BLOOD ON THE HARDWOOD CONCRETE CH.3 - TELL THE TROTTERS TO HANG
By Tomara Armstrong
“Just hang tight. I need to talk to the chief,” you tell Curly over the phone.
“Yeah, well, you just missed him,” he says. “Said he had an appointment…”
“Appointment my ass,” you laugh as you look at your watch. “It’s Happy Hour at Manny’s Chicken & Waffles.”
Curly starts in on “nastiness” and “level of taste,” but you turn the phone over and set it on the counter. “Make it stop,” you eye the receptionist. She quickly flips it over, presses the red button, and returns it to you.
“Thanks, doll.” You wink before turning and exiting the premises.
A hop, skip, and a jump, and you’re standing in a parking lot full of black-and-whites. Inside Manny’s, every table is occupied by men (and the occasional manly woman) in uniform. Well, almost every table. Chief is plain clothes, but he sports the same copper belly as the rest of Manny’s.
He sees you through the plate glass. Rolling his eyes, he motions you in with a wave of his hand.
As you pull the heavy door open, the crowd looks up from their syrupy stacks and hot wings. A few grumble or make obscene noises on your behalf.
“Heya, chief! Your dick is lost again,” one meathead booms. The laughter follows.
“Shut it, McNally!” The chief yells.
You casually adjust your hat, flipping McNally the bird. He’s a little touchy—slams his beefy hands on the table and bolts to his feet, sending his chair flying into the patron several feet behind him.
His ugly buddies are on their feet too, trying to anchor the beast. He puts up little fight. You laugh, shoot him a wink, and make your way toward the chief in the booth in the back.
Sitting with his back in the corner, the chief has a view of the whole place. His napkin is tucked into the collar of his shirt and his hands and face are sticky with buffalo sauce. Your stomach turns at the sight of him—pieces of skin clinging to his bushy mustache and chin.
He slurps, sucking his fingers as you slide into the seat in front of him.
“Who else knows about this case?” you stare at him as he pops a wing into his mouth. “Jesus, chief. Slow it down.”
He eyes you and plunges his right hand—black fingernails and all—into his gaping hole to retrieve the chicken bones. Tossing them onto the plate in front of him, he says, “Waaah fugh gobbly-gorbin, muurtha fraknar misen pashla.”
You stare at him, wide eyed. What the… “Come again, chief?”
He returns your stare and repeats himself, attempting to accent each incomprehensible word, splattering your face with Tobasco and god-knows-what.
You force the bile back down your throat, shaking our head. “Someone planted the flasher as a distraction,” you say, reaching for a napkin as he pops another wing in his mouth. “For crying out loud! Stop stuffing your face and talk to me.” You slam your fist onto the table. “I will ask you again… Who else knows about this case?”
The chief slams his fists on the table, his eyes blazing red. Time stands still, the pressure builds, and the last chicken wing explodes from his distorted face at record speed. Your gaping pie hole plays catcher’s mitt.
You gasp, trying to expel the urge to purge the content of your stomach in Manny’s fine establishment, lodging the wing in your wind pipe. You feel the chicken barbs splinter and dig in.
You panic and grab your throat, falling backward in your chair, but the chief is already on his feet preaching about disrespect to the room of Manny’s patrons. Your gurgles are buried in a sea of “Yes, Chief!” and “No Chief!”
On the sticky floor of Manny’s Chicken & Waffles, your life flashes before your eyes—the good and the bad. You’re ready to accept your fate, ready to head to that big house in the sky, but you want to find that last memory that makes it all worth it.
To hell with it.
You close your eyes and leave it to fate. That comical genius blesses you one last time with some weirdo’s junk.