Swingshift: Dog Days’ Nights – Part VIJun 15th, 2010 | By Kelcey Wells | Category: Series, Swingshift | 733 views
The phone buzzed and gently rattled against some loose change in my pocket. I had lost more than a day to fitful sleep and a militant determination to avoid the pathetic mess I had made of things. That night, the phone had started vibrating out its urgent entreaties before I had even managed to make my way home from Delancey Street. I convinced myself that, in my hyper-exhausted state, any conversation I would have had would have only made the situation worse. I ran that same excuse on myself for nearly twenty-four hours while holdup in my stinking apartment, barricaded against the outside world. Eventually I simply could not sleep or stare at the ceiling any longer. The prickling ache and teeth-grinding anxiety of sobriety began to set in and was forced to I switch up my excuses. I would not be able to deal with the now numerous messages and all their tedious entanglements until I had had a drink. The problem was that my place was cluttered with empty bottles but not a drop of hooch.
Out in the street the noon sun seared my retinas, war drums echoed about my bruised cranium, but fortunately my feet were on autopilot. The dark recesses of The Serpent were a welcomed sanctuary. The bar was empty save for Tracey, who was running through her opening routine but did not acknowledge my presence. I took a familiar seat at the bar and tried to steady my hands and act patient. After a few silent passes, she came over and slammed a newspaper down forcefully on the bar in front of me.
“HELL HOUNDS TAKE ANOTHER INOCCENT” The headline shouted in a typeface so stern I winced. My eyes trailed across the grainy image; straining to focus. It was the next frame in the grisly slide show I had watched at Rube’s place. A young woman, dressed for a night out, lay butchered and bloody in the street. Instinctively I scanned for the bracelet but, as I honed in on it, another more chilling detail came into focus. A feather, a costume feather, long, perfect, most certainly artificial. Even in the dingy newsprint photo, I knew it was colored pink. Then they all came into sharp focus, pink feathers tossed around the street; collected in the gutter; floating in a dark viscous pool of blood. My already quivering stomach fell through the floorboards.
“That’s that sweet girl from the other day, isn’t it?”
Tracy was still standing over me. I did not even look up.
“You know something about this don’t you Swingshift? Then where the fuck have you been? Lost up your own ass would be my guess. Well it gets better for you my friend.”
Tracey yanked the paper violently from my hands, rustled the pages loudly, then dropped it back down in front of me and stormed off.
“SOCIETY GIRL PRISONER OF BK SATAN CULT” You had to admit it was an eye-catching headline. My eyes refused to focus on the small print but fortunately, for me, someone had circled the crucial section in purple highlighter.
“McEndroe told The Banner that former C-list rocker, James Murzim and a private investigator named Richard Swingshift had attempted to extort money from him in exchange for information concerning his daughter’s whereabouts.”
I was well and truly fucked. MacEndroe had called in the jackals with some serious red meat and had made sure to mention my name in the process. Tracey returned, thankfully with a bottle in tow, but still fuming mad. She poured me a glass of whiskey and shot me a vicious look as I reached for it. I snatched the glass off the bar, slugged back half its contents and returned her confrontational stare with one of my own.
“You are really fucking enjoying this aren’t you?”
I cannot tell you exactly what I meant by that. They were the words of a street cat backed into an alley. I can tell you it was the exact wrong thing to say.
“Yeah, Dick, young girls torn apart by demons, lying in the street is what fucking gets me off. You worthless fucking lush. Make yourself useful and pour your own fucking drinks”
She tossed the bottle on the bar and walked to the back. I managed to pour myself another glass, threw it back and then walked outside to face the rest of the horror waiting for me on my voice mail. There were at least five messages from Liahna with a couple rambling rants from Rube mixed in. The messages grew increasingly distraught as events and her curiosity conspired to tear her world apart. She had confronted Murzim about Phoebe Stevens and did not like the answers. When she asked around after Phoebe, she really did not like the answer. She put two and two together and needed the money from her old man to get the fuck away from Murzim. But I was not answering. By the end of the messages, there was so much bile and desperation in her tone I was holding the phone at arm’s length. Worse yet all the messages had come in before the morning paper.
I pulled up the call back number and quickly hit send before I could talk myself out it. She picked up instantly and seemingly in mid sentence.
“…better be fucking good Swingshift. Or I will sell you out to the cops or the press, my old man, whoever will make you pay the most.”
“You’ve read today’s paper?”
“Yeah, I’ve read the fucking paper, your very perceptive for a bullshit P.I.”
I had the good sense to take the jab on the chin and stay silent.
“Dee was my closest friend and I know Jimmy had something to do with it and for all I know you’re in on it. Someone better start telling me the truth really fucking quick before I start singing to The Banner and looking for book deals.”
The tough talk was enveloped in a shaking voice of full of fear and despair.
“You have to trust me. Your old man blew a gasket when I tried to sell him the books. I had nothing to do with Dee, Phoebe or The Banner. Murzim and the dogs are connected but I don’t have all the answers yet. I can make this right but I need those books.”
“Why on earth should I trust you?”
There was a long pause. I tried to conjure up a solid argument on my behalf and failed.
“Because, to be honest Liahna, you know for certain you can’t trust anyone else.”
I could hear her gently sobbing through the phone. I searched for comforting words but they would not come.
“Tell me when and I’ll meet you.”
“I have to sort some things out and you can’t come to The Serpent. Henderson has been casing the place. I’ll text you the address for an old Slovak bar on the south side. Meet me there at six and bring the books.”
“Don’t even think of fucking me on this Swingshift, or I will hang you out to dry even if I have to go down with you.”
“I understand. Watch yourself and stay the fuck away from Murzim if you can.”
As I hung up, I let my body fall back against the bars storefront window. The sun beat down on me. I was drenched in so much sweat that it dripped from my limp fingers. My head was spinning but I could not get any traction. After a few minutes, I managed to pick myself up and walk back into the bar. I avoided Tracey’s stare, pulled the bottle from the counter and took a long hot slug. I slid the rest of the bottle into my coat, laid a crisp hundred from MacEndroe’s envelope under my glass and walked out into the blazing summer sun.
“And you say that Ms. MacEndroe never showed for the meet up and that is the last thing you remember?”
Things are tense in the interrogation room. My story has run out of yarn but the promised revelations and actionable conclusions have not materialized. I am convinced there is something more, that the timeline is incomplete. There was too much time between the time at The Serpent and the time I arrived to meet Liahna. Where did I go in that state, home? another bar? I run through that shitty afternoon again. The stinging sobriety, the shit from Tracey, the endless horror show voice messages. Then it hit me. If I needed an answer, if I needed the big reveal to end the episode, who would I have gone to see but Quincy M.E. himself?
“Detective, could I borrow your phone, please?”
Rodriguez and the two beat cops look dejected. They have spent the better part of a sunny Sunday listening to my bullshit. They are obviously coming to the conclusion that I have conned them to buy some time. To be fare, I am starting to doubt my own sincerity.
“One phone call and everything will become clear. I swear to you.” I try to convince myself at the very least. Rodriguez shrugs and tosses me his phone. I punch in one of the two phone numbers I always remember.
“Rube, it’s Swingshift,” I talk fast to get him focused. “I’m in a bit of a jam. I need you to answer a few questions for me and they may sound weird, but trust me ok?”
“Ok, man. Shoot.”
“Did I come by yours yesterday afternoon?”
“Umm, yeah ya did. I mean you were in rough shape but you did not seem that wasted.”
“Yeah, long story. I’ll fill you in later. Did we talk about the The Dog and/or the MacEndroe girl?”
“At length, yeah. That’s why you came over. It had all gone tits up on you. You sure you are ok?”
“Yeah, I’m trying to be ok. But I need you to give me the cliff notes on our afternoon convo?”
“We tied it all together. I told you that Murzim was using Liahna MacEndroe as protection. That the MacEndroe clan had an ancient boon that protected them from the Black Shuck. Like in all good crime procedurals, your two separate problems were actually one inter-related problem”
Out in front of me, across the cold metal table of the interrogation room, all of the bits and stray pieces fall into place. The picture is not perfectly clear but it is close enough that you can make out the image.
“Rube you are an absolute fucking genius and a life saver.”
“It’s called Wikipedia Swingshift. One day you might try it out yourself.”
“Yeah, yeah, in any event, next time I’m picked up by cops with a black hole in my memory, you are the first call I make you wonderful spooky bastard.”
“Did you say cops?”
“Yeah, I’m in interrogation in some precinct deep in the borough. Rodriguez let me borrow his phone.”
“You called me from a cop phone? You dialed my number into an NYPD cell phone? Are you fucking out of your mind man?”
He hangs up rather abruptly. I am left staring blankly at Rodriguez’s phone. I realize that it is nearly six o’clock. The sun is beginning to set. The alarms sound through my damaged skull. Though I am short on details, I am certain that it is all going down tonight.
“OK, Gentlemen. We need to go to Murzim’s loft and fast. Someone’s life depends on it. I’m just not sure whose?”
They look at me in weary disbelief. The last bit certainly did not help my cause.
“Are any of you ready for another mangled young corpse on the cover of tomorrow’s paper? I know I can’t face another one?”
“Occult Division can’t locate the loft anywhere. They’ve been looking ever since the story broke.”
QuickDraw is looking for something sane to say, something based in reality, that will stop me from dragging him deeper into this muck. Sadly, this is all he can manage.
“Were you dreaming of macing coeds while I explained that I had just been there? We need to get over there before the sun sets. That’s when the dog will be on the hunt, that’s if Liahna or her father do not kill Murzim first. “
I try to stand up to rally the troops but I am quickly reminded that I am still shackled to the chair. Rodriguez and I trade glances, his eyes ask if I know what the fuck I am doing and mine shout Hell yes, now let’s go! Somehow it works.
“You get the squad car. You get him out those shackles.” Rodriguez has caught on to my urgency now.
“Toss me my phone so I can get chewed out by my wife for not coming home.”
Just as I am about to toss Rodriguez his phone it erupts in some horrid Bachata ring tone. I see the number is Rube’s. I answer while gesturing at the others to get moving.
“I can’t believe I’m calling a cop phone. You owe me for this shit Swingshift. But I had to know. Did the cat work out?”
“The cat. For fuck’s sake. The scruffy little guy that I put the charm on and trained to keep you from getting your balls torn off by the Demon Dog? Don’t tell me you forgot the fucking key phrase. Dick, man, you really need to cut back on the sauce my friend…”
I hang up and toss the phone back to Rodriguez before Rube can launch into a full-blown intervention.
“Gentlemen, there is just one more thing. I’m going to need my cat back.”Help Support T21 with your Dollar Donation Today
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