Archive for August, 2010

Pop Pop Pop (Revised)


August 31st, 2010 Posted 9:25 am

“I don’t like this,” Bernie said. “Not one bit.” He opened the closet door.

It was a deep closet, with space for this long bubble-wrapped package lying on the floor. Once I walked across some bubble wrap and pop-pop-popping sounds happened. I don’t like bubble wrap. Inside this particular bubble wrap there was a human body, not alive – the smell proved that. The face was all pressed out of shape by the bubble wrap.

“Damn it,” Bernie said. “It’s Astrid for sure.”

He bent down, started unwrapping around the face part. I’d never seen Astrid, but this wasn’t her, because it wasn’t even a woman. It was a pointy-nosed man I’d seen before. My memory of perps’ faces, especially the faces of perps who’d tried a little knife play on us, was pretty good.

“Ratko,” Bernie said.

Decatur Book Festival this weekend. PA at the Old Courthouse, Saturday 12-12:45; Spence at Ballroom B in the Conference Center, Saturday 5:30-6:15.


Getting Started


August 30th, 2010 Posted 9:06 am

We moved through the abandoned house in Cactus Heights, side by side, which is how Bernie and I do these things even though deep down I prefer to be first. There was nothing inside except bare walls and bare floors with big holes here and there. “That’s where thieves took the wiring and the copper pipes,” Bernie said. “Like we’re living in some third world … ” His voice trailed off. Were we looking for wiring and copper thieves? We’d had a copper case once before, involving a mine and some gunplay, the rest of it pretty dim in my mind.

But meanwhile I was just following the smell. It led through a big room, down a hall, into a small room and to a closet. Bernie sniffed the air. I love when he does that! “You smell anything, Chet?” That Bernie! Who wouldn’t love him? I stood by the closet door. Open it up, Bernie, let’s get started.


Sunday: Elvis and Ingrid


August 29th, 2010 Posted 8:38 am

How do I know it’s Sunday? Elvis gospel on the radio. We like Milky White Way the best, me and Bernie, but they haven’t played it yet. Meanwhile, Bernie says the Plunderers have been discussing the Extras. Here is some of the Extra from Into the Dark.

Dear Reader:

Welcome to extras. Extras! Just another feature, beside how cheap they are, that makes paperbacks great. I hope you enjoyed Into the Dark.

Mr. Samuels, editor of The Echo, interviewed Grampy shortly after the events described in the story. I was able – by methods that must remain secret – to lay hands on a copy of the interview, transcribed from the original tape.


Peter Abrahams

From the files of Mr. Samuels, Echo editor

Interview Transcript with reporter’s notes: Subject – Aylmer Hill

Samuels: Morning, Aylmer. Been a long time.

Hill: Since when?

Samuels: Why, uh, since we had a sitdown together, you and I.

Hill: When did that ever happen?

Samuels: Well, perhaps not formally – maybe making this a little more special, if you see what I mean. (Note: AH says nothing. Describe his gaze, clear and icy. Omit or at least tone down its disquieting effect.) Care for a Danish?

Hill: Nope.

Samuels: Must be why you stay so trim. If you don’t mind my asking, how’s your health these days?

Hill: Tip top.

Samuels: Probably feeling especially good right now, I’d imagine.

Hill: Why?

Samuels: What with your recent exoneration in the Thatcher murder and all. (Note: no reply, just the gaze again) Um, a splash more coffee?

Hill: Nope.

Samuels: How do you feel about the way the case was handled?

Hill: Been around the block.

Samuels: You’re saying you’ve been around the block?

Hill: What I said.

Samuels: Meaning, ah, in terms of the case, that …

Hill: Been in worse situations.

Samuels: Ah, let’s get into that. I take it you’re referring to your experiences in World War Two. (Note: again no reply, but possibly a slight nod) I’m sure The Echo’s readers would be interested in your account of those adventures.

Hill: Adventures?

Samuels: Ordeal might be a better word.

Hill: Think so?

Samuels: What word would you choose?

Hill: (Note: long silence during which AH’s eyes seem to cloud over) Long time ago.

Samuels: Meaning the memories have faded?

Hill: Nothing wrong with my memory.

Samuels: So when you think of the Bataan Death March –

Hill: I don’t.

Samuels: But if you did, right now, for example, as a matter of historical record for Echo readers, what would your thoughts be? For example, do you feel bitterness toward the Japanese?

Hill: (Note: an even longer silence) Only some of them.

Samuels: What’s your reaction to those who say that once the dogs of war are unleashed anything goes?

Hill: (Note: the disquieting look) Then we’re just beasts.

Samuels: So there should be restraint even in war?

Hill: (Note: perhaps another slight nod)

Samuels: Changing subjects a little bit, did you happen to catch your granddaughter Ingrid’s performance in the Prescott Players’s recent production of Hansel and Gretel?

Hill: Yeah. (Note: a sudden laugh) I snuck in the back.

Samuels: You snuck in the back?

Hill: Got a problem with that?

Samuels: Well, why not just take a normal seat, like anyone else? (Note: an icy look that goes on and on) Moving on to the play itself, what did you think of Ingrid’s performance?

Hill: (Note: After a sudden quick smile that changes his whole face) My family is a private matter.

Samuels: Meaning?

Hill: None of your damn business.

Samuels: So you’d like me to keep the Ingrid part off the record?

Hill: All of it.

Samuels: I’m sorry?

Hill: (Note: covers the mike with his hand) All of it. It’s all off the record. Every single word.

Samuels: But I don’t understand. You said that – (Note: subject has risen and is leaving the room.)


Line/No Line


August 28th, 2010 Posted 8:47 am

We walked around the house, me and Bernie. He had the .38 Special tucked in his belt. Bernie’s a crack shot, if I haven’t mentioned that already. Once we went into the desert and he tossed nickels in the air and then shot them to bits. Was that fun or what? And we needed some fun, because that was the day Leda left. That meant Charlie left, too. Charlie’s Bernie’s kid, and we don’t see him enough. A great kid, and really smart. What doesn’t he know about elephants, for example? Which turned out to be important in To Fetch A Thief.

“Nothing’s exactly open,” Bernie said, “so what we’re doing is over the line, no doubt about it.” Line? What was he talking about? Bernie kicked in the back door. Smash! I love that sound. I looked inside the abandoned house, still didn’t see any line.


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