The sun crept into my office like a 550 pound man with no legs. It crawled upward on my Gin bottle GAA Winner’s Cup, because I’m a real Winner–and slowly stopped on my eyes. Behind the eyelids two dozen maraca players were turning up the volume, and the steady thud of the headache was starting to sound like my ex-wife stomping up the stairs, asking for her alimony check. I don’t know how she was getting alimony. We don’t have any kids. There’s no room for kids in my life. Then I realized that I don’t know what alimony means. My name is Mister Fields. I’m a Mall Detective.
It was strange that the sun was hitting me, since I was in my office in floor 1 of ShadyDales Mall. The sun hasn’t hit anything in the ‘Dales since Old Man Developer Jenkins decided that all the sin and vice of a suburban Mall could be accomplished much better under fluorescent lighting. I opened my eyes. My Secretary, Karla, was pointing a flashlight right in my face. “Visitor, jackass,” she snapped, using the cute pet name she has for me. I considered calling her “sweetcheeks” or something, but the mall tenant regulations have very strict sexual harassment policies. You have to attend a class and everything.
On cue, Jamba Juice Johnny walked through the door, barely noticing that I looked like the “After” photo in an ad for high caliber revolvers. Triple-J is one of my best weasels. He’s got a face like people wouldn’t stop punching him as a baby, but he knows how to get info. “Mango Jamba?” “Yes,” the patsy will say, only half paying attention. “Vita boost?” “Yes.” “Did you shoot Stevie Strizzis?” “Yes…. What?”
He looked at me soberly, which was good, because I was looking at him alcoholically. “Better get down to Pottery Barn,” he said. I cursed, hangover disappearing like Learningsmith from next to Macy’s. Pottery Barn meant trouble. When someone needed to drop a horribly mangled body, something in the human psyche always says “Put it in front of Pottery Barn.”
By the time I got there, the Mall Cops had beat me to the scene, like I was a red-headed stepchild. It was the sixth worst murder I’d seen in front of the Barn. Both arms torn half off. The eyeballs skewered by inch-thick pokers. The guts were opened up and arranged in a circular fashion around the destroyed torso.
I chewed my Hot-Dog-on-a-Stick thoughtfully.
Mall Cop Forensic Examiner Stacy Williams was there, taking measurements of the chest wounds. Cute kid, Stacy. Blonde. Athletic. 16. She told me once at Applebee’s that she was going to buy a Jetta with her summer job money. I don’t know if she expected to be hip deep in gushing red blood. I had to step back or my Nikes would get wet. They were good Nikes. I got them from Foot Locker for solving the mystery of the New Balance Killings.
Even worse, Mall Cop Lieutenant Atkins was apparently handling this one. 300 cops in this mall and I drew the only one I’d exposed as a slasher pedophile, in the Disney Store Mystery. He was still on the Force, of course. That’s the Teal Wall of Silence for you. More corrupt then a floppy disk from 1984 put through a blender. I knew for a fact that they ran a Gambling and Prostitution ring out of Cinnabon. Client of mine found more then cinammon in his Minibon. The only good cop was my friend Officer Martinson, who was only in the game because being a Mall Cop went back five generations in his family.
“Hey Atkins,” I jeered, “they just released Finding Nemo on DVD. Why don’t you go drool over the crowds at EB while a real detective takes care of this one?”
Atkins smiled, or that is, his facial muscles perked upwards briefly. “Fields, go blow your wad elsewhere. Or better yet, why don’t you take your friend Martinson and book some private time in the Macy’s bathroom.”
“Where is Martinson?” I asked.
“Right there,” he nodded, pointing to the mangled corpse on the floor.
It was Martinson alright. The starched uniform. The heavy features. The way his head was only attached by what was left of his spinal cord. Well, that part was new.
So. A cop-killer. And the cops didn’t care. And I was probably next. My only friend left in the world was a pistol I wasn’t allowed to keep loaded due to stringent shopper safety rules. That and gin. It looked like I was up against a battle for my life.
I took another bite from my Wetzel Pretzel.