I’d love to say, ten years ago, I would never have expected to be here. But. Cough*bullshit*cough. Yeah right.
Not kidding myself.
Maybe there would have been a place for me in the organization if I had been willing to agree they were right and I was wrong. But then, they also brought me up to be truthful, so they did to themselves, huh?
Want me to stand for something? Be honest? Stick to my convictions? Well. Stick this, assholes. This is what you made me.
Here I am.
Where was I?
Beat cop, busted back to civilian. Go me.
Standing on the outskirts of the crowd, staring at a gurney. I write all this shit down–well, record it, I suppose would be more accurate–because in the morning I might not believe myself. Sometimes, I can’t blame them for calling me a whack-job.
The gurney. Right. If I didn’t know better, I would have said that little lump in there, barely enough to lift the top layer, was a gods be dammed cat. But cops and coroners don’t turn out for dead cats. Not even a dead cat shifter—if they’d conceded that such a thing existed in the frst place. The lump in the body bag is sad. Heart-breaking, even. Such a thing should not exist. A thinking, feeling person should accept cat shifters over what’s in there. And still, fucked up as it is, it isn’t the most interesting thing about what’s happening in the alley right now.
No, that label goes to the squat, square-faced man standing just outside the circle of pallid, grey light cast by the dirty bulb above the back door of “Inferno”. He never quite steps into the light, however hard the cop interviewing him tries to lure him out of the shadows. Can’t blame him, can I? They want to know where he came from, and I can hear his rumble of a response, like gravel churning under a metal steamroller.
“Above,” he says.
Not surprisingly, the cop glances up.
This gives the man a chance to shift his shoulders, like they’re stiff and he needs to move.
“Above where?” the cop asks. “Inferno? There apartments up there?”
Pause. Then man studies him, considering. “I live above.” He pointed up, then looked back to the cop. “A thin man—like bones and paper—came out the back door. He dropped a blue blanket bundled around something into the bin. The blanket opened as it fell and I saw the child. I called you.”
Again, the cop glanced upwards. “There ain’t no window up there, Joe.”
I know his name is not Joe. I’ve seen him give witness before. He’s been “Frank”, “Mex” and “Angelo”. Never talks to the same cop twice. Never gives an address. No one ever can find him again after the initial interview.
Because they’re looking for some guy, in the conventional way they look for people. Only Joe is no person. Not exactly.
Tonight, I’m going to figure out what—exactly—he is.