“There aren’t any other cops in town?” I asked Roscoe when he pulled up in a cruiser.
“Nice to see you, too, Fatman,” Roscoe said.
He hitched his service belt up as he stepped out of the car. It slipped instantly back down the slope of his prodigious gut. “Your name popped up on the screen. I figured you might appreciate a friendly face. But I got that wrong, I got other things I could do.”
“When did you get so prickly?”
“Where’s your stiff this time?”
Roscoe was first on the scene when Duke stabbed himself to death on my stoop. Back when the dead dropped my Volvo on my mechanic, Roscoe was at the head of the line there, too. He was in on Duke’s deal to deceive me and Doris about Duke’s so-called murder. A fishy odor was all over Roscoe. He had always been that way. Even in the grade school cafeteria, you didn’t figure on getting your nickel back if you fronted him for a box of chocolate milk.
I stepped aside so Roscoe could see Artie’s crumpled remains on the sidewalk. Roscoe glanced at him.
“You sure he’s dead?”
“I flipped him over, felt for a pulse. I’m no doctor but…”
A siren wailed at the intersection. An ambulance headed our way.
“Might as well wait for the professionals,” Roscoe said.
A pair of squad cars pulled up to the curb. My front yard was suddenly filled with uniformed men. EMTs, cops. Gawkers lined up on the sidewalk — runners, dog walkers, guys holding briefcases, the morning scene. Doris appeared on the porch. She had a down parka over her robe, slippers on her bare feet. Her hair was the usual morning tangle. She blinked in the gathering daylight.
“Charles,” she called. “What’s going on here?”
“Just a minute, baby.”
“Why don’t I come in, get a cup of coffee?” Roscoe asked. “See how the other half lives.”
I didn’t see how this would come to any good, didn’t see how I could say no. “Promise you won’t let jealousy eat you alive.”
“It’s not the house that bothers me. What I don’t understand…”
“Shut up about Doris,” I said.
I’d heard this from him a couple hundred times before. Her, me, what’s up with that?
“You got to ask, you’ll never understand. Women, however” I told him, “they get it. A little consideration, a little conversation, some of this, some of that, I should hold workshops for guys like you.”
“A cup of coffee. That’s all I want. Sell the seminar to somebody else.”
“Hey Roscoe,” Doris said.
There was a morning smell that came off her. A whiff of perfume, an animal undernote. It operated on a deep sector of my brain, threw a switch to the sexual rail.
For Roscoe, too, apparently. He stood in our foyer with a stupefied expression as he stared at Doris.
“Artie’s dead?” Doris asked.
Roscoe and I nodded.
Doris sighed and said, “What have you two been up to?”
Tomorrow: It could have been worse?