forgive Me.”

“Not Your fault,” I said. I gave Him the side-eye. “Or maybe it is.”

“She left you at the funeral?”

There it was again. That solicitous air. Was He milking me for His name? It was all so very Misfortunate. To hell with it. I cracked my neck and gave Him a square look. Just give it to Him. I could feel my mouth get tight. I tried to relax, ended up just nodding.

“I went on a bender.” I stared at the elevator’s weird, holographic brass-tinted door. “Was slop-drunk for three days straight.”

He was grinning, but also biting a smear in the green gloss on His lower lip.

“Straight through to the funeral. I guess she was a little put off by that.”

“That’s kinda the opposite of what a detective is supposed to do.”

“I’m not a de—” I closed my eyes and shook my head. “What do you mean, opposite?”

“According to the stereotype, you’re supposed to go on a drinking binge after your partner dies, not after you save him.”

According to the stereotype, He says. Sounded like Oliver. Maybe, since I was looking for good old Charles, this Green Knight was echoing him back to me. Or, maybe, being archetypes themselves, angels could only see us mortals through the filter of stereotypes. He was just seeking something He could feel. His green tongue showed for an instant. Seeking some Misfortune he could taste.

“Yeah, I guess.” The elevator’s futuristic whoosh was suddenly noisy. Where the fuck was this penthouse? I decided to push toward closure. “Anyway, he wasn’t my partner after that. I haven’t had a partner since then. Or a drink, since the divorce.”

“My funeral,” He said with a friendly frown, acknowledging an end to my drunken misfortunes. It was an odd way to commiserate. But, I appreciated it.

“What happened to your partner?”

I shrugged. “He went on to make Detective. His name’s Álvaro. Kind of an asshole. He outranks me now.” I felt the bile rise in my throat.

He grinned, ecstatically, and closed His eyes. His body shivered, a little too much in those unreadable hips and that unreadable chest. His face was orgasmic. G-d damn it. I’d fed Him a final thrust of Misfortune. Fucking Dude had maneuvered me.

Whatever.

The elevator came to a stop with a jolt and a metallic clank. Of course. Misfortune opened His eyes and blinked a lazy, satisfied blink at me. I felt my mouth tighten again. He smiled at that, stood on His feet, and tapped the screen, which had reappeared. The door evaporated with a breathy hiss.

“Thanks, Calamity Joe,” He said. “Say hi to the Boss for Me.”

I stepped away from Him and out of the elevator. “The Boss?”

“Mine,” He cooed, “and yours.” He smiled like He was having another joke at my expense. The door reappeared with a crackle, and I was alone.

I suddenly wished I’d read Oliver’s notebook more carefully.

GO TO PART 3

2 Comments

  1. I was really into this installment. The suspense is building. I can’t wait to read on. Love the change ups you’ve done with the characters, also how the story line transitions smoothly from the first book into this book. You have a remarkable talent.

  2. I admit that with the first chapter, I wasn’t so sure that I liked Joe. After this chapter, I’m certain I do.

    His voice is so different from Chuck Oliver’s that it initially came as a bit of a shock to me. However, seeing how the two distinct characters exist in the same world with totally different perspectives lends an additional (and comical) realness to the story.

    Can’t wait to see where it goes, next.

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