Blood-on-the-Paddle-5

The End. That’s how this story will finish. With an ending. With a conclusion, a denouement, an answering of unsatisfied questions. Everything wrapped up in a neat little package with a satisfying bow. If only life were that simple.

I can’t see any end to this. Except maybe ‘Happily never after’.

I turned it over in my head a billion times. The rights and the wrongs. Flipping them like thick airy American style pancakes. The morality of the eggs congealing with the necessity of the flour and the impulsiveness of the milk. With a teaspoon of incendiary baking soda for good measure. All bubbling away on the skillet that is my tired mind. Flip. Flip. Flip. Heads I lose. Tails he wins.

I had still not asked him his name. I didn’t need to. All I needed to know was that he was the most dangerous man I’d ever met. And that in a matter of minutes, one of us would be dead. He grinned maniacally from the shadows to my left as I banged on the safe-house door.

‘Detective Garrison. Here to see the girl,’ I barked through the bolted oak.
‘But I thought you were… suspended.’ He can’t have been more than twenty. This was their foolproof plan to protect Sandra, the last living lollipop lady in town? I was right not to trust them with her safety. If I could gain entry this easily, he could have too. So why was I escorting him right to her?

The door edged open and the pimply face of the young officer, all flushed and nervy, peered out.
‘God damn it, son,’ I growled with a practiced weariness. ‘Open the door. Or I’ll have your badge!’ The door closed again and then, after the jingling of a chain, re-opened fully. ‘This is Miss Rebecci’s attorney. Mr. – eh – Mr. Smith.’
‘Who?’ The young man’s face crumpled in confusion. But almost immediately his dead body crumpled in lifelessness. Bang! I watched him slump to the floor and then turned to the see the maniac holding his smoking berretta, still smiling like the lunatic he undoubtedly was.

‘Why did you do that?!’
He shrugged with a casualness that confirmed his insanity, if such confirmation was still needed, which it wasn’t. ‘We omelette makers can’t mourn the cracking of every egg, can we John?’

I pored over this dire situation, like yellow eggy liquid mix flowing onto the heated frying pan of my conscience. It was impossible to know where the salty, sinewy egotistical ham ended and the cheesey possibility of redemption began.

I stepped over the twitching corpse of the rookie and headed for the bedroom. She was asleep when I entered. She stirred and shielded her eyes from the light cascading in from the hall.
‘John?’ she groggily whispered. ‘Is that you?’
‘I’m here Sandra.’ I took her hand in mine.
‘Did you find him?’
I nodded, fighting back tears.
‘Did you kill him?’
I shook my head. ‘He’s here with me. I’m so sorry. I’ve messed everything up. Please forgive me.’
She sat up rigid in the bed and flicked on the bedside lamp. ‘But John, there’s no-one there,’ she stammered, turning pale. Twist!
‘What?’ I looked around. He was nowhere to be seen. ‘But we came here… together.’

Sandra gripped my face with her delicate palms and looked deeply into my eyes. My brain was scrambled like eggs heated in a pan with butter, milk and seasoning.
‘But if he doesn’t exist…’ I shuddered. ‘Then who— ’
‘Sorry about that,’ the maniac interrupted. ‘I needed to use the toilet.’ He stood in the doorway grinning like the psychopath it was no longer in doubt that he was.
Sandra screamed. ‘It’s him! Why did you bring him here?!’
‘I don’t know. I sort of thought he wasn’t real and that I was him all along. Or something.’
‘What?! What are you talking about?! Why the fuck would you think that?!’

There was no time for explanations, as the confirmed nut-job raised his berretta barrel and trained it at Sandra. I leapt forward, springing off the bed like crispy bread from a toaster.

Bang! The gun went off and I felt hot steel slice through my taut bicep. We grappled. He was lanky and slight. But his undisputed mental instability more than made up for his lack of strength. He pinned me and raised the gun nozzle to my temple.
‘Farewell, John Garrison,’ he sneered. ‘It’s a pity. We made quite a team.’
I closed my eyes and exhaled deeply.

BOMP! I thought, that’s not the sound a gun makes. Opening my eyes, I saw Sandra standing over me, lamp in hand. The certified wacko lay bludgeoned on the floor.

Sandra smiled and offered me her hand. ‘Let’s go home, John Garrison.’
‘Can we stop somewhere for breakfast?’ I smiled, weakly. ‘For some reason, I’m absolutely famished.’

The End.

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BOTP-Feature-4

‘It’s not your call to make, Garrison!’ bellowed O’Lynam, slamming his fist onto solid mahogany. Coffee breached the cup’s rim and flowed onto the desk. ‘I’ve had it. You’re too much of a renegade. You can’t keep playing by your own rules!’

Garrison finally looked up from his feet and raised his eyebrows.
‘Are you done?’
‘No. You are!’ O’Lynam spat. ‘You’re done on this case. You’re done on this force. You’re done. Period.’
I guess you could say O’Lynam wasn’t amused to hear that Garrison was hiding Sandra Rebecci, a prime witness, at his place.

Garrison rose from his seat and straightened his jacket lapels. ‘I’m sorry you feel that way, boss. I’ll be sure to give Sandra your regards.’
A smile cracked across the chief’s face. Perhaps he’d finally seen sense. Perhaps the rage had subsided and he was lightening up, succumbing to Garrison’s roguish charm. The smile widened into a full on grin and then bore teeth. He cackled at Garrison.
‘You don’t get it, do you Garrison?’ He was nearly choking on how amusing he was finding it all. ‘She’s not there. We picked the popper up twenty minutes ago. Why do you think I kept you here this long?’

Garrison’s eyes narrowed and his teeth gritted.
‘Where have you taken her?’
‘Where you should have taken her in the first place. An official police safe house where neither you or the killer can lay a hand on her.’
‘Where?’ Garrison growled.
‘Hand in your badge and gun on your way out.’ O’Lynam took a gulp of coffee and batted his hand towards the door.
‘She won’t be safe. He’ll find her. She was safe with me, God dammit!’

Three cops took enormous pleasure in restraining and removing Garrison from the chief’s office.

He returned to his apartment to find it empty. The serenity Sandra had brought to his home and indeed his soul was gone. All that was left now was disarray.

‘All is lost,’ he muttered to himself. ‘I’m at my lowest ebb.’ Just then the phone rang.

‘Is this Detective John Garrison?’ a low, raspy voice inquired.
‘Once, perhaps,’ Garrison replied with barely enough energy to hold the receiver.
‘My name is… well my name is not important, Mr. Garrison. I’m the maniac you’ve been looking for.’ Garrison turned as white a sheet that had been thoroughly cleaned recently. ‘It seems we are both looking for the same lollipop lady.’ Garrison could feel his knees begin to buckle. He righted himself against the table. ‘I have a proposition for you, John. Meet me at eight.’ And he hung up.

He called back a moment later to specify a venue for their meeting. And then hung up again.

The statue of Eris stood in the North West corner of Nulty Park, in a dark, overgrown nook, hidden from from the joggers and dog walkers. Garrison looked up at her flowing robe and cascading hair. She looked all at once powerful and vulnerable. A big marble contradiction. Her eyes reminded him of Sandra’s.

‘The Goddess of Chaos,’ the raspy voice whispered from the shadows. A tall, jaundiced looking man emerged from the gloom. ‘I thought you’d like it.’
‘She’s not my type,’ Garrison snorted as he casually lit a cigarette.
‘You came alone,’ the lunatic slithered past Garrison and examined the statue close-up. ‘I’m impressed.’
‘I’m not scared of you.’
‘You have no need to be, Mr. Garrison. You’re not really…’ He paused and licked his lips ever so slightly. ‘…my type.’

‘Give me one reason not to arrest you right now.’
‘Well, forgive me. But haven’t they given you the sack, Detective?’ His voice was getting more and more high pitched the more amused he got.
‘Then give me one reason not to break your neck and end this right here and now.’
The stranger lit up with delight and turned to Garrison, wide-eyed and practically giddy. ‘Because they’ll never let you see her again.’

The stranger leaned in to Garrison’s ear and whispered. ‘I know where she is. But I need your help to get to her.’
‘Why would I do that? You’d kill her if you got your hands on her.’
‘And you’d take her from me if you did. Why don’t we…’ He licked his lips again. Garrison shuddered in disgust. ‘…cross that bridge when we get to it?’

To be concluded…

Blood-on-the-Paddle-3

Weeks passed. Lollipop women fell. Hard, bloodyily, and by the dozen. The police tried to get them off the streets and into protective custody, but there was years of mistrust between the fuzz and the poppers – a culture of harassment and mistreatment that wasn’t just going to be kissed and made better. Many refused the sanctuary and took their chances out in the open – plying their trade in broad daylight – easy prey for the maniac.

‘So what’s the plan, Gin? Wait until there are no more lollipop women left to kill?’ one of the guys down at the precinct guffawed as he passed Garrison’s desk. ‘That’s one way of stoppin’ him, I suppose.’ And he high-fived a grinning colleague. Garrison sighed and kept his head down. He no longer had the energy to fight. All the gin he’d been drinking had made him sleepy. The cop leaned in close and sneered. ‘If you ask me you’re doin’ us all a favour, blowin’ this case like this. Those poppers are a cancer on this city. I say we’re better off without them. We have machines now that can do their job.’ Garrison gritted his teeth and remained still, knowing for a fact that this asshole cop used lollipop women every week. He lived near a school and it was widely known that he was partial to crossing the road near it around three o’clock, whenever the wife wasn’t looking. This town’s hypocrisy would be laughable if it wasn’t so disgusting and not at all funny.

Garrison was running out of time. But he had one ace in the hole. A card he didn’t want to play. But his deck was running out. And so it was one card he’d have to play soon. If he had any intention of winning this game of cards that he was playing.

He sighed and turned the key. His apartment was… tidy. He could see the floor. He breathed in deeply – that stale stench of week-old gin was replaced by a fresh citrusy aroma.
‘I got a little bored, so I cleaned. I hope that’s OK.’ Sandra had been staying at his place since they met at the bar, but he hadn’t told his bosses about her. Right now, Garrison couldn’t trust anyone. Who knew how high this thing went? He reasoned that the less people that knew where she was, the safer she’d be. If he could save one popper, at least that’d be something. At least he wouldn’t have failed completely.
‘It looks… great. Thank you,’ Garrison smiled and made a beeline for his drinks cabinet.
‘I threw them out,’ she stammered. Garrison turned with angry all over his face. ‘I’m sorry. I need you at 100%. I don’t want to die.’ Garrison’s rage dissolved in a flutter of those lashes.
‘You don’t understand, Sandra. I need it. It clears my mind. The guys down at the precinct are right,’ he slouched, ashamed. ‘I am Gin Garrison. John Garrison is long gone.’

‘You know there are… other ways to clear your mind,’ Sandra smiled. The sort of smile he hadn’t seen her smile before. The sort of smile that once smiled, can’t be unsmiled. She unpopped the buttons of her ankle-length luminous high-vis lollipop woman coat and let it drop to the floor. She wasn’t naked underneath it, or even in racy underwear, but the dress she was wearing was definitely sexier than her work gear, so it still had the desired effect. Garrison gulped audibly and considered the ramifications of sleeping with Sandra Rebecci. He was her protector now. She was scared and vulnerable.

‘That’s probably not a very good idea,’ he said, responsibly. Nonetheless, she stepped forward and tried to kiss him. He pulled away, responsibly. And although Garrison resisted three times, Sandra wouldn’t relent and so it was clear that she really wanted this and it wasn’t Garrison taking advantage.

They made love. There is nothing more to say.

To be furthered…

Blood-on-the-Paddle-2

If John Garrison was going to find the messed up, psychopathic sonuvabitch knocking off and chopping up all those lollipop women, he needed information. And he knew precisely the place to find some loose tongues.

Rule number one of being a smart detective; learn who drinks where. So being a high-functioning alcoholic had its perks, after-all. If Garrison was looking for the lowdown on hookers, he’d haul ass to Mac’s. If he wanted the skinny on a crooked cop, he’d hightail it to Rudi’s. But O’Halligan’s was where the poppers hung out. Every afternoon after school finished, you’d find a dozen of them in this seedy dive, resting their lollipops, downing scotch and wondering where it all went wrong.

Garrison pushed open the door, momentarily casting pure natural light across a place that didn’t need or want illumination. The joint was dead. If there wasn’t a lunatic on the loose bumping off poppers, this place’d be jumping – well, slumping. But now there was only a handful of hardy paddle-hags propping up the bar. Garrison pulled out his badge and sidled up to the large woman sucking on something brown and debilitating.
‘Haven’t you been instructed to stay home, Ma’am? You know it’s dangerous out there for someone like you.’
‘Someone like me?!’ The old dame cackled – her rapidly yellowing teeth nearly as luminous as her tight knee-length high-vis number. ‘I ain’t scared,’ she slurred. ‘I’d welcome it. YOU HEAR ME?!’ she suddenly bellowed. ‘I’D WELCOME IT!’

Every day, in the papers, or on the news, the city fathers patted themselves on the back. Talking of the boom – a new golden age and an end to recession. House prices had risen again. Bonuses had rocketed. Champagne corks had joined them. But there was little cream to be found at the bottom – out on the streets. Try telling one of these poppers that the good times were back. They’d laugh in your face. There was no hope here. Apart, perhaps, from the faint hope that the next whiskey would dull the pain enough to bare.
‘No-one cared about us poppers until someone started bumping us off,’ she grinned sardonically. ‘I welcome it,’ she whispered sadly.

Garrison turned to the bartender and ordered the woman another scotch – plus one for himself. As he tipped the spiky liquid into his mouth, he felt a tentative tap on his shoulder.
‘I saw him,’ a timid voice said. ‘I looked into his eyes.’ Garrison turned, the sting of alcohol still ringing out around his oesophagus. She seemed fragile and scared. Her oversized high-visibility coat gave her a vulnerable air – like a child huddling for warmth and security in her father’s jacket. But she was no child. Her adult bosom assured Garrison of this.

‘I’m Detective Garrison,’ he said, re-producing his badge.
‘Sandra Rebecci,’ she nodded.
‘Who did you see, Miss Rebecci?’
She looked around nervously and leaned in close. ‘The devil himself,’ she whispered solemnly.
‘Really?!’ Garrison gasped, turning pale with horror.
‘Well— no. The murderer, I mean. I saw the murderer.’
Garrison breathed an audible sigh of relief. ‘So— you didn’t see Satan?’
‘No.’
‘Oh, thank God.’ Garrison took another sip of scotch to settle his nerves. ‘Why did you say that then?’
‘Sorry. I just meant that he was pure evil. I guess it was for effect.’
‘Well next time, just— say what you mean. OK?’ Garrison shook his head despairingly. ‘So, Miss Rebecci. If you saw him, why didn’t he—’
‘Kill me too?’ she asked. Garrison nodded gravely. ‘He said—,’ she paused. ‘He said he wanted to save me until last.’

To be furthered…

Blood-on-the-Paddle-1

Gin Garrison, the guys down at the precinct had taken to calling him. A “nick” name.

But a John Garrison drunk on two bottles of Gordon’s was still twice the detective of any man down there. Meaning that he’d have to drink four bottles to be merely as good as them. If he were to drink any further gin beyond that point, then of course that would render him inferior to them, but if they were to have any gin themselves in the meantime too then that would have to be taken into account as well, but the point is, there’s a lot of gin between him and them. They had some nerve, those guys down at the precinct.

‘He’s not fit for duty,’ Garrison overheard one officer wearing a towel say to another in the locker room.
‘He’s lost it,’ another one sneered, shaking his head.
‘The sarge needs his head examined if he thinks Gin Garrison can catch this serial killer.’

Maybe they were right. Maybe Sergeant O’Lynam did need his head examined. But if it was examined they’d probably find traces of ‘being a smart guy’, because if there was one son of a bitch on this planet that could find this killer – it was John Garrison.

‘Someone’s killing all the Lollipop Women in the city’, O’Lynam briefed Garrison. ‘The media have dubbed him the Lollipop Woman Killer. Until someone thinks of something better anyway.’
‘Jesus Christ,’ growled Garrison. ‘A city without Lollipop Women.’
‘It’s chaos out there,’ nodded O’Lynam. ‘The bastard leaves a note with each corpse. It contains a sick joke.’ O’Lynam produced a scrap of paper inside a tiny plastic bag and read it aloud. ‘Why did the serial killer cross the road?’
‘To murder the Lollipop Woman?’
‘Yes that’s… exactly what is says. How did you know that?’
Garrison looked gravely at O’Lynam and then into the middle-distance. How did he know that? Was it because, given his 38 years studying them, he knew exactly how these sons of bitches thought? Or was it because, given the context of what was happening, it was a fairly straightforward and logical response to the traditional joke set up? Or was it because John Garrison was the serial killer all along – but just didn’t know it yet?
‘Call it a hunch,’ Garrison croaked as he lit a cigarette, flagrantly disregarding the city-wide ban on smoking in public buildings.

‘So… How’ve you been sleeping, Garrison?’
There it was… finally. Garrison had expected it sooner, but he knew it would soon rear its ugly head before long. The concern. The pity. The cowardice. O’Lynam wanted to support Garrison, sure. But deep down he longed for a reason to haul him off this case. Something to take the decision out of his hands. A health issue. A ‘well I tried, but I gotta follow the docs on this one’. Garrison wasn’t about to make it easy for him though.
‘Good,’ Garrison smiled. ‘I’m sleeping well.’
‘What about that sleepwalking?’ O’Lynam raised his eyebrows. ‘You know, where you’d fall into a really deep sleep and then wake up in strange places. Miles from home? Is that still happening?’
‘No,’ Garrison lied. ‘Anyway that’s entirely unrelated to this case. Let’s get back to that, the case, now.’

‘I’m sticking my neck out on the line here Garrison. Don’t let me down.’
‘Have I ever let you down before, Sarge?’
‘No,’ sighed O’Lynam. ‘And that’s what I’m worried about.’
Garrison wasn’t entirely sure what O’Lynam meant by the quip. But it was a nice button to end the conversation on. So he didn’t reply.

To be furthered…