#77 A Boy Named Lady by Nils Grevillius

“I don’t typically investigate cases of missing dogs.” Being polite, pleasant even, as I took information from the young woman, an art student.

“My puppy’s name was Lady,” she said through her hand, elbow on a hip. She invited me into her apartment, minimally furnished with Swedish mail-order. A somewhat older male was busy being minimal on the sofa, eyes at half-mast.

“Was Lady spayed?” I scratched at paper.

“Lady was a boy…” Interjected he from the couch. I looked at him. He was reading a newspaper upside down, eyes still to half-mast, and fixed on a location over my shoulder.

Pointing to the faker on the couch, I asked “What is your friend’s name?”

“That’s Lanny! He’s no’ my friend…he’s my lover…” The woman said, accent on ‘love,’ as she hugged herself and bit her lip. “Anyways…” she continued as I observed, “…Lady was gone, gone when I got home from work las’ night.” I decided her inability to completely pronounce words was an affectation, rather than an impediment of speech. Later I would add to this that it was a means of not discussing that which was uncomfortable, or should be hidden from conversation, rather like a writer who over-uses the ellipsis as means of concealing a hidden thesis.

She showed me to a wooly dog’s bed, in a corner of the room, which reeked of dog piss. Our movement to the other side of the room took Lanny some seconds to fix with his eyes, and even then Lanny was only partly committed to looking at anything. “My stef’ather’s gonna pay your bill…you guys charge lots for this.”

“Where do you work, Tanja?” I was looking at her ear, as she’d turned her head to see what Lanny was about. She worked at a restaurant of some note. She worked nights. There was an easel, and a drawing table, each with art which appeared half-done, arranged around the perimeter of the main room.

“You a waitress?” I asked.

“No…I’m a server. Wha’s that to do with Lady?” I’d irritated her. Probably not for the first time. I changed the subject.

“Why’d you name your dog ‘Lady,’ Tanja?” I didn’t particularly care.

“It’s cause my favorite movie when I was a kid was ‘Lady and the Tramp,’ when I was a bebe.” She utter it in a faked French accent. Thirty seconds later Lanny emitted something akin to a laugh, and discarded the upside down LA Weekly.

“An’ when I got home las’ night it was gone, Lady was gone, an’ all.” She hugged herself again and mustered the intellect to predict my next question “Lanny went to a show…din’t ge’ home until a ways after me.’

“Oh?” The most open of open-ended questions was answered with facts other than those sought.

“Yeah…things happen here at The Titanic, Mister Detective.” She hugged herself again, looking almost pretty, and gazed up at me. “The lock musta been picked…or something.” Or something.

“Why do you call this place ‘the titanic,’ Tanja?”

Couch boy unslouched, took to his bare feet and emitted “Because! It’s going DOWN…” and punctuated his explanation with a wan smile.

She signed my standard Release and Authority, so I could commence. Lanny walked with us to the door, and offered his drippy hand. The tattoo on his palm of a wide open human eye was hard to ignore.

On my way down the stairs I passed a battered door with a battered tin sign which announced ‘Manager.’ Having reached the ground landing, I looked over my shoulder, feeling eyes, and I saw the Manager’s Door cocked, open face-width. A man in glasses who looked a boiled-owl scowled out and down, before his hatch slammed shut.

I lingered…looked to the mailboxes, for which there were no name tags, nor functional locks. Tanja’s box was sprung, as it should be. Within was a friendly note from a collection agent, addressed to a Leonard J. Botkin. Lanny.

The Records Section of the Municipal Criminal Court is on the third floor, with a counter like a bank or the Post Office. I didn’t recognize the bored woman behind the counter, but her attitude was familiar…minimally helpful.

From my records search I learned Lanny had a series of criminal cases involving possession of narcotics and petty theft.

After lunch, I ventured by the Department of Animal Control, and was greeted at their counter by a beefy woman in khaki uniform and a badge which advertised her position as a Humane Officer. She wore a utility belt, like Batman…a baton, taco sauce, handcuffs, radio, etc. A rape whistle decorated her pocket.

I smiled to her, which didn’t work. When I unraveled the Release and Authority bearing the Art Student’s signature, authorizing my investigation into the disappearance of a dog named Lady, the Humane Officer checked the wall clock, adjusted her batman belt, looked over her shoulder at someone eating lunch, and looked back at me. “What’s this thing?”

“I am here to see if you might have a dog here, one removed from the residence of a client.” My best sally.

“We don’t cooperate with PIs, mister.” She adjusted her belt, again, and felt for the gun that wasn’t there.

The remainder of my daylight was filled with other matters…the bank, the Post Office, a few calls. After the last of the sun had filtered through dusty windows, I called Animal Control. Their recording was on.

Then I called the Watch Commander’s Desk at the Police Department. After the fourteenth ring, a tired man answered “Yeah?”

“Animal Control’s night number….you got it?” I kept quiet.

“Hang on.” I could hear paper rustling, phones ringing, a radio call.

He gave me the night number…the one the cops use to call Animal Control when she with the beefy hips was off-duty.

I rang it. No answer. Dinner. A shower. I rang it again.

“Animal Control…” Another tired voice.

“We have an issue at the apartment, 77 North Raymond. Have you responded to any calls at that address?” A good question.

“Several…past couple of weeks. What’s at issue?” He still sounded tired.

“Anything involving a young dog?” I held my breath.

“Yeah…several calls about a dog or puppy crying. Hang on.”

I waited. Checked my watch. Waited more. Weighed my balls.

“Apartment 17, second floor. Eleven calls from different tenants about a dog crying, all hours of the night.”

“Thanks.” I fell asleep reading a book about Groucho Marx.

The next morning, I fell by The Titanic, early. There was a utility closet next to the laundry room and the boiler. Paint, a mop bucket, rolls of screen, old toilet plungers. And a spade.

The building had a pleasant backyard…picnic bench, a flower garden, an expanse of green lawn. Next to a bush was a patch, a lumpy patch, of earth which had been recently spaded. Loose, lumpy…a grave.

Over the next days I went over the names of the tenants who had complained to Animal Control about Lady, including the manager. I didn’t like any of them, particularly, in the sense that none seemed to stand out as he capable of killing a juvenile dog.

Lanny was a junkie, and a mope. But no crimes of violence. My best guess was The Manager…he with keys to get in when no one is home. He who would have to entertain the complaints of tenants. Him I liked.

My mail that day included a note from my bank. Tanja had stopped payment on my retainer. She didn’t answer her phone.

When I arrived, Tanja was on the curb, a bag packed.

“How are you, Tanja?” I smiled to her.

“Oh…Mister Detective. Wha’s going on?”

“I got a note from the bank. You stopped payment on the check, Tanja.” I had a hand on my side, and looked to the Art Student as would Picasso to a model who refused his order to disrobe.

“Yeah, I know about that. My stef’ather said I could spen’ the money to go to Gstad!” She pronounced the ‘g’ after having dropped so many other consonants.

“Oh? That’s nice, Tanja. Where’s Lanny?”

“Lanny coulnt go…he gets sick when we travel.” I’ll bet Lanny does.

I bade Tanja a good trip and collected my fee from her stepfather. But for the clients, this is not too bad a business. Case closed.

© Copyright 2013 Nils Grevillius. All rights reserved.

First employed in a saloon at age 13, Nils Grevillius gravitated toward the night at a young age. Later a soldier, Pinkerton Detective and polemecist, Grevillius is best known in Metropolitan Los Angeles for his work on the Wonderland Avenue murder case. He is the author of A City of Devils and Sub Rosa, two novellas featuring Luke Fitz, Pasadena’s only unindicted private eye.

 

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Another flash fiction market

Rose City Sisters contributor Lynn Nicholas has been cheating on us—with another flash fiction site!

Her short-short story “The Right Shade of Red” is now online at GayFlashFiction.com, a site that showcases stories with a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex theme. You don’t have to be GLBTQI to submit your work. Check the submission page.

 

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#76 Muddy by Amy Allison

Red showed through the mud. Rose red. Glancing over at me, my big brother, Ben, asked, “Find one, Deb?”

That summer, for the last time, we’d tagged along with the Wallace boys to search the swamps for frogs. Back in the sixties, the swamps were within walking distance of where we lived outside Washington, D.C. We’d trap the frogs in jars and take them home until they deserted us by quickly dying. Sally Wallace, who was a couple years older than me, never came along, but that wasn’t something you’d ask her brothers about.

I shook my head no, I hadn’t found any frogs, and Ben went back to searching a patch of reeds. No one saw me salvage the scrap of cloth, with its pattern of roses, from the mud. And no one saw me wrap it in Kleenex and stuff it in the pocket of my overalls. I always kept Kleenex with me when I was in grade school and got nosebleeds a lot.

I tried to remember what was familiar about those roses as we walked home from the swamps. Only John and Tom Wallace caught any frogs. Their brother, Joey, who was even littler than me, insisted we take them to the swimming pool in my family’s back yard. Joey was crazy to see the frogs swim in it.

John and Tom stood at the edge of the pool and emptied their jars of frogs. The frogs dove to the bottom.

“I ain’t waitin’ for those frogs to come up for air,” John muttered. He and Tom dragged Joey, cursing them, across the street to their house.

Three stories tall, the Wallaces’ house towered over the ranch homes up and down the block. Rumor was, it was built before the Civil War. I knew without having to see them that Mr. Wallace’s German Shepherds were pacing out in back, chained, as if the ghost of the slave owner who’d built the place expected something to be shackled. And beaten like Mr. Wallace beat those dogs.

Sitting cross-legged on my bed, I drew the Kleenex from my pocket. I unwrapped the scrap of fabric and stared at the roses. I stared so hard, they weren’t roses anymore, just dye staining the cloth red.

I glanced up and saw, across the room, my purple vinyl Barbie doll box. The girls in the neighborhood all played Barbie together. The last to get her own Barbie doll was Sally Wallace. Sally’s teeth were crooked and chipped, and when she laughed, she covered her mouth, except when she was playing Barbie. My mother said Sally was such a pretty girl, it was a shame her parents didn’t take her to a dentist to get her teeth fixed.

Then I remembered. Sally’s Barbie wore homemade dresses, just like Sally did, and that’s where I’d seen the roses before, on one of those dresses. But I hadn’t found the doll in the mud, or the dress, only a scrap of it. I hadn’t actually seen Sally’s doll for weeks, not since we last played Barbie. Most of us neighborhood kids were busy over the summer building a tree house.

The next morning, in the kitchen after finishing breakfast, I phoned Sally. My mother had forbidden me from going over to the Wallaces’ without calling first. That meant I didn’t visit there much, since they didn’t always answer their phone. I counted ten rings before giving up. While I counted, I clutched the scrap of cloth in my pocket.

Ben drained his glass of orange juice. “Let’s see if anyone’s at the Doyles’ yet,” he said.

We were building the tree house in the giant oak shading the Doyles’ back yard. Neil Doyle and Joey Wallace had stationed themselves by the tree, next to a jumble of wood planks. The boys were near the same age, though Neil stood up straighter and his eyes didn’t go all blank on you sometimes.

“Hey, Joey, is Sally at home?” I shouted.

“Yeah, where else would she be?” he shouted back.

“Let’s go.”

“Go where?”

“To your house.”

“I ain’t goin’ nowhere. Kyle said to wait here ’til he got back.” Kyle was the eldest Doyle boy. He’d taken charge of building the tree house, and we let him, without question.

“C’mon, Joey, it’ll just take a minute.”

“I’m waitin’ for Kyle,” Joey repeated. His eyes narrowed and his lower lip stuck out. The last time I saw that expression on his face, his brother Tom had to hold him back from head-butting someone.

“Okay, well, is Sally coming by here later?” I asked, finally at a distance I didn’t have to shout.

“She ain’t got time. She’s helpin’ around the house.”

“Will you give her something, then, and ask her to call me?”

“I ain’t your servant!” he said and spat.

“Fine! I just want to return something of hers.”

“Let me see!”

“Here!” I thrust the scrap at him.

“That’s from Sally’s dress! You got it all dirty!” He flung himself at me, and it took both Ben and Neil to pull him away.

The following morning, we all woke to find the Wallaces’ Oldsmobile gone, and Sally and Mrs. Wallace with it. From that morning on, Mr. Wallace’s flatbed truck was parked by itself in the gravel driveway. People in the neighborhood had their suspicions why Mrs. Wallace left with Sally. You’d overhear adults talking though they’d stop when they saw us kids.

Years later, I have to rely on photographs to recall Sally Wallace’s face. I phone Ben after coming across Sally’s picture in a fraying yearbook late at night. It’s earlier out West, where Ben moved to teach chemical engineering at Caltech.

“Hey, Ben,” I ask, “do you remember the Wallaces?”

“Sure,” he answers. “Those Wallace boys were geniuses at catching frogs. You know why the frogs died so quickly? It was the chlorine in the pool,” he said. “The chlorine killed them.”

If only we’d known.

© Copyright 2013 Amy Allison. All rights reserved.

amy-allisonAmy Allison has contributed fiction to EpiphMag.com, Fiction365.com, and HotValleyWriters.com. Her poetry has been published in Cricket magazine. She and her husband, Dave, live in Southern California. Their wedding took place at La Casita del Arroyo in Pasadena.

 

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#75 The Leave Behind by Stephen R. Wolcott

Before Lewis could speak, the executive lifted a finger and made that ‘shush’ gesture. “Audiences love the edgy stuff,” the executive yelled into his Bluetooth headset. “Taste has nothing to do with it. His last two films killed.”

Pause.

Lewis looked around the office, decked with stark white and grey furnishings, except for some colorful posters of recent, top-grossing films. The one sheets might have been from a parallel universe, Lewis thought. A world he didn’t know, and certainly didn’t care for.

“Alright, we’ll do the bestiality bit off screen and push for a hard PG-13,” the executive shouted. “Then release the unrated version in Blu-Ray.”Continue Reading

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#74 The Disappeared by Ross Baxter

It started with the daily commute. Day after painful day crawling along in the traffic on the 110 or I-5; each mile more soul-sapping than the last. Mike had thought about leaving Pasadena and moving closer to work, but given the hours he worked he had no time to even start looking. The hours that he did not spend at work seemed to be spent on the journey there or back. He became an expert on the buildings, roadside architecture and environment along his route. Any changes he instantly spotted, be it a new  billboard for Orchard Supply Hardware or a different set of shades in a house overlooking the route.

Mike first spotted the shuttered building whilst in stationary traffic in the evening rush hour. He had never seen the three-story structure before, probably because it was completely nondescript in every sense. There was nothing that made it stand out at all—no signs, no color, no interest. Nothing. It was like a stealth building, in plain sight but completely hidden at the same time, blending into its drab surroundings like a concrete chameleon. For that day on, Mike’s eyes were drawn to the enigmatic building every time he passed, and his curiosity grew.Continue Reading

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