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Heroin and Hell: A FAH Mystery

Updated: Apr 15

#FAHnARTChallenge: A FAHn Novel in 31 Days

I have set myself a challenge of writing a FAHn novel in 31 days. I wanted this to be manageable [haha], so each chapter will be just one page [between 600 - 750 words], single spaced, 12 pt font, and will use the word of the day in some way that is integrated into the storyline. Readers will see the word in bold, so that it is easily recognizable. Each day, at no particular point, but certainly before midnight Central time in the US, I will upload a new chapter to this blog post.


This photograph (above) of Arms is by the Dublin photographer Luca Truffarelli. Please visit his website to see more of his work: lucatruffarelli.com. The image was modified by our resident researcher in the FAHn Facebook group, Irma Alejandra Gomez. She tells me she used a "peeling paint" filter to add texture to Arms's face and adjusted the exposure "to pop the highlights and deepen the shadows that were already present in the original version." . I think the photo came out brilliantly and suits the plot of this fahn fiction story so well. If you're interested in learning more about the fahn group or about FAH trot on over there and join because Alejandra has dug up a lot of fabulous FAH info that she regularly shares with us, much to our joy!


Some background: this is a Swine's detective agency mystery. The main characters are Foil, Arms, Hog and Mildred, their trusty "girl Friday," and a whole host of new characters. The time is 1954 and the setting is Los Angeles, California. If you want to read the original novel that I wrote about the Swine's Detective Agency then go to "Detective Novels" on this website and you'll see The Case of Warehouse 1. Red Ribbon Murders is the second novel in the series that I'm writing, but that is still a work in progress and has not been finished yet.


TRIGGER WARNINGS: references (some blatant, some implied) to rape, drug use, physical abuse, sex work, and racial slurs (which are appropriate for the time period.)


#FAHnARTChallenge Day 1: Artist


Prologue

Demons


Arms lay in a dreamy haze on something soft. Waves of euphoric pleasure wafted over him and he felt his body flood with intense warmth. He was in another time and place, for someone was lifting his head and giving him a sweet liquid. He drank and gently settled into the scented cushions. His eyes were closed, he couldn’t bring himself to open them. He tried, but failed, falling deeper into a drugged stupor.


In his visions, he saw her as she stood in the golden fields. It was always her, always the one woman who he had loved long ago. She moved in and out of sight. There she was again, beautiful but distant, a memory that never faded. She was an artist and painted pictures that were so real he felt he could step into them and walk to the ends of the earth with her. Now, he reached out to touch her, or so he thought, but could not grasp the figure. In his frustration, he moaned, and the same someone who had given him the sweet elixir, now dragged a cool washcloth across his forehead with feeble care.


He lay in semi-darkness, lost to the world, to reality, to friends, family, even foes. A woman with bedraggled blonde hair and a tight-fitting dress knelt next to him, staring at the man who she had been told to watch, to care for, and to do that other thing. She didn’t want to think about it now as she looked into the face with the closed eyes and the shock of black hair. He was handsome, she could tell that underneath the beaten features, but now he was also sick from the drugs. The poor creature who lay before her was shivering and sweating. He would need more and it was her task to cook the tar-like substance and inject him. The light in the room came from a streetlamp outside one dingy window and the tiny fire that burned underneath the spoon. As she brought the needle out to give him another hit, she felt the oppressive weight of doing something terribly wrong and she hated herself for it.


The heroin was enticing and plentiful; it had been given to her by the men who brought her to this room of pain. Here they visited her regularly and preyed upon her. She was used to the danger of men, having worked the streets for years, but now she was caught and couldn’t get away. Often in cooking the drug, she felt the effects of its potency, even if she didn’t shoot up the mixture herself. She was lightheaded and had an urge to lie down and go to sleep forever. She willed herself to stay alert, but the hours seemed to stretch ahead of her endlessly. She did not know when her captors had dragged the man through the door and dropped him at her feet. She had lost count of her days in captivity.


“Here’s a deadbeat for ‘ya, girlie,” and they laughed at her, as she moved quickly behind the one piece of furniture, a grungy couch, to escape their hands. But on this visit, she was spared because they needed her. They needed her to perform a task, several tasks in fact, and so they didn’t touch her, or not much, but instructed her instead to keep the nameless man drugged. Clumsily, they showed her how and what to do, impatient with her from the start.


“Don’t fuck it up!” one of the two men had growled at her, as if there was even an option to do so.


It was a strange life now that she led, if it was a life at all, for dying seemed a much better alternative to this horrible purgatory of watching over a man she did not know and forcing drugs into his veins. She wanted to stop, to leave him alone, but the men who came menaced her and forced themselves upon her so that she could only do what they commanded. In very quiet moments when she was completely alone in the dead of night with the man on the ground, she lay down next to him, feeling his warm body against hers and longing to be back on the streets again.


#FAHnARTChallenge Day 2: Costume


Chapter 1

The Swine’s Agency


7 days earlier . . . August 16, 1954


Mildred was wearing her usual costume, or at least that is what Hog liked to call it, for she was flamboyant with color and on this Monday morning the flowers on her dress seemed to jump out in their neon brightness. Foil Arms and Hog spent their days meeting with clients, following up leads, interviewing suspects, and hunting down information on the streets of Los Angeles. As their all ‘round “girl Friday” Mildred provided stability and a sense of cheery lightness in an otherwise very dreary world of crime. The detectives valued her competence, thoroughness, organizational skills, and her reliability. She was a woman of charm and many talents; and she was a woman with her own distinctive style. Her hair was especially striking, as it was dyed platinum blonde, the large curls framing her face like an oversized halo. She was of indiscriminate age, though clearly leaning into her 60’s, and she had a flair for baking that kept the detectives well satisfied on a daily basis.


She arrived to the agency that morning singing to herself in a slightly off-key voice. It was a popular melody she had heard on the radio and she hummed the tune as she surveyed the chaotic piles on her desk, left by busy detectives who toiled away 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. It was Arms who demanded that the detectives keep meticulous notes on their cases, but it was up to Mildred to organize everything, type up the messy and rushed handwriting and file it all away in a timely and orderly manner. The haphazard nature of the piles indicated to her that it had been a busy weekend for the three men.


As she readied for the day, she could hear Arms’s blues music floating down the hall to her office, the twang of the steel guitar reminding her that he would surely be nursing a glass of Famous Grouse whiskey and working on a case. He did not want to be disturbed. The door off the alley opened and Mildred heard steps coming down the hallway. She had worked for the detectives for so long that she recognized each man’s distinctive footfall and she knew that Foil was arriving. He was a jocular character who loved to tease and make her laugh. He rounded the corner into her office, bright green eyes scanning the room quickly, and said, “good morning, Mildred! You’re lookin’ lovely today!”


He said this every time he saw her, but it always made her feel appreciated. She was certainly confident in her own skin, but it was nice to hear the compliment nonetheless. She reached behind her and brought out a plate full of brownies and watched Foil’s eyes light up. “Yes, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” thought Mildred for the millionth time. “Here you are sir, fresh this morning, and ready for the taking,” and she placed the platter down before him.


“You do know how to spoil a man, Mildred,” said Foil, laughing naturally at his own observation. He looked so like the child she had lost, her son Ronald, that she had felt a strong and admiring affinity for Foil from the day she started to work for the agency. In other words, Foil was and always had been her favorite.


Hog rolled in a bit later looking like a man well cared for by a devoted wife. “Good morning, Ms. Flynn,” said Hog, ever the professional. Though Arms and Foil always called her Mildred, there was something that kept Hog from crossing that personal line. She had gotten used to him and his different ways in the office. He was, after all, one of the best detectives in LA and he seemed to compel respect from everybody, no matter what strata of society they came from. Mildred was equally as professional, but there was a twinkle in her eye as she glanced at the plate of brownies and lifted it towards, him. “Good morning, sir,” she said kindly.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 3: Phone


Chapter 2

A Beginning . . .

6 days earlier . . . August 17th


Foil’s phone rang in his office on Tuesday morning and he heard his friend George on the other end of the line. This was Sergeant George Theobald of the Los Angeles Police Department, head of the narcotics squad.


“Hey Finegan, how ya’ been?” and Foil had an immediate feeling of camaraderie and warmth.


“George! Good to hear from you. It’s been a few years. How’s Ruth?” asked Foil, unsurprised at his friend’s sudden surfacing after all this time.


“Yeah, she’s good as gold. Say, listen, Finegan, I got an important case on my hands and I’m putting together a group of men to work with me on a dope smuggling ring connected to Europe, but coming in through Mexico. We’ve had a string of low-level drug dealers shot and killed execution style on the south side of LA. The bodies float up at the port, so they’re being dumped somewhere in the water. You interested?”


This question seemed pointless to Foil. He and George went way back, growing up in the same neighborhood and going to school together. Their mothers were friends and there was a closeness between the men that was like brothers. They went to war together too and though they were in separate divisions, they both returned with the same memories, bonded forever by the pain, trauma and grief of fighting in the trenches. George had married Ruth and had a bundle of kids. Foil was still single, chasing skirts to fill a void, but the two men remained connected and close.


“Yeah, sure, whataya got for me?” he asked, ready for anything George had to throw his way.


“I was thinkin’ maybe your friends, the other two detectives, could be in on it too. We need as many good men as we can get on the ground, undercover. It’s a drug sting we’re planning and while my squad can get at the big guys, we’ve got a lack of thinkin' man power out on the streets. This is unusual, you see, but I trust you and you’d be doing me a favor.”


He paused, waiting to hear whether Foil had anything to say. “Yeah, I’m listening. I gots to talk it over with the boys, but I don’t see why not. It’s a bit slow now and . . .” he was thinking as he spoke about the many cases that they had. It wasn’t exactly slow, but this was an opportunity to work with the LAPD narcotics squad and his friend. Foil had always yearned to do that kind of work and this seemed too good to pass on, so he made the decision right then and there for the three of them. “Yeah, George, we’re in!”


Foil wasn’t too worried about Hog, he was always game for anything, but Arms might be a bit pissed off about a decision made for all three of them without a discussion. Foil would take that chance when he spoke to them later.


“Great! I knew I could count on you! Good to know that I’ll have the three of you involved. You’ve definitely made a reputation for yourselves in the city!” declared George confidently.


“Yeah?” asked Foil, feeling like this statement could go either way on the spectrum of what a reputation might be like in LA.


“Nah, all good! Don’t worry,” and George laughed heartily into the phone.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 4: Cleaning


Chapter 3

Tension

Tuesday, 12:00 noon.


“George said to come down to the precinct this afternoon and he would explain the case. You can meet the rest of the men in the division and he’ll get our assignments in order. He’s willing to pay our fee and it’s a good opportunity for us to expand our business. Hey, Arms, you always said we needed to grow, well this is our chance,” declared Foil in his most convincing tone yet.


They were in Hog’s office talking about George’s proposition. The conversation, which had started out mild enough, had slowly grown more contentious and heated. Hog, as Foil suspected, was interested in being involved. He liked the idea of going undercover and being out on the streets; that was exciting detective work and he had no problem accepting the case. Plus, they were assured their fee, so it was a no brainer for him. But it was Arms who was stalling and keeping the focus on their current cases and the responsibilities that they were carrying now.


Mildred could hear the men’s raised voices as she worked and it was getting harder and harder for her to concentrate. She didn’t like when they argued. It was very rare that the detectives ever had a disagreement, but when they did it could get intense pretty fast. She rose from her desk and walked to the other side of her office, a few short steps, and stood by her door listening.


“I think it’s a bad idea,” she heard Arms’s voice sail down the hall, raised in exasperation. He sounded on edge and irritated, never a good sign. She surveyed the paperwork scattered and in disarray, her piles had toppled over and fallen on the floor. She started cleaning up, but continued to listen to the men talk. It made her nervous when the detectives argued. They always seemed to work it out, but this time she wasn’t so sure. Arms sounded angry when he responded to Foil in the next moment.


“Fuck, Foil, this ain’t no walk in the park, it’s the narcotics squad. We know how those guys operate, they get us in, we do the grunt work, they get the glory. I’m not havin’ it, I tell ya’! George is a good guy, I ain’t challengin’ you there, but what about them other guys,” and Arms’s voice sounded dangerously on edge.


“Okay, calm down Arms.” It was Hog talking now and Mildred could hear that he was going to step in and mediate. She imagined Arms glaring at Hog; she sensed unpleasant tension in the air. There was nothing in this world that Arms hated more than being told to calm down when he knew he needed to do just that. “Yeah?” Arms spat out, “whataya’ got in mind?”


Arms was an ornery sort and didn’t like surprises. Foil had sprung the new case on him as a done deal and he didn’t like that either, but he couldn’t argue with Foil that working with the LAPD might help them expand their business. He just had a hunch it was trouble and he couldn’t shake that feeling. He didn’t mention this to Foil or Hog.


“Let’s give it a try, Arms. Just meet the guys, see what’s up. Hear from George himself. We can’t lose there. We go and make our decision after the case is laid out in front of us. Whataya’ say?” Hog eyed his friend and could see that Arms was relaxing a bit, the fight easing out of him.


“Yeah, okay, I’ll listen to what George has to say.” He sounded resigned, but had a nagging feeling that this new case could be trouble. He just couldn’t pinpoint what kind.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 5: (Protest) Signs


Chapter 4

Police & Politics


Late Tuesday afternoon


The room at the downtown LAPD station was hot and stuffy and full of men. Some were dressed in their uniforms, others in street clothes. Up at the front was George Theobald, Sergeant, laying out the parameters of the case and the assignments. It was more complicated than Foil realized when he was on the phone with his friend, and now he began to understand that Arms may have had a point about the grunt work side of things.


The three detectives would be involved in gathering evidence about the dealer murders that had taken place on the south side of the city and that were, as yet, unsolved. They would likely be going undercover as well and trying to integrate into various neighborhoods. It was dangerous work, but they were perfectly suited to the job.


George gestured to them as they stood in their suits at the back of the room, “let me introduce the detectives of the Swine’s agency. They’ve agreed to help us with this case. You men know this is one of the biggest drug smuggling rings that LA has ever encountered and we need good men on the street. Well, these men are the best!” and he let the words hang in the air with emphasis. The heads of the trained police officers turned to look at Foil Arms and Hog, the eyes sizing them up, and then they turned back to their leader, accepting his assessment of these new men as true and absolute.


George continued talking, “the murders have shocked communities and put fear into the hearts of local citizens who usually help us. People are scared and we have to do something about that!”


Theobald was a good Sergeant, his men worked faithfully with him, and he ran his unit fairly and honestly. But none of that helped when the public didn’t see the murders ending or the drugs being taken off the streets. Drug dealing in their neighborhoods was bad enough, but dealers getting shot just exacerbated the fear. Worse still, it was young people who were being targeted to sell and to deal. Kids, really, babies getting addicted to the worst street drugs, heroin, cocaine, opium, it was all out there like a plague in the communities. Cheap and easy to get, plentiful, and exceedingly dangerous.


And it wasn’t in the white, wealthy neighborhoods that drugs flowed, but in the poor, black areas of the city. This is where the drug kingpins sold the junk quick and fast. The mafia bosses knew what they were doing when they preyed on the areas where the most vulnerable and desperate lived. Already race relations between these neighborhoods and the police were poor, but the anguished cry from the parents whose children were becoming addicts was beginning to be heard by state representatives in the senate and these political prowlers saw an opportunity to capitalize on the pain of others and push through their tough on crime laws. The outcome of these measures would never benefit the people who were already suffering, but that didn’t matter in the world of politics or to the power these opportunists hoped to gain.*


On that Tuesday afternoon, a feeling of unrest was palpable when Foil Arms and Hog arrived at the downtown police station. People carrying protest signs declaring their lack of faith in the police marched in a circle on the sidewalks; parents at their wit’s end, church organizers capitalizing on the moment of unrest, and the press made up the crowds.


Arms looked at Foil and Hog as they walked inside, “as I said, this ain’t no walk in the park. We’ll be working on somebody else’s case now, we gotta be careful how we tread.”


*What I'm describing here concerning the mafia, drug rings, black neighborhoods, the young people who were being targeted and the political opportunists taking aim in the state senate to push through tough on crime laws actually happened in Los Angeles in the early 1950's. This is part of California's drug history.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 6: 8:00 AM


Chapter 5

Suspicions


5 days earlier . . . August 18th, Wednesday morning


Arms was at the LA port at exactly 8:00 AM to meet with senior officer Richard Hendricks, one of the men on George’s team who had been in the room the previous day and who was heading up the investigation into the dealer murders. Arms had been chosen to work with Hendricks because he was so familiar with the goings on at the port, having been involved in several previous cases of his own, one most recently in which he had to search for a kidnapped young woman in Warehouse 1. He thought about that case when he drove up to park at the port gates.


He was of two minds already about the dealer murders, having been briefed on some of the details. Either someone wanted a cut of the drugs on the inside of the mafia ring and saw this as an easy way to stake their claim, or this could be a vigilante serial killer in the neighborhoods, doing the job he believed the police should do. Either way, Arms felt that the murders would continue if they didn’t move more quickly. The fact that bodies were floating up in the vicinity of port ships said to him that they were deliberately being dumped there for a reason. George’s team seemed to believe that the bodies were being dumped elsewhere, but Arms knew enough about sailing to know that the tide waters didn’t carry bodies like that towards land, but instead would take them out to sea. They would be swept away if dumped farther from the port. No, from his point of view someone was killing systematically and bringing the bodies to this area on purpose.


The police, he thought, had lagged in gathering information and whatever leads they had, dried up too fast. It seemed like someone was getting in the way of their investigation. His uneasy feeling about being involved returned as he looked around and waited for Hendricks to show up. He had met the officer the day before and hadn’t taken a liking to him. But then he was slow to trust anyone. He did trust Foil, however, and had decided to work with the LAPD and George mostly on Foil’s insistence and belief that they would be doing some good for people who didn’t typically get much of anything in this world. The negro communities struggled and too many times were ignored by the police. Arms saw this as an opportunity to change that and to be involved in something that mattered. As he learned about the case and the devastation the drugs were having on neighborhoods, children especially, this is what drove him forward, more than the idea of growing his own business. *


Hendricks was already late when he rolled up in his police cruiser and parked. Watching him get out of his car, Arms once again had a feeling that he would rather be working with anyone else than this police officer. Still, a job needed to be done, so he set aside his annoyance to focus on gathering evidence and learning more about the case.


“Mr. McKenna, pleased to be working with ‘ya,” said Hendricks, as they shook hands, “it’s good to have you on board.” He seemed friendly enough, but he was in his police uniform and Arms knew that this was the first mistake of the day.


Arms preferred to work alone or with one of his friends, but not a stranger whose techniques, strategies, and quirks he was unfamiliar with and didn’t want to learn about any time soon. He could tolerate Hendricks for now, getting as much information out of him as he possibly could about the dealers themselves, the weapons used, how and where their bodies were found in the waters. But after that, he wanted to be alone to peruse the scene and come to grips with his own theories, whether they had changed or not. Anyway, a man in a police uniform strolling about the port of Los Angeles wasn’t going to get any real information out of anyone. That was detecting 101.


*I'm using the word "negro" on purpose here because that is language that would have been used at this point in time in California and in the U.S. at large.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 6: Laughter


Chapter 6

Troubled Waters


Wednesday, late afternoon, moving into early evening.


Arms signed off with Hendricks and walked to his car. Getting in, he sat, dissatisfied with the information that he had gathered from the officer. Hendricks was holding back and he didn’t know why. “Perhaps he doesn’t trust me,” thought Arms to himself, “but then I don’t trust him either, so we’re square on that one.” There was something about the man that he still didn’t like, but similar to his earlier hunch about the entire case, he couldn’t quite put his finger on what was bothering him.


He didn’t drive away. He wanted another look at one of the crime scenes again. They had walked to a section of the port where an inlet formed naturally in the waterways. This is where three of the five murder victims had been found. It was clear to Arms that no human body would naturally drift in the water to that point. “So, the bodies must have been placed there deliberately, but why?” he asked himself. He hadn’t asked Hendricks this question, but had waited for him to offer his own analysis. None came.


Arms made a decision and got out of his car, trusty brown fedora in hand, and walked towards the port gates for the second time that day. He heard far away laughter and knew that some workers were still on the premises, but most had cleared out, going to eat before the night shift men came to unload cargo off the giant ships docked and waiting. The day had already been a long one for Arms, yet despite his uneasy feeling about Hendricks, the man had provided extensive and helpful details about the victims, though no particular reasons why the murders were occurring. Arms found this exclusion of analysis both annoying and troubling. Hendricks seemed not to want to make connections, only provide details of evidence. It was an awkward, rather stilted conversation, if one could call it that at all, but slowly Arms started to get a sense of what the police found at the scenes of death.


First, all the victims were men and black and young, probably no more than 16. They had been shot in the back of the head at close range, while selling drugs. The murders had occurred in daylight and at night, so that there was no corresponding time frame in which to make connections between the victims on that level, it was all haphazard. The weapon used was a military style Beretta, rare, from Italy, so this backed up George’s evidence about the drugs coming from Europe and the ties to the mafia. When found, the victims had little identifying information on them, though they were fully clothed. Through dental records the police were able to trace names, ages, and family members. A disturbing fact was that the bodies had been tied with rope; they weren’t hanged, though. Not lynched, nothing around the neck to suggest hanging before or after being shot, but the skin of the wrists and ankles were clearly maimed and it seemed that the victims were hog tied. In the case notes, which Hendricks did show to Arms, he read that this had happened after death, but it was brutal and unnecessary.


The victims were treated little better than animals and then thrown in the water to rot. The first body was more decomposed than the rest because of how long it sat, stagnating in the heat of the summer. Arms ruminated on various scenarios and questions about the case. The shooting victims had come from neighborhoods that were nowhere near the port. How were they transported? And what was the purpose of bringing them to water. Perhaps the murderer assumed that the bodies would be washed away. But after the first victim was found, why did he return and dump more bodies in the same spot? This is what Arms needed to look at again, the inlet that Hendricks had showed him. He seemed to remember seeing something, a rope? A frayed piece of cloth? In the moment, he thought it might be a trick of the eye, but now he was convinced that there was a clue left behind by the police.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 8: Dreams & Nightmares


Chapter 7

Shanghaied

August 18th, Wednesday late evening.


Arms was being watched, but he didn’t know it. A man stood not too far off in the changing shadows of the early evening and took note that Arms didn’t drive away from the port after he parted from the police officer, but instead he had sat in his car for at least an hour. This scout had all the patience in the world. He had one job to do and he was being paid very well. He was to watch the man who had arrived that morning at the port, a man whose distinct description he had received from someone on the inside, and never let him out of his sight. He was close enough to Arms to hear officer Hendricks address him as “Mr. McKenna” and now he had a name to go with the physical description. Throughout the day, as the two men walked here and there, talking, the scout had tailed them and kept an eye out for both men’s movements.


Now the scout watched as Arms walked towards the port gates again and he made sure to follow him stealthily, sticking to the growing darkness of the building’s shadows and when out in the open, waiting for Arms to get far enough ahead that he wouldn’t notice or hear a footfall behind him. As an ex-military man, the scout was trained to be invisible. He also carried a gun.


Arms made a beeline for the inlet. The scout watched him and knew that he would have to be closer to his mark to incapacitate him, as instructed. Arms, oblivious to the person who hovered near him, was lost in his own thoughts about the case. He was meant to meet with Foil, Hog and George back at the downtown police station that evening to share their findings. He had a hunch that he could discover more if he went back to where the bodies were fished out by the police divers. The scout meanwhile was alert and determined; his job was to watch and to act only if there was a need. Now he saw the need to act had arisen.


Arms walked up to one section of the large inlet and stopped. This was not a small body of water, but a fairly vast area in which ships often docked to unload cargo or pick up passengers on cruise liners. He was only interested in one section, one spot, in fact, where the murder victims had been found and where he was sure he had spotted something floating in the water when he was there earlier with officer Hendricks. Then he saw it, a piece of frayed rope, almost hidden among some algae and weeds. There was the clue that the police had missed.


And then Arms stopped thinking, for the scout had come up behind him and hit him with the butt of his gun, hard, at the base of his skull. He dropped to the ground, stunned, but still conscious; the moment felt like a dream, everything moving in slow motion. He tried to find his own gun, reaching out in desperation, but it had fallen and been kicked away by his attacker. Struggling to rise, he was knocked in the back of his knees, toppling hard, hitting his face on the ground and feeling blood ooze from his nose. Still, he tried to stand, but he was at a disadvantage already, for he had been completely caught off guard, so that he was shocked and reeling. The scout continued to ratchet up the violence towards Arms with several hard kicks to his stomach, forcing him to ball up into a fetal position to protect himself. The ambush was quick, sudden, and intensely brutal.


Then he felt something sharp and stinging enter the side of his neck and the world swam in front of him in a hazy warmth. His last nightmare vision was of a man’s heavy boot directed at his body, and then nothing. The scout picked Arms up like a heavy sandbag, threw him over his shoulder and walked to where his car sat, hidden. His instructions after this were straightforward and simple. Bring the man to an abandoned building near the LA port, leave him in the room with the girl, and disappear forever.


*I realize that the word dream and nightmare should be plurals, but I'm taking a writer's poetic license to use them as singular words in this context. Close enough, I say!


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 9: Food


Chapter 8

On The Hunt

August 18th, early Wednesday morning (same day and time period Arms is at the LA port)


Hog walked along the steep, concrete embankment that ran next to the Los Angeles river. The sun beat down on him even at this early hour of the morning, the August heat relentless. Out in the open with no trees around him or shade of any kind, he realized that wearing a suit to do this job was probably a mistake. He was heading towards a woodsy area where he knew homeless men, drug addicts, the jobless, or anyone else who just wanted to disappear, slept rough. There they could hide from everybody, including the police, who often patrolled the river looking to roust people from makeshift camps and send them on their way. As Hog looked out in front of him, he spotted up ahead the beginnings of the green bushes and low growing trees that butted up against an overpass crossing the river. He hoped that he had the right place because he didn’t fancy traipsing too far along the river that day only to come up with nothing.


In the narcotics squad briefing room the day before, Hog had volunteered to find an old informant who he felt could help with the case, someone he had worked with before and he trusted implicitly. But George was uncertain and, actually downright suspicious of bringing in anyone from the outside that he didn’t know.


“I’ll personally vouch for him, he’s a good ‘un,” said Hog, feeling the pressure to keep the case running smoothly.


But George was undeterred, “No, I don’t think it’s a good idea myself” and he turned to Foil, saying “whataya think?”


This was an uncomfortable moment for Foil, who trusted Hog implicitly. He could tell that Hog wasn’t happy about him being asked to make the final decision concerning a lead of Hog’s, so he said, “yeah, I think it will be fine. Hog’s never gone wrong in that department,” and left it at that.


George seemed to take this as approval and all clear from Foil and nodded to Hog, showing that he was okay with this plan after all, but it was a very tense moment for the Swine’s men, who typically worked together with ease. Arms clocked the exchange and registered a feeling of discontent about being involved; he didn’t like having their judgement questioned by George. He saw immediately that this was not an equal partnership and it never would be, but he didn’t say anything, preferring instead to simply observe.


This unpleasant exchange stayed with Hog, as he walked towards the overpass. Of the three detectives in the Swine’s agency, Hog had the most connections out on the streets of LA. He seemed to befriend and grow a coterie of undesirables and wayward souls who ended up working for him in some capacity. Whether he paid them outright was another matter. Sometimes he offered them a place to sleep, other times food, still others only did it for the booze to feed their addictions. Hog stopped short of supplying drugs to anyone, but otherwise, his informants were loyal and traded their own skills for whatever Hog could provide them in their moment of need.


He stopped to wipe his sweating brow with a pocket handkerchief and saw smoke rising up into the sky. He was close to a camp and would have to tread carefully, as Arms had warned him to do when they first arrived at the police station and encountered the protestors. He walked more slowly and took out his gun, just in case there was trouble. Then out of the blue, someone took a pot shot at him and he dove to the ground.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 10: School


Chapter 9

Stinky Pete


Early Wednesday morning continued . . .


Hog lay on the concrete breathing hard; he wasn’t particularly scared, but what passed through his mind were his kids and his wife Laura. They would all be off to school by now, just going about their day, but here he was lying on the ground wondering who would want to shoot at him. Sometimes he marveled at his life, one side was all about adventure, dealing with crime, criminals, and the underbelly of LA, the other side was so normal. At home he had a wife and children who kept him sane and sobered him. And now he thought of them with a deep and satisfying love that filled his heart with fortitude. He still needed to get to the camp to see if he could find his man. He surmised that if he stood up with his hands in the air, he might have a good chance of warding off another bullet. But he wasn’t sure if that was such a good idea.


He lifted his head and thought he could see a man standing not too far off. He wasn’t going to get up, he decided, but would just try to make contact.


“Hey mister! I ain’t the police!” he called, letting his voice ring out across the space between him and the stranger. He could see the man had a gun, a rifle, and he lifted it again; maybe he was going to shoot, maybe he wasn’t, but Hog needed to make sure the man didn't see him as a threat.


But lying on the ground all day wasn’t going to get him anywhere either. Hog made a decision to stand. “I’m getting up now,” he yelled, “don’t shoot! I’ll put my own gun down on the ground. I just want to talk to someone!” He couldn’t tell if the man was listening to him or not. As he moved, he kept his eyes on the gun away in the distance.


“We don’t need no trouble here. We got rights,” the stranger yelled, holding the rifle tight in his grip and against his chest.


Standing fully now, Hog held his hands up to show he was unarmed and decided it was best to leave his gun behind in order to make contact with the stranger. He stepped forward and began to walk slowly towards the camp. The man watched him, the gun still raised. There was definite tension in the air, but Hog sensed that the man wasn’t going to shoot. As he got closer, the man seemed to peer at him with interest and finally recognition. In the next moment, Hog was staring at Stinky Pete who was laughing and shaking his hand.


“My god, man, I thought you was an undercover cop or one of them social workers come to rat us out. They’re everywhere now, always finding our camps and trying to Christianize us with their silly words come from the bible,” and he laughed heartily, looking at Hog out of his good eye, the other one covered with a patch like an old pirate. He was a tall, imposing man of a broad build and a deep, bellowing laugh. It’s a wonder the camp stayed so hidden because Pete’s voice rang out like thunder across the wide river.


“Well, it’s good to see ‘ya Pete! You’re looking shaggier these days. Thanks for missing me with that bullet, the wife and kids would never have forgivin’ ‘ya for mowing me down with your rifle there,” and Hog returned the handshake, heartily.


“You need me then, do ‘ya?” asked Pete, knowingly. “Yeah, got a drug case and some murders to solve; I need some underground information and I think you’re the man to get it for me. Just need to sit and talk for a while, ‘ya got the time?” And Pete laughed again, “time is all I got!” and he turned to walk into the woods with Hog following behind.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 11: Habit


Chapter 10

A Stand Off


Wednesday, early morning moving into mid-day . . .


Walking out of the scorching sun into the shade of the trees and bushes along the river was like moving into another world. It could have been a magical one for a child exploring, but what Hog saw when he passed into the undergrowth was just sadness. The misery of men confronted him as he followed Stinky Pete to his campsite, one of the few that looked decent and well cared for. This was a makeshift place with the detritus of men’s lives scattered around them; tents pitched and sagging, trash strewn haphazardly, men sitting on the ground, leaning against trees, sleeping, eating, shooting up drugs, drinking, pissing into the river, it was all there for a newcomer like Hog to see. He observed it, but simply nodded his head at the various men in the camp, acknowledging them and moving on. Maybe there were 15 or 20 of them, crammed into the darkness of the shade, hiding from the police, social workers, the sun. There was a stench of something rotting, Hog thought old food, more than, let’s say, a body, but he couldn’t be sure. He didn’t want to know. He had an agenda, needed to talk to Pete and deal with the case.


Pete had a campfire going, that was the smoke that Hog saw rising above the trees near the overpass. Hog sat on a makeshift chair and listened to the cars whizzing by above his head. “Here ‘ya go,” and Pete handed him a tin cup with what looked and smelled like coffee, but Hog suspected would taste like something else.


“Thanks,” said Hog and took it, not wanting to offend. This wasn’t his house and he knew enough about Pete to know that any slight would be noticed. “How long ‘ya been here?” asked Hog, making small talk, drinking the brown water, and ignoring the movements of the other men around him.


“Oh, maybe ‘couple months. Come down from the north, where I been a bit. Had a job in construction, but it dried up. I don’t make a habit of stayin’ in one place too long. Lookin’ to move on south soon, so you better get goin’ on what you need,” and Pete looked pointedly at Hog with his one good eye.


“I got a case, it ain’t mine, but the police, the narcotics squad,” and Hog let that hang in the air for a moment.


“You workin’ with the cops now, are ‘ye?” asked Pete with suspicion in his voice. “I ain’t lookin’ for no trouble, Mr. Flanagan, so maybe I ain’t ‘t right man for ‘t’ job,” and he stood up, looking worried and from Hog’s vantage point, larger than life.


“Hey, hold on Pete! It ain’t much, but I got you cleared with the Sergeant. I got your back, ain’t nothin’ goin' to happen to ‘ya! I promise ‘ya that! Nothing!” And now Hog was standing too.


The two men looked at each other. “Listen,” said Hog, “I promise ‘ya, I just need some underground information and yous the man to get it for me. In and out, that’s all I need and then the job’s done. I’ll pay you what you want, just name your price and I’ll get it.”


And to show he was good on his word, he sat down again. In the parlance of negotiations, the man who sat down first was the one who showed his trust to the other. Pete sized up Hog and sat down too. He needed something badly and Hog could get it for him.


“Okay, you gots a deal,” said Pete, and settled back to hear what Hog had to say.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 12: Book


Chapter 11

A Plan & A Gift


Wednesday, very late afternoon . . .


“Dealers are dying,” said Hog. “They’re bein’ shot. Execution style. Youngsters, younger than 16. Negros. In their own neighborhood. What I need from you are names of higher up dealers, men who could be targetin’ these kids. You got ways in, I know you do, and I’m lookin’ for the big men. This is blood money they’re makin’, it ain’t right, ever, kids, it’s kids who are dyin’ . . .” and he trailed off.


Hog could be a hard man, but when it came to young people, he had a big soft spot. He thought of his own son and daughter at home and tried to put himself in the parents’ shoes of the kids who were being gunned down in the street, left for dead, to be found later by friends, relatives, even strangers. Five kids had been murdered so far and Hog knew they would continue unless he could get some definitive information about who was behind these attacks.


Then Pete spoke, “I don’t know about this shootin’ shit, why the kids, the little guy on the street ain’t no threat. He just there to hand off the junk, pick up the money and turn ‘round to sell some more. It don’t seem right, somethin’s up,” and he spat at the ground, sending out a wad of chewing tobacco that hit the earth with a thud.


Then he put some more chaw into his cheek, tucking it behind his tongue where it would sit for the rest of the day. This was a habit that Hog found rather disgusting, but tolerated because he genuinely liked Pete and always had. Each man took the other as they came and that worked out for the both of them. They were silent for a time, thinking, and then Pete said, “I’ma goin’ to see what I can do. I ain’t promisin’ too much, Mr. Flanagan. These’re dangerous men I ‘tink you’re dealin’ wit, but kids is kids and it ain’t right, I ‘gree wit ‘ya on ‘tat one!”


“So, you’ll help me, then?” asked Hog. “Certin’ I’ll help ‘ya!” said Pete, and he slapped his knee for emphasis. “Them negros don’t deserve this, them kids, parents, it ain’t right. I’ll get on ‘tis tomorrow. I promise ‘ya some news by nightfall. You’re right I got my ways,” and he laughed heartily, sending the booming sound out to the trees that surrounded them.


“Let’s see now, yous can help me git what I need, it’s special this time. It ain’t money, that’s easy to get and to give.” And he pulled out a small, red, leather-bound book, which he opened and thumbed through until he found the right page. “Here it is, yes sir ‘e,” and he handed Hog a piece of well creased, folded paper. Hog opened it and saw a picture of a ceramic dog, white with a red collar. It was clearly expensive, but coveted by Pete.


“It’s Momma’s birtday comin’ up, ‘ya see? Ain’t it pretty?” Hog nodded, marveling at this giant man’s shy grin as he stared at the picture.


“Okay, I’ll get it for ‘ya,” said Hog, and he tucked the piece of paper into the inside pocket of his suit. “Best be goin’ Pete. Meet ‘ya back here tomorrow night?” Pete nodded.


Walking out of the undergrowth, Hog breathed deeply, taking in the air around him after the stifling stench of sad men. He had made the right choice in involving Pete; despite the man’s transient life, he was solid and true. Hog found his gun where he had left it and strode back to his car. It would be good to see Laura and his children that evening, he always thought of them with love and adoration. But first he had to go back to the police station and meet with Arms, Foil and George to discuss the case.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 13: Squatters


Chapter 12

A Friendship Revisited


August 18th, Wednesday morning (same day & time Arms is at the LA port & Hog is getting shot at)


Foil was sitting in a squad car at the downtown police station. He was going to ride along with George into some of the affected negro neighborhoods and look at the locations where the murder victims had been gunned down. Foil needed to get a better lay of the land and this was the best way to do it. Plus, it was good to be with his friend on his home turf, spending the day with the best in blue and learning the ropes of what a sergeant did with his team. Foil had always wanted to be on the police force, but the war got in the way. When he returned home, he was rudderless and drifting from one job to the next. Offered the opportunity to get an education, he took it and there met his friends, Hog and Arms.


When Arms’s uncle was killed and he decided to open the Swine’s agency, Foil came along for the ride. They made a good team, the three of them, and he did not regret his work as a detective. He was good at what he did and slowly they had built up the business so that now, as he learned from George, they had a good reputation, even among the police in LA. It was a good feeling he had when his friend told him, but he still yearned for that special kind of admiration that a police officer was shown by the average citizen. Private detectives were often treated with suspicion and derision, but a police officer, he believed, simply got respect wherever he went.


And sitting in the police car, Foil pondered what it would be like to be where George was, as a sergeant of the largest narcotics squad in the country. “Yeah,” I could get used to this kind of work,” he thought. At that moment, his friend returned from an errand, and said, “You ready Finegan?”


Sliding into the driver’s seat of his squad car, George drove out of the parking lot onto the boulevard, heading towards the first neighborhood, which was across town. It was hot, even this early in the morning, and they rode with the windows down. George was in his full uniform and had an imposing air of importance and command.


“Yeah, this case, Finegan, it’s a tough one,” George was saying, as he drove. “It came up on us fast and the murders, plus the drugs, the shittin’ mafia thugs who we can’t keep down. The Superintendent is breathin’ down my neck, so we got to get somethin’ on this case. My men are good, but we don’t have enough guys on the ground. That’s where you come in, and your friends, of course,” and he looked over at Foil.


“I got your back, George. We’re not kids anymore, but you know I’ll help you; always have, always will,” and Foil meant it. “Once a friend, always a friend,” that was their motto, growing up. Ever since they were young, there was a kinship between them. Now coming from two different worlds, but with the same drive to solve crimes and to find out the truth, they were bonded together.


“You remember the time we went into that abandoned building,” asked Foil, and he looked at George, who knew exactly what he was talking about.


“Yeah, them squatters was there,” laughed George, “it’s a wonder we didn’t get killed, Finegan! They chased us out of there so fast, we didn’t know what hit us and I jumped through that open window, landed hard and you helped me get home. My ma nearly tore my hide off! If you hadn’t a lied for me and told her I fell off my bike, she would have killed us both!” and the two friends laughed at their hijinks, feeling the fondness of their youthful friendship once again.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 14: Energy


Chapter 13

A Murder Scene


Wednesday morning, moving into midday . . .


George drove into the neighborhood that had been targeted recently in South central Los Angeles and parked outside of a small grocery store. The men’s laughter had died away as they got farther from the police station and closer to the black parts of the city. Foil had grown up in a mixed neighborhood and was generally liked by the negro families that he lived near, including some of the kids. They weren’t exactly friends, but they weren’t enemies either. In his detective work he had learned to be open minded and careful about judgements. In order to get information out of people he had to keep the lines of trust open, no matter who they were or what color skin they had. George had grown up in the same area, but on the other side of the tracks and his family was less tolerant; his father was especially foul-mouthed about people different from him; racist comments were ever present in the household. In that moment of arriving in the neighborhood, Foil suddenly felt doubt about his friend. “Like father, like son?” he wondered, but he didn’t think so. George, he felt, was a fair man who treated everyone with the same respect and care.


The neighborhood seemed quiet; it was clean and well-maintained, the houses small, the storefront inviting. Some people walked along the sidewalks, older folks who were just out for the day. Children were in school, but one young mother walked with a pram and a couple strolled arm in arm, casually. It was a lovely view, from what Foil could see, but he felt an unpleasant energy as soon as they drove up, like they were not wanted there and, in fact, that maybe leaving might be the best option. Yet, seeing the crime scene was a necessary part of being involved in the case.


“Just over there in that alley is where the first kid was found,” said George, getting straight to the point. “It was a shocking crime, a kick in the gut for a place that already suffers with growing drug problems. Come on, I'll show you the scene."


George was the kind of man who could part the red sea; people stepped aside and let him pass. The two men turned down the alley and walked to the crime scene. Foil saw a large dark spot on the ground; that was the blood of the first murder victim. No amount of scrubbing would ever lift that stain, it would be a mark of death forever in the community. Foil looked at the concrete walls of the building opposite and he could see blood spatters, but nothing else remarkable stood out to him immediately.


He turned and looked around him. Why this alley? It was open above, he could see the sky, the sunshine beating down on him as he stood, trying to understand the scene and what took place the night of the killing. Whoever murdered the kid, didn’t bother with the person receiving the drugs. No other shots were fired, just a single bullet was recovered from a Beretta pistol. “Give me a moment, George,” said Foil, “I want to walk the scene alone. You mind?”


“Naw, you take your time. We got all day. Two more kids got shot standing out in broad daylight on corners, another one, near his own home at night and one kid we found in a stranger’s garage. The guy had no connection to the kid at all.” Five murders in all, so far.


“Did you find the drugs?” asked Foil, “any evidence of what was being purchased?”


“Yeah, it was heroin. Rocks of black tar, cooked down to inject. It’s a lethal strength that only comes from Mexico. Deadly and potent. Ain’t nothin’ for kids to be takin’ that’s for sure.” In George’s voice Foil heard a hint of anger, but also of sadness.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 15: Wordplay


Chapter 14

Foil’s Discovery

Wednesday, early afternoon . . .


Foil walked away from George, looking for anything that might stand out to him and that didn’t belong in an alleyway on the south side of Los Angeles, in a quiet neighborhood, among law abiding citizens. He looked closely and carefully at the ground and at every foot of space that he could see. In his years as a detective, he had learned that it was easy to miss information, to overlook clues, and to forget about corners, especially outside in the elements. The light of the sun might blur a vision and a person could miss something that mattered to a case. Now he bent down here, crouched there, squatted, at one point even crawled along in the gravel of the alleyway, examining every nook and cranny for anything that might not have been noticed by the police. It was true that they had combed the area, but a crime scene could turn up all sorts of new clues through a different pair of eyes and an objective perspective.


And while he searched, he thought about why a young man might get shot at point blank range by someone who could just as easily have brandished a gun, scared him and got away with the drugs without killing. A perpetrator might have overpowered the victim, even. But the murder seemed unprovoked and meaningless. It was simply a deadly act of violence against a small-time dealer who was nothing but a cog in a giant churning wheel of money and power. According to George, in each situation, the person buying the drugs ran for his life, but he was not shot at or pursued. Five murders so far, five senseless, brutal killings like the kind Foil saw on the fields of war, not in an urban environment.


He was preoccupied with his thoughts, when out of the corner of his eye, he spotted something glinting in the sunshine. He stopped walking and leaned down to inspect the area more carefully. He saw a small, silver packet tucked behind some weeds. Had it fallen there by accident or been placed purposely to hide it? He wasn’t sure. He walked back to George, turning the packet over in his hand, realizing very quickly that there were some words stamped on it and maybe a symbol of some kind. He knew that drug rings often took pride in marking their packets with individual names These represented the standard of production and who was selling it.* A find like this might break a case wide open or confound the narcotics team even further.


“Hey, George, look what I got here,” and Foil handed the packet to his friend.


George held it carefully in his hands, turning it over like Foil did before him. “I’ve seen something like this before, but not over here in this part of LA. Over on the west side of the city, near the railroad tracks. We busted a small smuggling ring coming over the border and tracked their mules to Union Station where they were tryin’ to disappear. They had bags full of these silver packets. Heroin and lots of it. We thought we got ‘em, but shit, it looks like the fuckers are still out there. This gives us a lead, for sure, Finegan! Got a thank you for that! Excellent work,” and he slapped Foil on the back in admiration.


“Yeah, it’s a find alright, but what’s stamped on it?” asked Foil, peering at the edges of the small packet. “Probably ain’t any sophisticated wordplay, just looks like letters or a symbol, but I can’t tell.”


“The team back at the station can track the drug stamps. We got a catalogue of them. Crazy shit the drug cartels put on their junk. “Hell dust, smack, black tar, thunder. We got a whole book on the names of this shit,” and George turned to walk back to the police cruiser to take Foil to another crime scene. It was going to be a long day for both of them.*


* This is accurate and true, according to recent drug history and culture. This practice of stamping heroin bags by drug cartels and gangs reaches back into the early 1970's. I'm stretching the truth here in fiction to make a good story.

*These are real slang terms used to describe heroin on the streets.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 16: Pub


Chapter 15

Mr. Taylor’s Garage


Wednesday afternoon into early evening . . .


The day had already been a long one when Foil and George arrived at the final crime scene, the garage where the fifth murder victim had been found only a few days before. This was the freshest evidence Foil would see so far.


“This is a touchy one, Finegan,” said George, as they pulled up to a small bungalow. “His name is Taylor. Let’s see, first name John. A local business owner, I think he’s a grocer. He’s been very cooperative; I’d like to keep it that way. I’ll take the lead here.”


Foil could see that the lights were on, indicating that someone was home, but he didn’t think that a large policeman coming to this man’s door in the evening was going to make anyone feel better. “I think I can handle this,” said Foil, giving George a nod to sit in the car, while he approached the door. Knocking and waiting patiently, Foil was greeted by an older black man, who seemed drawn with worry in his face and tired.


“Good evening, Mr. Taylor,” said Foil very politely, “I’m Seán Finegan, a private detective working with the police to solve the murder of the young man found in your garage. May I take a look at where you discovered him? I only need a few moments of your time.” Foil let this request hang in the air, hoping his relaxed demeanor would help Mr. Taylor trust him.


Mr. Taylor, who had already spotted the police cruiser in his driveway, seemed very reticent to continue the conversation with Foil. However, deciding that it was best to do what was requested of him, he sighed visibly and walked to his garage door, opening it and stepping inside. Switching on a light, he revealed an old Nash and not much else. The space was clean and neat. “It’s been a trial, sir. Lord help me, but I have no idea how the boy got here,” and his eyes held a look of worry and something akin to despair.


“I’ll be quick, sir, if you could just show me where you found the body?” asked Foil.


Mr. Taylor walked to just behind his own car and pointed to the ground, saying, “it was a sight sir, I shall never forget. Lord help him, the poor child.”


“Yes, sir, I can believe that, I’ll be out of here quick,” said Foil again.


He saw right away that there was no blood stain on the garage floor, no spatters on any of the walls; the space was just a dumping ground, not the place of death. “More fuckin’ mysteries to solve,” thought Foil, feeling the futility of the day press down upon him. The first find had been a real lead, but so far, the rest of the crime scenes had yielded little. He walked slowly around the garage examining what he could and then he saw it, a silver packet just like the one he found that morning. He bent down and picked it up, sliding it into his suit pocket so that Mr. Taylor didn’t see it.


Turning, he said, “Thank you, sir, for your time. I’m done here. I don’t think there is any need to return. You’ve been a great help,” and he walked out to the police cruiser, past a very relieved man. Getting into the car, Foil produced the silver packet for George to see and smiled. “I think our murderer dropped this when he dumped the boy’s body in this poor man’s garage. If we can we trace the drug stamp, we might have our man.”


“Come on Finegan,” said George with exhaustion in his voice, let’s hit Billy’s pub. One won’t hurt us and I think we deserve it after this last find.”


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 17: Fitness


Chapter 16

Absence

Wednesday, nearly midnight . . .


The downtown police station was quiet. Only the night duty officer was awake and a few men coming in for their midnight shifts. George, Foil and Hog sat in George’s office waiting for Arms. The heat of the day had abated and at this time of night there was even a cool breeze in the air from the open windows. But the men were restless and tired. An hour into waiting for Arms, they were none the wiser as to where he was and Hog was getting antsy. “Where the fuck is he?” he growled, pissed off that he had to sit around and wait for his friend.


Foil was more nonchalant, “he’ll be here. He won’t let us down.” He was thinking about the drug packets at the crime scenes; he wasn’t sure they were dropped randomly by someone running off after a gunshot or whether they had been placed deliberately to throw the police off the scent; he was partial to the latter theory. He and George had handed the silver packets of heroin to officer William Benson of the narcotics squad. Foil wouldn’t know from which faction of Mexico the drugs came until the next day, when they could talk to Benson again.


“Hey, let’s get going,” George said, sounding frustrated and on edge, “we can’t wait around for one guy to show up. If we’re goin’ to work this case, it’s got to be done fast to get the man power out on the street. I got to keep track of everythin’, so spill the info you got.” He was talking to Hog and it was clear he wasn’t amused by Arms’s absence. George saw it as a sign of disrespect first and second, as a weakness. His estimation of Arms had not been high from the beginning and now it was even lower


Hog related his meeting with Stinky Pete, detailing only the information that mattered concerning the case. “He’s gettin’ me some names; he said by tomorrow night he’d have them.” At this, George visibly scoffed in disdain. “He’ll make good on his word, I know that,” said Hog confidently. “He gets in places and manages to unearth the worst kind of criminals.”


George seemed unimpressed, but at this point Foil took the lead and explained what they’d found at the crime scenes in relation to the murders. When he revealed that he had discovered two silver heroin packets, Hog was impressed. “Nice job with that one, Fingo, you probably got the first big lead in the case!”


Then George cut in abruptly, “so where’s your friend with his report? I don’t have time to play games,” and he looked vicious. “Is he even sound? What about his mental fitness? He seemed spaced out this morning, like he wasn’t even listening or paying attention. I don’t know about your friend, but . . .” George was on a roll and gearing up for more. Hog and Foil looked at each other; they both knew that Arms was never late.


Foil spoke then, abruptly cutting George off, his voice was steely and hard.“Arms is the best detective in this city. He is a man of integrity. If he’s not here, he’s got a good reason.” Hog could hear the fury in Foil’s voice and knew he was trying to keep his cool.


“Let’s call it a night,” Hog said calmly and rose to go. “We’ll talk to Arms in the morning when he gets to the office; he’ll get his report to you first thing. We’ll make sure of it,” and he reached out to shake hands with George, who saw this opportunity as a way of effectively calling a truce. The tension eased and all three men said goodnight, walking out of the police station to go their separate ways.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 18: Edinburgh


Chapter 17

Realizations


August 19th, Thursday . . .


By midday at the Swine’s office, no one had seen or heard from Arms, this included Mildred who had been asked immediately if he had shown up in the morning. Hog was annoyed at his friend’s absence, but he had a lot of cases to take care of so he let himself be preoccupied and hoped that Arms would come rolling along in the afternoon. Foil, however, was beginning to worry. George’s anger and lack of faith in Arms’s abilities was also troubling him. He had been especially shocked by George’s comments concerning Arms’s mental health. He seemed to want to paint Arms as an unreliable man who couldn’t focus. Moreover, he implied that Arms might not even be capable of running a criminal case. All these accusations came out of left field and suggested that George might have an ulterior motive for painting Arms as incompetent, but Foil wasn’t sure what that would be.


Foil knew Arms to be a man highly particular about time keeping. This alone was a tip off for him and made him feel uneasy. Even if his friend was unhappy about being involved in a case, he wouldn’t let that come between him and finding out the truth and catching killers.


“Somethin’s up,” Foil thought, as he sat in his office. And then he clarified to himself, “no, somethin’s definitely wrong.” He got up and went in search of Hog, who at that moment was toiling away on another case and hadn’t let himself even begin to worry about Arms.


“Hey Hog, you got a minute?” asked Foil, as he stood in Hog’s office doorway. “Yeah, whataya need?” said Hog.


“It’s Arms. Somethin’s wrong. He wouldn’t just disappear like this. Didn’t he go to the LA port with an officer? Kendricks? Hendricks? I can’t remember, but I think we both know that he’d never have blown off that meeting last night and he certainly wouldn’t keep us out of the loop in a case we’re all workin’ on. I got a bad feeling about his absence and all that malarky about Arms’s inability to pay attention or keep his mind on the case! I don’t know what George is playin’ at, but I think it’s about time we do some sleuthing of our own!”


Hog was easily persuaded by Foil’s insistent tone. “Yeah, I just thought it was a good idea to get the hell out of there last night, the tension was high, but I’m with you. None of this feels right to me. The narcotics squad got us all separated and on different errands for them. Arms warned us that we’d do the work and the team would get the glory, we should’ve listened to him!”


At that moment there was a knock on the door. It was Mildred with a package in her hands. “Sirs, something’s arrived from Scotland, Edinburgh to be precise, for Detective McKenna. I just thought you should know since he’s not in yet. I would usually put these sorts of things in his office, but . . . well . . .” and she stopped talking.


“Yes, Mildred, you can leave the package with us and we’ll take care of it,” said Foil, seeing and understanding the look of worry on Mildred’s face, but not wanting her to say too much, lest she get upset. “I’m sure we’ll see Arms soon,” he reassured her.


When Mildred had gone, shutting the door behind her, Foil said, “first thing to do is get to the port and have a look around. We know at least three of the murder victims were found there, maybe Arms discovered somethin’ he wasn’t supposed to. Then we’ll track down that officer who was with him; funny that George didn’t mention that report; it’s like he doesn’t want us to know anythin’ about what happened there. Like he just wants it rubbed out.”


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 19: Chaos Trigger warning: discussion of rape


Chapter 18

Lilly


August 19th, nearing midnight on Thursday . . .


Lilly jolted awake, breathing heavily. She was very frightened as she looked around the room. The light from the street lamp cast shadows on the walls and she saw the outline of the couch in the corner, her shield against so much pain. She turned to look at the man on the ground, the one whose name she didn’t know, his face appearing less bruised. In this moment, he seemed in a peaceful sleep, but the drugs had made him that way. He had only been with her for just over 24 hours, yet it felt like ages. She tried to calm down, breathe more slowly, relax in the quiet of the night. But she could never relax, she could never find any peace. Her body was sore, and she was losing hope that she would ever get away and escape the terror that she lived daily.


She thought about her life on the streets with longing; the sex work seemed easy now. Only a pimp to worry about and a couple of shitty johns to fend off in the night. Now she was such easy prey and there was no one who cared. She was alone in the world, forgotten, abandoned, lost forever to an invisible life. They had picked her up on one of her evening shifts; the car was cool, easing the heat of the summer, the man was nice, at first. But then they didn’t let her out; they wanted more from her and she tried to fight to open the door. Then the bag over her head, the darkness, the sheer terror, and nothing. They hit her with something hard and knocked her out. She woke up in this room. “How long have I been here?” but she had no answer. The days dragged on and the nights were even longer. Until the two horrible men brought the stranger to her, she couldn’t imagine how she would go on. She wanted to die.


But then the stranger arrived, or was dumped at her feet, dragged and dropped, really, and she had to perform the terrible task of keeping him drugged. She did not question why, for doing so would have gotten her beaten, again. She just obeyed and did what she was told, even though she felt the deep shame it brought every time she did it. “Why did they want him drugged? Who was he? Where did he come from?” The questions whirled around in her head until she didn’t know what to think anymore.


She was hungry and thirsty. They only fed her twice a day and barely anything at that; she felt like an animal when the food came, she could barely contain herself and they laughed at her and shoved the bread and water towards her. Then they touched her, forced themselves upon her, and left. She couldn’t put into words what she felt. “Do I feel at all, anymore?” The stranger had suddenly and inexplicably given her a purpose and had made her life less about chaos and pain and more about care. Though what she was doing to him had to stop. She knew she was killing him and her heart wouldn’t let her do that. She could not kill a man, even to save herself.


Beside her, he moaned. She turned to look at him, his face calm, but he was wan and growing weaker. “I cannot hurt you anymore,” she said out loud into the space and air of the room and heard her own voice as if she was listening to an unknown person. She couldn’t remember the last time she had spoken aloud; she had only cried and screamed to not be hurt, to not be raped. There. There was the word that she hadn’t been able to say and now she thought it. Conjured up out of her nightmare the real reason for her fear, the raping of her Self and the scorching of her soul, leading her into deadly actions of hurting another human being because she was told to, because she was feeling immense pain herself.


“I have to stop,” again her voice astounded her. It was as if it rang out from her heart, the sound peeling like bells in her ears, but she was only whispering.


#FAHnARtChallenge Day 20: Tour


Chapter 19

Exploration


August 20th, Friday morning, before dawn . . .


Foil thought it was best to implement their plan to scope out the LA port in the very early morning hours of Friday when none of the narcotics squad expected them to be there. They had their assignments elsewhere and George was none the wiser about their new theories. Foil’s suspiciousness of George was conflicting to him. He felt loyal to both his friends, but he also smelled a rat somewhere in the mix. It made no sense to him that George spoke in such a strong and angry way about Arms, as if he knew something that he and Hog did not. But more than that, it was as if George was trying to turn him against Arms. He felt he knew George, had known him all his life; their friendship was tight and they had shared many adventures in their youth and as adults, but Foil discovered in that one moment of listening to George bad-mouth Arms that his allegiance was to his fellow detective and not to his childhood friend.


And now he sat in his car at the port gates in the darkness just before dawn on a morning when he should have been planning on returning to the neighborhoods that he and George had been to on Wednesday. They had agreed he would go back by himself to speak to various family members of the murder victims. After his success with Mr. Taylor, George trusted him and would never suspect that Foil would turn suddenly onto another path of detection, so Foil felt safe to explore the LA port without worry. Hog would be along shortly and together they would map the route that they suspected Arms and officer Hendricks had taken to inspect the areas where the bodies had been found.


Foil and Hog knew enough about the case to have a general sense of where the inlet was in which three of the bodies had been dragged from the water. And from previous cases, they were familiar with the habits of the port employees, most of whom, though working night shifts, would not be out walking anywhere in the area that they would go. The quiet of the morning was interrupted by a car pulling up beside Foil’s. Hog had arrived, ready to take on the day. If stopped by the night watchman or any of the guards patrolling the docks their story was that they were business men come to take a look at a steamer ship for sale in the harbor. It was a tall tale and one that might even seem suspicious, but they were willing to take the chance in order to be able to walk around with more authority. Men with money got to do a lot at the LA port.


Foil got out of his car, feeling the lightness of the air around him, listening to the sounds of the water lapping at the docks in the vicinity. He walked over to Hog, who was standing by the gates already and asked, “You ready? We gots to be careful Flango, ‘cuz anyone could be around.” He had a bad feeling in his gut, he got them sometimes. He was wary, cautious.


Hog was ready and had been since they had formed the plan the day before. “Hey, I wanted to start this thing yesterday, so let’s get goin’” and he turned to walk away, but suddenly he stopped and said, “you realize we could find his body here?”


The thought had already crossed Foil’s mind, but he had pushed it away in favor of keeping hope alive. “Yeah, I know. But we gots to find him, either way,” and he stood for a moment looking out ahead of him into the dark sky of the morning. “Let’s go,” and he strode forward, walking through the gates and heading towards the inlet where he thought Arms would have gone himself.


Unbeknownst to the two men, another scout had been sent out on a tour of duty by the big drug boss, the Candy Man. This time his instructions weren’t to incapacitate, but to kill.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 21: Brain


Chapter 20

One Scout Down


Friday morning, just at sunrise . . .


Foil strode with determination towards the inlet where he knew three of the murder victims had been found. Hog walked behind him a few paces. This was standard practice for two detectives who worked so closely together and who were always aware of their environment. Foil felt that their errand was a dangerous one, so he picked up his pace, putting some distance between himself and Hog. This was a cue to Hog that Foil was nervous and to beware. Hog dropped back and decided to take a different route to the inlet. He cut behind a building, zig-zagging his way along. Then the morning light caught shadows of movement and he saw an outline of a person creeping stealthily along. He held his gun close to his chest. The Swine’s detectives’ motto, “think first, shoot later,” came to mind, but he thought in this instance, if it was between Foil or some bozo, he wouldn’t think twice about shooting first and thinking later.


Hog crept closer to the moving shadow ahead of him. It was clear that this person’s target was Foil. “Maybe he hasn’t seen me,” thought Hog, but he couldn’t be sure. The sun was cresting the horizon now and the whole port would soon be illuminated in light. In between the buildings, Hog could see the start of the inlet, the ships waiting like sleeping giants. Then he caught sight of Foil, who at that moment was bending forward to peer at something that he was clearly interested in the water. Suddenly the shadow of the man left the protection of the building and ran towards Foil, lifting a knife above his head and about to strike when one shot rang out through the air and the man dropped to the ground, clutching his leg and crying out in agony.


Foil, shocked into movement by the sound of the gun firing, spun around instantly and watched the man fall in front of him, dropping the knife and writhing in pain. “Help me, please,” cried the man, who seemed strangely familiar to Foil.


A glimmer of a memory flitted across his brain, but he couldn’t quite remember where he had seen the man before. Hog ran up, gun in hand, and saw that his shot had hit the mark just above the knee. Enough to incapacitate but not to kill. Hog calculated that the man wasn’t going to pass out and that they could interrogate him for at least two or three minutes, before they had to get him some help.


“Who sent you?” demanded Hog, standing over the man as he panted, trying to catch his breath and feeling the burning pain of the bullet in his body, while blood seeped out onto the ground. He didn’t answer.


“Okay, let’s try this, what’s your name? Who are you?” and Hog pointed the gun at the man’s head, cocking it for good measure.


The man flinched and shuddered in pain. “Please help me, I got a wife and kids, I didn’t want any part of this shit. Got in over my head, please, you got me now. I ain’t gonna do nothing now,” his head rolled to the side and he stopped talking.


“Yeah, he’s gonna pass out, come on,” said Hog gruffly, “let’s get this deadbeat to the hospital.” Turning to Foil, he saw a puzzled expression on his face. “You recognize him, don’t you?” he asked, and Foil nodded, trying to remember where he’d seen the man who moments before was going to kill him. Leaning down to drag the man’s body off the ground, Hog joked, “saved your life again, eh?” and he winked at Foil. “You couldn’t live without me!” and they both laughed.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 22: Golf


Chapter 21

A Lead


August 21st, Saturday morning at the Swine’s agency . . .


Stinky Pete stood awkwardly in Mildred’s office, looking a little shamefaced. It had taken him longer to find the information that Mr. Flanagan had requested and this niggled at him. But he had discovered something important and went to the office straightaway to meet with Hog, who wasn’t there. Waiting was hard; he was not comfortable in the polite society of a woman, especially one like Mildred who eyed him with her steely gaze. The two of them had been together for a few too many minutes when the alleyway door burst open and Hog appeared. Seeing Pete, he jerked his head, saying, “come on!” and the large man quickly followed him.


When the door was closed on his own office, Hog turned to Pete and demanded impatiently, “okay, spill it, what’d ‘ya find out?”


“It’s bad. These kids, they never had a chance. Dangerous times,” and he shook his head in despair.


Hog barked, “Fuck, Pete, get to the point! I know it’s shit out there! I need some names!”


“Yes, sir,” said Pete, unaffected by Hog’s outburst, “sure, see, a new crime boss is on the scene. I heard the name agin and agin. Called him Candy Man. A big boss, pushin’ on the Mexican cartel. There’s been turf wars, the kids bein’ killed to show force.”


“You find this Candy Man?” asked Hog, “you get a description, anything? I need somethin’ to go on, Pete. Think now, you got more for me?” and Hog’s tone was encouraging, yet insistent. He remembered this about Pete; sometimes it took him a while to get it all out on the table. He feared that this was one of those times.


“The killings, sir, they were set ups. The kids were gonna always get it. Drafted, that’s the word I heard floatin’ ‘round. Drafted to be killed. They ain’t never had a chance,” and he sighed deeply.


“Okay, Pete, take your time. What about this Candy Man bloke? You got details? We need a lead, we got to take this case somewhere because it ain’t goin’ nowhere now. Feels like a game of fuckin’ golf, endless and interminable. Got one scout in the hospital, but he ain’t talkin’. Tried to kill Foil, the motherfucker thought he had a chance, but I got to him first, shot him in the leg. Why we gettin’ targeted?” and he trailed off, talking to himself, “Arms is missing, I ain’t heard nothin’ . . . shit.” Hog was saying too much, but he was desperate.


“Missin’, sir? I heard tell of somebody gettin’ picked up along the way for snoopin’ around, but I didn’t ‘tink much of it. Down by the water, they said, the port; I listen. Just save it up and tellin’ you now, what I come by. Listenin’ and spyin’, that’s my line o’ work when I’m asked to forage out in ‘t world.” He stopped and seemed to concentrate even harder.


Hog waited patiently, but took note of the words, water and port, so there would be another reason to send Pete out to “forage” again, as he put it.


“And t’other thing I heard tell, a rumblin’ on the streets,” said Pete, “there’s a cop, a dirty cop in the mix. I ain’t got no names, just a bad ‘un in blue, dangerous, word tells, and wicked.” He looked at Hog solemnly, having delivered all of his information. Hog smiled and Pete could tell that he’d be gettin’ his porcelain dog for his momma for sure now.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 23: Instrument


Chapter 22

Lilly's Decision


Saturday night, somewhere near the port of Los Angeles . . .


Arms lay in a fetal position on the hard floor, the cold emanating off the ground into the core of his body so that he felt as if he was lying on ice. The darkness enveloped him like a blanket, but it was not soothing or warm; instead, it was harsh, penetrating. He shivered uncontrollably and felt shooting pain move up his legs and into the core of his stomach. He retched violently over and over again, but only blood came up, his body entirely empty of all nutrients. He was lost, afraid, and felt far away from all that he knew. In what little consciousness he had left, he willed himself to let go; he desired it with his heart and soul; nothing else mattered but disappearing into the void and feeling relief from his agony and anguish. Suddenly, he opened his eyes wide and saw Death standing, waiting for him, offering a gentle hand, guiding him away out of the world and into oblivion. He inhaled a deep breath, feeling euphoric relief and eased away into blankness.*

*********

Lilly let the syringe drop next to her, watching the man’s body relax and move into shallow breathing. For a moment his eyes had opened and they had looked at each other, she with comprehension and fear, he without recognition for his eyes were far away and glassy. She couldn’t bear to see him suffer; the withdrawal symptoms were damaging his body as much as the heroin coursing through his veins. She understood implicitly that she acted as his instrument of torture and this is what spurred her on to make a decision. It might have been the first one she had ever made herself, in her short life, and it was cathartic to know choice and to feel a little bit of secret power. It was not as if the decision was easy, but in making it, she had set herself and the stranger whom she had grown so fond of in such a short time, on a new path. She would find a way out of the room of bondage and free them both.


But while they were together, she tried to care for him, despite her part in the hurting; she helped him drink water and pushed the dried bread at him, but he was in such a feeble state that he didn’t take it. She could tell he was not an addict; there were no tract marks on his body. She asked him his name over and over again, urging him to tell her, pleading with him, but he couldn’t seem to form a clear sentence, the drugs affecting every part of his brain. He slurred his words and she only caught letters. A “C” maybe or an “A,” she wasn’t sure. Sometimes he said other things to her, but these came out in the same way and she didn’t understand their meaning: foil or hog or swines. They were all confusing to her. She found his hands were soft, so he wasn’t a laboring man. He wore a suit, a nice one, but he had been beaten badly by someone who was out to maim, if not kill. She could tell that right away when they brought him to the room covered in his own blood and drugged up. Even though she knew he had only come to her recently, she already felt protective of him and something akin to a sort of devoted love. Theirs was a strange and surreal relationship, if it could even be called that. She and the stranger were connected by time, place, and the brutality of men.


And now, sitting on the cold floor, in the darkness, feeling the oppression of her situation, Lilly held the stranger, almost like a child, and spoke to him softly. “I’ll find a way to help ‘ya. I’ll not harm ‘ya no more, I promise, or as little as I can. We’ll get outta here.” She pushed the shock of black hair off his forehead and kissed him gently on the cheek. He was so vulnerable and without her, he would have been completely alone. He was her lifeline now. She wondered aloud, “is it possible to want to save someone I do not know?” The words spoken felt strange to her for they seemed all about care and kindness, actions foreign to her own life. She felt in her heart that in saving him, she was also saving herself.


*These are true and accurate symptoms of heroin withdrawal.


#FAhnArtChallenge Day 24: Decoration


Chapter 23

Eureka!


August 22nd, early Sunday morning at the Swine’s Agency . . .


Foil stared at Hog. He heard right, but didn’t want to believe it. “Whataya mean a dirty cop? Whataya sayin? You think it’s George?”


“Hey, Fingo, I’m just the messenger, but if Pete says it, I believe him. George? I dunno,” and he stood up to pace around his office. He was full of nervous energy. He had waited 24 hours to tell Foil about Pete’s new information, worried how Foil would react. “The good news? We got a lead on someone bein’ picked up at the port! Well, shit, that’s got to be McKenna! The bad news? It stinks, see? A dirty cop involved? This is one fucked up case!”


Foil’s mind was racing. He’d smelled a rat, but was it right for him to go straight to his friend, to judge him like that? He hadn’t liked George’s accusations against Arms and couldn’t figure them out. “Why involve us?” he asked Hog, “if he was guilty of this shit, why would George bring us in, it don’t make no sense!” and he felt frustration and anger at the whole situation.


“One thing at a time,” said Hog, calmly and in a measured voice, sitting to ease his own energy. “I sent Pete to scope out the LA port, see what he can dig up. Any dirtbags hangin’ around, any sidelines, any import/export shit that ain’t legal. He’ll find it. You, know, Fingo, I think there’s somethin’ at that inlet we missed. Some fucker don’t want us around there; some shithead don’t want us findin’ McKenna, could be a dirty cop, could be anybody,” said Hog emphatically.


Foil was still thinking about George. His friend held a powerful position in the police force. He had risen up the ranks, serving faithfully, acquiring medals along the way and awards for bravery. All over his office walls were the decorations of years of service, the photos with celebrated people and the average citizens he helped. Foil had always looked up to George, always admired him. But he’d had niggling suspicions from the get go about the case.


Would George stoop so low? Heroin dealing, murders of young black kids? Yet, he had to admit to himself that he was barely surprised to learn a dirty cop was involved. “George gots the means and the opportunity as the head of the narcotics squad, but what the fuck is his motive?” he asked Hog. The question troubled him; he didn’t think it was money problems. But he wasn’t sure. George and Ruth had at least six kids, maybe seven. A good, German Catholic family who embraced the church and everything that meant. Foil couldn’t remember a time when Ruth wasn’t pregnant. “A need for money will drive a man to do dangerous and stupid things in his life” thought Foil.


Hog interrupted his thoughts, “what about that guy who tried to kill you? Knife you in the back? You seemed to know him. Who the fuck is he?”


Knocked out of his reverie, Foil said, “yeah, I know I’d seen him somewhere, like I’d met him before.”


“Think on it, Fingo!” urged Hog, standing again, as if that would bring Foil’s memory back.


Calming himself, he concentrated on what he could remember in that moment of hazy recognition. Then it came to him like a flash, “fuck, it was Benson, the officer in charge of the Mexican drug stamps. He never did tell me which cartel those packets came from. Probably sold the shit himself. You think he’s our dirty cop?”


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 25: Crossover


Chapter 24

Revelations


Sunday morning, Swine’s agency, moving into the afternoon at the Pasadena Hospital . . .


“Nah, he’s dirty, but he ain’t the mastermind,” concluded Hog, “just a shitbag scout who got a raw deal. Now he’s laid up in the hospital, how’s about yous and I go pay him a visit and see what he’s got to say for himself.”


Foil grinned at this suggestion, “yeah, let’s go talk to the bastard. See how he likes being cornered,” and he rose immediately, ready to walk out the door.


It was easy to get into the hospital and up to Benson’s room. Foil seemed to have a girl in every port; he had dated one of the nurses on the recovery floor. A sweet young thing, but as usual, when it came time to commit, Foil was nowhere in sight. Still, she had a soft spot for him and couldn’t resist his smooth charms, even though she knew better. “Come on honey, just this one favor,” he said, leaning in towards her and looking straight into her brown eyes with his blue ones. She couldn’t resist, in the end.


“Benson looks like shit,” said Hog to Foil, “that’s my handiwork right there.” He didn’t bother whispering, he wanted the suffering man to hear and to know that he was trapped, but more importantly that they were on to him.


Foil chuckled and walked around to the side of the bed to look Benson in the eyes. “Yous a traitor to your clan, ‘ya bastard. You got the morals of a ratbag, but now’s ‘ya chance to crossover and give up everythin’ ‘ya know!” And Foil glared at him.


Benson was vulnerable and weak, but someone bigger and more powerful was driving the train. However, as a cog in the wheel, Benson could derail some part of the mechanics of it. “Who hired you to kill me?” asked Foil, never taking his eyes from Benson’s so that the man could feel the detective’s intense rage.


“Don’t know,” he croaked, “got an envelope, cash, lot of it, more than I’ve ever seen, on my desk at the station,” and he coughed, wincing in pain. The man was sick and suffering. Foil looked at Hog and back at Benson.


“Who you workin’ for? You betrayed the boys in blue and your family!” Foil spat the words out with venom.


The mention of his family clearly affected Benson. “I tell ‘ya, I don’t know, but the money, it helped me out. And my boy, he’s been sick, bad, got a lot ‘o debt. The house, we were gonna lose it,” and Benson stopped talking, looking exhausted and drained of color.


Foil’s nurse was hovering outside the door, they were going to get kicked out soon, but there was still more to ask, more to understand. The story seemed incomplete. Why would Benson take money he knew was dirty and try to kill a man. It didn’t make any sense; something was missing in his story. They needed a name.


“Give it all up, man,” growled Foil, “you ain’t goin’ no where. You’ll be lucky to shake a prison sentence for this shit. The minutes ticked by and he could tell that Benson was struggling with a decision. Foil stood like a sentry, waiting for the truth.

Finally, Benson caved, “I tell ‘ya, I needed the money; he got me over a barrel; the sergeant, on the drug case.” Foil’s heart sank; here was the proof that George was the dirty cop.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 26: Yellow


Chapter 25

Confrontation*


August 23rd, very early Monday morning, George’s family home . . .


Foil sat in his car in George’s neighborhood. Benson’s revelation the day before hit him like a ton of bricks. He left the hospital in a daze; there were so many questions racing through his head that he couldn’t steady himself. He drove to his local watering hole and climbed into a bottle of Scotch. His world as he knew it, everything he believed in, was crumbling around him, for if his old childhood friend could take a dive into the worst sort of corruption, drug running, and murder, well, then anyone could.


Foil got out of his car and walked the half block down to the little blue bungalow on one of the prettier streets in LA. He knew the house well, having spent countless hours there before his detective days. It felt like coming home and he stopped for a moment, his emotions overwhelming him. But he had a job to do. Ringing the doorbell, he waited, hearing a bundle of children’s voices inside. Then Ruth called out in her lovely sing-song way, “Billy . . . Billy, run to the door, sweetie, and see who it is.” It all seemed to be in slow-motion, as if opening the door was going to open the floodgates of hell and for a moment Foil didn’t want any of it to happen. But then he was standing and staring at a young boy of about 10 and saying who he was and what he wanted.


Then Ruth appeared and his heart almost stopped beating. It was all real now. He was in it and couldn’t turn around and disappear. “Seán! How wonderful to see you! How handsome you look, come in, I’m sure George will be down soon. He told me you two were working on a case,” and Ruth ushered Foil into the chaos of running children, a barking dog, and the general disarray of a large family in a small house.


“George,” Ruth called up the stairs, “George, Seán’s here to see you! Get down here, breakfast is ready,” and then she turned to Foil and said, “Seán, you’ll have some breakfast, won’t you? Sit down in the kitchen and visit a little bit like old times?” and Foil found himself nodding his head against his better judgement.


Now that he was in the house, he couldn’t believe he had come. Better to do this at the police station or anywhere else for that matter. He heard George walking down the stairs and he could barely bring himself to turn around and look at him. And then George was clapping him on the back, “Fingo, my man, what are you doing here so early? Come to eat us out ‘o house and home like in the old days?” and Foil turned to see his good friend smiling at him. He almost lost his fortitude at that moment.


“Can I speak to you, George, privately?” He managed to get the words out, but he didn’t sound right. His friend looked at him with a curious expression, “yeah, sure, Fingo, let’s go into my study, or what I call my study, but is really just a place for the kids to find me when I’m working,” and he laughed heartily.


The room was small and Foil remembered it as one of the nurseries many years ago when Ruth and George first started their family. “What’s going on, Fingo, you got a lead you need me to know about, somethin’ to do with the case? Somethin’ wrong with your family? It’s not your mother, is it?” and George looked concerned.


Foil stood and said his piece, quickly, “I know George, you don’t have to lie anymore. I know your truth and I’m going to turn you in and take you down.”


Foil had meant to say something else, but these were the words that came out of his mouth, standing there in his friend’s house with children running around and getting ready for school. But George just looked at him and said, “what are you talking about?” He didn’t flinch. Didn’t move. Didn’t even seem to comprehend what Foil was saying.


“I know it’s you, George. Benson told me. I know you killed those black kids. Murdered them so you could get your hands on drugs and all the while you got me on a case that you’re runnin’ behind my back. I still don’t know why you called us in, but I’ve discovered the truth now and you’re a coward, a stinkin’ yellow bellied coward!” Foil was shaking, he was so angry. And he had yelled these words. The commotion outside in the hallway stopped suddenly and there was a knock on the door, it was Ruth.


“George, Seán? Is everything alright?” her concerned voice made Foil’s stomach turn over and he felt sick.


Then George spoke, calmly, “take a moment, there, Fingo, and think about what you’re sayin’, what you’re accusin’ me of.” George stood firmly planted, staring at Foil. He didn’t run away, didn’t cower, didn’t try to deny anything. He just stood there. Foil couldn’t understand his response; he was confused.


“I know what I’m sayin’. I know the truth. Benson told me, lying in his hospital bed. He said it was a Sergeant on the drug case. Well, there ain’t no other sergeant that I know of on any fuckin’ drug case, except the one I’m on!” Foil was seething, barely able to spit the words out.


Ruth’s voice came from the other side of the door again, “George, you okay? Seán?” She sounded worried and upset.


George called out to his wife, “we’re fine, Ruth. Just a bit of a disagreement, but Fingo’s gonna stay a while and we’ll work it out. You take the kids to school now, and when you get back, we’ll all sit down and visit.”


Foil could hear Ruth’s relieved sigh and her moving away from the door. He certainly wasn’t going to stay and visit, he had to make a report at the police station, get the Superintendent involved, expose the man standing in front of him, get him picked up and thrown in jail. He had things to do. But George was still standing solidly in front of the door and didn’t seem to have any inclination to get out of the way.


“Why is Benson in the hospital?” George asked, like a man who didn’t know his own criminal plot. This question stunned Foil. “He fuckin’ tried to kill me, stab me in the back at the port, you sent him to do it, don’t deny it, and now you’re stallin’ for time,”yelled Foil, glaring at George. He was dumbfounded by George's reasonable demeanor.


George looked at his friend. He was a naturally calm man with a steady disposition. He knew how to handle people and was a trained mediator. Tensions in the room were at their highest and George needed to diffuse the bomb before him.


He knew all about corruption in the police force, having battled it himself as a young officer. He definitely knew more than Foil; he realized that his good friend had been misdirected and badly. George had not known about Benson being in the hospital, so someone, or even Benson himself, was trying to cover up vital information about his own squad. And it seemed they were also working hard to frame him for the very case that he was trying to solve. “There are bad cops everywhere, Fingo, but I ain’t one o’ them. You just got to trust me on this; we’ll work together to solve this case, but you got to trust me.”


*This was a very critical chapter and so I took two pages to write it instead of one. I don’t think that my Foil character could possibly confront a very good friend and accuse him of murder, drug running and police corruption without a longer set up in the story. The remaining chapters may be longer as well. It just depends on what the characters need to do for the story to be finished and wrapped up completely.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 27: Behind the Scenes


Chapter 26

Reconciliation


Monday, moving into late morning, George’s family home . . .


The house was quiet now, almost peaceful, as Ruth had ushered the kids out the door to school. George’s declaration hung in the air between the two men. They stood together in the study, staring at each other, the tension still very high. “What about McKenna?” Foil demanded.


“What about him?” asked George, holding his ground.


“He’s fuckin’ missing! Went missin’ the night you were so quick to take a piece out o’ him. You want my trust? Why should I give it to ‘ya? I smelled a rat in this case from the start, somethin’ ain’t right when the sergeant sees fit to tear down one of his men before he gots a chance to speak for himself!” Foil was seething, still seeing red and not ready to let go of his theories about George’s corruption.


George hadn’t liked Arms; he took his aloof attitude for laziness and apathy. Foil was his friend and had always been a man of action. He was used to that, especially in the police force. Men who thought their way through cases, like Arms did, never appealed to George. Hog was more like his team. He had accepted, but hadn’t liked that Hog had his own ways of gathering evidence. Bringing in what amounted to a homeless man had been a bad move from his perspective. However, when Foil gave the okay, it was settled then and there. And now, it was dawning on George that he had looked to Foil for leadership in his own agency, but perhaps he had misjudged that team of three.


“Missin’? What do you mean, missin’?” asked George, genuinely curious about Foil’s declaration. He set aside the rest of his friend’s accusations, once again, seeing that he needed to focus on the practical side of things.


“Gone! Vanished! No trace of him, but what the fuck! You know that don’t ‘ya? The rat is in the room, I bet” and he took a threatening step towards George. Of the two men, George was definitely the bigger and the stronger. Foil didn’t stand much of a chance if he thought he could take on his friend, and somewhere in the back of his mind he knew this, but he felt the need to go after the man standing in front him who he saw as the enemy.


“Hold on there, Fingo,” said George, taking a step away from him. There wasn’t much room in his study, but he didn’t want to fight Foil. Plus, he knew that he could deck him and probably hurt him, bad. But then George had an idea, “let’s go,” and he made a move towards the door.


“Hey, where ‘ya goin’? I ain’t done sayin’ my piece, and it’s yous who’s got to come with me!” cried Foil, shocked that George was walking away from him, but George didn’t stop. Instead, he stepped out of the room, making Foil follow him. George made a beeline for his front door. Then just before he got there, Foil, still furious, pushed him hard from behind, and George wheeled around, fast, and without thinking, hit his friend in the jaw with a right hook, knocking him to the ground, hard.


Foil lay there in a daze. He had not expected George to hit him and he was completely caught off guard by the punch. Lying on the ground, in Ruth’s small foyer, he suddenly felt utterly exhausted. “Fingo, you okay?” he heard George’s voice as if it was far away, even though his friend was standing over him.


“Gosh, you push a man like that and it’s a wonder I didn’t knock some teeth out your head,” said George. “Come on my friend, I told ‘ya, you gots to trust me,” and he reached down to haul Foil off the floor. Standing, George could see that some of the fight had gone out of him, but he wasn’t sure if Foil was ready to listen to anything he had to say.


“I gots an idea, but first I want to hear your side ‘o things,” said George calmly. “I’ll say, again, we’re in this together, and I want your help. I’m not the enemy, Fingo, and I never was. I’ve always been a true, loyal friend. You won’t find me doing no dirty cop work. There’s a rat in the case, that’s for sure, but it ain’t me. I swear on me granny’s grave!” and George put his hand out to shake Foil’s.


It was a genuine peace offering from a man who believed in the integrity of the work he was doing. He had enough years of experience with men on the LAPD to know when someone had been led astray with false information. “Come on, my man, I think Ruth’s got some cake in the kitchen, and a good shot of whiskey will help revive your spirits,” and he walked to the back of the house.


The two friends sat in the kitchen together, Foil drinking the whiskey, the cake untouched. He had felt sick to his stomach when he heard the worry in Ruth’s voice; she had always been kind and welcoming to him, always fed him, always took care of him and now he had stepped into her house and accused her husband of being a dirty cop. It was not a high point in Foil’s life or his career as a detective and he felt the shame of his mistakes weigh on him.


But George was already moving on and talking about the case as if their altercation had never taken place. Foil was not a man to wallow; he listened to George lay out a plan and saw, rightly, that he was a fool to ever believe that his friend was the rat at the center of everything. “You tell me what you know, and I’ll give you my side ‘o things, and together we’ll get moving,” said George, ready to go as soon as Foil said the word.


“We got a lead,” said Foil, “from Stinky Pete, Hog’s informant, saying a man was picked up and hid at the port somewhere. Somethin’ to do with the drugs is my guess, and the murders. I know it’s McKenna. It’s got to be him, though why he hasn’t been killed yet, is a mystery,” and Foil felt a new fire inside him, not of rage or frustration, but of direction and action.


“Benson’s a prick, some low-grade fucker who got caught up in this shit. And he ain’t goin’ nowhere. But someone else is pullin’ the strings and I might know who,” said George. “What about Hendricks? He’s got connections to the top brass; he’s not a sergeant, but he’s movin’ up there, due for a promotion soon. He’s in charge of the investigations into the kids’ murders. Didn’t Hendricks meet McKenna at the port? My guess is that he’s got a take on the side somewhere, tryin’ to move into the drug trade, though not sure why. But the killin’s of those kids; that work is somethin’ brutal,” and George sat back, taking a drink of whiskey to calm himself.


“The plan, then?” asked Foil.


“We got to gets behind the scenes at the port and find McKenna. I suspect that time is tickin’ away on his life. The more we know, the closer we get to the mastermind of this case. If it’s Hendricks, then he ain’t gonna sit idle and let us close in. He been savin’ your detective friend for some reason, but my hunch is that he ain’t gonna wait forever,” and George stood to go. “You with me on this one, Fingo?”


“Yeah, sure am, but no more punches in the jaw,” and he laughed good naturedly. “Sure, we gots a deal on that one,” and George slapped him on the back to show they were square.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 28: Festival


Chapter 27

Convergence


Early Monday morning (Foil is at George’s house), Hog at Swine’s agency with Pete


“I slipped into one of the junked up buildins on ‘t edge o’ ‘t port, there, Mr. Flanagan, last night when all was quiet like. I was lookin’ for anyting’ could find, drugs, clues, anyting, people. You know me, like to forage and ‘t’all. Yep, what I see ‘tis nothin’ ‘til I wandered ‘round and then I’s seen an old man passed out. “’Tink he got no home, sir. Well, me senses was in place then, ‘cuz I guessed that him and me could have a good talk and I could get me some news for ‘ya,” and Pete stopped here to take a breather.


He was clearly excited and his words came tumbling out faster than he could think about them, so that he was sometimes clear and other times not. “Okay, Pete, good on ‘ya, there!” said Hog, “but how’s about slowin’ down a bit. I’m tryin’ to get a sense of what happened to ‘ya and why’s you all drippin’ wet and sloppy in my office!”


“Oh, sorry ‘bout ‘tat, Mr. Flanagan!” said Pete, jumping up quickly and taking a rag offered to him by Hog. He was doing his best to dry off, but soon sat down again, eager to tell his story. “Calm down, there, Pete, and tell your tale. I’ll listen,” said Hog, as he leaned back in his chair, ready to be patient until the man had gotten it all out.


“Yes, sir. Okay, sir. ‘Tis man, he was old and got no home, sir, as I said. He an observer ‘o life, like meself, and I nudged him wit me boot, and he jumped, sir, that he did. I didn’t mean no harm, but he yelled somethin’ like and I give him a good swig o’ drink I keep in my pockets, sir,” and he grinned slyly at Hog. “’Ta drink done him good and he say he sees a man at the water’s edge many days ago, seen him out ‘tis buildin’, leanin’ in when some big fellow come up behind him and knock him one good. Down he went, ‘tis man said, down and not got up. He be beaten like, beaten good and strong,” Pete let out a long whistle to emphasize how bad it was.


He continued, “’tis old man, he been ‘ter a long time, he seen lots, but he said in his own words sir, “It ain’t a skirmish when one man is down before he can even get up and the blood is a gushin’ from his face faster than you can hit him with a stick. By golly, it was a bad ‘un for the mister. He never had a chance.”


“Them were his words, sir, his ‘xact words, I tell ‘ya! So, I ‘tink we knows it’s your friend, sir, the detective who got nabbed and taken!” and Pete looked triumphant in his knowledge about what he had discovered.


“You done good, Pete. I trusted ‘ya, and you done good! Now we just got to find Arms. And what’s that you got there? Let me look at it,” and Hog reached out for what Pete was holding.


Handing it over to the detective, Hog could see that it was a rope, a thick one and heavy. He peered at it closely and spotted blood embedded in the fibers; blood that hadn’t washed away in the salt water just yet. “Well, that’s a bit of a miracle,” Hog said to himself. He knew from the case notes that rope had been used to hog tie the young dealers after they were killed, so this was probably that rope, which the police conveniently left in the water instead of pulling it out with the bodies. Could be more there, but clearly somebody close to the case didn’t want it found. Hog was sure this was what Arms was after when he went to the port that day with officer Hendricks, the man in charge of investigating the murders. It hadn’t occurred to Hog until that moment, as he held this vital clue in his hand, that it just might be officer Hendricks who was the dirty cop in the case.


Early Monday morning, in the room of pain (Foil at George’s house, Pete & Hog at agency)


Lilly woke up, stiff from the cold. She was sliding into another day of hopelessness and dreary isolation. She looked at the space around her, the ceiling cracks she knew so well, the walls, where the plaster was peeling, and the couch in the corner. She had almost given up fighting against the men who came to visit her; she didn’t care anymore about herself. The only fight that she had left was for the man she slept next to each night. He was the sole reason that she did not let herself curl up and freeze to death or shoot the heroin into her own veins and die. She had slowly eased up on each dose she had given him, hiding the remains of the drug in the deep coils of the couch, pushing it up and away from the prying eyes of the men, who checked how much she had used and the tract marks on his body.


At first, she would ask them his name, but they just ignored her. She was serving a purpose, but she felt that soon they would not need her anymore. She had heard snippets of their conversations outside the door and it seemed that they were planning on moving her and getting rid of him. That’s the phrase she heard one night, “we gots to get rid of the deadbeat, toss him in the sea, like the rest of the trash, let him sink to the bottom,” and they cackled with laughter. Lilly imagined them like monsters of evil, dancing in a festival of fire, coming to tear down the walls around her and eat her alive. Sometimes she dreamed that they did just that and she would awake crying.


It was hard to find a balance with the heroin; she didn’t want it known that she was not giving him a full dose, but she had to keep him drugged enough that the horrible men wouldn’t notice, wouldn’t see him open his eyes in recognition of a place or a person. When this first happened to her, she was so frightened she didn’t know what to say. He opened his eyes and looked at her, not in a glassy far away dream, but with some recognition. It was then that she asked him his name and understood for the first time that it was Conor. He said it clearly and tried to rise, to move, to show some strength, but he immediately fell backwards, dizzy, drugged, in pain, and still suffering badly. “No, please lie still. I’ll care for you,” she had whispered to him and he seemed to know that she would. Or at least he had no other choice, for he could barely function on his own.


Knowing his name gave her strength to care for him, but also left her feeling incredibly lost and alone. Now, the day was dawning again and she moved to the pot in the far corner to relieve herself; she felt like an animal, everyday searching for crumbs to eat, stinking of filth, no place to wash, nowhere to be except for this deadly space that was more like a dungeon than a room. She had tried to orientate herself, tried to look through the window and see something, but there was only a brick wall of another building and the sky above. She could see a streetlamp, but no road that might indicate people walking, traveling, moving past it. The one sense that had become more acute was her hearing. All day and night she listened. She heard the birds, the sounds outside, her own stomach growling in hunger. She listened to Conor’s breathing, his sighs, his moans of pain.


As time ticked away, she memorized his face, his features, everything about him until she felt she knew him extraordinarily well. Each time he opened his eyes and looked at her with more comprehension, she asked another question. Sometimes, he knew the answer, but most often he did not. He couldn’t remember where he had been, how he had come to be in the clutches of terrible men, what he did in the past, where he had grown up, whether he had family or not. But he seemed to remember two friends. Sometimes he awoke calling their strange names out into the air of the night, Foil and Hog. And she came to know them as friends too. And wished with all her heart that they were real, but she did not believe in their existence. Yet, she held on to his love for them, like it was a love for her as well, and this gave her strength and helped her know that she and Conor would one day escape the room they were in and find freedom, together.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 29: Season

TRIGGER WARNING: Horrible racial slur for African-American people


Chapter 28

Hunting


Late Monday afternoon, moving into early evening . . . at the LAPD downtown station


“You and me, we got this, Fingo. It’s a plan,” and they went their separate ways, George to the police station, alone, and Foil to his car to wait outside for Richard Hendricks, the senior officer they now both suspected of being the dirty cop whom Benson referenced. George had called an emergency meeting of the narcotics squad to assess the case. He planned to give Hendricks a special assignment to test his ethics. If he was the man behind the murders of the drug dealers, then George’s hunch was that Hendricks already felt no allegiance to the police department. When he left the building on his assignment Foil would tail him for the day and discover what he really got up to when no one was watching.


Hendricks had entered the police force at the lowest rank, and worked his way up, following all the rules and never straying from an ethical line in his last 7 years. George had hand-picked the team and he felt confident putting Hendricks in charge of the murder investigations of the young dealers. Now it pained him to suspect one of his own. Discovering that Benson had tried to kill Foil was something that shocked George to his core and made him wake up to the kind of corruption that had seeped into his own squad. It saddened him to see men turn on a dime for money, for he was sure that Benson had been paid well. Thinking about the assignments he had made when the Swine’s detectives first joined the case, he realized that it was Hendricks who had asked to work with detective McKenna, but George was a bit hazy on the why of it at the time. Now he suspected that Hendricks had an agenda all along and that was to get rid of the three new men.


Standing in the room with his team, George saw Hendricks at the back. He looked calm and ready to go. His appearance was neat and clean; his uniform pressed and his eyes alert. For a fleeting second George thought that he might be wrong about his assumptions, but he set that aside and kept to the plan. “Okay, men, let’s hear what you’ve been doing with this case; we’ve really got to get a move on. Families want answers. Young kids are involved in drugs, but they’re also dying. We don’t need no more murders in these negro communities.” When George spoke, his team paid attention. “Yes, sir,” they chorused.


At the end of a very productive meeting, George called out, “Hendricks!”


“Yes sir!” and Hendricks strode up to the front of the room to stand at attention next to George. He appeared respectful, polite and ready to work hard. His countenance was serious and he seemed focused. George noted all of this as Hendricks received his assignment and felt, yet again, that he could be entirely wrong about the man.


“It’s important that we have a good relationship with the community leaders in these neighborhoods that have been hardest hit. I need you to be our police representative and meet with them today,” and he passed off some names to Hendricks.


“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. I’ll do my best and I won’t let you or the force down, sir,” said Hendricks.


“Good man,” said George and they parted. He thought about the plan in place to test Hendricks. He and Foil only had Benson’s guilt to go on and a distant connection to Arms being missing, but tailing a man does not mean he is guilty of anything and if innocent, then they would definitely be the wiser for it.


Early evening, the sun is setting on LA as Foil tails Hendricks . . .


Outside, Foil sat in his car and watched the exit points of the police station. He was eagle eyed, for there were several doors out of which officers, civilians, reporters, or anybody, could leave. Unlike George who had somewhat doubted Hendricks’ guilt, Foil still had serious suspicions that he was heavily involved in both the murders and the drug dealing. Foil thought back to his conversation with Benson and realized that the officer was misleading him on purpose, throwing him off the scent, and sending him down the wrong rabbit hole.


And now he sat and waited, but not for long because Hendricks appeared and made a beeline for a car that Foil had only just seen. Still, he was ready, and as soon as the car started to move, he was after it, staying with it as it weaved in and out of traffic at a rather fast pace that surprised Foil. Something was up, but there was no time to stop and make a phone call to George. He simply had to keep on the car and not lose it. This was rather difficult, but Foil managed it.


He realized that the driver was heading to the LA port, or at least somewhere around the port because instead of turning towards the main gates, he slowed down and went into one of the side neighborhoods. These areas were poor and rundown, known for drug houses and a constant stream of crime. The car turned down a side street. Foil couldn’t follow in his own vehicle without being seen, so he parked behind some junk cars and went along on foot, being careful to stick close to the houses. It seemed that most of these were abandoned or derelict. He wasn’t sure what he would find as he crept along, but up ahead he could see that the car had stopped and Hendricks and another man had gotten out and were standing and talking. Hendricks held a large coil of rope.


Standing underneath a dim streetlamp, as the sun set, it seemed the two men were trying to decide what to do about something. Foil held his gun, ready to fire if need be. He didn’t want to get caught out and surprised, but the closer he got the better he could ambush. A tall man with a rather posh accent was speaking, “We got to keep her quiet. Tie her up or what? Take her with us?” but Hendricks was clearly against this idea. Then he spoke, “fuckin’ leave her here, she ain’t gonna do shit, the whore. She been good at her job, she still got uses. We gots to get the dirtbag outta there first!”


Foil edged closer, realizing that they were conspiring to move someone. Then he heard Hendricks speaking again; he was loud and clear, “he’s drugged out o’ his fuckin’ mind. I say drag the bastard out, stick him in the car, and we’ll dump his body in the water. Fuck if he ain’t gonna sink to the bottom he’s so out of it. He's a gonner, for sure,” and he laughed, seeming convinced of his success.


However, Hendricks’ next words sealed his fate in Foil’s eyes as a man who had gone over to the dark side of corruption, “I got the Sergeant wrapped around me finger, I do, he don’t suspect a thing. Thinks I’m off talking to those niggers in the slum. We got it good here, Sam. The deal’s almost sealed with those Mexicans and after that it’s smooth sailin’. Got our own corner and nothin’s gonna stop us.”


Hendricks, with his senior position in the police force, his smarts, and good connections, clearly believed that he was above the law. Foil was stunned by how far Hendricks had fallen and wondered why he had taken this path after serving for so long in the force with a clean record. It crossed Foil’s mind that Hendricks might even be addicted to the very drugs he was dealing and that was why he was so desperate to get his hands on them, to make money and to sell them. An addiction could make him greedy and reckless to the point of committing execution style murders. There seemed to also be a glorified sense of his own power; even as he talked, he sounded like he was untouchable. And perhaps, up to that point, he had been. Easy to move around the city when you’re a police officer. The power and might of a badge can take a cop far, especially if he’s out for no good.


“Shit, let’s get movin’,” said Hendricks and he and the other man turned around and walked through a door that Foil had not seen. Foil took that opportunity to creep farther up the side street. He looked around quickly for a hiding place where he might have a good vantage point when they came out. Seeing some trash piled high just beyond where the men parked their car, he slipped in there and waited. He wasn’t sure what he would do when they emerged, but confronting them was uppermost in his mind. Foil had seen for himself that Hendricks was the dirty cop, but unless Hendricks did something illegal, it would be hard to prove anything. But he didn’t have long to wait for this opportunity.


As his eyes adjusted to his surroundings, he heard the men’s voices again and then a woman’s scream and a cry of “no, please, no, don’t take him. I’ll do anything you say! Please!” and a long wail of anguished heartbreak filled the air in the short and narrow side street. Foil had a choice to make then, move forward and be seen or ambush the men when they stepped out of the building. He chose the latter and watched, straining his eyes in the darkness. Then he saw the silhouette shadows of Hendricks and the stranger dragging a limp body out of the building, hog tied with rope. As they were preoccupied with opening the trunk, Foil made his move, screaming, “it’s huntin’ season motherfuckers!” rushing forward, gun in hand, and shooting into the air. The men dropped the body, letting it land on the hard ground and turned to face Foil as he pointed his gun at them and barked, “Don’t move! Put your hands up and back away from the car.”


“Fuck you,” spat out Hendricks, “there’s two of us to your one. See here?” and he brandished his own gun.


But he didn’t move and neither did the stranger, who Foil recognized as another man on the narcotics team. Someone he hadn’t worked with at all, but who was new to the force and, now, not long for it.


“What the fuck you doin’ Hendricks?” demanded Foil. “You’re a traitor to your badge, the men you served, it’s all gone now. You’re going to prison and for a long time,” and Foil stood his ground, making sure to keep both men in his line of sight.


“I gots a better offer now. Don’t make no money bein’ good. Get spat on, fucked with, no respect. I got respect now, lots of it. No one fucks with me. Got money, women, the works,” and Hendricks laughed like a mad man. To Foil, it seemed like he’d gone off the rails.


Hendricks’ crazy laughter coincided with the moaning of the man on the ground, but Foil couldn’t take his eyes off the two police officers. It was a true stand-off with all three men holding their guns and waiting. Foil knew in his Ruger Blackhawk he had five bullets left and he was prepared to use them. He didn’t think Hendricks had any ethics or morals; Foil was a dead man if Hendricks felt the need to pull the trigger and he assumed that the other officer would back up his brother in crime. The only chance Foil had of surviving the encounter was moving faster than either man and he wasn’t sure he could. He needed a miracle and he got one.


Suddenly the two police officers heard the cocking of a gun behind them and a demand to, “drop your fuckin’ weapons, shitheads!” It was clear that Foil had backup. Out of the darkness stepped Hog, pointing his gun at the criminals. Foil was never happier to see his friend; together they would bring the corrupt cops into George and help to close the case.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 30: Beer

TRIGGER WARNING: Brutal and vivid physical abuse.


Chapter 29

Rescued


Early Monday evening, the sun is setting (same time that Foil is tailing Hendricks & Sam)


Lilly looked at the man on the floor next to her lovingly and kissed his cheek. “You’re looking better, Arms,” she whispered to him. In his vulnerable state, he had spoken few words to her that she understood, but his names were some of them. He was lying on a dirty blanket and she sat beside him on the hardwood floor. This was their usual state of existence. She felt very protective of him, their relationship based on the intimacy and physical closeness of the needle she used on him and the drug she injected, but that now she withdrew. She was not allowed to wash, to care for herself and she felt the degradation of her captivity, but it was Arms’s needs, which gave her the strength to keep going.


The room they had lived in for almost a week together was now filled with a hazy bluish light, the sunlight outside disappearing and the mild brightness from the streetlamp emerging. It was this in-between time in the day that Lilly felt like she lived in a dream, but Arms kept her grounded to reality. She brushed his black hair away from his face and he stirred, looking towards her with clear blue eyes. He had healed enough from his brutal beatings that the normal color was returning to his features. Lilly had worked to ease off on the drugs gradually and to keep him from coming out of withdrawal too fast and hard, but he still experienced the shakes and she held him often for reassurance and physical warmth.


The drug paraphernalia scattered around the room indicated to the men who visited her that she was performing her tasks. As long as they believed that detective McKenna, as they knew him, was completely drugged, they didn’t bother much with him or seem to care whether he lived or died. But Lilly cared, deeply. In the long hours of the day and night, she had come to love him unconditionally and would do anything for him. When the men came to see her, they dragged her into another corner and forced themselves upon her. Her cries and screams filled the room; she could not help herself and each time the defilement left her broken, bruised and suffering. In his state of moving in and out of consciousness, Arms was only vaguely aware of the brutality and submission near him.


There were two men who came to torment Lilly. They were both police officers in the LAPD, that she had gathered as the days wore on. Sometimes they arrived in their uniforms and other times street clothes; at first, she did not know when they would come, but slowly a pattern set in and after they brought Arms to her, she could track their movements more easily. Arms’s presence gave meaning to the day and she paid more attention to light and dark. She didn’t know the men’s full names, only what they called each other: Sam and Hendricks. Hendricks was a brute, a man who cared for nobody but himself. He had picked her up off the streets, tricked her into the car, and then wouldn’t let her go. It was he who raped her, over and over again, at his will, leaving her suffering and in despair. It was he who beat her, he who brought the nameless man to her, forced her to inject the drugs, and he whom she feared the most. Then there was Sam. He was kinder than Hendricks, but he still forced himself upon her. He wasn’t as brutal, but he seemed to believe erroneously that this made what he did to her better. If she ever got out of there alive, she knew that she would go to prison for murder, for killing these two men was her sole mission in life.


Night has set in at the derelict house near the LA port, in the room of pain . . .


Lilly looked out the dirty window day and night, but could see almost nothing from her vantage point except a wall. She knew that the sky above changed often, but that her own life changed little. In its repetitiveness, it was Arms who gave her hope and respite from her pain. Yet, she had learned quite quickly that her senses were not dulled but had become more acute, especially her sense of hearing. She was on guard all the time, waiting for a man or two men to appear in the doorway. Sometimes she heard nothing when the men arrived. Other times, she heard a car drive up and stop. Earlier in the day when Hendricks had come, he didn’t bother her but seemed preoccupied, walking over to Arms and looking at him carefully. This alarmed Lilly who knew that she had no power to stop him. She couldn’t say anything, couldn’t speak for raising his ire.


“You fuckin’ keep the junk flowin’ girlie,” he had barked, walking towards her, as if to touch her again. She scurried away from him, hiding behind the couch, crouching like an animal in fear and he laughed, seeing her visible anguish. When he left and locked the door, placing the metal bar across it, so that there was no way for her to escape, she came out and went directly to Arms, who was still sleeping. She lay down and held him close to her, feeling his warm body and she began to cry. She was so exhausted from living that she was not even sure she could hold on for the man who needed her badly and whom she loved. “Why am I here, God,” she wailed, looking up at the ceiling as if the answer lay there. But there was only silence in the room and the steady breathing of Arms. She leaned into him and cried herself to sleep.


That had been in the afternoon and now it was night. She was fully awake and on high alert. She had heard a car drive up and knew that at this late hour the men who came to her were even more dangerous. She checked on Arms and found him a little groggy, coming around to a more conscious state. She hadn’t had time to find a needle, so she hoped that the men would not notice him stirring. She listened for steps, bracing for their entrance; her fear rose as the bar was drawn across the door and she saw both men enter. Hendricks large and imposing, Sam just behind him, smaller, but no less dangerous. It looked like they held bottles in their hands and Lilly knew these could become weapons against her. She smelled a powerful stench of beer. Hendricks shone a flashlight over the room and blinded her with its brightness. Then the light landed on Arms. It lingered for a moment, as he walked to him and pushed him with his foot. Lilly responded immediately, “what do you want with him? He’s done nothin’ to you. Leave him alone!”


The words came out of her into the space like a tiny insect about to be squashed. Sam barely moved, but Hendricks turned instantly and slapped her across the face, knocking her back against the floor. “Get the fuck away from me, bitch! ‘Ya ain’t nothin’ but a whore!” and he turned back to Sam. “Come on, gimme the rope, gots to tie up the bastard, easier to drop him in the water,” and he grabbed Arms roughly and turned him over, yanking his body like he was a puppet on a string.


Lilly heard his words and knew they were going to kill Arms, drown him, she guessed. She pulled herself up and ran at Hendricks throwing her body at him, so that he dropped Arms hard, on the floor. Arms moaned, but lay there, not moving. Then Hendricks hit Lilly so hard across her face that she dropped to the ground like a sack of flour, feeling blood seep from her mouth, down her chin. She lay whimpering, in pain, her head feeling like it had been crushed, her jaw throbbing. She couldn’t bear being hit again, but tried to drag herself up one more time, feeling woozy and unbalanced. She couldn’t stand. She tried, but failed. The men had finished tying up Arms and were starting to move out of the room. Lilly was utterly desperate, as she saw the one person in all the world that she loved with her whole heart being taken away from her. She cried out in anguish, “no, please, no, don’t take him. I’ll do anything you say! Please!” and she let out a long wail of heartbreak, filling the room with her pain. The door slammed, the beam of the flashlight vanished, and she was alone, sobbing as if she would die.


And, indeed, in all the world there was not a more lonely person. Everything was gone in Lilly’s life and she had nothing. The bleakness, blackness overwhelmed her and the fire of instant longing made her chest hurt. To lose the one being, the one man who had been a source of comfort was more horrible than being hurt physically by the bad men who kept her in captivity and took her soul from her body every single time they assaulted her. She lay on the cold, hard floor in agony, willing herself to die. She lay bleeding, alone and suddenly she heard screaming and a gun shot. That loud crack in the night shocked her senses and she stopped crying instantly.


“Have they killed him already?” she whispered, as the blood dripped down her chin. She clumsily wiped it away, but listened more intently. “Will they come for me now?” she wondered and lay, quietly, barely breathing and waiting . . . waiting and breathing.


Outside the building, under the dim streetlamp . . .


“Move it, fuckers!” commanded Hog, pushing the gun at the two men who stood over Arms’s body. “Drop your weapons and get the fuck up against the wall!” his voice was strong and angry.


The men stepped away from Arms, walking backwards until they both felt the brick wall behind them and stopped. With two against two, Hendricks seemed more subdued, but Hog didn’t trust him and had seen enough in the shadows to know that Hendricks might try something stupid. Hog would shoot him, of course, immediately. Though he didn’t like to shoot people (“think first, shoot later”) he would make an exception for a dirty cop.


Foil rushed forward now and bent over the man on the ground. “My god, it’s Arms!” and he started to pull the ropes off his body immediately. “Jesus, Hog, he’s in shit shape, we gots to get him to the hospital! What the fuck we gonna do? And there’s a girl. I heard her inside that building, wailin’ somethin’ fierce.”


“Pete, you got your gun with ‘ya?” Hog yelled to someone behind him in the darkness.


“Yes sir, gots it ‘t right here,” and out of the shadows walked Stinky Pete.


Foil couldn’t believe his eyes. The dirty, shitbag cops were outnumbered!

Hog, who understood that Arms was in terrible shape, couldn’t take his eyes off the men up against the wall or else he knew they would lose their advantage. However, they had their third man now and he could leave Pete watching them. He trusted Pete to shoot if they moved, and kill them if need be. Hog knew that dirty cops didn’t need much consideration, so if the man moved and didn’t make it, well, who was Hog to question what happened.


“Foil, we’ll leave ‘em here to rot for a while with Pete. You stay with Arms and I’ll see about this girl.” Hog was in charge now.


Hog walked quietly into the building where Foil said that he heard a girl calling out. He held his gun out in front of him as he moved down a short hallway and turned, careful not to leave his back exposed. To his right he could see a door with a large metal bar pushed across it. Slowly dragging the bar away, he moved into a smell that almost knocked him down it was so pungent. In the center of the floor he could see something lying in a heap. He couldn’t tell if it was human or not, but he sensed there was no need for his gun. He put it away and took out a flashlight.


“Anybody here?” he said, his voice calm and kind. A tiny whimper came from the mound on the floor and then Hog heard a voice.


“Help me,” whispered Lilly, “please, help me, please.”


Hog walked slowly over to the shadowy lump on the floor, “it’s okay, I’m here. You’re safe now,” and he spoke in the same whisper, for he felt that the moment called for it. He moved closer, leaning over to touch her. “I’m not gonna hurt you.” Though he wasn’t sure why he said that, he sensed that the being on the floor needed reassurance.


Turning on his flashlight to see better, he scanned the room and saw the detritus of life, the needles, the waste and he could smell it. He needed to get her out of this space to freedom. He turned to her and in that moment, she looked up at him. In the light he saw a creature that he could only later describe as animal-like. Her face was battered and deeply bruised, her blonde hair matted terribly, her clothes ripped, dirty, and tattered. There was blood dripping down her chin from where Hendricks hit her. But her eyes . . . Lilly’s eyes contained all her abject terror and lost hope. Later Hog would describe her eyes to Arms and Foil as those of a hunted, haunted being of some other world.


“Come on now,” said Hog gently, “Let me help you. Can ‘ya stand,” and he held out his hand to take hers. She did not hesitate for she knew in her heart that like Arms, this man was not going to hurt her.


“That’s right, take my hand. Okay, there you go,” and Lilly leaned heavily on the arm offered her and staggered to her feet. She almost fell, but Hog held and guided her forward. As a father, Hog was used to looking after little ones, and Lilly felt like a child to him. Hurt and in need of so much care.


His voice was soft, as he led her out of the room where she had spent so long imprisoned and in pain. The air of the night was hot and humid, but not heavy and fetid as the air of her past. Lilly exited the building with Hog, seeing the world for the first time in many weeks, taking deep breaths and feeling like a bird about to be set free and fly away forever.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 31: Love


Chapter 30

Freedom


Monday night, outside the room of pain, under the dim streetlamp . . .


“Foil! Give me your jacket. Quick, man!” Hog commanded as he walked out into the muted darkness, holding Lilly to him, carefully.


From the ground where he was tending to Arms, Foil saw Hog bringing out a woman who was so badly beaten that he could barely see the original shape of her face. Hog was helping her stand and blood dripped from her mouth, where she had been pummeled by a large fist, the finger marks visible on her cheeks. The only hands that size between the two dirty cops were Hendricks’. Foil was shocked by the brutality the man had inflicted on her and he felt sick to his stomach at her suffering. It looked like she might have lost some teeth when Hendricks hit her. Foil marveled that she even had the strength to call out to her captors when they took Arms out of the room, where Foil knew now, Arms had also been held.


Hog’s priority was to cover her body with something warm, she was so weak and tiny next to him. Foil did as he was told, seeing the girl wince in pain as Hog wrapped the jacket around her. Then he gently wiped some of the blood away from her face with his own handkerchief. “We need to get these two to the hospital, pronto!” he called to Foil.


Lilly, who felt safe with Hog, searched for Arms and saw him on the ground, shivering uncontrollably. The man kneeling beside him was trying help, but she could see that Arms needed another drug fix and he was going into withdrawal. She had not spoken since she had asked for help, but now she turned to Hog and through the blood and her own chattering teeth, she whispered, “take me too him. I can help.”


Hog was shocked that she had uttered words at all, that she even had the energy to speak. To him, she seemed completely broken and incapable of doing anything. Yet, he helped her move to the ground where Arms lay. There, she placed her hands on his chest, pressing down on him to stop the shaking and then she drew him to her and cradled his body, rocking him in a soothing way, like a small child. He responded immediately to her touch and began to relax. The scene was tragic to both Hog and Foil. Two injured and damaged souls almost lost to the world, bonded together by their pain.


“Look at the whore! Bitch ain’t good for nothin’ but suckin’ dick!” Hendricks’ words rang out, piercing the calm that had gathered around Lilly and Arms and striking Pete as insane.


He strode over to Hendricks and put his gun in the madman’s face, “shut ‘t fuck up, ‘ya piece ‘o shit, or see me put ‘t bullet in ‘ya big gut!” and Pete shoved the gun into Hendricks’ ribs for emphasis.


“Fuck you!” screamed Hendricks, moving away from the wall and swinging wildly at Pete, who ducked quickly, and shot, hitting Hendricks in the leg. He had aimed for something higher, but he was satisfied the bullet hit any part of the corrupt cop’s body.


“A piece ‘o shit, like I said,” grinned Pete, as he watched Hendricks writhe on the ground in agony. Sam stood flat against the wall and didn’t move. He wasn’t as stupid or as crazy as Hendricks. And he didn’t want to get shot.


This moment between Hendricks and Pete played out as Lilly eased Arms’s shaking and shivering. Once he was calm, she fell back and away from him, exhausted, and might have hit the ground herself, if Hog hadn’t been there to catch her. Foil looked up at Hog in wonder at what had just occurred in front of them. There was so much that they did not know about this stranger, but they could see she cared deeply for their friend and that was enough for them. Still, she was clearly suffering and so was Arms.


“We gots to get out of here and quick,” said Hog. “Not much time to lose, they both look like shit. The girl’s in horrible shape, but Arms could die right here. Get your car and let’s move, fast! Pete, we’ll send an ambulance for ‘ya and the dirtbags. You got it, right?”


“Yes sir, no problems he’a,” and he eyed Sam who shrank against the wall. Hendricks was still winging on the ground, as the blood seeped through his fingers and pooled. “Yeah, the big pussy. Knocked a right hole in his leg, sir,” and he winked at Hog. “He’ll survive, but he may not walk ‘gain. He can sweat out his days in prison, he can, sir,” said Pete, chuckling to himself and holding his rifle handily like a man who had years of experience with firearms.


Foil retrieved his car; there was no moon to guide him, the night hung over the chaotic party like a cloak. He would remember this experience as one of horror when he looked back on it, but for now he was in action mode. Hog carried the injured girl to the car and placed her in it carefully. Foil lifted his friend off the ground, marveling at his light weight and put him in the front seat. He didn’t let himself worry or think too much at this point, he simply had a job to do. They reversed out of the side street and headed for the Pasadena hospital.


Hog was confident that Pete could handle the injured cop and his partner in crime. He had no doubt that when George arrived, for it would be he that Foil would alert to their whereabouts, they might just find two dirty cops shot and suffering. Pete had his own ways of handling things when nobody was looking or nobody cared to look.


As Foil drove away from the crime scene, Hog turned to the woman whom he had just saved and asked gently, “what’s your name?”


And before she could answer, Arms spoke the first words to his friends and rescuers, “her name’s Lilly, like the beautiful flower.”


Three weeks later, early morning . . . September 13, 1954, a Monday.


Lilly sat with Arms on a garden bench, the cool breeze blowing around them. They looked out on deep green grass and beds of beautiful flowers. The sky was clear and blue, the air smelling sweet and clean. She was wearing a long flowing dress of deep purple, her blonde hair pulled back with a sparkling hair band, her face beatific. Arms was in a suit of black and a crisp white shirt. She noticed that he wasn’t wearing a tie. She liked him that way. She felt supremely happy and at peace. She smiled at Arms, as he leaned over to kiss her softly and gently on the lips. Then she felt him move towards her and a euphoric warmth spread over her body . . .


She awoke with a start; her back ached from sitting in the hard hospital chair, but she was content. The dream seemed real and the feeling of love that she had didn’t dissipate when she opened her eyes. She stretched and looked at the bed where Arms lay, sleeping. Standing to check on him, she tucked his blanket in and pushed a shock of black hair back away from his forehead. It always fell forward when he slept. She was used to looking at him, caring for him. She had memorized his features as they lay together night after night in the small room of pain, their shared prison. And now, she touched his cheek gently and felt devotion swell in her heart. With her help, he was growing stronger and healthier every single day.


Her own battle scars remained, however, even weeks after she was rescued; she had permanent bruising on her face and she suffered in her body from her imprisonment, the brutality at the hands of the wicked men leaving her partially crippled. She used a cane to walk, but hoped that as time moved on, she would regain her strength. She couldn’t be alone for too long; she always needed good, caring people around her, for she would grow worried and nervous. And it was imperative that she was able to move and breathe freely. The only small space that she would walk into was Arms’s hospital room. In that place she felt peace and tranquility being near him.


Except for the time when she had been cared for and rehabilitated, Lilly spent all her time with Arms. She was afraid to leave his side for fear that she might not see him again. She wasn’t obsessive, just aware of how he got to his present state. When she was around him, he felt his own peace grow. He had been extremely sick after they were rescued from their prison, his body feeling the intense withdrawal symptoms from heroin. The shakes, the tremors, the physical hurting; he experienced it all. Daily, Lilly talked to him as he lay in his hospital bed; sometimes he was conscious, other times not, as he slowly got better. Heroin was a deadly drug, but the nursing care given to him and the influence of Lilly eased Arms’s transition into living again.


Now, she sat down and settled in until Arms woke up. In moments of silence, she reflected on her life. She refused to forget her past, her history and what had happened to her. In these quiet minutes, she closed her eyes and took herself back to the moment when she was brought out into the land of the living. There were the demons who tormented her, up against a wall, being held in check by a man with a gun. Arms was on the ground and next to him another man, who she came to learn was named Foil. The man who rescued her was called Hog. When she learned their names, she understood that Arms was trying to communicate much more than she realized.


After she began to heal physically, she needed to be the voice for both herself and Arms. She had to tell her story and answer so many questions put to her by Hog, Foil and George. Yet in all the hours that she spoke to them, they were never unkind. At first, she was so numb from the trauma that she couldn’t feel anything, but as she spoke to the men over the weeks about her experiences and was heard for the first time in her life, she began to move into a sense of her own power and that feeling was revelatory.


What did she know? In her past, the answer would have been very little, but now she found that she knew more than she thought. Hendricks and Sam had spoken openly in front of her about their crimes and she had listened, despite the rapes and the beatings. In her freedom, she told the truth; she told them everything and anything that she could remember. Her information about the murders of the young drug dealers, the Mexican cartels, and their corruption helped to convict the men who had trapped and kept her and Arms in captivity.


“Can men be both demons and angels?” Lilly had wondered to herself as she sat with Arms in the hospital. The question was a conundrum to her. How could some men be so violent and evil towards women, while others had good hearts and devoted themselves to truth? She never quite understood men and their ways. But with Foil and Hog, she didn’t feel like less than. In their eyes, she was a human being and not a whore, a bitch, or a girlie, as she had been called all her life. And Arms saw past her physically damaged body to her heart, where he had settled permanently.


Epilogue

Angels


Five and a half weeks later, October 22, 1954, a Friday at the Swine’s Agency . . .


“I never liked the fuckin’ scumbag,” said Arms emphatically, “there was somethin’ about him; he rubbed me the wrong way.”


Hog chuckled. “Yeah, you’ve said. ‘Ya never did get a chance to kick him in the nuts. Yous was one fucked up junkie by the time we got to ‘ya.”


“Okay, boys, no need to talk that path,” said Foil, seeing Arms give Hog an angry look. “No need,” he said again, smoothing over the moment.


Arms was sitting in his office at the Swine’s agency with his two friends, about eight and a half weeks after he had entered the hospital for his withdrawal symptoms to heroin. They were sharing some whiskey and discussing the big drug case, Hendricks and Sam, and the fall out in the LAPD. “As I was sayin’ corruption runs deep. George gots a tough job on him now; that fuckin’ squad of his, he better be lookin’ out for the rotten ones comin’ up,” and Arms leaned back, seeming worn out for a moment.


Hog gave Foil a look, which said, “talk about something else before we lose him again.”


“You heard from Lilly?” Foil asked. There was silence in the room and Foil suddenly thought maybe he had touched a nerve. Maybe he had, but Arms didn’t seem disturbed.


“Nah, just the last postcard from somewhere up north. She can’t stick to one place; a nomad, she is,” said Arms without malice.


“What about George? He got that promotion yet,” said Hog, “we gots Pete to thank for a lot, we do. He didn’t want money, just them things for his sweet mother,” and Hog looked perplexed, but accepting of this choice of his best informant.


“He’s waitin’ on the paperwork; ain’t Ruth and his family proud ‘o him,” said Foil, feeling proud, too, of his friend and his advancement in the police force.


“Hey, I’m just relieved we gots you back,” said Foil, looking directly at Arms and smiling. He never was one to shy away from the truth.


“Look, don’t gets all sappy, my man,” said Arms, but he was smiling too. “I’m right as rain now!”


“You’re lookin’ good,” agreed Hog, standing to go. “Gots to get home boys. The wife’s been at me to take her and the kids out. Been promisin’, so, you know . . .” and he trailed off, looking at Arms with some concern again.


Hog glanced at Foil and he nodded imperceptibly. They both could tell Arms was falling into one of his reveries, of late. He might be “right as rain” as he said, but both friends could tell that he had been highly distracted since he came home from the hospital. They didn’t want to pry, but something was on Arms’s mind.


“I’m meetin’ George and some of the boys down at the pub, you comin’? he asked Arms.


“Nah, got some files to go through,” said Arms evasively. “You go on, ‘t both of ‘ya. I’ll see ‘ya round.”


“Yeah, okay,” said Hog and Foil nodded at Arms, walking out of his office and leaving him to his thoughts.


Outside, in the cool of the evening light, Hog turned to Foil and said, “’ya know, he’s never been the same, don’t ‘ya?”


“No, you’re right, he’s not the same,” and Foil let that hang in the air, as both men got into their cars and drove away.


Inside in his office, alone, Arms poured himself another whiskey and opened a drawer in his desk. He took out a postcard and studied it. A corner of it was well worn and the ink was slightly smudged where it had clearly been handled over and over again.


It was a generic picture of mountains, clearly from one of the tourist traps set up on the side of the rode to catch drivers.


He read her words again, as he had done for weeks now, and felt an odd mix of longing and loneliness. He missed her.


Dearest Arms,

Someday you and I will walk these mountains together.

Until then, think of me, darling, with only fond memories.

I know I do of you.


Yours always,

Lilly


He placed the postcard back in the desk drawer, gently. Taking a swig of whiskey, he leaned back in his chair and sat in silence. Arms knew that Lilly had settled permanently in his heart.



The End











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