People think I’ve had a stroke. They say, “That’s what happens when you work too hard.” I’ve given up convincing them otherwise. I don’t deny I used to work too hard. Even the doctor suggested that as a possible factor in the palsy. Years of unpredictable days and long hours had to have some kind of negative effect on my body. But I don’t like the idea of some slaps using my condition to justify their low work ethics. The ones that say, “Look at Simeon. See what this job’ll do to you?”

I check the progress on the left side of my face. I still can’t blink my left eye and have to wear a patch when I sleep because it won’t stay shut. How odd to dream with one eye open, like having one foot in reality. That’s what makes dreaming dangerous and why I moved my gun farther from the bed.

I wear sunglasses whenever I’m outside, even when the day is darkened with overcast clouds. This protects me from foreign objects that might find their way into my unprotected eye. I’ve also grown a goatee. It conceals the part of my lip that droops because of the paralysis.

I do not follow the doctor’s orders to massage the muscles of my face to quicken the healing process. Instead, I raise my brow a couple of times, force a half Joker smile, wink and brush my teeth.

My officials gave me a choice—limited duty and answering phones at the Fifth District detectives’ office or burn more sick leave and hope for a quick recovery.

Limited duty. That would be like chasing the wind for the remainder of my career. It can easily turn into purgatory for the working cop. Once that paperwork is stamped by the police clinic you’ll find yourself climbing the walls and moving closer to hell than heaven. Fortunately for me, I still have a few friends in high places and I’m not ashamed to admit I used them, made a couple of calls. That’s how I was detailed to Cold Case.

It’s not a bad gig. There’s little to no supervision and just a handful of detectives, mostly old-timers. I’m the only detailed detective.

It’s supposed to be a time for me to regenerate, to heal a body beaten down by fourteen years of hard work, barking victims, thugs, officials and a pager that triggers migraines.

After I wash away all the toothpaste pasted on my goatee, I turn on the news and drink two cups of coffee with a straw. I drink everything with a straw so most of what I try to swallow won’t dribble down my chin. Today’s news is the never-ending conflict in the Middle East, potential terrorism on the home front, the newest line of unsafe toys and the body of a woman found murdered along the Anacostia River late last night. I wait for the weather, and then turn off the anxiety channel.

The winter wind snaps my face and my eye stings and quickly tears. The sunglasses hardly help at all. I decide that today I’ll stay in the office—a beautiful day, though. The heavy wind has cleaned the sky and the trees and allows the sun its full strength. But even that’s not enough to cut the wind chill. I’m a block out and my cheeks and the tips of my ears feel like they’re being slowly sanded off with fine grain.

Winter.

My favorite time of year.

Down the long Dupont escalator and into the depths of mass transit. Soon I’m sitting next to an overweight suit with uneven sideburns. Three stops to Judiciary Square, where I badge my way through the exit. The wind sands away my ears again for the short walk from the escalator to Headquarters. I see a couple of familiar faces and show recognition with a nod.

I enter the code to gain access into the secured area of the third floor that houses Cold Case, Intel, Sex Crimes and a few other specialized units. Once anyone could pass through these doors, until a man walked in armed with a Tech-nine and a vengeful heart, taking out two FBI agents and the Detective Sergeant this building’s named after. You’d think, given the work done on this floor, someone would’ve anticipated such a thing. Shame, how we’re sometimes forced to learn.

In the office I replace the old battery on my hand-held for a fresh one. I hook the radio on the left side of my belt behind my clips. I don’t know why I do this anymore. I rarely use the radio. Force of habit based on a conditioned sense of security. I hang my suit coat on the back of the chair at the desk. There’s no one here to pass the time with. Most of the guys are on committed “use or lose” leave through the holidays. It’s just me sitting in this paint-peeled, water-stained office with the day already weighing heavy as a tight blanket over restless legs.

I log into the computer, check my e-mail, then sit back and work up enough courage to pick up a case coffin. Most of them are the usual drug-related shootings, the bodies found by members of district patrol then transported by DC Fire Department Ambulance to the nearest hospital where they’re pronounced. No witnesses. No usable evidence. The case I pick up reads like a typical Death Report:

The scene of the death is Howard University Hospital. The scene of the shooting is at the intersection of 7th and O Streets, Northwest, where the body was found by members of the Third District, fallen face down on the southeast corner and suffering from what appears to be multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and head area. The scene was processed by Mobile Crime. 9mm spent casings were recovered along the street toward the southwest corner of the intersection of 7th and O Streets, Northwest, by Mobile Crime. One live expended round was recovered in the gutter area of that same corner.

Detectives John Scanns and Robert Smitt responded to Howard University Hospital to view the body. The body was observed wrapped in a white plastic bag tied at the feet, laying on a hospital gurney. Inside the plastic bag the victim was observed nude with entry wounds to his mouth, left eye, chest and abdomen area. The eyes were fixed and dilated and the body warm to the touch. The victim had a small bruise just below the neck on the left side of the shoulder. The victim had a plastic tube in his mouth.

A Death Report’s no literary masterpiece of criminal observation. The subsequent investigative reports are just as vague and unhelpful. What can I do with this case? Nothing, so I slip it back in a box and move on to the next case.

These are my days and how I fill them. I don’t have long here, so what’s the sense in getting wrapped up in something I can’t finish? I’ll be back to robbery soon enough and picking up about forty cases a month. Details don’t last. I hope command will forget about me, like the dead files I’ve been burying myself in—decedents who’ll never find rest. Row after row, stack after stack, dead and buried in their case jackets; on the floor, in drawers, closets, the bathroom, and if you sit too long—on you.

And that’s what happens when I find another one resting on my lap.

I open it.

“I know this kid,” I mumble while looking at the death photo. It happened a couple of months prior to the Death Report I just read.

Dante Grimes.

Just like that, right on my lap.

“Dante Grimes,” I repeat aloud. Why didn’t I hear about this one? It was almost two years ago and in my district. I go back with this guy.

I hadn’t seen his face in years. It hits me, something like a sinking heart, but not a feeling that comes with grief. More like failure. I worked plainclothes back then, had a softer heart, something I carried over from my public school days before this place. I had not spent enough time on the job to have the soft parts rubbed out.

I always called him Grim because he never smiled, even when he was happy. I knew when he was happy. Those were the days I gave him a break, let him walk, not for information passed my way. Grim wasn’t a Snitch. And I never expected anything like that from him. I just let him walk, petty crimes like smoking blunt, tossing dice or an open container. An arrest would only have been enough to disrupt his day, nothing more. Grinding his blunt or the zip of weed into pavement was punishment enough. He wasn’t so stupid to ever hold what he was known for selling, which was mostly weed. He always had a stash somewhere else or a crack head to hold for him. What I liked about Grim was the respect he gave me and my partners. It didn’t hurt that I knew him before he could talk. I had a job to do and nothing more. Grim knew that.

“You get me good one day Sim and I ain’t gonna fight ya. Hell, I won’t even run,” he would laugh.

The area he worked was my beat while in uniform and a neighborhood I grew to care for and pain over. I spent most of my days in plainclothes there. I got to know most of the players and most of their clientele. That’s where I honed my skills, learned how to talk to people. I knew a lot of mothers too and a lot of kids like Grim who used to walk and talk like little kids should. I watched most of them grow, some not. They all learned how to walk like Grim and all the other big boys who trailed behind him who were slinging dope on the corner every day. And talking to most of them, they all knew their time was short. Even the somewhat decent mothers knew it was bound to happen.

It paid the rent. It bought the food. It never lasts.

Dante’s boys called him Black, a common street name, but one that fit him. He was dark as polished coal.

I continue reading.

It was a drive by. 1500 hours, on a Sunday. A black four door sedan with tinted out windows and unknown temporary tags was the only look out. Unknown how many occupants. New York Avenue is a busy street every day of the week, and not one witness stepped up. They didn’t even get a partial on the temporary tag from the shooter’s car. The front passenger side window opened and an arm stretched out. Grim was tossing around a football with a group of young kids, at a place on the corner the District called a park. Shots rang out. Two little boys hit, but not critical. Grim three times, the last shot knocked him off his feet, ball in hand. He died on the scene like a pro.

Not much to work with here either, except for the boys I know he used to hang with, if they’re still alive and willing. I’ll run with this one. Doesn’t matter to me that there’s nothing to work with. I liked Grim.

This is the season of hope after all.

Winter.

My favorite time of the year. Oh, yeah.

And so it goes. And so I go when the clock finally makes its way to 6 p.m.

Time passes too quickly outside of work.

A comfortable clutter occupies the rooms of my two bedroom apartment, all memories that have been recently placed with calculated effort to recapture an otherwise lost civilization. I am settled here. I find solace in the room I have made my office, shelves of books beside books upon books, boxes of framed accomplishments on the floor, Pez dispensers, papers, notes, odd trinkets and mementos—a subterfuge, a sanctum, a museum, and a place where I can safely face the rising spirits.

I turn on the anxiety channel, mostly for the weather, which will determine what I wear the next day. More war stories, but this time a report follows of anti-war protestors clashing with Capitol Police. Violent acts for the sake of peace. Then there’s a little more on the woman who was murdered. An “inside source” at the Police Department this time, and now they have more information. She lived in the Adam’s Morgan area, but her body was discovered at an undisclosed location along the Anacostia. She was an escort, which means she charged $490 more than a street whore. That’s a case that’ll never go cold. In my career I know of a hundred murdered prostitutes, but none who lived in that neighborhood full of organized community associations, whose biggest concern is cops parking in front of fire hydrants and being able to walk their dogs without leashes. Now they have a murdered neighbor. I’d hate to be the detective on that one.

After a couple of hours I ready myself for bed. Sleep is a painful process. It is not something I look forward to. I have to sleep on top of the covers with a thin blanket draped over me or I feel like a body wrapped in an ace bandage, stuffed in a coffin. It is a condition my doctor suggested is stress-related, but I blame it on a cheap mattress.

4:30 a.m.

The gusting wind sounds like it’s racing through a thin tube outside my window. Left side of my jaw’s throbbing. Despite the darkness, my hand finds its way to the container of prescription ibuprofen on the nightstand and the glass of water with a straw. Sleep has fled me once again and so I find escape in that tube, riding on the whisk of wind.

Daylight eventually seeps through the pulled blinds and my routine with it. Down the long Dupont escalator once again and into the depths of mass transit. I step into the train to standing room only, wedged between sweet migraine perfume and a man with a thin paisley tie and a few missed whiskers under his chin. The skin on the left side of my face feels like a tight shoe. I look down, conscious of my appearance, until the train eases to a stop at Judiciary Square. I get to the office, have my coffee and muffin and after go and find myself a cruiser.

Not much has changed along North Capitol Avenue between P Street and New York Avenue. They still call it The Pharmacy. Old timers, drug thugs, boosters and the walking dead clutter corners, making obvious hand to hand transactions—heroin, crack, weed and every pill on the market from Oxy to Viagra. It’s an area the city wants to desperately consider up and coming. To discerning eyes, it is far from that.

Grim used to live in the large housing complex on New York Avenue and North Capitol. As a plain clothes officer, this was the hot spot. We were called “jump out” because that was about all we could get away with doing back then—driving to the corners fast and jumping out, stopping everyone in our path. It was as if the landscape was designed to prevent the detection of criminal activity. Surveillance locations were next to impossible. They had lookouts on bikes and old addicts on corners with binoculars. There was virtually no place to set up and everyone was so well known and established that introducing an undercover was difficult, but not impossible. We did have our moments of glory.

This was Grim’s territory. It was good land. Something worth holding on to. He held on for twenty-two years and I include his birth.

I pull the cruiser up to North Capitol and Hanover Place. It’s not something I’m supposed to be doing because even though I am not considered limited duty, I am unofficially on “non-contact.” I don’t really know what that means other than maybe not being allowed to touch bad guys harder than a friendly tap. It does not take long for me to be recognized. The ones that are stupid and dirty scatter like frightened squirrels. The ones who don’t have the need to feed hold their ground.

Familiar faces don’t stray too far from comfortable territory. I see a fat fingered old timer sitting on a milk crate.

“I remember you, old man. You lost some weight,” I lie.

“I remember you, jump out man. You been missin’ for a minute.” He notices my face and figures he doesn’t have to ask why I’ve been missin’.

“I got promoted to detective, reassigned.”

“Jump out, you ain’t got your boys to back you up.”

“True,” I tell him. “It’s not like I need back-up when I’m here to help out, right?”

He turns slightly and spits gelatin-like milky saliva that sticks to the wall behind him like glue. That usually pisses me off. It’s rude. That’s why they do it.

“Black’s murder,” I tell him.

“I know three Blacks that’d been murdered,” fat fingers tells me.

“You know which one I’m talking about. Dante. He’s the only one I knew that goes by Black on this corner.”

“Dante. That name supposed to mean something?”

“Only if you care. And don’t play me. You know I wasn’t about that. Looks like you still got the same crate from years back, and I never tried to kick that out from under you.”

He lifts a brown paper bag, takes a drink from a bottle tucked inside, testing me. It’s a fifth of something hard. Spitting bothers me more.

“They came looking into that a long time ago, a couple of detectives, and they got nowhere. Why you want to try?”

“I got different interests. I liked Dante. I knew him since he was born.”

“Yeah,” he says and his eyes move up as if directing me to the front of the liquor store at New York and North Capitol.

I back turn away from him like I want to look at my car and notice a group of young ones huddled like they’re ready to call a big play. One of them has a familiar face.

“That boy over there wearing the Avery jacket, what do they call him?” I ask.

All I get is a slight shrug.

I walk toward the corner. They don’t scatter so I know they’re not holding or they just don’t care.

“I know you,” I say to the kid wearing the Avery.

His boys slowly move away as if telepathically directed to do so. They stay close to their boy, though. I position myself so I have an angle on them as they watch me talking to him.

“I know you, too. You’re officer Sim,” the kid says.

“I’m a detective now, but yeah, I was an officer here a while back. You would’ve been pretty young back then. How do you know me?”

“Hard not to know you, and all your jump out boys the way you used to tear this corner up. It’s been peaceful since you been gone.”

“No other jump outs ever come around anymore?”

“Naw, man, just some uniforms every once in a while.”

“Like I said, you would’ve been pretty young, what, seven, eight years old?”

“Somethin’ like that. Black was my brother. You used to buy me sodas. You was all right for a cop.”

Dante’s brother. I smile. “I knew you looked familiar. I work homicide now. I just learned about his murder. I was looking through some unsolved cases, and was sorry to find one on Dante.”

He nods upward. He is dark skinned, but not as dark as his brother. He has short dreads and twists the ones behind his right ear. His tennis shoes are expensive, whatever the latest wear is. Not like his brother. Grim wouldn’t draw attention like that and he would have bought those shoes for one of the neighborhood kids rather than for himself. Robin Grim Hood.

“I used to call him Grim. What do they call you?”

“I like Grim,” he says not willing to give me his first name. Doesn’t matter. It’d be easy enough for me to find. I know his last name and where he lives.

“Grim Junior, then” I counter.

“Naw man. I ain’t no junior.”

“No, you’re no junior. Your brother used to call me Sim. How’s your mother, you all still stay at the complex over there?” I motion across the street with my head.

“Yeah. She’s fine.”

“Grim, I’m looking into who killed Dante. I want to be the one to take him.”

“He been dead for a bit. Why you want to do that now?”

“I got a special interest.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah, I liked your brother. He was smarter than all this. I didn’t care much how he earned his money. I’ve seen him give back a lot of what he earned, mostly to some of these kids walking around here now looking like they’re little big men.”

He looks at me with dead eyes. “So you think you’re gonna catch the guy, put your cuffs on him and be a hero in the community?”

“I could care less about being a hero, Grim. You work your corner and I work mine. Back then, part of this corner used to be mine. Maybe I could’ve had it all if I stuck around and didn’t get myself promoted. Maybe I should’ve locked your brother up all those times and he’d still be alive right now.”

Dead eyes.

“We know how to handle our own business. Your boys didn’t do much of anything back then except ask foolish questions about nothin’.”

“Maybe they just didn’t ask the right questions,” I tell him. “How do you handle your business, Grim?”

“’We take care of our own just like you cops do.” He nods then walks slowly toward his boys.

That might be what Law & Order calls probable cause, but unfortunately not us. That’s not even close to being circumstantial. He turns one last time, spits on the ground “7th and O, Sim. That was the business that got handled.” He walks away.

I let him go and it doesn’t take me more than a second to realize what he not so subtly admitted to. He’s either really stupid or very sure of himself. Or both if it’s possible.

I stop by the coffee shop at the corner before I make my way to the office. I buy a medium coffee, black, and a cranberry muffin. Before I can leave, I run into Scanns. We survived the academy together, something that binds you throughout a career. I was the best man at his wedding, but we were closer before the burdens of work overwhelmed our lives. He’s a good guy. Lanky, off-kilter sort, with a shaved round head and funny rectangular glasses with light blue rims. Made detective a couple of years after me. His suit is wrinkled and he has that glassy-eyed, thousand-mile stare that can only mean he’s been working straight through, having caught a case. He tells me that I’m looking better, “Definite improvement, Sim,” and “How’s the detail?” Then it’s my turn to inquire, and that’s when I learn he caught the case involving the Adam’s Morgan escort.

He moves in a little closer, as if to speak confidentially. “After she was strangled, a rolled up newspaper soaked in some kinda flammable liquid was inserted in her vagina and then set on fire. Not pretty.”

I tell him that I reviewed a cold case a while ago involving a murdered crack head prostitute. I remember her name was Evelyn Jackson. It was among the first stack of cold cases I picked up. Happened about a year ago, her body discovered in a vacant row house in Northeast. The suspect used a rolled up newspaper. Similar MO.

Scanns says he’s checked with one of his boys at sex branch, and according to him there’ve been some rapists who have done that sort of thing before—setting fire to the victim’s vaginal area. Says that when a suspect does something like that it’s not just an attempt to destroy DNA evidence, it’s an indication of extreme hatred toward women. Not typical but not enough to suggest we’ve got some sort of serial killer out there. “You know there’s no such beast in this city, anyway, right?” Scanns adds.

“Of course I do,” I reply, then we knock knuckles. “Hey, you remember that scene you and Smitt were on quite a while back—the dude that was shot at 7th and O?”

“Yeah, that was a long time ago. Another drug related dead-end case.”

“You didn’t find any witnesses, no leads on the black sedan.”

“Nada, brother. Why, you got something?”

I smile because I actually do have something. “No, I just read the report, that’s all and I have to act like I’m doing something. Get some rest, or you’ll end up looking like me.”

“I got Grand Jury.”

“I’ll give you a call later,” I say. “Let’s try to get together.”

He nods. “Like old times, buddy.”

As I maneuver between pedestrians and oncoming traffic, I glance back to Scanns, still standing where I left him, his body not having caught up to his mind’s signal to move.

A day of solitude and its diminishing moments once again before me. From the window beside my temporary desk I can see the old Mayor’s building, and north on the next block, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and then the FBI’s Washington Field Office. My attention’s deflected over the buildings beyond the police memorial, where I lose myself in the distant and dark clouds on the horizon. “It looks like snow,” I whisper and half-smile at having said it aloud.

I start thinking about Dante and the 7th and O case. I could pursue it if I wanted, probably get one of Grim Junior’s boys to roll over on the 7th and O shooting. Those guys aren’t that difficult to work. We used to do it all the time when I was in robbery and to a certain extent when I worked plainclothes. Once they got rolling on each other we would spend the following days drafting affidavits and kicking down doors. Those were fun times. We made some good cases. This one might be fun, too. Just like the old days.

The afternoon is sudden, like the overcast sky, and so I go to Jack’s Deli for a sandwich. It smells like snow now. I grab a tuna melt, medium coffee and a couple of straws to go. Tuna’s an easy chew and easier to wash down with liquid. My left lower lip is still healing from the constant accidental biting. There’s no muscle control on that side, and when I chew that portion of lip always finds its way between my teeth. A couple of chomps have almost gone clean through. I don’t like the taste of my own blood on rye.

Back at the office, I find the case jacket involving the crack head I told Scanns about. I give it a second go-through while I eat.

The man that discovered the body was also a crack head and quickly ruled out as a suspect. Considering the amount of drugs and alcohol he put in his system over the years, he’d have been no more a rapist than a eunuch would. Doesn’t mean he’s not a killer, though. This one occurred over a year ago. No substantial evidence, or if there was, it never made its way into this jacket. ME’s report does indicate that a swab of her interior anal area did reveal trace amount of apparent semen. Third degree burns inside vaginal area and around inner thighs. Glad I wasn’t at the autopsy. Cause of death, asphyxia. Manner, manual strangulation with fractures of the Hyoid bone and Thyroid cartilage. Looks like the fire was postmortem. That was kind of him. Area canvassed for witnesses with negative results. No family. That is, no family that cared. A typical scenario. She was an independent. No pimp would have her. A five-dollar girl and too far gone to be worth anything more. Why would someone torch her down there unless it was to dispose of evidence? And then why would any guy in his right mind have unprotected sex, forced or not, with a dirty—more than likely HIV-infested—girl like her? Maybe he’s already got AIDS and doesn’t care. Maybe he did use a condom, did the rest for fun and the recovered semen belonged to some other John. Maybe it was a message from another pimp or a drug dealer. A lot of maybes here.

I soon find myself sitting on the bench at the Judiciary Square metro. The digital message board reads, “Delay on track.” Shortly after, I see a couple of Metro detectives and a uniform, followed by Scanns and his squad making their way down the escalator and toward the tracks. I don’t think I’ll be taking the train home.

They walk into the tunnel and disappear into darkness. I head that way, because curiosity gets the best of me sometimes. I walk up, my badge already hanging on my neck. I nod to Scanns and a couple of the other guys I know and ask what they got—even though I already know there’s going to be a body in there somewhere. I tag along.

A uniform transit officer leads us through the dimly lit tunnel, shining his department-issued stream light. The transit officer hops off the catwalk and climbs ladder stairs that lead into the first car. Power’s off. The cars are deserted and the only available light that filters in is from an occasional low-watt bulb in the tunnel along the way. The light bounces off the gray walls diffusing existing color. Black-and-white world, like something out of The Twilight Zone.

The last car is packed with uniform officers, fireboard, EMT and a couple district detectives. Salty Dog is one of the detectives. I don’t know the other one. Looks like a rookie. Fresh Military haircut, clean shaven and wearing a name brand navy blue suit with a crisp white shirt. Then there’s Salty Dog, wearing this ‘80s-style double-breasted gray suit with a wrinkled blue shirt and a tie with golf club patterns. He’s been called Salty since I can remember. Why? I don’t know. Its meaning would depend on what side of the fence you’re on. He’s worn and torn by the work he does, or rather by the work he once did. Maybe that means something. Now, he’s worthless, doing his time with as little effort as possible until his longevity kicks in, then he’ll burn whatever leave he’s got and live on his eighty percent. Salty has a way of staying with you, like some character out of Dickens but not as likeable. He’s always been the butt of someone’s joke or the lead in some great story. He greets us with, “Looks like an industrial accident, but then you guys’re the experts.” He looks at me and asks with no great concern, “You had a seizure or somethin’?” I tell him no and give him the condensed version. “Oh,” is his only reply. He walks toward the end of the car, “Right out there, can’t miss it. I’d recommend going out the sidecar to the catwalk, though. Better vantage and less to accidentally step in.”

I allow Scanns and his guys the lead. It’s their scene. I get that old achy feeling deep in my gut that comes from unwanted expectations, the mind preparing itself for an unnatural image. It’s something that instructors at the academy say you get used to. You don’t. At least I haven’t.

The body’s between a train track and the catwalk that curves and extends along the metro tunnel between stations. His legs are stretched wide apart and his torso is bowed between the spread limbs, like some awkward gymnast’s pose. The face is kissing the deep red blood that paints the cement from between his legs to the gutter about two feet from the tracks. Two flaps of skin on the head fold away from each other, starting from the bridge of the nose to the nape of the neck, like little dorsal fins. The brain sits about twenty feet from the fallen body, perfectly intact: a large silky larva prematurely expelled from its cocoon. The gap between the two flaps of skin on the head is a dark void. Life also expelled. The blue overalls and orange visibility vest suggest that he was a metro rail worker.

“The driver’s at the clinic taking a piss test,” Salty announces from the catwalk. He’d never chance messing up his twenty-year-old suit by following.

“One of your guys with him?” a detective in the squad asks.

“No, just Metro detectives,” Salty replies.

“You notify the ME?”

“Yeah. On the way.”

Some of the detectives, including Scanns, pull on their latex gloves. Two Mobile crime officers are in the near distance, canvassing for body parts and possible evidence. Each one knows what he has to do. Evenings always catch the cases. That’s why they rotate every two weeks. These guys look tired. Especially Scanns. I won’t talk to him about looking through that cold case involving the crack head. Definitely not a good time. He glances my way, and I know he wonders why I’m not home. He’d be, if given the chance. He bends beside the body, stares into it like he has x-ray vision. A body and mind rendered insensible by exhaustion. I decide to leave, having no desire to get caught up if this turns into something other than an accidental.

Salty greets me as I enter the train. “Looks like his head took a big albino crap, don’t it? Like some kinda alien, huh?” I force a smile and tell him I got a long walk home.

So I walk 5th Street to H and head west through Chinatown. I used to make time for long walks, as important as a balanced diet and a good book. But those things don’t play much of a role in this life anymore. I feel like this neighborhood—afflicted with dilapidated, vacant row homes and thriving Asian-owned liquor stores. The streets are dark for lack of working lamps. But the liquor stores shine through like beacons. The wind must like the space outside my bedroom window. It does not pass any other window except this one, and only at night when I lay my head against the pillow. I will not say aloud that it’s a comforting sound for fear that the wind might find someone else’s window to pass. I lose myself again in its lullaby and move into that pause of time just before the fall. And when I do, I find myself in a dream.

EEEE! EEEE! EEEE! I snap up and feel like my brain has slammed into the back of my skull. “Where am I?” I whisper. EEEE! EEEE! EEEE! The awful noise keeps on, and I realize it’s my pager. I grope for it on the nightstand, push the button, stop the pain. The clock on the nightstand reads 6:04 a.m. Hours have passed me by.

The message on the pager reads:

CALL FIFTH DISTRICT DETECTIVES OFFICE ASAP!

It takes me a couple of minutes to shake away the dream before I call. When I do, an old 5D buddy, Detective Ronnie Scott, tells me that Scanns is dead

This story is excerpted from A Detailed Man by David Swinson, published by Dymaxicon and available from Amazon in print and Kindle editions. Swinson is a former punk-rock promoter and retired DC detective. He is at work on a second crime novel featuring Ezra Simeon. You can find him on twitter as @casejackets.