Welcome To the Neighbourhood

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Penpal

“Shit yeah.”

Oh great, Penpal's a poet.

“I seen ‘er come out the trees ‘n’ fall on ‘er face, man.”

I just bet you did, you cracked up son of a bitch.

“She was all cryin’ and bleedin’ an’, an’...”

And what, you worthless piece of trash?

"An' dat's when dat bigass hairy dude came out b'hind 'er."

So you can read, then. That was in the paper, Penpal.

"This motherfucker was naked as hell, man, an' 'e 'ad... uh..."

What, old man? Aces full of queens?

"The guy 'ad fuckin' tennacles, man! No shittin' ya!"

Okay, that wasn't in the paper. Paul Stevens chewed on his tongue for a second, and tried hard not to smile at the old-time cart-pusher.

"I know it's crazy, man, but I bin clean for a month!"

That's true; we checked your gear when you stumbled into the station, and it hadn't been fired up for a few weeks at least.

"Tennacles! What de hell is dat?"

Stevens leaned forward and put his weight on his elbows. Penpal flinched at first, but didn't back away.

"Look, Penpal. Imagine you're me," said the burly detective with as much bored compassion as he could muster. "You've got a known user who frequently gets picked up for disturbances and petty theft."

The old man's wide, panicky eyes shifted floorward.

"He claims some hairy half-man, half-octopus slithered onto the Seawall."

Penpal cleared his throat uncomfortably and sat on his hands.

"Then he says this," he looked at his notepad for effect. "He says this 'mutant-dude', to quote him directly, raped an old lady right there in plain view of seven passers-by."

"No man, this hairy dude didn't slither!" Wringing his hands, Penpal shook his head violently. "Naw, 'e kinda... floated in the air, man."

Stevens tried to look surprised. It wasn't difficult.

"Floated?" Just like Jocasta said. But...

"An' man, 'e didn' rape 'er!"

"No?"

"She was screamin' an' kickin' fer a minute," Penpal's voice dropped to a phlegmy whisper. "But then she went all quiet, man. I hid behin' a tree, an'... an' 'e..."

"Go slow, friend. What happened next?"

Penpal went as white as a sheet, looked to either side and leaned forward. He's terrified, and not of me. What the hell is going on here?

"Turn off the machine, man?"

Stevens reached over and hit the stop button on the desk recorder. We have got to update our equipment around here, for Christ's sake. Penpal leaned ever closer, and waved a bony grey finger to invite the detective to do the same. Stevens could feel the man's hot, unclean breath on his neck. I want danger pay for this shit.

Penpal whispered so low, Stevens had to strain to hear it.

"Come again, Penpal?" How the hell did he know that?!?!"

The bum repeated his statement slowly, and Stevens nearly fell down trying to get out of the room.

He closed the door and barked at the officer sitting behind the one-way glass. "Get Penpal locked up and put a guard on Jocasta Smith."

Officer Park only blinked. "What'd he say, boss?"

"NOW!"

As the junior cop fumbled for his cell phone, Stevens leaned on the glass to watch Penpal chewing his own bicep. "This crazy bastard's for real, and so is that bullshit Smith told us in the hospital."

His badge hooked into his belt, a shoulder holster loose underneath a mid-grade tweed jacket, he had one forearm above his head pressed against interrogation glass, the other planted on his hip. Stevens knew he was filling every police stereotype imaginable at the moment.

"There isn't anything cliché about this case, Paul," Stevens said to the empty room. Just like the god damn movies.

Penpal got up and moved to the glass, eerily putting his ugly, unwashed mug just four centimetres from the detective's ponderous face.

"And you, you wacky old fart, I don't blame you," Stevens said with wonder. "Anyone'd be nuts after seeing a Greek monster put a syringe in someone's eye."

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