Authors: James A. Newman
Tags: #Fiction, #Retail, #Suspense, #Thriller
THE WHITE FLAMINGO
sliced open and mutilated in Fun City, her body spread on Slim Jim’s moth-bitten pool table like a piece of raw meat on a roadside stall. The attack had taken place early that Thursday morning between closing at 2am and opening at 11am.
She once had the face of a puzzled fox.
At one time, she liked mobile telephones with poppy ringtones, Japanese food, walking along the seafront and slapstick television shows. At first glance, nothing was unusual about Tammy except for the way she had been mutilated. The Detective guessed her mind had danced to the tune of money just before the killer’s blade did the talking.
She was cut open.
Raw like sashimi. Top to tail with the kind of knife that the street sellers used to cut up barbequed chicken. It was quite a picture. Her heart was stuffed down the pool table top right pocket, the left ventricle slipping through the netting like a live catch. Her bloated liver was carefully placed in and perfectly fitted the table’s
. Both of her ovaries were shoved down the bottom pockets. Each of the two middle pockets housed a severed breast. The eight ball had been inserted into her vagina. The yellow and the red balls had been clumsily placed in her left and right hands. The fingernails were painted a brilliant fire engine red. Her head was tilted backwards with her eyes staring at the table light in that sudden snarl of surprised mortality. The killer had slashed at every contour of Tammy’s body, except the face.
He had left
The thing most witnesses commented on
was the intestines. Not many outside of the medical profession realize how far and wide they stretch. Hers were a clumsy serving of meatball spaghetti on the tiled floor. The smell was similar to that of a tropical open-air meat market, a dark gritty stench that filled the lungs and gagged the throat. A stench that battled victoriously over the smell of cigarette smoke, second-hand beer, and whiskey. The two men looked at the corpse, both knowing that it was an image that no passage of time or shots of Tiger Sweat would ever erase.
It was a real messy spread.
The flies buzzed around the open wounds. The hum of a ceiling fan could be heard coming from overhead. On her left thigh was a crude engraving of a symbol that looked to the detective like a child’s drawing of a wading bird: a stork or a heron.
Another one on the abdomen.
Sick in the head.
Whoever had done it.
The bastard was sick in the head.
The Detective was thirty-three years old. The years could have cared more
, but they hadn’t. He had a good head of hair and his eyes didn’t need glasses. His idea of a workout was walking up the three flights of stairs to his one room cold-water apartment. He was sober.
Looked at the bar-owner.
England, nine stone wet.
He had not only wasted eighteen years in Fun City, but had forgotten what he had done with them. Bald as a coot, Slim was half-crazy. His was all ribs, toes and liver. That haunted look of the tropical alcoholic that so many of them adopt. Sweat dripped from his brow. Hands shook as he lit a mild seven cigarette and looked at the bar-box.
The Detective had taken the telephone call at six that morning. He didn’t see much money coming his way with the case.
A private dick in Fun City took what he could.
He guessed that the wrong guy would be locked up. The wrong guy was always locked up in Fun City. If somebody cared about the wrong
guy, they would pay The Detective to find the murderer. The evidence to spring the wrong guy out of the can was his game. It was the way things rolled in a city where corruption wasn’t a kink in the system: it
the system. Corruption swam in the sewers with the rats, the monitor lizards, and the pythons. It slithered up the cracks onto the sidewalks where the hookers and the beggars plied their trade. It rose up to the high-rise condominiums and the mansions on the hills where the wealthy counted dirty money with soft untouchable hands.
Hands with manicured fingernails. Hands that played the piano. Wrote checks, issued demands. Played cards. Raised glasses of single malt.
Danced the foxtrot.
Cha Cha Cha.
The dirt was also up in the sky. The mob ran the only airline in and out of Fun City, and they owned the large launderette that doubled as the City’s only airport. Airports were the place to do a little cleaning with all those different currencies floating in and out. Another line was the smuggling out of precious stones and historical artefacts
, along with sex workers destined for slavery overseas.
Any smugglers planning to bring illegal drugs or stones into the city, however, were ordinarily jailed for life. The city didn’t appreciate competition
, and foreigners who were not permitted to work legally, were expected to arrive in Fun City, spend all their money, and leave via the airport or take a jump from a hotel balcony.
Whichever was less trouble.
“Have you called the Boys in Brown?” The Detective asked the bar owner.
Slim shook his
noodle, “Not yet.”
understood Slim’s hesitation. The Fun City legal system was firmly hinged on money. Those that had it were innocent and those without were banged to rights. A foreigner with money had a chance, but a local with money was above the law. Magistrates took the job so they could line their pockets with gold and extort sexual favours from prostitutes and lounge singers. They promoted crime so that they could solve it and receive rewards. There were simply no lines between politicians, criminals, lawyers, magistrates, and large business operators. They were all in the same cast iron rice bowl. Untouchable and unreasonable crime lords who lived lives of luxury in the large mansions that sat on the hills overlooking the harbour, the beach, and the calm tropical sea below.
Fun City was also a city of bars, thousands of bars, lit with neon and decorated with dancing girls and boys. There were places where one could pay to watch a male dwarf impregnate a topless nun while drinking a pint of snake blood
. Magic mushroom omelette for breakfast, diazepam over the counter, shots of Tiger Sweat in the afternoon, cocaine, Viagra, and twenty thousand sex workers plied their trade in Fun City. Tammy, before she had been butchered and mutilated on Slim Jim’s pool table, was one such woman.
“I thought I’d call you before I called the Boys in Brown
,” Jim said brushing his fingers through his balding scalp. The Boys in Brown were the highly organized criminal organization who was authorized to administer law and order. The B.I.B. were so called because of the colour of their tight-fitting uniforms. “Just thought I could use a second opinion to confirm me own belief.”
“What is your belief?” The Detective picked up Jim’s cigarette box, he hadn’t smoked in years
, but he couldn’t resist blazing one up over the table.
He had to be careful.
He was no stranger to
Booze, women, cigarettes. They were all carriages of the same train; the same train wreck. The trick was not to get on the train, not pick up
the glass, the smoke, the bitch. Smack was a temporary thing. The brown sugar wasn’t a train. It was an aeroplane.
Slim handed him a lighter.
He fired it up.
“My belief is that this wasn’t a suicide.”
“I’m with you, Jimmy. Who had access to the bar last night?”
“Who didn’t?” Slim said grabbing a smoke from the box and lighting up his fifth of the morning. “This isn’t an exclusive member’s club you’re standing in. We let anyone in here...”
“The girls sleep upstairs. The drunks sleep outside. Old Vern sleeps on the chair outside and hits the bar for first orders. He’s been drinking the slops since ‘03. He took one look at her and got
“Vern was the first to find h
“Guess so, he went off toward the beach. Shaking with the DTs. The cleaner got a key. She comes later. There are knives in the kitchen. You think that one of our own lads did this?”
The Detective took a long hard drag on the cigarette. It tasted like shit. He thought about the train. He looked at the mutilated body. “Jim, there are only a few people in the world who could commit such a crime. Luckily for us, they all live in Fun City.” The Detective looked the thin man in the eye. “Is there a back entrance? Or is the only way in through the front shutters?”
“There’s a small yard to the back, a door,
and a ten foot wall.”
The Detective took another drag of the cigarette and reached into his inside jacket pocket. “You mind if I take a shot?” he asked.
“A glass of water?”
The Detective took out his works: a hypodermic and a silver spoon.
Rolled up his sleeve. Found a vein under the table light. Jim came over with the water.
The Detective opened up a packet of pure white junk from his pocket. The junk came down from the mountains some six hundred clicks north on the back of a mule. The junk was stashed inside baskets of tea and compressed weed. The Detective took off his belt, tied up, sucked some water from the glass with the hypo and then squirted it into the spoon with the powder. Heated up the spoon with Slim’s cigarette lighter, stirred the solution with the needle tip, and then sucked it into the barrel of the syringe. Looked like victory. Pushed the plunger, admiring his antique German works that were made around the turn of the 20
Century. Picked them up in China Town from a man named Chow.
Put the works back in the pocket. Looped the belt around his pants. “I need some pictures,” he said.
“Some more shots,” Slim grinned.
The Detective smiled like a shark that had hit a school of baitfish in the shallows. He took out a camera from the brown leather bag that hung over his shoulder. The kind of bag doctors hauled around on house calls. Felt a rush, a sudden sense of calm, like seeing an old friend in the street.
The Detective snapped a few pictures
of the table, the corpse, and the mess of colours. Under the influence of the junk, the scene was as shocking as a piece of contemporary art put together by a trust fund kid who tweeted more than a canary on Benzedrine.
“She had a name?”
The Detective asked.
“Cute. She work here?”
“Now and again. She was a freelancer
, played the bars. The punters liked her because she didn’t come with a pimp attached.”
“You liked the girl?”
“As long as she bought her own drinks or had a punter buy them for her, she was welcome.”
“You weren’t close?”
“She was good at getting drinks bought for her. Latched onto drunks.”
“I’ll say it again. You weren’t close?”
“I hadn’t seen her in over a
month, until what we see in front of us. Until this,” Jim pointed at the pool table.
“But you never slept with her?”
“Look, Joe, I may have. I honestly don’t know. There have been thousands and you know how it is, you only remember two.”
“Yeah, right,” the Detective
said, “the first and the last.”
They both stared at the corpse on top of the pool table.
The Detective put the camera into his pocket, took out a notebook, and began to sketch the scene. The tables. Chairs. The doors. His sketch of the corpse was simple. He didn’t detail the hair matted with blood, the fluid stuck to her left check. He didn’t detail her nakedness, the strands of black lace underwear. She was a stick diagram on a page.
An impersonal record.
The mutilations were etched in his mind.
name was Joe Dylan. He had rolled around in crime for enough time to find a taste and a nose for it. He had the legs to step around in it and the mind, while sober, to understand it. There were days when he didn’t have the stomach or the empathy to consider it. Today was such a day. Joe looked at the cut on her abdomen, carved with the thin edge of a blade, like a child’s drawing. The Detective played out the attack in his mind. He used his arms to replay the episode, using his left and then his right arm to brandish an imaginary blade. The slashes ran from right to left, suggesting a left-handed attacker. He fixed the image in his mind and sketched a larger version of it at the top of the page. He wrote the date, the time, and the words: