Friday, November 23, 2012

NaNoWriMo Day 23

Hartwig hesitated for a moment. And of, course, hesitating, he knew the good judge, more perceptive than most, and a lifelong friend, would perceive something in the hesitation.


"You got me, good buddy," Hartwig said. "It was really a mixture of both. I got a tip from an informant and then did a little investigation to confirm, just to make sure, of course. And the tip was right. Is this important in some way?"


"I sure hope not." Giannini said. "When you get so many people involved, they may leave no stone unturned. You may have to reveal this informant. Are you prepared to do that?"


"Not really. I'd rather not. He's been very helpful to me over the years."


"They're going to look into this. And they're going to want to know everything. I have to be as forthcoming as possible. If you can't somehow prove you put in the man hours solely investigating this guy, then I can't guarantee you had probable cause to do the search in the first place."


"I see. I see. I'll have to look over my daily logs and get back to you to see if the time I reported is good enough for the warrant."


"Are your daily logs accurate?"


"Now you insult me, my good man."


The judge laughed. Hartwig could tell from the timbre of the laughter that the judge was in his private chambers at home. For all of his supposed laziness, Hartwig was a damn good detective. He still had an eye - and an ear - for hidden details the average person overlooked.


"Look, Snoopsy. You've got, what? Eighteen months until retirement? A man can't be blamed for phoning it in now and again at this phase of his life."


This gave Hartwig the opportunity to be a little forthcoming. "True. True," he said. "No offense taken. I have felt a little guilty about how this whole deal went down, especially since it was the information I provided that brought the entire incident into fruition."


"Yeah, Snoopsy. But I wouldn't lose any sleep over this. Shit happens. Thibodeaux happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. He didn't do anything wrong. You didn't do anything wrong. Forget the DA. Forget the captain. Forget this Higgins lawyer. We'll get through this just fine, as always."


"Yeah, but there's something I didn't tell you. Nothing that will come back and bite me in the ass, but something that has bothered me ever since it happened."


"What's that?"

"I was told that Higgins would most likely be armed. And, in so many words, I was told about his edgy nature."


"And you didn't tell Thibodeaux about this? Do you think this information would have influenced his procedures regarding the bust?"


"I don't know. I just don't know," Hartwig said. His voice trailed off in resignation. He'd woken up in a bad mood, wistful and lonely. This latest news, even from an old friend, had just made him feel worse.


"Don't kill yourself over this, Snoopsy. That you are feeling some kind of remorse is testament to the goodness of your character. We've all made mistakes. You didn't pull any triggers. The task force was prepared for the possibility that their subject was armed. It probably wouldn't have made a difference."


"Thanks, my good man. I appreciate the heads up. I will make sure all my ducks are in a row for anybody who comes calling. And I'll be prepared to say anything to make this search warrant stick."


"Stay strong. We'll get through this."


"No doubt. Don't eat too much turkey today, okay? I hear their making tryptophan a controlled substance."


"You too. Stick to the breast meat. We'll talk to you soon. Call me any time if anything develops that you want to talk about, okay?"


"Sure, judge. Sure."


Hartwig hung up the phone, replacing it in its cradle on his nightstand. At least I've got something to do today, he thought. I'll spend the entire weekend cleaning up my office. If the captain makes a visit, it would'nt be good for him to see the hell hole it's become.


Hartwig looked around his apartment, the piles of clothes all around his bed, the empty fast food boxes, and more empty two-liter soda bottles, Hartwig's drug of choice. Layers of dust on everything, the bed sheets musty and yellow. They hadn't been changed in months. He didn't spend too much of his off-time cleaning, and he hadn't had a guest in years.


I'll hire a maid for this, he thought, and scanned the floor, looking for his cleanest dirty pants. He wondered whether or not he had the reportable man hours to keep Chalmers completely out of the picture. He didn't want to lose Chalmers, whom he'd had in his radar for more than two years. Chalmers was a known commodity, a link to a larger chain Hartwig didn't really care to investigate, but was in his best interests to keep tabs on.


Hartwig was never like Thibodeaux, and didn't believe in the so-called War on Drugs. All of the millions spent in drug prevention and all the man hours in law enforcement and drug busts had done nothing to stem the rate of usage in Bonneville, or anywhere else around the nation. Maybe, as some purported, law enforcement pressure had prevented drug usage from becoming a scourge. But as certain drugs came into vogue, such as methamphetamine in recent years, Hartwig came to realize that no matter what he or anybody else did, if a person wanted to do drugs, they would find a way. And if there was a profit to made, on the level that was made with drug sales, human ingenuity would overcome whatever roadblocks were presented by law enforcement.


It saddened Hartwig to see the ravaging effects of the harder drugs on the community, and his hopelessness in defending against it. And other than drugs, there really was no other game in town. Every once in a while a person went missing, the random unsolved assault issue, group violence at student events, etc. Sometimes, these demanded Hartwig's detective skills. But drug enforcement was an easy source of revenue, truth be told, and so became the lion's share of his work.


But Hartwig harbored no illusions about the effectiveness of his work. For all the respect his position garnered him in the community, Hartwig felt useless, an organ grinder monkey, playing a song the community wanted to hear to give itself the illusion of safety and comfort.


Damn, I hope I can prove I did enough investigation. But he doubted he could. Most likely Chalmers would have to be revealed. And most likely, considering the zealous nature of Captain Owen Rice, like Thibodeaux, also still a true believer, Chalmers would have to be a casualty of all this dirty business.


And then, Hartwig thought. Then I'll have to work. Because a vacuum will be created and it won't take but a moment or two for the next Chalmers to come on the scene. And Hartwig would have to actually work to figure out who that was.


But that was further down the road, and an inevitability to be avoided if possible. Dressed now, Hartwig went to his refrigerator, took a long draw on an already open two-liter, upending the bottle until it was empty, and then throwing it in the general direction of the garbage can. It landed on the floor and bounced around before coming to rest.


"Flat," Hartwig said. "Can't even conjure a good belch."


And so he farted instead.

Chapter Twelve


Mackey had grown accustomed to the presence of the ghost, but it still hadn't stopped being the highlight of his day. For two minutes each night, her presence was an escape from the humdrum hardscrabble nature of his existence. And, as if in deference to her gracefulness, he felt ashamed to be drunk in her presence, so he stopped drinking hours before bedtime.


He was losing weight and noticing a new alertness in his persona. She also made Mackey long for love. But before he ever had any hope of finding a living, breathing lover even half as classy and beautiful as his spectral Madonna, he had to take care of something that had bothered him for years.


For at least seven years, a spreading rash of psoriasis, starting just below his ears, had spread down his neck, back, and had even moved down his arms. He was able to keep it hidden wearing his usual wardrobe, which included long-sleeved black metal band t-shirts, but was ashamed to be shirtless around anyone. He even refused to take off his shirt on the rare moments when Left Eye Lisa took a shine to him. And because Mackey only drank and smoked cigarettes, that was pretty rare, even though Mackey was one of the younger residents of the Augusta Inn.


Yes, it was time to take care of the psoriasis. He met with a dermatologist, who prescribed a steroid cream and special shampoos and soaps to combat the condition. Mackey dug deep, exhausting his meager funds, to pay for the treatments, but after a couple months of steadfast application, the psorias had abated almost entirely. Some flaky scales persisted under his earlobes, but his arms, back and neck were clear.

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