Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The 33rd Precinct

I. Thelonius
As he moved through the crowds alongside his fellow seekers, Thelonius couldn't help but to notice how he was now clearly the odd man out. Certainly, no real familiarity passed between the two socialites, but the pair had an unmistakable affinity, even if it went unexpressed. The other two were young, attractive, stylish. Judging from their attires and bearings, they were both probably quite well to do. Cati might have been downright wealthy, and Henri . . . well, he had a job, but it apparently didn't demand much of him. Opening shop a few hours a day; perhaps that was sufficient to support him.

Why where they here? Just curious, Thelonius thought. Curious and bored. These were the kinds of things Thelonius had gotten used to noticing – where people fit into the picture and where they didn't. And he knew he didn't fit into this picture.

Then again, this was Thel's job, following leads, piecing things together, seeing the connections. What could Cati and Henri offer him? Entertainment, perhaps. In a way, it was the two of them who didn't fit in. What if this - the forged invitation, the fortune telling, the ectoplasm - was real? What, then, about these two? Had the swami been right about Cati's underwear?

Thelonius crumpled his dollar bill in his pocket.

II. Henri
The stern brick fa├žade of the 33rd Precinct was, if one paid attention, in striking contrast to the gothic and modernist architecture around it. Built in the late 19th Century as a temporary home for hysterical wives and spirited daughters, every brick of it had been laid with the express purpose of promoting sterility, seriousness, and rationale. Yet, it blended into its surroundings, becoming as unnoticeable and reliable as a wall.

Henri was familiar with the neighborhood, but he could not recall – not on a single occasion – ever noticing that this building, nestled between the Universalist church and a little second-hand store, was in fact the police station. As he climbed the stairs a little ahead of the other two, Henri was slightly taken by the sheerness of the wall, the strength and sturdiness of the building. At that moment, it seemed to Henri that this building, the 33rd Precinct itself, provided – or perhaps fed off – the resolve of the uniformed men all around it, that there was some kind of harmony being generated. This was the sort of thing Henri could understand: he could appreciate how the right bodies, the right personalities, the right clothing, and the right moment could all come together into one thematic confluence. It brought the neighborhood together. A rug could create a sense of unity in a room. A common cause could unite disparate nations and bring men together across the lines of language. A simple brooch could effect the stylistic unity of a woman and her outfit, doing everything from downplaying her bosom to bringing attention away from a seam.

There was a brief pang of jealousy (for whomever had stitched all this together) and doubt. No: Henri shrugged it off. He was quite sure that his kind of tailoring was much, much better.

III. Cati
Henri pushed the door open ahead of her, and being a perfect gentleman, held it there for her. "Apres vous."
She stepped inside the station.

She had no real reason to be fearful – she wasn't in the practice of carrying booze around town, and it wasn't as though she had done anything wrong. But it couldn't be helped. She heard the echo of her shoe on the tile floor, somehow rising above all the bustle and movement around her, and Cati's heart fluttered a little. Enemy territory. All those blue tunics in one place - it gave her the heebie-jeebies.

She imagined Alice's voice in her head, cheering her on. Attagirl! We're rich, Cati darling! The bulls basically work for us, don't they? That was a reassuring thought. Toro! the imaginary Alice taunted as an officer walked past Cati and out the door.

Then another voice; old and rusty, but still vital. Don't trust a single one of these rats, bella.
Not one.


IV. Captain Martin Delaney
Cati walked up to the bench. The fat, old station officer leaned over to look down at her. He fixed his glasses. "What can I do for you, ma'am," he asked cordially, flirtatiously even.

Before she could answer, there was a call from across the room. "Jones!"

It was Delaney. Lieutenant Martin Delaney. Thelonius had had the distinction of . . . well, providing evidence to Delaney once upon a time. Delaney had never returned those photos . . .

"Thelonius Jones!" Thel noticed that there were two bars on the officer's shoulder now - he mentally noted, Captain Delaney. "Tell me," the captain said rocking on his heels as though he were about to scold a schoolboy, "What are you doing here? Hm?"

Saturday, November 1, 2008

News: 23 April, 1924

Like every other newspaper in the city, the front pages of the Illustrated Daily Monitor detail the sensational transfer of Celia Cooney, the Bobhaired Bandit, to New York Police custody yesterday afternoon.

Buried on page nine is this short article.



byline: Abraham P. Ayers