“After I gave them the money, the man came back the next day and told me that something went wrong and they needed more money. I told him I wanted my money back. He told me that I had to talk to the main office if I wanted the money back. When the picked up the phone they answered ‘The Office of Federal Educational Funding.’ It sounded so official. They said that they couldn’t get me my money back right away, but if I gave them five thousand more dollars they would expedite the paperwork. I got them the five thousand dollars and they came back again saying that they needed more money. I went to the bank today trying to get them to cancel the check, but they said that since I had it made out to a cashier’s check, it cannot be canceled.”
“Elly, I paid the rent today. The check is going to bounce. Fuck, Elly. What were you thinking? You are too smart to fall for a scam like this. Hell I tell you about the dummies that fall for this sort of thing all the time. Don’t you even listen? How the fuck did you think this would work?”
“They made it seem so official.”
“Of course they did. You wouldn’t give them any money if they came to you and told you they were scammers.”
He said, “It is the end of the month, Elly. Even if you thought this was real, why did you spend all of our money? How are we supposed to pay our rent? Shit. You didn’t think of that? You’re the smart one. You got the degree. You know how federal grants work.”
“You said you wouldn’t be mad.”
“We’re going to lose our apartment. How did you think I wouldn’t be mad?” Jenkins left his fresh beer to get warm on the table. That night when they were laying in the bed in the dark, he said, “You said this guy actually came to your office in person? What was your coworker’s name that told you about him?”
“Do you think Bill can still get a hold of this guy?”
The next morning, the middle-aged woman sitting across the aisle on the train car made a double take, and when he saw that Jenkins caught him looking, he said, “No book.” Jenkins flashed her a half smile, and she returned a half smile of her own before looking away.
Without his book, Jenkins noticed that the people that weren’t reading a book, the morning paper, or fiddling quietly on their phones were all looking ahead at the door to the next car. It felt like some sort of self-imposed mass hypnosis. It occurred to him that if a murder were committed right now on this train, none of them would even know anything happened. This is the same look that he had seen so many times from the people on the streets of the city. No one even noticed when he got off that it wasn’t his usual stop.
All of the subway stops looked the same. Bright florescent lights, white ceramic tile on the walls, and blue and white tile floors with the wax grown dull where the food traffic is highest. If you judged by the smell, you would swear they were overgrown public restrooms except for the public awareness posters on the walls.
Jenkins double timed it up to the street level dodging left and right to avoid hitting people in the morning rush. The subway entrance was only a block and a half away from Steve Dupree’s Private Detective Office.
When Jenkins walked through the doors, Steve was just putting the filter in the coffee maker. “It will be a couple of minutes if you want a cup, but you can go ahead and start on a doughnut.”
“No, I’m actually running late this morning. I was wondering. Do you still need an extra hand?”
“All this time, I thought you weren’t interested.”
“Well something came up.”
Later that Jenkins made his way uptown near Elly’s clinic. The streets were narrow and every time he came around a corner everyone seemed to be fidgeting or hiding something away into their pockets. There was an alley way not far from her Elly’s building, and the clinic’s window was small. Probably, only the receptionist could see anything on the street. Jenkins stopped in a nearby dely. The place was more of a liquor store but there was a sandwich counter on one side and a couple of people sitting and eating. Jenkins walked up to the guy behind the counter. “You haven’t seen Bill around today?”
The old man behind the counter said, “Not today. But he should stop by early tomorrow morning. You want I should let him know you came by?”
“No thank you. I want to surprise him.”
On the way out of the precinct that night, Jenkins stopped by the desk of the officer of the day. Jenkins said, “Hey Jonesy.”
“Daniel? Aren’t you off yet?”
“My sister surprised me. Is there any way you could get someone to cover my shift tomorrow?”
“You gotta ask twenty-four hours in advance at least.” He clicked around on the computer. “OK. I got you covered. Have a good time with your sister.”
The next morning he got up without waking Elly. He searched around in the top of the closet feeling around in the dark. Finally, he found his low rise shoulder holster. He slipped it on with the expertise of a woman putting on her bra, sheathed his old .38 into the holster and covered it with his hoodie sweater. It was still cold enough in the mornings that he would not look out of place.
When he got to town, he waited at the mouth of the alley hopping that he could slip out of sight before Elly saw him there. And here she came right on time. From his spot in the alley, he listened for the faint jingling of keys, the slide of the hasp, but the streets were too loud with the sound of the traffic and the sound of people walking and talking on their phones. The people that walked past the alley gave him wide birth. They must have mistook him for a mugger in broad daylight.
Jenkins came out from the alley just in time to see a man trying to balance sticky bun on a large travel mug while he reached for the door. “Hey, Bill.” The man looked up at his face trying to recognize who it was that knew his name. Jenkins walked up to him. “Can you still introduce me to the man that can get me a government grant?”
Bill said, “Now I know I don’t know you.” He stiffened up looking for a way out of this confrontation and his sticky bun fell to the ground. Jenkins grabbed him by the lapels and Bill dropped his coffee. It splashed soaking Jenkins leg. The pain was good. Exhilarating.
Bill was fighting to get away, grabbing at Jenkins hands and thrashing around. Bill said, “Fuck you. Let go. Fucking asshole.”
Jenkins slammed him against the wall. Bill’s head bounced off the brick. Jenkins had gotten his whole body behind it. The fucker had to be seeing stars. Jenkins said, “You’re coming with me.” One shot was all it took and Bill was loose and compliant. Jenkins pulled him into the alley to get out of sight of the people on the street who were walking into the street to avoid being the next victim on his list. They knew what was happening but they looked straight ahead, so they could tell the cops that didn’t see a thing. That is how the people were able to keep coming back to this town. They just convinced themselves that it was safe. Nothing was happening. They would be fine. But they weren’t not with all these god damned criminals around, and so few good cops like Jenkins.
Back in the alley, Bill reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. “Here take my money. Just let me go.”
Jenkins grabbed his wallet and slid it into his front pocket. Whatever money he had would help them make it by until the next payday if they didn’t end up on the street before then. “Tell me how to get ahold of the guy with the grants, Mr. Johnson.”
“Wait, you’re the husband aren’t you?” Bill tensed up getting ready to start fighting again. “I ain’t telling you shit.”
Jenkins pulled the gun out of his shirt and pushed the barrel against Bill’s head and pressed hard pushing the back of his head against the wall. Bill said, “You’re the cop. You’re not going to shoot me. They’d catch you.” Bill yanked his head away. The barrel of the gun left a bright red scrape on bills head. Bill pulled and pulled but Jenkins wouldn’t let go with his left hand.
Bill was right. All of Jenkins’ guns were registered to him. The ballistics would come right back to him. Bill started trying to pull out of his jacket. Jenkins pulled the gun back and without thinking he clubbed Bill in the face with it over and over until he couldn’t hold him up with just one hand.
Bill was a bloody sobbing mess on the ground His lip was split blooming open and he spit out his teeth. Jenkins said, “Tell me Bill, how many times do I have to hit you before you shit yourself?”
Elly’s eyes were red when she got home that evening. Jenkins said, “Are you OK, honey?” She started to cry.
“Why didn’t you call me back? I left messages for you at the precinct. Bill is in the hospital. They’re not sure he is going to make it.”