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Fathom - Chapter 1

As promised-Fathom Chapter 1! This only touches the tip of the iceberg (trust me things get crazy, in a good way) but provides a good intro towards two of the books main characters, Demo Ward and Bob Cat. Enjoy! (Pardon the formatting, there's no pretty way to get it right.)


“Blood, blood spatters, and more blood. It’s always got to be blood.”

The empty streets of a barely held together neighborhood encapsulated the harrowing words describing a scene that was still unfolding.

“I never understand why you act so surprised. It’s just another Monday.”

Two men, standing in the center of a small street that was now clearly a festering ghetto, were having a conversation. One of the men fidgeted nervously, scratching his arm and slowly scanning the streets. He was slightly taller than most men and had a wiry frame that belied his meager muscle mass. Jet black hair sat atop his head like a messy plop of spaghetti. His eyes were a light hazel color and seemed to adapt to his emotions the same way a chameleon’s skin changes according to its environment. His mixed ethnicity made him look both plain and exotic at the same time. He dressed in an old, fuzzy suit that had long since needed to be retired. Along the ground dragged his worn, scuffed dress shoes, his failed attempt at professionalism made obvious. The man’s name was Demotrius Ward, or as his friends, family, and most of the human population knew him, Demo Ward. Apart from the name, he appeared as nothing more than another face, passed then forgotten on the street.

“Is that what you’re imagining, or is that what you’ve been told?” asked Demo, staring at the other man walking by his side.

The other was a scrappy looking Irish man who looked like he had dragged himself out of bed moments before. His eyes had red runways, which etched their way through his sockets, revealing great signs of sleep deprivation and stress. He smelled like a familiar brand of soap; Irish Spring, ironically. His face was a shabby mess. Atop his head, dirty blonde hair gave way to a pale complexion. Bob Cathy Briar was his name, emphasized by the very un-masculine chime of his middle name. He preferred to be called Bob Briar. Ironically, everyone had dropped the Briar resulting in his being called Bob Cat; a name that always struck a nerve with him. His body was covered in the tattoos of a violent past. These scars proved that Bob Cathy Brier had graduated from the school of hard knocks.

“I’m imagining. But to be honest, it’s always the same thing. I can smell the crap from a mile away. And it’s a big pile of steaming crap,” said Bob Cat, glaring at some teenagers who were jumping over battered fences.

“Look at these hooligans, running amuck without any parental supervision. It’s no wonder we keep coming back to places like this.”

Demo shook his head, allowing only a sliver of his eye to catch Bob Cat’s.

“They aren’t all that bad. Or have you forgotten where we come from?”

Bob Cat snorted at his response, his nostrils flaring a bit.

“Yeah, that’s why I’m worried about ‘em.”

Demo pushed himself a few steps in front of Bob Cat, who was obviously caught up in a memory. He began assessing the situation, putting all objects of interest front and center, leaving the rest muted for the time being.

The area was obviously poor. Years of ghetto rehab and rehabilitation had stuck the proverbial needle in and out of the downtrodden society so many times, that all that could be seen now were the track marks. Run down homes, broken-down cars, trashy yards, and flocks of feral, street children were at every corner. The only items of distinction were the occasional ghetto-rich cars, surprisingly clean and well kept. Demo closed his eyes and let his mind take it all in. He needed to adopt this place, understand it, feel it, become it.

“Look! Another one of those little pricks just eyed our car! I’m going to pull out my gun to show him I’m serious. Punks like that need to learn a lesson. I never understand why we have to park a mile away from the scene and walk. It’s a waste of valuable resources.”

Demo now looked straight at Bob Cat, showing him how agitated he had become by having his focus broken with such mindless banter.

“Look Bobby, you know why. I’ve explained it to you a thousand times. I’ve got to understand the area and its people to get the gears moving. I can’t just show up to a crime scene and know what to do.”

Bob Cat shook his head, looking up at the clouds.

“Talk about your dog and pony show. Well, if you think I’m bad, wait till we get up to the blues. I can’t wait to see what you’re gonna say then.”

Bob Cat ripped a piece of gum from his pocket and stuffed it in his mouth, chewing it viciously.

“Still trying to quit?”

“I quit—just chewing the gum now,” he snapped back.

“I think the point of quitting is that you stop chewing the gum. You’ve just switched addictions.”

Demo paused, making sure he had been heard.

“Still not sleeping? Still fighting?” Demo pressed further.

Bob Cat snarled, reminding Demo of his place. He went back to assessing the area.

Worn tires on many cars hadn’t been replaced, which indicated commuters with low income jobs. Cigarette butts were as common as sand on the beach. The occasional smutty magazine had made its way into the gutter. Vice, vice, and more vice—the one thing that flourished in places like these. The only obvious fauna was the violent dogs that would occasionally lash out at them as they passed. The teenagers hopping the fences were more than likely members of a gang. Undoubtedly, they were up to no good, but not enough that he cared to pursue them, especially with a murder investigation underway.

I wonder what this place used to look like in its day . . . It’s good to be home.

“Oh, thank anything holy we’re almost there. I can see the blues parading around still striping up the place.”

Bob Cat’s words snapped Demo back into reality. It was then that he finally saw the house of interest.

The house wasn’t much different than the rest—broken, busted, trashy—similar to the home he’d lived in all those years ago. This meant there were plenty of holes in its foundation that extended far beyond the tangible. Weeds overran the yard, with the occasional beer can mixed into the fray. Outside sat a truck with a faded construction company logo plastered to its side. Demo sped up to the truck, leaving a bewildered Bob Cat behind.

“I hate it when you do that!” yelled Bob Cat, still gnawing on his nicotine rich glob.

Demo was on his way to the car when he was abruptly stopped, breaking his focus yet again.

“Sorry, sir, this area is off limits. This is an official crime scene.”

Demo looked at the finger that led to the hand that connected to the police officer. He was having a hard time returning to normal behavior. Instead, he stood there blinking blankly.

“Is there something wrong, sir?”

“He’s fine,” said Bob Cat, catching up as he heaved and panted.

“He’s with me, and I’m . . . we’re part of the detective team.”

The police officer looked utterly confused. He peered at Demo who was still staring blankly back at him.

“You walk here?” asked the police officer.

“I told you that was stupid,” Bob Cat mumbled to Demo underneath his breath.

“What was that, sir?” continued the officer.

“Nothing . . . just hashing things out with my partner. I’m Bob Cathy Briar, and this is my partner Demotrius Ward. We’re the consultant detectives.”

The officer raised one eyebrow to an almost cartoonish height.

“Consultant detectives, Demotrius?” the officer questioned.

It was then that Demo decided to chime in.

“Yes, Demo for short. Don’t ask. And we’ve got a lot of work to do here, so if you don’t mind.”

The officer hesitated while he tried to gather his thoughts. The prospect of gaining his permission looked rather dim.

“Demo, Bob Cat, we’re all inside. Come on in. Don’t mind him, he’s the new guy.”

The voice came from a slender, professional looking woman. She had beautiful tanned skin that gleamed in the afternoon sun, and she was carefully adorned in pricy clothes that fit her body perfectly. Her teeth were almost blindingly white, and her eyes a piercing green that could only be trumped by her wild, streaky hair. Various shades of blonde and brunette covered her head, all purposefully placed with immaculate detail. By the way she carried herself, she clearly felt in charge. Her name was Jacky Stolckholm.

The officer glanced at Jacky before nodding his head reluctantly, still caught up in the awkward situation.

“About time I saw a familiar face around here,” said Bob Cat, blowing past the officer on his way towards Jacky.

Demo followed, giving a small nod to the dumbfounded officer before peeking inside the car; beer cans, piles of crumpled fast food wrappers, and a paper bag filled with protein shakes, bags of almonds, jerky, and a stick of lip gloss in a weird shade of burgundy.

“I know it’s a strange name. I’ll explain it to you later,” Demo said to the officer over his shoulder as he went.

Jacky gave off an intoxicating scent that had been liberally dosed all over her body. Both Demo and Bob Cat shook their heads upon arriving within its alluring radius of effect. But Jacky was all business, dismissing the formalities quickly.

“And where in this ghetto have you two been? I put the call in over an hour ago.”

Bob Cat stepped behind Demo, shaking his head.

“Out for a nice stroll through the park, as usual,” he mumbled from his hiding place.

Jacky looked at Demo for a moment before coming to an inward conclusion.

“Still haven’t quit, have you?”

Bob Cat’s face grimaced in annoyance.

“I’ve quit. I’m just chewing the gum,” he said loudly, catching the attention of a couple of police officers standing close by.

Jacky grinned, waving her hand, beckoning them to follow. She cleared a path with her mere presence. Any pathetic creature caught in it would glance up, realize its error, and flee for its life. Her heels clicked and clacked as she walked on the patchy cement walkway that led to the house. Demo glanced over to catch Bob Cat staring at her swaying hips.

“You really shouldn’t look, you know. It’ll just make things worse,” Demo said, trying to catch Bob Cat’s attention.

Bob Cat grunted in response but ignored Demo’s suggestion, his eyes following Jacky’s every step.

Within moments, they had arrived at the front door. Inside was a beehive of commotion. Men and women darted back and forth, putting up lines of tape while pointing out potential evidence on the floor. The room was as worn as the outside of the house. The carpet was an off color brown that had perhaps been a livelier, lighter color at some point. The walls were covered by one mystery stain after another. Towards the far wall was a couch, whose back was riddled with holes, burns, and even more stains. On it sat a man with his head buried in his hands, sobbing. On the unkempt walls surrounding him was the occasional photo. The smell of mildew and unwashed clothes permeated the air, drowning out everything else—including Jacky’s scent, unfortunately. On the floor was a wide arrangement of clutter, just a few cat litter boxes short of a hoarder’s paradise. The objects ranged from clothing, shoes, leftover pizza boxes, to unwashed dishes and the occasional empty carton of ice cream. Demo looked up at the photos on the wall and paused for a moment. Many appeared to contain multiple slots, much like any family would have. He tried to imagine what it would feel like to come from such a nurturing garden of emphatic love—he couldn’t.

The room led to a filthy kitchen, where stacks of dishes and pots seemed to work their way upward like proud achievements to human apathy. At the kitchen’s entrance was a bag filled with construction tools of every kind. It was surprisingly well organized, and the tools inside gleamed, indicating the care they had received. Demo continued analyzing the room while he walked towards the train wreck of a man on the couch.

“Ok everybody, I need you to clear out for a minute,” Jacky said, letting her voice be heard.

Demo and Bob Cat looked on as the stammering commotion came to an abrupt stop and began to move outside.

“I like it when she takes control,” said Bob Cat.

As the people passed the trio heading outside, Demo felt their stares burning right through him. He knew what he was weird. Taking them away from doing their jobs while he did his was an ongoing battle he had to wage, case by case.

“Not you,” said Demo, seemingly out of nowhere, pointing at the man reluctantly getting up off the couch.

Jacky pursed her lips in preparation to clamor away at Demo’s remark.

“It’s fine, sweet cheeks, he’s obviously got him flagged,” said Bob Cat, smiling.

Jacky spun around to meet Bob Cat directly.

“I’d watch your loose talking mouth. If you were on the force I’d have you canned in a week.”

Bob Cat rolled his eyes, waving both his hands in the air.

“Oh no, please don’t.”

Demo stepped forward, leaving the two bickering back and forth. He had locked onto his target and was moving in quickly. Just like a torpedo heading to sink a ship, he took the most direct path, stepping over piles of junk, clutter, and the occasional piece of furniture. His lanky legs moved with a ballerina-like precision and purpose, his eyes now in an unbroken stare with the sad looking man on the couch. He arrived just in time to see the man fall into another spout of digression. Tears streaked down his face leaving a salty residue behind. But he was interrupted by a rather odd question.

“Paper or plastic?”

The man stopped sobbing and raised his head, showing his confusion.

“I’m sorry?” he said, now looking at Demo who seemed delighted with his response.

“Paper or plastic—when you go shopping, which do you use?”

This befuddled the man further, who gave a timid response.

“Whatever you get, I guess . . . never really thought about it.”

“Well, that answers that,” Demo said proudly.

The man looked towards the quarreling duo at the door as if pleading for help. But Demo pressed on.

“Build the house yourself?”

The man shook his head no while remaining completely confounded.

“How long have you lived here, would you say?”

The man looked further taken aback, but realized there was no escape.

“I don’t know . . . five, maybe six years. It’s been a while, I guess.”

“Kids, no kids?” Demo probed further.

“No kids. We haven’t had much luck that way—Tracy had a hard time with it—and now she’s gone!”

At the mention of his wife’s name, he sobbed uncontrollably into his hands.

It was then that Demo looked at the couch more carefully. The man sat in a time-shaped indentation that conformed almost perfectly to his shape. To his left was a much smaller indentation that must have belonged to his wife. A few yards away from the couch was the centerpiece of the room; the television. Demo focused on the TV for a moment. In an instant, he sat down to the right of the man on the couch.

“She sat here?” Demo questioned, looking at the man sternly.

“No, Tracy used to sit . . .”

“I know; I just had to hear it. I need you to look this way,” Demo said, nodding his head slightly towards his shoulder.

“Say my wife instead of Tracy. Say it to me direct and nothing else.”

The man’s face was now completely plastered with confusion. Again he glanced at the door to see that the once quarreling duo now stood within ear’s distance, silently listening. Bob Cat met the man’s gaze and gave a stoic nod. Hesitantly, he turned to Demo and did as he was asked.

“My wife used to sit here.”

“Again, please,” said Demo, looking straight into the man’s eyes.

“I don’t see the point. Could you please tell me why we’re doing this?”

“Again, please,” demanded Demo, now with a harsher tone to his voice.

The man took a deep breath, trying to control his emotion before responding.

“My wife, Tracy, used to sit here.”

Demo now took a deep breath as if annoyed by the response.

“I said to only say my wife. You added Tracy.”

The man looked agitated with Demo’s presence.

“That’s because Tracy is her name.”

“Was her name,” corrected Demo, interrupting him belligerently.

The man stood up. He was much taller than Demo had realized. He loomed over him like a shadow cast from a mountain.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve, amigo. I don’t think I’ll be talking to you anymore.”

Demo ignored him completely and kept looking at the two impressions in the couch.

“What do you do for work?”

The man stepped away from the couch.

“What does it matter?”

Demo broke his gaze from the couch and put it upon the man under question. He waited silently.

“I work in construction. Like almost everyone in this garbage hole. So what? You could ask anyone around here what they do but it don’t mean nothin’.”

“Double negative, amigo,” said Demo. “Did you want to be a construction worker when you were young?”

The man shook his head.

“No, I wanted to be a basketball player.”

“That’s why you came?” said Demo pointing at the floor. “That’s why you came to the US?”

The man nodded his head grudgingly.

“They said this was the land of opportunity. All I see is a bunch of fat pigs and wasted time.”

The man’s transition was remarkable. Bob Cat went to say something, but was shushed forcibly by Jacky’s finger over his mouth.

“You met your wife here?”

“Yes, we met in college. I was an exchange student.”

“Lots of overtime in construction, isn’t there? Did your wife work?”

The man looked down at the floor for a second, hiding his face.

“No, no, Tracy doesn’t, didn’t, work.”

Demo looked at the man one last time before staring at the TV.

“They sure don’t make those like they used to. A literal tank of entertainment, solid couple inches of glass going back to a cathode tube or whatever they call it. Those things are almost unbreakable, keeping everything inside.”

The man shrugged not knowing what to say, when out of nowhere Demo sprang up and extended his hand toward him.

“Thank you for your time, Mr.—?”

The man’s hostile stance relaxed slightly.

“Paul. Paul Ortega.”

Demo paused as if he had just seen something, then continued.

“Well, thank you Paul. We’ll figure out whoever killed Tracy and bring them to justice.”

The man nodded before sitting back down on the couch. His sobbing came shortly after.

Demo paced over to the team, looking like he had just seen a ghost.

“The body, where did you find the body?” probed Demo.

Jacky pointed to behind the couch. She went to say something when Bob Cat nudged her in the side.

“Thank you,” said Demo, retracing his steps carefully until he arrived behind the rugged piece of furniture.

From there his eyes grew wide. Scanning the floor he saw remnants of the vicious, bloody attack in the form of small droplets of blood dotting the walls and carpet in a malicious pattern.

“You found Tracy here?” Demo yelled without looking at Paul.

“Yes, she was dead by the time I got here. Who would do this to her?” he responded, tears streaming down his face.

“Who isn’t what I’m looking at right now.”

Demo went back to the front door, shoving his way between Jacky and Bob Cat, splitting them in two. Once at the front door, he took a deep breath and closed his eyes. Underneath his breath a million words flew out of his mouth, as if he were rehearsing them from memory, until a moment of clarity arrived. Turning toward Bob Cat he whispered something. Bob Cat nodded his head immediately.

“I’m Paul Ortega, overworked construction worker from who-knows-what Spanish speaking country. My dreams of becoming a word class athlete fail and I end up here, just another run of the mill house in the ghetto, as far away from the limelight and prestige as possible. I’m married to Tracy who I met in college before embarking on what had to have been a wonderful idyllic set-up of the American dream. Only the dream never came true. It died off and disappeared, faded by time. Until one day I come home from a hard day’s work to find my wife dead on the floor, brutally attacked by some undeniable presence that then left the scene. Sounds like the classic smash n’ grab leaving me, Paul Ortega, the woeful widower.”

Demo paced towards the couch where Paul was sitting.

“We spend most of our time here looking out of the digital window at the world that passed us by. Who knows what rants this television has had to put up with? But wait; there are always children.”

Demo glanced at Paul who was now intently focused on his seemingly directionless train of thought.

“Children can make anyone feel accomplished. Pull you out of your self-pity that can seem so suffocating. Repair those burned bridges. But I, Paul Ortega, don’t have any kids. But why?”

This struck a nerve in Paul and he stood up.

“Just what the hell are you talking about? You’re some sick freak, you know that? You’ve got some real nerve talking like that! You don’t know nothing about me!”

Demo vaguely smiled as if Paul’s response had come right on cue.

“Because we, the happy couple, can’t have kids—or worse—we tried and failed. Miscarriages can scar someone for life. This always comes as the most unpleasant surprise and can really put a hook in things.”

The man arose and approached Demo aggressively. But Bob Cat stepped in between, blocking his path.

“Suddenly there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. Happy couple isn’t so happy anymore. Time starts to drive a wedge in their relationship, and before you know it, you’re roommates. The thing about roommates is that they have an uncanny ability to nitpick you down to every detail. They take for granted what they see every day.”

Demo looked at Paul who was weighing the consequences of attacking him outright. Bob Cat kept a ready hand on his sidearm sensing Paul’s growing hostility.

“She was overweight, jobless, depressed, and without child; probably because of a direct relationship between those items, in no particular order. You start to blame your emptiness on her as if she were holding you back. Things would have been so different in your skewed reality, if only she hadn’t been she. Your temper did the rest. All it took was the right recipe.”

“Say one more word and I’ll put my fist through your head! Don’t you dare talk about Tracy like that!” Paul screamed, now pushing forward only to be met by Bob Cat’s outreached arm.

“I wouldn’t,” Bob Cat said, making sure the man could see his hand at the ready on his sidearm.

“I live here. Every day I see this mess. Every day I see what was supposed to be a fairy tale falling further and further into this. My once radiant wife is now a blistering eye sore reminding me of my failures as a man and as a husband. But there’s one thing I pride myself on in a hate-love relationship; my work. The only damned thing that makes me a man now is my work. A low paying, stressful job that I’d have never dreamed of taking all those years back. And, of course, I have my tools. Each one carefully accounted for like the children I never had. Like a compartment of emotion where I could proudly look at them and say, at least I have that. But then comes the day when the boss lets me go. Me, the man, the provider. What am I now? I’m a broken man, I’m nothing. I come home and take it all out on the only target I can blame that’s left—the only logical scapegoat—my wife.”

Demo now took a more emotional tone as if the character he had assumed was weighing him down.

“We sit at our usual spots before getting into another argument. I tell her the news and it appears this may be the last straw. She threatens to leave; lets loose her bottled up emotions about my infertility, my lack of so many things; she can’t live like this anymore. I lost control.”

Demo walked over to the tools sitting inside the large bag, heading into the kitchen, his eyes now watering greatly with conviction.

“I’m Paul Ortega—a victim of circumstance, a resentful husband, an unemployed construction worker without his hammer.”

Paul’s stance suddenly shifted. His sobbing burst wide open, even greater than before. He collapsed to the ground beating his fists against the aged carpet.

Demo approached him cautiously, to the shock of Bob Cat and Jacky. Standing within arm’s reach he continued.

“I’m Paul Ortega, and after killing my wife in a passionate rage, I’ve just realized how much she actually meant to me.”

With Demo’s final words Paul’s emotions erupted free like a volcano that was long overdue.

“I didn’t mean for any of this. I didn’t want us to live like this. We were supposed to have the baby; the baby would have brought us back together. I want to change this; I want to bring her back,” wailed Paul.

Demo’s eyes continued to water. It appeared as if he was on the verge of crying himself.

“But the baby never came, Paul. The baby’s gone, just like Tracy.”

Paul’s sadness was almost palpable when to the utter shock of everyone present he let loose his guilt.

“It happened so fast. I was so angry. We were yelling so loud.”

Demo nodded at Jacky who ushered in a pair of cops who handcuffed Paul swiftly.

“I didn’t mean to—”

Demo nodded his head, staring at Paul directly.

“I know Paul, but you did.”

Jacky and Bob Cat let out an extended gasp for air. They had been unknowingly holding their breath in anticipation. Jacky shook her head in disbelief while Paul was escorted out of the house, sobbing uncontrollably.

“I don’t know how you do that. All I know is it saves us tons of money on legal fees. Only problem is, we have a verbal confession but no murder weapon.”

Demo wiped his eyes before responding.

“It was his hammer. In a burst of violent rage it was the first thing that came to his mind. It won’t be far from here. He didn’t plan this.”

Jacky rolled her eyes.

“Well, there goes the premeditation. Mars is going to try and take us around the block on this one if he gets it, that slippery snake. It would have been easier to have Bob Cat shoot him in self-defense.”

Jacky turned and waved her hands, ushering the waiting crowd from outside back into motion.

“Look for a hammer. It can’t be far. Don’t wipe the prints or I swear on my life I’ll wipe you from existence!”

Demo frowned. He had just solved a case in a matter of minutes, getting a confession on the spot, but somehow he still felt the void that Paul had left behind.

He just wanted to live his dream. He just wanted to be the man he thought he was. Why can’t murder be more black and white?

“Seriously though, your little parlor tricks work for the blues as long as you get a confession or hard evidence, but I need some answers to how you did that,” Bob Cat urged, standing close to Demo’s side.

Demo paused as if rewinding the tape within his head. He began where it started.

“First was the area. Low income, ghetto, and jot full of broken dreams. But that’s not what was special. First there was the yard, a literal forest of weeds. They didn’t care what anyone thought at this point. Then came the car . . .”

“The construction car?” asked Bob Cat, as if his small piece of detail could help.

“Yes, that car. Inside were wrappers of what had to have been years of fast food binging. This could mean many things, but to me it meant he didn’t give a damn, and neither did she at this point. But then there was the paper bag filled with protein shakes, almonds, and an off shaded lipstick. Could the husband have run to get some groceries? Was he just helping out? That’s when my question gave the answer; paper or plastic? He didn’t have a clue. Not too surprising as to who might remember that? Except it was paper. You usually have to choose paper if given the option, or ask for it yourself. This required thought. The fact that he had no recollection meant he hadn’t been the last person to drive the car. But what would drive someone who never leaves the house to get in the car in the first place? Ironically enough, weight. Inside it was blatantly apparent that nobody was even slightly concerned with the garbage kingdom in which they lived; pure and utter laziness. This led to the obvious conclusion that they, like most people in this situation, spent most of their time in front of the mind tube. Upon inspecting the couch, I discovered the indentations that had been made over their apathetic timeline. Paul’s was obviously the larger, being a big guy, but next to it I noticed that her indentation wasn’t a far cry from his. I’m not a physics guy but to me that says overweight, and significantly so. No doubt this had been part of the heated conversation that threw Tracy out to the car for a thoughtful drive. She bought what seemed to be health supplements out of naïve desperation before buying something that at one point made her feel beautiful. An off shade of burgundy that’s no longer in style, she was trying to go back in time to find herself again. The fight probably restarted at the car when she returned, thus the abandoned paper bag of goodies. I pressed Paul for his history and status quo to feel what could drive him and his wife over the edge. That’s when it hit me; kids. Along their wall were dated frames that had enough slots for a family to fill—a family they didn’t have—but almost did. This was a big risk to pursue, but the fact that some of the aged frames had actual pictures in them and others did not, gave me reason to believe they’d been expecting. When I brought this up it enticed an almost violent response, and BINGO! Now to find the murder weapon . . . I hadn’t seen her body, so this was going to take some creative slander. But it was Paul’s last shred of pride that doomed him; his tools. They were the only thing he cared about anymore, his last shred of manhood. Each meticulously organized within his emotional safe house that came burning down by being let go. But the most important detail was the missing hardware; his hammer. What kind of construction worker losses or misplaces his hammer? Well many do, I’m sure, but not when it’s your last piece of twisted humanity. It made sense that he would use that. It’s almost poetic really; rage, passion, regret, and years of a smoldering volcano erupting within moments. Paul did love her. His emotion was genuine. But it was his pride that damned him in the end.”

Bob Cat blinked then blinked again before shoving a fresh piece of gum into his mouth. His gnawing ensued.

“You’re a freak. You know that, don’t you? But whatever you gotta do to pay the bills,” said Bob Cat, grinning.

Demo smiled faintly, quickly fading back into his somber state of emotion.

“He spoke Spanish. I wish I could have seen the dead body. Not like I wanted to, but they can tell so much. Cuerpo morto,” said Demo, pondering everything that had transpired.

“Cuerpo what? I’m not following you,” responded Bob Cat.

“Cuerpo morto. Isn’t that how you say dead body in Spanish? I took Spanish in college back in the day,” said Demo again.

Bob Cat shook his head and put his arm around Demo, escorting him past all the obviously agitated eyes of the crime scene team.

“It’s cuerpo muerto, Demo. You think you’d get that one down working so many scenes with so many ethnic backgrounds,” said Bob Cat.

“Are you sure? I could swear it’s cuerpo morto.”

“Stick to what you’re good at, buddy—pissing the right people off, and putting on a wonderful magic show—I’ll be the one who talks and walks,” smirked Bob Cat.

“Talks, walks, and practically swallows his nicotine, all at the same time. Someone who can multitask.”

Bob Cat rolled his eyes and stared down the street towards the car they had arrived in over a mile away. A group of teenagers scattered upon seeing the car’s owner, now carefully watching.

“These kids, I swear, they have no respect. I’d take a belt to each and every one of them,” mumbled Bob Cat.

“Patience Bobby, you never know; maybe someday they’ll be the ones fixing this place up,” responded Demo.

Bob Cat let out a gargled chuckle beneath the amassing pools of nicotine-rich saliva inside his mouth.

“Fat chance, buddy. I was right about the blood, wasn’t I? Always with the blood.”

Demo gazed down at their beat up ride, still sensing nostalgia in the air.

“You were right. There’s always more blood.”

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