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24 Years online
••• The International Writers Magazine -
Dreamscapes Fiction

• James C. Clar
The body in question


“So, what’s your opinion about that stiff they pulled out of the river yesterday?” Ed Dodd asked his partner as the two men filled mugs with coffee, or what passed for coffee in the detective’s bullpen. The chatter around them was deafening but the two men appeared not to notice.

“Well,” Ben Collier replied, “I haven’t really given it much thought. I prefer to wait for the M.E.’s report and the toxicology results. I think that is probably the most prudent approach, don’t you?”

Dodd looked at the younger man with barely disguised frustration. Damn, he thought, forty years on the force and I get saddled with this. Collier was earnest and hardworking, all right, but he couldn’t ‘detect’ a pimple on the end of his nose without some kind of high-tech gadget to help him find it.

 Ed sighed with exasperation. Not for the first time he wondered how many more ‘good years’ he had left in him; the job had changed so much since when he started; the crooks and the coppers!

“Listen, kid, let me tell you a story,” Dodd began. “This had to be back in the late ‘60’s. I got called out to the freight yard on University Avenue. They found the body of woman in her early thirties. Blunt force trauma to the back of her head. No I.D. Nothing in her personal effects and nothing by way of all that forensic evidence you put so much stock in. I was there when they did the autopsy at the old morgue on Westfall Road. The doc measured the head wound, sliced her open and pulled out her intestines like they were so much raw sausage. I can still remember the sound, and the stench, as he squeezed them out into a bucket. Turns out our ‘Jane Doe’ had been eating hot peppers and stale bread.”

“Ed,” Collier held up his hands in surrender, “is this going anywhere? Really, I have lots of paperwork to do. We can shoot the bull later over a beer or something.”

“Everyone’s in such a damn hurry these days. Just relax for a few minutes, kid. You never know, you might learn something.”

Ben doubted it but he listened more or less patiently as the old duffer who was supposedly training him droned on.

“Anyhow, I eventually went back up to the freight yard and started walking, just to see what I could see. You don’t solve cases by sitting on your ass. I must have checked out a half-dozen bars in the area before I hit pay dirt. It was a little place called Aces. I remember it like it was yesterday. The minute I walked in I noticed jars of hot peppers and baskets of stale bread crusts on the bar. Lots of places around here did that back in the 40’s and 50’s -- made the patrons even thirstier -- but this had to be one of the last joints left in the city to continue the practice.”

Collier shuffled papers distractedly on his desk as his mentor continued.

 “I showed a picture of the dead woman to the bartender. He said her name was ‘Raina’ and that she came in regularly. I asked him if she had left with anyone in particular on the night in question. ‘Detective’, he told me, ‘At one point or another Raina pretty much left with everybody, if you get what I mean’? I gave him my card and told him I’d be back when the bar was more crowded. Maybe somebody had seen or heard something helpful. I picked up a pack of matches from the bar and took off.”

Ben Collier sipped his coffee. If nothing else, listening to Ed’s story was killing time while they waited for the fax machine and the information on their floater.

“Well,” Dodd continued, “later that day as I was heading back to Aces, I ran into Marty Crane who was buying a newspaper at a mom-and-pop store nearby. Marty had retired a few years earlier under a bit of a cloud. We had worked a couple of cases together, but we weren’t close. He had married a woman about half his age, a real looker they said. Rumor was, she also had a wild streak. Trouble at home and pressure at work meant that old Marty had seen the bottom of one too many bottles. I pulled out a cigarette and put it into my mouth. Marty struck a match and lit my smoke. As he pulled his hand away, I noticed the matchbook. It was shamrock green with a big black ace of spades on the cover. I was carrying one just like it in my pocket.”

Dodd paused for effect, then went on. “‘Marty’, I said, just on a hunch, right? ‘What’s your wife’s name’? He hesitated just a moment too long. Our eyes met.”

Ben Collier shook his head incredulously. “Don’t tell me …”

Ed Dodd looked like the proverbial cat that ate the canary. “Yep, it was ‘Raina’.”

“So, you’re telling me that this Crane fellow whacked his own wife?” Collier couldn’t help asking.

Ed Dodd smiled sardonically, “I knew we could make a detective out of you!”

Just then the fax machine behind the two men started to transmit. Collier went over and began removing the sheets as they came through. It was the report for which he had been waiting. Ed Dodd just looked on with a mixture of amusement and pity.

© James C. Clar August 2023

BIO: James C. Clar is a teacher and writer who divides his time between Upstate New York and Honolulu, Hawaii. His short fiction, book reviews, articles and author interviews have been published in print as well as online. Most recently, his work may be seen on The Collidescope, Antipodean Sci-Fi, Sci-Phi Journal and Half-Hour-To-Kill.

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