Roscoe showed up along with the investigators, the ambulance, a hearse, Animal Control, reporters and most of the neighbors. The squad lights were like Christmas come early, jolly, sort of, if you didn’t think too hard.
We sat behind the police tape at the Colonel’s kitchen table. His Mr. Coffee pot was full and steaming.
“No sense letting this go to waste,” Roscoe said. He took three cups from the Colonel’s drainer. They were fragile things, old lady china. We drank with our pinkies stuck in the air.
“Aren’t we destroying evidence?” Doris asked.
Roscoe sighed. “People watch an episode of CSI and they’re criminologists.”
Small talk seemed wrong with the Colonel stuck to his table like a bug in a museum. I glanced into the dining room. The police photog was at work in there. The Colonel’s mustache still defied gravity. “Somebody should close his eyes,” I said.
Morning light fell through the lace curtains. The shadows were a delicate touch, especially in comparison.
“Fatman,” Roscoe said, “here’s my question. Who needs dispatchers? I should just follow you around. Every time I see you, there’s a dead guy.”
“My bad luck.”
“You got a lot of it. Ivan. Now the Colonel. Who had it in for him?”
“You know as much as I do.”
“I’m starting to doubt that.”
“You don’t know?” said Doris.
“What should I know? I’m a cop.”
“Ha ha,” I said to Doris, hoping to derail her. “Officer Roscoe is your just-the-facts-ma’am style of copper.”
Doris ignored me. “We came to find out how he closed it last time.”
“The portal,” Roscoe repeated.
Doris looked at me. I shrugged. It was too late to stop her.
“To the underworld.”
“Yeah, I hear about that all the time,” Roscoe said. He did a good job at keeping a poker face.
Doris spared no detail. The Colonel, his shop, Benny DeVito and the flying nun, Father Himmelman and the altar boys, Deadhead, the twist offs. Now this. A murder ring run by the dead, or whatever state it was the Deadhead and his pals occupied.
“I mean, the Colonel,” Doris said. “He must go three hundred pounds. Then somebody — some thing — puts a sword through him and the table? You’d need a sledge hammer. What normal person does that?”
“Some freak on crank,” Roscoe speculated. “We had a case the other night, took six of us to get him in the squad.”
“Believe what you want,” Doris said. “Nobody’s paying me to keep the streets safe. It’s your ass hanging over the edge.”
“Okay, so for the sake of discussion, there’s an underworld. Dead guys get out, add to the local dead-guy supply. So what next? I get a court order? A cease and desist?”
“We don’t know either,” I said.
“That’s why we were here,” Doris said. “To ask the Colonel how he did it last time. How he closed the portal.”
“Too bad you waited until the Colonel was so…”
Tomorrow: Straight dope from a blind mouse