For a hundred dollars a day, plus expenses, Bill Chapters is your man in the city. He gives good advice, and he knows what a good detective ought to do. Often, this is as good as actually doing it. In this installment of "Busted Love," Chapters stands around outside of his hotel room, and then finally goes to that college bar he's been hearing about all week.

Catch up on the case!


We watched the shadow shifting beneath my door that said someone was waiting inside. McCarthy touched his holster. "Go around back," he whispered.

"Back of what?"

"Make sure he doesn't go out a window." He drew his gun and held it like a communion wafer. I took the stairway down to the lobby and jogged across to the courtyard. I counted five stories up to the lit window. A fountain was gurgling behind me. I opened and closed my hands, feeling slightly foolish. I didn't have a gun and I was still pretty drunk.

A few minutes later, McCarthy came to the window and waved me up. I sprinted back into the lobby and tried not to collapse inside the elevator.

McCarthy met me at the door. He was sucking blood back from his knuckle. "Caught his elbow," he said. I looked down on the floor. The guy was prone and holding his nose but I recognized the rest of him. The same baby-faced menace steam-pressed onto a mack truck that stole my notes. How old was he? Twenty? Twenty-one?

"This is the same pug who flitched me the other day." I gave him a tap with my loafer. He barely reacted. "Any ID on him?"

McCarthy opened up a brown leather wallet. "Cormac Sinclair," he said, glancing at the license. "You make the name?"

I shook my head. "Wake up, Mac," I said. He twitched a little but stayed on the floor. "You're in deep trouble, pal. Assaulting a police officer."

He groaned and covered his eyes with his arm.

"How's the lip, Officer McCarthy? How many stitches you reckon that is?"

Sinclair made a noise. Then he said "Fuck off" for clarity.

I kicked him and he sat up.

"This isn't your room, Sinclair," said McCarthy.

"Turn down service," he said. He put his arm on the bed. I slapped it off.

We asked a few more questions but he only sat there blinking. McCarthy threw his hands up and took me aside.

"What do you say, Chapters? We can take him down to county, keep him overnight."

I shook my head.

"What do you mean?"

I put my hand on his shoulder. "Go home, Jonny."

McCarthy stared at me and twisted his lips together. He started to say something but I turned back to Sinclair. He was sitting up on the bed now, fingering a tooth. The door opened. The door closed. Goodbye, Jonny.

I sat down on the bed and said, "Angela."

Sinclair rubbed his face. "I don't know that one. Maybe if you hum a few bars."

"You tell her I don't know what her racket is and I don't care. You tell her I want to see her tomorrow. We can put this whole damn business behind us."

Sinclair picked himself up and stretched out. He looked like a damn mountain rising up off my bed. How did McCarthy get him down?


"Not here. I hear the Weasel's got good food."

"It's not bad." Sinclair went to the mirror to check on his face. There was nothing anybody could do. "What time?"

"Four. That's PM, you scholar, you."

"She has a class then."

"She's going to have to skip it," I said. "Now get the hell out of my room."

"It's art history. It's her favorite class."

He closed the door behind him.

I thought about beating it out the window and tailing him back to Angela's. But it was late and the bed seemed like a good place to hide out for a while.

Inside my head, a bell rang, and two heavyweights started beating on each other with lengths of rebar. I started unbuttoning my shirt and got halfway through before the darkness got me.


I rolled over to the edge of the bed and threw up.

When I woke up again, my mouth was hot acid. I looked at the puddle on the floor.

It wasn't any kind of mystery at all.

I picked up my watch from the nightstand, read the time, and then put it back down and had myself a nice little dream.

It was already three when I finally overcame my sheets. After a shower and some quality time with a toothbrush, three o'clock turned into a quarter-to.

I changed into something easy -- a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. I cut a hole where the left-knee was and tore it so it came out in ragged blue tendrils. Then I tied a doo-rag to my head.

If you didn't look too close, I could've been a regular world burner. Joe College.

I looked up the address for the Weasel and made it there just a little after four.

The place had that disinfectant smell -- bleach and mop-water from the night before. I looked around. Some kids were playing darts and a few old guys at the bar shifted their heads every now and then to catch the ceiling TV. One of them, a big one who looked like a professor of trucking, cracked peanuts in his fat shovel hands. Angela Christian was nowhere to be seen.

I took a booth that gave me a line of sight to the door.

The waitress gave me a menu and I pressed a five into her smooth white fingers and asked for "just a water." She stared at the five then made the five disappear inside her apron.

Angela came in about ten minutes later. She was prettier than her photograph: fair-skinned with a complexion that would mist if you looked too hard at it. There were little pockets under her undergrad eyes and when she frowned -- like she did then, craning her head -- she showed all her neat shell teeth.

She went to the bar and set down her bag. She paid for a drink: soda and some backwater whiskey that came out of a dark unlabeled bottle. She knocked it back like a private detective.

It was another fifteen minutes before she decided to walk past my booth. I stared hard at the menu.

She stopped.

A noise escaped her throat and I turned to face her.

"Are you--"

I made some Chinese noises and watched her face get red. She walked out of the bar.

I counted to fifteen and followed her out.

I took off the doo-rag and balled it up in my pocket. She went down past the library and walked west for about ten blocks. Then she cut north past an old abandoned lot to a small house at the end of a cul-de-sac. She didn't turn around once. It was the kind of thing I was used to.

I thought about sneaking up to the side of the house. Instead, I walked down to the corner and sat down behind a trash can.


Posted by billchapters on Tue, 19 Aug 2008 13:42:24 -0400 -- permanent link

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