Most likely you won't like what you read here, but then again... your checking this profile.
Life was playing fair for a change. Things were beginning to look up. I had jobs coming in. Real jobs. Not the nickle and dime stuff, but missing persons. Missing children. And I was finding all of them.
Things turned around after what the papers were calling "The Sewer of Lost Children" case. I wasn't mentioned in it ever, but word got around and that was good for business.
And I had an office assistant, Liz. She was one of the kids I had rescued. Ten, brown eyes, a little stocky, but in just the right way, and she really looked up to me. We had dallied around some at first, her idea, and it was fun, but the office was getting a lot of traffic and she had to go home after her hours were up. It didn't help that her parents knew about me.
Knew that a young ten year old girl fit my idea of perfection. To tell the truth, I was greatful. Young girls had more energy than adult men in their thirties. And I was getting more kicks watching her work around the office. Eye candy if you will.
Some places have vampires when the sun goes down. Other people get werewolfs when the moon is full. I get Nickles. Life was getting pretty good lately so I wasn't surprised to see Commissioner Nickles come walking through the door. He'd made commissioner after that sewer case, which was fine with me because when ever he came into my little life, I would end up with the police equivalent of a proctology exam.
In my head, I was pulling a lever to make him drop off the face of the earth. But I knew he was here to drop a bomb on me.
Nickles gave Liz an ugly look as he passed her and I wanted to rise to her defense. But she was pretty tough and could give as good as she got. I was proud of Nickles double take as she shot 44 hollow point shells at him with her eyes.
He planted his fists on my desk and leaned in to glare at me. I said, "Sorry, I'm not in today. Leave a message with my secretary."
He smiled, but not with humor. I'd seen that smile a hundred times. For many, it's the last thing the see before they get eaten.
"How old is she, Ped? Does she have a work permit? I could bust you for her just being here." Nickles was playing dirty, which was a bad sign. We both knew that I was legit. His entire force made sure of that when ever they dropped in.
I said, "Call them. Lets get this out in the open." That was my one trump card. I was looking good lately and some media exposure would vindicate me. And make Nickles look petty. For once I was hold a decent hand against him. But that wouldn't stop him from cheating.
His face got all warm and fuzzy as he sat back into the quivering chair in front of my desk. "Come now. Is that any way to treat the man who's going to do you a big favor?"
I almost guffawed right there. Yeah, Nickles had done me some great favors.
Liz was at the doorway, looking unsure. Nickles turned on her but left the warmth aimed at me. "What are you doing here? Don't you know what this guy is? Go home!"
Liz didn't miss a beat, "You want me to call the cops boss? Get this scum off your back?" Despite myself, I was grinning ear to ear. She was tough, smart, and lovely to look at. I was actually starting to train her a little on detective work. She didn't find it boring either. I told her I was fine and to take the day off. She could see I meant it and trusted me.
Nickles was still watching as she got her coat and left. He turned back and shook his head. "Well, I'll be. Another Ped. You grooming her to like babies?"
I was beginning to rise out of my chair. I liked Liz and would gladly punch out Nickles to defend her honor. He put his hand out to calm me. I was close to breaking a finger off of it. I sat down, but he could see my intent in my eyes. "I don't need any favors right now. Why don't you go back to your office and play cop?"
Nickles gave me that cruel smile again and pulled out an envelope from his breast pocket. He tossed it to me and it landed on my side of the desk. I didn't bother to look. "Warrent? Summons? You came here personally just to serve me?"
"It's a plane ticket, Ped."
"You running me out on a rail? Where's the tar and feathers?"
Nickles leaned back and relaxed. "Even better. It's departmental with full city pay and a temporary reinstatement back to the force. You're officially a cop again. Back where you left off."
I looked down at the envelope. There would be a ticket back to my former home in it. Back to my former precinct. Back to the people I used to work with. Back to the accusations and distrust. Back to where I was outed as a pedophile. I was sure that there was an unfilled out coroners report in there with it too.
"No." I said.
"Ah, Ped. I thought you'd be pleased." His smile said no such thing.
"I have cases here. Real work. People who need my help. Life and death stuff. I'm not going to abandon them. I pass." There was no way he could make me go. I wasn't bluffing. I could save a child's life. Nothing would make me turn away from that, and Nickles knew it.
That was who I was, despite what some people thought.
"You're right. I can't make you go. But this case is special and you're the best bet." Nickles leaned in. "It's the Bower children."
That got me. One of the reasons I was doing well was because of the standing case of the Bower children. Reported over and over in the press. Two children, a boy and a girl, were taken from a middle class family home over a month ago. By this time, most officials would quietly believe that they would eventually find the bodies, but in this case, images would randomly appear on the internet showing both kids, gradually being undressed with each image, but unharmed as of yet.
The images were taken over time as hair growth showed, which meant that both kids could possibly be alive and unharmed at this very moment. All news sources implied that the kidnapper was on the run and both kids would be found any day now.
News had been saying that for weeks. The pictures were getting dangerously close to rape recently. It was hard to watch.
Nickles could see my sympathy and he looked me hard in the eye. He said, "I've been asked to put my best man on the case. I picked you, Ped. You know what a risk I took to put you there? We can't let this happen. Those kids are going to get hurt bad. It's not been released, but the scumbag had told us that he's going to kill them after he's done with them. He's going to kill them live on the internet. Do you know how many people are going to see that? Think of the Bowers there. Watching their kids die over and over on file, and knowing that the whole world has seen it. Knowing the press will run it over and over again."
I didn't like the way my stomach was feeling. "But, I have kids here who need my help too."
"Sam." Nickles put his hand on mine. I saw real concern in his face. He was a good cop right then. Willing to do anything to save the innocent. "Sam, I'll personally put my best people on your cases. You need to go do this."
"Go." he said. "Go get those kids back!"
My liaison at the airport was a police woman named Rita March. She went by March only. She was small and slender, and precise, with brown neck length hair and guarded blue eyes. She held out her hand and I took it. She grasped it like she was weak and trying to cover for it.
"Mr. Ped." she said with a high but certain voice. "You look like a cliché. Does the over coat and hat help you with your work?"
"I like to flash old ladies and school children in my spare time."
She blinked. "That's a joke. Okay. Do you have any bags to get?"
"Yeah. You get the car and I'll join you." She was the serious office type and I wanted to just get my bag and check in at a hotel. She had other plans.
"I'll help you carry them." she said. "Then I'll take you to the station and get you caught up with what we have so far." I would have rather'd the hotel. I had no immediate need to meet any of my old police buddies. The precinct I was assigned to was across town from my old one but word had gotten around before I ended up being forced out and there was a good chance that some of the hostility would still be there.
"What ever you want." I walked to baggage claim and grabbed a single duffel with a Power Puff Girls sticker on it. March gave it a glance and asked, "You have kids?"
I said, "Not at the moment."
She gave me a quizzical look then walked quietly with me to a parked unmarked police cruiser at the lot. She drove.
It was a few minutes before she broke the ice. "Ped. That's an unusual name. Is it short for something?"
"Pedarast." I said. She shot me an alarmed looked. Humorless. "It's Pedowsky."
A few more mile posts and then, "My Sargent tells me you used to be a flat foot out here. Why did you move?" Was she serious?
"Are you serious?"
"Why? Am I missing something?" I had assumed she knew. I had assumed everybody knew. She really didn't know though. I thought I'd better tell her before someone else puts a spin on it.
"I was drummed out. I'm in the private sector now."
She looked at me again. "A PI? I thought you were still a cop."
"Cops don't like me anymore."
She became even more guarded. "Why?"
"March. I can find lost children. I'm good at it. Better than you can imagine. I have a gift." She waited. "I have a special connection with children. An insight."
"Are you a psychic?" I laughed. Then I felt down all of a sudden for what I would have to say. "I was born with a sexual attraction for younger girls. I don't stalk them. I don't touch them. But I'm a pedophile." March was looking strait ahead with her face tight. "I didn't want it, but I'm stuck with it. So I use it to help children instead of hurt them." Her knuckles were white as she gripped the wheel. "I thought I'd better tell you before someone else did."
She didn't say another word for the rest of the trip. I rode in silence.
I let her lead me through the precinct and she walked crisply without looking back once until we reached an upper office.
The office belonged to Sargent Haskill. He was a thick man with a flat top and no neck. Sargent was a good rank for him.
He looked up as we entered. "Huh. March. Any troubles?"
"No sir. May I go?" she shot back. I could hear Normandy in her voice.
Haskill blinked at her. "You got a problem, March?"
Barely controlled anger dripped from her mouth as she said, "You didn't tell me I was picking up a child molester."
Haskill blinked again. "Huh." He turned to me. "You a child molester, Ped?"
"No." I didn't bother him with any explanation.
March turned on me. "You told me so yourself!" She looked ready to take a swing.
"March." She was still glaring at me. "March!" Haskill yelled. She snapped too. His voice went calm and reasonable. "Why don't you step out side for a moment while I work this out."
I watched her leave then invited myself to sit down. Haskill looked at me firmly. "Did I tell you you can sit?"
"I didn't hear it."
Haskill leaned back and considered me. Then, "Nickles told me all about you. I didn't tell March. Why did you?"
"I thought it was better that she hear it from me."
"Didn't seem to work, did it." He didn't phrase it as a question. "Okay, I know your history here and since you left town. I'll be the first to admit that I'm impressed. Most of the boys thought you'd be in jail or dead by now."
"It's still a possibility."
Haskill said another, "Huh." and watched me for a moment. "Okay, do you think you can help? Because right now I'd work with the devil himself to get those kids back."
I leaned forward and gave him my best earnest. "I'd like to get them back safe too. The problem is I might not get any help from your boys if March is any indication. I don't want to stay if it'll hurt the investigation."
"Huh." I had a feeling I'd hear a lot of Huh's before the day was over. "I understand. You have to go easy on her. She's had it hard. This kind of thing hits close to home for her." I understood what he meant. March had been molested as a kid.
"Good idea having her pick me up then." I said.
I thought Haskill would Huh again but he broke out into a hearty laugh. I turned and saw March glaring in at us through the window. Haskill finished his laugh and said, "Yeah. You're just like Nickles said you'd be. Listen, March is good cop. I want you to work with her on this. You send her in and I'll straiten her out with you, then you two go and get caught up. I've got a private office you can use and you'll get a car from the pool. March is going to be with you on every step of this so try not to push her buttons. Okay? Have a seat outside and send her in now, please."
I got up and sent a cold March in. There was something about Haskill that rubbed me the right way. I felt like I had a friend in the force here. And friends were in short supply. I laid back on the bench and could hear March try to talk her way out of her assignment. I couldn't catch much but I could tell that Haskill won out.
March marched out and stood in front of me, not looking me at all. She seemed to fight over something inside then bleeted, "Let's go." I got up slowly and followed her. She wanted to lose me but her common sense won out. I was led to a vacant office with a desk and two chairs. Something nagged at me for a moment until I recognized the desk. It was my old desk from the seventh precinct. Someone had carved "Lt. Pervert" on it but otherwise it was no more worn than when I had it. It looked like nobody had used it since. It had sat in storage and then some clown had it sent here when I came back.
Don't you just love cops?
I threw my overcoat over the chair and sat. I took a long look around. No windows. No door. The drawers were empty. I leaned back in my chair and put my feet up. March stood by the door facing out and away from me. I had my own personal door man.
I said, "Do I get a phone so I can call Miss Cleo the psychic?" I got no response. I sat forward, all serious. "Okay March. Tell you what. You get me a phone, paper, pertinent files, and maybe a computer, and then you can split. I'll tell Haskill anything and cover for you. Deal?"
March looked ready to explode and then she was gone. I tested the desk as a foot rest again and covered my eyes with my hat. I sat that way for a while.
"Hey Sam." came from somewhere on the other side of my brim. I lifted it to look and froze.
"Eddie." I said to myself. Last time I saw Eddie was from the pavement as he glared down at me on the outside steps of the Seventh. He was older with some grey and less gut than before, but he was never that out of shape to begin with. He had been my last partner before things got out of hand.
I was tired from the flight and not ready for any old unfinished fights. I got up just the same and stood waiting for a right hook.
Eddie wasn't in a hurry to break the ice. He'd only been my partner for the last three months but it was long enough to feel I'd betrayed him. Finally he said, "Look, I'd heard you became a private dick." He stopped there. I waited. "Look, if you can help find those kids...." and then nothing. There was a little of what March had in his eyes.
I took a step. "Eddie...."
He blurted out, "Forget it." and then he was gone. That left me with one of the old boys right here in this precinct. Not a good sign, but not as bad as I thought it would be. I stepped out and looked around the outer offices. All around were men and women in plain clothes, working phones, talking, typing, or random combinations of each.
Everyone stopped and looked at me as I stood there. Nobody stepped up to welcome me. I gave myself a half smile and walked back in, shaking my head. Maybe someday I'll graduate to scum.
March showed up half an hour later with a cart and a tech. I had a phone, a computer with a printer, and lots of paper and pencils. I also had a box of file copies on the Bower children case.
I said, "Thanks. Go take off. I'll be a while." March stood her ground by the door. Fine with me. I started to browse the files. Everything seemed there. Nickles and Haskill were as good as their word.
Timmy and Tina Bower had been snatched coming home from grade school, just like the news said. What surprised me was that, also like in the news, there were really no witnesses to it. Usually the police held out something, if anything just to catch the perp with special knowledge of the crime. Here, there really wasn't a thing held back. Because who ever grabbed the kids was either very lucky or very good.
I hadn't seen most of the internet pictures being offered by the kidnapper though most of the world had by now. They were everywhere, passed around by every curious voyeur or pervert on the planet. They were all here but I didn't bother with anything more than a brief glance at each. Thousands of specialists would have analyzed the pixels off of them anyway. Fat chance I'd see something they didn't. Each picture had shown both kids first dressed and nervous, then in gradual states of undress. The last picture had both kids in shirts and underwear.
In each picture was the same blank wall and sheet covered couch. In each picture was a plain table with a large buck knife laying on it. The implication was obvious. Suddenly, March spoke up.
"So were you molested as a boy? Is that what's wrong with you?" She still wasn't going to look at me. Maybe I should have laid down on a couch and told my life's story.
"I wanted to be a catholic priest when I grew up." I didn't need her there trying to analyze me. I hoped she took the hint and left it alone.
She started staring at me then. "You need help." She said it like she was on my side. Her eyes said she was the enemy.
"Let's help these kids first." I glared back. Two nice innocent children were at the mercy of some deranged pervert and she wanted to work out her personal demons on me.
"There's no difference between you and the kidnapper, you know. You'd do the same thing if you thought you could get away with it." March was probably looking for a gun while she spat that out at me. Inside I wanted to set her strait, make her understand that there was a world of difference between me and the kidnapper. That I had a lifetime of work that proved it. That not everything was black and white. But it would be wasted breath. She was haunted by her own past still, and I'd seen enough kids go through stuff to know how hard those events were to live with.
I took a breath. "March, I want those kids safe as much as you do. I'll do everything I can to get them back, and if your problems get in my way of saving those kids, I'll push. Hard. Got it? Get your act together or get lost."
I went back to my reading. March was about to say something stupid but her common sense won out and she left.
I studied everything and tried to look at the events from my personal experience. Every lead had been followed up to death. I resigned myself to long shots and looked for anything that might have been assumed.
The only thing I could come up with was that the first officer on the scene of the Bower house had also brought both kids home from school the year before when a grandmother died.
I picked up the phone and asked the desk sargent where I could find Lt. Wilson. He happened to be in the building at a training class and I went to wait for him.
While I stood outside the door, March came running up to me and stopped short by ten feet. She still wouldn't look at me. I returned the favor.
Then class was out and a sea of uniforms filed out. I called out, "Lt. Wilson?" and an officer pointed back in the room. Inside was Wilson at the chalk board. He had been the instructor.
I held out my hand and he took it. "Wilson, I'm Lt. Ped, on the Bower case. You have a moment?" March walked in and kept her distance.
"Ped? The specialist from out of town. Sure. What do you need?" Wilson was short, balding, and confident. He looked like a career officer.
"Yeah. Look, I just came in today and I'm trying anything I could think of. Do you remember the Bower kids last year?"
"Yeah. You picked them up from their school when their..." I looked at my pad. "Grandmother Parkins died. You remember that at all?"
He stopped and thought. "Well I'll be.... Hey you know? That was them. Yeah. I remember."
Like I said, any long shot. "What were they like? I mean, were they easy to approach? Did they ask a lot of questions? Could the kidnapper had conned them into a car easily?"
"No. They were in the principles office when I got there. They never said anything except, 'Where are we going?'"
I tried to think of something else, "Well, did they..."
"You're disgusting!" March suddenly yelled. We both turned, confused. She went off then. "How could you accuse this officer of being the kidnapper? You pervert!" She turned to Wilson. "Did you know he's a child molester?"
Wilson began to think he was being set up. "Hey! What the fuck's going on? Is that true? You think I did it? Listen fucker! I've been with the force for fifteen years and I've never been accused of anything!"
I said, "Never mind." and left while he was still fuming. I saw him pick up the phone as I grabbed March by the arm and dragged her, struggling, to Haskill's office. He was on the phone trying to calm Wilson while I dragged March in and threw her to the chair. We waited until everything was fine and Haskill hung up. March went into it immediately.
"He's involved in this! He went right up to a good cop and tried to frame him! What do we know about this guy anyway? For all we know, he set this...."
Haskill stood up and seemed like a giant all of a sudden. March shut up right away.
"Huh. From what I heard, everything was fine until you got involved." Haskill said.
"But he accused...." Haskill came in front of the desk. He didn't look like he was going to hit her. March wasn't flinching like she thought he would, but something about the way he stood gave me the impression he could rain thunderbolts from the sky. March clammed up tight.
"You lost your cool, Lt. Your a good cop and I'd hate to have you see the head shrinker board on this, so why don't you step back and calm down." March looked very much like a hurt child as she looked up and nodded to him. Hurt children always tugged at my heart strings and I felt for her.
Haskill turned to me. "Okay, Sam. What's your take?"
I stayed calm to avoid the thunderbolts. "She's too close to this. Maybe she shouldn't be stuck with me."
"If I take her off, I'll have to put down why and then the board will have to evaluate her." Haskill told both of us. "You want that, Sam? She is a good cop normally."
I sighed. She couldn't help it, and I didn't want to see her hurt because of me. Still, I couldn't work with her while she was like this. I was torn. I turned to March. "You really think I'm involved?"
March didn't answer. I went on. "Look at me." She turned and held my eyes guardedly. "Do you really think I would hurt a child?" Her head did a slight circle like she couldn't decide on a nod or a head shake. I turned back to Haskill. "How about she gets some vacation time. Say, a lost aunt or something."
Haskill sat on his desk and nodded. "Huh. We could do that. What do you think, March? I'll give you the choice. Work with Sam here, or take a vacation. What do you want?"
March wanted to stay on the case, but she also couldn't take much of me. Stuck between two lousy choices. I still felt sympathy for her. "Let me think about it, sir." she said.
"Okay. Sam, you need to talk to Wilson about anything else?"
I shook my head, "No."
"Then get back to work. I'll talk with March some more." I got up and left.
Wilson was waiting for me at my office. I nodded and walked past him. He asked, "Did you really think I was involved?" I shook my head. "Then what did you want from me?"
"I wanted to know if those kids went kicking and screaming. I wanted to know if they knew or trusted the kidnapper." Felt a little edgy from my day. "Wilson, I don't care if I piss off the whole department if it'll get those kids back safe!"
Wilson nodded and asked one more question. "Did you ever touch a child yourself?"
I could have lied to him. Somebody could bust me for it then and what little trust I had would be gone. I could have told the truth and then it'd be the same. I played diplomat. "Don't play this game right now. You don't want to deal with me, fine. But don't hurt my chances of helping to get those kids back safe."
Wilson nodded and left. I went to my files. Eddie was at the door when I looked up. He said, "You sure changed, Sam. You're hard now." I said nothing. I was done with this shit and it was getting to me. Eddie went on anyway. "But you're still pointed the right way, aren't you."
I massaged the bridge of my nose. Everything was coming back to me. The sleepless weeks, the drinking, the feeling sorry for myself, the hostility.
"Come on, Sam. I'm off, you're beat, lets get a beer."
I didn't want to leave when there was work to be done and then I realized that I hadn't been a cop for a long time and I had already fallen into my old ways. And one of those ways was to stay late and keep working. I dropped the file. Fuck this! I was private now. I didn't have to stay and take this shit.
I grabbed my coat and hat and upgraded myself to a scotch.
We'd been at the bar for over an hour, catching up and mending fences before Eddie went to the topic of the day.
"You know, Sam. There were a lot of rumors over what happened to you. The big one was that you went on to form an international child slave ring. And that you had agents working every school in the country."
I had loosened up and actually laughed at that. Eddie laughed too. It was obvious to him that I never stopped being a cop. "You know, I did once break up a child slave ring. I could have just taken it over. Maybe that's what's wrong with me. I'm too stupid."
Eddie took another drink. "Stupid yeah. But you were a good cop. You know, I remembered the way you took care of those kids when we popped their father pimping them out. You really cared. It really hurt you to see them hurt like that."
"That's me. All soft." I said all hard.
Eddies hand was on my shoulder. "So, come on. Tell me about some of your cases, Mr. Private Dick."
I was feeling like I needed a friend and Eddie use to be one. I told him about the orphanage. I told him about the cannibal family. I told him about to child porn ring I broke up. I also told him about the cops back home and the lovely help I got from them. Eddie shook his head with every tale like he couldn't believe it.
Finally he said, "You're making this shit up, aren't you?"
I sighed, "Yeah Eddie. Sure." I slammed my drink. "I'm tired and calling it. See you later."
"Yeah. Later." He watched me go.
I called a cab and headed for the hotel to finally check in. I'd left my bag at the station and felt too tired to pick it up so I didn't bother. March was at the hotel when I got there. She had my duffel. I waited for her to chew me out, or say sorry. She said neither. I said, "Thanks." and checked in.
I headed for an elevator when March ran up and said, "Sam." I turned and waited. "I want to stay on the case." I said nothing. My head hurt. "I can work with you, okay? I don't think you'd hurt anyone. I was just... I was just..."
I held up a hand, "It's okay. You don't have to explain anything. Go home and get some sleep."
March followed me to the elevator and got in with me. "I'm... I'm sorry. Did he tell you what happened to me?" I didn't want to hear it, but she needed to say it anyway. "My... father. He would make me.... He would...."
"You don't have to do this."
"Yes I do." March steeled herself. "It started when I was eight. He started to share me with my uncles and soon their friends too. I thought everybody wanted to do me." I closed my eyes. I always hated these kinds of confessions.
March was looking right at me. She said, surprised, "This is disturbing you. I thought you'd like this."
"Then why did you want to tell me?"
Her mouth opened then closed tight. Then, "When I first saw you, you seemed so strong and tough. And I thought, I could learn something from this guy. That's the kind of person I want to be. Strong and tough. Then you tell me you're just like my father."
"I'm not anything like your father." I said a little angrier than I intended. The door opened. I stepped through.
March stayed in. She said, as the doors started shutting, "I believe you." Then I was alone and headed for my room.
I actually slept that night.
The next day, The station was buzzing. The kidnapper had released another image.
Everybody on the floor watched me quietly walk past before resuming their talk. I called up the image on the computer.
Both kids were missing their underwear and the girl was bent over and plainly had her brothers dick in her mouth. The brother was leaning back with a pleasant expression on his face and his dick looked hard. I made a strong effort not to see the lovely shape of her little white thigh. It wasn't there for my entertainment.
Something seemed wrong about it. The boy was too young to be so hard and the edges had a familiar fuzziness to them.
Haskill was at my door. I said to him without looking, "It's a fake."
He came around and looked at it with me. "You sure about this?"
"It's not even a good fake." I pointed. "Look here, and here. You see those colors? I'll zoom it so you can get a better picture. There. Those colors don't match. They're composites of what's there and of what was surrounding the boy when the picture was taken. Also, there on his genitals. See that line? It's been elongated here, but not here. That part of the image has been stretched."
"Huh." He said. If I made a drinking game with Haskill's Huh's, I'd be passed out before noon. "That's not what I came here to tell you, Sam. Look at the name of the file."
It said, SNUFF01.JPG. The knife was still in the image. The kidnapper was threatening further to kill Timmy and Tina.
"Shit." I said.
"Sam. Help us get this asshole." Haskill left.
I worked over every file for half the day, looking for anything. I came up with nothing. Eddie popped in at lunch and offered to spring for it. I declined then my stomach argued the point. Then we walked down to the street and got some chili dogs. The taste brought back a load of memories. I used to hate them, but suddenly they seemed great to eat. I felt like I had come home after decades of wandering.
Eddie said, "You know, Sam." Then he swallowed. "I checked up on those stories you told me. You weren't shitting me, were you? You really did all that?"
"Yeah, well. It never seems enough."
"God, I got to hand it to you, buddy. I know cops who would kill for a record like that."
"I know cops who'd kill me despite that record."
"Well, personally. I'm sorry. I was wrong about you." Eddie held out his hand. I took it slowly. I guess I was still looking for a knife in the other hand. Old habits from another city.
When we got back up stairs, the floor was alive and suddenly someone shouted, "I got it!" We walked up to see what happened. "I got him, the bastard! You're toast!"
I saw what had happened. They had traced the image to a phone number. I felt sick. It was mine.
I slipped back to my office and made a call. Liz's father answered. "Hi, it's me, Sam. I need to talk to Liz."
"Sure. Honey?" He didn't bother to cover the phone when he yelled and I had to pull it from my ear. Liz came on a moment later. "Yes?"
"It's me. I don't have much time and I need your help."
"Sam!! I missed you! Where are you? Can I come out there?"
"Shhh. Listen." Liz went serious. You can't blame a child for being happy. "Somebody has planted my phone number where it shouldn't be. I need you to first check to see if anyone has used the office while I was gone. Then you need to call a friend of mine who's at the phone company there and check on anything, traces, maintenance, anything. Go to the file cabinet at the office for ideas, under Phreaking." I spelled it out for her. "Call Nickles and tell him what's going on too. He'll help."
"You mean that big ugly black man? I don't like him!"
"You and me both, but he's a strait shooter when he needs to be. Do this quickly. I'll call you at your home."
Then nothing. My phone line went dead. A crowd started to gather at my door. I saw pitchforks and torches. I stayed perfectly still and held their stare. Haskill wormed his way through before someone called me a witch.
I was escorted to his office with half the force in a seething tow and we sat there in his office alone while most of the station stood right outside.
"Huh. You have something you want to say?"
"I got long arms."
I sat. "I'm here, someone else must be at my office."
"You saying you have an accomplice?" Haskill leaned back and put his hands behind his head.
"I'm saying it's a plant, and not by the perp. Think it through. Suddenly, you can trace my name to the images. If it was by the perp, then it'd be because it's the final picture. The kidnapper wants publicity. I don't think he'd throw it all away now."
"You said he." Haskill stared.
I nodded. "That's my gut. He made the girl do her brother. He's thinking like a man. I could be off on this."
Haskill leaned in. "You're saying you didn't do it, right?"
"If I was capable, why would I set it up so far from home? Where I could have alibi's up the ass?"
"You said accomplice, Sam."
We were back to 'Sam.' Haskill knew I was being strait.
"So, who do you think is trying to pin it on you?"
I let out a long breath. Who wouldn't? "Check with the FBI. If they don't get the same results, it's local. Otherwise, I've already got somebody checking it out back home."
"Your phone call." he declared. I nodded. "No FBI. I worked hard to get them to step back and let us handle it."
That one caught me off guard. I had noticed a lack of Feds. Why would Haskill ask for help from me, but not the feds? Haskill could see what I was thinking from my face.
"As soon as they step in, I'm done. Finished with my career." I stared. My stare said it all. He was starting to get hot under the collar. "It's none of your business! I'm on it and we'll get them back!"
I wasn't going to state the obvious, that his job became more important than those kids lives. He knew I was thinking it, though. Captain Thunderbolt stood and walked up to glare down at me. "Those kids will come home safe. I've got you to see to that."
Anything I might have felt for Haskill got thrown into the Nickles file. I stood too. The crowd outside the door got visibly hotter.
"You're not going yet." Haskill said. "Until I find who set your number up, I have to hold you. Turn around." He pull some cuffs from his desk.
I was picturing my body hanging from somewhere inside a cell. "You got a guard you can trust? I wouldn't put it past someone to go beyond a frame." Haskill stopped behind me. I couldn't see his face, but I could tell the thought hadn't crossed his mind.
"We'll wrap this little nothing up quickly and get you out." He said and started to lead me through the door.
The crowd parted like the red sea, and sharks were snapping from the water walls at me.
I ended up in a holding cell by myself with March guarding me. She kept her cool only until Haskill left. The she was at the bars yelling, "You bastard! You did it, didn't you? I was just ready to trust you, you fucking bastard!!"
I laid down on the cot and put my hat over my eyes. But I listened, not to March, but for anybody else who might want to join her little rant. Maybe take it a bit farther.
March ran out of steam after a half an hour and I peeked. She was sitting away and fuming. She could have heated the building for the winter.
I sat and watched. She seemed to get it out of her system. It was another hour before Haskill came down.
"Okay. You're free, Sam."
March jumped up in disbelief. "What?! How can you let him go? He's going to kill those kids!"
"March!" Haskill boomed. "McCarthy planted the link. Right here from the station."
"No. No! He's fooling you! It's a lie! They all lie! And then they hurt you! You gotta listen to me!" March looked close to losing it. Haskill pushed her to the side and unlocked my cage.
"I want you out of the station while I straiten this out. March will stay here and I'll get somebody else to baby sit you." Haskill told me.
I wasn't sure who I could trust. I took a chance. "You know Eddie Cunningham? He used to be my partner back at the Seventh."
"Yeah. I know. Huh. Okay. You wait at the motor pool. I'll send him down." Haskill pointed the way and I heard March start to go off just as the door shut.
March was looking less and less like a cop every minute. She had problems, but despite what she thought of me, I felt bad for her. Some kids never get over abuse, and she was looking more like a troubled kid to me as the cop in her faded. Part of me wanted to slap some sense into her and part of me wanted to hold her and make the demons go away.
Eddie came down soon after and he half glowered at me.
"You know, none of this would have happened if you hadn't come along. McCarthy was a good guy."
"Yeah. We all plant evidence when we hate some one." That took some wind out of his sails. I'd need to do something to keep his mind off of McCarthy for a while. I didn't want to think too much either.
"Still, he was a good guy." I had the keys to the car March drove me in and Eddie followed. "Where are we going?"
"I have an idea." My idea was to chase long shots. Detective work was mostly boring and sometimes long shots were all you had. I got in the drivers seat. Eddie lumbered in the other side. I pulled out and headed for a little known shop on the south side.
"So what's this idea of yours?" Eddie asked.
I pulled up to a Goodwill store. Eddie followed me in. "Come on, Sam. Let me in on this. What are we doing here?"
I led him down an isle and started going through salesman suits. Eddie scowled at one as I held it up to his body. He said, "You got to be crazy. Is this what I think it is? We're going undercover?"
I picked out a sleazy looking car salesman jacket and blue shirt. Eddie's slacks were fine already. I dragged him back to the car and asked, "How much money can you get?"
He shook his head, "I dunno know. A thousand, maybe?"
"Good. Station'll pay you back." I pulled out and finished the drive at a small adult shop. A name I remembered from an old case. Eddie changed his shirt and jacket. "I want you to go in and ask for some special tapes. They'll probably have discs now but stick with tapes."
"I got ya'. Is there a code? A password?"
"You're fine. It's your first time. You're nervous about getting busted. Hint, linger, maybe sweat a little."
"Got it. I'm a perv."
I pointed to a building. Eddie opened the door. I stopped him. "Eddie. If they ask if you're a cop, say no."
"I can't do that." He looked hurt.
"We're not going to bust them. It won't be entrapment. But if they bite, ask about brother and sister. Something that'd fit the profile." Eddie started to get out, nodding. "I'm serious. You got to be turned on. They can spot a plant. These types are really cagey. For good reason."
Eddie walked into the shop just up the street, looking the part. He was even looking up and down, as if he was afraid of being seen. Probable because of the clothes I made him wear.
It was twenty minutes before Eddie came back out, empty handed. He got in. "I think I scared that guy." I had visions of Eddie the cop roughing them up. "It took me forever to get him to loosen up." Eddie grinned. "I should have gotten an Oscar. Twenty fifth and Powell. That's where we get tapes."
Despite what he'd just asked for, he was feeling pretty good about himself. I drove, wondering if this was just another dead end.
The shop wasn't an adult novelty shop like the other. I wasn't even sure from the face of it. Eddie wanted to go in but I had a gut feeling it was my turn. This wasn't something he could handle. I left my hat in the car.
Inside I smelled incense. A short bald man came into the room to see me. "Yes?"
"I'm interested in dealing with somebody." I said in a calm and hushed voice.
"Buying or selling?"
"A little of both."
"And what do you have to offer?"
I looked around once. "Contacts. Asia, South America, Russia. And a lead on a pipeline."
"I see. What do you want?" This guy had a poker face a corpse would envy.
"A few names of customers. I'm seeking a specific taste and a certain person who can provide it. Someone who's advertising on line."
The poker face never left. "Are you an officer of the law, or are you working with them?"
"No." I only answered the first question, but I wasn't going to tell him that.
The short man regarded me for a moment. "How do I know you have contacts to sell?"
This I could handle, if he was as deep as I thought he was. I gave him two phone numbers from my own city. Ones that he'd know about. The man didn't blink an eye, but he did nod once. "I think we can do business. But I warn you." That was where he left it. "Tell me who you're looking for."
I decided to take a chance. "The man with the Bower kids."
Poker face swayed and took a deep breath for a moment. I had a feeling he knew something. He said, "That is a lot to buy. You must have a lot to sell. What's your interest in this?"
This is where I needed a judgement call. I couldn't tell if the little man was for or against seeing these kids die. I ended up being strait with him. "I like the shots. But I don't like where he's going with it. I think the kids could have fun, but it'd be a waste to see them die."
I got a single nod from him. "I agree. We have a deal then. Come with me please."
I was led to a back office where we both sat. "Do you have a sample on you?"
I shook my head. "No. But I can point you to some on the internet. It's compressed and encrypted and you'll need a password to get to it."
"Of course." I gave him a URL I had memorized last year. Left over and never recovered after a bust of a case I was on. Unseen material. He started downloading it. We waited.
I felt bad about letting those pictures go into public domain, but if I could save Timmy and Tina's lives, I call it a fair trade. "Okay. It's done. Pass codes please."
"Name and address."
"After I see to samples."
I could have held out, but I knew where he was and I could disappear. I gave him the codes. Pictures uncompressed and opened into a file. The man called one up. "Yes. This is new. How much more can you get?"
"Name and address."
"How do I know this isn't all you have?"
"Would you rather see the kids die?"
"This is all you have then. Pity. Okay, I'll give you what you want." I got a name and address. I felt elation, but I hammered it back down. It could be nothing. The man gave in easily.
I walked as calmly to the car as I could. Then I was on a cell phone calling it in. The shop might have had a police scanner.
Eddie was looking at me with his mouth opened. If I had a fish, I would have tossed it in. We drove to the address and saw a parking lot of police cars. I was betting the police motor pool was a barren waistland.
We got out and scoped the sight. Mostly uniforms writing or talking, or doing both. Haskill was there.
"Sam Ped!" He lumbered quickly to where we were standing. I could hear faint Huh's with each step. "We got him! We got the kids! You're the man of the hour!"
Eddie murmured, "No shit."
"We have every news crew coming right now. You're a hero." Haskill's grin was enough to make you like him better scowling. News crews were on their way and they were going to let me take credit. I was wondering if Nickles was going to see it.
"Eddie gets credit too. He scooped the first vital info." Haskill turned to Eddie.
"Then you're going on air too!" Eddie was caught up in the moment.
I had more questions. "Are the KIds all right?"
Haskill was dismissive. "Yeah, yeah. They're great. He didn't even touch them as far as we knew."
That didn't seem right. I pressed harder. "Who was he? Why did he do it?"
Haskill looked a little peeved with the details. He turned to me, granting me credit and stifling his minor irritation. "He was the janitor at the school. He had the hots for Timmy Bower but wasn't ready to accept he was a queer. He was working his way up to molesting him but needed to dirty his captives up by exposing them on the internet as whores first. He gave a full confession and tried to make it clear he hadn't touched them. The psych boys have it all mapped out if you really want to get into it." Haskill beamed again and slapped my shoulder. "Come on, Sam. They're safe! You saved them!"
It hit me as anticlimatic. There were no car chases, no roughing up, no out manuvering. I could have done it drunk.
Eddie fell into step with Haskill, emotionally as well as physically. They walked to the house to see the scene of the crime. I spotted March over near a car by herself. She was watching me but turned away as soon as I saw her.
"Hello, Rita." I said when I was close enough.
Her voice seemed small. "Hi."
"We caught a lucky break."
Still small. "Yeah."
I waited a pause. "You okay now?"
She bit her lower lip and looked ready to cry. It transformed her. I would have pegged her at twelve years old right then. Despite everything she said about me the last few days, I found myself liking her. She had problems and still tried to make something of herself. "Hey." I said. She looked at me for only a moment. "No hard feelings?" That did it. Tears started to fall.
She grabbed at me before I knew it and had me in her weak bear hug. She started to mumble and I realized that she was saying, "I'm sorry." over and over. I held her back and stood there with her for a long time. I saw Eddie and Haskill come out of the house. Eddie waved his finger at us. Naughty naughty.
Eventually, March pulled back and looked up at my eyes. I saw a familiar sight there. The same thing I had seen in young girls when they wanted to do adult things. I felt myself stir inside.
Then March yanked free and ran off.
The first two network vans pulled in and reporters were out in seconds. Haskill directed them to Eddie and me and I was caught in a growing sea of lenses and foam microphone covers. I gave one syllable answers and Eddie ended up being the front man. After years of getting no credit, I found myself hanging back and uncomfortable. Nickles must have trained me better than I thought.
Nobody had any questions about my questionable past or of any rumors about me. Either they didn't know or were playing it down. Knowing news people, I figured they had no clue. I kept hanging back and eventually Haskill moved in and took the lead.
The day wound into night and after I had finished paperwork with Eddie, I went back to my hotel. I'd be leaving soon for home. I was making plans to pack my things and move here in my head. I could get a nice business going here with the popularity of the case. Then again, I had things finally working back at home too. I also had a nice assistant that fit my needs nicely.
My door knocked. I opened it to a figiting March. I stepped back in invitation. She looked inside as if checking for muggers or lions. Then she stepped in.
"You want a drink?" I asked. I figured I'd try and make this easy for her, knowing what she wanted to say.
"You got a coke?"
I stopped before taking out the bourbon from a bag I brought. "I can get one."
"No. That's okay." She still looked like a child. It had been a rough week for her. I sat and after a moment, she did too.
March looked around a everything but me. I said, "I don't have any kids slashed here. You can check if you'd like." She looked hurt and I instantly regretted it. I changed the subject. "How are Timmy and Tina holding up?"
March looked at me then. "They.... They are good. Doctor checked them out thoroughly. The guy had rubbed them some but he took care of them."
"He's still a bad guy." I said. I remembered the knife.
"Yes he is." She paused for a moment. "Sam?"
Here it comes.
I jumped the gun on her. "You don't have to say anything. Nothing's easy. My feelings aren't hurt." I looked back at the bag. I was going to say, "Mind if I drink?" When March threw me a curve ball.
"Will you have sex with me?" Drink forgotten.
Stronger. "Will you have sex with me? I want you to. Do you want me?" She shrugged off her coat and was wearing a sleeveless t-shirt that said 'Princess' in pink. It was a very teen type of shirt. "I can be what ever you want." She said as she took out some hair ties and started to put her hair into pig tails.
She was looking too much like a young girl and half of me was interested. The other half was wailing an air raid siren.
March got disconnected from the world I was in. She went on without seeing me. "I'm not too old for you. You can be my uncle. Uncle Sam? I...." Then she started to laugh "Uncle Sam. I didn't think about it. You could be the father of the country. You can be my father too." March got onto her knees and was kneeling in front of me.
I was getting uncomfortable. "Rita. Stop."
She became suddenly hurt. I reached for her before it could turn to anger again. "I like you, but you're acting out something from your past. This isn't the way." Inside I was turned on by her behavior, but I felt it'd be wrong to encourage it. Her eyes started to water up. I added, "I'm interested, but be yourself. Don't try to cater to me."
She wasn't getting it. "I'm too old. Nobody want's me when I'm too old." Then she started crying. She dropped to the carpet and lay sobbing in a pile. March had some bugs in her. She was used until she became too old and hadn't gotten her self worth back yet.
I knew I shouldn't have done it, but I couldn't watch her hurting in front of me. I pulled at her arm. "You're not too old. I want you." I swallowed and said lines that have both disgusted me and turned me on for most of my life. "Be a good girl and come to me." I sighed. "Daddy'll make it all better."
This seemed to work. She lifted her head and looked at me, eyes wide with an innocent knowing. You know the look. The I'm-going-to-do-something-wrong-and-I-like-it look. The look that I'd seen on hundreds of habitually abused children.
March came to me like a trained dog. She was on her knees on the floor in front of me and unzipping my pants. She took me into her mouth and wiggled her head around to fit me in deeper. She was good at it. She'd had a lot of experience. I became rigid and she actually swallowed me whole. Right down her neck to her shoulders.
I had never gotten head so deep before. It was a new experience for me. She bobbed her head and I felt myself ready to explode. She gauged from my face and pulled off before I could climax. I was left breathless and panting. I hadn't noticed that she'd shrugged off her jeans.
She had shaved herself. Recently. Her region was a little red from razor burns. Shaving wasn't something she was used to. She got onto the chair and straddled me. She was wet and ready. I was in her quickly and I hadn't made a move. She was doing all the work. And she was good at it. Real good.
I reached up under her shirt to explore her but she pulled my hands off and said, "I don't have any tits." I could see them right through her shirt. They weren't big, but they puckered out invitingly. Little girls weren't supposed to have tits yet. March was in a twisted time warp.
I was getting fucked royal. She had me deep in her slim body and though I knew she could fit more, she still grunted and whimpered like I was too big for her. They were convincing cries. They sounded like a child's cries. Still, her body grabbed at me at all the right places and it was even better than the head she'd just given me.
I had a flash of what kinds of things she used to do to get like this, and when she was smaller too.
Even though I felt outside of her little world, I was picturing her as a little girl at the hands of an adult man. Teased into feelings that she wasn't ready for. I was half revulsed and half screaming for more inside. I was letting out a part of me I didn't like. March continued to rock her body on me as her rhythm built knowingly. There were sucking sounds from her pussy as she worked me like a plumbers helper.
I was grateful for the release when it finally came. March didn't orgasm though. Instead, she got off of me and began to lick herself off from my fading erection. I was too spent to fight it. It felt good too.
Then, she curled up and lay against me. She'd fallen instantly asleep. I couldn't think.
When I could I started thinking. I thought of the life that she'd had. I thought of the things I'd secretly desired. I'd thought of all the times my good intentions hurt somebody. All the times I became side tracked by my own desires. The times I'd given in and complicated somebody's life forever.
March was a result of the extreme case. But I was there on the same chart.
March was also a fantastic lay for me. Legal as can be, but a roller coaster ride for anyone to become emotionally involved with.
I nudged her. She was out for the count. I carried her to the bed and then sat to watch her face. It had changed dramatically. All of her stress and burdens were gone and what was left was almost pixie like youth. She still looked twelve but in a different way. I was some sort of homecoming for her.
In another life I could have devoted myself fully to her. Help her love again. Not this one. Roller coasters can be fun, but you don't want to live on one.
My own stress had worn me down and I got undressed and got in bed with her. I remember her holding on to me before sleep took me into it's hungery, dark, damp mouth.
The door knocked loudly and persistently. I jarred awake. March was still asleep.
I threw on the hotel robe and answered it. As soon as the door opened, Liz yelled, "Sam!" and grabbed me. It caught me off guard when I saw her father standing there watching.
"Sam! We came out because I thought you were in trouble, but then we saw the news and you saved those kids and I was worried about you and I forgot to lock the office but then I said, screw it." She stopped to look back at her dad to see if she'd crossed the line with, 'Screw it.'
I remembered we were cut off and I had forgot to call her back and tell her I was all right. I was mentally kicking myself in a way that can only happen in my imagination. Then March appeared with my overcoat wrapped around her. She looked sleepy and still young, but wakefulness was already adding years to her.
Liz saw her and pulled back. She looked confused, then hurt, then angry. Her father gave a slight smile. His daughter was safe. I was with an adult. Liz didn't feel the same way though.
She punched me weakly in the gut and ran off. Pop said, "We're sorry to disturb you, Sam. I'll call you later." Then he smiled again and walked off after his heartbroken daughter.
March put two and two together and scowled at me.
"Did you sleep with her?" Her face screwed up worse and I could see the old March coming back. I could see ugly words starting to form but then she suddenly got sick and ran for the toilet. I heard a familiar sound like after you drink too much, or maybe after eating some dog shit.
I was glad she only cussed me out with her eyes as she bowled past me and slammed the door still holding her clothes. With my sudden turn of luck, she'd run into Liz while still half naked.
It was too early to start drinking, but when did I ever follow rules?
I didn't get to the precinct until noon. I looked no worse for wear. Being low life has advantages in the appearance department.
A few officers applauded me as I walked to Haskill's office. Haskill didn't look as happy.
"What'd you do to March?" he asked.
"She came to me for comfort. She was sober so I thought it was on the level."
"Huh. Were you sober?"
"I was last night." Why lie?
"You didn't try anything funny with her? Got a little kinky maybe?" Haskill's eye's said he wouldn't believe me no matter what I said.
I said, "She was fine with the circus midget. She balked at the pony."
"Huh." He stared, then burst out laughing. "She's a little off lately. You should have sent her home."
"Yeah. Well, for some dumb reason I thought we could be friends."
Haskill didn't Huh. He sighed. "She went to the papers, Sam. Going to do a number on you I guess."
"We can't take you on now. Not till this stuff dies down."
I was wrong. There was no coming home here. Just a later plane fight out of town that day.
I caught the news on the airport TV before getting on the plane. They all but said that I was an accomplice. They also talked about some busts of adult novelty shops. That would have been Eddie. I guess he didn't think they'd be valuable info sources.
The lady who took my ticket recognized me and stared. I was a criminal in her eyes. I could see it.
Haskill was sympathetic and upgraded me to first class for the flight home. That meant all the free drinks I could get.
They cut me off half way home.
Children are told from near day 1 today that no one is supposed to touch them on their genitals without their permission or sometimes, at all.
When they ALLOW that (and not yelling and screaming when someone tries to touch you without your permission is allowing it), they need to stop whining about it.
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