The Long Saturday Eleven Days Before Halloween.

The circles from the streetlights make walking up to the hills an odd sort of dance. Five steps in the light, seven steps in the darkness, five steps in the light again. It’s a long walk, all the way up to the heights to this little vacant lot where the kids used to go to make out. Lotta street lights to walk through. If I was a composer, I’d make something out of that. I’m not a composer. I’m a detective.

He’s either hurt or holding in a huge sneeze.

I suppose you’re wondering why I asked you to meet me… out here.

“Not really.” Quite a view from up here. “You don’t want it getting back to Leopardman that you changed your mind and are gonna go ahead and testify, so you didn’t want to go anywhere near my office, and didn’t want me anywhere near your house.”

Wow, you’re-

“Good, I know. ”

You weren’t followed, were you?!

“Course not. I’m good, remember?”

It’s just, if they find out I’m working with a cop.

“They aint gonna know anything till you’re on the stand.”

There’s this long silence. I keep my eyes on the city, not on him. Don’t want him to feel like I’m hovering.

It was my son, see. Somebody started a rumor that I’d been approached. I told em that I’d never squeal, that maybe I was retired but that didn’t mean I was a stoolie. I thought I had them convinced, too, but I guess they decided I needed some convincing too. I was… with my son. I don’t get to see him often, his mother and I, we’re not together anymore, but I was giving him a ride out to Agro U. He got a scholarship. Wants to study philosophy. He shakes his head. Not sure what that is, but I guess it’s something to be proud of.

You don’t usually think of alligators as having claws, but he’s leaving dents in the steel railing. This black car goes to pass us. I don’t think anything of it, but then it swerves and it’s forcing me off the road, and there’s a tree, and my son’s in the hospital.

“And they are going to pay for it. My way.”

I don’t want him involved, my son. Or… my ex-wife. They might need to disappear too.

“We’ll take care of it.”

You don’t want to underestimate Spotty Dave Leopardman, Fox. I’ve seen him do things that I never coulda come up with in my nightmares, laugh while he did, and sleep like a baby that night.

“Oh, I know. You knew the guy. You met him at this bowling dive, did a few odd jobs, made your thirty thousand pieces of silver, got out. That’s why you’re valuable. Start walking back toward town. There’s a squad car waiting about fifty yards up the road, with orders to pick you up. See you in court.”

Just before he goes, he turns. If I tell what I know, is there any chance they could get the chair?

“Not anymore. Lethal injection these days.”

Is that a yes?

“Maybe.”

Good.

And he’s into the darkness. I listen long enough to hear the engine start up, the door close, the car drive off, then look back at the city. From here you can’t see the grime, the filth, the muck. Just the lights, not the greed and the lies that keep them burning. From here it looks innocent.

But I can’t stay. I’ve got a job to do, down where you can see what it really looks like.

The Final Word.

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